The Battle of Auldearn was arguably the Marquis of Montrose’s greatest victory. Fought May 9, 1645 in the heat of the English Civil War.
In 1644 the Scottish Covenanters joined the side of the Parliament in the English Civil War. Montrose was commissioned by Charles I to command the King’s forces in Scotland, which didn’t amount to much. Eventually Montrose raised some Irish Regiments and Highlanders and his campaign began in earnest.
On 2 February 1645, Montrose defeated the pro-Covenanter Campbell Clan at the Battle of Inverlochy. As tradition dictated, Montrose Highlanders started going home with their booty from the battle, so Montrose sought the help of the Gordon Clan as reinforcements.
The Covenanters divided their forces, with a detachment commanded by Sir John Hurry heading to catch Montrose. Hurry had originally sided with Parliament, then deserted to the Royalists, then changed back again to Parliament after the Covenanters were successful at Marston Moor.
The campaign is an interesting one and the battle started with Hurry surprising Montrose at dawn, Montrose army scattered about the town of Auldearn. Montrose’s 2nd in command was Alasdair MacColla (there is actually a full chapter in the main biography on him that spends the entire time debating his actual correct name). Evidently MacColla was a hugh man, may 7 feet tall, so his miniatures – a Eureka figure – is more like a 30mm fig than 25-28mm. MacColla saved the day stalling Hurry giving Montrose time to assemble his waking army. A good discussion is on the Montrose Society website.
Giving credit where it is due, the entire project is very beholden to the great website of Project Auldearn.
Figures are Perry and Eureka.
Here you can see the Covenanter army advancing on Auldearn and deploying for battle. The avenue of advance is lined by a creek on both sides, acting as a funnel that limits Hurry’s approach.
In the center of the board you can see the hastily assembled troops under MacColla as he attempts to stall Hurry’s army while Montrose can assemble his scattered forces.
Montrose was really caught with his pants down. His army was scattered sleeping or just waking when Hurry fired his first shots. Luckily for Montrose, MacColla was able to quickly assemble his bodyguard and some other Scots to try and delay Hurry and give time to Montrose. In addition to being surprised, Montrose is also outnumbered over 3 to 2.