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General History of the Highlands
1636 - 1644


Hitherto the history of the Highlands has been confined chiefly to the fends and conflicts of the clans, the details of which, though interesting to their descendants, cannot be supposed to afford the same gratification to readers at large. We now enter upon a more important era, when the Highlanders begin to play a much more prominent part in the theatre of our national history, and to give a foretaste of that military prowess for which they afterwards became so highly distinguished.

In entering upon the details of the military achievements of the Highlanders during the period of the civil wars, it is quite unnecessary and foreign to our purpose to trouble the reader with a history of the rash, unconstitutional, and ill-fated attempt of Charles I. to introduce Episcopacy into Scotland; nor, for the same reason, is it requisite to detail minutely the proceedings of the authors of the Covenant. Suffice it to say, that in consequence of the inflexible determination of Charles to force English Episcopacy upon the people of Scotland, the great majority of the nation declared their determination "by the great name of the Lord their God," to defend their religion against what they considered to be errors and corruptions. Notwithstanding, however, the most positive demonstrations on the part of the people to resist, Charles, acting by the advice of a privy council of Scotsmen established in England, exclusively devoted to the affairs of Scotland, and instigated by Archbishop Laud, resolved to suppress the Covenant by open force. In order to gain time for the necessary preparations, he sent the Marquis of Hamilton, as his commissioner, to Scotland, who was instructed to promise "that the practice of the liturgy and the canons should never be pressed in any other than a fair and legal way, and that the high commission should be so rectified as never to impugn the laws, or to be a just grievance to loyal subjects," and that the king would pardon those who had lately taken an illegal covenant, on their immediately renouncing it, and giving up the bond to the commissioners.

When the Covenanters heard of Hamilton’s approach, they appointed a national fast to be held, to beg the blessing of God upon the kirk, and on the 10th of June, 1638, the marquis was received at Leith, and proceeded to the capital through an assemblage of about 60,000 Covenanters, and 500 ministers. The spirit and temper of such a vast assemblage overawed the marquis, and he therefore concealed his instructions. After making two successive journeys to London to communicate the alarming state of affairs, and to receive fresh instructions, he, on his second return, issued a proclamation, discharging "the service book, the book of canons, and the high commission court, dispensing with the five articles of Perth, dispensing the entrants into the ministry from taking the oath of supremacy and of canonical obedience, commanding all persons to lay aside the new Covenant, and take that which had been published by the king’s father in 1589, and summoning a free assembly of the kirk to meet in the month of November, and a parliament in the month of May; the following year." Matters had, however, proceeded too far for submission to the conditions of the proclamation, and the covenanting leaders answered it by a formal protest, in which they gave sixteen reasons, showing that to comply with the demands of the king would be to betray the cause of God, and to act against the dictates of conscience.

In consequence of the opposition made to the proclamation, it was generally expected that the king would have recalled the order for the meeting of the assembly at Glasgow; but no prohibition having been issued, that assembly, which consisted, besides the clergy, of one lay-elder and four lay-assessors from every presbytery, met at the time appointed, viz., in the month of November, 1638. After the assembly had spent a week in violent debates, the commissioner, in terms of his instructions, declared it dissolved; but, encouraged by the accession of the Earl of Argyle, who placed himself at the head of the Covenanters, the members declined to disperse at the mere mandate of the sovereign, and passed a resolution that, in spiritual matters, the kirk was independent of the civil power, and that the dissolution by the commissioner was illegal and void. After spending three weeks in revising the ecclesiastical regulations introduced into Scotland since the accession of James to the crown of England, the assembly condemned the liturgy, ordinal, book of canons, and court of high commission, and, assuming all the powers of legislation, abolished episcopacy, and excommunicated the bishops themselves, and the ministers who supported them. Charles declared their proceedings null; but the people received them with great joy, and testified their approbation by a national thanksgiving.

Both parties had for some time been preparing for war, and they now hastened on their plans. In consequence of an order from the supreme committee of the Covenanters in Edinburgh, every man capable of bearing arms was called out and trained. Experienced Scottish officers, who had spent the greater part of their lives in military service in Sweden and Ger. many, returned to Scotland to place themselves at the head of their countrymen, and the Scottish merchants in Holland supplied them with arms and ammunition. The king advanced as far as York with an army, the Scottish bishops making him believe that the news of his approach would induce the Covenanters to submit themselves to his pleasure; but he was disappointed,—for instead of submitting themselves, they were the first to commence hostilities. About the 19th of March, 1639, General Leslie, the covenanting general, with a few men, surprised, and without difficulty, occupied the castle of Edinburgh, and about the same time the Earl of Traquair surrendered Dalkeith house. Dumbarton castle, like that of Edinburgh, was taken by stratagem, the governor, named Stewart, being intercepted on a Sunday as he returned from church, and made to change clothes with another gentleman and give the password, by which means the Covenanters easily obtained possession. The king, on arriving at Durham, despatched the Marquis of Hamilton with a fleet of forty ships, having on board 6,000 troops, to the Frith of Forth; but as both sides of the Frith were well fortified at different points, and covered with troops, he was unable to effect a landing.

In the meantime, the Marquis of Huntly raised the royal standard in the north, and as the Earl of Sutherland, accompanied by Lord Reay, John, Master of Berridale and others, had been very busy in Inverness and Elgin, persuading the inhabitants to subscribe the Covenant, the marquis wrote him confidentially, blaming him for his past conduct, and advising him to declare for the king; but the earl informed him in reply, that it was against the bishops and their innovations, and not against the king, that he had so acted. The earl then, in his turn, advised the marquis to join the Covenanters, by doing which he said he would not only confer honour on himself, but much good on his native country; that in any private question in which Huntly was personally interested he would assist, but that in the present affair he would not aid him. The earl thereupon joined the Earl of Seaforth, the Master of Berridale, Lord Lovat, Lord Reay, the laird of Balnagown, the Rosses, the Monroes, the laird of Grant, Macintosh, the laird of Innes, the sheriff of Moray, the baron of Kilravock, the laird of Altire, the tutor of Duffus, and the other Covenanters on the north of the river Spey.

The Marquis of Huntly assembled his forces first at Turriff, and afterwards at Kintore, whence he marched upon Aberdeen, which he took possession of in name of the king. The marquis being informed shortly after his arrival in Aberdeen, that a meeting of Covenanters, who resided within his district, was to be held at Turriff on the 14th of February, resolved to disperse them. He therefore wrote letters to his chief dependents, requiring them to meet him at Turriff the same day, and bring with them no arms but swords and "schottis" or pistols. One of these letters fell into the hands of the Earl of Montrose, one of the chief covenanting lords, who determined at all hazards to protect the meeting of his friends, the Covenanters. In pursuance of this resolution, he collected, with great alacrity, some of his best friends in Angus, and with his own and their dependents, to the number of about 800 men, he crossed the range of hills called the Grangebean, between Angus and Aberdeenshire, and took possession of Turriff on the morning of the 14th of February. When Huntly’s party arrived during the course of the day, they were surprised at seeing the little churchyard of the village filled with armed men; and they were still more surprised to observe them levelling their hagbuts at them across the walls of the churchyard. Not knowing how to act in the absence of the marquis, they retired to a place called the Broad Ford of Towie, about two miles south from the village, when they were soon joined by Huntly and his suite. After some consultation, the marquis, after parading his men in order of battle along the north-west side of the village, in sight of Montrose, dispersed his party, which amounted to 2,000 men, without offering to attack Montrose, on the pretence that his commission of lieu tenancy only authorised him to act on the defensive.

James Graham, 5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose 1612 - 1650James Graham, Earl, and afterwards first Marquis of Montrose, who played so prominent a part in the history of the troublous times on which we are entering, was descended from a family which can be traced back to the beginning of the 12th century. His ancestor, the Earl of Montrose, fell at Flodden, and his grandfather became viceroy of Scotland after James VI. ascended the throne of England. He himself was born in 1612, his mother being Lady Margaret Ruthven, eldest daughter of William, first Earl of Gowrie. He succeeded to the estates and title in 1626, on the death of his father, and three years after, married Magdalene Carnegie, daughter of Lord Carnegie of Kinnaird. He pursued his studies at St. Andrews University and Kinnaird Castle till he was about twenty years of age, when he went to the Continent and studied at the academies of France and Italy, returning an accomplished gentleman and a soldier. On his return he was, for some reason, coldly received by Charles I., and it is supposed by some that it was mainly out of chagrin on this account that he joined the Covenanters. Whatever may have been his motive for joining them, he was certainly an important and powerful accession to their ranks, although, as will be seen, his adherence to them was but of short duration.

Montrose is thus portrayed by his contemporary, Patrick Gordon of Ruthven, author of Britane’s Diet emper. "It cannot be denied but he was ane accomplished gentleman of many excellent partes; a bodie not tall, but comely and well compossed in all his liniamentes; his complexion meerly whitee, with fiaxin haire; of a stayed, graue, and solide looke, and yet his eyes sparkling and full of lyfe; of speach slowe, but wittie and full of sence; a presence graitfull, courtly, and so winneing vpon the beholder, as it seemed to claime reuerence without seweing for it; for he was so affable, so courteous, so bening, as seemed verely to scorne ostentation and the keeping of state, and therefor he quicklie made a conquesse of the heartes of all his followers, so as whan he list he could haue lead them in a chaine to haue followed him with chearefullnes in all his interpryses; and I am certanely perswaded, that this his gratious, humane, and courteous fredome of behauiour, being certanely acceptable befor God as well as men, was it that wanne him so much renovne, and inabled him cheifly, in the loue of his followers, to goe through so great interprysses, wheirin his equall had failled, altho they exceeded him farre in power, nor can any other reason be giuen for it, but only this that followeth. He did not seeme to affect state, nor to claime reuerence, nor to keepe a distance with gentlemen that ware not his domestickes; but rather in a noble yet courteouse way he seemed to slight those vanisheing smockes of greatnes, affecting rather the reall possession of mens heartes then the frothie and outward showe of reuerence; and therefor was all reuerence thrust vpon him, because all did loue him, therfor all did honour him and reuerence him, yea, haueing once acquired there heartes, they ware readie not only to honour him, but to quarrell with any that would not honour him, and would not spare there fortounes, nor there derrest blood about there heartes, to the end he might be honoured, because they sane that he tooke the right course to obtaine honour. He had fund furth the right way to be reuerenced, and thereby was approued that propheticke maxime which hath never failed, nor neuer shall faille, being pronounced by the Fontaine of treuth (He that exalteth himselfe shall be humbled); for his winneing behauiour and courteous caryage got him more respect then those to whom they ware bound both by the law of nature and by good reason to hawe giuen it to. Nor could any other reason be giuen for it, but only there to much keepeing of distance, and caryeing themselfes in a more statlye and reserued way, without putteing a difference betuixt a free borne gentleman and a seruille or base mynded slaue.

"This much I thought good by the way to signifie; for the best and most waliant generall that euer lead ane armie if he mistake the disposition of the nation whom he commandes, and will not descend a litle till he meete with the genious of his shouldiours, on whose followeing his grandeur and the success of his interpryses chiefely dependeth, stryueing through a high soireing and ower winneing ambition to drawe them to his byas with awe and not with lowe, that leader, I say, shall neuer prewaill against his enemies with ane armie of the Scotes nation."

Montrose had, about this time, received a commission from the Tables—as the boards of representatives, chosen respectively by the nobility, county gentry, clergy, and inhabitants of the burghs, were called—to raise a body of troops for the service of the Covenanters, and he now proceeded to embody them with extraordinary promptitude. Within one month, he collected a force of about 3,000 horse and foot, from the counties of Fife, Forfar, and Perth, and put them into a complete state of military discipline. Being joined by the forces under General Leslie, he marched upon Aberdeen, which he entered, without opposition, on the 30th of March, the Marquis of Huntly having abandoned the town on his approach. Some idea of the well-appointed state of this army may be formed from the curious description of Spalding, who says, that "upon the morne, being Saturday, they came in order of battell, weill armed, both on horse and foot, ilk horseman having five shot at the least, with ane carabine in his hand, two pistols by his sydes, and other two at his saddell toir; the pikemen in their ranks, with pike and sword; the musketiers in their ranks, with musket, musketstaffe, bandelier, sword, powder, ball, and match; ilk company, both on horse and foot, had their captains, lieutenants, ensignes, serjeants, and other officers and commanders, all for the most part in buff coats, and in goodly order. They had five colours or ensignes, whereof the Earl of Montrose had one, haveing this motto: ‘For Religion, The Covenant, and the Countrie;’ the Earle of Manschall had one, the Earle of Kinghorne had one, and the town of Dundie had two. They had trumpeters to ilk company of horsemen, and drummers to ilk company of footmen; they had their meat, drink, and other provision, bag and baggage, carryed with them, all done be advyse of his excellence Felt Marschall Leslie, whose councell Generall Montrose followed in this busieness. Now, in seemly order and good array, this army came forward, and entered the burgh of Aberdein, about ten hours in the morning, at the Over Kirkgate Port, syne came doun throw the Broadgate, throw the Castlegate, out at the Justice Port to the Queen’s Links directly. Here it is to be notted that few or none of this hail army wanted ane blew ribbin hung about his craig, doun under his left arme, which they called the Covenanters’ Ribbin. But the Lord Gordon, and some other of the marquess’ bairnes and familie, had ane ribbin when he was dwelling in the teen, of ane reid flesh cullor which they wore in their hatts, and called it The Royall Ribbin, as a signe of their love and loyalltie to the king. In despyte and derision thereof this blew ribbin was worne, and called the Covenanters’ Ribbin, be the hail souldiers of the army, and would not hear of the royall ribbin; such was their pryde and malice."

At Aberdeen Montrose was joined the same day by Lord Fraser, the Master of Forbes, the laird of Dalgettie, the tutor of Pitsligo, the Earl Marshal’s men in Buchan, with several other gentlemen and their tenants, dependants, and servants, to the number of 2,000, an addition which augmented Montrose’s army to 9,000 men. Leaving the Earl of Kinghorn with 1,500 men to keep possession of Aberdeen, Montrose marched the same day towards Kintore, where he encamped that night. Halting all Sunday, he proceeded on the Monday to Inverury, where he again pitched his camp. The Marquis of Huntly grew alarmed at this sudden and unexpected movement, and thought it now time to treat with such a formidable foe for his personal safety. He, therefore, despatched Robert Gordon of Straloch and Doctor Gordon, an Aberdeen physician, to Montrose’s camp, to request an interview. The marquis proposed to meet him on a moor near Blackhall, about two miles from the camp, with 11 attendants each, with no arms but a single sword at their side. After consulting with Field Marshal Leslie and the other officers, Montrose agreed to meet the marquis, on Thursday the 4th of April, at the place mentioned. The parties accordingly met. Among the eleven who attended the marquis were his son James, Lord Aboyne, and the Lord Oliphant. Lords Elcho and Cowper were of the party who attended Montrose. After the usual salutation they both alighted and entered into conversation; but, coming to no understanding, they adjourned the conference till the following morning, when the marquis signed a paper obliging himself to maintain the king’s authority, "the liberty of church and state, religion and laws." He promised at the same time to do his best to make his friends, tenants, and servants subscribe the Covenant. The marquis, after this arrangement, went to Strathbogie, and Montrose returned with his army to Aberdeen, the following day.

The marquis had not been many days at Strathbogie, when he received a notice from Montrose to repair to Aberdeen with his two sons, Lord Gordon and Viscount Aboyne, for the ostensible purpose of assisting the committee in their deliberations as to the settlement of the disturbances in the north.’ On Huntly receiving an assurance from Montrose and the other covenanting leaders that no attempt should be made to detain himself and his sons as prisoners, he complied with Montrose’s invitation, and repairing to Aberdeen, he took up his quarters in the laird of Pitfoddel’s house.

The arrest of the marquis, which followed, has been attributed, not without reason, to the intrigues of the Frasers and the Forbeses, who bore a mortal antipathy to the house of Huntly, and who were desirous to see the " Cock of the North," as the powerful head of that house was popularly called, humbled. But, be these conjectures as they may, on the morning after the marquis’s arrival at Aberdeen, viz., on the 11th April, a council of the principal officers of Montrose’s army was held, at which it was determined to arrest the marquis and Lord Gordon, his eldest son, and carry them to Edinburgh. It was not, however, judged advisable to act upon this resolution immediately, and to do away with any appearance of treachery, Montrose and his friends invited the marquis and his two sons to supper the following evening. During the entertainment the most friendly civilities were passed on both sides, and, after the party had become somewhat merry, Montrose and his friends hinted to the marquis the expediency, in the present posture of affairs, of resigning his commission of lieutenancy. They also proposed that he should write a letter to the king along with the resignation of his commission, in favour of the Covenanters, as good and loyal subjects; and that he should despatch the laird of Cluny, the following morning, with the letter and resignation. The marquis, seeing that his commission was altogether unavailable, immediately wrote out, in presence of the meeting, a resignation of it, and a letter of recommendation as proposed, and, in their presence, delivered the same to the laird of Cluny, who was to set off the following morning with them to the king. It would appear that Montrose was not sincere in making this demand upon the marquis, and that his object was, by calculating on a refusal, to make that the ground for arresting him; for the marquis had scarcely returned to his lodgings to pass the night, when an armed guard was placed round the house, to prevent him from returning home, as he intended to do, the following morning.

When the marquis rose, next morning, he was surprised at receiving a message from the covenanting general, desiring his attendance at the house of the Earl Marshal; and he was still farther surprised, when, on going out, along with his two sons, to the appointed place of meeting, he found his lodging beset with sentinels. The marquis was received by Montrose with the usual morning salutation, after which, he proceeded to demand from him a contribution for liquidating a loan of 200,000 merks, which the Covenanters had borrowed from Sir William Dick, a rich merchant of Edinburgh. To this unexpected demand the marquis replied, that he was not obliged to pay any part thereof, not having been concerned in the borrowing, and of course, declined to comply. Montrose then requested him to take steps to apprehend James Grant and John Dugar, and their accomplices, who had given considerable annoyance to the Covenanters in the Highlands. Huntly objected, that, having now no commission, he could not act, and that, although he had, James Grant had already obtained a remission from the king; and as for John Dugar, he would concur, if required, with the other neighbouring proprietors in an attempt to apprehend him. The earl, finally, as the Covenant, he said, admitted of no standing hatred or feud, required the marquis to reconcile himself to Crichton, the laird of Frendraught, but this the marquis positively refused to do. Finding, as he no doubt expected, the marquis quite resolute in his determination to resist these demands, the earl suddenly changed his tone, and thus addressed the marquis, apparently in the most friendly terms, "My lord, seeing we are all now friends, will you go south to Edinburgh with us?" Huntly answered that he would not—that he was not prepared for such a journey, and that he was just going to set off for Strathbogie. "Your lordship," rejoined Montrose, "will do well to go with us." The marquis now perceiving Montrose’s design, accosted him thus, "My lord, I came here to this town upon assurance that I should come and go at my own pleasure, without molestation or inquietude; and now I see why my lodging was guarded, and that ye mean to take me to Edinburgh, whether I will or not. This conduct, on your part, seems to me to be neither fair nor honourable." He added, "My lord, give me back the bond which I gave you at Inverury, and you shall have an answer." Montrose thereupon delivered the bond to the marquis. Huntly then inquired at the earl, "Whether he would take him to the south as a captive, or willingly of his own mind?" "Make your choice," said Montrose. "Then," observed the marquis, "I will not go as a captive, but as a volunteer." The marquis thereupon immediately returned to his lodging, and despatched a messenger after the laird of Cluny, to stop him on his journey."

It was the intention of Montrose to take both the marquis and his sons to Edinburgh, but Viscount Aboyne, at the desire of some of his friends, was released, and allowed to return to Strathbogie. On arriving at Edinburgh, the marquis and his son, Lord Gordon, were committed close prisoners to the castle of Edinburgh, and the Tables "appointed five guardians to attend upon him and his son night and day, upon his own expenses, that none should come in nor out but by their sight." On being solicited to sign the Covenant, Huntly issued a manifesto characterized by magnanimity and the most steadfast loyalty, concluding with the following words:—" For my oune part, I am in your power; and resolved not to leave that foul title of traitor as ane inheritance upon my posteritye. Yow may tacke my heade from my shoulders, but not my heart from my soveraigne."

Some time after the departure of Montrose’s army to the south, the Covenanters of the north appointed a committee meeting to be held at Turriff, upon Wednesday, 24th April, consisting of the Earls Marshal and Seaforth, Lord Fraser, the Master of Forbes, and some of their kindred and friends. All persons within the diocese, who had not subscribed the Covenant, were required to attend this meeting for the purpose of signing it, and failing compliance, their property was to be given up to indiscriminate plunder. As neither Lord Aboyne, the laird of Banff, nor any of their friends and kinsmen, had subscribed the Covenant, nor meant to do so, they resolved to protect themselves from the threatened attack. A preliminary meeting of the heads of the northern Covenanters was held on the 22d of April, at Monymusk, where they learned of the rising of Lord Aboyne and his friends. This intelligence induced them to postpone the meeting at Turriff till the 26th of April, by which day they expected to be joined by several gentlemen from Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Moray, and other quarters. At another meeting, however, on the 24th of April, they postponed the proposed meeting at Turriff, sine die, and adjourned to Aberdeen; but as no notice had been sent of the postponement to the different covenanting districts in the north, about 1,500 men assembled at the place of meeting on the 26th of April, and were quite astonished to find that the chiefs were absent. Upon an explanation taking place, the meeting was adjourned till the 20th of May.

Lord Aboyne had not been idle during this interval, having collected about 2,000 horse and foot from the Highlands and Lowlands, with which force he had narrowly watched the movements of the Covenanters. Hearing, however, of the adjournment of the Turriff meeting, his lordship, at the entreaty of his friends, broke up his army, and went by sea to England to meet the king, to inform him of the precarious state of affairs in the north. Many of his followers, such as the lairds of Gight, Haddo, Udney, Newton, Pitmedden, Faveran, Tippertie, Harthill, and others, who had subscribed the Covenant, regretted his departure; but as they had gone too far to recede, they resolved to continue their forces in the field, and held a meeting on the 7th of May at Auchterless, to concert a plan of operations.

A body of the Covenanters, to the number of about 2,000, having assembled at Turriff as early as the 13th of May, the Gordons resolved instantly to attack them, before they should be joined by other forces, which were expected to arrive before the 20th. Taking along with them four brass field-pieces from Strathbogie, the Gordons, to the number of about 800 horse and foot, commenced their march on the 13th of May, at ten o’clock at night, and reached Turriff next morning by day-break, by a road unknown to the sentinels of the covenanting army. As soon as they approached the town, the commander of the Gordons ordered the trumpets to be sounded and the drums to be beat, the noise of which was the first indication the Covenanters had of their arrival. Being thus surprised, the latter had no time to make any preparations for defending themselves. They made, indeed, a short resistance, but were soon dispersed by the fire from the field-pieces, leaving behind them the lairds of Echt and Skene, and a few others, who were taken prisoners. The loss on either side, in killed and wounded, was very trifling. This skirmish is called by the writers of the period, "the Trott of Turray."

The successful issue of this trifling affair had a powerful effect on the minds of the victors, who forthwith marched on Aberdeen, which they entered on the 15th of May. They expelled the Covenanters from the town, and were there joined by a body of men from the Braes of Mar under the command of Donald Farquharson of Tulliegarmouth, and the laird of Abergeldie, and by another party headed by James Grant, so long an outlaw, to the number of about 500 men. These men quartered themselves very freely upon the inhabitants, particularly on those who had declared for the Covenant, and they plundered many gentlemen’s houses in the neighbourhood. The house of Durris, belonging to John Forbes of Leslie, a great Covenanter, received a visit from them. "There was," says Spalding, "little plenishing left unconveyed away before their comeing They gott good bear and ale, broke up girnells, and buke bannocks at good fyres, and drank merrily upon the laird’s best drink: syne carried away with them alse meikle victual as they could beir, which they could not gett eaten and destroyed; and syne removed from that to Echt, Skene, Monymusk, and other houses pertaining to the name of Forbes, all great Covenanters".

Two days after their arrival at Aberdeen, the Gordons sent to Dunnottar, for the purpose of ascertaining the sentiments of the Earl Marshal, in relation to their proceedings, and whether they might reckon on his friendship, The earl, however, intimated that he could say nothing in relation to the affair, and that he would require eight days to advise with his friends. This answer was considered quite unsatisfactory, and the chiefs of the army were at a loss how to act. Robert Gordon of Straloch, and James Burnet of Craigmylle, a brother of the laird of Leys, proposed to enter into a negotiation with the Earl Marshal, but Sir George Ogilvie of Banff would not listen to such a proceeding, and, addressing Straloch, he said, "Go, if you will go; but pr’ythee, let it be as quarter-master, to inform the earl that we are coming." Straloch, however, went not in the character of a quarter-master, but as a mediator in behalf of his chief. The earl said he had no intention to take up arms, without an order from the Tables; that, if the Gordons would disperse, he would give them early notice to re-assemble, if necessary, for their own defence, but that if they should attack him, he would certainly defend himself.

The army was accordingly disbanded on the 21st of May, and the barons went to Aberdeen, there to spend a few days. The depredations of the Highlanders, who had come down to the lowlands in quest of plunder, upon the properties of the Covenanters, were thereafter carried on to such an extent, that the latter complained to the Earl Marshal, who immediately assembled a body of men out of Angus and the Mearns, with which he entered Aberdeen on the 23d of May, causing the barons to make a precipitate retreat. Two days thereafter the earl was joined by Montrose, at the head of 4,000 men, an addition which, with other accessions, made the whole force assembled at Aberdeen exceed 6,000.

Meanwhile a large body of northern Covenanters, under the command of the Earl of Seaforth, was approaching from the districts beyond the Spey; but the Gordons having crossed the Spey for the purpose of opposing their advance, an agreement was entered into between both parties that, on the Gordons retiring across the Spey, Seaforth and his men should also retire homewards.

After spending five days in Aberdeen, Montrose marched his army to Udney, thence to Kellie, the seat of the laird of Haddo, and afterwards to Gight, the residence of Sir Robert Gordon, to which he laid siege. But intelligence of the arrival of Viscount Aboyne in the bay of Aberdeen, deranged his plans. Being quite uncertain of Aboyne’s strength, and fearing that his retreat might be cut off, Montrose quickly raised the siege and returned to Aberdeen. Although Lord Aboyne still remained on board his vessel, and could easily have been prevented from landing, Montros most unaccountably abandoned the town, and retired into the Mearns.

Viscount Aboyne had been most graciously received by the king, and had ingratiated himself so much with the monarch, as to obtain the commission of lieutenancy which his father held. The king appears to have entertained good hopes from his endeavours to support the royal cause in the north of Scotland, and before taking leave he gave the viscount a letter addressed to the Marquis of Hamilton, recquesting him to afford his lordship all the assistance in his power. From whatever cause, all the aid afforded by the Marquis was limited to a few officers and four field-pieces: "The king," says Gordon of Sallagh, "coming to Berwick, and business growing to a height, the armies of England and Scotland lying near one another, his majesty sent the Viscount of Aboyne and Colonel Gun (who was then returned out of Germany) to the Marquis of Hamilton, to receive some forces from him, and with these forces to go to Aberdeen, to possess and recover that town. The Marquis of Hamilton, lying at anchor in Forth, gave them no supply of men, but sent them five ships to Aberdeen, and the marquis himself retired with his fleet and men to the Holy Island, hard by Berwick, to reinforce the king’s army there against the Scots at Dunslaw." On his voyage to Aberdeen, Aboyne’s ships fell in with two vessels, one of which contained the lairds of Banif, Foveran, Newton, Crummie, and others, who had fled on the approach of Montrose to Gight; and the other had on board some citizens of Aberdeen, and several ministers who had refused to sign the Covenant, all of whom the viscount persuaded to return home along with him.

On the 6th of June, Lord Aboyne, accompanied by the Earls of Glencairn and Tullibardine, the lairds of Drum, Banff, Fedderet, Foveran, and Newton, and their followers, with Colonel Gun and several English officers, landed in Aberdeen without opposition. Immediately on coming ashore, Aboyne issued a proclamation which was read at the cross of Aberdeen, prohibiting all his majesty’s loyal subjects from paying any rents, duties, or other debts to the Covenanters, and requiring them to pay one-half of such sums to the king, and to retain the other for themselves. Those persons who had been forced to subscribe the Covenant against their will, were, on repentance, to be forgiven, and every person was required to take an oath of allegiance to his majesty.

This bold step inspired the royalists with confidence, and in a short space of time a considerable force rallied round the royal standard. Lewis Gordon, third son of the Marquis of Huntly, a youth of extraordinary courage, on hearing of his brother’s arrival, collected his father’s friends and tenants, to the number of about 1,000 horse and foot, and with these he entered Aberdeen on the 7th of June. These were succeeded by 100 horse, sent in by the laird of Drum, and by considerable forces led by James Grant and Donald Farquharson. Many of the Covenanters also joined the viscount, so that his force ultimately amounted to several thousand men. Spalding gives a sad, though somewhat ludicrous account of the way in which Farquharson’s "hieland men" conducted themselves while in Aberdeen. He says, " Thir saulless lounis plunderit meit, drink, and scheip quhair ever they cam. Thay oppressit the Oldtoun, and brocht in out of the countrie honest menis scheip, and sold at the cross of Old Abirdein to sic as wold by, ane scheip upone foot for ane groat. The poor men that aucht thame follouit in and coft bak thair awin scheip agane, sic as wes left unslayne for thair meit."

On the 10th of June the viscount left Aberdeen, and advanced upon Kintore with an army of about 2,000 horse and foot, to which he received daily accessions. The inhabitants of the latter place were compelled by him to subscribe the oath of allegiance, and notwithstanding their compliance, " the troops," says Spalding, "plundered meat and drink, and made good fires: and, where they wanted pests, broke down beds and boards in honest men’s houses to be fires, and fed their horses with corn and straw that day and night." Next morning the army made a raid upon Hall Forrest, a seat of the Earl Marshal, and the house of Muchells, belonging to Lord Fraser; but Aboyne, hearing of a rising in the south, returned to Aberdeen.

As delay would be dangerous to his cause in the present conjuncture, he crossed the Dee on the 14th of June, his army amounting altogether probably to about 3,000 horse and foot, with the intention of occupying Stonehaven, and of issuing afresh the king’s proclamation at the market cross of that burgh. He proceeded as far as Muchollis, or Muchalls, the seat of Sir Thomas Burnet of Leyes, a Covenanter, where he encamped that night. On hearing of his approach, the Earl Marshal and Montrose posted themselves, with 1,200 men, and some pieces of ordnance which they had drawn from Dunnottar castle, on the direct road which Aboyne had to pass, and waited his approach.

Although Aboyne was quite aware of the position of the Earl Marshal, instead of endeavouring to outflank him by making a detour to the right, he, by Colonel Gun’s advice, crossed the Meagre hill next morning, directly in the face of his opponent, who lay with his forces at the bottom of the hill. As Aboyne descended the kill, the Earl Marshal opened a heavy fire upon him, which threw his men into complete disorder. The Highlanders, unaccustomed to the fire of cannon, were the first to retreat, and in a short time the whole army gave way. Aboyne thereupon returned to Aberdeen with some horsemen, leaving the rest of the army to follow; but the Highlanders took a homeward course, carrying along with them a large quantity of booty, which they gathered on their retreat. The disastrous issue of "the Raid of Stonehaven," as this affair has been called, has been attributed, with considerable plausibility, to treachery on the part of Colonel Gun, to whom, on account of his great experience, Aboyne had intrusted the command of the army.

On his arrival at Aberdeen, Aboyne held a council of war, at which it was determined to send some persons into the Mearns to collect the scattered remains of his army, for, with the exception of about 180 horsemen and a few foot soldiers, the whole of the fine army which he had led from Aberdeen had disappeared; but although the army again mustered at Leggetsden to the number of 4,000, they were prevented from recrossing the Dee and joining his lordship by the Marshal and Montrose, who advanced towards the bridge of Dee with all their forces. Aboyne, hearing of their approach, resolved to dispute with them the passage of the Dee, and, as a precautionary measure, blocked up the entrance to the bridge of Dee from the south by a thick wall of turf, beside which he placed 100 musketeers upon the bridge, under the command of LieutenantColonel Johnstone, to annoy the assailants from the small turrets on its sides. The viscount was warmly seconded in his views by the citizens of Aberdeen, whose dread of another hostile visit from the Covenanters induced them to afford him every assistance in their power, and it is recorded that the women and children even occupied themselves in carrying provisions to the army during the contest.

The army of Montrose consisted of about 2,000 foot and 300 horse, and a large train of artillery. The forces which Lord Aboyne had collected on the spur of the occasion were not numerous, but he was superior in cavalry. His ordnance consisted only of four pieces of brass cannon. Montrose arrived at the bridge of Dee on the 18th of June, and, without a moment’s delay, commenced a furious cannonade upon the works which had been thrown up at the south end, and which he kept up during the whole day without producing any material effect. Lieutenant-colonel Johnstone defended the bridge with determined bravery, and his musketeers kept up a galling and well-directed fire upon their assailants. Both parties reposed during the short twilight, and as soon as morning dawned Montrose renewed his attack upon the bridge, with an ardour which seemed to have received a fresh impulse from the unavailing efforts of the preceding day but all his attempts were vain. Seeing no hopes of carrying the bridge in the teeth of the force opposed to him, he had recourse to a stratagem, by which he succeeded in withdrawing a part of Aboyne’s forces from the defence of the bridge. That force had, indeed, been considerably impaired before the renewal of the attack, in consequence of a party of 50 musketeers having gone to Aberdeen to escort thither the body of a citizen named John Forbes, who had been killed the preceding day; to which circumstance Spalding attributes the loss of the bridge; but whether the absence of this party had such an effect upon the fortune of the day is by no means clear. The covenanting general, after battering unsuccessfully the defences of the bridge, ordered a party of horsemen to proceed up the river some distance, and to make a demonstration as if they intended to cross. Aboyne was completely deceived by this manoeuvre, and sent the whole of his horsemen from the bridge to dispute the passage of the river with those of Montrose, leaving Lieutenant-colonel John-stone and his 50 musketeers alone to protect the bridge. Montrose having thus drawn his opponent into the snare set for him, immediately sent back the greater part of his horse, under the command of Captain Middleton, with instructions to renew the attack upon the bridge with redoubled energy. This officer lost no time in obeying these orders, and Lieutenant-colonel Johnstone having been wounded in the outset by a stone torn from the bridge by a shot, was forced to abandon its defence, and he and his party retired precipitately to Aberdeen.

When Aboyne saw the colours of the Covenanters flying on the bridge of Dee, he fled with great haste towards Strathbogie, after releasing the lairds of Purie Ogilvy and Purie Fodderinghame, whom he had taken prisoners, and carried with him from Aberdeen. The loss on either side during the conflict on the bridge was trifling. The only person of note who fell on Aboyne’s side was Seaton of Pitmedden, a brave cavalier, who was killed by a cannon shot while riding along the river side with Lord Aboyne. On that of the Covenanters was slain another valiant gentleman, a brother of Ramsay of Balmain. About 14 persons of inferior note were killed on each side, including some burgesses of Aberdeen, and several were wounded.

Montrose, reaching the north bank of the Dee, proceeded immediately to Aberdeen, which he entered without opposition. So exasperated were Montrose’s followers at the repeated instances of devotedness shown by the inhabitants to the royal cause, that they proposed to raze the town and set it on fire; but they were hindered from carrying their design into execution by the firmness of Montrose. The Covenanters, however, treated the inhabitants very harshly, and imprisoned many who were suspected of having been concerned in opposing their passage across the Dee; but an end was put to these proceedings in consequence of intelligence being brought on the following day (June 20th) of the treaty of pacification which had been entered into between the king and his subjects at Berwick, upon the 18th of that month. On receipt of this news, Montrose sent a despatch to the Earl of Seaforth, who was stationed with his army on the Spey, intimating the pacification, and desiring him to disband his army, with which order had instantly complied. 

The articles of pacification were preceded by a declaration on the part of the king, in which he stated, that although he could not condescend to ratify and approve of the acts of the Glasgow General Assembly, yet, notwithstanding the many disorders which had of late been committed, he not only confirmed and made good whatsoever his commissioner had granted and promised, but he also declared that all matters ecclesiastical should be determined by the assemblies of the kirk, and matters civil by the parliament and other inferior judicatories established by law. To settle, therefore, "the general distractions" of the kingdom, his majesty ordered that a free general assembly should be held at Edinburgh on the 6th August following, at which he declared his intention, "God willing, to be personally present;" and he moreover ordered a parliament to meet at Edinburgh on the 20th of the same month, for ratifying the proceedings of the general assembly, and settling such other matters as might conduce to the peace and good of the kingdom of Scotland. By the articles of pacification, it was, inter alia, provided that the forces in Scotland should be disbanded within forty-eight hours after the publication of the declaration, and that all the royal castles, forts, and warlike stores of every description, should be delivered up to his majesty after the said publication, as soon as he should send to receive them. Under the seventh and last article of the treaty, the Marquis of Huntly and his son, Lord Gordon, and some others who had been detained prisoners in the castle of Edinburgh by the Covenanters, were set at Liberty.

It has been generally supposed that neither party had any sincere intention to observe the conditions of the treaty. Certain it is, that the ink with which it was written was scarcely dry before its violation was contemplated. On the one hand, the king, before removing his army from the neighbourhood of Berwick, required the heads of the Covenanters to attend him there, obviously with the object of gaining them over to his side; but, with the exception of three commoners and three lords, Montrose, Loudon, and Lothian, they refused to obey. It was at this conference that Charles, who apparently had great persuasive powers, made a convert of Montrose, who from that time determined to desert his associates in arms and to place himself under the royal standard. The immediate strengthening of the forts of Berwick and Carlisle, and the provisioning of the castle of Edinburgh, were probably the suggestions of Montrose, who would, of course, be intrusted with the secret of his majesty’s designs. The Covenanters, on the other hand, although making a show of disbanding their army at Dunse, in reality kept a considerable force on foot, which they quartered in different parts of the country, to be in readiness for the field on a short notice. The suspicious conduct of the king certainly justified this precaution.

The general assembly met on the day fixed upon, but, instead of attending in person as he proposed, Charles appointed the Earl of Traquair to act as his commissioner. After abolishing the articles of Perth, the book of canons, the liturgy, the high commission and episcopacy, and ratifying the late Covenant, the assembly was dissolved on the 30th of August, and another general assembly was appointed to be held at Aberdeen on the 28th of July of the following year, 1640. The parliament met next day, viz., on the last day of August, and as there were no bishops to represent the third estate, fourteen minor barons were elected in their stead. His majesty’s commissioner protested against the vote and against farther proceedings till the king’s mind should be known, and the commissioner immediately sent off a letter apprising him of the occurrence. Without waiting for the king’s answer, the parliament was proceeding with a variety of bills for securing the liberty of the subject and restraining the royal prerogative, when it was unexpectedly and suddenly prorogued, by an order from the king, till the 2d of June in the following year.

If Charles had not already made up his mind for war with his Scottish subjects, the conduct of the parliament which he had just prorogued determined him again to have recourse to arms in vindication of his prerogative. He endeavoured, at first, to enlist the sympathies of the bulk of the English nation in his cause, but without effect; and his repeated appeals to his English people, setting forth the rectitude of his intentions and the justice of his cause, being answered by men who questioned the one and denied the other, rather injured than served him. The people of England were not then in a mood to embark in a crusade against the civil and religious liberties of the north; and they had too much experience of the arbitrary spirit of the king to imagine that their own liberties would be better secured by extinguishing the flame which burned in the breasts of the sturdy and enthusiastic Covenanters.

But notwithstanding the many discouraging circumstances which surrounded him, Charles displayed a firmness of resolution to coerce the rebellious Scots by every means within his reach. The spring and part of the summer of 1640 were spent by both parties in military preparations. Field-Marshal Sir Alexander Leslie of Balgony, an old and experienced officer who had been in foreign service, was appointed generalissimo of the Scots army by the war committee. When mustered by the general at Choicelee, it amounted to about 22,000 foot and 2,500 horse. A council of war was held at Dunse at which it was determined to invade England. Montrose, to whose command a division of the army, consisting of 2,000 foot and 500 horse, was intrusted, was absent when this meeting was held; but, although his sentiments had, by this time, undergone a complete change, seeing on his return no chance of preventing the resolution of the council, he dissembled his feelings and openly approved of the plan. There seems to be no doubt that in following this course he intended, on the first favourable opportunity, to declare for the king, and carry off such part of the army as should be inclined to follow him, which he reckoned at a third of the whole.

The Earl of Argyle was commissioned by the Committee of Estates to secure the west and central Highlands. This, the eighth Earl and first Marquis of Argyle, had succeeded to the title only in 1638, although he had enjoyed the estates for many years before that, as his father had been living in Spain, an outlaw. He was born in 1598, and strictly educated in the protestant faith as established in Scotland at the Reformation.  In 1626 he was made a privy councillor, and in 1634 appointed one of the extraordinary lords of session. In 1638, at the General Assembly of Glasgow, he openly went over to the side of the Covenanters, and from that time was recognised as their political head. Argyle, in executing the task intrusted to him by the committee, appears to have been actuated more by feelings of private revenge than by an honest desire to carry out the spirit of his commission. The ostensible reason for his undertaking this charge was his thorough acquaintance with the Highlands and the Highlanders, and his ability to command the services of a large following of his own. "But the cheefe cause," according to Gordon of Rothiemay, "though least mentioned, was Argylle, his spleene that he carryed upon the accompt of former disobleedgments betwixt his family and some of the Highland clans: therefore he was glade now to gett so faire a colour of revenge upon the publicke score, which he did not lett slippe. Another reasone he had besyde; it was his designe to swallow upp Badzenoch and Lochaber, and some landes belonging to the Mackdonalds, a numerous trybe, but haters of, and aeqwally hated by Argylle." He had some hold on these two districts, as, in 1639, he had become security for some of Huntly’s debts to the latter’s creditors. Argyle managed to seduce from their allegiance to Huntly the clan Cameron in Lochaber, who bore a strong resentment against their proper chief on account of some supposed injury done to the clan by the former marquis. Although they had little relish for the Covenant, still to gratify their revenge, they joined themselves to Argyle. A tribe of the Macdonalds who inhabited Lochaber, the Macranalds of Keppoch, who remained faithful to Huntly, met with very different treatment at the hands of Argyle, who devastated their district and burnt down their chief’s dwelling at Keppoch.

First Marquis of ArgyleDuring this same summer (July 1640), Argyle, who had raised an army of about 5,000 men, made a devastating raid into the district of Forfarshire belonging to the Earl of Airly. He made first for Airly castle, about five miles north of Meigle, which, in the absence of the earl in England, was held by his son Lord Ogilvie, who had recently maintained it against Montrose. When Argyle came up, Ogilvie saw that resistance was hopeless, and abandoned the castle to the tender mercy of the enemy. Argyle without scruple razed the place to the ground, and is said to have shown himself so "extremely earnest" in the work of demolition "that he was seen taking a hammer in his hande and knocking down the hewed work of the doors and windows till he did sweat for heat at his work." Argyle’s men carried off all they could from the house and the surrounding district, and rendered useless what they were compelled to leave behind.

From Airly, Argyle proceeded to a seat belonging to Lord Ogilvie, Forthar in Glenisla, the "bonnie house o’ Airly," of the well-known song. Here he behaved in a manner for which it would be difficult for his warmest supporters to find the shadow of an excuse, even taking into consideration the roughness of the times. The place is said by Gordon to have been "no strength," so that there is still less excuse for his conduct. He treated Forthar in the same way that he did Airly, and although Lady Ogilvie, who at the time was close on her confinement, asked Argyle to stay proceedings until she gave birth to her infant, he without scruple expelled her from the house, and proceeded with his work of destruction. Not only so, however, but "the Lady Drum, Dame Marian Douglas, who lived at that time in Kelly, hearing tell what extremity her grandchild, the Lady Ogilvy, was reduced to, did send a commission to Argyle, to whom the said Lady Drum was a kinswoman, requesting that, with his license, she might admit into her own house, her grandchild, the Lady Ogilvy, who at that time was near her delivery; but Argyle would give no license. This occasioned the Lady Drum for to fetch the Lady Ogilvie to her house of Kelly, and for to keep her there upon all hazard that might follow."

At the same time Argyle "was not forgetful to remember old quarrels to Sir John Ogilvie of Craigie." He sent a sergeant to Ogilvie’s house to warn him to leave it, but the sergeant thought Argyle must have made some mistake, as he found it no more than a simple unfortified country house, occupied only by a sick gentlewoman and some servants. The sergeant returned and told this to Argyle, who waxed wroth and told him it was his duty simply to obey orders, commanding him at the same time to return and "deface and spoil the house." After the sergeant had received his orders, Argyle was observed to turn round and repeat to himself the Latin political maxim A bscindantur qui nos perturbant, "a maxime which many thought that he practised accurately, which he did upon the account of the proverb consequential thereunto, and which is the reason of the former, which Argyle was remarked likewise to have often in his mouth as a choice aphorism, and well observed by statesmen, Quod mortui non mordent."

Argyle next proceeded against the Earl of Athole, who, with about 1,200 followers, was lying in Breadalbane, ready to meet him. Argyle, whose army was about five times the size of Athole’s, instead of giving fight, managed by stratagem to capture Athole and some of his friends, whom he sent to the Committee of Estates at Edinburgh. 

Argyle, after having thus gratified his private revenge and made a show of quieting the Highlands, returned to the lowlands.

On the 20th of August General Leslie crossed the Tweed with his army, the van of which was led by Montrose on foot. This task, though performed with readiness and with every appearance of good will, was not voluntarily undertaken, but had been devolved upon Montrose by lot; none of the principal officers daring to take the lead of their own accord in such a dangerous enterprise. There can be no doubt that Montrose was insincere in his professions, and that those who suspected him were right in thinking that in his heart he was turned Royalist, a supposition which his correspondence with the king and his subsequent conduct fully justify.

Although the proper time had not arrived for throwing off the mask, Montrose immediately on his return to Scotland, after the close of this campaign, began to concert measures for counteracting the designs of the Covenanters; but his plans were embarrassed by some of his associates disclosing to the Covenanters the existence of an association which Montrose had formed at Cumbernauld for supporting the royal authority. A great outcry was raised against Montrose in consequence, but his influence was so great that the heads of the Covenanters were afraid to show any severity towards him. On subsequently discovering, however, that the king had written him letters which were intercepted and forcibly taken from the messenger, a servant of the Earl of Traquair, they apprehended him, along with Lord Napier of Merchiston, and Sir George Stirling of Keith, his relatives and intimate friends, and imprisoned them in the castle of Edinburgh. On the meeting of the parliament at Edinburgh in July, 1641, which was attended by the king in person, Montrose demanded to be tried before them, but his application was rejected by the Covenanters, who obtained an order from the parliament prohibiting him from going into the king’s presence. After the king had returned to England, Montrose and his fellow-prisoners were liberated, and he, thereupon, went to his own castle, where he remained for some time, ruminating on the course he should pursue for the relief of the king. The king, while in Scotland at this time, conferred honours upon several of the covenanting leaders, apparently for the purpose of conciliation, Argyle being raised to the dignity of a marquis.

Although Charles complied with the demands of his Scottish subjects, and heaped many favours and distinctions upon the heads of the leading Covenanters, they were by no means satisfied, and entered fully into the hostile views of their brethren in the south, with whom they made common cause. Having resolved to send an army into England to join the forces of the parliament, which had come to an open rupture with the sovereign, they attempted to gain over Montrose to their side by offering him the post of lieutenant-general of their army, and promising to accede to any demands he might make; but he rejected all their offers; and, as an important crisis was at hand, he hastened to England in the early part of the year 1643, in company with Lord Ogilvie, to lay the state of affairs before the king, and to offer him his advice and service in such an emergency. Charles, however, either from a want of confidence in the judgment of Montrose, who, to the rashness and impetuosity of youth, added, as he was led to believe, a desire of gratifying his personal feelings and vanity, or overcome by the calculating but fatal policy of the Marquis of Hamilton, who deprecated a fresh war between the king and his Scottish subjects, declined to follow the advice of Montrose, who had offered to raise an army immediately in Scotland to support him.

A convention of estates called by the Covenanters, without any authority from the king, met at Edinburgh on the 22d of June, 1643, and he soon perceived from the character and proceedings of this assembly, the great majority of which were Covenanters, the mistake he had committed in rejecting the advice of Montrose, and he now resolved, thenceforth, to be guided in his plans for subduing Scotland by the opinion of that nobleman. Accordingly, at a meeting held at Oxford, between the king and Montrose, in the month of December, 1643, when the Scots army was about entering England, it was agreed that the Earl of Antrim, an Irish nobleman of great power and influence, who then lived at Oxford, should be sent to Ireland to raise auxiliaries with whom he should make a descent on the west parts of Scotland in the month of April following ;— that the Marquis of Newcastle, who commanded the royal forces in the north of England, should furnish Montrose with a party of horse, with which he should enter the south of Scotland, —that an application should be made to the King of Denmark for some troops of German horse; and that a quantity of arms should be transported into Scotland from abroad.

Instructions having been given to the Earl of Antrim to raise the Irish levy, and Sir James Cochran having been despatched to the continent as ambassador for the king, to procure foreign aid, Montrose left Oxford on his way to Scotland, taking York and Durham in his route. Near the latter city he had an interview with the Marquis of Newcastle for the purpose of obtaining a sufficient party of horse to escort him into Scotland, but all he could procure was about 100 horse, badly appointed, with two small brass field pieces. The Marquis sent orders to the king’s officers, and to the captains of the militia in Cumberland and Westmoreland, to afford Montrose such assistance as they could, and he was in consequence joined on his way to Carlisle by 800 foot and three troops of horse, of Cumberland and Northumberland militia. With this small force, and about 200 horse, consisting of noblemen and gentlemen who had served as officers in Germany, France, or England, Montrose entered Scotland on the 13th of April, 1644. He had not, however, proceeded far, when a revolt broke out among the English soldiers, who immediately returned to England. In spite of this discouragement, Montrose proceeded on with his small party of horse towards Dumfries, which surrendered to him without opposition. After waiting there a few lays, in expectation of hearing some tidings respecting the Earl of Antrim’s movements, without receiving any, he retired to Carlisle, to avoid being surprised by the Covenanters, large bodies of whom were hovering about in all directions.

To aid the views of Montrose, the king had appointed the Marquis of Huntly, on whose fidelity he could rely, his lieutenant-general in the north of Scotland. He, on hearing of the capture of Dumfries by Montrose, immediately collected a considerable body of horse and foot, consisting of Highlanders and lowlanders, at Kincardine-O’Neil, with the intention of crossing the Cairn-a-Mount; but being disappointed in not being joined by some forces from Perthshire, Angus, and the Mearns, which he expected, he altered his steps, and proceeded towards Aberdeen, which he took. Thence he despatched parties of his troops through the counties of Aberdeen and Bang, which brought in quantities of horses and arms for the use of his army. One party, consisting of 120 horse and 300 foot, commanded by the young laird of Drum and his brother, young Gicht, Colonel Nathaniel Gordon and Colonel Donald Farquharson and others, proceeded to the town of Montrose, which they took, killed one of the bailies, made the provost prisoner, and threw some cannon into the sea as they could not carry them away. But, on hearing that the Earl of Kinghorn was advancing upon them with the forces of Angus, they made a speedy retreat, leaving thirty of their foot behind them prisoners. To protect themselves against the army of the Marquis of Huntly, the inhabitants of Moray, on the north of the Spey, raised a regiment of foot and three companies of horse, which were quartered in the town of Elgin.

When the convention heard of Huntly’s movements, they appointed the Marquis of Argyle to raise an army to quell this insurrection. He, accordingly, assembled at Perth a force of 5,000 foot and 800 horse out of Fife, Angus, Mearns, Argyle, and Perthshire with which he advanced on Aberdeen. Huntly hearing of his approach, fled from Aberdeen and retired to the town of Banff, where, on the day of his arrival, he disbanded his army The marquis himself thereafter retired to Strathnaver, and took up his residence with the master of Reay. Argyle, after taking possession of Aberdeen, proceeded northward and took the castles of Gicht and Kellie, made the lairds of Gicht and Haddo prisoners and sent them to Edinburgh, the latter being, along with one Captain Logan, afterwards beheaded.

We now return to Montrose, who, after an ineffectual attempt to obtain an accession of force from the army of Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, determined on again entering Scotland with his little band. But being desirous to learn the exact situation of affairs there, before putting this resolution into effect, he sent Lord Ogilvie and Sir William Rollock into Scotland, in disguise, for that purpose. They returned in about fourteen days, and brought a spiritless and melancholy account of the state of matters in the north, where they found all the passes, towns, and forts, in possession of the Covenanters, and where no man dared to speak in favour of the king. This intelligence was received with dismay by Montrose’s followers, who now began to think of the best means of securing their own safety. In this unpleasant conjuncture of affairs, Montrose called them together to consult on the line of conduct they should pursue. Some advised him to return to Oxford and inform his majesty of the hopeless state of his affairs in Scotland, while others gave an opinion that he should resign his corn-mission, and go abroad till a more favourable opportunity occurred of serving the king; but the chivalrous and undaunted spirit of Montrose disdained to follow either of these courses, and he resolved upon the desperate expedient of venturing into the very heart of Scotland, with only one or two companions, in the hope of being able to rally round his person a force sufficient to support the declining interests of his sovereign.

Having communicated this intention privately to Lord Ogilvie, he put under his charge the few gentlemen who had remained faithful to him, that he might conduct them to the king; and having accompanied them to a distance; he withdrew from them clandestinely, leaving his servants, horses, and baggage behind him, and returned to Carlisle. Having prepared himself for his journey, he selected Sir William Rollock, a gentleman of tried honour, and one Sibbald, to accompany him. Disguised as a groom, and riding upon a lean, worn-out horse, and leading another in his hand, Montrose passed for Sibbald’s servant, in which condition and capacity he proceeded to the borders. The party had not proceeded far when an occurrence took place, which considerably disconcerted them. Meeting with a Scottish soldier, who had served under the Marquis of Newcastle in England, he, after passing Rollock and Sibbald, went up to the marquis, and accosted him by his name. Montrose told him that he was quite mistaken; but the soldier being positive, and judging that the marquis was concerned in some important affair, replied, with a countenance which betokened a kind heart, "Do not I know my lord Marquis of Montrose well enough But go your way, and God be with you." When Montrose saw that he could not preserve an incognito from the penetrating eye of the soldier, he gave him some money and dismissed him.

This occurrence excited alarm in the mind of Montrose, and made him accelerate his journey. Within four days he arrived at the house of Tullibelton, among the hills near the Tay, which belonged to Patrick Graham of Inchbrakie, his cousin, and a royalist. No situation was better fitted for concocting his plans, and for communicating with those clans and the gentry of the adjoining lowlands who stood well affected to the king, It formed, in fact, a centre, or point d’appui to the royalists of the Highlands and the adjoining lowlands, from which a pretty regular communication could be kept up, without any of those dangers which would have arisen in the lowlands.

For some days Montrose did not venture to appear among the people in the neighbourhood, nor did he consider himself safe even in Tullibelton house, but passed the night in an obscure cottage, and in the day-time wandered alone among the neighbouring mountains, ruminating over the strange peculiarity of his situation, and waiting the return of his fellow-travellers, whom he had despatched to collect intelligence on the state of the kingdom. These messengers came back to him after some days’ absence, bringing with them the most cheerless accounts of the situation of the country, and of the persecutions which the royalists suffered at the hands of the Covenanters. Among other distressing pieces of intelligence they communicated to Montrose the premature and unsuccessful attempt of the Marquis of Huntly in favour of the royal cause, and of his retreat to Strathnaver to avoid the fury of his enemies. These accounts greatly affected Montrose, who was grieved to find that the Gordons, who were stem royalists, should be exposed, by the abandonment of their chief, to the revenge of their enemies; but he consoled himself with the reflection, that as soon as he should be enabled to unfurl the royal standard, the tide of fortune would turn.

While cogitating on the course he should pursue in this conjuncture, a report reached him from some shepherds on the hills that a body of Irish troops had landed in the West, and was advancing through the Highlands. Montrose at once concluded that these were the auxiliaries whom the Earl of Antrim had undertaken to send him four months before, and such they proved to be. This force, which amounted to 1,500 men, was under the command of Alexander Macdonald, son of Coll Mac-Gillespie Macdonald of Iona, who had been greatly persecuted by the family of Argyle. Macdonald had arrived early in July, 1644, among the Hebrides, and had landed and taken the castles of Meigray and Kinloch Alan. He had then disembarked his forces in Knoydart, where he expected to be joined by the Marquis of Huntly and the Earl of Seaforth. As he advanced into the interior, he despatched the fiery cross for the purpose of summoning the clans to his standard; but, although the cross was carried through a large extent of country, even to Aberdeen, he was joined at first only by the clan Donald, under the captain of clan Ranald, and the laird of Glengary. The Marquis of Argyle collected an army to oppose the progress of Macdonald, and, to cut off his retreat to Ireland, he sent some ships of war to Loch Eishord, where Macdonald’s fleet lay, which captured or destroyed them. This lose, while it frustrated an intention Macdonald entertained of returning to Ireland, in consequence of the disappointment he had met with in not being joined by the clans, stimulated him to farther exertions in continuing his march, in the hope of meeting Montrose.

As Macdonald was perfectly ignorant of Montrose’s movements, and thought it likely that he might be still at Carlisle, waiting till he should hear of Macdonald’s arrival, he sent letters to him by the hands of a confidential friend, who resided in the neighbourhood of Inchbrakie’s house. This gentleman, who knew nothing of Montrose’s return to Scotland, having luckily communicated to Mr. Graham the secret of being intrusted with letters to his kinsman, Montrose, Graham offered to see them safely delivered to Montrose, though he should ride to Carlisle himself. The gentleman in question then delivered the letters to Graham, and Montrose having received them, wrote an answer as if from Carlisle, in which he requested Macdonald to keep up his spirits, that he would soon be joined by a seasonable reinforcement and a general at their head, and he ordered him with all expedition to march down into Athole. In fixing on Athole as the place of his rendezvous, Montrose is said to have been actuated by an implicit reliance on the fidelity and loyalty of the Athole-men, and by a high opinion of their courage. They lay, besides, under many obligations to himself, and he calculated that he had only to appear among them to command their services in the cause of their sovereign.

When Macdonald received these instructions, he marched towards Athole; but in passing through Badenoch he was threatened with an attack by the Earls of Sutherland and Seaforth, at the head of some of their people, and by the Frasers, Grants, Rosses, and Monroes, and other inhabitants of Moray, who had assembled at the top of Strathspey; but Macdonald very cautiously avoided them, and hastened into Athole. On arriving in Athole, Macdonald was coldly received by the people of that as well as the surrounding country, who doubted whether he had any authority from the king; and besides, they hesitated to place themselves under the command of a person of neither noble nor ancient lineage, and whom they considered an upstart. This indecision might have proved fatal to Macdonald, who was closely pressed in his rear by the army of Argyle, had not these untoward deliberations been instantly put an end to by the arrival of Montrose at Blair, where Macdonald had fixed his head-quarters. Montrose had travelled seventy miles on foot, in a Highland dress, accompanied by Patrick Graham, his cousin, as his guide. His appearance was hailed by his countrymen with every demonstration of joy, and they immediately made him a spontaneous offer of their services.

Accordingly, on the following day, the Athole-men, to the number of about 800, consisting chiefly of the Stewarts and Robertsons, put themselves under arms and flocked to the standard of Montrose. Thus, in little more than twenty-four hours, Montrose saw himself at the head of a force of upwards of 2,000 men, animated by an enthusiastic attachment to his person and to the cause which he had espoused. The extraordinary contrast between his present commanding position, and the situation in which he was placed a few days before, as a forlorn wanderer among the mountains, produced a powerful effect upon the daring and chivalrous spirit of Montrose, who looked forward to the success of his enterprise with the eagerness of a man who considered the destinies of his sovereign as altogether depending upon his individual exertions. Impressed with the necessity of acting with promptitude, he did not hesitate long as to the course he should pursue. He might have immediately gone in quest of Argyle, who had followed the army of Macdonald, with slow and cautious steps, and by one of those sudden movements which no man knew better how to execute with advantage, surprised and defeated his adversary; but such a plan did not accord with the designs of Montrose, who resolved to open the campaign at once in the lowlands, and thus give confidence to the friends and supporters of the king.

The general opinion which the Lowlanders of this period entertained regarding their upland neighbours was not very respectful. A covenanting wit, in a poem which he wrote against the bishops only a few years before, says of one whose extraction was from the other side of the Grampians, as if these two qualifications were of themselves sufficient, without any known vice, to put a man completely beyond the pale of virtue. It seems, indeed, to have been a general belief at the time that this primitive and sequestered people, as they were avowedly out of the saving circle of the Covenant, were also out of the limits of both law and religion, and therefore hopelessly and utterly given up to all sorts of wickedness. Not only were murder and robbery among the list of offences which they were accused of daily committing, but there even seems to have been a popular idea that sorcery was a prevailing crime amongst them. They were also charged with a general inclination to popery, an offence which, from the alarms and superstitions of the time, had now come, in general phraseology, to signify a condensation of all others.. Along with this horrible notion of the mountaineers, there was not associated the slightest idea of their ardent and chivalrous character; nor was there any general sensation of terror for the power which they undoubtedly possessed of annoying the peaceful inhabitants, and thwarting the policy of the Low country, no considerable body of Highlanders having been there seen in arms for several generations.

In pursuance of his determination, Montrose put his small army in motion the same day towards Strathearn, in passing through which he expected to be joined by some of the inhabitants of that and the adjoining country. At the same time he sent forward a messenger with a friendly notice to the Menzieses of his intention to pass through their country, but instead of taking this in good part they maltreated the messenger and harassed the rear of his army. This unprovoked attack so exasperated Montrose, that he ordered his men, when passing by Weem castle, which belonged to the clan Menzies, to plunder and lay waste their lands, and to burn their houses, an order which was literally obeyed. He expected that this example of summary vengeance would serve as a useful lesson to deter others, who might be disposed to imitate the conduct of the Menzieses, from following a similar course. Notwithstanding the time spent in making these reprisals, Montrose passed the Tay with a part of his forces the same evening, and the remainder followed very early the next morning. He had, at the special request of the Athole-men themselves, placed them under the command of his kinsman, Patrick Graham of Inchbrakie, and he now sent him forward with a select party to reconnoitre. Inchbrakie soon returned with information that he had observed a party of armed men stationed upon the hill of Buchanty. On inquiry, Montrose ascertained that this body was commanded by Lord Kulpont, eldest son of the Earl of Menteith, and by Sir John Drummond, son of the Earl of Perth, both of whom were his relations. The force in question, which consisted of about 500 men, was on its way to Perth to join the other covenanting troops who were stationed there. Montrose immediately marched up to this body, with the intention, if he could not prevail on them to join him, of attacking them, but before he had approached sufficiently near, Lord Kilpont, who had ascertained that Montrose commanded, sent some of his principal officers to him to ascertain what his object was in thus advancing. Montrose having explained his views and stated that he acted by the king’s authority, and having entreated them to return to their allegiance, they and the whole of their party immediately joined him. This new accession augmented Montrose’s army to about 3,000 men.

Montrose now learned from his new allies that the Covenanters had assembled their forces in great numbers at Perth, and that they lay there waiting for his approach. The covenanting army, in fact, was more than double that of Montrose, amounting to about 6,000 foot and 700 horse, to which were attached four pieces of artillery. Montrose, on the other hand, had not a single horseman, and but three horses, two of which were for his own use, and the other for that of Sir William Rollock, and besides he had no artillery. Yet with such a decided disparity, Montrose resolved to march directly to Perth and attack the enemy. He appears to have been influenced in this resolution by the consideration of the proximity of Argyle with his army, and the danger in which he would be placed by being hemmed in by two hostile armies: he could expect to avoid such an embarrassment only by risking an immediate engagement.

As the day was too far advanced to proceed to Perth, Montrose ordered his men to bivouac during the night about three miles from Buchanty, and began his march by dawn of day. As soon as Lord Elcho, the commander of the covenanting army, heard of Montrose’s approach, he left Perth and drew up his army on Tippermuir, a plain of some extent between four and five miles west from the town. Reserving to himself the command of the right wing, he committed the charge of the left to Sir James Scott, an able and skilful officer, who had served with great honour in the Venetian army; and to the Earl of Tullibardine he intrusted the command of the centre. The horse were divided and placed on each wing with the view of surrounding the army of Montrose, should he venture to attack them in their position. As soon as Montrose perceived the enemy thus drawn up in battle array, he made the necessary dispositions for attacking them. To counteract as much as possible the danger arising to such a small body of men, unprotected by cavalry, from the extended line of the Covenanters, Montrose endeavoured to make his line as extensive as possible with safety, by limiting his files to three men deep. As the Irish had neither swords nor pikes to oppose the cavalry, they were stationed in the centre of the line, and the Highlanders, who were provided with swords and Lochaber axes, were placed on the wings, as better fitted to resist the attacks of the cavalry. Some of the Highlanders were, however, quite destitute of arms of every description, and it is related on the authority of an eye-witness that Montrose, seeing their helpless condition, thus quaintly addressed them "It is true you have no arms; your enemies, however, have plenty. My advice, therefore, is, that as there happens to be a great abundance of stones upon this moor, every man should provide himself, in the first place, with as stout a stone as he can well manage, rush up to the first Covenanter he meets, beat out his brains, take his sword, and then, I believe, he will be at no loss how to proceed." This advice, as will be seen, was really acted upon. As Montrose was almost destitute of powder, he ordered the Irish forces to husband their fire till they should come close to the enemy, and after a simultaneous discharge from the three ranks, (the front rank kneeling,) to assail the enemy thereafter as they best could. To oppose the left wing of the Covenanters, commanded by Sir James Scott, Montrose took upon himself the command of his own right, placing Lord Kilpont at the head of the left, and Macdonald, his major-general, over the centre.

During the progress of these arrangements, Montrose despatched an accomplished young nobleman, named Drummond, eldest son of Lord Maderty, with a message to the chiefs of the Covenanters’ army, entreating them to lay down their arms and return to their duty and obedience to their sovereign. Instead, however, of returning any answer to this message, they seized the messenger, and sent him to Perth under an escort, with an intimation that, on obtaining a victory over his master, they would execute him. Indeed, the probability of a defeat seems never for a moment to have entered into the imaginations of the Covenanters, and they had been assured by Frederick Carmichael, a minister who had preached to them the same day, being Sunday, 1st September, " that if ever God spoke truth out of his mouth, he promised them, in the name of God, a certain victory that day."

There being no hopes, therefore, of an accommodation, both armies, after advancing towards each other, remained motionless for a short time, as if unwilling to begin the attack; but this state of matters was speedily put an end to by the advance of a select skirmishing party under the command of Lord Drummond, sent out from the main body of the covenanting army, for the double purpose of distracting the attention of Montrose, and inducing his troops to leave their ranks, and thus create confusion among them; but Montrose kept his men in check, and contented himself with sending out a few of his men to oppose them. Lord Drummond, whom Baillie appears to have suspected of treachery, and his party were routed at the first onset, and fled back upon the main body in great disorder. This trivial affair decided the fate of the day, for the Covenanters, many of whom were undisciplined, seeing the unexpected defeat of Lord Drummond’s party, became quite dispirited, and began to show symptoms which indicated a disposition for immediate flight. The confusion into which the main body had been thrown by the retreat of the advanced party, and the indecision which seemed now to prevail in the Covenanters’ army in consequence of that reverse, were observed by the watchful eye of Montrose, who saw that the favourable moment for striking a decisive blow had arrived. He therefore gave orders to his men to advance, who, immediately setting up a loud shout, rushed forward at a quick pace towards the enemy. They were met by a random discharge from some cannon which the Covenanters had placed in front of their army, but which did little or no execution. When sufficiently near, Montrose’s musketeers halted, and, as ordered, poured a volley into the main rank of the Covenanters, which immediately gave way. The cavalry of the Covenanters, thereupon, issued from their stations and attacked the royalists, who, in their turn, defended themselves with singular intrepidity. While the armed Highlanders made ample use of their Lochaber axes and swords, the Irish steadily opposed the attacks of the horse with the butt ends of their muskets; but the most effective annoyance which the cavalry met with appears to have proceeded from the unarmed Highlanders, who having supplied themselves with a quantity of stones, as suggested by Montrose, discharged them with well-directed aim at the horses and their riders. The result was, that after a short struggle, the cavalry were obliged to make a precipitate retreat. While this contest was going on, another part of Montrose’s army was engaged with the right wing of the covenanting army, under Sir James Scott, but although this body made a longer and more determined resistance, and galled the party opposed to them by an incessant fire of musketry, they were at last overpowered by the Athole-men, who rushed upon them with their broad-swords, and cut down and wounded a considerable number. The rout of the Covenanters now became general. The horsemen saved themselves by the fleetness of their horses; but during the pursuit, which was kept up to a distance of six or seven miles, many hundreds of foot were killed, and a considerable number made prisoners (There is great discrepancy between contemporary writers as to the number killed. Wishart states it at 2,000; Spalding at 1,300 and 800 prisoners; though he says that some reckoned the number at 1,500 killed. Gordon of Sallagh mentions only 300. Gordon of Ruthven, in Britane's Distemper, gives the number at 2,000 killed and 1,000 prisoner. Baillie says that no quarter was given and not a prisoner was taken), some of whom afterwards served in Montrose’s army. The loss on the side of Montrose appears to have been very trifling. By this victory, and the subsequent capture of Perth, which he entered the same day, Montrose was enabled to equip his army with all those warlike necessaries of which it had been so remarkably destitute in the morning, and of which the Covenanters left him an abundant supply.


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