The Irish Expeditionary Force that landed in Scotland in 1644 was comprised principally of men from the lands of Randall MacDonnell, Earl of Antrim in the eastern part of Ulster, although other parts of Ireland were represented in its ranks. There was also a fair representation of Scots (mainly MacDonalds and kin) from the Western Isles, foremost among them being Alasdair MacColla himself. They had the backing of both the Irish Confederation and King Charles, but it would probably not be justified to call the support of either enthusiastic. The King hoped that a new front in the war against the Solemn League and Covenant (the alliance of Scotland and Parliament) would cause the Scots army in Northern England to be called home. The Confederation had a similar hope for a reduction in force of the Scots army in Ulster. Antrim and MacColla had the added (if not over-riding) goal of recovering lost lands and generally exacting revenge on their hereditary enemies, the Campbells.
The entire brigade numbered somewhere between 1600 and 2000 men (the higher number representing a probable reinforcement that occurred sometime after the initial landings). It was apparently divided into three regiments of foot and for the purposes of charting their campaign in Scotland I have decided to defer to Stuart Reid’s orders of battle (Auldearn 1645 – Osprey). Reid is sometimes rejected for what is perceived to be an anti-Montrose and anti-Highlander bias, but I see it rather as a bias toward logic and realism, so I will continue using his numbers until better information comes to light.
I should, I think, explain my use of regimental flags. Our information on flags of the period ranges from fairly complete to non-existent. There are a few representations of the flags of the Irish Brigade based on verbal descriptions and I picked the ones used by the gentlemen at Project Auldearn 1645 because like them. I assign a faction color and three regimental colors to each regiment which serves the purpose of identification and convenience in play rather having any basis in historic reality.
All the infantry of the Irish Confederation armies will carry similar flags. The Confederation flag is a gold Irish harp on a green field along with Charles 1st’s cipher and the “Vivat” motto. The three regimental flags are uniform within each regiment (quite incorrect BUT necessary for game play) and have the cross of St. Patrick in the canton along with a religious icon and motto.
They are distinguished by small symbols to identify center, right, and left. The flags mark the position of line command pieces that are used for command and control purposes in the rules that I use.
The largest regiment (blue standards) is that of Alexander MacDonnell – the Earl of Antrim’s brother – and titular commander (Lieutenant General) of the expeditionary force. Its Lieutenant Colonel was probably a nephew of Antrim (or other close relative) but again playing a minor or non-existing role. This left the day-to-day command of the regiment to Maj. Thomas Laghtnan whose name the regiment bears.
There is a second MacDonnell regiment (yellow standards) which I choose to associate with Alasdair MacColla. Since MacColla, however, is the actual on-the-ground commander (Major General) of the expeditionary force, the regimental command is handled by Colonel James MacDonnell (probably another relative of Antrim) and hence the regiment becomes MacDonnell’s. Elements of this regiment will function as MacColla’s lifeguard in some
future actions. The photo depicting MacDonnell’s Regiment also shows a command piece representing Alasdair MacColla in the fore-ground.
The third regiment (white standards) is that of Colonel Manus O’Cahan representing a family closely allied with the MacDonnells back in Ulster. All three of the regimental commanders have knocked around in the past with MacColla and are experienced warriors and officers.
The regiments are represented in wargame terms as Musket & Pike. It is likely, however, that they used either short pikes (6ft?) or only a limited number of long pikes (16ft). They certainly had ample opportunity to acquire long pikes on multiple occasions but given the speed with which they moved and the terrain over which they passed likely they opted for shorter weapons. Since pike enjoy a bonus against horse in the rules I use it is a simple matter to reduce or remove that bonus. Many (if not most) of the rank and file are veterans of the fighting in Europe or Ireland (or both) so that all three of these regiments are classified as veteran for wargaming purposes.