Tippermuir: The Deployment

I have mentioned in a previous post that I don’t think that the Covenanters could possibly have mustered six to seven thousand infantry in time to fight Montrose at Tippermuir. While I gave some of the reasons the definitive one is that in  all of  Montrose’s 1644-45 campaign the government NEVER fielded an army anywhere that size UNLESS they withdrew units from their front line armies (England and Ireland) as at Kilsyth. Working principally with levies and a few meager home defense regiments it was simply too difficult to concentrate a force that large.

Out of curiosity, however, I did first deploy the Covenanter army with FOUR additionally foot regiments and even tried to come up with some reason why they might be present.

Covenanter deployment with four additional foot regiments approximating the number of infantry found in contemporary sources

Covenanter deployment with four additional foot regiments approximating the number of infantry found in contemporary sources

William Kerr, Earl of Lothian, was designated by the Edinburgh government to command at Perth and he did have an experienced foot regiment that had returned to Scotland from the war in Ireland earlier in the year. Because of that overseas service they  were frequently referred to as the “Irish” regiment. He and his regiment were still near Edinburgh on September 1st, the date of the battle. A very active effort MAY have gotten the regiment ferried across the Firth of Forth into West Fife and by dint of a forced march could possibly have arrived in time.  Lothian’s regiment, still in their Irish service red coats, appears in the second photo placed in the reserve line on the Covenanter left flank. They are marked with a red line to their front. In this case, Lothian would then have commanded at Tippermuir and not Lord Elcho.

Closer view of Covenant forces at Tippermuir using the near 6000 infantry figure. Additional regiment are indicated by lines placed in front of them

Closer view of Covenant forces at Tippermuir using the near 6000 infantry figure. Additional regiment are indicated by lines placed in front of them

It is also conceivable that Robert Balfour, Lord Burleigh could have  brought the bulk of the Fife regiment down from Aberdeen. It would have been a VERY hard march (one might even say impossible given the time frame). Of course I have already taken considerable license in expanding  the small portion of the Fife regiment under Lord Elcho to around 700 so this would basically make a short brigade out of the Fife foot! That aside Balfour of Burleigh’s regiment is placed in the first line on the extreme left of the Covenanter position and is marked with a black line across their front. I believe that Burleigh would also have taken command precedence over Elcho.

This leaves two additional regiments to come up with. Every source says that the army was made up primary of levy/militia. I’m not sure where else they would find them. Fifeshire and Perthsire (which included the Dundee militia of course) appears to have been stripped bare and even Forfarshire (Angus) had a contingent present. West Perthsire had either joined Montrose or were sitting this one out. Strategically important Stirling is dealing with its OWN defense since its loss to Montrose would open the south to his advance, so no help is available from that quarter either.

There is nobody left that I can see, so I made up a regiment from Kinross and another from Clackmannan. These regiments have been placed in the center of the Covenanter’s second line and are marked with blue lines to their front.  Incidentally, they are probably already represented in the Fife contingents but I decided to go ahead and count them twice! In looking at other Tippermuir wargame scenarios the problem of where the additional 3000 or so infantry came from is not a new one. The usual way to solve it is just as I have done – count contingents two or even three times. Frequently this is accomplished by using both the family name and the title to create TWO regiments rather than one. For example Murry’s foot and Tullibardine’s foot.

At some time I may come back and wargame this scenario with the Covenanter army at around 6000 foot just to see what would happen. It may not actually matter since I have already set it to fail with the loss of only two units!

With that exercise out of the way the Covenanter deployment likely looked like the next photo.

The Covenanter army deployed in a defensive position on Burghmore Hill. This deployment uses a more rational number of about 3000 foot, 400 horse, and six frame guns (three guns per artillery combat piece)

The Covenanter army deployed in a defensive position on Burghmore Hill. This deployment uses a more rational number of about 3000 foot, 400 horse, and six frame guns (three guns per artillery combat piece)

Each unit is labeled and the white lines indicate the division points between center, left and right for command and control purposes. The yellow stars indicate the position of each wing commander (two stars for the army commander). I have used the family name of each commander rather than his title (mainly because I am trying to learn the individuals’ names). David Wymess, Lord Elcho is in overall command but was not experienced nor apparently comfortable with the responsibility. He chose to command the right flank and leave command of the more powerful center to James Murry of Gask, Lord Tullibardine. The left is commanded by the rather eccentric Sir James Scott of Rossie (or Rosyth), an officer with experience and some ability. Of course Lord Elcho may also have chosen the right to keep and eye on James, Lord Drummond (tactical commander of the horse). The Drummonds apparently had Royalist tendencies and (if I have it figured out correctly) Lord Drummond’s younger bother, Sir John Drummond, was across the field with Montrose!

I am not altogether sure about the double line deployment but it is standard practice for the period and the reserve line is comprised of the weaker units to, in this case, protect them from the initial contact with the enemy (not that it made much difference in the end). These units were all described, at least in part, in my post concerning Perth City. The new addition is the West Fife Foot (Sir James Scott’s regiment) which is deployed just to the left of the road in the Covenanter first line.

West Fife Foot (Scott of Rossie or Rosyth)

West Fife Foot (Scott of Rossie or Rosyth)

The standards for the West Fife regiment are normally assigned (in my system) to Forbes of Leslie but seconded for this battle to the boys from Rosyth. As far as I can tell this regiment was raised in West Fife (and Clackmannanshire) and was likely present with its commander at Tippermuir. Various sources and scenarios give varying accounts of the artillery present but the most likely type was the very light (for the period) frame gun unique to the Covenanter forces. The number of guns hardly matters since they had little or no effect on Montrose’s army. They are deployed well in front of the Covenanters as contemporary accounts report and in general accordance with the tactical doctrine of the period.

In fact the Covenanter forces are using a very conventional deployment with cavalry on both wings and a reserve line placed between the gaps in the front line.  It also seems that Lord Elcho has selected quite a reasonable defensive position on the western slopes of Burghmuir Hill. The cavalry has clear terrain in front (and slightly descending on the left). It is a deployment that should inspire confidence particularly when opposing a foe with neither artillery or horse.

The Covenanter army deployed in a defensive position on Burghmore Hill. This deployment uses a more rational number of about 3000 foot, 400 horse, and six frame guns (three guns per artillery combat piece)

The Covenanter army deployed in a defensive position on Burghmore Hill. This deployment uses a more rational number of about 3000 foot, 400 horse, and six frame guns (three guns per artillery combat piece)

Montrose’s likely deployment is shown as it appeared from the Covenanter lines (looking west). His army was said to have few long pikes but few is a relative term. I show the Irish Brigade with pikes BUT for Tippermuir I assume they are not present. In wargaming the battle the Irish pikement have no bonus against horse and have a combat value penalty against enemy pikes on first contact. The Baddenoch levies and the Perthsire militia both have pikes and in conventional numbers. This means that Montrose’s roughly 3000 men have about 10% armed with pikes – a very low number for the period and meeting in my mind the definition of “few”.

Montrose’s chief concern had to be the enemy cavalry. He had none himself and insufficient pikes to protect all of his infantry. The two units armed with pikes are therefore placed on the flanks and no reserve line employed (thus extending the line as far as possible). This helps against (but does not eliminate) the threat of having one or both flanks turned by the enemy horse. The Irish Brigade is placed in the center. Many have suggested that this is due to their total lack of pikes which may very well be so. It might also be possible that they are deployed here to deal with the enemy guns. Having no artillery for answering fire, Montrose may have wanted his most seasoned veterans going against the Covenanter cannon fire since they would be less likely to break than his other troops.

As atypical as Elcho was in assuming command of the right flank (an army commander – if he actually took direct command of a wing at all – would normally choose the center), Montrose chose to do the same thing, taking command of the Royalist right. Alasdair MacColla, his Irish Brigade commander (and lieutenant general) commands the center and Lord Kilpont the left. It is thought that this move was made so that Montrose could steady his forces from Atholl which he had placed on the extreme right. It is worth noting, however, that this would place him in an up-slope position and give him a better view of both armies. Also the Atholl force was probably the least conventionally armed and comprised of highlanders, a probable mixture of clan levy and clan warriors (which I have chosen to supplement with bows). The terrain on the right is increasingly more upward sloping toward the south and offers a possible line of advance for this particular force. It is also worth noting that Highland forces, like house cats, apparently prefer to deploy in a position higher than their adversaries!

The final photo shows both armies as the Royalists (in the foreground) begin their advance toward the Covenanters on Burghmuir Hill. The red stick placed between the two forces is the effective range (about 500 yards) of the frame guns deployed in front of the Covenanter lines.

a perspective view of Tippermuir near the start of the battle. The Royalist line is in the foreground about 450 yards from the Covenanter line

a perspective view of Tippermuir near the start of the battle. The Royalist line is in the foreground about 450 yards from the Covenanter line

Deployment sheets showing the detailed order of battle can be found in the Army Organization of the Three Kingdoms pages with an explanation of the deployment sheets found under the Rules and Scenarios pages.

 

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