The Battle of Justice Mills III

Having now moved into musket range, the Royalist army had to decide how to engage the enemy atop the steep slope to their front. If sufficient actions were obtained the center (the Irish Brigade) could fire a salvee at the Covenanter center in the hope of disorganizing and pushing them back from the crest. This would then allow the Irish to get atop the hill without initial close combat (and the -2CV loss that would come if they went into immediate contact). The die rolls were successful as was the enormous mass volley which heavily disorganized both the Aberdeen militia and Balfour of Burleigh’s foot:

Justice Mills - Irish Brgade Salvee firing

The Royalist right wing now comes forward to secure the Irish flank while the left continues to slowly push the Covenanter’s out of the Lower Mill.

Seeing the front line wavering, Lord Forbes successfully brings the reserve foot regiment forward to the right of the Aberdeen Militia (one of its yellow on green flags can be seen at the extreme right in the above picture). As Covenanter commander I first wanted to get the center back into line at the crest of the hill before returning fire. Requiring two action to accomplish this I can’t even manage one! This ends the turn and unless I can miraculously gain the initiative, my center in a heap of trouble.

The Royalist not only gained the initiative but with their more experienced troops and better command structure and leadership, they are now able to pour even more fire into Covenanter center.

it is all too much!  Balfour of Burleigh’s foot breaks and both the Aberdeen militia and Lord Forbes’s foot are both close to breaking:

Justice Mills - the covenanter center begins to collapse

With so much damage I am finding it difficult to respond (the Covenanter foot hasn’t even managed to get return fire going). Adding to the misery is the Royalist guns continuing to achieve effective fire.

By only the seventh turn (less than three quarters of an hour in game time) the Covenanter army is routed and MacDonnell’s Irish foot have already crested a lower portion of Clay Hill on the Covenanter left (their yellow flags can be seen in the photo below):

Justice Mills - the route is on

All this, of course, is a fair approximation of the historical battle. Stuart Reid in his Auldearn 1645 refers to this event as the “Craibstaine Rout” (after a nearby landmark) rather than calling it a battle.

Contemporary accounts (Spalding and Gordon of Ruthven) give the battle as lasting near two hours and Wishart around four hours (although he seems to be including the pursuit and initial sack of Aberdeen). This would seem to suggest that the Covenanter resistance was actually more formidable then in my replay. Wishart gives the impression of a rapid close combat assault (which would have been up the steepest slopes of Clay Hill) as the decisive moment, but Ruthven writes of the foot having engaged and “disputed hard for a long space”. Since close combat is rarely a lengthy encounter, this may mean that the foot traded volleys unit the Irish got the better of it.

A detail of Peter Dennis’s recent and wonderfully evocative, Montrose’s Irish Brigade, 1644, captures the disciplined fire of the Irish musketeers who certainly won the battle, in my replay at least, by shear volume of lead:


In the game the Covenanters received 700 foot and 30 horse casualties while the Royalists received – none! (although technically any push back or disruption results in a few casualties). This would equal Wishart’s extravagant claims about the historic battle.

I was happy with the results but if I were to scenario this battle to make a more playable wargame I would do a couple of things:

  • increase by about 50% the leadership values (white cubes) on the Covenanter side to make it easier to gain the initiative and achieve activations.
  • combine the small Covenanter horse units into larger and more capable units with unified command.

The next battle that I do will be to continue following Montrose on to the Battle of Fyvie, more a confusing swirl of skirmishes but presenting some interesting possibilities and a new opponent – Argyll.

I probably first, however, will add some more posts on game mechanics.

2 thoughts on “The Battle of Justice Mills III

  1. Interesting account of the battle. It is clear from your blog that this is a passion that you enjoy. Everyone should have such a passion. It is also very evident that you are not just playing random games but reconstructing historical battles about which you know a great deal. Thanks for sharing.


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