Fyvie – a holding action, 1644

After the Battle of Justice Mills and the partial sack of Aberdeen there was not the general rising of Royalist support in the region that Montrose had hoped. This due in part to the local Royalist leader, the Marquis of Huntly, continuing to nurse both his injured pride and his justifiable enmity toward Montrose, whom he considered untrustworthy at best. But even more damaging were the stories (real and imagined) about the Irish and their treatment of both prisoners and civilians.

With recruits very scarce and facing the general hostility of the people, Montrose had insufficient force to hold Aberdeen. MacColla also came to learn that his garrisons at Kinlochaline and Mingary were under close siege by Campbell forces and this necessitated marching a sizable portion of the Irish to their relief.

With the remaining force Montrose moved throughout Angus and Aberdeenshire, recruiting where he could and seizing supplies from supporters of the Covenant. As his army dwindled away the last thing he wanted was a battle and so he avoided encounters with even weaker enemy forces until his army was in better shape and MacColla had rejoined.

In late October Montrose arrived at Fyvie Castle in northern Aberdeenshire (a Ninteenth Century painting of which appears below):

Fyvie Castle - James Giles - 1828

Being very weak in horse he was unable to scout effectively (and some evidence suggests that intelligence gathering was not his strong suit in any case) so he was surprised on the 28th of October to learn that elements of Argyll’s army were less than two miles away! Substantially outnumbered and facing a Covenant army that had at least some troops with campaign experience, Montrose decided to eschew his normal tactic of quick engagement and went over to the defensive.

With the holidays over I again have use of the dinning room table and will start setting up the terrain for wargaming the Battle of Fyvie. This battle will be characterized more by low level skirmishing and a small collection of sharp actions than by the more general engagements already done at Tippermuir and Justice Mills. Since the historic battle occurred over a thirty-six hour (or greater) period, I may have to work out something different than the usual set piece battle.

I listen to a bunch of music when I paint including tons of British Isles folk music. There is a very well known tune associated with Fyvie which has been done by enumerable artists. My favorite is by the Corries:

It’s tempting to think that the Irish Dragoons mentioned are the men of O’Cahan’s foot in 1644, but probably unlikely (they weren’t dragoons for starters). prehaps it comes from the so-called Radical War (widespread labor unrest) of 1820 in Scotland. One of the prime radical leaders came from near Fyvie and troops were certainly deployed to the area (although to the best of my knowledge no Irish regiment). In any event an academic in folk music will have to sort that out, I just like the tune. It is my belief that folklore and folk music often carry more truth than fiction and are useful for the study of a period (although sometimes they are flights of pure fantasy like The Haughs of Cromdale!)