Inverlochy: Historic Battle

At sunrise on February 2, 1645, the Royalist forces (on right below) rolled down the lower slopes of Ben Nevis toward the hastily assembled Covenanter army:


Contemporary accounts agree that there were four Royalist attacks which likely happened more in a continuous fashion than with the implied pauses to assess results. As the Royalists were tired and hungry I suspect they wanted to get the battle over as quickly as possible.

Manus O’Cahan first lead the Royalist left in attacking Rouge’s lowland foot (and supporting Campbells) on the Covenanter right and quickly routing them:


This was followed immediately (near concurrently I think) by Alisdair MacColla attacking the other lowland regiment (Cockburn’s) on the Coventanter left, rapidly driving them off as well:


With both of the Covenanter flanks collapsing, the Roylist center, lead by the MacDonalds and the rest of the western clans slammed into Argyll’s regiment and the Clan Campbell center. Clan Campbell fought fiercely, even Wishart (a Montrose partisan) writes that they “…were, indeed, a set of very brave men, and worthy of a better chieftain and a better cause”. Against the sheer ferocity of the Clan Donald charge they too were unable to hold and soon broke as well:


The tactic used by all of the Royalist foot has been referred to as the “Highland Charge”* – the rapid advance toward the enemy until arriving at close musket range where a single, heavy volley is delivered. The muskets are then dropped and, with loud yells and the screaming of battle slogans, the men charge home through the heavy smoke swinging their swords, axes and dirks. The frequent result was a good deal of carnage and the enemy quickly turning to flight. Such was the result at Inverlochy.

To complete the devastation, Sir Thomas Ogilve swung the Royalist horse into the panicked Covenanter left intercepting those attempting to gain some safety in the castle. The castle itself fell quickly thereafter:


The Marquis of Argyll, having seen the crushing defeat of his forces, fled in his galley, his power now greatly diminished and his reputation in tatters.

While the captured lowland soldiers were spared and released (after undoubtedly being relieved of their valuables), those with even a tenuous connection to the Campbells were slaughtered. In all about 1500 Covenanters died that morning. Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck (the Covenanter commander) either died in the fighting or was executed shortly thereafter, a fate shared by many of the Campbell chieftains. A few were spared by cooler heads to be held for ransom.

The Royalist losses were light, the most significant being Sir Thomas Ogilvey who succumbed to his wounds a few days after the battle. Once again Montrose had captured significant supplies, inflicted a devistating defeat and bought time for his men to rest and recover from their extreme exertions.

*Much is made of the Highland charge and it has certainly taken its place within realm of folklore. Its first employment (if not invention) is often credited to Alisdair MacDonald at the Battle of Laney in Ireland three years earlier (and employed to a lesser extent at Tippermuir). It is clear it matched the supposed Highland temperament (to settle things at close range and without preamble). The fairly recent availability of firearms on the Celtic Fringe added the final component. It was used for the next hundred years, generally with substantial success, against English and Scottish Government forces until it catastrophically failed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 (a representation of which is shown in the picture in the post header).


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