Fraoch Eilean! Montrose’s Army At Inverlochy (1645) – Configured for FK&P

Fraoch Eilean! is the battle cry of Clan Donald. Fraoch Eilean – “Heathered Isle”(pictured in the header) is a small island in the Inner Hebrides between Jura and Islay and home to an ancient MacDonald stronghold.  The photography is by Rob Farrow who holds the copyright and has licensed it for reuse through this Creative Commons License.

In just thirty-six hours Montrose had forced marched his army through more than twenty-five miles of some of the most difficult terrain in Scotland – and in wintertime! He had also, somewhat uncharacteristically, paid close attention to operational security and effectively screened the approach of his main body.

When the Royalists arrived on the lower slopes of Ben Nevis in the gathering darkness of February 1st, Auchinbreck feared an immediate attack and ordered his forces into battle array. Montrose however, still waiting for all of his extended army to close up, was satisfied to wait until morning. Both Armies spent an uncomfortable night in battle formation with occasionally skirmishing back and forth. This probably assured that no one got much sleep.

The Royalist order of battle below is set up to meet the requirements of FK&P. The Commanding General is The Marquis of Montrose with three brigades of foot and a small body of horse attached to one of those brigades:

Inverlochy Royalist OoB

Royalist Order of Battle for Inverlochy, February 2nd, 1645 <click to enlarge>

The MacDonald clans shown selectively represent the various MacDonalds and their allies present on the field.

The Royalist Center

Historically, the Royalist Center was comprised of three lines. The first included the Atholl men, Macleans of Duart, Stewarts of Appin and assorted other Highlanders amongst them the MacDonalds of Glencoe. The second line was the main body of the MacDonalds and the third, the reserve, MacDonnell’s Irish foot. I have made a few changes for purposes of the scenario.


The Royalist center is organized as a single brigade under the command of the Marquis himself. The front line is composed of Macdonald retinue warbands. The second line Inchbrakie’sAtholl Highlanders and MacDonnell’s Irish, both as musket & pike battalia

Montrose’s Brigade

The Marquis commands the center (which is combined to form a single brigade). I am depicting him as fighting on foot. At Tippermuir, he is reported to have lead the attack with a half-pike and target and I have found it convenient to portray in this way.

The three retinue warbands of Clan Donald are much like the two of Clan Campbell across the field; very well armed and capable of combining their one musket shot with a devastating charge. This can only be done once so care most be taken in deciding the moment.

The MacDonalds of Glengarry stand in the center and with them the warrior/poet Ian Lom (as a Gallant Gentleman). To their left and right respectively, are the MacDonalds of Clanranald and the MacDonalds of Keppoch. Clan Maclean of Duart, which historically stood in the first rank, has been shifted to the left flank.

In the reserve rank are the two musket & pike battalia. Positioned to the left is Inchbrackie’s,  a unit that has presented a conundrum in how to portray them since the inception of this blog. I had them fight as a warband at both Tippermuir and Fyvvie AND even the last time I staged Inverlochy. I now have them as trained musket & pike (as they will likely be when they next appear at Kilsyth).

The other reserve musket & pike battalia, placed to the right of Inchbrackie’s, is MacDonnell’s Irish foot, one of the three battalions of MacColla’s Irish Brigade. I have  done several posts on this brigade but a very brief reprise is worthwhile.

   <The Irish Brigade>

In the previous battles they had deployed as a brigade formation but at Inverlochy they were spread across all three divisions, undoubtedly to steady the more volatile clan warbands. Likely they were all commanded shot battalions well versed in the salvee tactic of firing a full volley at close range then charging the disrupted enemy. Ruthven notes that at Inverlochy, after firing, they quickly fell on their opponents with both sword and targets!

Many of the men comprising the Irish battalions had already seen service in the continental wars and in three years of fighting in Ireland prior to joining Montrose’s army in the Spring of 1644. They had been fighting ever since, so they were veteran soldiers in every sense of the word. They were also very motivated fighters as they were subject to summary execution if captured. They were not all native Irish but most shared the common thread of some connection to the Clan Donald lands in either Ireland or Scotland.

As we are not completely clear on how they were armed and trained it has been my practice (after Tippermuir, where it is reported they didn’t carry long pikes) to configure two battalia as commanded shot and the third as shot heavy musket & pike. Here at Inverlochy it is MacDonnell’s turn to carry the pikes.

As veterans, the FK&P rules would default to them carrying additional ammunition (to reflect, among other things,  their greater ability to use firearms). As Montrose frequently had supply problems and they had just completed a forced march, I am not giving them additional ammo.

The Royalist Right

Montrose’s Lieutenant General, Alasdair MacColla (Alexander MacDonald), commanded the right wing. He is, and not without reason, the prototype of the highland warrior in popular culture. MacColla is said to have been seven feet tall and to have used a two handed sword as his preferred weapon, with a predilection toward always leading from the front. Like Montrose I show him as fighting on foot.

In the center of the Royalist right is Macolla with the commanded shot of Laghtnan’s battalion. To their right is the only horse unit on the field, Sir Thomas Ogilvie’s. MacCollas own Lifeguard follows slightly behind and to the left

MacColla’s Brigade

Lagtnan’s Irish foot, shown here as commanded shot, was likely the largest Royalist unit on the field, prehaps near the size of Argyll’s foot on the hill ahead of them. Like Argyll’s, I have split them for scaling purposes, adding in MacColla’s Lifeguard as a separate unit.

The Lifeguard is specifically mentioned as a separate unit at Auldearn but was undoubtedly extant through out the campaign. Comprised of picked men from the Irish Brigade and western clans, it would have varied in size and been fluid in organization. I show it as commanded shot (with a few warriors thrown in) and have designated it’s training as veteran. FK&P provides an optional rule for a lifeguard token (different from the unit) that can help in saving a leader if hit. I’ll probably use one for MacColla at Auldearn.

On the extreme right is Ogilvie’s Horse, portrayed for game testing purposes as lancers. It is more likely that they were lightly armored harquibusers who employed the “Dutch” tactic (or “Trotters” in other rules systems). I should note that the classifications used in games are necessary to establish rules for the horse, but likely the tactical categories were rather more fluid, most particularly on the Fringe.

The Royalist Left

Colonel Manus O’Cahan, close friend of MacColla and his second, commands the Royalist left. He too is a warrior/leader who fights on foot with his men. In the historic battle It was O’Cahan who opened the action with his fierce assault on the Covenanter right.

On the Royalist left is Col. O’Cahan with his Irish foot. To their right and slightly uphill is the retinue warband of Clan Maclean.

O’Cahan’s Brigade

The left of the Royalist line is anchored on Col. O’Cahan and his commanded shot battalia.  For the wargame the Clan Maclean retinue warband has joined the left wing under command of the fiery Irish Colonel.

Unlike the Covenanter side where the Campbells were likely circumspect about serving under lowland officers, the Royalist highland warbands seemingly had no problem integrating with the Irish. It should be noted, however, that this was not always the case and such integration was subject to an on-going situational evaluation on the part of the clansmen.

Before moving on to the battle, I would like to thank Andrew Brentnall for our email dialog which was very helpful in interpreting the FK&P rules for modeling the two armies at Inverlochy. – d_guy


An aerial view of the battlefield at Inverlochy at sunrise, Candlemas Day, 1645. Montrose’s army (red dice) is at the top (East) and Argyll’s (blue dice) at the bottom

4 thoughts on “Fraoch Eilean! Montrose’s Army At Inverlochy (1645) – Configured for FK&P

  1. Pingback: Deployment for The Battle of Mulroy: Setting Up For FK&P | In Red-coat Rags Attired

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