“But their confidence was in their multitude…”, The Covenanter Army at Tippermuir (1644) – Configured for FK&P

The quote in the title is from Patrick Gordon of Ruthven in A Short Abridgement of Britane’s Distemper concerning the Covnenanters’ zeal to engage Montrose in battle.

The first big question to ask about the Covenanter army is how large was it?  The three primary sources give 6,000 foot and 800 horse (plus or minus). It’s possible that the number was put forward by one (my guess is Wishart) and the other two copied the number but there is no way to tell. In any event historians for the next four hundred years simply repeated the number. Recently some have questioned the number (notably Stuart Reid) putting forward that the Covenanter army was about the size of Montrose’s (or maybe slightly less!)

In my earlier posts on Tippermuir I spent a good deal of time looking at estimated health and population figures as well as travel distances and, like Reid, had trouble coming up with 6000 men.  It is useful to remember that the Covenanter government in 1644 had (in round numbers) a 20,000 man army fighting in northern England (which had just recently fought at Marston Moor) and a 6,000 man army in Ulster. This had already taken out the best men and certainly the bulk of the trained officer corps. Three thousand is a more believable number.

That said, I’ve decided it would be more fun in this re-play to use the traditional number, which means I have to manufacture men. 🙂

The Regulars

These are regulars in name only being very recently raised and having had only a little experience in drill. Echo’s Foot are a portion of Balfour of Burliegh’s (Fife) Foot substantially padded out with Fife levies. Tullibardine’s (I’ve seen it spelt three different ways) is made up of Perthshire levies without even a core of longer service men. The Covenanter’s rather ineffective artillery is represented by two Light Guns (LG), one assigned to the first battalion of each regiment. Adding also a  second battalion to each manufactures a thousand men.


The Covenanter “Regulars” at Tippermuir.


The Militia

The bulk of the army was made up of hastily assembled Shire Fencibles. They likely would have been reasonably well armed (at least compared to their opponents) but having had little useful practice in drill. They likely viewed the Irish (Highlanders being lumped in to the same category) as foreign invaders and papist invaders to boot! They were, at best, only a step above a gaggle of civilians (recall most of the martially inclined where already in the army elsewhere).

As I use regular Covenanters to portray the militia they look more uniform in their hodden grey than was probably the case:


The Covenanter militia at Tippermuir. The small Perth City militia is at the top configured as a forlorn hope. From left to right below Perth City are the levies from Clackmannanshire, Dundee and Forfarshire, each with two battalions.

The Dundee and Forarshire Levies: These levies were not far from Perth and did participate (or were, at least, checked as present) in the battle. Adding a second battalion to both regiments manufactures another thousand men. Most of these are “untried” (UT).

In a discussion with Andrew Brentnall, he mentioned that when they had staged Edgehill as a demonstration of FK&P, a number of units were marked with TWO untried markers to reflect the extreme lack of experience and training. I have done the same here with the second battalions.

The Clackmannanshire Levies: these were added to bring the numbers up to 6,000. The slender thread upon which their addition is based is that Sir James Scott of Rosyth (or Rossie), who commanded the Covenanter left at Tippermuir, held various positions in government including being on the Clackmannanshire council of war. According to Furgol he also had been commissioned to raise a regiment of foot in August of 1644. Scott brought a Retinue of horse with him and primary sources suggest he also had infantry with him on the left flank. Who’s infantry is another question but I’m suggesting Clackmannanshire which was within reasonable travel distance. The left flank performed the best of the Covenanter army so I have fewer untried markers on the Clackmannanshire levies.

The Horse

All three units of horse are classed as Scots Horse (pistoliers) which means by default they are Poorly Mounted (PM). Ruthven says that they were 800 “all gentlemen” which might imply they were better mounted. The problem is even with the where-with-all, availability of prime war horses in Scotland was limited, particularly with most probably being with Lord Leven’s army in England.

Lancer’s are a possibility but I have found no mention of such at Tippermuir. It seems a usual practice to have added troops of lancers to fill out a regiment so likely either type (pistolier or lancer) is possible. I have made Lord Drummond’s a separate unit since he was an active commander at Tippermuir. His unit could just as easily be considered a second squadron of Lord Elcho’s.


Command Structure

The Covenanter command structure was slightly confused. The more experienced Lord Lothian should have commanded but as he was away in Edinburgh, this left David Wemyss, Lord Echo to command the defense of Perth. He was a soldier but, not apparently comfortable with command of a large army, relegated himself to commanding the right wing (in this setup, a brigade of horse). The center was commanded by James Murray, Lord Tullibardine. He is classed as a General with three infantry brigades under his command.  He can join one (and certainly should), but the other two will still work at a disadvantage.

The most experienced officer, Sir James Scott, was given charge of the left wing, which in this game is a tightly integrated brigade of horse and foot. In the historic battle it was the Covenanter left that held out the longest against the Royalists:


A simple reduction of the Covenanters to the likely historic number is to not use the Clackmannanshire levy and eliminate the second battalion of everything else. This will produce a number of around 3,000 foot. The horse can remain as is although  reducing them to 1 hit units would likely be in order, that or drop out Lord Drummond’s Horse all together.

Using the larger army to replay Tippermuir, the Covenanters have a total of 49 Victory Points. Using a 40% break value, the Covenanters can give 20 Victory points and break on the 21st. Realistically, based on performance in the actually battle, 25 or 30% would be more reasonable. (This paragraph was added 3/30/2018 – d_guy)

My good friend and faithful commenter, Bonnie, has suggested that my hobby is often an obsession (what are friend for, after all 😀), so my wife and I are off for a two week vacation. I’ll setup and play out Tippermuir on my return.

3 thoughts on ““But their confidence was in their multitude…”, The Covenanter Army at Tippermuir (1644) – Configured for FK&P

  1. A nice post that raises some interesting points. It is often damned hard, if not impossible, to know the numbers present in many battles. As you say, taking into account populations, distances traveled certainly helps one make an educated guess. Also the time of year makes a huge difference; ie are they gathering in the harvest or planting crops? Add in sickness, desertion, the ability to feed an army all come into the mix as well. IIRC during WWII, the German platoon was often only operating at 80%, due to illness, wounded, leave, casualties etc.

    Anyway, have a nice holiday and look forward to the AAR when you return.


  2. Thanks for your comment and holiday wishes, Steve.

    You game over a wide range of periods which is really helpful to adding perspective on how to do a tabletop game. I always think of WW2 as having fairly complete data on everything yet there seems to be new discovered and analysis put forward almost daily. It is a never-ending task.

    It’s when you have to try to setup a historic battle and make everything concrete that you discover how much you (or often anyone) actually knows. 😀

    Looking forward to seeing your first reports on FK&P!


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