The Battle of Glen Tilt 1644: Set Up

The picture of the River Tilt in the header above was taken by Anne Burgess and is reproduced here by Creative Commons license. More details of the photograph may be found here.

I wrote about Glen Tilt over four years ago and you can follow the link for more details of the situation. Basically MacColla’s small Irish army is in a pretty fix. He has not succeeded in gaining many allies among the highland Scots and is generally viewed as a foreign invader. With Covenanter armies forming in every direction he has taken Blair Castle but has now very few options. The Athollmen who might be his natural allies are now turned out and have taken a position on the braes above the River Tilt. In the historic narrative it is now that Montrose shows up and puts everything right.

We will bend history a bit and assume that Montrose is delayed and is not communicating. MacColla is not immediately worried since with the Badenoch militia, who joined him under threat of fire and sword, he easily outnumbers the Atholl defenders two to one. He does not want to fight against them, however, as his chance of gaining support will slip from slim to none. At the same time he can not leave an enemy force at his rear (or blocking a possible escape rout through Glen Tilt). He goes off to pray about what to do when he is soon interrupted by wild cheering. The historical narrative has the cause of the celebration the arrival of Montrose. In our reality, however, it is the Athollmen cheering the Badenoch militia coming over to their side!

MacColla must now fight and at near even odds with the enemy holding the higher ground.

<All the following photos may be enlarged by clicking>

A view of the battlefield. The Athollmen will occupy the Braes of Urrart, the Irish the meadows in the foreground. The slopes are steep (difficulty +2) and become even steeper (difficulty +3) in the upper portions. The Tilt is fordable but challenging (difficulty +3) in its upper reaches (those areas bounded by large stone). Trees line both banks and produce additional movement problems.
In the foreground is the Irish army organized as a single brigade under General MacColla as the overall commander. In FK&P standard terms the three regiments are veteran, shot-heavy M&P. Laghtnan’s foot (to which MacColla is initially attached) is large. Taken together they represent 1700 – 1800 men and will accept 50% casualties before breaking.
The Army defending Atholl is in a strong position on the Braes of Urrart. They are not nearly as coherent in organization as the Irish. Patrick Graham of Inchbrackie brought the Atholl (or West Perthshire) militia into the field and has just been made overall commander by acclimation. He is commanding three “brigades”, the pike heavy, seasoned, M&P regiments of Atholl and Badenoch as one*, and the two groups of seasoned highlanders (Stewart and Robertson) each under their own chieftains (but counted as unofficered). Inchbrackie is initially attached to the Atholl M&P regiment. He has somewhere between 1600 and 1700 men and will accept 40% casualties.
Using my own solo system, bows are added to the two highland clan regiments and the pikes in the Irish regiments removed and replaced by mixed infantry. Rather than treating Laghtnan’s as large, additional small bases are added to bring their numbers up to 700.

With the forces now in place, we’ll go ahead and fight the battle which likely will be bloody and short (but one never knows).

*Note: The Earl of Atholl’s regiment was disbanded after the Bishops’ Wars but I have the militia of the region carrying their colors as it likely contains many veterans of that regiment. The Badenoch regiment carries the banner of the Clan Chattan association and a Saltire in matching colors. With the exception of the Atholl Saltire all the banners in Inchbrackie’s army are fanciful.