Inventory Battlefield

Battle of Inverlochy IIBTL24

Date of Battle: 2 February 1645

Status: Designated

Documents

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Designation Record and Full Report Contents

  • Name
  • Summary Information
  • Overview and Statement of Significance
  • Inventory Boundary
  • Historical Background to the Battle
    • The Armies
    • Numbers
    • Losses
    • Action
    • Aftermath and Consequences
  • Events and Participants
    • Context
  • Battlefield Landscape
    • Location
    • Terrain
    • Condition
  • Archaeological and Physical Remains and Potential
  • Cultural Association
    • Commemoration and Interpretation
  • References

Summary

Date Added
30/11/2011
Last Date Amended
14/12/2012
Local Authority
Highland
NGR
NN 12489 75269
Coordinates
212489, 775269

Overview and Statement of Significance

The second battle of Inverlochy is significant as one of the Marquis of Montrose's greatest victories, utilising a daring and gruelling forced march to surprise his enemies. His success at Inverlochy also boosts recruitment to his army. Among the new recruits was Lord Gordon, bringing his own cavalry regiments and handing Elgin to Royalist control. Conversely, Argyll's second defeat at Montrose's hands weakens his position, both amongst the Covenanters and his own people. After Inverlochy, the Covenanters also established the Committee of Estates. Its purpose was to support Baillie in future efforts, but this proved to be a disaster in the long run.

Inverlochy II was fought between the supporters of the Royalist cause under James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose, and the Covenanters under the command of Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll, although he did not take direct command of his forces on the day. The battle was a resounding victory for the Royalists, destroying the Covenanter army and crippling their cause, along with Argyll's own strength in the region.

Inventory Boundary

The Inventory boundary defines the area in which the main events of the battle are considered to have taken place (landscape context) and where associated physical remains and archaeological evidence occur or may be expected (specific qualities). The landscape context is described under battlefield landscape: it encompasses areas of fighting, key movements of troops across the landscape and other important locations, such as the positions of camps or vantage points. Although the landscape has changed since the time of the battle, key characteristics of the terrain at the time of the battle can normally still be identified, enabling events to be more fully understood and interpreted in their landscape context. Specific qualities are described under physical remains and potential: these include landscape features that played a significant role in the battle, other physical remains, such as enclosures or built structures, and areas of known or potential archaeological evidence.

The Inventory boundary for the Battle of Inverlochy II is defined on the accompanying map and includes the following areas:

  • The southern bank of the River Lochy, on which is located Inverlochy Castle and which provided the northern limit of the battlefield.
  • The foot of the steep slopes of the Ben Nevis massif to the south-east and across the mouth of Glen Nevis, as the line of approach of Montrose's forces.
  • The area to the north-west of Tom na Faire, as the direction Argyll's forces were driven back.
  • To the east the approach of Montrose's army from the direction of Torlundy is accommodated, as is the ridge of higher ground which may have provided a slope for the Highland army to charge down.

Historical Background

Following his victory at Fyvie on 28 October, Montrose and his army had made a bold move into Campbell territory in Argyll, burning the capital of the Marquis of Argyll's heartland at Inveraray and sacking the surrounding lands over several weeks in December 1644 and January 1645. On 14 January 1645 Montrose decided it was time to leave the Campbell lands and moved north and soon he and his Irish ally Alasdair Mac Colla were moving up the Great Glen towards Inverness.

By the time the Royalists reached Kilchummin (now Fort Augustus) on 31 January 1645 Montrose had only 2000 men. To add to his problems the Earl of Seaforth had reinforced the Inverness garrison at the north of the Great Glen whilst Argyll was behind him at the south end in Inverlochy. Although there was an escape route over the Corrieyairack pass to Speyside, Montrose instead decided to go on the offensive and turn to attack Argyll (Reid 2003).

They arrived at Torlundy overlooking Inverlochy in the early hours of 2 February 1645, exhausted and hungry, having marched 36 miles in 36 hours over broken, mountainous terrain. By this time the Covenanters were alerted and deployed for battle. Argyll placed some of his men inside the shell of Inverlochy Castle, the rest on a ridge of firm ground, and then watched the battle unfold from the safety of a galley in Loch Linnhe.

The Royalists attacked down the hillside at dawn, with the Irish advancing faster than the Highlanders and thus making the first contact. They came under fire from Roughe and Cockburn's men, but held their fire until very close when they fired a volley, and they followed this up with a charge using swords and pikes. At this point, the Covenanters broke and ran. Montrose, commanding the Highlanders, attacked the Covenanter centre, in which Argyll's regiment fired a single volley at long range then also broke, taking the levies with them. In the ensuing rout, many clansmen were killed by the Royalist Highlanders.

Williams states that some of the Covenanter forces were camped on the far side of the River Lochy in the angle between Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil and could not get across the swollen river in time for the battle. He also argues that Auchinbreck's deployment of his battle-line on a ridge of firm ground seriously restricted his troops, the centre being too tightly packed to move or fight effectively.

Many of the Covenanters were said to have died where the waters of Nevis enter the loch, while some tried to escape into Glen Nevis, where they were killed and subsequently buried. Others fled towards what is now Fort William, only to be cut down at the foot of the Cow Hill. MacColla pursued the defeated along the upper Auchintore road which skirts the Mamores on its way to Loch Leven. Covenanter losses are generally given as 1,500, a figure quoted by three contemporary sources and repeated by most of the secondary sources. So far as Royalist losses are concerned, claims of fatalities in single figures do not seem credible, given that the Irish troops were subjected to unopposed Covenanter musket fire for some time before they fired their own close quarter volley.

The Armies

The Royalist forces were commanded by Montrose. The Covenanter forces were commanded by the experienced Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, Argyll having retired to his galley. Sources differ on whether this was because he had injured his shoulder in a fall from a horse (Williams 2001 ), or that it was deemed wiser for him to delegate command to the experienced Auchinbreck (Ruthven 1844) or simple cowardice (Wishart 1893).

Numbers

Royalist: Wishart states that at the start of the march Montrose had 'only 1500 men', as the men of Clanranald and most of the Atholl men had permission to take home the booty from the recent raid on Inveraray, on the understanding that they would return when summoned (Wishart 1893).

Ruthven does not give any numbers but says that Montrose divided his army into four 'battelles', Major Alexander M'Donald (MacColla) having command of the right wing, Colonel O'Cahan the left, both wings consisting of Irish troops. The Stewarts of Appin, with those of Atholl, Glencoe and Lochaber made up the vanguard. 'M 'Collein, the captane of the clane Randell, and Glengarrie had the reire brought wp by colonel James M'Coneil.' Montrose himself had a reserve of Irish and other highland troops (Ruthven 1844). Spalding gives the same deployment, with no numbers (Spalding 1851).

Reid states that the Royalists had 1500 foot, divided into four 'divisions' plus 50 horse under Ogilvy. On the right was Laghtnan's Irish regiment of about 400 under MacColla. In the centre, about 500 Highlanders, mainly from the western clans ' MacDonalds, MacLeans and Stewarts, plus 200 of Inchbrackie's Athollmen. On the left was Manus O'Cahan's Irish regiment of about 200. In reserve, behind the centre was McDonnell's Irish regiment of 200 and some more Highlanders (Reid 2003).

Covenanters: Ruthven does not give numbers, saying only that the two regiments Argyll had brought from Stirling were placed on the right and left wings, there was a strong body of Highlanders, armed with guns, bows and axes, in front of the main body, and in the rear or main battle were all the 'pryme' men and the greatest strength of the army, with two artillery pieces (Ruthven 1844). Reid puts Covenanter figures at 1900. He believes the van was Argyll's own regiment of about 500 men, positioned in front of a further 1000 Campbell levies. On the wings were 16 companies of Baillie's regiment, comprising about 400 in total, split between Lieutenant-Colonel Lachlan Roughe and Lieutenant-Colonel John Cockburn. Behind the main body were two small cannon, mounted on higher ground, and the left wing of the army was anchored on the ruined Inverlochy castle, which was garrisoned by 50 musketeers (Reid 2003).

Both Sadler and Roberts put the Covenanter numbers at 3,000, with Roberts stating that Argyll had 1100 of Baillie's infantry (Sadler 1996 and Roberts 2000). Neither Wishart nor Spalding gives numbers.

Losses

Ruthven says that Auchinbreck was killed, along with fourteen Campbell barons, and 1700 of the Covenanter army. The fifty regular soldiers in the castle were spared, but of two hundred highlanders there, none escaped the fury of Clan Donald (Ruthven 1844).

However, 1500 is the figure most commonly used for Covenanter losses, being quoted by three contemporary sources and repeated by most of the secondary sources. Wishart, a Royalist, says that 1500 Covenanters died, among them many distinguished gentlemen and chieftains of the clan Campbell. Montrose lost only three private soldiers in the battle although a number were wounded, and Ogilvy, the cavalry commander, died of wounds a few days later (Wishart 1893).

Spalding, another Royalist, also puts the number of Covenanter dead at 1500, and says only that it is uncertain how many casualties the Royalists had although he too mentions the death of Ogilvy (Spalding 1851). Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall, who was not officially committed to either side, gives the figure of 1500, and, interestingly, clearly sees the Irish as the enemy of the Covenanters rather than Montrose (Stevenson 1996).

Sadler comments that the Royalists, as usual, admitted few casualties, but claimed 1500 Covenanter dead, many of them Campbells (Sadler 1996). Roberts says 1500 Covenanters were killed, 200 being massacred in the castle and many more being killed or being drowned whilst fleeing. The numbers of dead were so high because Clan Donald was taking revenge against its hereditary enemies; indeed many families lost all their men. In particular, Auchinbreck, a Campbell, was executed by MacColla (Roberts 2000). Williams too gives the figure of 1500 Covenanter dead, with less than a dozen Royalists killed outright. He quotes Montrose writing in his despatch that only four Royalists were killed and adds that the Clanranald Manuscript gives a figure of eight dead (Williams 2001). Cowan states that Montrose lost 4 men with two hundred wounded, although, as he points out, 'Royalist apologists were notoriously generous in their underestimates.'(Cowan 1977).

Reid in 1990 questioned 'the remarkably consistent' figure of 1500 dead commonly quoted. Even if Auchinbreck had 3,000 men this would represent 50% fatalities and since it is clear that the lowland troops who survived the charges were readily granted quarter, the proportion of highland troops killed would have been much greater than 50%. The raising of strong Campbell regiments subsequently also suggests that the clan 'did not lose an entire generation of fighting men at Inverlochy, no matter what the MacDonald bards might boast.' (Reid 1990). He does, however, in later writings, describe what happened as a 'ruthless massacre' (Reid 2003).

So far as Royalist losses are concerned, fatalities in single figures do not seem credible, given that the Irish troops were subjected to unopposed Covenanter musket fire for some time before they fired their own close quarter volley. Presumably the low figures were part of Royalist propaganda ' another case of history being written by the winners.

Action

The battle started at dawn, after Montrose had harried the Covenanter army during the night to make sure they would not slip away (Ruthven 1844). Wishart says that the Royalists' signal to attack was sounded by trumpet, which alarmed the enemy on two counts as it showed that the Royalists had horse with them and also that Montrose himself was present, both of which were unexpected. Of the battle, he says only that the Campbell soldiers in the first rank fired a single discharge and then fled in the face of the first attack by the Royalists which 'swept their whole force into an irretrievable ruin. Then ensued a terrible slaughter of the fugitives for nine miles without cessation' (Wishart 1893).

Ruthven has O'Cahan making the first move, commanded by Montrose 'not to give fyre till they gave it in there breastes' an order which he obeyed, coming so close to the Covenanters that his volley 'fyred there beardes' before getting to close quarters with 'swordes and targates'. The attacks on the wings of the Covenanter army created disorder in their ranks and dispersed them over all the fields. Montrose then attacked the centre which also broke, taking the reserves with them. Two hundred attempted to flee to the castle but were headed off by Ogilvy's horse and forced to flee up the side of the firth with the rest of the beaten army. In this engagement Ogilvy was mortally wounded. Ruthven says that had Montrose's men not been so wearied and hungry after their long march, few or none would have escaped (Ruthven 1844). A very similar account is given by another contemporary source (Spalding 1851).

In Reid's account, the Royalists attacked down the hillside at dawn, with the Irish advancing faster than the Highlanders and thus making the first contact. They came under fire from Roughe and Cockburn's men, but held their fire until very close when they fired a volley, and they followed this up with a charge using swords and pikes. At this point the Covenanters broke and ran. Montrose, commanding the Highlanders, attacked the Covenanter centre, in which Argyll's regiment fired a single volley at long range then also broke, taking with them the levies. In the ensuing rout many clansmen were killed by the Royalist Highlanders 'There was very little fighting as such but rather a ruthless massacre perpetrated by one set of feuding clansmen on another.'(Reid 2003).

More details are added in some of the secondary sources. Williams states that some of the Covenanter forces were camped on the far side of the River Lochy in the angle between Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil and could not get across the swollen river in time for the battle. He also argues that Auchinbreck's deployment of his battle-line on a ridge of firm ground seriously restricted his troops - 'the clansmen in the centre were packed too tight to move or fight effectively.' (Williams 2001). Cowan says Montrose wrote later of his troops coming immediately to 'push of pike and dint of sword' indicating the way in which some were armed. Cowan also says many died where the waters of Nevis enter the loch, and some tried to escape into Glen Nevis where their graves are still pointed out; others fled to what is now Fort William only to be cut down at the foot of the Cow Hill and MacColla pursued the defeated along the upper Auchintore road which skirts the Mamores on its way to Loch Leven (Cowan 1977).

None of the sources mentions the Covenanter artillery being used.

Aftermath & Consequences

Wishart says that the main effect of the battle was that 'Montrose's designs now had free course; for the Highlanders, who are a very warlike race, being freed from the hated tyranny of Argyll, were more eager to offer their service in the King's cause' (Wishart 1893). However, Sadler makes the point that Montrose had been successful because he was able to exploit and divert a flood of Gaelic fury to the service of the King. But this did not create an army - Montrose and the clansmen were allies of convenience rather than conviction (Sadler 1996).

Reid argues that the victory attracted a number of recruits to Montrose's army, an unusual event, since the excesses committed at the sack of Aberdeen in September 1644 had badly affected recruitment. Significantly, Lord Gordon defected to Montrose at the head of his regular cavalry regiments, handing over the city of Elgin, and proceeded to raise his men on behalf of the King. By the end of March Montrose was able to move south from Aberdeen with about 3,000 infantry and 300 horse (Reid 2003).

In the immediate aftermath of the battle, the Covenanter authorities realised they had a major campaign on their hand in the north and withdrew regiments from Ireland and England and set about raising money to recruit and provision new forces. They also appointed a Committee to assist Baillie in his military operations; a support which subsequent experience demonstrated was more of a liability than an asset (Williams 2001).

So far as Argyll was concerned, Menteith said the defeat 'much diminished Argyll's credit amongst his own followers to whom this very day was fatal' (Cowan 1977).

Events & Participants

Following the engagement at Fyvie Montrose's army fragmented, and Argyll, who had continued to pursue him, returned to Edinburgh, assuming that the arrival of winter would mean that the Royalist threat would disappear. However, towards the end of November, Montrose's major-general, Alasdair MacColla of the Clan MacDonald, who had not been at Fyvie because he had taken 500 men to relieve his Highland garrisons, rejoined Montrose at Blair Atholl with his Irish troops and up to 1,000 Highlanders (Reid 2003). Another source says that MacColla actually brought in 5,000 men (Sadler 1996), although Wishart only mentions that MacColla returned with the chief of Clanranald together with 500 of his men (Wishart 1893). Whilst it appears that Montrose wanted to take up winter quarters, MacColla, who, as a MacDonald shared a deep mutual enmity with the Campbell Duke of Argyll, persuaded Montrose to raid Inverary, the seat of Clan Campbell. Mild weather meant that the combined force was able to reach Inverary through the mountain passes, and, although the castle held out, the town was captured, and Argyll fled in his galley (Reid 2003). Montrose's forces ravaged Argyll's lands, 'an act of retaliation on Argyll, who had been the first of all to wage this cruel war of fire and sword upon his countrymen' (Wishart 1893).

Argyll then decided to retaliate in turn, seeking support from Lieutenant-General William Baillie, an experienced commander, who had just been recalled from England with his troops. Baillie rejected Argyll's plan to march into the highlands in pursuit of Montrose, because of the difficulty of supporting the army in winter conditions, and it was agreed that Baillie would base himself and his men at Perth, while Argyll pursued the Royalists, who were moving north into Lorne and Lochaber. The Royalists, as usual, were constantly losing men, and by the time they reached Kilchummin (now Fort Augustus) on 31 January 1645 Montrose had only 2,000 men. To add to his problems the Earl of Seaforth had reinforced the Inverness garrison at the north of the Great Glen, whilst Argyll was behind him at the south end in Inverlochy. Although there was an escape route over the Corrieyairack pass to Speyside, Montrose instead decided to go on the offensive and turn to attack Argyll (Reid 2003). It is possible that part of his motivation was that the lands of some of his key commanders, Keppoch, Lochiel, Glengarry and ClanRanald, were particularly threatened (Roberts 2000).

Avoiding the obvious route Montrose led a daring and arduous march through the midwinter hills with few provisions. The route took the Royalists due south up Glen Tarff as far as Culachy and then moved parallel to the Great Glen as far as Glen Buck, shielded by the long ridges of Meall a Cholumain and Druim Laragan. They then had to cross the gorge of the Calder Burn to reach the head of the glen, some 1,000 feet above sea level. From here they climbed another 1,000 feet to reach the col at Carn na Larach. Crossing the Teanga plateau they then descended steeply into Glen Turret and from there down Glen Roy to Keppoch, where they chased off one of Argyll's outposts, before crossing the Spean at Corriechoille, reaching Torlundy, overlooking Inverlochy, in the early hours of 2 February 1645. They arrived exhausted and hungry, having marched 36 miles in 36 hours (Reid 2003). 'The most part had not tasted bread these two days, marching over high mountains in knee-deep snow, wading brooks and rivers up to their girdle' (Patrick Gordon of Ruthven 1844). By this time the Covenanters were alerted and deployed for battle, having been alerted by those fleeing the outpost (Spalding 1851).

James Graham was the fifth Earl of Montrose and the first Marquis of Montrose. He was the chief of Clan Graham. Montrose had been a supporter and signatory of the National Covenant in 1638, but had then become a Royalist, although he was driven by motives other than a desire to impose the Divine Right of Kings upon Scotland. He and Archibald Campbell, the eighth Earl of Argyll, were bitter rivals, and Montrose believed that the Covenant had become nothing more than a vehicle for Argyll's ambition. Always a moderate among the Covenanters, Montrose considered that the agreement in 1641 with Charles that had removed episcopacy from Scotland had fulfilled the demands of the Covenant and that to continue in opposition to him would be breaking that agreement. Following the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant in September 1643, Montrose presented himself to Charles I service at his headquarters in Oxford. On behalf of the King, he then fought a campaign intended to draw Covenanter forces away from supporting the Parliamentarians in England, and in this it was a success. Montrose fought a series of seven battles against Covenanter armies across the Highlands in 1644 and 1645, beginning with Tippermuir and ending at Philiphaugh, where he suffered his only defeat He attempted to do the same on behalf of Charles II in 1650, but on this occasion fought only a single battle at Carbisdale. After his defeat there, he was captured and brought to Edinburgh for trial. On 21 May 1650, he was hanged and then beheaded. His head was fixed to a spike on Edinburgh's Tollbooth, his body quartered, and his limbs were displayed in Stirling, Glasgow, Perth and Aberdeen. Following the Restoration of Charles II as king in 1660, Montrose's remains were collected together once more and were interred in the High Kirk of St Giles in Edinburgh in May 1661.

Alasdair Mac Colla was the son of Coll 'Colkitto' MacDonald. He is widely credited with the creation of the 'Highland Charge', a tactic used with such devastating effect by Highlanders throughout the subsequent century, although some of the credit should likely also go to his compatriot Manus O' Cahan. He had fled to Ireland in 1638 to escape Campbell depredations in MacDonald territory within Scotland, and he fought for the MacDonnell Earl of Antrim in the Irish Rebellion of 1641. In 1644, he was dispatched to Scotland with between 1500 and 2000 Ulster and MacDonald troops to support Royalist efforts there, and to attempt to draw Covenanter forces out of Ireland and relieve pressure on the Irish Confederacy. Mac Colla gladly accepted the task, as Archibald Campbell, the Earl of Argyll, was not only the leading Covenanter in Scotland, he was also the clan chief of the Campbells, giving Mac Colla a chance to strike back against his hated foe. He landed in Argyll lands in July, immediately seizing the castle at Mingary. He continued to build his support in the north-west until he finally moved to Blair Atholl, where he joined his forces with Montrose at the end of August. This was the beginning of an immensely successful partnership, with Mac Colla present at the Royalist victories at Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Inverlochy, Auldearn and Kilsyth. However, Mac Colla's focus remained in his homelands in the north-west, so when Montrose moved south towards England, Mac Colla dispatched Manus O' Cahan with 700 of the Irish troops to go with Montrose while he returned to the north-west. After Montrose's defeat at Philiphaugh, Mac Colla continued to fight against the Campbells and the Covenanters in Scotland, with particular brutality displayed to any Campbells he encountered, until a concerted effort to defeat him in 1647 forced him to withdraw back to Ireland in May 1647. Later that year Mac Colla was serving in the Confederate Army of Munster when he was captured and shot at the Battle of Knocknanuss on 13 November.

Manus O'Cahan was the colonel of the Irish regiment that fought in all of Montrose's battles and which was the backbone of all his victories. He was a cousin of Mac Colla, and came over from Ireland with him. He and his regiment were sent to Scotland to ease pressure on the Irish Confederacy, who were fighting Scottish Covenanters and English Parliamentarians in Ireland. As Mac Colla had a recruiting role for the Royalist cause throughout 1644-5, he was occasionally absent in the west seeking fresh troops, but O'Cahan remained with Montrose throughout and was with Montrose for the Battle of Philiphaugh. He was captured after the defeat, his men were executed and he was taken to Edinburgh where he was hanged without trial. He was responsible for the invention of the Highland charge along with Mac Colla, although it is Mac Colla who is generally given sole credit.

Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquis of Argyll, was one of the leading Covenanters in Scotland. He had been opposed to Charles I's absolutism but had not been particularly in favour of Presbyterianism until 1638, when his refusal to support Charles led the King to send the MacDonnell Earl of Antrim to invade Argyll and raise the MacDonalds against the Marquis of Argyll. Although this was a failure, the Earl of Antrim was to later send his kinsmen Mac Colla and O'Cahan to support Montrose. Argyll became the most influential of the Covenanter lords, and was instrumental in the Solemn League and Covenant that sent Scottish Covenanters into England in support of the Parliamentarians. He was present at several of the battles fought by Montrose, being personally defeated by him at Fyvie and at Inverlochy, but was also the head of the Commission of Estates that had such a deleterious effect on Baillie at Alford and at Kilsyth. In later years, he led the Parliament that crowned Charles II as King of Scotland in 1651, but had lost control of events in Scotland and was reluctantly dragged into the invasion of England. He was imprisoned several times under the Protectorate for debt, and arrested for treason on the Restoration in 1660. He was cleared of any involvement in the execution of Charles I, but letters he had sent to Monck showed the extent of his cooperation with Cromwell and he was executed even before Charles had signed the death warrant.

Context

In 1638 the National Covenant was signed by many in Scotland, pledging opposition to the reforms proposed by Charles I, the King of the two separate nations of England and Scotland. Amongst other proposals Charles wanted to replace the democratic Presbyterian system with a hierarchy of bishops and create a church modelled on High Anglican lines, and to finance his reforms by re-possessing the former land holdings of the Catholic Church which had been sold on at the Reformation and now formed the basis of many landowners' status and wealth. In 1639 and 1640 Charles was defeated in the two Bishop's Wars. Desperately short of finance, Charles was forced to recall the English Parliament, the so-called Long Parliament, and they reached a peace with the Covenanters in the Treaty of London in 1641. However, Charles and the English Parliament remained at odds over who should control the army, and the first English Civil War began in 1642. Initially the Royalists and the Parliamentarians were relatively evenly matched, and the Parliamentarians opened negotiations with the Covenanters for their assistance in breaking the deadlock. In 1643, under the terms of the Solemn League and Covenant, the Covenanter government of Scotland allied itself with the English Parliament and entered the war in England in early 1644, marking a major turning point in the war. Charles attempted unsuccessfully to foment rebellion in Scotland and the Scottish army went on to make a major impact in the campaign for the north of England. Following crushing defeat at Marston Moor on 2 July 1644 the King tried again, appointing James Graham, the 5th Earl of Montrose, as his military commander in Scotland. Montrose had been part of the abortive rebellion and was a former Covenanter himself who had joined the King in 1643. On 28 August 1644, Montrose raised the royal standard and embarked on a campaign against the Covenanter forces in the Highlands (Reid 2003).

Over the next two years, Montrose, with forces which changed constantly in size and composition, won a series of victories over the Covenanters under a number of different commanders, including: Tippermuir (1 September 1644), Aberdeen (13 September 1644), Inverlochy (2 February 1645), Auldearn (9 May 1645), Alford (2 July 1645) and Kilsyth (16 August 1645) and was elevated to 1st Marquis of Montrose by Charles as reward. However, he was defeated at Philiphaugh near Selkirk on 13 September 1645 by much superior Covenanter forces commanded by Lieutenant-General David Leslie. He endeavoured to carry on his campaign in the North-East, and also tried to threaten Glasgow, but lack of co-operation and poor relations between the leading Royalist commanders meant that they achieved little success and Montrose's campaign petered out in early May when his forces besieging Inverness were taken by surprise by Major-General Middleton's advance and fled without a fight. Although Huntly, another Royalist commander, stormed Aberdeen on 14 May, a few weeks later Charles, who had surrendered at Newark on 5 May, ordered his forces in Scotland to lay down their arms. Although Montrose was reluctant to do so, he finally disbanded his forces at Rattray on 30 July after agreeing terms with Middleton and then fled abroad (Reid 2003).

Battlefield Landscape

As noted above, the castle at Inverlochy serves as an important anchor point for the battlefield, with the Covenanter left supposedly positioned nearby. The distance between the castle and the very steep slopes of the Ben Nevis Massif, well over a kilometre to the south east, make it highly unlikely that these were the slopes down which the Royalists charged. The Royalist advance into battle, once their epic march had been completed, is more likely to have come from the north-east, from the direction of Torlundy. The ground here is higher than the floor of the valley and the flood plain/raised beach on which the castle is located and may have given just enough of a slope to give a charge added momentum. However, it should be noted that none of the contemporary sources actually make mention of the Highland charge taking place down a hill. Indeed if the Covenanters were positioned on the ridge then it was the Royalists who had to charge uphill in order to come to sword strokes.

The impression that Montrose's men charged down hill has been passed on by historians but may have derived from an assumption that the Royalist march across high hills climaxed with a charge down hill rather than a descent onto the low ground prior to the charge, though Lom appears to have stayed at altitude in order to maintain a view down on Inverlochy. On the basis of our current knowledge it is difficult to place the lines with total confidence, hence on the maps two optional alignments have been offered. The first of these has the Covenanters facing north-east to face an attack from Torlundy while the other has them facing east to meet an attack coming from the direction of Glen Nevis. In both cases the Covenanter left is located close to the castle.

Location

The left wing of the Covenanter army was anchored on Inverlochy Castle and Auchinbreck is said to have placed his army on a ridge of firm ground (Williams 2001) facing the Royalists who attacked from the direction of Torlundy. The area around the castle, where most of the fighting took place is now a golf course (Reid 2003).

The site of the fighting became known as Acha a'Chatha or the Field of Battle (Sadler 1996).

Cowan says the Covenanters' artillery pieces were placed 'on the vantage point just north of the modern hotel from where a good view of the battle-site can still be obtained.' He says that Auchinbreck's line is today bounded on the right by the aluminium works and on the left by the railway goods yard, and that the Royalists approached from the direction of the Leanachan woods to the north-east, as at Tippermuir employing a long line extending across the valley (Cowan 1977).

Terrain

No further information.

Condition

The battlefield has seen quite considerable development over the last century. The ridge traditionally identified as the government position has been partially scarped away on the reverse (north) side by the railway yard. The summit of the ridge is occupied by a number of features associated with World War II defences, and these include four small defensive trenches which may have provided protection for a search light positioned on a terrace on the ridge. Metal detector survey of the ridge in 2007 did recover a single musket ball which may be associated with the battle but there have been no large quantities of artefacts in this location.

The low ground to the front of the ridge (south) is occupied by the modern road and has been largely given over to light industrial units located on the outskirts of Fort William. The area over which the Royalist army charged is also occupied by houses and related developments, though there are pockets of open ground within this.

One of the most dramatic additions to the landscape is the Aluminium plant, which was built in the 1930s and provided a target for German bombers during World War II.

Archaeological & Physical Remains and Potential

Given the nature of the fighting with musket volleys followed by hand to hand fighting, one might expect to find musket balls and small items of personal or military gear and clothing. Also, given the apparent numbers of dead, one might expect some evidence of disposal of the bodies, but no mention is made of this in the primary sources. It is said, however, that there are graves in Glen Nevis (Cowan 1977).

Pinpointing the location of the battle should be straightforward as most of the accounts make mention of Inverlochy Castle and its role in the battle; Covenanter musketeers were placed within it and the Covenanter left was anchored upon it. Traditionally, the main part of the Covenanter line was positioned on the ridge which runs roughly east to west, with its western tip around 300 m to the south west of the castle. A limited metal detector survey was carried out on the south facing slope of the ridge and the lower ground to the east of it in 2007 as part of an archaeological project centred on Fort William. However, only a single musket ball was recovered during this exercise. This may suggest that the main part of the Covenanter force was actually located away from the ridge, perhaps further to the east, with the Royalists initially taking up position on the higher ground toward Torlundy.

Although there has been development in the area, in the form of roads, housing and facilities related to the Aluminium works, open areas do still exist and there is the potential for more artefacts related to the battle to come to light.

Cultural Association

Montrose's campaigns have left a strong legacy of cultural associations in the form of ballads, folk tales and the like. The Campbell versus MacDonald dimension to the battle has additionally ensured that the event was memorialised in verse and song. Perhaps most notably the battle was witnessed by the warrior poet John MacDonald, otherwise known as Ian Lom (c. 1625-1707), after which he penned 'The Battle of Inverlochy' (Latha Inbher-Lochaidh or Hi Rim Horo, Horo Leatha). Ian Lom is reputed to have been the messenger who warned Montrose that Argyll was at his rear, and led the Royalists through the mountains to Inverlochy; he did not take part in the fighting because his role was to record the battle whether as a glorious victory for Clan Donald or as a grievous defeat (Williams 2001). Cumh Mhic Dhonnchaidh Ghlinne (Lament of a Campbell Widow) is a lament about the losses in the battle from the perspective a widowed Campbell woman, and there is an associated pibroch, Ceann na Drochaide Bige (The End of the Little Bridge).

Commemoration & Interpretation

There is a small memorial on the battlefield on Tom na Faire, with a plaque giving some information on the battle. The battle has also long been commemorated in poetry and music as a Clan battle, celebrated by the MacDonalds and lamented by the Campbells.

Perhaps the best example is the poem 'The Battle of Inverlochy' by Ian Lom MacDonald c1625-1707, the bard of Keppoch, which celebrates the victory of MacColla (MacDonald). Selected verses from 'The Battle of Inverlochy' give a flavour of the enmity between the two clans;

Early on Sunday morning I climbed the brae above the

castle of Inverlochy. I saw the army arranged for battle,

and victory in the field was with Clan Donald.

The most pleasing news every time it was announced

about the wry-mouthed Campbells, was that every company

of them as they came along had their heads battered with

sword blows.

Were you familiar with Goirtean Odhar? Well was

it manured, not with the dung of sheep or goats, but by the

blood of Campbells after it congealed.

To Hell with you if I feel pity for your plight, as I

listen to the distress of your children, lamenting the company

which was in the battlefield, the wailing of the women

of Argyll.

From the Campbell side, there is the lament of the widow of Campbell of Glenfeochan (Cumh Mhic Dhonnchaidh Ghlinne), who lost her husband, her father, her three sons, four brothers, and nine foster brothers, which does seem to confirm the 'ruthless massacre' picture. This lament, which also claims it took the Irish to give mettle to Clan Donald, is contemptuous of Argyll - 'Great MacCailein took himself off to sea, and he let this stroke fall on his kin' (Cowan 1977).

Whatever the accuracy of this bitter jibe about the MacDonalds lacking mettle without the Irish there is no doubt that the Irish assault on the Covenanter wings left the Highlanders in the centre under attack from the flanks at the same time as they were facing the assault by the MacDonalds.

References

Bibliography

Cowan, E. J. 1977. Montrose for Covenant and King. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London. 181-87.

Reid, S. 1990. The Campaigns of Montrose. The Mercat Press, Edinburgh. 82-91.

Reid, S. 2003. Auldearn 1645: the Marquis of Montrose's Scottish campaign. Osprey, Oxford. 33-36.

Roberts, J.L. 2000. Clan, King and Covenant. University Press, Edinburgh. 65-69.

Williams, R.2001. Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning. House of Lochar, Isle of Colonsay. 206-215.

Information on Sources & Publication

The three contemporary accounts, i.e. those by Wishart, Ruthven and Spalding, are all written by Royalist supporters and can therefore be expected to make much of Montrose's qualities and achievements, at the same time as emphasising, if not exaggerating, the scale of Covenanter losses and minimising, or not questioning, the apparent Royalist casualty figures.

There seems little doubt, however, that, because the battle turned into a settling of scores with the fleeing Campbells by the MacDonalds the Covenanter casualty figures are probably credibly much higher as a proportion of their forces than might have been the case in a more conventional battle. Certainly, the 'Lament of the Widow of Glenfeochan' seems to confirm the scale and nature of the losses.

Nor does there seem to have been any exaggeration of the epic march through the winter hills to Inverlochy ' certainly no sources questioning the achievement have been found.

Primary Sources

Gordon, P and Dunn, J. 1844. A Short Abridgement of Britane's Distemper; from the yeare of God MDCXXXIX to MDCXLIX. Spalding Club, Aberdeen. 94-102.

Spalding, J .1851. The Trubles in Scotland and in England A.D.1624-A.D.1645, Vol. II .Spalding Club, Aberdeen. 443-445.

Wishart, G.1893. The Memoirs of James, Marquis of Montrose, 1639-1650. Longman's, Green and Co., London. 79-86.

Cartographic & Illustrative Sources

No further information.

Secondary Sources

Cowan, E. J. 1977. Montrose for Covenant and King. Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London. 181-187.

Reid, S. 1990. The Campaigns of Montrose. The Mercat Press, Edinburgh. 82-91.

Reid, S. 2003. Auldearn 1645: the Marquis of Montrose's Scottish campaign. Osprey, Oxford. 33-36.

Roberts, J.L. 2000. Clan, King and Covenant. University Press, Edinburgh. 65-69.

Sadler, J. 1996. Scottish Battles. Canongate, Edinburgh. 117-119.

Stevenson, D.1996. King or Covenant? Voices From Civil War. Tuckwell Press, East Linton. 111-112.

Williams, R.2001. Montrose: Cavalier in Mourning. House of Lochar, Isle of Colonsay. 206-215.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Inverlochy Castle

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/inverlochy-castle

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Related Designations

  1. Inverlochy CastleSM90172

    Designation Type
    Scheduled Monument
    Status
    Designated
  2. Battle of Inverlochy IBTL34

    Designation Type
    Battlefield
    Status
    Designated

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