It is arguable that not only was Montrose the master of what might be termed guerrilla warfare, but that he was also the outstanding general serving Charles I during the civil war years. A Covenanter turned royalist, Montrose performed prodigious feats with very few forces, distracted the Scottish invasion army during 1644-5, but operated always too far from the main theatres of war to achieve anything lasting. Appointed lieutenant general of the King's armies in Scotland, the Marquess' task was to disrupt Scotland in the hope of drawing back into that country the bulk of the earl of Leven's army which had invaded England. He was also to operate with Irish forces to be landed on Scotland's west coast. Around 7 March 1644, Montrose met the marquess of Newcastle in Durham, hoping to secure some forces, but Newcastle was unwilling to part with any whilst the fighting against the Scots hung in the balance. With a few cavalry, Montrose harried the Scottish siege lines around Newcastle upon Tyne, and then marched into Cumberland. Joined by almost 1,000 local levies, he was at Carlisle on 12 April and on the 15th took Dumfries, but his English forces mutinied and returned home, and the marquess temporarily abandoned his campaign. In the wake of Marston Moor (2 July), Montrose met up with a retreating Prince Rupert at Richmond in Yorkshire, but was unable to secure any forces, and merely accompanied George Goring and 1,500 men to Carlisle. Effectively, the marquess was on his own. However, 2,000 Irish infantry despatched from Ireland by the earl of Antrim had landed in Scotland, under Alasdair MacDonald, and Montrose met up with them at Blair. On 1 September this army routed a covenanting force at Tippermuir on the way to Perth, and then advanced with speed on Aberdeen where, on 13 September, another covenanting force under Burleigh was decisively beaten. A stronger army under the marquess of Argyle was attempting to keep track of Montrose, but Argyle was a poor general and no threat. The royalists used the hilly country for cover, emerging at Blair where they were reinforced by highland kinsmen of the Ulster MacDonalds. The winter proving mild, Montrose decided to push into the heart of Campbell country and attack Inveraray, causing the marquess of Argyle to flee, and plundering his estates.
Early in 1645, forces from Leven's invasion army returned to Scotland under William Baillie to cooperate with Argyle in bringing Montrose to battle: Baillie was based at Perth, Argyle at Inverlochy. On 2 February, after a swift and determined march over the hills, Montrose struck at Inverlochy, slew 1,500 Campbell troops and drove Argyle into flight yet again. Further troops were detached from Leven's army to deal with Montrose, and the King was encouraged by the idea of a march north to link up with his successful general. On 4 April, Montrose took Dundee, and on 9 May overthrew the turncoat royalist, Sir John Urry, in battle at Auldearn. Montrose's promise to the King, made after Inverlochy, 'I doubt not... I shall be able to come to your Majesty's assistance with a brave army' looked likely to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, when one covenanting army was beaten, there remained another to be dealt with, and on 2 July 1645 William Baillie was brought to battle and routed at Alford. The campaigns dragged on into August, when Baillie was again defeated in action at Kilsyth on the 15th of that month. By this time, however, the Scots army in England
had sent back into Scotland the efficient David Leslie, who had ably supported Cromwell in the battle of Marston Moor, and Leslie turned the tables on Montrose at the decisive battle of Philiphaugh fought on 13 September. This marked the end of the royalist endeavours in Scotland, which for a brief time had kept the hopes of the King alive, even after the disastrous defeat at Naseby in June.
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