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Battle of Tippermuir

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Tippermuir (Tibbermore), Perthshire, 1 September 1644

The Committee of Estates in Edinburgh was slow to recognise the seriousness of the threat posed by Montrose and MacColla. Taking advantage of their lack of preparation, Montrose marched south-west from Blair Atholl towards Perth. Montrose's army consisted of MacColla's 1,600 Irishmen and 800 Highlanders of the Stewart, Robertson and Graham clans who had been called out against MacColla but were persuaded to follow Montrose.

Perth was defended by a hastily-assembled force of Covenanter troops and local levies under the command of Lord Elcho and the Earl of Tullibardine. Although the Royalists later claimed to have faced up to 6,000 men, there were probably around 2,000 foot and 400 horse, many of whom were local levies, newly-recruited and untrained. The Covenanters confronted Montrose on open ground at Tippermuir on the plain of Strathearn to the west of Perth on 1 September 1644. Tullibardine commanded the infantry in the centre, Lord Elcho led the cavalry on the right, Sir James Scott of Rossie led the cavalry on the left. The Covenanters also had two small pieces of field artillery.

MacColla's Irish Brigade drew up in six ranks in the centre of the Royalist position. To avoid being outflanked by the Covenanter cavalry, Montrose deployed his Highland troops on the flanks in lines only three deep over a wider front than the Covenanters. Montrose himself commanded the right wing, Lord Kilpont commanded the left. While most of the Royalists were conventionally armed with pike and shot, a number of MacDonald archers are also said to have been present.

The battle opened with skirmishing between musketeers of the opposing armies in the centre. When the Covenanter advance guard fell back, Montrose ordered a general advance all along his line. As MacColla's Irishmen bore down upon them, most of Tullibarne's infantry in the centre turned and ran. On the Royalist right wing, Montrose led his Highlanders to occupy an area of relatively high ground before the Covenanter cavalry could reach them. After firing a single volley, the Highlanders charged, throwing stones and attacking with swords. Unnerved, the cavalry wheeled and fled, colliding with the infantry that had stayed on the field and causing a general rout. When the Royalists overran and captured the Covenanter artillery, the rout became complete.

The town of Perth surrendered immediately and a large quantity of weapons and supplies was captured. Details of casualties are not known for certain, though the Covenanters claimed that their soldiers were massacred by Montrose's followers and the town plundered.

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Information Release Details from British Civil War website. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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