History of the Stewarts | Battles and Historic Events
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The Battle of Auldearn was a major victory for the Scottish Royalists over the Covenanter army during the Civil Wars. It was the fourth battle of the campaign of the Marquis of Montrose on behalf of Charles I and was central to his reputation as a highly skilled commander. Despite insufficient intelligence and a smaller army, Montrose was able to inflict an utterly devastating defeat on the Covenanter army under Sir John Hurry.
Hearing late on 8 May that Montrose had encamped at Auldearn. Hurry advanced, hoping to attack the Royalists at dawn. In his attempt to achieve surprise, he left his artillery some distance behind. Unfortunately for Hurry, some of his men discharged their muskets to clear damp powder charges, thereby alerting the Royalists. Montrose hastily deployed his forces to counter-attack Hurry.
On Montrose´s right flank, Alastair MacColla commanded one Irish regiment and some Macdonalds, totalling about 500 men. They were deployed in some enclosures in front of Auldearn, and the Royal Standard was prominently displayed among them to convince Hurry that the entire Royalist force was in this position. Montrose´s main force was concealed in a hollow on MacColla´s left flank. There were two Irish regiments and some Gordons fighting on foot and 200 Gordon horsemen led by Lord Aboyne and his younger brother, Lord Lewis Gordon.
Hurry´s four regular regiments of infantry advanced against the position defended by Alasdair MacColla, while a small body of 50 cavalry attempted to outflank what they believed to be the Royalist left, and the various levies and Hurry´s remaining cavalry remained in reserve. The impatient MacColla led an advance against the Covenanters but was forced back. Montrose rode up to the Gordon cavalry, who could hear the noise of battle but could not see what was going on, and claimed that the Macdonalds were driving all before them and were likely to claim all the glory. The Gordon horsemen charged out of the hollow. The small body of Covenanter cavalry trying to outflank MacColla was taken by surprise while trying to negotiate a bog and fled. Montrose´s infantry followed his cavalry and advanced against the right flank of Hurry´s four infantry regiments, which broke under attack from all sides. Hurry´s three bodies of levies and his remaining cavalry fled the field.
The only part of Hurry´s army to make a stand was Clan MacLennan, styled the "Bannermen of Kintail", who, as standard bearers to Seaforth, chief of Clan Mackenzie, remained isolated during the Covenanters´ flight. They refused to retreat and stood their ground in the face of the Royalist onslaught, refusing to give up the standard of the Mackenzies, the "Cabar Feidh."
The Clan Donald played a major part in the battle, as is evidenced by the waulking song Clann Domhnuill an Cogadh Righ Tearlach 1.