History of the Stewarts | Battles and Historic Events
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The Battle of Alford
The Battle of Alford - 2nd July 1645
Commanders and leaders
Manus O´Cahan General William Baillie
Having defeated Colonel Hurry at Auldearn, the Marquis of Montrose continued his raiding campaign in the Highlands. Fearing that Montrose intended to attack Aberdeen again, Major-General William Baillie led the Covenanter army to cut him off.
The two armies were roughly equal in size at about 2,000 foot, although Baillie had 5-600 horse compared with Montrose´s 250-300, giving him a slight advantage. However, this advantage was negated by the effect of the presence of representatives of the Committee of Estates on his chain of command. This committee was the ruling body of the Covenanters, comprising the Earl of Argyll, the Earls of Crawford and Tullibardine, the Lords of Elcho, Burleigh, and Balcarres (who had all been involved in recent defeats by Montrose), together with a number of Calvinist clergy. It had the power to overrule Bailie´s orders.
Montrose took up a position on a low hill overlooking the ford across the Don at Alford. Baillie did not want to risk crossing the ford, seeing that his troops would be vulnerable to attack before they could form up for battle, but the Committee, urged on by Baillie´s cavalry commander, Balcarres, insisted on battle. Montrose waited until the Covenanting horse was across the river, and the infantry was crossing, before ordering a general attack. A fierce fight ensued around the ford between the Covenant cavalry under Balcarras and the Royalist Cavalry under Lord Gordon. Montrose committed his reserves, a force of Gordon infantry, and the Covenant forces broke. The difficulties presented by escaping across a ford meant that the rout was particularly vicious.
Covenant losses were about 1,500 of their 2,000 infantry, although much of their cavalry, along with Baillie, Balcarres and the Committee escaped. The Royalists lost several hundred men, including Lord Gordon. Nevertheless, the battle of Alford was one of the few bright moments for the Royalist cause in the aftermath of Naseby, only two weeks earlier