BATTLE OF CALLANDER - 1646
originally published in "Robertson’s Rant" February 1996 by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot
In August 1642, civil war broke out in England between the Royalist Forces of King Charles I and the Parliamentary forces led by Oliver Cromwell. During the autumn of 1643, the English Parliament made an agreement, known as the Solemn League and Covenant, with their Church of Scotland supporters under which the Scottish Covenanters would raise a lowland army to attack the Royalist forces in the north of England for the payment of 30,000 pounds per month. In the spring of 1644, James Graham, Earl of Montrose abandoned the Covenanter’s side and rode into Scotland to "raise Scotland for the King". King Charles appointed him Lieutenant-General for Scotland and Montrose quickly raised a highland army from clans that hated the leader of the Covenant, Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll.
A skilled general, Montrose led his army to a series of victories over the Covenanters. As usual when harvest time approached, his highland army slowly began to melt away as they carried their plunder home and made provisions for their families over the winter months. Montrose’s depleted army of 600 were surprised and defeated by a force of 6,000 at Philipshaugh on September 13, 1645. It was his first defeat at the hands of the Covenanters. Leaving Selkirk, he headed north and returned to Atholl to regroup and rally his forces.
With Montrose was his cousin, Patrick "Black Pate" Graham of Inchbrakie, whose sister was the mother of our 12 chief, Alexander, who was then 9 years old. While Montrose went north with 400 Athollmen to gather reinforcements and lay siege to Inverness, Black Pate was soon ordered to go on the offensive against an army of Campbells heading toward Atholl from Argyll. Young Struan’s two uncles, Black Pate and Donald Robertson, know as the "Tutor of Struan", quickly raised a fresh force of 700 Athollmen and headed southwest toward Argyll to meet this Campbell thereat. The Athollmen were quick to volunteer for this opportunity to get revenge on the Campbells since Atholl had twice in the preceding year been laid waste by fire and sword. The first time when General Baillie invaded Atholl in May 1645 and then when the Earl of Crawford’s men ravaged Atholl during June white the Athollmen were with Montrose’s army a the Battle of Alford by the River Don where General Baillie’s army was destroyed on July 2, 1645.
In January 1646, 350 years ago, near the village of Monteith, the Athollmen caught up with the advancing Campbells. Splitting their force, 100 Athollmen advanced on the Campbell position while the rest circled round to their flank. The Athollmen attacked and quickly routed the force of 1,200 led by Campbell of Ardkinglas at what became known as the Battle of Callander. The Campbells were reported to have "fled like madmen, divers of them being slain in the fight and more drowned in the river of Goodie, their haste being such that they staid no to seek the fords". The survivors fled south toward Sterling and the victors returned home.
Despite this victory and Montrose’s continued siege of Inverness, his supposed allies were following events in England and deserting him. With less that 1,000 men remaining under his command there wasn’t much he could do to turn the tide. On May 31st, Montrose was stunned to hear that King Charles I had surrendered to the Scottish Covenanter army at Newark, England. For a promised payment of 400,000 pounds, the Covenanters handed the King over to the English and returned to Scotland. As part of the agreement, the King had agreed that Montrose should disband his army and leave Scotland. Montrose did disband his army at Rattray on July 30 1646, took ship for Norway on September 2 and remained in exile until he learned that Cromwell had executed the King at Whitehall on January 30, 1649.