Battle of Alford
Battle of Alford
2nd July 1645
Name: Battle of Alford
Date: 2 July 1645
War period: Civil War
Start time and Duration: Morning start
Outcome: Scottish royalist victory
Armies and losses: Covenanter: around 2,000 foot, 800 horse though the Covenanter commander judged himself outnumbered 2:1 in foot and very slightly in horse; Royalist: 1800 foot, 400-500 horse. Losses: Covenanter: about 700; Royalist: light.
Location: Different interpretations place the fighting either north or north-west of the village of Alford
Map details: Grid reference NJ5681316296 (356813, 816296); OS Explorer Map OL 59; OS Landranger map 37
A Scottish royalist advance toward the Lowlands forced a Covenanter army, which had been depleted of troops transferred away by the government, to fight and lose a battle.
The Covenanter government of Scotland negotiated an alliance with the English parliament and entered the war in England in early 1644. The Scottish army had a significant impact in the campaign for the north of England, culminating in the royalists’ dramatic defeat at Marston Moor (Yorkshire, July 1644). In response, Charles I appointed the Marquis of Montrose as his military commander in Scotland. On 28th August 1644 Montrose raised the royal standard and, with little more than 2000 troops, fought a campaign in which he had won a series of dramatic successes in the Highlands against the Covenanter government forces. Heavily outnumbered, he effectively exploited the terrain to outmanoeuvre his enemy defeating the government forces at Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Fyvie, Inverlochy, and in the major action at Auldearn.
But there were still significant government forces in the field, under the experienced commander General Baillie. He played a game of cat and mouse with Montrose in the weeks after Auldearn, marching across Moray and Aberdeenshire. Finally, at the end of June, finding Montrose’s army as depleted as his own, Baillie considered he could face the royalists in open battle. But Baillie’s actions were heavily constrained by government interference. Not only did they interfere in tactical matters, they transferred 1000 of his best troops to a separate army under Lindsay, which then acted independently instead of combining against the royalists. Montrose now marched south, towards the Lowlands, leaving Baillie no option but to follow in pursuit.
On the 1st July, having crossed the river Don, Montrose chose very strong ground on which to fight, and then quartered his army for the night, according to tradition possibly at Asloun, 2 miles south west of the crossing a the Boat of Forbes.
On the morning of the 2nd July, Montrose deployed his army to engage Baillie as soon as he had crossed the river.
A REPORT ON THE BATTLE, PREPARED FOR HISTORIC SCOTLAND BY THE BATTLEFIELDS TRUST, IS AVAILABLE FROM THE DOWNLOAD AREA ON THE LEFT