Battle of Carbisdale
The Stuart dynasty for some reason has gone down in our national imagination as rather dashing and for obvious reasons cavalier, yet even the most glamorous of that ilk Charles II could be calculating and cynical. In 1650 he to all intents sacrificed Montrose , one of the best generals in the royalist cause, sending him on a doomed mission to Scotland. Charles risked little other than minor damage to his reputation, as he was talking with the Covenanter government of Scotland. The force under Montrose was around 500 Danish mercenaries and 40 or so loyal if now desperate royalist gentlemen soldiers. Had Montrose miraculously won through and got a foothold or even sparked an uprising and taken Scotland Charles gained enormously; otherwise the cavalier cause was down a few brave men and one great general.
Montrose sailed from Bergen to Orkney , where he gathered a further 750 to 1,000 men to his colours, landing his augmented force at John O’Groats on April 12. The Highlands were not eager to rise in the Stuart cause, and Montrose after initial progress south had to edge back to the Kyle of Sutherland, where a small Scottish government force under Colonel Archibald Strachan tracked him down. Strachan lulled Montrose into inaction, tricking him into believing the chasing force was insignificant. Then Strachan attacked.
Strachan in fact had fewer than 250 cavalry, and only 36 musketeers; plus around 400 Highlanders on whom little reliance could be placed - only perhaps one in five of them actually joining the action. Caught unawares Montrose’s troops were panicked, the Danes proving less than valorous. A rout followed the first charge, and just 100 of Montrose’s men survived the slaughter. The Marquess himself though badly wounded escaped. He wandered the hills until he was captured and handed over to the Covenanters, who executed him in Edinburgh on May 21.
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