Patrick O'Brian Discussion Forum

The Battle of Auldearn and Parsing the Strands

CAPT Caltrop

I am most directly related to the Scottish Covenenters, through the Clan MacLennan, the "Bannermen of Kintail," who carried and defended the colors of clan MacKenzie.  (The wives of my grandmother's line are alternating MacKenzies and MacLeods interwoven like a three strand hawser for about a century.)

Colors were how you communicated in 1645, supplemented occasionally by drums and pipes.  If your colors advanced, you advanced, if they retreated you retreated. If the colors held you held.  Bannermen knew that. War was standard around the colors, or standards, up to and including the American Civil War. 

The order to retreat from General Hurry did not get to the MacLennans. Even when the Gordon cavalry had them surrounded, they would not surrender, and so they died to a man.  

I can only say I must be descended from a MacLennan who was too young to fight or was posthumous.  Roderick MacLennan the chieftain died at Auldearn and the MacLennans did not come together as a clan until more than three centuries later. The clan remnants scattered to the four winds and were about as vagabondish as the MacGregors.

The trouble, beyond not getting the order to retreat, and fighting on when there was no more reason to fight, is the foolish nature of the top and bottom of both sides' chain of command.  The Coventers were fighting Scottish Royalists, primarily Catholics, who were fighting FOR the Roundhead dominated English Parliament to keep Scotland under English control. Though religion was very much at the heart of that 17th Century battle, the way things line up had nothing to do with religion. Both sides had as confusing a hierarchy as you can hope to see.

The Covenenters AND the Roundheads, aka Brownists/Separatists'Puritans, would have gotten along grandly at a cocktail party (or maybe church social), but apparently history had other things in mind for them in the mid-17th Century.



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