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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Tuesday 23 January 2024

Crown, Covenant and Cromwell

 My library pick this month was Stuart Reid's study of the civil wars in Scotland 1639-51. It fits perfectly into my new wargames project, building the Scottish armies for these conflicts in 15mm. Mainly for the To the Strongest derivative, For King and Parliament, but I will also play Pikeman's Lament and Pike and Shotte. I am looking forward to the TtS! supplement on Montrose, due out later this month.

This is unabashed military history; as Stuart says, 'Historians sometimes seem to regard battles a rather too exciting to be a respectable field of study.' It also covers all of the wars of the period. I have several books on Montrose's campaigns and a few on the others, but this book covers the lot and gives the reader a sense of how the armies developed and adapted to war in England and Scotland. The only omission is the war in Ireland, which included Scottish troops, and that also has a TtS! supplement coming out soon.

Stuart starts with an introduction to Scotland of the period and how Scots armies were raised and armed. The basic structure of an infantry unit was similar to other Civil War units, although they looked different with the distinctive blue bonnet. One detail I had yet to appreciate was the large number of flags a regiment would have, one per company. Wargamers need no encouragement to follow this! The cavalry included lancers, which had gone out of fashion elsewhere, and Highlanders.

Then we get into the little known Bishops' Wars. This involved Charles I attempting to enforce his religious reforms on the Scots. Spoiler alert: it didn't go well. This also covered the development of the Covenant and the Covenanters as a political and religious force. I live in the homeland of the Covenanters in Ayrshire.

The Civil War in England saw a Scottish army move south to support the Parliamentary cause. Most famously at Marston Moor, and he also covers the less well-known Northumberland campaign. Stuart downgrades the size of this army from traditional estimates, something which becomes a theme in the book - closer to 14,000 than 22,000. While the main Scots army was in England, Montrose raised the King's Standard in Scotland and fought his famous campaign. His army fluctuated considerably, with units leaving him at crucial moments, including the very effective Irish under Alasdair MacColla. Montrose was an excellent battlefield commander, but his diplomatic skills needed improvement. Stuart also wrote the Osprey Campaign book on this campaign, focusing on the Battle of Auldearn in 1645. 

The Scots recognised Charles II after the regicide, resulting in a falling out with Parliament. The early stages of the campaign went well until the army moved south. The promised Royalist uprising didn't fully materialise, and that led to the defeat at Preston. Cromwell's invasion of Scotland initially struggled. The Scots held strong positions and cut his supply lines. It all went wrong at Dunbar, but there are other interesting battles. Inverkeithing in particular. It ended badly again with another sortie down south and the Battle of Worcester.

This is an excellent and very readable account of the period. You can pick it up cheaply on Kindle; the maps and illustrations are small enough to work in that format. 

I have finished the first Covenanter cavalry units. These are Essex miniatures. Infantry next.


  1. Sounds like a “must have” book. I already have a few of Stuart Reid’s other books and he certainly seems to know his stuff. And military history is my preference, rather than just general histories that only mention the military side of things in passing.

    1. He is very good. He acknowledges the importance of the social and political context, but keeps the focus on the military history.

  2. I noticed this on my shelf the other day. Unopened since I bought it from another blogger as part of a BCW job lot. Completely forgot about it and glad to have it to read.

    1. I would dust it down, and if I see a decent second-hand copy, I will probably get it for my shelves.

  3. I really enjoy your snippets of history and take on books that speak of these volatile times with our countries! Keep up the good work! .:. Walts