Irish Troops under Alasdair MacColla

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Irish Troops under Alasdair MacColla

Postby kevin714 on Sat Nov 29, 2008 10:11 pm

Can anyone tell me how Alasdair MacColla's irish troops were armed and looked like? Did they look like Highlanders as far as their arms and clothing? Is it true that they participated and developed the Highland charge during this period with MacColla? So did his irish contingent have sword and targe also? Any info regarding this topic would be appreciated.
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Re: Irish Troops under Alasdair MacColla

Postby Swifty on Mon Dec 01, 2008 3:53 am

MacColla's Irish troops would have worn clothing similar to any other standard troops during the Civil War. Cuts for jackets/doublets could be based on the close fitting-type Dungiven find or the looser Quintan Falls (Caithness) 'soldiers' coat. Another alternative would be the Leigh (Co Tipperary)/Killery (Co Sligo) 'Cota Mór' - a long coat with close fitting buttoned sleeves. Close-fitting bias-cut trews (in common with Highlanders - though with a somewhat lesser prevalence of plaid patterns) would have been worn during the initial stages of the campaign. As the campaign progressed, and moreover towns like Aberdeen were looted, more and more of the Scots Covenanter hodden greys would have been utilised as the Irish Brigade's original attire would have worn out. By the time of the Battles of Alford and Kilsyth in the Summer of 1645 there would been little difference between the Irish Brigade with the Coventanter troops in terms of attire with less and less of the more Gaelic cuts of dress been present.

Hope this helps a little!!
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Re: Irish Troops under Alasdair MacColla

Postby Swifty on Mon Dec 01, 2008 4:07 am

Just realised I only answered an eighth of your question...!

kevin714 wrote:Can anyone tell me how Alasdair MacColla's irish troops were armed and looked like?

As for arms, MacCollas troops were primarily armed with matchlock musket although there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there was a smaller proportion of pike. Ammunition was very low at the onset of the campaign (e.g. Tippermuir), with often only one round being discharged prior to the 'highland charge' - see below. Sidearms included targe, sword and skein but none of these with the possible exception of the skein was all too common. Much of the hand to hand was likely executed with clubbed musket, or even ,stones/hand-to-hand tactics being possibly employed when arms were short.

kevin714 wrote:Did they look like Highlanders as far as their arms and clothing?

There were some similiarities - especially in terms of trews. The Irish were known for going bareheaded but some amongst their ranks may have adopted the Highland type bonnet. See answer above also. Also there is no evidence for the Irish Brigade wearing the file mór.

And... the highland charge was reputedly developed by MacColla in the Ulster war prior to the Montrose campaigns.

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Re: Irish Troops under Alasdair MacColla

Postby rinuccini on Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:49 am

If you can catch "Cromwell in Ireland" currently being repeated as 'God's Executioner' on the History channel, you can see reproductions of some of the clothing mentioned by Swifty above. So yes, Irish clothing initially but kitted out from captured stores of clothing so would agree that they probably looked similar to the lowland Scot's infantry they were fighting against.

There isn't a great deal of evidence about the tactics of the Irish brigade. Stuart Reid believes they fought as regular infantry, ie with divisions of shot and pike organised into 'battalia' of 400-600 men. Evidence for this is one source that talks about the Irish 'trailing their pikes'. Another source states that they were trained in Flanders by the Spanish who fought in regular fashion. The reason for that 2nd statement was probably because the Irish Brigade had been part of Owen O'Neill's Ulster Confederate Army who were trained and equipped to fight in traditional pike and musket European style (as they did at Benburb). O'Neill being a General in the Spanish Army and having brought 150 veterans from the Spanish army seems to have trained the Irish troops to a high standard after he pulled the army out of Ulster to train it in 1643.

The strange tactic of opening ranks to let enemy cavalry through, then closing again to trap them, would suggest that most of them were musketeers. Also the fact that the number of muskets shipped over with the brigade were enough to equip most of them 2,500 men, 2,000 muskets would back up what Swifty has said above. (IE maybe 1 in 5 with a pike).

There were plenty of Highlanders in Montrose's army who would have fought with targe and broadsword. However, Highlanders fight in a similar way to cavalry, ie run forward and back across the battlefield. Can cause devastation if they can induce an enemy unit to break and run, can get demoralised and dissapear if the enemy stand firm (and often Montrose came up against veteran Scottish units returning from England and Ulster). A core of regular troops were needed to bolster the Highlanders and win so many victories. The Irish brigade along with Scottish lowland Royalist units (such as the Gordon Regiment) fighting in tradition style seem to have provided this.
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Re: Irish Troops under Alasdair MacColla

Postby the_power on Thu Dec 04, 2008 1:19 pm

rinuccini wrote:The strange tactic of opening ranks to let enemy cavalry through, then closing again to trap them, would suggest that most of them were musketeers. Also the fact that the number of muskets shipped over with the brigade were enough to equip most of them 2,500 men, 2,000 muskets would back up what Swifty has said above. (IE maybe 1 in 5 with a pike).


How so ? It sounds very similar to Alexander's long sarissa-armed troops when fighting chariots or elephants. They are described as being able to open formations instantly, and allowing cavalry through (or over, in some cases - lying under their shields!). Long pikes aren't invincible to a cavalry charge - it's much better to stand back, and attack them as they go through.

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Re: Irish Troops under Alasdair MacColla

Postby rinuccini on Thu Dec 04, 2008 2:52 pm

the_power wrote:
rinuccini wrote:The strange tactic of opening ranks to let enemy cavalry through, then closing again to trap them, would suggest that most of them were musketeers. Also the fact that the number of muskets shipped over with the brigade were enough to equip most of them 2,500 men, 2,000 muskets would back up what Swifty has said above. (IE maybe 1 in 5 with a pike).


How so ? It sounds very similar to Alexander's long sarissa-armed troops when fighting chariots or elephants. They are described as being able to open formations instantly, and allowing cavalry through (or over, in some cases - lying under their shields!). Long pikes aren't invincible to a cavalry charge - it's much better to stand back, and attack them as they go through.

john


Simply because, if you read the existing manuals of the period it's not there as a tactic. Pikemen formed a solid wall which would stop the cavalry coming to contact and protecting the musketeers. Without a long weapon I'm assuming you would allow the cavalry through and bash them with your musket or sword on the way past. Of course not having been there no-one really knows what actually happened.
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