Montrose and the Battle of Philiphaugh, 1645
James Graham, Fifth Earl and First Marquess of Montrose - 1612 to 1650
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all.
Although more than 350 years have passed since the Battle of Philiphaugh (1645), it is still possible to study in detail the events which took place about the time of the disaster that crushed the cause of the King in Scotland.
Still can the places be seen which are associated with Montrose, although they are altered beyond recognition. We can still see the heavy blanket of fog such as concealed the advancing patrols of Leslie; with the eye of fancy we can still trace the flight of Montrose and his small following of faithful friends as he spurred over the winding track on Minchmoor.
It is difficult to explain how a General of Montrose's proven ability was guilty of so many errors, which have the appearance of being due to gross negligence. It is easier to obtain the correct perspective if it is remembered that the whole district was openly antagonistic to the King's cause. Montrose's patrols would be misled and misinformed, while the leaders of the other force had all the assistance that the willing inhabitants could possibly give them. In addition, it is quite possible that owing to the obstruction with which he was faced, he was quite unaware of Leslie being so close at hand. Be this as it may, the completeness of the surprise and the confusion into which his troops had been thrown before he ever reached the field, rendered even his superlative personal courage, and the bravery of his officers and men, of no avail against a force four times as large as his own. Montrose reluctantly took flight when all was lost and, cutting his way through his opponents, he fled to the west.
Of the culminating scenes of brutality, enough is known. The camp followers were massacred in cold blood with the callous ferocity characteristic of religious fanaticism. Even the fearless Irish mercenaries who had been granted quarter were butchered at Newark, where today a field still bears the name of "Slain Men's Lea."
When he arrived in Selkirk on the eve of the battle, Montrose with some of his officers, secured lodging in the town, Montrose in a house in Selkirk's West Port.
A plaque celebrating Montrose's visit to the town was erected by Selkirk's Merchant Company on the wall of the house where he spent the night before the Battle of Philiphaugh.