William Baillie, d.1653

Unlucky Scottish soldier, defeated by Montrose in 1645 and by Cromwell in 1648

The son of Sir William Baillie of Lamington in Lanarkshire, he was unable to inherit his father's estate owing to doubts over his legitimacy, so he became a soldier. Baillie fought in the Dutch service and under Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden before returning to Scotland in 1639 to fight for the Covenanters in the Bishops' Wars.

In 1644, Baillie marched into England with the Army of the Covenant. He commanded the Scottish infantry on the Allied right wing at the battle of Marston Moor where his pikemen held firm against the Royalist cavalry. In 1645, he commanded a detachment sent back to Scotland from Lord Leven's army against the Marquis of Montrose. Baillie successfully manoeuvred to prevent Montrose from marching south and in April 1645 he came close to trapping Montrose at Dundee. After Montrose escaped into the Highlands, Baillie split his forces, planning to trap Montrose between his own troops and a detachment commanded by Sir John Hurry. However, Montrose decisively defeated Hurry at Auldearn in May 1645; two months later he defeated Baillie himself at Alford, where almost the entire Covenanter army was slaughtered. After this disaster, Baillie tendered his resignation. Parliament decided to recall Major-General Monro from Ulster to replace him but Baillie was obliged to continue his command until Monro's arrival. Meanwhile, the Committee of Estates accompanied Baillie on campaign to offer him advice on strategy and tactics. A battle with Montrose was forced at Kilsyth, which resulted in Montrose gaining the greatest victory of his campaign in Scotland.

During the Second Civil War, Baillie commanded the infantry in the Duke of Hamilton's ill-fated Engager invasion of England. The Engagers were defeated by Cromwell in the three-day running battle of Preston in August 1648 during which Baillie conducted a determined rearguard action at Winwick Pass. When Hamilton escaped, Baillie was ordered to surrender the infantry. In despair, he pleaded with his fellow officers to end his disgrace by shooting him, but no-one obliged. Baillie surrendered the last of the Engager infantry to Cromwell at Warrington on 19 August. Baillie returned to Scotland where his repentance for involving himself in the Engagement was accepted by the Kirk. He died in 1653.


Edward M. Furgol, William Baillie, Oxford DNB, 2004

David Stevenson, Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Scotland 1644-51, 1977