ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Military Blunders
Taken from the Guinness Book of Military Blunders.


At the battle of Philiphaugh in 1645 during the English Civil War the failure of the Marquis of Montrose - otherwise a brilliant commander - to anticipate the effects of an early morning fog led to defeat. He had camped near Selkirk on very low ground, apparently to save the trouble of fetching water from the nearby river. However, the month being September, a thick dawn mist enshrouded his whole camp, and the Parliamentarian army of David Leslie, coming from the hills, was able to descend on him and take him unawares. The poor visibility made it impossible for Montrose to form up his army to receive the attack and his camp was simply overrun.

FIRST, COMMAND YOURSELF- Bloody Braggadocio Byron

At the battle of Marston Moor in 1644 the rash behaviour of Lord Byron, one of the Royalist commanders, was to cost King Charles I dear. Commanding the right wing of the Royalist army, Byron had strict orders from Prince Rupert on what strategy to follow. Facing the Parliamentary left flank of 5,000 men led by Oliver Cromwell, Byron's 2,600 men needed more than mere courage to succeed. Rupert had skilfully mixed musketeers with cavalry in Byron's front line and had emphasised that he must not quit his position. In front of him was marshy ground and a ditch, and before Cromwell's men could reach Byron they would have been slowed not only by the terrain but by musket and cannon fire from 1,500 musketeers under Colonel Napier. It was crucial therefore for Byron's cavalry to wait until Cromwell's troops had been disordered before making their attack.
Byron was not a patient man and waiting in position for much of the day stretched his nerves to breaking point. Surrounded by courageous but reckless young cavaliers, he must have faced countless questions as to why they had to submit to delay in the face of a persistent bombardment from the enemy. When Cromwell's cavalry erupted towards them , Byron's nerve broke and all the Prince's careful planning was forgotten. Ordering his cavalry forward, Byron charged pell-mell against Cromwell's troopers, scattering his own musketeers in the process. The ditch and the marsh which should have acted as a brake on Cromwell's progress instead slowed Byron's men and when the clash came they were swept away and broken, opening up the entire right wing of the Royalist army. Sweeping around the back of Rupert's army, Cromwell's cavalry next fell on General Goring's left wing cavalry, who had actually defeated their opponents. It was Cromwell's cavalry - and Byron's blunder - that won the battle for Parliament and lost the King the whole of the north of England - an expensive price for disobedience.

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