Alexander Leslie and the Scottish Generals of the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648

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Displaying live circulation data. Location of copy Shelfmark Availability Internet. Warfare, society and culture ; no. Grosjean, Alexia [author]. Back to results Back to item.

Music from the Thirty Years' War

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University of Glasgow Library. University of Hull. University of Manchester Library. National Museums Scotland Library. Northumbria University Library. He was one of 18 men to serve at the rank of major general or above in the conflict. Most interestingly, 15 of these men served in Sweden within an 18 year period not least due to there being a genuine meritocracy within the Swedish forces for the talented military entrepreneur. A startling fact about these senior officers is that only two of them had their origins within the higher strata of Scottish society.

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Most came from humble backgrounds and many found military service abroad as their only chance of redemption for misdemeanours committed either by them or their families. Among these were generals Patrick pictured and John Ruthven whose very name was outlawed in Scotland in Based on research from archival material from across Europe, this study explores how Leslie and his fellow officers brought a unique set of cultural and societal factors to the European theatre of war.

It shows the transformation of Leslie from an illegitimate and illiterate son of a Perthshire soldier to his fosterage by the Campbells of Glenorchy.

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This saw him educated and later engaged in feuds with the MacGregors in Scotland and participating in 'redshanking' expeditions to Ireland. But how can we explain this transformation?


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  • By looking to the various societies within Scotland that produced these field commanders, the book challenges long held assumptions relating to the martial capabilities of the nation. Particular areas of Scotland produced soldiers of differing skills ; while all areas had infantry traditions albeit they varied in equipment and tactical deployment , regions such as the North East and the Borders were rich in cavalry heritage.

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    Among the cohort studied there were notable cavalry generals such as James King pictured top and Robert Douglas himself later promoted field marshal , innovators and exponents of artillery warfare generals Archibald Douglas and Alexander Hamilton and the enigmatic Scottish fortifications genius Francis de Traytorrens who served in Sweden as the senior military architect for Gustav II Adolf.

    The book maps the overseas martial traditions and follows the establishment of Scottish brigades in France, the Dutch Republic and Sweden. With civil war brewing in Scotland in the late s, the six surviving Scottish generals were forced into choosing sides ; four of them supported their sovereign Marquis Hamilton, Patrick Ruthven, James King and John Ruthven while Alexander Leslie, Alexander Hamilton and the majority of the returning veteran field officers formed the Army of the Covenant.

    The success of Leslie in these campaigns is legendary. However this study emphasises the importance of continental military influences to both sides in the conflict. After the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant in , his main adversary was his one-time understudy, Alexander Leslie, now Earl of Leven. In scrutinising the role of the two men in particular, fresh perspectives are brought to bear on the English Civil War.

    Their role in key battles has been completely revised particularly Edgehill and Marston Moor and in so doing myths and long held orthodoxies pertaining to these events have been completely overturned. This book reveals continued recruitment and deployment of Scots in Europe right up until the close of the war in To make this point, by the close of the war both France and the Dutch Republic had their Scots brigades at full strength. The Scottish command structure in Europe at the end of the war was therefore stronger than it had been at the start.

    Using previously untapped archival sources from Scotland, England, Sweden, Germany and the USA, the authors have provided a completely new understanding not only of Leslie, but also his main confederates in both the Continental and British theatres of war.

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