Aberdeen Militia Regiment of Foot

Active1639, 1644
ConflictsFirst Bishops’ War
First Civil War
CommandersSir Alexander Gordon of Cluny
Major Arthur Forbes
Area RaisedAberdeen
Coat Colourunknown
Flag Colourwhite
Flag Designsee below
Field ArmiesAboyne 1639
Balfour of Burleigh 1644

Scots militia regiment garrisoning Aberdeen that fought for the Royalists in the First Bishops’ War then for the Scots Covenanters in the First Civil War

Service History


  • June: Battle of Megray Hill
  • June: Brig o’ Dee


  • September: Mustered from the Old and New Toun
  • 13th September: Battle of Aberdeen (Justice Mills) - 500 men


A history of the unit is shown in Edward M. Furgol’s A Regimental History of the Covenanting Armies 1639-1651 Edinburgh, 1990. ISBN 0 85976 194 0

Initially the Aberdeen militia consisted of two units, the Auld Toun and New Toun militias. The men of the Burgh of Aberdeen were ordered to be trained in military practice from 31st October 1638, but by 22nd March 1639 were described as “waik, febill, and unarmed”. Despite Aberdeen being Huntly's initial base in the First Bishops' War, the approach of superior Covenanter forces under Forbes and Montrose persuaded him to disband. Aberdeen then opened its gates to the Covenanters at the end of March. In May, after their success at Turriff, the Royalists occupied Aberdeen, but Montrose returned by the 23rd and seized the town's armaments. On the 6th of June the Earl of Aboyne, Huntly's son, yet again occupied Aberdeen for the Royalists. The Aberdeen Militia then accompanied Aboyne on his short unsuccessful campaign, ending in defeat at the Brig o' Dee and another Covenanter occupation of the town by Montrose's forces.

In 1640 Aberdeen was garrisoned by the Earl Marischal’s Regiment of Foot, then in 1641-2 by The Master of Forbes' Regiment. In 1643 recruits were raised for the Covenanters' army for service in England. On the 19th March 1644 the Royalists under Gordon of Haddo mounted a dawn raid to capture prominent Covenanters, then the town was occupied by Royalists under Huntly. In May Huntly again retired on the approach of the Earl Marischall and Aberdeen was held by the Covenanters.

Meanwhile Montrose's victory at Tippermuir allowed his Royalist army to march on Aberdeen. Balfour of Burleigh led the defending Covenanters, including the Aberdeen militia, at the Battle of Aberdeen (Justice Mills) on 13th September 1644. Following the Covenanter defeat Montrose's army comprehensively sacked the town. Aberdeen was again the scene of fighting in 1646 when occupied by Royalists under Huntly.

Coats and Flags

Two colours carried by the Aberdeen militia in 1639 have been identified from 17th century drawings 1). Both used white fields. One flag bore the arms of the New Toun; gules, three castles argent within a royal tressure of the same supported by two leopards proper. The second flag bore the arms of the Auld Toun; azure, a pot or with three fish argent and lilies proper.

Notable Officers

Lists of officers are shown in Stuart Reid's Scots Armies of the 17th Century. 1. The Army of the Covenant 1639-51 and Scots Armies of the 17th Century. 3. The Royalist Armies 1639-46.

Sir Alexander Gordon of Cluny

Sir Alexander Gordon (circa 1569-1648) was created First Baronet Cluny in 1625 and had served as MP for Aberdeenshire in the Estates of Scotland from 1612 to 1617. Although granted lands in Nova Scotia, these were soon sold as was Cluny Castle, and he was imprisoned for debt at the Tolbooth in Edinburgh in 1630 and again in 1644. He was an ally of the Marquis of Huntly, on occasion travelling to England bearing messages to the King, and transporting weapons back to Scotland. Montrose, while a Covenanter, confiscated 120 of Cluny's pikes. He led the Auld Toun Aberdeen militia during the First Bishops' War.

Sergeant-Major Arthur Forbes

Forbes commanded the Aberdeen Militia at the Battle of Aberdeen (Justice Mills) in 1644.


  • 500 in 4 companies at the Battle of Aberdeen in 1644

See Also

1) Scots Armies of the 17th Century. 3. The Royalist Armies 1639-46. Stuart Reid. Partizan Press 1989. ISBN: 094652563