It is difficult to see how Stuart Reid's volume on the Auldearn Campaign in Scotland in 1645 made it into Osprey's Campaign series. For a series that claims to provide "accounts of history's greatest conflicts," this obscure sideshow to the English Civil War clearly does not rank as a "great conflict." Indeed, since Osprey has yet to produce volumes on significant battles like Friedland, Stalingrad, El Alamein, Tannenberg, , Blenheim or Actium, it is amazing that they would stoop to devoting an entire volume to a campaign that hold so little historical or military value (surely a section in the upcoming Essential Histories volume on the English Civil War could have sufficed). Nor is Reid, who wrote admirably about the Georgian-era British Army and the Culloden campaigns, up to snuff in this volume. He does not so much narrate this campaign as inflict it upon the reader, making it about as pleasurable as a root canal. With Auldearn 1645 Reid has accomplished the unthinkable - he has displaced Bosworth 1485 as the worst volume in the Osprey Campaign series.
The introductory sections on background, opposing commanders, plans and armies occupy a mere 11 pages - well below the series average. Noticeably, there is a portrait of only a single commander, the Marquis of Montrose. Reid provides only the faintest detail on other commanders, such as noting that MacColla was a professional soldier, but doesn't even mention the age of 3 of 4 leaders. The section on opposing armies is skeletal. The actual campaign narrative is an interminable 73 pages long (seemed like 900). Normally, I detail the maps and graphics that support the author's text, but there seems little point in this case, since Auldearn 1645 is so meandering. Readers should also note the very large number of current photographs of the various "battlefields" in this volume - Reid had a lot of void to fill. The rest of the artwork varies from fair to mediocre to irrelevant (lots of crude sketches of Highlanders).
First and foremost, the Auldearn Campaign simply didn't matter because the English Civil War was decided by Englishmen in England, not small bands of Irish mercenaries and Scottish tribal levies in the boondocks of Scotland. Montrose's plan to attract Parliamentary forces away from the main fighting in England was an early and conspicuous failure, since his forces - while elusive - were just too small to matter. Furthermore, Royalist forces lacked the popular support necessary to control large population areas, which was necessary for decisive results in a civil war. Another important factor, noted by Reid, is that many of the Scottish levies used by both sides had local agendas that had nothing to do with Royal authority (e.g. Clan Donald). Thus, win or lose, Montrose's wanderings in Scotland had negligible effect upon the outcome of the English Civil War. Even the authoritative Encyclopedia of Military History by Dupuy & Dupuy devotes only three short sentences to this entire campaign. Yet Reid, who seems hell-bent upon detailing every miniscule tactical movement, ignores this essential lack of strategic relevancy.
Another reason why this volume is a complete waste of time is the lack of sufficient reliable data to support Reid's narrative. Reid's paragraphs are so riddled with expressions like, "assuming," "it is likely," "this could mean," "this can be read to mean," "not quite so clear," "is uncertain," "is unknown," "was not explained" that the reader will quickly tire of all this vague guessing and wonder just what the author actually knows for a fact. It is particularly unsettling when Reid has to cite "local ballads," "local traditions," and "a pretty widespread rumor." Auldearn 1645 has the feel of poorly written historical fiction, not military history.
Finally, the Auldearn Campaign is simply not worthy of serious military study, since the forces involved were such primitive tactical throwbacks. At a time when real tactical development was occurring in England and on the continent, Reid bores the reader with detailing a battle where neither side had artillery, where perhaps 50% of the troops fought with pikes or swords, and where cavalry was used in only tiny amounts. Indeed, the recurrent lack of pre-battle reconnaissance by most of the combatants, and the preference for simple, frontal assaults mark the Auldearn Campaign as an affair of merely armed mobs. It is also significant that despite Reid's numerous photographs of modern cow fields in Scotland, there is only a single photograph of one small plaque marking one of the actions in the campaign; that should demonstrate to the reader just how well-remembered the Auldearn Campaign is in Scotland today. When I visited the Inverness-Nairn area years ago, I found plenty of mention of the Battle of Culloden, but not a word of Auldearn.