Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Baillie, William (fl.1648)

BAILLIE, WILLIAM (fl. 1648), Scottish general, was the son of Sir William Baillie of Lamington, an adherent of Queen Mary of Scotland. His mother was a daughter of Sir Alexander Hume, lord provost of Edinburgh, and he was born during the lifetime of his father's first wife, Margaret Maxwell, countess of Angus. Sir William Baillie, on the death of the countess, married his mistress, but the son was not thereby legitimatised, and the estates were inherited by Margaret Baillie, the eldest daughter by the first marriage. In early life Baillie went, therefore, to Sweden, and served under Gustavus Adolphus. In a 'list of Scottish officers that served his majesty of Sweden' at the time of the monarch's death in 1632, he is styled 'William Baily, colonell. to a regiment of foote of Dutch.' After his return to Scotland in 1638 he was employed on many important services by the covenanters. In his commission in the army, ratified by parliament 11 June 1640, he is designated 'William Baillie of Lethem (Letham), Stirlingshire,' an estate which came into his possession through his marriage to Janet, daughter of Sir William Bruce of Glenhouse, and granddaughter of John Baillie of Letham. In 1641 he made an unsuccessful attempt to have the settlement of the Lamington estates reversed in his favour. Under Leslie, earl of Leven, he was present with the army which in 1639 encamped on Dunse Law, and he also took part in the incursion into England in the following year. As lieutenant-general of foot he also distinguished himself under Leslie in 1644, at Marston Moor, the siege of York, and the capture of Newcastle. In order to check the brilliant raids of Montrose and his Highlanders in the northern districts of Scotland, he was, in 1646, appointed to the command of a strong force, with Sir John Urry, or Hurry, as assistant general. For some time he manoeuvred against Montrose with great strategic skill, but, the forces under his command having divided, Urry was routed at Auldearn, and he himself, after a stubborn contest, was worsted at Alford and compelled to retreat southwards. Attributing his defeat to the fact that his forces had been unnecessarily weakened by the drawing off of recruits, he resigned his commission; but after receiving from the authorities formal approbation of his conduct, he agreed to continue in command till an efficient substitute could be found. The result fully justified his scruples. On 15 Aug. the opposing forces again came in sight of each other at Kilsyth. The committee of estates resolved to give battle, a determination so strongly disapproved of by Baillie that he declined to undertake the disposition of the troops, and consented to be present merely that he might lessen the disastrous results of a defeat which he felt to be inevitable. So overwhelming was the victory of Montrose that Scotland for a time was at his feet. It seemed indeed to be fated that the undoubted bravery and skill of Baillie should always be thwarted by the incompetence and blunders of those whom he served. When the Scots, after the 'engagement' with Charles in the Isle of Wight, resolved on an expedition into England to deliver the 'king from the power of sectaries,' Baillie was appointed lieutenant-general of foot in the army raised by the Duke of Hamilton. The loose order kept by the duke rendered the disaster at Preston on 11 Aug. 1648 a foregone conclusion. Baillie rallied his forces near Winwick, three miles from Warrington, 'maintaining the pass,' according to Cromwell, 'with great resolution for many hours; 'but, receiving 'an order to make as good conditions as he could,' he with great reluctance sent in a capitulation to Cromwell, which was accepted. He took no further prominent part in the events of his time, and there is no record of the day or year of his death.

[Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, edited by David Laing, especially ii. 417-25, containing Sir William Baillie's vindication of his conduct at Kilsyth and Preston, and iii. 455-7 (Appendix); Hunter's Biggar and the House of Fleming, 2nd ed. (1867), 596-7; Napier's Life of Montrose; Carlyle's Cromwell.]

T. F. H.