Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Strachan, Archibald

STRACHAN, ARCHIBALD (d. 1651?), colonel, is first mentioned as serving under Cromwell at Preston in 1648, with the rank of major. According to Baillie, his former life had been ‘very lewd,’ but he had reformed, ‘inclined much in opinion towards the sectaries,’ and remained with Cromwell till the death of Charles I. He was employed in the negotiations between Argyll and Cromwell in September 1648 (Carlyle, Letter 75). He brought the news of Charles's execution to Edinburgh, and, after much discussion on account of the scandals of his past conduct, the commission of the kirk on 14 March 1649 allowed him to sign the covenant.

He was given a troop of horse, and helped to disperse the levies of Mackenzie of Pluscardine at Balveny on 8 May. The levies numbered 1,200, but they were routed by 120 horsemen. Alexander Leslie, first earl of Leven [q. v.], wished to get rid of him as a ‘sectary,’ but the kirk supported him, and he for his part was eager to clear the army of malignants (see Murdoch and Simpson, p. 302. The date of this letter, as Dr. Gardiner has shown, should probably be 3 June 1649). As to any danger from Montrose, he says, ‘If James Grahame land neir this quarters [Inverness], he will suddenly be de . . ed. And ther shalbe no need of the levy of knavis to the work tho they should be willing.’

When Montrose did land, in April 1650, Strachan made good his words. By Leslie's orders he advanced with two troops to Tain, and was there joined by three other troops, making 230 horse in all, and by thirty-six musketeers and four hundred men of the Ross and Monro clans. On 27 April he moved west, along the south side of the Kyle of Sutherland, near the head of which Montrose was encamped, in Carbisdale, with 1,200 foot (of which 450 men were Danes or Germans), but only forty horse. By the advice of Andrew Monro, Strachan, when he was near the enemy, hid the bulk of his force, and showed only a single troop. This confirmed the statement made by Robert Monro to Montrose, that there was only one troop of horse in Ross-shire, and Montrose drew up his men on open ground south of the Culrain burn, instead of seeking shelter on the wooded heights behind. About 5 P.M. Strachan burst upon him with two troops, the rest following close in support and reserve. Montrose's men were routed and two-thirds of them killed or taken, and he himself hardly escaped for the time. After giving thanks to God on the field, the victors returned with their prisoners to Tain, and Strachan went south to receive his reward. He and Halkett (the second in command) each received 1000l. sterling and a gold chain, with the thanks of the parliament. He had been hit by a bullet in the fight, but it was stopped by his belt and buff-coat.

He was in such favour with the kirk that they contributed one hundred thousand marks to raise a regiment for him, the best in the army which Leslie led against Cromwell. He was in the action at Musselburgh on 30 July, and in the battle of Dunbar, the loss of which he attributed to Leslie. He tendered his resignation rather than serve under Leslie any longer, and, to get over the difficulty, he was sent with Ker and Halkett to command the horse newly raised in the western counties. He corresponded with Cromwell, to whom he was much less hostile than he was to the king and the malignants; and it was the fear that Strachan would seize him and hand him over to the English that led Charles II to make his temporary flight from Perth in October.

Strachan joined in the remonstrance drawn up at Dumfries on 17 Oct. against fighting for the king unless he abandoned the malignants; and he and his associates sent a set of queries to Cromwell, to which the latter replied (Carlyle, Letter 151). On 1 Dec. the western troops under Ker encountered Lambert at Hamilton, and were beaten; but before this Strachan had separated himself from them, and after it he joined Cromwell, and is said to have helped to bring about the surrender of Edinburgh Castle. He was excommunicated at Perth on 12 Jan. 1651; in April he was declared a traitor and his goods were forfeited. Wodrow says (on the authority of his wife's uncle, who had married Strachan's sister) that he took the excommunication so much to heart that ‘he sickened and died within a while.’ He adds that Cromwell offered Strachan the command of the forces to be left in Scotland, but he declined it (Analecta, ii. 86).

[Gardiner's Commonwealth and Protectorate, vol. i.; Murdoch and Simpson's edition of Wishart's Memoirs of Montrose; Balfour's Historical Works, vol. iv.; Baillie's Letters, ii. 349, &c.; Carlyle's Cromwell Letters, &c.; Nicholl's Diary of Public Transactions in Scotland; Row's Life of Robert Blair.]

E. M. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.261
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
8 ii 28 Strachan, Archibald: for (d. 1651?) read (d. 1652)
9 ii 16 after ii. 86). insert He died in November 1652.