- First English Civil War
The First English Civil War (1642–1646) was the first of three wars known as the
English Civil War(or "Wars"). "The English Civil War" was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations which took place between Parliamentarians and Royalists from 1642 until 1651, and includes the Second English Civil War(1648–1649) and the Third English Civil War(1649–1651).
"The English Civil War" (1642–51), is a generic name for the civil wars in
Englandand the Scottish Civil War, which began with the raising of King Charles I's standard at Nottinghamon 22 August 1642, and ended at the Battle of Worcesterfought on 3 September 1651. There was some continued organised Royalist resistance in Scotland which lasted until the surrender of Dunnottar Castleto Parliament's troops in May 1652, but this resistance is not usually included as part of the English Civil War. It is common to classify the English Civil War into three parts::* The First English Civil War of 1642–1646,:* The Second English Civil War of 1648–1649,:* The Third English Civil War of 1649–1651.
For the most part, the two sides which fought the English Civil Wars are represented by the Royalist
Cavaliersof Charles I of Englandon one side and the Parliamentarian Roundheadsof Oliver Cromwellon the other. But, as with many civil wars, loyalties shifted for a variety of reasons and both sides experienced significant changes throughout the course of the three parts.
During most of this time, the
Irish Confederate Wars, another civil war, was raging in Ireland; starting with the Irish Rebellion of 1641, and ending with the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Its incidents had little or no direct connection with those of the English Civil War, but the wars were inextricably mixed with, and formed part of, a linked series of conflicts and civil wars between 1639 and 1652 in the kingdoms of England, Scotlandand Ireland (which at that time shared a monarch, but were distinct countries in political organisation). These linked conflicts are also known as the Wars of the Three Kingdomsby some recent historians, aiming to have a unified overview, rather than treating parts of the other conflicts as a background to the English Civil War.
It is impossible rightly to understand the events of this most national of all English wars without some knowledge of the motivating forces on both sides. On the side of the King were enlisted:
Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 1. First Civil War (1642-46)] :* the deep-seated loyalty which was the result of two centuries of effective royal protection; :* the pure cavalier spirit, foreshadowing the courtier era of Charles II, but still strongly tinged with the old feudal indiscipline;:* the militarism of an expert soldier nobility, well represented by Prince Rupert; and lastly :* a widespread mistrust of extreme Puritanism, which appeared unreasonable to the Viscount Falkland and other philosophic statesmen, and intolerable to every other class of Royalists.
The foot of the Royal armies was animated, in the main, by the first and last of these motives. In the eyes of the sturdy rustics who followed their
squires to the war, the enemy were rebels and fanatics. To the cavalry, which was composed largely of the higher social orders, the rebels were, in addition, bourgeois, while the soldiers of fortune from the German wars felt all the regulars' contempt for citizen militia. Thus, in the first episodes of the First Civil War, moral superiority tended to be on the side of the King.
On the other side, the causes of the quarrel were primarily and apparently political, ultimately and really religious, and thus the elements of resistance in Parliament and the nation were at first confused, and, later, strong and direct.
Democracy, moderate republicanism, and the simple desire for constitutional guarantees could hardly make head of themselves against the various forces of royalism, for the most moderate men of either party were sufficiently in sympathy to admit compromise. But the backbone of resistance was the Puritan element, and this waging war at first with the rest on the political issue, soon (as the Royalists anticipated) brought the religious issue to the front.
Presbyteriansystem, even more rigid than that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, and the other bishops, whom no man on either side save Charles himself supported, was destined to be supplanted by the Independents, and their ideal of free conscience. But for a generation before the war broke out, the system had disciplined and trained the middle classes of the nation (who furnished the bulk of the rebel infantry, and later, of the cavalry also) to centre their will on the attainment of their ideals. The ideals changed during the struggle, but not the capacity for striving for them, and the men capable of the effort finally came to the front, and imposed their ideals on the rest by the force of their trained wills.
Material force was, throughout, on the side of the Parliamentary party. They controlled the navy, the nucleus of an army which was in the process of being organised for the Irish war, and nearly all the financial resources of the country. They had the sympathies of most of the large towns, where the trained bands, drilled once a month, provided cadres for new
regiments. Further, by recognising the inevitable, they gained a start in war preparations which they never lost.
The Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Essex and the Earl of Manchester, and other nobles and
gentryof their party, possessed great wealth and territorial influence. Charles, on the other hand, although he could by means of impressmentand the Lords-Lieutenant raise men without authority from Parliament, could not raise taxes to support them. He was therefore dependent on the financial support of his chief adherents, such as the Earl of Newcastle and the Earl of Derby.
Both parties raised men when and where they could, each claiming that the law was on its side, for England was already a law-abiding nation and acting in virtue of legal instruments. These were, on the side of the Parliament, its own recent "
Militia Ordinance", on that of the King, the old-fashioned " Commissions of Array".
Cornwall, the Royalist leader, Sir Ralph Hopton, indicted the enemy before the grand juryof the county as disturbers of the peace, and had the "posse comitatus" called out to expel them. The local forces, in fact, were everywhere employed by whichever side could, by producing valid written authority, induce them to assemble.
Royalist and Parliamentarian armies
This thread of local feeling and respect for the laws runs through the earlier operations of both sides, almost irrespective of the main principles at stake. Many a promising scheme failed because of the reluctance of the militiamen to serve beyond the limits of their own county. As the offensive lay with the King, his cause naturally suffered from this far more than that of the enemy.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 2. The Royalist and Parliamentarian Armies]
But the real spirit of the struggle was very different. Anything which tended to prolong the struggle, or seemed like want of energy and avoidance of a decision, was bitterly resented by the men of both sides. They had their hearts in the quarrel, and had not as yet learned by the severe lesson of Edgehill that raw armies cannot bring wars to a speedy issue. In
Franceand Germany, the prolongation of a war meant continued employment for the soldiers, but in England::"we never encamped or entrenched... or lay fenced with rivers or defiles. Here were no leaguers in the field, as at the story of Nuremberg, 'neither had our soldiers any tents, or what they call heavy baggage.' Twas the general maxim of the war: Where is the enemy? Let us go and fight them. Or... if the enemy was coming... Why, what should be done! Draw out into the fields and fight them."
This passage from the "Memoirs of a Cavalier", [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12259 Memoirs of a Cavalier] by
Daniel Defoeat Project Gutenberg] ascribed to Daniel Defoe, though not contemporary evidence, is an admirable summary of the character of the Civil War. Even when in the end a regular professional army developed, the original decision-compelling spirit permeated the whole organisation as was seen when pitched against regular professional continental troops the Battle of the Dunes during the Interregnum.
From the first, the professional soldiers of fortune, be their advice good or bad, were looked upon with suspicion. Nearly all those Englishmen who loved war for its own sake were too closely concerned for the welfare of their country to attempt the methods of the
Thirty Years' Warin England. The formal organisation of both armies was based on the Swedish model, which had become the pattern of Europe after the victories of Gustavus Adolphus. It gave better scope for the morale of the individual than the old-fashioned Spanish and Dutch formations, in which the man in the ranks was a highly finished automaton.
Campaign of 1642
When the King raised his standard at Nottingham on
22 August 1642, war was already in progress on a small scale in many districts; each side endeavouring to secure, or to deny to the enemy, fortified country-houses, territory, and above all arms and money. Peace negotiations went on in the midst of these minor events, until there came from the Parliament an ultimatum, so aggressive as to fix the war-like purpose of the still vacillating court at Nottingham, and in the country at large, to convert many thousands of waverers to active Royalism. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 3. Campaign of 1642]
Ere long, Charles who had hitherto had fewer than 1,500 men, was at the head of an army which, though very deficient in arms and equipment, was not greatly inferior in numbers or enthusiasm to that of Parliament. The latter (20,000 strong, exclusive of detachments) was organized during July, August, and September about
London, and moved from there to Northamptonunder the command of Lord Essex.
At this moment, the military situation was as follows: the Marquess of Hertford in
South Wales, Hopton in Cornwall, and the young Earl of Derby in Lancashire, and small parties in almost every county of the west and the Midlands, were in arms for the King. North of the Tees, Newcastle, a great territorial magnate, was raising troops and supplies for the King, while Queen Henrietta Mariawas busy in Holland, arranging for the importation of war material and money. In Yorkshire, opinion was divided, the royal cause being strongest in Yorkand the North Riding, that of the Parliamentary party, in the clothing towns of the West Riding.
The important seaport of Hull, had a royalist civilian population, but Sir
John Hotham, the military governor, and the garrison supported Parliament. During the summer Charles had tried to seize ammunitions stored in the city but had been forcefully rebuffed.
The Yorkshire gentry made an attempt to neutralise the county, but a local struggle soon began, and Newcastle thereupon prepared to invade Yorkshire. The whole of the south and east, as well as parts of the
Midlandsand the west, and the important towns of Bristoland Gloucester, were on the side of the Parliament. A small Royalist force was compelled to evacuate Oxfordon 10 September.
13 September, the main campaign opened. The King, in order to find recruits amongst his sympathisers and arms in the armouries of the Derbyshireand Staffordshire, trained bands and also, to be in touch with his disciplined regiments in Ireland by way of Chester, moved westward to Shrewsbury. Essex followed suit by marching his army from Northampton to Worcester. Near here, a sharp cavalry engagement, Powick Bridge, took place on 23 Septemberbetween the advanced cavalry of Essex's army, and a force under Prince Rupert, which was engaged in protecting the retirement of the Oxford detachment. The result of the fight was the immediate overthrow of the Parliamentary cavalry, and this gave the Royalist troopers a confidence in themselves and in their brilliant leader, which was not shaken until they met Oliver Cromwell's Ironsides.
Rupert soon withdrew to Shrewsbury, where he found many Royalist officers eager to attack Essex's new position at Worcester. But the road to London now lay open and it was decided to take it. The intention was not to avoid a battle, for the Royalist generals wanted to fight Essex before he grew too strong, and the temper of both sides made it impossible to postpone the decision. In the Earl of Clarendon's words: "it was considered more counsellable to march towards London, it being morally sure that Essex would put himself in their way". Accordingly, the army left Shrewsbury on
12 October, gaining two days' start on the enemy, and moved south-east via Bridgnorth, Birmingham, and Kenilworth. This had the desired effect.
Parliament, alarmed for its own safety, sent repeated orders to Essex to find the King and bring him to battle. Alarm gave place to determination, when it was discovered that Charles was enlisting
papists and seeking foreign aid. The militia of the home counties was called out. A second army under Warwick was formed round the nucleus of the London trained bands, and Essex, straining every nerve to regain touch with the enemy, reached Kineton, where he was only seven miles (eleven kilometres) from the King's headquarters at Edgecote, on 22 October.
Battle of Edgehill
Rupert promptly reported the enemy's presence, and his confidence dominated the irresolution of the King, and the caution of the Earl of Lindsey, the nominal
Commander-in-Chief. Both sides had marched, widely dispersed in order to live, and the rapidity with which, having the clearer purpose, the Royalists drew together, helped considerably to neutralise Essex's superior numbers. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 4. Battle of Edgehill]
During the morning of
23 October1642, the Royalists formed in battle order on the brow of Edge Hill, facing towards Kineton. Essex, experienced soldier as he was, had distrusted his own raw army too much to force a decision earlier in the month, when the King was weak; he now found Charles in a strong position with an equal force to his own 14,000, and some of his regiments were still some miles distant. But he advanced beyond Kineton, and the enemy promptly left their strong position and came down to the foot of the hill; situated as they were, they had either to fight wherever they could induce the enemy to engage, or to starve in the midst of hostile garrisons.
Rupert was on the right of the King's army with the greater part of the horse; Lord Lindsey and Sir
Jacob Astleyin the centre with the foot, while Henry Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (with whom rode the Earl of Forth, the principal military adviser of the King) with a smaller body of cavalry, was on the left. In rear of the centre were the King and a small reserve. Essex's order was similar. Rupert charged as soon as his wing was deployed, and before the infantry of either side were ready. Taking ground to his right front and then wheeling inwards at full speed, he instantly rode down the Parliamentary horse, opposed to him. Some infantry regiments of Essex's left centre shared the same fate as their cavalry.
On the other wing, Forth and Wilmot likewise swept away all that they could see of the enemy's cavalry. The undisciplined Royalists of both wings pursued the fugitives in wild disorder up to Kineton, where they were severely handled by John Hampden's infantry
brigade(which was escorting the artillery and baggage of Essex's army). Rupert brought back only a few rallied squadrons to the battlefield, and in the meantime, affairs there had gone badly for the King.
The right and centre of the Parliamentary foot (the left having been brought to a halt by Rupert's charge) advanced with great resolution. Being at least as ardent as, and much better armed than Lindsey's men, they engaged the latter fiercely and slowly gained ground. Only the best regiments on either side, however, maintained their order, and the decision of the infantry battle was achieved mainly by a few Parliamentary squadrons.
One regiment of Essex's right wing had been the target of Wilmot's charge. The other two had been at the moment, invisible, and every Royalist troop on the ground, including the King's guards, joined in the mad ride to Kineton. This regiment, Essex's life-guard, and some troops that had rallied from the effect of Rupert's charge (amongst them, Captain Oliver Cromwell's), were the only cavalry still present. They now joined with decisive effect in the attack on the left of the royal infantry.
The King's line was steadily rolled up from left to right. The Parliamentary troopers captured his guns, and regiment after regiment broke up. Charles himself stood calmly in the thick of the fight, but he had not the skill to direct it. The Royal Standard was taken and retaken; Sir
Edmund Verney, the standard-bearer, was killed as was Lindsey in a separate melée. By the time that Rupert returned, both sides were incapable of further effort and disillusioned as to the prospect of ending the war at a blow, so far from settling the issue the Battle of Edgehillwas to be the first of a series of pitched battles.
24 OctoberEssex retired, leaving Charles to claim victory and to reap its results. Banburyand Oxford were reoccupied by the Royalists, and by 28 October, Charles was marching down the Thamesvalley on London. Negotiations were reopened, and a peace party rapidly formed itself in London and Westminster. Yet, field fortifications sprang up around London, and when Rupert stormed Brentford and sacked it on 12 November, the trained bands moved out at once and took up a position at Turnham Green, barring the King's advance.
Hampden, with something of the fire and energy of his cousin, Cromwell, urged Essex to turn both flanks of the Royal army via Acton and Kingston; experienced professional soldiers, however, urged him not to trust the London men to hold their ground, while the rest manoeuvred. Hampden's advice was undoubtedly premature. A Sedan or Worcester was not within the power of the Parliamentarians of 1642. In Napoleon's words: "one only manoeuvres around a fixed point", and the city levies at that time were certainly not, "vis-à-vis" Rupert's cavalry, a fixed point.
As a matter of fact, after a slight cannonade at the
Battle of Turnham Greenon the 13 November, Essex's two-to-one numerical superiority of itself compelled the King to retire to Reading. Turnham Green has justly been called the "Valmy of the English Civil War"; for like the Battle of Valmyit was a victory without having to come to battle, and the tide of invasion having reached this far, ebbed and never returned.
The winter of 1642-43
In the winter, while Essex's army lay inactive at Windsor, Charles by degrees consolidated his position in the region of Oxford. The city was fortified as a
redoubtfor the whole area, and Reading, Wallingford, Abingdon, Brill, Banbury and Marlboroughconstituted a complete defensive ring which was developed by the creation of smaller posts from time to time. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 5. The Winter of 1642-43]
In the North and West, winter campaigns were actively carried on: "It is summer in Yorkshire, summer in
Devon, and cold winter at Windsor", said one of Essex's critics. At the beginning of December 1642, Newcastle crossed the River Tees, defeated Sir John Hotham, the Parliamentary commander in the North Riding. He then joined hands with the hard-pressed Royalists at York, establishing himself between that city and Pontefract. Lord Fairfax of Cameron and his son Sir Thomas Fairfax, who commanded for the Parliament in Yorkshire, had to retire to the district between Hull and Selby, and Newcastle was now free to turn his attention to the Puritan "clothing towns" of the West Riding, Leeds, Halifax and Bradford. The townsmen, however, showed a determined front. Sir Thomas Fairfax with a picked body of cavalry rode through Newcastle's lines into the West Riding to help them, and about the end of January 1643, Newcastle gave up the attempt to reduce the towns.
Newcastle continued his march southward, however, and gained ground for the King as far as
Newark-on-Trent, so as to be in touch with the Royalists of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshireand Leicestershire(who, especially about Newark and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, were strong enough to neutralise the local forces of Parliament), and to prepare the way for the further advance of the army of the north, when the Queen's convoyshould arrive from overseas.
In the west, Hopton and his friends, having obtained a true bill from the grand jury against the Parliamentary disturbers of the peace, placed themselves at the head of the county militia. They drove the rebels from Cornwall, after which they raised a small force for general service and invaded Devonshire in November 1642. Subsequently, a Parliamentary army under the Earl of Stamford was withdrawn from South Wales to engage Hopton, who had to retire into Cornwall. There, however, the Royalist general was free to employ the militia again, and thus reinforced, he won a victory over a part of Stamford's forces at the
Battle of Bradock Downnear Liskeardon 19 January 1643and resumed the offensive.
About the same time, Hertford, no longer opposed by Stamford, brought over the South Wales Royalists to Oxford. The fortified area around that place was widened by the capture of
Cirencesteron 2 February. Gloucesterand Bristolwere now the only important garrisons of the Roundheads in the west. In the Midlands, in spite of a Parliamentary victory won by Sir William Brereton at the Battle of Nantwichon 28 January, the Royalists of Shropshire, Staffordshire, and Leicestershire soon extended their influence through Ashby-de-la-Zouch into Nottinghamshire and joined hands with their friends at Newark.
Around Chester, a new Royalist army was being formed under the Lord Byron, and all the efforts of
Sir John Breretonand of Sir John Gell, 1st Baronet, the leading supporter of Parliament in Derbyshire, were required to hold their own, even before Newcastle's army was added to the list of their enemies. The Lord Brooke, who commanded for Parliament in Warwickshireand Staffordshire and was looked on by many as Essex's eventual successor, was killed in besieging Lichfield Cathedralon 2 March, and, though the cathedral soon capitulated, Gell and Brereton were severely handled in the indecisive Battle of Hopton Heathnear Staffordon 19 March, and Prince Rupert, after an abortive raid on Bristol( 7 March), marched rapidly northward, storming Birminghamen route, and recaptured Lichfield Cathedral. He was, however, soon recalled to Oxford to take part in the main campaign.
The position of affairs for Parliament was perhaps at its worst in January. The Royalist successes of November and December, the ever-present dread of foreign intervention, and the burden of new taxation which Parliament now found itself compelled to impose, disheartened its supporters. Disorders broke out in London, and, while the more determined of the rebels began thus early to think of calling in the military assistance of the Scots, the majority were for peace on any conditions.
But soon the position improved somewhat; the Earl of Stamford in the west and Brereton and Gell in the Midlands, though hard pressed, were at any rate in arms and undefeated, Newcastle had failed to conquer West Riding, and Sir
William Waller, who had cleared Hampshire and Wiltshireof "malignants", entered Gloucestershire early in March, destroyed a small Royalist force at Highnamon 24 March, and secured Bristol and Gloucester for Parliament.
Finally, some of Charles's own intrigues opportunely came to light. The waverers, seeing the impossibility of plain dealing with the court, rallied again to the party of resistance. The series of negotiations called by the name of the "
Treaty of Oxford" closed in April, with no more result than those which had preceded Edgehill and Turnham Green.
About this time too, following and improving upon the example of Newcastle in the north, Parliament ordered the formation of the celebrated "associations" or groups of counties, banded together by mutual consent for defence. The most powerful and best organised of these was that of the eastern counties (headquartered in
Cambridge), where the danger of attack from the north was near enough to induce great energy in the preparations for meeting it, and at the same time, too distant effectively to interfere with these preparations. Above all, the Eastern Associationwas from the first, guided and inspired by Colonel Cromwell.
Plan of campaign, 1643
The King's plan of operations for the next campaign, which was perhaps inspired from abroad, was more elaborate than the simple "point" of 1642. The King's army, based on the fortified area around Oxford, was counted sufficient to use up Essex's forces. On either hand, therefore, in Yorkshire and in the west, the Royalist armies were to fight their way inwards towards London. After that, all three armies were to converge in London in due season, and to cut off the Essex's supplies and its sea-borne revenue, and to starve the rebellion into surrender. The condition of this threefold advance was of course that the enemy should not be able to defeat the armies in detail, i.e., that he should be fixed and held in the
Thamesvalley; this secured, there was no purely military objection against operating in separate armies from the circumference towards the centre. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 6. The Plan of Campaign, 1643]
It was on the rock of local feeling that the King's plan came to grief. Even after the arrival of the Queen and her convoy, Newcastle had to allow her to proceed with a small force, and to remain behind with the main body. This was because of Lancashire and the West Riding, and above all because the port of Hull, in the hands of the Fairfaxes, constituted a menace that the Royalists of the
East Riding of Yorkshirerefused to ignore.
Hopton's advance too, undertaken without the Cornish levies, was checked in the
Battle of Sourton Down( Dartmoor) on 25 April. On the same day, Waller captured Hereford. Essex had already left Windsor to undertake the siege of Reading. Reading was the most important point in the circle of fortresses round Oxford, which after a vain attempt at relief, surrendered to him on 26 April. Thus the opening operations were unfavourable, not indeed so far as to require the scheme to be abandoned, but at least, delaying the development until the campaigning season was far advanced.
Victories of Hopton
But affairs improved in May. The Queen's long-expected convoy arrived at Woodstock on
13 May1643. Stamford's army, which had again entered Cornwall, was attacked in its selected position at Stratton, and practically annihilated by Hopton on 16 May. This brilliant victory was due, above all, to Sir Bevil Grenvilleand the lithe Cornishmen. Though they were but 2,400 against 5,400, and destitute of artillery, they stormed " Stamford Hill", killed 300 of the enemy and captured 1,700 more with all their guns, colours and baggage. Devon was at once overrun by the victors. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 7. Victories of Hopton]
Essex's army, for want of material resources, had had to be content with the capture of Reading. A Royalist force under
Hertfordand Prince Maurice von Simmern(Rupert's brother) moved out as far as Salisburyto hold out a hand to their friends in Devonshire. Waller, the only Parliamentary commander, left in the field in the west, had to abandon his conquests in the Severnvalley to oppose the further progress of his intimate friend and present enemy, Hopton.
Early in June, Hertford and Hopton united at Chard and rapidly moved, with some cavalry skirmishing, towards Bath, where Waller's army lay. Avoiding the barrier of the
Mendips, they moved round via Frometo the Avon. But Waller, thus cut off from London and threatened with investment, acted with great skill. Some days of manoeuvres and skirmishing followed, after which Hertford and Hopton found themselves on the north side of Bath, facing Waller's entrenched position on the top of Lansdown Hill. This position, the Royalists stormed on 5 July. The battle of Lansdownwas a second Stratton for the Cornishmen, but this time the enemy was of different quality and far differently led. And they had to mourn the loss of Sir Bevil Grenville and the greater part of their whole force.
At dusk, both sides stood on the flat summit of the hill, still firing into one another with such energy as was not yet expended. In the night, Waller drew off his men into Bath. "We were glad they were gone", wrote a Royalist officer, "for if they had not, I know who had within the hour." Next day, Hopton was severely injured by the explosion of a wagon containing the reserve ammunition. The Royalists, finding their victory profitless, moved eastward to
Devizes, closely followed by the enemy.
10 July, Sir William Wallertook post on Roundway Down, overlooking Devizes, and captured a Royalist ammunition column from Oxford. On 11 Julyhe came down and invested Hopton's foot in Devizes itself. The Royalist cavalry, Hertford and Maurice with them, rode away towards Salisbury. But although the siege of Devizeswas pressed with such vigour that an assault was fixed for the evening of 13 July, the Cornishmen, Hopton directing the defence from his bed, held out stubbornly. On the afternoon of 13 July, Prince Maurice's horsemen appeared on Roundway Down, having ridden to Oxford, picked up reinforcements there, and returned at full speed to save their comrades.
Waller's army tried its best, but some of its elements were of doubtful quality and the ground was all in Maurice's favour. The battle did not last long. The combined attack of the Oxford force from Roundway and of Hopton's men from the town practically annihilated Waller's army. Very soon afterwards, Rupert came up with fresh Royalist forces, and the combined armies moved westward. Bristol, the second port of the kingdom, was their objective. On
26 July, four days from the opening of the siege, it was in their hands. Waller, with the beaten remnant of his army at Bath, was powerless to intervene. The effect of this blow was felt even in Dorset. Within three weeks of the surrender, Maurice, with a body of fast-moving cavalry, overran that county almost unopposed.
Newcastle, meanwhile, had resumed operations against the clothing towns, this time with success. The Fairfaxes had been fighting in the West Riding since January 1643, with such troops from the Hull region as they had been able to bring across Newcastle's lines. They, together with the townsmen, were too weak for Newcastle's increasing forces. An attempt was made to relieve them by bringing up the Parliament's forces in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire,
Lincolnshireand the Eastern Association. But local interests prevailed again, in spite of Cromwell's presence. After assembling at Nottingham, the Midland rebels quietly dispersed to their several counties on 2 June. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 8. Adwalton Moor]
The Fairfaxes were left to their fate. At about the same time, Hull itself narrowly escaped capture by the Queen's forces through the treachery of Sir
John Hotham, the governor, and his son, the commander of the Lincolnshire Parliamentarians. The latter had been placed under arrest at the instance of Cromwell and of Colonel John Hutchinson, the governor of Nottingham Castle; he escaped to Hull, but both father and son were seized by the citizens and afterwards executed. More serious than an isolated act of treachery was the far-reaching Royalist plot, that had been detected in Parliament itself for complicity, in which Lord Conway, Edmund Wailerthe poet, and several members of both Houses were arrested.
The safety of Hull was of no avail for the West Riding towns, and the Fairfaxes underwent a decisive defeat at Adwalton Battle of Adwalton (Atherton) Moor near Bradford on the
30 June. After this, by way of Lincolnshire, they escaped to Hull and reorganised the defence of that place. The West Riding perforce submitted.
The Queen herself, with a second convoy and a small army under Lord Henry Jermyn, soon moved via Newark, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Lichfield and other Royalist garrisons to Oxford, where she joined her husband on the
14 July. But Newcastle (now the Marquess of Newcastle) was not yet ready for his part in the programme. The Yorkshire troops would not march on London while the enemy was master of Hull. By this time, there was a solid barrier between the royal army of the north and the capital. Roundway Down and Adwalton Moor were not, after all, destined to be fatal, though peace riots in London, dissensions in the Houses, and quarrels amongst the generals were their immediate consequences. A new factor had arisen in the war — the Eastern Association.
Cromwell and the Eastern Association
The Eastern Association had already intervened to help in the
siege of Readingand had sent troops to the abortive gathering at Nottingham, besides clearing its own ground of "malignants." From the first, Cromwell was the dominant influence. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 9. Cromwell and the Eastern Association]
Fresh from Edgehill, he had told Hampden: "You must get men of a spirit that is likely to go as far as gentlemen will go", not "old decayed serving-men, tapsters and such kind of fellows to encounter gentlemen that have honour and courage and resolution in them". In January 1643, he had gone to his own county to "raise such men as had the fear of God before them, and made some conscience of what they did". These men, once found, were willing, for the cause, to submit to a rigorous training and an iron discipline such as other troops, fighting for honour only or for profit only, could not be brought to endure. The result was soon apparent.
As early as
13 May, Cromwell's regiment of horse, recruited from the horse-loving yeomenof the eastern counties, demonstrated its superiority in the field, in a skirmish near Grantham. In the irregular fighting in Lincolnshire, during June and July (which was on the whole unfavourable to the Parliament), as previously in pacifying the Eastern Association itself, these Puritan troopers distinguished themselves by long and rapid marches that may bear comparison with almost any in the history of the mounted arm. When Cromwell's second opportunity came at Gainsborough on 28 July, the "Lincolneer" horse who were under his orders were fired by the example of Cromwell's own regiment. Cromwell, directing the whole with skill, and above all with energy, utterly routed the Royalist horse and killed their general, Charles Cavendish.
In the meantime the army of Essex had been inactive. After the fall of Reading, a serious epidemic of sickness had reduced it to impotence. On
18 June, the Parliamentary cavalry was routed, and John Hampden mortally wounded at Chalgrove Field near Chiselhampton. When at last Essex, having obtained the desired reinforcements, moved against Oxford from the Aylesburyside, he found his men demoralised by inaction.
Before the menace of Rupert's cavalry, to which he had nothing to oppose, Essex withdrew to
Bedfordshirein July. He made no attempt to intercept the march of the Queen's convoys, permitting the Oxford army, which he should have held fast, to intervene effectually in the Midlands, the west, and the south-west. Waller might well complain that Essex, who still held Reading and the Chilterns, had given him neither active nor passive support in the critical days, preceding Roundway Down. Still, only a few voices were raised to demand his removal, and he was shortly to have an opportunity of proving his skill and devotion in a great campaign and a great battle.
The centre and the right of the three Royalist armies had for a moment (Roundway to Bristol) united to crush Waller, but their concentration was short-lived.
Plymouthwas to Hopton's men, what Hull was to Newcastle's. They would not march on London until the menace to their homes was removed. Further, there were dissensions among the generals, which Charles was too weak to crush. Consequently, the original plan reappeared: The main Royalist army was to operate in the centre, Hopton's (now Maurice's) on the right, Newcastle on the left towards London. While waiting for the fall of Hull and Plymouth, Charles naturally decided to make the best use of his time by reducing Gloucester, the one great fortress of Parliament in the west.
iege and relief of Gloucester
This decision quickly brought on a crisis. While the Earl of Manchester (with Cromwell as his
lieutenant-general) was appointed to head the forces of the Eastern Association against Newcastle, and Waller was given a new army wherewith again to engage Hopton and Maurice, the task of saving Gloucester from the King's army fell to Essex. Essex was heavily reinforced and drew his army together for action in the last days of August. Resort was had to the press-gang to fill the ranks, and recruiting for Waller's new army was stopped. London sent six regiments of trained bands to the front, closing the shops so that every man should be free to take his part in what was thought to be the supreme trial of strength. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 10. Siege and Relief of Gloucester]
26 August1643, all being ready, Essex started. Through Aylesbury and round the north side of Oxford to Stow-on-the-Wold, the army moved resolutely, not deterred by want of food and rest, or by the attacks of Rupert's and Wilmot's horse on its flank. On 5 September, just as Gloucester was at the end of its resources, the siege of Gloucesterwas suddenly raised. The Royalists drew off to Painswick, for Essex had reached Cheltenhamand the danger was over; the field armies, being again face to face, and free to move. There followed a series of skilful manoeuvres in the Severn and Avon valleys. At the end, the Parliamentary army gained a long start on its homeward road via Cricklade, Hungerfordand Reading.
But the Royalist cavalry under Rupert, followed rapidly by Charles and the main body from Evesham, strained every nerve to head off Essex at Newbury. After a sharp skirmish on
Aldbourne Chaseon 18 September, they succeeded. On the 19th, the whole Royal army was drawn up, facing west, with its right on Newbury, and its left on Enborne Heath. Essex's men knew that evening that they would have to break through by force, there being no suggestion of surrender.
First Battle of Newbury
The ground was densely intersected by hedges, except in front of the Royalists' left centre (
Newbury Wash) and left ( Enborne Heath). Practically, Essex's army was never formed in line of battle, for each unit was thrown into the fight as it came up its own road or lane. On the left wing, in spite of the Royalist counter-strokes, the attack had the best of it, capturing field after field, and thus gradually gaining ground to the front. Here, Viscount Falkland was killed. On the Reading road itself Essex did not succeed in deploying on to the open ground on Newbury Wash, but victoriously repelled the royal horse when it charged up to the lanes and hedges held by his foot. On the extreme right of the Parliamentary army, which stood in the open ground of Enborne Heath, took place a famous incident. Here, two of the London regiments, fresh to war as they were, were exposed to a trial as severe as that which broke down the veteran Spanish infantry at Rocroi in this same year. Rupert and the Royalist horse, again and again, charged up to the squares of pikes. Between each charge, his guns tried to disorder the Londoners, but it was not until the advance of the royal infantry that the trained bands retired, slowly and in magnificent order, to the edge of the heath. The result was that Essex's army had fought its hardest, and failed to break the opposing line. But the Royalists had suffered so heavily, and above all, the valour displayed by the Parliamentarians had so profoundly impressed them, that they were glad to give up the disputed road, and withdraw into Newbury. Essex thereupon pursued his march. Reading was reached on 22 September1643 after a small rearguard skirmish at Aldermaston, and so ended the First Battle of Newbury, one of the most dramatic episodes of English history. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 11. First Battle of Newbury, September 20, 1643]
Hull and Winceby
Meanwhile the siege of Hull had commenced. The Eastern Association forces under
Manchesterpromptly moved up into Lincolnshire, the foot besieging Lynn (which surrendered on 16 September, 1643) while the horse rode into the northern part of the county to give a hand to the Fairfaxes. Fortunately the sea communications of Hull were open. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 12. Hull and Winceby]
18 September, part of the cavalry in Hull was ferried over to Barton, and the rest under Sir Thomas Fairfaxwent by sea to Saltfleeta few days later, the whole joining Cromwell near Spilsby. In return, the old Lord Fairfax, who remained in Hull, received infantry reinforcements and a quantity of ammunition and stores from the Eastern Association.
11 October, Cromwell and Fairfax together won a brilliant cavalry action at the Battle of Winceby, driving the Royalist horse in confusion before them to Newark. On the same day, Newcastle's army around Hull, which had suffered terribly from the hardships of continuous siege work, was attacked by the garrison. They were so severely handled that the siege was given up the next day. Later, Manchester retook Lincoln and Gainsborough. Thus Lincolnshire, which had been almost entirely in Newcastle's hands before he was compelled to undertake the siege of Hull, was added, in fact as well as in name, to the Eastern Association.
Elsewhere, in the reaction after the crisis of Newbury, the war languished. The city regiments went home, leaving Essex too weak to hold Reading. The Royalists reoccupied it on
3 October. At this, the Londoners offered to serve again. They actually took part in a minor campaign around Newport Pagnell, where Rupert was attempting to fortify, as a menace to the Eastern Association and its communications with London.
Essex was successful in preventing this, but his London regiments again went home. Sir William Waller's new army in
Hampshirefailed lamentably in an attempt on Basing House on 7 November, the London-trained bands, deserting en bloc.For the third time within the year, the London-trained bands turned out in force. It was characteristic of the early years of the war that imminent danger, alone, called forth the devotion of the citizen soldier. If he was employed in ordinary times (e.g. at Basing House), he would neither fight nor march with spirit.] Shortly afterwards, on the 9th of December, Arundelsurrendered to a force under Sir Ralph, now Lord Hopton.
The "Irish Cessation" and the Solemn League and Covenant
Politically, these months were the turning-point of the war. In Ireland, the King's lieutenant, by order of his master, made a truce with the Irish rebels on
15 September1643. Charles's chief object was to set free his army to fight in England, but it was universally believed that Irish regiments in plain words, papists in arms, would shortly follow. Under these circumstances, his act united against him nearly every class in ProtestantEngland, and brought into the English quarrel the armed strength of Presbyterian Scotland. Yet Charles, still trusting to intrigue and diplomacy to keep Scotland in check, deliberately rejected the advice of Montrose, his greatest and most faithful lieutenant, who wished to give the Scots employment for their army at home. Only ten days after the "Irish Cessation," Parliament at Westminster swore to the Solemn League and Covenant, and the die was cast. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 13. The "Irish Cessation" and the Solemn League and Covenant]
It is true that even a semblance of Presbyterian
theocracyput the "Independents" on their guard, and definitely raised the question of freedom of conscience. Secret negotiations were opened between the Independents and Charles on that basis. However, they soon discovered that the King was merely using them as instruments to bring about the betrayal of Aylesbury and other small rebel posts. All parties found it convenient to interpret the Covenant liberally for the present. At the beginning of 1644, the Parliamentary party showed so united a front that even Pym's death, on 8 December 1643, hardly affected its resolution to continue the struggle.
The troops from Ireland, thus obtained at the cost of an enormous political blunder, proved to be untrustworthy after all. Those serving in Hopton's army were "mutinous and shrewdly infected with the rebellious humour of England". When Waller's Londoners surprised and routed a Royalist detachment at Alton on the
13 December 1643, half the prisoners took the Covenant.
Hopton had to retire, and on
6 January 1644, Waller recaptured Arundel. Byron's Cheshire army was in no better case. Newcastle's retreat from Hull and the loss of Gainsborough had completely changed the situation in the Midlands. Brereton was joined by the younger Fairfax from Lincolnshire, and the Royalists were severely defeated for a second time at Nantwich on 25 January. As at Alton, the majority of the prisoners (amongst them, Colonel George Monck) took the Covenant and entered the Parliamentary army.
In Lancashire, as in
Cheshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire, the cause of Parliament was in the ascendant. Resistance revived in the West Riding towns, Lord Fairfax was again in the field in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and even Newark was closely besieged by Sir John Meldrum. More important news came in from the north. The advanced guard of the Scottish army had passed the Tweedon 19 January, and Newcastle, with the remnant of his army, would soon be attacked in front and rear at once.
Newark and Cheriton (March 1644)
As in 1643, Rupert was soon on his way to the north to retrieve the fortunes of his side. Moving by the Welsh border, and gathering up garrisons and recruits snowball-wise as he marched, he went first to Cheshire to give a hand to Byron, and then, with the utmost speed, he made for Newark. On
20 March 1644, he bivouacked at Bingham, and on the 21st, he not only relieved Newark but routed the besiegers' cavalry. On the 22nd, Meldrum's position was so hopeless that he capitulated on terms. But, brilliant soldier as he was, the prince was unable to do more than raid a few Parliamentary posts around Lincoln. After that, he had to return his borrowed forces to their various garrisons, and go back to Walesladen, indeed with captured pikes and muskets, to raise a permanent field army. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 14. Newark and Cheriton (March 1644)]
But Rupert could not be in all places at once. Newcastle was clamorous for aid. In Lancashire, only the countess of Derby, in Lathom House, held out for the King. Her husband pressed Rupert to go to her relief. Once, too, the prince was ordered back to Oxford to furnish a travelling escort for the queen, who shortly after this, gave birth to her youngest child and returned to
France. The order was countermanded within a few hours, it is true, but Charles had good reason for avoiding detachments from his own army.
29 March, Hopton had undergone a severe defeat at Cheriton, near New Alresford. In the preliminary manoeuvres, and in the opening stages of the battle, the advantage lay with the Royalists. The Earl of Forth, who was present, was satisfied with what had been achieved, and tried to break off the action. But Royalist indiscipline ruined everything. A young cavalry colonel, charged in defiance of orders. A fresh engagement opened, and at the last moment, Waller snatched a victory out of defeat. Worse than this was the news from Yorkshire and Scotland. Charles had at last assented to Montrose's plan and promised him a marquessate. The first attempt to raise the Royalist standard in Scotland, however, gave no omen of its later triumphs.
In Yorkshire, Sir Thomas Fairfax, advancing from Lancashire through the West Riding, joined his father. Selby was stormed on
11 Apriland thereupon, Newcastle, who had been manoeuvring against the Scots in Durham, hastily drew back. He sent his cavalry away, and shut himself up with his foot in York. Two days later, the Scottish general, Alexander Leslie, Lord Leven, joined the Fairfaxes and prepared to invest that city.
Plans of campaign for 1644
The original plan of the Parliamentary "
Committee of Both Kingdoms", which directed the military and civil policy of the allies after the fashion of a modern cabinet, was to combine Essex's and Manchester's armies in an attack upon the King's army. Aylesbury was appointed as the place of concentration. Waller's troops were to continue to drive back Hopton and to reconquer the west, Fairfax and the Scots, to invest Newcastle's army. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 15. Plans of Campaign for 1644]
In the Midlands, Brereton and the Lincolnshire rebels could be counted upon to neutralise the one Byron, and the others, the Newark Royalists. But Waller, once more deserted by his trained bands, was unable to profit by his victory of Cheriton, and retired to
Farnham. Manchester, too, was delayed because the Eastern Association was still suffering from the effects of Rupert's Newark exploit. Lincoln, abandoned by the rebels on that occasion, was not reoccupied till 6 May. Moreover, Essex found himself compelled to defend his conduct and motives to the "Committee of Both Kingdoms", and as usual, was straitened for men and money.
But though there were grave elements of weakness on the other side, the Royalists considered their own position to be hopeless. Prince Maurice was engaged in the fruitless siege of
Lyme Regis. Gloucester was again a centre of activity and counterbalanced Newark, and the situation in the north was practically desperate. Rupert himself came to Oxford on 25 April1644 to urge that his new army should be kept free to march to aid Newcastle. This was because Newscastle's army was now threatened, owing to the abandonment of the enemy's original plan by Manchester, as well as Fairfax and Leven.
There was no further talk of the concentric advance of three armies on London. The fiery prince and the methodical Earl of Forth (now honoured with the Earldom of Brentford) were at one, at least, in recommending that the Oxford area, with its own garrison and a mobile force, should be the pivot of the field armies' operations. Rupert, needing above all, adequate time for the development of the northern offensive, was not in favour of abandoning any of the barriers to Essex's advance. Brentford, on the other hand, thought it advisable to contract the lines of defence, and Charles, as usual undecided, agreed to Rupert's scheme and executed Brentford's. Reading, therefore, was dismantled early in May, and Abingdon given up shortly afterwards.
It was now possible for the Roundheads to approach Oxford. Abingdon was no sooner evacuated than on
26 May1644, Waller's and Essex's armies united there – still, unfortunately for their cause, under separate commanders. From Abingdon, Essex moved direct on Oxford. Waller moved towards Wantage, where he could give a hand to Edward Massey, the energetic governor of Gloucester. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 16. Cropredy Bridge]
Affairs seemed so bad in the west (Maurice, with a whole army was still vainly besieging the single line of low
breastworks that constituted the fortress of Lyme Regis) that the King dispatched Hopton to take charge of Bristol. Nor were things much better at Oxford. The barriers of time and space, and the supply area had been deliberately given up to the enemy. Charles was practically forced to undertake extensive field operations, with no hope of success, save in consequence of the enemy's mistakes.
The enemy, as it happened, did not disappoint him. The King, probably advised by Brentford, conducted a skilful war of manoeuvre in the area defined by
Stourbridge, Gloucester, Abingdon and Northampton. At the end, Essex marched off into the west with most of the general service troops to repeat at Lyme Regis, his Gloucester exploit of 1643, leaving Waller to the secondary work of keeping the King away from Oxford and reducing that fortress.
At one moment, indeed, Charles (then in
Bewdley) rose to the idea of marching north to join Rupert and Newcastle, but he soon made up his mind to return to Oxford. From Bewdley, therefore, he moved to Buckingham, the distant threat on London, producing another evanescent citizen army drawn from six counties under Major-General Browne. Waller followed him closely. When the King turned upon Browne's motley host, Waller appeared in time to avert disaster, and the two armies worked away to the upper Cherwell.
Brentford and Waller were excellent strategists of the 17th century type, and neither would fight a pitched battle without every chance in his favour. Eventually on
29 June, the Royalists were successful in a series of minor fights about Cropredy Bridge. The result was, in accordance with continental custom, admitted to be an important victory, though Waller's main army drew off unharmed. In the meantime, on 15 June, Essex had relieved Lyme Regis and occupied Weymouth, and was preparing to go farther. The two rebel armies were now indeed separate. Waller had been left to do as best he could, and a worse fate was soon to overtake the cautious earl.
Campaign of Marston Moor
During these manoeuvres, the northern campaign had been fought to an issue. Rupert's courage and energy were more likely to command success in the "English Civil War" than all the conscientious caution of an Essex or a Brentford. On
16 May1644, Rupert left Shrewsbury to fight his way through hostile country to Lancashire, where he hoped to re-establish the Derby influence and raise new forces. Stockportwas plundered on the 25th, and the besiegers of Lathom House, utterly defeated at Boltonon 28 May. Soon afterwards, he received a large reinforcement under General George Goring, which included 5,000 of Newcastle's cavalry. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 17. Campaign of Marston Moor]
The capture of the almost defenceless town of
Liverpool, undertaken as usual to allay local fears, did not delay Rupert more than three or four days. He then turned towards the Yorkshire border with greatly augmented forces. On 14 June, he received a despatch from the King, the gist of which was that there was a time-limit imposed on the northern enterprise. If York were lost or did not need his help, Rupert was to make all haste southward via Worcester. "If York be relieved and you beat the rebels' armies of both kingdoms, then, but otherways not, I may possibly make a shift upon the defensive to spin out time until you come to assist me."
Charles did manage to spin out time. But it was of capital importance that Rupert had to do his work upon York and the allied army in the shortest possible time. According to the despatch, there were only two ways of saving the royal cause, "having relieved York by beating the Scots", or marching with all speed to Worcester. Rupert's duty, interpreted through the medium of his temperament, was clear enough. Newcastle still held out, his men having been encouraged by a small success on
17 June, and Rupert reached Knaresboroughon the 30th.
At once, Leven, Fairfax and Manchester broke up the siege of York and moved out to meet him. But the prince, moving still at high speed, rode round their right flank via
Boroughbridgeand Thornton Bridge, and entered York on the north side. Newcastle tried to dissuade Rupert from fighting, but his record as a general was scarcely convincing as to the value of his advice. Rupert curtly replied that he had orders to fight, and the Royalists moved out towards Marston Moor(q.v.) on the morning of 2 July 1644.
The Parliamentary commanders, fearing a fresh manoeuvre, had already begun to retire towards
Tadcaster, but as soon as it became evident that a battle was impending, they turned back. The battle of Marston Moor began at about four in the afternoon. It was the first real trial of strength between the best elements on either side, and it ended before night with the complete victory of the Parliamentary armies. The Royalist cause in the north collapsed once and for all. Newcastle fled to the continent, and only Rupert, resolute as ever, extricated 6,000 cavalry from the debacle, and rode away whence he had come, still the dominant figure of the war.
The victory gave Parliament entire control of the north, but it did not lead to the definitive solution of the political problem. In fact, on the question of Charles's place in a new Constitution, the victorious generals quarrelled, even before York had surrendered. Within three weeks of the battle, the great army was broken up.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 18. Independency]
The Yorkshire troops proceeded to conquer the isolated Royalist posts in their county. The Scots marched off to besiege
Newcastle-on-Tyneand to hold in check a nascent Royalist army in Westmorland. Rupert, in Lancashire, they neglected entirely. Manchester and Cromwell, already estranged, marched away into the Eastern Association. There, for want of an enemy to fight, their army was forced to be idle. Cromwell, and the ever-growing Independent element, quickly came to suspect their commander of lukewarmness in the cause. Waller's army, too, was spiritless and immobile.
2 July1644, despairing of the existing military system, Cromwell made to the "Committee of Both Kingdoms", the first suggestion of the New Model Army. "My lords," he wrote, "till you have an army merely your own, that you may command, it is . . . impossible to do anything of importance." Browne's trained band army was perhaps the most ill-behaved of all. Once, the soldiers attempted to murder their own general. Parliament, in alarm, set about the formation of a new general service force on 12 July. Meanwhile, both Waller's and Browne's armies, at Abingdon and Reading respectively, ignominiously collapsed by mutiny and desertion.
It was evident that the people at large, with their respect for the law and their anxiety for their own homes, were tired of the war. Only those men, such as Cromwell, who has set their hearts on fighting out the quarrel of conscience, kept steadfastly to their purpose. Cromwell himself had already decided that the King himself must be deprived of his authority, and his supporters were equally convinced. But they were relatively few. Even the Eastern Association trained bands had joined in the disaffection in Waller's army. The unfortunate general's suggestion of a professional army, with all its dangers, indicated the only means of enforcing a peace, such as Cromwell and his friends desired.
There was this important difference, however, between Waller's idea and Cromwell's achievement that the professional soldiers of the New Model were disciplined, led, and in all things, inspired by "godly" officers. Godliness, devotion to the cause, and efficiency were indeed the only criteria Cromwell applied in choosing officers. Long before this, he had warned the Scottish
major-general, Lawrence Crawford, that the precise colour of a man's religious opinions mattered nothing, compared with his devotion to them. He had told the committee of Suffolk::"I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows than that which you call a 'gentleman' and is nothing else. I honour a gentleman that is so indeed... but seeing it was necessary the work must go on, better plain men than none."If "men of honour and birth" possessed the essentials of godliness, devotion, and capacity, Cromwell preferred them. As a matter of fact, only seven out of thirty-seven of the superior officers of the original New Model were not of gentle birth.
But all this was as yet in the future. Essex's military
promenadein the west of England was the subject of immediate interest. At first successful, this general penetrated to Plymouth, whence, securely based as he thought, he could overrun Devon. Unfortunately for him, he was persuaded to overrun Cornwall as well. At once, the Cornishmen rose, as they had risen under Hopton, and the King was soon on the march from the Oxford region, disregarding the armed mobs under Waller and Browne. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 19. Lostwithiel]
Their state reflected the general languishing of the war spirit on both sides, not on one only, as Charles discovered when he learned that Lord Wilmot, the lieutenant-general of his horse, was in correspondence with Essex. Wilmot was of course placed under arrest, and was replaced by the dissolute General Goring. But it was unpleasantly evident that even gay cavaliers of the type of Wilmot had lost the ideals for which they fought. Wilmot had come to believe that the realm would never be at peace while Charles was King.
Henceforward, it will be found that the Royalist foot, now a thoroughly professional force, is superior in quality to the once superb cavalry, and not merely because its opportunities for plunder, etc. are more limited. Materially, however, the immediate victory was undeniably with the Royalists. After a brief period of manoeuvre, the Parliamentary army, now far from Plymouth, found itself surrounded and starving at
Lostwithiel, on the Fowey river, without hope of assistance. The horse cut its way out through the investing circle of posts. Essex himself escaped by sea, but Major-General Philip Skippon, his second in command, had to surrender with the whole of the foot on 2 September1644. The officers and men were allowed to go free to Portsmouth, but their arms, guns and munitions were the spoil of the victors.
There was now no trustworthy field force in arms for Parliament south of the
Humber. Even the Eastern Association army was distracted by its religious differences, which had now at last come definitely to the front and absorbed the political dispute in a wider issue. Cromwell already proposed to abolish the peerage, the members of which were inclined to make a hollow peace. He had ceased to pay the least respect to his general, Manchester, whose scheme for the solution of the quarrel was an impossible combination of Charles and Presbyterianism. Manchester, for his part, sank into a state of mere obstinacy. He refused to move against Rupert, or even to besiege Newark, and actually threatened to hang Colonel Lilburne for capturing a Royalist castle without orders.
Operations of Essex's, Waller's and Manchester's armies
After the success of Lostwithiel, there was little to detain Charles's main army in the extreme west. Meanwhile, Banbury, a most important point in the Oxford circle, and
Basing House(near Basingstoke) were in danger of capture. Waller, who had organised a small force of reliable troops, had already sent cavalry into Dorsetshire with the idea of assisting Essex. He now came himself with reinforcements to prevent, so far as lay in his power, the King's return to the Thames valley. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 20. Operations of Essex's, Waller's and Manchester's Armies]
Charles was accompanied, of course, only by his permanent forces and by parts of Prince Maurice's and Hopton's armies. The Cornish levies had, as usual, scattered as soon as the war receded from their borders. Manchester slowly advanced to Reading, while Essex gradually reorganised his broken army at Portsmouth. Waller, far out to the west at
Shaftesbury, endeavored to gain the necessary time and space for a general concentration in Wiltshire, where Charles would be far from Oxford and Basingand, in addition, outnumbered by two to one.
But the work of rearming Essex's troops proceeded slowly for want of money. Manchester peevishly refused to be hurried, either by his more vigorous subordinates or by the "Committee of Both Kingdoms", saying that the army of the Eastern Association was for the guard of its own employers, and not for general service. He pleaded the renewed activity of the Newark Royalists as his excuse, forgetting that Newark would have been in his hands ere this, had he chosen to move thither, instead of lying idle for two months.
As to the higher command, things had come to such a pass that, when the three armies at last united, a council of war, consisting of three army commanders, several senior officers, and two civilian delegates from the Committee, was constituted. When the vote of the majority had determined what was to be done, Essex, as lord general of the Parliament's first army, was to issue the necessary orders for the whole. Under such conditions, it was not likely that Waller's hopes of a great battle at Shaftesbury would be realised.
8 October1644, Waller fell back, the royal army following him step by step and finally reaching Whitchurch on 10 October. Manchester arrived at Basingstoke on the 17th, Waller on the 19th, and Essex on the 21st. Charles had found that he could not relieve Basing (a mile or two from Basingstoke), without risking a battle with the enemy between himself and Oxford. He therefore took the Newbury road and relieved Donnington Castle, near Newbury, on the 22nd.
Three days later, Banbury too was relieved by a force which could now be spared from the Oxford garrison. But for once, the council of war on the other side was for fighting a battle. The Parliamentary armies, their spirits revived by the prospect of action, and by the news of the fall of Newcastle-on-Tyne and the defeat of a from Newark, marched briskly. On
26 October, they appeared north of Newbury on the Oxford road. Like Essex in 1643, Charles found himself headed off from the shelter of friendly fortresses. Beyond this fact there is little similarity between the two battles of Newbury, for the Royalists, in the first case, merely drew a barrier across Essex's path. On the present occasion, the eager Parliamentarians made no attempt to force the King to attack them. They were well content to attack him in his chosen position themselves, especially as he was better off for supplies and quarters than they.
econd Battle of Newbury
Second battle of Newbury, fought on 27 October1644, is remarkable as being the first great manoeuvre-battle (as distinct from "pitched" battle) of the Civil War. A preliminary reconnaissanceby the Parliamentary leaders (Essex was not present, owing to illness) established the fact that the King's infantry held a strong line of defence behind the Lambournbrook, from Shaw (inclusive) to Donnington (exclusive). Shaw House and adjacent buildings were being held as an advanced post. In rear of the centre, in open ground just north of Newbury, lay the bulk of the royal cavalry. In the left rear of the main line, and separated from it by more than a thousand yards, lay Prince Maurice's corps at Speen, and advanced troops on the high ground, west of that village. Donnington Castle, under its energetic governor, Sir John Boys, however, formed a strong post covering this gap with artillery fire. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 21. Second Newbury]
The Parliamentary leaders had no intention of flinging their men away in a frontal attack on the line of the Lambourn. A flank attack from the east side could hardly succeed, owing to the obstacle presented by the confluence of the Lambourn and the Kennet. Hence, they decided on a wide turning movement via
Chieveley, Winterbourneand Wickham Heath, against Prince Maurice's position. The decision, daring and energetic as it was, led only to a moderate success, for reasons which will appear. The flank march, out of range of the castle, was conducted with punctuality and precision.
The troops composing it were drawn from all three armies, and led by the best fighting generals, Waller, Cromwell, and Essex's subordinates, Balfour and Skippon. Manchester, at
Clay Hill, was to stand fast until the turning movement had developed, and to make a vigorous holding attack on Shaw House, as soon as Waller's guns were heard at Speen. But there was no commander-in-chief to co-ordinate the movements of the two widely-separated corps, and consequently no co-operation.
Waller's attack was not unexpected, and Prince Maurice had made ready to meet him. Yet, the first rush of the rebels carried the entrenchments of
Speen Hill. Speen itself, though stoutly defended, fell into their hands within an hour, Essex's infantry recapturing here some of the guns they had had to surrender at Lostwithiel. But meantime, Manchester, in spite of the entreaties of his staff, had not stirred from Clay Hill. He had already made one false attack early in the morning, and been severely handled, he was aware of his own deficiencies as a general.
A year before this, Manchester would have asked for and acted upon the advice of a capable soldier, such as Cromwell or Crawford. Now, however, his mind was warped by a desire for peace on any terms, and he sought only to avoid defeat, pending a happy solution of the quarrel. Those who sought to gain peace through victory were, meanwhile, driving Maurice back from hedge to hedge towards the open ground at Newbury. But every attempt to emerge from the lanes and fields was repulsed by the royal cavalry, and indeed, by every available man and horse. Charles's officers had gauged Manchester's intentions, and almost stripped the front of its defenders to stop Waller's advance. Nightfall put an end to the struggle around Newbury, and then too late, Manchester ordered the attack on Shaw House. It failed completely, in spite of the gallantry of his men, and darkness being then complete, it was not renewed.
In its general course, the battle closely resembled that of the
battle of Freiburg, fought the same year on the Rhine. But, if Waller's part in the battle corresponded in a measure to Turenne's, Manchester was unequal to playing the part of Conde. Consequently, the results, in the case of the French, who won by three days of hard fighting, and even then comparatively small, were in the case of the English, practically nil. During the night, the royal army quietly marched away through the gap between Waller's and Manchester's troops. The heavy artillery and stores were left in Donnington Castle. Charles himself with a small escort rode off to the north-west to meet Rupert, and the main body gained Wallingford unmolested.
An attempt at pursuit was made by Waller and Cromwell, with all the cavalry they could lay hands on. It was , however, unsupported, for the council of war had decided to content itself with besieging Donnington Castle. A little later, after a brief and half-hearted attempt to move towards Oxford, it referred to the Committee for further instructions. Within the month, Charles, having joined Rupert at Oxford and made him general of the Royalist forces vice Brentford, reappeared in the neighbourhood of Newbury.
Donnington Castle was again relieved on
9 November, under the eyes of the Parliamentary army, which was in such a miserable condition that even Cromwell was against fighting. Some manoeuvres followed, in the course of which, Charles relieved Basing House. The Parliamentary armies fell back, not in the best order, to Reading. The season for field warfare was now far spent, and the royal army retired to enjoy good quarters and plentiful supplies around Oxford.
On the other side, the dissensions between the generals had become flagrant and public. It was no longer possible for the Houses of Parliament to ignore the fact that the army must be radically reformed. Cromwell and Waller, from their places in parliament, attacked Manchester's conduct. So far as Cromwell was concerned, their attack ultimately became an attack on the Lords, most of whom held the same views as Manchester, and on the Scots, who attempted to bring Cromwell to trial as an "incendiary". At the crisis of their bitter controversy, Cromwell suddenly proposed to stifle all animosities by the resignation of all officers who were members of either House, a proposal which affected himself not less than Essex and Manchester.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 22. The Self-denying Ordinance]
The first "self-denying ordinance" was moved on
9 December1644, and provided that "no member of either house shall have or execute any office or command...", etc. This was not accepted by the Lords. In the end, a second "self-denying ordinance" was agreed to on 3 April 1645, whereby all the persons concerned were to resign, but without prejudice to their reappointment. Simultaneously with this, the formation of the New Model was at last definitely taken into consideration. The last exploit of Sir William Waller, who was not re-employed after the passing of the ordinance, was the relief of Taunton, then besieged by General Goring's army. Cromwell served as his lieutenant-general on this occasion. We have Waller's own testimony that he was, in all things, a wise, capable and respectful subordinate. Under a leader of the stamp of Waller, Cromwell was well satisfied to obey, knowing the cause to be in good hands.
Decline of the Royalist cause
A raid of Goring's horse from the west into Surrey, and an unsuccessful attack on General Browne at Abingdon, were the chief enterprises undertaken on the side of the Royalists during the early winter of 1644/45. It was no longer "summer in Devon, summer in Yorkshire" as in January 1643. An ever-growing section of Royalists, amongst whom Rupert himself was soon to be numbered, were for peace. Many scores of loyalist gentlemen, impoverished by the loss of three years rents of their estates, and hopeless of ultimate victory, were making their way to Westminster to give in their submission to Parliament and to pay their fines. In such circumstances, the old decision-seeking strategy was impossible.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 23. Decline of the Royalist Cause]
The new plan, suggested probably by Rupert, had already been tried with strategic success in the summer campaign of 1644. It consisted essentially in using Oxford as the centre of a circle and striking out radially at any favourable target — "manoeuvring about a fixed point," as Napoleon called it.
It was significant of the decline of the Royalist cause that the "fixed point" had been, in 1643, the King's field army, based indeed on its great entrenched camp, Banbury–Cirencester–Reading–Oxford, but free to move and to hold the enemy, wherever met. But now, it was the entrenched camp itself, weakened by the loss or abandonment of its outer posts, and without the power of binding the enemy, if they chose to ignore its existence, that conditioned the scope and duration of the single remaining field army's enterprises.
For the present, however, Charles's cause was crumbling, more from internal weakness than from the blows of the enemy. Fresh negotiations for peace which opened on
29 January1645 at Uxbridge(by the name of which place, they are known to history) occupied the attention of the Scots and their Presbyterian friends. The rise of Independency, and of Cromwell, was a further distraction. The Lords and Commons were seriously at variance over the new army, and the Self-denying Ordinance. Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Editionarticle GREAT REBELLION: 24. The New Model Ordinance]
But in February, a fresh
mutinyin Waller's command struck alarm into the hearts of the disputants. The "treaty" of Uxbridge came to the same end as the treaty of Oxford in 1643, and a settlement as to army reform was achieved on 15 February. Though it was only on 25 Marchthat the second and modified form of the ordinance was agreed to by both Houses, Sir Thomas Fairfax and Philip Skippon (who were not members of parliament) had been approved as lord general and major-general (of the infantry) respectively of the new army as early as 21 January. The post of lieutenant-general and cavalry commander was for the moment left vacant, but there was little doubt as to who would eventually occupy it.
Victories of Montrose
Meanwhile in Scotland, Montrose was winning victories which amazed the people of the two kingdoms. Montrose's royalism differed less from that of Englishmen of the 17th century than from that of their forefathers, under Henry VIII and Elizabeth. To him, the King was the protector of his people against Presbyterian theocracy, scarcely less offensive to him than the
Inquisitionitself, and the feudal oppression of the great nobles. Little as this ideal corresponded to the Charles of reality, it inspired in Montrose, not merely romantic heroism, but also a force of leadership which was sufficient to carry to victory the nobles and gentry, the wild Highlanders, and the experienced professional soldiers, who at various times and places constituted his little armies.