For the most part, the two sides which fought the English Civil Wars are represented by the Royalist Cavaliers of Charles I of England on one side and the Parliamentarian Roundheads of Oliver Cromwell on 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, Scotland and 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 Kingdoms by 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:
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.
The Presbyterian system, 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 gentry of their party, possessed great wealth and territorial influence. Charles, on the other hand, although he could by means of impressment and 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".
In Cornwall, the Royalist leader, Sir Ralph Hopton, indicted the enemy before the grand jury of 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.
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.
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 France and Germany, the prolongation of a war meant continued employment for the soldiers, but in England:
This passage from the Memoirs of a Cavalier, 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' War in 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.
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.
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 Northampton under 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 Maria was busy in Holland, arranging for the importation of war material and money. In Yorkshire, opinion was divided, the royal cause being strongest in York and 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 Midlands and the west, and the important towns of Bristol and Gloucester, were on the side of the Parliament. A small Royalist force was compelled to evacuate Oxford on 10 September.
On 13 September, the main campaign opened. The King, in order to find recruits amongst his sympathisers and arms in the armouries of the Derbyshire and 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 September between 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.
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.
During the morning of 23 October 1642, 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 Astley in 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 Edgehill was to be the first of a series of pitched battles.
On 24 October Essex retired, leaving Charles to claim victory and to reap its results. Banbury and Oxford were reoccupied by the Royalists, and by 28 October, Charles was marching down the Thames valley 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 Green on 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 Valmy it was a victory without having to come to battle, and the tide of invasion having reached this far, ebbed and never returned.
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 redoubt for the whole area, and Reading, Wallingford, Abingdon, Brill, Banbury and Marlborough constituted a complete defensive ring which was developed by the creation of smaller posts from time to time.
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, Derbyshire and 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 convoy should 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 Down near Liskeard on 19 January 1643 and 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 Cirencester on 2 February. Gloucester and Bristol were 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 Nantwich on 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 Brereton and 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 Warwickshire and Staffordshire and was looked on by many as Essex's eventual successor, was killed in besieging Lichfield Cathedral on 2 March, and, though the cathedral soon capitulated, Gell and Brereton were severely handled in the indecisive Battle of Hopton Heath near Stafford on 19 March, and Prince Rupert, after an abortive raid on Bristol (7 March), marched rapidly northward, storming Birmingham en 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 Wiltshire of "malignants", entered Gloucestershire early in March, destroyed a small Royalist force at Highnam on 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 Association was from the first, guided and inspired by Colonel Cromwell.
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 Thames valley; this secured, there was no purely military objection against operating in separate armies from the circumference towards the centre.
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 Yorkshire refused 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.
But affairs improved in May. The Queen's long-expected convoy arrived at Woodstock on 13 May 1643. 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 Grenville and 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.
Essex's army, for want of material resources, had had to be content with the capture of Reading. A Royalist force under Hertford and Prince Maurice von Simmern (Rupert's brother) moved out as far as Salisbury to 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 Severn valley 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 Frome to 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 Lansdown was 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.
On 10 July, Sir William Waller took post on Roundway Down, overlooking Devizes, and captured a Royalist ammunition column from Oxford. On 11 July he 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 Devizes was 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, Lincolnshire and 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.
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 Wailer the 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.
The Eastern Association had already intervened to help in the siege of Reading and had sent troops to the abortive gathering at Nottingham, besides clearing its own ground of "malignants." From the first, Cromwell was the dominant influence.
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 yeomen of 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 Aylesbury side, he found his men demoralised by inaction.
Before the menace of Rupert's cavalry, to which he had nothing to oppose, Essex withdrew to Bedfordshire in 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. Plymouth was 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.
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.
On the 26 August 1643, 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 Gloucester was suddenly raised. The Royalists drew off to Painswick, for Essex had reached Cheltenham and 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, Hungerford and 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 Chase on 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.
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 September 1643 after a small rearguard skirmish at Aldermaston, and so ended the First Battle of Newbury, one of the most dramatic episodes of English history.
Meanwhile the siege of Hull had commenced. The Eastern Association forces under Manchester promptly 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.
On 18 September, part of the cavalry in Hull was ferried over to Barton, and the rest under Sir Thomas Fairfax went by sea to Saltfleet a 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.
On 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 Hampshire failed lamentably in an attempt on Basing House on 7 November, the London-trained bands, deserting en bloc. Shortly afterwards, on the 9th of December, Arundel surrendered to a force under Sir Ralph, now Lord Hopton.
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 September 1643. 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 Protestant England, 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.
It is true that even a semblance of Presbyterian theocracy put 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 Tweed on 19 January, and Newcastle, with the remnant of his army, would soon be attacked in front and rear at once.
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.
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.
On 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 April and 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.
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.
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 April 1644 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 May 1644, 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.
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.
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 May 1644, 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. Stockport was plundered on the 25th, and the besiegers of Lathom House, utterly defeated at Bolton on 28 May. Soon afterwards, he received a large reinforcement under General George Goring, which included 5,000 of Newcastle's cavalry.
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 Knaresborough on 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 Boroughbridge and 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.
The Yorkshire troops proceeded to conquer the isolated Royalist posts in their county. The Scots marched off to besiege Newcastle-on-Tyne and 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.
On 2 July 1644, 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:
But all this was as yet in the future. Essex's military promenade in 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.
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 September 1644. 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.
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.
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 Basing and, 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.
On 8 October 1644, 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 sally 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.
The Second battle of Newbury, fought on 27 October 1644, is remarkable as being the first great manoeuvre-battle (as distinct from "pitched" battle) of the Civil War. A preliminary reconnaissance by 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 Lambourn brook, 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.
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, Winterbourne and 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.
The first "self-denying ordinance" was moved on 9 December 1644, 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.
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.
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 January 1645 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.
But in February, a fresh mutiny in 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 March that 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.
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 Inquisition itself, 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.
Montrose's first unsuccessful enterprise has been mentioned above. It seemed, in the early stages of his second attempt on August 1644, as if failure were again inevitable. The gentry of the northern Lowlands were overawed by the prevailing party, and resented the leadership of a lesser noble, even though he were the King's lieutenant over all Scotland. Disappointed of support where he most expected it, Montrose then turned to the Highlands. At Blair Athol, he gathered his first army of Royalist clansmen, and good fortune gave him also a nucleus of trained troops.
A force of disciplined experienced soldiers (chiefly, Irish Macdonalds, and commanded by Alastair of that name) had been sent over from Ireland earlier in the year. After ravaging the glens of their hereditary enemies, the Campbells, Alastair had attempted without success, now here, now there, to gather the other clans in the King's name. Their hand was against every man's, and when he finally arrived in Badenoch, Alastair was glad to protect himself by submitting to the authority of the King's lieutenant. There were three hostile armies to be dealt with, besides ultimately the main covenanting army, far away in England:
Montrose turned upon Elcho first, and found him at Tippermuir, near Perth on 1 September 1644. The Royalists were about 3,000 strong and entirely foot. Only Montrose himself and two others were mounted, while Elcho had about 7,000 of all arms. But Elcho's townsmen found that pike and musket were clumsy weapons in inexperienced hands. Like Mackay's regulars at Killiecrankie, fifty years later, they wholly failed to stop the rush of the Highland swordsmen. Many hundreds were killed in the pursuit, and Montrose slept in Perth that night, having thus accounted for one of his enemies.
Balfour of Burleigh was to be his next victim, and Montrose started for Aberdeen on 4 September. As he marched, his Highlanders slipped away to place their booty in security. But the Macdonald regulars remained with him. As he passed along the coast, some of the gentry came in, though the great western clan of the Gordons was, at present, too far divided in sentiment to take his part. Lord Lewis Gordon and some Gordon horse were even in Balfour's army. On the other hand, the Earl of Airlie brought in forty-four horsemen. Montrose was thus able to constitute two wings of cavalry on the day of battle.
The Covenanters were about 2,500 strong. They were drawn up on a slope above the How Burn, just outside Aberdeen on 13 September 1644. Montrose, after clearing away the enemy's skirmishers, drew up his army in front of the opposing line, the foot in the centre. The forty-four mounted men, with musketeers to support them, were on either flank. The hostile left-wing cavalry charged piecemeal, and some bodies of troops did not engage at all. On the other wing, however, Montrose was, for a moment, hard pressed by a force of the enemy that attempted to work round to his rear. But he brought over the small band of mounted men that constituted his right wing cavalry, and also some musketeers from the centre, and destroyed the assailants.
When the ill-led left wing of the Covenanters charged again, during the absence of the cavalry, they were mown down by the close-range volleys of Macdonald's musketeers. Shortly afterwards, the centre of Balfour's army yielded to pressure and fled in disorder. Aberdeen was sacked by order of Montrose, whose drummer had been murdered while delivering a message under a flag of truce to the magistrates.
Only Argyll now remained to be dealt with. The Campbells were fighting men from birth, like Montrose's own men, and had few townsmen serving with them. Still, there were enough of the latter, and of the impediments of regular warfare with him, to prevent Argyll from overtaking his agile enemy. Ultimately, after a "hide-and-seek" in the districts of Rothiemurchus, Blair Athol, Banchory and Strathbogie, Montrose stood to fight at Fyvie Castle. He repulsed Argyll's attack and slipped away again to Rothiemurchus. There, he was joined by Camerons and Macdonalds from all quarters for a grand raid on the Campbell country. He himself wished to march into the Lowlands, well knowing that he could not achieve the decision in the Grampians. He had to bow, not for the first time nor the last, to local importunity. The raid was duly executed, and the Campbells' boast, "It's a far cry to Loch Awe", availed them little.
In December and January, the Campbell lands were thoroughly and mercilessly devastated. Montrose then retired slowly to Loch Ness, where the bulk of his army, as usual, dispersed to store away its plunder. Argyll, with such Highland and Lowland forces as he could collect after the disaster, followed Montrose towards Lochaber. The Seaforths and other northern clans marched to Loch Ness. Caught between them, Montrose attacked the nearest.
The Royalists crossed the hills into Glen Roy, worked thence along the northern face of Ben Nevis, and descended like an avalanche upon Argyll's forces at Inverlochy on 2 February 1645. As usual, the Lowland regiments gave way at once. Montrose had managed, in all this, to keep with him a few cavalry, and it was then the turn of the Campbells. Argyll escaped in a boat, but his clan, as a fighting force, was practically annihilated. Montrose, having won four victories in these six winter months, rested his men and exultingly promised Charles that he would come to his assistance with a brave army before the end of the summer.
Returning to the New Model, its first necessity was regular pay; its first duty to serve wherever it might be sent. Of the three armies that had fought at Newbury, only one, Essex's, was in a true sense a general service force; and only one, Manchester's, was paid with any regularity. Waller's army was no better paid than Essex's, and no freer from local ties than Manchester's. It was therefore broken up early in April, and only 600 of its infantry passed into the New Model. Essex's men, on the other hand, wanted but regular pay and strict officers to make them excellent soldiers. Their own major-general, Skippon, managed by tact and his personal popularity, to persuade the bulk of the men to rejoin. Manchester's army, in which Cromwell had been the guiding influence from first to last, was naturally the backbone of the New Model.
Early in April 1645, Essex, Manchester, and Waller resigned their commissions in anticipation of the passing by Parliament of the self-denying ordinance. Those in the forces, who were not embodied in the new army, were sent to do local duties, for minor armies were still maintained — General Sydnam Poyntz's in the north Midlands; General Edward Massey's in the Severn valley; a large force in the Eastern Association; General Browne's in Buckinghamshire, etc., — besides the Scots in the north.
The New Model originally consisted of 14,400 foot and 7,700 horse and dragoons. Of the infantry, only 6,000 came from the combined armies, the rest being new recruits furnished by the 'press'. Thus, there was considerable trouble during the first months of Fairfax's command, and discipline had to be enforced with unusual sternness. As for the enemy, Oxford was openly contemptuous of "the rebels' new brutish general" and his men, who seemed hardly likely to succeed, where Essex and Waller had failed. But the effect of Parliament having "an army all its own" was soon to be apparent.
On the Royalist side, the campaign of 1645 opened in the west, where Charles II, the young prince of Wales was sent with Hyde (later, Earl of Clarendon), Hopton, and others as his advisers. General (Lord) Goring, however, now in command of the Royalist field forces in this quarter, was truculent, insubordinate and dissolute. On the rare occasions when he did his duty, however, he did display a certain degree of skill and leadership, and the influence of the prince's counsellors was but small.
As usual, operations began with the sieges, necessary to conciliate local feeling. Plymouth and Lyme Regis were blocked up, and Taunton again invested. The reinforcement thrown into the last place by Waller and Cromwell was dismissed by Blake (then a colonel in command of the fortress (afterwards, the great admiral of the Commonwealth). After many adventures, Blake rejoined Waller and Cromwell. The latter generals, who had not yet laid down their commissions, then engaged Goring for some weeks. Neither side had infantry or artillery, and both found subsistence difficult in February and March. In a country that had been fought over for the two years past, no results were to be expected. Taunton still remained unrelieved, and Goring's horse still rode all over Dorsetshire, when the New Model at last took the field.
In the Midlands and Lancashire, the Royalist horse, as ill-behaved even as Goring's men, were directly responsible for the ignominious failure with which the King's main army began its year's work. Prince Maurice was joined at Ludlow by Rupert and part of his Oxford army, early in March 1645. The brothers drove off Brereton from the siege of Beeston Castle, and relieved the pressure on Lord Byron in Cheshire. So great was the danger of Rupert's again invading Lancashire and Yorkshire that all available forces in the north, English and Scots, were ordered to march against him. But at this moment the prince was called back to clear his line of retreat on Oxford.
The Herefordshire and Worcestershire peasantry, weary of military exactions, were in arms. Though they would not join Parliament, and for the most part dispersed after stating their grievances, the main enterprise was wrecked. This was but one of many ill-armed crowds, the "Clubmen" as they were called, that assembled to enforce peace on both parties. A few regular soldiers were sufficient to disperse them in all cases, but their attempt to establish a third party in England was morally as significant as it was materially futile.
The Royalists were now fighting with the courage of despair. Those who still fought against Charles did so with the full determination to ensure the triumph of their cause, and with the conviction that the only possible way was the annihilation of the enemy's armed forces. The majority, however, were so weary of the war that the Earl of Manchester's Presbyterian royalism, which had contributed so materially to the prolongation of the struggle, would probably have been accepted by four-fifths of all England as the basis of a peace. It was, in fact, in the face of almost universal opposition, that Fairfax and Cromwell and their friends at Westminster guided the cause of their weaker comrades to complete victory.
Having without difficulty, rid himself of the Clubmen, Rupert was eager to resume his march into the north. It is unlikely that he wished to join Montrose, though Charles himself favoured that plan. However, he certainly intended to fight the Scottish army, more especially as after Inverlochy, it had been called upon to detach a large force to deal with Montrose. But this time there was no Royalist army in the north to provide infantry and guns for a pitched battle. Rupert had perforce to wait near Hereford till the main body, and in particular the artillery train, could come from Oxford and join him.
It was on the march of the artillery train to Hereford that the first operations of the New Model centred. The infantry was not yet ready to move, in spite of all Fairfax's and Skippon's efforts. It became necessary to send the cavalry, by itself, to prevent Rupert from gaining a start. Cromwell, then under Waller's command, had come to Windsor to resign his commission, as required by the Self-denying Ordinance. Instead, he was placed at the head of a brigade of his own old soldiers, with orders to stop the march of the artillery train.
On 23 April 1645, Cromwell started from Watlington, north-westward. At dawn on the 24th, he routed a detachment of Royalist horse at Islip. On the same day, though he had no guns and only a few firearms in the whole force, he terrified the governor of Bletchingdon House into surrender. Riding thence to Witney, Cromwell won another cavalry fight at Bampton-in-the-Bush on the 27th, and attacked Faringdon House, though without success, on 29 April. From there, he marched at leisure to Newbury. He had done his work thoroughly. He had demoralised the Royalist cavalry, and, above all, had carried off every horse on the countryside. To all Rupert's entreaties, Charles could only reply that the guns could not be moved till the 7 May, and he even summoned Goring's cavalry from the west to make good his losses.
Cromwell's success thus forced the King to concentrate his various armies in the neighbourhood of Oxford. The New Model had, so Fairfax and Cromwell hoped, found its target. But the "Committee of Both Kingdoms" on the one side, and Charles, Rupert, and Goring, on the other, held different views. On 1 May 1645, Fairfax, having been ordered to relieve Taunton, set out from Windsor for the long march to that place. Meeting Cromwell at Newbury on 2 May, he directed the lieutenant-general to watch the movements of the King's army. He himself marched on to Blandford, which he reached on 7 May. Thus, Fairfax and the main army of Parliament were marching away in the west, while Cromwell's detachment was left, as Waller had been left the previous year, to hold the King, as best he could.
On the very evening that Cromwell's raid ended, the leading troops of Goring's command destroyed part of Cromwell's own regiment near Faringdon. On 3 May Rupert and Maurice appeared with a force of all arms at Burford. Yet the "Committee of Both Kingdoms", though aware on the 29th of Goring's move, only made up its mind to stop Fairfax on the 3rd, and did not send off orders till the 5th. These orders were to the effect that a detachment was to be sent to the relief of Taunton, and that the main army was to return. Fairfax gladly obeyed, even though a siege of Oxford, and not the enemy's field army, was the objective assigned him. But long before he came up to the Thames valley, the situation was again changed.
Rupert, now in possession of the guns and their teams, urged upon his uncle, the resumption of the northern enterprise, calculating that with Fairfax in Somersetshire, Oxford was safe. Charles accordingly marched out of Oxford on the 7th towards Stow-on-the-Wold, on the very day as it chanced, that Fairfax began his return march from Blandford. But Goring and most of the other generals were for a march into the west, in the hope of dealing with Fairfax as they had dealt with Essex in 1644. The armies therefore parted, as Essex and Waller had parted at the same place in 1644. Rupert and the King were to march northward, while Goring was to return to his independent command in the west.
Rupert, not unnaturally, wishing to keep his influence with the King and his authority as general of the King's army, unimpaired by Goring's notorious indiscipline, made no attempt to prevent the separation, which in the event proved wholly unprofitable. The flying column from Blandford relieved Taunton long before Goring's return to the west. Colonel Weldon and Colonel Graves, its commanders, set him at defiance even in the open country. As for Fairfax, he was out of Goring's reach, preparing for the siege of Oxford.
On the other side also, the generals were working by data that had ceased to have any value. Fairfax's siege of Oxford, ordered by the Committee on the 10 May 1645, and persisted in, after it was known that the King was on the move, was the second great blunder of the year. The blunder was hardly redeemed, as a military measure, by the visionary scheme of assembling the Scots, the Yorkshiremen, and the midland forces to oppose the King. It is hard to understand how, having created a new model army, "all its own" for general service, Parliament at once tied it down to a local enterprise, and trusted an improvised army of local troops to fight the enemy's main army.
In reality, the Committee seems to have been misled by false information to the effect that Goring and the governor of Oxford were about to declare for Parliament. Had they not dispatched Fairfax to the relief of Taunton in the first instance, the necessity for such intrigues would not have arisen. However, Fairfax obeyed orders, invested Oxford, and so far as he was able, without a proper siege train, besieged it for two weeks, while Charles and Rupert ranged the Midlands unopposed.
At the end of that time came news, so alarming that the Committee hastily abdicated their control over military operations, and gave Fairfax a free hand. "Black Tom" gladly and instantly abandoned the siege and marched northward to give battle to the King. Meanwhile, Charles and Rupert were moving northward. On 11 May, they reached Droitwich, from where after two days' rest they marched against Brereton. The latter hurriedly raised the sieges he had on hand, and called upon Yorkshire and the Scottish army there for aid. But only the old Lord Fairfax and the Yorkshiremen responded. Leven had just heard of new victories, won by Montrose. He could do no more than draw his army and his guns over the Pennine chain into Westmorland, in the hope of being in time to bar the King's march on Scotland via Carlisle.
After the destruction of the Campbells at Inverlochy, Montrose had cleared away the rest of his enemies without difficulty. He now gained a respectable force of cavalry by the adhesion of Lord Gordon and many of his clan. This reinforcement was the more necessary, as detachments from Leven's army under Baillie, and Hurry's disciplined infantry and cavalry, were on the march to meet him. The Royalists marched by Elgin and through the Gordon country to Aberdeen, and thence across the Esk to Coupar-Angus, where Baillie and Hurry were encountered. A war of manoeuvre followed, in which they thwarted every effort of the Royalists to break through into the Lowlands. In the end, however, they retired into Fife. Montrose thereupon marched into the hills, with the intention of reaching the upper Forth and thence, the Lowlands.
Montrose did not disguise from himself the fact that there, and not in the Highlands, would the quarrel be decided. He was sanguine — in fact over-sanguine, as the event proved — as to the support, he would obtain from those who hated the kirk and its system. But he had called to his aid, the semi-barbarous Highlanders, and however much the Lowlands resented a Presbyterian inquisition, they hated and feared the Highland clans beyond all else. He was equally disappointed in his own army.
For a war of positions, the Highlanders had neither aptitude nor inclination, and at Dunkeld, the greater part of them went home. If the small remnant was to be kept to its duty, plunder must be found, and the best objective was the town of Dundee. With a small force of 750 foot and horse, Montrose brilliantly surprised the town on 4 April. Baillie and Hurry, however, were not far distant, and before Montrose's men had time to plunder the prize, they were collected to face the enemy.
Montrose's retreat from Dundee was considered a model operation by foreign students on the art of war (then, almost as numerous as now). What surprised them most was that Montrose could rally his men after a sack had begun. The retreat itself was remarkable enough. Baillie moved parallel to Montrose on his left flank towards Arbroath, constantly heading him off from the hills and attempting to pin him against the sea. Montrose, however, halted in the dark so as to let Baillie get ahead of him and then turned sharply back, crossed Baillie's track, and made for the hills. Baillie soon realised what had happened and turned back also, but he was an hour too late. By the 6th, the Royalists were again safe in the broken country of the Esk valley. But Montrose cherished no illusions as to joining the King at once. All he could do, he now wrote, was to neutralise as many of the enemy's forces as possible.
For a time, he wandered in the Highlands seeking recruits. But soon, he learned that Baillie and Hurry had divided their forces, the former remaining about Perth and Stirling to observe him, the latter going north to suppress the Gordons. Strategy and policy combined to make Hurry the objective of the next expedition. But the soldier of fortune who commanded the Covenanters at Aberdeen was no mean antagonist. Marching at once with a large army (formed on the nucleus of his own trained troops and for the rest composed of clansmen and volunteers), Hurry advanced to Elgin, made contact with Montrose there, and, gradually and skillfully retiring, drew him into the hostile country round Inverness. Montrose fell into the trap, and Hurry took his measures to surprise him at Auldearn so successfully that on 9 May 1645 Montrose, even though the indiscipline of some of Hurry's young soldiers during the night march gave him the alarm, had barely time to form up before the enemy was upon him. But the best strategy is of no avail when the battle it produces goes against the strategist, and Montrose's tactical skill was never more conspicuous than at the Battle of Auldearn. Alastair Macdonald, with most of the Royalist infantry and the Royal standard, was posted to the right (north) of the village to draw upon himself the weight of Hurry's attack; only enough men were posted in the village itself to show that it was occupied, and on the south side, out of sight, was Montrose himself with a body of foot and all the Gordon horse. It was the prototype, on a small scale, of Austerlitz. Macdonald resisted sturdily while Montrose edged away from the scene of action, and at the right moment and not before, though Macdonald had been driven back on the village and was fighting for life amongst the gardens and enclosures, Montrose let loose Lord Gordon's cavalry. These, abandoning for once the pistol tactics of their time, charged home with the sword. The enemy's right wing cavalry was scattered in an instant, the nearest infantry was promptly ridden down, and soon Hurry's army had ceased to exist.
If the news of Auldearn brought Leven to the region of Carlisle, it had little effect on his English allies. Fairfax was not yet released from the siege of Oxford, in spite of the protests of the Scottish representatives in London. Massey, the active and successful governor of Gloucester, was placed in command of a field force on 25 May 1645, but he was to lead it against, not the King, but Goring. At that moment the military situation once more changed abruptly. Charles, instead of continuing his march on to Lancashire, turned due eastward towards Derbyshire. The alarm at Westminster when this new development was reported was such that Cromwell, in spite of the Self-Denying Ordinance, was sent to raise an army for the defence of the Eastern Association. Yet the Royalists had no intentions in that direction. Conflicting reports as to the condition of Oxford reached the royal headquarters in the last week of May, and the eastward march was made chiefly to "spin out time" until it could be known whether it would be necessary to return to Oxford, or whether it was still possible to fight Leven in Yorkshire his move into Westmorland was not yet known and invade Scotland by the easy east coast route.
Goring's return to the west had already been countermanded and he had been directed to march to Harborough, while the South Wales Royalists were also called in towards Leicester. Later orders on 26 May directed him to Newbury, whence he was to feel the strength of the enemy's positions around Oxford. It is hardly necessary to say that Goring found good military reasons for continuing his independent operations, and marched off towards Taunton regardless of the order. He redressed the balance there for the moment by overawing Massey's weak force, and his purse profited considerably by fresh opportunities for extortion, but he and his men were not at Naseby. Meanwhile the King, at the geographical centre of England, found an important and wealthy town at his mercy. Rupert, always for action, took the opportunity, and Leicester was stormed and thoroughly pillaged on the night of the 30 May–31 May.
There was the usual panic at Westminster, but, unfortunately for Charles, it resulted in Fairfax being directed to abandon the siege of Oxford and given carte blanche to bring the Royal army to battle wherever it was met. On his side the King had, after the capture of Leicester, accepted the advice of those who feared for the safety of Oxford. Rupert, though commander-in-chief, was unable to insist on the northern enterprise and had marched to Daventry, where he halted to throw supplies into Oxford.
Thus Fairfax in his turn was free to move, thanks to the insubordination of Goring, who would neither relieve Oxford nor join the King for an attack on the New Model. The Parliamentary general moved from Oxford towards Northampton so as to cover the Eastern Association. On the 12 June the two armies were only a few miles apart, Fairfax at Kislingbury, Charles at Daventry, and, though the Royalists turned northward again on the 13th to resume the Yorkshire project under the very eyes of the enemy, Fairfax followed close. On the night of the 13th Charles slept at Lubenham, Fairfax at Guilsborough. Cromwell, just appointed lieutenant-general of the New Model, had ridden into camp on the morning of the 13th with fresh cavalry from the eastern counties, Colonel Rossiter came up with more from Lincolnshire on the morning of the battle, and it was with an incontestable superiority of numbers and an overwhelming moral advantage that Fairfax fought at Naseby (q.v.) on the 14 June. The result of the battle, this time a decisive battle, was the annihilation of the Royal army. Part of the cavalry escaped, a small fraction of it in tolerable order, but the guns and the baggage train were taken, and, above all, the splendid Royal infantry were killed or taken prisoners to a man.
After Naseby, though the war dragged on for another year, the King never succeeded in raising an army as good as, or even more numerous than that, which Fairfax's army had so heavily outnumbered on 14 June 1645. That the fruits of the victory could not be gathered in a few weeks was due to a variety of hindrances (rather than to direct opposition):
As to the latter, within a few days of Naseby, the Scots rejoiced that the "back of the malignants was broken". They demanded reinforcements, as a precaution against "the insolence of others", i.e., Cromwell and the Independents, "to whom alone the Lord has given the victory of that day".
Leven had by now returned to Yorkshire, and a fortnight after Naseby, Carlisle fell to David Leslie's besieging corps, after a long and honourable defence by Sir Thomas Glemham. Leicester was reoccupied by Fairfax on the 18th, and on the 20th, Leven's army, moving slowly southward, reached Mansfield. This move was undertaken largely for political reasons, i.e. to restore the Presbyterian balance, as against the victorious New Model. Fairfax's army was intended by its founders to be a specifically English army, and Cromwell for one, would have employed it against the Scots, almost as readily as against malignants.
But for the moment, the advance of the northern army was of the highest military importance, for Fairfax was thereby set free from the necessity of undertaking sieges. Moreover, the publication of the King's papers, taken at Naseby, gave Fairfax's troops, a measure of official and popular support, which a month before, they could not have been said to possess. It was now obvious that they represented the armed force of England against the Irish, Danes, French, Lorrainers, etc., whom Charles had for three years been endeavouring to let loose on English soil. Even the Presbyterians abandoned for the time, any attempt to negotiate with the King, and advocated a vigorous prosecution of the war.
This, in the hands of Fairfax and Cromwell, was likely to be effective. While the King and Rupert, with the remnant of their cavalry, hurried into South Wales to join Sir Charles Gerard's troops, and to raise fresh infantry, Fairfax decided that Goring's was the most important Royalist army in the field. He turned to the west, reaching Lechlade on the 26th, less than a fortnight after the battle of Naseby. One last attempt was made to dictate the plan of campaign from Westminster, but the Committee refused to pass on the directions of the Houses, and Fairfax remained free to deal with Goring, as he desired.
Time pressed. Charles in Monmouthshire and Rupert at Bristol were well placed for a junction with Goring, which would have given them a united army, 15,000 strong. Taunton, in spite of Massey's efforts to keep the field, was again besieged. In Wilts and Dorset, numerous bands of Clubmen were on foot, which the King's officers were doing their best to turn into troops for their master. But the process of collecting a fresh royal army was slow, and Goring and his subordinate, Sir Richard Grenville, were alienating the King's most devoted adherents by their rapacity, cruelty and debauchery.
Moreover, Goring had no desire to lose the independent command, he had extorted at Stow-on-the-Wold in May. Still, it was clear that he must be disposed of, as quickly as possible. On 26 June, Fairfax requested the Houses to take other measures against the King. This, they did by paying up the arrears due to Leven's army, and bringing it to the Severn valley. On 8 July, Leven reached Alcester, bringing with him a Parliamentarian force from Derbyshire, under Sir John Gell. The design was to besiege Hereford.
By that time, Fairfax and Goring were at close quarters. The Royalist general's line of defence faced west along the River Yeo, and the Parrett, between Yeovil and Bridgwater and thus, barred the direct route to Taunton. Fairfax, however, marched from Lechlade via Marlborough and Blandford, hindered only by Clubmen, the friendly posts of Dorchester and Lyme Regis. With these as his centre of operations, he was able to turn the headwaters of Goring's river-line via Beaminster and Crewkerne.
The Royalists, at once, abandoned the south and west side of the rivers. The siege of Taunton had already been given up, and passed over to the north and east bank. Bridgwater was the right of this second line, as it had been the left of the first; the new left was at Ilchester. Goring could thus remain in touch with Charles in south Wales, through Bristol. The siege of Taunton having been given up, there was no longer any incentive for remaining on the wrong side of the water-line. But Goring's army was thoroughly demoralised by its own licence and indiscipline; and the swift, handy and resolute regiments of the New Model made short work of its strong positions.
On 7 July 1645, demonstrating against the points of passage between Ilchester and Langport, Fairfax secretly occupied Yeovil. The post at that place, which had been the right of Goring's first position, had perhaps rightly been withdrawn to Ilchester, when the second position was taken up. Fairfax repaired the bridge without interruption. Goring showed himself unequal to the new situation. He might, if sober, make a good plan when the enemy was not present to disturb him, and he certainly led cavalry charges with boldness and skill. But of strategy in front of the enemy, he was incapable. On the news from Yeovil, he abandoned the line of the Yeo, as far as Langport, without striking a blow. Fairfax, having nothing to gain by continuing his detour through Yeovil, came back and quietly crossed at Long Sutton, west of Ilchester on 9 July.
Goring had by now formed a new plan. A strong rearguard was posted at Langport, and on high ground east and north-east of it, to hold Fairfax. He himself, with the cavalry, rode off early on the 8th to try and surprise Taunton. This place was no longer protected by Massey's little army, which Fairfax had called up to assist his own. But Fairfax, who was not yet across Long Sutton bridge, heard of Goring's raid in good time, and sent Massey after him with a body of horse. Massey surprised a large party of the Royalists at Ilminster on the 9th, wounded Goring himself, and pursued the fugitives up to the south-eastern edge of Langport. On the 10th, Fairfax's advanced guard, led by Major Bethel of Cromwell's own regiment, brilliantly stormed the position of Goring's rearguard, east of Langport. The cavalry of the New Model, led by Cromwell himself, swept in pursuit right up to the gates of Bridgwater, where Goring's army, dismayed and on the point of collapse, was more or less rallied.
Thence, Goring himself retired to Barnstaple. His army, under the regimental officers, defended itself in Bridgwater resolutely till 23 July, when it capitulated. The fall of Bridgwater gave Fairfax complete control of Somerset and Dorset, from Lyme Regis to the Bristol channel. Even in the unlikely event of Goring's raising a fresh army, he would now have to break through towards Bristol by open force, and a battle between Goring and Fairfax could only have one result. Thus, Charles had perforce to give up his intention of joining Goring, and of resuming the northern enterprise, begun in the spring. His recruiting operations in south Wales had not been as successful as he had hoped, owing to the apathy of the people, and the vigour of the local Parliamentary leaders.
This time Rupert would not be with him. The prince, now despairing of success and hoping only for a peace on the best terms procurable, listlessly returned to his governorship of Bristol and prepared to meet Fairfax's impending attack. The influence of Rupert was supplanted by that of George Digby, Earl of Bristol. As sanguine as Charles and far more energetic, he was for the rest of the campaign the guiding spirit of the Royalists, but being a civilian he proved incapable of judging the military factors in the situation from a military standpoint, and not only did he offend the officers by constituting himself a sort of confidential military secretary to the King, but he was distrusted by all sections of Royalists for his reckless optimism. The resumption of the northern enterprise, opposed by Rupert and directly inspired by Digby, led to nothing.
Charles marched by Bridgnorth, Lichfield and Ashbourne to Doncaster, where on the 18 August he was met by great numbers of Yorkshire gentlemen with promises of fresh recruits. For a moment the outlook was bright, for the Derbyshire men with Gell were far away at Worcester with Leven, the Yorkshire Parliamentarians engaged in besieging Scarborough Castle, Pontefract and other posts. But two days later he heard that David Leslie with the cavalry of Leven's army was coming up behind him, and that, the Yorkshire sieges being now ended, Major-General Poyntz's force lay in his front. It was now impossible to wait for the new levies, and reluctantly the King turned back to Oxford, raiding Huntingdonshire and other parts of the hated Eastern Association en route.
David Leslie did not pursue him. Montrose, though the King did not yet know it, had won two more battles, and was practically master of all Scotland. After Auldearn, he had turned to meet Baillie's army in Strathspey, and by superior mobility and skill, forced that commander to keep at a respectful distance. He then turned upon a new army which Lindsay, titular Earl of Crawford, was forming in Forfarshire, but that commander betook himself to a safe distance, and Montrose withdrew into the Highlands to find recruits (June). The victors of Auldearn had mostly dispersed on the usual errand, and he was now deserted by most of the Gordons, who were recalled by the chief of their clan, the Marquess of Huntly, in spite of the indignant remonstrances of Huntly's heir, Lord Gordon, who was Montrose's warmest admirer.
Baillie now approached again, but he was weakened by having to find trained troops to stiffen Lindsay's levies, and a strong force of the Gordons had now been persuaded to rejoin Montrose. The two armies met in battle near Alford on the Don; little can be said of the engagement, save that Montrose had to fight cautiously and tentatively as at Aberdeen, not in the decision-forcing spirit of Auldearn. In the end, Baillie's cavalry gave way, and his infantry was cut down as it stood. Lord Gordon was amongst the Royalist dead (July 2). The plunder was put away in the glens before any attempt was made to go forward, and thus the Covenanters had leisure to form a numerous, if not very coherent, army on the nucleus of Lindsay's troops. Baillie, much against his will, was continued in the command, with a council of war (chiefly of nobles whom Montrose had already defeated, such as Argyll, Elcho and Balfour) to direct his every movement. Montrose, when rejoined by the Highlanders, moved to meet him, and in the last week of July and the early part of August, there were manoeuvres and minor engagements round Perth.
About 7 August 1645, Montrose suddenly slipped away into the Lowlands, heading for Glasgow. Thereupon, another Covenanting army began to assemble in Clydesdale. But it was clear that Montrose could beat mere levies, and Baillie, though without authority and despairing of success, hurried after him. Montrose then, having drawn Baillie's Fifeshire militia far enough from home to ensure their being discontented, turned upon them on the 14 August near Kilsyth. Baillie protested against fighting, but his aristocratic masters of the council of war decided to cut off Montrose from the hills by turning his left wing. The Royalist general seized the opportunity, and his advance caught them in the very act of making a flank march (August 15). The head of the Covenanters' column was met and stopped by the furious attack of the Gordon infantry, and Alastair Macdonald led the men of his own name and the Macleans against its flank. A breach was made in the centre of Baillie's army at the first rush: and then, Montrose sent in the Gordon and Ogilvy horse. The leading half of the column was surrounded, broken up and annihilated. The rear half, seeing the fate of its comrades, took to flight, but in vain, for the Highlanders pursued outrance. Only about one hundred Covenanting infantry out of six thousand escaped. Montrose was now indeed the King's lieutenant in all Scotland.
But Charles was in no case to resume his northern march. Fairfax and the New Model, after reducing Bridgwater, had turned back to clear away the Dorsetshire Clubmen and to besiege Sherborne Castle. On the completion of this task, it had been decided to besiege Bristol, and on 23 August 1645 while the King's army was still in Huntingdon, and Goring was trying to raise a new army to replace the one he had lost at Langport and Bridgwater the city was invested. In these urgent circumstances Charles left Oxford for the west only a day or two after he had come in from the Eastern Association raid. Calculating that Rupert could hold out longest, he first moved to the relief of Worcester, around which place Leven's Scots, no longer having Leslie's cavalry with them to find supplies, were more occupied with plundering their immediate neighbourhood for food than with the siege works. Worcester was relieved on 1 September by the King.
David Leslie with all his cavalry was already on the march to meet Montrose, and Leven had no alternative but to draw off his infantry without fighting. Charles entered Worcester on the 8th, but he found that he could no longer expect recruits from South Wales. Worse was to come. A few hours later, on the night of the 9th-10th, Fairfax's army stormed Bristol. Rupert had long realised the hopelessness of further fighting the very summons to surrender sent in by Fairfax placed the fate of Bristol on the political issue, the lines of defence around the place were too extensive for his small force, and on the 10th he surrendered on terms. He was escorted to Oxford with his men, conversing as he rode with the officers of the escort about peace and the future of his adopted country.
Charles, almost stunned by the suddenness of the catastrophe, dismissed his nephew from all his offices and ordered him to leave England, and for almost the last time called upon Goring to rejoin the main army, if a tiny force of raw infantry and disheartened cavalry can be so called, in the neighbourhood of Raglan. But before Goring could be brought to withdraw his objections Charles had again turned northward towards Montrose.
A weary march through the Welsh hills brought the Royal army on 22 September to the neighbourhood of Chester. Charles himself with one body entered the city, which was partially invested by the Parliamentarian colonel Michael Jones, and the rest under Sir Marmaduke Langdale was sent to take Jones's lines in reverse. But at the opportune moment Poyntz's forces, which had followed the King's movements since he left Doncaster in the middle of August, appeared in rear of Langdale, and defeated him in the battle of Rowton Heath (September 24), while at the same time a sortie of the King's troops from Chester was repulsed by Jones. Thereupon the Royal army withdrew to Denbigh, and Chester, the only important seaport remaining to connect Charles with Ireland, was again besieged.
Nor was Montrose's position, even after Kilsyth, encouraging, in spite of the persistent rumours of fighting in Westmorland that reached Charles and Digby. Glasgow and Edinburgh were indeed occupied, and a parliament summoned in the King's name. But Montrose had now to choose between Highlanders and Lowlanders. The former, strictly kept away from all that was worth plundering, rapidly vanished, even Alastair Macdonald going with the rest.
Without the Macdonalds and the Gordons, Montrose's military and political resettlement of Scotland could only be shadowy, and when he demanded support from the sturdy middle classes of the Lowlands, it was not forgotten that he had led Highlanders to the sack of Lowland towns. Thus his new supporters could only come from amongst the discontented and undisciplined Border lords and gentry, and long before these moved to join him the romantic conquest of Scotland was over.
On the 6 September 1645 David Leslie had recrossed the frontier with his cavalry and some infantry he had picked up on the way through northern England. Early on the morning of the 13th he surprised Montrose at Philiphaugh near Selkirk. The King's lieutenant had only 650 men against 4000, and the battle did not last long. Montrose escaped with a few of his principal adherents, but his little army was annihilated. Of the veteran Macdonald infantry, 500 strong that morning, 250 were killed in the battle and the remainder put to death after accepting quarter. The Irish, even when they bore a Scottish name, were, by Scotsmen even more than Englishmen, regarded as beasts to be knocked on the head. After Naseby the Irishwomen found in the King's camp were branded by order of Fairfax; after Philiphaugh more than 300 women, wives or followers of Macdonald's men, were butchered. Montrose's Highlanders at their worst were no crueler than the sober soldiers of the kirk.
Charles received the news of Philiphaugh on the 28 September 1645, and gave orders that the west should be abandoned, the prince of Wales should be sent to France, and Goring should bring up what forces he could to the Oxford region. On the 4 October Charles himself reached Newark (whither he had marched from Denbigh after revictualling Chester and suffering the defeat of Rowton Heath). The intention to go to Montrose was of course given up, at any rate for the present, and he was merely waiting for Goring and the Royalist militia of the westeach in its own way a broken reed to lean upon. A hollow reconciliation was patched up between Charles and Rupert, and the court remained at Newark for over a month. Before it set out to return to Oxford another Royalist force had been destroyed.
On the 14 October, receiving information that Montrose had raised a new army, the King permitted Langdale's northern troops to make a fresh attempt to reach Scotland. At Langdale's request Digby was appointed to command in this enterprise, and, civilian though he was, and disastrous though his influence had been to the discipline of the army, he led it boldly and skillfully. His immediate opponent was Poyntz, who had followed the King step by step from Doncaster to Chester and back to Welbeck, and he succeeded on the 15th in surprising Poyntz's entire force of foot at Sherburn. Poyntz's cavalry were soon after this reported approaching from the south, and Digby hoped to trap them also.
At first all went well and body after body of the rebels was routed. But by a singular mischance the Royalist main body mistook the Parliamentary squadrons in flight through Sherburn for friends, and believing all was lost took to flight also. Thus Digby's cavalry fled as fast as Poyntz's and in the same direction, and the latter, coming to their senses first, drove the Royalist horse in wild confusion as far as Skipton. Lord Digby was still sanguine, and from Skipton he actually penetrated as far as Dumfries. But whether Montrose's new army was or was not in the Lowlands, it was certain that Leven and Leslie were on the Border, and the mad adventure soon came to an end. Digby, with the mere handful of men remaining to him, was driven back into Cumberland, and on the 24 October, his army having entirely disappeared, he took ship with his officers for the Isle of Man. Poyntz had not followed him beyond Skipton, and was now watching the King from Nottingham, while Rossiter with the Lincoln troops was posted at Grantham.
The King's chances of escaping from Newark were becoming smaller day by day, and they were not improved by a violent dispute between him and Rupert, Maurice, Lord Gerard and Sir Richard Willis, at the end of which these officers and many others rode away to ask Parliament for leave to go over-seas. The pretext of the quarrel mattered little, the distinction between the views of Charles and Digby on the one hand and Rupert and his friends on the other was fundamental to the latter peace had become a political as well as a military necessity. Meanwhile south Wales, with the single exception of Raglan Castle, had been overrun by Parliamentarians. Everywhere the Royalist posts were falling. The New Model, no longer fearing Goring, had divided, Fairfax reducing the garrisons of Dorset and Devon, Cromwell those of Hampshire. Amongst the latter was the famous Basing House, which was stormed at dawn on the 14 October and burnt to the ground. Cromwell, his work finished, returned to headquarters, and the army wintered in the neighbourhood of Crediton.
The military events of 1646 call for no comment. The only field army remaining to the King was Goring's, and though Hopton, who sorrowfully accepted the command after Goring's departure, tried at the last moment to revive the memories and the local patriotism of 1643, it was of no use to fight against the New Model with the armed rabble that Goring turned over to him. Dartmouth surrendered on January 18 1646, Hopton was defeated at the Battle of Torrington on February 16, and surrendered the remnant of his worthless army on March 14. Exeter fell on April 13. Elsewhere, Hereford was taken on December 17 1645, and the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold, the last pitched battle of the war, was fought and lost at by Lord Astley on March 21 1646.
Newark and Oxford fell respectively on May 6 and June 24. Wallingford Castle, the last English royalist stronghold, fell after a 65-day siege on July 27. On August 31 Montrose escaped from the Highlands. On the 19th of the same month Raglan Castle surrendered, and the last Royalist post of all, Harlech Castle, maintained the useless struggle until March 13, 1647. Charles himself, after leaving Newark in November 1645, had spent the winter in and around Oxford, whence, after an adventurous journey, he came to the camp of the Scottish army at Southwell on May 5, 1646.
The close of the First Civil War left England and Scotland in the hands potentially of any one of the four parties or any combination of two or more that should prove strong enough to dominate the rest. Armed political Royalism was indeed at an end, but Charles, though practically a prisoner, considered himself and was, almost to the last, considered by the rest as necessary to ensure the success of whichever amongst the other three parties could come to terms with him. Thus he passed successively into the hands of the Scots, Parliament and the New Model, trying to reverse the verdict of arms by coquetting with each in turn. The Presbyterians and the Scots, after, Cornet Joyce of Fairfax's horse seized upon the person of the King for the army (June 3, 1647), began at once to prepare for a fresh civil war, this time against Independency, as embodied in the New Model Army and after making use of its sword, its opponents attempted to disband it, to send it on foreign service, to cut off its arrears of pay, with the result that it was exasperated beyond control, and, remembering not merely its grievances but also the principle for which it had fought, soon became the most powerful political party in the realm. From 1646 to 1648 the breach between the New Model Army and Parliament widened day by day until finally the Presbyterian party, combined with the Scots and the remaining Royalists, felt itself strong enough to begin a second civil war.
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