MAPS 34 35 The Battle of Naseby 14 June 1645

The royalist dispositions on the ridge were conventional, with Langdale and his Northern Horse on the left flank, Rupert and his cavalry on the right, and Astley with the infantry in the centre. Cromwell and Fairfax considered that the royalist position gave Rupert an option not to fight if he so wished, and decided to withdraw towards Naseby and occupy high ground there. The enemy movement was seen by Rupert, who ordered the whole royalist army to set in motion, and a flanking march was begun. The King personally led his army forward, and there seems to have been a general sense of eagerness on the royalist part. This was to be the first major confrontation with the New Model. The royalists drew up in their original dispositions just above Broad Moor, facing the parliamentary forces to their south who had the advantage of a ridge, with Naseby village to their rear. It was good cavalry terrain, but the royalist horse were heavily outnumbered, and the need of Goring's regiments must have been keenly felt. Rupert decided to command the right in person, leaving the left to Langdale. The ground between Langdale and Cromwell opposed to him was less satisfactory, but Rupert's cavalry would have to endure the fire of enemy dragoons posted in hedges towards Sulby.

Rupert began the battle with a general advance, whereupon the entire parliamentary army moved forward to the edge of their high ground, and action was joined at about ten in the morning. Rupert's cavalry swept across the moor and up the slope, struck Ireton's cavalry hard, and after handto-hand fighting, the parliamentarians broke, being pursued by elements of the Prince's small cavalry wing, whilst Rupert tried to keep them in check. Astley's infantry, outnumbered, pushed forward hard, and the New Model foot wavered, particularly when Philip Skippon, their commander, was seen to be wounded. Ireton sought to stem the royalist infantry advance, but was beaten off, and himself captured, severely wounded. The New Model was giving ground against a numerically inferior enemy.

Meanwhile, Langdale's Northern Horse pressed forward also, but were halted by the sheer weight of Cromwell's counter-attack which forced them back down the slope of Naseby ridge. Cromwell's regiments piled on the pressure, and Langdale's men finally broke and fled. At this crucial moment, as Cromwell's cavalry were beginning to turn against the royalist infantry in the centre, the King's decision to advance with the reserve cavalry was disputed and, in fear of his possible death, those around the King forced him to withdraw and the reserve did not participate. In the centre, except for Rupert's Bluecoat regiment who fought stoutly and when all hope was past, the royalist infantry began to surrender in their hundreds. Thus, when Rupert and the royalist cavalry of the right returned to the ridge from Naseby, all that he could do was to ride across the field to assist the King, who was trying to restore some order to Langdale's men. The royalist infantry had to be abandoned to their fate, and their loss was critical for the King. Some 4,000 prisoners were taken, as well as 1,000 or so killed, and elements of the New Model celebrated their triumph (probably with feelings of relief) by the wholesale murder of women camp-followers. The King was hotly pursued, but escaped to Leicester, and so via Lichfield to Hereford, apparently with the intention of trying to raise

Battle Naseby Map

another army. Naseby was a sweeping parliamentarian victory, largely due to Cromwell for, what he may have lacked in skill, he made up for in sheer weight of numbers against a Northern Horse that was restive and mutinous, the same cavalry Cromwell had come to grips with previously, in the outflanking attack on Marston Moor the previous year.

MAP 36

1645: War in the West and the Battle of Langport

Battle Naseby Map

The New Model had proved its worth at Naseby, although it was a close thing, and there was only Goring's army in the West Country capable of taking the field against it. The siege of Taunton dragged on, but the King might move to the West and join with Goring to create a formidable field army again. After taking Leicester on 18 June, Fairfax marched towards Marlborough which he reached on the 28th. Moving at great speed, Fairfax reached Amesbury on the 30th, Blandford on 2 July and Beaminster on the 4th. Goring rapidly abandoned the siege of Taunton and withdrew on Yeovil. The royalists occupied the line of the river Yeo from Yeovil itself to Langport, and held the bridges at Load and Ilchester, The parliamentary army came to Crewkerne on 5 July, and on the 7th Fairfax attacked at both bridges whilst sending troops against Yeovil itself. Goring, fearful of being cut off from Bristol, and trying to maintain contact with the royalist garrison at Bridgwater, fell back on Langport whilst sending cavalry towards Taunton to try to mislead Fairfax into thinking he was on the move. These cavalry were badly commanded and allowed themselves to be caught at Ilminster by forces under Edward Massey, not part of the New Model, but from the parliamentarian Western Association army. Even so, Goring thought that he could now evacuate towards Bridgwater, the New Model strength being depleted, and on 10 July equipment was moving away from Langport to the Bridgwater fortress.

Goring was drawn up east of Langport and beyond the church at Huish Episcopi, shielded by enclosures and water courses, and in a strong enough position to cover the withdrawal to Bridgwater, which was his intention. Fairfax now had to force Goring to battle, which meant finding some way of breaching the formidable defensive position that the royalists held. The weak point in Goring's position was a ford across the Wagg Rhyne immediately in front of Goring's cavalry and his own position, and the New Model was ordered to storm that ford head on, whilst covered by artillery from nearby high ground. The royalists had only two guns, and these were pounded into submission, whereupon Rainsborough's musketeers moved forward and began slowly to push the royalist defenders off the ford across the Rhyne. Following this action, New Model cavalry under Cromwell were to assault the ford and force their way up to Goring's horse. The New Model cavalry negotiated the terrain at full pelt, collided with Goring's forward lines, and scatteted them. The royalist army broke up into small parties seeking escape, Langport township was fired, and an attempted rally at Aller was brushed aside by the parliamentarians.

Goring and many of his men made good their escape into Bridgwater, and on 11 July he retired into Devonshire. His march was harried by local Clubmen—elements of the country populace, occasionally used by either side, but chiefly warweary country people who waged defensive actions against either army. Goring's field army was now a shambles. Fairfax took Bridgwater on 23 July, Sherborne fell on 14 August, and the approaches to Bristol, the crucial port facing Ireland, were progressively cut off. Ever since Naseby, and arguably since early 1645, the Parliament's armies had been engaged in a mopping up operation anyway, and there was not much that remained to be done. Major and minor royalist garrisons were yielding wholesale, and the New Model was moving in for the kill.

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Responses

  • fethawi
    Did dragoons use pistols naseby?
    6 years ago

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