Jfic CJUghting

How did they fight in those days? What was a battle like? As always, tactics were governed by weapons and ground.

The English countryside in the mid-seventeenth century rather favoured the action of cavalry. Not only, of course, was there no barbed wire, but there were comparatively few enclosures of any description, and since the forests which clothed the country in the Dark and Middle Ages were already beginning to disappear, the country was, broadly speaking, suitable for movement and especially for that of large bodies of cavalry. Movement is only one element of tactics: another is fire. The important characteristics of firearms arc their range, their rate of fire and the nature of the missiles they throw.

The rale of cannon-fire was very slow. The proccss of sponging-out and reloading was deliberate and complex. Powder was kept in small budge barrels near the guns, which were fired by the application of linstock to the touch-hole. The risk of premature explosions was very great, and it is doubtful whether it was possible to fire more than about one round every three minutes. By the time of Waterloo it was possible, using grape-shot, to get oil -as many as three rounds a minute for short periods. With grape-shot the recoil was reduced and it was not necessary to run the guns up between rounds. But by 1815 all sorts of improvements had been made, with guns lightened and means of traction improved. A table of ranges will be found in the section dealing with the train.

The musket in common use was a heavy matchlock, which even a trained soldier could not hope to fire more than once a minute. Though it might kill or maim at 200 yards it was not likely to hit the target at a range of more than 50 yards. The reason for this inaccuracy was that the bullet did not fit the smooth-bore barrel at all tightly, and therefore, when propelled towards the target, it tended to wander. The disadvantages of match were all too obvious: by night it could betray the position of the musketeers, and in foul weather it simply went out.

One comes across another form of musket during this period: an early flintlock known as the 'snaphancc' or 'firelock'. It was comparatively rare, and soldiers so armed were usually employed to guard the train of artillery. There was less chance of unfortunate accidents if its escort consisted of men armed with flintlocks rather than with matchlocks.

The cavalry of the period normally carried a brace of pistols and sometimes a carbine as well. These weapons were frequently used in mêlée and pursuit, but the great cavalry commanders of the Civil War soon came to rely chiefly on the sword. This is true both of Cromwell and of Rupert.

However, if the cavalry, Cavalier and Roundhead alike, came to rely upon shock action they could resort to firearms if they chose. Similarly, though the bayonet had not yet been introduced, the musketeers could join in a mêlée with their swords or, better still, the sharp-pointed butts of their heavy muskets. But the pikemen, who made up at least one-third of the infantry were condemned to shock action and nothing more. They were far from mobile, having to move in close formation in order to form their hedgehog, and being weighed down with helmet and corselet.

It is not very safe to generalize about the battles of the Civil Wars, for the tactics were far from stereotyped. But usually, and at least in the bigger

Wakefield Battle Helmet

Sir Thomas Fairfax, later third Baron Fairfax of Cameron (1612-71), served at the siege of Bois-le-Duc (1629) and in the First Scots War. From 1642 to 1646 he was the life and soul of his father's small force which kept up the unequal struggle with Newcastle's Northern Army until it was destroyed at Marston Moor. His tactical skill and gallant leadership as well as his victories at Wakefield (21 May 1643), and Nantwich (25 January 1644) led to his selection as commander of the New Model Army, whose victories at Naseby, Langport, Torrington and elsewhere put an end to the First Civil War. Fairfax, a taciturn man, was no politician, and power gradually passed to his second-in-command, Oliver Cromwell. His wife's sympathies were Royalist and he played no part in the trial of Charles I

Oliver Cromwell Muskete

Prince Rupert (1619-82). The portrait below is from an original by Sir Anthony van Dyck, and that on the left by Gerard von Honthorst. With the possible exceptions of the Marquis of Montrose and Lord Hopton, Prince Rupert was the outstanding Royalist leader of his day. Unfortunately his victories at Powick Bridge, Cirencester, Lichfield Close, Chalgrove Field, Bristol and Newark were cancelled out by the disaster at Marston Moor which lost the North for the King. He was better as the commander of a small mobile army, a 'brigade group', than of a big army. This may be attributed to his youth. He was a thoroughly scientific soldier, as much at home in a siege as a cavalry charge, and interested in the development of weapons. In later life he proved a bold and efficient admiral

Bigarmy Guns

y battles, it was customary to draw up an army with the foot and guns in the centre, and the cavalry on the wings. Dragoons, if present, were mostly placed on the outer wings of the cavalry. The smaller guns - often called 'drakes' - were placed in pairs with the brigades of foot, while the bigger pieces were planted further back.

There was usually a reserve, often consisting of both horse and foot. The commander, on horseback, was often to be found at the head of the reserve, but it was not the fashion to set up a command post at some building or upon some eminence. It cannot have been easy for gallopers to deliver their messages. Prince Rupert's great standard, taken at Marston Moor, may have been intended to mark his headquarters. In the rear of the army, occasionally formed into a wagon-laager, was the baggage-train.

Battles sometimes began with the commander parading down his line exhorting his men, or giving them tactical instructions, as King Charles and Prince Rupert did at Edgehill. Sometimes, as at Braddock Down, the Royalists had prayers, or the Roundheads, as before Powick Bridge, sang a psalm. Then came the preliminary bombardment which was not generally very effective. Exceptions are Braddock Down where a surprise burst of fire from the two small Royalist guns struck terror into the Roundheads; Hopton Heath where 'Roaring Meg' caused heavy casualties among Sir John Gell's Roundhead stand of pikes; and Langport where the artillery of the New Model quickly silenced Goring's big guns.

The next phase was usually a general advance, sometimes heralded by some preliminary skirmishing by the dragoons. Usually it was the cavalry that came to grips, before the foot came to push of pike. The victor was usually the one who could dispose of his opponent's horse, and having done so could turn upon the as yet unbroken foot of his enemy's army. This was the case both at Marston Moor and at Naseby.

The last phase was the pursuit, or 'execution' as it was called. Often more fell in flight than in the actual battle, and the victor made a good haul of prisoners, especially from among the foot.

Some of the so-called battles were very small, involving not more than a few thousand on each side. In the biggest, Marston Moor, there may have been 50,000 men engaged but they were from five different armies, those of Rupert and Newcastle (Royalist), of Leven, Manchester and Fairfax (Scots and Parliamentarian).

The control of a battle was i£pt simple. General officers very often led charges and fought hand-to-hand. Men like Sir Thomas Fairfax and Prince Rupert were never content to sit on their horses upon some lofty eminence, whilst their men fought it out, and Rupert, indeed, had his own technique of running a cavalry fight which called for his personal leadership. Sir Edward Southcotc, when describing the Prince's way of fighting, says, 'he had a select body of horse who always attended him, and in every attack they received the enemy's shot without returning it; but one and all bore with all their force upon the adversaries till they broke their ranks, and charged quite through them: then they rallied, and when they [the Roundheads] were in disorder, fell upon their rear, and slaughtered them with scarce any opposition'. The select body no doubt was the Lifeguard under Sir Richard Crane, and Prince Rupert's Regiment of Horse, which even as late as Naseby could muster 400 men.

A melee could be a difficult and dangerous affair if the enemy stood to their work. At Round-way Down Colonel Sir John Byron describes how, echoing Rupert's orders at Edgehill, he commanded that: ^not a man should discharge his pistol till the enemy had spent all his shot, which was punctually observed, so that first they gave us a volley

Dunbar Medal

The Dunbar Medal is thought to have been the first given to all ranks of a victorious English army. The obverse shows a portrait of Oliver Crom»-11 and the words THE LORD OF HOSTS, which was ihe 'field word' or password at the battle. The reverse «hows the House of Commons in session

Battle Torrington 1646

George Monck, first Duke of Albemarle, K.G. (1608-70), a Devon man, was one of the most distinguished professional soldiers of his day. He was in the Cadiz expedition of 1625 and distinguished himself at the famous siege of Breda in 1637, in which so many of the leaders of our Civil Wars took part. Captured at Nantwich in 1644 he was sent to the Tower, where he wrote his Observations upon Military and Political Affairs, which are full of good sense. After the beheading of Charles I he joined Cromwell, and a regiment was formed for him which is now the Coldstream Guards. He fought at Dunbar and was afterwards Commander-in-Chief in Scotland. He was chiefly responsible for the restoration of King Charles II

of their carbines, then of their pistols, and then we fell in with them, and gave them ours in their teeth, yet they would not quit their ground, but stood pushing for it a pretty space, till it pleased God (I thinke) to put new spirit into our tired horse as well as into our men, so that though it were up the hill, and that a steep one, we overbore them, and with that violence, that we forced them to fall foul upon other reserves of horse that stood behind to second them, & so swept their whole body of horse out of the field, and left their foot naked, and pursued them near 3 miles, over the downs in Bristol way till they came to a precipice, where their fear made them so valiant that they galloped as if it had been plain ground, and many of them brake both their own and their horses' necks.' This is a spirited account by one whose regiment was the oldest in the King's Army, one like those described by a Roundhead eyewitness of Marston Moor who wrote: 'The enemy's horse . . . stood very firm a long while, coming to a close fight with the sword, and standing like an iron-wall, so that they were not easily broken. . . .'

The heavy cavalry of those days, unless skilfully handled, could easily rout those of their own side. Hopton gives a marvellously vivid account of the 'ruffe medly' at Babylon Hill at the very beginning of the war (7 September 1642). The Roundheads nearly took him by surprise by marching out of Yeovil 'by a secret way they had made over the fields'. He had four troops of horse; and he sent two into the attack, supported by a third, keeping the fourth in reserve. Captain Edward Stowell: 'charg'd verie gallantly and routed the enemy, but withall (his troops consisting of new horse, and the Enemy being more in number) was rowted himselfe; and Capt. [Henry] Moreton,1 being a little too neere him, was likewise broaken with the same shocke, and the trueth is in verie short tyme, all the horse on both sides were in a confusion: At the same tyme a troope of the Enemyes horse charg'd up in the hollow-way on the right hand, where ([Colonel] Sir Tho: Lunsford having forgotten to put a party of muskettiers as before) they found noe opposicion till they camc among the voluntiers [Stowell's troop] upon the topp of the Hill, where by a very extraordinary accident, Sir James Colborne with a fowling gunne shott at the Captain2 in the head of the troope, and at the same instant Mr. John Stowell charg'd him single (by which of their hands it was, it is not certaine) but the Captain was slayne, and the troope (being rawe fellowes) immedyately rowted. In this extreame confusion Sir Ralph Hopton was enforced to make good [cover] the retreate with a few officers and Gentlemen that rallyed to him. . . .' Sending off his foot he withdrew to Sherborne Castle with little loss.

Naturally not all charges were cavalry against cavalry: sometimes it was a question of horse against foot, and this had peculiar hazards since the latter would take cover behind hedges and walls.

Byron whose horse had been shot in the throat with a musket-ball describes the fighting in which Lord Falkland fell at First Newbury: 'The passage being then made somewhat wide, and I not having another horse, drew in my own troop first, giving orders for the rest to

Sir Richard Byron Dragoons

Colonel John Russell, M.P. (1620-87) was General of the Horse in Essex's Army. As Lieutenant-Colonel of Lord Wentworth's Regiment of Dragoons he fought at the storming of Cirencester (2 February 1643) and at Chal-grove Field (18 June 1643). He was wounded at the storming of Bolton on 28 May 1644, was at the storming of Leicester (30 May 1645), and was wounded at Naseby. He was in the defence of Bristol in 1645

Colonel John Russell, M.P. (1620-87) was General of the Horse in Essex's Army. As Lieutenant-Colonel of Lord Wentworth's Regiment of Dragoons he fought at the storming of Cirencester (2 February 1643) and at Chal-grove Field (18 June 1643). He was wounded at the storming of Bolton on 28 May 1644, was at the storming of Leicester (30 May 1645), and was wounded at Naseby. He was in the defence of Bristol in 1645

follow and charged the enemy, who entertained us with a great salvo of musket shot, and discharged their two drakes upon us laden with case shot, which killed some and hurt many of my men, so that we were forced to wheel off and could not meet them at that charge.' The dogged Byron was not the man to be put off. He rallied his men, and while he did so the Roundheads pulled back their drakes. Another charge beat them back to tine end of the close, 'where they faced us again, having the advantage of a hedge at their backs and poured in another volley of shot upon us, when [Colonel) Sir Thomas Aston's horse was killed under him, and withal kept us off with their pikes'. The battlefield of Newbury was full of enclosures in those days: 110 place for horse.

Little Dean (11 April 1643), it seems, was not much better. Captain Richard Atkyns of Prince


Cromwell. Both portraits are by Samuel Cooper, the one on the left from an unfinished miniature. The signature is as Protector in 1657, and the second Great Seal of the Protector is of 1655

V 12

Maurice's Regiment had one of his several narrow escapes that day: 'The charge was seemingly as desperate as any I was ever in; it being to beat the enemy from a wall which was a strong breastwork, with a gate in the middle; possessed by above 200 musketeers, besides horse: we were to charge down a steep plain hill, of above 12 score yards3 in length; as good a mark as they could wish: our party consisting of between two and three hundred horse, not a man of them would follow us, so the officers, about 10 or 124 of us, agreed to gallop down in as good order as wc could, and make a desperate charge upon them; the enemy seeing our resolutions, never fired at us at all, but run away; and we (like young soldiers) after them, doing execution upon them; but one Captain Hanmer being better horsed than myself, in pursuit, fell upon their ambuscade and was killed horse and man: I had only time enough to turn my horse and run for my life. This party of ours, that would not be drawn 011 at first, by this time, seeing our success; came into the town after us, and stopped our retreat; and finding that we were pursued by the enemy, the horse in the front, fell back upon the rear, and they were so wedged together, that thev routed themselves, so as there was no passage for a long time: all this while the enemy were upon me, Cutting my [buff] coat upon my armour in several places, and discharging pistols as they got up to me, being the outermost man; which Major [Thomas] Sheldon declared to my very great advantage: . . . [Major Leighton,5 came up and] made good a stone house, and so prepared for them with musketeers; that one volley of shot made them retreat: they were so near me, that a musket bullet from one of our men took oil one of the liars of my [steel] cap I charged with, and went through my hair and did me no hurt.'

Many and varied were the adventures that might befall a cavalryman as he tried to get the better of some opponent in the 'Balaclava melee' of those days. Like Sir Richard Bulstrode, lie could be wounded while pursuing an enemy at Edgehill, and, obviously striving like any sensible horse-soldier to attack on the left or bridle-hand side, be wounded by a vicious swing of the pole-axe! Bulstrode was saved by his colonel, Sir

Thomas Byron, who pistolled the Roundhead. The episode at Newark (21 March 1644), when a Parliamentarian trooper laid his hand on Prince Rupert's collar only to have it sliced off by Sir William Neale, serves to show that the cavalry fights of those days were not a battle of flowers.

As for the foot, it was their business to advance steadily in rank and file until they came to push of pike. Sometimes, as at Braddock Down, one side would not await the shock; or, as at Stratton, they counter-attacked; or sometimes, as in the case of Edgehill, finding they could make no impression, 'each as if by mutuall consent retired some few paces, and they stuck down their colours, continuing to fire at one another even till night; a thing so very extraordinary, that nothing less than so many witnesses as were there present could make it credible' - King James II. These young soldiers, Roundhead and Cavalier alike, who fought it out at Edgehill, were not unworthy ancestors of the 'Thin Red Line' or the superb infantry of 1914, for the one virtue that the foot-soldier needs above all, then and now, is tenacity.

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