MAPS 23 24 The Battle of Marston Moor 2 July 1644

On the morning of 2 July the allied army which had lain encamped on Marston Moor, began to march away towards Tadcaster and so southwards. The rearguard, commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell and David Leslie, was alarmed by the sudden appearance of Rupert's army crossing Hessay Moor towards them, and the allied generals were obliged to turn back and to offer battle rather than be caught in line of march. The allied troops drew up in battle order on Braham Hill, cultivated land overlooking Marston Moor proper to the north. Between nine in the morning and late afternoon the two armies mustered their men into position and waited upon events.

The allied commanders on the ridge had a clear view of Rupert's dispositions on the level moor beyond, and so were soon aware of the relative weakness of the royalist infantry centre. This was due to a clash of opinion between Rupert and James King, Newcastle's chief adviser, who as a consequence remained deliberately in York far beyond the appointed time for his arrival on the moor. When he did put in an appearance, with his York infantry strung out in line of march, even the earl of Leven, chief commander of the allied army, saw the moment to attack had come. The allies moved forward off the Braham Hill, to meet with mixed fortune. In the centre, the outnumbered royalist infantry wavered and then fell back, but held firm thereafter. On the allied left, Oliver Cromwell and David Leslie managed to create chaos amongst Byron's cavalry opposed to them partly due to Byron's premature reaction to their charge. After being held for a while by reserve regiments under Molyneux, the royalist right wing finally broke in flight, and Rupert was unable to halt them. Cromwell and Leslie found themselves in the rear of the royalist army and unopposed. On the allied right, Sir Thomas Fairfax encountered difficult terrain and bitter resistance from George Goring, and his cavalry were shattered and virtually chased off the moor and Braham Hill by the marquess of Newcastle's veteran horse. The battle now hung on which of the two successful cavalry wings would return to the general engagement first, and this proved to be Cromwell's opportunity to show himself a master of tactical manoeuvre. Wheeling southwards, Cromwell and Leslie began to advance in the rear of George Goring, experiencing a temporary halt when they came under fire from an isolated royalist regiment, the Whitecoats, which had dug in behind the hedges of a small enclosure on the moor. Leaving dragoons to deal with this body of men, Cromwell pushed on, striking the rear of the royalist infantry centre in the process, and coming to grips with Goring's scattered cavalry units. The royalist cavalry was thus obliged to fight over terrain which Fairfax had found too difficult and, despite giving a good account of themselves, were severely mauled. Many experienced royalist field commanders were killed in this engagement. With the overthrow of the royalist left wing, therefore, the royalist infantry were progressively fought to a standstill, and the victory, long in the balance, went to the allies. Leven and Lord Fairfax, who had fled as far and as fast as they could when Goring broke onto the Braham Hill, were sent for to return, and the allied army set to work stripping the 4,000 or so dead and dying. Prince Rupert had escaped into York, and so had the marquess of Newcastle, despite his courageous personal showing in the battle, but the army of the north




Allie Marston

Poppleton Hessay Rufforth


Poppleton Hessay Rufforth

Long Marston Bilton


Field of battle

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Horse Foot

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Long Marston

Long Marston

had been virtually destroyed, the remnants of the Northern Horse only remaining intact. These Rupert took with him when he began his march back into Lancashire on 3 July. The marquess of Newcastle and his staff abandoned the city of York, were escorted to Scarborough, and there took ship for Hamburg and exile. The city of York was left to fend for itself, and surrendered on terms on 16 July, Sir Thomas Glemham marching away to continue the war elsewhere. For the Parliament and its allies the turning point of the war had come, for the northern royalist army was finished, and it remained to concentrate on those in the south of the country.

MAP 25

1644: The Campaign to Lostwithiel, July to September

Battle Marston Moor July 1644

After the division of their armies, the earl of Essex had taken his forces into the West Country to deal with Prince Maurice, leaving Waller to tackle the King's Oxford army, which he failed to do. After Cropredy Bridge, the King moved to Evesham on 3 July preparatory to moving against Essex, and the news of the defeat at Marston Moor probably gave him still stronger motivation. Essex had a headstart, however, and took Tavistock on 23 July causing the siege of Plymouth to be lifted and royalist troops under Grenville to fall back on Saltash. Grenville manned the crossing of the Tamar at Horsebridge, and Essex had to determine whether to force it, or try to take on the King's advancing army. Under pressure from local parliamentarians, Essex pushed on into Cornwall. On 26 July the King entered Exeter; on 2 August he was at Launceston. Essex was in a tight corner, and fell back on Lostwithiel, seizing Fowey, and sending fearful letters to London. The Cornish under Grenville were at Tregony ready to advance on Lostwithiel, and the earl of Essex had little hope of beating three royalist armies. The Cornish were intractably pro-royalist and he had no hopes of recruiting more forces from amongst them. All he could hope to do was hold Lostwithiel until help arrived by land or sea.

Holding Fowey, the earl established the bulk of his army on Beacon Hill east of Lostwithiel, and in Restormel Castle to the north. On 11 August the Cornish under Grenville took Bodmin by assault, and on the 12th captured Respryn Bridge north of Lostwithiel, establishing contact with the King. On the 13th Lord Goring, who had recently replaced Wilmot as commander of the royalist cavalry, established strongpoints along the Fowey, whilst Essex remained idle. A relief column heading for Lostwithiel was broken at Bridgwater. On 21 August the King resolved to attack Lostwithiel all along the front from Lanhydrock to Boconnoc, the royal command post. Grenville stormed and took Restormel Castle, the Devonshire parliamentarians pulling out after token resistance only. The royalist attack pushed in all of Essex's defences, and brought the royalists onto the high ground overlooking Lostwithiel. On the 26th royalist troops advanced to St Blazey to prevent provisions from sea being landed for the parliamentary army, but this was a mere precaution, since the parliamentary fleet was nowhere in sight. The King still hesitated about assaulting Lostwithiel, until intelligence came that Essex intended to break out towards Fowey. On 31 August Essex's cavalry under Balfour broke out, reached Saltash and crossed into Devonshire with few losses. The fault lay in a royalist army of 16,000 covering a 15-mile front, but Balfour's determination carried him through. On the same day, 31 August, royalist infantry marched directly into Lostwithiel whilst Essex carried out his dangerous gamble of reaching Fowey, covered by a small rearguard. The King moved on, forded the Fowey, determined to catch the earl's army which was evidently demoralised and on the run. There was a bitter skirmish at Trebathvey Farm which the royalists won and, late in the afternoon after more fighting, the parliamentarians tried to establish themselves on high ground near Castle Dore. They held on to this despite attacks, and prepared for action under Major General Skippon, but the earl of Essex had had enough and took boat downstream towards Plymouth. The army was lost, but its commanding general could not be risked unnecessarily. On 1 September the parliamentary commanders offered to talk with the King's generals, and on the 2nd they surrendered their entire force. They went via Southampton to Portsmouth, whilst Essex from Plymouth got away to London safely. Plymouth again came under siege from the Cornishmen, The King had won a tremendous victory over his old adversary, and there is no doubt that it was Charles's personal involvement at each stage of the campaign and action which won the day as, indeed, it had been at Cropredy Bridge a few months earlier.

MAP 26

Events Leading to the Second Battle of Newbury

Second Battle Newbury Tactics

The battle of Lostwithiel, if such it can be called, created grave consternation amongst the parliamentary forces in the Home Counties and to the east. The earl of Manchester's army, fresh from its involvement at Marston Moor and the fall of York, had returned into Lincolnshire when it was ordered to march to the aid of Waller, who lay between the King and an anticipated thrust on London, Manchester was dilatory, disliking his role in the war and resenting the ambition of his inferior, Oliver Cromwell. He got to Reading and moved no further. As it was, the King, having shown himself capable of significant strategic and tactical thinking, now showed himself hesitant again. Leaving forces to besiege Plymouth, he had moved to Exeter, planning to relieve royalist garrisons in Banbury, Basing and Donnington, and showing no awareness of the vulnerable position the overthrow of Essex's army had placed London in. On 2 October he reached Sherborne with an army of 10,000 men, and relieved Portland Castle. Waller was established in Weymouth and Lyme, with his command at Shaftesbury. There was an atmosphere of inactivity after so much movement.

It was decided that Prince Rupert, who had come into Bristol after his dangerous march south following Marston Moor, should take the field to distract at least one of the armies opposing the King. He and Lord Hopton retired to Bristol to prepare for the operation on 5 October. Ten days later, the King's army itself moved, advancing to Salisbury. At once, the earl of Manchester quit Reading and moved into Hampshire, whilst Waller abandoned his positions and retired on Andover to await reinforcements. On 18 October George Goring and his cavalry attacked Andover and forced Waller to quit the town. He joined with the earl of Manchester's army at Basingstoke on the 19th, and on the 20th the remnants of Essex's infantry under Skippon came to Alton. The King's objective was the relief of Basing House, and the united parliamentary armies stood clear in his way. On the 21 st, the King reached Kingsclere, only to give up the idea of relief, and to march to Red Heath, south of Newbury, on 22 October. Donnington Castle siege had been raised by the parliamentarians themselves, and so the King sent cavalry under the earl of Northampton to attempt the relief of Banbury garrison. This move reduced the King's army in strength by about a tenth, and it is apparent that he intended not to fight a battle, but to seek winter-quarters and hope to force the enemy to retire themselves.

The parliamentary commanders, however, were proving keen on provoking a battle, and on 25 October marched to Thatcham, three miles from the royalist army at Newbury and by nightfall on the 26th the armies faced each other north of the town. The royalists appeared to be in a particularly strong position, their lines drawn up around the fortified points of Newbury itself, Donnington Castle and Shaw House, and protected by the River Kennet to the rear and the Lambourn on the left flank. The problem for the parliamentary generals was how to dislodge the royalists, for a frontal assault was out of the question. The commanders—Waller, Manchester, Skippon, Balfour and Harrington—resolved to risk splitting their army, and to send forces on a wide flanking march of almost fourteen miles via Hermitage and Winterbourne to Speen, whilst the rest of the army held its position in face of the royalists. The King anticipated the move by sending cavalry towards Speen to keep watch and deter a flanking movement. This reduced the royal army to less than 9,000 men, whilst his opponents had in the region of 17,000, but to execute the outflanking march, the parliamentary commanders detached no less than two-thirds of their whole force for the purpose. Action had already begun on the 26th, with skirmishing along the front of the two armies.

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  • klaus scholz
    What are the weaknesses of marston moor july 1644?
    6 years ago

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