MAPS 27 28 The Second Battle of Newbury 27 October 1644

The royalist infantry under Lord Astley held Shaw House and the line of the Lambourn, Prince Maurice, away towards Speen, was trying to entrench his infantry on their new position, whilst the bulk of the royalist cavalry formed the centre of the royalist position close to their guns. Donnington Castle's guns were also involved in the general dispositions. Whether or not the King knew for certain of the projected outflanking march is not clear, but that he moved Maurice towards Speen indicates some anticipatory thinking on his part, or on that of his advisers. The parliamentarian column, under Waller's personal command, reached North Heath from Chieveley on the night of 28 October, and on the morning of the 29th Boxford was taken and the Lambourn was crossed. At this point Waller's movements were seen by lookouts on Donnington Castle, but Waller drew up in formation west of Speen with cavalry under Balfour and Cromwell on his flanks.

Nevertheless, the King's attention was seriously deflected from his exposed left flank, by a diversionary attack on Shaw House ordered by the earl of Manchester which had got decidedly out of hand. The parliamentary infantry went in too hard and too long, with the result that although they achieved nothing of value.they exhausted themselves prior to the signal that was to bring about a joint assault on the royalists. The diversionary tactic worked, however, and all that Waller needed when he attacked was for Manchester's men to fall on at the same time, which they failed to do. Thus Waller, exposed to artillery fire from Donnington, had to make the best of a difficult job, and attack. Maurice's Cornishmen were driven back from their new fortifications, Speen was entered, and street fighting followed. By late afternoon, the position was taken, Maurice's men were in retreat towards Newbury, and the King was momentarily caught up in a bitter skirmish with Balfour's cavalry in which his life was at some considerable risk. Waller's success, however, depended very much on Cromwell, his other cavalry commander, moving in with similar vigour, and this Cromwell signally failed to do, for reasons that are obscure. There were no terrain problems for him, nor was he under exceptional pressure from enemy opposed to him. Instead, Cromwell's forward cavalry were repulsed by George Goring in a headlong charge, whilst Balfour, having moved beyond Speen, was halted and sent reeling by infantry under Colonel Blague. Speen now became a parliamentarian strongpoint beset by renewed royalist attacks, and quite unsupported by cavalry.

The earl of Manchester finally went into the attack in gathering darkness. From Clay Hill, he advanced on Shaw, only to be driven off with heavy losses by a determined royalist resistance. Even so, the royalists were too heavily outnumbered to risk another fight, and with the coming of darkness, the royalist army slipped away undetected, reaching Oxford safely on the 30th. The King made his way towards Bristol to meet Rupert and Hopton, whilst the parliamentarians, who had signally failed to achieve anything, first tried to assault Donnington and then drew off themselves. From Bath, the King returned to Oxford on 1 November, where his army was reviewed, and Rupert was appointed lieutenant general of all the field forces. The royalists marched back towards Speen, challenging the enemy drawn up at Blewbury, but

Second Battle Newbury Tactics

Manchester refused to be drawn. The King entered Marlborough on 11 November, whilst the parliamentarians abandoned their siege of Basing House, perhaps anticipating a march against them by a vigorous Oxford army. The campaigning season was at an end, and once more the royalists appeared to be in the ascendancy: the general incompetence of the parliamentarian command structure was now too glaring to be ignored.

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