MAPS 4 5 The Battle of Edgehill 23 October 1642

Battle between the two armies was inevitable, but the time and place a matter of chance. From the bare Edgehill a plain ran down towards Kineton township, giving the royalist commanders overall view of the field, but obstructed by enclosures near Kineton itself. Prince Rupert rode to the ridge early in the morning, his cavalry were in place shortly before noon, and the infantry came into position by about two o'clock. Essex's surprise may be indicated by the fact that the royal army was now drawn up between him and London, the position in which the earl had sought to put himself. Nevertheless, the King could not advance with Essex left unharmed in his rear. The earl was advised of the royalist dispositions by eight in the morning, but his own army was strung out in various quarters, and he was in no hurry to fight. Reinforcements were also anticipated. If the worst came to the worst he could fall back on Warwick, whilst Banbury garrison remained unmolested.

The leisurely way in which battle was prepared for allowed time for the rival commanders to concentrate upon tactics, many of the royalists at least having had considerable European war experience. Prince Rupert succeeded in offending the King's Lord General, the earl of Lindsey, in an argument about the merits of employing the Dutch or Swedish tactical plans: Lindsey resigned and went to join his regiment as a mere colonel, when the King supported Rupert. The Prince then moved to join the royalist right wing of cavalry, whilst Henry Wilmot commanded the left. After a desultory cannonade from both sides causing few casualties but much smoke and noise, royalist dragoons moved forward to clear parliamentarian musketeers from hedges on the flanks of the parliamentary army, and then Rupert advanced his wing. The cavalry opposed to him, that of Sir James Ramsey, at first stood stock still, then turned and fled after one of their troops changed sides. Rupert advanced into Kineton where there was considerable killing, whilst his second line under Sir John Byron, galloped off wildly in pursuit of the fugitives. On the left, Wilmot's cavalry scattered the regiment of Lord Feilding, and Wilmot's second in command, Lord Digby, imitated Byron, giving pursuit with gusto. Thus the bulk of the royalist cavalry to all intents and purposes galloped off the field.

The royalist foot advanced under Sir Jacob Astley, and the parliamentary foot under Charles Essex broke before they engaged. Fresh troops under Thomas Ballard filled the gap, and two cavalry units, unaffected by Rupert's or Wilmot's charges, were brought into use against Astley's infantry. There was general disruption as some of the parliamentary horse succeeded in reaching and disabling some of the royalist artillery in the rear, but they soon fell back, only to be fired upon by their own men who mistook them for royalists.

The earl of Essex launched a severe assault on the brigade of Sir Nicholas Byron, and in this fighting the earl of Lindsey was killed, his son standing guard over the body until he fell into parliamentary hands. The royal standard was cut from the hands of its bearer, Sir Edmund Verney, and carried away. A royalist charge under Sir Charles Lucas became caught up in the pursuit of fugitives, and came to nothing. Captain John Smith, separated from Lucas's formation, ran into a party of parliamentarian soldiers carrying the


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Stratford on Avon


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Stratford on Avon

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Field of battle


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Battle Edgehill Warks

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Dragoons royal standard away, attacked single-handed and recaptured the flag. Meanwhile, meeting resistance from some parliamentarian forces, Prince Rupert's cavalry began to drift back to the battlefield, and their presence caused the infantry to stiffen. Despite advice to the contrary, Rupert chose not to charge again, and night fell on what is generally considered to have been a stalemated battlefield, where total losses were about 3,000 men in all. On the day following, the earl of Essex retreated to Warwick, leaving the road to London wide open to the King's army. In essence, if he could now capitalise upon it, Charles I had won a strategic advantage.


1642-1643: War in Yorkshire and the North-East

Map Armies Battle Edgehill

From the summer of 1642, Northumberland and Durham were firmly under royalist control, and until 1644 Yorkshire was the scene of actual fighting. When the King left York, the royalist commander, the earl of Cumberland, proved himself loyal but incapable of resisting the Fair-faxes and their allies. Until December 1642, the royalists were on the defensive, but as a result of an agreement between Yorkshire royalists and the earl of Newcastle, the latter marched into the county in that month to take overall control. He brought a well disciplined and well trained army, and the parliamentary forces hovered around their strongholds— Scarborough, Hull and the West Riding cloth towns—instead of raiding at will. The earl's objective was ostensibly to destroy resistance in the county, and then march south towards London in support of the King's army. To this end he setup major garrisons to divide Hull from the cloth towns, and pushed down into Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. On 23 January 1643, however, Sir Thomas Fairfax struck back, taking Leeds. The earl was deflected for a while by the arrival at Bridlington of the Queen with arms and munitions for the main army, but her arrival led to the defection of Sir Hugh Cholmeley from the Parliament, and Scarborough passed into royalist hands. In Hull, the Hothams were thought to be considering a similar move. Lord Fairfax consolidated around Leeds, and Sir Thomas went forward to destroy Tadcaster bridge. Unable to prevent royalist cavalry under George Goring from crossing the Wharfe, Sir Thomas began to fall back but was caught at Seacroft Moor on 30 March and his infantry suffered heavy losses. The royalists took numerous prisoners, and Sir Thomas Fairfax left them to their fate.

In May he struck back, launching a surprise assault on the garrison town of Wakefield held by numerically superior forces under Goring. After savage fighting in the streets, Goring was taken with the bulk of his infantry, and the royalists fled the town. The earl of Newcastle, concerned for the safety of the Queen on her way to Oxford, finally had his hands free in early June. On the 22nd of that month he stormed Howley House, a major parliamentarian strongpoint in the West Riding, and on 30 June clashed with the main parliamen tary field army at Adwalton Moor near Bradford. The royalist army, about 10,000 strong, faced 4,000 parliamentarian regulars and a sizeable number of poorly armed countrymen, but initially the parliamentarians had the best of it. A desperate assault by royalist pikemen, however, broke open the parliamentarian lines and a renewed royalist cavalry charge destroyed the cohesion of the parliamentarian left wing. The earl swept on and took Bradford, and Leeds fell when royalist prisoners there broke free and seized arms in the town. The Fairfaxes fled into Hull, where the wavering Hothams had been arrested on suspicion, and the port was thus safeguarded for the Parliament.

No determined march south, however, followed Newcastle's sweeping series of triumphs. After advancing into Lincolnshire to repair damage sustained by royalist forces there, he drew back into Yorkshire, having been advised to deal with Hull before he left the county behind for good. Lord Fairfax had raised substantial troops in the port, and was in contact with forces across the Humber. The second siege of Hull began on 2 September 1643 after the town of Beverley was surprised and Sir Thomas Fairfax chased from it. Lord Fairfax ordered the dykes around Hull to be cut and the lowlying land flooded, occasioning problems for besieged and besieger alike, but a necessary move. The Humber still provided a lifeline for the garrison, and troops moved back and forth across it regularly. Newcastle, now elevated as marquess, ignored advice to move south, and doggedly pursued the siege. There was considerable skirmishing, the royalists fairly safe within their earthworks constructed around the town, but on 11 October the crucial action was fought. Whilst Sir Thomas Fairfax and the Parliament's Eastern Association army won a sweeping victory at Winceby in Lincolnshire, in the aftermath of which the guns of Hull could be heard firing upon the royalists, Lord Fairfax launched a counter-attack. The royalist cavalry were held at bay by the port's cannon, whilst the infantry fought it out in the mud of the earth-works. After severe fighting, the royalists withdrew, and the marquess abandoned the siege, as he had abandoned the idea of a march south.

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