Cromwell's main body lay to the south-east of the city on and around the Red Hill, on the east bank of the Severn, whilst Fleetwood was moving from Upton along the road to Powick and so to Powick Bridge, scene of a royalist cavalry victory in 1642, Fleetwood's objective was to cross the River Teme and attack the Scots on its northern bank, who formed the western defences of the city. The troops under Fleetwood moved slowly, but came to the Teme at two points, near Powick Bridge itself and further to the east at the bridge of boats across the Teme near that river's confluence with the Severn. To add to Fleetwood's impact, Cromwell sent large numbers of his own cavalry across the Severn to reinforce the other column, and in late afternoon Fleetwood forced the crossing of the Teme at both points and ran into heavy resistance from the Scottish forces to its north. From the vantage point of the cathedral tower, the royalist commanders could see the fighting going on to the west, and see also the Scots progressively falling back on the city. They could also see that Cromwell had despatched the bulk of his horse to assist Fleetwood, and Charles determined to use his own cavalry in a frontal assault on Cromwell's position, under the covering fire of the artillery in Fort Royal. In a sense, this attack was forced upon the King by the failure of David Leslie, established north-west of the city, to move his forces in to assist his fellow Scots against Fleetwood, forcing Charles to try the diversionary tactic. Leaving the city by the Sudbury Gate, the royalist troops moved up the London Road towards Red Hill, whilst another column under the duke of Hamilton advanced on Perry Wood. Hamilton's men swept forward over all resistance, seized the enemy guns around Perry Wood, and gained their position, whilst the King's forces had a similar success at Red Hill. The government lines were falling back steadily, but again there was no movement in support from David Leslie, who seems to have felt his cavalry incapable of acting decisively. As a consequence, Cromwell brought back cavalry from the west bank of the Severn and used them to shore up the staggering lines of New Model infantry and militia. Hamilton's force, bereft of support and with ammunition running low, were the first to break, falling back steadily, throwing down their arms. The duke himself was mortally wounded in the retreat, the government troops pushed on, chased the Scots back towards Fort Royal, stormed their entrenchments and took the fort. Fleetwood's men, having broken the resistance of the forces on the west of the city, now crossed the Severn, taking the royalist army in flank and rear as Cromwell pressed home the attack. The royalist army was in a state of collapse, Hamilton out of action, Massey, Derby and David Leslie all prisoners. Charles II tried desperately and without concern for his personal safety to rally some form of resistance against Cromwell, and was spotted outside the Sudbury Gate by enemy troopers. Barely escaping with his life, the King returned into the city to find the earl of Cleveland and the remnants of the cavalry in a state of confusion as Fleetwood's men infiltrated the streets in force. The gates of the city—Foregate, Sudbury, Bridge and Friars—were either in government hands or blocked up, leaving only St Martin's Gate temporarily open. With a few Scots and royalists making a determined stand on Castle Mound near the
Sudbury Gate, which Cromwell found impossible to storm, the King prepared to escape, covered by Cleveland who halted the onrush of Fleetwood's troopers on two occasions.
The royalist army was shattered, 10,000 were prisoners, 3,000 or more were dead, and the rest were fugitives, the King included. Many Scots were murdered in the ensuing few days by local people as they tried to make their way north, where George Monck was reducing Stirling and Dundee. The military potential of the royalist party was permanently broken: restoration by force of arms was no longer a possibility.
Was this article helpful?