The Military Situation in Late 1643

Despite the heavy fighting, albeit somewhat localised, since Edgehill in October 1642, the King's forces, which needed to reach London to bring the war to an effective end, were still very much confined to the north and west of the country; in other words, to their primary recruiting grounds and areas of support. On the other hand, the forces of the parliament had been unable to make headway of any enduring nature, and rested content with acting on a largely defensive basis. The most successful royalist army had undoubtedly been that of the earl of Newcastle operating out of Yorkshire, which, after a tedious lull induced by need to protect the person of the Queen on her way to Oxford, had launched a major offensive in the early summer. Adwalton Moor (30 June) broke the back of parliamentary field forces in the north, and the eastern seaboard lay open to an advance on London in conjunction with the King's armies in the west. Whether or not this was a practical strategic objective, it did not materialise, the successes of the northern army being frittered away in a pointless siege of Hull. Although Lancashire appeared to be under parliamentary control, this was largely due to the lack of a real royalist presence in the county, and apart from incursions into Yorkshire and Cheshire, the commanders at Manchester were content to hold their own and bother no one. In the east, the parliamentary forces were constantly threatened by the powerful royalist garrison at Newark on Trent which they were unable to reduce or even seriously to challenge. Parliamentary control of much of northern Lincolnshire proved tenuous, and was always liable to evaporate under a determined push from Yorkshire by Newcastle's forces. Only when Newcastle was preoccupied at Hull was the Eastern Association able to win a convincing victory, at Winceby in October. In the Midlands, the fighting was relatively frequent, since the area came directly under the eyes of the King and his advisers at Oxford. Hopton Heath was a costly royalist victory (19 March) and led to Prince Rupert's intervention to secure a precarious control in the Birmingham area. The parliamentary generals, Essex and Waller, ably assisted by Massey from Gloucester garrison, were a constant thorn in royalist flesh, and the victory at Ripple Field (13 April) was a necessary boost for royalist morale. A second royalist victory at Chalgrove Field was followed up by a fruitless attempt to take Gloucester, inducing the earl of Essex to set off from London to raise the siege. At Newbury (20 September) the King and Essex fought to a standstill, both armies extricating themselves with difficulty, and although the advantage clearly seemed to lie with the royalists, nothing whatever came of it. London lived in fear of an eastwards march that never materialised.

In a sense, the war in western England was almost distinct from that elsewhere. Although Ralph Hopton galvanised massive armed support for the King in Cornwall, and despite his undoubted military ability, he long proved unable to push forward into Devonshire and thus repair the damage sustained by the royalist cause in Somerset and Wiltshire at the end of 1642. Only in June did a concerted royalist presence make itself felt in Somerset, in confrontation with parliamentary forces under Waller which had suffered badly at Ripple Field further north. The royalist victory at Lansdown (5 July) was far too costly and led to a retreat. Roundway Down (13 July) averted disaster thanks to Henry Wilmot's tactical skill, and the reduction of

A Royalist garrison H Parliamentary garrison Royalist controlled

Newcastle--

■ ' Parliamentary controlled

■ ' Parliamentary controlled

Battle Roundway 1643

Bristol, giving access to the Irish sea routes, was a crucial royalist success. On balance, the advantage towards the end of 1643 lay with the King: in reality, there was no co-ordinated scheme of following up successes on a broad front. It was probably logistically impossible.

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