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Battle of Alton, 13 December 1643

Battle of Alton, 13 December 1643



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The English Civil War , Richard Holmes & Peter Young, an early work by one of the country's best known military historians, this is a superb single volume history of the war, from its causes to the last campaigns of the war and on to the end of the protectorate.


1600s & 1700s Military History Timeline

1701 - War of the Spanish Succession: Fighting begins as an alliance of Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, Dutch Republic, Prussia, Portugal, and Denmark declare war to prevent a French succession to the Spanish throne

February 29, 1704 - Queen Anne's War: French and Native American forces conduct the Raid on Deerfield

August 13, 1704 - War of the Spanish Succession: The Duke of Marlborough wins the Battle of Blenheim

May 23, 1706 - War of the Spanish Succession: Grand Alliance forces under Marlborough win the Battle of Ramillies

1707 - War of 27 Years: The Mughals are defeated ending the war

July 8, 1709 - Great Northern War: Swedish forces are crushed at the Battle of Poltava

March/April 1713 - War of the Spanish Succession: The Treaty of Utrecht ends the war

December 17, 1718 - War of the Quadruple Alliance: The French, British, and Austrians declare war on Spain after Spanish troops land on Sardinia and Sicily

June 10, 1719 - Jacobite Risings: Jacobite forces are beaten at the Battle of Glen Shiel

February 17, 1720 - War of the Quadruple Alliance: The Treaty of The Hague ends the fighting

August 20, 1721 - Great Northern War: The Treaty of Nystad ends the Great Northern War

July 1722 - Russo-Persian War: Russian troops embark for an invasion of Iran

September 12, 1723 - Russo-Persian War: The Russians compel Tahmasp II to sign a peace treaty


Battle of Cheriton

Sir Arthur Heselrige’s ‘Lobsters’, a key regiment in Sir William Waller’s Parliamentary army at the Battle of Cheriton on 29th March 1644 cuirassiers at the time of the English Civil War: picture by Louis Braun

The previous battle in the English Civil War is the First Battle of Newbury

The next battle in the English Civil War is the Battle of Cropredy Bridge

Battle: Cheriton

War: English Civil War

Date of the Battle of Cheriton: 29 th March 1644

Place of the Battle of Cheriton: In Hampshire to the east of Winchester

Combatants at the Battle of Cheriton:

The forces of King Charles I against the forces of Parliament.

Patrick Ruthven, Earl of Forth, Royalist commander at the Battle of Cheriton on 29th March 1644 in the English Civil War

Generals at the Battle of Cheriton: The Royalist army was commanded by Patrick Ruthven, Lord Forth, and Lord Ralph Hopton.

The army of Parliament was commanded by Sir William Waller.

Size of the armies at the Battle of Cheriton:

The Royalist army was essentially Lord Hopton’s original Western Army. The highly effective Cornish troops had melted away following the death of their main commander Sir Bevil Grenville at the Battle of Lansdown Hill leaving a rump built up with troops raised in Hampshire and Royalist regiments brought over from Ireland.

Patrick Ruthven, Lord Forth brought additional troops from the main Royalist army commanded by King Charles I at Oxford.

The total Royalist army comprised some 3,500 foot and 2,500 horse and dragoons.

Sir William Waller’s Army of the Southern Association lay at Farnham in Surrey. The capture of Arundel Castle by Hopton’s Royalist army encouraged the Parliamentary leaders to provide Waller with two regiments from the London Trained Bands.

Sir William Waller was further reinforced by the arrival from the Earl of Essex’s army in of 3,500 horse and dragoons commanded by Sir William Balfour giving Waller an army of around 5,000 foot and 3,500 horse and dragoons.

Sir William Waller, commander of the Parliamentary army at the Battle of Cheriton on 29th March 1644 in the English Civil War

Winner of the Battle of Cheriton: The Royalist army was decisively defeated.

Uniforms, arms and equipment at the Battle of Cheriton:

Background to the Battle of Cheriton:

The origins of the English Civil War are dealt with under this section in the Battle of Edgehill.

In late 1643 Lord Hopton advanced from the west taking much of Wiltshire and Hampshire for the King in his advance towards London.

Lord Hopton attempted to bring Sir William Waller’s Parliamentary army to battle but Waller withdrew into Farnham making his headquarters in Farnham Castle.

Hopton executed a surprise march suddenly appearing before Arundel Castle which was surrendered within three days to the alarm of the Parliamentary authorities who had considered the castle to be impregnable.

Leaving a strong garrison at Arundel with strict instructions to provision the castle against Parliamentary attack Lord Hopton’s army went into winter quarters in autumn 1643 in the towns of Winchester, Alton, Petersfield and Alresford.

Sir William Waller’s attack on the Royalist troops in Alton on 16th December 1643

On 13th December 1643 Sir William Waller attacked the Royalist troops in Alton achieving complete surprise.

The Royalist troops of horse escaped to Winchester while Colonel Bowle’s regiment of infantry attempted to defend themselves in Alton Church. After a fierce fight most of the Royalist foot surrendered while Bowle died fighting.

Arundel Castle captured and re-captured during 1643 and 1644 by Royalist and Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War

Waller followed this success by re-capturing Arundel Castle on 6 th January 1643 making 1,000 Royalist soldiers prisoner, many changing sides and joining Parliamentary regiments.

Lord Hopton, following the loss of Bowle’s regiment of foot, one of his best, resolved to bring Waller to battle.

Waller was elated by his successes at Alton and Arundel and intended to make full use of Balfour’s cavalry, which he feared would soon be recalled to Essex’s army, and the two regiments of London Trained Bands to whom he had given undertakings of returning them to London.

With the Royalist re-enforcements sent to the Western Army from Oxford went Patrick Ruthven, Lord Forth, who expressed a wish to visit his old friend from the continental wars, Lord Hopton. Lord Forth held the position of commander-in-chief after the King and so would outrank Hopton.

Arundel Castle captured and re-captured during 1643 and 1644 by Royalist and Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War

Lord Forth marched to Winchester where he found his old friend in an agony of mind over the loss of Bowle’s regiment which he blamed on himself and of Arundel Castle which should have held out for a considerable period.

Forth’s arrival complicated the command of the Royalist army at Winchester. Lord Hopton and Lord Forth were old friends and relations between them were cordial, but Lord Forth was the most senior officer in the Royalist army under the King, while Hopton was only the commander of a regional army.

Lord Hopton sought to defer to Lord Forth and obey his orders, but Lord Forth refused to take overall command saying he would merely accompany Hopton on his campaign and provide him with ‘advice’. Forth frequently gave Hopton ‘advice’ and Hopton took no decision without seeking Forth’s ‘advice’. A pernicious uncertainty took hold in the command structure of the Royalist army.

Farnham Castle Sir William Waller’s headquarters during his campaign in 1643 and 1644 in the English Civil War

Sir William Waller began his advance from Farnham on the Royalist positions in and around Winchester, occupying villages in the Meon Valley.

The Royalist army marched out of Winchester on 26 th March 1644 and confronted the London Trained Bands at Warnford. Waller refused to give battle and marched off towards Alresford.

Hopton anticipated Waller’s move and made for Alresford arriving before the Parliamentary army.

While Hopton’s men built defences in Alresford Waller assembled his army outside Alresford on East Down.

Once the rest of the Royalist troops had marched in Hopton’s army encamped on Tichborne Down between Alresford and Cheriton.

Waller’s troops bivouacked along the lane from Hinton Ampner east towards Bramdean, just east of Cheriton.

Waller’s senior officers gathered for a council of war in the Manor House of Hinton Ampner. It was resolved to stand and fight rather than attempt a withdrawal in the face of the Royalist army.

Battle of Cheriton 29th March 1644 in the English Civil War: map by John Fawkes

Account of the Battle of Cheriton:

Colonel Sir George Lisle held a Royalist outpost in advance of the main army in the centre of the impending battlefield.

In the dawn of 29 th March 1644 Lord Hopton rode forward to Lisle’s position to confirm his suspicion that the Parliamentary army had withdrawn during the night. On the contrary as the mist lifted Waller’s men could be seen falling in for battle on the ridge to the south.

Lord Forth was informed and joined Hopton on Colonel Lisle’s position. Forth ordered Hopton to form the Royalist army along the line of the ridge level with Lisle’s troops who were being compelled to withdraw slightly to avoid being outflanked by the Parliamentary musketeers now taking position in Cheriton Wood.

The Royalist army came onto the battlefield down the track from Alresford. Lord Hopton’s contingent turned to the left and formed for battle on the northern edge of Cheriton Wood, while Lord Forth’s men filed off to the right and took up position on the ridge opposite the gathering Parliamentary horse and foot of Sir William Waller’s left wing.

Cavalry battle at the time of the English Civil War: Battle of Cheriton 29th March 1644

Waller’s army had been deploying since dawn. 1,000 musketeers commanded by Colonel Leighton and supported by 300 Horse advanced into Cheriton Wood while the rest of the army, foot, horse and guns moved forward onto the ridge running east from Cheriton.

The Parliamentary horse and dragoons on the left were commanded by Sir Arthur Heselrige, colonel of the cuirassiers known as the ‘London Lobsters’ and on the right by the Sir William Balfour.

The Royalist army was in position on the ridge facing the Parliamentary army on the other side of the valley by the end of the morning.

The Royalist attack was initiated by an assault on Cheriton Wood by four columns of musketeers commanded by Colonel Matthew Appleyard. As they advanced the Royalists musketeers came under attack and halted to conduct a vigorous fire fight with their opponents.

To break the deadlock in the Royalist attack on Cheriton Wood Lord Hopton directed Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hopton to move his column around the wood and attack the Parliamentary force in flank, with the support by the Royalist guns in the ‘Gunner’s Castle’.

Colonel Hopton’s musketeers gave one volley from a hedge throwing Leighton’s Parliamentary musketeers into confusion. Appleyard’s whole force stormed into the wood, driving out their Parliamentary adversaries and inflicting many casualties. This success in Cheriton Wood gave the Royalists the whole ridge and was the opportunity to exploit their success and extend the attack. But Lord Forth’s advice was now to stay on the defensive along the ridge and allow the Parliamentary army to carry out any offensive moves.

Lord Hopton was riding along the Royalist line from left to right when he saw that there was heavy fighting in front of the Royalist right in the valley between the two ridges.

Cuirassiers in battle at the time of the English Civil War: Battle of Cheriton 29th March 1644

A young Royalist regimental commander, Colonel Henry Bard, had led his regiment of foot into the attack from the Royalist right. Bard was acting without orders, but may not have received the specific direction to remain on the defensive. Certainly his actions were rash in the extreme whatever his understanding of his duty. He was taking his regiment unsupported on either flank into the area between the two armies.

Waller had already ordered the cavalry of his left wing to move forward and cover the flank of his army. Seeing Bard’s Royalist foot moving forward Sir Arthur Heselrige directed 300 of his horse to attack Bard’s men.

The Parliamentary horse assaulted Bard’s isolated regiment and there was a savage fight in which all Bard’s men were killed or captured.

Following Heselrige’s success Sir Edward Balfour led his horse on the Parliamentary right into the attack on Hopton’s regiments of foot on the ridge.

Hopton described his men as ‘keeping their ground in a close body, not firing till within two pike’s length, and then three ranks at a time’.

The Queen’s regiment of horse, led by Lord John Stewart, attacked in support of the Royalist foot but fell back after a single charge.

Musketeers fighting off a cavalry attack at the time of the English Civil War: Battle of Cheriton 29th March 1644

Sir William Waller followed up Balfour’s charge by bringing up the Parliamentary foot of the right wing and Hopton’s regiments came under heavy pressure.

On the Royal right, under direction from Lord Forth, Lord Hopton ordered Sir Edward Stawell’s brigade of 1,000 horse to attack. Advancing on a narrow front Stawell’s men were at a disadvantage and after half an hour of fighting under fire from the Parliamentary guns on the ridge line they began to fall back, leaving their commander severely wounded and a prisoner.

Lord Forth launched the remainder of the Royalist horse in support of Stawell’s brigade. The horse were followed by the foot on each flank. Most of the soldiers from each side were in the valley between the two ridges fighting hand to hand. Eventually Waller’s Parliamentary regiments gained the upper hand with their greater numbers and better weaponry in particular, the heavily armoured and armed cuirassiers of Hesilrige’s ‘Lobsters’.

After several hours of this struggle the Royalist were beaten. Hopton secured the Alresford lane with 300 horse providing a retirement route for the exhausted Royalist cavalry.

On the flanks the Parliamentary foot pushed their opponents back onto the ridge line. The Royalist army fell back and made a stand on Tichbourne Down outside Alresford, but their Parliamentary opponents were in no state to exploit their success.

From there the Royalist army marched off to Basing House, where they rested for a day, and then to Reading.

Cuirassiers in action at the time of the English Civil War: Battle of Cheriton 29th March 1644

Casualties at the Battle of Cheriton:

The Royalist army suffered heavy losses among its senior officers of horse, including Lord John Stewart the lieutenant-general of horse in the Western Army and Sir John Smith the major-general of horse, both killed. Sir Edward Stawell commanding a brigade of Royalist Horse was severely wounded and captured.

Royalist casualties were around 300 killed wounded and made prisoner.

Parliamentary casualties were around 200.

Probably neither figure is wholly reliable.

Follow-up to the Battle of Cheriton:

Following the Battle of Cheriton King Charles I brought the independent action of the Western Army to an end. Lord Hopton and Lord Forth marched their army to Oxford taking the Reading garrison with them.

Sir William Waller marched on to Winchester. He took the city but the castle refused to surrender. The Parliamentary army left Winchester after pillaging the city.

Lord Ralph Hopton, de facto Royalist commander at the Battle of Cheriton on 29th March 1644 in the English Civil War

Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of Cheriton:

  • The Royalist commander Patrick Ruthven Earl of Forth and soon to become Earl of Brentford was a Scottish officer who made his name in the Swedish Army of King Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years War. Ruthven rose to high rank in the Swedish Army and was knighted by King Gustavus Adolphus. Clarendon described Lord Forth, referring to him as ‘the General’: The General-though he had been without doubt a very good officer, and had great experience, and was still a man of unquestionable courage and integrity-was now much decayed in his parts, and, with the long continued custom of immoderate drinking, dozed in his understanding, which had never been quick and vigorous-he having been always illiterate to the greatest degree that can be imagined. He was now become very deaf…’.
  • At the time of the Battle of Cheriton Lord Hopton was still recovering from the injuries he suffered in the accident following the Battle of Lansdown Hill.
  • Sir William Waller, commander of the Parliamentary army at the Battle of Cheriton on 29 th March 1644, was known to the Parliamentary troops and supporters as ‘William the Conqueror’, in spite of his defeats at the hands of Royalist armies at the Battle of Lansdown Hill and the Battle of Roundway Down.
  • The Battle of Cheriton is considered a victory for Parliament, but the authorities describing the battle acknowledge that it was marked by poor generalship on both sides.

Cavalry attacking Foot at the time of the English Civil War: Battle of Cheriton on 29th March 1644 in the English Civil War: picture by Palamedes Palamedesz

Cuirassier overwhelming an unarmoured trooper: Battle of Cheriton on 29th March 1644 in the English Civil War: picture by Meulen

Memorial to Sir John Smith in the floor of the Lucy Chapel in Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford: Battle of Cheriton on 29th March 1644

References for the Battle of Cheriton:

The English Civil War by Peter Young and Richard Holmes

History of the Great Rebellion by Clarendon

Cromwell’s Army by CH Firth

The previous battle in the English Civil War is the First Battle of Newbury

The next battle in the English Civil War is the Battle of Cropredy Bridge

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What happend on 13. December in History

In our data base we found 320 events happened on 13. December:
&bull 558: Childebert I, Frankish king (b. 496) [category: Deaths]
&bull 558: King Chlothar I reunites the Frankish Kingdom after his brother Childebert I has died. He becomes sole ruler of the Franks. [category: Events]
&bull 1048: Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī, Persian scholar and polymath (b. 973) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1124: Pope Callixtus II (b. 1065) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1126: Henry IX, Duke of Bavaria (b. 1075) [category: Deaths]


&bull 1204: Maimonides, Spanish rabbi and philosopher (b. 1135) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1250: Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (b. 1194) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1294: Saint Celestine V resigns the papacy after only five months Celestine hoped to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit. [category: Events]
&bull 1404: Albert I, Duke of Bavaria (b. 1336) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1466: Donatello, Florentine painter and sculptor (b. 1386) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1516: Johannes Trithemius, German cryptographer and historian (b. 1462) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1521: Pope Sixtus V (d. 1590) [category: Births]
&bull 1521: Manuel I of Portugal (b. 1469) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1533: Eric XIV of Sweden (d. 1577) [category: Births]
&bull 1545: The Council of Trent begins. [category: Events]
&bull 1553: Henry IV of France (d. 1610) [category: Births]
&bull 1557: Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia, Italian mathematician (b. 1499) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1565: Conrad Gessner, Swiss botanist (b. 1516) [category: Deaths]
&bull 1577: Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage. [category: Events]
&bull 1585: William Drummond of Hawthornden, Scottish poet (d. 1649) [category: Births]


Today in History - Historical Events - December 13th

2003 Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit (see Operation Red Dawn).

1964 In El Paso, Tx, LBJ & Mexican Pres Gustavo Diaz Ordaz set off an explosion diverting Rio Grande, to reshape US-Mexico border

1970 Neil Simon's "Gingerbread Lady" premieres in NYC

1833 HMS Beagle/Charles Darwin arrives in Port Deseado, Patagonia

1956 Dodgers trade Jackie Robinson to Giants for pitcher Dick Littlefield & $35,000 Robinson retires

2007 The Mitchell Report is publicly released listing the names of 89 Major League Baseball players that have presumably used anabolic steroids and human growth hormones. Notable players to be named include Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada.


Gainsborough, 28 July 1643

O n 20 July 1643, Lord Willoughby captured Gainsborough in Lincolnshire for Parliament, thus disrupting the Earl of Newcastle's communications with Newark and blocking the Royalist advance from Yorkshire that was expected after Newcastle's victory at Adwalton Moor. Parliament's Committee of Safety ordered Sir John Meldrum and Colonel Oliver Cromwell to reinforce Lord Willoughby, whose position at Gainsborough was threatened by a detachment of Royalist cavalry commanded by Sir Charles Cavendish. Meldrum and Cromwell joined forces with a body of local troops from Lincolnshire at North Scarle on 27 July then hurried on to Gainsborough. The combined Parliamentarian force comprised 20 troops of horse and four companies of dragoons.

The Parliamentarians encountered Cavendish's advance guard of dragoons on the morning of 28 July a few miles to the south of Gainsborough. The main body of Royalists was positioned at the top of a steep hill with three regiments of horse in front and Cavendish's regiment in reserve at the rear. A Parliamentarian advance drove back the Royalist dragoons. The Parliamentarians pushed on and succeeded in gaining the high ground, routing the main body of the Royalists in a furious cavalry charge. While most of the Parliamentarians chased the fleeing Royalists, Colonel Cromwell realised that Cavendish had kept his own regiment in reserve and was preparing to counterattack the undefended Parliamentarian rear. Rallying his troopers, Cromwell allowed Cavendish's force to ride past, then turned the tables by leading a charge against the Royalist rear. The Royalists were driven down the hill and routed. Cavendish himself was killed in the mêlée.

Later that day, as Meldrum and Cromwell supervised the reprovisioning of Gainsborough, news came of another Royalist force approaching from the north. The Parliamentarian commanders sallied out with their cavalry and 400 of Willoughby's infantry. Two troops of Royalists were easily driven off, but on reaching the top of a nearby hill, the Parliamentarians were astonished to find themselves facing Newcastle's main northern army, advancing to besiege Gainsborough. Cromwell's troopers fought a disciplined rearguard action to cover the withdrawal of the Parliamentarian infantry. Detachments commanded by Captain Ayscough and Major Whalley were ordered to retire alternately and succeeded in holding Newcastle's whole army at bay as the main Parliamentarian force withdrew to Gainsborough for the loss of only two men.

The Parliamentarians were unable to hold out against Newcastle's army. Lord Willoughby abandoned both Gainsborough and Lincoln and retreated to Boston, but the skirmishing around Gainsborough is an indication of the increasing sophistication of Parliamentarian cavalry tactics, and of the leadership skills of Oliver Cromwell in particular.


Coats, Flags and Equipment

Clad in either all red or all blue suits of coats, breeches and montero hats in July 1643 along with the other Royalist foot regiments then in Oxford 3) .In September 1644 they received another issue, but of unknown colour. In 1644 they are mentioned with Pennyman's as the white and grey regiments. Whether this refers to coat colours or flags is uncertain. A new clothing issue seems more likely than a change of flag designs.

Astley's regiment's flags aren't known for certain, but one possibility is shown above at Flag Illustration 1. At the surrender of Reading white, red and blue flags were carried by the eight regiments of the garrison. At the Aldbourne Chase muster in 1644 Symonds noted that Astley’s and Stradling’s regiments combined had 5 blue colours differenced by white cinquefoils and one plain white colour. Both the Astley and Stradling families used cinquefoils as devices, so which flags belonged to which regiment is rather unclear, though Stradling’s regiment was the larger. A similar blue flag with cinquefoils was captured at Edgehill, so is more likely from Stradling’s. However, a blue flag with a pierced ermine cinquefoil was captured at Naseby, which muddies the waters somewhat, this is illustrated above. Sir Jacob Astley’s regiment raised for the First Bishops’ War of 1639 had sky-blue and white colours, design unknown 4) .

The regiment seems to have been conventionally equipped with pikes and muskets several muskets, bandoleers, pikes, 'long pikes' and a halberd were delivered from stores in Oxford in June and July 1643 (see below).


Historical Events In December - 13

0838 Pippijn I, King of Aquitania, dies on December - 13.

0863 Boudouin with the Iron Arm weds Charles de Kales' daughter Judith on this day in history.

1048 On this day in history al-Biruni, Arabic royal astrologer, dies at 74

1124 Callistus II, [Guido di Borgogna], Italian Pope (1119-24), dies on this day in history.

1126 On this day in history hendrik IX, the Black, Duke of Bayern (1120-26), dies

1204 On December - 13 maimonides, Jewish philosopher/talmudic scholar, dies in Cairo at 69

1250 On this day in history frederick II, German Emperor (1212-1250), dies at 55

1294 Pope Coelestinus V ends term on this day in history.

1404 On this day in history albrecht, duke of Bavaria, dies at 74

1521 On December - 13 sixtus V, [Felice Peretti/"Montalto"], bishop of Fermo/Pope (1585-90)

1521 On this day in history manoel I "the Great", King of Portugal (1495-1521), dies at 52

1533 On December - 13 erik XIV Wasa, king of Sweden (1560-69)

1545 Council of Trent (19th ecumenical council) opens on December - 13.

1553 Henry IV, 1st Bourbon-king of Navarre/France (1572/89-1610) on December - 13.

1557 On December - 13 niccolo Tartaglia, Italian mathematician, dies

1565 On December - 13 konrad von Gesner, naturalist, dies at 49

1570 Sweden/Denmark signs Peace of Stettin on December - 13.

1572 On December - 13 spanish army beats Geuzen fleet under admiral Lumey

1574 Selam II Sari, the blonde, sultan of Turkey (1566-74), dies at 50 on December - 13.

1577 On December - 13 francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, in the Golden Hind, on his round the world voyage

1577 Sir Francis Drake sets sail from England to go around the world on December - 13.

1577 Sir Francis Drake sets sail from England to go around world on this day in history.

1603 Franciscus Vieta, mathematician, dies in Paris at 63 on December - 13.

1621 On December - 13 emperor Ferdinand II delegates 1st anti-Reformation decree

1622 On December - 13 jan Campanus, composer, dies at 50

1636 On December - 13 the Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organization is recognized today as the founding of the United States National Guard.

1642 On December - 13 new Zealand discovered by Dutch navigator Abel Tasman

1642 New Zealand discovered by the Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman on December - 13.

1643 On this day in history english Civil War: The Battle of Alton takes place in Hampshire.

1668 Jean Racines "Britannicus," premieres in Paris on this day in history.

1672 On December - 13 jan II Kazimierz, king of Poland (1648-68), dies at 63

1693 On this day in history dodoftei, Romanian metropolitan of Moldavia/writer (Saint Lives), dies

1724 On December - 13 aepinus, [Franz UT Hoch], German physician/physicist

1729 On December - 13 anthony Collins, Engl philosopher (On Liberty & Necessity), dies at 53


December 13 in history


1294 – Saint Celestine V resigns the papacy after only five months Celestine hoped to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit.

1545 – The Council of Trent begins.

1577 – English seaman Sir Francis Drake sets sail from Plymouth, England, with five ships and 164 men on a mission to raid Spanish holdings on the Pacific coast of the New World and explore the Pacific Ocean. Three years later, Drake's return to Plymouth marks the first circumnavigation of the earth by a British explorer.

1621: Under the care of Robert Cushman, the first American furs to be exported from the continent left for England aboard the Fortune. One month before, Cushman and the Fortune had arrived at Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts with 35 settlers, the first new colonists since the settlement was founded in 1620. During Cushman's return to England, the Fortune was captured by the French, and its valuable cargo of furs was taken. Cushman was detained on the Ile d'Dieu before being returned to England. Within a few years of their first fur export, the Plymouth colonists, unable to make their living through cod fishing as they had originally planned, began concentrating almost entirely on the fur trade. The colonists developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins, which were in turn profitably sold in England to pay the Plymouth Colony's debts and buy necessary supplies.

1636 – The Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organization is recognized today as the founding of the National Guard of the United States.

1642 – Abel Tasman reaches New Zealand.

1643 – English Civil War: The Battle of Alton takes place in Hampshire.

1758 – The English transport ship Duke William sinks in the North Atlantic, killing over 360 people.

1769 – Dartmouth College is founded by the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, with a royal charter from King George III, on land donated by Royal governor John Wentworth.

1776: American General Charles Lee left his army, riding in search of female sociability at Widow White's Tavern in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

1862 – American Civil War: Battle of Fredericksburg: Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia repulsed a series of attacks by Union Major General Ambrose Burnside's Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The defeat was one of the most decisive loses for the Union army, and it dealt a serious blow to Northern morale in the winter of 1862-63.

1867 – A Fenian bomb explodes in Clerkenwell, London, killing six.

1916: A powerful avalanche killed hundreds of Austrian soldiers in a barracks near Italy's Mount Marmolada. Over a period of several days, avalanches in the Italian Alps killed an estimated 10,000 Austrian and Italian soldiers in mid-December.

1918: After nine days at sea aboard the SS George Washington, President Woodrow Wilson arrived at Brest, France, becoming the first chief executive to visit Europe while in office, and traveled by land to Versailles, to take part in World War I peace negotiations and to promote his plan for a League of Nations, an international organization for resolving conflicts between nations.

1928 – George Gershwin's An American in Paris is first performed.

1937 – Second Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Nanking: The city of Nanjing, defended by the National Revolutionary Army under the command of General Tang Shengzhi, falls to Japanese forces, and the Chinese government flees to Hankow, further inland along the Yangtze River. This is followed by the Nanking Massacre, in which, to break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane orders that the city of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the city is burned, and Japanese troops launch a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the "Rape of Nanking," the Japanese butchered an estimated 150,000 male "war prisoners," massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process. Shortly after the end of World War II, Matsui was found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed.

1938 – The Holocaust: The Neuengamme concentration camp opens in the Bergedorf district of Hamburg, Germany.

1939 – World War II: Battle of the River Plate: Captain Hans Langsdorff of the German Deutschland-class cruiser (pocket battleship) Admiral Graf Spee engages with Royal Navy cruisers HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles.

1941 – World War II: The Kingdom of Hungary and Kingdom of Romania declare war on the United States.

1942: Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels recorded in his journal his contempt for the Italians' treatment of Jews in Italian-occupied territories. "The Italians are extremely lax in their treatment of Jews. They protect Italian Jews both in Tunis and in occupied France and won't permit their being drafted for work or compelled to wear the Star of David."

1943 – World War II: The Massacre of Kalavryta by German occupying forces in Greece.

1949 – The Knesset votes to move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem.

1959 – Archbishop Makarios III becomes the first President of Cyprus.

1960 – While Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia visits Brazil, his Imperial Bodyguard seizes the capital and proclaims him deposed and his son, Crown Prince Asfa Wossen, Emperor.

1962 – NASA launches Relay 1, the first active repeater communications satellite in orbit.

1967 – Constantine II of Greece attempts an unsuccessful counter-coup against the Regime of the Colonels.

1968 – Brazilian President Artur da Costa e Silva issues AI-5 (Institutional Act No. 5), enabling government by decree and suspending habeas corpus.

1972 – Apollo program: Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin the third and final extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or "Moonwalk" of Apollo 17. To date they are the last humans to set foot on the Moon.

1974 – Malta becomes a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.

1974: North Vietnamese General Tran Van Tra ordered 7th Division and the newly formed 3rd Division to attack Phuoc Long Province, north of Saigon. This attack represented an escalation in the "cease-fire war" that started shortly after the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973. The North Vietnamese wanted to see how Saigon and Washington reacted to a major attack so close to Saigon. President Richard Nixon and his successor, Gerald Ford, had promised to come to the aid of South Vietnam if the North Vietnamese launched a major attack. With Nixon's resignation and Ford facing an increasingly hostile Congress, Hanoi was essentially conducting a "test" attack to see if the U.S. would honor its commitment to Saigon. The attack was much more successful than the North Vietnamese anticipated: the South Vietnamese soldiers fought poorly and the U.S. did nothing.

1977 – A DC-3 aircraft chartered from the Indianapolis-based National Jet crashes near Evansville Regional Airport, killing 29, including the University of Evansville basketball team, support staff and boosters of the team.

1979 – The Canadian Government of Prime Minister Joe Clark is defeated in the House of Commons, prompting the 1980 Canadian election.

1981 – General Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland to prevent dismantling of the communist system by Solidarity.

1988 – PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat gives a speech at a UN General Assembly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, after United States authorities refused to grant him a visa to visit UN headquarters in New York.

1989 – The Troubles: Attack on Derryard checkpoint: The Provisional Irish Republican Army launches an attack on a British Army temporary vehicle checkpoint near Rosslea, Northern Ireland. Two British soldiers are killed and one badly wounded.

2000 – The "Texas Seven" escape from the John B. Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas, and go on a robbery spree, during which police officer Aubrey Hawkins is shot and killed.

2000: Vice President Al Gore reluctantly conceded defeat to Texas Governor George W. Bush in his bid for the presidency, following weeks of legal battles over the recounting of votes in Florida.

2001 – Sansad Bhavan, the building housing the Indian Parliament, is attacked by terrorists. Twelve people are killed, including the terrorists.

2002 – European Union enlargement: The EU announces that Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia will become members from May 1, 2004.

2003 – Iraq War: Operation Red Dawn: After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.

2006 – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is adopted.

2011 – A murder–suicide in Liège, Belgium, kills six and wounds 125 people at a Christmas market.

2014 – Landslides caused by heavy rain in Java, Indonesia, kill at least 56 people.


Charles I is executed at Whitehall, London

In the wake of the Second Civil War, Oliver Cromwell and the other senior commanders of the New Model Army decided that England could never be settled in peace while Charles I remained alive. Accordingly, the king was charged with high treason, tried, found guilty and beheaded. Charles faced his trial and death with remarkable dignity. His last word on the scaffold was: 'Remember'. The execution of a king was greeted across Europe with shock.


Battle of Edgehill

Place of the Battle of Edgehill: At Kineton, near Banbury, in Oxfordshire.

Combatants at the Battle of Edgehill: The forces of King Charles I against the forces of the English Parliament.

King Charles I of England: picture by Sir Anthony van Dyck: Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Generals at the Battle of Edgehill: King Charles I was the commander of his Royal forces. His Lord General was the Earl of Lindsey at the outset of the battle. A dispute with Prince Rupert caused Lindsey to give up his appointment and fight at the head of his regiment, where he was mortally wounded during the battle. Prince Rupert under his commission as ‘General of the Horse’ was entitled to act free from supervision by any other officer.

The Parliamentary forces at Edgehill were commanded by the Earl of Essex.

Battle of Edgehill, 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: plan by John Fawkes

Size of the armies at the Battle of Edgehill: The Royalist army comprised around 14,000 men, of which probably 3,000 were Horse, and 20 guns. The Parliamentary army was around 15,000, but a significant part of the army was in quarters too far from the field to arrive in time to fight in the battle. Essex had around 4,000 Horse and some 40 cannon.

The battlefield: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Winner of the Battle of Edgehill: Clarendon makes it clear that the contemporary view, whether justified or not, was that Edgehill was a Royalist victory. The Royalist cavalry on each wing drove the Parliamentary cavalry opposing them off the field, while the Parliamentary Infantry pushed the Royalist Infantry back. Both sides initially remained on the field.

Trained Bands: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Uniforms, arms and equipment at the Battle of Edgehill:
When the Civil War broke out in 1642, England was without a regular military establishment and had little recent war-making experience. Each side, Royalist and the Parliamentarian, was forced to build up its armies from scratch, relying upon the regional system of ‘Trained Bands’ or militia.

The Trained Bands varied widely in quality, but were generally only suitable as a starting point. Many of these regional forces were not prepared to leave their counties, and probably only the London Trained Bands were ready and capable of sustained military action, fighting for the Parliament.

The one military resource, that was important to each side, was the pool of English and Scottish officers with experience of fighting in Europe, where the Thirty Years War (1618 to 1648) was in progress across the continent. Each side relied upon these officers, particularly in the use of artillery and in military engineering.

The Civil War came squarely in the transition from Medieval reliance on the shock of armoured horsemen, bows, swords and lances, to the use of firearms, both hand held and artillery.

In the late 15th Century, the Swiss briefly dominated the European battlefield with massed pikemen. The Swiss dominance was broken by the tactical use of firearms on the battlefield. Both infantry and cavalry turned from shock tactics to the use of firearms pistols for the horsemen and arquebuses for the infantry. Cannon became increasingly mobile and available for use in battle, as opposed to being mainly a siege weapon.

Pikemen at the Battle of Rocroi in France, in 1643: picture by Sebastian Vrancx. This might well have been a picture of the Battle of Edgehill, fought in the previous year on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

The Thirty Years War produced a number of important commanders Wallenstein for the Imperialists, Prince Maurice of Nassau in the Netherlands and, pre-eminently, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.

English and Scottish soldiers, largely Protestant, fought mainly for the two Protestant leaders, Prince Maurice and Gustavus Adolphus.

Siege artillery of the mid 17th Century: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

These two Protestant soldiers devised differing systems of battle, which produced conflicting schools of tactics in the English Civil War on each side. This conflict showed itself immediately at Edgehill, where the Earl of Lindsey resigned his appointment as Royalist commander following a dispute over which system to adopt.

Prince Maurice applied the older system of tactics, which relied heavily on the use of firearms as against shock. Cavalry approached their target at a slow speed, and discharged their pistols in a rolling sequence of ranks, before engaging in mêlée. The infantry used a similar system, forming 15 or more ranks, with the musketeers discharging their pieces, before countermarching to the rear to reload, delivering a rolling fire at the enemy. Each infantry formation contained a force of pikemen, which would keep the enemy at bay with their 16 foot pointed weapons, or use them as offensive weapons in an advance.

Gustavus Adolphus, on the other hand, put his tactical emphasis on massed fire and shock action. Infantry musketeers formed as few as 3 to 6 ranks, closing up to deliver a single volley before the assault. Swedish cavalry delivered their attack by way of a charge, and were prohibited from firing pistols, other than in the mêlée that followed . Cavalry charges were conducted at speed, using the sword, thereby returning to the traditional role of the horseman in battle.

Royalist cavalry attacking at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: picture by Harry Payne

Small field guns were produced, light enough to move around the battlefield and provide immediate support to the other arms. Some guns were made of leather. The Swedes deployed groups of ‘Commanded Musketeers’, to provide fire support for the cavalry and other units.

The sedate use of firearms by other nationalities produced tactics that could be hesitant and indecisive, while the Swedes of Gustavus Adolphus were aggressive and decisive. The success of their tactics was shown resoundingly by the victorious battles of Breitenfeld (1631) and Lützen (1632).

English and Scottish officers played prominent roles in the armies of Prince Maurice and Gustavus Adolphus.

Cavalry and ‘commanded musketeers’ of the Period of the English Civil war: Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642: picture by Peter Sneyers

In the cavalry, the fully armoured ‘cuirassier’ was, by 1642 a rarity on the battlefield, being expensive to equip and there being few horses strong enough to carry the weight of the man’s full armour. There were nevertheless some cuirassiers in the English Civil War.

Well-equipped regiments of horse wore breast and back plate armour and a helmet. Weapons were a sword, pistols and often some form of carbine firearm.

Artillery of the mid 17th Century on the move: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Clarendon repeatedly complains that the Parliamentary cavalry (and infantry) were fully equipped while the Royalist cavalry were largely armed only with a sword and had little armoured protection.

In the mid-17th Century dragoons were still, in effect, mounted infantry, and not full cavalry, as they became in the following century. A dragoon was armed with a musket and a sword. In many Civil War actions, including Edgehill, dragoons were used on the flanks of the army to hold hedge lines on foot and act with the cavalry as mobile infantry.

Infantrymen carried either the pike, a 16 foot wooden shaft with an iron tip held in place by a socket long enough to avoid being cut off or a musket. Most regiments attempted to achieve a balance between the two forms of soldier, so as to provide firepower and hand to hand combat capability.

Contemporary representation of the Battle of Breitenfeld in 1632, showing the larger infantry formations of the Imperial army, left upper, against the smaller Swedish infantry formations, right lower each comprising a central core of pikemen surrounded by musketeers. The tactics at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War drew heavily on the systems used at Breitenfeld and other battles of the Thirty Years War

Hand held firearms were developing. The basic weapon was the firelock with a firing mechanism relying upon a burning match that the trigger brought down on the firing pan. Firing was difficult in bad weather as rain extinguished the match. There was a constant explosion hazard due to the proximity of gunpowder to the naked burning match. The match remained alight for a finite period, usually about 20 minutes and musketeers were frequently caught without a burning match with which to fire their weapons.

Musketeer of the English Civil War period armed with a Matchlock: Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Artillery and infantry positioned open barrels of gunpowder immediately behind the line in battle to provide reserves of gunpowder. Time and again these open ‘budge barrels’ were ignited by musketeers’ matches with disastrous results.

The main forms of musket detonation available to replace the matchlock were the wheel lock and the firelock. Wheel locks were expensive and relied upon a spring mechanism that was easily damaged. The firelock or fusil, relying upon a spark ignited by a hammer striking a flint was the obvious replacement for the matchlock. It also was expensive and production was limited. Fusils were issued to infantry deputed to guard the cannon and therefore in contact with large amounts of gun powder.

The firelock musketeer when fully equipped carried 12 charges of powder held in wooden containers hung from a cross-belt, known as the ‘Twelve Apostles’. An infantry regiment when on the move made a distinctive sound, as thousands of wooden containers rattled together. This noise with the glow of hundreds of firelock matches made covert movement at night difficult.

The lack of military experience in the English establishment showed itself immediately in the Civil War. It took time to work out command structures and to devise tactics for use in battle. In the opening weeks neither side seemed to have a workable strategy. Both sides, once they had taken the field had difficulty discovering the whereabouts of the opposing army. Supply systems failed to provide for the troops in the field, it being necessary to distribute each army in billets over a wide area to ensure the troops were fed. Considerable time was wasted each day assembling the soldiers for the march or for battle.

Regiment of Foot of the period of the English Civil War comprising pikemen and musketeers: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642: picture by Peter Sneyers

Campaigning began as soon as the armies were assembled, inhibiting pre-campaign training. While infantry could be trained in the field, this was notoriously difficult for cavalry. It was a military axiom that, during a campaign the infantry improves while the cavalry deteriorates, worn out by the burdens of the march and the reconnaissance duties imposed on horsemen.

As the horse was the main means of transport in England a large pool of experienced horsemen, many of whom hunted on horseback for recreation was available for the mounted regiments of each side. The problem was imposing on these individuals, many highly competitive, the discipline necessary to make the cavalry arm an asset rather than a liability, particularly as many officers were as devoid of discipline as the soldiers. Controlling cavalry in the excitement of battle is notoriously difficult and requires extensive training in non-operational circumstances. The Royalists never achieved this, while the Parliamentarians only really did so with the establishment of the New Model Army in 1645.

King Charles I, King of England: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: picture by Sir Anthony van Dyck

The causes of the Civil War are complex and dealt with in great detail in a number of books. The dispute between the Crown and Parliament began following the accession of the first Stewart to the throne, James I, in 1603. The character of Charles I, the son and successor to James I, acerbated all the latent problems. Charles I appeared to the majority of his subjects as a remote and difficult man, incapable of compromise on the issue of royal supremacy. Charles’ main problem was obtaining the money necessary to run the monarchy and the country, while avoiding the obligations that Parliament attempted to impose upon him, when providing the money. King Charles’s reign is a catalogue of disputes with the various Parliaments and members.

On 4th January 1642, King Charles entered Parliament, with a body of armed men, intending to arrest the five members who particularly aggravated him. The five were not present, having taken sanctuary in the City of London.

Attempted arrest of the 5 members of Parliament by King Charles I on 4th January 1642, the incident that prompted King Charles to leave London, and triggered the English Civil War: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642

On 2nd March 1642, King Charles left London, considering that war was inevitable with Parliament, and that London was firmly in the Parliamentary camp. He travelled north, reaching York on 19th March 1642.

Over the next few months, there was a fruitless sequence of negotiations between King Charles and Parliament. During this time, each side assembled its forces. Parliament possessed a number of major advantages London was firmly for Parliament, providing a major source of financial support, and the only Trained Bands in the country that could be relied upon Parliament controlled all the main armouries, and also the navy, thereby inhibiting the Royalists in their efforts to obtain weapons, either domestically or from abroad. The only city in England considered to be wholeheartedly for the King was Oxford.

King Charles was handicapped by his lack of financial resources, from the commencement of the war. This made the raising of troops difficult, as they could not be paid, nor equipped, nor maintained. Every Royalist supporter, that could be contacted, was pressed for financial assistance to the Crown. Clarendon tells the wryly amusing tale of how the King sent Lord Capel to see the wealthy Earl of Kingston, and John Ashburnham, Groom of the Bedchamber, to see the equally well endowed Lord Deincourt, both with estates near Nottingham, to request a loan. Capel journeyed to see the Earl of Kingston, who said he regretted that he did not have the resources to comply with His Majesty’s request, but that he had a neighbor, who was extremely wealthy, and would definitely be able to assist – Lord Deincourt.

View of the site of the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Meanwhile, Ashburnham was visiting Lord Deincourt. Deincourt was dismayed to have to tell Ashburnham that he was a poor man, without the means to provide the King with a loan …. However he knew a rich nobleman, living just up the road, who was more than able to assist His Majesty – the Earl of Kingston.

Clarendon points out the irony that Kingston was killed fighting for the King. He was prepared to die for him, but was not prepared to assist the King financially. Deincourt’s estates were later sequestered by Parliament, due to his Royalist sympathies, and he died in poverty.

Radway Church : Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

It was Clarendon’s view, that the failure of many Royalist magnates to assist the King with their financial resources was a significant cause for the loss of the war.

However, in the summer of 1642, a group of Catholic gentry in Shropshire and Staffordshire combined to provide the King with an advance payment of their fines for being recusants (refusing to attend Church of England worship). A wealthy Shropshire squire, Sir Richard Newport, provided the King with £6,000 in exchange for being advanced to a barony.

Earl of Essex, the Parliamentary
commander at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge contributed their silver and gold plate to the Royalist cause, and subsequently made generous cash payments to King Charles. The Cambridge plate was intercepted by Cromwell on its way to the King on 10th August 1642.

These sums enabled the King to take the field in the summer of 1642, in an attempt to recover London.
On 12th June 1642, King Charles issued his Commission of Array, summoning his subjects to serve on his behalf. This was in effect the King’s declaration that he was recruiting an army

On 15th July 1642, Parliament appointed the Earl of Essex as its captain general, to command its field army.

On the same day, Queen Henrietta Maria, who had fled to the Netherlands, appointed Prince Rupert of the Rhine, as King Charles’s general of the horse. Prince Rupert, and his brother Prince Maurice, spent the rest of the month and much of August, in evading the naval ships of the Parliament, and sailing to Newcastle, from where they rode to join King Charles.

Prince Rupert, an important Royalist commander throughout the Civil War, was born on 17th December 1619, and was 22 years old in 1642, when he arrived in England to fight for his uncle, King Charles. Prince Rupert was 6 foot 4 inches in height, and the son of the Elector Palatine and Elizabeth, sister of King Charles. Prince Rupert saw service during the Thirty Years War on the Continent of Europe, before being captured by the Imperialists. The Emperor thought sufficiently highly of Rupert to offer him a generalship, if he would convert to Catholicism, an offer Prince Rupert rejected.

By 22nd August 1642, King Charles was in Nottingham, where he raised his standard. Prince Rupert joined the King with engineer and artillery officers from the Continent. Scots officers joined and the army grew. Difficulty lingered in raising and equipping the expensive cavalry regiments, although the arrival of the Prince gave this arm a considerable fillip.

King Charles I raises his standard: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

In Nottingham, King Charles was considered to be at risk to any determined Parliamentary attempt on his person. On 13th September 1642, King Charles marched with his army to Derby, and then, on 20th September, to Shrewsbury, to meet up with the troops raised in Wales, and from there to Chester to consolidate the Royalist hold on this important city on the Welsh border, before returning to Shrewsbury.

Sir John Byron marched to Worcester, on 19th September 1642, to hold the city with his regiment of horse for the King. He brought with him the plate donated by Oxford University.

King Charles I addresses his officers in September 1642: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 during the English Civil War

Parliament began to form its army in June 1642. Some 80 troops of horse were raised, with 2 regiments of dragoons and 20 regiments of foot, from the Midlands and the South East of England.

On 23rd September 1642, Essex marched his Parliamentary army to Worcester, to take the city, and to interpose his army between the King and support from Wales.

Powick Bridge, 23rd September 1642: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 during the English Civil War: drawing by C.R.B. Barrett

Battle at Powick Bridge:

A feature of that period of the war was the inadequacy of each side’s intelligence services, allowing ignorance of the other side’s position and intended actions. Prince Rupert arrived in Worcester on 23rd September 1642, the same day as but in advance of Essex and ignorant of the proximity of the Parliamentary army. As a result, the small but significant action of Powick Bridge took place.

Nathaniel Fiennes, Parliamentary commander at the Powick Bridge skirmish on 23rd September 1642

On his arrival in Worcester Prince Rupert saw that the city was without viable defences and ordered a withdrawal of the Royal forces, with the Oxford University plate.

The Parliamentary advance guard comprised a strong party of horse and dragoons. One of the troop commanders was Nathaniel Fiennes. Clarendon describes the action which resulted when Fiennes arrived at Worcester, by way of Powick Bridge: “On the sudden while [Prince Rupert] was reposing himself in the field in front of the town with Prince Maurice, his brother and the principal officers – some of his wearied troops (for they had had a long march) being by, but the rest, and most of the officers, being in the town – he espied a fair body of horse [Fiennes’ detachment] consisting of nearly five hundred, marching in very good order up a lane within a musket shot of him. In this confusion the prince and his officers had scarce time to get upon their horses, and none to consult of what was to be done, or to put themselves into their several places of command. And it may be that it was well they had not, for if all those officers had been at the heads of their various troops, it is not impossible it might have been worse. But the prince instantly declaring that he would charge, his brother, and all those officers and gentlemen whose troops were not present or ready, put themselves beside him, the other wearied troops coming in order after them.

And in this manner the prince charged the enemy as soon as they came out of the lane, and though the rebels, being gallantly led and completely armed both for offence and defence, stood well, yet in a short time many of their best men were killed and the whole body was routed and pursued by the conquerors for the space of above a mile.

Clarendon puts the Parliamentary casualties at 40 to 50, mostly officers. The Royalist casualties seem to have been low with no officers seriously wounded or killed. Clarendon states that this was particularly surprising as the Royalists did not have time to put on their defensive armour.

Prince Rupert (on the right) with his brother, Prince Karl Louis, the Elector Palatine: picture by Sir Anthony van Dyck

Prince Rupert withdrew from Worcester leaving the city to the Parliamentary army.

Powick Bridge laid the basis of the reputation for invincibility that Prince Rupert and the Royalist cavalry acquired and which lasted until the Ironsides Cavalry took the field.

Map of the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: map by John Fawkes

Battle of Edgehill:
On 12th October 1642, King Charles left Shrewsbury with his army, for the march to London. He took 10 regiments of horse, 13 regiments of foot, 3 regiments of dragoons and a train of 20 cannon.

Essex was at Worcester. Parliamentary garrisons from Essex’s army held Hereford, Coventry, Northampton, Banbury and Warwick. While such dispersal of force was ill-advised from a military perspective, the Parliament needed to hold as much ground as possible, to ensure its support and finances.

The Tower on Edgehill: Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

During this time there was negotiation between Parliament and the King, to see if the dispute could be settled without all out war. The bona fides of both sides are questionable, but each sought to convince the country that it was the intransigence of the other that was the cause of the continued hostilities.

The Royalist march was hampered by wet weather, and having to travel along a network of muddy tracks, with columns of wagons, coaches, pack horses, heavy guns, infantry and horsemen.
Essex left Worcester in pursuit on 19th October 1642, suffering the same problems for his army.

Bullet Hill in front of Edgehill: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

King Charles and the Royalist army arrived in Edgecote, a village outside Banbury, on Saturday 22nd October 1642. A council of war decided that the army would rest in billets, in the area to the north of Banbury, for the next day, while Sir Nicholas Byron’s Brigade, with 4 of the army’s largest cannon, assaulted Banbury, where the Parliamentary garrison comprised the Earl of Peterborough’s Regiment of foot and a troop of horse.

Map of the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: map by John Fawkes

A reconnaissance by Lord Digby found no sign of the main Parliamentary army.

In fact the two armies were converging on Banbury. After dark on 22nd October, Essex’s army arrived at Kineton, approximately 10 miles away to the West, on the far side of the Warwick to Oxford road.
The Royalist army went into billets in villages to the North of Banbury. Prince Rupert encountered Parliamentary officers in Wormleighton, where he was proposing to billet his regiments of horse.

Prisoners taken in the ensuing skirmish revealed that the main Parliamentary army was arriving at Kineton, information then confirmed by a Royalist patrol.

Adoniram Byfield, the chaplain of
Sir Henry Cholmondeley’s Regiment of Foot, a prominent Parliamentarian
clergyman and one of the first to see the assembling Royalist army on
Edgehill on 23rd October 1642

Prince Rupert sent this news to the King, with his advice that an attack be launched immediately. King Charles consulted his other senior officers, and issued orders that the army assemble on Edgehill, overlooking Kineton, the next morning, ready for battle.

The Edgehill ridge, running west to east, lay across the road from Kineton to Banbury, rising steeply to 300 feet above Kineton.

Prince Rupert reached Edgehill at dawn, his regiments of horse arriving during the morning, and the infantry began marching in, from their billets, around midday.

The Royalist army was first seen by the Parliamentary troops at around 8am, as they were assembling for Sunday worship. Adoniram Byfield, the chaplain of Sir Henry Cholmondeley’s regiment, described watching the Royalists from the top of a hill with a ‘prospective glass’. The alarm was given and Essex’s army began to assemble to the south-east of Kineton.

Adoniram Byfield, the chaplain of Sir Henry Cholmondeley’s Regiment of Foot, a prominent Parliamentarian clergyman, and one of the first to see the assembling Royalist army on Edgehill on 23rd October 1642.

The Parliamentary army was delayed in the same way as the Royalists, by the overnight billeting of the soldiers across a wide spread of villages. Some of Essex’s regiments were too far away to arrive in time for the battle.

Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Essex formed his army across the Kineton to Banbury road, a mile short of the base of Edgehill. Lord Feilding’s regiment of horse took the extreme right flank, covered by 2 regiments of dragoons. Then came Sir William Fairfax’s regiment of foot. The Parliamentary centre was drawn up in two lines. In the first line was the brigade of foot of Sir John Meldrum, comprising the regiments of Robartes, Constable and Meldrum and then the brigade of foot of Colonel Charles Essex, comprising the regiments of Essex, Wharton, Mandeville and Cholmondeley.

As the Earl of Essex had seen his continental service with the Dutch Prince Maurice of Dessau, it is likely that the Parliamentary foot adopted the 8 rank system of the Dutch.

In the Parliamentary second line, were, from the right, the regiments of horse of Sir Philip Stapleton and Sir William Balfour, and then Colonel Thomas Ballard’s brigade of foot, comprising the regiments of the Earl of Essex, Ballard, Brooke and Holles.

Sir James Ramsey held the Parliamentary left flank, to the north of the road, with 24 troops of horse and 500 musketeers detached from Ballard’s brigade. These musketeers held the hedges, and were positioned between the troops of horse, a common practice in Europe.

Contemporary drawing of the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War illustrating the formation of regiments of Foot with clumps of pikemen surrounded by musketeers and Horse discharging pistols

Essex’s artillery train comprised some 40 cannon. It is not clear how many were present on the battlefield. No authority states how the Parliamentary artillery was disposed, but it is likely the cannon were stationed between the regiments of the first line of foot.

Essex was restrained from advancing to the attack by a number of factors the hill up to the Royalist position was too steep for anything but a difficult approach his army was far from complete, due to the distribution of his regiments in billets over a wide area, with 3 regiments of foot, 11 troops of horse and 5 to 10 guns still to reach the point of assembly. Finally there were political constraints. It was far from clear that the possibility of resolving the dispute between King and Parliament by negotiation was ended.

During the frenetic months of recruiting troops for the King’s army, little planning had been devoted to formations to be adopted in battle. The King’s appointed Lord General, the Earl of Lindsey, on the morning of Edgehill, proposed to adopt the 8 rank infantry formation of the Dutch Prince Maurice, with whom he had served (with the Earl of Essex).

King Charles I with his advisers before the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: picture by Charles Landseer

Prince Rupert proposed the Swedish tactics of fewer ranks and more flexible formations. Rupert was supported by Patrick Ruthven, Lord Forth, who served in the Swedish army under King Gustavus Adolphus. Sir Jacob Astley, the Sergeant Major General, with command of the foot, had served with the Dutch, but supported Prince Rupert, whose tutor Astley had been, or rather said nothing to contradict him.

Robert Bertie, First Earl of Lindsey,
Lord General of King Charles I’s army
at the Battle of Edgehill and mortally
wounded in the battle

The King overruled Lindsey, and accepted Prince Rupert’s advice. Offended at having his authority set aside, Lindsey resigned his office of Lord General, and returned to command his regiment, asking that it be placed in a prominent position in the line.

The King’s army came down from Edgehill, and formed up on the north-west side of Radway village, facing the Parliamentary army.

The front line of the Royal army comprised 3 brigades of foot. The second line comprised 2 brigades of foot, which covered the gaps between the front line brigades.

The brigades of foot in the first line, were, from the right the brigades of Colonel Charles Gerard, Colonel Richard Feilding and Colonel Henry Wentworth. Those of the second line, from the right, were the brigades of Colonel John Belasyze and Sir Nicholas Byron.

The Royal horse were divided into two divisions of 5 regiments each, with the division posted on the right flank commanded by Prince Rupert, and the division on the left by Henry Wilmot. The ‘Gentlemen Pensioners’, a life guard troop, commanded by Sir William Howard, were positioned to the rear of the centre of the lines of foot, together with Colonel Legge’s firelock musketeers, who will have been providing an escort for the heavy cannon.

The 3 regiments of dragoons, under Sir Arthur Aston and Colonel James Usher, held positions in the hedges on the extreme flanks, Aston on the left with 2 regiments, and Usher on the right with 1.

The Royal artillery comprised 20 cannon, commanded by Sir John Heydon, the lieutenant general of the train. As the formation adopted was in the Swedish style, the light guns will have been distributed among the infantry regiments, and the heavier cannon placed in battery at some central point.

Royalist cavalry attacking at the Battle of Edgehill

The battle began with a mutual discharge of cannon, which appears to have been of little effect, although Parliamentary accounts claim a greater impact for their gunfire.

Prince Rupert intended to launch a cavalry attack, on his wing, at the first opportunity. Wilmot, on the left wing, was of a like mind.

The Royalist dragoons advanced on foot to clear away the ‘commanded musketeers’, accompanying and covering the Parliamentary horse on each flank.

Once this operation was complete, Prince Rupert ordered his regiments of horse to advance. As Rupert’s squadrons approached the Parliamentary horse, one of Ramsey’s troops, commanded by Sir Faithful Fortescue changed sides, breaking ranks and galloping up to Prince Rupert’s horsemen, to form up with them. Prince Rupert’s regiments then charged the Parliamentary horse at a full gallop.

Ramsey’s regiments received Prince Rupert’s attack at the halt, an acceptable tactic for some schools of warfare of the time, but subsequently considered a grave error in a cavalry action, reacting only with a desultory and ineffective carbine fire. The Parliamentary troopers were either bowled over by the headlong charge of Royal horse, cut down, or fled to the rear, pursued by Prince Rupert’s men.

Prince Rupert at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Sir John Byron’s second line of horse followed Prince Rupert into the attack, and the pursuit, leaving the Royalist right wing largely denuded of horse.

It is clear that the style of riding in the Royalist cavalry was that used in the hunting field a loose rein giving the horse its head, so that it gallops at full speed. The horse, maddened with excitement, becomes almost impossible to control, until it stops through exhaustion. There is little possibility of persuading such cavalry to desist from the pursuit of a defeated foe.

Sir Jacob Astley, Sergeant Major General
of the Royalist Foot at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642, later Lord
Reading: picture by an unknown artist

Prince Rupert was unable to halt his cavalry, in order to take a further and constructive part in the battle that developed between the central formations of the two armies. The pursuit went through Kineton and beyond.

The cavalry action on the Royalist right was replicated on the Royalist left. Wilmot charged through Lord Feilding’s regiment, followed by the second line of Lord Digby, and the Parliamentary horse was chased back through Kineton, in a similar fashion.

Prince Rupert managed to halt 3 troops on his wing, while some 200 horse were halted on the left wing.
As the horse began their charge, the Royalist foot also advanced, led by the Sergeant Major General, Sir Jacob Astley, albeit at a more measured pace. The Royalist brigades in the second line closed up into the gaps between the front line brigades, so that there was a near solid front.

Charles Essex’s brigade, holding the left of the Parliamentary front line of foot, saw the cavalry to their left swept away by Prince Rupert’s headlong charge, and seeing the Royalist foot advancing on them, turned and fled, in spite of the efforts of their officers, from Essex down.

Fortunately for the Parliamentary side, the soldiers of Ballard’s brigade in the second line were made of sterner stuff, and they moved forward into the gap left by Essex’s vanishing regiments. Ballard’s brigade was in time to receive the charge of the 10,500 Royalist foot, with the rest of the Parliamentary first line.
After the first push of pike, the two sides recoiled, stuck their colours in the ground and began firing at each other, at point blank range.

Captain Smith’s fight for the Royal Standard at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

While the horse on the flanks of Essex’s army had been ignominiously put to flight, two regiments of Parliamentary horse remained on the battlefield, the regiments of Sir William Balfour and Sir Philip Stapleton, positioned to the left in the second line, behind Meldrum’s brigade.

These two regiments threw themselves at the advancing Royalist foot. Stapleton’s regiment was held by Sir Nicolas Byron’s brigade, but Balfour’s cut heavily into Feilding’s brigade of Royalist foot, capturing Feilding and two of his colonels, Stradling and Lunsford. Carrying on through the infantry, Balfour’s troopers overran the Royalist heavy guns, but possessing no nails, they were unable to spike them. They cut the drawing traces on the guns and fell back to their position in the second line.

Finding that the firelock men guarding the Parliamentary heavy battery and the gunners had fled, Stapleton moved to cover the cannon, and managed to discharge one of them, albeit at Balfour’s returning troopers.

The Earl of Essex now determined to exploit the initiative gained by his two regiments of horse, and directed an attack on Sir Nicholas Byron’s Brigade of Foot. Lord Robartes’ and Sir William Constable’s regiments of foot, supported by the horse regiments of Balfour and Stapleton, and the regiments of foot of the Lord General and Lord Brooke, charged Byron’s Royalist brigade, and drove it back, breaking up its ranks.

Captain John Smith retrieving the Royal Standard at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

It was at this point, that the Earl of Lindsey, leading his regiment, was shot in the leg and mortally wounded. His son, Lord Willoughby d’Eresby, stood over him, defending his fallen father with his half-pike, until he was taken prisoner.

The King’s Life Guard fought with Constable’s Regiment of foot, and during this combat, Sir Edmund Verney, the King’s Knight Marshal, was killed and the King’s Royal Standard, which Verney carried, was taken. In addition, Sir Nicholas Byron was wounded, Lieutenant-Colonel Monro of the Lord General’s regiment killed, and Lieutenant-Colonel Vavasour of the Lifeguard taken prisoner.

As the fighting raged in the centre of the battle, Sir Charles Lucas attacked the rear of the Parliamentary line, with the 200 horse he had retrieved from the Royalist cavalry attack on the left wing. While this force captured several colours and killed and wounded numbers of Parliamentary troops, they did not reach the main line, due to the number of fugitives in their way. One of Lucas’s officers, Captain John Smith of Lord Grandison’s Regiment of Horse, saw the Royal Standard and some prisoners being escorted from the field by a party of Parliamentary troopers. Smith, with one other trooper, attacked the party, retrieving the Royal Standard and freeing Colonel Richard Feilding.

Royalist attack on the Parliamentary train at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

The Royalist Horse from the right wing, after pursuing the Parliamentary horse as far as Kineton, pillaged the baggage they found there, seizing the coach belonging to the Earl of Essex. They were checked in Kineton by Parliamentary horse and the brigade of foot, commanded by Colonel John Hampden, coming up to take their places in the Parliamentary line, from their distant quarters.

Prince Rupert’s troopers returned to the field of battle from their pursuit, their arrival encouraging the Royalist foot to make a firm stand against the steadily advancing Parliamentary line. However the Royalist cavalry could not be persuaded to attack the Parliamentary infantry, claiming their horses were too exhausted. Prince Rupert refused to order a further attack.

Darkness was falling, and the battle petered out, both sides exhausted. King Charles was advised that he should withdraw his army from the field, but he refused, supported by the advice of Sir John Culpeper, and spent the night with his troops at the base of the hill.

Illustration of the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: drawn in the Restoration period with uniforms of that time

It was cold, and many of the Royalist foot left their posts, to seek more comfortable quarters.
During the night, the missing Parliamentary regiments came up Colonel Hampden’s brigade of foot, comprising 2 regiments, and Lord Willoughby’s regiment of horse. Hampden urged a resumption of the battle in the morning, but Essex refused much of the Parliamentary Horse was missing, and several of the regiments of foot had suffered badly.

The casualties on each side seemed much worse than they actually were, due to the numbers of soldiers dispersed, either during the battle, or leaving their ranks to seek quarters, during the night.

Prince Rupert at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

The next day, 24th October 1642, Essex left with his army for Warwick, and the Royalists returned to the quarters they occupied before the battle, in the villages immediately to the North of Banbury. During the morning, King Charles sent Sir William le Neve to the Earl of Essex, with an offer of pardon for all members of Essex’s army who would lay down their arms, and return to their allegiance to the Crown.

Essex refused this offer, and prevented le Neve from having access to any of the Parliamentary troops.

Battle Farm, showing the spot where casualties were buried from the Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 during the English Civil War: drawing by C.R.B. Barrett

Casualties at the Battle of Edgehill:

Casualties in the Battle of Edgehill are hard to quantify. Clarendon says the local clergyman, who made himself responsible for burying the dead, stated that there were 3,000 bodies. Clarendon says that, of these, 1,000 were royal troops. Later Clarendon amends his assessment to say that the King’s army suffered around 300 killed.

Contemporary drawing of the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

A problem in assessing casualties in the battle was that many of the cavalry were dispersed, either in flight or pursuit, and many of the foot soldiers left their ranks during or after the battle, either to return home or to seek shelter, perhaps resuming their ranks the next day or later. Many of the Parliamentary stragglers and deserters did not return to their army at all.

It seems likely that the Army of Parliament suffered higher casualties than King Charles’s army, from the various causes death, wounds, capture, straggling and desertion.

It may be that the casualties of the battle were around 1,500 in dead, wounded and captured for Parliament and 1,000 for the King.

Of the senior officers, the Royalists lost the Lord General, Lord Lindsey, who died of his wound, Sir Edmund Verney, the Earl Marshal, and Lord d’Aubigny killed. Several senior officers were wounded or captured. Patrick Ruthven, Lord Forth, was appointed Lord General in place of Lindsey.

The Parliamentary side lost Colonel Lord Saint John and Colonel Charles Essex killed.

Cannon changed hands during the battle, being lost and retaken, but the only guns to be captured were 4 Parliamentary pieces, which fell into Royalist hands the day after the battle.

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, commander of the Parliamentary army at the Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: print by Wencelas Hollar

Follow-up to the Battle of Edgehill:

Following the battle, King Charles captured Banbury on 27th October 1642, and then took his army towards London, but by a circuitous route.

The Battle of Edgehill left the Royalists with the upper hand. The rout of the Parliamentary horse on each wing gave a towering reputation to the Royalist cavalry, and, on top of his success at Powick Bridge, in particular to Prince Rupert.

It was clearly the view of Lord Clarendon, that for a time it was in the King’s power to end the war, with a settlement favourable to himself. This opportunity was due to the assumption in Parliamentary circles, and in the rest of the country, that the Royalist army had won the battle, and was more powerful than in fact it was.

This opportunity was squandered by the Royalist attack on the Parliamentary garrison at Brentford on 12th November 1642, and the illusion as to the power of the Royalist army evaporated in the confrontation with the London Trained Bands on Acton Common during the following week, when it became clear how small King Charles’s army really was, and the King was forced to retreat to Reading.

Sir Jacob Astley, Sergeant Major General of the Royalist Foot at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642, later Lord Reading

Anecdotes and traditions of the Battle of Edgehill:

  • On the Parliamentary wings at the Battle of Edgehill, the European practice was adopted of ‘interlining’ the horse with groups of ‘commanded musketeers’ on foot. The result was unfortunate. The Parliamentary horse was routed, leaving the musketeers to be cut to pieces.
  • Before leading the Royalist Foot into battle at Edgehill, Sir Jacob Astley, Sergeant Major General of the Royalist Foot, knelt down and uttered the memorable prayer: “Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget thee, forget thou not me.” He then stood up and shouted “March on lads.”
  • It is the Verney family tradition that when Sir Edmund Verney was cut down, and the Royal Standard taken at Edgehill, Sir Edmund’s hand remained grasping the pike, although severed from the rest of his arm and body. His body was not recovered after the battle.
  • Sir Edmund Verney’s eldest son, Ralph, fought for Parliament. Father and son appear in a joint memorial with their wives, in the family church at Middle Claydon.
  • Captain John Smith was knighted the day after the battle by King Charles, for his feat in rescuing the Royal Standard and freeing Colonel Feilding. In his memoirs, Edmund Ludlow described Smith as recovering the Royal Standard by putting on an orange Parliamentary-style scarf and deceiving the Parliamentary trooper into handing over the Standard. This account seems inconsistent with the description given by Clarendon of Smith cutting down at least one of the Parliamentary escort, while retrieving the Standard. Ludlow fought for Parliament.

The memorial in Radway Church to the Royalist Captain Henry Kingsmill killed at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

The memorial in Radway Church to the Royalist Captain Henry Kingsmill killed at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

A memorial in Radway Church erected by his mother commemorates the Royalist Captain Henry Kingsmill killed at the Battle of Edgehill on 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War. The wording on the tablet reads:HERE LYETH EXPECTING THE SECOND COMING OF OUR BLESSED LORD & SAVIOUR HENRY KINGSMILL ESQ SECOND SONNE TO SIR HENRY KINGSMILL OF SIDMONTON IN THE COUNTY OF SOUTHON KNT. WHOE SERVING AS A CAPTAIN OF FOOT UNDER HIS MAJESTY CHARLES THE FIRST OF BLESSED MEMORY WAS AT THE BATTEIL OF EDGEHILL IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1642 AS HE WAS MANFULLY FIGHTING IN BEHALF OF HIS KING & COUNTRY UNHAPPILY SLAINE BY A CANNON BULLET IN MEMORY OF WHOM HIS MOTHER THE LADY BRIDGET KINGSMILL DID IN THE FORTY SIXTH YEARE OF HER WIDDOWHOOD IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1670 ERECT THIS MONUMENT.

Sir Edmund Verney, Knight Marshal
to King Charles I: Sir Edmund carried
the Royal Standard at the Battle of
Edgehill, where he was killed: picture by Sir Anthony van Dyck

Edgehill from the battlefield: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War

Tale of Edgehill: Battle of Edgehill 23rd October 1642 in the English Civil War: picture by John Seymour Lucas

References for the Battle of Edgehill:

The King’s War by C.V. Wedgwood

The English Civil War by Peter Young and Richard Holmes

History of the Great Rebellion by Clarendon

Cromwell’s Army by CH Firth

British Battles by Grant Volume I

The previous battle in the British Battles series is the Spanish Armada

The next battle in the English Civil War is the Battle of Seacroft Moor

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