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Some memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times online

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King^s were complete, from Ludlow and Shrewsbury, northward,
to the furthest extremity of Cheshire, and, westward, through
i Wales to Cornwall, Devonshire, and Somersetshire, where
. Hopton, Grenvil, and Slanning, were daily increasing their
' t powers. The King had succeeded in placing himself nearly
two days' march in advance of the main army of the Parlia-
ment, on the way to London. The Parliament had already
dispatched peremptory orders to Lord Essex to proceed, by
forced marches, on the Warwickshire road, in order to menace,
and, if possible, turn, the King's right flank ; but, this failing,
at all hazards to bring him to action. Lord Essex had a double


motive for wishing to force a battle ; first, to prove his
troops, and, if possible, give the impression of a victory ; and,
secondly, to delay the King, and endeavour to break through
his army, and thus resume that defensive position, with his
back upon London, of which the King had so dexterously
deprived him. Charles had every interest in avoiding a battle.
If successful, it would not have very materially advanced his
operations, further than by the name of a victory ; for he
could not have pursued a beaten enemy without removing
farther from his main object London. On the other hand,
defeat would have been to him irretrievable ruin. His troops,
confident in their better discipline, and in the skill of their
experienced generals, did not require to be convinced of their
superiority over their enemy. At all events, there was nothing
to justify such a risk. They already took it for granted that
they could conquer whenever they should have occasion to fight.
And now Coventry was again threatened by Prince Eupert.
His summons was treated with contempt by the gallant citizens;
intelligence of which being dispatched to Charles, propositions
were sent under the sign-manual, ordering the surrender of
the town to the Prince, and promising in return, ' on the faith
' of a King/ protection from plunder, and an act of entire
oblivion. To this message, after a general council of the
inhabitants, the Mayor and Aldermen sent an answer, conceived
in the most respectful terms, but expressing their determination
not to surrender their city to any armed force or person coming
in the name of the King, without the concurrent authority
of the Parliament; having, as they said, had experience of
the robberies and cruelties of the cavaliers in divers parts of
the kingdom. ' All which being seriously considered/ they
declared themselves bound in conscience to God, in loyalty to
his Majesty, and in regard for their own safety and honour,
and the safety and honour of all who were the dearest to them,
1 to deny his Majesty's desires, and to oppose all those that
' might in any way endeavour, under pretence of his Majesty's
' commands legally given, to disturb the peace of the kingdom/
And that, * having with all humility presented these lines, as
' the perfect copy of their intentions/ they betake themselves,
< every man to his charge, leaving these particulars to his
' Majesty's consideration.' *

* His Majesty's Declaration and Proposition, and Answer thereto.
Printed for T. West, October 22, 1642.



The garrison accordingly prepared themselves for the worst.
But, the second day after their last defiance had been dispatched,
their spirits were raised and confirmed by the intelligence of
Denzil Holies having, on the 18th, obliged Lord Digby, at the
head of a very superior force, to retire from the neighbourhood
of Wolverhampton, after a severe skirmish in which many had
fallen on each side. The Parliament's reports magnify this
into a great victory against incredible odds, giving an equally
incredible account of the killed of Lord Digby' s party ; while
the King's press, by passing the whole event in silence, confirms
the general fact that the issue was unfavourable to the cavaliers.
All that is certain, besides this, is that Digby's brigade in those
parts Atas composed of three regiments ; that he endeavoured
to force the main road, which was held by Holles's regiment
only, and that, after a sharp encounter, he retired upon the
King's quarters at Leicester.

Meanwhile, the armies were rapidly approaching, and a
general engagement was evidently at hand. The joint terrors
of the King's name and Rupert's presence having failed to
alarm Coventry into an instant surrender, no more time was to
be lost by the King. He accordingly abandoned all further
attempt upon that city, and left it in his rear, little being to
be feared from any annoyance to be attempted by a weak
garrison of undisciplined citizens.

The different divisions of the Parliaments army, meanwhile,
moved in a converging line with that of the King's march.
Moreover, being less encumbered with useless followers, and
with forage and provisions, (the country being generally
friendly, and bringing in these things from all sides for their
daily consumption,) they advanced with a rapidity which
induced the King to abandon the less obstructed course by
St. Alban's, and to take, with both columns, the more westerly
direction of Southam, in order to avoid the risk of his right
flank being gained or passed. And of this there was some
danger; for Stratford on Avon, with its bridge, was already
occupied by the Parliamentarians. Hampden and Brook had
entered it on the 18th; and, on the next morning, with the
assistance of the townsmen, had repulsed a severe attack made
by two brigades, and had secured the passage of the river.
On the 20th the King's advanced guard was before Banbury.*

* Lord Essex's Relation.


A little before midnight, on the 21st of October, from the
road which traverses the brow of Edge Hill, the fires of the
Parliament's pickets were descried in the Yale of Redhorse,
and at dawn the main body of its army was seen moving in a
direction parallel with the King's rear-guard, from the town
of Keinton, which it had entered the night before. Here
Eupert halted, and sent instant intelligence to the King. Soon
after daybreak, Charles was on the heights. He pitched his
tent on the eastern extremity of the range, resting his right
on the Burton Dassett and Wormleighton Hills, his centre
posted over Radway, and his left on a steep road leading down
from a lone inn, then called, as now, the ' Sun Rising.' That
flank was further protected by the difficult country in front of
Lord Northampton's house at Compton Wynyate. A stronger
position cannot easily be imagined. Here, then, the Parliament
army, already fatigued and harassed by forced marches through
a deep country; under orders, at all risks, to stop the
King's passage to London, and having, by its late movements,
staked its reputation upon this object; found itself suddenly

A feeling of military pride made it, doubtless, desirable to
Charles, having a full view of the enemy in order of battle,
not to pursue what might have been miscalled a retreating
march upon the metropolis. Still, it was apparent that he
might, without avoiding a conflict, have waited, with great
advantage, the attack of troops who had no choice left them in
the selection of ground, and whose whole purpose would be
impeded until they might have been able to force him from
those commanding heights. Regiment after regiment was
seen coming up on the Parliament's side and forming in front
of the town of Keinton, in three lines. Their force in that
field, ready to engage, consisted of ten regiments of foot,
forty-two troops of regular horse, and about seven hundred
dragoons ; in all, between twelve and thirteen thousand men.
A detachment of their guns took post on their right, among
the enclosures on a rising ground to the westward of the
town, and a little in advance of it, and commanding that part
of the field, th'en open, which is still known by the name of
' the two Battle Farms.' The rest of their sm^ll park of
artillery was on their extreme left. But this was very inferior
in force to the artillery of the King ; for the greater part of
the Parliament's train had been left behind unprovided with


draught horses, by the negligence of M. de Boys, their Trench
engineer. They were now brought on, with great exertion
and difficulty, but still nearly a da/s march in the rear, under
the command of Hampden, who, with a brigade, consisting of
his own regiment, Colonel Grantham's, Colonel Barkham's,
and Lord Rochford's, in all about three thousand infantry,
had been appointed to guard them.

A hasty council of war was now called by the King. His
army was superior in numbers to that of his enemy, by at
least two thousand infantry, and sixteen troops of horse, and
in sight of a plain where cavalry might act with eminent
advantage. His soldiers were high in spirit, eager to engage,
and impatient of delay with an adversary whom they despised.
In addition to this, he knew from his scouts that the main
body of the Parliament's guns, with a whole brigade, could
not be brought into action that day, but might, if he were to
waste many hours more, be made available against him. To
all these tempting incentives to a battle there was no consider-
ation to oppose, save that of the absolute uselessness of fighting
at all, and the great importance of not delaying the march of
at least a portion of his force upon London. But Prince
Rupert's temper was peremptory and unmanageable. He
commanded the cavalry ; on them the greater share of the
day's glory in the plain of Keinton was likely to rest ; and
Prince Rupert's was a brilliant, but ever a selfish, enthusiasm.
He had, only a few days before, received with great contumely
a message delivered by Lord Falkland, and had declared that
he would acknowledge no orders, in march or in battle, but
from the King himself. This, as an insult upon Falkland's
office, was treated by him in a tone of sharp but courteous
sarcasm, well befitting the lofty spirit of a well-bred gentle-
man, who keenly resented the Prince's petulance, yet would
not allow it to interfere with his own duties, or the public
service.* It forced the King, however, on a new and very
inconvenient arrangement.f The Earl of Lindsey, the King's
Lieutenant-General, saw that the Prince had thus disclaimed
his control also. To allow the line to be commanded by that
headstrong young man, (and somebody must command it in
chief,) was impossible. A sort of compromise was therefore
attempted. The King proposed that the order of battle should

* Clarendon Hist. Reb.
f Clarendon Hist. Reb. Bulstrode's Memoirs.


be formed by General Ruthven, who had long served under
the Princes Maurice and Henry of Orange in the Netherlands,
and for some time in the same army with Rupert himself in
Germany. To this Lindsey consented, putting himself, on
foot, at the head of the King's Guards, in the centre of the
first line ; there remaining answerable for the fate of an army
drawn out by another, and the whole right wing of which was
commanded by a rash man, who would take no orders from him.
The adventurous courage of Rupert gave him an influence
over the mind of the King which he had no other quality to
justify. Against the counsel of Lindsey, and of several other
experienced officers, it was determined not to await the battle
in position, but to push forward the two first lines, and meet
the attack half-way. The morning was bright and cold. The
main body of the King's troops had been on the hills all night :
the King had joined them in person, from Sir William
Chancie's, at Ratott Bridge ; and Prince Rupert from the Lord
Spencer's, at Wormleighton, where he had rested for a few
hours. The army advanced in great pomp ; the King himself
having first ridden along the lines, clad in steel, and wearing
his Star and George on a black velvet mantle over his armour,
and a steel cap, covered with velvet, on his head.* He had
already addressed his principal officers in his tent, in a brave
and eloquent harangue. ' If this day shine prosperous unta
' us/ said he, ' we shall all be happy in a glorious victory.
' Your King is both your cause, your quarrel, and your
' captain. The foe is in sight. Now show yourselves no
' malignant parties, but with your swords declare what courage
' and fidelity is within you. I have written and declared that
' I intended always to maintain and defend the Protestant
' Religion, the rights and privileges of Parliament, and the
' liberty of the subject ; and now I must prove my words by
' the convincing argument of the sword. Let Heaven show
' his power by this day's victory, to declare me just, and as a
' lawful, so a loving, King, to my subjects. The best encour-
' agement I can give you is this ; that come life or death, your
' King will bear you company, and ever keep this field, this
' place, and this day's service, in his grateful remembrance/

He spoke twice at the head of his troops. His speech to
his soldiers, immediately before the battle, was thus given out
in print.

* Bulstrode's Memoirs.


' Friends and soldiers, I look upon you with joy to behold so
' great an army as ever King of England had in these later times,
' standing with high resolutions to defend your King, the Parlia-
' nient, and all my loyal subjects. I thank your loves, offered to
' your King, with a desire to hazard your lives and fortunes with
' me and in my cause, freely offered, and that in my urgent necessity.
' I see by you that no father cap relinquish and leave his son no
' subject his lawful King ; but I attribute this to the justness of
' my cause. He that made us a King will protect us. We have
c marched so long in hopes to meet no enemy ; we knowing none
' at whose hands we deserve any opposition. Nor can our sun,
' shining through the clouds of malignant envy, suffer such an
' obscurity, but that some influence of my royal authority, derived
' from God, whose substitute and supreme governor under Christ I am,

* hath begotten in you a confidence in my intentions. But matters
' are now not to be declared by words, but by swords. You all
' think our thoughts. Endeavour to defend our person, while
' I reign over your affections as well as your persons. Now, there-
' fore, know my resolution is to try the doubtful chance of war,
( which, with much grief, I must stand to, and endure the hazard.
' I desire not the effusion of blood ; but, since Heaven hath so
c declared that so much preparation hath been made, we must needs
1 accept of this present occasion and opportunity of gaining an

* honourable victory, and some addition of glory to our crown ;

* since reputation is that which doth gild over the richest gold, and
' shall ever be the endeavour of our whole reign. The present
' action of this battle makes me speak briefly, and yet lovingly
' and loyally towards you, our loyal army. I put not my confidence
' in your strength or number, but confide that, though your King
' speaks to you, and that with as much love and affection as ever
' King of England did to his army, yet God, and the justness
' of our cause, together with the love I bear to the whole kingdom,
' must give you the best encouragement. In a word, your King
' bids you all be courageous, and Heaven make you victorious.' *

At about two o'clock in the afternoon they advanced. The
order in which they descended from the hill was this : Prince
Rupert, at the head of the Prince of Wales's regiment, led the
cavalry of the right wing, and Lord Byron the reserve, on the
extreme right of which Colonel Washington's dragoons, sup-
ported by six hundred regular horse, took possession of some
bushes and enclosures. On his left were eight regiments of

* Colonel Western's Letter. Printed for Kicbard Johnson, 1642. In
Mr. Staunton's collection.


infantry. The infantry of the centre, in column of six lines,
was led by General Ruthven and Sir Jacob Astley; Lord
Lindsey, with his son Lord Willoughby, at the head of the
royal foot guards, the red coats ; and Sir Edmund Verney,
carrying the standard, which had been displayed, all the
morning, from the hill. Behind these, and a little to the
right, the King took post with his guard of pensioners. The
cavalry of the left Ming was commanded by Lord Wilmot, and
consisted of the regiments of Lord Goring and Lord Fielding.*
These were supported by Lord Carnarvon, at the head of six
hundred pikemen and a small body of musqueteers. The
reserve was commanded by Lord Digby; and Sir George
Lisle' s and Colonel Ennis's dragoons lined the hedges and
broken ground in advance of the extreme left, as Washington's
had done on the right. In the rear of these were the ill-
armed and almost undisciplined levies from Wales.

The brave Sir Jacob Astley' s prayer, immediately before the
advance, was short and fervent. ' OL Lord, thou knowest
' how busy I must be this day. If I "Forget thee, do not thou
' forget me. March on, boys ! ' t

The Parliamentarians were drawn up in three brigades. The
right wing was composed of three regiments of horse^ under
the orders of Sir John Meldrum, Sir Philip Stapleton, and Sir
William Balfore, with Colonel Richard Fielding's regiment,
and some guns in reserve, and supported by musqueteers lining
a long hedge, at a right angle with their front. Next to these
were the Lord Roberta's and Sir William Constable's infantry.
In the centre were the Lord-General's own regiment, and
Colonel Ballard's, and Lord Brook's, with Holies' s, also infantry,
in reserve. The left wing consisted of five regiments of infantry ;
Lord Wharton's, Lord Mandeville's, Colonel Cholmley's, and
Colonel Charles Essex's, with Sir William Fairfax's in reserve.
On the extreme flank were a few guns, with twenty-four troops
of horse, commanded by Sir James Ramsay, a Scot. Ministers
of the Word were seen riding along the ranks as they formed,
exhorting the men to do their duty, and fight valiantly. J

The action was commenced by the Parliament's guns, which

George Baron Fielding, second son to William Earl of Denbigh, who
likewise bore arms for the King, and was in the field as a volunteer that
day. Basil Viscount Fielding, elder brother to George, had taken part
with the Parliament, but was not with the army at Edge HilL

t Sir Philip Warwick's Memoirs. Viccars's Paii. Chron.


opened from their right flank, and were instantly answered by
the whole park of the King's artillery from the centre ; the
cannonade continuing briskly for some time. The first charge
was made by the King's cavalry from his left, which was
repulsed; the musqueteers who supported them being also
driven back to take refuge behind the second line of pikes.
But, on the other wing, their success was very different. The
Parliament's line had been weakened here, by extending itself
to avoid being outflanked. And, at the commencement of the
conflict on this part, Sir Faithful Fortescue, an Irishman, (very
unworthy of either of his honourable names,) who commanded
a squadron of the Parliament's horse, ordered his men to fire
their pistols into the ground, and then galloped with them
into Prince Rupert's lines; where, however, accident gave
them the punishment they deserved : for, being mistaken for
enemies by those to whom they were deserting, they received
a fire which instantly laid twenty-five of them dead.*

And now Prince Rupert, charging with the whole of the
cavalry of the King's right wing, broke through, and entirely
routed, Sir James R/amsay's horse, who, enfeebled and dismayed,
were making an irresolute attempt to gain the advantage of
the hill. Even Colonel Essex's regiment, who had moved up
to support them, also broke and fled. The battle, on that
part, soon became a chase, though Essex did all that he could to
rally the flying troops, and Holies and Ballard advanced
gallantly from their right to cover their ground. The side of
the hill, and, soon afterwards, the plain beneath it, were covered
with nearly the whole of the Parliament's left wing in complete
disorder, and Rupert's horse in close and unsparing pursuit.
' The Lord Mandeville's men/ says an eye witness, f would not
' stand the field ; though his Lordship beseeched, nay cudgelled,
' them. No, nor yet the Lord Wharton's men. Sir William
' Fairfax, his regiment, except some eighty of them, used their
' heeles.' t Nor did Cholmley's behave better. Cavalry endea-
vouring to force their flight through the infantry who were
ordered to support them, the infantry scarcely better disposed
to stand, but unable to fly before the rapid torrent of Rupert's
charge, all were in one confused mass, and not a face of a private
soldier fronted that of his enemy, except Lord Brook's purple

* Clarendon Hist. Reb. Mrs. Hutchinson's Memoirs.
t Speciall Newes from the Army at Warwicke since the fight; sent from
a minister of good note. In Mr. Staunton's Collection.


coats, Colonel Ballard's grey coats, and Denzil Holles's gallant
red coats, who, again opposed to superior numbers, and under
the severer trial of witnessing the cowardice of their comrades,
had nobly rushed across the advancing enemy. But the King's
cavalry had already swept by with an impetuosity which infantry,
forming hastily, and from a flank, could not withstand. But
these brave regiments, though overborne, rallied, and at once
engaged and checked the whole infantry of the King's right
and centre. Meanwhile, the pursuit lasted across the open
fields for three miles, up to Keinton itself, with tremendous
slaughter. But here Rupert's triumph ended ; and he incurred
the reproach of allowing himself to be detained in an inglorious
work of plunder for upwards of an hour, while the King's
infantry was engaged, and worsted for lack of his support.
The principal part of the baggage of the Parliament's army
was lying in waggons in the streets of Keinton. Few were
left to guard it, and the horses had been all moved forward to
assist with the artillery, which was in action. The pillage of
these now wholly fixed the attention of the Prince, who thus
delayed his return to the battle, and gave his soldiers an
example of insubordination which it was one of his most
urgent duties to discountenance and repress.* The alarm was
given to him, while thus employed, that the enemy was again
forming, reinforced by fresh troops, on the outskirts of the
town. The ground on which he raDied and drew up his
cavalry to charge them again, is still known as ' Prince Rupert's
' Head-land,' and gives its name to a farm about a mile to
the north-eastward of Keiuton. But it was now too late.
Hampden, who had left Stratford-on-Avon the evening before,
had pushed on with Colonel Grantham's regiment, and his own
green coats, and five guns, with which the men had, all night,
toiled through the deep roads, leaving behind Colonel Barkham's
and Lord Rochford's regiments to bring up the rest of the
artillery and great store of ammunition, which did not arrive
till the day after. And now the two regiments, led by Hamp-
den, were seen hastening across the enclosures to support the
mangled squadrons of flying horse. Dragging their guns out
of the lanes along which they had advanced, they formed

* It is said of the Prince, that, on his return to the field of battle,
finding the royal army in confusion, and the King himself in great danger,
he told him that he ' could give a good account of the enemy's horse.'
' Ay, by G d/ exclaimed a cavalier, ' and of their carts too ! '


between the pursued and the pursuers, and opened their fire
upon Rupert, killing several of his men and horses, and, though
unable to pursue, obliging him, in his turn, to recross the
plain in great confusion.

Rupert, on his return, found the King's battle wearing
a very different aspect from that under which he had left it.
Holles's, and Ballard's, and Brook's regiments, having made
good the ground abandoned by the fugitives, had now poured
in from the flank upon the main body of the King, which, at
the same time, was charged in front by the rest pf the Parlia-
ment's infantry, headed by the Earl of Essex in person. The
gentlemen and officers of the cavalry, instead of flying with
their men, had joined to strengthen the centre. And Colonel
Charles Essex, having striven in vain to rally his craven
regiment, returned to die bravely as a volunteer in more
honourable company. He, and the Lord St. John, met their

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 36 of 45)