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

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streets under pole-axes, the cavaliers soe out-braved it. The K' s
horse are their, with 7000 dragooners. The foote I knowe not,
saue that Colonell Salisbury, (my countryman,) hath 1200 poore
Welch vermins, the offscowringe of the nation. Dr. Hood
remembers his best respects to you ; * but groanes for rent. He
is much afraid of your safety. He prayes for you. Oxonshire
was sent for to contribute to his Ma ties necessity. Little helpe
(God knowes). They pillage extreamely about Oxon. Whole

teames taken away, euen of y e E. of 's man Bigge of

Staunton. Soe much happines to your worsP, as to
' Your oblidged seruant,


' WOOTTON-, 9 ber 3 rd , 1642.
' To the Right Wor f " u Rich. Grenvil,

'Esq., High Sheriffs of Bucks,

' these present.'

On the day on which Hampden's letter was written to the
Buckinghamshire Lieutenancy, encouraging them with the
assurance of speedy support, and exhorting them to hold out
manfully for the defence of their county until the succour
should arrive, a severe skirmish took place at Aylesbury, in
which a part of his own regiment and Colonel Grantham's, sup-
ported by six troops of horse under Sir William Balfore,
repulsed a very superior force led by Prince Rupert in person.
Strong parties had been sent forth from Banbury and Oxford
to collect forage and drive in cattle for the King's army,, to
watch the march of Essex's army, to hover on his flank, and hinder
his communications with the metropolis. The small garrison of

* Warden of Ke\v College. Mr. Grenvil held some large farms, near
Wotton, under that college.

To 1642.] HIS PA11TY AND HIS TIMES. 309

new-raised militia at Aylesbury had been moved to some quarter
which was more closely threatened ; and the town, and the rich
pastures of the vale which surrounds it, were left unprotected.
Thither Prince Rupert marched with a force of some thousands
of horse and foot, and, after some days passed in securing for the
King's use much of the produce of the vale, and despoiling and
laying waste much more than he secured, entered and possessed
himself of the town. Here, after one day more of free- quarter
in Aylesbury, during which the inhabitants were made to suffer
all sorts of outrage from his soldiers, he received intelligence
of the approach of a brigade of the Parliament's troops from
Stony Stratford. Rupert, probably afraid of attempting a
defence within the walls of a place, however well adapted by
its situation for defence, where the townsmen were all his
enemies, and having in his front a country over which his
cavalry could act with great advantage, left there but a troop
of horse and two companies of foot, and marched out with all
the rest of his force to meet the advancing enemy. But he
had not gone farther than the brook about half-a-mile to the
northward of the town, where there was then no passage but a
bad ford, swollen by the rains, when he found himself checked
by Balfore's horse and foot, in column, on the opposite bank.
After the first volley or two, Rupert charged across the ford,
and breaking through Balfore's two first lines of infantry,
plunged into the centre of his horse, who were flanked on the
right by Charles Pym's troop. And here a sharp and desperate
conflict began. Sir Lewis Dives came up with the Prince's
reserve, and Captain Herbert Blanchard with Balfore's; the
musketry of the foot, the carbines and petronels of the cavalry,
swords, and pole-axes, all doing the work of death, and the
soldiers of all arms mixed and fighting in one close and furious
throng. It lasted thus but a few minutes. The King's troops
were driven back across the stream, and Rupert rallied on the
other side, only to lose more men from the fire, and to receive
a charge in return, winch drove him back in confusion towards
the town. In vain did the troops hurry down to his support.
The townsmen rushed forth upon their rear, with whatever
arms haste and fury could supply to them, and Rupert began
his retreat towards Thame, before the mingled troops and
populace, who, however, after slaughtering the hindmost for
above a mile, did not venture further to pursue among the
enclosures a forqe still superior to their own. In this action


some hundreds of Rupert's men fell, and of the Parliamentarians
above ninety, according to the confession of the report pub-
lished in London.*

In a letter from Wobura on the 4th of November, the Lord-
General desired the Deputy-Lieutenants of Buckinghamshire to
march all their train-bands, horse and foot, to St. Albans, to
join his army there on the next day, promising protection if
the King should traverse their county, but calling upon them
to strengthen his force for the defence of London, if his inarch
should be pursued in that direction.!

It was soon evident, however, that London was the King's
object. The advanced guard, under Prince Rupert, was quar-
tered at Maidenhead, and a strong picket at Colnbrook.
"With all dispatch, therefore, Lord Essex proceeded to the
metropolis, which he entered two days after. There he was
received with every mark of gratitude and honour, the thanks
of the two Houses being voted to him, and a sum of 5,000,
in testimony of approbation of his conduct at Edge Hill. J

Holies, with his regiment, was quartered at Brentford, and
Hampden in the neighbourhood of Uxbridge. Meanwhile,
two ships of war were brought up the Thames as high as the
bridge, and a division of gun-boats moored off Westminster.

And now the Houses voted that the Earls of Northumber-
land and Pembroke, and four members of the Commons,
should act as commissioners to treat with the King for peace.

On the morning of Thursday the 10th of November, the
commissioners set forth, and, at Colnbrook, were met by Sir
Peter Killegrew, with news that the King was on horseback
coming into the town with his artillery from Maidenhead. In
Colnbrook they waited to receive him. Having read the
petition the King bespoke them courteously. He said that they
could not expect a present answer to a petition of so great
importance ; yet that he would deliver it in part the next day,

* Good and joyfull ne\ves out of Buckinghamshire Dr. Mundell'a Letter.
Some of the remains of this skirmish were discovered, a few years ago, by
the labourers who were digging pits for gravel, in a field at Holman's
Bridge, near the old ford. More than two hundred skeletons were
found buried in the small space which was opened ; among which, many
appeared, from the manner in which they were laid, to have been those of
officers. [Lord Nugent might have added, that by his care these remains
of so many gallant Englishmen were transferred to a grave in Hardwicke
church yard, where a suitable tomb, with a touching inscription written
by himself, was placed over them.]

t Mr. Grenvil's papers. J Speciall Passages. Ibid.


and send it by a special messenger to Parliament. On
Friday morning, both Houses met, and, having received the
report of their commissioners, resolved to sit that afternoon to
await the signification of his Majesty's further pleasure. The
promised message arrived not, but, instead, reports of hasty
warrants by the King, violently enforced, requiring the inha-
bitants of the country round Maidenhead instantly to supply
means of transport for guns and stores, and horses for a
remount to his cavalry. On Saturday, however, the answer
was brought by the Earl of Northumberland, in which the
King called God to witness his great desire of peace, and, in
order to avoid further blood-shedding, offered to treat at
Windsor, or wherever else he might be. This was received
with great demonstrations of joy. It was considered as no
less than saving London from the attempt of an infuriated
army to carry it by storm, and as a sure earnest of the King's
disposition to grant fair terms of peace. But, on that very
morning, while the King's answer was before the Houses, he
was in full march to the execution of a foul and cruel act of
treachery. He marched during a treaty, and while the other
party were actually reading his message of readiness to listen
to terms of peace. Vainly does Clarendon essay to clear
Charles of this ineffaceable charge. He states him to have
sent, some days after, a vindication of himself in a message to
Parliament, in which he told them of the ' Earl of Essex's
' drawing out his forces towards him, and possessing those
' quarters about him, and almost hemming him in after the
' time that the Commissioners were sent to him with the
' Petition.' * But Clarendon himself shows that this advance
of Essex's, with which, by a confusion of dates, the King art-
fully reproaches the Parliament, took place after the attack
had been made on the Parliament's quarters at Brentford ; and
he moreover admits that ' the Houses were so well satisfied
' with the answer their committee had brought from the
' King, and with their report of his Majesty's clemency and
' gracious reception of them, that they had sent order to their
' forces " that they should not exercise any act of hostility
f towards the King's forces ;" and at the same time despatched
' a messenger to acquaint his Majesty therewith, and to
' desire " that there might be the like forbearance on his
' part." ' f

* Clarendon Hist. Reb. f Ibid.


At day-break, the morning being unusually misty, and the
Parliament's pickets reposing under the security of a flag of
truce which had passed their lines, eight regiments of the
King's foot, and twenty troops of horse, with six guns, were
dispatched from Colnbrook to Sion, and, finding only Holies' s
regiment in the town of Brentford, broke in upon their quarters.
For three hours the fight was maintained by this small unsup-
ported force, occupying the houses and disputing each street ;
until Brook and Hampden came in from their cantonments to
the sound of the firing. The contest became more general,
though still against fearful odds. Five times did Brook and
Hampden charge the streets, to endeavour to open a retreat
for this brave and suffering regiment who had so desperately
maintained themselves. But the King's troops, having, in
part, made good their advance through the town, now invested
it, attacking on all sides with horse, foot, and artillery. No
hope remained but to hold out till succour might arrive from
London. Towards evening, Lord Essex was seen advancing
from that direction with the train-bands of the City in brave
array, having received the news of the struggle which was going
on as they were assembled for exercise in Chelsea Fields. Still,
the brigade under the Parliamentary colonels within the town
remained surrounded. They maintained the fight in the
streets, having held the post obstinately till the arrival of
Essex ; and now oppressed by numbers, and their ammunition
spent, the remnant of this gallant little force threw themselves
into the Thames, where many were drowned ; but the greater
part were enabled, some by the help of boats and barges, and
some by swimming down the stream, to rejoin their friends,
who covered the bank. Supported by the Earl and the train-
bands, they again advanced, and in sufficient strength to beat
the King's troops through the town, who had occupied it for
some hours, and to pursue them for several miles in the dark,
as long as they could see the glimmer of the matches.*

During this action, the King was at Hcunslow, sending
orders to his regiments, from time to time, to push on at all
risks, and without delay, to London.f

* Speciall Passages. England's Memorable Accidents. Clarendon
Hist. Reb. Ludlow's Mein. Mrs. Hutchinson.

( In this action, John Lilburne was takeu, among other prisoners, by
the King, and being removed to Oxford, was tried before Judge Heath for
his life. Tlie manner of his defence of himself at law upon hia trial, was


On the next morning the whole army of the Parliament,
having arrived from London, joined their train-bands and
other troops who had been engaged the evening before, and
took up their ground on Turnham Green, in force about
twenty-four thousand horse and foot. Orders were given that
two regiments of horse, and four of foot, should march by
Acton and Osterley Park towards Hounslow to the rear of the
King's army, which had now moved from its different quarters
about Kingston, and was drawn up on the heaths; while
Essex, with the three great divisions that remained, was to
attack them in front.

Hampden was detached to lead the van of the infantry, next j
to the horse. But he had not proceeded above a mile, when, i
in consequence of one of those changes of counsel so often j
fatal to Essex's success in the moment of advantage, the whole '
plan was abandoned, and Hampden was recalled.

The troops remained under arms for many hours, facing the
King's lines, and occasionally advancing towards them. While
the general was debating in another council of war whether he
should fall on, the King drew off his ordnance and tumbrils,
and began to retire. Lord Essex, (whether it was owing to
his besetting vice of over-caution when rapid and resolute
action was required, or whether he was deceived by false
information respecting those troops of the King who had been
on the Surrey side the day before,) had sent three thousand
men across a bridge of boats between Battersea and Fulharn to
dislodge the cavaliers, after they had already passed over at
Kingston to join their main army.*

Thus weakened, and made aware of his mistake by the
increasing length of the lines opposed to him, he paused. The
Earl of Holland, a man of neither courage nor fidelity, busied
himself at this moment to work upon Lord Essex's irresolution,
exaggerating to him the amount of the King's force, and
advising him not to fight until the wing which had crossed the
river should return. Dalbier again was at his side. Again
Hampden's urgent remonstrance was over-ruled. Skippon,
who, at the head of his London train-bands, and jealous of

in accordance with his deportment on other occasions. It was resolute and
fearless. But his death was resolved upon, till delayed by a message from
Lord Essex, who threatened the execution of three prisoners in the hands
of the Parliament, for every one of the Parliament's officers executed by
the King.

* Speciall Passages, &c. from Sth to 15th November.


their fame, thirsted for the occasion of leading them forward,
now to their .first encounter, joined eagerly with Hampden in
imploring Essex at once to rush on upon the King, and, if
they should fail to rout him at the first onset, to hang upon
his march to enter every town in action with his rear
guard, and not to quit him till they had destroyed his
army, and thus brought the war to a conclusion, or at
least had so weakened him as to put beyond question his
further projects for that winter. Instead of this, not a blow
was struck. For the second time, the great occasion of
decisive success was lost ; and the King was allowed, un-
molested, to retreat on Colnbrook, and having passed two
days at Hampton Court, from thence, by the way of Beading,
to Oxford.*

* Whitelocke's Memorials. Warwick's and Ludlow's Memoirs. Perfect
Diurnal. Continuation of Speciall and Remarkable Occurrences. England's
Memorable Accidents. Mrs. Hutchinson's Memoirs. Clarendon Hist.



FROM 1642 TO 1643.

Hampden and Urrie take Reading by assault Hampden arranges the plan of
union of the six associated counties Parliament's troops press upon the
King's quarters at Oxford Lord Wentworth attacks High Wycombe, and is
repulsed Essex retires King's successes in divers parts Queen lands in
England Reading re-entered by the King's troops Hampden and Mr.
Richard Grenvil repulsed from Brill Sir Bevill Grenvil in Cornwall
Bradock Down, and Stratton Hill Lansdown Trelawney's letter to the
Lady Grace Grenvil, announcing Sir Bevill's death Siege of Lichfield Lord
Brook slain Warder Castle twice taken Overtures of peace, and cessation
of arms Broken off Reading besieged by Lord Essex Surrenders
Defections from the Parliament's cause Waller's Plot Rupert's expeditions
against the Parliament's quarters Attacks Chinnor and Postcombe Chal-
grove fight Hampden wounded His last moments and death Conclusion
of the Memorials.

THE King had failed in his attempt to seize the metropolis
while a treaty was pending. This act had exasperated and
united against him those in London who had been divided,
disheartened and reduced to ask for peace upon almost anv
terms that might secure their city from assault and plunder.
The contributions had begun to come in slowly from the city,
and the army were clamouring for pay. A new levy of
customs had been made, and Lord Brook, Lord Say, and Sir
Harry Vane, had been deputed to meet the citizens in Guild-
hall. They had urged with all their eloquence and power,
enforced with all the topics which the necessity of the times
suggested, a speedy and vigorous supply. But the proposi-
tions had been coldly received. Great meetings of idlers,
under the name of 'the Apprentices/ had been called together,
in Covent Garden and other open spaces, to petition the


Houses for peace and accommodation, and symptoms of tumult
had appeared among the soldiers assembling at the Globe
Tavern and divers other places of public resort, which it
required the presence of some of the most popular of the
leaders to allay. But the general cry of perfidy against the
King now reconciled all differences and armed all spirits to
improve the late advantage. Even his friends endeavoured
but faintly and confusedly to apologise for the circumstances
of his late enterprise. Success sometimes covers over the
iniquity of an act, which, in failure only, is branded with
appropriate disgrace ; and, against the exultations of a trium-
phant party, the reproach of bad faith can seldom gain an
attentive or patient hearing. But Charles's retreat was as
inglorious as his advance had been morally shameful. Yet,
through the criminal indecision of Essex, the repulse of the
King became as little signal, and the result of it substantially
as little beneficial to the Parliament, as, under the circum-
stances, it could be. He who had been the ' darling of the
sword-men ' still maintained all that frankness of manner with
the soldiers which, joined to personal bravery, makes a leader
beloved of them. He had, besides, the nobler quality of a
quick and lofty sense of military honour. But his weak
fondness for hereditary distinction, ill-disguised in converse
with his equals ; his cautious reserve on all points relating to
the great principles of that cause, on which he had entered
rather, as was suspected, from disappointed ambition than
from any attachment to popular doctrines; and his frigid
reluctance at all times to seize the fruits of prosperity, so as to
turn them to instant and important account; began to disgust
the principal persons both in the Parliament and in the army,
and to make it seen that he was but an ineffective champion in
a revolutionary conflict. Distrustful of the consequences, even
before the achievement was complete, and alarmed as much at
the decisive character of the persons with whom, as of the
times in which he had to act, his first care always was to
control rather than advance the tide of success, and his
besetting fear was that of doing too much. This was con-
tinually and fatally inclining him to secret compromises, which,
in the end, made him well nigh faithless to the cause with
which he was entrusted, because he had undertaken it without
reconciling himself to all that it might in its course demand.
His example chilled the spirit of his troops, and disturbed the


cordiality of their leaders. He saw not the necessity of
exciting in his ranks an enthusiasm which might cope with the
chivalrous sentiment cultivated throughout those of the King,
and the constitution of the Parliamentary army became justly
liable to the criticism passed upon it by Cromwell in conver-
sation with Hampden.* Hampden' s duty in the field was to
obey. It was mortifying to his genius. But his modesty and
public virtue rendered, in his mind, the dangers of disunion
paramount over all other dangers. He sometimes remonstrated,
but, when overruled, always did his best to make even those
counsels prosper which he disapproved. His conduct in
detached command ever formed a striking contrast with that
of his dilatory chief. This was a practical reproach which
Hampden could not spare him. Hampden was ever prompt,
and, generally, successful.

After the King's retreat, Essex, by order of the Parliament,
advanced upon Windsor, and, crossing the Thames at Mar-
low, drove Rupert out of that town and Henley. He
placed a garrison in both, and made good the whole country
on the right bank of the Thames. Hampden had pressed
forward with his own brigade to Reading; and a small
body of cavalry had been sent from Henley, under Urrie, to
second him. With this reinforcement, he endeavoured to
place himself between Prince Rupert and Oxford. The Prince,
however, on his approach, to avoid being cut off, hastened his
own retreat, leaving all the baggage of his division in Reading,
with a garrison of about fifteen hundred men, commanded by
Colonel Lewis Kirke, the father of him who, in after times,
was so infamously notorious for his cruelties in the west of
England. Reading had been, about a month before, abandoned
to the King's troops, in a manner not very reputable, by Henry
Marten. It was a place of importance to an army advancing
either towards or from London, being capable of holding a
large garrison, and having four roads open to it. Upon this
town Hampden marched, having captured some straggling
parties of the cavaliers ; and, sitting down before it, opened
trenches, and threw up a redoubt, on the rising ground to the
north-west. He then sent in a gentleman of quality, with a
flag of truce and a trumpet, offering as terms an entire indemnity
to all who were not included in the Parliament's proclamation,
with full liberty to depart when the town should have

* See Burton's Diary, Appendix, vol. ii., p. 501, 2.


surrendered. To this an arrogant answer was returned by
Kirke.* He confided not a little in Hampden' s reluctance to
open batteries upon a town full of inhabitants who were generally
well affected to the Parliamentary cause, and some of whom
probably were connected in friendly habits with the neighbour-
ing family of the Vachells of Coley. Accordingly, though
commanding a view of almost every street, Hampden fired few
shot into the town, except what were necessary to cover his
approaches within a distance at which he might drive the
troops from the walls with musquetry. Kirke, in the mean-
while, pressed the town's people to serve, not only in working
parties, but also in the defence. On the second night, he
attempted several sallies to destroy the Parliament's works,
but was repulsed at each time with loss. At day-break on the
third morning, Hampden and Urrie seeing all quiet within,
and judging the garrison to be fatigued and dispirited with the
unsuccessful enterprises of the night, determined to try if, with
some companies of their best and most resolute soldiers, they
could force and carry the walls by assault. In the grey
twilight of the morning, advancing silently from the trenches
with four hundred chosen men, Hampden passed the outer
and second ditch, and, mounting the rampart, threw himself
into the northernmost bastion. The townsmen, who formed
part of the guard, at once laid down their arms; but the
regular troops, falling back upon the second line of batteries,
though hotly pursued, were well supported by the main garrison
of the place, and made a stout stand. Here the success of the
attack became very doubtful; the cavaliers rallying bravely,
and beating back the assailants into the ditches, where,
scattering grenades among them, a fearful slaughter began.
But Hampden, calling forward the reserves, placed himself at
the head of a second attack, and, again struggling up the
walls with fresh men, renewed the fight on the crest of the
main work. It was then that, Kirke drawing out nearly the
whole garrison from the body of the place, the conflict came
to push of pike, chief to chief, each at the head of his party.
and each cheering his men by his presence and example.

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 38 of 45)