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

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Several of the officers on both sides rushing to the front were
slain, and Hampden could not long have maintained himself

* A true relation of the proceedings of His Excellency the Earl of Essex,
with the taking of Reading by Colonel Hampden and Colonel Hurry.
King's Collection. Brit. Mus.


against the superior force now crowding out upon him, and
supported by the fire from the body of the place, had not
Urrie, who had been detached to the right, pushed between
the cavaliers and the town. Instantly the inhabitants within
ceased their fire. It was not till after four hour's fighting,
and till above four hundred of the garrison had been laid dead,
and the Parliamentarians had planted their ensigns on the top
of the work, that Colonel Kirke abandoned the defence.
Escaping with a few of his followers through a sally-port on
the left into the town, he got to his horses, and fled to Oxford,
leaving Hampden master of Reading, the stores and baggage
which had been left there, and a great number of prisoners.*

Meanwhile Lord Essex, who remained at Henley, had sent
some forces from Kingston-upon-Thames to make head against
the Cavaliers' levies in Sussex, which, under Lord Thanet and
the high sheriff, Ford, were committing great havoc in that
county. They were advancing upon Lewes, between which
town and Cuckfield, on Hawood Heath, they were met by the
Parliament's detachments, defeated, and beaten back upon
Chichester, which was fortified, and held for the King.

The King's garrison of Farnham Castle, commanded by
Sir John Denham, was also attacked and reduced, after a very
slight and bad defence, and little loss on the Parliament's side,
excepting that of Colonel Fane, son to the Earl of West-
morland, who was shot through the cheek, and died a few
clays after. Sir John Denham was more eminent as poet,
gamester, and wit, than soldier. When George Wither was,
shortly after this time, brought prisoner to Oxford, and was
in some jeopardy, having been taken in arms against the King,
Sir John Denham begged the King not to hang him, for that
' while Wither lives, Denham will not be the worst poet in
' England.'f This good-natured epigram contributed to save
Witlier's life, and was afterwards also the means of restoring to
Penham some of his property in Surrey, which had been con-
fiscated by Parliament and given to Wither. But it would be
unfair to refer a kind and gentle act to an interested motive.

These were not the only successes now obtained by the
detachments of the Parliament's army in the midland districts
of England. The King had scarcely established his head

* A True Relation, &c. Kingdom's Weekly Intelligencer,
f Wood. Ath. Oxon.


quarters at Oxford when Prince Rupert resumed his incursions
on the country between that city and the Parliament's lines.
Hampden was almost daily on the road between the advanced
posts of the army and London. With prodigious activity did
he appear fulfilling at almost the same time the double duties
of command in the field, and counsel in the Close Committee ;
reporting to the House on the state of the army from the head
quarters, and of the nation from the Committee ; and then,
without stay of time or purpose, posting down to take command
of his brigade in action, or to strengthen the garrison of some
menaced town.* Nor were these the sum of his various, un-
ceasing, and important labours. From Aylesbury he began to
form the union of the six associated midland counties of
Bucks, Hertford, Bedford, Huntingdon, Cambridge, and
Northampton. He conducted the correspondence, he arranged
the details, he allayed the jealousies, which beset the first for-
mation of a plan in conformity with which different districts,
threatened by one common danger, yet unaccustomed to act
under one common chief, were called upon to contribute out
of a common fund of money and men to each other's neces-
sities, when each felt only its own weakness and poverty. In
concert with Lord Say and Lord Kimbolton, he gradually
brought all the materials which these counties could separately
supply, to act as one compacted machine, full of vigour and
alacrity. He lived not indeed to see this engine working with
all the power which belonged to it ; but, before his death, it
began to be adopted as a model in other parts of England, and,
afterwards, furnished Cromwell with the means which his great
genius and energy made successful.

Lord Essex, meanwhile, strongly urged by messages from
the two Houses, proceeded, though slowly, towards the great
object of the war. On the 5th of December, he put the main
body of his army in motion, with the design of investing

* See Perfect Diurnal, Sept. 12, 19, 26. Oct. 3. Xov. 16, 28. Dec. 5.
Continuation of certain Speeiall and Remarkable Passages. &c. Nov. 23.
Dec. 8, 15. Denham thus describes it, in his lampoon on Hainpdeu,
entitled ' A Speech Against Peace, at the Close Committee.'

' Have I so often passed between
' Windsor and Westminster, uuseen,

' And did myself divide,
' To keep His Excellence in awe,
' And give the Parliament the law]

' For they knew none beside.'


Oxford. This had never been a favourite enterprise of his
own, nor is it probable that he would have undertaken it now,
had he not known that an impression of his inactivity was
daily sinking deeper into the minds of the army and of the
Parliament. Hampden's influence in the Close Committee,
which in truth had the supreme direction of the war, made his
position with Lord Essex, under whom he was acting as a
colonel in the field, one of great difficulty. His advice, from
the beginning of the King's retreat, had always been, as we
have seen, the bolder one of an instant advance upon Oxford,
in order to bring the King to terms which he should after-
wards have neither the temptation nor power to break
through. Peremptory directions were now sent to the Lord
General to make a forward movement. He could no longer
find a pretext for remaining on his ground in the south of
Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, when the country was open
before him. He therefore chose the least enterprising course
which was allowed him. He determined to narrow his distance
from Oxford, and to begin the forms of a regular investment,
when he ought to have marched his army into the town. On
his advance, he had a successful skirmish at Stoken Church
with a brigade of the King's troops, who retired before him ;
and, a few days after, having fortified Tedstock, about ten
miles from Oxford, he sent forward Arthur Goodwyn with his
regiment of foot and five troops of horse to possess themselves
of Abingdon, where they lay within a mile of the advanced
pickets of the King. Meanwhile, Sir John Meldrum and
Colonel Langharn, with their two regiments of infantry, seven
troops of horse, and nine heavy guns and four small drakes,
had passed by the westward without opposition beyond Oxford,
and had entrenched themselves near Woodstock. The count ry
to the eastward alone remained open to the operations of the
King's troops. To be tempted into action with the Parlia-
mentarians on either of the other two sides might have weak-
ened the King's powers too much by dividing them, and would
have taken them away from the main object of London. It
would besides have left Oxford exposed to a sudden assault
from any one of the small parties which had now approached
so near on three sides. Something it was necessary that the
King should do to prevent the investment from becoming
complete. He conceived the project of turning the whole of
Essex's right flank, and again throwing a body of troops in


the rear of it upon the eastern road to London. Prince
Rupert was sent to besiege Cirencester, in order to prevent
the Parliament's garrison there from interfering with this
enterprise. A strong body of horse, near five thousand, with
artillery, now proceeded, under the command of the young
Lord Wentworth, Lord Strafford's son, by the way of Thame,
to menace Aylesbury and Wy combe. The King had forces
on the Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire side who were to
overrun those counties, and so possess themselves of the Hert-
fordshire road. But the Association had been active in
Cambridgeshire. They had collected their levies with great
rapidity upon these points, and appeared in such force, that to
attack them would have materially delayed the King's object,
and to leave them in the rear would have been unsafe. The
detachments which had moved into Hertfordshire had no
better success. They were checked at Watford ; and, finding
themselves opposed in front, and threatened on their right by
the militias of the six counties, they were fain to retreat by
the same road along which they had advanced.*

Wentworth made a more promising attempt. Finding
Aylesbury well fortified to the northward and westward by
strong batteries, and to the east by a redoubt on the rising
ground towards Bierton, and not wishing to waste time in a
siege, he suddenly left it, moving rapidly by the lanes across
the Chilterns, and coming down through the Woodlands upon

There he took post on the two high hills towards the side
of Wycombe Heath and the Penn Woods. To such as know
the appearance of Wycombe from either of those heights it
would seem that the assailants would not have required artil-
lery, nay, hardly more than the fire-arms of the dragoons, to
render it untenable. But Lord Wentworth ' sounded his
' trumpets and made a glorious show/ and then, descending
into the valley, endeavoured to enter the town from the side
of the Rye. Here he was taken in flank by about four
thousand pike-men, volunteers raised in the neighbourhood,
and opposed in front by the small garrison of regular troops
commanded by Captain Hayes, who were supported by some
gun?. After several hours' fighting, Lord Wentworth retired,
himself wounded, having lost near nine hundred of his men,

* Special! Passages.


and with no other success than the having slain about three
hundred of the Parliamentarians.*

The purpose of these enterprises having failed, and Lord
Essex having now so nearly succeeded in investing Oxford,
Charles was urgently advised by some to betake himself to the
North ; the rather, as his army in those parts, now hard
pressed by the Fairfaxes and Hothams, might receive counte-
nance from their sovereign's presence, and that he, by a
personal view of their necessities, might be induced to spare
to them, from his magazines in the South, supplies of ammu-
nition and other stores, which, by the vigilance of Lord
A\ arwick's cruisers, they had failed to obtain from abroad.
These supplies, timely obtained, might, it was hoped, enable
them to reduce Hull and convert it into an important place
of arms for his service. The Earl of Essex being made aware
of this intention, instantly dispatched orders to the forces in
the Committees of Northampton, Warwick, Derby, and the
neighbourhood of Worcester, and to Lord Stamford in Hert-
fordshire, to collect with all possible speed all their strength,
to intercept the King's progress to the North, and to oppose
Lord Digby, who was marching to the Westward in great
force for the purpose of diverting them from watching the
King. Lord Essex also set forward with an advanced guard
of infantry and artillery, now near Oxford, in pursuit. Thus
prosperously looked the affairs of the Parliament in this
quarter, when a sudden combination of active and successful
movements in various parts of England, assisted by other
circumstances of good fortune, turned the whole aspect of the
campaign in favour of the King, and closed that year with
giving him a very decisive advantage. Cirencester was taken
by Prince llupert, who committed the most dreadful severities,
putting a great part of the garrison and numbers of the towns-
people to the sword. 'It yielded/ says Clarendon, 'much
' plunder, from which the undistinguishing soldier could not
' be kept, but was equally injurious to friend and foe; ' so that
many who had been imprisoned by the Parliament, 'found
' themselves at liberty, and undone, together.' Rupert, in-
stantly after, scoured the borders of North A Vales, giving
support and confidence to the King's friends in those districts,

* Captain Hayes's and Goodwyn's Letters. A most glorious and happy
victory obtained of the Lord \Veiitworth by the Buckingham &o. Volun-
teers, 7th December, 1642. King's Collect. Brit. Mus.

T 2


and receiving only a slight check at Gloucester, where he was
stopped and beaten off by the gallantry of General Massey.

The Queen had about this time arrived from Holland,
making good her landing at Burlington, though pursued by
the Parliament's fleet. She brought three ships laden with
ammunition, arms, and stores of all sorts, and a large sum of
money, which, together, enabled the Earl of Newcastle to put
into activity the powers of an association which he had formed
for the King in the four northern counties, and to which he
now gave the name of the Queen's army. Thus supported
and reinforced he cleared the whole country to the north of
the Humber, and laid siege to Hull. A great J>ody of the
principal gentry of the West had now taken the field in the
King's behalf, supported by a numerous army, and opposed
only by General Euthen and General James Chudleigh, who
had to carry on the operations of the campaign in a district
the people of which were generally hostile to the Parliament's
cause. Exeter was besieged by Hopton and Sir Bevill Grenvil,
who, though more than once repulsed, ceased not to threaten
that city, and impede the supplies coming up to it from the

"""Marlborough also was entered, and held by a powerful
garrison under the Lords Wilmot, Grandison, and Digby.

These advantages on the King's part were scarcely counter-
balanced by the taking of VYinchester, Hereford, and Mon-
mouth, by Sir William Waller, and shortly after, of Leeds, by
Sir Thomas Fairfax, who also, in the course of the next month,
gave the Earl of Newcastle a signal defeat at Wakefield.*

The Earl of Essex saw the necessity of detaching a part of
his own army to succour the cause in the West, and Prince
Rupert was now on his return to strengthen that of the King.
Instead, then, of the long and often demanded attack on
Oxford (for which all things were ripe, and which could
hardly have failed in the execution, and the success of which
would have probably gone near to end the war), the Lord
General preferred to concentrate his force by abandoning that"
neighbourhood and drawing nearer to London.

Oxford could not have withstood a two days' siege. Besides
the natural disadvantages of its position, its inhabitants,
though loud for the King while he was present and the

* Heath's Chronicle.


enemy at a distance, were not to be depended on. The
University, during the advance of the Parliament's army upon
AY orcester, in the preceding autumn, had petitioned the Earl
of Pembroke, their Chancellor, for his protection ; to which a
scornful answer had been returned by the Earl, telling the
Vice-Chancellor, that the open course of hostility which that
body had adopted against the authority of Parliament, not
only by the raising of supplies of plate and money for the
King, but by enrolling the gownsmen in troops, had deprived
them of all claim to favour, except such as the laws of war
granted to garrisons submitting at discretion. Lord Say and
Hampden, however, on their entry, had not

' Lifted their spear against the Muses' bower.'

Oxford had not been subject to plunder or to any of the other
extremities of war.

Reading was now for the second time abandoned to be gar-
risoned for the King, and Maidenhead became an advanced
post of the Parliament's army, again reduced to a defensive
position before London.

In this posture were the two armies at the beginning of
l<il-'3. Proposals of peace were again voted by Parliament ;
but they were still grounded upon the assumption that the
King had, under the control of evil advisers, levied war upon
his Parliament, and the basis of accommmodation was the
stipulation that he should return to London. A cessation of
arm;?, however, was agreed to, during which commissioners
might meet to negotiate terms. But hitherto the various
successes on both sides had left the issue of the war as doubt-
ful as it had been before the Edge-Hill fight. The armies
were in their winter-quarters, without any immediate prospect
of a forward movement on either side that could lead to any
decisive advantage, and the sanguine temperament of the
King, daily flattering him with the expectation of favourable
news from the North and from the West, made him reject all
overtures of treaty.

On the 1st of January appeared at Oxford the first number
of the 'Mercurius Aulicus/ Journals of occurrences had
been for some time published weekly by the Parliament, and
proclamations and intelligences issued on the King's part,
generally in the shape of single broad sheets printed by
authority. Dr. rleylin now undertook the business of the


press, and he worked it with an activity and virulence, and
with a disregard of fact in his statements, which even more
than rivalled the exaggerations of those sent forth by the
weekly writers of the Parliament's party. Indeed, it requires
great care, in referring to such authority on either side at
about this time, not to be grossly deceived as to the reality as
well as the character of many of the events which are recorded.
We find battles announced as won by the Earl of Newcastle
and Lord Northampton which never were fought, and ' Cer-
' taine intelligence of great and signal victories obtained by
' the Earl of Essex/ or 'joyfull newes from the West, with a
' greate defeate of the Malignants under Hopton/ with more
than once a ' confident belief that Prince Rupert was slain.
It is difficult to say on which side the balance of untruth pre-

fponderated. More newspapers were published by the Parlia-
ment ; six in London alone. For the King there were the
Mercurius Aulicus published at Oxford, and the Belgicus at
thRTftagtfe for distribution on the English coast, besides pro-
clamations and other intelligences. But Dr. Heylin was
eminent above all other men in the compounding of what, in
modern phrase, would be called a bulletin from the army. If,
on the one hand, Essex forbore from occupying a town or
village which would have made a strong post in advance
against the King, and a picket of Rupert's entered it at night,
the transaction was next week magnified by Dr. Heylin into a
triumphant routing of the runaway roundheads, or a signal
and providential argument of the unanimity of the country
round in favour of the royal cause. It must, however, be
admitted that, if Heylin equalled, and sometimes surpassed,
the Parliament's journalists in exaggeration, the Mercurius
Aulicus was written with great ability, and had much the
advantage over the other papers of those times in its powers of
sarcasm and invective, and in the ingenuity of its misrepre-
sentations. On the whole, it is seldom safe to state a fact of
any importance to the characters of those engaged in it on
contemporary evidence, when it is not vouched by the con-
current testimony of both parties.

On the morning of the 1st of January there was a sharp
skirmish in the town of Burford, between some of the Parlia-
ment's dragoons and Sir John Byron, who, with his regiment,
was escorting ammunition to the Marquis of Hertford. At
about midnight of the 31st, Byron and his men having retired


to their quarters, their sentinels descried four horsemen by
the light of their matches, the advanced guard of a troop
entering the town from the Cirencester road, and, before the
alarm could be well given, about two hundred dragoons were
in the market-place. The conflict began about the White
Hart, an inn at the town's end, from which a lane led to the
market-cross. Byron, taking possession of the cross and the
houses about it, opened a fire of musquetry on the Parliamen-
tarians, who, as little expecting to find an enemy in Burford
as they had been expected by them, were thrown into some
confusion. A fierce struggle ensued, in the course of which
Sir John was wounded in the face with a pole-axe ; but at
last he succeeded in clearing the town, pursuing the dragoons
near six miles, beyond which it was unsafe to advance, the
moon not having risen, and the road not having been recon-
noitred by him.*

On the night of the 5th Hampden's regiment was doing
duty on the outposts near Brackly. The pickets were attacked
by a strong body of horse, sent out by the Earl of Northampton
to surprise them. The Parliamentarians were on the alert,
and repulsed the assailants with loss, pursuing them for
several hours after day-break with two regiments of dragoons,
whom Hampden, suspecting or having intelligence of their
design, had brought into the town, from the Buckingham side,
after dark on the evening before. On the first conflict, how-
ever, AVagstaffe, who had, from the beginning, served under
Hampden as lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, was taken ;
and, being a prisoner of some note, was hurried off with a
few troopers to Oxford. AVagstaffe had been for some years
in the service of the French king, and actively employed in his
wars.f Like some of the other soldiers of fortune, the nature
and condition of his engagement had left him, in his own
estimation, at liberty to change his party and cause with great
facility of conscience. AVagstaffe no sooner arrived at the
head-quarters of the King than he engaged his services to him
with the same eagerness with which they had before been given
to the Parliament. And, to make them more available, he was
thenceforward usually employed in enterprises in which he
would be most likely to be opposed personally against the
troops and against the skill of his old master, whose habits of

* Mercurius Aulicus. Continuation of Speciall Passages,
t Mercurius Auiicus.


warfare and whose troops he well knew, and under whom he
had become well acquainted with those parts of the country in
which they were likely to meet. Accordingly at Brill we find
him, almost immediately afterwards, acting with the garrison,
by which an enterprise of Hampden's was defeated, and,
shortly after, at Stratford- on- Avon, commanding the party
which was beaten by him.

In the course of the late operations, Lord Essex had neg-
lected a post of great strength and importance between Ayles-
bury and Thame ; of great importance as lying directly upon
his principal line of communication, and aifording a place of
refuge and support for the parties employed from Oxford to
harass the Parliament's lines, and naturally of great and com-
manding strength. Brill-Hill is the highest of a small steep
range on the borders of Oxfordshire and Buckingham-
shire, and is backed by a deep mass of woodland on the
side towards Aylesbury, through which large bodies of men
might move in that direction for several miles, unob-
served. This position was allowed without opposition to
be occupied by the cavaliers, who established a garrison
there, and strengthened it with a large redoubt and lines of
defence on all sides. Sir Gilbert Gerrard, a brave and good
officer, held it for the King with a force of about six hundred
men. It was not till the full effects of this oversight began
to be felt by Lord Essex, in the interruption which this garri-
son gave to all his arrangements in that quarter, that he
turned his attention to repossessing himself of it. Arthur
Goodwyn had made a successful attack by night upon the
neighbouring quarters at Piddington, and had carried off three
troops of horse with their officers.* But the fortress still
remained unassailed and threatening. Suddenly, Mr. Grenvil,
the high-sheriff, planned an assault upon this formidable and
commanding post. He marched the volunteers from Ayles-
bury, and sent for Hampden with his regiment from Wycombe
to assist him. But the enterprise entirely failed. The King
had reinforced the garrison the day before the attack, and
Hampden had been unable, from the bad state of the roads,
to bring up any artillery, except a few small sakers. After
three several attempts to carry the lines by storm, in each of

Online LibraryGeorge Nugent Grenville NugentSome memorials of John Hampden : his party and his times → online text (page 39 of 45)