Daniel Defoe.

Memoirs of a Cavalier A Military Journal of the Wars in Germany, and the Wars in England. From the Year 1632 to the Year 1648 online

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settled army, yet their regiments and troops were always in action;
and the sword was at work in every part of the kingdom.

Among an infinite number of party skirmishings and fights this winter,
one happened which nearly concerned me, which was the surprise of the
town and castle of Shrewsbury. Colonel Mitton, with about 1200 horse
and foot, having intelligence with some people in the town, on a
Sunday morning early broke into the town and took it, castle and all.
The loss for the quality, more than the number, was very great to
the king's affairs. They took there fifteen pieces of cannon, Prince
Maurice's magazine of arms and ammunition, Prince Rupert's baggage,
above fifty persons of quality and officers. There was not above
eight or ten men killed on both sides, for the town was surprised, not
stormed. I had a particular loss in this action; for all the men and
horses my father had got together for the recruiting my regiment were
here lost and dispersed, and, which was the worse, my father happening
to be then in the town, was taken prisoner, and carried to Beeston
Castle in Cheshire.

I was quartered all this winter at Banbury, and went little abroad;
nor had we any action till the latter end of February, when I was
ordered to march to Leicester with Sir Marmaduke Langdale, in order,
as we thought, to raise a body of men in that county and Staffordshire
to join the king.

We lay at Daventry one night, and continuing our march to pass the
river above Northampton, that town being possessed by the enemy, we
understood a party of Northampton forces were abroad, and intended to
attack us. Accordingly, in the afternoon our scouts brought us word
the enemy were quartered in some villages on the road to Coventry. Our
commander, thinking it much better to set upon them in their quarters,
than to wait for them in the field, resolves to attack them early in
the morning before they were aware of it. We refreshed ourselves in
the field for that day, and, getting into a great wood near the enemy,
we stayed there all night, till almost break of day, without being
discovered.

In the morning very early we heard the enemy's trumpets sound to
horse. This roused us to look abroad, and, sending out a scout, he
brought us word a part of the enemy was at hand. We were vexed to
be so disappointed, but finding their party small enough to be dealt
with, Sir Marmaduke ordered me to charge them with 300 horse and 200
dragoons, while he at the same time entered the town. Accordingly I
lay still till they came to the very skirt of the wood where I was
posted, when I saluted them with a volley from my dragoons out of the
wood, and immediately showed myself with my horse on their front ready
to charge them. They appeared not to be surprised, and received our
charge with great resolution; and, being above 400 men, they pushed me
vigorously in their turn, putting my men into some disorder. In this
extremity I sent to order my dragoons to charge them in the flank,
which they did with great bravery, and the other still maintained the
fight with desperate resolution. There was no want of courage in our
men on both sides, but our dragoons had the advantage, and at last
routed them, and drove them back to the village. Here Sir Marmaduke
Langdale had his hands full too, for my firing had alarmed the towns
adjacent, that when he came into the town he found them all in arms,
and, contrary to his expectation, two regiments of foot, with about
500 horse more. As Sir Marmaduke had no foot, only horse and dragoons,
this was a surprise to him; but he caused his dragoons to enter the
town and charge the foot, while his horse secured the avenues of the
town.

The dragoons bravely attacked the foot, and Sir Marmaduke falling
in with his horse, the fight was obstinate and very bloody, when the
horse that I had routed came flying into the street of the village,
and my men at their heels. Immediately I left the pursuit, and fell
in with all my force to the assistance of my friends, and, after an
obstinate resistance, we routed the whole party; we killed about
700 men, took 350, 27 officers, 100 arms, all their baggage, and 200
horses, and continued our march to Harborough, where we halted to
refresh ourselves.

Between Harborough and Leicester we met with a party of 800 dragoons
of the Parliament forces. They, found themselves too few to attack
us, and therefore to avoid us they had gotten into a small wood; but
perceiving themselves discovered, they came boldly out, and placed
themselves at the entrance into a lane, lining both sides of the
hedges with their shot. We immediately attacked them, beat them from
their hedges, beat them into the wood, and out of the wood again,
and forced them at last to a downright run away, on foot, among the
enclosures, where we could not follow them, killed about 100 of them,
and took 250 prisoners, with all their horses, and came that night to
Leicester. When we came to Leicester, and had taken up our quarters,
Sir Marmaduke Langdale sent for me to sup with him, and told me
that he had a secret commission in his pocket, which his Majesty had
commanded him not to open till he came to Leicester; that now he had
sent for me to open it together, that we might know what it was we
were to do, and to consider how to do it; so pulling out his sealed
orders, we found we were to get what force we could together, and a
certain number of carriages with ammunition, which the governor of
Leicester was to deliver us, and a certain quantity of provision,
especially corn and salt, and to relieve Newark. This town had been
long besieged. The fortifications of the place, together with its
situation, had rendered it the strongest place in England; and, as it
was the greatest pass in England, so it was of vast consequence to the
king's affairs. There was in it a garrison of brave old rugged boys,
fellows that, like Count Tilly's Germans, had iron faces, and they had
defended themselves with extraordinary bravery a great while, but were
reduced to an exceeding strait for want of provisions.

Accordingly we received the ammunition and provision, and away we went
for Newark; about Melton Mowbray, Colonel Rossiter set upon us, with
above 3000 men; we were about the same number, having 2500 horse, and
800 dragoons. We had some foot, but they were still at Harborough, and
were ordered to come after us.

Rossiter, like a brave officer as he was, charged us with great fury,
and rather outdid us in number, while we defended ourselves with all
the eagerness we could, and withal gave him to understand we were
not so soon to be beaten as he expected. While the fight continued
doubtful, especially on our side, our people, who had charge of the
carriages and provisions, began to enclose our flanks with them, as
if we had been marching, which, though it was done without orders, had
two very good effects, and which did us extraordinary service. First,
it secured us from being charged in the flank, which Rossiter had
twice attempted; and secondly, it secured our carriages from being
plundered, which had spoiled our whole expedition. Being thus
enclosed, we fought with great security; and though Rossiter made
three desperate charges upon us; he could never break us. Our men
received him with so much courage, and kept their order so well, that
the enemy, finding it impossible to force us, gave it over, and left
us to pursue our orders. We did not offer to chase them, but contented
enough to have repulsed and beaten them off, and our business being to
relieve Newark, we proceeded.

If we are to reckon by the enemy's usual method, we got the victory,
because we kept the field, and had the pillage of their dead; but
otherwise, neither side had any great cause to boast. We lost about
150 men, and near as many hurt; they left 170 on the spot, and carried
off some. How many they had wounded we could not tell; we got seventy
or eighty horses, which helped to remount some of our men that had
lost theirs in the fight. We had, however, this advantage, that we
were to march on immediately after this service, the enemy only to
retire to their quarters, which was but hard by. This was an injury to
our wounded men, who we were after obliged to leave at Belvoir Castle,
and from thence we advanced to Newark.

Our business at Newark was to relieve the place, and this we resolved
to do whatever it cost, though, at the same time, we resolved not to
fight unless we were forced to it. The town was rather blocked up than
besieged; the garrison was strong, but ill-provided; we had sent them
word of our coming to them, and our orders to relieve them, and they
proposed some measures for our doing it. The chief strength of the
enemy lay on the other side of the river; but they having also some
notice of our design, had sent over forces to strengthen their leaguer
on this side. The garrison had often surprised them by sallies, and
indeed had chiefly subsisted for some time by what they brought in on
this manner.

Sir Marmaduke Langdale, who was our general for the expedition, was
for a general attempt to raise the siege, but I had persuaded him off
of that; first, because, if we should be beaten, as might be probable,
we then lost the town. Sir Marmaduke briskly replied, "A soldier ought
never to suppose he shall be beaten." "But, sir," says I, "you'll get
more honour by relieving the town, than by beating them. One will be
a credit to your conduct, as the other will be to your courage; and if
you think you can beat them, you may do it afterward, and then if you
are mistaken, the town is nevertheless secured, and half your victory
gained."

He was prevailed with to adhere to this advice, and accordingly we
appeared before the town about two hours before night. The horse drew
up before the enemy's works; the enemy drew up within their works, and
seeing no foot, expected when our dragoons would dismount and attack
them. They were in the right to let us attack them, because of the
advantage of their batteries and works, if that had been our design;
but, as we intended only to amuse them, this caution of theirs
effected our design; for, while we thus faced them with our horse, two
regiments of foot, which came up to us but the night before, and
was all the infantry we had, with the waggons of provisions, and 500
dragoons, taking a compass clean round the town, posted themselves on
the lower side of the town by the river. Upon a signal the garrison
agreed on before, they sallied out at this very juncture with all the
men they could spare, and dividing themselves in two parties, while
one party moved to the left to meet our relief, the other party fell
on upon part of that body which faced us. We kept in motion, and upon
this signal advanced to their works, and our dragoons fired upon
them, and the horse, wheeling and counter-marching often, kept them
continually expecting to be attacked. By this means the enemy were
kept employed, and our foot, with the waggons, appearing on that
quarter where they were least expected, easily defeated the advanced
guards and forced that post, where, entering the leaguer, the other
part of the garrison, who had sallied that way, came up to them,
received the waggons, and the dragoons entered with them into the
town. That party which we faced on the other side of the works knew
nothing of what was done till all was over; the garrison retreated in
good order, and we drew off, having finished what we came for without
fighting. Thus we plentifully stored the town with all things wanting,
and with an addition of 500 dragoons to their garrison; after which we
marched away without fighting a stroke.

Our next orders were to relieve Pontefract Castle, another garrison
of the king's, which had been besieged ever since a few days after the
fight at Marston Moor, by the Lord Fairfax, Sir Thomas Fairfax, and
other generals in their turn. By the way we were joined with 800 horse
out of Derbyshire, and some foot, so many as made us about 4500 men in
all.

Colonel Forbes, a Scotchman, commanded at the siege, in the absence of
the Lord Fairfax. The colonel had sent to my lord for more troops, and
his lordship was gathering his forces to come up to him, but he was
pleased to come too late. We came up with the enemy's leaguer about
the break of day, and having been discovered by their scouts, they,
with more courage than discretion, drew out to meet us. We saw no
reason to avoid them, being stronger in horse than they; and though we
had but a few foot, we had 1000 dragoons, which helped us out. We had
placed our horse and foot throughout in one line, with two reserves
of horse, and between every division of horse a division of foot, only
that on the extremes of our wings there were two parties of horse
on each point by themselves, and the dragoons in the centre on foot.
Their foot charged us home, and stood with push of pike a great while;
but their horse charging our horse and musketeers, and being closed
on the flanks, with those two extended troops on our wings, they
were presently disordered, and fled out of the field. The foot, thus
deserted, were charged on every side and broken. They retreated still
fighting, and in good order for a while; but the garrison sallying
upon them at the same time, and being followed close by our horse,
they were scattered, entirely routed, and most of them killed. The
Lord Fairfax was come with his horse as far as Ferrybridge, but the
fight was over, and all he could do was to rally those that fled, and
save some of their carriages, which else had fallen into our hands. We
drew up our little army in order of battle the next day, expecting the
Lord Fairfax would have charged us; but his lordship was so far from
any such thoughts that he placed a party of dragoons, with orders to
fortify the pass at Ferrybridge, to prevent our falling upon him in
his retreat, which he needed not have done; for, having raised the
siege of Pontefract, our business was done, we had nothing to say to
him, unless we had been strong enough to stay.

We lost not above thirty men in this action, and the enemy 300, with
about 150 prisoners, one piece of cannon, all their ammunition, 1000
arms, and most of their baggage, and Colonel Lambert was once taken
prisoner, being wounded, but got off again.

We brought no relief for the garrison, but the opportunity to furnish
themselves out of the country, which they did very plentifully. The
ammunition taken from the enemy was given to them, which they wanted,
and was their due, for they had seized it in the sally they made,
before the enemy was quite defeated.

I cannot omit taking notice on all occasions how exceeding serviceable
this method was of posting musketeers in the intervals, among the
horse, in all this war. I persuaded our generals to it as much as
possible, and I never knew a body of horse beaten that did so: yet I
had great difficulty to prevail upon our people to believe it, though
it was taught me by the greatest general in the world, viz., the King
of Sweden. Prince Rupert did it at the battle of Marston Moor; and had
the Earl of Newcastle not been obstinate against it in his right wing,
as I observed before, the day had not been lost. In discoursing this
with Sir Marmaduke Langdale, I had related several examples of the
serviceableness of these small bodies of firemen, and with great
difficulty brought him to agree, telling him I would be answerable
for the success. But after the fight, he told me plainly he saw the
advantage of it, and would never fight otherwise again if he had any
foot to place. So having relieved these two places, we hastened by
long marches through Derbyshire, to join Prince Rupert on the edge of
Shropshire and Cheshire. We found Colonel Rossiter had followed us at
a distance ever since the business at Melton Mowbray, but never cared
to attack us, and we found he did the like still. Our general would
fain have been doing with him again, but we found him too shy. Once
we laid a trap for him at Dovebridge, between Derby and
Burton-upon-Trent, the body being marched two days before. Three
hundred dragoons were left to guard the bridge, as if we were afraid
he should fall upon us. Upon this we marched, as I said, on to Burton,
and the next day, fetching a compass round, came to a village near
Titbury Castle, whose name I forgot, where we lay still expecting our
dragoons would be attacked.

Accordingly, the colonel, strengthened with some troops of horse from
Yorkshire, comes up to the bridge, and finding some dragoons posted,
advances to charge them. The dragoons immediately get a-horseback, and
run for it, as they were ordered. But the old lad was not to be caught
so, for he halts immediately at the bridge, and would not come over
till he had sent three or four flying parties abroad to discover the
country. One of these parties fell into our hands, and received but
coarse entertainment. Finding the plot would not take, we appeared and
drew up in view of the bridge, but he would not stir. So we continued
our march into Cheshire, where we joined Prince Rupert and Prince
Maurice, making together a fine body, being above 8000 horse and
dragoons.

This was the best and most successful expedition I was in during this
war. 'Twas well concerted, and executed with as much expedition and
conduct as could be desired, and the success was answerable to it. And
indeed, considering the season of the year (for we set out from Oxford
the latter end of February), the ways bad, and the season wet, it
was a terrible march of above 200 miles, in continual action, and
continually dodged and observed by a vigilant enemy, and at a time
when the north was overrun by their armies, and the Scots wanting
employment for their forces. Yet in less than twenty-three days we
marched 200 miles, fought the enemy in open field four times, relieved
one garrison besieged, and raised the siege of another, and joined our
friends at last in safety.

The enemy was in great pain for Sir William Brereton and his forces,
and expresses rode night and day to the Scots in the north, and to the
parties in Lancashire to come to his help. The prince, who used to be
rather too forward to fight than otherwise, could not be persuaded to
make use of this opportunity, but loitered, if I may be allowed to say
so, till the Scots, with a brigade of horse and 2000 foot, had joined
him; and then 'twas not thought proper to engage them.

I took this opportunity to go to Shrewsbury to visit my father, who
was a prisoner of war there, getting a pass from the enemy's governor.
They allowed him the liberty of the town, and sometimes to go to his
own house upon his parole, so that his confinement was not very much
to his personal injury. But this, together with the charges he had
been at in raising the regiment, and above £20,000 in money and plate,
which at several times he had lent, or given rather to the king, had
reduced our family to very ill circumstances; and now they talked of
cutting down his woods.

I had a great deal of discourse with my father on this affair; and,
finding him extremely concerned, I offered to go to the king and
desire his leave to go to London and treat about his composition, or
to render myself a prisoner in his stead, while he went up himself.
In this difficulty I treated with the governor of the town, who very
civilly offered me his pass to go for London, which I accepted, and,
waiting on Prince Rupert, who was then at Worcester, I acquainted him
with my design. The prince was unwilling I should go to London;
but told me he had some prisoners of the Parliament's friends in
Cumberland, and he would get an exchange for my father. I told him
if he would give me his word for it I knew I might depend upon it,
otherwise there was so many of the king's party in their hands, that
his Majesty was tired with solicitations for exchanges, for we never
had a prisoner but there was ten offers of exchanges for him. The
prince told me I should depend upon him; and he was as good as his
word quickly after.

While the prince lay at Worcester he made an incursion into
Herefordshire, and having made some of the gentlemen prisoners,
brought them to Worcester; and though it was an action which had not
been usual, they being persons not in arms, yet the like being my
father's case, who was really not in commission, nor in any military
service, having resigned his regiment three years before to me, the
prince insisted on exchanging them for such as the Parliament had
in custody in like circumstances. The gentlemen seeing no remedy,
solicited their own case at the Parliament, and got it passed in
their behalf; and by this means my father got his liberty, and by the
assistance of the Earl of Denbigh got leave to come to London to make
a composition as a delinquent for his estate. This they charged at
£7000, but by the assistance of the same noble person he got off for
£4000. Some members of the committee moved very kindly that my father
should oblige me to quit the king's service, but that, as a thing
which might be out of his power, was not insisted on.

The modelling the Parliament army took them up all this winter, and
we were in great hopes the divisions which appeared amongst them might
have weakened their party; but when they voted Sir Thomas Fairfax to
be general, I confess I was convinced the king's affairs were lost and
desperate. Sir Thomas, abating the zeal of his party, and the mistaken
opinion of his cause, was the fittest man amongst them to undertake
the charge. He was a complete general, strict in his discipline, wary
in conduct, fearless in action, unwearied in the fatigue of the
war, and withal, of a modest, noble, generous disposition. We all
apprehended danger from him, and heartily wished him of our own side;
and the king was so sensible, though he would not discover it, that
when an account was brought him of the choice they had made, he
replied, "he was sorry for it; he had rather it had been anybody than
he."

The first attempts of this new general and new army were at Oxford,
which, by the neighbourhood of a numerous garrison in Abingdon, began
to be very much straitened for provisions; and the new forces under
Cromwell and Skippon, one lieutenant-general, the other major-general
to Fairfax, approaching with a design to block it up, the king left
the place, supposing his absence would draw them away, as it soon did.

The king resolving to leave Oxford, marches from thence with all his
forces, the garrison excepted, with design to have gone to Bristol;
but the plague was in Bristol, which altered the measures, and changed
the course of the king's designs, so he marched for Worcester about
the beginning of June 1645. The foot, with a train of forty pieces of
cannon, marching into Worcester, the horse stayed behind some time in
Gloucestershire.

The first action our army did, was to raise the siege of Chester; Sir
William Brereton had besieged it, or rather blocked it up, and when
his Majesty came to Worcester, he sent Prince Rupert with 4000 horse
and dragoons, with orders to join some foot out of Wales, to raise the
siege; but Sir William thought fit to withdraw, and not stay for them,
and the town was freed without fighting. The governor took care in
this interval to furnish himself with all things necessary for another
siege; and, as for ammunition and other necessaries, he was in no
want.

I was sent with a party into Staffordshire, with design to intercept
a convoy of stores coming from London, for the use of Sir William
Brereton; but they having some notice of the design, stopped, and went
out of the road to Burton-upon-Trent, and so I missed them; but that
we might not come back quite empty, we attacked Hawkesley House, and
took it, where we got good booty, and brought eighty prisoners back to
Worcester. From Worcester the king advanced into Shropshire, and took
his headquarters at Bridgnorth. This was a very happy march of the
king's, and had his Majesty proceeded, he had certainly cleared the
north once more of his enemies, for the country was generally for him.
At his advancing so far as Bridgnorth, Sir William Brereton fled up
into Lancashire; the Scots brigades who were with him retreated into
the north, while yet the king was above forty miles from them, and all
things lay open for conquest. The new generals, Fairfax and Cromwell,
lay about Oxford, preparing as if they would besiege it, and gave
the king's army so much leisure, that his Majesty might have been at
Newcastle before they could have been half way to him. But Heaven,


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Online LibraryDaniel DefoeMemoirs of a Cavalier A Military Journal of the Wars in Germany, and the Wars in England. From the Year 1632 to the Year 1648 → online text (page 20 of 24)