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General Cromwell," said Whitelocke, "to be a gentle-
man of quick and subtle parts, and one who hath,
especially of late, gained no small interest in the
House of Commons; nor is he wanting of friends in
the House of Peers, or of abilities in himself to man-
age his own defense to the best advantage." The
bitter Holies and his Presbyterian group were very
keen for proceeding; they thought that there was
plenty of evidence, and they did not believe Cromwell
to be so strong in the Commons as was supposed.
In the end it was the Scots who judiciously saved
their English allies from falling into the scrape, and
at two o'clock in the morning the party broke up.
Whitelocke or another secretly told Cromwell what
had passed, with the result that he only grew more
eager than before.

A HUNDRED and thirty years later a civil war again
broke out among the subjects of the British crown.
The issues were not in form the same. Cromwell
fought for the supremacy of Parliament within the
kingdom; Washington fought against the supremacy
of Parliament over Englishmen across the Atlantic


Ocean. It is possible that if Charles I had been as
astute and as unscrupulous as George III the struggle
on the English ground might ha\e run a different
course. However that may be, in each case the two
wars were in their earlier stages not unlike, and both
Marston Moor and Bunker Hill rank among those
engagements that have a lasting significance in his-
tory, where military results were secondary to moral
effect. It was these encounters that first sliowed that
the champions of the popular cause intended and were
able to make a stand-up fight against the forces of
the monarchy. In each case the combatants expected
the conflict to be short. In each case the battle of
popular liberty was first fought by weak bodies, ill-
paid, ill-disposed to discipline, mounted on cart-horses,
and armed with fowling-pieces, mainly anxious to get
back to their homes as soon as they could, and fluc-
tuating from month to month with the humors, the jeal-
ousies, or the means of the separate counties in Eng-
land, or the separate States in America. "Short
enlistments," said Washington, "and a mistaken de-
pendence on militia, have been the origin of all our
misfortunes; the evils of a standing army are remote,
but the consequence of wanting one is certain and
inevitable ruin. To carry on the war systematically,
you must establish your army on a permanent and
national footing.'' What Washington said in 1776
was just what Cromwell said in 1644.

The system had broken down. Officers complained
that their forces melted away, because men thought
they would be better treated in other counties, and
all comers were welcomed by every association. One
general grumbles that another general is favored in
money and supplies. The governors of strong towns
are in hot feud with the committee of the town.



Furious passages took place between pressed men and
the county committees. Want of pay made the men
sulky and mutinous, and there were always "evil in-
struments" ready to trade on such moods.

The Committee of Both Kingdoms write to a col-
onel commanding in the west in the year of Naseby,
that they have received very great complaints from the
country of the intolerable miscarriage of his troopers ;
already great disservice is done to the Parliament by
the robbing, spoiling, and plundering of the people,
they also giving extreme offense by their swearing,
drinking, and all kinds of debaucheries. Exemplary
punishment should be inflicted upon such notorious
misdemeanants. The sufferings of some parts of the
country were almost unbearable. The heavy exac-
tions of the Scots in Cumberland and Westmoreland
for month after month brought the inhabitants of
those counties to despair, "and necessity forced the
distressed people in some parts to stand upon their
defense against the taxings and doings of the sol-
diers." In Northumberland and Durham the charges
on the farmers were so heavy that the landlord had
little or nothing, and was only too glad if his tenants
could but keep a fire in the farm-houses and save them
from ruin. The Yorkshire men complained that they
were rated in many districts for the Scottish horse at
more than double the value of their lands in the best
times. On each side at this time the soldiers lived in
the main upon plunder. They carried off cattle and
cut down crops. They sequestered rents and assessed
fines. They kept up a multitude of small forts and
garrisons as a shelter to flying bands, who despoiled
the country and fought off enemies who would fain
have done the same, and could have done no worse.

Apart from the squalor and brutality intrinsic in


war, the general breakdown of economic order might
well alarm the instincts of the statesman. "Honest
industry," cried one voice of woe, "is quite discour-
aged, being almost useless. Most men that have es-
tates are betrayed by one side or another, plundered,
sequestered. Trading — the life and substance of
thousands — decaying, eaten up with taxes ; your poor
quite ready to famish, or to rise to pull relief from
rich men's hands by violence. Squeezed by taxes,
racked by war, the anvil, indeed, of misery, upon
which all the strokes of vengeance fell.'' A covetous
eye had long been cast upon the endowments of the
church. "The stop of trade here," Baillie wrote even
so far back as 1641, "has made this people much
poorer than ordinary; they will noways be able to
iDear their burden if the cathedrals fall not." From
its first phases in all countries the Reformation of
faith went with designs upon the church lands. And
so it was in England now.

"You will never get your service done," said Wal-
ler, "until you have an army entirely your own, and
at your own command." This theme was the prime
element in the New Model — the substitution of one
army under a single commander-in-chief, supported by
the Parliament, instead of sectional armies locally
levied and locally paid. The second feature was the
weeding out of worthless men, a process stigmatized
by Presbyterians out of temper as a crafty means of
filling the army with Sectaries, a vile compound of
Jew, Christian, and Turk, mere tools of usurping am-
bition. The third was the change in the command.
The new army was entrusted to Sir Thomas Fairfax
as commander-in-chief, with liberty to name his own
officers subject to ratification by the two Houses. The


was made major-general, and the higher post of lieu-
tenant-general was left significantly open. It is curi-
ous to find that the army was reduced in numbers.
The army of which Essex was lord-general numbered
twenty-five thousand foot and five thousand horse.
The army of the New Model was to consist only of
twenty-two thousand men in all, fourteen thousand
four hundred being foot and the rest horse and dra-
goons. A trooper received about as much as he would
have got for labor at the plow or with the wagon.

The average substantive wealth in the army was
not high. Royalists were fond of taunting them with
their meager means, and vowed that the whole pack
of them from the lord-general to the horse-farrier
could not muster one thousand pounds a year in land
among them. Yet in Fairfax's new army, of the offi-
cers of the higher military rank no fewer than thirty
out of thirty-seven were men of good family. Pride
the drayman, and Hewson the cobbler, and Okey the
ship-chandler, were among the minority who rose
from the common ranks. When Cromwell spoke to
Hampden about an army of decayed serving-men and
tapsters, his own men had never been of the tapster
tribe. They were most of them freeholders and free-
holders' sons, who upon matter of conscience engaged
in the quarrel, and "thus being well armed within by
the satisfaction of their own consciences, and without
by good iron arms, they would as one man stand
firmly and charge despeately."

That was the ideal of the New Model. We can-
not, however, assume that it was easy or possible to
procure twenty thousand men of militant conscience,
willing for the cause to leave farm and shop, wife
and home, to submit themselves to iron discipline,
and to face all the peril of battle, murder, and sudden


death. Even if Cromwell's ideal was the prevailing
type, it has been justly pointed out that constant pay
must have been a taking inducement to volunteers in
a time when social disorder had made work scarce.
If we remember, again, that a considerable portion of
the new army were not even volunteers, but had been
impressed against their will, the influence of Puritan
zeal can hardly have been universal, even if it were
so much as general.

Baxter had good opportunity of knowing the army
well, though he did not see with impartial eyes, and
he found abundance of the common troopers to be
honest, sober, and right-thinking men, many of them
tractable, ready to hear the truth, and of upright in-
tentions. But the highest places he found filled by
proud, self-conceited, hot-headed Sectaries, Cromwell's
chief favorites. Then, in a sentence, he unwittingly
discloses why Cromwell favored them. "By their
very heat and activity," he says, "they bore down the
rest and carried them along; these were the soul of
the army, though they did not number one to twenty
in it." In other words, what Baxter says comes to
this, that they had the quality of fire and resolution;
and fire and resolution are what every leader in a
revolutionary crisis values more than all else, even
though his own enthusiasm in the common cause
springs from other fountains of belief or runs in other
channels. Anabaptists, Brownists, Familists, and the
rest of the many curious swarms from the Puritan
hive, none of them repelled Oliver, because he knew
that the fanatic and the zealot, for all their absurdi-
ties, had the root of the matter in him.

There were several steps in the process of military
transformation. In December the Commons, acting

Drawn by George T Tobin after a portrait by Van Dyck (ascribed also to William Dobson),
by permission of the Countess of Warwick.



upon Cromwell's argument from the suspicion with
which people looked upon Lords and Commoners in
places of high command, passed the famous ordinance
by which no member of either House should have
any office of civil or military command. In January
the handful who now composed the House of Lords
threw out the ordinance. A second ordinance was
sent up to them in February, and they passed it with
amendments. In the middle of February (1645) ^^^^
New Model ordinance was finally passed. Six weeks
later the Self-denying Ordinance was brought back
in a revised form, only enacting that within forty
days members of either of the two Houses should re-
sign any post that the Parliament had intrusted to
them. Essex, Alanchester, Denbigh, Warwick, Wal-
ler, resigned without waiting for the forty days. It
must have been an anxious moment, for Essex was
still popular with the great body of the army, and if
he had chosen to defy the ordinance he might possibly
have found support both in public opinion and in mili-
tary force. "But he was not for such enterprises,"
says Clarendon, with caustic touch. Honorable and
unselfish men have not been so common in the history
of states and armies, that we need approve the

Cromwell followed a line that was peculiar, but
might easily have been foretold. The historian in
our own day tells us that he finds it hard to avoid
the conclusion that Cromwell was ready to sacrifice
his own unique position in the army, and to retire
from military service. This is surely not easy to be-
lieve, any more than it is easy to believe another story
for which the evidence comes to extremely little, that
at another time he meant to take service in Germany.


It is true that in inspiring and supporting the first
version of the Self-denying Ordinance, Ohver seemed
to be closing the chapter of his own labors in the field.
Yet nobody can deny that his proceedings were ob-
lique. It is incredible that the post of lieutenant-gen-
eral should have been left vacant, otherwise than by
design. It is incredible that ev'^en those who were
most anxious to pull Cromwell down should not have
foreseen that if the war was to go on, the most suc-
cessful and popular of all their generals would inev-
itably be recalled. In Cromwell it would have been
an incredibly foolish underestimate of himself to sup-
pose that his own influence, his fierce energy, his de-
termination, and his natural gift of the military eye,
could all be spared at an hour when the struggle was
drawmg to its most hazardous stage.

What happened actually was this. The second Self-
denying Ordinance was passed on April 3d, and Crom-
well was bound to lay down all military command
within forty days. Meanwhile he was despatched to-
ward the west. The end of the forty days found him in
the Oxford country. The Parliament passed a special
ordinance, not without misgivings in the Lords, ex-
tending his employment for forty days more until
June 22d. Before the expiry of this new term, Fair-
fax and the officers, following the Common Council
who had demanded it before, petitioned the Houses
to sanction the appointment of Cromwell to the vacant
post of lieutenant-general with command of the horse.
The Commons agreed (June 10), and Fairfax for-
mally appointed him. At the moment, Cromwell had
been sent from Oxford (May 26) into the eastern
counties to protect the Isle of Ely. He was taken
by legal fiction or in fact to have complied with the


Self-denying Ordinance by resigning, and strictly
speaking his appointment required the assent of both
Houses. But the needs of the time were too sharp
for ceremony. The campaign had now begun that
almost in a few hours was to end in the ever-famous
day of Naseby.



ARMED Puritanism was now first to manifest all its
l\. strength. Faith that the God of Battles was on
their side nerved its chosen and winnowed ranks with
stern confidence. The fierce spirit of the Old Tes-
tament glowed like fire in their hearts. But neither
these moral elements of military force, nor discipline,
technical precision, and iron endurance would have
sufficed to win the triumph at Naseby without the in-
trepid genius of Oliver. This was the day on which
the great soldier was first to show himself in modern
phrase a Man of Destiny.

The first movements of the campaign of 1645,
which was to end in the destruction of the king's arms,
were confused and unimportant. The Committee of
Both Kingdoms hardly knew what to do with the new
weapon now at their command, and for many weeks
both Fairfax and Cromwell were employed in carrying
out ill-conceived orders in the west. In May Charles
left his headquarters at Oxford, with a design of
marching through the midlands northward. On the
last day of the month he took Leicester by storm. The
committee at Westminster were filled with alarm.
Was it possible that he intended an invasion of their


stronghold in the eastern counties ? Fairfax, who lay
before the walls of Oxford, was immediately directed
to raise the siege and follow the king.

The modern soldier is struck all through the war
with the ignorance on both sides of the movements,
plans, and position of the enemy. By June 13th the
two armies were in Northamptonshire, only some
seven miles apart, Fairfax at Guilsborough, Charles at
Daventry; and yet it was not until the Parliamentary
scouts were within sight of the Royalist camp that
the advance of Fairfax became known. The Royalists
undoubtedly made a fatal mistake in placing them-
selves in the way of Fairfax after they had let Goring
go ; and the cause of their mistake was the hearty con-
tempt entertained by the whole of them from king to
drummer for the raw army and its clownish recruits.
The cavaliers had amused themselves, we are told, by
cutting a wooden image in the shape of a man, and "in
such a form as they blasphemously called it the god of
the Roundheads, and this they carried in scorn and
contempt of our army in a public manner a little before
the battle began." So confident were they of teach-
ing the rabble a lesson. Doubting friends thought as
ill of the New Model as overweening foes. "Their
new-modeled army," says Baillie, like all the Presby-
terians at this moment, hardly knowing what he ought
to wish, "consists for the most part of raw, unexperi-
enced, pressed soldiers. Few of the officers are
thought capable of their places; many of them are
Sectaries ; if they do great service, many will be

Disaster, however, was not to be. Cromwell, as we
have seen, had been ordered off eastward, to take mea-
sures for the defense of the Isle of Ely. These com-
mands, says a contemporary, "he, in greater tenderness


of the public service than of his own honor, in such a
time of extremity disputed not but fulfilled." After
securing Ely. he applied himself to active recruiting
in Cambridgeshire with the extraordinary success
that always followed his inspiring energ}\ As soon as
the king's movements began to create uneasiness, Fair-
fax, knowing Cromwell's value as commander of horse,
applied in haste to the Parliament that he should be spe-
cially permitted to serve as lieutenant-general. The
Houses after some demur gave him plenary leave ac-
cordingly. The general despatched constant expresses
to Cromwell himself, to inform him from time to time
where the army was, so that he might know in case of
danger where to join them. When he found battle to
be imminent, Oliver hastened over the county border
as hard as he and six hundred horsemen with him
could ride. They rode into Fairfax's quarters at six
o'clock on the morning of June 13th. and were hailed
with the liveliest demonstrations of joy by the general
and his army. "For it had been observed," says an
onlooker of those days, "that God was with him, and
that affairs were blessed under his hand." He was
immediately ordered to take command of the marshal-
ing of the horse. There was not an instant to lose,
for before the field-officers could even give a rough
account of the arrangements of the army, the enemy
came on amain in excellent order, while the plan of the
Parliamentar}- commanders was still an embryo. This
was the moment that Cromwell has himself in glow-
ing phrase described: "I can say this of Xaseby. that
when I saw the enemy draw up and march in gallant
order toward us, and we a company of poor ignorant
men. to seek how to order our battle — the general hav-
ing commanded me to order all the horse — I could not,
riding alone about my business, but smile out to God


in praises, in assurance of victory, because God would
by things that are not bring to aught things that

The number of men engaged. Hke the manceuvers
that preceded the battle, is a matter of much uncer-
tainty. One good contemporary authority puts the
Parliamentary forces at eleven thousand, and says that
the two armies were about equal. Mr. Gardiner, on
the other hand, believes the Parliamentarians to have
been thirteen thousand six hundred, and the Royalists
only seven thousand five hundred, or not much more
than one to two — a figure that is extremely hard to
reconcile with two admitted facts. One is that nobody
puts the number of Royalist prisoners lower than four
thousand ( and one contemporary even makes them six
thousand), while the slain are supposed to have been
not less than one thousand. This would mean the
extinction by death or capture of two thirds of the
king's total force, and no contemporary makes the dis-
aster so murderous as this. The admission again that
the Royalist cavalry after the battle was practically
intact, increases the difficulty of accepting so low an
estimate for the total of the king's troops, for nobody
puts the Royalist horse under four thousand. The
better opinion undoubtedly seems to be that, though
Fairfax's troops outnumbered the king's, yet the su-
periority can hardly have approached the proportion of
two to one.

The country was open, and the only fences were
mere double hedges with an open grass track between
them, separating Xaseby from Sulby on the west and
Clipston on the east. On the right of Fairfax's line,
where Cromwell and his troopers were posted, the
action of cavalr}^ was much hindered by rabbit bur-
rows, and at the bottom there was boggy land equally


inconvenient to the horsemen of the king. The level
of the ParHamentary position was some fifty feet, tliat
of the Royahst position not more than thirty, above the
open hollow between them. The slope was from three
to four degrees, thus offering little difficulty of incline
to either horse or foot.

If the preliminary manoeuvers cannot be definitely
made out in detail, nor carried beyond a choice of alter-
native hypotheses each as good as the other, the actual
battle is as plain as any battle on rather meager and
fragmentary reports can be considered plain. As
usual on both sides, the infantry were posted in the
center, with the cavalry on either flank. Fairfax
seems to have taken up his ground on the ledge of the
hill running from east to west. Then possibly at
Cromwell's suggestion he drew his men back a hun-
dred paces from the ledge, so as to keep out of the
enemy's sight, knowing that he could recover the ad-
vantage when he pleased. Such, so far as can be made
out from very entangled evidence, is the simplest view
of Fairfax's position. Cromwell, in command of the
horse, was stationed on the Parliamentary right, and
Ireton on the left. The veteran Skippon commanded
regiments of foot in the center. On the opposite slope
across Broadmoor Rupert faced Ireton, and Sir Mar-
maduke Langdale, with his northern horse in the
doubtful humor of men who wished to go homeward,
faced Cromwell, while Lord Astley led the infantry in
the center. Fairfax directed the disposition of his
men, and was conspicuous during the three hours of
the engagement by his energy, vigilance, and persis-
tence. He was by constitution a slow-footed man, but
when he drew near action in the field then another
spirit came upon him, men said, and another soul
looked out of his eyes. King Charles, though infe-

From a print in the British Museum.


rior in military capacity, was not behind him in either
activity or courage.

The word** was on the one side "Mary," the king's
favorite name for the queen; on the other side, "God
with us." The RoyaHsts opening the attack advanced
their whole line a hundred yards or so across the flat
and up the slope toward the opposite ridge. The Parlia-
mentarians came into view upon the brow from which
they had recently retired. In a few moments the foot
in the center were locked in stubborn conflict. They
discharged their pieces, and then fell to it with clubbed
muskets and with swords. The Royalist infantry
pressed Skippon so hard that his first line at last gave
way and fell back on the reserve. Ireton, with his
horse on the Parliamentary left, launched one of his
divisions to help the foot on his right, but with little
advantage to them and with disaster to himself. For
Rupert, dashing through the smart musketry fire from
Okey's dragoons posted behind Sulby hedges, came
crashing with irresistible weight upon the other por-
tion of Ireton's horse on the western slope of the ridge,
broke them up, and pursued the scattered force toward
Naseby village. On the right meanwhile things had
gone better, for here Cromwell stood. He had de-
tailed a force of his cavalry under Whalley to meet
Langdale in front with the Royalist left v/ing, and
he himself swept round on to Langdale's left flank
with the main body of his own horse. Whalley thun-
dering down the slope caught the left of the opposing
horse with terrific impetus, before the enemy could
charge up the higher ground. Nothing could stand
against him. Oliver's charge on the other flank com-
pleted Langdale's ruin, some of the enemy dashing in
headlong flight from the field, others finding their way
to the king's reserve, and there halting huddled to-


gether until they were by-and-by re-formed. They
were mainly from Yorkshire and the north, and had

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 13 of 35)