Less than two months after the defeat at Marston Moor, Byron's horse attempt to move through Lancashire after securing Chester with Rupert. Lancashire is found to be an unfriendly place as an experienced Scottish General out maneuvers the Royalist cavalry, and the blame falls on our own Sir Richard Molyneux. Read my own 'Sharps' version of events.
The day, like the year, was beginning to darken. Clouds of doubt somehow projected on to the faces of our weary band. I had come to know all of them by now. Impossible to know more than two thousand faces I might have once thought but these faces were those of great men, the best of the best, filtered by a process of murder and privation. Jack glared straight at me as I looked back along the dwindling cavalry column that snaked up the hill via a narrow lane. Though mounted, our heads barely looked over the tops of hedgerows primed for winter fires. More than two thousands heads bobbed along no more than two abreast.
Tactically our situation was poor. Horse caught in hedges and unable to easily get to open ground are unable to break into a crushing charge. Since Marston Moor, battle was the last thing in our minds. Our only foot, mounted on nags and completely without powder. As darkness loomed Ormskirk seemed the only sheltered place within reach, and that was where we headed. Keen to arrive before dark, Byron had trotted up closely to our advance guard I could easily call to him over the sixty or so intervening heads. He seemed bored and tired, restless in the saddle of his pacer; ridden to rest his battle horse.
‘We have not the wind to advance the picket beyond the column my Lord. A breath now would give my men time to gain a head and scout about the lower town.’
‘I woulds’t have day with me when billeting hence, Colonel. Stride on.’
So dense was our column, the spur to Lord Byron’s horse, was enough to push forward my whole troop, beyond the lane and onto the common; a clear but stubly ground where my horse searched, poking one leg at a time, till stable. The push from the lane fair unhorsed many an able trooper. We fell like wheat, scattered from a hand, splayed randomly about the open.
The first volley whistled around my head. The second, from the right, and away from the first. No one yet hit it seemed but another and another volley fired. Hard to tell how many as muskets blasted from a distant hedge, now completely obscured by smoke. Each blast was as loud as the first and at least a hundred muskets; six times they had fired and, without more that ten seconds between, a seventh. Such fire and load could be done by only trained skilled men of a thousand or more.
Into the hail of lead, came more and more trapped luckless troopers. Jack raised his veteran hand and pointed his sword towards a clearing in the smoke ahead. His trained eye had spotted the two cannon barrels now protruding from the opposite hedgerow. The murder was about to begin as a hail of chain and nails awaited only the ignition by a master gunner, to be sure, grinning greedily at the lit match above the gun.
I called the retire between musket volleys. Again and again, at my loudest, I called. From within the lane, I was competing with my Lord Byron who was calling for the advance. Crushed in a lane both ends squeezed the sand at the neck of the hour glass as horse screams and death yells were heard from already dead men. Luckily, if it can be called luck, both guns had fired as one and all before lay dead and tortured. Staggered shots would have hit those sheltered by the now fallen flesh. Trapped beneath my mare, I lay awaiting the mercy of a bounty hungry, or blood lusty rebel musketeer.
Scots horse galloped from the opposite lane, leaped over me and tore into the back of my retiring troopers. My only hope was that Lord Byron’s troops would retire in good order and cover my troops’ withdrawal. I could see the backs of my men, stabbed again and again. They formed a human shield against the onslaught, and even when killed, their horses kept the enemy from the rest of our retiring army. Minutes now, not more, before our main body regroups at a clearing 200yds down the lane, and pushes the Scots to their death.
No repulse comes and the sky grows dark as I wriggle from under my mare and cut a hole wide enough to crawl through the hedge and into a corn field on the other side. With the enemy foot holding the opposite hedge and their cavalry in pursuit of our fleeing army I am left undetected and concealed amongst the corn. Eventually the foot withdraw back to their billets and the enemy cavalry never reappear, so that I spend the rest of the night in fitfull sleep, the richest man in Lancashire, with the small animals of the field.
The following day, all is quiet and peaceful and my Lord Byron, and commander, accidentally peers above the corn at the same time as myself. Recriminations begin as we approach one another as I stand accused, not of cowardice but near to it. An eagerness to escape the fight is the phrase, laden with blame. A blame that explains why his troops, in his considered opinion, quit the field completely. Gone now is the dignity of a valiant death. Replaced only with the prospect of guilt laden and sleepless nights. The sight of my blood drained troopers and horror struck part faces mingling with notions and accusations of cowardice and self pity at my inability to maintain an effective advance away from our main body. I catch Jack’s glance again, this time glazed and lifeless, his cheeks and nose visible from depths of the field ditch under the hedge.
Storming of Shelford Manor November 3, 1644.
In 1645 prior to besieging Newark the Parliamentary Army decided to sweep away the Royalist garrisons in Nottinghamshire. To this end Poyntz and Rossiter joined forces, and on 1st November they occupied Shelford. On 3rd November Poyntz delivered a formal surrender demand to the Governor of Shelford Manor, Colonel Philip Stanhope, who returned a defiant answer. The manor was stormed and 140 of its defenders were slaughtered. Poyntz and Rossiter then moved on to Wiverton, which surrendered on 9th November, then to Belvoir Castle, which after a fierce struggle was besieged on 22nd November. On 26th November the final siege of Newark was undertaken by the Earl of Leven and the Scots army.
The Battle of Cheriton March 29, 1644.
The commander of the Royalist forces in the south west, Lord Hopton spent the winter of 1643/4 recruiting and training his army near Winchester in preparation for his march towards London. In March 1644, reinforcements under the Earl of Forth brought the strength of his army up to around 3,500 foot and 2,500 horse. The Royalists took up a strong position on a long ridge above the town of Alresford, commanding the road between Winchester and London.
With the road to London open to Hopton, Waller had to be decisive and aggressive. Sir William Waller advanced his numerically superior force of 6,500 foot, 3,500 horse and artillery train towards Hopton's position. On the morning of 29 March, an advance guard drawn from Waller's London regiments occupied Cheriton Wood on the Royalist left flank under cover of mist. As the rising sun burned off the mist, Hopton ordered Colonel Appleyard with 1,000 musketeers to clear the woods. In fighting confused by both sides having chosen the same field sign, the Parliamentarians were driven back from the woods. Hopton was now anxious to attack the vulnerable Parliamentarian right flank but Lord Forth, who was senior to Hopton, preferred to stand on the defensive. At this point, the young gallant Sir Henry Bard, acting without orders, led his cavalry regiment in a bold, unsupported charge against the Parliamentarian left flank. The lie of the land prevented Bard from seeing that he was leading his men straight towards Sir Arthur Haselrig's formidable regiment of cuirassiers, who countercharged and cut Bard's regiment to pieces. The Royalist cavalry were unable to find any clear terrain to attack the advancing Roundhead foot. With a number counterattacks by the Royalist infantry the Roundheads were unable to dislodge Hopton from the hill. By mid-afternoon, it was clear that the road to London was blocked by Waller's London Trained Bands Hopton and Forth withdrew towards Winchester with their army largely intact.
The Royalist advance on London had been stemmed by Waller and the battle was celebrated as Parliament's first decisive victory by a Roundhead army on the attack; all major Parliamentarian successes up to that point had been defensive. Confidence in the vulnerability of the Royal cause was boosted in Parliament.