Principal Battles & Engagements

Principal Battles and Engagements of the
First Civil War
in Chronological Order
1644

1642  |  1643  |  1645  |   1646

Nantwich : 25th January, 1644

Lord Byron in Cheshire had been reinforced by Royalist contingents arriving from Ireland and with these he hoped to clear the county for the King. He laid siege to Nantwich, the only important town in Cheshire still held by Parliament but on 25th January Sir William Brereton, whoose troops had recently been joined by those under Sir Thomas Fairfax, attacked Byron’s besieging army, which had been divided on either side of the river Weaver. Byron was forced to fight against superior numbers on ground disadvantageous to cavalry. Defeat was made certain when troops from the Nantwich garrison sallied forth and took him in the rear. Byron and most of the cavalry escaped, but more than 1,000 prisoners were taken, including Colonel George Monck. Many of these prisoners enrolled themselves under Parliament.

Relief of Newark : 22nd March, 1644

The Royalist commander at Newark was Sir Richard Byron (Lord Byron’s brother). The town was of extreme importance to the Royalists as a link between their forces in the north and south. Sir John Meldrum together with Lord Willoughby had laid siege to the town and the King ordered Prince Rupert to march to its relief. Rupert outmanoeuvred Meldrum and on 22nd March he surrendered, being forced to leave his siege artillery and a large quantity of muskets and pikes to the victors. It was a very important Royalist success.

Cheriton : 29th March, 1644

This was the first decisive major victory that the Parliamentarian army achieved, and it had important consequences. It was fought between General Waller, commanding a Roundhead army of some 10,000 men, and Lords Forth and Hopton with a numerically inferior force of not above 6,000 troops. Cheriton is east of Winchester and close to Alresford, which town the Royalists managed to gain before the battle. Waller’s army encamped for the night of 28th March in the fields below Hinton Ampner and the battle was fought to the north of their encampment and immediately to the west of Cheriton Wood, which played an important part in the early stages. There is some dispute as to the exact positions held by the two armies.

Cropredy Bridge : 29th June, 1644

In this inconclusive engagement north of Banbury, Charles, commanding an army of at least 9,000 which included 4,000 cavalry, was attacked by an army inferior in numbers commanded by General Waller, who had the assistance of Major-General Browne. The armies had been marching parallel to each other on either side of the river Cherwell, until Charles, thinking to intercept a force coming to the aid of Waller, pushed forward with his leading troops, creating a dangerous gap between the forward and rear elements of his army. Waller, seizing his opportunity, forced a crossing of the river at Cropredy Bridge, putting 1,500 horse, 1,000 foot and eleven guns onto the east bank, and marched north with the bulk of his force to attack the king’s forward element. Lord Cleveland, hurrying up with cavalry from the rear, had little difficulty in defeating the small force left by Waller to guard the bridge. Waller then found himself trapped between the two halves of the King’s army and only with difficulty did he regain the bridge and cross safely. Casualties were not heavy on either side but Waller lost all of his eleven guns and a number of standards.

Marston Moor : 2nd July, 1644

By the beginning of June the Marquis of Newcastle’s army was tightly beleaguered in York. Prince Rupert had the King’s permission to march to its relief, an operation which he executed with considerable skill. He then decided, although his instructions were not specific on this point, to give battle to the combined Parliamentarian and Scottish army that had been besieging the city. Accordingly, on the morning of 2nd July he moved his army to the west of York and occupied ground to the north of the Long Marston - Tockwith road, where later in the day he was joined by Lord Newcastle’s troops. The allied army deployed for battle on the high ground south of the road. No action took place during the day but the allied commanders decided to attack in the evening. The battle, which was fought partly in a thunderstorm and partly under a harvest moon, resulted in a Royalist defeat, and the north was lost to the King.

Tippermuir : 1st September, 1644

This brief fight was Montrose’s first success for Charles in Scotland. In command of about 3,000 men, most of them poorly armed and with no cavalry, he defeated a force of 7,000 under Lord Elcho three miles west of Perth.

Lostwithiel : 2nd September, 1644

Lord Essex, commander-in-chief of the Parliamentarian army, advanced into Cornwall on 26th July at the head of about 10,000 men. The King, with some 16,000 troops, came after him and was at Liskeard by 2nd August. Essex had taken up a defensive position a little way north of Lostwithiel with his headquarters in that town, and he sent 1,000 foot down to Fowey to hold the port. During August the King was joined by Sir Richard Grenvile with 1,800 foot and 600 horse and on the 26th he sent Lord Goring (who had joined him shortly after Marston Moor) on a wide flanking movement to sieze St. Blaisey and the port of Par. Essex, realizing he could not now expect reinforcements either by land or sea, hoped to avoid battle against a numerically superior force and managed to evacuate Sir William Balfour and 2,000 cavalry along the unguarded Lostwithiel - Liskeard road. The foot fell back towards Fowey, and being pressed took up a position on a line from Tywardreath to Castle Dore where they were attacked in their centre and on their left flank by the troops from St. Blaisey. The situation quickly became hopeless and Essex abandoned the army and took boat for Plymouth leaving General Skippon to surrender. More than 6,000 men laid down their arms upon generous terms, and the Royalists took forty guns and a large quantity of small arms.

Aberdeen : 13th September, 1644

Although Montrose had a better equipped army than the one that fought at Tippermuir, his cavalry only numbered forty-four horse and he was inferior by about 1,000 men to the Covenanters under Lord Burleigh who were drawn up to meet his advance in a strong position on a hillside south-west of the city. Burleigh attacked the flanks of the Royalist army with his cavalry but on both wings they were beaten back in disarray. The Covenanters’ centre was then charged by Montrose’s Irish brigade, whose determined advance proved too much for Burleigh’s men. Montrose had now seriously disabled two of the three Covenanter armies.

Second Battle of Newbury : 27th October, 1644

In the course of his march back from Cornwall to Oxford, Charles found the way barred by a large Parliamentarian army in the neighbourhood of Newbury. He took up a position north of the town covering the strong-points Speen, Donnington and Shaw House. In the absence of Essex, Manchester commanded the Roundhead army and had about 19,000 men against 12,000 Royalists. The Roundhead plan was a daring one involving a wide flanking march of some fifteen miles by Waller with 12,000 men round the front of the Royalists to come in on their left flank at Speen. Manchester was to hold the enemy in play in front of Shaw House. The flank march carried out on the 26th - 27th October was entirely successful and Waller gained some measure of surprise. Fighting on the Royalists’ left flank (under Prince Maurice) was severe and Speen was lost, but Waller failed to break through, and Manchester’s attack, which did not go in until 4 p.m. on the 26th, also made little progress. In the gathering darkness the battle ended indecisively. Charles considered his position untenable and early the next day withdrew to Oxford.

1642  |  1643  |  1645  |   1646