The Battle of Naseby 14 June 1645 Sunday, Jun 14 2009 

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naseby16451

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Two armies astride two hilltops

Face each other ‘twixt a divide,
Green vale’s width, but also polity,
Religion, and man’s mortal pride.

Behold Charles Stuart and the King’s men,
Kneel down with their book of prayer,
The Bible of King James, the Father,
Of those who fight for his heir.

King James Bible

Red coated, the New Model Army,
Kneel down with their book of prayer,
The Geneva Bible of Calvin,
They fight for their rights they swear.

Two armies leave their two hilltops,
Do battle in grassy divide,
By musket, pike and sword’s edge,
God’s judgement; with whom shall he side?

IMR (images from Cromwell)

The path to the battle began in 1645, with the deadlock between the two armies; the Parliamentarian New Model Army and the Royalist Army of Charles I. The country was split into regions controlled by one of the warring parties.

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Parliament had failed to destroy the Southern Royalist army at the Battle of Newbury, despite their success in 1644 at Marston Moor, where a mixed Parliamentary – Scottish Covenanter army destroyed the Northern Royalist army under Prince Rupert.

In response, Parliament passed the self denying ordinance , which allowed the creation of the New Model Army, a professional army ready to serve across the whole of England.  It was officered by men who were not members of Parliament. This excluded the aristocratic leaders from further command who had earlier dominated the Parliamentary armies.  Command of the New Model Army passed to Sir Thomas Fairfax. Oliver Cromwell managed to escape the stricture of the self denying ordinance  by means of forty day extensions to his service, which were continually renewed.

Following the fall of Leicester to the Royalists at the end of May 1645 , the New Model Army broke their siege of Oxford and headed northwards, with the aim of engaging the King’s army in battle.  Inadvertently, the King’s army headed southwards.

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The path to the battle had commenced. By June 12th, the New Model Army were sufficiently close to see the campfires of the Royalists, as they broke camp and headed northwards again.

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The Parliamentarians pursued hard and Cromwell and his Ironsides rejoined the New Model Army on June 13th, the eve of the battle.

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Both sides knew a battle would be fought the next morning, and headed to Naseby, choosing their ground atop two hills, with Broad Moor in the valley between them.

The New Model Army outnumbered the Royalist army by roughly 2:1, but this seemed not to deter the King’s men.  Prince Rupert had a soldiers respect for Fairfax and Cromwell, but the rest of the Royal party believed the New Model army were incapable of putting up a strong fight.  Each drew up their army in the conventional style for the period; cavalry on each flank, and infantry in at least two lines in the centre, interspersed with the available artillery.

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A flanking move suggested by Cromwell by the Parliamentarian Dragoons under Okey opened the battle, putting Prince Rupert’s troopers under an enfilade fire.

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This constant harrassment forced Prince Rupert into charging his opponents, the New Model cavalry on the Parliamentary left flank under Henry Ireton, Cromwell’s son-in-law.

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Ireton rode forward to meet the challenge, and Lord Astley, the commander of the Royalist infantry moved forward in turn.

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Stalemate existed between Rupert and Ireton’s men as they fought it out. Lord Astley finally reached the New Model Army infantry, who gave an ineffective initial response to the Royalists.

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Meanwhile Marmaduke Langdale, commander of the Royalist cavalry on their left flank moved forward to engage Cromwell’s Ironsides.

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Prince Rupert’s troopers broke through the left flank of Parliament, and their horse fled the field.  Prince Rupert was unable to control his men, as the Royalists pursued the fleeing men, onto the Parliamentary baggage train to the rear.  The baggage train held off their attackers.  Soon after, the centre of the New Model Army infantry began to give ground under the onslaught.

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Perhaps the King was right, as it seemed Parliament was losing the battle…

But Cromwell’s men, outflanked Langdale’s and scattered them.  Superior training and command now paid off, as Cromwell send some of his troops in pursuit, whilst the rest fell on the Royalist infantry exposed flank and rear.

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At this critical juncture, the King attempted an intervention, but was restrained.  He left the field, together with his Lifeguard, with Rupert’s Bluecoats covering their movement.

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The battle was won, and the New Model Army closed around the Royalist infantry forcing surrender.

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A final stand was made by Prince Rupert’s Bluecoats, who were overwhelmed by Fairfax’s regiment and the Ironside troopers.

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The King has lost his infantry, with over 1,000 killed and about 4,000 captured during the battle and following pursuit.  He also suffered the capture of his correspondence, which lost him valuable goodwill, once published by Parliament.

The complete slide pack (with many more slides and animations) is available for download as a Powerpoint slideshow below.

Battle of Naseby Screenshow

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The Battle of Naseby 14 June 1645 Redux Saturday, Jun 13 2009 

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

Vauban Tile 500 pixels

The battle of Naseby resulted in a decisive victory for the Parliamentarian New Model Army over the Royalists, effectively ending their capacity to win the first English Civil War, which ended in May 1646 with the surrender of King Charles I to the Scottish Covenanter Army.

The battle sequence is shown as a Powerpoint slideshow.

The table for the wargame re-enactment shows a simplified view of the ground over which the battle was fought, near the Northamptionshire village of Naseby. Note the two facing hills, with physical barriers running parallel to the road in the form of the Sulby Hedges and the poor ground. Both of these are unsuitable for cavalry to pass over.

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Rules used in the games can be found in this link.

Using 1 figure to represent 100 men, and 1 mm to metre, the scale of the battle is close to the original. The Royalist and New Model Army initial troop dispositions look like:-

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The Royalists are at the top of the picture and the Parliamentarian New Model Army at the bottom.

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This shows a close up of Sir Thomas Fairfax, close to his regiment.

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Oliver Cromwell is amongst his Ironsides, hoping his gambit on sending the Dragoons under the command of Colonel Okey into the Sulby Hedges for a flank attack works.

On the Royalist side, Prince Rupert holds conference with King Charles I.

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Lord Astley offers a version of his famous prayer before his troops.

“Thou knowest Lord, how busy this day I must be.
If I forget thee, do not forget me”.

The battle begins.

10:00 am

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Okey’s Dragoons begin an enfilade fire on the Royalist right flank. Their cavalry are out of pistol range and so suffer this fire, being unable to return it. Prince Rupert scurries away to his command to exert his control, leaving King Charles I with his Lifeguard at the rear of their lines. The Parliamentarian artillery opens fire and the Royalists reply in kind, with little damage being caused. Whom will Fortuna Belli favour? Time and the realm of chance during combat will tell, for what is a battle but the outcome of each struggle, accreting into a collective decision?

10:15am

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Constant harrassing fire from the Dragoons has driven one of Prince Rupert’s cavalry regiments from the field. Like a bear stung by wasps, he takes his men forward in an angry lunge. In the centre of the Royalist infantry, one regiment has also been disrupted under artillery fire.

10:30am

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Prince Rupert’s cavalry has reached its goal and engaged Henry Ireton’s waiting cavalry. In the initial stages, the Roundheads are having the worse of it, with one unit routing and another disrupted. Fortuna Belli half smiles at the King’s men, but she is capricious in her favours.

Lord Astley takes his own command forward and the Royalists march towards the thin red line upon the hill awaiting them.

Marmaduke Langdale, commander of the Royalist cavalry on their left flank has also moved forward to engage Cromwell’s Ironsides, who wills them nearer. He’s been praying for what happened. A Royalist general attack by right echelon, triggered by a flanking move!!

“When I saw the enemy draw up and march in order towards us, and we a company of poor ignorant men, I could not riding out alone about my business but smile out to God in praises in assurance of victory”.

Let’s see if he’s right.

10:35am

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The cavalry fight between Rupert and Ireton continues apace, with Parliament more likely to break. The infantry regiment at the extreme left of the Royalist line has become disrupted under artillery fire.

10:40am

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The Royalist cavalry under Langdale continues to advance towards their destiny and Cromwell, who draws his sword, ready to lead the counterstrike.

On the other wing, the cavalry fight between Rupert and Ireton continues; again the Parliamentarian line barely holds. One more push and the Royalists will break through, if Fortuna Belli continues to smile.

The Parliamentarian Forlorn Hope readies to fire and retire, hoping to slow down the Royalist infantry advance.

10:45am

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The Forlorn Hope’s volley fails to make any impression on the Royalist advance, so they retire towards their own waiting troops.

Ireton‘s men stabilise their line against Rupert. Meanwhile, on the other side of the battlefield, puritan steel cuts through Langdale‘s troopers, and they begin to break at once.

10:50am

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Disaster strikes the left flank of the Royalists as Langdale and his men flee before Cromwell and his Ironsides. On the right flank, Rupert‘s men begin to retire from the fight. Only in the centre, where a fierce fight takes place are the Royalists holding their own, with push of pike and musketry. Has Fortuna Belli decided where her favours lie?

10:55am

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Things go from bad to worse for the King . His flanking cavalry are in full retreat, and seeing this he begins to retire himself, leaving his loyal infantry to their fate. To help aid his retreat, he sends forward Rupert’s Bluecoat infantry for cover.

Rupert

For the Ironsides, with Isaiah 41 ringing in their ears …

‘They that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of naught.’

… Cromwell’s men divide like the Red Sea; some pursue the fleeing Royalists, the rest led by Cromwell turn to attack the King’s infantry. The nearest Tertia forms a defensive ‘hedgehog’ of pikemen against the onslaught.

The rest of the front line of Royalist infantry begin to get disrupted against the New Model Army’s onslaught.

11:00am

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‘Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them’…

The Royalists are now broken, infantry fleeing for their lives before the Ironside cavalry, Langdale’s men almost gone. Only Prince Rupert’s cavalry has the stomach for a fight, and they disrupt some of Ireton‘s men. Fortuna Belli nods to Victoria that the battle belongs to Parliament.

11:05am

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The New Model Army advances, victory assured. The Royalist infantry run. How many can escape the field of combat without becoming a casualty or being captured?

Prince Rupert’s cavalry have driven their Parliamentarian foes back. Will he charge into the mêlée, or retire?

11:10am

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The Royalist infantry are all routed, apart from one regiment that retires in good order. Maybe keeping a cool head will allow them to escape, but for the rest, things look grim.

11:15am

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Something stirs Prince Rupert, and he leads his men forwards once more. But what to do? Royalist infantry are surrendering in droves underneath the hooves of the Ironsides.

11:20am

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Prince Rupert’s cavalry retires, The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.He can’t win this battle, and his King still needs him and his men. Even his Bluecoats agree with him; no martyrdom for them today.

11:25am

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The last pocket of organised resistance from the Royalists forms a defensive ‘hedgehog’ of pikemen under attack by Cromwell’s men and infantry. The rest of the Royalist infantry continue to flee.

11:30am

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The Royalist infantry ‘hedgehog’ breaks under Cromwell’s swords. The Parliamentarian cavalry surround the rest of the King’s broken infantry. They are all lost, all.

Victoria awards the day to Cromwell and Fairfax’s poor ignorant men. PAX QUÆRITUR BELLO is their unsung motto, Isaiah their spoken praise.

‘Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree in it: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.’

The battle sequence is shown below as an animated gif.

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