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Battle of Edgehill

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Battle of Edgehill

Postby Bruce Everiss » Thu 17 Jul 2008 4:47 pm

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Wikipedia for Battle of Edgehill: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Edgehill

The Battle of Edgehill (or Edge Hill) was the first pitched battle of the First English Civil War. It was fought near Edge Hill and Kineton in southern Warwickshire on October 23, 1642. The inconclusive result of the battle prevented either faction gaining a quick victory in the war, which eventually lasted four years.

The battle
As Essex showed no signs of wishing to attack, the Royalists began to descend the slope of Edgehill some time after midday. Even when they had completed this manoevre at about two o'clock, the battle did not begin, until the sight of the King with his large entourage riding from regiment to regiment to encourage his soldiers, apparently goaded the Parliamentarians into opening fire.
The King's party withdrew out of range and an artillery duel took place. The Royalist guns were comparatively ineffective as most of them were deployed some way up the slope, and from this height most of their shot plunged harmlessly into the earth. While the bombardment continued however, the Royalist dragoons advanced on each flank and drove back the Parliamentarian dragoons and musketeers covering their wings of horse.
At last, Rupert gave the order to attack. As his charge gathered momentum, a troop of Parliamentarian horse under Faithfull Fortescue abruptly defected. The rest of Ramsay's brigade apparently gave an ineffectual volley of pistol fire from the saddle before turning to flee. Rupert's and Byron's troopers rapidly overran the enemy guns and musketeers on this flank and galloped jubilantly in pursuit of Ramsay's men.
Wilmot charged about the same time on the other flank. Feilding's outnumbered regiment quickly gave way, and Wilmot and Digby also chased them to Kineton where the Royalist horse fell out to loot the Parliamentarian baggage.
The Royalist infantry also advanced in the centre. Many of the Parliamentarian foot had already run away as their cavalry disappeared, and others fled as the infantry came to close quarters. The brigades of Sir Thomas Ballard and Sir John Meldrum nevertheless stood their ground. Without any Royalist cavalry to oppose them, the Parliamentarian horse under Stapleton and Balfour now charged the Royalist infantry and put many units to flight.
The King had left himself without any proper reserve. As his centre gave way, he ordered one of his officers to conduct his sons Charles and James to safety while he himself tried to rally his infantry. Some of Balfour's men charged so far into the Royalist position that they menaced the princes' escort and briefly overran the Royalist artillery before withdrawing. In the front ranks, Lord Lindsey was killed, and Sir Edmund Verney died defending the Royal Standard, which was captured by Parliamentarian Ensign Arthur Young.
By this time, some of the Royalist horse had rallied and were returning from Kineton. Some of them recaptured the Royal Standard as it was being taken to the rear as a trophy. As they reformed on the flanks, and as evening drew on, Essex ordered his men to break off the battle.

Outcome
Both sides held their positions during the night, which was very cold. This has been suggested as the reason why many of the wounded survived, as the cold allowed many wounds to congeal, saving the wounded from bleeding to death or succumbing to infection.
The following day, both armies formed up again, but neither was willing to resume the battle. Charles sent a herald to Essex with a message of pardon if he would agree to the King's terms, but the messenger was roughly handled and forced to return without delivering his message. Although Essex had been reinforced by some of his units which had lagged behind on the march, he withdrew on October 25 to Warwick Castle, abandoning seven guns on the battlefield.
This allowed the King to move directly on London. Rupert urged this course, and was prepared to undertake it with his cavalry alone. With Essex's army still intact, Charles chose to move more deliberately, with the whole army. After capturing Banbury on October 27, Charles advanced via Oxford, Aylesbury and Reading. Essex meanwhile had moved directly to London. Reinforced with the London Trained Bands and many citizen volunteers, he would prove to be too strong for the King to contemplate another battle when the Royalists advanced to Turnham Green. The King withdrew to Oxford, which he made his capital for the rest of the war. With both sides almost evenly matched, it would drag on ruinously for years.
It is generally acknowledged that the Royalist cavalry's lack of discipline prevented a clear Royalist victory at Edgehill. Not for the last time in the war, they would gallop after fleeing enemy and stop to plunder, rather than rally to attack the enemy infantry. Byron's and Digby's men in particular, were not involved in the first clashes and should have been kept in hand rather than allowed to gallop off the battlefield.

On Easyweb: http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~crossby/E ... ehill.html
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Date: 23rd October 1642
Location: Kineton, Warwickshire
Parliamentarian Commander: Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex
Royalist Commander: Charles I, King of England
Victor: Inconclusive

Charles marched his army from Shrewsbury on 12th October, intending to make straight for London. However, Essex also marched for London from Worcester, almost parallel to Charles' route.
On the 21st October they were but 7 miles apart. Realising the danger of marching on without checking Essex' advance, Prince Rupert persuaded Charles to deploy on the slopes of Edgehill.
Essex, not having realised that the opposing army was so close drew up quite a distance from the slopes during the day. The battle would not commence until afternoon.
Both armies arranged their infantry in the centre, with cavalry on both sides. Dragoons were positioned on the flanks to guard against flanking manouevers.
The main Royalist horse, under Rupert, was on the right, opposite Sir James Ramsey's horse. On the Royalist left was Henry Wilmot who was opposite Fielding's horse. Unlike the Royalists, Essex kept a reserve of two horse regiments under the command of Stapleton and Balfour.
The Royalists had five brigades of infantry in their centre, opposite Essex's three brigades and two regiments. The number of troops overall, though was between 13 and 14 thousand each.
Charles I rode past his army in order to raise morale before the battle. This resulted in a cheer from the Royalist ranks. The parliamentary army responded with artillery fire, which began a period of about an hour of artillery fire from both sides.
Prince Rupert initiated the battle proper by charging his cavalry brigade at the Parliamentary cavalry opposite. At the sight of this, Sir Faithful Fortescue tore off his orange sash and rode to join the Royalists! Demoralised, the remaining cavalry routed and rode through the infantry that were supporting them. Four infantry regiments then broke and ran.
Meanwhile, on the other flank, Wilmot also charged the Royalist horse at the opposing cavalry. He too succeeded in routing his opposition, although the infantry remained untouched.
In an error that was to prove critical, both cavalry brigades then continued their pursuit, running down the routed troops. This action took them far from the battlefield, and many of Rupert's horse occupied themselves sacking the town of Kineton.
This left the Royalist army with no cavalry whatsoever! The parliamentarian reserve, though, was as yet unscathed. Two cavalry regiments lead by Stapleton and Balfour we able to assist the infantry without fear of cavalry assault.
The Royalist foot in the centre attacked, but were held by their opposites, with no side gaining an advantage. This did not last, though, since Balfour charged his cavalry into their rear, and the whole brigade was routed with heavy casualties.
Essex, keen to press the attack whilst he had cavalry superiority, ordered a general advance. Again, this was held by the opposing troops. Yet again, the cavalry harassment of the Royalist rear caused the troops to give ground.
The Royal Foot Guards were broken by repeated combined cavalry and infantry attacks, and the royal standard was taken by Essex' Lifeguard.
Although the number of Royalists running was increasing, an ordered withdrawal of two regiments enabled a new defensive line to be created. Although Essex could have attacked again, it was getting dark, Rupert's cavalry were returning to the field and everyone was exhausted from the fighting, so he decided to disengage.
Both sides camped on the battlefield. Apparently, a Royalist officer infiltrated the Parliamentarian camp by wearing a stolen orange sash and retrieved the royal standard for the king.
In the morning, the Royalists moved up Edgehill, and were not pursued. The battle of Edgehill, which could have gone either way, remained inconclusive.

British Civil Wars Website: http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/mil ... gehill.htm

UK Battlefield Resource Centre: http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/resour ... eFieldId=3 (many pages)

Includes detail of the battlefields trail.
"The Battlefields Trail is a long distance footpath, running for 20 miles through beautiful countryside in the heart of England. Beginning at Chipping Warden in Northamptonshire and ending at Kineton in Warwickshire, it links three of England’s most important battlefields."
Download leaflet: http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/resour ... ediaid=718

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Bruce Everiss
 
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