Friday, 25 January 2013

Royalist Defeat at Darrington: Borchester Secured!

Parliamentarian Ensign of  Fortescue's Troop of Horse

The bid by Herbert Gussett, Earl of Grantham, to seize Borchester and secure the county for the King has failed. Grantham's army was defeated at Darrington by the Parliamentarian forces led by Sir George Fortescue, who was mortally wounded in the battle.

The two armies encountered one another late on the 2nd October 1642 and, as the light faded, were drawn up in battle formation with only a quarter of a mile or so of open ground between them.

As night fell neither commander was willing to risk a night attack with such inexperienced troops so the two armies endured a cold a sleepless night keeping a wary eye on one another in the moonlight.

The Royalists were drawn up on the left of the picture below, their right flank anchored on the village of Darrington and their left on the woods in the background. They were deployed in conventional fashion with three regiments of foot in the centre and the cavalry on the wings, although their was little room for the latter to manoeuvre on either flank. Four troops of horse and company of dragoons were in the village and a further six troops were in a column on the extreme left by the woods.

Fortescue used the woods in the right foreground to secure his left flank, deploying a company of dragoons and three light guns in the trees. He lined up his four regiments of foot in the open ground beyond but, in a departure from convention placed six troops of horse, two of whom were his own lifeguard of cuirassiers, in the centre of his line. His open right flank was covered by another regiment of horse, six troops of harquebusiers in total.

As dawn broke Fortescue opted for a bold attack on the Royalist foot with his centrally placed cavalry. He had spotted a weak point at the juncture of two Royalist regiments and correctly surmised that there was an opportunity to break their line. Advancing at a steady trot the Parliamentary horse, maintained formation until they were almost upon the enemy infantry. The King's men discharged a volley but many of them fired too high and it had little effect. The Roundheads halted at the tips of the Royalist pikes and fired their pistols and carbines. The effect was devastating. The Royalist line buckled and Fortescue urged his men to press their advantage with the sword. 

Soon the Roundheads had hacked their way through the Royalist line, panic began to infect the King's men. Taking heart, the Parliamentary infantry steadily advanced and started to inflict heavy fire on the remaining Royalist foot.

On Grantham's left his cavalry, led by Colonel Dancy, managed to charge home and break Fortescue's cavalry, but it was a case of too little, too late. The Parliamentary foot stood firm and as Dancy tried to rally the Cavaliers the crisis in the centre overwhelmed Grantham's army. The Earl led his own troop in a last ditch attempt to beat back Fortescue's cuirassiers, and a company of musketeers came to his aid. Fortescue himself fell, struck by a musket ball that penetrated the open visor of his helmet, but at that very moment the Royalists reached breaking point and men began to thrown down their weapons and surrender.

The Royalist cavalry fled the field but there were too few Roundhead horse to pursue. Many of the King's foot were also able to slip away in the confusion. When the smoke cleared though over half the Royalist foot were dead, wounded or captured and only a thousand made it back to Felpersham, many of these without weapons.Losses amongst the horse were negligible but the blow to their morale was not.

On Parliament's side, although a regiment of horse had been put to flight, very few were casualties. The greatest losses were amongst Fortescue's  cuirassiers - half of whom were killed or wounded. Roundhead dead were fewer than a hundred though, and it was clear that victory was theirs.

In gaming terms Jeff's Parliamentarians broke my biggest command and won the game, just as my Royalists had broken his smaller command. We played with two commands each at 300 points using DBR rules and the 1642 Royalist and Parliament army lists. 

The result means that Borchester is secure, although the victorious Parliamentary troops (with the exception of the trained bands and the county militia who won't leave the locality) have been summoned by Essex as he seeks to being the King to battle. And, as we all know, that bid was to lead to the first major battle of the war at Edgehill later in October...

1 comment: