Monday, 1 April 2013

Winter Quarters 1642-43

Time to re-visit our little campaign in 17th Century Borsetshire.

New recruits were trained by both sides in Borsetshire in the winter of 1642-43

Readers will recall that the last post from this war torn English county reported the success of the Parliamentary forces in defeating the bid by the local magnate Herbert Gusset, the Earl of Grantham, to seize Borchester before it's defences were complete.

At the battle of Darrington in early October 1642, a Parliamentary army led by Sir George Fortescue stopped Grantham in his tracks, albeit at the cost of the former's life.

The fight at Darrington was dwarfed by the much larger encounter at Edgehill, some three weeks later, where the combined field armies of the King and Parliament confronted one another for the first time. It is widely known that this was a drawn battle, and that the King failed to press his strategic advantage in time to take London, resulting in the stand off at Thurnham Green in November.

What is less well known is that the leader of the Parliamentary cause in Borsetshire, Edward Dighurst, had sent a regiment of foot to fight at Edgehill, where they were decimated, and that the Borsetshire horse, flushed with their recent success at Darrington, also took many casualties.

Retiring to Borchester, Dighurst and his men took up winter quarters in the town. The Scottish engineer and mercenary, Alastair Begby, continued to fortify the town and its outlying villages and Dighurst set about raising more troops.

The Royalists, for their part, spent Christmas recovering from the campaign of 1642 and early in the New Year, a contingent of largely Welsh troops, led by Sir Gareth Williams, joined Grantham at Felpersham. Difficulties in supplying large bodies of men in the 17th century meant that, once concentrated, an army either moved or dwindled away through hunger, disease and desertion and so it was that Williams, together with the Royalist cavalry commander, Rufus Dancy, persuaded Grantham, that a winter offensive might catch the rebels unawares.

Taking the northern approach, the King's men skirted the Parliamentary outposts at the fortified manors of Perivale and Leyton Cross, and by the 30 January were at Westbury and poised to force a crossing of the River Perch. Such a move posed a threat to Parliament, because the western defences of Borchester were incomplete, and should the Royalists cross the river they would be in a position to storm the town from that direction.

Dighurst was left with little option but to take  up a defensive position in the open field, in front of the village of Hazelhurst, where he could defend the Perch crossing and use his newly acquired artillery to bombard the Royalists.

Well fed Parliamentary troops had wintered well...

For a full day the two armies faced one another as Williams and Dancy entreated Grantham to agree to an attack. After a cold night out in the open, Grantham finally gave his assent, and on the first day of February 1643, the Royalist army launched their second bid to take Borchester.

In other words I'm aiming to play a game of DBR this weekend...

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