Thursday, 12 September 2013

Fight at St Johns Parva September 1643

For this little battle I decided to do something slightly different. Readers who play English Civil War games will be aware that the Royalist armies often had a greater proportion of cavalry than their opponents. Phil Barker goes as far as to say that in some cases their forces were often cavalry supported by commanded shot. Parliamentary armies, at least until the formation of the New Model, tended to have a better balance of horse and foot but, with certain notable exceptions (Haselrig's 'Lobsters' and the Eastern Association horse being two),  their cavalry was often of an inferior quality.

Our campaign has arrived at a point in late 1643 where the main field armies of both sides are engaged in the manoeuvrings that culminated in the First Battle of Newbury. Much of the Royalist cavalry and the best of the infantry from Borsetshire are serving with the King. Felpersham, the Royalist stronghold and county town is looking vulnerable - there aren't enough troops to man its extensive fortifications and earthworks.

Parliamentarians in the county have mounted a scratch offensive to try and seize Felpersham by coup de main, and their little army marched on the town from the north west, moving quickly without baggage or heavy artillery. Sir Charles Moncrief, acting Royalist commander, sensed the danger and responded quickly. He marched out of Felpersham, also without baggage and heavy guns, with a force comprising local militia and what mounted troops he could muster.

The Royalist Army was therefore an unusual one - a mere 400 horse and 200 dragoons but supported by nearly 3000 foot - in other words a reversal of the usual proportions of foot and horse. The foot suffered from a shortage of muskets. such that the ratio of shot to pike was 1:1.

Parliament by contrast fielded 1100 horse, mainly 'trotters' trained to caracole, and fewer infantry than their opponents but with twice as many shot as pike. 

The battle that followed was remarkable for the Royalists' lack of ability to force a decision - their usual offensive arm was weak and accordingly what followed was, to paraphrase a later general of the horse and musket era a 'long hard pounding'.

Full AAR to follow

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