Memories Made Manifest
The year of 1644 would profoundly shape the next 300 years of British and world history. For now it had been a bloody and indecisive clash with no clear advantage to King or Parliament. Both sides regrouped and retrained, the Eastern Association and the London Trained Bands for Parliament, The Marquis of Newcastle and other nobles for the King.
Small skirmishes occurred as local rivalries and old scores were settled. Various areas of the country declared for either King or Parliament. Castles and
armouries were seized and fortified. The whole of Britain quickly became an armed camp almost overnight. The exact same thing would happen again some 200 years later on another continent as the echoes recycled themselves in the American Civil War of 1861 – 65.
Meanwhile the massive Scots army trained and waited on the sidelines to intervene when the time or opportunity arose. That time came, January 19, 1644 when the Scots marched south of the border and laid siege to Newcastle upon Tyne, thus cutting off the coal supply to London which was in the midst of a very cold winter. True to tradition the Scots army is never happier than when invading its old enemy England. Centuries of cross border warfare had ensured that many old grudges and feuds could be settled when the opportunity arose and this was one such time.
Chief among these families were the Percy’s and the Douglas’. But this was not so trivial, a new kind of total war was about to stalk the land. For William Baillie events came to a head on July 2, 1644 and took place on a wind swept piece of soggy moor just north west of the city of York. This was to be the turning point for Parliamentary fortunes and the beginning of the end for Charles and the Royalist cause and the place was called Marston Moor.
The Scots were marching down the A1 into the heartlands of middle England. They were following the centuries old tried and tested route. History has an uncanny knack of repeating itself in a cyclic fashion, due mainly to the terrain and geography of the landscape. The largest battle ever fought on English soil occurred in 1461 at Towton just a few miles from the ensuing conflict that was about to take place. The large amassed forces of the Yorkists under Edward IV clashed with the Lancastrians under Henry VI and his warrior Queen Margaret of Anjou. Now barely 200 years later another titanic struggle was building up a head of steam. William Baillie at the head of column of march had almost reached Towton when he was summoned back to Marston Moor.
The Scots army duly about faced and march back to its starting positions. Parliament with its strong Eastern Association under the Fairfaxes, its Midland Association under the Earl of Manchester and the
Scots under the Earl of Leven had come together as allies to take on the dashing Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Northern armies of Lord Goring, Marquis of Newcastle invested in York.
Rupert was intending to break the siege of York by a circular route north of the combined Parliamentary forces. Baillie as mentioned above was marching south near Towton at the head of a 20 000 strong Scots army when he received the order to head back to York as Prince Rupert had been sighted.
The column was a full 20 miles long so time would be required to get the men back. Fairfax, Cromwell and Manchester where busy marshalling their forces into battle array as the men marched back onto Marston Moor just outside of York. It was around 5 pm when Baillie entered onto the scene and took his position at the head of his brigades on the extreme right of the Parliamentary line. Those brigades comprised of the battle hardened veterans of the Earl of Crawford-Lindsay’s Brigade (Earl of Crawford-Lindsay’s regiment and Viscount Maitland’s regiment) and Sir Alexander Hamilton’s Brigade (Sir Alexander Hamilton’s regiment and James Rae’s regiment) all in all some 3000 troops.
Maitland’s name would forever be associated with another famous battle in a Belgium wheatfield nearly some 200 years later in the summer of 1815 at a little known place called Waterloo. There again Maitland’s boys would stand against the might of Napoleon’s Old Guard and cause Wellington to utter those immortal words, “Now’s your time Maitland, up and give it to them!” The sentiment of those words echoed back down the ages for that day at Waterloo Maitland’s boys stood like a rock, just as their direct ancestors did with Baillie upon the field of Marston Moor two centuries previous.
The Royalists had settled down for the night, but Cromwell and the Parliamentarians were in no mood to rest being driven on by the pressing need to engage and destroy the Royalists with a knockout blow and tarnish Prince Rupert’s unbeatable reputation.
It was decided that we should suddenly attack around 8 pm that evening at the sound of a single cannon shot. Fairfax argued the point upon Cromwell’s suggestion and insistence. I liked the idea as it would put the enemy onto the back foot and no sense in waiting around for the inevitable, bad for morale. We had already trudged some 20 odd miles in the summer heat, no best to get it over with.
This duly happened, as with awesome synchronicity a single clap of thunder rent the air and the dark storm clouds burst in both the sky and on the land. Sensing the drama of the moment and the God given sign of divine intent the whole Parliamentarian line surged down the gentle slope and into the stunned Royalists taken completely by surprise.
To give them credit they had plenty of fight left in them. Newcastle’s late and reluctant entry onto the moor from the York siege lines had enraged Rupert who was spoiling for a fight. Differences forgotten both wings of the cavalier cavalry mounted and hurled themselves forward into the Parliamentarian horse. Cromwell supported by little David Leslie’s Scottish lancers held the fury of Prince Rupert’s wing and dispersed the threat. Rupert unusually not at the head of his lofty cavaliers subsequently had to hide in a bean field to avoid capture! Together with the death of his famous dog Poodle much was made of this ignominious defeat in Parliamentary cartoons after the event. Crucially Cromwell, after having a wound dressed and with a trade mark iron grip on his men, regrouped and waited for a battle winning opportunity to arise.
On our side of the field it was entirely another matter. The Royalist horse under Lord Goring and Sir Charles Lucas had routed Black Tom Fairfax’s command, which dispersed and ran for the most part. Seeking fresh targets the elated cavaliers threw themselves into the flanks of our Scottish Infantry Brigades under my direct command. This was a Waterloo situation and we responded by forming a hedge of pikes whilst keeping up a hot musketry exchange. Engaged now to our front and on our flank we had to weather the storm or perish trying. Many Scots and English fearing the day lost and to their great shame began to flee the field in panic before firing a single shot. Manchester and the Earl of Leven not the least among them!
My good friend and compatriot Sergeant Major General Sir James Lumsden was furious at this turn of events and ever determined tried to rally the fleeing troops to my support. He like I had realised that this was the crucial point and that we must hold the line or lose all. This was a last man standing fight and
I was absolutely determined that we would prevail. I would be that man and no English aristo would have the pleasure of treading on my corpse.
Thoughts of our Baillie lineage going back to Sir William Wallace on the maternal side and of that stirring Scottish victory at Bannockburn (1314), now just a stones throw from Airth Castle, that I had recently leased from the Bruce family flowed through my head. Galvanised by such resolve and a sense of destiny I galloped to find Jamie, who previously had drawn a hasty map of the dispositions of our lines and
the enemies as they appeared to him - he loved maps and still does, amazingly enough! And thanks be to God it was with that sure knowledge that I knew where to draw reserves from and which of our regiments would stand and come forward to the aid of my battered Brigades. Leaving Jamie to complete the job I led those that would follow back to my beleaguered battalions.
Lindsay and Maitland’s regiments where fighting like Trojans in the titanic conflagration that was the front right of our line. Leading the boys’ forward we plugged the gaps and brought up the crucial support to hold the line and save the day for Parliament. For one whole hour these Scottish boys had withstood assault after assault as the Royalist cavalry sent wave after wave against them. The whole contest was fast and furious grasped the strategic importance of what was taking place.
It was at this point that fortune took a hand and we with a quick witted and charismatic commander in Black God bless his curly black hair! Black Tom quick thinking the white field sign from his hat and rode clean behind the as both sides were blessed Tom Fairfax, as ever took whole length of the Royalist lines in search of Cromwell. An act of the utmost audacity, but perfectly possible given the confused nature of the fighting that roiled and bubbled all around. He successfully sought and found Cromwell, who sat calmly at the head of his disciplined Ironsides awaiting an opportunity to finish this desperate fight.
Each man was on pain of death, should he leave his post, as he awaited the next order that would ensure that the Lord’s work was completed that day. That opportunity arose as Black Tom relayed the events and informed Cromwell of the disaster that had befallen the right wing Parliamentarian horse but that the Scottish infantry were putting up one heck of a fight. With deadly calm and precision Oliver Cromwell led by Black Tom Fairfax guided his Ironsides around the back of the Royalist line the same way Black Tom had come.
He then hurled them into the rear of the engaged Royalist cavalry that were intent on giving my brigades such a hard time. The surprise was complete and the rout inevitable. Within minutes the Royalist cavalry collapsed on our right wing and were fleeing en masse in head long panic and Sir Charles Lucas was captured. We had held the line! We had prevailed against increasing odds and I was never ever so glad in all my lives to see the sight of those
grim faced determined Ironsides slashing away at our opponents. The day was ours, Cromwell was ecstatic, as was Black Tom, Jamie Lumsden and my good self!
My men were jubilant as we sensed that we had
achieved a great victory against the odds. We did not know at the time, but we had changed the course of history and thankfully for me Cromwell never forgot that moment which would save my life just four
short but eventful years later.
Prince Rupert was forced to hide in a bean field and his pet dog Poodle was killed as mentioned. The Parliamentarian media spin machine made much of this and had a field day of its own. Portraying the hapless Rupert ignominiously defeated in several pamphlets. Then as now the tabloid press was in full swing trying to win the popular vote at home. But the historic victory at Marston Moor sealed the Royalist fate in the North and with it the course of the war, which would drag on for several more bloody years until it reached its final dramatic conclusion.
Parliamentary democracy would never be lost and the British people would be the ultimate beneficiaries. Naseby the following year June 14, 1645, would be the equivalent of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1,2,3, 1863, in the American Civil War. Both battles would be a political high water mark of immense magnitude in national and world history, but Marston Moor was the beginning of the end for the Royalist cause.
The following year I would be engaged in chasing and fighting a little known Royalist hero who would rise to be a superstar of the conflict, none other than Sir James Graham Marquis of Montrose and Captain General of the Royalist forces in Scotland - The Great Montrose. We would tangle time and again all over Scotland in a game of cat and mouse that would cause me much angst and dent my military reputation, but for now I was at the height of my powers and success.
Lumsden’s Battle Report
Sir James Lumsden’s comments on Marston Moor 1644.
Extracts from “Marston Moor 1644”, by Brig. General Peter Young In the front line, right to left, were two Scots brigades under Lt. General Baillie, a brigade of Fairfax’ Army and two brigades of Manchester’s Army, doubtless under Crawford. The regiments of the two Scots brigades were those of:
Lord Chancellor (Earl of Loudoun)
Earl of Buccleuch
Earl of Cassillis
William Douglas of Kilhead
Earl of Dunfermline
Lord Coupar (Cowper)
Master of Yester
Earl of Crawford-Lindsay
General Sir Alexander Hamilton
The second line was entirely composed of Scots under Major-General Sir James Lumsden and consisted of these regiments:
The third line consisted of a brigade of Lord Manchester’s Army....., one
“.......Lt. Colonel Simon Needham, who commanded Sir William Constable’s Regiment, tried manfully to rally his men, but in vain. Blakiston’s charge had a very remarkable effect, reaping a swathe through the Allied centre and reaching the summit of the ridge. It seems that not only Fairfax’ men, but most of the Scots Brigade on their right (General Hamilton’s and James Rae’s) gave way. Worse still, the right hand brigade of the second line was assailed by part of Lucas’ cavalry. Lumsden gives a cryptic version of what happened: ‘These that ran away shew themselves most baselie. I comanding the battel was on the head of your Lordships [Loudoun’s] Regiment, and Buccleuches; but they carried themselves not so as I could have wished, neither could I prevaile
them: For these that fled, never came to charge with the enemie, but were so possest with ane pannick fear, that they ran for an example to others, and no enemie following them, which gave the enemie [the
opportunity?] to charge them, they intended not, & they had only the losse.’
Lumsden tried hard to patch up the front line where Lord Lindsay’s Brigade-the extreme right-though charged by Lucas and with both flanks in the air, was standing like a rock.