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This encourage'd us soe muche that wee made too muche hast to finishe the businesse (for had wee but stood still and make signes of falling on, they had probably melted away without fighting a stroake more), but wee were order'd to fall on from both wings, which was the only cause of their standing to fight: for then the Enemy finds most of our strength drawne of the hill into a bottome, where hee had his desir'd advantage : and our first mischance hapned on our right wing, where Sir Henry Bard, leading on his Regiment further then hee had orders for, and indeede with more youthfull courage then souldierlike discretion, was observ'd by the Enemy to bee a greate space before the rest, and out of his ground, who incontinently thrusts Sir Arthur Hassellrigs Regiment of horse, well arm'd, betwixt him and home, and theire in the view of our whole Army (much to our discouragement) kills and takes every man.17 Whatever the circumstances of Bard's advance it proved fatal for his regiment. On the right of their line the Parliamentarian cavalry had advanced into the valley and Sir Arthur Hesilrige now led 300 Horse against Bard's troops who were killed or captured to a man. A wider engagement then developed on the Parliamentarian left as commanded parties of troops from both sides began to fight for Cheriton village. As Captain Harley
recorded this action went in favour of the Parliamentarians:
wee drewe downe all our horse into a heath, which stood betwixt the two hills were they did fight, but under favour of the enemy's ordinanse, the hills being one from another not [a] whole
culvering shott - which was wel knowne to some of the enemy's horse which were disspersed by our shott. Here my leiftenant lost his horse and a part of his foote, but I hope he will recover speidily. Their canon did very small execution amongst us, the enemy thinking all
were his owne if he could but possesse himselfe of the village and those hedges we had lined:
for that intent he sent downe a partee of fifteen hundred commaunded men to possesse themselfes of those places. Wee likewise sent downe twelve hundered commanded men to second our owne men. These did holde their places very neare a heath; then the enemy gotte ground and fired the village. It was noe sooner on fire but the winde turned. Our men, seeing the advantage set them to a disordered retreat: our horse seeing it, sent a partee of a hundred horse under the command of Captaine Buttler to charge them, and another under the command of Colonel Norton to second them. Captain Fleming commanded another partee.
They all of them performed their charges soe wel that thorough God's blessing they routed them all, sleue about a hundred and fifty and tooke a hundred and twenty prisoners with divers commanders of quality. Wee receaved not much losse....18 On the Royalist left wing regiments of Foot were also now engaged with both Parliamentarian Cavalry and
infantry. Colonel Slingsby provides a dramatic view of the close-quarter fighting:
Upon this successe the Enemy resumes theire first courage, which prompted them to trye a feild with us, or rather a better than that, which made them resolve to beate us; and soe with a strong body of horse charges our footte on the left wing, on that part which my Lord of Brainford was pleas'd to make your servants charge, theire the Enemy horse was repulssed with losse.
They immediately try'd the second charge in which Captain Herbert of my Lord Hoptons Regiment was slaine, with a fresh body and were againe repulssed, and soe againe the third time, the foote keeping theire ground in a close body, not firing till within two pikes length, and then three rankes att a time, after turning up the butt end of theire musketts, charging theire pikes, and standing close, preserv'd themselues, and slew many of the enemy.
Then my Lord John Steward (seeing our footte like to be opprest with freshe horse) sends downe the Queenes Regiment of horse, which were most Frenche, who descended the hill into this ground with seeming resolution, but retreated after an unhandsome charge.19 Attempts by the Royalist Horse to intervene in what had by now become a general engagement along the whole line were less than successful. Slingsby, while recognising their superiority of spirit ascribes their tactical failure to the difficulties posed by their advancing down a single deep-cut lane with high hedges (possibly
Then wee drew downe most of the horse and endeavor'd to draw up upon that plaine ground before our footte, in which our Enemy's horse stood rang'd in nine faire bodys, but having one laines end only to passe into it, they came upon great disadvantages, for by that time one body was in the ground and drawne up (before another could second it), it was over charged with number; yett I am confident our horse did performe more gallant charges that day than hath bin knowne in any one battaile this warr....20 A confused and protracted cavalry battle now raged for almost four hours with the infantry of both sides playing a role in this fighting while they continued their own struggle from hedge to hedge. Gradually the
Parliamentarian Foot pushed their opposite numbers across the valley and back onto the northern ridge:
....our foot for all the while was ingaged on the left wing, to drive the Enemy from the hedges, where our men played their parts gallantly and drove them from hedge to hedge by degrees, till they had forced them to the top of the hill....21
As the Parliamentarian infantry closed in from either flank and with their own cavalry in disarray, Hopton and
Forth decided to fall back on Alresford before retreating to Basing House and eventually Reading:
But by this time the disorder was so generall, and the Enemy pressed in that part so hard (espetially with theire muskett shott) that it was with great difficulty that we gott off all our cannon; and making our reare as good as we could with some of the best of our hores and dragoons, we recovered our first ground upon the ridge of the hill by Alsford-towne, with all our Army, cannon and carriages; from whence we shewed so good a countenance towards the Enemy, that they gave us some respitt, unwilling (as it seem'd) to hazard theire whole army upon us.22 Captain Harley's estimate of the casualties suffered on both sides was comparatively modest given the duration
of the fighting:
The slauter on either side was very small, especially on ours....I believe in all wee did not loose sixty men. The enemy, I am confident, had slaine three hundred men besides horse.23 Indication of Importance To contemporaries, and particularly to the Royalists, Cheriton was a significant encounter. Waller's victory ended a campaign which had been aimed at isolating, and if possible occupying, London, the home of Parliament, and of severing communications with the Channel ports. Had Hopton succeeded, and given Parliament's pre-occupation elsewhere in the country, the results could have been far-reaching.
It can be argued that Cheriton marked a turning point in the King's military affairs during the First Civil War.
This was not simply because one of his abler generals failed to secure victory, but rather that Cheriton signalled an end to the period in which Royalist forces could translate their offensives into strategic advantage. Before Cheriton the possibility of an overall victory for the King seemed much clearer. After Cheriton the King's military options were more limited and in the words of his Secretary, Sir Edward Walker, he was forced 'in the place of the offensive to make a defensive war'.
As an example of the contemporary art of war Cheriton left a great deal to be desired. It was an engagement in which confusion often reigned and in which actions took place as much by error and command failure as by intent. Much of the confusion which held sway once individual units became engaged may perhaps be ascribed to the fact that both armies began the battle with the same field sign - something white worn in the hat - and with the same shout - 'God with us'. In the words of Colonel Birch's biographer Cheriton 'was indeed a victory, but the worst possible of any I ever saw'.
The battlefield area boundary defines the outer reasonable limit of the battle, taking into account the positions of the combatants at the outset of fighting and the focal area of the battle itself. It does not include areas over which fighting took place subsequent to the main battle. Wherever possible, the boundary has been drawn so that it is easily appreciated on the ground.
From Cheriton North End the battlefield area follows the lane northwards to the Wayfarers' Walk before heading east behind the Royalist lines, picking up Cheriton Lane near Scrubbs Bungalow. The boundary follows Cheriton Lane and the edge of the wood to incorporate the area of the Parliamentary position in the wood and Appleyard's advance to retake the wood for the King. Dog-legging southwards and then eastwards, the boundary follows a track to the Alresford Lane and across, using for convenience the 100m contour here rather than field boundaries, to the end of Upper Lamorough Lane and back to North End, thus allowing for the
Notes 1. Adair, J.
Cheriton 1644 The Campaign and the Battle (Kineton 1973).
2. See map on p322 in Gardiner, S.R. History of the Great Civil War Vol. 1 1642-1644 (The Windrush Press. Moreton-in-Marsh, 1987).
3. Burne, A.H. More Battlefields of England (London, 1952).
4. Young, P. and Holmes, R. The English Civil War, A Military History of the Three Civil Wars 1642-1651 ( London 1974).
5. Seymour, W. Battles in Britain 1642-1746 Vol. 2 (London 1975).
6. Bellum Civile. Hopton's Narrative of his Campaign in the West. Ed. Chadwyck-Healey, C.E.H.
Somerset Record Society Vol. 18 (1902).
12. Military Memoir of Colonel John Birch,..Written by Roe, his secretary...Ed. Webb, J. Camden Society NS Vol. 7 (1873).
13. Letter from Captain Robert Harley to Colonel Edward Harley, dated 12 April 1644. HMC, Portland Manuscripts, Vol. 3, pp106-110.
14. A Letter from Captain Jones being in relation to the proceedings of Sir William Waller's Armie. TT:
E. 40 (12).
15. Chadwyck-Healey op. cit.
17. Colonel Walter Slingsby's account is printed with Bellum Civile. Hopton's Narrative of his Campaign in the West. Chadwyck-Healey, C E H. (ed.) Somerset Record Society Vol. 18 (1902).
21. Archer, E. A Fuller Relation of the Victory obtained at Alsford, 28 march, by the Parliaments forces.
(Presented to the Lord Mayor and Committee of Militia by an eye-witness employed to attend the London Brigade). TT: E. 40 (1) 1 April 1644.