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LETTER TO CRAWFORD
109 to you, they were never beaten, and wherever they were engaged against the enemy they beat continually. And truly this is matter of praise to God, and it hath some instruction in it, to own men who are religious and godly. And so many of them as are peaceably and honestly and quietly disposed to live within government, as will be subject to those gospel rules of obeying magistrates and living under authority—I reckon no godliness without that circle !”
As the months went on, events enlarged Cromwell's vision, and the sharp demands of practical necessity drew him to adopt a new general theory. In his talk with Hampden he does not actually say that if men are quietly disposed to live within the rules of government, that should suffice. But he gradually came to this. The Earl of Manchester had raised to be his major-general Lawrence Crawford, afterward to be one of Cromwell's bitter gainsayers. Crawford had cashiered or suspended his lieutenant-colonel for the sore offence of holding wrong opinions in religion. Cromwell's rebuke (March 1643) is of the sharpest. “ Surely you are not well advised thus to turn off one so faithful in the cause, and so able to serve you as this man is. Give me leave to tell you, I cannot be of your judgment; cannot understand it, if a man notorious for wickedness, for oaths, for drinking, hath as great a share in your affection as one who fears an oath, who fears to sin. Aye, but the man is an Anabaptist. Are you sure of that? Admit that he be, shall that render him incapable to serve the public ? Sir, the State in choosing men to serve it takes no notice of their opinions ; if they be willing faithfully to serve it, that satisfies. I advised you formerly to bear with men of different minds from yourself ; if you had done it when I advised you to do it, I think you would not have had so many stumbling-blocks in your way. Take heed of being
sharp, or too easily sharpened by others, against those to whom you can object little but that they square not with you in every opinion concerning matters of religion.”
In laying down to the pragmatical Crawford what has become a fundamental of free governments, Cromwell probably did not foresee the schism that his maxims would presently create in the Revolutionary ranks. To save the cause was the cry of all of them, but the cause was not to all of them the same. Whatever inscription was to be emblazoned on the parliamentary banners, success in the field was the one essential. Pym and Hampden had perceived it from the first appeal to arms and for long before, and they had bent all their energies to urging it upon the House and inspiring their commanders with their own conviction. Cromwell needed no pressure. He not only saw that without military success the cause was lost, but that the key to military success must be a force at once earnest and well disciplined ; and he applied all the keen and energetic practical qualities of his genius to the creation of such a force within his own area. He was day and night preparing the force that was to show its quality on the day of Marston Moor. “I beseech you be careful what captains of horse you choose ; a few honest men are better than numbers. If you choose godly, honest men to be captains of horse, honest men will follow them. It may be that it provokes some spirits to see such plain men made captains of horse. It had been well if men of honour and birth had entered into these employments; but why do they not appear? Who would have hindered them ?' But seeing it was necessary the work should go on, better plain men than none; but best to have men patient of wants, faithful and conscientious in their employments.” Then, in famous words that are full of life, because they point with emphasis and
FORGING THE WEAPON
colour to a social truth that always needs refreshing : “I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else. I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.” When Manchester's troops joined him, Cromwell found them very bad, mutinous, and untrustworthy, though they were paid almost to the week, while his own men were left to depend on what the sequestrations of the property of malignants in Huntingdonshire brought in. Yet, paid or unpaid, his troops increased. “A lovely company," he calls them; “ they are no Anabaptists, they are honest, sober Christians, they expect to be used like men.”
He had good right to say that he had minded the public service even to forgetfulness of his own and his men's necessities. His estate was small, yet already he had given in money between eleven and twelve hundred pounds. With unwearied zeal he organised his county, and kept delinquent churchmen in order. “Lest the soldiers should in any tumultuous way attempt the reformation of the cathedral (Ely), I require you,” writes Cromwell to a certain Mr. Hitch,“ to forbear altogether your choir service, so unedifying and offensive.” Mr. Hitch, to his honour, stuck to his service. Thereupon Cromwell stamps up the aisle with his hat on, calling in hoarse barrack tones to Mr. Hitch, " Leave off your fooling, and come down, sir.” Laud would have said just the same to a puritan prayermeeting. Many more things are unedifying and offensive than Cromwell had thought of, whether in puritan or Anglican.
The time came when the weapon so carefully forged and tempered was to be tried. The royalist stronghold on the Lincolnshire border was Newark, and it stood out through the whole course of the war. It is in one of the incessant skirmishes in the neighbourhood of Newark or on the Newark roads, that we have our first vision of Cromwell and his cavalry in actual engagement. The scene was a couple of miles from Grantham (May 13, 1643).
Ten weeks later (July 28), a more important encounter happened at Gainsborough, and Cromwell has described it with a terseness and force that is in strange contrast to the turgid and uncouth confusion of his speeches. Within a mile and a half of the town they met a body of a hundred of the enemy's horse. Cromwell's dragoons laboured to beat them back, but before they could dismount, the enemy charged and repulsed them. “Then our horse charged and broke them. The enemy being at the top of a very steep hill over our heads, some of our men attempted to march up that hill ; the enemy opposed ; our men drove them up and forced their passage." By the time they came up they saw the enemy well set in two bodies, the horse facing Cromwell in front, less than a musket-shot away, and a reserve of a full regiment of horse behind. “We endeavoured to put our men into as good order as we could. The enemy in the meanwhile advanced toward us, to take us at disadvantage; but in such order as we were, we charged their great body, I having the right wing. We came up horse to horse, where we disputed it with our swords and pistols a pretty time, all keeping close order, so that one could not break the other. At last, they a little shrinking, our men perceiving it pressed in upon them, and immediately routed their whole body.” The reserve meanwhile stood unbroken. Cromwell rapidly formed up three of his own troops whom he kept back from the chase, along with four troops of the Lincoln men. Cavendish, the royalist general, charged and routed the CHAP. I FIGHT AT GAINSBOROUGH 113 Lincolners. “ Immediately I fell on his rear with my three troops, which did so astonish him that he gave over the chase and would fain have delivered himself from me. But I pressing on forced them down a hill, having good execution of them; and below the hill, drove the general with some of his soldiers into a quagmire, where my captain slew him with a thrust under his short ribs."
Whether this thrust under the short ribs was well done or not by chivalrous rules, has been a topic of controversy. But the battle was not over. After an interval the parliamentarians unexpectedly found themselves within a quarter of a mile of a body of horse and foot, which was in fact Lord Newcastle's army. Retreat was inevitable. Lord Willoughby ordered Cromwell to bring off both horse and foot. “I went to bring them off ; but before I returned, divers foot were engaged, the enemy advancing with his whole body. Our foot retreated in some disorder. Our horse also came off with some trouble, being wearied with the long fight and their horses tired.” “But such was the goodness of God,” says another narrator in completion, “ giving courage and valour to our men and officers, that while Major Whalley and Captain Ayscough, sometimes the one with four troops faced the enemy, sometimes the other, to the exceeding glory of God be it spoken, and the great honour of those two gentlemen, they with this handful forced the enemy so, and dared them to their teeth in at the least eight or nine several removes, the enemy following at their heels; and they, though their horses were exceedingly tired, retreating in order near carbine-shot of the enemy, who then followed them, firing upon them; Colonel Cromwell gathering up the main body, and facing them behind those two lesser bodies—that in despite of the enemy we brought off our horse in this order without