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CHAP. I THE HOUR OF DISCOURAGEMENT 119 another more bitterly than they hate the common foe. New circumstances evolved new motives. Some who had been most forward against the king at first had early fainted by the way, and were now thinking of pardon and royal favour. Others were men of a neutral spirit, willing to have a peace on any terms. Others had got estates by serving the parliament, and now wished to secure them by serving the king ; while those who had got no estates bore a grudge against the party that had overlooked them.
Cromwell in his place warned the House of the discouragement that was stealing upon the public mind. Unless, he said, we have a more vigorous prosecution of the war, we shall make the kingdom weary of us and hate the name of a parliament. Even many that had at the beginning been their friends, were now saying that Lords and Commoners had got great places and commands and the power of the sword into their hands, and would prolong the war in order to perpetuate their own grandeur, just as soldiers of fortune across the seas spun out campaigns in order to keep their own employments. If the army were not put upon another footing and the war more vigorously followed, the people could bear the war no longer, but would insist upon peace, even rather a dishonourable peace than none.
Almost the same reproaches were brought on the other side. This is the moment when Clarendon says that it seemed as if the whole stock of affection, loyalty, and courage that had at first animated the friends of the king were now quite spent, and had been followed up by negligence, laziness, inadvertency, and base dejection of spirit. Mere folly produced as much mischief to the king's cause as deliberate villainy could have done. Charles's own counsels according to Clarendon were as irresolute and unsteady as his advisers were ill-humoured and factious. They were all blind to what ought to have been evident, and full of trepidation about things that were never likely to happen. One day they wasted time in deliberating without coming to a decision, another day they decided without deliberating. Worst of all, decision was never followed by vigorous execution.
At the end of 1642 the king had accounted his business in Yorkshire as good as done. Here the great man was the Earl of Newcastle. He was an accomplished man, the patron of good poets like Dryden, and bad poets like Shadwell. He wrote comedies of his own, which according to his wife were inspired by the pleasant and laudable object of laughing at the follies of mankind; and there is a story, probably apocryphal, of his entertaining at dinner in Paris no less immortal persons than Hobbes and Descartes. A sage Italian, dead a hundred years before, warned statesmen that there is no worse thing in all the world than levity. “Light men are the very instruments for whatever is bad, dangerous, and hurtful; flee from them like fire.” Of this evil tribe of Guicciardini's, was Lord Newcastle ; and too many of Charles's friends, and in a certain sense even Charles himself, were no better. All this, however, did not prevent Newcastle by his vast territorial influence, popularity, and spirit, from raising in the great county of York, in Northumberland, Durham, and Westmorland, a force of nearly seven thousand men. He had seized the metropolitan city of northern England, and he had occupied the city on the Tyne from which he took his title. It was the only great port all the way from Plymouth to Berwick by which the king could bring arms and ammunition from the continent into England. Lord Newcastle was confronted in Yorkshire by the two Fairfaxes, with many, though hardly a majority, of the gentry of the county on their side, and it was in these operations that the younger Fairfax, the future Lord General of the parliament, first showed his gallantry, his dash,
CHAP. I ROYALISTS IN NORTH AND WEST 121
his invincible persistency, and his skill. The royalist commander won a stiff fight at Tadcaster before the end of the year; and after alternations of capture and recapture at Bradford, Wakefield, and Leeds, by the middle of the summer of 1643 he made himself master of all the towns in the interior of the county. The Fairfaxes were badly beaten (June 30) at Adwalton, a ridge above Bradford, and were driven by their thinned numbers, by some disaffection among the officers, and by occasional lack of bullet, match, and powder, to force their way over the waste and hilly moors and to throw themselves into Hull, the only important place in the county of York now left in the hands of the parliament.
All through the summer of 1643 the tide of victory flowed strong for the king. Newcastle's successes in Yorkshire accompanied the successes of Hopton in the west. Lord Stamford, with his army of seven thousand men, had been beaten out of the field at Stratton (May 1643), leaving the king master over all the south-west, with the important exception of Plymouth. The defeat at the engagement of Roundway Down (July 13) had broken up Waller's army. Bristol had fallen (July 26). The movements of Essex against Oxford, like most of that unlucky general's operations, had ended in failure, and he protested to the parliament that he could not carry on without reinforcements in men and money. It seemed as if nothing could prevent the triumph of a great combined operation by which the king should lead his main army down the valley of the Thames, while Newcastle should bring his northern force through the eastern counties and unite with the king in overpowering London. But the moment was lost, and the tide turned. For good reasons or bad, the king stopped to lay siege to Gloucester, and so gave time to Essex to recover. This was one of the critical events of the war, as it was Essex's one marked success. Charles was compelled to raise the siege, and his farther advance was checked by his repulse at Newbury (September 20). The other branch of the combined movement by which Newcastle was to march south was hardly so much as seriously attempted.
Newcastle's doings in Yorkshire and their sequel prepared the way for that important encounter a year later, which brought Cromwell into the front rank of military captains. For most of that year, from the summer of 1643 to the summer of 1644, the power of the northern army and the fate of London and the parliamentary cause turned upon Lincolnshire, the borderland between Yorkshire and the stubborn counties to the south-east. This issue was settled by the cavalry action at Winceby (ante, p. 114), where the united forces of Fairfax and Manchester met a body of royalist contingents from Newcastle, Gainsborough, and Lincoln. The same day that saw the royalist repulse at Winceby, saw Newcastle raise the siege of Hull. Two months later the Scots began their march southward, and in January (1644) they crossed the border. Cromwell during the spring was occupied in taking fortified houses, and in other miscellaneous military duties. He was soon called to a decisive occasion. Newcastle, who for three months had contested the advance of the Scots, was in April obliged to fall back on York, where he was gradually closed in by Fairfax, Manchester, and the Scots. From April to June he held out, until the welcome news reached him that Rupert was advancing to his relief. Fearing to be caught between two fires, the parliamentary generals drew off. By a series of skilful movements, Rupert joined Newcastle within the walls of York, and forced him to assent to immediate engagement with the retreating parliamentarians.
It has been said that the two armies who stood face to face at Marston (July 2, 1644), were the CHAP. 1 THE SCOTS CROSS THE BORDER 128 largest masses of men that had met as foes on English ground since the wars of the Roses. The royalist force counted seventeen or eighteen thousand men, the parliamentarians and their Scottish allies twentysix or twenty-seven thousand. The whole were about twice as many as were engaged at Edgehill. In our generation people may make light of battles where armies of only a few thousand men were engaged. Yet we may as well remember that Napoleon entered Italy in 1796 with only thirty thousand men under arms. At Arcola and at Rivoli he had not over fifteen thousand in the field, and even at Marengo he had not twice as many. In the great campaign of 1631-32 in the Thirty Years' War, the Imperialists were twenty-four thousand foot and thirteen thousand horse, while the Swedes were twenty-eight thousand foot and nine thousand horse. As the forces engaged at Marston were the most numerous, so the battle was the bloodiest in the civil war. It was also the most singular, for the runaways were as many on one side as the other, and the three victorious generals were all of them fugitives from the field. The general course of what happened is fairly intelligible, though in details all is open to a raking fire of historic doubts.
The two armies faced one another as usual in two parallel lines, the foot in the centre and the horse on the wings. A wide ditch with a hedge on its southern side divided them. The parliamentary forces were drawn up on a ridge sloping to the moor, the Scottish foot under Leven and Baillie stationed in the centre, with the Yorkshire army under the two Fairfaxes on the right, and Manchester's army of the Eastern Association on the left. The younger Fairfax, on the right wing, was in command of a body of
1 Mr. Firth has closely described the evidence and authorities in the Transactions of Royal Historical Society, vol. xii. See Colonel Hönig's Oliver Cromwell, II. Theil, p. 136, and a more important excursus, Bd. ii. pp. 441-453.