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Marston Moor, Battle Of

MARSTON MOOR, BATTLE OF, was fought on the 2nd of July 1644 on a moor (now enclosed) seven miles west of York, between the Royalist army under Prince Rupert and the Parliamentary and Scottish armies under the earl of Manchester, Lord Fairfax and Lord Leven. For the operations that preceded the battle see GREAT REBELLION. Rupert had relieved York and joined forces with the marquess of Newcastle's army that had defended that city, and the Parliamentarians and Scots who had besieged it had drawn off south-westward followed by the Royalists. On the morning of the 2nd of July, however, Rupert's attack on their rearguard forced them to halt and deploy on rising ground on the south edge of the moor, their position being defined on the right and left by Long Marston and Tockwith and divided from the Royalist army on the moor by a lane connecting these two villages. The respective forces were Royalists about 18,000, Parliamentarians and Scots about 27,000. The armies stood front to front. On the Royalist right was half the cavalry under Rupert; the infantry was in the centre in two lines and the left wing of cavalry was under General (Lord) Goring. The lane along the front was held by skirmishers. On the other side the cavalry of the Eastern Association under Lieut.-General Cromwell and that of the Scots under Major-General Leslie (Lord Newark) formed the left, the infantry of the Eastern Association under Major-General Crawford, of the Scots under Lord Leven, and of the Yorkshire Parliamentarians under Lord Fairfax was in the centre and the Yorkshire cavalry under Sir Thomas Fairfax was on the right wing.

During the afternoon there was a desultory cannonade, but neither side advanced. At last, concluding from movements in the enemy's lines that there would be no fighting that day, Rupert and Newcastle strolled away to their coaches and their soldiers dismounted and lay down to rest. But seeing this Cromwell instantly advanced his wing to the attack (5 p.m.). His dragoons drove away the skirmishers along the lane, and the line cavalry crossed into the moor. The general forward movement spread along the Parliamentary line from left to right, the Eastern Association infantry being the first to cross the road. In Rupert's momentary absence, the surprised Royalist cavalry could make no head against Cromwell's charge, although the latter was only made piecemeal as each unit crossed the lane and formed to the front. Rupert soon galloped up with his fresh second line and drove back Cromwell's men, Cromwell himself being wounded, but Leslie and the Scots Cavalry, taking ground to their left, swung in upon Rupert's flank, and 'after a hard struggle the hitherto unconquered cavalry of the prince was broken and routed. Then, being unlike other cavalry of the time, a thoroughly disciplined force, the Eastern Association cavalry rallied, leaving the pursuit to the Scots light horse. On the Parliamentary right, Goring had swept away the Yorkshire horse, and although most of his troopers had followed in disorderly pursuit, Sir Charles Lucas with some squadrons was attacking the exposed right of Leven's infantry. At the same time the Parliamentary infantry had mostly crossed the lane and was fighting at close quarters and suffering severely, Newcastle's north-country " White-Coat " brigade driving back and finally penetrating their centre. Lord Leven gave up the battle as lost and rode away to Tadcaster. But the Scots on the right of the foot held firm against Lucas's attacks, and Cromwell and Leslie with their cavalry passed along the rear of the Royal army, guided by Sir Thomas Fairfax (who though wounded in the rout of his Yorkshire horse had made his way to the other flank). Then, on the ground where Goring had routed Fairfax, Cromwell and Leslie won an easy victory over Goring's scattered and disordered horsemen. The Eastern Association infantry had followed the horse and was now in rear of the Royalists. The original Parliamentary centre of foot, a remnant, but one containing only the bravest and steadiest men, held fast, and soon the Royalist infantry was broken up into isolated regiments and surrounded by the victorious horse and foot of the enemy. The White-Coats retreated into an enclosure and there defended themselves to the last man. The rest were cut down on the field or scattered in the pursuit and [at nightfall the Royalist army had ceased to exist. Some of Rupert's foot regiments made their way to York, but the dispirited garrison only held out for a fortnight. Rupert rallied some six thousand of the men and escaped over the hills into Lancashire, thence rejoining King Charles in the south. But the Northern army, the main hope of the Royalist cause, was destroyed.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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