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Skippon, Philip

SKIPPON, PHILIP (d. 1660), English soldier in the Civil Wars, was born at West Lexham, Norfolk. At an early age he adopted the military profession and in 1622 was serving with Sir Horace Vere in the Palatinate. He took part in most of the battles and sieges of the time in the Low Countries. At the sieges of Breda in 1625 and 1637 he was wounded, and under his old commander, Lord Vere, he was present when Bois-le-Duc ('s Hertogenbosch) and Maestricht were attacked in 1629. A veteran of considerable experience, Captain Skippon returned to England in 1639, and was immediately appointed to a command in the (Honourable) Artillery Company. In 1642 the Civil War was fast approaching, and in January Skippon was made commander of the City troops. He was not present at Edgehill, but he rode up and down the lines of his raw militiamen at Turnham Green, cheering and encouraging them in the face of the king's victorious army. Essex, the Lord General of the Parliament forces, soon made Skippon his major-general, a post which carried with it the command of the foot and the complicated duty of arranging the line of battle. He was with Essex at Gloucester, and at the first battle of Newbury distinguished himself at the head of the infantry. At the end of 1644 the amazing desertion of Essex when his army was surrounded at Lostwithiel left Skippon in command; compelled to surrender without firing a shot, the old soldier bore himself with calmness and fortitude in this adversity. At the second battle of Newbury he and Essex's old foot had the satisfaction of recapturing six of the guns they had lost at Lostwithiel. The appointment as major-general of the New Model Army soon followed, as, apart from his distinguished services, there was scarcely another man in England with the knowledge of detail requisite for the post. In this capacity he supported Fairfax as loyally as he supported Essex, and at Naseby, though dangerously wounded, he would not quit the field. For his conduct on this decisive field the two Houses of Parliament thanked him, and they sent him special physicians to cure him of his wound. It was long before he was fit to serve in the field again. He only reappeared at the siege of Oxford, which he directed. At the end of the war he was selected for the command of the forthcoming Irish expedition, with the rank of marshal-general. The discontent of the soldiery, however, which ended in open mutiny, put an end to a command which Skippon had only accepted under great pressure. He bore a part in all the movements which the army leaders now carried out. A Presbyterian himself, he endeavoured to preserve a middle position between his own sect and the Independents, and to secure by any means a firm treaty with the king. The army outstripped Fairfax and Skippon in action. The major-general was named as one of the king's judges, but, like his chief, did not take his place. During the Commonwealth period he held high office, military and civil, but ceased to influence passing events. He was one of the members of Cromwell's House of Lords, and, in general, was universally respected and beloved. Age and infirmities prevented him from taking any part in the revolutions which culminated in the restoration of the Monarchy, and in March 1660 he died. Skippon was a deeply religious man, and wrote several books of devotion for the use of soldiers. One of his few sayings in Parliament, that on the fanatic Naylor, has become famous: " If this be liberty, God deliver us from such liberty! " See Vicars, English Worthies (1647).

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

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