Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sedgemoor - battlefield trip report..

Unlike the Langport trip, the Sedgemoor trip had significantly different weather. For the Brits among my readers we're all too well aware of the weather in the last week or so, but for the international audience I heard on the BBC this morning that in some places yesterday we had a sixth of the annual rainfall in one day, and I think the poor weather rolled in about the Thursday of last week - the dvery same day I went to Sedgemoor... J

Just to make life a little easier for this report I've included a map to show where the photo's were taken, and in what direction - should make it a little easier to orientate yourself to the battle field.. it may appear that I started taking pictures from a strange position, but basically I had parked by the Church in the village and then walked through to the site of the modern day Bussex Farm - this is where the battlefield official walk starts - and then treked westward along the footpath to the end, turned left (south) and started my "tour" from the west end of the battle, working back to the farm..

Anyway - without further ado let me share some of the pictures I took on the day - as stated, the weather wasn't brilliant (wind driven rain), but the walk was good nonetheless, and was also quite rewarding as you could see the major terrain effects that shaped the battle, and the result..

1: This first picture (and be aware I've made all of these small for loading speed & display purposes - but clicking on them will give you a bigger better view) shows the area of the Royalist artillery park - Feversham (the C-in-C) had positioned the artillery so as to cover the Bridgewater approach (I had come down this road on the way to Westonzoyland) as this was the direction he expected the Rebels from. In the middle distance you can see the church tower to help orientate the picture further..


2: This picture is taken to give a view of the likely position of the "lower plungeon" or crossing - it's looking south, so the artillery would have been in the distance on the left, the crossing would have been about half way down the field..
3: I've just crossed the Bussex and am standing right in front of what would have been the Royalist deployment line - 6 regiments of Foot would have been standing ready to move forard and confront the rebel infantry...
4: Swivelling 180' this is the direction they would have moved.. the battlefield monuments are in the middle distance behind the tall tree.. the monument marks the point where the infantry battle was fiercest..







5: First of the two battle information boards either side of the entrance to the monument enclosure







6: The second one...











7: The monument itself, and a close-up of the inscription (8:)











9: Although the Bussex Rhine is no more (replaced by more modern & efficient drainage ditches) I think the current wet weather, and the tendancy for damp to always seek the lowest/natural feature means that it is unlikely to completely disapear, and this feature consisting of much rougher ground, hedge/tree lined, follows the line of the Bussex (runs east west) just to the north of the monument - difficult to believe it isn't on the same line as the original rhine...

10 (almost finished! J): I took this as it gives a good view of where the Royal infantry encampments were - and why... the fence line is the key indicator, look how it rises. At the time of the battle the moor would have been considerably "wetter" than it is now (modern more efficient drainage has changed the lie of the land considerably) - Westonzoyland is/was built on an 'island' and the fence nicely shows you where the island starts, and where the Royalist infantry would have been camped..

11: Probably the most important picture of the lot and unfortunately not as focussed as I would have liked - the clump of trees in the middle marks (roughly) the likely site of the "upper plongeon", that the Rebel Cavalry were unable to find in the dark, but was the key to the Rebel strategy.. having missed it they galloped to the left of the picture, along the line of the Bussex, looking for the crossing but taking casualties from the musketry of the Royal infantry before eventually being driven off in rout..

Westonzoyland Church - start and end of the walk - a large number of the Rebels were held as prisoners in the church for a number of weeks after the battle - unfortunately it was closed and I wasn't able to see inside..





..and that's it - it was a most enjoyable three days, I won't even go into detail on the excellent ales I had while I was away (Bath is a hotbed for micro-breweries), but in summary the best were:

  • RCH "Pitchfork" - which is absolutely delicious and always my first pint when staying in Bath - and usually at this little back street gem- the Old Green Tree - which has a wood panelled front bar, with lovely comfortable seats, and a very gentle and relaxing atmosphere. Pitchfork is also a nice strength in that it's not rocket fuel being only 4.3%. Either way it's a lovely golden ale, with a lovely bitter aftertaste, and is dangerously drinkable - and it has the Sedgemoor "conneciton" as well (as you'll see if you go to the website)
  • Bath Ales "Wild Hare" - 5% this one so even more dangerous! It's organic though so it's good for you, right??!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Langport trip report...

...safely back after a lovely three days away - significant amounts of beer drunk (), the weather was largely kind to me, and I had some good battlefield walks... either way, the subject of this post was my trip to Langport which I did on the first day, by way of a detour to Bath where I was spending the two nights...


First picture - above - taken from the bottom of the valley looking up towards what would have been the Parliamentary left flank.. Last year I visited the site of the Battle of Roundway Down and commented afterwards that English Civil War generals only ever seemed to pick their battle sites in terms of how beautiful the surrounding country is - Langport is another example of this! At this time of the year Britain is pretty green anyway - half way through a warm summer, and with plenty of rain, this year is very green...

Second picture - below - taken from the bottom of the valley, by the modern railway bridge, this time looking up towards what would have been the Royalist positions on the ridge - these two first photo's show the pronounced rise on both sides of the valley..


..another thing that always amazes me is the small area that black powder battle sites cover (and I don't know why because it all makes sense when you think of the weapon technology at the time). In the case of Langport the front lines of the two sides could only have been 2 or 300 yards apart maximum.. anyway - without more ado, some pictures of the site. ..next post will cover Sedgemoor..

Third picture - below - taken from the Royalist positions looking across the valley to Parliamentary positions on the opposite ridge - their are two hedge lines running left to right across the centre of the picture, the road lies just behind the furthest one..



Fourth picture - below - taken from the bottom of the hill almost standing on the bridge looking up the road to the hill that the Parliamentray cavalry charged up, four abreast, into the Royalist guns at the top of the lane... the road is much higher now than it was then - when you stand in the fields either side of the road it's a good 6 to 10 foot higher, they also didn't have modern hedge cutters then so the hedges would have been thicker and higher.. Goring also positioned musketeers in the hedges either side of the road; no wonder Cromwell and Fairfax were so glowing in their praise of their cavalry's efforts after the battle..

 
Fifth picture - taken from 'behind' the bridge looking up the road, in the opposite direction to the previous picture, towards the Parliament positions - the modern day bridge is in the foreground you can just see the parapet..



Last two pictures this time from the bottom of the valley standing alongside the Wagg (the river that ran across the bottom of the valley and channelled the Parliament attack) looking up towards the Royalist position - the road is just behind the tree's in the left centre of the picture. The next one is looking in the opposite direction to the Parliament position..



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

...and he's off...

...so after much looking forward the day has finally arrived and I'm off exploring... I've dropped the idea of Bovington (too much driving, saving it for another time) and today's "target" is Langport as, compared to Sedgemoor, it's a much smaller battlefield and that will allow me to do it full justice in the time available... if I get time I'll also visit Phillips Norton (aka Norton St. Phillip) either today (on the way back to Bath where I'm staying) or maybe tomorrow on the way to Sedgemoor as that would allow me to follow the historical route Monmouth took after his ill fated attempt on Bristol..

...anyway - the camera batteries are powered up, the good Beer guide is packed, and I'll share the tales when I get back!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Fathers Day...

...to me and all the other fathers... I know it's kind of a cheesy concept but it does make you feel good! J

The card by the way is from my littlest and was lovingly crafted to include all the things I like - there was room for a Cadbury's Caramel, a bottle of "Summer Lightning", a rugby ball and sundry other delights but apparently there wasn't room for a soldier!

... all things considered (neither of them are wage earners! J) I did very well - I suspect their Mum was involved somewhere along the lines as I got the DVD of "Casino Royale" and two bottles of "Loddon Premier Gold" (4.8% ABV and bottle conditioned) from the Loddon Brewery... this won a Tesco beer award at the tail end of last year and have tried it a few times now I have no doubts why - it's a lovely golden beer, (very) slightly citrusy, and also very tasty on a warm summer evening slightly chilled. They're good kids!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

More Sudan Camel Corps....

At the same time as I finished the Cuirassiers following (I'll say again, they were a joy to paint) I also finished up some more of the excellent Peter Pig (15mm Sudan Range) Camel Corps for my Sudan project. I bought these at Salute earlier this year.. as mentioned in my previous post, the Camel Corps were intended purely as mounted infantry so never fought from "camel-back" which makes them an expensive unit in wargaming terms as you need to represent the same unit in three "states"... mounted (which was the previous post), dismounted as infantry (not done yet - they are sitting on the painting table as I write, waiting to be cleaned up and undercoated) and dismounted for the camels as a placeholder for the unit on the wargame table (which are these guys) ..

Once again they've painted up really well - the red I'm using is quite thin so has a pleasing effect over a black undercoat for the saddle cloths.. I really like the look of the sentries as well, like they're poised for action at any time..

After I've finished the dismounted infantry unit, I've then decided it's time to take my first outing in the Sudan.. a small skirmish type game to get a feel for the rules, and as I've only got a dozen or so Dervish units ready, with perhaps a couple of units of Imperial troops... I'm putting together my own rules for this period based on the articles by Peter Gilder, the "Pony Wars" rules that he also used as a basis for his Sudan games and some of the mechanisms from the Will McNally AWI rules (sorry, I'm a great fan of the combined shooting/morale feature!). I would definitely recommend the "Pony Wars" rules to anyone, by the way, as they have a very interesting approach to managing the 'hostiles' whether they be American Indian (as was the intent for "Pony Wars") or modified for Dervish in my (and Peter Gilders) case. Basically the players are all on the same side, the enemy (who are the American Indians/Dervish) are entirely controlled by the effect of reaction tests, morale tests, etc. Can't wait to see how this turns out...!

Only a few days now until I disappear on my trip for a few days.. really looking forward to it - much needed break.. I've saved the end of the Tincey "Sedgemoor" book until just before I leave so it's fresh in my mind when I visit!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bavarian Cuirassiers..

A return to more normal fare this update - after all, although the researching and reading on the background to the two battlefields I'm visiting next week (corr.... getting closer!) has been really interesting, and most enjoyable, the bottom line is that it's all really to do with the little metal men - and the wargame table...J

When push comes to shove, the research & the reading is purely to feed the imaginary fires, give you the idea's for rules amendments, suggest new units to paint, and generally give you the background "feel" for the period you wargame in.... so... during all this research, my painting has continued apace..

I've learned the truth of a valuable lesson from the guys on the Old School Wargaming group which I'll gladly share here - make sure you keep painting units for all the periods you play in, as it keeps the interest in those periods fresh... they're right, and for this post then, following the recently completed Sudan Camel Corps, I attach pictures of the latest War of the Spanish Succession unit to join the ranks.

These figures are Peter Pig 15mm's from their English Civil War range, I picked them up at the 'Salute' show the month before last ... they were brought as an experiment - those of you who read my WSS Project page (link is on the left) will know that being the fairly typical skinflint wargamer I am, I'm constantly on the lookout for a good cavalry figure to match the excellent output from Dixon, but at a slightly less eye watering price.. I've always liked Peter Pig figures - they are very characterful, and decidedly easy to paint (just as well in my case) so this is very definitely a successful experiment - and one I may need to repeat if there are other cavalry figures suitable to use.

They are painted as the Bavarian Cuirassier Regiment Weickel (sometimes Weidel), and as Bavarians they will of course fight alongside their French allies..

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Gode took away the enemy’s courage and away they run" - The Battle of Langport 10th July 1645

Those of you who have stuck with me so far, are probably aware that I've been given a few days off by my beloved to go and "explore" later this month - J - my plans are to disapear towards the west country to visit a couple of battle sites, maybe visit Bovington Tank Museum, and generally to relax, read a little, and drink some good beer..!

Having covered off in some depth the background to Sedgemoor, the other battle field I'm going to visit is the site of the English Civil War battle of Langport..

Initial Manoeuvrings and Background to the Battle

Following the Royalist defeat at the battle of Naseby in June 1645, the Royalist survivors rallied under the King and Prince Rupert at Leicester, and then withdrew to the Welsh border. The only remaining Royalist force still capable of challenging the New Model Army was the Western army under Lord Goring, currently laying siege to Taunton. Rather than march in pursuit of the King, Fairfax took Leicester, and then marched swiftly south to confront Goring and relieve Taunton.


Taking a southerly route to avoid Royalist garrisons at Bristol, Bath, Devizes and Bridgwater, Fairfax was reinforced en route by General Massey with elements of Parliament's Western Association army, and by early July, Fairfax arrived at Blandford in Dorset (see map).
As he advance towards Crewkerne (from Dorchester), he received news that Goring had abandoned the siege of Taunton and was marching towards Yeovil (at this point the armies couldn’t have been more than 20 miles apart) - Goring had placed his army between the New Model, and the Royalist strongholds of Bath and Bristol.

By the 5 July Fairfax had concentrated his infantry at Crewkerne and rode forward with his cavalry to reconnoitre the Royalist position before ordering an advance on Yeovil on 7 July. This he took from the Royalists without a shot being fired.

As a diversionary move, Goring sent three cavalry brigades towards Taunton; Fairfax reacted by sending 4,000 troops, to cover them. The Royalist plan had worked to now but unfortunately for Goring the new Model then caught the Royalists by surprise just west of Langport, routing them and taking 500 prisoners. The stage was now set for the battle..

Battle of Langport, Somerset, 10 July 1645

By 10 July, Goring had taken up a strong position with his main force north-east of Langport to cover the withdrawal of his artillery and baggage to Bridgwater - estimates are that he only had 7,000 men once his expensive diversionary attack failed; comprising approximately 4500 Horse, and 2500 Foot. Fairfax had about 10,000 men (troop numbers from
here which is an excellent and very detailed read by the way), so the Royalists were outnumbered, but they had by far the better defensive position..

The Royalists occupied the steep western bank overlooking a ford across Wagg Rhyne, a stream running south through its own valley into the River Yeo. The Wagg, although narrow, was deep with no bridge or way across except for a ford (known as the "pass"), where a narrow hedged lane crossed the Rhyne. In addition to these hedges, there was was marshy ground along both sides of the Rhyne and this prevented a cavalry approach except by the pass.


The sources I’ve read are slightly at odds as to where this crossing is now, but in this map (which is from the Battlefields Trust site) the crossing is believed to be where the current bridge is - other sources say it might have been closer to where the modern day railway crosses..

Fairfax approached from the east and drew up on the rising ground on the opposite side of the valley; facing the royalists across the Wagg.

Having taken up position on the rising ground, known as Ham Hill, Goring stationed his cavalry and placed his two remaining cannon at the top of the lane, placing the two light guns in a position to fire down the lane. He then deployed two raw units of Welsh foot soldiers in the hedges leading to and from the pass.

With musketeers lining the hedges Goring thought his position was unassailable - he hoped that Fairfax would be forced to make time-consuming outflanking moves. Fairfax however, decided on a direct frontal assault as he knew that any attempt to outflank Goring would give the Royalists time to escape under cover of darkness.

The battle can then basically be seen in terms of 3 phases:


  • Fairfax began the battle by bombarding the royalist positions on the hill with artillery. The two royalist artillery pieces were soon silenced.

  • He then sent picked bands of musketeers (about 1500 men under a Colonel Rainsborough) to clear the hedges of the Welsh musketeers. This parliamentarian infantry, closely followed by their cavalry, attacked the pass. The force of the attack, together with a lack of support from Royalist reserves held in the rear who were suffering from the heavy artillery fire, soon saw the royalists driven from the pass.

  • Once the way was clear, Fairfax then ordered two "Divisions” (ie. half regiments of horse) from Fairfax's and Whalley's regiments (under a Major Bethel), to attack across the ford and up the slope. These cavalry regiments were part of Cromwell’s original Ironsides and I’m guessing their morale and training was very high. Either way the attack was very successful; the Parliamentary cavalry charged up the lane four abreast, deploying into line once they reached open ground before charging, and breaking two Royalist cavalry regiments. A third Royalist regiment counter-attacked but the second division of Parliamentarian horse (under Major Desborough) then charged and routed them. Contemporary sources quoted that the attack was so fierce "Gode took away the enemy’s courage and away they run". Lt Col John Lilburne reported that, "I heard the General, Lt General and all the chief officers that saw it, say it was one of the bravest that ever their eyes beheld."

As more Parliamentarian reinforcements streamed up the lane, Goring's men then broke and fled the field. In a last desperate attempt to stem Fairfax's advance, Goring set fire to Langport, and then tried to rally two miles further on, but his army dissolved as Cromwell's troopers approached.


Casualties


I’ve not managed to find much detail – all the accounts tend to agree that large numbers of prisoners were taken, however.


Aftermath
Goring's army had been the last effective field army available to the Royalists (although it was quantity rather than quality) and its loss was a major blow to the Royalist cause.


Fairfax’s report to Parliament was that "we having scattered this Army, there is not an Army of His Majesties in being, but such as may be with an ordinary active power scattered and brought to nothing". Cromwell’s comment was that the success was "not inferior to any we have had; …. You have the Long Sutton mercy added to the Naseby mercy". Basically, Naseby, followed by Langport has ended all hopes that the King could win the war (and that was despite the 10,000 odd men still under command of Hopton and Prince Rupert).


Links:


http://www.theteacher99.btinternet.co.uk/ecivil/langport.htm
http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/military/1645-langport-bristol.htm (the county map above came from this site)
http://www.battlefieldstrust.com/resource-centre/civil-war/battlepageview.asp?pageid=685 (the battlefield map came from this site)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Langport

Particularly recommended:

www.english-heritage.org.uk/upload/pdf/Langport.pdf
http://www.leeds.ac.uk/history/studentlife/e-journal/Riley.pdf