Sunday, October 23, 2016

"Edgehill - The Battle Reinterpreted" - a review..

You heard it here first, that's it, there will be an English Civil War project this winter...   ...the, oh so delightful, decision making and researching towards an actual physical end can start..

Let's start here then...

When I start a project practically the first thing I always do is look for something to latch my project on to.. usually a battle...  but for this project I haven't yet decided - certainly the subject of this book is one as I have a track record of leaning towards the start of periods/campaigns (1940 France, Blenheim, 1942 North Africa, pre Kitchener Sudan, etc.). Then there's Lansdown (Sir Bevil Grenville and his Cornish troops..!), or my local battle, Cheriton (Waller versus his very good friend Hopton) - so decision not made on that yet..

All my projects do however rely on research... I don't think the researching ever stops (they keep bringing new books out), but what I tend to gravitate to (after having read the usual history for the campaign - why they were fighting etc) at the start is books explaining the fighting mans experience, and more importabtly how he fought, which is how we come to this book which I bought in the remaindered bookshop in Bath, oh, must be four or five years ago! Clearly even then I knew I'd be doing an English Civil war project..    I'll lay my cards on the table and say that I think this book is a cracker so this one is ideal

So leaving all the usual history stuff to one side (as wargamers I would say we all have a rough idea on why the English Civil War was fought) this book is about the first major engagement (yes there were some skirmishes and minor engagements before, but this was the first big battle) not only substantial research on the timetable of the actual battle (who was where and when and why), but the bigger benefit to me was the earlier chapters on each of the major arms - cavalry, infantry and artillery - their equipment, training and weapons at this stage of the war with some commentary on how these changed as the war progressed..

So we learn that at this stage of the war Parliament would have had better equipment (access to London),which in turn lead to a higher proportion of musket to pike (2:1 or better compared with 1:1 or 3:2 for the Royalists), and that Pike would have worn more armour at this stage of the war (it tended to be worn less as the war progressed, due to improved musketry, and the weight)

Both sides had armies that were pretty new to the game. Largely raw, and poorly trained, but leavened by experienced NCO's, officers and gentry that would have had had recent experience on the Continent either with Gustavus in Sweden, or the Thirty Years War, and some of them would have fought in the Bishops Wars [clicky] a few years before. The authors (Christopher L. Scott, Alan Turton, Eric Gruber von Arni) have a very good chapter on the two major deployment/tactical types - the Swedish and Dutch systems - and the differences between them..  a chapter I feel I'll be coming back to again to refresh my memory from time to time.

This site is very good [clicky] on the difference between the two (and on a huge number of other subjects to do with the English Civil War!) but basically the Dutch was older, more basic (deeper ranks and chequer board deployment) and more easy to learn (and was used by Essex and his Parliamentarian army at the battle), the Swedish system (fewer ranks, diamond pattern deployment, and more complex firing methodology) was newer and controversially was adopted by Charles on the advice of his battlefield commanders (Rupert).. possibly one of the deciding factors in his losing the battle given the paucity of training his infantry had?

All in all then I thought the book was a belter, and an excellent primer to the early armies of the English Civil War..  time will tell if subsequent research comes up with contradictions, but I thought it was very good..  Steve the Wargamer rates it 9/10..

21 comments:

  1. I have just nipped over to the Kindle section on Amazon and the book has 4 reviews so far, seems that Peter Young has set the bench-mark in some minds, I quite fancy a look at this as some of the comments seem to point to it being a good wargamer read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Norm - bought mine in a remainder shop and I'm sure I've seen it on sale since... either way, worth a punt at only £6 on Kindle... I have the Peter Young - he's on the "to read" pile...

      Delete
  2. Must resist...............

    Ian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ian - I did (resist) for at least 5 years... :o)

      Delete
  3. Book looks terrific - I'll check this out.

    Edgehill has always intrigued me - part of the appeal is the rather inept enthusiasm of the armies, as you say, and a few aspects (and prominent personalities) didn't necessarily appear again in later actions. When I started wargaming the ECW (from a position of zero knowledge!), I consciously tried not to be too influenced by Edgehill - not because of any problem with the battle, simply because I once screwed up a poor effort at the ACW by modelling armies on First Bull Run (I was obsessed by the Knight's Wargames book), which was a mistake for a lot of reasons!

    I shall follow your adventures with great interest - looking forward to it.

    I have recently had a hankering to explore the Scottish Bishops' Wars (1639 and 1640?) - one feature of this is that I would have to rescript the real wars to make this worthwhile - the historical prototype was a bit of a walkover. I very much enjoyed my campaign in Somewhere Like Lancashire - the freedom to ignore real history is a real advantage!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Foy - "inept enthusiasm" sums up why I have always leant towards the early parts of the projects I have chosen.. I like the fact that it was usually a clean sheet, with all to learn... I shall read the Peter Young book (again - can't remember how long ago I last read it) and compare...

      Delete
    2. I have also only just noticed (dull, dull, dull) that by some extraordinary chance I posted my review on the very anniversary of the actual battle! Now that is weird......

      Delete
  4. It's a good book, but you also need to read Wanklyn's "Decisive Battles of the English Civil War" if you're serious about this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trebian - an unfortunate name but I can confirm I have Mr Wanklyn's book in my library, and have indeed already read it.. it's back on the "to read" pile so I can refresh my memory

      Delete
    2. His other two books "Military History of the ECW" and "Warrior Generals" are worth the time as well.

      Delete
  5. I read this book when it was first published in 2004. Details of the book are faint memories now. I should pull it off the shelf and give myself a refresher.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jonathan - worth it I think if only to refresh the information on tactics and organisation.... the 'battle stuff' was almost kind of secondary for me....

      Delete
  6. I am currently reading this and for me the early chapters are a bit of a given- though those on deployment are fascinating. I agree with Trebbian that Wanklyn is useful as he does his best to strip out all the conjecture but sometimes I think he goes too far to support his academic credentials. Being only half way through this volume I'll see what the aurthors make of the actual fighting.
    I note that Stuart Reid is not included in their bibliography I still think his "All the Kings Armies" is possibly the best single volume account of the Civil wars that I have read- but there are newer books I don't have yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andy - I'm doing Ok then as I already have (and have read) the Stuart Reid book as well, but as above it was a while ago, so I'll pull it out for a refresh..

      Delete
    2. Reid's "All the King's Men" is the standard from which I measure all ECW histories relevant to the wargamer.

      Delete
    3. Jonathan - I'll bump it up the list based on that... :o)

      Anyone who has commented got any recommendations for books on tactics fro the period.. I'm interested in how foot regiments would deploy for receiving horse, receiving foot, etc.

      Delete
    4. Steve for that you are going to need drillbooks. There are a few about but try http://syler.com/drillDemo/menu.html

      that link for a site which shows you how drill happened- at least for foot.
      Cruso's Military instuctions for the Cavallerie was reprinted during the war and there are modern reprints about- I have a 1970s one- Also Humprey Barriffe for the foot. I'm sure online versions of these drillbooks must be about.

      Delete
    5. Reid is good but stretches the evidence. As he's a re-enactor and a wargamer he goes the places wargamers want a book to go. Wanklyn's book he wrote with Frank Jones is more rigorous and includes a chapter on "battlecraft" in the 17th century. The Osprey on "Pike & Shot tactics 1590 -1660" is worth a read but a bit frustrating.

      Delete
  7. I agree with Trebian who is spot on. I have never quite got Reid as 'the must have book'. Academics leave it out of their bibliography for a reason.

    All drill books give you an excellent picture of how the previous war was fought. I am very suspicious of their application to the ECW. In a discussion with a riding master of the Blues and Royals he opined that two years would be necessary to train a horse to carry out ECW manoeuvres. Almost exactly the time that Cromwells Ironsides began to affect events and the period of time given by the 'old fashioned' Peter Young.

    I don't want to slag off any author or other commentator, Reids book is very good, if occasionally inaccurate (IMO). So is H C B Rogers who at a pinch I would prefer as a better read and excellent maps. But if you want to recreate Edgehill as a wargame the book you will come back to again and again is Peter Young. Indispensable.

    I found the best hook to base my project on was to take two actual armies and follow them through the war. This made much more sense than trying to work from just one day. The North or South West would be fine but I used The Kings Oxford Army and Essexs Army as the two best documented. 'Old Robins Foot' is brilliant and well worth seeking out.

    Apart from those few moderate and reasonable observations I can only wish you the very best of luck and point out as you will have gathered from the comments that once the bug bites you are in for life.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brig Peter Young's books are worth acquiring as they have all the known sources reprinted in the back as appendices. Priceless. In order to improve on his work you need to add good archaeology, - such as in Foard's book on Naseby.

      As for armies, - I based the Royalists on the King's Army in Oxford, and my Parliamentarians on Waller's Army, partly for the later as the Pike & Shot Society's book called "Waller's Army" was new out when I did them.

      In practice you can be very precious about coat colours and standards. There's lots of sense and myth busting on Pete Berry's Baccus site: https://www.baccus6mm.com/PaintingGuides/ECW/ . Pete knows his stuff on the ECW. He was in the Roundhead Association when I was, and may stioll be.

      Delete
  8. And....regarding the Edgehill book it is excellent but do read Wanklyns comments.

    One of the best things in it is the way it spells out the commanders and their responsibilities. From bitter experience I would suggest the way to go is to list each command and the numbers in it and then look at your organisation and tactics based on that information. The much less useful alternative is to start with the wargamer's desire for distinctive coat colours and paint each unit and then wonder how to put them on the table.
    e.g. Cavalry are raised by troop or regt but fight in brigades eventually of around a 1,000 men.

    ReplyDelete