Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
 
The Battle of Edgehill
By Thomas May (1594/5–1650)
 
From The History of the Long Parliament

THE CANNON on both sides with a loud thunder began the fight, in which the success was not equal, the parliament’s cannon doing great execution upon their enemies, but theirs very little.
  1
  The Earl of Lindsey, general for the king, with a pike in his hand, led on the main body of that army, in which was the king’s own regiment, encountered by the Lord-General Essex, who exposed himself to all the danger that a battle could make, first leading on his troop, then his own regiment of foot, and breathing courage into them, till, being dissuaded by divers from engaging himself too far, he returned to the rest of the army to draw them on. The chief regiments having begun the battle, Sir Philip Stapleton, with a brave troop of gentlemen (which were the general’s life-guard, and commanded by him), charged the king’s regiment on their right flank with their pikes, and came off without any great hurt, though those pikemen stoutly defended themselves, and the musketeers, being good firemen, played fiercely upon them. The battle was hot at that place, and so many of the king’s side slain, that the parliament army began to be victorious there; they took the standard royal, the bearer thereof, Sir Edmund Varney, being slain, and the general, the Earl of Lindsey, sore wounded, was taken prisoner. But the same fortune was not in every part; for the king’s right wing, led by prince Rupert, charged fiercely upon the left wing of the other (consisting most of horse), and prevailed altogether, for the parliament troops ran almost all away in that wing, and many of their fool companions, dismayed with their flight, fled all away before they had stood one charge; Colonel Essex, being utterly forsaken by that whole brigade which he commanded, went himself into the van, where he performed excellent service, both by direction and execution, till at the last he was shot in the thigh, of which he shortly after died; (some part of their disheartening was caused by the revolt of their own side; for Sir Faithful Fortescue, at the beginning of the fight, instead of charging the enemy, discharged his pistol to the ground, and with his troop, wheeling about, ran to the king’s army, to whom he had formerly given notice thereof by his cornet). The parliament army had undoubtedly been ruined that day, if prince Rupert and his pursuing troops had been more temperate in blundering so untimely as they did, and had wheeled about to assist their distressed friends in other parts of the army; for prince Rupert followed the chase to Keynton town, where the carriages of the army were, which they presently pillaged, using great cruelty, as was afterwards related, to the unarmed waggoners and labouring men. A great number of the flying parliament soldiers were slain in that chase, which lasted two miles beyond Keynton, and so far, till the pursuers were forced to retire, having met with Colonel Stampden, who marched with the other brigade of the army, that brought on the artillery and ammunition, before spoken of. Colonel Stampden discharged five pieces of cannon against them; some were slain, and the rest ceasing the pursuit retired hastily to the field, where they found all their infantry, excepting two regiments, quite defeated; for in the meantime, Sir William Balfore, lieutenant-general of the horse, with a regiment of horse, charged a regiment of the king’s foot, before any foot of his own side could come up to him, and, breaking most bravely into it, had cut most of them off; and afterward, by the assistance of some foot who were come up to him, he defeated another regiment, and so got up to the greatest part of the king’s ordnance, taking some of them, cutting off the gears of the horses that drew them, and killing the gunners, but was enforced to leave them without any guard, by reason that he laboured most to make good the day against several regiments of the king’s foot, who still fought with much resolution, especially that which was of the king’s guard, where his standard was; by which Sir William Balfore’s regiment rode, when they came back from taking the ordnance, and were by them mistaken for their own side. Their passing without any hostility was the cause, that immediately afterward, Sir William, riding up toward the Lord-General Essex’s regiment of horse, they gave fire upon Sir William Balfore’s men, supposing them to be enemies, but soon discovering each other, they joined companies, and were led up with half the lord-general’s regiment, by his excellency himself, against the king’s main strength, where a terrible and bloody encounter happened; at the same time Colonel Ballard, who led a brigade there of the lord-general’s regiment and the Lord Brook’s, forced a stand of the king’s pikes, and broke through two of his regiments.  2
  In this great conflict the standard royal (as aforesaid) was taken, and Sir Edmund Varney slain, the Earl of Lindsey with his son, taken prisoners, together with colonel Vavasor, lieutenant colonel of that regiment; colonel Munroe also was there slain.  3
  The standard thus taken, and put into the lord-general’s hand, was by him delivered to his secretary, master Chambers; but the secretary, after he had carried it some time in his hand, suffered it to be taken from him by an unknown person, and so privately it was conveyed away. There also was great service performed by the Lord Gray, son to the Earl of Stamford, and Sir Arthur Haslerig, and a considerable help given to the turning of the day, by defeating a regiment of the king’s called the blue regiment.  4
  By this time all the king’s foot, excepting two regiments, were dispersed, and the parliamentarians had gotten the advantage of the wind, and that ground which their enemies had fought upon. Those two regiments of the king’s retiring themselves, and finding their ordnance behind them without any guard, took stand there, and made use of their cannon, discharging many shot against their enemies. But at that time the parliament foot began to want powder, otherwise (as was observed by a commander in that army) they had charged them both with horse and foot; which in all probability would have utterly ruined the king’s infantry, consisting in a manner but of two regiments.  5
  Thus the parliament army, partly for want of ammunition, and partly being tired with so long a fight (for the whole brunt of the battle had been sustained by two regiments of their horse and four or five of their foot), made no great haste to charge any more.  6
  The king’s horse, who had been long pillaging about Keynton, by this time had leisure to come about on both hands, and join themselves, to their foot; but as they came back on the left hand of their enemies, Sir Philip Stapleton with his horse gave them a terrible charge, which they were not long able to endure, but, finding a gap in an hedge, got from him upon the spur as fast as they could, to the rest of their broken troops, and so at last joined with their foot that stood by the ordnance. And now on both sides the horse were gathered to their own foot, and so stood together both horse and foot, one against another, till it was night.  7
  The parliament army being wholly possessed of the ground which their enemies had chosen to fight upon, stood upon it all night, and in the morning returned to a warmer place near Keynton, where they had quartered the night before; for they were much pinched with cold, and the whole army in extreme want of victuals.  8
  The king’s army had withdrawn to the top of the hill for their more security, where they made great fires all the night long.  9
 
 
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