With the King at Oxford - Alfred J. Church

Of Naseby Fight

It was about five of the clock in the morning on Saturday, the 14th day of June, that the drawing up of the King's army was finished. In the centre was my Lord Astley with about two thousand five hundred foot; on the right the Prince Rupert with about two thousand horse; and on the left Sir Marmaduke Langdale with the northern horse, about sixteen hundred in all. In the reserves were about thirteen hundred, horse and foot together; so that there were in all scarce eight thousand, the horse and foot being well nigh equal in number.

About eight of the clock in the morning comes a rumour that the enemy had retired. Thereupon the scout-master is sent out, and certain horsemen with him, among whom was John Talboys and I, to make further discovery. We rode about two miles and a half, or, it may be three, and saw nothing. Then said the scout-master: "This report is manifestly true; these rascals are in great fear of us, and have fled." Thereupon he turned back with his company to carry the tidings to the King. Then says John Talboys to me: "I take it Master Scout-master has scarce gone far enough. Do you see yonder height? What say you to going thither? If we can see nothing there, then 'tis plain that they are indeed gone."

We rode as he had said, and no sooner were we gotten to the top of the hill than we saw the enemy almost under our feet. So close were we to them that a gunner aimed a small cannon that he had at us, and we could hear the bullet pass over our heads. "We have seen enough," says John; "let us go back."

Thereupon we galloped back, and found that the Prince had moved forward some horsemen and musqueteers, as thinking that the report of the enemy's retreat, which, indeed, had been in some sort confirmed by the scout-master, was true. We told him what we had seen, but he seemed to be persuaded in his mind that the enemy were now retreating. So he says to me: "Ride to my Lord Astley and tell him to come forward with all the haste he can, if he would not have the enemy escape us; and you," he said, turning to John Talboys, "carry the same words to Sir Marmaduke." It was not for me to question his bidding, so I rode with all the speed I could, and delivered the message to my Lord Astley, who, nothing questioning, for the Prince being in the van could not but know the truth, gave orders to advance with all speed.

When we came to the hill-top (the same at which the scout-master had halted) we saw, I being in the following of my Lord Astley, the Prince Rupert in the level ground below us, and on the brow of the hill beyond, to which John Talboys and I had ridden, the army of the Parliament. These last drew back so soon as we came into their view—it was but a hundred yards or so—the better to hide themselves and their plans; but we, or at the least some of us, imagined that they fled. Thereupon we moved on the faster, so fast indeed that we left behind much of our ordnance. Indeed, it is scarce to be believed how all through the day we continually put ourselves at a disadvantage.

Cavalry skirmish


The Prince Rupert began the battle, charging the enemy's left wing. I saw him and his horsemen gallop up the slope of the hill past some thick hedges, from which came forth a fire of musketry (the hedges being lined with dragoons on foot) which emptied some saddles, yet not so many as to check them. More of the Prince's doings I could not see, he passing from our view when he had got to the brow of the hill; but I heard that he broke the enemy's left wing, scattering them all ways, and then rode on as if he would have taken the baggage. 'Tis said that the captain of the baggage guard took him for Sir Thomas Fairfax, he wearing a red Spanish cloak after his lordship's fashion, and went to him, hat in hand, and asked: "How goes the day?" thinking that he was the General; and that thereupon the Prince asked whether they would have quarter, which they refused, and gave him a volley instead, which beat him and his horsemen off. On the other wing the Parliament men did not wait for our coming but charged Sir Marmaduke Langdale's horse, taking advantage of the ground, and to such a purpose that, after some smart blows given and taken, our horsemen were beaten off, and, indeed, fought no more that day.

Nevertheless, it seemed for a while as if the day would go well for us, for the main body of our foot charging against the main body of theirs did great execution upon them. The lines fired but one volley upon each other, nor did either do much damage, aiming too high, as young soldiers are wont to do, and then came to swords and the butt ends of their muskets. I do protest that however much I might be minded to magnify myself and my deeds, I could by no means tell what I did that day. I know only this that I found my sword somewhat hacked and some shrewd cuts in my buff-coat, but wound had I none save a bruise upon the forepart of the left shoulder from a musket bullet that by great happiness had spent itself before ever it came near to me. But altogether we used our swords and muskets to such good purpose that the enemy fled, though the officers for the most part, and especially they that had the colours, stood bravely to their posts. The victory being, as we judged, thus assured, my Lord Astley bethought him whether he could not succour the left wing, which the King also, who was with his guards in the reserve, was making ready to support in their need. Whereupon he sends me with this message to the King: "Does your Majesty need help?" This I was on the point to deliver, his Majesty being at the head of his guards, and preparing to charge, when I saw my Lord Carnworth, who was riding next to the King, lay his hand upon his bridle, the next moment my Lord cried out with a great oath: "Will you go upon your death in an instant?" and so saying, turned the King's horse round. After this the command was given:" March to the right." Now this marching to the right led them away both from helping their own and from charging the enemy. In whose voice it was given I cannot affirm, but 'tis certain that it was too readily obeyed. When my father, who was setting the second line of the guards in order, saw what was doing, he rode with all the speed of his horse to the King and said: "Pardon me, sir, but it is ruin absolute if we leave the field in this fashion." Then the King, who here again had yielded against his will and better judgment to the worse counsel, cried with a loud voice: "Stand." But, though some obeyed this command, yet for the greater part it was too late. Almost at the instant of the King's speaking came a musket shot from the enemy's ranks and wounded my father, entering by the left arm, which it broke, and lodging in his shoulder. It was fired from close at hand, but by whom I saw not. I have always thanked God for this, for else I had hated the man who fired, though he did but his duty to his masters. My father reeled in his saddle and was like to have fallen, but John Talboys, riding by him, held him up. The next moment my good beast falls dead with a shot, that passing my leg so close that it tore the leather of my boot, entered behind his foreleg and so passed, I take it, to his heart. Certain it is that he fell and never stirred more. The King was much concerned to see my father hurt (he had ever a tender heart for his friends, though it must be confessed that he could desert them when occasion demanded), and said to John Talboys: "Carry Colonel Dashwood to as safe a place as you can find." Thereupon they rode off at a fair pace, my father having recovered somewhat from the first shock of his wound, I following as best I could on foot. And with this ends all that I saw of the battle of Naseby. The time was then, as near as I could reckon, about noon.



How General Cromwell fell upon the main body of the King's army, and, Sir Thomas Fairfax's reserves coming up at the same time, brake it in pieces, is known to all. The Prince came back from his idle seeking for plunder, and would have rallied them that remained, but could avail nothing. It is to be noted, indeed, that the King's men both at this and at other times lacked the steadfastness of their enemies, who would stay obstinately in their place, even when they were overborne by greater strength, and being driven back would rally again. But these things the King's men would never do; so that when they gained a victory, it was not completed, for want of a second charge, and when they suffered defeat, it was a disaster beyond all remedy. I count it, indeed, no small proof of this defect, that of our army more than a half suffered themselves to be taken prisoners, who might surely have escaped, or, it may be, restored the day, had they only had the heart to rally to each other. As for ourselves, we had in this respect great good fortune, which came about in this way. When the horsemen of the Parliament's army were riding about the field, gathering in the prisoners, Sir Thomas Fairfax comes upon us, where we were, my father lying upon the ground, and John Talboys and I sitting on either side. There was some acquaintance, or rather friendship, between the General and my father, they having met at the Court, to which my father would sometimes go, and there talking much together of military affairs, for which my Lord had had, from a boy, a very singular liking. When he saw my father, and knew who he was, he showed in his face a great concern and said, "This is a sorry sight, Master Dashwood, to behold you thus lying here. Indeed, it is the curse of this most hateful war that there is a double bitterness even in victory. They who conquer must always lament their friends that have fallen in the battle, but now we must needs lament our enemies also, who are indeed our friends by old acquaintance and kindness. But say, can I do aught for you now?"

"Sir," said my father, "I doubt not that this bullet has sped me beyond all hope of recovery. But if, as may be, I have yet a few days to live, I would fain spend them elsewhere than in a prison. My son here is a scholar of Oxford, whom I would gladly send back to his books, now that the King's cause is lost beyond repair, as I doubt not that it is. And I would gladly have my good friend John Talboys here to take care of me till I die. Can you give me a pass that shall keep us from the prison?"

"You shall have it," said the General, "having first promised, as I doubt not you are ready to do, that you will not for the space of three years bear arms against the Parliament."

"I promise," said my father, "and that the more readily, knowing that I shall never bear arms again."

John Talboys and I also promised. Therefore the General gave to each of us a pass in these words, the name only being changed:—

"Suffer Philip Dashwood the elder, late of the King's army, who has promised not to bear arms against the Parliament for the space of three years from this date, to pass whithersoever he will."

This was about three of the clock in the afternoon, the battle having been then two hours ended.