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The Battle of Naseby

14th June 1645. A new kind of army destroys the cavaliers. The king is almost captured. His letters aren’t so lucky.

British Civil Wars > Weapons & Warfare > Battles & Sieges > The Battle of Naseby

The Battle of Naseby was fought in Northamptonshire on Saturday 14th June 1645 between Parliament’s New Model Army and the Royalists. Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell commanded the 14,000 strong New Model Army. The Royalist army had only 7,000 men and was commanded by King Charles I and Prince Rupert of the Rhine.  The Battle of Naseby was fought in the morning. It was foggy and the ground was very un-even making it hard the two armies to find each other. Prince Rupert thought he spotted the back of the New Model Army. He believed the Roundheads were leaving the battlefield. He was wrong. Fairfax had placed his soldiers on a high ridge looking down on the Rupert. When the fighting began Prince Rupert attacked uphill against an enormous army, most of whom had been hidden behind the ridge to disguise just how many of them there were.  The Royalist and the Roundhead infantry were the first to fight. They were too close for either side’s musketeers to shoot properly. They fought with swords and used their muskets as clubs. The Royalist infantry managed to push the Roundheads back.  Rupert launched a cavalry charge. Cromwell’s dragoons were hidden in nearby hedges and shot into the side of Rupert’s cavalry as they attacked. Rupert destroyed the enemy cavalry on the western side (or flank) of the battlefield. Rupert believed he had defeated the entire Roundhead cavalry. He chased after the survivors and left the battlefield altogether.  On the other side of the battlefield more of the king’s cavalry, led by a man called Marmaduke Langdale, charged uphill and fought Cromwell’s cavalry, called Ironsides. The Ironsides outnumbered the rest of the Langdale’s cavalry two to one. Langdale’s cavalry were very quickly destroyed.

All of the king’s soldiers were on the battlefield. Fairfax and Cromwell still had a large number of soldiers that they had held in reserve who were fresh and ready to fight. The Roundhead dragoons that had hidden behind the hedge and had shot at Rupert at the battle, joined the fighting against the Royalist infantry. Fairfax personally led his own reserves against the Royalist infantry, who fought bravely but were eventually overwhelmed. When Rupert returned to the battle it was too late.  The Royalist army had been utterly defeated. It was now a desperate scrambled to get away. In the hurry to leave the battlefield the king was almost taken prisoner and his private letters were seized by Parliament. In the battle 1,000 Royalist soldiers died and 5,000 were taken prisoner. The Roundheads lost 150 men with around 250 wounded. Naseby marked the total defeat of the king’s army. Parliament would win the war six months later.

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