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The Battle of Worcester

September 3rd 1651. The last battle.

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

During the Third Civil War, after a year of fighting, Oliver Cromwell was winning victories but Charles II had not been captured.  In the summer of 1651 Charles invaded England with a Scottish army. Charles II planned to march to London and capture it, believing that English Royalists would rise up and join him. 

Royalists didn’t flock to Charles like he had hoped. Roundheads blocked the way to London. Charles II changed his plans and took his army to the city of Worcester. Charles II prepared Worcester for battle. He re-built a fort overlooking the city. The Rivers Severn and Teme ran by Worcester. Charles destroyed Upton Bridge that crossed the Severn and sent soldiers to defend Powick Bridge that crossed the Teme.   

Cromwell caught up with Charles very quickly. Cromwell had managed to gather soldiers from all over England who met him at Worcester. Cromwell’s army numbered 28,000.  Charles had only 16,000 soldiers. The Roundhead General John Lambert crossed the Severn to the West of Worcester. Cromwell’s own army was East of Worcester. The Roundheads were surrounding the city. Cromwell built bridges made of boats to cross the two rivers nearer to the city.   

On Sept 3rd the Roundheads attacked. The Scots were forced from Powick Bridge but stopped the Roundheads in nearby Powick Meadow. Cromwell crossed further along the river using his boat bridges. The Roundheads at Powick Bridge were struggling. Cromwell led some of his own soldiers to help them. But Cromwell had weakened his own position. Charles II was watching the battle from Worcester Cathedral’s tower. King Charles led an attack against the men on the east bank of the River Severnthat Cromwell had left behind. Cromwell was forced to dash back and deal with the new assault. For a moment the Roundheads were in serious trouble, but there were more of Cromwell’s men and they were better trained. What didn’t help Charles was that his cavalry, led by the Scottish General David Leslie, refused to join the attack. The Roundheads recovered and fought their way into Worcester. The Roundheads captured the king’s fort and used its cannons to fire at the city.  Worcester was taken. The Roundheads had killed 3,000 soldiers and took 10,000 prisoners. 2,000 prisoners were sent overseas as slaves. Many would die of disease in prison.

Cromwell only lost around 200 men. Charles II escaped and returned to France, but the Cavaliers had been beaten for the last time. The Civil Wars were over.      The battle had taken place on September 3rd.  Oliver Cromwell’s incredible victory at Dunbar had also taken place on September 3rd, one year earlier. Unsurprisingly, September 3rd would become a very important date for Cromwell. Seven years later he would die, on September 3rd.

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