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- The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 60/128 -

Scots Auxiliary Army (see list of members _antè_, p. 41) is found very active after the organization of the New Model--a quorum always sitting in Derby House, Canon Row, Westminster, close to Parliament (the house in which Pym had died) and sending orders, &c., to Fairfax. Manchester, Saye and Sele, Wharton, and Vane the younger, of the English members of the Committee, and Loudoun and Sir Archibald Johnstone of the Scottish members, signed most such orders and letters in May and June 1645 (see Rushworth, VI. 27-33).] He was to ride with all haste into Oxfordshire, to intercept, if possible, a convoy of 2,000 horse, which Prince Rupert was to detach from Worcester, then the head-quarters of the King's main army, for the purpose of fetching off the King and his Artillery-train from Oxford. As the forty days of grace fixed by the Self-Denying Ordinance did not expire till the 13th of May, Cromwell would have time to perform this service before the exact day on which his resignation was required! In fact, he performed it thoroughly in two days. On the 24th of April he met the enemy, consisting of the Queen's own regiment, the Earl of Northhampton's, and Lord Wilmot's, at Islip Bridge, routed them utterly, slew many, and took about 200 prisoners and 400 horses, besides the Queen's standard. Not only so; but, some of the fugitives having taken refuge in Bletchington House, then commanded by Colonel Thomas Windebank, son of the ex-Secretary, with a garrison of 200 men, Cromwell had summoned the house to surrender, and, though a defence might easily have been made, Windebank had actually surrendered that same night, giving up all his stores.

Such were the first actions of the New Model; and, as they carried joy into the Parliamentarian heart, so in the King's quarters they caused rage and vexation. Windebank was tried by court-martial for cowardice, and, notwithstanding his connexions, was shot to death in the court of Merton College, Oxford (May 3). [Footnote: For facts in the preceding three paragraphs see _Commons Journals_, Feb. 27 and 28, and March 4 and at 20, 1644-5; Sprigge's _Angliæ Reduc._ (1854) 11-13: Carlyle's _Cromwell_ (ed. 1857) I. 163-167; Rushworth, VI. 23-25. We had a glimpse of young Windebank at an earlier period, when he little foresaw this end. See Vol. II. p. 70.]


On the 1st of May, while Cromwell was still absent in Oxfordshire, the main body of the New Model, under Fairfax and Skippon, was on the move in another direction. It had seemed on the whole that it would be of most use in the South-West. In especial, there was great anxiety for the relief of Taunton. But, when Fairfax had got as far as into Dorset, on his way to Taunton, he was overtaken by an Ordinance of the two Houses, in conformity with a resolution of the Committee of both Kingdoms (May 6), recalling him and Skippon, with the bulk of the New Model, for service, after all, in the Mid-English Counties. For Goring had carried much of the South-Western force thither, and had joined Rupert and Maurice, so that there was a great stir of something new intended about Oxford and round the King's person. Accordingly, detaching only a brigade of some 7,000, consisting of Welden's, Lloyd's, Fortescue's, and Ingoldsby's foot-regiments, and Graves's horse-regiment, with some other district forces, all under Welden's chief command, to push on for the relief of Taunton, Fairfax wheeled his main force back north-east, and, after forced cross-country marching, found himself (May 14) at the well- known Newbury, on his way to Oxford. By this time he knew, if he had not known it before, that he was to have the help of other generalship under him than that of Skippon. If it had ever been really intended that Cromwell should retire from the Army with the others, according to the strict terms of the Self-Denying Ordinance, the successes at Islip Bridge and Bletchington House had put it into all men's minds to inquire how the Army could get on without him. The Army itself had but one opinion on the subject. For many months past he had been the darling of the entire force, so that, whenever he appeared unexpectedly on the field, there were shouts of "_A Cromwell! A Cromwell!_" Willingly or unwillingly, Parliament had to defer to this sentiment; and on May 10, three days before the expiry of the forty days of grace fixed by the Self-Denying Ordinance, a special ordinance of the Commons continuing Cromwell in his employment for forty days longer, i.e. till June 22, was agreed to by the Lords. There was murmuring among the Presbyterians and the friends of the late generals, Essex, Manchester, and Waller; but the thing was inevitable. Nay, when Fairfax and other officers of the New Model, not content with the vague and brief additional use of Cromwell's services thus offered, petitioned distinctly for his appointment as Lieutenant- general, with chief command of the horse, that also had to be conceded. The petition was read in the Commons and agreed to, June 10; on which day a letter was drawn up, signed by the Speaker, and despatched to Fairfax, "to desire him, if he shall so think fit, to appoint Lieutenant-general Cromwell to command the horse during so long time as the House shall dispense with his absence." [Footnote: Commons Journals of days named.]

Within four days after the formal appointment of Cromwell to the Lieutenant-generalship under Fairfax there came that great action of the year which more than justified the appointment. The circumstances were these:--While Fairfax had been on the march towards Taunton, the King, with his Artillery-train, &c., had left Oxford (May 7) and taken the field with his main army of the Midlands under Prince Rupert. Cromwell, who had remained in Oxfordshire, kept hovering after him and watching his movements. These were uncertain; but it appeared as if he were tending northwards, to relieve Chester, then besieged by a Parliamentarian force from Lancashire and Cheshire under Sir William Brereton. [Footnote: It is to be remembered that, apart from the New Model, there were still English Parliamentary garrisons, and field forces, here and there, doing necessary district work. Sir William Brereton, M.P. for Cheshire, had had in his hands much of the management of the war in those parts; and as he was still useful, Parliament had exempted him as well as Cromwell, from the same hate operation of the Self Denying Ordinance, extending his command (May 12) for forty days. The same extension, on the same day, was given to Sir Thomas Middleton, M.P. for Denbighshire, at work on the Welsh border, but with a reserve that, after the forty days his command was to be resigned to a Colonel Mitton Common Journal.] When, therefore, Fairfax had wheeled back from his South-Western expedition, and was once more in the Midlands, the question arose whether he and his New Model should besiege Oxford in the King's absence, or whether they should pursue his Majesty and fight him in the field. The siege of Oxford seemed the preferable course; and, accordingly (May 22), Fairfax, now rejoined by Cromwell, sat down before that city. Soon, however, it became questionable whether the war-committee had judged rightly. For discomfiting the King's design for the relief of Chester the Parliament had trusted to the Scottish Army, aided by the English Parliamentarians of the Northern Counties, and by a band of the New Model horse despatched north under Colonel Vermuyden. But the Scots, out of humour with the New Model altogether, had been backward or careless; the King, through Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, had made his way into Cheshire; his approach had relieved Chester; he had then turned eastwards into Staffordshire, had crossed that county, entered Leicestershire, and (May 30) taken the town of Leicester by storm. He was thus on the very verge of the Parliament's own faithful Association of the Eastern Counties, and might be expected to break into that Association. Immediately, therefore, the plans of the Parliament were changed. On the very day on which the news of the storming of Leicester arrived, Cromwell was off from Oxford into the Eastern Counties, and on the 5th of June, Fairfax, with the rest of the New Model, raised the siege of Oxford and marched north. June 13, he was in the north-west of Northamptonshire, within sight of the King's main force, which had advanced out of Leicestershire into that county. Early on that morning, while he was holding a council of war, Cromwell came in, fresh from his work in the Association, and welcomed as the man most wanted. He at once assumed his Lieutenant-generalship; and on the next day, Saturday, June 14, 1645, there was fought the great BATTLE OF NASEBY. There had been nothing like it since Marston Moor. The King's Army, commanded by the King in person, Prince Rupert, Prince Maurice, Sir Jacob Astley (now Lord Astley), Lord Barnard Stuart, Sir George Lisle, Sir Marmaduke Langdale, and Colonel Howard, was utterly defeated and ruined. The prisoners taken amounted to 5,000, and included many of the King's chief officers; all the artillery was captured, and much baggage, including the King's cabinet, with his private papers and correspondence. These papers were speedily published by Parliament under the title of _The Kings Cabinet Opened_; and, by the revelations they made of the King's duplicity, his absolute subjection to the Queen, and his secret dealings with the Irish and Papists, they did as much to discredit his cause as the battle itself. [Footnote: Sprigge, 21-51; Rushworth, VI. 29-48; and Carlyle's _Cromwell_, I. 169-l76.--Here is a note from the Stationers' Registers, July 9 (1645): "Robert Bostock entered for his copy, by special command, under the hands of Mr. Henry Parker and Mr. Thomas May, Secretaries, and Mr. Miller, Warden, a Book entitled _The King's Cabinet Opened, or certain Packets of Secret Letters and Papers, written by the King's own hand, taken in his Cabinet at Naseby Field_." For an account of Naseby battle and review of previous accounts, see Markham's _Fairfax_, 213- 230.]

Though Fairfax was voted everywhere the brave and worthy commander-in- chief at Naseby, and though Skippon had behaved like himself and kept his post after having been seriously wounded, much of the credit of the battle, as of that of Marston Moor, went to Cromwell. He had commanded the Horse on the right wing, and his success there against the enemy's left had been effectual and decisive. Moreover, in the whole marshalling of the battle, and in what had prepared for it, people saw, or thought they saw, Cromwell's influence. The horse regiments engaged were, on the right wing, Fairfax's Life-guards, Cromwell's Ironsides, Colonel Whalley's, Colonel Sir Robert Pye's, Colonel Rossiter's, Colonel Sheffield's, and Colonel Fiennes's, and, on the left wing, Colonel Butler's, Colonel Vermuyden's (now Huntingdon's), Colonel Rich's, Colonel Fleetwood's, and another; and the foot regiments engaged were Fairfax's own, Skippon's, Colonel Sir Hardress Waller's, young Colonel Pickering's, young Colonel Montague's, young Colonel Hammond's, Colonel Rainsborough's, and Lieutenant-colonel Pride's. Fairfax in person, with Skippon, commanded the foot or main body; Cromwell, as we have seen, commanded the right wing; but who commanded the left wing? It was the Colonel of that horse-regiment which we have left anonymous. And who was he? No other than that HENRY IRETON, the melancholic, reserved lawyer of the Middle Temple, who was only a Captain in Sir Robert Pye's regiment at the formation of the New Model three months before (_antè_, p. 327). He had been recently promoted to a Colonelcy, and on the eve of the battle Fairfax had made him Commissary-general of Horse, with command of the left wing, over the heads of the other Colonels. This was at Cromwell's request, who had reason to know Ireton, and had special confidence in him. Nor did the result belie Cromwell's judgment. Ireton's wing, indeed, had given way and fled under the shock of Rupert's charges, but not till Ireton himself had had his horse shot under him, received two wounds, and been taken prisoner in a counter-attack. Rescued by the turn of the battle, he came in for a share of the praise. [Footnote: Rushworth, VI. 42, 43. Carlyle's _Cromwell_, I. 176.--It came to be an assertion with the Presbyterians, thought I do not believe they believed it themselves, that Cromwell's military fame had been gained by systematic puffing on the part of the Independents. "The news books taught to speak no language but Cromwell and his party, and were mute on such actions as he and they could claim no share in," wrote Clement Walker a year or two after Naseby (Hist. of Indep. Part I, 30). We have see Baillie writing rather in the same way after Marston Moor.]--When the news of the victory reached London, the Parliament, amid their various rejoicings, and their voting of a day of public thanksgiving to God, a jewel worth 500_l_. to Fairfax, and the like, did not forget one practical inference from what had happened. That same day (June 16) the Commons signified to the Lords their desire that Cromwell's exceptional Lieutenant-generalship should be prolonged; and, accordingly, on June 18 it was agreed by both Houses "That Lieutenant-general Cromwell shall continue as Lieutenant-general of the Horse, according the established

The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 60/128

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