Battle of Edgehill, 23 October 1642
First important battle of the Civil War, and possibly Charles I's best chance for a victory. Having raised his army in the Welsh marches, Charles began his march towards London with close to 13,000 men. Opposing him was the earl of Essex, with Parliament's army from the Midlands, of about equal size. The two armies met to the south of Warwick. The Royalists were drawn up on Edgehill, a dramatic escarpment overlooking the Avon valley, with Essex on the plain below. However, the advantage was not all with the Royalists. Prince Rupert had to move his cavalry to lower slopes to avoid the steepest parts of the hill, while command of the infantry had to be changed on the day of the battle when Robert Bertie, earl of Lindsey resigned in front of the entire army, and was replaced by Jacob Astley, after Rupert insisted on controlling the placement of the infantry.
The two sides were in place by the afternoon, and Essex decided to provoke battle with a cannonade. Prince Rupert responded with a cavalry charge which drove off the forces directly facing him, but most of his cavalry were inexperienced, and the Prince was unable to bring them quickly back to the battlefield, where the Royalist infantry was struggling. A small force of Parliamentary cavalry had managed to silence the Royalist guns, and the Parliamentary infantry had the advantage in the struggle. Lindsey was wounded and captured, and died soon after the battle, while the King's standard bearer, Sir Edmund Verney, was killed in the fighting. By this point, the scattered Royalist cavalry was returning to the field, and under their pressure Essex was forced to withdraw.
The battle was a draw. Both sides camped on the battlefield overnight. The next day Essex claimed victory but then withdrew to Warwick, while Charles, shocked by the death toll, missed a possible chance to march on London. While Charles moved on to Oxford, which became his base for much of the year, Essex returned to London, and the chance was gone.
The English Civil War , Richard Holmes & Peter Young, an early work by one of the country's best known military historians, this is a superb single volume history of the war, from its causes to the last campaigns of the war and on to the end of the protectorate.
Edgehill 1642: The English Civil War , John Tincey, Keith Roberts, Osprey Press, 96 pages, 2001. Covers the causes of the war and the entire Edgehill campaign as well as the battle itself.
How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (10 April 2001), Battle of Edgehill, 23 October 1642, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_edgehill.html
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