Battle of Adwalton Moor
In the summer of 1643 the West Riding of Yorkshire was hotly disputed by the Roundheads and the Royalists. This was wealthy territory, and strategically important, commanding the route of the Great North Road between Scotland and the lower half of England. Wakefield was taken first by one side then the other. Bradford was, however, the great target for the Royalists under the Earl of Newcastle.
Lord Fairfax and the Parliamentarian army were securely ensconced in Bradford, but he calculated that his force was inadequately provisioned and probably at a strategic disadvantage if it remained within the town. He had roughly 4,000 trained men with muskets and pikes, and additional supporters armed with whatever basic weaponry they could find – clubs, scythes, hammers and axes.
The Earl of Newcastle had double the number of men, roughly equally split between musketeers and cavalry, though as with the Roundhead force many of the infantry were untrained and poorly equipped yokels. Fairfax’s decision to take on this force seems rather foolhardy, as the cavalry would have been of little value in a siege. Another factor that would have weighed in the defenders’ favour, though probably not known to Fairfax, was that Newcastle’s musket troops had little ammunition available.
When the Roundheads broke out of Bradford their Forlorn Hope – the advance guard – drove the Royalist equivalent back towards Adwalton Moor, field by field, with small conflicts in houses along the way.
Cavalry action by the Royalists at first failed, the battlefield littered with old coal pits and other obstacles that made their effective deployment difficult. Eventually, however, Major-General Gifford on the Parliamentary right wing gave way in the face of a cavalry charge, with more than a suggestion of lack of valour in resisting his attackers. This Royalist success was pushed further by their artillery and by an attack by pikemen. When Newcastle’s cavalry almost cut Fairfax off from the rest of his force he fled towards Halifax , the battle lost. Bradford fell to the Royalists, the rest of the West Riding following in short order. Fairfax was forced to regroup in the Parliamentary stronghold of Hull , to the east. For the time being, the Royalist army in Yorkshire held the advantage.
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