Battle of Preston
The battle of Preston, which began on August 17 1648 and ended two days later near Warrington , destroyed the army which King Charles had hoped would prove the focus for the various rebellions springing up around England and Wales to combine. When the Royalists lost at Preston Charles, like his cause, was doomed.
The Duke of Hamilton had entered England from Scotland in July, though Sir Marmaduke Langdale had already begun recruiting in Cumbria in May. General Lambert for Parliament had tracked Langdale, but faced with the army Hamilton brought had held off clashing with the enemy. Cromwell , having settled disturbances in Wales, marched rapidly north, joining with Lambert in Yorkshire.
Cromwell had two options: try to swing south to block Hamilton’s progress; or more daringly cross the Pennines and hit the Royalist flank. He chose the latter, and it was an astute decision: Hamilton was a poor leader, and had allowed his forces to string out some 50 miles from Warrington in the south to Kirkby Lonsdale in the north. Worse yet, he had almost all his cavalry in the vanguard. The forces were in theory unequal, with Hamilton’s perhaps twice the 9,000 Parliamentarians, but so dispersed were the Royalists, and so disorganised, that numbers were of little consequence.
When the forces clashed on August 17 1648 neither had artillery. Hamilton and Langdale commanded separate units, and it is said that Hamilton left Langdale without support, happy that the English were killing one another.
Hamilton’s generalship was continually poor, though his personal courage was not lacking. His men too fought fiercely in defence, but were largely raw compared with the New Model Army veterans they faced. Rearguard actions and pockets of resistance blocked Cromwell from time to time, but the result of the long-running clash was inevitable. The Parliamentarians lost perhaps 100 men, the Royalists more than 8,000 taken prisoner, and 2,000 or more dead – the deaths continued even after the surrender, as parties of Scots or lone soldiers hiding in the countryside were attacked by Lancastrians eager to avenge the looting and kidnapping for ransom the starving invaders had resorted to.
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From EMILY SMITH on 6th March 2013
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