Battle of Turnham Green


Battle of Turnham Green

Chiswick, London The 13th of November 1642 AD

Turnham Green proved in reality the battle that never was. Propagandising by Parliament after Edgehill at the end of October had swayed many ordinary Londoners to support the Roundhead cause. Prince Rupert's idiotic sack of Brentford on November 12 1642 , the day before Turnham Green, was the best recruiting sergeant Parliament could have wished for.
Charles and his roughly 12,000 battle hardened men advanced towards the capital on November 13 1642; but they lacked ammunition in spite of capturing some supplies in Brentford the day before; they were also poorly fed, and had to endure the sight and smell of their opponents eating well at midday.
Facing this professional force there were perhaps double the number of largely untried Roundheads, and an unknown but considerable number of civilians, women included, armed with whatever had come to hand that morning. At Turnham the ground was unsuited to cavalry attack, with small fields and many hedges to slow mounted charges, and just beyond lay the unenticing prospect of street fighting. Worse, from a political point of view even had the Royalist force swept aside the citizens' army it faced, the deaths of so many civilians would have been a further spur to resistance by the ordinary populace.
Things were equally complicated for the Roundhead commanders. They had a numerical advantage, but in terms of quality these troops were not the match of Charles's. Hampden was on fire to attack, but wiser counsel prevailed, fearing the new soldiers would be incapable of holding formation if moved, or if left while others attacked being very capable of melting away. The mob that was supporting the Roundhead army was as likely to get in the way as help.
Thus the strange sight of two large armies facing one another and doing almost nothing continued for several hours. A few cannon shots were exchanged. Prince Rupert 's cavalry encountered an advance by a small Parliamentary infantry force. And then Charles decided enough was enough, and ordered a retreat west, to the safety of Reading and eventually Oxford . As so often Rupert's bellicose but intelligent advice was ignored. He had suggested a sweep below the capital, to enter it via loyalist Kent . Charles spurned this route, and never again had such an opportunity to take the seat of Parliament's power and wealth, and its main supply port.

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