Battle of Lostwithiel


Battle of Lostwithiel

Lostwithiel, Cornwall The 21st of August 1644 AD

The Royalist cause had been much damaged earlier in 1644, particularly with the defeat at Marston Moor in July leaving the North in Parliament’s hands. King Charles , who had moved his army out of his makeshift capital of Oxford to attempt to secure the West Country for his cause, was not deterred by news of Marston Moor. Indeed, Cornwall became even more important to the King, for the wealth produced by its tin mines and for its famed soldiers – the Cornish had already acquitted themselves well in many battles for the King.

Essex with a Parliamentary army of perhaps 10,000 moved into Cornwall ahead of the King. Charles commanded almost double that figure by the time he had been joined by Sir Richard Grenville’s 2,500 men, driven from besieging Plymouth by Essex, and by Prince Maurice, plus the ill-trained but fearsome men of Cornwall who began to attach themselves, albeit temporarily, to the royal army while it was in their homeland.

Seeing his precarious position Essex took the port of Fowey , with a view to evacuating his soldiers, or at least the cream of his force and their most strategically important munitions. Charles, however, outflanked this force by sending Lord Goring to capture St Blazey and nearby Par , another port of significance in the area.

The battle of Lostwithiel may better be called a campaign, lasting as it did from mid-August to early September, with small clashes and much manoeuvring. Grenville took Restormel Castle , and another party grabbed the high ground of Beacon Hill near Fowey, providing the perfect sites for Charles’s artillery to command Fowey.

When it was obvious he had been backed into a corner, and that with Charles holding Par escape in numbers via Fowey was impossible, Essex managed to get perhaps 2,000 of his cavalry away along the road from Lostwithiel to Liskeard , left almost unguarded by the Royalists.

For the rest of the Parliamentary army, however, the future was bleak. Forced further and further back towards Fowey, they abandoned Lostwithiel on August 31, the day after a poorly organised breakout had failed because deserters had traded the information for good treatment. Faced with inevitable defeat Essex saved his own skin, in filthy weather to hide him taking a small boat from Fowey on September 1. Skippon was left to surrender, which he did after negotiating what seemed like very good terms for his army – the Royalists knew they would suffer heavy casualties had the trapped force been engaged in battle.

About 6,000 Parliamentarians, mainly infantry, marched out of the area, having abandoned their weapons, with free passage to Portsmouth allowed them. The supplies of this force had dwindled during the Lostwithiel campaign, and on the march many succumbed to hunger and disease, and it is probable groups of stragglers were picked off by the Cornish irregulars who had allied themselves loosely with the king.

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