Gloucester had been under siege since the 10th of August 1643. For many days now the Parliamentarian troops garrisoning the city had been putting up a valiant defence as the Royalist forces of King Charles I and Prince Rupert of the Rhine attempted to breach the walls of their town. But now Lieutenant Colonel Edward Massie had received news of the Earl of Essex's relief force departing from London, some 15,000 men were being sent to relieve Massie's garrison of 1,500. However, despite this news, Colonel Massie knew that the food supplies of the city were running dangerously low and if he didn't resupply soon the civilian population of Gloucester would conduct a coup and hand the city over to Prince Rupert and the king.
A fresh supply of food was essential if the garrison was to hold out till Essex's arrival.
Godfrey Goodman Bishop of Gloucester, who had recently had his Episcopal palace pillaged by parliamentarians, stood looking across the river Severn at the city he was Bishop for. He had opposed the king's crone, archbishop Laud, but now he stood beside one of the king's cannons, surrounded by Rupert's Blew coats, all of whom had declared for the king. When he had been released from the tower he had immediately fled to Oxford, to the king's side. After Charles' alliance with the Irish he knew that, as a closet Catholic, he would be accepted into the Royalist cause.
Now he stood looking upon the city that had shown him so little respect, and prayed for its destruction.
The Gloucestershire clubmen had turned out at dawn and were now lining the defence works of their city. Captain Richard Bannaster had departed the previous evening and soon he would come riding over the Severn bridge and up the road to the city gates. He would bring with him the dearly needed supplies and the clubmen's stomachs leaped at the thought of fresh food. In the city centre Lord Stamford's regiment and the Garrison regiment were both turned out in case the Royalists attempted to stop Captain Bannaster's return with the supplies.
In the tower of St Mary De Crypt church, which overlooked the road leading over the Severn to the city gates, the reverend Lambert Johnson stood beside the Giles Reeves, the City gunsmith and also the best marksman. In the Reverend Johnson's hand was clasped his bible, for Reverend Johnson was a strict puritan, and beside him Reeves held a musket and shotte.
Johnson prayed for Captain Bannaster's swift return, for his safety and the safety of his supplies. And lastly he prayed for the Earl of Essex and his men, and for the lead ball's enclosed in Reeves' cartridge pouch.
Down one of the back streets of Gloucester a drunken soldier staggered of Mrs Boyle's pigeon house, an almost empty bottle of liquor clutched in each hand. He had decided to drown his hunger in the all consuming wave of drink, but as the Royalists guns began their bombardment of the city he soon regretted his rash decision.
Those of you who have been reading this blog since last year may remember the battle of Kingsbury (if not you can find it labelled under shieldwall). The same group of wargamers had called me back to help re-fight a small engagement outside the fortifications of a besieged parliamentarian city.
During the Queen's jubilee I bought myself four packs plastic royalist cavaliers from warlord games (over the jubilee they had quiet a good offer on, so I bought a reduced version of their buy three got one free deal of royalist cavalry. And just in the nick of time too as after the jubilee they stopped this deal). I also received prince Rupert of the Rhine from my tale of two gamers gaming partner for my Birthday and all this combined together to make quiet a nice little force of royalist cavalry. Today I was using prince Rupert of the Rhine and two squadrons of his horse (24 models).
Basically the idea of the game was for the Parliamentarians to cross the bridge over the river with a small herd of sheep and get them inside the city. Simple. However a little further along the river Rupert, leading a royalist cavalry force, would be coming over a ford in an attempt to intercept the Parliamentarians coming up the road. But the Parliamentarians too could react to this by sending out troops form the city's garrison.
We were using the rules Victory Without Quarter. It revolves around flipping cards to activate units. Once in every turn (how long it takes to get through the pack of unit cards) there will be a "Turnover" card somewhere in the pack. When this card is drawn the pack has to be reshuffled meaning that the order in which units activate (If they activate) is entirely left to chance. Personally I'm a fan of these kind of rule sets and the game was set for a good battle.
As the sun rose over Gloucester Captain Richard Bannaster crossed the bridge over the Severn. Behind him came the green jackets, commanded shot and the best parliamentarian sharpshooters in the west, guiding along the herd of sheep gathered up from the surrounding countryside.
The road ahead was clear of cavaliers, and the only sign of royalist troops were the earthwork fortresses surrounding the city, their cannons conducting a continuous barrage of Gloucester's earthworks.
But beyond the redoubts, riding hard across the fordable part of the river Severn, came the Rhinelanders. German emigres who had gone into exile, with Frederick and Rupert in England, and who now took up the king's standard in support of their Prince's uncle.
They came on down the road in column heading for the crossroads. They had been riding hard since midnight, when the alarm had swept through the King's camp that the men of Gloucester were out raiding the lands, and had blown their horses with the speed. However they were approaching the cross roads fast and looked as though they may possibly be able to cut off the parliamentarians before they reached the city gate.
Following up the road behind them came Prince Rupert of the Rhine, his toy poodle Boye trotting at his side, and Richard Molyneux, 2nd Viscount Molyneux of Maryborough with Rupert's lifeguard leading in front of them.
The Garrison of the Prince's blew coats cheered "God save Prince Rupert, God save the king!" as their dashing cavalier of a leader galloped past their earthen redoubt.
Mister Ellis powell looked along the barrel of the great artillery piece that protruded from the town fortifications. A small body of heavily armoured cavalrymen were riding along the road, looking as though they intended to cut off Captain Bannaster and his raiders. Powell had been warned that the royalists might attempt something like this and he knew what he had to do. "Range three hundred yards, commence loading!"
Rupert and Maryborough stopped at the ford to survey the field. From their position Captain Bannaster and his raiders could be seen herding the sheep over the bridge. Behind them, crossing the ford, a unit of commanded shot from Rupert's Blew regiment were marching along in column, muskets and cartridge pouches held high so as not to damped the powder.
With Rupert's lifeguard at the crossroads and turning down the road that lead from the bridge to confront Bannaster's column head on, the Rhinelander horse galloped into a field and formed up in two ranks ready to charge the Parlimentarians as they came down the road.
But the unsuspecting Royalists were going to have a surprise. Seeing the Royalist horse riding across the fields to block Captain Bannaster's path to the City, Colonel Massie had marshaled his forces in the city centre and was now preparing to send them out into the fields. Riding fast along the streets towards the city gate, barred and guarded by Gloucester clubmen, came Massie's Cuirassiers the most heavily armoured troops available to him and the most elite available to Parliament in the whole of the west. If any one could get the sheep to Gloucester it was these men.
The Gloucester gates opened and Rupert got his first whiff of what Massie had to throw at him. As the Cuirassiers galloped out, followed by Pike an Shot from lord Stamford's regiment, the Royalist infantry began to tremble in their boots.
As the Parliamentarian horse column cantered along the Gloucester road, they passed by a gap in the hedge to their left. This was what the Rhinelanders had been waiting for and with a shout the protestant German horse charged at full gallop directly into the centre of the Parliamentarian column's flank, engaging and startling the first squadron of Captain Bannaster's yellow pennon horse.
The fighting was swift and sharp with Bannaster's horse falling back from the Rhineladers as the second rank of royalist cavalry burst through the first and into the bloody frey.
The Rhinelanders now took the most risky decision to force their blown horses on and press the attack on the Parliamentarian lead squadron. This left their flank completely open to a charge from the other horsemen whom they had cut off from their command squadron. The Rhinelanders hope was that they would be able to press the enemy cavalry and their own exhausted nags further into the field before the Parliamentarian horse still on the road recovered their wits and charged.
True to their hopes the sword arms of the Germans carried them forward into the next field, and as they bore down upon the enemy horsemen the Parliamentarians lost their will to fight and turned tail to flee. But the royalist horse pursued them and cut them down to a man as they ran.
The Rhinelanders were out of harms way but they and their horses were by now completely exhausted from the effort of driving the Parliamentarian cavalry from the road and they would have to spend some to recovering themselves in the field before they would be any good for anything.
As the Cuirassiers trotted along the road from the city, passing out of the last fortifications, their leader suddenly reined up his horse and, turning to his companions, shouted "Long live the king, down with Parliament!" pistols were drawn by all members and pointed in everyone's faces. It seemed that the split for king and for parliament in the Gloucester Cuirassiers was rather equally divided. There was allot of shouting and pistol pointing and in the end the unit dispersed, the men riding of in different directions with yells of defection and defiance.
Prince Rupert now road up along he road to where the Blew coat column had halted. He formed them up in a firing line against the hedge and prepared them to fire on Bannaster's commanded shot, dressed in yellow coats who were crossing over the fields.
The Prince's lifeguard were now preparing themselves to charge the Parliamentaian green jackets. However they were still shaken up from the cannon shot and seemed unable to rally themselves for the charge.
Captain Bannaster had been quiet thoroughly intercepted by Rupert and MaryBorough. His horse was all stuck on the bridge save for those who's bodies littered the nearby field, his green jackets were surrounded on both sides by Rupert's elite cavalry and his other commanded shot were in the water mill's field facing off against the Blew coats, personally commanded by Rupert and MaryBorough.
The sheep, so needed by Colonel Massie, had been herded into the field beside the bridge for their own safety.
A volley from the green jackets seemed to be the tipping point for the lifeguard's courage, and Rupert's heavy horse now charged through the smoke into the lines of the commanded shot. However the Musketmen put up a good fight against the Royalist elites and held the charging column at bay with their musket stocks.
Following the dispersal of the Cuirassiers, Colonel Massie now dispatched Lord Stamford's regiment of foot out from the City and, marching in column with pike and shot, the regiment made its way towards Rupert's rear at the crossroads.
Maryborough now rode up to the Blew coats, balling orders at them to keep up a steady rate of fire on the Parliamentarian commanded shot, and quick about it! With their commander at their backs the Blew coats fired and reloaded at all most double the rate of their opposing commanded shot.
Still unseen by Prince Rupert, the Stamford pike and shot made its way into a field and on towards where Rupert himself sat mounted on the road from the Severn ford. If the Prince wasn't careful he could fin himself fighting a battle on two fronts and eventually lose his rear to the Stamford regiment.
The parliamentarian commanded shot now left their position and began marching on the blew coats to get a better and more lethal range on the royalist commanded shot. However as they marched Marayborough kept up their swift rate of fire and the Parliamentarians ended up with spirits shaken and several casualties sustained.
The ongoing and hard fort melee with the green jackets and lifeguard was going bloodily for both sides with a good amount of dead and wounded on each side but little sign of either side wanting to fallback.
But now, after resting themselves and their horses, the gallant and successful Rhinelanders were back in the frey and, from their position in the corner of the field, charged straight into the rear of the gallant green jackets. The unsuspecting green jackets were hewn down to a man by swords and pistols striking them in the back from the charging Rhinelanders.
Captain Bannaster's column, coming up the road to Gloucester, now had Royalist forces on either side of the road preventing it from reaching the crossroads. Rupert was also bringing up his light artillery to Bannaster's left in an attempt to support the blew coats in breaking the last of the Parliamentarian commanded shot.
However Stamford's regiment was making good pace towards Rupert's rear and looked as though it may yet be upon him before he could rally his forces to form a rearguard to counter it.
Prince Rupert now joined Maryborough in commanding his Blew coats, and with their leaders behind them the commanded shot more than tripled their rate of fire. They fired off volley after volley upon the Parliamentarian commanded shot at close rage, but only managing to inflict minor losses.
The Rhinelander cavalry now found themselves flank charged, whilst reforming, by the remainder of the very Parliamentarian cavalry unit that they had smashed in half at the very beginning of the engagement. However the Parliamentarians were but half the amount of the German Royalists, but they did have the advantage of a flank charge and fresh horses.
Things were not going terribly well for Captain Bannaster. He himself was now trapped on the bridge with a squadron of cavalrymen, whilst in front of him the Rhinelanders were pushing his other remaining half squadron of horse back along the road and towards the river.
The commanded shot in the centre were not having much of an effect on one another causing equal casualties, but the royalist artillery was by now almost within firing range of the parliamentarian musket men.
However on the bright side (of life) the Stamford pike were almost in line with the hedge and would soon be over the road and threatening the royalist's route of escape.
But things only got worse for the raiders, the Rhineland cavalry cutting down the last of the half cavalry squadron that they had run onto the road after being flank charged by them. Bannaster fled into the field to join the yellow coated commanded shot, leaving the last parliamentarian cavalry to the mercy of the big German horsemen.
The Royalist light gun was now in position to fire on Bannaster's commanded shot. But before they had a chance to open fire the Blew coats had released a hurried volley, pressed into rushing the loading by their inspirational leaders.
The Parliamentarian musketmen, despite Bannaster's best efforts, could not withstand this final volley and fled in terror to the shelter of the riverside woods.
Whilst Rupert and Maryborough had been pushing the Parliamentarian raiders back to the river Severn, they had also been bringing up the light artillery as well as Sir Richard Molyneux (Maryborough)'s regiment of redcoated commanded shot from the main Royalist encampment. However the Parliamentarian pike were also closing in, it was looking as though Maryborough's foot would soon be facing off against Stamford regiment.
As the artillerymen stood back from loading their light gun to see all the enemy musketmen fleeing for the river, they turned their gun towards them and began to fire of shots into the back of the retreating commanded shot.
MaryBorough's redcoats looked as though they might soon be single handed attempting to hold off Stamford's regiment of pike and shot, but riding hard for the ford from Rupert's camp came another Royalist cavalry regiment of Salisburymen still loyal to King and country. They had been riding in Rupert's rearguard and as such, unlike the other of Rupert's horse, their horses were still fresh and capable of running at full gallop.
The Rhinelanders on their blown horse, which didn't seemed to have hindered them to much so far, now charged for the Parliamentarian cavalry defending the bridge over the Severn. The commander of the incredibly successful cavalry crashed straight in against the last of Bannaster's units still standing.
The arrival of the Salisbury horse and Maryborough red coats, heralded the appearance of Thomas Wentworth 1st earl of Cleveland (and brother of the unfortunate Strafford who parliament had impeached on false grounds).
Prince Rupert departed Maryborough's company to meet up with Cleveland near the ford and help direct the assault on Stamford's regiment.
The Salisbury cavalry split into two half squadrons, one riding up over the hedges on the Parliamentarian pike's right whilst the other, with the pennon, rode off down the road to attempt an attack on the pike's left.
Sir Richard Molyneux's company of foote (Maryborough's redcoats) left their column and formed a firing line, facing in the direction of Stamford's regiment.
It was now that Maryborough decided he no longer needed direction from Prince Rupert, he had done well enough on his own so far and would continue to do so. So instead of joining Rupert and Cleveland he continued firing off his volleys of musket and cannon fire into the woods where Bannaster was attempting to rally his commanded shot.
Peering over the entrenchments, Master gunner Ellis Powell caught sight of a small squadron of horse riding up the Gloucester road. They were the very horse that the gunners had fired on just before the two forces had engaged.
The Gloucester town gun had been out of range of the fighting for a good while now, though the crew had been able to see pretty clearly what was unfolding in the fields below them, and this sudden emergence of enemy cavalry within range grabbed their attention.
The city gun fired, but missed the Prince's lifeguard again and again tearing apart part of the hedge nearby, sending the royalists' horses into panic.
Rupert and Cleveland's pincer movement was working well and Stamford's foote were almost in their grasp. The Salisbury horse was through the hedge with a half squadron on either side of the parliamentarian Pike and shot, whilst Maryborough's redcoats supported their muskets on top of the hedge ready to fire.
Seeing Captain Bannaster in flight for the bridge, the herd of sheep stranded in a nearby field and Stamford's regiment surrounded and outnumbered by the newly arrived Royalist forces, Colonel Massie now decided to dispatch the Gloucester Garrison regiment. They would try to recapture the sheep, but if they proved impossible then they would help Stamford's regiment to perform a fighting retreat back to the Gloucester gates.
Deciding to abandon Captain Bannaster with his terrified men in the riverside woods, Maryborough now brought up the Blew coats and light artillery to help Rupert in shifting the Stamford foot, who were by now completely surrounded by horse and commanded shot.
Stamford's regiment stood defiant. They were to attempt to relieve Captain Bannaster and for all they knew he was still fighting strong on the Gloucester road. When they had suddenly been surrounded by fresh royalist horse and musketmen they realised that they had grossly underestimated the numbers of Royalists under Rupert's command on this day. But their orders stood and unless it proved utterly impossible they were still to attempt to relieve Bannaster.
Anyway what could horse do against pikes?
Maryborough's commanded shot now vaulted the hedge, levelled their muskets and fired off a volley into the Pikemen with absolutely no effect save a couple of wounded. But nevertheless they had distracted the foot long enough to allow Rupert's lifeguard and Salisbury horse to completely encircle them. Once the Musketmen softened them up a bit it would be time for the cavalry to charge.
The Rhinelanders were managing to slowly (very slowly) push the Parliamentarian horse back across the Severn bridge. No casualties had been sustained on either side, but the Royalists were fighting harder than their opponents and were making at least an inch of ground.
The Sheep herd was now completely cut off from their captors and, utterly stranded, at the mercy of the Royalists.
With the city Garrison marching out in their bright red coats, the city gunners were enthused to keep up the firing on Rupert's lifeguard, who were now in a position to successfully rear charge Stamford's foote. This third shot directed at the Royalist heavy cavalry proved much more deadly than the previous two, hitting the horsemen dead on and sending them fleeing for the royalist camp as fast as they could.
The German horse continued to inch forwards and finally succeeded in getting the front hooves of their mounts onto the bricks of the bridge. The Parliamentarian cavalry fought for all they were worth and managed to prevent any casualties, but they continued to lose ground to the Rhineland horse.
The arrival of the Cleveland dragoons at the Ford was heralded by the beating of the only royalist Drum on the battlefield. The Mounted infantry spurred forward their horses, their great banner flapping in the wind.
Wentworth had big intentions for these troopers and had made sure to mount them as rearguard on the fastest horses in his possession.
Furious with the sight of the Royalist heavy cavalry fleeing, Maryborough rode in front of the Lifeguard and rallied them to new heights of courage and inspiring them back to full morale.
Stamford's regiment was beginning to fall back towards the Gloucester road. They had taken casualties from the Molyneux commanded shot, but had also caused some on them with return fire. However the Royalist drums and the sight of the Blew coats and light artillery had been enough to assure them that Captain Bannaster was dead, fled or captured by now.
The Garrison regiment was making good pace, but they now knew that their mission was to provide support for Stamford's foote in making a fighting retreat back to Gloucester.
As Stamford's regiment continued its fall back, they exposed their flank perfectly for the Lifeguard's to charge. Supported by Richard Molyneux, Rupert's (previously) useless heavy cavalry dived past the pikes and into combat with the men of Stamford's pike and shot.
The Royalist horse took a casualty from a levelled pike as they charged, but once they were in the proceeded to cause chaos in the foote formation.
Meanwhile, the sneaky Cleveland dragoons sped at full gallop down the road and into the field opposite the Gloucester gun. It wasn't quite clear where the mounted infantry were going, being so close to the enemy fortifications, but wherever it was they intended mischief!
Rupert's Blew Foote commanded shot now vaulted the hedge, sprinted ahead of the loading Maryborough foote and opened up a volley upon Stamford's pike and shot. Several parliamentarian musketmen dropped dead whilst several other took wounds.
Reverend Lambert Johnson surveyed the desolate battlefield. The mounted raiding force under Captain Bannaster had been completely routed with not a steady foot this side of the Severn, and now the Parliamentarian pike and shot were surrounded on every side. Even the Gloucester regiment had the royalist dragoons approaching them on their flank.
Yet, thought the reverend, had not Gideon triumphed against the odds? With god on their side was there not yet still hope that they may triumph over the forces of Satan's servant Rupert?
As the Royalist Dragoons approached their flank, the Garrison regiment formed into its pike and shot formation. But now Wentworth was their, behind the hedge, ordering his men to dismount their horses and advance towards the city fortifications.
It was then that the Gloucester Gate swung open and riding out from the depths of his city came Lieutenant Colonel Edward Massie in person. He had finally decided that he must join the battle himself if there was any hope at all of recovering the two remaining regiments to the safety of the city walls.
Inspired by the arrival of their commander, the Garrison regiment now opened fire, with one of its shot wings, upon the dismounted Cleveland dragoons. The shots hit the dismounted royalists, cutting down one or two of them and wounding several others.
All this time the two cavalry squadrons were still engaged in fighting on the bridge with, as yet, no more ground being made for either side. But suddenly the Parliamentarian front horse lost their nerve and darted to the back of the column leaving their spaces to be filled by two more roundheads, but the damage had been done and the royalists had gained slightly more brick's worth of bridge.
With Stamford's regiment having been hewn down by the lifeguard and shot in the back as the fled by Molyneux and Rupert's commanded shot, Maryborough's light artillery piece was now in position to fire on the garrison regiment. However with all the smoke obscuring their targets, the gun crew mistook Rupert's lifeguard for the enemy and fired upon them. Lucky for the heavy cavalry that the shot missed them, but it was a close thing.
Thomas Wentworth, personally leading his dismounted dragoons, now moved round to the rear of the Garrison regiment, coming between them and their city's fortifications.
It suddenly became clear to Massie that the Dragoons meant to cut off the last parliamentarians path of retreat back into the city. So he spurred forwards his horse to join his regiment and attempt to lead them back to the city gates before they were stranded.
However right at that moment the Salisbury horse (now fully formed into their squadron) and Rupert's Lifeguard charged Massie and the garrison regiment. The heavy cavalry (seemingly trying to make up for the lack of action at the beginning of the engagement) bashed through the pikes and made contact with the infantry. However the Salisbury horse were halted just yards from the pike and shot as the left wing shot opened fire on it.
As he rode along with his men, pushing them on towards the city gates, Thomas Wentworth earl of Cleveland came into the sights of Giles Reeves. He had been watching the battle in fury since Rupert had crossed the ford and now levelled his musket at the pesky Royalist Earl. Reeves was the best parliamentarian shot in the west and this cocky commander had the nerve to wander into his sights.
But as the smoke cleared from around Reeves' head he could see the Earl clearly, waving his handkerchief in a gesture of defiance at the church tower.
Cleveland's dragoons now burst upon the city gates. They appeared completely unexpected and the clubmen guarding the gates had no time to even attempt closing the gates before they were covered by the muskets and pistols of the dragoons. With the city emptied of troops save for the clubmen, the Cleveland troopers ran in and secured the gates "for king and country!"
Colonel Edward Massie was utterly defeated. He rode forwards to Prince Rupert of the Rhine and dismounted to hand the Prince his sword in a gesture of his surrender. The Garrison regiment, too, surrendered to the Royalist horsemen. But the loss of their regiment and commander was not all that befell the city of Gloucester. Wentworth and his dragoons had secured the gate and now the horsemen and commanded shot poured into the city to disarm the clubmen and capture the walls.
Gloucester had been taken in a minor battlefield engagement with no forlorn hope, no storming of the breeches and no horrific blood shed... and all because of a small herd of sheep.
... and talking of sheep, over by the Severn bridge the sheep herd stood grazing in a nearby field with no intention of ending up in a parliamentarian's stomach. Captain Richard Bannaster stood with his commanded shot hiding amongst the trees, in the evening they would swim across the river and attempt to join up with the earl of Essex wherever he may be at this moment in time.
The Parliamentarian horse on the bridge surrendered their weapons to the highly successful Rhineland cavalry and were escorted back to Rupert's camp.