The English Civil War:
Dr. Gavin Hughes
' We saluted each other with bullets....'
- Colonel Sir Bevil Grenvile, Royalist officer at Braddock Down, 1643
THE BATTLE OF BRADDOCK DOWN - FIRST LOSTWITHIEL
19th January 1643
During the English Civil War, as the British Isles tore itself apart and rival armies attempted to outmanoeuvre each other, counties and countries were rapidly split asunder. The situation in Cornwall was just as riven, although by early 1643 it had stabilised considerably, largely due to the result of one battle - First Lostwithiel, or Braddock Down.
Whilst the following scenario is designed for Warhammer English Civil War, it can be easily translated to other systems. It is intended to be a quick game but one that maintains as much of the feel of the original battle as possible, whilst retaining an evenly-balanced match. Although some minor, yet careful, licence has been taken (namely in weighing up the forces), this will hopefully provide an enjoyable scenario, whilst still keeping the priority of historical accuracy in mind.
The background to the battle is straight forward. By January 1643, Parliament nominally controlled the majority of the counties of Dorset, Somerset and Devon, largely due to the presence of their garrisons in ports and towns. Cornwall, however, was still staunchly Royalist as many in the county were dependants of the Duchy, and thus, the King himself. This caused considerable problems to Parliament's forces in the west and, in particular, one Royalist commander in the region stood out. This was Sir Ralph Hopton who, in 1642, had escaped Parliamentarian controlled Dorset with his family, retainers and, more importantly, a Troop of Horse. Against him was the independently- minded and able Scots officer, Colonel-General Ruthin, the Parliamentarian governor of Plymouth. However, in early January, he was superseded by the appointment of the Earl of Stamford as commander of Parliament's Western Army. Despite this, Colonel Ruthin was determined to finish the job he had begun (with some success) against Hopton before his superior arrived.
These two rivals had already fought a number of telling skirmishes and battles, the most recent being around the strategic possession of the river Tamar. Although Ruthin had been thwarted in securing a crossing at Saltash, Parliamentarian reinforcements had crossed at Newbridge instead, pressing the Royalists to withdraw to Bodmin in order to regroup. In the meantime, two Parliamentarian armies (one under Stamford, the other under Ruthin) had penetrated four miles into Cornish territory. Ruthin, with the southern force, pushed onwards to Liskeard, where he encamped. On the 17th January, three Parliamentarian warships were forced by bad weather to seek refuge in the Royalist port of Falmouth, where they were captured and their cargoes taken. Until this, the Cornish Royalists had been notoriously short of supplies, arms and money. To the Royalist High Command, these ships were an undoubted godsend, being full of everything they needed to boost morale (which was no doubt aided by a fortnight's advance pay).
With five Regiments of Cornish Foot, (Sir Bevil Grenvile, Sir Nicholas Slanning, Colonel John Trevanion, Colonel William Godolphin and Lord Mohun) they remustered at Moilesbarrow Down on the 18th, completely reorganised and revitalised. From here they marched to their new quarters at Lord Mohun's estate at Boconnoc, north-east of Lostwithiel. It was now a priority to stop both Parliamentarian armies from uniting and, as such, Ruthin's force became a prime target. A Council of War was rapidly held and the King's commanders of the Army of the West (Lord Mohun, Hopton, Berkley and Colonel Ashburnham all held joint command) offered Hopton overall command. Despite their lack of cannon, it was resolved between them that they should move out the next day and attack Ruthin, whether he was still at Liskeard or not. As it happened, Colonel-General Ruthin had resolved to do much the same thing - against the direct orders of Earl of Stamford.
On the morning of the 19th January, Hopton's army moved out of Boconnoc and, at around midday, found Ruthin's army drawn up between Boconnoc and Braddock church on a piece of rising ground. Hopton deployed his army up on the opposite bank, with the undulating valley between the two armies, placing them within range but just enough out of reach to force movement into contact. It was an evenly-matched encounter for, whilst Parliament had more Horse (one troop led by Captain Alexander Pym, son of Sir John), the Royalists had superior numbers of Foot. Artillery-wise, both commanders were caught at a disadvantage yet, tactically, both had made best use of the terrain available. For example, Ruthin had placed some of his musketeers behind the high hedges of the Liskeard/Lostwithiel cross-roads, concealing them. In front of the Royalist army, Hopton had placed small knots of skirmishers (the 'Forlorn Hope') with his limited Horse on the wings. Although the Royalist artillery was still at Bodmin, Hopton had brought two small 'fire drakes' (light guns) up from Lord Mohun's house at Boconnoc and hidden them behind a troop of Horse.
As Ruthin was still awaiting the arrival of five guns from Liskeard, he was in no hurry to move his army into contact with Hopton and resolutely refused to be drawn out. On Hopton's part, every hour that passed brought the Parliamentarian guns closer. For roughly two hours the stand-off was confined to the musketry of skirmishers, each side trying to draw the other out. As time slipped by, Hopton finally gave the order for the attack; but not before visiting each regiment and praying with them. Then, he swiftly ordered his guns to fire and sent their two (and only) shots high across the Parliamentarian ranks. Following this, he led a massed co-ordinated assault, with both cavalry and infantry charging across Braddock Down. With some Foot kept in reserve out of sight near Boconnoc, Hopton headed straight for Ruthin's army. His Cornish infantry was so emboldened that they actually charged down the slope, across the valley and up the other side, straight into the shaken Roundheads. This gruelling upward infantry charge was led by Sir Bevil Grenvile, accompanied by his distinctive 7 ft tall Ensign, Anthony Payne. It is thought that the Roundheads managed to fire off one meagre musketry volley before they fled the field in total disorder. They streamed back to Liskeard where, far from being a safe haven, the townsfolk took the opportunity to attack them further. The subsequent Royalist pursuit brought them to Liskeard as well, where they captured 1,200 - 1,500 Parliamentarian prisoners, not to mention Ruthin's baggage and his long-awaited Artillery train.
The scenario can be played as a 'Meeting Engagement' or a 'Pitched Battle' but, in either case, the Parliamentarian player 'goes first' to represent Ruthin's initial advantage. If you are playing the scenario as a 'pitched battle' , Ruthin's forces are deployed on the high ground on one side of the tabletop, with Hopton deploying on the opposite high ground. The terrain should represent the stretch of road from Liskeard to Lostwithiel and its cross-roads, which intersected the two areas of rising ground that bounded Braddock Down. The north-eastern roads are lined with high-hedges, which count as 'linear obstacles'. The game length can be determined by the roll of a d6, as in the Warhammer rules, but subject to the special 'sudden death' rule below.
Both sides may chose one unit of Shot to be their 'Forlorn Hope' as skirmishers. All normal rules apply to them. To represent Hopton's 2 hidden 'fire drakes' (with limited ammunition), the Royalist player has a one-off artillery 'bombardment' in his 1st Shooting turn. This counts as 2 shots from 2 light guns 'concealed' within one cavalry unit of his choice. Any Parliamentarian units under fire will undergo a Fear test as usual. After this, the Royalist ammunition is considered expended and the 'guns' ignored. Above all, there is a 'sudden death' element at Braddock Down. From the third turn onwards, the Parliamentarian player rolls a d6. This occurs even if the game length has only been determined at 4 turns each. On the roll of 5-6, their artillery train has been sighted in the distance, signalling that the scenario's end is also in sight; giving the Royalist player only this turn to sway the outcome of the game.
As this scenario is primarily designed to be fought in 28mm scale, it may be more useful to provide a suggested force set-up, rather than giving a strict number of figures be used:
- Colonel-General Ruthin, he should be classed as a galloper.
- Ruthin's Bodyguard of Horse, including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr, they should be classed as gallopers in either light or heavy armour.
- 3 'Steady' Troops of Horse, each unit including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as trotters in light armour.
- 2 'Steady' Troops of Horse, each unit including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as trotters in heavy armour.
- 1 Regiment, including a Pike to Shot ratio of 1:2, a Ldr., Ens., Mus.; they should be classed as raw, in light/heavy armour. (Put this opposite Grenvile's regiment and see what happens!?)
- 3 Regiments, each including a Pike to Shot ratio of 1:2, a Ldr., Ens. and Mus.; they should be classed as steady in light/heavy armour.
- Sir Ralph Hopton, he should be classed as a galloper.
- Hopton's Regiment of Horse including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr, they should be classed as gallopers in heavy armour.
- 2 'Steady' Regts. of Horse, each unit including Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as gallopers in light armour.
- 1 'Steady' Regt. of Horse, includes Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as gallopers in heavy armour.
- Cosoworth's Dragoons counts as Horse, includes Ldr, Crnt, Tmptr; they should be classed as trotters in light armour.
- 1 Regiment (Sir Bevil Grenvile) including a Pike to Shot ratio of 1:1, a Ldr., Ens., Mus.; they should be classed as veteran and rash, in light/heavy armour.
- 4 Regiments, each including a Pike to Shot ratio of 1:1, a Ldr., Ens. and Mus.; they should be classed as steady in light/heavy armour.
OBJECTIVES AND VICTORY CONDITIONS
The objective of both sides is to inflict as much damage on the other as possible. Ultimately, Ruthin's main objective is the destruction of Hopton's army. In this, the Parliamentarian force is reluctant to commit to the battle until its artillery arrives to 'secure' victory; until then they must hold Braddock Down and absorb any Royalists attack. For the Royalists, Hopton's force must dismantle the Parliament army and destroy as much of it as possible - all before Ruthin's guns arrive. Victory points are as normal, with the additional points value of +100pts to the side that controls the original Parliamentarian position on Braddock Down.
The battle of Braddock Down was a serious setback to Parliamentarian ambitions in the west; it secured Cornwall for the King and gave the Royalists much needed encouragement. It also ensured Hopton's reputation as a skilled commander and allowed the Royalists to consider a second invasion of Devon. Hopefully, any re-fight of First Lostwithiel will provide some interesting variations and, ultimately, a lot of fun. Most of all, remember that the appearance of the Parliamentarian guns could secure the outcome of Braddock Down; and on the outcome of Braddock Down hangs Cornwall...
Suggested further reading
There are many works of exceptional scholarship on the Great Civil War, from its military conduct, tactics and strategy, to the effects it had on British and Irish society in general. The following reading list only touches the surface but, hopefully, it will be of some use for those coming to the period for the first time. For those who are already Trayned Bandes enthusiasts, I hope it also includes something of interest!
- Barker, A. - Battlefield Atlas of the English Civil War (Ian Allan, 1986)
- Coate, M. - Cornwall in the Great Civil War and Interregnum 1642-1660
- Gardiner, S.R. - History of the Great Civil War, Vol.I (Reprint, Windrush Press, 1987)
- Holmes, R. - Civil War Battles in Cornwall, 1642-1646 (Mercia, 1989)
- Peachey, S. - Battle of Braddock Down (Bristol, 1993)
- Wedgewood, C.V. - King's War, 1641-1647 (London, 1958)
- Woolrych, A. -Battles of the English Civil War (Batsford/Pan, 1969)
- Young, P. - English Civil War Armies (Osprey, No.14, 1973)
- Young, P. & Holmes, R. - English Civil War: a military history of the Three Civil Wars (London, 1974)
NB - Sometimes called 'Ruthven'; but not to be confused with Sir Patrick Ruthven, the Scots officer knighted by Gustavus Aldophus and who fought for Charles from 1638 onwards.