The Battle of Naseby
June 14, 1645
Royal army under Prince Rupert vs. Parliamentary troops under Sir Thomas Fairfax
The English Civil War was in full swing. The north of England appeared lost to the royalist cause (see The Battle of Marston Moor), but Prince Rupert convinced King Charles to march from his base in Oxford to the relief of Chester and then thrust north. The royal plans were thwarted by the delaying tactics of Oliver Cromwell and his cavalry.
This allowed the New Model Army time to finish assembling. The king changed his plans several times, and split his forces to send 3000 men to the southwest. Prince Rupert sacked Leicester with an appalling fury, drawing Sir Thomas Fairfax north from his short-lived attempt to besiege Oxford.
Fairfax was joined by Cromwell and a small force of his horsemen. With some 13,000 troops Fairfax brought the king to bay at Naseby.
Prince Rupert took up a strong defensive position atop a high ridge at East Farndon, but rather than attack across rough, wet ground, Cromwell and Fairfax ordered their men to move to Naseby Ridge some 4 miles away.
Prince Rupert saw the troops marching and immediately decided to attack while his enemy was exposed. Thus the Royal army left their strong elevated position to charge a numerically superior enemy.
The Parliamentary cavalry was initially pushed back, and the infantry soon followed. The Parliamentary cause looked shaky, but Cromwell's horse wheeled to attack the royalist flank. The royal momentum was broken, and the superior numbers of the Roundheads began a total rout of their Cavalier enemies.
They chased the royalists for a good 12 miles from Naseby, and slaughtered the men they caught. They captured the entire royal commissariat, with great supplies of powder, arms, and food. More importantly, they found the king's private papers, including details of his plans to bring Irish papists and foreign mercenaries to England. Parliament immediately published these papers.
The Battle of Naseby effectively marked the end of Royal chances to win the Civil War. Although the king dragged matters out until Oxford surrendered in 1646, the royal military machine was broken irrevocably.
More British Battles