« AnteriorContinuar »
a Royalist movement in the town. After this no more is heard of Royalism holding up its head in any corner of the association, and to the end of the war no Royalist in arms again set foot within it. By the end of May it was joined by Huntingdonshire, the county of Cromwell’s birth.
Cromwell’s superabundant energy was employed in other ways than in contending against armed men. Laud’s enforcement of at least external signs of respect to objects consecrated to religious usagé had provoked a reaction which influenced Puritanism on its least noble side. A certain Dowsing has left a diary, showing how he visited the Suffolk churches, pulling down crosses, destroying pictures and tearing up brasses inscribed with Orate pro animd, the usual expression of mediaval piety towards the dead. At Cambridge, Cromwell himself, finding opposition amongst those in authority in the University, sent up three of the Heads of Houses in custody to Westminster, and on a cold night in March shut up the Vice-Chancellor and other dignitaries in the public schools till midnight without food or firing, because they refused to pay taxes imposed by Parliament.
Nor was it only with open enemies that Cromwell and those who sympathised with him had to deal. Of all forms of war civil strife is the most hideous, and it is no wonder that the hands of many who had
entered upon it with the expectation that a few months or even weeks would suffice to crush the King were now slackened. Was it not better, they asked, to come to terms with Charles than to continue a struggle which promised to drag out for years? Negotiations opened at Oxford in the spring failed, indeed, to lead to peace, because neither party had the spirit of compromise, but they were accompanied or followed by the defection from the Parliamentary ranks of men who, at the outset, had stood up manfully against the King, such as Sir Hugh Cholmley, who hoisted the royal colours over Scarborough Castle, which had been entrusted to him by the Houses; and the Hothams, father and son, who, whilst nominally continuing to serve the Parliament, were watching for an opportunity of profitable desertion. Such tendencies were encouraged by the vigour with which the King’s armies were handled, and the successes they gained in the early summer. On May 16 the Parliamentary General, the Earl of Stamford, was defeated at Stratton, with the result that Sir Ralph Hopton was able to overrun the Western counties at the head of the Royalist troops, and though defeated on Lansdown by Sir William Waller, was succoured by a Royalist army which, on July 13, crushed Waller’s army on Roundway Down; whilst on july 26 Bristol was taken by Rupert, and the whole of the Southern counties thrown open to the assaults of the King’s partisans. Farther east, though Essex succeeded in capturing Reading, his army melted away before disease and mismanagement. On June 18 Hampden was mortally wounded at Chalgrove Field. Lord Fairfax and his son, Sir Thomas Fairfax, were with difficulty holding their own in the West Riding of Yorkshire against a Royalist force under the command of the Earl of Newcastle. By the middle of the year, the Parliamentary armies were threatened with ruin on almost every side.
The one conspicuous exception to these tales of disaster was found in the news from the Eastern Association, where Cromwell’s vigour upheld the fight. Yet Cromwell had no slight difficulties against which to contend. VVhen, by the end of April, he had cleared the shires of the association from hostile forces, he made his way into Lincolnshire, and called on the neighbouring military commanders of his own party to join him in an attack on the Royalist garrison at Newark, from which parties issued forth to overawe and despoil the Parliamentarians of the neighbourhood
Those upon whom he called—Sir John Gell at Notting
ham, the Lincolnshire gentry, and Stamford’s son, Lord Grey of Groby, in Leicestershire, were in command of local forces, and placed the interests of their own localities above the common good. Stamford’s mansion at Broadgates, hard by Leicester, was exposed to attack from the Royalist garrison at Ashby~de-laZouch, and consequently Lord Grey hung back from joining in an enterprise which would leave Leicester
at the mercy of the enemy, and his example was followed in other quarters. “ Believe it,” wrote Cromwell wrathfully, “it were better, in my poor opinion Leicester were not, than that there should not be found an immediate taking of the field by our forces to accomplish the common ends.” To subordinate local interests to the ‘ common ends’ was as much the condition of Cromwell’s success as the discipline under which he had brought the fiery troops under his command.
The result of that discipline was soon to appear On May 13' he fell in near Grantham with a cavalry force from Newark far outnumbering his own. Taking a lesson from Rupert, who had taught him at Edgehill that the horse, and not the pistol, was the true weapon of the mounted horseman, he dashed upon the enemy, who weakly halted to receive the charge, and was thoroughly beaten in consequence. Cromwell, as usual, piously attributed his success to the
_ Divine intervention. “With this handful,” he wrote
“it pleased God to cast the scale.”
The success of Cromwell’s horse was all the more reason why financial support should be accorded to its commander. Voluntary contributions were still the backbone of the resources of Parliament, though a system of forced payments was being gradually established. “ Lay not,” wrote Cromwell to the Mayor of Colchester, “ too much on the back of a poor gentle
man who desires, without much noise, to lay down his life and bleed the last drop to serve the cause and God. I ask not money for myself; I desire to deny myself, but others will not be satisfied.”
Cromwell once more called on the local commanders to gather their forces, not for an attack on Newark, but for a march into Yorkshire to the relief of the F airfaxes. Early in June some 6,000 men were gathered at Nottingham. Once more the effort came to nothing. The commanders excused themselves from moving, on the plea that the Fairfaxes did not need their help. One of their number, the younger Hotham, was detected in an intrigue with the enemy. Mainly by Cromwell’s energy he was seized, and ultimately, together with his father, was sent to London, where they were both executed as traitors. In Yorkshire the tide was running against the Fairfaxes. On June 30 they were defeated at Adwalton Moor. The whole of the West Riding was lost, and the commanders forced to take refuge in Hull. Newcastle, with his victorious army, would soon be heard of in Lincolnshire, where Lord VVi1loughby of Parham had lately seized Gainsborough for Parliament. Among the troops ordered to maintain this advanced position was Cromwell’s regiment, and on July 28 that regiment defeated a strong body of Royalist horse near Gainsborough. Later in the day news was brought that a force of the enemy was approaching from the