The Civil War

It was generally allowed by moderate people, that in the autumn of 1641, at which time the labors of the Parliament had continued one year, the king had granted redress of all the abuses for -which the earlier part of his reign, and the British constitution in general, were blameable. If he could have given a guarantee that he never would seek to restore any of these abuses, or attempt to revenge himself upon the men who had been chiefly concerned in causing him to give up, there would have been no further contention. Unfortunately, the character of the king for fidelity to his engagements was not sufficiently high to induce the leaders of the House of Commons to depend upon him: they feared that if they once permitted him to resume his authority there would be no longer any safety for them; and they deemed it necessary that things should be prevented from falling into their usual current. They therefore prepared a paper called The Remonstrance, containing an elaborate view of all the grievances that had ever existed, or could now be supposed to exist; and this they not only presented to the king but disseminated widely among the people, with whom it served to increase the prevailing disaffection.

From this time it was seen that the sword could alone decide the quarrel between the king and the Parliament. Charles made an unsuccessful attempt (January 4, 1642 ) to seize six of the most refractory members, for the purpose of striking terror into the rest. This served to widen still further the breach. In the earlier part of 1642, the two parties severally employed themselves in preparing for war. Yet, even now, the king grant ed some additional concessions to his opponents , . It was at last, upon a demand of the Parliament for the command of the army a privilege always before, and since, resting with the crown - that he finally broke off all amicable intercourse. He now retired with his family to York.

The Parliament found its chief support in the mercantile classes of London and of the eastern coast of England, which was then more devoted to trade than the west, and in the Puritan party generally, who were allied intimately with the Presbyterians of Scotland, if not rapidly becoming assimilated with them. Charles on the other hand looked for aid to the nobility and gentry, who were able to bring a considerable number of dependents into the field. The Parliamentary party was by the other styled Roundheads, in consequence of their wearing short hair; while the friends of the Parliament bestowed upon their opponents the epithet of Malignants. The Royalists were also, in the field, termed Cavaliers, from so many of them being horsemen. On the 25th of August 1642 the king erected his standard at Nottingham, and soon found himself at the head of an army of about ten thousand men. The Parliament had superior forces, and a better supply of arms; but both parties were very ignorant of the art of war. The king commanded his own army in person, while the Parliamentary forces were put under the charge of the Earl of Essex.

The first battle took place, October 23, at Edgehill, in Warwickshire, where the king had rather the advantage, though at the expense of a great number of men. He gained some further triumphs before the end of the campaign, but still could not muster so large an army as the Parliament. During the winter, the parties opened a negotiation at Oxford; but the demands of the Parliament being still deemed too great by the king, it came to no successful issue.

Early in the ensuing season, the king gained some considerable advantages; he defeated a Parliamentary army under Sir William Waller at Stratton, and soon after took the city of Bristol. It only remained for him to take Gloucester, in order to confine the insurrection entirely to the eastern provinces. It was even thought at this time that he might have easily obtained possession of London, and thereby put an end to the war. Instead of making such an attempt, he caused siege to be laid to Gloucester, which the army of Essex relieved when it was just on the point of capitulating. As the Parliamentary army was returning to London, it was attacked by the royal forces at Newbury, and all but defeated. Another section of the royal army in the north, under the Marquis of Newcastle, gained some advantages; and, upon the whole, at the close of the campaign of 1643, the Parliamentary cause was by no means in a flourishing condition.

In this war there was hardly any respectable military quality exhibited besides courage. The Royalists used to rush upon the enemy opposed to them, without any other design than to cut down as many as possible, and when any part of the army was successful, it never returned to the field while a single enemy remained to be pursued; the consequence of which was, that one wing was sometimes victorious, while the remainder was completely beaten. The Parliamentary troops, though animated by an enthusiastic feeling of religion, were somewhat steadier, but nevertheless had no extensive or combined plan of military operations. The first appearance of a superior kind of discipline was exhibited in a regiment of horse com manded by Oliver Cromwell, a gentleman of small fortune, who had been, a brewer, but was destined, by great talent, and address, joined to an un relenting disposition, to rise to supreme authority. Cromwell, though himself inexperienced in military affairs, showed from the very first a power of drilling and managing troops, which no other man in either army seemed to possess. Hence his regiment soon became famous for its exploits.