The Battle of Cropredy Bridge
The Battle of Cropredy Bridge took place on 29 June 1644. Often overlooked due to the defeat of the Royalists at Marsden Moor just three days later, the Battle of Cropredy Bridge was important for the Royalist cause in the south. The battle also holds notoriety as being the last occasion upon which an English King fought a battle on English soil and emerged victorious.
At the start of the campaigning season Charles’ men were lodged in and around their stronghold at Oxford. A Royalist force was despatched to the north under Prince Rupert of the Rhine to attempt to wrestle back control. In the south Charles’ council advised using forces from Reading to support the siege of Lyme Regis. This shifted some two and a half thousand men at arms across the country and presented an opportunity for an advance on Oxford.
The parliamentarian army in the area was led by Generals Waller and The Earl of Essex. In late May the parliamentarian forces advanced towards Charles’ forces near Abingdon. Charles ordered a retreat and made feints to make his intentions hard to read. On June 9th Essex and Waller convened and decided that Essex would lead his men to Lyme Regis whilst Waller would track Charles’ movements and engage him.
By 29th June the two sides were shadowing one another down the banks of the River Sherwell. Less than a mile apart, they marched in full sight of each other. As they approached Cropredy, Charles ordered some men to seize control of the bridge there. At roughly the same time he was told of additional parliamentarian horsemen closing in and moved to cut these off. The dragoons fought for the bridge and the main body of Charles’ Royalist army crossed a stream, leaving just a small reserve in the rear.
Upon realising that there was just a small reserve in place, Waller made his move. They forced themselves over the bridge at Cropredy with ease. Then turned and advanced on the reserve of the Royalist force. The Royalist forces were able to hold back the assault and push the enemy toward a ford.
Meanwhile Charles became aware that his reserve was engaged in fighting and turned his main force around. Several charges led to the parliamentarian army being forced back, losing a number of guns in the process.
Not perhaps in the classic sense. At the end of fighting the parliamentarians held the bridge. However they had suffered heavy losses and the Royalists were able to make their way unconcerned about Waller. In that sense they won as they had destroyed his ability to fight on.
This short article was inspired because of seeing comments and questions about famous ‘lasts’. One such question was about the last King to fight in battle, another to win. That has led to this post and one about George II at the Battle of Dettigen.