Trewes Castle Campaign: The First Turn- Duds and Surprises

The first two weeks of my English Civil War campaign was relatively short but full of incident. Highlights included a failed offensive, a surprise raid, mislaid orders and a chaotic cavalry skirmish. Scroll down to the bottom for a quick map overview of the last two weeks.

The Royalist plan was to secure a strong financial base for future operations. Rear-area troops would spread out and gather supplies while Colonel Harker in the east sent cavalry deep into Parliamentary territory to acquire supplies before they could be protected by parliamentary garrisons.

The Parliamentary plan was far more aggressive. While Governor Garden raised fresh companies of horse, Colonel Supple’s regiments would link up with Colonel Woolley’s dragoons in the west and smash the Royalist concentration at Fertby. Fertby was the most north-westerly Royalist garrison, and a comprehensive victory here would not only surrender the initative to Parliament, but open the Royalists’ entire western flank to future depredations.

Neither plan went to plan.

The Offensive That Weren’t

Firstly, between administrative chaos at Parliamentary HQ in raising more cavalry and Supple’s inability to coordinate with Woolley’s dragoons only a few kilometres away, the planned Parliamentary offensive never occurred. Supple’s troops simply stayed at Knareton and kicked their heels.

Starkey Is Snarky 

Meanwhile, the audacious Colonel Starkey, Royalist cavalry commander of the outpost at Trewes Castle decided to launch a raid against the nearby Parliamentary stronghold at Hathlom House, after spies reported that it was garrisoned entirely by infantry and probably would not attempt to oppose a strong cavalry force in the field. Without orders, Starkey set out on the 19th of March, and returned that evening, victorious and heavy-laden with pillaged supplies. True to form, the Parliamentary garrison had hunkered down behind their fortifications and let the Royalists plunder their fields. This would hinder Parliamentary logistics in the coming weeks.

“To Whom It Wasn’t Meant To Concern…”

Then, an even more unexpected event occurred. The Royalist governor had intended to send cavalry from the west to acquire supplies from deep inside parliamentary territory before Parliamentary troops arrived, but an aide-de-camp mislaid his orders and they were posted to Colonel Dudgeon, the Royalist commander at Fertby, who would have been under heavy attack if the Parliamentarians had got their act together.

Dudgeon was a bit surprised to receive these orders which seemed to be addressed to somebody else, but, as a firm believer in proper military discipline, he followed his orders to the letter. Leading his sole company of elite cavaliers, he snuck through the Parliamentary lines, circled round the bustling town of Kenborough without being noticed (mainly through night-time marches and taking obscure roads), and finally arrived at Chetney Mill- only to discover that there was a small company of Parliamentary cavalry already posted there!

The Squabble At Chetney Mill

Undismayed, Dudgeon simply told his troops to ride on, and bore down on the enemy. The cavaliers caught the parliamentarians by surprise, who first attempted to withdraw towards a nearby rise.

Then Colonel Meuthen, the Parliamentary commander, made a crucial mistake. Seeing the Royalists strung out and in road column formation, his cavalry turned about and attempted to charge in before Dudgeon could form up for battle.

However, Dudgeon was an excellent disciplinarian, and quickly formed his cavalry into line. Seeing that it was too late to either surprise the Royalists or retreat, the Parliamentary cavalry came to a standstill, intending to receive a charge with their pistols. However, Dudgeon’s charge was too ferocious, and they fled as soon as the cavaliers broke into a gallop.

Dudgeon was unable to catch the fugitives, and took no prisoners or inflicted any casualties. It was an embarrassing rout. However, Dudgeon was able to pillage the village, and return home safely laden with supplies.

This raid was even more destructive than Starkey’s unplanned chaos. Not only were weeks of supplies stolen from the area, but parliamentary forces were demoralised.

This has been a dismal few weeks for the forces of Parliament. Not only have their plans for a major offensive been delayed, but they are losing supplies they will need to support their troops in the future. Conversely, the Royalists are quite pleased with their various raids, which have supplemented their war chest quite nicely. However, these wins are relatively minor, and have not shifted the strategic situation very much.

First Turn Events- click to enlarge if you wish to study the campaign in further detail.

First Turn Events- click to enlarge if you wish to study the campaign in further detail.

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About Joshua Letchford

I'm a 23-year old Christian from far north Western Australia. I'm interested in philosophy, logic, politics, history, military history, strategy, board games, wargaming and reading. I recently completed a Bachelor of Arts in politics and ancient history through Macquarie University, which I studied externally so I could stay connected with my family and my small town community.
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