||The Battle of Langport was a battle late in the English Civil War,
which resulted in the defeat of the last Royalist field army and gave Parliament control of
much the West of England, which had prior to this battle been a major
source of manpower and raw materials for the Royalists. The battle took
place on 10th July 1645 just outside of Langport in Somerset.
PICTURES OF LANGPORT
||Taunton, the county town
of Somerset, had been captured by the Parliamentarian army under the Earl of Essex in June 1644. After Essex's army was forced to surrender at Lostwithiel
in Cornwall in September, the Royalists maintained a siege of
Taunton, although the town was briefly relieved by Sir William
Waller in late November. When determining strategy for 1645,
King Charles I had despatched George, Lord Goring, the
Lieutenant General of the Horse Cavalry, to the West Country
along with orders to retake Taunton and other Parliamentarian
outposts in the area. Although Goring briefly rejoined the
King's main 'Oxford Army', tensions between him and Prince
Rupert, the King's Captain General and chief adviser, resulted
in Goring's force returning to the West. Parliament had
meanwhile sent a substantial detachment of one cavalry regiment
and four infantry regiments from their New Model Army to relieve
Taunton. They raised the siege on 11th May 1645, but were
themselves besieged by Goring's returning army, although there
was no longer any danger of the Royalists storming the town. On
14th June 1645, the main body of the New Model Army under Sir
Thomas Fairfax, with Oliver Cromwell as Lieutenant General of
the Horse, won the decisive Battle of Naseby, destroying King
Charles's main army. After the Royalist garrison of Leicester surrendered four days later, the New Model Army was free to march to the relief of Taunton.
The Army marched first south and then west, keeping near the coast so as to keep touch with Parliament's navy. On 4th
July this army reached Beaminster, where Fairfax learned that
Goring had raised the siege and was retreating towards the
Royalist stronghold at Bridgwater. To cover the retreat of the
baggage, Goring's army was spread over a front of 12 miles along the north of the River Yeo,
from Langport to Yeovil. The Royalists were outnumbered by
Fairfax's army, and their discipline was poor, mainly because a
succession of lax Royalist commanders had allowed their men too
much license to pillage, which also alienated many of the local
people. Fairfax was joined by the New Model detachment from
Taunton, under Colonel Ralph Weldon, and started in pursuit. On
8th July, Fairfax captured Yeovil and crossed to the north side of
the River Yeo. He sent another Parliamentarian force (part of
the Army of the "Western Association" under Major General Edward
Massie) to deal with an attempted diversion in the direction of
Taunton by some of Goring's cavalry under George Porter, a
notoriously unreliable officer. Porter's men failed to post
proper sentries and outposts, and were taken by surprise by
Massey and destroyed at Isle Abbots in the early hours of 9th
Fairfax had meanwhile advanced westward, and encountered Goring's main position at Langport late on 9th July
||The battle of Langport took
place on the following day, the 10th July 1645. Goring had occupied a strong rearguard position
to cover the withdrawal of his slow-moving artillery and baggage.
His main force held a ridge running north to south, a mile east of
Langport. In front of the ridge was a marshy valley occupied by a stream named the Wagg Rhyne.
Only a single narrow lane lined with trees and hedges ran across the
stream via a ford, and up to the top of the ridge. Goring placed two
light guns in position to fire down the lane, and disposed two raw
units of Welsh foot soldiers in the hedges. Three bodies of horse
cavalry waited at the top of the ridge. Goring hoped that Fairfax
would be forced to make time-consuming outflanking moves. Fairfax
was prepared to rely on the superior morale of his cavalry to
overcome Goring's position. While his artillery silenced Goring's
two light guns, he sent 1500 detached musketeers through the marshes
to clear the Welsh infantry from the hedges. He then ordered two
'divisions' to charge up the lane. These two divisions were from
Fairfax's and Whalley's
which had originally been part of Oliver Cromwell's double regiment
of Ironsides before being merged into the New Model Army.
The first division under Major Christopher Bethel galloped up the lane four abreast, deployed into a line and charged and broke two of the Royalist cavalry regiments. A third Royalist regiment counter-attacked but the second division of Parliamentarian horse under Major John Desborough
charged and routed them. As more Parliamentarian reinforcements
streamed up the lane, Goring's men broke and fled the field.
Cromwell halted his well-disciplined cavalry at the top of the ridge
until his forces had reformed. Then they moved rapidly in pursuit.
Goring had set fire to Langport to delay the pursuers and tried to
rally his army two miles further on, but his army dissolved as
Cromwell's troopers approached, abandoning their most of
their weapons. Many of the fugitives were attacked by local clubmen
who had banded together to resist exactions by the armies of both
sides in the Civil War.
||Lord Goring's army had
been the last effective field army available to the Royalists,
whatever its quality. Its loss was a major blow to Royalist
morale. Fairfax captured the town of Bridgwater on 23rd July and
stormed the city of Bristol on 10th September, depriving the
Royalists of their major manufacturing centre. King Charles had
appointed Prince Rupert as governor, but he considered that
Rupert had surrendered prematurely, and the two became
These Parliamentarian successes isolated the remaining Royalists in the West Country from King Charles' forces in Oxford and the Midlands. The Royalists were no longer able to raise effective field forces and First Civil War ended less than a year later, after the Parliamentarians captured most of the isolated Royalist garrisons.
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