Battle of Langport

Last updated

Battle of Langport
Part of First English Civil War
Site of the Battle of Langport.JPG
The site of the battle
Date10 July 1645
Location 51°02′31″N2°48′04″W / 51.04194°N 2.80111°W / 51.04194; -2.80111
Result Parliamentarian victory [1]
Royal Standard of England (1603-1689).svg Royalists Flag of England.svg Parliamentarians
Commanders and leaders
Lord Goring Sir Thomas Fairfax
7,000 [2] 10,000 [2]
Casualties and losses
300 killed [2]
500 captured
Somerset UK relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Red pog.svg
Somerset and Langport

The Battle of Langport took place on 10 July 1645 during the First English Civil War, near Langport in Somerset.


Following its previous success at Naseby in June, in the Battle of Langport, the New Model Army under Sir Thomas Fairfax destroyed the last Royalist field army, led by Lord Goring. This Parliamentarian victory allowed them to besiege the Royalist port of Bristol, which surrendered in September.


Taunton 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. [3]

When determining strategy for 1645, King Charles I had despatched George, Lord Goring, the lieutenant general of horse (cavalry), to the West Country 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, nephew and chief adviser, resulted in Goring's force returning to the west. [4]

Parliament had meanwhile sent a substantial detachment commanded by Colonel Ralph Weldon, consisting of one cavalry regiment and four infantry regiments from their New Model Army, to relieve Taunton. They raised the siege on 11 May, but were themselves besieged by Goring's returning army (although there was no longer any danger of the Royalists storming the town). [5] [6]

On 14 June, the main body of the New Model Army under Sir Thomas Fairfax, with Oliver Cromwell as lieutenant general of horse, won the decisive Battle of Naseby, destroying Charles's main army. [7] 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 in touch with Parliament's navy. On 4 July it 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 (19 km) along the north bank of the River Yeo, from Langport to Yeovil. [7] 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). [8]

Fairfax was joined by Weldon's detachment from Taunton and advanced north towards Goring's army. On 8 July, the Parliamentarians captured Yeovil at the western end of the Royalists' line. The Royalists abandoned the line of the river, and Fairfax crossed to the north side of the Yeo. [9] 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. [10] Porter's men had neglected to post proper sentries and outposts, and were taken by surprise by Massie and destroyed at Isle Abbots in the early hours of 9 July. [11]

Fairfax had meanwhile advanced in pursuit of Goring, and encountered his main position at Langport late on 9 July. [12]


The Battle of Langport took place the following day. Goring had occupied a strong rearguard position to cover the withdrawal of his slow-moving artillery and baggage. [7] His main force held a ridge running north to south, a mile east of Langport. [10] The River Yeo prevented any outflanking moves to the south, while any outflanking moves to the north would take time. [13] In front of the ridge was a marshy valley occupied by a stream named the Wagg Rhyne. [14] 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. [15] Goring placed two light guns in position to fire down the lane, and disposed two raw regiments (those of colonels Wise and Slaughter) [13] of Welsh foot soldiers in the hedges. Three bodies of horse (Goring's life guard, and Goring's and Sir Arthur Slingsby's regiments) waited at the top of the ridge. [16]

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 "commanded" (detached) musketeers [17] under Colonel Thomas Rainsborough [14] through the marshes to clear the Welsh infantry from the hedges. He then ordered two "divisions" (half regiments) of horse to charge up the lane. These two divisions were from regiments (Fairfax's and Whalley's) which had originally been part of Cromwell's double regiment of ironsides before being merged into the New Model Army. [16]

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. [7] 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. [10]

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 baggage and 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. [14]


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. [1] On 11 July, Fairfax met representatives from the local clubmen at Middlezoy. He promised that his army would pay for all supplies they took and leave the clubmen in peace provided that they did not assist the Royalists. [14]

Goring left an infantry garrison in Bridgwater and withdrew with his cavalry to Barnstaple, in Devon. He himself was depressed and possibly drinking heavily. [18] Although Bridgwater was a strong position, Fairfax nevertheless stormed the eastern part of the town on 21 July. After a heavy artillery bombardment, Sir Hugh Wyndham surrendered the remaining western part of the town on 23 July. [19]

Fairfax next besieged Sherborne, which was defended by Sir Lewis Dyve. Dyve surrendered on 17 August after artillery and mines breached the castle walls. [14] The New Model Army then stormed the city of Bristol on 10 September, depriving the Royalists of their last major manufacturing centre. Charles had appointed Prince Rupert as governor, but he considered that Rupert had surrendered prematurely, and the two became increasingly estranged. [20]

These Parliamentarian successes isolated the remaining Royalists in the West Country from Charles's forces in Wales, Oxford and the Midlands. The Royalists were no longer able to raise effective field forces and the first civil war ended less than a year later, after the Parliamentarians captured most of the isolated Royalist garrisons.[ citation needed ]


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Marston Moor</span> 1644 battle of the First English Civil War

The Battle of Marston Moor was fought on 2 July 1644, during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of 1639–1653. The combined forces of the English Parliamentarians under Lord Fairfax and the Earl of Manchester and the Scottish Covenanters under the Earl of Leven defeated the Royalists commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine and the Marquess of Newcastle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Naseby</span> Part of the First English Civil War

The Battle of Naseby took place on 14 June 1645 during the First English Civil War, near the village of Naseby in Northamptonshire. The Parliamentarian New Model Army, commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell, destroyed the main Royalist army under Charles I and Prince Rupert. The defeat ended any real hope of royalist victory, although Charles did not finally surrender until May 1646.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Goring, Lord Goring</span> English Royalist soldier (1608–1657)

George Goring, Lord Goring was an English Royalist soldier. He was known by the courtesy title Lord Goring as the eldest son of the first Earl of Norwich.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sieges of Taunton</span> Series of three blockades during the First English Civil War

The sieges of Taunton were a series of three blockades during the First English Civil War. The town of Taunton, in Somerset, was considered to be of strategic importance because it controlled the main road from Bristol to Devon and Cornwall. Robert Blake commanded the town's Parliamentarian defences during all three sieges, from September 1644 to July 1645.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ironside (cavalry)</span>

The Ironsides were troopers in the Parliamentarian cavalry formed by English political leader Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century, during the English Civil War. The name came from "Old Ironsides", one of Cromwell's nicknames.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First English Civil War</span> Part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1642–1646)

The First English Civil War took place in England and Wales from 1642 to 1646, and forms part of the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms. An estimated 15% to 20% of adult males in England and Wales served in the military at some point between 1639 and 1653, while around 4% of the total population died from war-related causes. These figures illustrate the widespread impact of the conflict on society, and the bitterness it engendered as a result.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clubmen</span>

Clubmen were bands of local defence vigilantes during the English Civil War (1642–1651) who tried to protect their localities against the excesses of the armies of both sides in the war. They sought to join together to prevent their wives and daughters being raped by soldiers of both sides, themselves being forcibly conscripted to fight by one side or the other, their crops and property being damaged or seized by the armies and their lives threatened or intimidated by soldiers, battle followers, looters, deserters or refugees. As their name suggests, they were mostly armed with cudgels, flails, scythes and sickles fastened to long poles. They were otherwise unarmed.

The Eastern Association of counties was an administrative organisation set up by Parliament in the early years of the First English Civil War. Its main function was to finance and support an army which became a mainstay of the Parliamentarian military effort until early 1645. In January 1644 committeemen of the Eastern Association gathered at the Bury Conference to discuss their concerns as regards the proposed New Model Army. However in the following months many of its units were incorporated into this new military formation.

Events from the year 1645 in England. This is the fourth year of the First English Civil War, fought between Roundheads (Parliamentarians) and Cavaliers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cornwall in the English Civil War</span>

Cornwall played a significant role in the English Civil War, being a Royalist enclave in the generally Parliamentarian south-west.

1645 was the fourth year of the First English Civil War. By the beginning of 1645 the war was going badly for Charles I and the campaigns of 1645 did not see a recovery in his prospects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edmund Wyndham</span>

Sir Edmund Wyndham was an Somerset landowner, and Member of Parliament on different occasions between 1625 and 1679. He supported the Parliamentary opposition to Charles I, until 1630, when his wife was appointed wet-nurse to the Prince of Wales.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bristol in the English Civil War</span>

During the English Civil War (1642–1651), Bristol was a key port on the west coast of England and considered strategically important by both Royalists and Parliamentarians. Initially, the leadership of Bristol wanted to keep the city neutral in the conflict. In 1642, city officials implored Thomas Essex not to occupy the city with his Parliamentarian forces. The city was weakly defended, and Essex entered without much resistance. During the conflict, Bristol was used as a receiving point for the Royalists to accept reinforcements from Ireland. The town was well fortified by the Frome and Avon rivers, as well as a medieval castle, which had been bought by the corporation when the First English Civil War broke out in 1642, and during the Parliamentary defense, earthen artillery forts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of Chester</span> Siege during the First English Civil War

The siege of Chester occurred over a 16-month period between September 1644 and February 1646 during the First English Civil War. In the engagement, Sir William Brereton and the Parliamentarians were ultimately successful in taking possession of the city and Royalist garrison commanded by Lord Byron.

The Second Siege of Bristol of the First English Civil War lasted from 23 August 1645 until 10 September 1645, when the Royalist commander Prince Rupert surrendered the city that he had captured from the Parliamentarians on 26 July 1643. The commander of the Parliamentarian New Model Army forces besieging Bristol was Lord Fairfax.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capture of Wakefield</span> 1643 engagement of the First English Civil War

The capture of Wakefield occurred during the First English Civil War when a Parliamentarian force attacked the Royalist garrison of Wakefield, Yorkshire. The Parliamentarians were outnumbered, having around 1,500 men under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax, compared to the 3,000 led by George Goring in Wakefield. Despite being outnumbered, Parliamentarians successfully stormed the town, taking roughly 1,400 prisoners.

The battle of Bovey Heath took place on 9 January 1646 at Bovey Tracey and Bovey Heath during the First English Civil War. A Parliamentarian cavalry detachment under the command of Oliver Cromwell surprised and routed the Lord Wentworth's Royalist camp.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of Tiverton (1645)</span>

The Siege of Tiverton took place in October 1645 during the First English Civil War, when a Royalist garrison surrendered to a detachment of the New Model Army.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of Bridgwater (1645)</span>

The Siege of Bridgwater took place in July 1645, during the First English Civil War, when a Royalist garrison surrendered to a Parliamentarian force under Sir Thomas Fairfax.

The Battle of Sherburn in Elmet was an action fought towards the end of the First English Civil War. A detachment of the English Royalist army led by Lord Digby, King Charles I's Secretary of State, was making a belated attempt to reach Scotland and join forces with the Scottish Royalists. As they moved north through Yorkshire, they were pursued by a Parliamentarian force under Sydnam Poyntz. Poyntz was unaware of the Royalists' position, and the Royalists took the opportunity to ambush and attack a small Parliamentarian detachment at night in the village of Sherburn in Elmet. However, the Royalists then mistook fleeing Parliamentarians for their own men and panicked. In the ensuing flight, several hundred Royalist prisoners were taken. The Parliamentarians also captured Digby's coach, which contained much compromising correspondence.