So we reach the climax of the account of the Battle of Nantwich, with Lord Fairfax’s forces preparing to attack the divided army of Lord Byron on the outskirts of the town…
This excellent account of the battle has been taken from the British Civil Wars website:
As the Parliamentarians approached Nantwich, a sudden thaw set in and it began to rain heavily. On the morning of 25th January, the River Weaver became so swollen that Lord Byron transferred his artillery and most of his infantry to the western bank where the ground was slightly higher.
While Byron and most of his cavalry were still on the eastern side, the flood swept away Beam Bridge to the north of Nantwich and split the Royalist army in two. Byron was forced to march to the next bridge over the Weaver at Minshull to try to reunite his forces.
In Byron’s absence, the Royalist troops on the western side of the river were commanded by Colonel Gibson who drew up his forces around Acton church, deploying four regiments to block the road from the north along which Fairfax was marching, and another to cover the approach into Nantwich itself.
The Parliamentarians approached Gibson’s position at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. At the same time, news reached Fairfax that Byron’s cavalry was approaching the rear of the Parliamentarian column, having worked its way round from Minshull. Fairfax calmly detailed two regiments to hold the Royalist cavalry at bay and continued his advance towards Acton, turning his troops from the line of march so that the rearguard and vanguard became the wings of his battle formation. Fairfax planned to defeat the Royalist infantry at Acton before the cavalry arrived to reinforce them.
Unable to operate effectively among the small fields, hedgerows and lanes that made up the local terrain, Byron’s cavalry were held back while Fairfax attacked the infantry. Despite the lack of cavalry support, the regiments on the Royalist wings held firm against the Parliamentarian attack, inflicting heavy casualties. In the centre, however, the Royalists gave ground. Colonel Monck succeeded in rallying them but the centre began to give way again when the Parliamentarians charged a second time.
At this critical point, a force of musketeers from the Nantwich garrison marched out and swept aside the Royalist reserve regiment guarding the road into the town. With the added pressure of reinforcements from the garrison threatening the rear, the Royalist centre collapsed completely. Fairfax’s Parliamentarians swept through the gap in the centre of the Royalist line and quickly overwhelmed the stalwart regiments holding out on the flanks.
The Royalists fell back to Acton church where Colonel Gibson surrendered to Fairfax under terms. The artillery and baggage train were captured and about 1,500 officers and men taken prisoner, many of whom changed sides.
Lord Byron retreated to Chester with his cavalry and surviving infantry. Although he had enough forces for the defence of the city and had established a Royalist garrison at Beeston Castle, there was no question of another Royalist offensive in the region for some time.
The defeat at Nantwich thwarted King Charles’s plan to create a field army in the northwest based on regiments returned from the campaign in Ireland. It also gave Parliament room to organise itself more effectively, as well as bolstering the reputation of Sir Thomas, who would go on to lead Parliament’s army to victory…
Tomorrow, we march into Nantwich 368 years later to re-enact this victory – why not join is?