Cavalry Operations: Why horse supply matters

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:00 am, 13 October 2013]

[Edit May 2016: Peter Gaunt cited this blog post in his review of my book in War in History to show how my thinking had changed, which was nice.]

Over the last three posts, I’ve shown that early modern armies couldn’t move without an adequate cavalry screen, that what was adequate depended on objectives and balance of forces, and that the balance between cavalry in field armies could be affected by small-scale raids. Now I’ll bring it all together, in a post that could be titled ‘how horses won the English Civil War’. (more…)

Cavalry Operations: It’s a raid!

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:00 am, 11 October 2013]

[Edit May 2016: The map has gone because I deleted my old Google account and I don’t have time to recreate it.]

One of the many problems with concentrating only on big battles is that it distracts attention from small-scale operations that were more common and can tell us interesting things about how war worked in practice. But studying small wars for their own sake can also obscure links with bigger issues. This post will try to explain why small cavalry raids happened and how they could affect operational decisions. (more…)

Cavalry Operations: A question of balance

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:00 am, 9 October 2013]

In the previous post, we saw that having enough cavalry was vital for an army to be able to move safely. But how many is enough? (more…)

Cavalry Operations: Moving an army is difficult and dangerous

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:00 am, 7 October 2013]

[Edit May 2016: I no longer think these cavalry operations posts are the best thing I’ve written anywhere, but they are the best blog posts I’ve ever written. I was just sketching out a hypothesis here which still needs throroughly testing against evidence (which I’m going to do in my next project, especially if my current funding application is successful).]

At last I’ve written the series of posts on cavalry operations that I’ve been promising for a long time. There are lots of details I haven’t gone into, especially to do with geography and fodder, but the main point I’ll be trying to make is that the number of cavalry available has a big influence on where, how and whether armies can move. This series will be four posts, all about the First Civil War in England, mostly in the South. I’ll be concentrating on the Earl of Essex’s army because that’s the one I know best, it’s been under researched and often misunderstood, and its campaigns give some great examples of how important cavalry were. Along the way, I’ll keep challenging the myth that Essex’s cavalry were useless ‘decayed serving men and tapsters’. The basic facts of the movements of armies in the civil war aren’t disputed much, or at least I won’t be disputing them the way I have with the received wisdom about tactics. I’m mostly relying on Wanklyn and Jones for these facts, and a few other secondary works for more details of certain campaigns. These posts will try to explain why armies moved the way that they did, and how cavalry or lack of it could limit their options. A lot of this is hypothetical and can’t be strongly proved using the traditional method of picking anecdotes from narrative sources (but what can?), but it works for me. (more…)

Henry Marten’s horse regiment part 3: the end

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:42 am, 24 July 2013]

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, Henry Marten caused conflicts between the two houses of Parliament by requisitioning horses for the regiment he was supposed to be raising by the Earl of Essex’s commission. This suddenly came to an end on 16 August 1643, when Marten was expelled from the Commons and sent to the Tower of London. But why?


Henry Marten’s horse regiment part 2: more trouble

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:32 am, 17 July 2013]

Last week (well, actually in 1643), Henry Marten started raising a cavalry regiment and caused some trouble by taking the King’s horses from the royal mews. This week, he takes more horses from some other people, with controversial consequences. This might get a bit repetitive as I’ve tried to include every example I know of. In academic publications I usually pick a few examples and don’t lay out all the evidence in detail, but with a blog post I can do it differently.


Henry Marten’s horse regiment

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:37 am, 10 July 2013]

I’ve previously shown that radical MP Henry Marten caused some trouble by criticising Parliament’s Lord General, the Earl of Essex, in December 1642 (see Winter in Windsor series). Marten went on to cause even more trouble in 1643 by requisitioning horses from various influential people, ostensibly to help him raise a cavalry regiment. I looked at some of these incidents in my book and my War in History article, but this post is the start of a more detailed catalogue of all the evidence I’ve found so far. (more…)

Winter in Windsor part 4: Hot and Cold

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 12:44 pm, 1 July 2013]

I thought I’d finished this series (part 1, part 2, part 3), but there’s one more thing to say that I’m now not saving for anything else. It all started on 5 December 1642 with radical MP Henry Marten complaining about the Earl of Essex keeping his army in winter quarters at Windsor when parliamentary forces in Devon and Yorkshire were being defeated. The diary of Sir Simonds D’Ewes (British Library, Harleian MS 164, f. 243) reported Marten saying ‘that all these miseries proceeded from his slownes, that wee saw it was summer in Devonshire, summer in yorkeshire & onlie winter at Windsor; & therefore desired that wee might speedelie send to the Lord General to move forward’. The main point of this was to blame Essex for things that weren’t directly his fault, but there was also a gendered subtext that may have made the criticism more powerful. (more…)

Early Modern Documents: Indemnity for Horses

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:06 am, 14 May 2013]

This month we have another indemnity case. The last one was about sequestration, which seems to be the most common type of case. Another very common complaint is that the petitioner is being sued for a horse, which occurs in about 10% of the surviving cases. This is not because there was a shortage of horses in England during the civil wars (Ian Gentles and John Shedd suggested that it was, but Peter Edwards has disproved it: see Gentles, New Model Army, p. 130; Shedd, ‘Legalism‘, p. 1096; Edwards, ‘Supply of Horses‘, pp. 55, 57). Although there were theoretically enough horses in England, soldiers often took them by force, sometimes because Parliament couldn’t provide them any other way, sometimes just because it was more convenient. Horses were valuable, and stealing them was usually taken very seriously. Despite this, the absolute number of horses involved in indemnity cases was quite small. Most horse seizure didn’t result in a court case. When it did, the soldiers who originally took the horses weren’t always directly involved. Horses could change hands many times, and under the Common Law, anyone in possession of a horse that was alleged to be stolen could be sued, even if they were not guilty of stealing it in the first place. This made horse cases very different from sequestration cases. Sequestration was very closely linked to allegiance: petitioners were under pressure to show that they had been loyal to Parliament and that the sequestered defendant hadn’t. Anne Hughes identified this as a general trend in indemnity cases, but horse cases are a significant exception (Hughes, ‘Parliamentary Tyranny‘, pp. 67–9; see my book, pp. 140–45, for a more detailed argument than I’ve given here). The horse might have passed through so many owners that it was a long way removed from the issues that the King and Parliament were fighting over. The crucial point for the Indemnity Committee to consider was whether the horse had been in the service of Parliament, not whether the petitioner had. This month’s petition is an example of this kind of case, where a long chain of ownership led to complicated court actions and then an appeal for indemnity. (more…)

Early Modern Documents: Credit and Coverture

[posted by Gavin Robinson, 7:28 am, 23 April 2013]

Previous posts in this series have covered sequestration (Parliament confiscating the estates of its enemies during the civil wars) and compounding (getting sequestered estates back by paying a fine). Sequestration led to lots of court cases, because although it was authorized by ordinances of Parliament, it was still technically illegal according to the Common Law. Parliament suppressed the law courts during the First Civil War, but they began to sit again when the war was over, creating opportunities to contest property rights, allegiance, and the legitimacy of the Long Parliament’s governing without the King. Many soldiers and officials were prosecuted for things they had done with the authority of Parliament. This led to the Indemnity Ordinance, which was implemented by the Indemnity Committee (I’ve written a brief guide to the committee and its records, now held by the UK National Archives). Ordinary civilians could also benefit from this if they were prosecuted for obeying Parliament. The majority of the petitions received by the committee were from tenants and debtors of sequestered delinquents who had paid the money they owed to the state and were sued for it by the original owner. This month’s document is one of these petitions. It adds an extra twist because it also involves the law of coverture. This denied married women the right to own property: with a few exceptions, any property a woman brought into a marriage was owned and controlled by her husband for the duration of the marriage. Mary Robinson from last month’s post owned an estate in her own right because she was a widow.