[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…)
[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…)
[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…)
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:00 am, 30 September 2012]
This post is part of a series of letters from parliamentary soldier Nehemiah Wharton during the English Civil War, which will be posted on the anniversary of the day they were written. For more information see the introduction. To find the rest of the series, use the “wharton letters” tag. The original of this letter is held by the UK National Archives, reference SP 16/492/28, ff. 80-81. The text of the letter is out of copyright.
This week, Wharton sends more information about the battle of Powicke Bridge, and decides that Worcester is like Sodom and Gomorrah
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:00 am, 26 September 2012]
This post is part of a series of letters from parliamentary soldier Nehemiah Wharton during the English Civil War, which will be posted on the anniversary of the day they were written. For more information see the introduction. To find the rest of the series, use the “wharton letters” tag. The original of this letter is held by the UK National Archives, reference SP 16/492/21, ff. 68-69. The text of the letter is out of copyright.
This week, the army marches to Worcester, and the cavalry get into a fight with Prince Rupert.
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 12:43 pm, 19 September 2012]
Behind every Great Man there’s another Great Man who is supposed to have inspired him, even though he’s a unique genius. Whiggish narratives of progress in cavalry tactics often say that Prince Rupert and/or Oliver Cromwell got his brilliant ideas from Gustavus Adolphus. Back in the caracole post we saw how Michael Roberts credited Gustavus Adolphus with getting rid of the caracole and bringing back proper, vigorous, manly shock charges. These assumptions have had knock-on effects for historians of the English Civil Wars, who have often tried to classify various tactics as either Dutch (old and rubbish – how quickly they forgot that Maurice of Nassau was a Great Man) or Swedish (new and good). I’ve already discussed how Rupert and Cromwell weren’t necessarily doing anything new, when we can tell what they were doing at all. This week, see how their tactics don’t relate to national stereotypes.
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 9:55 am, 28 August 2012]
Prince Rupert of the Rhine was, and still is, a controversial figure in the English Civil War. In 1643 he burnt down Birmingham, but he also did some bad things (see what I did there?). He’s often associated with the cavalier stereotype, in both positive and negative ways. Although he became famous as a cavalry commander, he was also an administrator who helped to build a new army for the King in 1643-44, governor of Bristol when it surrendered in 1645, and later an admiral. This post investigates what we do and don’t know about Rupert’s cavalry tactics. (more…)
[posted by Gavin Robinson, 8:37 am, 10 August 2012]
If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time you’ll have got the impression that I’m obsessed with cavalry. That impression would be more or less correct. This post is the start of yet another series of posts on cavalry charges. It’s the story of how I got from dissertations to blog posts to a journal article, and where I still need to go.