A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 11 January 2015

ECW Campaign – Week 4

Barnabas Pobjoy, the formidable mayor of Midlawton, more than a match
for the unfortunate Lord Porteous
Some aspects of the week are also covered in the account of the Battle of Midlawton; what follows here is a summary.

The Parliamentarian army assembled in the area of Pacefield, and marched northwards towards Midlawton, where they were surprised by Lord Porteous, with all the troops he had available, but without the expected reinforcement under the command of General Sir John Darracott. The resultant Battle of Midlawton (28th March 1644) is recorded in the histories as one of the great disasters of the Royalist cause – Porteous’ losses in killed wounded and missing were about 40% of his strength, he lost all his artillery and a number of his most able brigade commanders, and the wreck of his army fell back, as best they could, to Lowther. On reaching that town, with his army still strung out behind him in disorder, Lord Porteous announced that he was unwell, and retired to his quarters, leaving Lord Sefton in temporary command. Sefton had the challenge of doing what he could to organise some kind of army out of the bits, as more stragglers returned to their units.

Ralph Molyneux, Lord Sefton - commanding the Royalist
"Army of North Lonsdale" during the indisposition of Lord Porteous
Word soon reached Darracott, at Woodhouses with the supporting force seconded from the Marquis of Newcastle, of the catastrophe at Midlawton, and he ordered his troops forward to the fortress town of Erneford, to cover Porteous’ retreat.

Sir John Darracott - commander of the forces from
The victorious Sir Henry Figge-Newton handed over command of the Army of Parliament to Sir Nathaniel Aspinall (who was the actual field commander during the battle) and retired to Pacefield, to meet up with the Scottish Covenanter forces under Gen William Geddes (“Big Willie Geddes” to his men – Gen Geddes was a giant of a man, apparently – “six and a half” feet tall).

"Big Willie" Geddes - in command of the Scottish forces
seconded to Parliament
Aspinall duly took possession of the town of Midlawton (a situation he cannot have expected), including a portion of the baggage train of Royalist Army, with one of the treasure chests and much of that army’s correspondence and records, and he also acquired 4 good field pieces in working order, plus a mass of other abandoned weapons and ammunition. The mayor of Midlawton, Mr Barnabas Pobjoy, was keen to place his town at the disposal of Parliament, subject to some guarantees about the behaviour of the soldiers. He found Aspinall to be a rather more combative negotiator than Porteous had been, but he was also famed for his intolerance toward looting and any other ungodly activity in his army, and a gallows was promptly erected in the town market to emphasise what was expected of the soldiery. General Aspinall made it clear that the gallows would also be used to deal with any official or citizen of the town who caused any trouble or provided information to the enemy.

The Midlawton Town Guard (trained band without firearms) was taken into the Parliament army, and Aspinall appointed a new officer of his own to command it.

A large proportion of the losses on both sides at the Battle of Midlawton consisted of men who had gone missing – some of the Royalists were bona fide prisoners, but a great many had simply run away from the combat. The situation after the battle was complicated. Many of the Royalist units were raised in Cumberland and Westmorland, to the north, and – though many took shelter with sympathetic locals, or just disappeared – the best-supplied and quickest way home for these men was probably to rejoin their army in the retreat.

On the other hand, many of Aspinall’s soldiers had been recruited in Blackburn, Salford, West Derby and other areas well to the south, and the official orders forbidding collection of any booty from Midlawton brought a rush of desertions – many felt that the battle was won, the campaign must now be over, the immediate prospects for life in the army did not appear attractive, and they would be best setting off for home. Aspinall quickly detailed some of his units of horse to patrol the tracks heading south in search of deserters, but they had little success – they had too much ground to cover, and the situation was not helped by the fact that some of the troopers took the opportunity to desert also.

The consequence of all this was that the proportion of missing men who rejoined the colours after the battle was rather higher in the defeated army, which seems counterintuitive but was nonetheless true.

A pre-war portrait of Sir Roderick Broadhurst, hero
of Hobden's Mill, whose brigade of the Royalist horse
was practically destroyed at Midlawton


Force A (Lord Porteous with the brigades of Rice, Fulwood & Parkfield, at Lowther), Force B (Lord Sefton with a detached force at Midlawton) and Force D (Col Broadhurst, with a cavalry force at Erneford) were ordered to garrison the town of Midlawton. This was compromised by the refusal of the Mayor of Midlawton to allow more troops into the town, followed by the unfortunate battle on 28th – afterwards these forces merged into a revised Force A (Lord Sefton in acting command, with Porteous indisposed) and fell back to the area of Lowther.

Force F (Genl Darracott, with the reinforcement from the Marquis of Newcastle) had orders to rest until 5th February at Woodhouses, but on hearing of the defeat at Midlawton he marched his troops to Erneford, the old fortress on the River Arith, to cover Porteous’ retreat.


The various columns converged on Pacefield, and marched north, where they were engaged in battle at Midlawton. Following the battle, the victorious forces were merged into revised Force A, at Midlawton, under the command of Genl Aspinall (Genl Figge-Newon having left to join the Scots…)

Force I - General Geddes’ Covenanters marched from Briskhill to Pacefield.


  1. So after such a drubbing what chance is there that the Royalists can put together a decent field army or will we be in for a siege somewhere?

    1. Interesting - the Royalist reinforcements from Northumberland are rated as veterans, which is better than anyone else we've seen yet, and the rate of desertion from the (successful) Parliament army is not looking too clever. If Darracott's boys sit tight at Erneford they could probably see out any siege the Roundheads could set up, but the Roundheads could just leave a smallish force to blockade Erneford, and head for Carlisle. All up for grabs at present.

      Or else the Scots could take on the Geordies, and we have a whole new campaign.