|Remains of the King's Gate, at Erneford Castle, today|
Most significant event of the week was the defeat of the Royalist force from Northumberland, under General Darracott, at the Battle of High Cark on 4th April.
General Aspinall, Parliamentarian victor at Midlawton on 28th March, was still struggling to put his strangely demoralised army into some kind of shape to take the field. Desertion had been very widespread, especially after it became obvious that no looting would be permitted. Figge-Newton, in overall command of the Parliament army in Lonsdale, ordered William Geddes’ Covenanter force to advance from Pacefield to Cark Ferry, to prevent any junction between the two Royalist forces and to seize the crossing of the River Arith.
Geddes made rapid progress, and crossed the river, but word of his advance came to the notice of General Darracott, at Erneford. That general, borrowing some artillery from the fortress, set off towards the Ferry, where he blundered into the (rather larger) Scottish force. The Battle of High Cark which followed was of short duration, but the Royalists were very disorganised by their defeat, and though Colonel Frayne (who inherited command when Darracott went missing from the battlefield) did well to conduct a withdrawal back to the strong position of the medieval fortress at Erneford, the Parliamentarian cavalry caused a lot of problems, and many men were lost on the retreat.
Geddes quartered his army around Cark Hall – home of the influential Barber family – and sent a request for orders to Figge-Newton, who had set up his staff and HQ at Pacefield Hall.
Meanwhile the Royalist force at Lowther, which had been defeated at Midlawton and was under the temporary command of Lord Sefton (as a result of the indisposition of Lord Porteous, who had not been seen for a week) was recovering fairly well, and (as predicted) many of the missing men were returning to the colours.
The armies needed to rest. Sir Henry Figge-Newton now considered his options. At this time, his favoured scheme was to lay siege to Darracott’s force at Erneford, withdrawing as many men from Geddes’ force as possible – providing him with the siege artillery but taking all the troops he could spare to reinforce the main army at Midlawton, and attempt to bring Porteous’ Royalists (at Lowther) to a decisive battle in that area.
Following the wounding of the Royalist brigadier of foot, Colonel Brogan, at High Cark, his brigade at Erneford was now commanded by Colonel Charlton.
A late development in this week was the arrival from Carlisle of a letter from Prince Rupert, addressed to Lord Sefton, who was instructed to place Lord Porteous under arrest, and send him to Carlisle as soon as he was well enough to travel. Sefton was to remain in acting command of the forces at Lowther; Rupert also explained in the letter that Sir John Darracott was to succeed to overall command in the county – Rupert, of course, did not know that Darracott had been defeated and was currently at Erneford, having lost much of his personal baggage at High Cark, and was thus not in a position to take command. Sefton was last seen composing a diplomatic reply to the Prince.
|The "Ghost Pool" on the River Arith, which legend suggests is where|
General Darracott hid to avoid capture
Darracott himself was unfortunate enough to have earned the unofficial nickname, “The Ghost of Cark”, as a consequence of the speed with which he was reputed to have quit the battlefield, pursued by the Pitlochrie Horse. In fairness, Sir John showed considerable resourcefulness to escape, by dint of hiding in the river, later rejoining his army soaking wet, and lacking his horse, pistols and boots. He did well to avoid harm or capture, but the loss of his dignity did nothing to help his standing with his sullen army.
No new orders. Troops are resting and recovering.
The siege train is to be readied to move to Cark, to be placed under the command of General Geddes there. Sir Henry Figge-Newton will come to Midlawton next week to meet with General Aspinall and draw up plans for continuation of the campaign.