The following is a short background on the Oxford Army and its foot regiments that took part in the Lostwithiel campaign of 1644.
The end of the campaigning season of 1643 saw changes in the Oxford Army as various units were forced to return to their own localities or were sent to help regional forces. These moves resulted in a considerable reduction in the number of foot available to the army. Although, some efforts were made to raise new units.
The notorious Colonel Robert Villiers had been commissioned on June 15, 1643 to raise a regiment in Shropshire. In October of that year it was at Oxford, being issued with 200 muskets and 100 pikes, but is not mentioned thereafter. Other units being raised at this time were Sir Charles Aston's regiment, another shadowy body that may have remained part of the Oxford garrison. Also being raised with greater success, was the Queen's regiment, unusual among the Royalist foot in that it included a number of French officers, but the rank and file were largely Welsh.
By the winter of 1643/44 desertion was a worse problem than ever for the Royalists, and conscription had already begun on an ad hoc basis during the summer of 1643, and in November the Royalist Council of War advised the King to recruit his forces on a county basis. At about the same time Sir Ralph Hopton was authorized to press men in the five Western Counties, and impressment committees were set up in the Oxford area, Staffordshire, the South-West, South Wales, and the Welsh Border counties, with a recruitment quota being set for each county. By the spring of 1644 such committees had been established in most Royalist controlled areas. As a follow-up measure, on March 11, 1644, the Royalist Parliament voted that 6,000 men needed to be raised immediately for the field army, with each committee being ordered to raise a specified number of men by a certain date.
Though the local committees were charged with raising the recruits, in practice the task was the responsibility of the local Constables, backed up if necessary by the local Royalist commanders. Efforts were usually concentrated upon rounding up deserters, or pressing the local militia (for a very early example of the methods employed see Coates, M., CORNWALL IN THE GREAT CIVIL WAR, p.65). There were severe penalties for refusal to serve; Provost Marshals were employed to round up deserters, with the power to execute recalcitrants.
It has been claimed that the Royalist conscription effort was largely a failure. It is true that the Oxford Army did not gain nearly its intended number of recruits, although some did arrive, but were channeled into the older regiments with surplus weapons to arm them with from the Royalist munitions stores (due mainly to the success of the Oxford Army in the previous years of the war!). The Queens' regiment obtained a number of Welsh recruits, and in May, 1644, 120 Cornishmen, well armed with muskets, were reported arriving at Oxford, but overall the old foot regiments of the Oxford Army were weaker in the spring of 1644 than at the end of 1643. However, it does not follow that recruiting efforts were a complete failure; what seems to have occurred was that recruits tended to be absorbed in garrisons, or into the field armies in the localities in which they were raised. An example of this can be found in the rebuilding of Lord Byron's and Prince Rupert's forces on the Welsh border in the spring of 1644. A similar process occurred with Prince Maurice's forces in the West Country. Commanders on the spot, pleading necessity, or possibly that they were out of effective central control of the King, probably siphoned off many recruits intended for Oxford.
The Royalist command had to seek other means to build up an effective infantry force for the 1644 campaign. One source that had to be used was the army formed under Sir Ralph Hopton's command in the previous autumn. With is defeat at Cheriton in March, Hopton's planned invasion of Sussex and Kent had failed, and at the rendezvous at Albourne Chase in April 1644, his forces were incorporated in the Oxford Army.
The most valuable addition to the Oxford Army, in terms of experience, was the "Anglo-Irish" regiments. There is some evidence to suggest that, particularly in the offensive operations of the Lostwithiel campaign, these veterans were used as the spearhead of the Royalist foot.
Once again however, the 'Irish' factor in the Oxford Army has been distorted and exaggerated, and it has been suggested that in 1644 two-thirds of the Royalist foot were Cornish, Welsh or Irish, which suggests that the majority of the latter were native Irish, with at least 8,000 out of a total of 20,000 troops from Ireland being native Irish. These figures, grossly inflated, are due to an uncritical use of Parliamentarian newsletters and propaganda material in order to support the contention that the King's cause faced widespread unpopular opinion.
While it is possible that about two-thirds of the foot may have been Welsh or West countrymen, the Cornish element in the Oxford Army proper was always fairly small. The Anglo-Irish element was fairly large, an estimate of about 2,000 may be about right, but few of these can have been native Irish. There was, of course, some use made of native Irish troops in the Royalist armies, but this seems to have been mainly confined to Lord Byron's and Prince Rupert's forces in the North-West Midlands, and to some degree in Prince Maurice's command in the South-West (though even here they were always much of a minority). This is not to suggest that the King would have hesitated to make use of such a source of manpower, indeed it was his chief hope in 1645, but Parliamentarian naval supremacy in the Irish sea was by then sufficiently effective to make large scale transportation impossible.
As in the previous year's campaigning, the Oxford Army was reinforced on occasion by elements from other commands. In the Lostwithiel operations of August/September, 1644, the King was joined by Prince Maurice's Western Army (whose foot was organized into three tertias - one Cornish, one Cornish/Devon, and one West Country "Anglo-Irish" units), and by Sir Richard Grenville's small Cornish force.
By the middle of August 1644, the King probably commanded about 5,000 foot and Prince Maurice about 4,500. However, by Mid-September these numbers had dwindled to 3,500 and 2,000 respectively. Most of this was the result of desertion; straggling and detaching units for garrison duty, rather than losses in battle. The King made vigorous efforts to recruit further volunteers for his forces while in the West, mainly from Devon and Somerset; and also from enemy prisoners (a constant, if unreliable, source of recruits for both sides during the war). At the Battle of Second Newbury the King had about 5,000 foot after detaching several units for garrison duty. Notable amongst these was Sir Lewis Dyve's foot to Sherbourne and Colonel Henry Shelley's small unit.
After the Lostwithiel campaign, new attempts were made to recruit Oxford Army foot. In October the Oxford Parliament ordered a new impressment of 1,000 men. However, in November at the relief of Donnington Castle a combination of virtually all the available field forces in Southern England and South Wales produced only 11,000 men for the Oxford Army, nearly half being horse, and it would get worse for the 1645 Campaign!
During the operations of 1644 the Oxford Army foot was organized as follows:
The foot probably totaled about 6,000, being a decrease since the Battle of First Newbury of about 4,000 men. The establishment of the units in Lisle's Tertia gives some idea of the attrition suffered by the King's "old regiments" and the failure to adequately replace loses. The remaining men may have been seasoned veterans, but were weak in number.
To conclude, from the evidence known about the Oxford Army, it seems that recruits for the foot were drawn fairly widely from Royalist held territory. The traditional view is largely confirmed, as the largest numbers seem to have come from Wales and its borders. This Welsh proportion increased as conscripts were added later in the war. The proportion of troops from the North of England was higher than sometimes realized, though the presence of "Anglo-Irish" units was important from 1644 onwards. Although, the suggestion that the Oxford Army included many native Irish cannot be supported. Nor did Cornish troops play any significant role in the Oxford Army proper.
While on the subject of the Lostwithiel campaign, lets look at the foot regiments of the Earl of Essex's ill-fated army that entered Cornwall with such high hopes on July 26th, 1644, which the King eventually forced to surrender as a result of the campaign.
The Earl of Essex's Army on the Lostwithiel campaign was as follows:
ROYALIST ORDNANCE PAPERS , Pt. I, p 113
OFFICERS & REGIMENTS OF THE ROYALIST ARMY, Partizan Press
CORNWALL IN THE GREAT CIVIL WAR, Coates, M.
STRANGERS IN OXFORD, P. Young & M. Toynbee
CROPREDY BRIDGE, P. Young
Earl of Clarendon's HISTORY OF THE REBELLION 1888 ed.
H.C.B. Roger's BATTLE & GENERALS OF THE CIVIL WARS
NASEBY 1645, P. Young
OLD ROBIN'S FOOT: THE EQUIPPING & CAMPAIGNS OF ESSEX'S INFANTRY, Alan Turton & Stuart Peachy, Partizan Press
SYMOND'S DIARY OF THE MARCHES OF THE ROYALIST ARMY DURING THE GREAT CIVIL WAR, Partizan Press
THE SEA APPROACHES: THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DEE AND THE MERSEY IN THE CIVIL WAR IN THE NORTH EST, Historical Society of Lancester & Cheshire, 1986
THE KING IN SEARCH OF SOLDIERS: CHARLES I IN 1642, P. Young & Dr. M. Wanklyn, Historical Journal, 1981
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