Lostwithiel Campaign, 1644
Being a brief background of the campaign in Cornwall
during the English Civil Wars,
By Robert Giglio from ECWSA collections

The following was written for, and issued to, participants at the ECWSA's Winter Siege Muster at Fort Crevecoeur in Creve Coeur, Illinois in 1994. It has been turned into a full article for English Civil War enthusiasts.

The Winter Siege Muster was based on the actions and events surrounding the 1644 Lostwithiel Campaign in Cornwall. This was where the veteran Royalists of the King's Army had forced the outnumbered, but resolute, Parliamentarians of the Earl of Essex's Army, into an area where they had their backs to the sea, and subsequently forced to surrender after losing various engagements. Although, this major victory over an entire Parliament that was caught in a "noose," was offset by the loss that the Royalist's suffered at the Battle of Marston Moor.


The campaign season of 1644 opened with the King's Oxford Army mustered at Aldbourne Chase on the 6th of April, 1644. Then after Lord Hopton's defeat at the battle of Cheriton troops were sent from the army as reinforcements to bolster the Royalist presence in the South against Sir William Waller's Army of the Southern Association, but the depleted Royalist army in Gloucestershire and the Forest of Dean was unable to stop a convoy from London reaching Gloucester, subsequently allowing Parliamentarian forces breakout into North West Wiltshire and cutting the communications with Bristol and the West from Oxford. Now, Royalist plans from 1643, were now obsolete, and it was decided to merge Lord Hopton's Army with the King's Army, which it did on the 20th of June at Witney.

The next major action was the battle of Cropredy Bridge (28 June 1644), where the combined parliamentarian armies of Sir William Waller and the Earl of Essex attempted to trap the King's Army in Oxford. The King had slipped out of Oxford on Monday the 3rd of June, 1644, and 28 June, 1644, defeated Sir William Waller's Army at the Cropredy Bridge and won the day, after the Earl of Essex and Sir William Waller had met at Stow-on-the-Wold and decided that Essex would march into the South West to relieve Lyme, which was being besieged by Prince Maurice's Army, and that Waller would continue pursuing the King.

The King's Oxford Army then marched into Cornwall in pursuit of the Earl of Essex's Army, as it had crossed the Tamar at Horsebridge on the 26th of June, 1644, and quickly pushed aside the royalist forces of Sir Richard Grenville's Army. This started the Lostwithiel campaign. The loss of the north as a result of the defeat of Prince Rupert and the Marquis of Newcastle at the battle of Marston Moor in July, would be a severe stroke to the Royalist cause. The King eventually offset this loss by the pursuit and capture of the Earl of Essex's Army as it retreated into Cornwall. The King's Oxford Army eventually joined up with the armies of Prince Maurice and Sir Richard Grenville, thereby cutting off the escape of the Earl of Essex's Army, as it now had its back to the sea.


The Lostwithiel campaign saw many skirmishes and engagements as the Earl of Essex's Army fell back through Bodmin on the 29th of June, 1644, and finally to Lostwithiel on the August 2nd, where the local people drove off the army's cattle. The Earl of Essex's Army tried desperately to defend every work or village available from the closing veteran and resolute Royalist forces. Some of these actions were the battle of Beacon Hill, Lostwithiel (21 Aug.1644), and the battle of Castle Dore, near Fowey (31 Aug.1644).

Historically, most of the cavalry of the Earl of Essex's Army did break through the royalist lines (30 Aug. 1644), almost by surprise with little loss, on the unsuspecting Cavaliers during the night. That very night, the Earl of Essex, Lord Robarts, Sir John Merrick, and other staff members, escaped by fishing boat to Plymouth. The next day (2 Sept.1644), the foot regiments of the Earl of Essex's Army surrendered under the command of Sgt.-Major Phillip Skippon, being weak and demoralized, surrendered at 10 o'clock in the morning, making what terms they could. The royalists were unders orders from the King not to plunder the parliamentarians, but the local people stripped them to their skin once they were free of their Royalist guards on their way to Plymouth.


The following is a daily schedule of march for the King's Army during the Lostwithiel campaign, taken mainly from Richard Symond's diary, who was part of the King's Lifeguard of Horse, which the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse also served with during the campaign (both units had only 1 troop of 100 troopers each).

3 June - The King's Army marched from Oxford to Worcester, mustering 3910 foot and 1000 officers, plus 5000 horse. The armies of the Earl of Essex and Sir William Waller pursued the King's Army as it left Oxford.

20 June - The King's Army marched to Witney, where the foot of Lord Hopton's Army joined with the King's Army. The Earl of Essex's Army with 10,000 foot had marched into the South West, and Sir William Waller's Army now pursued the King's Army.

J une - The King's Army marched to Woodstock where it mustered 6,000 foot and officers, plus 4,000-5,000 horse and officers. The King's Army then marched from Islip to Buckingham, receiving 10 artillery pieces.

28 June - The King's Army marched to Banbury. Part of Sir William Waller's horse from his army (following the King's Army) tried to cross the river to the right of Banbury, but were repulsed by a commanded party of horse and foot. This led to the Battle of Cropredy Bridge, where Sir William Waller's Army was bested. During the battle 3 prisoner's were taken by a Royalist foot soldier of Sir Pennyman's Regiment alone. Also taken was 11 pieces of artillery complete with all horse trails and horses, besides 30 commanders and officers, one of which was Weems, General of the Ordinance of Waller's Army, a man obliged to the King for his bread and breeding, and a Scot.

29 June - The King's Army was still in Banbury.

1 July - King's Army marched thru Middleton, then Cheyney, then to Farmigo and to Aynoe.

11 July - The King's Army marched to Coverley. Two Captains of horse "fell out" (had a duel), with one "basely run through on horseback" and the other then fleeing.

12 July - The King's Army marched to Sapperton.

13 July - The King's Army marched to Badmington. Two soldiers were hanged on trees in a hedgerow for pillaging of country villages.

July - The King's Army marched thru Marsfield to Lansdown, then to Bath. The King's Army then marched to Mells. Two more soldiers hanged for plundering.

19 July - The King's Army took Woodhouse, which was owned by the Earl of Arundel, but defended by 66 rebels who had taken it, and within 2 miles of Witham. The King's Army then mustered near Nunney.

20 July - The King's Army marched to Ivelchester.

23 July - The King's Army marched to Kingsmore.

24 July - The King's Army marched to Chard. A duel between the Earl of Peterburgh and Captain Willughby (Willoughby, whose father is the Earl of Northampton) who challenged him, took place; the Captain was wounded in shoulder and thigh, but the Earl was not hurt.

25 July - The King's Army marched to Fyniton.

28 July - The King's Army marched to Crediton (Kirton). Reports that the Earl of Essex's Army had marched thru Crediton one week ago (20 July) towards Plymouth, with Prince Maurice's Army following, but did not engage them. Some of Essex's horse troops went into Newton to St. Syres Church, took the key to the church, went inside with their horses, and broke into the chest. They took the communion cup (worth 5) and also broke into the poor man's collection box taking all that was there (8s 2d). These same troops, or possibly others went to Whitstone, one mile away, and took a burial pall of black velvet (worth 8). Other troops of Essex's Army burned great reaks (500 doz.; with 12 sheaves to a doz.) of oats at Darverton parish, 5 miles from Crediton, and took 1700 from the parson plus 200 from a Mr. Tuckfield.

29 July - The King's Army marched to Bow; one soldier hanged for plundering.

30 July - The King's Army marched to Lifton; pulling up two bridges over the river between Cornwall and Devon; Prince Maurice's Army of 5,000 foot, 5,200 horse and 11 cannon joins up with the King's Army in Lansdon.

1 Aug. - The King's Army marched to Trecarell, in the parish of Lysant.

4 Aug. - Some of the country people came to the King and complained of plundering by the rebels (Essex's Army). The King sent a party of horse to aid them. They took 80 musketeers and other "gay men" (gentlemen officers) while they were at Lord Mohun's manor house carousing. During this action the door's of the house were forced by our horse, killing some of the rebels. Important officers taken were Colonel Aldridge (Governor of Aylesbury), the Lt.-Colonel, a Captain and an Ensign of the Earl of Essex's Lifeguard of Horse, plus another Lt.-Colonel, without any Royalist losses. This occurred two miles from the Earl of Essex's headquarters.

5 Aug. - The King's Army marched to Caryton Down.

7 Aug. - The King's Army marched to Brodock Down; 5 foot soldiers were killed while couting and fetching provisions; the army lay in the field on the hill of Brodock Down all night, 4 miles from Liskerd.

8 Aug. - The King's Army mustered on Brodock Down numbering 16,000 horse and foot. About 11 AM enemy scouts were seen. Then 1,000 forlorn foot, led by Colonel Appleyard, went off the heath (Caryton Down) thru a lane between enclosures to another heath (still on Caryton Down), which was much nearer to the enemy. At about noon some horse followed to support the foot. In the afternoon the King's horse beat the Earl of Essex's horse off a hill within view of Lostwithiel. The enemy's foot was then seen near the town of Lostwithiel in closures.

9 Aug. - At 8 AM the foot of the King's Army moved closer to Lostwithiel. At 10 AM some of the enemy's foot came out of Lostwithiel and moved closer to Beacon Hill; 2 cannon shot at the King's cannon from about 10-10:30 AM. Letter sent to the Earl of Essex by Prince Maurice and the General, the Lord of Forth, by trumpeteer, for a treaty for terms of Essex's surrender. At night the King's Army quartered on the hills north of Lostwithiel.

10 Aug. - Trumpeteer returned with a letter of response, as follows:

"My Lords,

In the beginning of your letter you express by what authority you send it.
I having no authority to treat without the Parliament who have entrusted me,
cannot do it without breach of trust.

Your Humble Servant, Essex"

That afternoon there was more skirmishing between the King's horse and Essex's horse ranging between two hills before Lostwithiel. That night Sir Richard Grenvile's Army had forced entrance into the town of Bodman, thereafter taking it.

11 Aug. - Lord Hopton's Army of 2,000 joined with Sir Richard Grenvile's Army. Sir Richard Grenville's Army, still at Bodman, had raised up earthen works. Since the rebels left Resprin Bridge open, Sir Richard Grenvile's Army crossed the river and joined the King's Army.

12 Aug. - Skirmishing between the King's horse and Essex's horse around the same 2 hills outside Lostwithiel. When the King's horse had the hill they scattered papers stating that if any rebels would surrender they would be pardoned by the King.

14 Aug. - Sir Richard Grenvile's Army approached nearer to the enemy on the west side of the river, where 2,000 foot from Prince Maurice's Army joined him. Lord Percy quit as the General of the Ordinance for the King's Army, and his Majesty gave it to Lord Hopton. The King's Army stood to arms all night; 1 soldier hanged by order of Prince Maurice for plundering Lord Robart's house. Wet weather.

15 Aug. - A blustering cold day, with a very wet evening.

16 Aug. - Wet day. The enemy gave an alarm to the King's Army and to its headquarters at Boconock. 2 men from Essex's army surrendered to the King and said that Essex's provisions for the army were low.

17 Aug. - King's Army marched to Fowey, where a earthen fort was erected and 200 commanded men were used to garrison it. The Quarter-Master General's Regiment (Colonel Lloyd) keeps the pass on our side of the river that runs from Lostwithiel at at the parish of Cliffe, while the enemy keeps the pass on the other side of the river at the parish of Glant, where Castle Dore was located. While the King was visiting the manor house of Lord Mohun, being just a half musket shot from Fowey, a poor fisherman was shot while looking over the fence just after the King had passed by. Some of the great artillery pieces of the King's Army command the town of Fowey. A fort commands the entrance into Fowey, in the parish of Perwyn, and manned by 200 commanded foot under the Major-General of the King's Army, Sir Jacob Astley.

18 Aug. - Some enemy's horse came into the park near Lord Mohun's house, but driven off.

20 Aug. - Proclamation issued by the King that all straggling foot were to presently repair to their colonels, upon pain of death.

21 Aug. - At 5 AM the King's Army and Prince Maurice's Army stood to arms in a very misty morning. At 7 AM the armies marched to the top of Beacon Hill, which looks over Lostwithiel. The foot and cannon all stood on and around the hill, and the adjoining hill, being flanked on each side by horse, and a reserve of horse (the Earl of Cleveland's Brigade) behind the foot. A commanded party of 1,000 foot from Prince Maurice's Army took a hill closer to the town, but on our side of the river, where at the bottom was a pass. The small cottages that were on this hill next to the town were set on fire by the rebels and burned all afternoon.

Both the King's foot and Essex's foot shot at each other all afternoon, with little harm done to the King's. The enemy shot many great pieces of cannon at the King's foot, and at the left wing of the horse, but again with little harm done. Sir Richard Grenvile with 700 commanded foot was on the other side of the river and continued to shoot at the enemy as well, which eventually caused them to retreat from the hedges between Lord Robart's manor house and Lostwithiel, and back to Trinity Castle in the parish of Lanhedriack. This castle had been surprised this morning by Sir Richard Grenvile's men, and 30 rebels and many barrels of beef taken from the garrison.

Near evening the King's foot got into the closures on the hills to the left (commanded by a commanded party of about 1,000 men under Colonel Appleyard) and right (commanded by Prince Maurice's Army) sides of the plain that goes down to Lostwithiel. During the night the King's foot entrenched many a piece of cannon there. At night Sir Richard Grenvile's men retired. This was the Battle of Beacon Hill.

22 Aug. - All day the enemy shot 9-pounder cannon at the King's foot, but without harm. The King's cannon shot back, killing 3 horse troopers. Most of the day the King's Lifeguard of Horse and Queen's Lifeguard of Horse faced the enemy's horse and cannon at the top of the plain, doing good duty. During the night on the top of Beacon Hill, in the middle between the King's Army and Essex's Army, the King's foot made a earthen work 20 yards square, while the enemy continually shot at them. Both the morning and evening very misty, but starlight at night.

23 Aug. - Misty morning. The enemy believed the work which was raised last night was commanded by horse troops, as their scouts were overheard to say, and shot a 9-pounder cannon many times at it, killing one man and wounding another. Sir Richard Grenvile again led his commanded men against Trinity Castle, but were repulsed. In the afternoon the King's Lifeguard of Horse and the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse were again facing the enemy's horse and cannon at the top of the plain waiting on his Majesty, who was in attendance with them until night. At night all slept on the field. The night was very misty, but with starlight.

24 Aug. - The enemy spent all morning till noon shooting 9-pounder cannons at the battery which the King's Army had raised on Beacon Hill, but without doing harm. Until noon the King's Lifeguard of Horse and the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse were again on the plain with the King, but soon after his Majesty drew off to court for dinner, and both horse troops went with him. The King returned with the horse at 3 PM. The enemy had withdrawn towards the town of Fowey, as only a few of them could be seen, although two of their cannon continued to shoot at the King's horse, along with some of their musketeers.

25 Aug. - At 3 AM the King went into the field on the plain with his Lifeguard of Horse and the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse.

The morning was very wet and windy. The King commanded Prince Maurice's Army and Sir Jacob Astley's commanded men to march, as "...it was a fit morning to do the business..."

At noon Prince Maurice's Army was ready in position for battle, but it was then discovered that the Earl of Essex's Army had not withdrawn to the town of Fowey, but instead had retreated just back enough to be hidden from harm by the King's cannon, and was indeed ready for battle. The King then commanded the western army to fall on first.

26 Aug. - 2,000 horse and 1,000 foot of the King's Army went westward behind the enemy to stop their landing of provisions by sea. The King's Army received over 100 barrels of powder, plus other related munitions.

31 Aug. - All of the horse of the Earl of Essex's Army were upon the down at 1 AM, and made a breakout to Saltash, from where they could ferry their horse over into Devonshire. The King supposed that the enemy would try to breakout through Liskern and Launceston, and sent the Earl of Cleveland's Brigade of Horse and the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse to follow and charge the enemy's rear.

Once the enemy's horse broke through, the King immediately marched with only a quarter of his army, along with his Lifeguard of Horse and the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse, towards Lostwithiel. Beyond the town on Druid's Hill, were bodies of the enemies foot with colours left in their rear so they could make their retreats. Their baggage, artillery, and the rest of Essex's foot had marched all night towards Fowey.

At 7 AM the King's forlorn hope of foot of 1,000 men entered Lostwithiel without much opposition, as Essex's foot were still retreating. The King commanded that 2-3 pieces of artillery be brought up to command the hill where the enemy's foot reserve stood. The King himself, along with his Lifeguard of Horse and the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse (2 troops total) went to the south side of the Lostwithiel and chased the enemy's foot at 8 PM, beating them from hedge to hedge for 2 miles. The rebels made a more determined resistance once they came to a narrow neck of ground between Trewardreth Bay and St. Veepe pass.

At 11 PM the Queen's Lifeguard of Horse, being 1 troop strong, charged the enemy and finally beat them from their hedge, killing many of them.

At about midnight a Captain of foot of Essex's Army was taken prisoner along with a pitifully drunk cannoneer, as the King's foot caught up to the King. About this time that both armies were shooting continuously, but the King's Army still gaining ground.

1 Sept. - At 4 AM the King's foot had taken the high hill just in the narrow pass of land between Trewardreth parish church and the passage over the river by Lostwithiel, in the area of Golant, with artillery at the center at Castle Dore.

At 6 AM the enemy made a very bold charge of foot and what little horse were left, along with cannon, to gain the hill, but were beaten back by the King's foot. This lasted an hour.

The area where the action took place was too narrow for horse to operate, so was mainly contested by foot. At night the King laid under a hedge in the field with his army. It was a very windy night, with great storms and heavy rain. Some shooting continued all night.

That night the Earl of Essex's Army was eventually forced back on a small parcel of ground to Menabilly, and surrounded on three sides by the sea. It was during this night that the Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, and his field Marshal, the Lord Robarts, along with Sir John Merrick, and many of his other chief commanders, fled in a fishing boat by sea to Plymouth. Major-General Skippon was now in charge of the Earl of Essex's Army, and sent propositions of treaty to the King, which he granted, even though Essex's Army was at a great disadvantage.

2 Sept. - The King's Army of foot stood to arms, with colours stuck in the ground flying, and the King in the field accompanied with all his gallant cavaliers dispersed in several places.

At about 10 AM Major-General Skippon marched in front of the regiments of foot of the Earl of Essex, colours flying, past the King. They left 42 cannon, 1 mortar, all their muskets and pikes, and all their wagons except one per regiment, but their regiments retained their colours and their officers had their swords. It rained extremely hard part of the time as the rebels marched away. The King rode about the field giving strict command to his chief officers that none of the enemy were to be plundered. The King's officers had to use their swords to beat back their soldiers from plundering the enemy, which was successful, although many of the enemy did lose some hats, etc.

Once the enemy passed through Lostwithiel, the country people plundered some of their officers, after which the King, hearing of this, appointed a party of horse to be their convoy. All of the rebels, except a few officers, were struck with fear that as soon as they past our foot, they acted like sheep. They were very dirty and dejected looking. Only a few of the officers looked the King's men directly in the face.

During the rebel's passing the King's foot jeered at them, and bid them remember Reading, Greenland House, still trying to plunder them with swords drawn, but pulled away as the King's officers slashed at them. It was found that when the rebels garrisoned Lostwithiel they brought a horse to the font in the church, and there with contempt of Christianity, Religion, and the Church, they called the horse Charles, in contempt of his Majesty. They also blew up most of the church with gunpowder.

3 Sept. - The King and all his army rested this day.


In conclusion, the Royalists reported that the Parliamentarians had a strong hold on Druid's Hill, which was an old double trenched fort, where they had many great pieces of cannon. The town of Fowey was also fortified with earthen works and forts, and the battle at Fowey resembled more of a siege, that had in essence consisted of two pitched battles. Over a month of skirmishing and many minor actions, casualties in the Royalist armies had been high, and added to this the lose of men through desertion. Worse of all was losses from disease and deprivation, which would have been bad enough in any protracted action, but made worse by a wet August. In addition, plague had broken out in the West Country that summer, adding to the death toll on both sides. In the Lostwithiel campaign and during that summer, Grenville's army of 4,000 men was reduced to 800 Horse and 500 Foot, Maurice's Army lost 2,500 Foot, and the King's Oxford Army lost an estimated 3,500 men.

After the Lostwithiel campaign Royalist control of North West Wiltshire was short lived, as the Parliamentarian forces at Gloucester, with the garrison at Malmesbury under Colonel Nicholas Devereaux, took Chippenham. A smaller force moved south under Colonel Ludford to take Lacock Abbey.

The signal victory of the Royalists in the Lostwithiel campaign was not exploited strategically, and by 27 October 1644, the King's Army was trapped and outnumbered 2 to 1 at the second battle of Newbury, where it only managed to extricate itself due mainly to its veteran experience, but with difficulty. With the approach of 1645, the King's cause was now becoming harder to sustain, especially after the loss of the North and destruction of Newcastle's Army at the battle of Marston Moor.


The following is the march of the Earl of Essex's Army from Oxford to Lostwithiel.

June - Marched from Islip to Woodstock, then to Chipping Norton, and finally to Barfoot.
8 June - To Faringdon.
10 June - To Lamburne.
11 June - To Bedding.
13 June - To Amfield.
14 June - To Compton, then to Blanford, and finally to Bridport.
23 June - To Crekerne.
24 June - To Chard.
30 June - To Axeminster.
1 July - To Honyton.
2 July - To Colhampton.
3 July - To Teverton.
20 July - To Kirton.
21 July - To Bowe.
22 July - To Okehampton.
23 July - To Tavistock.
26 July - To Horsebridge.
27 July - To Linkolnhorne.
28 July - To Bodman.
2 Aug. - To Lostwithiel.


STRANGERS IN OXFORD, P. Young & M. Toynbee
Earl of Clarendon's HISTORY OF THE REBELLION 1888 ed.
NASEBY 1645, P. Young
THE KING IN SEARCH OF SOLDIERS: CHARLES I IN 1642, P. Young & Dr. M. Wanklyn, Historical Journal, 1981

© Copyright 1998- 2003 The English Civil War Society of America. All rights reserved.
For more info on this page, contact: John Hidalgo