Royalist Recruitment During the Civil Wars
Being the reasons why the Oxford Army maintained
Old regiments over raising new ones

By Robert Giglio from ECWSA Collections
During the First Civil War the Royalists chose to replace losses from old regiments, especially of the Oxford Army (being the King's main field army during the war), rather than reducing them as the Parliamentarian armies did. Parliament would usually reduce (i.e., eliminate) a regiment that had sustained high losses in battle, or reductions of force levels through attrition losses, altogether rather than add new recruits to reconstitute them. This is why so many of the original Parliamentarian regiments, such as those in the Earl of Essex's Army for example, were no longer around by 1645 to be absorbed into the New Model Army. In contrast, many of the Royalist regiments that served at the Battle of Edgehill were still serving at the battle of Naseby several years later.

During the winter of 1643-44, and into early spring of 1644, the King's main field army (the Oxford Army) remained encamped for six weeks in preparation of the forthcoming summer campaign of 1644. During this time regiments were re-equipped to the best standard possible, within restrictions imposed by the limited resources and manufacturing base then available to the King. The increasing flow of volunteers from areas in which the Old Regiments of the King's Oxford Army had originally been recruited were diverted into newly raised 'local' regiments, leaving the Old Regiments hard pressed for recruits to re-fill their ranks.

An army petition by a group of influential officers, led by John Belasyse, felt the need to address this situation. The petition was presented to the Council of War for consideration. The petitioners felt that the Oxford Army regiments, "who are much weakened by continual service", should be brought back up to full strength with new recruits rather than raising completely new regiments. It took an estimated two months to turn a raw recruit into a soldier considered more dangerous to his enemies than his friends, and the officers' request was therefore a plea for common sense to be exercised. Stated the petitioners, "In regard that the mixing of new and old Soldiers together will sooner be made serviceable than any new raised regiment can possible be."

The Council of War evidently agreed that keeping the King's main field army up to strength was of the highest priority, for at the end of May, 1644, King Charles I granted permission to several Oxford Army Colonels to impress men to fill up their regiments.


© Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002 The English Civil War Society of America. All rights reserved.