Military Leadership in the British Civil Wars, 1642-1651: The Genius of This Age

Military Leadership in the British Civil Wars, 1642-1651: The Genius of This Age

Military Leadership in the British Civil Wars, 1642-1651: The Genius of This Age

Military Leadership in the British Civil Wars, 1642-1651: The Genius of This Age

Synopsis

This work is a study of military leadership and resulting effectiveness in battlefield victory focusing on the parliamentary and royalist regional commanders in the north of England and Scotland in the three civil wars between 1642 and 1651.

Excerpt

Though sporadic violence had occurred since late spring of 1642, the raising of the royal standard at Nottingham officially opened the Civil Wars. Although the king marched south with his newly embodied army, the parliamentary effort in the north stood in grave danger in the autumn of 1642. Heavily outnumbered, Lord Fairfax, the parliamentary commander, devised a strategy that aimed at preventing total royalist domination of the north. For the earl of Newcastle, soon to supersede the ineffectual earl of Cumberland as royalist commander at York, the physical destruction of the numerically inferior parliamentary forces and eventual conjunction with the larger main army in the south for operations against Essex stood as the essential strategic imperative.

The military effectiveness of each officer can be judged on his relative success in carrying out the overarching strategic imperatives in the first two years of the war. By examining the critical military events as modulated by the contextual dynamics, particularly the political and religious sentiment of the northern counties on the eve of war, one can assess the military leadership effectiveness of both regional commanders. While each in turn demonstrated a fair degree of tactical acumen, battlefield management and operational artistry, it is clear that Lord Fairfax exhibited a far keener strategic vision than Newcastle. Faced with a significant numerical inferiority, he instituted a highly successful 'Fabian' strategy culminating in the decisive parliamentary victory at Marston Moor in July 1644, the event that irrevocably lost the north for the king. Conversely, Newcastle failed to use his advantage either to destroy Lord Fairfax before the arrival of the Scottish Covenanter army in early 1644 or to support a combined royalist advance on London, which if successful, might well have ended the war in the king's favour. In conducting his campaigns, Lord Fairfax demonstrated a high degree of aggressiveness, boldness and risk-taking and the moral authority needed to replenish troop losses due to combat casualties or normal attrition despite the dominant royalist sentiment in the northern counties. Lord Fairfax proved so successful that his presence even with small troop numbers made Newcastle reticent to engage in bold operations outside the north.

This chapter illustrates those characteristics of martial synergy of Lord Fairfax and Newcastle as demonstrated by their activities in several campaigns in northern

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