THE CIVIL WARS IN ENGLAND
In a country where most of the population deplored civil war, and wished to fight for neither side, how did king and Parliament recruit the armies they needed to wage their struggle -- not only recruit about 140,000 men between them, but arm, supply, and pay them as well? At first each side resorted to quasi-legal instruments: the Commission of Array for the king, and the Militia Ordinance for Parliament. Despatched to each county and city, the Commission of Array was a medieval Latin document inscribed on a parchment roll, and impressed with the Great Seal. It empowered the leading men to take charge of their county or city and arm it for the king. The Militia Ordinance was a statute lacking one vital element: the signature and seal of the king. It created committees in each county and major city, charged with raising forces for Parliament.
At first neither instrument was notably successful. When the king declared war against Parliament and raised his standard at Nottingham in August 1642 fewer than a thousand cavalry turned up. What really brought soldiers to the king were commissions to individual men to mobilize regular troops for service under him. While there must have been an element of coercion in all military recruitment, initially the royalist armies did not resort to conscription or 'impressment'. Parliament, which controlled the levers of central power, employed conscription almost from the beginning, while the king did not impress men on a large scale until the spring of 1644. 2 When constables went out to press men their preferred targets were bachelors, idle men, alehouse haunters, vagabonds, and criminals. While parish officers were keen to shovel the dregs of society into the army, county committees insisted that recruits be able-bodied. Boys, the sick, and the aged were not acceptable. It was servants, apprentices, and labourers -- landless men still too young to be householders -- who were most frequently impressed.
Important as they were, the county trained bands were but one source of manpower for the king. A number of volunteer regiments were mobilized by leading