« AnteriorContinuar »
hours later also crossed the Severn, and Fleetwood, with another division of the army, the Teme. While Fleetwood was effecting the passage, Charles summoned his troops and sallied out to attack him in the meadows, and there a fiercely sustained battle was fought. Cromwell came up to the assistance of Fleetwood, and pressed hard on the little band of royalists; thousands covered the ground-dying and dead,—but the remainder fought with exemplary bravery, Charles himself displaying heroic courage. Inch by inch the royalists were driven back. The charge of the Ironsides was irresistible. Retreat was inevitable; in vain the young king endeavoured to rally them-slowly but surely they fell back on Worcester, closely pressed by the Parliamentarians, until at length the battle was fought out in Worcester streets, and the beaten, baffled royalists threw down their arms and surrendered.
The dead and the wounded strewed the ground; the king was a fugitive, several of his best friends were prisoners, his army completely beaten-the overthrow of the royal cause was final.
At ten o'clock on that September night Cromwell wrote to the Parliament:
"Sir,-Being so weary, and scarce able to write, yet I thought it my duty to let you know thus much. That upon this day, being the 3rd of September (remarkable for a mercy vouchsafed to your forces on this day twelvemonths in Scotland), we built a bridge of boats over Severn, between it and Teme, about half a mile from Worcester; and another over Teme, within pistol shot of our other bridge. Lieutenant-General Fleetwood and Major-General Dean marched from Upton on the south-west side of Severn up to Powick, a town which was a pass the enemy kept. We, from our side of Severn, passed over some horse and foot, and were in conjunction with the lieutenant-general's forces. We beat the enemy from hedge to hedge, till we beat him into Worcester.
"The enemy then drew up all his forces on the other side the town, all but what he had lost, and made a very considerable fight with us for three hours' space; but in the end we beat him totally, and pursued him to his royal fort, which we took, and indeed have beaten his whole army. When we took this fort, we turned his own guns upon him. The enemy hath had great loss, and certainly is scattered, and run several ways. We are in pursuit of him, and have laid forces in several places that we hope will gather him up.
"Indeed this hath been a very glorious mercy, and as stiff a contest for
four or five hours as ever I have seen. Both your old forces and those new-raised have behaved themselves with very great courage, and he that made them come out made them willing to fight for you. The Lord God Almighty frame our hearts to real thankfulness for this, which is alone his doing. I hope I shall within a day or two give you a more perfect account."
His heart was too full to give expression to its deeper emotions in the first, and that a single letter. On the following day my lord-general takes his pen in hand again to address the Speaker, and record this "crowning mercy" in his military life :
"Sir, I am not yet able to give you an exact account of the great
things the Lord hath wrought for this commonwealth and for his people; and yet I am unwilling to be silent, but, according to my duty, shall represent it to you as it come to hand.
"The battle was fought with various success for some hours, but still hopeful on your part, and in the end became an absolute victory, and so full a one as proved a total defeat and ruin of the enemy's army, and a possession of the town, our men entering at the enemy's heels, and fighting with them in the streets with very great courage. We took all their baggage and artillery. What the slain are I can give you no account, because we have not taken an exact view, but they are very many, and must needs be so, because the dispute was long and very near at hand, and often at push of pike, and from one defence to another. There are about six or seven thousand prisoners taken here, and many officers and noblemen of very great quality. Duke Hamilton, the Earl of Rothes, and divers other noblemen; I hear the Earl of Lauderdale, many officers of great quality, and some that will be fit subjects for your justice.
"We have sent very considerable parties after the flying enemy; I hear they have taken considerable numbers of prisoners, and are very close in pursuit. Indeed I hear the country riseth upon them everywhere; and I believe the forces that lay, through Providence, at Bewdley, and in Shropshire and Staffordshire, and those with Colonel Lilburn, were in a condition as if this had been foreseen, to intercept what should return.
"A more particular account than this will be prepared for you as we are able. I hear they had not many more than a thousand horse in their body that fled; and I believe you have near four thousand forces following, and interposing between them and home; what fish they will catch, time will declare. Their army was about sixteen thousand strong, and fought ours on the Worcester side of Severn almost with their whole, whilst we had engaged about half our army on the other side, but with parties of theirs. Indeed it was a stiff business; yet I do not think we have lost two hundred men. Your new-raised forces did perform singular good service; for which they deserve a very high estimation and acknowledgment; as also for their willingness thereunto, forasmuch as the same hath added so much to the reputation of your affairs. They are all despatched home again; which I hope will be much for the ease and satisfaction of the country; which is a great fruit of these successes.
"The dimensions of this mercy are above my thoughts; it is, for aught I know, a crowning mercy. Surely, if it be not, such a one we shall
have, if this provoke those that are concerned in it to thankfulness; and the Parliament to do the will of him who hath done his will for it, and for the nation; whose good pleasure it is to establish the nation and the change of the government, by making the people so willing to the defence thereof, and so signally blessing the endeavours of your servants in this late great work. I am bold humbly to beg, that all thoughts may tend to the promoting of his honour who hath wrought so great salvation; and that the fatness of these continued mercies may not occasion pride and wantonness, as formerly the like hath done to a chosen nation; but that the fear of the Lord, even for his mercies, may keep an authority and a
people so prospered, and blessed, and witnessed unto, humble and faithful; and that justice and righteousness, mercy and truth may flow from you, as a thankful return to our gracious God."
While Cromwell-the great Captain who sheathed his sword at Worcester-was thus writing solemnly to the Parliament, King Charles, in various disguises was endeavouring to effect his escape from England. He quitted Worcester at about three o'clock in the afternoon and without halting travelled about twenty-six miles in company with fifty or sixty of his friends. To provide for his safety, he thought it best to separate himself from his companions; and he left them without communicating his intentions to any of them. By the Earl of Derby's directions, he
went to Boscobel, a lone house on the borders of Staffordshire, inhabited by one Penderell, a farmer. To this man Charles entrusted himself. The man had dignity of sentiments much above his condition; and though death was denounced against all who concealed the king, and a great reward promised to any one who would betray him, he professed
and maintained unshaken fidelity. He took the assistance of his four brothers, equally honourable with himself; and having clothed the king in a garb like their own, they led him into a neighbouring wood, put a bill into his hand, and pretended to employ themselves in cutting fagots. Some nights he lay upon straw in the house, and fed on such homely