Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 18.djvu/149
confidently anticipated beating him (‘King's Cabinet Opened,’ Harleian Miscellany, vii. 547, 553).
All April Fairfax was engaged in organising the ‘new model.’ On 1 May he set out from Reading intending to relieve Taunton, but was recalled halfway to undertake the siege of Oxford. Left to himself he would have followed the king and forced him to fight, but the orders of parliament were peremptory. ‘I am very sorry,’ he wrote to his father, ‘we should spend our time unprofitably before a town, whilst the king hath time to strengthen himself, and by terror to force obedience of all places where he comes’ (Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 228). Oxford was blockaded rather than besieged from 19 May to 5 June, when the welcome order came to raise the siege. At Naseby, on Saturday, 14 June 1645, Fairfax brought the king to a battle, and defeated him with the loss of all his infantry, artillery, and baggage. All accounts of the battle agree in describing the reckless courage which the general himself displayed. He headed several charges, and captured a standard with his own hand (Sprigge, p. 43; Whitelocke, vol. i.; Markham, p. 221). ‘As much for bravery may be given to him in this action as to a man,’ observes Cromwell (Carlyle, Letter xxix.). Fairfax now, after recapturing Leicester, turned west, relieved Taunton, and defeated Goring at Langport in Somersetshire on 10 July. The last royal army of any strength was thus shattered. ‘We cannot esteem this mercy less, all things considered, than that of Naseby fight,’ wrote Fairfax (Fairfax Correspondence, iii. 235). Bridgwater fell a fortnight later (24 July), and Bristol was stormed after a three weeks' siege (10 Sept.). The letter in which Fairfax summoned Prince Rupert to surrender that city contains a remarkable exposition of his political creed at this period of his life (Sprigge, p. 108). In October the army went into winter quarters after establishing a line of posts to confine Goring to Cornwall and Devonshire, and to block up Exeter. The campaign of 1646 opened with the capture of Dartmouth (18 Jan.), which was followed by the defeat of Hopton at Torrington (16 Feb.), and the capitulation of Hopton's army (14 March). At Torrington Fairfax had a narrow escape owing to the explosion of a royalist magazine. ‘I must acknowledge,’ he writes, ‘God's great mercy to me and some others, that stood where great webs of lead fell thickest, yet, praised be God, no man hurt’ (ib. iii. 285). The rest of the war consisted of sieges; Exeter surrendered on 9 April, Oxford on 20 June, and Raglan on 17 Aug. After the capitulation of Oxford Fairfax retired for a time to Bath for the benefit of his health, which was greatly impaired by the campaign and by his many old wounds. Rheumatism and the stone appear to have been his chief ailments (ib. iii. 251; Sprigge, p. 315). In November he returned to London to receive the thanks of both houses of parliament and of the city. ‘Hereafter,’ said Lenthal, ‘as the successors of Julius Cæsar took the name of Cæsar, all famous and victorious succeeding generals in this kingdom will desire the addition of the name of Fairfax’ (Old Parliamentary Hist. xv. 166). After Naseby parliament had voted 700l. for a ‘jewel’ to be presented to Fairfax in commemoration of his victory. This, after passing through the hands of Thoresby and Horace Walpole, was in 1870 in the possession of Lord Hastings (Markham, p. 435). In the Uxbridge propositions in December 1645 parliament had stipulated that the king should create Fairfax an English baron, and that he should be endowed with lands to the value of 5,000l. a year. Lands to that value were settled upon him after the failure of the treaty (Whitelocke, ii. 73; Old Parliamentary Hist. xiv. 139).
In the spring of 1647 parliament took in hand the reduction of the army, and voted on 5 March that Fairfax should be general of the limited force to be still maintained. ‘Some wondered,’ says Whitelocke, ‘it should admit a debate and question’ (Memorials, ii. 119). The soldiers objected to be disbanded until they were paid their arrears, and secured from civil suits for military actions, and they petitioned Fairfax to that effect. Fairfax was ordered to suppress their petition, and did so, but this did not put a stop to the agitation among them. Waller and Holles unjustly throw a doubt on the sincerity of his efforts (Waller, Vindication, pp. 52, 72, 81, 85; Holles, Memoirs, ed. 1699, pp. 84, 88). Negotiations between the commissioners of the parliament and the representatives of the army continued during April and May. From 21 April to 21 May Fairfax was in London consulting a physician. His friends' entreaties overcame his own wish to resign (Short Memorial, p. 4). At the end of May parliament ordered him back to the army, one of the members insultingly saying that he had time enough to go to Hyde Park but not to attend to his duty. He communicated the final offers of the parliament to a meeting of officers at Bury St. Edmunds on 28 May. They declared them unsatisfactory and pressed him to appoint a general rendezvous of the army for the consideration of the question. In forwarding the resolution of the council of war to parliament Fairfax earnestly begged