1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Naseby
NASEBY, a village of Northamptonshire, England, 7 m. S.S.W. of Market Harborough, famous as the scene of the battle of June 14, 1645, which decided the issue of the first Civil War (see Great Rebellion). The army of King Charles I. was less than 10,000 strong, while the “New Model” army of the parliament, commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax, numbered some 13,000, yet it was not without considerable hopes of victory that the Royalists drew up for battle, for although Lieutenant-General Cromwell had made the New Model cavalry formidable indeed, the Royalist foot had become professionalized in several years of war, whereas the Parliamentarian foot was newly organized, and in part at least but half-trained. Fairfax and Cromwell, however, were still more confident, and with better reason. The battlefield lies between Naseby and Sibbertoft (3 m. N. of Naseby) and is an undulating ridge which, near the centre of England, forms the “divide” between the Avon and the Welland rivers. Across the ridge the two armies were drawn up, the New Model facing north and the king’s army south, the horse on the flanks and the foot in the centre in each army.
At the first shock the Royal foot asserted its superiority over the opposing infantry, four out of five regiments in the first line were broken, and Skippon, the major-general of the foot, was wounded. But Fairfax’s regiment held its ground, until the second line of infantry advanced and re-established the front. Meantime the Royalist right wing of horse, led by Prince Rupert, had completely routed the horse of Colonel Ireton which opposed them. But the victors as usual indulged in a disorderly pursuit, and attempted to overpower the baggage guard of the enemy near Naseby village. Their incoherent attack was repulsed, and when Rupert, gathering as many of his men as he could, returned to the battlefield, the decisive stroke had been delivered by Cromwell and the right wing of Parliamentary horse. In front of him, in somewhat broken ground, was Sir Marmaduke Langdale’s cavalry, which the lieutenant-general with his own well-trained regiments scattered after a short, fierce encounter. Cromwell’s “godly” troopers did not scatter in pursuit. A few squadrons were ordered to keep the fugitives on the run, and with the rest, and such of Ireton’s broken troops as he could gather, Cromwell attacked the Royalist centre in rear while Fairfax and his foot pressed it in front. Gradually the Royalist infantry, inferior in numbers, was disintegrated into small groups, which surrendered one after the other. But one brigade, called the “Bluecoats,” held out to the last, and was finally broken by a combined charge of Fairfax’s regiment of foot, led by Cromwell, and the general’s personal escort, led by Fairfax himself, who captured a colour with his own hand. The remnant of the king’s army, re-formed by Rupert, stood inactive and irresolute while its infantry was being destroyed and then fled. The spoils included 100 standards and colours and the king’s private papers. But more important than trophies was the practical annihilation of the last field army of which the king disposed. Half the Royalists were captured, and about 1000 fell, in the battle and the pursuit which followed it. In addition all the artillery and the muskets (to the number of 8000) and ammunition without which the king could scarcely create a new army, fell into the hands of the victors.