Thursday, 19 February 2015

English Civil War Diary Entry - Number 10

I managed to fight the skirmish at Balk Wood today, so the next part of the diary follows with photographs of what occurred. Rather than break the diary entry up with photographs, I will put them all at the end, to look at once you have read the story.

The Small Affair at Balk Wood.

The York Road, approaching Balk Wood, South of Pocklington

25th March 1642. 8:00am

Sir Royston briefly considered marching his brigade up The Balk, the road leading to Pocklington and through the town itself. It would make a very fine sight, with him at its head. He could almost see the admiring glances of the town's lady-folk. However, such a detour would just add time on the journey and he was keen to arrive in York as close to noon as possible, so reluctantly, he dismissed the idea.

The head of the column passed by the road and alongside Balk Wood, followed by the two wagons.

As the column of foot drew level with the wood, a sound like thunder, roared across the peaceful countryside as every musket hidden in the wood fired as one in a murderous volley. Men in Sir Royston's Regiment of Foot, fell like sheaves of corn to the sickle, some silently fell, hitting the surface of the road, dead before reaching the ground. Others, screamed in agony as a musket ball tore into their bodies or limbs, tearing flesh and muscle before shattering bone. Others too stunned to move or even understand what had just happened, looked at the thick cloud of powder smoke, which rose silently up through the branches of the trees, as if the whole wood had burst into flame.

'Off the road, off the road!' The voice of Captain Parr, leading the regiment, could be heard shouting, some men obeyed immediately and threw themselves onto the grass beside the road. Others still too shocked or still deaf from the thunderous volley, stood motionless, unable to comprehend what had happened or why so many men were screaming in agony and others lay motionless on the road.

A second, more ragged volley instantly took away their confusion along with their lives. One lad, no more than sixteen years of age, gazed at the bloody stump that had been his left hand, so shocked and stunned, he felt no pain. His mind trying to understand what his eyes were seeing.

Slightly ahead of the carnage, the horse handlers on the wagons were having trouble controlling the frightened animals that were rearing and snorting in terror. The handlers themselves, had no idea what had just happened and had to fight to control their own fears as well as the careering horses and wagons.

Sir Royston's horse reared as the sound of the first volley roared along the column from the rear. If nothing else, he was a superb horseman and soon controlled the startled creature. He turned and saw the cloud of smoke rising from the edge of the wood, heard the screams and cries of men in the distance. The troopers on horseback, had also regained control of their mounts, Major Cunningham galloped forward to meet Sir Royston.

'It seems the phantom force that does not exist, has laid a perfect trap which we have blundered blindly into!' screamed the red faced major, pulling his horse up beside his honorary brigadier.

His eyes wide open and darting in every direction, Sir Royston could barely speak, fear eating at his heart. 'I don't understand, how could this be happening?

Major Cunningham could see the fear in the man's eyes, 'It is happening because you are a damned fool sir! And I shall see you pay, when this day is done.'

'Horsemen approaching sir! A cry came from the troopers, Major Cunningham swung his horse around, to be faced with a fully formed regiment of horse bearing down on he and his men.

A second roar of gunfire, not as severe as the first, travelled the length of the column, accompanied by more shouts and screams.

'I have work to do, You need to rally your regiment or what may be left of it! Yelled the major as he ordered his men into fighting formation and led them at full gallop towards the approaching horsemen.

Sir Royston found himself alone, Captain Parr, he would know what to do, he thought and spurred his horse down the column in an effort to find him.

The sight that met him, took what small amount of hope he had, away like an ebbing tide. His men lay dead, dying, wounded or running away from the wood, which to his horror, hundreds of men where leaving and forming up into ranks.

Somehow Captain Parr appeared unscathed, stood beside the flag bearer at the side of the road. He was trying to rally the terrified men, with little success, a few fired their muskets at the figures emerging from the wood, but the fire was wildly inaccurate and ragged, though some balls did hit home.

'Throw down the flag and surrender!' screamed Sir Royston. 'I don't wish to end my life here, It is too precious for that.'

Captain Parr was about to reply, when a musket ball tore away half of his face, throwing him, mortally wounded onto the grass. A second later, a second ball hit the flag bearer, killing him instantly, the flag on its pole, released from his grip, arched forward and hit Sir Royston squarely on the head, toppling him unconscious to the grass beside the other two men, the coloured banner fluttering down to cover him.

The survivors of Sir Royston's regiment, who had not already begun to run across the field, threw down their weapons in surrender.

Even Septimus, was horrified at the carnage on the road before him, so many dead and others moaning and attempting to crawl away, leaving a red trail to merge with other growing red stains on the grey granite chippings of the road surface.

'Cease fire, cease fire! He shouted up and down the line of his men.

Captain Hotham, with the element of surprise, confusion and outnumbering his foe, had smashed into the Royalist horse. Major Cunningham had been cut down by a sabre in the opening contact, falling dead with many of his men.

The survivors, now leaderless, fled towards York, pursued by a troop of Hotham's men.

The skirmish now over, Septimus and his two captains got the men to set about treating the wounded and gathering the dead of both sides.

'No matter what colours they wear, they are entitled to aid or a Christian burial.' Septimus had told them.

Within an hour, the convoy was ready to proceed to Hull, the wagons bearing their treasure, now also carried wounded troopers and soldiers of the victorious force. The dead had been hastily buried, not very deep as their loved ones would no doubt wish to reclaim the bodies for a proper burial at home. The captured Royalists had been left to care for their wounded until help arrived from York.

Captain Hotham placed a troop at the rear, to ensure no Royalist horse was approaching from the direction of York. He also put out flankers and scouts ahead of the column as it began its journey back to Hull. His father, as part of the attack plan, had agreed to send two regiments of horse to meet and escort the column back to safety.

Septimus rode at the head of his men, the battle had been short, no more than a minor skirmish, in light of what would follow in the years ahead. It had been bloodier than even he could have previously imagined. He traced the pattern of the embossed cross on the small leather bible in his jacket pocket with his finger and silently praised the lord for the victory...
Sir Royston leads his brigade along the York Road
A fine Spring morning for a stroll.
The concealed Parliamentarians wait in Balk Wood. 
 Captain Hotham's horse await the first volley, their signal to attack.
The ambush force.
Sir Royston leads his men by The Balk, the road to Pocklington.


The horse and wagons are allowed to pass.
The Royalist foot reach the wood.

 A thunderous volley shatters the peace.
Parliamentarian troops fall dead and wounded.
Captain Parr attempts to get his men off the road.

 A second volley rips into the confused soldiers.
 Major Cunningham calls Sir Royston a fool as Hotham's Horse appear from behind the wood.
 Sir Royston tries to find Captain Parr, as Major Cunningham's outnumbered troopers charge at Captain Hotham's men

The horse clash.
 Sir Royston, fearing for his own life, orders the flag lowered in surrender.
Captain Parr is fatally wounded, the flag bearer falls dead and the pole knocks Sir Royston unconscious.
The wagon horse handlers try to control their animals.
Major Cunningham, pierced by a sabre, is killed.
The outnumbered Royalist horse, now leaderless, flee the field.
Pursued by Parliament troopers they flee towards York.
The leaderless foot, run away across the fields.
 The ambushing force, emerge from the wood and begin to form up.

Captain Hotham arrives on the scene of the carnage.
 With their dead buried and the wounded on the wagons, the column sets off for Hull.

Scouts and flankers ahead and a troop behind in case of any interference along the York Road.

Well I hope you enjoyed this diary entry, Part 11 is already written and should be uploaded tomorrow with Part 12 already in the planning stage.

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