Tuesday 10 November 2015

The Battle of Whalley 1643 part 2

A couple of posts back I copied the text of a period account of the Battle of Whalley.  At the time I suggested that I would try putting a game together.  Well, I haven't had the game yet but I have created the scenario for it.

To create the scenario I needed to find some additional sources on the battle to try to fill out some extra background details.  Luckily, most of the original sources are available online or through Amazon now.  Not that there is much of it.  The main sources are "A discourse of the warr in Lancashire" which was the source of the description I posted before.  That is available through the Chetham Society via Amazon as a Kindle download.  Next are Tracts relating to Military Matters in Lancashire which forms vol 2 of the Chetham Miscellanies also found as a Kindle download.  Both of these are OCR scanned copies converted to text which does  create a number of errors but these are easy to spot as they usually come out as nonsense words or as symbols.

The tracts have two documents of note "A True Relation of a great and Wonderful Victory obtained by Captain Ashton and the Parliament's Forces against the Earl of Derby at Whalley in Lancashire" and "Lancashires Valley of Achor".  As Kindle downloads both the discourse and the tracts both cost around £5.00 which is good value even with the OCR issue.  The internet archive.org provided a copy of Broxup's Great Civil war in Lancashire as a free document.  Again there are some OCR scanning errors but overall it is legible.  As a bonus Broxup cites all of his source material which is useful.

I would like to read the Letters of the Countess of Derby and Henrietta Maria's Letter book as these have some references to other troop movements at the time of the battle.  Bull's Civil war in Lancashire is my next purchase as it draws on a Grattan's Lord Derby's Catholic Army which I don't have.

So what do we gain from the sources?  Details of the site of the battle are pretty clear The discourse places the initial contact as being at Read Head "above the house of Mr Nowell of Read"  Mr Nowell being Roger Nowell of Read Hall.  The Royalists were first sighted "mounting out of a hollow dingle betwixt Ashterly and Reed Head" (the discourse).  The bulk of the Royalist forces were drawn up in a body apparently on the North side of the Calder at Whalley (according to the Discourse) "in a bodie as to receive an enemie".  The Dingle is almost certainly the small steep sided cutting through which Sabden Brook runs and there is still a farm above the brook now called Easterly.  We are also told by the discourse that following the ambush Tydesley fled and mistook his way passing into the lane that leads to Ashterley and then down via Portfield to Whalley.  All of these locations can be identified on the modern OS map.  Parliaments musketeers were hidden behind the stone walls on either side of the highway between Whalley and Padiham.  This would have been Read Old Road as the current main road is an 18th century turnpike.

After the initial ambush there was a running fight from close to where Read Old Road crosses Sabden Brook at Read Old Bridge.  The ambush described in the Discourse occurred on the east side of the brook.  The pursuit followed down to the outskirts of Whalley where the rest of Derby's forces were drawn up.  This was presumably along (or close by) the line of the road down to Whalley.  At Whalley the pursuing musketeers fired upon Derby's forces from the hedges (a true relation) and his forces broke and ran. They crossed the Calder and headed back towards Ribchester turning and standing occasionally. This wasn't the volley and chase suggested by the Discourse but a four stage action.

1. Royalists scout towards Read and are ambushed.
2. The pursuit towards Whalley
3. The action at Whalley itself
4. The fighting withdrawal towards Ribchester

I propose to re-fight the first three stages in this scenario.

Setting the table up
Using 2mm figures and a 1mm to the yard/metre (the difference is notional at 2mm level) I will be using 4 boards 1220mm by 606 mm. as shown below this is enough to cover the ambush, the pursuit and the fight at Whalley.

General layout of the battle field with contours
The woods (The green areas) have been taken from the 18th century map of Lancashire held on Lancashire County Counsel's website.  There is no guarantee they existed in 1643 or were as large as shown if they did.  The woods along the bank of Sabden Brook were probably there and like now would have been a narrow band of scrubby open woodland.  I would depict all other woods as being fairly open as well, sufficient to screen sight lines and disrupt formations.  I haven't included any hill markers or contours as everyone seems to portray hills differently.  The key features are the valley through which Sabden Brook runs.  This is steep sided, narrow with a flat bottom and prone to being boggy.  It's about 100 yards wide at most and probably around 60 feet (say 20 meters) deep.  On the Read side of the Brook the ground climbs with the highest ground being towards the top right area of the map.  On the Whalley side of the map there is a plateau above Ashterley running back towards the large woods between the road junctions.  This is higher at the top of the map and drops towards the bottom.  Other wise the land trends downwards towards Whalley and the R Calder.  Take a look at the OS map for details.  Other terrain should be stone walls for the ambush on either side of the highway from the Bridge (at least on the Read side).  Possible some stone walls denoting the grounds of Read Hall.  And some hedges around Whalley.

Next post will provide details (such as we know) of the troops numbers, make up and morale states.

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