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Thames, Charles occupying Oxford, the Parliamentary army covering London by taking post in the vale of Aylesbury. The most active and able of its officers was John Hampden, a Buckinghamshire squire, who had refused to pay an illegal tax called ship-money, and had become one of the leading members of the Long Parliament. Hampden was as wise and temperate as he was earnest in his patriotism ; and his fall was the severest loss English freedom ever sustained.]
In the early part of 1643 the shires lying in the neighbourhood of London, which were devoted to the cause of the Parliament, were incessantly annoyed by Rupert' and his cavalry.
Essex had extended his lines so far that almost every point was vulnerable. The young prince, who, though not a great general, was an active and enterprising partisan, frequently surprised posts, burned villages, swept away cattle, and was again at Oxford before a force sufficient to encounter him could be assembled.
The languid proceedings of Essex were loudly condemned by the troops. All the ardent and daring spirits in the parliamentary party were eager to have Hampden at their head. Had his life been prolonged, there is every reason to believe that the supreme command would have been entrusted to him. But it was decreed that, at this conjuncture, England should lose the only man who united perfect disinterestedness to eminent talents, the only man who, being capable of gaining the victory for her, was incapable of abusing that victory when gained.
In the evening of the 17th of June Rupert darted out of Oxford with his cavalry on a predatory expedition. At three in the morning of the following day he attacked and dispersed a few parliamentary soldiers who lay at Postcombe. He then
1 Pri Rupert was a German nephew of Charles, who commanded his horse. 2 The Earl of Essex was general of the Parliamentary army.
flew to Chinnor, burned the village, killed or took all the troops who were quartered there, and prepared to hurry back with his booty and his prisoners to Oxford.
Hampden had, on the preceding day, strongly represented to Essex the danger to which this part of the line was exposed. As soon as he received intelligence of Rupert's incursion, he sent off a horseman with a message to the General. The cavaliers, he said, could return only by Chiselhampton Bridge. A force ought to be instantly despatched in that direction for the purpose of intercepting them. In the meantime he resolved to set out with all the cavalry that he could muster, for the purpose of impeding the march of the enemy till Essex could take measures for cutting off their retreat. A considerable body of horse and dragoons volunteered to follow him. He was not their commander. He did not even belong to their branch of the service. But “he was,” says Lord Clarendon, “ second to none but the General himself in the observance and application of all men.” On the field of Chalgrove he came up with Rupert. A fierce skirmish ensued. In the first charge Hampden was struck in the shoulder by two bullets, which broke the bone, and lodged in his body. The troops of the Parliament lost heart and gave way. Rupert, after pursuing them for a short time, hastened to cross the bridge, and made his retreat unmolested to Oxford.
Hampden, with his head drooping, and his hands leaning on his horse's neck, moved feebly out of the battle. The mansion which had been inhabited by his father-in-law, and from which in his youth he had carried home his bride Elizabeth, was in sight. There still remains an affecting tradition that he looked for a moment towards that beloved house, and made an effort to go thither and die. But the enemy lay in that direction. He turned his horse towards Thame, where he arrived almost fainting with agony. The surgeon dressed his wounds. But there was no hope. The pain which he suffered was most excruciating. But he endured it with admirable firmness and resignation. His first care was for his country. He wrote from his bed several letters to London concerning public affairs, and sent a last pressing message to the head-quarters, recommending that the dispersed forces should be concentrated. When his public duties were performed, he calmly prepared himself to die. He was attended by a clergyman of the Church of England, with whom he had lived in habits of intimacy, and by the chaplain of the Buckinghamshire Greencoats, Dr. Spurton, whom Baxter describes as an able and excellent divine.
A short time before Hampden's death the sacrament was administered to him. He declared that though he disliked the government of the Church of England, he yet agreed with that Church as to all essential matters of doctrine. His intellect remained unclouded. When all was nearly over, he lay murmuring faint prayers for himself, and for the cause in which he died. “ Lord Jesus," he exclaimed in the moment of the last agony, “receive my soul. O Lord, save my country. O Lord, be merciful to-" In that broken ejaculation passed away his noble and fearless spirit.
He was buried in the parish church of Hampden. His soldiers, bareheaded, with reversed arms and muffled drums and colours, escorted his body to the grave, singing, as they marched, that lofty and melancholy psalm in which the fragility of human life is contrasted with the immutability of Him to whom a thousand years are as yesterday when it is passed, and as a watch in the night. 3 The village of Hampden on the Cotswolds, by Hampden House.
[For a time the royal armies won successes over those of
their opponents, and the King gained ground. But the Scots at last came to the aid of the Parliament, and their armies closed on York; the Scotch under Lord Leven, a Yorkshire army under Fairfax, and one from the Eastern Counties with Lord Manchester and Cromwell at its head. Lord Newcastle, who commanded for the King in the north, appealed for aid to Charles; and Prince Rupert was sent to unite with him and to relieve the town. The forces met on Marston Moor, an open ground a few miles from York.]
HERE were the two great armies drawn up in battle array; a deep ditch, and a strip of land covered with waving corn, a few hundred paces across, alone dividing them. We may picture to ourselves the long lines of horsemen, with their breast-plates glittering in the afternoon sun; the solid masses of shouldered pikes, such as Velasquez has made us familiar with in his glorious picture of Las Lanzas, and the hundreds of Auttering pennons above them, of all shapes and colours. The standard of Prince Rupert, with its red cross, was nearly five yards long.
At about five in the afternoon, there was a silence-no movement on either side. A fearful ominous pause. The tension of such silence, at such a moment, was more than the men could endure, and soon “in Marston corn-fields they fell to singing psalms.” Leven ? paused, in the hope
The Scotch General, Lord Leven, took supreme command in the whole Parliamentary force.
that the Royalists would advance to attack him, for there would be an evident disadvantage to the army that crossed the ditch, as such a movement must necessarily somewhat break and confuse its line. But there was no sign of any such intention on the part of the enemy; and old Leven, sceing that they would not charge him, resolved, by the help of God, to charge them. It was seven o'clock before the order for a general advance was sounded, but a “summer's evening is as long as a winter's day," and there was time to join battle before night, when a bright harvest moun would give light enough for the victors to complete their work.
The whole allied line came down through the corn in the bravest order, the solid squares of foot and masses of cavalry looking like so many thick clouds. They joined battle with their foes along the line ot the ditch, and then truly the silence was exchanged for a deafening noise of fire, clashing of steel, and loud defiant shouts. The Royalists were forced back at all points. Manchester's foot, led on by General Crawford, drove the enemy out of the part of the ditch in their front with some slaughter, capturing four drakes. This enabled the main battle of the Scots foot to pass the barrier with little opposition, the dragoons having already gained the line of Syke beck, or the "cross ditch," as they called it. Sir William Fairfax also, on the right centre, with his Yorkshire foot, beat off the enemy from the hedge in his front, captured a demi-culverin and two drakes,? and began to lead his men up Moor-lane.
Thus the allies had carried the ditch, and gained a position on the moor along their whole line. The musketeers in the ditch fell back, and the battle commenced again on a new line, nearly as far north as White Syke close.
2 Various sorts of artillery.