The West Country was quite an active war zone during the early part of the English Civil War, with the two former friends, Sir William Waller and Sir Ralph Hopton now finding themselves on opposite sides of the conflict and trying to outwit and defeat each other. The early part of 1643 saw the Royalists, led by Sir Ralph Hopton, win a number of victories over Waller and as result they were able to break out of the Devon/Cornwall peninsular and move east through Somerset towards Wiltshire in an attempt to join up with the King's army at Oxford.
One of the natural barriers the Royalists had to consider was the River Avon, which in most of it's length can be either deep or with strong currents, often both. The Royalists aimed for one of the few safer crossing points at Bradford, south east of Bath. Waller and his army, which was near Bath, moved out to attempt to block the Royalist advance, taking position on high ground blocking the route to Oxford. On the 3rd July, Waller's defensive position was sufficient to make Hopton look for another route, although not before his musketeers had caused some heavy casualties on the Parliamentary scouting cavalry. Hopton effectively looked to sidetrack Waller, but Waller also moved sideways and took up a new position blocking Hopton's advance along the ridge and slopes of Lansdown Hill. Realising that he would be unable to avoid battle forever, Hopton formed up his army to face Waller's prepared defenses.
ORDERS OF BATTLE
Using a 1 to 25 figure ratio
Sir Ralph Hopton - Commander in Chief - Excellent, veteran, inspiring
5 Regiments of Cornish Infantry (5 x 800 men) - 5 x 32 figures (16 pike/16 musket) veteran, elite, steady - half armed with pike/half armed with musket
4 Regiments of Horse (4 x 400 men) - 4 x 16 figures - Medium cavalry, trained, impetuous, experienced, sword and pistols
2 Regiments of Horse (2 x 400 men) - 2 x 16 figures - Medium cavalry, elite, impetuous, veteran. sword and pistols
1 Regiment of Dragoons (300 men) - 12 figures - Mounted infantry, elite, steady, veteran, musket
Sir William Waller - Commander in Chief - Excellent, veteran, inspiring
5 Regiments of Foot (5 x 800 men) - 5 x 32 figures (16 pike/16 musket) veteran, trained, steady - half armed with pike/ half armed with musket
4 Regiments of Horse (4 x 400 men) - 4 x 16 figures - Medium cavalry, veteran, trained, steady, sword and pistols
2 Regiments of Cuirassiers (4 x 400 men) - 2 x 16 figures - Armoured heavy cavalry, veteran, elite, steady, sword and pistols
1 Regiment of Dragoons (300 men) - 12 figures - open order infantry, veteran, elite, steady, musket
Artillery - 4 models of heavy guns - veteran, trained, steady
THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED
By the date of this battle, Hopton was running low on ammunition so had to consider his plans carefully. After facing Waller's position it became apparent to him that Waller did not want to move forward to do battle, so Hopton ordered his army to withdraw. At the same time, Waller did not want Hopton to escape again to another route, so launched his cavalry down the slopes to attack the Royalists as they moved off. After an initial cavalry melee, the Royalist cavalry broke and began to pull back, but the Cornish infantry stood their ground and faced off the enemy. Two of Hopton's more reliable cavalry regiments, his own and that of Prince Maurice, joined the defiant Cornish in the stand, together they managed to turn the defense in to an offense and began to slowly push up the slopes of Lansdown Hill.
A counterattack by Waller's cavalry was once again beaten back and the Royalists began to boost their morale with a slow but steady advance along the entire front; Dragoons pushing up along the flanks while the Cornish infantry marched onward and upwards. As they neared the lip of the slope though the fighting intensified, with Waller's men throwing every effort into not letting the Royalists get a foothold on the top plateau, once again many of the Royalist cavalry fled, with only around 600 troopers remaining in the fight. Colonel of infantry, Sir Bevile Granville, inspired the Cornish foot by taking to lead their advance, holding off three cavalry charges, they finally stepped onto the plateau and as they did so, Sir Granville was shot and fell dead. Despite this loss the Royalists now pressed on and secured their foothold with more men, the Parliamentarians pulling back to another defensive line, this time behind a stone wall (at the top of the map). The exhausted Royalists now stood firm along the brow of the hill and declined from advancing further for now, preferring instead to rest and make camp. Waller's men appeared to be doing the same, and throughout the night the Royalists watched the flickering camp fires across the plateau, only to discover in the morning that they had been duped, and Waller's men had actually withdrawn in the night, leaving fires to confuse their enemy..
It was a hard fought battle on both sides, but for now still not decisive for either side. A few days later that decisive battle would come at Roundway Down.