Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Most Excellent Thomas Fairfax

"Nay, mock not, friend!—since well we know
The near advances of the foe,
To mar our northern army's work,
Encamped before beleaguered York;
Thy horse with valiant Fairfax lay,
And must have fought—how went the day?"

The text above comes form Walter Scott’s poem Rokeby.  The Third Lord Fairfax of Cameron died this day, November 12, 1671.  Thomas Fairfax and his father fought for Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil Wars.  Thomas was injured badly in the Battle of Marston Moor, but managed to fight on, joining Oliver Cromwell in this decisive victory. 

The notes to Rokeby in “The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott” include the following on Marston Moor: ‘The well-known and desperate battle of Long Marston moor, which terminated so unfortunately for the cause of Charles, commenced under very different auspices. Prince Rupert had marched with an army of 20,000 men for the relief of York, then besieged by sir Thomas Fairfax, at the head of the parliamentary army, and the earl of Leven, with the Scottish auxiliary forces. In this he so completely succeeded, that he compelled the besiegers to retreat to Marston moor, a large open plain, about eight miles distant from the city. Thither they were followed by the prince, who had now united to his army the garrison of York, probably not less than ten thousand men strong, under the gallant marquis (then earl) of Newcastle. Whitelocke has recorded, with much impartiality, the following particulars of this eventful day:— "The right wing of the parliament was commanded by sir Thomas Fairfax, and consisted of all his horse, and three regiments of the Scots horse; the left wing was commanded by the earl of Manchester and colonel Cromwell. One body of their foot was commanded by lord Fairfax, and consisted of his foot, and two brigades of the Scots foot for a reserve; and the main body of the rest of the foot was commanded by general Leven.

In this posture both armies faced each other, and about seven o'clock in the morning the fight began between them. The prince, with his left wing, tell on the parliament's right wing, routed them, and pursued them a great way; the Tike did general Goring, Lucas, and Porter, upon the parliament's main body. The three generals, giving all for lost, hasted out of the field, and many of their soldiers fled, and threw down their arms; the king's forces, too eagerly following them, the victory, now almost achieved by them, was again snatched out of their hands. For colonel Cromwell, with the brave regiment of his countrymen, and sir Thomas Fairfax, having rallied some of his horse, fell upon the prince's right wing, where the earl of Newcastle was, and routed them; and the rest of their companions rallying, they fell all together upon the divided bodies of Rupert and Goring, and totally dispersed them, and obtained a complete victory after three hours fight…’

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