Battle of Langport - Date & Conflict:
The Battle of Langport was fought July 10, 1645, during the English Civil War (1642-1651).
Armies & Commanders
Battle of Langport - Background:
In the wake of the Royalist defeat at the Battle of Naseby on June 14 1645, King Charles I concentrated his remaining forces at Leicester and began retreating toward the Welsh border. With his main army destroyed, the only sizable Royalist field force remaining belonged to George, Lord Goring. Operating in the West Country, Goring had been maintaining the siege of Taunton. Defended by Colonel Robert Blake, Taunton had been briefly relieved in May before Goring re-invested the town.
Advancing after its victory at Naseby, Sir Thomas Fairfax's New Model Army captured Leicester on June 18. Under pressure from London to relieve Blake, Fairfax began marching south passing through Salisbury and Dorchester to avoid the Royalist garrisons at Bath, Bristol, and Devizes. Badly outnumbered and alerted to Fairfax's approach, Goring broke off the siege of Taunton and ordered his baggage train to retreat north to Bristol. To cover their march, he moved east with his troops and established a 12-mile line along the River Yeo between Langport and Yeovil.
In an effort to divert Fairfax, Goring dispatched three cavalry brigades under Lieutenant General George Porter to threaten Taunton. Reacting to this, Fairfax detached Major General Edward Massie with 4,000 men to intercept him. A lax officer, Porter and his command were taken by surprise and routed by Massie on July 8 while relaxing at Isle Moor. That same day, Fairfax advanced to capture Yeovil and crossed the Yeo. Pushing west, the New Model Army located Goring's main body near Langport late in the day on July 9.
To cover the withdrawal of his baggage train, Goring positioned his men along a ridge known as Ham Hill. This formed the western side of a small, marshy valley through which flowed the narrow but deep Wagg Rhyne. The stream could only be crossed at a ford from which ran a narrow lane lined with trees and hedges. As the bulk of his artillery was en route to Bristol, Goring was only able to emplace two light guns to cover the lane. While he posted his cavalry along the ridge, he deployed musketeers behind the trees and hedges. A strong position, Goring hoped to hold until nightfall before retreating to Bridgwater.
Assessing the situation on July 10, Fairfax elected to attack Goring directly rather than risk letting the Royalists slip away. Bringing up his artillery, Fairfax began a heavy bombardment of the Royalist position and quickly silenced Goring's two guns. To clear the hedges and trees, Colonel Thomas Rainsborough advanced with a body of musketeers and engaged Goring's infantry. This was closely supported by a charge down the lane by Parliamentarian cavalry under Major Christopher Bethel. Charging forward four abreast, his horsemen crossed the ford before deploying into a line and striking the Royalists.
After shattering two Royalist regiments, Bethel's men were counterattacked by a third. This was halted by a second force of Parliamentarian cavalry led by Major John Disbrowe. As they engaged the Royalists, Fairfax began pushing additional men into the fray. Overwhelmed, Goring's army broke and began fleeing the field. Falling back through Langport, the Royalist infantry set fire to the town before crossing over the Parrett River and retreating towards Bridgwater. Their retreat was harried by Lieutenant General Oliver Cromwell's cavalry and Goring's attempts to rally his forces repeatedly failed.
Aftermath of the Battle of Langport:
Casualties for the Battle of Langport are not known with certainty, but the battle saw the effective destruction of Goring's army. While the bulk fled towards Bridgwater and Bristol, many stragglers were hunted down and killed by local clubmen in retaliation for Royalist degradations against the area citizenry. Pushing on from Langport, Fairfax captured Bridgwater on July 23. Subsequent operations led to the fall of Bristol on September 10. Effectively isolated from the main Royalist areas around Oxford and the Midlands, the Royalist garrisons in the West Country were eliminated in succession.