About Fairfax Battalia

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Fairfax Battalia

Today's Fairfax Battalia is named in honour of the original 1st Regiment of Foot of the New Model Army: Fairfax's Regiment of Foot, also known as The General's Regiment. It is made up of a group of regiments which, when combined together, fight as a 'Battalia' or fighting unit. During the English Civil Wars a battalia was typically an amalgamation of a number of companies. The original 1st Regiment of Foot was raised in 1645 as part of the New Model Army and was disbanded in 1660.


Origins

Sir Thomas Fairfax was appointed commander of the New Model Army when it was created in March 1645. As a result he was given command of the 1st Regiment of Foot. This was, therefore, also known as the General's Regiment and command eventually passed to Oliver Cromwell when he became Commander of the new Model Army in 1650.

The regiment seems to have been created from companies of troops drawn from the former army of the Earl of Manchester, the Eastern Association and also the Earl of Essex. Its first Lieutenant Colonel was Thomas Jackson, a prominent anti-radical in the army.

Although the regiment in 1645 is described as wearing red coats with blue facings (Perfect Passages, May 1645), in 1647 the regiment was known as the 'Greene Regiment' with presumably green colours and facings to the new model Army red coat.

Notable battles

The regiment served at the battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645 and towards the end of the battle was used to break the resistance of the last remaining Royalist force '...the General called up his own regiment of foot, ... which immediately fell in with them, with butt-end of muskets, (the General charging them at the same time with horse,) and so broke them...'.

It formed part of the rearguard at the storming of Bridgewater on 21 July 1645 and also took part in the capture of Bristol on 10 September. On 16 February 1646 it was at the siege of Torrington and in June at the siege of Wallingford.

Links with The Levellers

In 1647, threatened with disbandment or service in Ireland, part of the regiment (led by Captain Francis White) was the first regiment to mutiny on the side of the Levellers. They demanded the right to petition Parliament regarding their grievances, wanted their arrears of pay and support for wounded soldiers, complained about the amount of money paid to 'supersillious' officers, demanded an end to imprisonment without trial and vigorously refuted any accusation that they had negotiated to restore Charles I.

Eight of the regiment's companies threatened to expel their officers and the regiment marched to the general rendezvous of the rebel army at Newmarket and then Kenford.

After the supression of this rebellion, a number of the senior officers, including Jackson, were replaced. The new Lt Colonel was William Cowell, and White was promoted to major. White complained that trying to negotiate with the King was like trying to repair an old house '...and that when they were laying the top stone it would fall about their ears...'. Nonetheless, he later refused to accept the legitimacy of the court to condemn the King to death (although accepting the right of the army to dethrone and imprison him). As a messenger of Cromwell during the army revolt of 1649, he was accused of betraying the Levellers at Burford.

Second Civil War

The regiment served in Yorkshire at the start of the Second Civil War and took part in some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of Preston on 17 August 1648. Lt Col. Cowell appears to have been mortally wounded during the fighting and was replaced by Lt Col. Goffe, who served as one of the King's judges and signed the death warrant.

The regiment returned to London in 1649 and provided guards for the Council of State. It may have been guarding the capital at the time of the King's execution in January.

In 1650, Fairfax resigned his post of Commander in Chief (in opposition to what he perceived as an invasion of Scotland) and the regiment passed to Cromwell as the new Lord General. As such, they took part in the battle of Dunbar and then the siege of Edinburgh. The regiment then marched south with Cromwell in 1651 and took part in the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651. Here, they formed part of Cromwell's crack reserve and took part in the storming of the River Severn across the 'Bridge of Boats'. The regiment served as marines in the Dutch War of 1652.

Regiment disbanded

In 1659, the regiment supported Fleetwood and demanded the recall of the Long Parliament. The new CO of the regiment, Herbert Morley, supported Monck at the Restoration, although many of his men appear to have had sympathies with Lambert. The regiment was finally disbanded on 15 November 1660 at Reading and its men paid £9,859 2s 9d.

References

  1. The Regimental History of Cromwell's Army, C. Firth and G. Davies, Oxford, 1940
  2. Cromwell's Crowning Mercy: the Battle of Worcester, M. Atkin, Stroud 1998.