Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Battle of Baunton, 1461

The battle of Baunton, 6th March, 1461

The peaceful fields of Baunton, with the river Churn flowing by

The original deployment, Lancastrians facing North and Yorkists facing South

The armies assembled!

The Lancastrian horde

Buckingham's men in the foreground, along with Prince Edward's troops in front

Yorkists - Salisbury's numerous right-flank Ward
Turn 1
Things start with a general advance on the Lancastrian side, as Henry Beaufort pushes on aggressively with his men on the left flank, and the cavalry in the centre begin to trot forwards.  On the Lancastrian right however, all is still.  Some confusion, or a mix-up over signals, perhaps?  Somerset casts some worried glances to his right, wondering what could be wrong, as messengers gallop frantically off to bring news.

The initial moves

The full tabletop, seen from the east
Turn 2

On the Yorkist side, the battle-line moves forward to finish deploying along the ridge-line in the centre and slightly beyond on the flanks.  The movement forward by Salisbury cuts the range to Beaufort’s oncoming horde, and an archery exchange swiftly breaks out.  Casualties begin to climb, and one of the early notables to fall is the Lancastrian Lord Moleyns.  Frustrated at watching the cavalry manoeuver to deploy between Eldon Wood and Wiggold Copse, Somerset determines to set off himself for the mysteriously inert right wing, and find out what the hold-up is!

First advances

Turn 3
The battle continues to develop in this lop-sided way as the conflict develops west-to-east along the line.  The archery fire continues on the Lancastrian left, with the Yorkists’ numerous archers taking a deadly toll – now William Tailboys of Kyme becomes yet another captain to be randomly struck down by an ill-fated arrow, threatening the whole advance.  Beaufort has now lost two of the four captains he was relying on, through pure chance in the arrow-storm.  In the centre, the cavalry mass continues to mill around between the two woods and deploying very slowly, absent any direction.  The man who should be providing this – army commander, the Duke of Somerset – is currently on the Lancastrian right, investigating trouble.   Buckingham seems full of excuses for delays, and intent on foot-dragging – plus he seems to find a curious way of dragging every conversation round to the post of Chancellor of England.  Somerset could be forgiven a surge of frustration: here they are on the very field of battle, with the noise of his own son’s ward already engaged in the distance, and here’s Buckingham choosing this moment to start negotiating over his rewards for not just dropping out!  Still, not all Lancastrians on the right wing are so calculating: the front rank is mostly lords and retainers of Prince Edward (who is bloodthirsty as only an 8-year-old boy can be) under the command of the hard-nosed Andrew Trollope, who eagerly take their cue from Somerset to begin advancing.  

Beaufort's advance hit by the arrow-storm

Lancastrian cavalry prepares to charge in the centre

Turn 4
he first combats begin!  The Lancastrian left under Henry Beaufort strikes the Yorkist line and desperate fighting erupts.  The Yorkists are numerous but unable to bring all their numbers to bear thanks to a bend in the river Churn; while the Lancastrians are somewhat scattered and attacking piecemeal, due to Beaufort’s eagerness to get them into combat and out of the arrow-storm.  Initially things seem to be going well, as the Yorkist Baron William Bonville is cut down with a mortal wound amidst the struggle.  On the Lancastrian right Trollope continues to press on at a fast pace and pulls roughly level with the rest of the army, but Buckingham is dawdling in the rear.  Finally, Somerset’s efforts at persuasion bring rewards – in return for the Chancellorship of England, Buckingham is once again confirmed as 100% Lancastrian and agrees to join in.  Somerset can only hope that his delays haven’t proved fatal!

Beaufort's attack goes in on the Yorkist right

Turn 5
The Lancastrian left has inflicted much destruction, but it swiftly becomes obvious that the more numerous Yorkists are able to sustain the fight.  Lancastrians begin to edge back, and then disaster strikes – Ranulph Dacre, Baron of Gilisland is nearly swamped, his men rout and he is himself killed in the chaos that becomes a general panic.  Beaufort has to pull the remaining fighters back to stabilise his line, and fall back onto his reserve – the slow-moving Scottish mercenary contingent which is slowly working its way up to Baunton.

In the centre, the cavalry have finally assembled themselves into a line for a charge.  The delay has gone on for so long however, that Edward of York on the ridge in front of them has cycled his spearmen into the rear and brought his own household troops to the front, so he can begin firing with his longbows on the inviting target.  They duly do so, sending riders tumbling out of the saddles as the line continues to mill around helplessly.  Elsewhere, the Yorkists in front of the Lancastrian right have moved forward as far as the Welsh Way Road, where Trollope is determined to engage them.  To the rear all the Lancastrian host is now in motion, promising to finally bring to bear all the strength it has against the Yorkist centre and left.

Initial attacks repelled on the Left and Centre of the Lancastrian line

The tabletop version of the above

Trollope advances on the Lancastrian right

Cavalry charges in the centre

Beaufort pulls back to his Scots mercenaries, on the left

Turn 6
Beaufort’s battered survivors fall back on the Lancastrian second line, and Salisbury is practically inert in his efforts to pursue.  Congested rear ranks and disordered front ones all combine to mean he cannot interfere as Beaufort swiftly withdraws.  Fighting persists in isolation, with Baron Ralph Greystoke's and Bonville's men still grappling with each other even as the rest of the field gives way.  In the centre the slaughter of the mounted knights continues, as the Lancastrian horse struggles to make headway through the Yorkist fire.  On the Lancastrian right however, Trollope has clearly determined on victory or death.  Charging forward, he strikes the Yorkist line and shatters his opponents.  Captain John Fogge of Ashford is swept away and cut down in the rout, while Trollope’s men press onward towards the retinue of the Duke of Norfolk – their next target.

Trollope slams into Ashford, cutting down half his men!

Slaughter in the centre, as Irish kerns are ridden down

The situation - Trollope pushes on the Yorkist left, while the Lancastrian centre approaches

Turn 7
Slowly, Salisbury finally gets the large Yorkist right to begin shuffling forward and begin building some momentum.  Baron Greystoke’s last Lancastrians flee and are slaughtered, the last remainder of the Lancastrian attack finally gone.  Beaufort now prepares his survivors and the Scots to hold out, with the Lancastrian left now undeniably on the defensive.  In the centre the cavalry forges on through the mud and up the slope, pounding into the Yorkist line.  John Neville, Baron Raby is wounded and captured against York’s own household troops, but Thomas de Scales manages to charge home against some of the Irish levies watching York’s flank.  The unarmoured kerns are slaughtered and pay a heavy price, but incredibly manage to hold their ground – at least long enough to let the Burgundian pikemen in reserve force their way to the front and repel the cavalry.  The chaos of the mounted attack and the high Irish casualties break up the pike formation however, so even though they triumph as expected, they do so at a disproportionately high cost to themselves when gaps appear in their line and horsemen charge within.  On the Lancastrian right, Trollope drives onward into the Yorkists.  James Touchet, 5th Lord Audley fights at his side, and manages to kill Thomas Parr of Kendal, routing yet more of Rutland’s men and leaving only the second line of Norfolk to oppose them, slightly back and up on the ridge-line.

The battlefield, viewed from the West

Turn 8
Relative peace descends on the west of the field, with both sides collecting themselves.  In the centre, the mounted attack is spent – shattered by high casualties in close combat or whittled away by the longbow fire on approach.  The terribly few survivors retreat back by Eldon Wood, as Somerset leads on his infantry to try and maintain the pressure on the battered Yorkist centre.  On the right, Trollope rushes ahead towards Norfolk, before pausing to unleash a point-blank volley of arrows into his men.  One arrow catches the Duke himself and kills him, leaving his appalled followers to face Trollope charging in – there really appears to be no stopping this bloodthirsty man! 

Cavalry battles in the Centre

Prince Edward's men, led by Trollope, advance on

Turn 9
Salisbury tries to force his advance, sending a group ahead under the leadership of Edward Neville, Baron Abergavenny, to engage the Lancastrians between Baunton village and Eldon Wood.  Abergavenny throws himself at the Scots under Walldingham, but the over-eager advance proves no more successful for the Yorkists than when the Lancastrians tried it!  His exhausted followers cannot break the Scots spear-wall, and rout when pressed – Neville being cut down with his fleeing men.  Beaufort leads from the front, inspiring the best out of his remaining troops.  Beyond this, the rest of the field experiences a moment of relative peace – across the Lancastrian centre and right, troops gather and brace themselves for the renewed assaults that are imminent as the lines pull ever closer together, arrows flying ceaselessly back and forth.    

The Cavalry repulsed and spent - the infantry struggles up.

The battlefield.  In foreground, Beaufort holds off the Yorkists

Turn 10
Robert Ogle and Baron Southwick arrive in Salisbury’s ever-thickening line, battering against Beaufort’s exhausted survivors.  Somerset in the centre is trying to press more of his infantry forward, but due to the wreckage of the cavalry and the restricting woods to either side of him, they keep on struggling on piecemeal.  On the right however, there is only good news for the Lancastrians – Trollope’s men have crested the hilltop, the first Lancastrians to do so.  Alongside him is Henry Fitzhugh, with Buckingham’s men following on behind and not even managing to become engaged yet (although Lord Audley contrives to get himself killed by an archer.)  Rutland looks well and truly doomed, as he tries to rally the now-dead Norfolk’s followers.  

Scots at Baunton village are pressed by numerous Yorkists

Heavy attacks in the centre, and each side advances on its right-wing.

Turn 11
The Scots continue to hold out on the Lancastrian left, despite mounting losses on both sides.  Pretty much only the personal interventions of Beaufort himself are keeping the Lancastrians going.  In the centre, Somerset’s men attack up the ridge and are repulsed, but not without heavy losses on both sides – and Somerset ultimately has more strength to draw on, to say nothing of it being better quality (many of York’s troops are Irish levies and irregulars, around a core of his household retinue.)  On the right, Trollope’s hard fighting pays off as Norfolk’s men are finally routed and swept away.  Amongst the losses comes a great prize – Rutland, younger brother of the pretender himself, is taken prisoner!  Alongside Trollope comes yet more Lancastrians under Henry Fitzhugh, who charges in against Yorkist Baron Montagu’s men.  Both armies now seem to be in the condition of having their left-wing on the very brink of collapse.     

In the foreground, Trollope reaches the hilltop

Turn 12
Beaufort throws in yet more heroics to try and hold off the masses of Yorkist troops now closing in on him, and it can’t be done.  The last of his retinue is routed and the man himself is wounded, taken as prisoner on the field.  Only a tiny nugget of Scottish mercenaries still persist in the fight against Ogle’s men, while some levies of Longbowmen still infest Eldon Wood.  Besides this however, the Lancastrian left-wing has effectively been destroyed.  In the centre, Somerset’s attacks persist against the stubbornly unmoving –but ever thinner - Yorkist line.  There is an alarming moment when some household troops under Tudor break and run, against all the odds, but yet more of Somerset’s blue and white-liveried troops press ahead.  On the right, Trollope’s exhausted men are driven onwards once more, turning around the Yorkist battle-line which has been left leaderless by Rutland’s loss.  Fitzhugh adds to the scale of the success when he routs Montagu’s men.  Some of York’s flank-troops under John Dynham of Care-Dynham now mark the end of the main line, down below the ridge at the crossroads between the Fosse Way and the Welsh Way – who now have Lancastrians deep in their left-rear, further up the slope from them!    The only reserves he has to hand are the Irish levies backing up his own line (heavily engaged to the front) and a single unit of levied archers under Howard, the remains of their left-flank.

The Lancastrian left and centre - the right-wing is just visible on the top-right of the picture

Turn 13
The Scots slowly give ground, pressed back by the far greater numbers of Yorkists.  Somerset presses on with yet more charges on the York centre, which are yet again held off.  All attention is on the right however, where Trollope pushes his remaining men on to rout the levies under Lord John Howard – surely, after routing two lines of retinue troops, mere levies will be no challenge?  Amazingly, it is not to be!  Trollope himself is killed in the thick of the fighting by freak chance, and then his remaining band of followers duly rout.  A grim end to a spectacular run of success by the Lancastrians, but surely just a temporary setback - Howard’s levies have been shredded by the combat, and even with Trollope’s spearhead gone, many more Lancastrians are flooding up the ridge.

Beaufort leads the Scots in a last-stand

Trollope is killed in the sanguinary fight with Howard's levies
Turn 14
The Climax of the battle!  It’s clear to both sides that the conflict in the centre will be decisive, so Salisbury begins to try and move some of his reserves eastwards to help out York.  Walter Devereux, Baron Ferrers attempts to flush out the annoying obstacle of the Lancastrian levies in Eldon Wood, but the bowmen prove surprisingly effective as they fire out of the trees – Ferrers takes heavy losses and falls back, thoroughly chastened by the experience.  What will become of the York centre if they cannot switch reinforcements to it?  The problem is then removed, almost as soon as it was revealed: Lord Mauley’s command of Scots are routed after a hard battle and the collapse spreads panic down the Lancastrian line – Ralph Grey of Heaton’s levies in Eldon Wood begin to panic and stream to the rear, and by the time he has stabilised them they are out of the protective trees.  Only a tiny collection of 50 or 60 men around the Scots captain Lord Walldingham are still holding out, before being swamped.  
In the centre, Somerset puts himself at the head of Richard Wydville, Earl Rivers’ men and charges headlong into York’s household troops under Baron Edward Cobham, who manage to hold out but they remain locked in combat.  Besides them charges John Skydmore of Kentchurch, who strikes Baron Fitz-Warine at full-speed and nearly sweeps his men away.  Fitz-Warine himself falls in the combat and the unit seems certain to run, dooming the entire Yorkist centre.  Only Edward of York himself saves the day, leading from the very front where the fight is thickest – miraculously, he comes out of it alive and unwounded.  The line holds, but barely.

Edward has also made another dangerously risky move – he has turned his supporting Irish levies to face the Lancastrian right, leaving his centre in genuine peril of collapse.  He has no choice however, as Howard’s levies are now being cut down by Fitzhugh’s archers and Buckingham’s men draw in ever closer.

The Lancastrian right - the levies rout out of Eldon Wood

Somerset leads Wydville's men from the front!

Turn 15
Walldingham and his Scots die-hards are finally killed and swept away, when Herbert is joined by Southwick on the flank.  Only Heaton’s spooked levies behind Eldon Wood are now left, so Salisbury turns his remaining men in his second-line to the East, to help York’s centre – Eldon Wood now taken as Irish kerns sweep forward to seize the woodland and prevent the Lancastrians re-occupying it.  Every last Yorkist unit in reserve, however battered and tired, is being flung forward into the centre – even the beleaguered Burgundian pikemen are pressing ahead once more, seeking a chance to finish off the remnants of the Lancastrian cavalry.  Rivers and Somerset continue to strain against Cobham’s household men up the hill, but they prove immovable despite ever-rising losses.  On the right, Howard’s levies rout off the field under relentless archery fire from Fitzhugh’s troops, once more opening the Yorkist rear to the Lancastrians.  The flank of York’s line under Care-Dynham is now attacked by Dudley, but Dudley himself is killed and his men flee the field.  Care-Dynham’s men are now presenting a persistent problem to the Lancastrians – as Buckingham goes ever-deeper into the Yorkist position, then Care-Dynham becomes increasingly a blockage between the Lancastrian Centre and Right.

The last Scots die-hards are eliminated

The Lancastrian right encircles the Yorkist rear - Care-Dynham visible in the fore-ground, the nearly isolated York flank.

The centre - Yorkist reinforcements rush in from the north of Eldon wood

Both sides need to get reinforcements from a victorious flank into the critical centre, as the lines pivot

Turn 16
Herbert and his men are held at bay by Heaton’s levies, who once more put up an unexpectedly destructive show of archery.  Most movement from Salisbury is now north of Eldon Wood, rushing to join the fight in the centre – commands under Ferrers, Ruthyn, and even more of the Burgundian pikes are flooding into the gap between Eldon and the ridge.  Somerset knows it’s make-or-break time: leading from the front, he leads once last charge from Rivers’ men at the exhausted remains of Cobham’s troops, and finally succeeds!  York’s household men break and are overrun, and finally the Lancastrian centre has climbed the ridge – final victory is in sight!  Has it come too late, however?

Buckingham, on the ridge that was once the Yorkist left-flank

Somerset in the centre, at the moment of rupturing the Yorkist line that has resisted him for so long.

Turn 17
As Somerset surveys the wreckage of the Yorkist centre from the ridge-line, he tries to rally his disorganised and exhausted troops.  Too late however, as the Irish levies under Baron John Scrope pass through the remains of Fitz-warine’s old command and swiftly wheel around, falling on their flank.  Pushed beyond endurance and too disorganised to turn and face the flank attack, his followers begin to run and are cut down by the fleet-footed Irish.  When the latest slaughter is over, Somerset himself is among the dead – cut down on the bloody slope where he came so close to success…

The news spreads fast down the line, even to the Lancastrians on the right who believe themselves on the brink of triumph.  Buckingham’s men have been confronted with more of York’s Irish levies, and have taken cruel advantage of their lack of ranged weapons – Roger Vaughan of Tretower’s spearmen have been shredded, with more than half their number mown down by the Lancastrian longbowmen.  However, with news of Somerset’s death, this moment of final triumph now becomes but the last vengeful strike before defeat.

Rivers and Somerset flanked, and killed, by Irish levies.

Turn 18
The collapse is on!  The Yorkist reinforcements are rushing into the centre, being led – improbably – by the Burgundian pikemen who have wound up by accident at the forefront.  The only slender chance of avoiding a collapse in the Lancastrian centre would be for Buckingham to rapidly transfer some of his strength to shore the centre up.  There is a problem with this however – Care-Dynham’s band of retinue troops is squarely in the way.  If they can be swiftly cut down, there may be a chance to salvage something.  Fitzhugh is on the ridge above him, so he turns and charges downhill into his flank.  He hits hard, but is just too weakened by long combat to rout him.  Care-Dynham manages to resist, turns, and counter-attacks – only for the demoralized Lancastrians to break.  The battle is over, and the final strokes come from the Burgundians who roll over Baron Lionel Welles’ exhausted troops and signal a general collapse in the Lancastrian centre.  Henry VI flees the field, and Buckingham senses it’s time to be somewhere else – he begins to withdraw his force back along the Welsh Way.  

The Lancastrian rout begins

The Burgundian pikes break through the Lancastrian centre, with Henry VI watching on, uncomprehendingly

The battlefield at the end - far emptier than at the start!

The Yorkists have their Triumph!

Edward Plantagenet, Duke of York (and soon to be King Edward IV) victorious!

Buckingham, with the last Lancastrian force in being, retreats!

On top of Ragged Hedge Covert, Henry VI  watches the slaughter all day long - before being whisked away to flee for France and exile!

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