Battle of Edgehill

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The Battle of Edgehill (or Edge Hill) was the first major engagement of the First English Civil War. It was fought near Kineton in southern Warwickshire on October 23, 1642. The inconclusive result denied the Royalists the chance to march on London and achieve a quick victory over the Parliamentarians, and led to three years of civil war.

On October 12 King Charles I set out with his Royalist forces from Shrewsbury heading for London. In parallel to Charles' southerly movement, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex with the Parliamentarian forces set out from Worcester, also headed for London. By October 21 they were barely seven miles away from each other.

Perceiving the dangers of a flanking attack, Charles was persuaded by Prince Rupert to deploy on the side of Edge Hill. Essex, unaware of their proximity, drew dangerously close before actually preparing his troops. Battle commenced in the afternoon of the 23rd.

As Charles rode past his forces to raise morale, the Parliamentarian artillery opened fire. This started a mutual exchange of artillery fire that lasted for about an hour. At this point Prince Rupert started the battle properly by leading the Royalist cavalry charge, whereupon a substantial number of the Parliamentarian cavalry defected and rode off to join the Royalists. A swathe was cut through the Parliamentarian infantry on that flank and they broke and ran. In a critical error, the Royalist cavalry continued in pursuit of the fleeing infantry, leaving the Royalist forces entirely unsupported.

The Parliamentarian cavalry reserve was brought up and the Royalist infantry centre, unprotected by cavalry, was cut apart from the rear. However, the Royalists managed to regroup and form a new defensive line. Essex, seeing that Rupert's cavalry were returning, and also conscious of the gathering darkness, decided to disengage.

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