|New Positions as reinforcements arrive.|
Saturday, May 4, 2013
General Graham having seen the 37th fleeing from Sluice farm now realised the battle had taken a sudden and dangerous turn for the worse . When he held both Hipsley and Sluice farm he was constricting the Confederation forces to movements down the flanks, each flank further constricted by natural barriers, be that swampy rivers or thick dense woods. Now that the Confederates held Sluice farm, they not only had a ideal defensible position, but they now could move through the centre.
General Grahams sole concern now was would Hipsley farm hold out, at least it had the remnants od the 37th to reinforce the garrison, but they were in a fairly shaky condition.; so they needed time to reorganise and he doubted that the enemy would give them that much time.
It occurred to General Graham that the nature of the battle was changing, initially his plan had been to wait until the whole army was on the battlefield and then push the Confederate armies back, but now that plan seemed the less viable option.
His original brief from the Government had to be stop the Confederate Northern army advancing on London and it occurred to him that is all he had to do, for now.
If he could fight the Confederates to a stalemate, their position in Royston and perhaps even Northampton would become precarious, especially when one considers their LOC runs through territory that could only be regarded as hostile.
So General Graham developed a defensive plan, to hold the Confederates here and make them bleed, then only time or more reinforcements would determine his next option.
He decided that Hipsley farm must be held at all costs, it acted as a bulwark against the Confederation tide, they would either have to screen it or spend time and units in subduing it. While they were doing that it meant a weaker effort against his main line, if they concentrated against Hipsley farm then he could harass them elsewhere.
His mainline would now run from Court and manor farms, including the wooded areas therein, across to and including Beasley farm then across to the banks of the marshy and deep flowing Phillipa River.
The enemy would most likely be tempted to push around the flanks once more, but this time that option would be a great deal more expensive. He had stated this battle with only 5 Battalions, thus his chances of holding a solid line were always in doubt, but now he had another 4 battalions, another 2 cavalry regiments and more artillery, while the Confederation were still using the same forces they started the battle with, some of them weakened in numbers and or morale.
For Lord Ashley the battle was one of mixed blessings, with the exception of Hipsley farm the initial royalist defence line had been taken, on the negative side his planned pincer movement to isolate the Royalists around Hipsley farm had been blocked by the new Royalist reinforcements.
The odds had certainly turned from his great advantage, he had lost 2 Battalions to rout thus they were not able to be reformed until after the battle, several of his units had suffered some considerable damage, though fortunately none of them what could be regarded as serious.
Those units that had been damaged were now reorganised and once more prepared for action, so now he had to decide his next step.
He could easily withdraw, but why should he, he certainly had not been defeated, on the contrary he was winning and what is more given the temperament of the locals in the lands he had passed through he would struggle to maintain himself in Northampton; but retreat from a challenge was not in Lord Ashley's personality anyway, so he must attack.
That decided, he now had to look at his options, screen Hipsley Farm or take it out, if he screened it, it was likely he would need to do so with a minimum of 2 Battalions, possibly 3 in case they sortied, that left him 10 or 11 battalions to do the business against the enemy line. He estimated the Royalist had approximately 9 or 10 battalions in total, 2 of them were now ensconced in Hipsley farm leaving most likely 7 or 8 to create a defensive line. They also had 4 cavalry regiments to his two and that was a major disadvantage except his two were heavies and the Royalists seemed to favour light Cavalry. He had a slight artillery advantage 4 Batteries to 2.5 and one of his was 12pdrs,
On the down side was the Royalists would occupy 3 farms, and Lord Ashley was by now only to well aware of how difficult it was to take those, he had attacked both Hipsley and Sluice farm with 3-4 Battalions each, and even then only Sluice farm had been taken. It occurred to him he didn’t have the numbers of men to do both adequately so he decided on the attack on Hipsley farm as his first phase.
It was all to apparent he had to tease the Royalists out of their defensive holes and into the open, the only way he could do that was a concerted attack on Hipsley farm, bloody General Graham then had the choice of watching two of his battalions being destroyed which will harm royalist morale, or he would attempt some sort of sortie to relieve the pressure on Hipsley farm, which required him coming out of the defences.
If he did not, and allowed his battalions to be destroyed then Lord Ashley sighed, it would mean his Army would have to dig the damned royalists out of those farms, a prospect that hardly cheered him.
So as he turned to his staff he pointed to Hipsley Farm, a little way in the distance,
“We will start there, and then we will see the measure of this damned Royalist fop.”
The reorganisation of both armies took almost an hour and over that time there was only the occasional desultory burst of fire and mostly involved the artillery when they fired to test ranges. The greatest concern to the Royalists was that the Confederates had moved a light infantry Battalion into the woods to the south of Hipsley farm, that battalion had cut any link the Hipsley garrison had with the main army. Despite this General Graham refused to attack it, merely because to do so would finally involve other units and bring on an escalation of the fight beyond his defensive positions, something he would avoid at all costs; at least for the moment.
The Attack on Hipsley Farm
The remnants of the Royalist 37th & 34th battalions (760 men) once they were rested set about improving the defences of Hipsley farm, much of the area had already been destroyed in the previous 3 hours of battle, so the lull over only a limited opportunity for improvements.
The Brigade Commander Maj Gen Clive Aubrey had decided to stay with the defenders of Hipsley farm, his instructions were to defend the farm to the last possible moment making the Conferates pay in blood for every inch of ground, when the defence became pointless he had permission to surrender the garrison or attempt a breakout if he thought it was possible. He was told that he must not be under any illusion that relief was imminent, if the opportunity presented itself then gen Graham may attack towards the farm and attempt a relief but Gen Aubrey should not count on that happening.
Now as General Aubrey and Col Sir Alexander Clements commander of the 34th Battalion surveyed the battlefield from the windmill, they appreciated the trouble they were in, it appeared there were some 5 Battalions poised to attack, the farm.
Gen Aubrey whistled to himself as he lowered his telescope, turning to Colonel Clements he said,
“They really want this damn farm.”
The colonel merely “Hummmpfed” in reply and then as if an after thought added,
“Well they bloody well cant have it, its mine”.
The general smiled to himself, the Colonel could be a decidedly cantankerous rogue when he had his tail up, and it was definitely up now.
The Colonel went to the edge of the platform they were standing on and bellowed to the men below,
“Lads listen to me, stop what you are doing and listen. The General here says by the looks of it the bloody Parliamentarian thugs want our farm, that they have lined up a lot of louts to come over here and take off us.”
A sergeant major, with a bandage around his head stepped forward, “With the greatest compliments to the General Soir, those bloody bastards out there dont know how to fight, good god they arent real soldiers like we have here Soir, so no we ain’t going to let them have the farm today. Maybe tomorrow, or the next day if there is anything left of the place depends how generous we be feeling, what do you say lads.”
The men's voices rose as if one in jeers and uncomplimentary remarks towards the Confederate troops, the Colonel turned to the General,
“Sorry sir, they are a bit tired and ahhh should have shown better respect sir.”
The General smiled, “Better respect be buggered, they are doing just fine Colonel, a fine bunch of men you have.”
He started to climb down the ladder, paused and looking up at the Colonel said
“I best wander to the other end of the farm and see if the 37th can be even more disrespectful”.
He had just stepped down to rungs of the ladder when there was a calamitous sound as the enemy artillery opened fired.
The Colonel looked out to where the enemy battery was that just fired and yelled,
“You missed you bloody incompetent fools, how the hell could miss a bloody farm as big as this”, then looking down at the General who had gone a little white,
“You best be going and tend to the 37th Sir, me and my lads will sort this lot out.
The artillery barrage lasted 30minutes and inflicted very few casualties, the colonel had told his men to lie down and only rise on the command, so most of the damage was spent on the woods, walls and buildings. A fire started in the stables area, but this was quickly put out..
After thirty minutes the enemy infantry moved forward, not all of them just the three battalions to the north of the farm.