Battle of Turnham Green

Battle of Turnham Green

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Turnham Green
partof=the First English Civil War
date=13 November 1642
place=Turnham Green, Middlesex
result=Parliamentarian victory
commander1=Earl of Essex
commander2=King Charles I
strength1=24,000Royle p. 206]
strength2=7,000-12,000fact|date=May 2007
casualties1=very few
casualties2=very few

The Battle of Turnham Green occurred 13 November 1642 near the village of Turnham Green, at the end the first campaigning season of the First English Civil War. The engagement resulted in a standoff between the Royalist army of King Charles I and the much larger Parliamentarian army under the command of the Earl of Essex. In successfully barring the way to London to the Royalist army, the Parliamentarians gained an important victory because the standoff forced Charles and his army to retreat to Oxford for secure winter quarters.

After the Battle of Edgehill (23 October) King Charles I captured Banbury (27 October) and was greeted by cheering crowds as he arrived in Oxford on 29 October. Prince Rupert swept down the Thames Valley, capturing Abingdon, Aylesbury and Maidenhead, from where he attempted to capture Windsor though failed due to Parliamentary strength there. After this, many officers wanted to open peace negotiations, contrary to Rupert’s desire to carry on to London, but the king agreed with the officers and so the Earl of Essex managed to overtake them and reach London with his Parliamentary army by the 8 November.This was Charles' first major battle in the civil war.


On the 12 November Rupert with a large cavalry detachment stormed Brentford and then proceeded to sack the town. This action encouraged those Londoners who feared for their property to side with the Parliamentarians.Royle pp. 202-207] On 13 November Essex's army with the London trainbands and other London citizenry, assemble as an army of about 24,000 on Chelsea Field and advanced to Turnham Green in the vicinity of the main body of the Royalist army.


The Royalist army of 7,000-12,000 were short of ammunition and probably too small to attack the 24,000 strong Parliamentarian army. Also the King was advised that to engage such an oddly assorted army containing what was obviously a large contingent of armed civilians, would not endear him to London, and it was too early in the war for the Royalists to contemplate taking London without the support of a sizable part of London's population.

With the end of campaigning season close at hand, Charles decided not to press the issue and withdrew. So after a slight cannonade, the Parliamentarians secured a victory without engaging in the battle, which was fortunate for them, as many of their number had never seen a battle before and were not used to army discipline formations and deployments. John Hampden, with something of the fire and energy of his cousin, Oliver Cromwell, urged the Earl of Essex to turn both flanks of the Royal army via Acton and Kingston; experienced professional soldiers, however, urged Essex not to trust the London men to hold their ground, while the rest manoeuvred. Hampden's advice was undoubtedly premature. A Battle of Worcester (1651) was not within the power of the Parliamentarians of 1642. In Napoleon's words: "one only manoeuvres around a fixed point",Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition article "GREAT REBELLION" Section "4. Battle of Edgehill"] and the city levies at that time were certainly not, "vis-à-vis" Rupert's cavalry, a fixed point.


Charles (once more contrary to Rupert's advice) retreated back up the Thames Valley towards Oxford (losing the possible chance for a flanking movement through loyal Kent), where Charles set up his headquarters for the rest of the war. Never again during the Civil War would the Royalists come as close to capturing London and without London they could not win the war.


* Royle, Trevor. "Civil War: The wars of the Three Kingdoms", Pub Abacus 2006; (first published 2004); ISBN 978-0-349-11564-1 they went home

Further reading

* Plant, David. [ 1642: First campaigns of the English Civil War] , The British Civil Wars & Commonwealth website


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