Battle of Nantwich - Battle

Battle

At the time, Nantwich was little more than a large village which lay astride the River Weaver, which normally was a stream 20 feet (6.1 m) wide. The Parliamentarians held the Chester Road bridge in the town, but the Royalists could use a bridge across the river at Beam Bridge, about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) to the north. Byron's headquarters were at Acton, about 1 mile (1.6 km) to the west of Nantwich. His regiments were quartered in a circle around the town sheltering where they could in countryside covered in snow.

On 24 January, Fairfax's force scattered a small Royalist force which attempted to bar the road to Nantwich at Delamere Forest. Byron decided to maintain the siege, but the next day there was a sudden thaw which caused the Weaver to rise in spate. Byron ordered his infantry and artillery to move to the west bank of the Weaver around Acton, where the ground was drier, but the bridge at Beam Bridge (and a ferry to its north) were then swept away by the floodwater while Byron himself and his 1,800 cavalry were still on the east bank. He was forced to make a march of 6 miles (9.7 km) via another bridge at Minshull Vernon to support his infantry at Acton.

As Fairfax approached Acton, Colonel Richard Gibson (deputising for Byron's Sergeant-Major General Sir Michael Erneley, who was ill), deployed four regiments of infantry (his own and those of Sir Michael Erneley, Colonel Henry Warren and Sir Robert Byron, younger brother of Lord John Byron) to face Fairfax. Erneley's, Warren's and Gibson's regiments had recently returned from Ireland. Most of the Royalist artillery was massed in Acton churchyard, on the left of Gibson's line. Sir Fulk Hunke's locally-raised infantry regiment protected the rear against Booth's garrison in Nantwich.

Despite the heavy rain and the numerous ditches and hedges which broke up the ground in front of Gibson's position, Fairfax's force attacked at about 2 pm. Fairfax was informed that Byron was approaching his left rear from the direction of Minshull Vernon, but he deployed only two regiments of infantry and his own troop of cavalry to face them, while his main body pushed forward against Gibson. Although Gibson's men repulsed the first Parliamentarian attack, the Parliamentarian cavalry commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax's brother William outflanked the Royalist right wing and forced it to retreat. In the Royalist centre, Colonel Henry Warren's "Irish" regiment broke, and Erneley's own regiment retreated. Behind Gibson's position, Colonel George Booth led a sortie from Nantwich by 600 musketeers which overcame Hunke's regiment and reached Acton churchyard, overrunning the Royalist artillery and wagon park.

By 4:30 pm, only Gibson's and Sir Robert Byron's regiments were still fighting on the flanks of Gibson's position. As the Parliamentarians broke through the Royalist centre, these two regiments were overwhelmed. Many Royalist soldiers defected to the Parliamentarians, the remainder surrendered or fled. About 1,500 were taken prisoner. Many of the officers took refuge in Acton Church, and were also taken prisoner after surrendering on terms. Lord Byron retreated to Chester with the Royalist cavalry, which had been unable to break through Fairfax's flanking detachment.

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