Battle of Nantwich - Campaign

Campaign

In 1643, King Charles had signed a "cessation" with the Irish Confederates. This allowed him to recall several English regiments which had been sent to Ireland after the Irish Rebellion of 1641, to reinforce his armies. In November 1643, several of these regiments were sent to Cheshire where a new field army was being raised, commanded at first by Lord Capell. Capell was replaced in December by Lord John Byron, who had been a successful cavalry brigade commander in the King's main "Oxford Army".

Byron launched an offensive from the south with 5,000 men against the Parliamentarian garrisons in Cheshire, most of which were quickly captured. The troops recently returned from Ireland behaved with a degree of ruthlessness not previously displayed in the English Civil War. At Barthomley Church on 26 December, the Parliamentarian garrison surrendered after the Royalists lit a fire against the doors to smoke them out. At least twelve of the prisoners, mostly local militia, were executed in cold blood, with Byron's approval.

On 27 December, Sir William Brereton, the Parliamentarian commander in Cheshire and Lancashire, attempted to concentrate his forces to confront Byron, but was defeated by a sudden Royalist attack at the Second Battle of Middlewich. He retreated with the remnants of his force to Manchester in Lancashire.

Nantwich was the only town in Cheshire still held by the Parliamentarians. Its garrison numbered 2,000 men under Colonel George Booth, and were well supplied. Byron launched an attack against the town on 18 January 1644, but was defeated with 500 casualties. Together with the casualties from earlier fighting in Cheshire, and sickness and desertions, Byron's forces were reduced to a total of about 3,500 men. He nevertheless maintained a siege of Nantwich.

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