The Battle of Winwick Pass, 19 Aug 1648
On the southern boundary of Newton, a wooded valley branches off eastwards from the Wigan-Warrington road. The northern side of the valley, known locally as Red Bank, formed the boundary of old Newton Park Estate, and was marked by a high man-made bank with a hedge running along it. On the opposite side of the valley, which is about 100 yards wide, stands a natural steep-sided sandstone bank, which in places is between twenty and thirty feet high, In the year 1648 this was also probably topped by a hedge.The valley and the surrounding fields are the site of the English Civil War "Battle of Winwick Pass".
The following text is taken from a magazine, it included a brief but fairly full account of the Battle of Winwick Pass, the description of the historical events at Winwick preceded the main section of the magazines article, which was to set the scene historically for a Miniature WarGaming event of the Battle, details for numbers of soldiers, horses etc adding to the general interest of the battle description.(listed on page two).
Last Stand of the Blue Bonnets
Following the days fighting, Hamilton and his commanders held a Council of War to decide on their next move. Whilst serious, their position was by no means hopeless. They might decide to make a stand where they were, or, as Cromwell anticipated, the Scots could attempt to re-cross the river and head back northwards. A third option was to push on south to link up with Royalist activists in Cheshire and North Wales.Hamilton and his commanders were them-selves divided. The most experienced of them, including the Major-General of Foot, William Baillie and the Adjutant-General, Sir James Turner, favoured holding their ground on Walton Hill and fighting a defensive action. However Hamilton, and his second-in-command, the Earl of Callendar, were for once agreed in pressing for a retreat in order to link up with the Scots horse under the Earl of Middleton, who had returned north from the vicinity of Wigan. They got their way, but the decision would soon prove to be a serious error.
Orders were given for the Scots foot to pre-pare for a drumless march under the cover of darkness and heavy rain, with the intention of gaining a head start on Cromwells forces before their move was discovered. Orders were given for the destruction of the Scots baggage train, along with most of their artillery, ammunition reserves and such food supplies as were available. Not only was this bungled, so that most of the wagons fell intact into English hands, but the weary Scots foot were left without food, and with only the ammunition they could carry. Morale among the already dispirited soldiery plummeted further. A total of about 7-8,000 Scots foot probably set out on the first stage of the march to Wigan. At first, the move went undetected by Cromwells cavalry outposts, probably tired by the days fighting and more concerned about seeking cover from the torrential rain than in observing enemy movements. They seem to have been alerted to what was happening when the leading units of Middletons horse, who, marching north via the road through Chorley instead of the one via Standish along which their foot were retreating, narrowly missed their comrades and ran into Cromwells men.
The Scots horse now deployed as a rearguard to cover their foot, and Cromwell urged his weary men into an immediate pursuit. He probably had available about 2,500 horse and just over 4,000 foot. The Scots had proceeded for about 3 miles before the leading units of Cromwells horse caught up with them in a series of skirmishes and rearguard actions which were to continue through-out the next day. Cromwell had given command of the pursuit to Colonel Francis Thornhaugh, an experienced Nottinghamshire soldier who had fought with distinction throughout the First Civil War, with orders to attempt to delay the Scots until the remainder of the army could come up. Thornhaugh, with about 2,500 horse and dragoons, met up with the Scots cavalry rearguard, including some lancers, near Chorley. He had taken up the pursuit with such haste that he had apparently not had time to don his armour, and, attacking too boldly, became separated from his men, and was mortally wounded, "being run through the body, thigh and head by the Enemys lancers."
Despite such setbacks, the Parliamentarian horse kept up the pressure. Early on 18 August, the Scots attempted a stand on some high ground just outside the village of Standish. Middletons horse prepared to support the foot, but Baillies musketeers, their powder soaked by the continuing heavy rain, would not hold, and Middleton covered their retreat into Wigan. Cromwell wrote of these events: "Our horse still pursued the Enemy; killing and taking divers all the way. At last the enemy drew up within three miles of Wigan; and by that time our army was come up, they drew off again, and recovered Wigan before we could attempt any thing upon them. We lay that night in a field close by the enemy; being very dirty and weary, and having marched twelve miles of such ground as I never rode in all my life, the day being very wet. We had some skirmishing, with the enemy, near the town; where we took General Van Druske and a Colonel, and killed some principal officers, and took about a hundred prisoners".
Although theoretically known for its Royalist sympathies, Wigan was thoroughly plundered by the hungry Scots, among some of whom discipline was beginning to break down. Hamilton now decided to head for the Mersey at Warrington, whose bridge represented the lowest crossing point of the river, apart from a ford a few miles further downstream. Here he could attempt a stand, whilst awaiting news of the English and North Wales Royalists supposedly in arms in the area.The Scots retreat was resumed the same night, with Middletons horse once more forming a rear-guard just north of Wigan, whilst Baillie and Sir James Turner attempted to organise an orderly withdrawal by the foot. He was marching out of the town with the brigade forming the rearguard when some of Middletons horse appeared in disorder. In an attempt to cover their retreat against Parliamentarian horse, Turner formed up a block of pikemen in the market square, ordering the remainder of his foot to march on. However, when Turner told his pikes to open their ranks to let the fugitives through, they panicked, and with shouts of "All of you are Cromwells men!", two of them ran at Turner with their pikes and slightly wounded him in the thigh. Turner retaliated by ordering the horse, who had shakily rallied, to charge their own foot, but the cavalry hesitated until their officers set up the cry that the enemy was upon them. This caused the horse to surge forward, breaking through or trampling the foot.
Fortunately for the Scots, the bulk of Middletons horse kept better order, and continued to cover the retreat through the night and into the next morning. Turner attempted to snatch a brief rest in a house along the line of march, but constant alarums of enemy approach, caused him to remount and press on, though he fell asleep in the saddle. Sporadic skirmishing continued through the night and into the following morning, with starving Scottish troops pausing to plunder wayside houses even whilst their comrades were being killed outside by the pursuing enemy horse. The Parliamentarians were by now almost equally exhausted, though some at least were more fortunate in obtaining refreshment. Some of Colonel John Brights Yorkshire Regiment of Foot halted briefly towards morning on a moor outside Wigan, where Captain John Hodegeson shared a pint of strong waters with his comrades, Captain Spencer and Major Cholmley. Within a few hours the Major would be dead, for the hunted Scots were about to turn at bay.
By about midday on 19 August, the situation of the Scots was plainly becoming desperate. Harried at every step of their march, and with increasing numbers of their foot dropping out through hunger and exhaustion, it was clear to their commanders that the army would disintegrate unless they could gain a breathing space on arrival at Warrington, in order to rest, reorganise and prepare some defences whilst considering their next move. It was, therefore, necessary to inflict a check on their pursuers which might give them that vital respite. About a mile south of the small town of Newton, and some three miles from Warrington, Major-General William Baillie found a defensive position which seemed to promise just such an opportunity. On the Newton southern boundary a wooded valley branched off east-wards from the Wigan-Warrington road. The northern side of the valley, known locally as Red Bank, formed the boundary of Newton Park, and was marked by a high man-made bank with a hedge running along it. On the opposite side of the valley, which was about 100 yards wide, was a steep-sided sandstone bank, between twenty and thirty feet high, probably topped by a hedge. The valley itself was marshy, probably with a rough track running along it, and containing a stream and possibly a willow bed. On the southern side of the valley was a large open field, traditionally said to have been under wheat at the time of the battle, which ran south-wards to the hamlet of Winwick, just under a mile away. The stream crossed the main road, and joined Newton Brook on its western side, where there was further high ground, with an isolated sandstone bluff formed by the winding course of Newton Brook. This formidable position offered the Scots a last opportunity to halt their pursuers, at probably about midday the Scots were in position.
Baillies aim was to fight for time. If he could hold off the Parliamentarians until nightfall, there might be time to prepare adequate defences for the Bridge, over which, to the temporary safety of the southern bank of the Mersey, his foot could withdraw under cover of darkness. Cromwell will have been equally aware that time was of the essence, and as a result, as more of his troops began to come up, resumed the assault without waiting for all of his foot to arrive. This action, probably involving Brights Foot, resulted in another reverse, as Cromwell admitted: "We held them in some dispute till our army came up, they maintaining the passe with great resolution for many hours, ours and theirs coming to push of pike and very close charges and forced us to give ground..." The main action was probably focused along the road, with the Parliamentarian foot attempting to force back the Scots centre, whilst parties of musketeers and dragoons operated on either flank, trying to suppress their enemy counterparts on the high ground flanking the road. But Parliamentarian efforts to break through were thwarted by fierce resistance. The Scots "so rudely entertained the pursuing enemy, that they were compelled to stop until the coming up of Colonel Prides Regiment of Foot..." It may have been during this phase of the action that Major Cholmley, of Brights, was killed.
A pause of undetermined length followed, whilst the remainder of Cromwells force came up, and deployed on the open ground of Newton Park. At this point, some local men alienated by the Scots plundering, offered to show Cromwell a way by which his horse could outflank the Scottish position (probably by moving east across Newton Park, and then southwestwards along the lane leading towards Winwick from the hamlet of Hermitage Green). In the meantime, possibly in response to appeals from Baillie, some of the Scots horse reappeared from the direction of Warrington, and began forming up on the open field to the south east of Winwick Pass, but on sighting Cromwells cavalry approaching, they made off without resistance. Threatened on their right flank, and potentially in their rear, by the Parliamentarian horse, and hit by a new infantry assault spearheaded by Thomas Prides veteran unit, who "after a sharp dispute, put these same brave fellows to the run..." the Scots fell back along the road and across the large field in the direction of the village of Winwick, about one mile to the south east. They evidently kept some sort of order in what became a running fight, and suffered a number of casualties, among them, perhaps, an unidentified officer who had played a leading role in the defence of Winwick Pass; "a little spark in a blue bonnet, who performed the part of an excellent commander, and was killed on the spot." Some of the Scots foot, perhaps cut off by the Parliamentarian horse, made a final stand on Winwick Green, a possibly partially enclosed area of ground just to the north of the church. Here the Parliamentarians "made a great slaughter of them..." Many of the Scots threw down their arms, though others resisted for a short time longer in the church and some of the village houses, be-fore surrendering and being imprisoned temporarily in the church. Parliamentarian horse maintained the pursuit of Baillies broken foot almost as far as Warrington.
Sources: Gary Ashby, Winwick Pass, in English Civil War Notes and Queries, Issue 13.
Peter Berry and Ben Wilkins, Forlorn Hope, 2nd Ed. 1991.
Ernest Broxap, Great Civil War in Lancashire, 1910.
Stephen Bull and Mike Seed, Bloody Preston, 1998.
Edward Furgol, Regimental History of the Covenanting Armies, 1990.
Stuart Reid, Scots Colours, 1990.
Last Stand of the Blue Bonnets: Miniature Wargames Magazine march 2001
The Battle of Winwick Pass, 19 August 1648 by John Barratt
Reproduced Courtesy of Miniature Wargames Magazine