Mountjoy Blount - Earl of Newport.
William Cavendish - Marquis of Newcastle. 1642.
The King raised his standard to officially declare the opening of hostilities at Nottingham on the 22nd August 1642.
William continued his work recruiting and setting up new regiments and he was later criticised for accepting so many Catholics and his force became known as “that Popish army” by his opponents. This is a misconception as most were in fact Protestants. Popish or not they proved good soldiers and loyal to William and their cause.
An army ,of course, has to be paid and equipped. No finance was forthcoming from the King and so the Royalist gentry and nobility in the region had to fund the enterprise themselves from their own resources. Even after the a supply ship broke the blockade and arrived from Denmark William’s army was chronically short of weapons and ammunition, a situation not appreciated by the King or some of the leading Yorkshire Royalists. The Parliamentarians held most of the major arsenals, ports and most of the manufacturing base which supplied these items. Many of his richer recruits were able to provide their own weapons, equipment and horses although some was clearly rather antiquated and not suitable for a modern warfare.
William was fortunate in being able to draw on a nucleus of trained and experienced officer gentlemen who had fought abroad in the 30 Years War. These men proved invaluable in training and leading his new and inexperienced force. William, himself an amateur in these matters, drew heavily on the advice and knowledge of these men. His main and by no means insignificant contribution to the enterprise was his influence and prestige, his personal wealth and his experience as an organiser and administrator gained during his days as Lord Lieutenant. In this he was most ably assisted by his secretary, John Rolleston. William’s brother Charles also rallied to his side. In spite of his physical disability Charles was to prove time and time again a brave and courageous cavalryman in the service of his brother and the Royalist cause. As his Lieutenant General he appointed Mountjoy Blount, Earl of Newport. A strange appointment as he was a man with an unimpressive military record and had been implicated in the betrayal of the Army Plot.
After several weeks of quiet and consolidation in the north east William received urgent appeals for help from the Royalists in Yorkshire. The uneasy truce between the Royalists and Parliamentarians had been broken by the Hothams in Hull and by Lord Fairfax who had been appointed governor of the county by Parliament. Lord Fairfax was not a dynamic leader and relied heavily on his son Sir Thomas, who was to prove a most enterprising and aggressive campaigner for Parliament in the region. He was to assume legendary status under his epithet Black Tom. The Fairfaxes found great support in both men and money from the woollen towns of the West Riding of Yorkshire which were their heartland.
The Royalists in Yorkshire were in despair at the inertia of the Earl of Cumberland. William was in a difficult situation. He had no authority to advance into Yorkshire and assume command of the Royalist forces there even though the situation was serious. However, when certain guarantees were made by the Yorkshire Royalists over food and supplies for his army, William made a move and advanced his south in mid November. He had no option as any threat to York would seriously hamper his own supply lines and communications with the south.
His army reportedly consisted of 8000 men ( probably significantly less ) including 2000 cavalry and dragoons together with associated artillery and a supply train which included pontoons for use as temporary bridges. He left a similar sized force behind to garrison his north east counties.
At Piercebridge they met their first resistance when challenged by forces led by Captain Hotham for the bridge over the River Tees. William order 2 of his Durham Regiments to capture the bridge which they did routing Hotham’s men in the process. William marched on to York without further trouble arriving early in December. There he received the keys of the city from the Governor, Sir Thomas Glemham.
Lord Fairfax of Cameron.
After 3 days rest William moved to attack Lord Fairfax who was dug in at Tadcaster. William would lead an attack on Tadcaster from the east and the Earl of Newport, with a force of cavalry and dragoons, was to march on Wetherby that night and wheel round attacking Tadcaster from the west.
Lord Fairfax had expected an attack and planned to reposition his force that morning. The attack came before this could be accomplished and a fierce contest ensued with neither side taking or giving quarter. William was dismayed when the Earl Newport and his force failed to put in appearance as planned.
The battle raged for the bridge over the Wharfe until dusk when William was forced to retire due to lack of ammunition. He sent urgent orders to York for more with the intention of resuming his attack at dawn the next day. However, when they advanced next morning, they found Lord Fairfax and his force had slipped away during the night.
The non appearance of Newport is a mystery and deprived William of inflicting a decisive blow against the Parliamentarians. It is suggested that Newport received a forged letter purporting to be from William giving orders for him to remain where he was until he received further instructions. This may or may not be the case. Newport had shown in the past he was not a man to be trusted and may have had pursuing his own devious agenda.
William moved south setting up his headquarters at Pontefract. From here he was able to split the 2 main areas of Parliamentary support, Hull and the West Riding. Fairfax had repositioned at Selby in the meantime. William ordered Sir William Saville to occupy Leeds and Wakefield which he accomplished without much difficulty. Another force was sent to Newark to assist the Royalists in Lincolnshire.