|Terrain map of Clysedale Battlefield. Royalists deploy in the North.|
Monday, June 17, 2013
General Leopold Anders sighed with relief, at last after days of bickering making plans, scraping them and then remaking plans were past and he was now finally on his way to fight the French.
It had been many years since he had tangled with the French in the Low Countries but he relished the opportunity now, more so since they were now here in England and were about to attack his capital.
It had never been part of his plan to defend London by sitting and waiting behind fortifications, the city was too big and there were quite simply too many mouths to feed in case of a siege, nor did he have the numbers for an adequate defense of the great city if attacked from several directions simultaneously as it would surely happen. From the moment he had assumed command of all the Royalist Armies in England his intention was to defend London by attacking one of the two enemy armies threatening the city, the only issue was which one.
To north of London in the Royston area was a large Confederation force under command of Lord Ashley, for the moment opposing it were the Royalist forces under General Preston and Leopold's nephew General James Anders, their army however was only half the size of the enemy; thus the prospects of them preventing Lord Ashley from breaking through was very limited. At best they should be able to delay them for a limited time.
To the South east of London concentrated in the Maidstone area was the French Army under Chevalier Busset It was this force that worried General Leopold the most, the only reason the French had not advanced he presumed was that Leopold’s own army waited in London. However over the last few weeks the Kings spymaster Brother Paul had intercepted messages between the two enemy armies and the correspondence seemed to indicate a joint attack was likely within the next week or so.
A joint attack would be fatal for the Royalists, General Preston would hold only for a short time and London was to large an area to defend adequately with the forces under Leopold's direct command, an added burden would be the reaction to the London populace if a Confederation army were to attack the city. There was no doubt the city was fiercely loyal to the Royalist cause, but fear and desperation would add an uncertain element to the mix that General Leopold did not even want to contemplate should a panic or riots occur.
So after much contemplating the issue of what was the best action to be taken, the decision was taken out of their hands by the Confederate High command. Yesterday Royalist scouts and spies all reported back that both Confederation armies were beginning to bring in their respective foragers and piquets, clearly an attack on London was imminent.
General Leopold Anders had already decided on his reaction, he had scouted the south eastern approaches to London and had decided where he would meet the French, and now the enemy advance was imminent he ordered his army to move south East. He sent instructions to General Preston that he was to hold for as long as possible then fall back on the northern outskirts of London, there he would be reinforced by the untrained levies of the London Militia.
Just hours before his army marched he received devastating news, the Confederation army under General Saunders that had been facing the Royalist Lyndhurst Army had marched away and had gained at least a days march on the now pursuing Royalists, the scouts reported that the force under General Saunders was only a days march perhaps less away from joining the French. This now meant his own army was seriously out numbered but with no other options available they would have to make do.
He sent instructions to the pursuing Royalists that rather than joining him they were to march north and reinforce General Preston.
General Anders also received some welcome good news, the Royalist force now occupying Confederation city of Southampton had been reinforced by 3 Militia Battalions sent from the Duke of Cornwall, he immediately issued orders that the Southampton Army of 4 Regular Battalions and 1 Cavalry Regiment would advance on the French supply base at Maidstone, that advance however would take a few days to organise as they had no baggage train to speak off. The orders for the Southampton force stipulated that should they be opposed by a greater force they should fall back on Southampton, if not they were to attack and destroy the French/Confederation base around Maidstone.
So with all chaos and uncertainty that ensured around his Headquarters General Anders was greatly relieved that he was now out in the field commanding armies rather than pandering to all those who considered rightly or wrongly they had a voice in his considerations, the die was cast and he would see how it lands.
The French Army
Chevalier Busset was extremely concerned about the vulnerability of his couriers, he was quite aware that a number of them had failed to reach their destinations, fortunately he had taken the precaution of sending other couriers with duplicate messages by alternative routes; but that required time and timing was crucial to his plans.
The intention was that Lord Ashley and his own armies would launch their attacks simultaneously next Wednesday but he had not yet received confirmation from Lord Ashley as to whether he had received the messages, or if his reply had been intercepted as well.
So in the absence of any certainty he decided he would have to act on his own and hope Lord Ashley was doing the same.
He had received a report from the Confederation Lyndhurst contingent that they were less than twelve hours march from him, a little disturbing was that the Royalist Army from Lyndhurst was a days march behind. Chevalier Busset realised that he had a day in which to break the Royalist army in London otherwise he risked being attacked in his rear or flank. However a days battle should be enough, then he could deal with the Royal Lyndhurst army at his leisure, as long as Lord Ashley was acting as he was supposed too.
Lord Ashley's Army
Lord Ashley was somewhat confused by the messages he had received so far, on Sunday evening a courier arrived with a message confirming that the attack was to start on Wednesday this week (It being Sunday when the message was received), he had sent the courier back with confirmation but had heard nothing since, then Monday a second courier arrived stating the attack had been delayed for a week until next Sunday, he again sent the courier back for confirmation but with no reply. He was now left wondering was the attack on Wednesday or the following Sunday.
Lord Ashley did consider one of these messages could be a fake but which one, his error had been to send the replies back via the same couriers, if he had kept them with his headquarters he could have question them more closely now. Easy to be wise after the event he told himself, the problem was now on which day was he to launch the attack. If he launched his attack to soon he could very well be walking into a trap, to late and Chevalier Busset could face the full force of the Royalist defense on his own.
He considered his options and decided that with the French and Lyndhurst contingents combined even if Busset launched his attack on Wednesday he should still have the numbers to deal with the Royalists defending London. However if Lord Ashley attacked on Wednesday and Busset was not expecting him to move before Sunday then he could face the combined Royalist Force in Royston and the London Army, in which case he would almost be certainly be destroyed.
So meanwhile he would send yet another courier and wait, if necessary until Sunday but hopefully the courier would arrive back before Wednesday in case of an earlier attack.
General Anders marched his army out of London very early on Tuesday morning, his destination a small village called Clydesdale, it was nestled behind the Brewery River had offered the best opportunity to meet the French in a defensive battle. He hoped he would have a day or so in the area to prepare the defenses for his army.
King James and Queen Margret were on the balcony of Whitehall palace as the Guard marched out, the King had spent a fruitless day arguing with General Anders and the Prime Minister that as King his rightful place was with his army, but the Prime Minister and General won the day, the risk of either losing the King in battle or having the King flee with a defeated army would have catastrophic consequences for the Royalist cause, finally the King agreed that he would share the fate of his people and wait.
General Anders would be defending with 8 Regular Line Battalions , 2 Light Battalions (700 each)and 2 Guard Infantry Battalions (1000 each) (Veteran)
He would also have 2 Guard Dragoon regiments (800 each) (Veteran) and 4 artillery batteries 2 of which were 12 pdr batteries).
The increase in artillery of the extra battery was a risk as it totally denuded the Militia levies in London of all artillery, but General Anders considered the numbers against him and realised it was a risk worth taking.
In total his army counted 11,800 men, they all arrived around Clydesdale village late Tuesday night, the positions of the units already having been pegged out the units took up positions reasonably quickly.
Next day his army set about preparing the defenses, late Wednesday afternoon they were informed the enemy army were only hours away from Clydesdale.
The Chevalier started marching his army on Tuesday Morning, the journey from Maidstone to London was direct and not at all arduous, so his army should arrive near London quiet fresh and ready for battle.
However late Tuesday evening during his briefing with his fellow officers he received reports of a Royalist force in the area of Clydesdale, a small hamlet that sat astride the road to London, as the morning progressed it became apparent that the Royalist General Anders had decided to take his army out of London and risk a battle in the open.
The English officers that rode with the Chevalier advised him that the area around Clydesdale was a very good defensive position, It had a mix of thick hedges, small hamlets, several thick dense woods, all of which no doubt Anders were use to his full advantage.
Wednesday morning brought news from the scouts, overnight the Royalist force that had been following the Lyndhurst Confederation force as it made its way to join the French Army had turned north and was heading to London. It just didn't make sense, why would Anders turn away a force that would have given him some parity with the French unless his needs were greater else where.
Busset smiled to himself as the conclusion dawned on him, it was obvious, that Lord Ashley was advancing. The Royalists realised that the small covering force to the north of London was inadequate to stop him, hence the reinforcements rushing north to join them.
Chevalier Busset now felt much relieved, with the Royalists foolishly diverting such a large percentage of their strength in a futile attempt to save London from the Northern attack, they had inadvertently increased the dangers of their defeat in the south.
Chevaliers Army now consisted of (15,900 men)
15 Regular Infantry Battalions (8 French, 7 Confederate)
2 Veteran Battalions (French)
4 Cavalry Regiments
4 artillery Batteries
Royalist Army North of London
General Preston and his new second in command General James Anders made an instant connection when they met, both men were young and keen, where General Preston had the practical experience of battle, James Anders (Cousin to the King and son of the Prime Minister) had a intuitive skill for reading situations.
The situation for the Northern Royalist Army was precarious, their army was down to 7 Regular Battalions, 4 Cavalry regiments and 2.5 Batteries of artillery. Their whole force numbering some
7,763 men. Opposing them Lord Ashley 14 Battalions, 2 Cavalry regiments and 4.5 artillery Batteries altogether some 11,486 men with another 1400 cavalry men (2 Regiments) due to join them within the next day or so.
General Preston kept his army in the area of the previous Royston Battle which had been fought there a month or so earlier. Then the Royalists had gained a very marginal victory but in doing so had suffered heavy losses, though the Confederate army had suffered as well their losses were not as significant as those of the Royalist army, they were also about to be reinforced by two Carabineer Regiments which would give Lord Ashley's army cavalry parity.
General Preston could not understand why the Confederates had not attacked before now, that was until James told him of the work of the Kings spymaster and how through interceptions of Confederate couriers and sending on false messages was causing considerable confusion in the Confederation High Command.
Yesterday they had received a courier from General Leopold Anders the Royalist Commander in Chief, he was sending them some reinforcements 7 Battalions of Infantry 5,539 men which would double their current strength.
The main problem was the reinforcements were several days away and no one knew when Lord Ashley would move, they knew it would be seen because spies and scouts had reported that the confederates were forming their baggage train and drawing in supplies. So the question was which would arrive first, the Confederates or the reinforcements.
The first battle to be fought in what was to become collectively known as the Battles for London were fought to the south of London at Clydesdale.