Category: Ride Ideas (Page 4 of 11)

Short ideas for rides without the detail of a Premium Ride Guide

The Kilpatrick Dahlgren Raid 28 February to 1 March 1864

By early 1864, Lincoln was despairing that he could find no General to prosecute the Union’s war against the South in the eastern theatre. All of his leaders around the Potomac seemed to be frozen with indecision and a fear of failure. Much to his delight, a plan from a junior Cavalry General, H. Judson Kilpatrick, came into his view through Secretary of War Stanton. Kilpatrick knew that his immediate superiors would either poo-poo the idea or steal it as their own, so he approached Lincoln’s administration directly through back channels. Such was the state of the Union military leadership in the east. Kilpatrick was proposing a daring raid into the mouth of the lion to snatch Federal prisoners held in deplorable conditions in Confederate held Richmond. Kilpatrick’s plan suggested more as well. Stanton and Lincoln were attracted by the idea that a raid into Richmond, apart from freeing prisoners, would also serve as a huge propaganda victory. Kilpatrick was summoned to Washington for a private meeting with Stanton and given the go ahead. Kilpatrick’s superior’s were not amused, although they had no choice but to support him as he had the direct support of Lincoln.

Kilpatrick, like many Cavalry officers from the North and South, had dreams of great daring-do, but was known to some peers and subordinates as “KillCavalry” for his reckless behavior. However, many, including Lincoln, believed that more of this type of risk taking was necessary to dislodge a stubborn foe in Virginia. Kilpatrick had no problem attracting another officer of similar ideals, named Colonel Ulric Dahlgren. Dahlgren, the son of a Union Admiral, had made his name in previous engagements, including chasing Lee’s forces out of Maryland after Gettysburg, and lost a leg for his work. Having recovered and sporting a prosthetic leg, Dahlgren was ready for more grandiose riding.

The Kilpatrick Dahlgren Raid

The operation started just before midnight on the night of the 28th of February 1864. They were aided by a diversionary attack further west by General Sedgewick and a Cavalry Brigade commander who probably would have longed to have been involved in the raid. His name was George Armstrong Custer. The diversion drew the Rebels west and cleared a path for Kilpatrick and Dahlgren. Custer was especially effective in drawing the Confederates on a wild goose chase as far away as Charlottesville. Leaving Elys Ford at the Rapidan River, north of Chancellorsville, the The Kilpatrick Dahlgren raid set out at a good cavalry pace and reached Spotsylvania courthouse by leap day, 1864. Here, they split forces with Kilpatrick heading straight into Richmond from the north with 7/8ths of the force. Dahlgren took a wide, westerly path to enter Richmond from the southwest with a force of approximately 500. The idea was to give the impression that the city was being attacked from multiple sides and cause panic long enough to get the prisoners out. If they could destroy a few things in Richmond, all the better.

Kilpatrick continued well through appalling weather of sleet and high winds. Dahlgren met a slave boy to guide him over a ford-able point on the James River and was on time, so was feeling pretty high at this point. Kilpatrick fired flares to see if Dahlgen would respond, but the weather was so bad that the flares could only be seen locally. Both drove on, but Dahlgren soon came to grief as the guide led him to a point at the rain swollen James that they could not ford. Dahlgren was thrown off track and was furious. The boy probably just did not know that the river was that high, but this did not appease Dahlgren. In a fit of rage, Dahlgren hung the boy for treachery. Unable to find a fording point, Dahlgren was stuck and could not complete his mission. Kilpatrick had entered north Richmond by now and encountered a force of old men and clerks, but misread the situation as regular troops. In an uncharacteristic delay, Kilpatrick hesitated whilst he waited for the signal from Dahlgren that the southwest attack was on. The “Dad’s Army” force held on well and long enough for re-enforcements to arrive and drive Kilpatrick off. Kilpatrick now decided to avoid the fate of the prisoners he had come to save, but left Dahlgren in a bind by pulling back. Kilpatrick was harried all the way back to Union lines, but Dahlgren and many of his 500 were to die trying to elude the Confederates.

The The Kilpatrick Dahlgren raid was a failure on the tactical as well as strategic front, but it was to get worse. The Rebels searched Dahlgren’s body and allegedly found orders to destroy Richmond and kill Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. The Union denied the existence of such orders, but the outrage in the South had the opposite effect of the propaganda coup Lincoln had hoped for.

Kilpatrick Dahlgren Raid Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

I call this ride the “Rapidan Return.” It covers the path Kilpatrick took to Richmond and then passes over the James River near Goochland where Dalgren had hoped to cross. It continues on the beautiful VA state routes 6 and 20 to Charlottesville where Custer worked the area. the ride finishes near the battlefield parks of WildernessChancellorsville and Spotsylvania.

Blucher Defeats Napoleon at Battle of Laon 9-10 March 1814

Map Credit:By Gregory Fremont-Barnes (main editor) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon on the run

After defeat in Russia in 1812, Napoleon was being chased by the European Allies across central Europe and into France by early 1814. The Prussian and Russian forces were led by the Prussian Marshal Blucher and were threatening Paris by early 1814. Napoleon was fighting for his very survival.

After several battles on the trot, some won, some lost, Blucher occupied the town of Laon. Laon was strategically important because it was a major communications crossroads near Paris. Holding Laon would give Blucher the logistical base to attack into Paris. Napoleon obviously felt it could not remain held by the enemy. Laon was also a tactical stronghold due to its placement on a plateau with steep slopes for defense.

The Battle of Laon

On the first day of the battle (9th), both sides fought skirmishes for the small towns around Laon. Both sides missed opportunities for exploitation, but the sun set on the Allies holding the town. On the second day (10th), Napoleon decided to try the ploy that had worked at Craonne a few days earlier. Napoleon sent Marshal Auguste Marmont to deliver the flank attack. Blucher saw what was happening and threw a decisive counter-attack at Marmont and nearly annihilated his forces were it not for an exceptional defense by a small number of the Old Guard. The battle continued, but Napoleon could not dislodge Blucher from Laon and decided to retire.

The loss at the Battle of Laon was not the end of Napoleon in France, but Blucher and the Allies were tightening the ring around Paris and the Battle of Laon would provide an important link.

Battle of Laon Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out the wooded circular route on the “D” roads south of Laon. If you are looking for more rides in the area, try the Battle of Neuve Chapelle ride to the north of the Battle of Laon.

Patriots Take Dorchester Heights Over Boston 4-5 March 1776

British Boston in the Revolutionary War

In early 1776, the American colonists were trying hard to limit the area in which British forces, based in Boston, could operate. As long as the British could retreat to the safety of Boston and its harbor, General George Washington would not be able to control the eastern end of Massachusetts. From Boston, British General Howe could re-supply from the sea and conduct operations with Boston as a base. In fact, Howe had taken nearby Bunker Hill (albeit with heavy losses) and was planning more of these types of operations in early March 1776.

Henry Knox and the Guns of Fort Ticonderoga

Washington knew bold, unexpected and decisive action was needed to disrupt Howe’s plans. In Late 1775, Washington had dispatched Artillery Colonel Henry Knox to Fort Ticonderoga, a British garrison captured by the Green Mountain Boys with Benedict Arnold tagging along, to bring the impressive array of artillery to Boston as soon as possible. Washington had probably expected it in late Spring, but the big man Knox drove his oxen and men hard over the lakes, rivers and frozen terrain of New England to get the 44 guns, 14 mortars and one howitzer to the outskirts of Boston by early February 1776. Knowing good fortune when he saw it, Washington wanted to take aggressive action immediately. Washington wanted to conduct a daring cross Charles River attack from Cambridge, but his council of war thought it too risky. Washington’s leaders agreed on the decisive action, but wanted to do it without significant risks to their small and largely untested militias. The compromise was to take aggressive action on Dorchester Heights which overlook Boston from the southeast.

Taking Dorchester Heights

On the 2nd and 3rd of March 1776, the Patriots fired the Knox artillery on the British in Boston and the Brits returned the favor. Washington had prepared a river crossing unit to the west of Boston to provide relief, if Howe tried to break out and disrupt the Dorchester Heights plan, although it seemed as if he had no idea what was going on. Whilst the artillery dueled, heavy, but transportable, fortifications were being fabricated down the hill. On the night of 4 March 1776, General Artemas Ward’s forces used an old ploy of Washington’s and put straw on the wheels of his wagons’ wheels to move quietly and began occupying Dorchester Heights from neighboring Roxbury. With a mammoth effort and 300 ox carts of material moved up the hill, the rebels had constructed 4 works on the heights and the flanks. By daylight on the 5 March, General Howe awoke to incomplete, but substantial works on the southeastern hills overlooking the harbor and the city. Howe was reported as saying, “The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month.”

The British Admiral Molyneaux Shulddown informed Howe that he could not maintain his ships in the harbor with such a threat. In the following days, Howe planned a quick counter-attack, but bad weather or a bout of under confidence or both made him quit Boston. By 17 March, in agreement with Washington not to destroy Boston if allowed to leave unmolested, the British had left Boston on ships for Halifax, Nova Scotia. They would be back, but for now Boston was in the Patriots hands and the radicals of the American colonies had a lot to crow about.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Try Massachusetts state route 3A (MA-SR-3A) from Dorchester Heights down to Plymouth where the colony began.

Benedict Arnold Fort Ticonderoga 10 May 1775

Fort Ticonderoga

In the early morning hours of May 10th, 1775, a guerrilla force from the New Hampshire Grants area (present day Vermont) with a vainglorious co-leader crossed Lake Champlain into New York and took the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga whilst they slept.

Three weeks after Lexington and Concord and on the very day that the Second Continental Congress was to meet in Philadelphia, Ethan Allen (with his brother, Ira, and his cousin, Seth Warner) led the “Green Mountain Boys” from Hands Cove on the eastern side of Lake Champlain to a landing point near Fort Ticonderoga. They had a fellow traveller who tried to assert his control over the party, but seeing him commanding only his own person at the time, the rough Green Mountain Boys decided to only allow the poppinjay to travel as co-leader. His name was Benedict Arnold.

At the time, Ethan Allen was wanted by the New York authorities for offenses committed in the New Hampshire Grants (Vermont) against New York settlers. The NH Grants area was claimed by three colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York) and would soon become an independent Republic in 1777 before joining the United States as the fourteenth. Allen and his Boys had responded to an approach from concerned citizens about the safety of the Lake Champlain corridor from British penetration. The fort at Ticonderoga, on the western shore of Lake Champlain, was the obvious place to secure against this type of incursion, so the band of mountaineers set sights on Hands Cove as a jumping off point. Benedict Arnold was from Rhode Island, late of Connecticut, but applied to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to secure the fort as well. Given permission, but no men, the ever confident Arnold set out for Hands Cove as well.

Benedict Arnold Fort Ticonderoga

After meeting in Hands Cove, Arnold (Mass. Committee of Safety papers in hand) presented himself as the new leader of the New Hampshire grantsmen. One can imagine the chuckles the mountain men suppressed as they listened to the city boy make his claim. Whether Arnold convinced them to let him become co-leader or if they tolerated him like the village idiot who claims to be Napoleon, no one will know (yes, I know Napoleoon was 5 at the time, but the analogy still works). Either way, the future traitor was on the boat to Ticonderoga that morning.

After landing, the force quietly made their way up to the fort and overtook the only sentry. They then proceeded to enter the fort which was really nothing more than a fortified hamlet of 2 officers, 48 men and 24 women and children. Finding all of the fort asleep, Allen announced his presence and his authority and demanded surrender which was quickly forthcoming. Allen sent Warner further north up the lake to take the fort at Crown Point as well. Arnold, not to be outdone, went all the way to Canada to occupy Fort Saint Johns at the intersection of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. Perhaps, realising his invitation of a rout by British forces, Arnold thought twice and left the area. Allen took it anyway, but was run off soon thereafter.

As one can easily read, the action on 10 May 1775 was not really all that important tactically and its strategic importance geographically at the time was questionable. However, I have left out one important detail of strategic importance. Fort Ticonderoga, as frail as it was, housed a large cache of reasonably modern artillery consisting of 44 guns, 14 mortars and one howitzer. The infant Continental Army was woefully short of artillery and these pieces would begin to play a decisive role less than a year later at the Dorchester Heights above Boston when used to lay siege to the cooped up British Army and Navy.

As for the main players, Allen was later captured by the British in Quebec and sent to a Cornish prison. The British army were to run into Seth Warner and the Green Mountain Boys again near Bennington, Vermont in 1777 and lose again. Fort Ticonderoga was still to play a major role in the war as British General Burgoyne took it back in 1777 and used it as a base to attack further south in his disastrous New York campaign. As for Benedict Arnold… after a vain, but generally well-regarded stint as an American commander, he became the one name that all American school children learn when being taught about loyalty to the nation.

Benedict Arnold Fort Ticonderoga Ride Recommendation

Lake Champlain is really quite striking and it is easy to travel its length largely in eye-shot of it. Its importance to the founding wars of the USA cannot be understated.
Start at the Hands Cove Road in Vermont to see the launch area and go to the Larrabees Point ferry for a short ride across the lake with Fort Ticonderoga in view. Visit the Fort, then head north on NY Route 9N to Crown Point Historical Park and across the bridge into Vermont and the Chimney Point Historical Park. From there head north following Lake Champlain from the Vermont side and through the Grand Isle and Hero Islands, across the Canadian border into Quebec to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (site of the former Fort St Johns). Don’t forget the passport! Google Map of the route.

Second Battle of Winchester 13-15 June 1863

The Second Battle of Winchester

Before Gettysburg came the preparation of the route north. After the victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee decided to move north to secure provisions for his increasingly ragged troops. As well as this practical matter, Lee hoped the move would encourage the peace activists of the north by threatening Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia from the west. Whilst encamped in Culpeper, Virginia with his infantry (LG Richard Ewell’s and Longstreet’s two Corps), Lee’s cavalry under J.E.B. Stuart met a large Federal Cavalry force led by Alfred Pleasanton near Brandy Station on 9 June 1863. This ended up being the largest cavalry battle of the entire war. It ended in a tactical draw, but had two significant outcomes. First, Stuart was successful in screening Lee’s force in Culpeper and the Union left the field not knowing where Lee was, but suspected he was amassing a large army on its doorstep. Second, the aggressive fighting of the Federal cavalry marked the end of Stuart’s domination of the cavalry field in the eastern theatre. The legend of the southern cavalry had been broken by excellent cavalry leaders, such as John Buford. Regardless of who won at Brandy Station, Lee’s army was still in Northern Virginia and on the move northward with determination to cause havoc.

Lee sent Ewell’s II Corps to clear the Winchester area of the Shenandoah Valley of known Union emplacements there. This was to be the route north and Lee wanted nothing slowing him down when he began his big gamble. The Union forces at Winchester were commanded by BG Robert Milroy and were significantly smaller than Ewell’s numbers. The emplacements were made up of the the “Star” fort to the west of Winchester and the main fort in the town itself. Because of the general havoc created by the advancing Confederates and the Union’s shallow numbers, Milroy had been ordered to withdrawal from Winchester to Harpers Ferry. However, after skirmishing all around Winchester on the 13th, Milroy decided to try to hold the town. This decision would later get him relieved of command, but the Confederates would relieve him of many of this troops before then.

On the 14th of June, Ewell began in earnest by sending Jubal Early’s Division to take the Star Fort during the day and increasing pressure on the main fort into the evening. As the Confederates closed on Winchester, Milroy was starting to think better of his option of withdrawal. After a quick counsel of war, he decided to retreat to the north. However, Ewell had anticipated this and sent Edward “Allegheny” Johnson’s division to cut him off. Johnson’s forces met Milroy’s retreat in the early morning hours of the 15th at Stephenson’s Depot on the Harpers Ferry road to the north of Winchester. Johnson created chaos around the Federals and Milroy’s command collapsed in panic. Milroy and some of his cavalry got away, but virtually all of the remaining infantry were killed or captured along with a great number of artillery, horses and supplies. By the morning of the 15th, all that was left was to mop up the stragglers.

The road was now clear for Lee to march northward with the mountains and Stuart’s cavalry as a screen. Gettysburg and destiny awaited.

Second Battle of Winchester Ride Recommendation

I’m writing about the Second Battle of Winchester, because I never miss a chance to recommend a ride in the Shenandoah Valley, especially any part of the Skyline Drive. I’ve also included some lesser known roads in West Virginia that are worth the ride. The Skyline Drive ends near Front Royal which is where Ewell staged from before the Second Battle of Winchester.

Map Credit:By U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901. (U.S. War Department,) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cromwell Delivers at Battle of Naseby 14 June 1645

If there is one obvious point in the English Civil War where Oliver Cromwell’s star emerged from mere cavalry commander to driving force in the New Model Army, the Battle of Naseby may be it. Cromwell convinced his commander, Fairfax, to move to an adjacent, more neutral hill, so as to encourage the Royalists to attack. Cromwell was so confident that he wanted to goad the Royalists, especially Prince Rupert, into a fight by giving them a better chance. That level of confidence was not misplaced. Cromwell’s actions, as well as the actions of Prince Rupert, were to confirm their reputations. Rupert was the European shock trooper with élan and Cromwell was the disciplined English soldier and stern Puritan. At Naseby, both armies put forward their “A” teams with Prince Rupert, Prince Maurice and the King himself present on the Royal side. Fairfax, Cromwell and Skippon led the Parliamentarian’s New Model Army. There would be no denying the superior force after Naseby.

The Battle of Naseby

Although the King was present, Rupert commanded the Royal lines. Rupert’s plan was to crush the Roundhead left with his signature cavalry charge, which he would lead with Prince Maurice, and then cross behind the Roundhead (Parliamentary forces) centre to turn Cromwell’s flank. All of this was to happen as the Royalist infantry tied down the middle with a quick and unannounced push (i.e. no artillery preparation). Cromwell was supposed to be kept in check by Langdale’s cavalry and a rough ground of rabbit warrens and heavy gorse. The first part went well as Roundhead Ireton’s cavalry (the Parliamentarian left) was beaten from the field. However, Rupert’s cavalry did not cross behind the New Model Army’s infantry centre, either due to battlefield congestion (the New Model Army infantry reserve?) or through their excessive exuberance. Eventually, Rupert’s cavalry ended up in the Parliamentarian rear attacking the baggage trains. One might say it was unplanned, but one must ignore Rupert’s previous actions to call it unlikely. The Royalist infantry held more than their own and actually worked through the New Model Army’s infantry, only to find the reserve behind the ridge.

Disaster for the King’s Forces

The Battle of Naseby was an unmitigated disaster for the King. Virtually all of his northern infantry was captured or killed. He could never recover from the loss of such a force this late in the war. The war would drag on, but the cause was militarily lost on those Northamptonshire fields. Unfortunately for the Royalists, Cromwell also performed to stereotype. After working through the rough ground on the Royalist left, Cromwell attacked and dispersed Langdale’s cavalry. Then Cromwell worked over the Lifeguard who had come to the aid of the cavalry only to join the flight. However, rather than pursue the Royalist cavalry off the field, Cromwell held a blocking position as his cavalry reserve completed the encirclement of virtually the entire Royalist infantry. The King watched the whole thing unfold. He and Rupert tried to rally his cavalry for a counter attack, but thought better of it as he watched his infantry surrender. To add insult to injury, Cromwell’s cavalry harried them all the way to Leicester.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Try this ride to and from Northampton that criss-crosses the battlefield north of the village Naseby. There are two major monuments on these roads with the main one, due north of Naseby on the Sibbertoft Road, giving a sweeping view of the battlefield and an interpretative board.

Battle of Chalgrove 18 June 1643

In the English Civil War, the Battle of Chalgrove is famous mainly because one of Parliament’s main political figures, Colonel John Hampden, was wounded in the action and died days later. Hampden was one of the “Five Members” that the King had tried to arrest in Parliament, setting off the war.

The action itself was little more than a skirmish, but brings out the differences between the two armies at this stage of the war. Royalist cavalry commander Prince Rupert was establishing his reputation as a leader of great daring. Rupert was also using newer cavalry tactics that relied on the shock of rapid and decisive action with horse, whereas the Parliamentarians were still relying on firepower and tighter formations with their horse.

The Battle of Chalgrove

Prince Rupert had surprised several Parliamentary encampments in the area around Chalgrove overnight and in the early morning. As part of this action, the main body of Parliamentarians had been alerted to Rupert’s presence in the area due to his flaming of the village of Chinnor. The Parliamentarians set to finding Rupert and cutting him off from the safety of Oxford. Rupert, realizing that he was being trailed, sent his infantry to secure the bridge at Chislehampton and place his dragoons along the escape route, then turned to face the music with his cavalry. As the Roundheads aligned for battle, Rupert feigned a retreat which enticed the Parliamentarians into a chase. However, Rupert spun his forces around and leapt a hedge to take to the attack. The Parliamentary cavalry got off quite a few shots and Rupert’s forces took a significant number of casualties. However, in the melee, Hampden was mortally wounded and the shock of the action drove the the Roundheads from the field.

Prince Rupert

Rupert’s actions at the Battle of Chalgrove were characteristic of him and this time of the war for the Royalists. The Royalists had fought in skirmishes and at least one set piece battle at this point in the war and were coming off as the better force in several of the engagements. Rupert’s cavalry were showing themselves to be of continental calibre in cavalry actions and this confidence was leading Rupert to push for an early and final assault on London to end the war. The young man did not get his wish, but maybe he should have for the sake of the Royalists’ cause. Marston Moor, far away from London, Oxford, and their Royalist support, was to come the following summer.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

This map runs to the actual battlefield and then takes a run at some of the better roads in the area. H-Cafe (former location of Fox’s Diner), near the Berinsfield Roundabout on the A4074, is the local biker hang out. Ordnance Survey Landranger 164 is a good map of the area.

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge 29 June 1644

Just three days before the disaster of Marston Moor for the Royalists, King Charles I himself directed a rebuff to a prowling Parliamentary army under William Waller at the Battle Cropredy Bridge, near Banbury.

Waller had been observing the King’s movements for some time when he spotted an opportunity to strike over the River Cherwell near the present day Oxford Canal as it passes through the village of Cropredy. The King had allowed a gaping hole to develop between his lead / centre elements which were near Hays Bridge and his rear which was more than a mile behind. Seeing his chance to bite off a whole chunk of the King’s rear end, Waller pounced.

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge

Waller sent Lieutenant General Middleton’s cavalry (including Battlefield Biker favorite, Haselrige’s “lobsters”) to make contact with the King’s rear. This was a raging success, but as so often happened with successful cavalry charges of the time, the pursuit went too far. The Royalist rear guard commander, the Earl of Cleveland, took the opportunity to wade into the Parliamentary foot and guns which had been left behind by Middleton at Cropredy Bridge. Middleton’s cavalry realized what had happened and returned to scatter Cleveland’s cavalry, but not until after they captured the Roundhead guns and their commander Colonel Wemyss (unfortunate name for an artillery commander). Cleveland did not get all of his own way in Middleton’s absence as the Roundhead infantry stood their ground, crucially keeping Cropredy Bridge.

In the meantime, Waller with cavalry crossed the Slat Mill ford and attacked uphill near Williamscott and was promptly sent packing by the Earl of Northampton’s cavalry. Waller decided that discretion was the better part of valor and retired to Bourton Hill to over-watch continuing skirmishes around the bridge. Finally, the result was Parliamentary forces staring down the King’s forces from Cropredy Bridge for the better part of two days. The King stole away when he learned of re-enforcements coming to Waller.

The Battle of Cropredy Bridge was a Lost Parliamentary Opportunity

Although a tactical stalemate, at the Battle of Cropredy Bridge the King kept most of his Oxford army to fight another day and Waller’s opportunity to hurt Charles significantly was lost as Waller’s army disintegrated with mutiny and desertion soon thereafter.

Ride Recommendation

This ride rides takes in battlefield area around the eponymous town and bridge and then opens up into some great A roads to Daventry, Southam and Banbury. Finally, I’ve included a short finish on the farm lanes around the older battlefield of Edgcote, where a major battle of the War of the Roses was fought.

Use Ordnance Survey Landranger 151. The battlefield is centred on SP 477460. If using a road map, the battlefield is located east and northeast of Cropredy Bridge.

Hopton Takes Waller at the Battle of Lansdown Hill 5 July 1643

In the English Civil War, the Royalists had been gathering strength throughout the west in early 1643, but there were still several Parliamentary strong points that needed to be neutralized, before the Royalist rear would be secure enough to mount an all out assault on London. With this aim, Sir Ralph Hopton set out to draw his old friend William Waller out to battle, so that the Royalists could take the Parliamentary town of Bath. The two met north of Bath on Lansdown Hill.

Battle of Lansdown Hill

Waller had had time to prepare, so had used the existing Saxon-times quarry pits and embellished them into a formidable network of trenches and gun emplacements. Seeing Waller on top of a nearly impregnable position, Hopton thought better of the situation and retreated in good order. However, Waller wasn’t having it and sent a substantial amount of cavalry down the hill to maul the Royalists as they retreated. The Parliamentary cavalry did a good job and almost broke the retreat, but Hopton held on and rallied his forces to reverse the attack and flank the attacking cavalry some ways back up the hill.

With their blood up, Hopton’s infantry made their way up the hill and eventually took over the crest from Waller’s infantry. Unusually, Hopton had sent the infantry up the hill to protect the cavalry flanks, but his cavalry had been pushed back and the infantry had to carry the attack. Hopton lost one of his troops’ most beloved leaders in the melee, in Sir Bevill Grenvile. The Royalists now held the breastworks on top of the hill but could not really secure their flanks and were running low on ammunition. Waller’s troops had reformed behind a stone wall about 400 yards south on the plateau. With darkness falling, neither side had the strength to close the battle.

Neither side had won a decisive victory. The Royalists had taken a tactical stronghold from the Parliamentarians by force, but they had lost their ability to threaten Bath, so strategically it had hurt them.

Battle of Lansdown Hill Ride Recommendation

This ride really comes into its own when all of the steep, curvy farm tracks are taken around the battlefield itself. Note, try to avoid Bath during heavy traffic and watch the debris on the farm tracks around the battlefield. It finishes off with a scoot over to the next (chronologically) battlefield of Roundway Down.

Use Ordnance Survey Landranger 172. The battlefield is centered on ST 723703. If using a road map, the battlefield is located north of Bath, near the racecourse.

Battle of Emuckfau Creek and Enitachopco 22-24 January 1814

The War of 1812 coincided with an uprising amongst part of the Creek Indian nation that was rebelling against the U.S. governments attempts to “civilize” them. For the “volunteers” of Tennessee, including future President Andrew Jackson, the majority of the War of 1812 was spent fighting Indians and not the British.

In 1811, Tecumseh of the Shawnee, visited the distant cousin Creek and encouraged rebellion against the white man’s ways. The tribe split over whether to follow their ancient ways or throw in their lots with the white man. Those for integration with the USA were called “White Sticks” and those who favored fighting were called “Red Sticks.” This Creek civil war was destined to go beyond the nation and did soon enough with a slaughter of over 250 whites / mixed raced Creeks near Mobile, Alabama in August 1813. This caused the predictable call for retribution and U.S. military action. Enter “Old Hickory” Jackson and his Tennessee Volunteers.

In late 1813, Jackson entered Alabama and set up a supply post (Fort Deposit)and a forward post on the Coosa river(Fort Strother) in northern Alabama and began operations against the Creek. Almost from the start, Jackson was beset with mutinous Tennesseans who felt that time spent back in Tennessee counted as part of their enlistment, whilst Jackson felt it did not. Many Tennesseans left, but Jackson pushed on with what was left of his force and a couple of green Regiments that had just arrived from west Tennessee.

Battle of Emuckfau Creek

Being Old Hickory meant doing hard things anyway, so Jackson set off for the known Creek encampment at Emuckfau / Emuckfaw Creek. He camped within hearshot of the encampment on 21 January 1814 and sent out patrols to find them. The patrols reported that not only did they find them, the Creeks knew of them too. At daybreak the next day, the Creek attacked front and rear, but were thrown back. Jackson counter-attacked and killed a good many. He then wanted to take the initiative and destroy their base. Jackson sent his old friend, General John Coffey, to root out the Creek base on Embuckfau Creek. Coffey went forth, but found the place too well defended and retired. Once Coffey returned, the Creeks attacked Jackson again with a feign on one side and a main attack on the other. Once again, the Creeks were thrown back, but Jackson was in trouble with bloodied, green troops in “Indian Country” with little back up. Jackson felt he need to retire and re-enforce at Fort Strother.

On his way out of the area, Jackson camped on Enitachopco Creek on the 23rd and fixed fortifications, knowing that another attack was likely. Luckily, they got a quiet night and they headed out in the morning. The quiet was not to last. Not long on the trail, they began crossing Enitachopco Creek and the rear guard was put to the run by the Creek attack. The panic spread and a meltdown was looking likely, but Jackson managed to pull together enough to fend off the attack with even his Nashville artillerymen fighting hand-to-hand. Eventually the tide turned with more of the lead elements re-crossing the creek to take part. The Creek warriors began to slip and finally decided getting away from Old Hickory was better than dying in place.

Jackson had the upper hand in both engagements, eventually, but had found out how hard it was going to be to fight in this nearly unsupportable backwater of eastern Alabama.

Motorcycle Ride

Try this ride which encompasses both battle sites at the two creeks.

Photo Credit: By US National Park Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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