Although Friday's weather was hot & humid for set-up and siege defense construction, Saturday proved to be cool & overcast - good English weather!
While pre-registration listed 80+, nearly every unit had last minute logistical problems (mainly with their mechanical baggage trains), resulting in 60+ participants, from soldiers to Sutlers, attending this first annual siege. We thank those hardy souls for making it a success!
The King's forces, consisted of the King's Lifeguard of Foot under Capt. Fox, and Prince Rupert's "Blewcoates" from the North (NJ) under Lt. Frye, and South (FL) under by Capt. Kunze. Capt. Fox was overall commander, with Lt. Frye as adjutant.
The Parliamentarians consisted of a grey-coated unit (Swedish Lifeguard) under Capt. Norberg (who was also overall commander), the Earl of Essex Regiment of Foot under Sgt. Leitzell (a.k.a. "the Pumpkin King"), some black-coated artillery with a couple of guards (Blackwells) under Master Barratt, plus a couple remnants of Lloyde's New Model Regiment.
The siege tactical used various 'incidents' as developed by the Marshals (civilian judges) as orders and events from an entire siege, but which occurred every hour for each side. This made for some interesting events, and the Marshals (Paul Burke & Joe Burgess) are to be complimented on this.
Friday night's re-enactment was highlighted by the distant skies aglow from lightning of a far off storm as Parliament assaulted Fort Beacon. After much stubborn fighting, the fort was taken along with some black-coated artillery crews and musketoon guards who were convinced to side with Parliament for the remainder of the siege, as the Royalists retreated back to the King's Skonce.
With their newly captured guns, plus additional artillery, Parliament then began a bombardment of the King's Skonce where the Royalists were determined to make a last stand before the gates of Newark.
Amidst the exploding mortar granadoes causing more fear than casualties, a lucky hit was done to the wooden watchtower in the skonce, quickly engulfing it in flames. The rebel advance on the King's Skonce that followed was backlit by the lightning. This effect was quite a sight to behold, showing that in truth Parliament's men were devils from Hell! Even with granadoes exploding and lead whizzing past, the colours of Rupert's "Blewcoates" were kept defiantly flourishing against the backdrop of the flaming tower, regardless of how many ensigns were killed in the process.
The assault failed, mainly due to the work of the Royalist artillery, especially a brass 4-pder. A truce was then called for the night and accepted by all.
Saturday the siege began in earnest. Initial attempt at a full assault went to the Royalists as they received temporary reinforcements. Capt. Fox immediately ordered Lt. Frye to lead an assault on Fort Beacon. Three determined charges were made but failed. Upon retiring back to the King's Skonce, Capt. Fox rallied the men asking "Will you go again for your King?" It was the usual Royalist 'Never Say Die' motto that caused the men, though tired from previous pushes, to rally at their commander's word with a cheer for the King and Prince Rupert. Lt. Frye was again ordered forward.
Nearing Fort Beacon, the Parliamentarian commander, Capt. Norberg, led out a Forlorn Hope of muskets in an attempt to stop the Royalists before they could reach them. Surprised at the speed which the Royalists closed, the Rebels were completely routed after only two volleys, causing their commander to consider clawing his way up the outer wall of Fort Beacon, but due to his build, not to mention the closeness of a half-score of Royalist pikemen all vying to be his proctologist, he decided against an attempt on scaling the wall.
Before he retired after his routing muskets Capt. Norberg waved his hat in mockery, then quickly moved his ample frame with such speed that it caused those watching to stop and stare in amazement. From witnesses at the King's Skonce, it was reported that, "never in the annals of living history, has so much girth, moved so fast, over so much ground, so quickly!"
This renewed assault was the 'straw that broke Parliament's back', where after a series of determined charges and severe fighting, the Royalist pikemen pushed the Roundheads out, and Fort Beacon was taken.
The sight of these brave soldiers following their officers into the breach, was quite a thrill to behold to all watching from the King's Skonce, and inspired one witness to pen the following:
Up Went the Red and Blewecoates,Fort Beacon was soon abandoned, however, as more enemy forces were approaching, but the Royalists had proven once again that they could carry any Parliamentarian defenses. Royalist morale and elan was even higher than normal as they withdrew to the King's Skonce.
At one point Capt. Fox was taken ill due to tainted cheese, since a rat was found amongst the supplies, and command fell to the adjutant-commander, Lt. Frye. It was learned soon after that Lt. Frye was granted a Lordship, upon hearing of the death of his father, to which he ordered "Hence forth I am to be addressed only as Lord Frye, and woe betide those who do not call me as such."
Shortly thereafter Parliament hatched an evil scheme of an ambuscade for the Royalist commander. Using the ruse of a parley, with pistols concealed on their officers' person and a half-score of musketeers hiding in the woods to the flank, the trap was almost perfect. It was timely that Capt. Fox had taken ill, thus causing the two remaining Royalist officers (Lord Frye & Capt. Kunze) to attend the parley.
Lord Frye left command of the King's Skonce to a Cpl. Slater of the King's Lifeguard. Many witnessed this young upstart, after the officers were well out of earshot, don a lobster pot, leap onto the parapet, and then with hands on hips, chest thrust out, raise his visor, and state that "I, Lord Slater the Protector, will hold this fort myself, even if it takes my last breath and the last drop of your blood to do it! Now Bring Me Wench That I may Sire a child and then kill it!"
Luckily the Royalist officers smelled the trap (herring?), and ordered their musketeer guards to Give Fire, but it was the quick response of the self-proclaimed Lord Slater the Protector, who leapt over the wall with what reserves he could muster, and cut off the enemy muskets, thus allowing no harm to the officers.
Other moments of note during Lord Frye's 'reign' was the capture of many tawney-coated 'pumpkins' of the Earl of Essex's Regiment as they tried many times to slither along the banks of the River Trent to fire on the Royalist rear. Amongst those captured was the illusive Pumpkin King himself, whose wounded but still twitching form was heaved in a lump in the center of the King's Skonce amongst much rejoicing. A Roundhead woman wearing a tawney-coat and skirts, an evil look in her eye, and giving her name only as Linda, was also amongst the prisoners, along with a young lad (a Pumpkin Scout), too young to carry arms. Many Royalists exclaimed "is this what fills Parliament's ranks now, women and children!?!"
Lord Frye ordered the woman shot "in full view of the Rebels", against the objections of the men who wanted her for more communal sharing, but Lord Frye refused stating that "this meat is tainted!" After the woman's lifeless body crumpled to the ground, amidst cries of hatred from the Roundhead forces at Fort Beacon, Lord Frye, with a cheer exclaimed, "Now bring me the boy...." Whereupon the Pumpkin Scout was set upon the parapet, again in full view of the enemy, and throat slit ear-to-ear by Lord Frye. A goodly cheer went up from the Royalists, but much to their surprise, what did they hear, but an equal cheer from Parliament. This was followed by a Roundhead officer taking the last surviving Pumpkin Scout, setting him atop the wall, and slitting his throat as well. Then much rejoicing and cheers were heard from all!
Eventually (well over an hour) Capt. Fox recovered and returned to command once again, having purged the contents of his stomach onto Lord Frye's boots. Not soon after, it was learned that Lt. Frye's father had not in fact been killed, thus retaining his Lordship, and firmly placing Lt. Frye's feet upon the ground once again.
From various actions committed by Lt. Frye and Cpl. Slater during the time of Capt. Fox's indisposition, where both were desirous to be in total control and that the universe was to revolve around them, it appeared that they had briefly suffered from a well-known affliction called Midwestern Mental Disfunction, also known as Illinois "Sweetharte" Syndrome. Hopefully this mental illness will never rear its ugly head again, and in fact to eventually disappear from sight - forever!
It took the better part of a day, but the Parliamentarian gunners (recently captured from the Royalists!), finally ranged in telling mortar shots upon on the King's Skonce. As granadoes began to rain down into the fort, the Royalist defenders, with eyes wide and mouths agape, were stunned into silence. This was broken by Roundhead cheers that accompanied casualties caused to soldiers, campfollowers and even a Royalist officer who had defiantly placed his chair upon the parapet to have his tea! This did much for Parliament's morale.
At one point an event happened which indicated that the Roundheads had mined into the outer works of the King's Skonce, as suddenly they burst into the fort. Luckily they were repulsed as Capt. Fox quickly led troops forward to plug the breach.
The most unusual event that occurred during the day, however, was the near total eclipse of the sun. This caused a brief panic amongst the Royalists, and rumor has it that milk turned sour! For could it be that it was an omen from God?! That God really was on the side of Parliament?!?! Or that rather than burning witches, the Roundheads were putting their black magic to their own rebellious use?!?!?!
Royalist fears were quickly quelled however, as it was only Capt. Norberg, the Parliamentarian commander, whose immense frame blotted out most of the sun as he boldly stood atop Fort Beacon for all to plainly see.
The besieged Royalists, down to their last scraps of moldy bread, tainted cheese and thimble-full of filthy water, watched as Capt. Norburg, who with hands on hips, yelled jeers at them in his resounding voice, and surveyed all before him (no doubt plotting more unique ways to test Royalist resolve!). When Capt. Norberg retired the Royalists rejoiced as the rays of the sun returned once more.
Various courses of action were discussed on how to answer this affront to His Majesty's forces. While surely a marksman should have been brought forth to pick-off the well-fed Swedish turkey from his perch, all decided to fight even harder to capture the Roundhead's baggage train, as it was now obvious that all-you-can-eat buffets were standard for Parliamentarian armies!
Towards the end of the day Capt. Fox ordered another assault on Fort Beacon, this time led by Capt. Kunze. The Royalist pikemen were eager to come to push again (and take Parliament's buffet!). Up the hill they marched again, as Capt. Kunze rallied and led four assaults against Fort Beacon, but this time the volleys of enemy muskets were better organized, and inflicted enough casualties to repulse each assault. During one of these assaults, Capt. Kunze, ever leading from the front with partizan in hand, became a casualty followed by Lt. Frye crying out "I am spent!" It was now apparent to all just how exhausted the Royalists were as they routed away.
Watching impatiently at the foot of the hill, Capt. Fox paced to-an-fro in front of the King's Skonce. Obviously torn between drawing his sword and charging forth with overt Royalist zeal to rally the men once more and lead them himself, and his duty as commander and the fact that he had stated at the start of the day that "I will make sure the King's Skonce is not lost." In the end, as the Royalists withdrew back into the King's Skonce, Capt. Fox decided that while surely the men would rally for another go, they had already proven that Fort Beacon could be taken; besides, it was a day for junior officers.
Although later it was learned that just one more assault would have succeeded, as Parliament were without fresh match, due to an errant gray-coated sergeant. Said sergeant, after being ordered to do so, did not distribute the reserve match, rather wishing to nap against a rear wall instead. It is not what, if any, punishment befell this slackered. If he were a King's man, he would have been shot, or at least reduced to the ranks!
Finally, at the end of the day, Parliament made a determined assault on the King's Skonce, complete with artillery. Though try as they did for near a half-hour, the Royalist defenders prevented all attempts to take the fort, as Capt. Fox, with colours in hand, sent forth reserves as needed to each bastion.
It should be mentioned, as pointed out by Lt. Frye, that "During the last assault, if it were not for the Royalist campfollowers, the King's Skonce would very likely have fallen." These women defended the walls as best they could, throwing rocks and dumping scalding water upon the enemy. At one point earlier during the day they bared their bums to distract a grizzled old gray-coated Roundhead officer and his musketeers, while Capt. Kunze and his "Blewcoates" crept up along the River Trent to surprise them, driving them into the waiting muzzles of Lt. Frye's musketeers.
It must also be mentioned that discussion took place on whether or not to rename Fort Beacon, calling it 'Fort Mooning', due to the many times the Roundhead soldiers hung out their full moons. Although this was answered in quick response by three wenches of the King's Skonce (Roni, Teresa & Lynn; thereafter referred to as "two peaches and a kiwi"), who climbed atop the parapet and showed them what Royalist bums are made of! This also caused talk of renaming the King's Skonce the 'Queen's Rump'. To these and all of the Royalist campfollowers - Huzzah!
After the fighting during Parliament's final assault subsided, with the Roundheads unable to take the King's Skonce, and even losing their commander to a Royalist sortie led by Lt. Frye. The Rebels reeled back in confusion just beyond the walls, but were regrouping for a renewed assault, as even then the Royalist were planing another sortie - this time in force.
During this brief lull in the action a message was received from the Governor. It stated that previously two day's ago, the King had surrendered to Scots just the other side of Newark, and now commanded that Newark surrender as well.
Even though all wished to still to fight on, or even attempt a breakout to the North, a parley was requested by Capt. Fox, as a command from the King was also an order from God. The valiant Royalists were forced to ask for terms from the stalworth Roundheads, which their commander granted with all honors and a salute.
In the final tally of points awarded for objectives, killed, wounded and captured, it was that Parliament, after all these years, had finally achieved a marginal victory - Huzzah! the victory points and Marshals' critique were as follows:
Sunday was unfortunately rained out, but there was enough sunshine for a final drill and muster where all troops were paid in replica siege coins. Those that performed above the norm on both sides (too numerous to mention here) were awarded additional coins. All are eagerly looking forwards to next year's siege (May 23-25, 1997), which will highlight the second Siege of Newark in 1644.
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