The Campaign of 1645
The Naseby Campaign, April to June 1645
The campaign season opened with a Royalist decision to consolidate the south-west by taking Taunton, but what else to do was hotly disputed. Before matters were decided Parliament took the initiative by sending Sir Thomas Fairfax, Captain-General of the New Model Army, west to the relief of Taunton and Oliver Cromwell on an encirclement of the royalist capital in Oxford which brought George Goring's 4,000 horse hurrying back from the siege of Taunton to defeat Cromwell at Radcot Bridge.
The Siege of Oxford
Charles I left Oxford and the Royalists convened at Stow on the Wold on 8 May. While the Parliamentarians, with the exception of a small force that relieved Taunton, pulled back to the south-east of Oxford, the Royalists pondered their next move. They were not aware of Fairfax's recall from his mission to the west, and decided to send Goring back there to finish the seizure of Taunton before rejoining the king. Meanwhile Charles set off to relieve Chester. Once these objectives had been achieved they would think again.
Cromwell shadowed the king's north-western march but, when the operations against Chester were abandoned, part of his force proceeded, under Colonel Bartholemew Vermuyden, to guard the approaches to Yorkshire while he turned back to join Fairfax in the newly hatched scheme to besiege Oxford.
Neither of Parliament's field commanders were keen to do this, but the decision of the commanding power, the Committee of Both Kingdoms, was not without virtue. The hopes of arranging the betrayal of the city were to prove groundless, but the place was Charles's headquarters and the possessions and families of his followers were thus put in peril. What is more, the royal arsenal and arms factories were threatened. Goring had renewed the investment of the reinforced roundheads in Taunton and Charles, who had been marching to Newark, now turned south again. The Committee reacted by sending Cromwell to Cambridge to organise the defence of the East Anglia, which they took to be Charles's objective.
Royalists Capture Leicester
With the defenders of Oxford starting to panic, the Royalists needed to provoke Fairfax into movement. They decided to attack the Parliamentarian city of Leicester and they took it in the early hours of 31 May.
Then they moved to Market Harborough and started to gather supplies from the villages of Northamptonshire preparatory to sending a convoy of supplies to Oxford by way of Daventry and Banbury. The move into Leicestershire was seen in London as the overture to a campaign in East Anglia and the Committee ordered Fairfax to raise the siege of Oxford and seek battle with Charles's army. At the same time they issued orders for cavalry from the north and east to join Fairfax and, finally, having given the general the resources for victory, granted him, on 9 June, the means to gain it by devolving the supreme command to him.
First Encounter at Naseby
Meanwhile the king and his advisers, aware that Goring was still engaged in the west and could not come to their support, took position on Borough Hill, Daventry, while the convoy went to Oxford. Next they moved off northwards. They had experienced a number of skirmishes with Parliamentarian patrols near Northampton, Towcester and Flore and had also received a letter from Goring advising them to adopt a defensive posture until the western forces could come to reinforce them.
On Friday 13 June they came to Market Harborough and that evening Ireton's men clashed with a small detachment of Charles's Life Guard at supper in Naseby. The king was roused from his bed in Lubenham, rode into town to consult his advisers and generals and the decision was reached, contrary to Prince Rupert's proposals, to turn and fight.