Battle of Sedgemoor

Battle of Sedgemoor

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The Battle of Sedgemoor was fought on 6 July 1685 and took place at Westonzoyland
Westonzoyland
Westonzoyland is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is situated on the Somerset Levels, south east of Bridgwater.-History:The name of the parish derives from its location on the "island" of Sowy, an area of slightly higher ground on the Somerset Levels between the River Cary and...

 near Bridgwater
Bridgwater
Bridgwater is a market town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is the administrative centre of the Sedgemoor district, and a major industrial centre. Bridgwater is located on the major communication routes through South West England...

 in Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

, England.

It was the final battle of the Monmouth Rebellion
Monmouth Rebellion
The Monmouth Rebellion,The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion of 1685, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland at the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some...

 and followed a series of skirmishes around south west England between the forces of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch, KG, PC , was an English nobleman. Originally called James Crofts or James Fitzroy, he was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter...

 and the crown he was trying to take. The royalist forces prevailed and about 500 troops captured. Monmouth escaped from the battlefield but was later captured and taken to London for trial and execution.

Many of Monmouth's supporters were tried during the Bloody Assizes
Bloody Assizes
The Bloody Assizes were a series of trials started at Winchester on 25 August 1685 in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor, which ended the Monmouth Rebellion in England....

. Many were transported abroad, while others were executed by drawing and quartering.

Background


It was the final battle of the Monmouth Rebellion
Monmouth Rebellion
The Monmouth Rebellion,The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion of 1685, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland at the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some...

 between the troops of the rebel James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, 1st Duke of Buccleuch, KG, PC , was an English nobleman. Originally called James Crofts or James Fitzroy, he was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress, Lucy Walter...

 who was attempting to seize the English throne from his uncle James II of England
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

. James II had succeeded to the throne on the death of his brother Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 on 2 February 1685; James Scott was Charles' illegitimate son.

After Monmouth landed from the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 at Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis is a coastal town in West Dorset, England, situated 25 miles west of Dorchester and east of Exeter. The town lies in Lyme Bay, on the English Channel coast at the Dorset-Devon border...

 in Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

, there had been a series of marches and skirmishes throughout Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

 and Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

. Eventually Monmouth's poorly equipped army was pushed back to the Somerset Levels
Somerset Levels
The Somerset Levels, or the Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known, is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, South West England, between the Quantock and Mendip Hills...

, becoming hemmed in at Bridgwater
Bridgwater
Bridgwater is a market town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is the administrative centre of the Sedgemoor district, and a major industrial centre. Bridgwater is located on the major communication routes through South West England...

 on 3 July, and ordered his troops to fortify the town. The force was made up of around 3,500, mostly nonconformist, artisan
Artisan
An artisan is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools...

s and farmer workers armed with farm tools (such as pitchfork
Pitchfork
A pitchfork is an agricultural tool with a long handle and long, thin, widely separated pointed tines used to lift and pitch loose material, such as hay, leaves, grapes, dung or other agricultural materials. Pitchforks typically have two or three tines...

s):

The royalist troops led by Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham
Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham
Louis de Duras, 2nd Earl of Feversham KG was a French nobleman who became Earl of Feversham in Stuart England.Born in France, he was marquis de Blanquefort and sixth son of Guy Aldonce , Marquis of Duras and Count of Rozan, from the noble Durfort family...

 and Colonel John Churchill
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Prince of Mindelheim, KG, PC , was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs through the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

 were camped behind the Bussex Rhine
Bussex Rhine
The Bussex Rhine was a rhyne, or sizeable ditch, running outside the village of Westonzoyland in Somerset, England. A rhyne or rhine is a southern English dialect word for a “large open ditch or drain”. In the 17th century many rhines were used in Somerset to drain marshy ground.During the 1685...

 at Westonzoyland. The infantry forces included 500 men of the 1st Regiment of Foot (Royal Scots), two battalions of the 1st or King's Royal Regiment of Guard's (Grenadier Guards
Grenadier Guards
The Grenadier Guards is an infantry regiment of the British Army. It is the most senior regiment of the Guards Division and, as such, is the most senior regiment of infantry. It is not, however, the most senior regiment of the Army, this position being attributed to the Life Guards...

) led by Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton
Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton
Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton KG was the illegitimate son of King Charles II by Barbara Villiers, Countess of Castlemaine....

, 600 men of the Second Regiment of Guards and five companies of the Queen Consort's Regiment (Kings Own Royal Border Regiment). The Horse and Foot, the Royal Train of Artillery was camped along the road to Bridgwater. The Royal Cavalry, with seven troops, 420 men of the Earl of Oxfords, the Kings Regiment of Horse (Blues and Royals
Blues and Royals
The Blues and Royals is a cavalry regiment of the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry. The Colonel-in-Chief is Her Majesty The Queen and the Colonel is HRH The Princess Royal...

), the King's Own Royal Dragoons and three troops of the King's Horse Guards (Lifeguards
Life Guards (British Army)
The Life Guards is the senior regiment of the British Army and with the Blues and Royals, they make up the Household Cavalry.They originated in the four troops of Horse Guards raised by Charles II around the time of his restoration, plus two troops of Horse Grenadier Guards which were raised some...

) made up the army.

The battle


The Duke eventually led his untrained and ill-equipped troops out of Bridgwater at around 10:00pm to undertake a night-time attack on the King's army. They were guided by Richard Godfrey, the servant of a local farmer, along the old Bristol road towards Bawdrip
Bawdrip
Bawdrip is a village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, England. The village is on the south side of the Polden Hills about north-east of Bridgwater. According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 498. The parish includes the hamlets of Bradney and Horsey...

. With their limited cavalry in the vanguard they turned south along Bradney Lane and Marsh Lane, and came to the open moor with its deep and dangerous rhines.

There was a delay while the rhine was crossed and the first men across startled a royalist patrol. A shot was fired and a horseman from the patrol galloped off to report to Feversham. Lord Grey of Warke
Ford Grey, 1st Earl of Tankerville
Ford Grey, 1st Earl of Tankerville , 1st Viscount Glendale, and 3rd Baron Grey of Warke, was a British nobleman and statesman. He was the son of Ralph Grey, 2nd Baron Grey of Werke and Catherine Ford, daughter of Sir Edward Ford of Harting in West Sussex. He was baptized the day of his birth at...

 led the rebel cavalry forward and they were engaged by the King's Regiment of Horse which alerted the rest of the royalist forces. The superior training of the regular army and their horses routed the rebel forces by outflanking them.

Capture and aftermath


Monmouth escaped the battlefield with Grey and headed for the southern coast, disguised as peasants. They were captured near Ringwood
Ringwood
Ringwood is a historic market town and civil parish in Hampshire, England, located on the River Avon, close to the New Forest and north of Bournemouth. It has a history dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, and has held a weekly market since the Middle Ages....

, Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

. He was taken to the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 where he was, after several blows of the axe, finally beheaded.

A letter written by the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury PC , known as Anthony Ashley Cooper from 1621 to 1631, as Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, 2nd Baronet from 1631 to 1661, and as The Lord Ashley from 1661 to 1672, was a prominent English politician during the Interregnum and during the reign of King Charles...

 in 1787 provides more detail as to Monmouth's capture:
The tradition of the neighbourhood is this: viz. That after the defeat of the Duke of Monmouth at Sedgemoor, near Bridgewater, he rode, accompanied by Lord Grey, to Woodyates, where they quitted their horses; and the Duke having changed clothes with a peasant, endeavoured to make his way across the country to Christchurch. Being closely pursued, he made for the Island, and concealed himself in a ditch which was overgrown with fern and underwood. When his pursuers came up, an old woman gave information of his being in the Island, and of her having seen him filling his pocket with peas. The Island was immediately surrounded by soldiers, who passed the night there, and threatened to fire the neighbouring cotts. As they were going away, one of them espied the skirt of the Duke's coat, and seized him. The soldier no sooner knew him, than he burst into tears, and reproached himself for the unhappy discovery. The Duke when taken was quite exhausted with fatigue and hunger, having had no food since the battle but the peas which he had gathered in the field. The ash tree is still standing under which the Duke was apprehended, and is marked with the initials of many of his friends who afterwards visited the spot.

The family of the woman who betrayed him were ever after holden in the greatest detestation, and are said to have fallen into decay, and to have never thriven afterwards. The house where she lived, which overlooked the spot, has since fallen down. It was with the greatest difficulty that any one could be made to inhabit it.


After the battle about 500 of Monmouth's troops were captured and imprisoned in St Mary’s Parish Church in Westonzoyland, while others were hunted and shot in the ditches where they were hiding. More were hung from gibbets erected along the roadside. The royalist troops were rewarded with Feversham being made a Knight of the Garter, Churchill promoted to Major-General and Henry Shires of the artillery receiving a Knighthood. Other soldiers, particularly those that had been wounded, received allowances ranging from £5-£80. Some of the wounded were amongst the first to be treated at the newly opened Royal Hospital Chelsea
Royal Hospital Chelsea
The Royal Hospital Chelsea is a retirement home and nursing home for British soldiers who are unfit for further duty due to injury or old age, located in the Chelsea region of central London, now the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It is a true hospital in the original sense of the word,...

.

The king sent Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys
George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys
George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, PC , also known as "The Hanging Judge", was an English judge. He became notable during the reign of King James II, rising to the position of Lord Chancellor .- Early years and education :Jeffreys was born at the family estate of Acton Hall, near Wrexham,...

 to round up the Duke's supporters throughout the south west and try them in the Bloody Assizes
Bloody Assizes
The Bloody Assizes were a series of trials started at Winchester on 25 August 1685 in the aftermath of the Battle of Sedgemoor, which ended the Monmouth Rebellion in England....

 at Taunton Castle
Taunton Castle
Taunton Castle is a castle built to defend the town of Taunton, Somerset, England.It has origins in the Anglo Saxon period and was later the site of a priory. The Normans then built a stone structured castle, which belonged to the Bishops of Winchester...

 and elsewhere. About 1,300 people were found guilty, many being transported abroad, while some were executed by drawing and quartering. Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe
Daniel Defoe , born Daniel Foe, was an English trader, writer, journalist, and pamphleteer, who gained fame for his novel Robinson Crusoe. Defoe is notable for being one of the earliest proponents of the novel, as he helped to popularise the form in Britain and along with others such as Richardson,...

, who would later write the novel Robinson Crusoe, had taken part in the uprising and battle. He was heavily fined by Jeffreys, losing much of his land and wealth.

James II was overthrown in a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

three years later, in the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

.

The battle of Sedgemoor would be the last clear-cut pitched battle
Pitched battle
A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges....

 on open ground between two military forces fought on English soil. While there were later armed confrontations it has been argued that the Battle of Preston (1715)
Battle of Preston (1715)
The Battle of Preston , also referred to as the Preston Fight, was fought during the Jacobite Rising of 1715 ....

 was more in the nature of a siege and the Clifton Moor Skirmish
Clifton Moor Skirmish
The Clifton Moor Skirmish took place between forces of the British Hanoverian government and Jacobite rebels on 19 December 1745. Since the commander of the British forces, the Duke of Cumberland, was aware of the Jacobite presence in Derby, the Jacobite leader Prince Charles Edward Stuart decided...

 (1745
1745 in Great Britain
Events from the year 1745 in Great Britain.-Incumbents:*Monarch - King George II*Prime Minister - Henry Pelham, Whig-Events:* 30 April–11 May - War of the Austrian Succession: British forces defeated at the Battle of Fontenoy....

) was a skirmish rather than a battle, while the Battle of Bossenden Wood
Battle of Bossenden Wood
The Battle of Bossenden Wood, also known as the Battle of Bosenden Wood, took place on 31 May 1838 near Hernhill in Kent; it has been called the last battle on English soil....

 (1838
1838 in the United Kingdom
Events from the year 1838 in the United Kingdom.-Incumbents:*Monarch — Queen Victoria*Prime Minister — Lord Melbourne, Whig-Events:* 10 January — A fire destroys Lloyd's Coffee House and the Royal Exchange in London....

) did not involve troops on both sides.

Cultural references


The Battle of Sedgemoor is depicted in detail at the climax of plot in Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

's historical adventure novel "Micah Clarke
Micah Clarke
Micah Clarke by Arthur Conan Doyle is an historical adventure novel set during the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 in England.The book follows the exploits of Conan Doyle's fictional character Micah Clarke...

".

The Battle also appears in Blackmore's Lorna Doone
Lorna Doone
Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor is a novel by Richard Doddridge Blackmore. It is a romance based on a group of historical characters and set in the late 17th century in Devon and Somerset, particularly around the East Lyn Valley area of Exmoor....

, where the hero arrives on the battlefield as the battle is finishing and then has to go to London to face Jeffries.

Likewise, The Royal Changeling, (1998), by John Whitbourn
John Whitbourn
John Whitbourn is an author and tenth-generation inhabitant of southern England's Downs Country. He has produced a variety of novels and short stories focusing on alternative histories set in a 'Catholic' universe...

, describes the rebellion with some fantasy elements added. The Battle of Sedgemoor both opens and concludes the novel.

The Sealed Knot
The Sealed Knot (reenactment)
The Sealed Knot is a British historical association and charity, dedicated to costumed reenactment of battles and events surrounding the English Civil War.-About:...

 re-enactment society have re-enacted important parts of the rebellion's campaign, on the 300th anniversary in 1985, and again in 2005. For the first re-enactment, the folk trio Strawhead
Strawhead (band)
Strawhead is a northern England, Preston-based folk musical group founded in 1974, that specializes in historical British music. Bolstering their national reputation for their accurate and powerful interpretation of the genre of social history of the 16th to 19th centuries, the group's repertoire...

 produced an album of various songs from the time and written especially, entitled 'Sedgemoor'. This album is often regarded as one of their finest.

A collection of poems (Sedgemoor) exploring this crucial, but neglected, episode in English history was written by poet and academic Malcolm Povey and published by Smokestack Books in 2006. The poems move between 1685 and the present, from England to Kosovo and Iraq, highlighting "the continuing cruelties of empire and hierarchy".

Povey's book received widespread praise, especially for its originality: "Not many poets try something as different and ambitious as this. It deserves to be widely read."

The battle is commemorated in Val Wake's poem Dead Willows Mourn. Val Wake, the Australian born journalist and author lived in Westonzoyland from 1973 to 1979.

A mural
Mural
A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. A particularly distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.-History:Murals of...

 depicting the battle can be found on display at Sedgemoor motorway services
Sedgemoor services
Sedgemoor services is a motorway service station on the M5 motorway near the village of Rooks Bridge in Somerset, England. The location of the services can be identified from a long distance because of their proximity to Brent Knoll, an isolated hill on the Somerset Levels.The northbound station is...

 on the North carriageway of the M5
M5 motorway
The M5 is a motorway in England. It runs from a junction with the M6 at West Bromwich near Birmingham to Exeter in Devon. Heading south-west, the M5 runs east of West Bromwich and west of Birmingham through Sandwell Valley...

.

Events surrounding the battle occupy the first few chapters of Rafael Sabatini's
Rafael Sabatini
Rafael Sabatini was an Italian/British writer of novels of romance and adventure.-Life:Rafael Sabatini was born in Iesi, Italy, to an English mother and Italian father...

 novel Captain Blood
Captain Blood (novel)
Captain Blood: His Odyssey is an adventure novel by Rafael Sabatini, originally published in 1922.- Synopsis :The protagonist is the sharp-witted Dr...

.

Further reading