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Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681). Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson. 1906.

Appendix XVIII: Two Letters Describing the Attack Made on Nottingham, January 16, 1644

SIR,—About six of the clock in the morning, Jan. 16th, 1643, the enemy faced us on both sides of the town; and our horse with two foot companies went to the works, but they being a very great body, and the works not yet defensible in many places they (to give them their due) very bravely came on, and forced their entry into the town, and our horse and foot were both forced to retreat to the castle, but we had not one man slain or wounded in the retreat. Our ordnance from the castle made a lane among them at their entry, and our musketeers killed many of them as they retreated into the castle. The enemy possessed themselves of St. Peter’s Church, and those houses and street ends, which hindered our sallying out, but when our horse saw they were able to do no service (their body of horse being far greater), Colonel Thornhagh and all the other horse commanders encouraged their troopers to take muskets in their hands and serve as foot (which to their great glory they very cheerfully and courageously did), and with a foot company joined to part of them, sallied out and beat the Cavaliers out of the nearest houses to the castle and possessed them. When we saw our sally and retreat, both made indifferent safe, we drew our two other foot companies, and all the rest of the troopers with muskets, who went on with so great courage and valour, that they drove the enemy before them out of the town, with a great deal of dishonour and confusion. We have now eighty prisoners and all their arms, and a great many killed, the certain number whereof I cannot relate; divers of them were wounded and carried dead off from the field, some they had buried in the field before they had entered the town; we traced them two miles in the snow by much blood which we found spilt, and we hear that they left dead and wounded men in the towns as they passed. I do not perceive that we have any prisoners above the quality of a captain-lieutenant, but the reason is, because the commanders ran away in such haste, that they left their own and got troopers’ horses, and took no care of their men, but left them without command, being happy who could first escape away. We lost not all this day but one man slain, and two or three wounded. At last the enemy rallied in a valley abut a mile from the town (where they had a body of horse which never came into the town); we faced one another, but we, finding their body so much exceeding all our force, would not hazard the whole garrison upon such unequal terms; towards night the enemy marched away to their several garrisons. Col. Cartwright had his horse killed under him with a cannon bullet; they say (but I am not certain) that he himself is shot. That you may know their devilishness, give me leave to acquaint you with their design as it was related to us. They were resolved to have surprised us this morning by two of the clock, but the bitterness of the snowy weather which fell hindered so speedy a march of their foot as they expected; therefore, failing of that, their further design was, to try if they could get the town, which if they could, they then resolved to summon the castle, and if they could neither win nor have it delivered up, they resolved to plunder, and then fire the town. To this purpose and with these threats they had prepared a letter to send me, and when they could find none that would venture to carry it, they seized on Mr Majores, and would with many threats have compelled him to carry it to me; one clause of it was that if I would not send them the mayor and aldermen, nor deliver the castle, they would proceed to plunder and fire. Before Mr Majores was well out of doors with his letter, there was so quick and unexpected an answer sent them by four hundred musketeers, which sallied out upon them, that they were in too great haste to take with them the plunder of the town, so that in that respect the town escaped well and lost nothing of value; we must acknowledge it was a wonderful mercy of God that it escaped firing, for they cast a many coals of fire amongst a great deal of hay, in Captain White’s quarters, and laid fire to divers houses, and had prepared divers gorse bushes to fire, and shot muskets and pistols into the thatch of houses as they passed by, and into barns, but God preserved us from all these dangers, so that though the fire was found, half an hour after they were gone, quick in the hay, yet there was not so much as a smoke in the town. The number of these forces were (as near as we could guess, or find out by the prisoners), 1,500 horse and foot, being all the force that could be gathered together from Newark, Sir Charles Lucas, Colonel Fretchvile, with other forces drawn from Bolsover, and Welbeck, and Shelford: they faced us on the other side of the Trent with between two and three hundred horse and dragoons which came from Hastings, Belvoir, and Wiverton. By this you may see how we are straitened and how over potent our enemies are, and you may imagine how impossible it is for this poor garrison to subsist without some relief of money to encourage our soldiers, and, the truth is, to make them able to live to do the public service. Therefore, Sir, I beseech you, prosecute my desires in my last letter to you as the greatest service you can do your country and obligation you can lay on your loving friend and servant,

J. H.
January 6, 1643.

In all this day’s service we had not any assistance from the townsmen (besides those which have all this year been in the castle with me), though I had twice summoned them to receive arms for the defence of the town, but could not persuade them to do it; but now I am in some hopes that they will by this be brought to concur more cheerfully with me for their own defence, and that the Cavaliers (though they have no cause to brag of this) will more dearly buy their next entrance. I hear since that most of the enemy’s foot are run away, which were about five or six hundred; all their foot flung their arms away, that they might run the lighter.

Sir, since I writ this letter I am certainly informed that there are above a hundred Cavaliers lying dead in Thornleigh and Sansom woods, and Nottingham coppice, the weather being so sharp that their wounds bled to death, and some of them starved with cold, and we have since found many of them dead in the town that were wounded, and hid themselves in houses, and there bled to death; they have left many wounded all along the towns as they dispersed themselves to their several garrisons from whence they came. The greatness of their loss is more than yet we can discover, and what I related to you is less than we know to be true. We have some prisoners that were in the parliament’s service in Ireland, and are now taken with the enemy; I desire to know the pleasure of the House concerning them—whether they shall be tried by a council of war, as runaways, or exchanged, because it may be our fortune to meet with more considerable men of the same kind.—Your servant,

J. H.
January 17, 1643/4.

On January 26th, 1643/4, this letter was read in the House of Commons, and it was ordered ‘that a thousand pound shall be borrowed from the monies that come in upon the sequestrations and employed for the service of Nottingham garrison, and paid to Mr Millington, or such as he shall appoint to receive the same, after that the monies assigned to Sir Thomas Middleton and the Earl of Denbigh out of the sequestrations shall be satisfied and complied with’. Mr Millington was at the same time desired to write and inquire about the prisoners taken, who had come out of Ireland.—(Journals of the House of Commons.) Mrs Hutchinson blames Mr Millington because the money never came. The cause of this, however, was not his negligent prosecution, but the precedent conditions on which the grant was made to depend.

To our much honoured friend, Gilbert Millington, Esquire, one of the Members of the House of Commons.

SIR,—In expression of our thankfulness to God for His great deliverance to this garrison, we desire to communicate to yourself, and to our friends, in what manner the Lord of Hosts was pleased to manifest Himself in our preservation (even miraculously) from the bloody hands of a cruel and merciless enemy, entreating you to join with us in returning prayers (praise?) to his sacred name.

Sir, we drew forth the last week to meet Derby forces upon a design, which failing, we marched to Mansfield, and in our retreat we sequestered some of the goods of the Lord Biron’s at Newstead; whereof Colonel Fretchvile, and Colonel Humblock having notice, they being then plundering about Felley, with three troops fell upon us in our retreat; but our horse and dragoons facing about, engaged them, and we took one Jammot, a Wallon, captain-lieutenant or major to Colonel Fretchvile, with three more; killed one lieutenant and a cornet with some others; wounded both the colonels, with many more, and but two men of ours wounded, whereof one died since. In revenge whereof, on Tuesday morning last, the enemy gave us an alarum, and about seven of the clock approached near the town, and being betwixt two and three thousand horse and foot, beat in our men, and the fortifications of the town being imperfect entered it, and forced our horse and foot into the castle; we then immediately put muskets into the hands of our troopers, and by them and some foot, possessed ourselves of some houses, which played into the market-place, and some other parts of the town; then we sallied out with most of our foot, considering, if we did not make a desperate adventure, we were in a great hazard; so we fell upon the enemy in several houses, killed divers of them in the streets, in which God’s great power did wonderfully appear, for in one house three or four of our men took sixteen, and in another, two took six, and the like was done in divers places, whereby it pleased God to strike the enemy with such a terror, that they presently fled, and we pursuing them out of the works, took about eighty prisoners, about two hundred arms, killed above twenty in the town, besides many who died in the retreat, as we hear above fifty, and very many ran from their colours, and some came to us with their arms, in all (according to our intelligence), the enemy lost near three hundred men and arms; in which service we lost but one boy, two were slightly wounded, and not one taken prisoner.

Sir Charles Lucas, who reports himself general of this county, and Lincolnshire, did draw what force he could from Pontefract, Wingfield Manor, Bolsover, Welbeck, Ashby, Belvoir, Newark, Wiverton, and Shelford. Thus they conspired our destruction, their plot being, to enter the town, and to summon the castle, and if that was not yielded, to plunder the town and fire it; which accordingly they attempted, for they put burning coals, lighted match, and shot their muskets and pistols into the hay, in Captain White’s quarters and divers other places, but through God’s mercy the fire did not take anywhere.

This is a true relation of the passages, although sundry reports are given out by the enemy which we know to be various and false, as that the town did give them three or four thousand pounds to quit it, and that they lost but three men, and that they were commanded away by several packets, and others of the like nature; yet some of their commanders who were ingenuous, did at Southwell, upon their retreat, confess, that they had been upon most designs with Prince Rupert, yet did never see hotter service, nor more execution done with ordnance. We having this experience of God’s dealing with us, hope it will encourage us, and all others engaged in this cause, to continue faithful to Him, which is and ever shall be, the prayers of us, Sir, your faithful servants,

the 20th of January, 1643.

We are credibly informed since the writing hereof, that Colonel Eyre of Hassop was slain, one Captain Cartwright is not yet heard of, and Lieutenant-colonel Cartwright and some other commanders wounded.