This post is part of a series of letters from parliamentary soldier Nehemiah Wharton during the English Civil War, which will be posted on the anniversary of the day they were written. For more information see the introduction. To find the rest of the series, use the “wharton letters” tag. The original of this letter is held by the UK National Archives, reference SP 16/492/11, ff. 49-50. The text of the letter is out of copyright. Images are available for non-commercial use only at Flickr (click on folio numbers for individual page images).
This week, the roundhead soldiers are at war with themselves, the Earl of Essex arrives to take command, and Wharton gets some new clothes.
Northampton Sept the 13th 1642
Thrice worthy S[i]r accordinge to custome I present you with our p[ar]ticular circumstances my last unto you of this nature was Sept the 2d beinge Saturday Sabath day sept the 3d wee peacably injoyed
Munday morninge I was informed by a cuntrey man of a base preist 6 miles distant which had set out horse for the commission of aray and had armes in his house and I immediatley got 20 musketteers and marched out to search the house the cuntrey man I clothed with a soildiers red coate gave him armes and made him my guide but havinge marched 2 miles certaine gentlemen of the cuntrey in formed mee that Justice Edmonds a man of good conversation but since I heare of the Aray was plundered by the base blewcoats of colonell Cholmleys regiment and bereaved of his very beeds wherupon I immediately devided my men into 3 squadrons surrounded them and forced them to bringe ther pillage upon their owne backs unto the house againe for which service I was welcommed with the best varieties in the house and had given me a scarlet Coate lined with plush and severall exelent bookes in folio of my owne chusinge but returninge a troope of horse belonginge unto Colonell Foynes met mee pillaged mee of all and robbed mee of my very sword for which cause I told them I would ether have my sword or dye in the feild commaunded my men to charge with bullet and by devisions to fier upon them which made them with shame returne mee my sword and it beinge towards night I returned to northampton threatninge revenge upon the base troopers
this night and the day followinge our company by lot watched the south gate where I searched every horsman of that troope to the skin tooke from them a fat buck a venison pasty ready baked but lost my owne goods
wensday morninge wee had tidings that prince Robert that diabolicall cavalere had surrounded Lester and demaunded two thousand pounds or else threatned to plunder the towne wherupon our soildiers were even madde to be at them but wanted commission all the venison belonginge to malignants in the Cuntrey are destroyed
Thursday our soildiers marched in to the feild to exercise and there declared their base ends specified in a former letter composed in hast and intended to be sent by Leiftenant wade but he could not stay the wrightinge of it this day most of the ministers nominated in your letter came unto us
Fryday morninge worthy Mr obediah Sedgwich gave us a worthy sermon and my company in p[ar]ticular marched to heare him in ranke and file Mr John Sedgwich was appointed to preach in the after noone but we had newes that prince Robert had plundered Harbrough and fired some adjacent townes and our Regiments were immediatly drawne into the feild but beinge informed of ther Flyinge away wee returned
Sarturday morninge Mr John Sedgwich gave us a famous sermon after noone our regiments marched forth to meete his Exelency who was in greate state welcommed into the towne and the watch word this night was welcome. this night and the day followinge our company watched the northgate
Sabbath Day morninge Mr Marshall that worthy champion of Christ preaced unto us after noone Mr Ash by relation but as yet I have not seene him these with ther sermons have already subdued and satesfied more malignants spirits amongst us then 1000 armed men could have done so that wee have greate hope of a blessed union
Munday morninge I received you letter dated Sept the 8th with my mistrises scarfe and Mr Molloynes hatband both which came very seasonably for I had gathered a little money together and had this day made me a soildiers sute for winter edged with gold and silver lace these gifts I am unworthy of I have nothing to [f. 49v] tender you for them but humble and harty thankes I will weare them for your sakes and I hope I shall neiver staine them but in the blod of a Cavalleere Your letter beinge a [pitthy?] sollid breife and reall relation I presented to my Captaine and all the Captaines of our regiment together at dinner with Mr Obbediah Sedgwich who rejoysed at the newes and gave me much thankes my Captaine greetes you with his best respects
Tuesday this day his Exelency intends to view our forces wensday wee expect the Celebration of a fast Thursday we expect to march with all our forces Towards Lester and I doubt not but we shall scowre the Cavallers
your man Davy remembers his service unto you and [...] humble thankes for your kind remembrance of him I have not any other thinge for the present to acquaint you with Therfore with my huble service to your selfe my Mistris Mr Molloyne and his wife and unto all yours and their Children and my love to the servants of both houses I conclude untill Death remainge
your humble thankefull and deeply ingaged sevant at commaund
Every wensday you may find a post that serveth our army at the Saracens head in Carter lane his name is Thomas weeden who is with us once a weeke constantly
To the worthy and his much Honored Frend Mr George Willingham Marchant at the golden Anchor in Swethins Lane these present
Colonell Foynes is most likely Nathaniel Fiennes, son of Viscount Saye and Sele, although several of the Fiennes brothers fought for Parliament and I can’t see any evidence of any of them having the rank of colonel at this time.
The preachers mentioned are Obadiah Sedgwick, John Sedgwick, Stephen Marshall and Simeon Ashe, all well known puritans.
‘his Exelency’ is Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex. He was commissioned as Captain General of Parliament’s army on 15 July 1642 (you can read the ordinance of Parliament appointing him at British History Online). He left London on 9 September to take command of the army at Northampton.
The description of Wharton’s new clothes complicates puritan stereotypes. He approved of Godly sermons and was indirectly connected to the junto via his master, but he could still dress in an outfit that seems more cavalier than roundhead.
The postscript about the post sheds some light on how Wharton’s letters got to London and how replies and presents reached the army. The mention of Willingham’s letter being read to the officers at dinner also shows that letter writing could be a very public act.
Next letter will be on 26 September.