This month we have another indemnity case. The last one was about sequestration, which seems to be the most common type of case. Another very common complaint is that the petitioner is being sued for a horse, which occurs in about 10% of the surviving cases. This is not because there was a shortage of horses in England during the civil wars (Ian Gentles and John Shedd suggested that it was, but Peter Edwards has disproved it: see Gentles, New Model Army, p. 130; Shedd, ‘Legalism‘, p. 1096; Edwards, ‘Supply of Horses‘, pp. 55, 57). Although there were theoretically enough horses in England, soldiers often took them by force, sometimes because Parliament couldn’t provide them any other way, sometimes just because it was more convenient. Horses were valuable, and stealing them was usually taken very seriously. Despite this, the absolute number of horses involved in indemnity cases was quite small. Most horse seizure didn’t result in a court case. When it did, the soldiers who originally took the horses weren’t always directly involved. Horses could change hands many times, and under the Common Law, anyone in possession of a horse that was alleged to be stolen could be sued, even if they were not guilty of stealing it in the first place. This made horse cases very different from sequestration cases. Sequestration was very closely linked to allegiance: petitioners were under pressure to show that they had been loyal to Parliament and that the sequestered defendant hadn’t. Anne Hughes identified this as a general trend in indemnity cases, but horse cases are a significant exception (Hughes, ‘Parliamentary Tyranny‘, pp. 67–9; see my book, pp. 140–45, for a more detailed argument than I’ve given here). The horse might have passed through so many owners that it was a long way removed from the issues that the King and Parliament were fighting over. The crucial point for the Indemnity Committee to consider was whether the horse had been in the service of Parliament, not whether the petitioner had. This month’s petition is an example of this kind of case, where a long chain of ownership led to complicated court actions and then an appeal for indemnity. (more…)
In discussions about early-modern cavalry tactics, some people have asked me how many horses were killed in battles. This is the answer. Actually only a partial answer, but it’s the best one I’ve got. Narratives of English Civil War battles are usually very vague about casualties, if they mention them at all. Financial records are usually a better source for numbers. For a few parliamentary cavalry units, I’ve found detailed lists of horses lost in service. In 1644, Parliament set up the Committee for Taking Accounts of the Whole Kingdom to audit the war effort (you can read the ordinance for appointing the committee at British History Online). One of the committee’s jobs was to certify arrears of pay due to soldiers and officers (Ian Gentles estimated that these ran into millions of pounds). If the commanding officer of a unit couldn’t satisfactorily account for money, horses and equipment he had received, the value would be knocked off his arrears. Losses by enemy action during a battle were usually allowed, giving officers a strong incentive to exaggerate battle casualties in their accounts. This is obviously a problem because the figures they give could be too high, but it also pretty much guarantees that they won’t be too low. The committee concluded that Lionel Copley, a captain of horse in the Earl of Essex’s army, had defrauded the state of lots of money and horses, and overstated his losses at First Newbury to cover it up, but some members of his troop testified against him. I haven’t included his accounts here because they’re incredibly complicated as well as unreliable. Below I’ve put extracts from three other officers’ accounts that give details of horse losses. Doing this made me realise how bad the transcripts I made for my PhD were, but it also shows that I’ve got much better at palaeography. The quoted text is all in Crown Copyright and released under Open Government Licence. Click the links in the document references to see page images on Flickr (non-commercial use only).
My arguments about cavalry charges are increasingly relying on physics. I briefly did this in my Journal of Military History article but here I’m going to explain it in much more detail. My main source for physics stuff is David Halliday, Robert Resnick and Jearl Walker, Fundamentals of Physics (6th ed., Wiley, 2001). All page references refer to this unless otherwise stated (and thanks to Brett Holman for recommending it).
In practice the movements of horses are so complicated that I can’t understand the physics of them, but for now I’m just trying to explain some basic points so I’m treating horses as particle-like objects even though they aren’t really. Despite that limitation, I’ll be able to show that some common assumptions about cavalry charges look really stupid once you do the maths.
My first (and possibly last) peer-reviewed academic monograph, Horses, People and Parliament in the English Civil War: Extracting Resources and Constructing Allegiance, has now been published by Ashgate. More details of what it’s about below the cut, and there’s also an interesting response at Mercurius Politicus. You can find it at these places, and probably others:
- Ashgate (hardback only; preview available)
- Amazon.com (Kindle and hardback; preview available; hardback is unusually expensive here)
- Amazon.co.uk (Kindle and hardback; preview available)
- Amazon.ca (hardback only, but cheaper than UK and US prices)
[Edited 5/8/12: previews of the Kindle edition are now available at Amazon in the UK and US and are slightly longer than the PDF preview at Ashgate; also Erik Lund pointed out that the hardback is cheaper in Canada]
I understand that at those prices many people won’t be able to afford it, but if you’re a lecturer, please consider recommending it to your library and using it in your teaching. It has lots of cool ideas and useful facts that would fit into a wide variety of courses:
- English Civil War: obviously it would complement any course about the civil wars. Highlights include a critical review of the historiography of allegiance, an important contribution to the debate on why Parliament won, and gender and animal perspectives on the war. It’s broken down into fairly short sections, some of which tell a self-contained story that a session could be structured around (the bits about the Watford petition, the Earl of Carlisle and Henry Marten would be particularly good for this).
- Military history: has a lot to say about the resources versus battles debate. The section of the introduction that deals with this is available in the free preview at the Ashgate website.
- Women’s and gender history: I’ve tried to integrate women and gender into political and military history. There’s some good stuff about false universals, unequal distribution of property, women’s agency and puritan masculinity.
- War and gender: one of the few books that considers the intersections of these two important topics.
- Animal studies: it’s all about horses. I’ve argued that horses should be seen as agents in the civil wars, and criticized anthropocentric approaches to allegiance.
Below is a more detailed summary of what it’s all about:
Over at Skulking in Holes and Corners, Jamel Ostwald is looking at the problems of dealing with early 18th century newspapers, and asks whether we can assume that manuscript newsletters in archives are better than the versions printed at the time. That reminds me of a cautionary tale about the complex relationship between print and manuscript sources.
Towards the end of my PhD research, a friend kindly gave me access to his notes, saving me from lots of trips to local record offices to chase up little bits of information. One of the references I found useful was a document from Lincolnshire Archives listing men who contributed horses to the King in 1642 (reference MON 27/3/1, p. 3). I assumed that it was an original contemporary manuscript and cited it in my thesis. Last year I thought I might need to use it in my book and looked into ordering a copy of it from the archives or going to consult it in person. I found a detailed catalogue on the Access to Archives website which revealed that the document in question was actually part of a notebook compiled by 19th century antiquary Lord Monson. But even worse than that: Monson had copied the list out of the Annual Register, where it had been printed in 1794! The Register only says that the list came from ‘a scarce printed paper’. So far I haven’t found any likely candidates in the Thomason Tracts. This means that the handwritten document in the archives is at best a third generation copy of the original manuscript, if there even was one, and is less original than the surviving printed version.