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THE BATTLE OF NASEBY.
OW we shall push on more rapidly. The Self
denying Ordinance is regarded as a masterpiece of duplicity originating from the mind of Cromwell. The superseding of the most illustrious officers in the People's army was hailed by the Royalists as a sure prelude to their thorough routing. The king was in high hopes. It was about this time he wrote to the queen, “I may, without being too much sanguine, affirm, that since the rebellion my affairs were never in so fair and hopeful a way." Cromwell, certainly, could not suppose that he long could be dispensed with; but neither could he at all have known how soon his services would be required, and how important those services were to be. The supreme power, we have seen, was vested in the hands of Fairfax. It is quite noticeable that his commission was worded differently from the way in which all previous commissions had been worded. It was made in the name of the Parliament alone, not in that of the king and Parliament.
“ Towards the end of April,” says M. Guizot, “ Fairfax announced that in a few days he should open the
campaign. Cromwell went to Windsor, to kiss, as he said, the general's hand, and take him his resignation. On seeing him enter the room, Fairfax said, 'I have just received from the Committee of the Two Kingdoms an order which has reference to you. It directs you to proceed directly with some horse to the road between Oxford and Worcester, to intercept communications between Prince Rupert and the king. The same evening Cromwell departed on his mission, and in five days, before any other corps of the new army had put itself in motion, he had beaten the Royalists in three encounters (April 24th, at Islip Bridge; 26th, at Witney ; 27th, at Bampton Bush), taken Bletchington (April 24th), and sent to the House a full report of his success. Who will bring me this Cromwell, dead or alive!' cried the king ; while in London all were rejoicing that he had not yet given in his resignation.
“A week had scarcely passed, and the Parliament had already made up its mind that he should not resign. The campaign had commenced (April 30th). The king quitted Oxford (May 7th), had rejoined Prince Rupert, and was proceeding toward the north, either to raise the siege of Chester, or give battle to the Scottish army, and regain on that side its former advantages. If he succeeded, he would be in a position to threaten, as he pleased, the east or the south; and Fairfax, then on his way to the west to deliver the important town of Taunton, closely invested by the Prince of Wales, could not oppose his progress. Fairfax was recalled (May 5th); but, meantime, Cromwell alone was in a condition to watch the king's movements. Notwithstanding the Ordinance, he received orders to continue his service forty days (May ioth).”
The country was alarmed at the idea of Cromwell resigning at such a juncture as this. The Common Council petitioned Parliament, demanding a free discretion to be given to the General, and the permanent restoration of Cromwell to his former command. The latter was confirmed by an application, signed by General Fairfax and sixteen of his chief officers, for Cromwell to join him as an officer indispensably needed to command the cavalry.
On the 12th of June, 1645, a reconnoitring party of the Parliamentary cavalry unexpectedly came upon a detachment of the Royal army, leisurely returning from the north, on the news of the threatened blockade of Oxford. The king was flushed with the highest hopes. The success of Montrose in the north promised to free him from all fear in that direction, and he anticipated a body of troops to join him from the west. The meeting of outposts of the two armies was in the neighbourhood of Northampton ; but the king fell back immediately towards Leicester, to allow his whole forces to draw together. On the following day Cromwell joined Fairfax amid shouts from the whole army, and, a few hours afterwards, the king learned that the squadrons under his command were already harassing the rear. Prince Rupert