The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration. It differed from other armies in the same conflict in that it was intended as an army liable for service anywhere in the country, rather than being tied to a single area or garrison. As such, its soldiers became full-time professionals, rather than part-time militia. Furthermore, its officers were also intended to be professional soldiers, not having seats in either the Houses of Lords or Commons and therefore not linked to any political or religious faction among the Parliamentarians.
The New Model Army was raised partly from among veteran soldiers who already had deeply-held Puritan religious convictions, and partly from conscripts who brought with them many commonly-held beliefs about religion or society. Its common soldiers therefore held and expressed dissenting or radical views unique to any English army. Although the Army's senior officers did not share many of their soldiers' political opinions, their independence from Parliament led to the Army's willingness to contribute to the overthrow of both the Crown and Parliament's authority, and to establish a short-lived "Commonwealth", which included a period of direct military rule. Ultimately, the Army's Generals (particularly Oliver Cromwell) could rely both on the Army's internal discipline and its religious zeal and innate support for the "Good Old Cause" to maintain an essentially dictatorial rule.
The New Model Army was formed as a result of dissatisfaction among Parliamentarians with the conduct of the Civil War in 1644. Although the Parliamentarians had a clear advantage in manpower over the Royalists, most of their forces were raised by local associations of counties, and could rarely be used very far from their homes. As early as 2 July of that year, Sir William Waller wrote on discovering that his London-based units were refusing to campaign further afield, "an army compounded of these men will never go through with your service, and till you have an army merely your own that you may command, it is in a manner impossible to do anything of importance."
Also, there was increasing dissension among Parliament's generals in the field. Many of Parliament's senior officers, mainly Presbyterians, were suspected of being inclined to favour peace with King Charles, and of conducting operations half-heartedly as a result. The Earl of Manchester was perhaps the most prominent of this faction; his Lieutenant General, Oliver Cromwell, was the leading proponent of fighting the war to the finish, which did not make for harmonious conduct of operations. Parliament's senior commander, the Earl of Essex was also suspected of lack of determination and was on poor terms with his subordinates. The tensions between the Parliamentarian generals became a bitter public argument after the Second Battle of Newbury, where King Charles's army was able to escape encirclement through perceived inaction on the part of some commanders.
On 19 November 1644, the Parliamentarian Eastern Association of counties announced that they could no longer meet the cost of maintaining their forces, which at the time provided about half the field force available to Parliament. In response, Parliament directed the Committee of Both Kingdoms, the cabinet-like body which oversaw the conduct of the War (and which included several experienced officers), to review the whole state of Parliament's forces. Also on 19 December, the House of Commons passed the Self-denying Ordinance, which prevented all members of the Houses of Lords and Commons from holding any military office. Originally a separate matter from the establishment of the Army, it soon became intimately linked with it. Once the Self-denying Ordinance became Law, it would remove the Earls of Manchester and Essex, and other Presbyterian members of Parliament and peers from command in the field.
On 6 January 1645, the Committee of Both Kingdoms laid down the establishment of the New Model Army, and appointed Sir Thomas Fairfax as its Captain-General and Sir Philip Skippon as Sergeant-Major General of the Foot. The Self-Denying Ordinance took time to pass the House of Lords, but came into force about the same time as the New Model Army finally came into being in April. Although Oliver Cromwell handed over his command of the Army's cavalry when it was passed, leaving the post vacant, Fairfax specifically requested his services when another officer (Colonel Vermuyden) wished to emigrate, and Cromwell again became Colonel of a regiment of horse and Lieutenant-General of the Horse in June. Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton (another cavalry commander in the New Model Army, and member of parliament) were two of the only four exceptions to the Self Denying Ordinance, the other two being local commanders in Cheshire and North Wales. They were allowed to serve under a series of three-month temporary commissions that were continually added to.
Parliament also decreed the consolidation of most of their other forces into two other armies, those of the Northern Association under Sydenham Poyntz and the Western Association under Edward Massey. These were locally recruited, and intended to reduce the remaining Royalist garrisons in their areas and prevent Royalist incursions. Some of their regiments were later reorganised and incorporated into the New Model Army.
Establishment and early character:
The New Model Army consisted of 22,000 soldiers, comprising 11 regiments of cavalry each of 600 men, for a total of 6,600; 12 regiments of infantry each of 1,200 men for a total of 14,400; and 1 regiment of 1,000 dragoons. The existing Parliamentarian armies of the Earl of Essex, the Southern Association under Sir William Waller and the Eastern Association under the Earl of Manchester were broken up to provide regiments for the new army. Although the cavalry regiments were already well up to strength and there was no shortage of volunteers for them, the regiments of foot needed 7000 reinforcements to be brought up to their full strength. These were impressed from Parliamentarian-held areas in the South and East.
A "Soldier's catechism" dictated new regulations and drill procedures. The standard daily pay was 8 pence for infantry and 2 shillings for cavalry. The administration of the Army was more centralised and there was better guarantee of food, clothing and other provisions than before. Cavalrymen (often recruited from among yeomen, or the more well-to-do farmers) had to supply their own horses.
The original founders intended that proficiency rather than social standing or wealth should determine the Army's leadership and promotions. Many officers (often the gentlemen amateurs) of existing units merged into regiments of the New Model Army became surplus to establishment and were discharged; these reformadoes demonstrated several times in London as they sought compensation or relief. Many corporals and sergeants, particularly in the Earl of Essex's army, were also unable to find posts in the merged regiments, but were persuaded to serve as ordinary soldiers. Contemporary accounts report that this was the result of exhortation by the popular Sir Philip Skippon, but it has also been suggested that these former non-commissioned officers believed that they would be unable to find employment outside the Army.
Cromwell also preferred soldiers and especially officers devoted, like himself, to Puritan ideals. Earlier during the Civil War he had written,
I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than what you call a Gentleman and is nothing else.
Even as it was being formed, the Army was viewed by some Presbyterians as a hotbed of Independents, a potentially dangerous situation given that Parliament's agreement with the Scottish Covenanters stipulated (in the Scots' view at least) that Presbyterianism was to be made the established Church in England. Several prominent Presbyterian officers, mainly expatriate Scottish professional soldiers, exacerbated this situation by refusing to serve in the New Model Army.
Two Colonels (Edward Montagu and John Pickering) in particular were both stated to be fanatical Independents. Pickering went so far as to preach sermons to his troops, for which he was reprimanded by Fairfax. The Earl of Essex brought a motion in the House of Lords to prevent Montagu and Pickering, and 40 Captains who were reportedly of the same persuasion, from holding commissions, but they were allowed to serve after there was a tied vote.
Prince Rupert of the Rhine, an archetypal cavalier and a prominent general in the army of King Charles I, gave the New Model troops their nickname of Ironsides. This referred more to their ability to cut through opposing forces than to their armour, as sometimes claimed.
The New Model Army's elite troops were its Regiments of Horse. They were armed and equipped in the style known at the time as harquebusiers, rather than heavily armoured cuirassiers. They wore a back-and-front breastplate over a buff leather coat, which itself gave some protection against sword cuts, and normally a "lobster-tailed pot" helmet with a movable three-barred visor, and a bridle gauntlet on the left hand. The sleeves of the buff coats were often decorated with strips of braid, which may have been arranged in a regimental pattern. Leather "bucket-topped" riding boots gave some protection to the legs.
Although not heavily armoured, their tactics were nevertheless based on those of the Swedish army under Gustavus Adolphus, which emphasised shock action, rather than a caracole with their firearms. They would charge boot-to-boot and sword in hand. In battle they usually carried a mortuary sword and two loaded pistols, one of which was fired just before they came into contact with the enemy, the other was kept either to cover their own retreat or to fire at a fleeing enemy.
Regiments were organised into six troops, of one hundred troopers plus officers, non-commissioned officers and specialists (drummers, farriers etc). On the battlefield, a regiment was normally formed as two divisions of three troops, one commanded by the regiment's Colonel (or the Major, if the Colonel was not present), the other by the Lieutenant Colonel.
Their discipline was markedly superior to that of their Royalist counterparts. Cromwell specifically forbade his men to pursue a fleeing enemy, but demanded they hold the battlefield. This meant that the New Model cavalry could charge, break an enemy force, regroup and charge again at another objective, which made them a formidable force on the battlefield. On the other hand, when required to pursue, they would do so relentlessly, not breaking ranks to loot abandoned enemy baggage as Royalist horse would often do
The New Model Army contained one regiment of dragoons, of twelve companies each of one hundred men, under Colonel Okey. Dragoons were mounted infantry, and wore much the same uniform as musketeers although they probably wore stout cloth gaiters to protect the legs while riding. They were armed with flintlock "snaphaunces" rather than the matchlock muskets carried by the infantry.
On the battlefield, their major function was to clear enemy musketeers from in front of their main position. At the Battle of Naseby, they were used to outflank enemy cavalry.
They were also useful in patrolling and scouting. In sieges, they were often used to assault breaches carrying flintlock carbines and grenades. The storming party were sometimes offered cash payments, as this was a very risky job. Once the forlorn hope had established a foothold in the enemy position, the infantry would follow them with their more cumbersome weapons of pikes and muskets.
In 1650, Okey's dragoons were converted into a regiment of horse. It appears that after that date, unregimented companies of dragoons raised from the Militia and other sources were attached to the regiments of horse and foot as required
The Regiments of Foot consisted of ten companies, in which musketeers and pikemen were mixed, at least on the march. Seven companies consisted of one hundred soldiers, plus officers, specialists and so on, and were commanded by Captains. The other three companies were nominally commanded by the regiment's Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and Major, and were stronger (200, 160 and 140 ordinary soldiers respectively).
The regiments of foot were provided with red uniforms. Those used by various regiments were distinguished by differently-coloured linings, which would show at the collar and the ends of the sleeves, and became in time the official "facing" colour. On some occasions, regiments were referred to as e.g. the "blue" regiment or the "white" regiment from these colours, although in formal correspondence they were referred to by the name of their Colonel.
In the New Model Army there were always two musketeers for each pikeman, from the beginning, although depictions of battles show them as being present in equal numbers, in stylised formations which were probably never used. On the battlefield, the musketeers lacked protection against enemy cavalry, and the two types of foot soldier were mixed. For most siege work, or for any action in wooded or rough country, the musketeer was generally more useful and versatile. Musketeers were often detached, or "commanded", for particular tasks.
Pikemen, when fully equipped, wore a pot helmet, back- and breastplates over a buff coat, and often also armoured tassets to protect the upper legs. They carried a sixteen-foot pike, and a sword. The heavily burdened pikeman usually dictated the speed of the Army's movement. They were frequently ordered to discard the tassets, and individual soldiers were disciplined for sawing a foot or two from the butts of their pikes, although senior officers were recommended to make the men accustomed to marching with heavy loads by regular route marches. In irregular fighting in Ireland the New Model temporarily gave up the pike. In battle, the pikemen were supposed to project a solid front of spearheads, to protect the musketeers from cavalry while they reloaded. They would also lead the charge against enemy foot units, when things came to push of pike
The musketeers wore no armour, at least by the end of the Civil War, although it is not certain that none had iron helmets at the beginning. They wore a bandolier from which were suspended twelve wooden containers each with a ball and measured charge of powder for their matchlock muskets. According to one source they carried 1 lb of fine powder, for priming, to 2 lbs of lead and 2 lbs of ordinary powder, the actual charging powder, for 3 lbs of lead. They were normally deployed six ranks deep, and were supposed to keep up a constant fire by means of the "countermarch", either by introduction whereby the rear rank would file to the front to fire a volley, or by "retroduction" where front rank would fire a volley then file to the rear. By the time they had reached the front rank again, they should have reloaded and been prepared to fire. At close quarters, there was often no time for musketeers to reload and they would use their musket butts as clubs. They carried swords, but these were often of inferior quality, and ruined by use for cutting firewood. Bayonets were not introduced into European armies until the 1660s and so were not part of a musketeer's equipment.
The establishment of the New Model Army's artillery varied over time, and the artillery was administered separately from the Horse and Foot. At the Army's formation, Thomas Hammond (brother of Colonel Robert Hammond who commanded a Regiment of Foot) was appointed Lieutenant General of the Ordnance. Much of the artillery was captured from the Royalists in the aftermath of the Battle of Naseby and the storming of Bristol.
The establishment of the New Model also included at least two companies of "firelocks" or fusiliers, who wore "tawny coats" instead of red, commanded initially by Major John Desborough. They were used to guard the guns and ammunition wagons, as it was obviously undesirable to have matchlock-armed soldiers with lighted matches near the gunpowder barrels.
The artillery was used to most effect in sieges, where its role was to blast breaches in fortifications for the infantry to assault. Cromwell and the other commanders of the Army were not trained in siege warfare and generally tried to take fortified towns by storm rather than go through the complex and time-consuming process of building earthworks and trenches around it so that batteries of cannon could be brought close to the walls to pound it into surrender.
The Army generally performed well when storming fortifications, for example at the siege of Drogheda, but paid a heavy price at Clonmel when Cromwell ordered them to attack a well-defended breach.
The New Model did not use tents, instead being quartered in whatever buildings (houses, barns etc.) were available, until they began to serve in the less populated countries of Ireland and Scotland. In 1650, their tents were each for six men, a file, who carried the tents in parts. In campaigns in Scotland, the troops carried with them 7 days rations, consisting exclusively of biscuit and cheese.
Civil War Campaigns:
The Army took the field in late April or May, 1645. After an attempt to raise the Siege of Taunton was abandoned, the Army began a Siege of Oxford, sending a detachment of one regiment of cavalry and four of infantry to reinforce the defenders of Taunton. After the Royalists captured Leicester, Fairfax was ordered to leave Oxford and march north to confront the King's army. On 14 June, the New Model Army destroyed King Charles' smaller but veteran army at the Battle of Naseby. Leaving the Scots and locally-raised forces to contain the King, the New Model Army marched into the west country, where they destroyed the remaining Royalist field army at Langport on 10 July. Thereafter, they reduced the Royalist fortresses in the west of England. The last fortress in the west surrendered in early 1646, shortly before Charles surrendered himself to a Scottish army and hostilities ended.
After the end of major civil war hostilities in England, the Army was in a position to dictate the future of England, which caused a great deal of tension between the political radicals in their ranks, and their commanders such as Cromwell and Henry Ireton
Revolutionary Politics and the "Agreement of the People":
Having won the Civil War, the soldiers became discontented with the Long Parliament, for several reasons. Firstly, they had not been paid regularly and on the end of hostilities, the conservative MPs in Parliament wanted to either disband the Army or send them to fight in Ireland without receiving their back pay. Secondly the Long Parliament refused to grant the soldiers indemnity (freedom from prosecution for crimes they had been ordered to commit in the Civil War). The soldiers demanded indemnity as several soldiers were hanged after the war for crimes such as stealing horses for use by the cavalry regiments. Thirdly, seeing that most Parliamentarians wanted to restore the King without major democratic reforms or religious freedom, many soldiers asked why they had risked their lives in the first place, a sentiment that was strongly expressed by their elected representatives.
Two representatives, called Agitators, were elected from each regiment. The Agitators, with two officers from each regiment and the Generals, formed a new body called the Army Council which after a rendezvous (meeting) near Newmarket, Suffolk on 4 June 1647 issued "A Solemne Engagement of the Army, under the Command of his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax" to Parliament on 8 June making their concerns known, and also detailing the constitution of the Army Council so that Parliament would understand that the discontent was Army wide and had the support of both officers and other ranks. This Engagement was read out to the Army at a general Army rendezvous on 5 June.
Having come under the influence of London radicals called the Levellers, the troops of the Army proposed a revolutionary new constitution named the Agreement of the People, which called for almost universal male suffrage, reform of electoral boundaries, power to rest with the Parliament which was to be elected every two years (by the people), religious freedom, and an end to imprisonment for debt.
Increasingly concerned at the failure to pay their wages and by political maneuverings by King Charles I and by some in Parliament, the army marched slowly towards London over the next few months. In late October and early November at the Putney Debates the Army debated two different proposals. The first was the Agreement of the People; the other was "The Heads of the Proposals", put forward by Henry Ireton for the Army Council. This was a constitutional manifesto which included the preservation of property rights and would maintain the privileges of the gentry. At the Putney Debates it was agreed to hold three further rendezvous.
At the first, the Corkbush Field rendezvous, the senior officers in the army, known as the Grandees, gained the agreement of most regiments to accept the Army Council's Heads of the Proposals instead of the Agreement of the People as the Army's manifesto. A mutiny by a minority of regiments was suppressed by Cromwell who had Private Richard Arnold tried for mutiny and shot on the spot as an example. At the two other rendezvous at Ruislip Heath and Kingston the other regiments were ordered to show support for Fairfax which they all agreed to do
Second English Civil War:
The army remained under control and intact, so it was able to take the field when in July 1648 the Second English Civil War broke out. The New Model Army routed English royalist insurrections in Surrey and Kent and in Wales before crushing a Scottish invasion force at the battle of Preston (1648).
Many of the Army's radicals now called for the execution of the King, whom they called, "Charles Stuart, that man of blood". The majority of the Grandees realised that they could neither negotiate a settlement with Charles I nor trust him to refrain from raising another army to attack them, so they came reluctantly to the same conclusion as the radicals: they would have to execute him. After the Long Parliament rejected the Army's Remonstrance by 125 to 58, the Grandees decided to reconstitute Parliament so that it would agree with the Army's position. On 6 December 1648, Colonel Thomas Pride instituted Pride's Purge and forcibly removed from the House of Commons all those who were not supporters of the religious independents and the Grandees in the Army. The much-reduced Rump Parliament passed the necessary legislation to try Charles I. He was found guilty of high treason by the 59 Commissioners and beheaded on 30 January 1649.
Now that the twin pressures of Royalism and those in the Long Parliament who were hostile to the Army had been defeated, the divisions in the Army which had been present in the Putney Debates resurfaced. Cromwell, Ireton, Fairfax and the other Grandees were not prepared to countenance the Agitators' proposals for a revolutionary constitutional settlement. This eventually brought the Grandees into conflict with those elements in the New Model Army who did.
During 1649 there were three mutinies over pay and political demands. The first involved three hundred infantrymen of Colonel John Hewson's regiment, who declared that they would not serve in Ireland until the Levellers' programme had been realised. They were cashiered without arrears of pay, which was the threat that had been used to quell the mutiny at the Corkbush Field rendezvous.
In the Bishopsgate mutiny soldiers of the regiment of Colonel Edward Whalley stationed in Bishopsgate London made demands similar to those of Hewson's regiment; they were ordered out of London. When they refused to go, fifteen soldiers were arrested and court martialled, of whom six were sentenced to death. Five of them were subsequently pardoned, while Robert Lockyer, a former Agitator, faced a firing squad on 27 April 1649.
Less than two weeks later there was a larger mutiny involving several regiments over pay and political demands. After the resolution of the pay issue the Banbury mutineers, consisting of 400 soldiers with Leveller sympathies under the command of Captain William Thompson, continued to negotiate for their political demands. They set out for Salisbury in the hope of rallying support from the regiments billeted there. Cromwell launched a night attack on 13 May in which several mutineers perished, but Captain Thompson escaped only to be killed in another skirmish near the Diggers community at Wellingborough. The rest were imprisoned in Burford Church until three were shot in the Churchyard on 17 May. With the failure of this mutiny the Levellers' power base in the New Model Army was destroyed.
Later that year, on 15 August 1649, the New Model Army landed in Ireland to start the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The soldiers in this expeditionary force were not the first New Model soldiers to fight in Ireland (hundreds had fought in the major battles of previous years) but the scale of the 1649 deployment far exceeded all earlier efforts. Many soldiers were reluctant to serve in this campaign, as Ireland had a bad reputation amongst English soldiers, and regiments had to draw lots to decide who would go on the expedition.
The politically and religiously disunited Royalist-Catholic coalition they met in Ireland were at a major disadvantage against the New Model Army. After the shock defeats at Rathmines and Drogheda many of the Royalist soldiers opposing the Parliamentarian forces became demoralised, melting away at the first opportunity- the Scottish Royalist army in Ulster was badly weakened by desertion before the battle of Lisnagarvey for example.
However, resistance by some of the native Irish Catholic forces, who were faced with land confiscations and suppression of their religion in the event of a Parliamentarian conquest, proved stubborn and protracted. Some units, notably the veteran Ulster Confederate Catholic forces, proved resilient enemies. As a result, the New Model soldiers suffered considerably in the campaign. After victories with few Parliamentary casualties at Drogheda and Wexford in 1649, the fighting became more protracted and casualties began to mount.
At Kilkenny, in March 1650, the town's defenders skilfully beat back numerous Parliamentarian assaults before being forced to surrender. Shortly afterwards, about 2,000 soldiers of the New Model died in abortive assaults against a breach defended by veteran Ulstermen in the siege of Clonmel. These bloody scenes would be repeated during the Siege of Charlemont fort. Thousands more died of disease, particularly in the long sieges of Limerick, Waterford and Galway.
The Army was also constantly at risk of attack by Irish guerrillas or "tories", who attacked vulnerable garrisons and supply columns. The New Model responded to this threat with forced evictions of the civilian population from certain areas and by destroying food supplies. These tactics caused a widespread famine throughout the country from 1650 onwards.
Overall, around 43,000 English soldiers fought in the Parliamentarian army in Ireland between 1649-53, in addition to some 9,000 Irish Protestants. By the end of the campaign in 1653, much of the Army's wages were still in arrears. About 12,000 veterans were awarded land confiscated from Irish Catholics in lieu of pay. Many soldiers sold these land grants to other Protestant settlers, but about 7,500 of them settled in Ireland. They were required to keep their weapons to act as a reserve in case of any future rebellions in the country.
In 1650, while the campaign in Ireland was still continuing, part of the New Model Army was transferred to Scotland to fight Scottish Covenanters at the start of the Third English Civil War. The Covenanters, who had been allied to the Parliament in the First English Civil War, had now crowned Charles II as King. Despite being outnumbered, Cromwell led the Army to crushing victories over the Scots at the battles of Dunbar and Inverkeithing. Following the Scottish invasion of England led by Charles II, the New Model Army and local militia forces soundly defeated the Royalists at the Battle of Worcester, the last pitched battle of the English Civil Wars.
Part of the New Model Army, under George Monck occupied Scotland during the Interregnum. They were kept busy throughout the 1650s by minor Royalist uprisings in the Scottish Highlands and by endemic lawlessness by bandits known as moss-troopers.
In England the New Model was involved in numerous skirmishes with a range of opponents, but they were little more than policing actions. The largest rebellion of the Protectorate took place when the Sealed Knot instigated an insurrection in 1655. The 1655 insurrection consisted of a series of coordinated uprisings, but only the Penruddock uprising ended in armed conflict, and that was put down by one company of cavalry.
The major foreign entanglement of this period was the Anglo-Spanish War. In 1654, the English Commonwealth declared war on Spain and further regiments of the New Model Army were sent to conquer the Spanish colony of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. They failed and sustained heavy casualties from tropical disease. However, they did take the lightly defended island of Jamaica. The English troops performed better in the European theatre of the war in Flanders. During the Battle of the Dunes (1658), as part of Turenne's army, the red-coats of the New Model Army under the leadership of Sir William Lockhart, Cromwell's ambassador at Paris, astonished both the French and Spanish armies by the stubborn ferocity of their assaults, particularly with a successful assault up a strongly defended sandhill 50 metres (160 ft) high. The English had learnt a lot about war since two rabbles had met at the battle of Edgehill in 1642. Incidentally, some of the Spanish defences on the Dunes were manned by English Royalists, including James Stuart, later to be crowned James II of England.
After the death of Oliver Cromwell, the Protectorate died a slow death, and the New Model army died with it. For a time in 1659 it seemed that the New Model army forces loyal to different Generals might wage war on each other, but in the end the New Model Army regiments which had been garrisoning Scotland under the command of General George Monck were able to march on London, overseeing the coronation of Charles II, without significant opposition from the regiments under other Generals, in particular those of Charles Fleetwood and John Lambert. With the exception of Monck's own regiment, which became the Coldstream Guards, and the Regiment of Cuirassiers, which became the Royal Horse Guards, the New Model Army disbanded after the Restoration of 1660.