Oliver Cromwell on the Battle of Marston Moor – 1644

After the Battle of  Marston Moor, Oliver Cromwell had the unpleasant duty of having to tell his brother-in-law of the death of his eldest son. This is what he wrote.

Oliver Cromwell made his name as a cavalry commander at the Battle of Marston Moor when his surprise charge late in the day routed Prince Rupert and turned the tide of the Civil War in Parliament’s favour.

Having lost his reputation for invincibility, Rupert returned south to rejoin King Charles. The parliamentarian forces resumed their seige of nearby York and forced its surrender. As a result, they were to dominate the north for the rest of the war.

Cromwell himself gained increasing influence in Parliament as a result of his military prowess.

This account was given by Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) in a letter to his brother in law, Colonel Valentine Walton.

Cromwell writes to his brother in law after the Battle of Marston Moor , 2 July 1644

It’s our duty to sympathise in all mercies; and to praise the Lord together in chastisements or trials, that so we may sorrow together.

Truly England and the Church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord, in this great victory given unto us, such as the like never was since this war began. It had all the evidences of an absolute victory obtained by the Lord’s blessing upon the Godly Party principally. We never charged but we routed the enemy. The Left Wing, which I commanded, being our own horse, saving a few Scots in our rear, beat all the Prince’s horse. God made them as stubble to our swords. We charged their regiments of foot with our horse, and routed all we charged. The particulars I cannot relate now; but I believe, of twenty thousand the Prince hath not four thousand left. Give glory, all the glory, to God.

Sir, God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannon-shot. It brake his leg. We were necessitated to have it cut off, whereof he died.

Sir, you know my own trials this way: but the Lord supported me with this. That the Lord took him into the happiness we all pant for and live for. There is your precious child full of glory, never to know sin or sorrow any more. He was a gallant young man, exceedingly gracious. God give you His comfort. Before his death he was so full of comfort that to Frank Russel and myself he could not express it, “It was so great above his pain”. This he said to us. Indeed it was admirable. A little after, he said, One thing lay upon his spirit. I asked him, What that was? He told me it was, That God had not suffered him to be any more the executioner of His enemies. At his fall, his horse being killed with the bullet, and as I am informed three horses more, I am told be bid them, Open to the right and left, that he might see the rogues run. Truly he was exceedingly beloved in the Army, of all that knew him. But few knew him; for he was a precious young man, fit for God. You have cause to bless the Lord. He is a glorious Saint in Heaven; wherein you ought exceedingly to rejoice. Let this drink up your sorrow; seeing these are not feigned words to comfort you, but the real thing is so real and undoubted a truth. You may do all things by the strength of Christ. Seek that, and you shall easily bear your trial. Let this public mercy to the Church of Gord make you to forget your private sorrow. The Lord be your strength; so prays

Your truly faithful and loving brother,
Oliver Cromwell

Source: Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, edited by Thomas Carlyle, 1845 (40Mb PDF document).