Battle of Newburn
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The Battle of Newburn, sometimes known as Newburn Ford, was fought on 28 August 1640 during the Second Bishops' War between a Scottish Covenanter army led by General Alexander Leslie and English forces commanded by Edward, Lord Conway. Conway, heavily outnumbered, was defeated, and the Scots went on to occupy the town of Newcastle, obtaining a stranglehold on London's coal supply. Charles I had no choice but to agree to a truce, under which the Scottish army in northern England would be paid daily expenses, pending a final treaty of peace. To raise the necessary funds Charles had to call the Long Parliament, thus setting in motion a process that would lead to the outbreak of the English Civil War two years later.
Purge of the bishops
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In attempting to force the Scots to accept a new Prayer Book in 1637, Charles sparked a crisis that led to the compilation and subscription of the National Covenant in early 1638, a document which rejected all innovations in worship that had not been subject to the approval of both the Scottish Parliament and the General Assembly of the church. In November of the same year a General Assembly in Glasgow not only rejected the Prayer Book, but also expelled the bishops from the church, as suspect agents of the crown. Charles' refusal to accept this led to the outbreak of the First Bishops' War in 1639.
This war saw much posturing but little real action. In the end the two sides, reluctant to push the issue, concluded hostilities in the Pacification of Berwick, an agreement without an agreement, that was at best a breathing space. The Scots agreed that the Glasgow Assembly had been 'illegal'; Charles agreed that a new Assembly, together with a Parliament, should meet in Edinburgh in the summer of 1640. As none of the issues that had led to the signing of the National Covenant had been settled, it was obvious to all that the Edinburgh Assembly would simply confirm the decisions taken at Glasgow. This was to lead directly to the outbreak of the Second Bishops' War in which Newburn was the only battle.:1 To raise the necessary funds Charles summoned a new Parliament to Westminster, the first to meet for eleven years, hoping to use English patriotism as a counter to the rebel Scots. But the Short Parliament was more interested in raising various grievances long suppressed and was quickly dismissed, leaving the king worse off than before.
The geography and progress of the battle have been described here. This emphasizes that what mattered at Newburn was control of the crossing point of the River Tyne, upstream of the only other one between Newburn and the sea at Newcastle, and under the control of whoever held the city. In short, the Scots forces occupied better ground to the north of the river than the King's forces located on the marshes of Stella and Ryton, and the latter were defeated as a consequence.
A useful assessment of the engagement by English Heritage opined, "As a classical example of how to conduct an opposed river crossing, Newburn should be of interest to the student of military history. There are few examples of this form of operation to be found amongst other English battles".:7
Subsequent role of Newburn
It is easy to confuse this battle of Newburn and the occupation of Newcastle with a repeat encounter which led to the Siege of Newcastle. That took place in 1644. At stake was always the prize of controlling the coal trade from the Tyne. In 1640 the Newcastle corporation had to pay £38,888 to the Scots. This won them no friends and when on 20 June 1642 the king appointed a governor and erected batteries to guard the Tyne, no-one of consequence complained on Tyneside although Parliament was alarmed. Newcastle became a royalist city in the English civil war. Newburn was used as a bridging point by Scottish forces in 1644.
- "English Heritage Battlefield Report: Newburn Ford 1640" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-12-07.
- Tyneside by C M Fraser & K Emsley, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1973 page 36
- http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/listing/battlefields/battle-of-newburn-ford It was the only formal battle of that war.
- Tyneside by C M Fraser & K Emsley, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1973 p. 36
- Tyneside by C M Fraser & K Emsley, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1973 page 37
- Donaldson, G., Scotland from James V to James VII, 1965
- Fissel, M. C., The Bishops' War: Charles I's Campaigns against Scotland, 1638–1640, 1994
- Hewison, J. K., The Covenanters, 1913
- Matthew, D, Scotland Under Charles I, 1955
- Russel, C, The Fall of the British Monarchies, 1637–1642, 1991
- Stevenson, D., The Scottish Revolution, 1637–44, 1973
- Turner, Sir James, Memoirs of his own Life and Times, 1632–1670, 1829
- Terry, C. S., The Life and Campaigns of Alexander Leslie, 1899
- Wedgwood, C. V., The King's Peace, 1637–1641, 1955
- Matthews, R., England versus Scotland, 2003; ISBN 978-0850529494
- Fraser C. M. & Elmsley K., Tyneside, 1973; ISBN 0715357646; pages 35–36
- History of the Battle of Newburn, Newcastle City Council
- Battle of Newburn Ford, English Heritage website
- English Heritage Battlefield Report Newburn Ford 1640, published in 1995