Battle of Alton
After Parliamentary general Sir William Wallerís ignominious defeat at Roundway Down near Devizes , the Royalist position in the West of England seemed to be strong. Sir Ralph Hopton, now elevated to the peerage as Lord Hopton, hoped to secure Hampshire and Sussex for his cause after Winchester and Arundel had been claimed by those sympathetic to Charles . But he made the error of spreading his forces thinly, his dispositions at the strategically important village of Alton perhaps a mere 1500 men.
Waller in one of the night attacks for which he was renowned moved his force south from Farnham to attack Alton. They reached the settlement undetected on the morning of December 13 1643. He manoeuvred his men to advance from the north and west sides; so when the Royalists were finally alerted their cavalry had the option to quit the village and flee southwards, which they took.
The remaining Royalist infantry was hugely outnumbered, roughly 1000 men facing five times that strength. They battled well, led by the apparently fanatical Colonel Richard Bolle, who refused to surrender even when his men had been penned into the village church and its yard, using dead horses as makeshift barricades. Bolle reputedly threatened to run anyone through who tried to surrender as he occupied the pulpit in the centre of the building. The slaughter came to an end when a musketeer smashed the Colonelís head in with his weapon. With the commanderís threat removed his subordinates rapidly sought quarter.
Waller lost fewer than 20 men, killing at least twice that and capturing nearing 900 more. Parliament was again in the ascendant in the region, soon to take Arundel.
More famous dates here
8028 views since 22nd November 2010
On this day: