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glance at another contemporary movement made by the Royalist party, in North Wilts.
The King deeming the West the only secure part of his dominions, resolved before the summer campaign should open, to send the Prince of Wales [afterwards Charles II.] to the city of Bristol; where it was further arranged that the royal youth should assume the title of “General of the West." Rupert being constituted his lieutenant and Mr. Long his secretary. In execution of this important step, a summons was sent into Wiltshire for Sir James Long with his entire force to repair to Oxford and conduct the convoy to Bristol. The Prince quitted Oxford on the 4th of March; and in company with the Lords Colepepper and Hopton, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Marquis of Hartford, and many other of the Court attendants, adopted the route through Marlborough and Devizes in order to keep as far away from Gloucester as possible. The event is chronicled in the church-wardens' accounts of St. Mary Devizes by the following entry “Paid for ringers when the Prince came in, 7s. 2d.” Clarendon says the journey occupied about a week. It was hardly so long; for Sir James Long had fulfilled his commission and rejoined Sir Charles Lloyd at Devizes by the 9th of March.
Intelligence that this distinguished cavalcade was moving across the country reached Waller between Andover and Salisbury, and induced him at once to change his course and push for Devizes. Though too late to intercept the Prince's party, he judged that an easy triumph might be obtained over Sir James Long's troopers, could it be possible to intercept them before they regained the shelter of Devizes. On the 10th of March the various troops under Waller and Cromwell were quartered in and about Amesbury, Normanton, Lake, Durnford, and Durrington; and scouts were at the same time sent forward to examine the neighbourhood of Devizes and ascertain the strength and posture of the enemy. Some of these latter returned in the evening with the intel
ligence that Colonel Long was lying in Devizes with the posse-comitatus of the County's forces but that the works which surrounded the town were of very slight construction; whereupon it was resolved to advance that same night and take them by surprise. The army commenced its march at midnight, and when about a mile from Amesbury, they hal. ted, and being drawn up in a close body, four men out of every troop were chosen to form the forlorn-hope, and to ride forward in advance of the rest towards Devizes; the main body following in three brigades, through Shrewton and Lavington. Very early in the morning the forlorn-hope gave the enemy a premature alarm, who were perceived to be quartered both within and without the town [a party lying probably at Southbroom] which induced the rest to draw together in a body and stand on the defensive at the entrance of the street. Waller being informed of the position of affairs, hung back at Lavington during the day, affecting an attitude of indecision and fear with the two-fold object of either decoying the Royalists from behind their works or of taking measures to hem them in on the West; for it was justly apprehended that if a protracted action took place at one end of the town, Long's cavalry might escape away at the other end. The most numerous of his three brigades under the command of Captain Boteler and Sir Hardress Waller were therefore directed to wheel about, and fetching a large compass by Steeple Ashton and Trowbridge to fall in somewhere between Devizes and Bath; the two other brigades under himself and Cromwell remaining posted about Lavington, Potterne, and Worton.
On the morning of the next day, being Wednesday 12th March, Sir William Waller caused a vigorous demonstration to be made on the works at the south or Potterne side of Devizes, which, as he expected, frightened the Sheriff's cavalry into a precipitate retreat by the Bath road, and the fugitives, to the number of 400 had ridden safely as far as
Melksham before they discovered that they were intercepted by the aforesaid brigade under Boteler and Sir Hardress. In this emergency the greater portion of them appear to have turned due south, taking the road to Westbury and Steeple Ashton, where they were eventually ridden down and captured. Other portions seem to have preferred the direction of Seend and Worton in order to regain their Lavington quarters; but by this movement towards the valley where Waller and Cromwell were stationed, they threw themselves into the very jaws of their enemies; or as another narrator expresses it, “owing to the passes here being so narrow and the country so fortified with quickset hedges, they found themselves as it were in a pound, and could make no way of escape.” Two troops came riding near Cromwell's position at Potterne. Of course their fate was soon decided. The only part of the army which seemed destined to take no share in the capture was Waller's own section at Lavington; but before the end of the day, the last fragment of the flying cavalry which had contrived to evade Sir Hardress's pursuit near Westbury, fell into a like snare at Lavington; and Sheriff Long's regiment was virtually extinct. [It is perhaps in reference to this closing incident that Waller in his private journal, while cataloguing his mercies in the field, places just after Long's capture “The infall at the Devizes, and taking Major Rowles and his horse, the remainder of Colonel Long's regiment,” or it may belong to a transaction a few days later, yet to be narrated.]
This affair altogether presented the character of a rout rather than a conflict, four troopers only having fallen on the Sheriff's side, and two on the part of Waller. Who the officer was, to whom Sir James Long personally delivered up his sword, the despatches of the hour fail to declare; but as it is well known that Sir James subsequently acquired the friendship of Oliver Cromwell, we assume that he became his prisoner on the present occasion, and håve accordingly so