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New Model Army

This article deals with the English Civil War army. For information on the band, see New Model Army (band).

The New Model Army became the best known of the various Parliamentarian armies in the English Civil War. It comprised professional soldiers led by trained generals, unlike other military forces of the era, which tended to have aristocratic leaders with no guarantee of military training. Apart from their military successes, the New Model Army troops also became famous for their Puritan religious zeal.

Oliver Cromwell started the formation of the New Model Army from the existing Roundhead forces on February 15, 1645 with the progression of the Self-denying Ordinance to remove the former leadership of the Roundheads. Sir Thomas Fairfax took up the overall command, with Cromwell himself at first only in charge of the cavalry. The Army finally came into being in April 1645.

The New Model Army consisted of 22,000 soldiers, including 11 regiments of cavalry (6600 men), 12 regiments of infantry (14,400 men) and 1 regiment of 1000 dragoons. Soldiers conscripted from all over the country and transferred from older regiments joined together to form the army.

The original founders intended that proficiency rather than social standing or wealth should determine the Army's leadership and promotions. However, Cromwell also preferred soldiers devoted, like himself, to Puritan ideals, and some of them sang psalms prior to battle. Cromwell also instituted standard daily pay (8 pence for infantry, 2 shillings for cavalry) and guaranteed food, clothing and other provisions. Cavalrymen had to supply their own horses.

Cromwell merged men from multiple regiments into a single one and provisioned them with red uniforms to replace their former regimental colors. A "Soldier's catechism" dictated new regulations and drill procedures.

Prince Rupert, one of the King's followers, gave them their nickname of Ironsides. This referred more to their ability to cut through opposing forces than to their armour, as sometimes claimed; their armour extended to leather jerkins.

The New Model Army based its tactics on fast hit-and-run attacks against the flanks of the enemy. Frontal attack would have meant exposing them to the Royalist artillery. Cromwell specifically forbade his men to pursue a fleeing enemy, but demanded they hold the battlefield.

The New Model Army won important victories at Naseby (14 June 1645, its baptism of fire) and Preston (August 1648). After the end of major civil war hostilities in England, they were 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.

Increasingly concerned at the political maneuverings by King Charles and by some in Parliament, the army marched to London in August 1647 and debated proposals of their own in the Putney Debates. Cromwell managed to defuse his soldier's demands by his personal charisma, but the radical sentiment in the army was one of the reasons why he chose to execute Charles I in 1649.

In 1649 a mutiny occurred over pay and political demands. After the resolution of the pay issue, 400 troopers (under the command of Captain William Thompson ) who had sympathies with the Levellers continued to negotiate their political demands. Cromwell launched a night attack (13 May 1649) on the "Banbury mutineers". Several mutineers perished in the skirmish, but Captain Thompson escaped only to die in another skirmish near the Diggers community at Wellingborough. Three other leaders were hanged, William Thompson's brother, Corporal Perkins and John Church on May 17, 1649. This destroyed the Levellers' power base in the New Model Army. Later that year the New Model Army landed in Ireland (15 August 1649) to start the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

Although Royalist alliance they met in Ireland was no match for the New Model Army, its soldiers did suffer considerably in the campaign. About 2000 of them died in abortive assaults on a breach in the siege of Clonmel in 1650. Thousands more of them died of disease, particularly in the long sieges of Limerick, Waterford and Galway. In addition, they werre constantly at risk of attack by Irish guerrillas or "tories", who attacked vulnerable garrisons and supply columns. By the end of the war in Ireland in 1653, much of the Army's wages were still in arrears. About 12,000 veterans were awarded land confiscated from Irish Catholics in the place of the money owed to them. Many soldiers sold their 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 ongoing, part of the New Model was recalled to Scotland to fight Scottish Covenanters, who had been allied to the Parliament in the English Civil War, but who had now crowned Charles II as King of the Three Kingdoms. Despite being outnumbered, Cromwell led the New Model to crushing victories over the Scots at the battles of Dunbar and Worcester. Part of the New Model, 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 mosstroopers .

In 1656, the Commonwealth declared war on Spain and further regiments of New Model Army were sent to conquer the Spanish colony of Hispaniola in the Carribbean. They failed and took heavy losses from tropical diseases, however, they did take the lightly defended island of Jamaica. The English troops did better in the European theatre of the war in Flanders. During the Battle of the Dunes (1658) the red-coats of the New Model Army under the leadership of Sir William Lockhart , Cromwell's ambassador at Paris, in Turenne's army astonished both the French and Spanish armies by the stubborn fierceness of their assaults, particularly with a successful assault up a strongly defended sandhill 50 meters (150 feet) 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 James II of England.

Afterrthe death of Oliver Cromwell, the Protectorate died a slow death, and with it died the New Model army. With the exception of General Monck's regiment (which became the Coldstream Guards) - which Monck had marched to London to oversee the Crowning of Charles II, the New Model Army disbanded after the Restoration of 1660.

During World War I, Douglas Haig re-introduced the term for his units of the British Expeditionary Force decimated at the Somme.

See also

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