“it is a wonder that men selected and packed off to war in this way … should ever have stood their ground at first musket fire.” – Stephen J. Stearns, ‘Conscription and English Society in the 1620s’
The historical record focuses much more on men who were forced to fight in the wars of the 17th Century than those who volunteered willingly, and so the view of military service in the Civil Wars is usually a negative one. This seems obvious in view of the account of the desperation that could drive one man to cut his own throat or another to cut off his own toe to avoid service. Men seized by recruiting partiesn for both sides were herded together and imprisoned before being marched off for minimal basic training and almost certain injury or death — the time-lapse between recruitment and action could be as little as three days. Desertion was a constant problem for armies relying on impressment, particularly Parliament’s “newly modelled” army, which was perennially short of both men and pay. Stories of almost half the impressed men who fought at Naseby fleeing the field or deserting soon after paint a vivid picture of unwilling recruits, unprepared for action. This image is sharply contradicted by reports from European sources, who noted English hardiness in war, and praises English and Scottish armies for their courage and resilience. As always, every soldier had his own story and this moment in history between the ‘patronage’ armies of the medieval period and the professional armies of the late 17th Century onwards reveals so much about the many and varied reasons why men would march to war.
📷 ABN Photography
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