Worcester 1651 by Malcolm Atkin / 2008 / ISBN 978-1-84415-080-9

My Rating  as a 'useful reference'....             *****                      (five out of five possible)
"Worcester 1651" finally arrived!  There are only 155 pages plus the notes, index, etc, but it is a true treasure!  Quote from Back of book:
Mr. Atkin is head of the Historic Environment and Archeaeology Service for Worcestershire and is considered one of the leading authorities on the English Civil Wars
. - and I have to say that this is one of the most informative little books I've ever seen.  It doesn't go years iand years before the Battle to explain every how and why they got there - and it doesn't go years after to show the long term effect, but it has tons of pictures, maps, diagrams, sketches, one page biographies of all the principal characters, even shows the views from the top of the cathedral and fort.   Good information on regiments, weapons and fighting experiece of men who were on the field that day.  Has an excellent map drawn to show the city ON that day, 3 September 1651.

Best of all he slows down to an hour-by-hour description of the battle itself, taking the time to tell what one general was doing, and then moving to what another was doing at the same time.  He does a fairly good job of staying neutral, although I'd have to say he leans a little towards Charles' side.  I haven't found any issues he sugarcoats on either side though, bad or good,  even down to Charles seeing Montroses' mutilated arm in Scotland, and the Scots at Upton Bridge failing to post a watch at the river crossing that lets the enemy practically waltz onto the field.

What I got most out of this is the time line, and the picture of a 21 year old, surrounded by a large group of experienced veteran commanders / versus what seems like the 'well-oiled machine' known as the New Model Army.  Most striking is the excellent portrayal of the 'little-by-little' slights, overlooked, failed, just-not-done' bits and pieces that happened day by day once Cromwell came up to Worcester.  You see all the Royalists and Scots doing this and that to prepare, even down to stripping the lead from roofs to make musket balls - and then there is this, and that, and the other that just lets Cromwell's hugly outnumbering forces get closer... and closer... and closer.

By the time they get to the actual fighting, I think readers would probably agree with me that King Charles' position was basically suicidal.  As a reader, you can't help but be most amazed that Charles managed to get out, much less that some of his men got out of the city itself with him.   There is a letter written by a soldier who was captured after the battle who claims that
"....had it not been for divine protection, the King should surely have perished that day..."
Before I read this book I chalked the statement up to a bit of exaggeration, and the bravado of a young man taken prisioner, trying to keep his own spirits up. Having read the book, I have to admit - the soldier was not exaggerating in the least, not so much as half a hair!

As for the WIP - I now have a much better idea of the 'despair' that must have filled the hearts of some men like David Leslie.... the utter confidence that Cromwell must have felt in his own heart - and you can tell that anyone in the town  in the short days and hours before the battle, must have felt a sense of increasing 'dread-&-doom' slowly stealing over the army within the city.  You couldn't help but feel it if you knew  how fast and easily Cromwell was moving up closer and closer on you.... how many places he could have been delayed or stopped and such efforts failed to happen or were so easily defeated.

This produces an attitude and atmosphere that I can use different characters to show, thoughts they can struggle with, even nightmares they can have long after the battle is over, as those who were there probably experienced.  This is the kind of situation where you would hope everyone of Charles' men had made out their Will & Last Testament before being caught up ... where you can't help by marvel at the 'thinness' of the 'threads' that kept Charles' younger brother James from inheriting the crown that day....

.... where you  are reminded of Custer's Last Stand at the Little Bighorn. 


Biggest Drawback - all pictures are in black and white!  Some need a magnifying glass to see teeny details.

Afternote:  Music to listen to while writing this might be 'Johnny has gone for a soldier'.... 'The King's Singers Greatest Hits' version of  'The Sound of Silence'  ....  'Freedom', from the Liberty album by Mark O'Connor-  look for more perhaps.

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