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Artillery and Battles


Cannon were most useful in siege warfare, when they were stationed around towns that were surrounded in order to bombard defences. The largest of these were rare enough to be given names, like ‘Roaring Meg’, ‘Sweet Lips’ and ‘Gog and Magog’. Smaller field pieces were still heavy enough to require teams of up to 15 horses to move them. Made of iron, cannonballs could be as small as tennis balls or as large as footballs and sometimes weighed upwards of 30lbs (14kg).

A cannonball that bounced could decapitate a rank of six men at once.

Robert Pierrepont, Earl of Kingston, captured at Gainsborough and transported along the river to Hull, was cut in half by a cannonball fired by his own side.


Despite the dominance of firearms, combat was hand to hand and happened at close range. Tens of thousands of men faced one another across a battlefield, organised into regiments and drawn up in formation, with cavalry on each flank. The smoke and noise of the battlefield meant signals were beaten out by drums. It was impossible to tell the difference between the armies of each side. Regiments equipped by the local gentry were often provided with similar clothes, for instance the white coats worn by the Marquis of Newcastle’s regiment, but a uniform was not used until 1645 when Parliament clothed the New Model Army infantry and dragoons in red jackets. Before this, in order to tell friend from foe, regiments used a code word or phrase (for instance ‘God is with us’) but these could be easily discovered. Field signs were also used to mark opposing sides and these varied from sashes and ribbons to bean stalks!

Each regiment carried a colour or flag which it defended to the death.

Legend has it that the hand of Sir Edmund Verney, who fought for the King at the battle of Edgehill, was found after his death, still clutching the royal standard.