Cromwell's Army: Basic Facts
Although I am very interested in Protestant and Christian subjects in general from the 1500s through the 1800s, I have never studied much about the Puritans and the English Civil War. Today I chose a random subject to research. It is difficult to discern how much of the feud between Puritans (“Roundheads”) and mostly Anglicans (“Cavaliers”) was based on religion, as political machinations seemed to have a great deal of influence, yet it was still a fascinating subject. I saw many references to the “New Model Army” and wondered what exactly that meant.
This unique fighting force was formed in 1645, and when the monarchy returned to England fifteen years later, it faded away quietly (or perhaps not-so-quietly). One could call this a religion-based army as many if not all were dyed-in-the-wool Puritans who thoroughly agreed with Oliver Cromwell’s reforms. As an exception, the higher-ups, military men who simply wanted to be free of royal restrictions, fought on the side of the Puritans without harboring Puritan tendencies. Many were, in fact, Presbyterian. Being Calvinist in nature, they must have been considered acceptable by the majority of the Puritan soldiers.
The “New Model Army,” like any army, had well-trained infantrymen and cavalrymen but also had a force of dragoons. In a few decades the word “dragoon” would cause chills of fear to sweep through Protestant sections of Europe, as French dragoons would kill, torture, and terrorize Huguenot families before and during the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. One wonders if Cromwell’s dragoons had a milder reputation among their own people than France’s did among theirs.
What did the “New Model Army” wear? According to images and contemporary accounts, soldiers sported very plain uniforms including a helmet with a back lip and a face protector, chest armor, arm and probably leg armor, and a very plain neck-to-knee cloth garment of a pale color. (There were always variations, but this seems to be how the common soldier would have appeared, to my knowledge). The “New Model Army” joined the ranks of Christian soldiers whose armies were actually divided on the basis of differing religions, i.e. the Catholics and Huguenots during the French Wars of Religion and the Catholics and Protestants of the Thirty Years’ War. Though such conditions had existed previously in history, sectarian violence was much furthered in the 16th and 17th centuries.
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