“These high wild hills and rough uneven ways…” The Action at Trow Green 1656

The quote is from Richard II, act2, scene 3, concerning the passage through the wilds of Gloucestershire. Pictured is a primitive drawing of Capt. James Bellamy in action at Trow Green.

I had set up Tippermuir for a replay with FK&P, but for some reason my wife decided it would be nice to have the dining room table available for the three or so weeks of the holiday period. I can’t think why. 😆

To get in some more practice and experimentation with For King and Parliament, I took down Tippermuir and set up a smaller (newly-gridded) 3 x 3 battlemat and created a simple scenario:

In the Autumn of 1656, much of the population of West Gloucestershire had had enough of the rule of the Major-Generals and were now in full revolt. The very active military governor, General Desborough, managed to intercept a government regiment near Doncaster, which was marching south to London, and force marched them into the wilds of Gloucestershire. We shall call the regiment, Colonel John Barham’s (since much of what is reported here failed to be mentioned in any of the written histories of the period). Desborough also gathered up elements of Lambert’s horse (with much experience in putting down treachery) along with their Lt. Colonel, Hugh Benthnell, to act as his second. By the day of battle his small force numbered slightly over twelve hundred men, mostly veterans.

Opposing the government forces were the loosely organized civilian rabble of three major parishes in the region as well as elements of the only slightly better organized Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire levy militia. Although the rebels had only a sprinkling of veterans and were, in the main, poorly armed, they were well motivated to resist the illegitimate government. They were also lead by a capable officer, late of the New Model, Captain James Bellamy, a staunch Leveller and a man of some note in the region. The exact number of the rebels taking part in the battle is unknown but twenty-five hundred is a reasonable (some would say generous) guess.

On November 3rd, the two small armies met on the relatively open fields near Trow Green to decide the fate of West Gloucestershire.


The map grid for the Battle of Trow Green, with the government army approaching from the East (bottom). Row X may be omitted to conform to an eight box depth.

This is a straight-up fight in fairly open terrain although both Trow Common and What Wood present some problems for the government’s approach. The impassable woods in grids 1:D,E,F are on a low (elevation 1) hill. The battle will last until one side breaks (probably sooner rather than later).

The scenario is designed to test a small, but capable force against a larger, mostly civilian force, to give a feel for some of the disorganized fighting found at various times in  the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (and after). In particular I wanted to see how “Rabble” worked (as well as a minor extension to their capabilities). The units classed levy militia are quickly organized remnants of the trained bands disaffected by military rule. They are portrayed as pike heavy units, raw, but determined.

The “Rabble” are true civilians, armed with odds and ends and with little or no firearms. The rule extension I have allowed is to use Detached Shot (optionally provided to horse and ordinance in the rules). As this is a rather rural area I assumed that a few folks would turn up with their hunting weapons (fowling pieces mostly).

Rebel OoB

The Rebel Order of Battle

As the only capable field officer, Capt. Bellamy was unable to achieve a more integrated command structure in the time allowed. The two county militias are kept in their own brigades and placed (with their pikes ) to either flank to guard against the enemy horse, Bellamy took personal command of the center brigade to help steady the mostly untrained civilians. Command and control will likely be a problem without capable wing commanders.

On the government side, Barham’s Foot represents a very experienced shot heavy regiment (in two battalia), veterans of the New Model Army and several campaigns. They were on their way to join the army in Flanders when they were seconded by General Desborough.

Trow-Government OoB

The Government Order of Battle

As would be expected the government force is tightly organized and disciplined. Desborough has given Lt. Col. Benthell free reign of two veteran troops of Lambert’s horse to disrupt the enemy as he sees fit, while retaining personal command of the two remaining, less experienced troops as a force reserve. Desborough is confident that his well trained foot will quickly break the rebels with their disciplined fire.

The action is now about to begin:

Trow Green, the government forces approaching the rebel line in the distance

Meanwhile as Simon mentioned in his comment below, he and Andrew were recently at Wargaming Illustrated to have a sample game photographed for an upcoming feature on wargaming rules. Some of the photos are at the WI facebook page.

9 thoughts on ““These high wild hills and rough uneven ways…” The Action at Trow Green 1656

  1. Hi Simon,

    The Tippermuir scenario is already setup to use the straddling rule on both Royalist flanks. This should simulate what Montrose actually did to extend (six deep to three deep) his wings to prevent being overlapped. Probably set it up again shortly after the new year and have at it.

    I think the regulars are going to have some trouble also.😀. It will be interesting to see how close this is to being balanced. On thing I’ve learned so far is those two “leaderless” rebel militia brigades may have problems executing and the “rabble” are going to be unhappy confronting regular horse.

    The fact that I am rooting for the rebels probably also assures their defeat! 😀


  2. The dining room table is needed for the holiday season? Really? I’m glad you found a way to play in spite of that. Good luck with the game on a smaller space. Enjoy the challenges.


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