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two at the mouth of the lane, and two upon a rising CHAPTER ground near it on the right, formed his army along the hedge. From these stations, a firing of artillery was begun on each side, and continued near six hours, but with little or no effect; Monmouth, according'to Wade, losing but one, and the Royalists, according to the Gazette, not one man, by the whole cannonade. In these circumstances, notwithstanding the recent and convincing experience he now had, of the ability of his raw troops, to face, in certain situations at least, the more regular forces of his enemy, Monmouth was advised by some to retreat ; but, upon a more general consultation, this advice was over-ruled, and it was determined to cut passages through the hedges and to offer battle. But, before this could be effected, the royal army, not willing again to engage among the enclosures, annoyed in the open field by the rain, which continued to fall very heavily, and disappointed, no doubt, at the little effect of their artillery, began their retreat. The little confidence which Monmouth had in his horse, perhaps the ill opinion he now entertained of their leader, forbad him to think of pursuit, and having staid till a late hour in the field, and leaving large fires burning, he set out on his march in the night, and on the twenty-eighth in the morning
1685. Relapses into despondency.
Chapter reached Froome, where he put his troops in quarter
and rested two days.
It was here he first heard certain news of Argyle's discomfiture. It was in vain to seek for any circumstance in his affairs that might mitigate the effect of the severe blow inflicted by this intelligence, and he relapsed into the same low spirits as at Philip'sNorton. No diversion, at least no successful diversion, had been made in his favour: there was no appearance of the horse, which had been the principal motive to allure him into that part of the country; and what was worst of all, no desertion from the King's army. It was manifest, said the Duke's more timid advisers, that the affair must terminate ill, and the only measure now to be taken, was, that the General with his officers should leave the army to shift for itself, and make severally for the most convenient sea-ports, whence they might possibly get a safe passage to the Continent. To account for Monmouth's entertaining, even for a moment, a thought so unworthy of him, and so inconsistent with the character for spirit he had ever maintained, a character unimpeached, even by his enemies, we must recollect the unwillingness with which he undertook this fatal expedition ; that his engagement to Argyle, who was now past help,
was perhaps his principal motive for embarking at CHAPTER the time; that it was with great reluctance he had torn himself from the arms of Lady Harriet Wentworth, with whom he had so firmly persuaded himself that he could be happy in the most obscure retirement, that he believed himself weaned from ambition, which had hitherto been the only passion of his mind. It is true, that when he had once yielded to the solicitations of his friends, so far as to undertake a business of such magnitude, it was his duty, (but a duty that required a stronger mind than his to execute,) to discard from his thoughts all the arguments that had rendered his compliance reluctant. But it is one of the great distinctions between an ordinary mind and a superiour one, to be able to carry on, without relenting, a plan we have not originally approved, and especially when it appears to have turned out ill. This proposal of disbanding was a step so pusillanimous and dishonourable, that it could not be approved by any council however composed. It was condemned by all except Colonel Venner, and was particularly inveighed against by Lord Grey, who was perhaps desirous of retrieving, by bold words at least, the reputation he had lost at Bridport. It is possible too, that he might be really unconscious of his deficiency in point of personal
Chapter courage till the moment of danger arrived, and even
forgetful of it when it was passed. Monmouth was
This resolution being taken, the first plan was to
hundred and sixty. The army lay that night in the CHAPTER field, and once again entered Bridgewater on the third of July. That the Duke's men were not yet completely dispirited or out of heart, appears from the circumstance of great numbers of them going from Bridgewater to see their friends at Taunton, and other places in the neighbourhood, and almost all returning the next day according to their promise. On the fifth an account was received of the King's army being considerably advanced, and Monmouth's first thought was to retreat from it immediately, and marching by Axbridge and Keynsham to Gloucester, to pursue the plan formerly rejected, of penetrating into the counties of Chester and Salop.
His preparations for this march were all made, Battle of when, on the afternoon of the fifth, he learnt, more July 5th. accurately than he had before done, the true situation of the Royal army, and from the information now received, he thought it expedient to consult his principal officers, whether it might not be advisable to attempt to surprise the enemy by a night attack upon their quarters. The prevailing opinion was, that if the infantry were not intrenched, the plan was worth the trial; otherwise not. Scouts were dispatched to ascertain this point, and their report being, that there was no intrenchment, an attack was