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26 November 2015


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David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

I can never escape being in two minds about the Puritans.

Your reference to your ancestor, Major John Mason, reminded me of another long-serving veteran of the wars in the Netherlands, Captain Philip Skippon, as he was when he returned to England in 1638.

Most mornings, I walk the dog along the road where in November 1642 he led the London Trained Bands out to reinforce the Earl of Essex at Turnham Green, and across what were then fields and are now a park to where the Royalist Army approaching London stopped.

It was one of the most consequential non-events in British history, as Charles I then retreated back up the Thames Valley and made his headquarters in Oxford. He would never again come so close to capturing London and winning the war.

One of a number of several placards put up around the site to explain the battle in recent years records the brief remarks that Skippon addressed to his – inexperienced and undertrained – men, who were positioned between Essex's more experienced regiments:

'Come my boys, my brave boys, let us pray heartily and fight heartily. I will run the same hazards and fortunes with you. Remember the cause is for God, and for the defence of yourselves, your wives, your children. Come, my honest brave boys, pray heartily and fight heartily, and God will bless us.'

An underlying issue was I think that raised by Cromwell, when not long before he had written to John Hampden – also present at Turnham Green:

'Your troopers are most of them old decayed servingmen and tapsters; and their troopers are gentlemen's sons, younger sons and persons of quality; do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen that have honour and courage and resolution in them?'

Like Skippon, Cromwell was both himself of gentry family, and of intense Puritan conviction. His answer to the problem he had accurately defined was to appoint officers of relatively humble origins, but similar intense religious conviction.

When the 'New Model' was formed in 1645, Cromwell's troops were the basis of the cavalry, of which he was Lieutenant-General. The Major-General of Foot was Skippon, who commanded the centre at the decisive battle of Naseby in June 1645, staying on the field after being dangerously wounded by a musket-ball.

Like his commander at Naseby, the Lord General Sir Thomas Fairfax, Skippon would go a long way with Cromwell, but not to the end. Both would be among those commissioned to judge Charles I, but neither attended the sessions. (Fairfax would be instrumental in making possible the Restoration.)

The issues involved in those events would echo on through the centuries, in their different ways, on both sides of the Atlantic. They are not dead yet.


When driven by hunger, folks will do anything...

I recall a great famine during the late Qing


Good Lord, the poor Africans...




Africans? pl


Sir, I recall Ethiopia in the 80s when I was a wee lad...

William R. Cumming

SQUANTO kidnapped by the Portugese and somehow got to England and then returned to America.



We are cousins! My ancestors arrived in Plymouth in 1622. Also members of the fundamentalist sect. Eddy's. Family history indicates that they were a little to strong in their beliefs and were eventually 'invited' to depart the colony and then temporarily resided in Rhode Island and eventually Pennsylvania. Like you I expect, I am related to about half of the historical figures from the time.



Priscilla Mullens, John Alden - 9th great grandparents, Richard Warren, 10th great grand father. Her parents - 10th great grand parents. Yup, small world. pl

Medicine Man

Your story about the woman "Jane" brings to mind the North-East Indian's legends about the Wendigo. While I'm sure it wasn't evil spirits that drove the colonists to such desperate lengths, it is nevertheless a chilling thought.

The Twisted Genius

This stuff still permeated our New England lives in the 1950s and 60s. I grew up in the old glebe house for the Congregational church on the other side of the town green. My friends and I would often hike and camp along the Regicides trail named after three of Cromwell's judges who sentenced Charles I to death. We often visited Judges Cave where Edward Whalley and William Goffe lived for several months hiding from the men of Charles II sent to apprehend them. The people of New Haven sympathized with the Regicides hiding them and providing them with supplies. Whalley and Goffe were eventually chased out of the cave by a mountain lion and moved on the western Massachusetts.
I can't claim any ancestors among the early Americans. My forefathers were still living in the deep Baltic forests hedging their bets between the old forest spirits and this new Christian God the priests spoke of.

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