6th July 1685: The Battle of Sedgemoor

James Duke of Monmouth, Rebel Commander by Jan Van Wyke

On this day in history, 6th July 1685, James Duke of Monmouth was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor by the army of his uncle King James II. I have written briefly about James Duke of Monmouth before, but due to the fact that I am finding Monmouth more and more fascinating as the days pass, I thought I would mark his defeat at Sedgemoor with a blog post. After all, this was his final defeat and 9 days later he lost his head upon Tower Hill.

The battle itself started early in the morning at around 2am, and lasted for around 3 hours. The previous day Monmouth and his army had been cornered in Bridgwater, even though his army was bigger than that of his uncle, they were much less experienced. And in the end, this lack of experience was what lead to Monmouth’s loss. Monmouth, in a last desperate bid to escape the Royalist army thought it would be a good idea to launch a surprise attack.

James Duke of Monmouth

Unfortunately, Monmouth’s army was discovered as they crept their way towards the Royalist camp, and his small troop of horse were unable to locate the river crossing in the darkness. The surprise element was gone, and James II’s army was much more well drilled and disciplined. Monmouth’s own army was, of course, not so disciplined and his horse fled the field leaving the foot soldiers as sitting ducks on the open battlefield.

Monmouth’s army was utterly destroyed. In around three hours Monmouth lost over 1000 men compared to 80 losses for the Royalists.

Monmouth and another of his captains, a man by the name of Grey, managed to escape the field of battle and they escaped to the town of Ringwood dressed as peasants. They were captured a few days later and Monmouth was taken to the Tower of London where he was condemned to death by Act of Attainder for committing treason against King James II. He was beheaded upon Tower Hill on 15th July by the notorious Jack Ketch where it took 8 blows and a butchers knife to remove his head.

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