New Model Army

New Model Army
New Model Army - Soldier's catechism.jpg
The Souldiers Catechisme: rules, regulations and drill procedures of the New Model Army
Country Commonwealth of England
AllegianceCouncil of State (1649–1653; 1659–1660)
Lord Protector (1653–1659)
EngagementsFirst English Civil War
Second English Civil War
Conquest of Ireland
Third English Civil War
First Anglo-Dutch War
Second Anglo-Spanish War
Commander-in-ChiefThomas Fairfax, George Monck
Oliver Cromwell, Thomas Pride, John Lambert, Henry Ireton, William Lockhart

The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration. It differed from other armies in the series of civil wars referred to as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in that it was intended as an army liable for service anywhere in the country (including in Scotland and Ireland), rather than being tied to a single area or garrison. Its soldiers became full-time professionals, rather than part-time militia. To establish a professional officer corps, the army's leaders were prohibited from having seats in either the House of Lords or House of Commons. This was to encourage their separation from the political or religious factions among the Parliamentarians.

The New Model Army was raised partly from among veteran soldiers who already had deeply held Puritan religious beliefs, and partly from conscripts who brought with them many commonly held beliefs about religion or society. Many of its common soldiers therefore held dissenting or radical views unique among English armies. Although the Army's senior officers did not share many of their soldiers' political opinions, their independence from Parliament led to the Army's willingness to contribute to the overthrow of both the Crown and Parliament's authority, and to establish a Commonwealth of England from 1649 to 1660, which included a period of direct military rule. Ultimately, the Army's Generals (particularly Oliver Cromwell) could rely both on the Army's internal discipline and its religious zeal and innate support for the "Good Old Cause" to maintain an essentially dictatorial rule.


The New Model Army was formed as a result of dissatisfaction among Parliamentarians with the conduct of the Civil War in 1644. Although the Parliamentarians had a clear advantage in financial resources and manpower over the Royalists, most of their forces were raised by local associations of counties, and could rarely be used far from their homes. As early as 2 July of that year, Sir William Waller discovered that his London-based units were refusing to campaign further afield, and wrote, "An army compounded of these men will never go through with your service, and till you have an army merely your own that you may command, it is in a manner impossible to do anything of importance".

There was also increasing dissension among Parliament's generals in the field. Parliament suspected that many of its senior officers, who were mainly Presbyterians, were inclined to favour peace with King Charles, and were conducting operations half-heartedly as a result. The Earl of Manchester was one of the prominent members favouring peace, but his Lieutenant General, Oliver Cromwell, strongly advocated fighting the war to the finish. Manchester and Cromwell clashed publicly over this issue several times. Parliament's senior commander, the Earl of Essex, was also suspected of lack of determination and was on poor terms with his subordinates. The tensions among the Parliamentarian generals became a bitter public argument after the Second Battle of Newbury. Some of them believed that King Charles's army had escaped encirclement after the battle through inaction on the part of some commanders.

On 19 November 1644, the Parliamentarian Eastern Association of counties announced that they could no longer meet the cost of maintaining their forces, which at the time provided about half the field force available to Parliament. In response, Parliament directed the Committee of Both Kingdoms, the cabinet-like body that oversaw the conduct of the War (and which included several experienced officers), to review the state of all Parliament's forces. On 19 December, the House of Commons passed the Self-denying Ordinance, which prevented members of the Houses of Lords and Commons from holding any military office. Originally a separate matter from the establishment of the New Model Army, it soon became intimately linked with it. Once the Self-denying Ordinance became Law, the Earls of Manchester and Essex, and other Presbyterian members of Parliament and peers, were removed from command in the field.

On 6 January 1645, the Committee of Both Kingdoms established the New Model Army, appointing Sir Thomas Fairfax as its Captain-General and Sir Philip Skippon as Sergeant-Major General of the Foot. The Self-denying Ordinance took time to pass the House of Lords, but came into force on 3 April 1645, about the same time as the New Model Army first took the field. Although Oliver Cromwell (who was the Member of Parliament for Cambridge) handed over his command of the Army's cavalry when the Ordinance was enacted, Fairfax requested his services when another officer (Colonel Bartholomew Vermuyden) wished to emigrate. Cromwell was commissioned Colonel of Vermuyden's former regiment of horse, and was appointed Lieutenant General of the Horse in June. Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton (the New Model Army's Commissary General, or second in command of the cavalry) were two of the only four exceptions to the Self-denying Ordinance, the other two being local commanders in Cheshire and North Wales. They were allowed to serve under a series of three-month temporary commissions that were continually extended.

Parliament decreed the consolidation of most of their forces outside the New Model Army into two other locally recruited armies, those of the Northern Association under Sydenham Poyntz and the Western Association under Edward Massey. They were intended to reduce the remaining Royalist garrisons in their areas and prevent Royalist incursions. Some of their regiments were reorganised and incorporated into the New Model Army during and after the Second English Civil War.

Establishment and early character

The New Model Army consisted on paper of 22,000 soldiers, comprising eleven regiments of cavalry each of 600 men for a total of 6,600, twelve regiments of infantry each of 1,200 men for a total of 14,400, and one regiment of 1,000 dragoons. Units from the existing Parliamentarian armies of the Earl of Essex, the Southern Association under Sir William Waller and the Eastern Association under the Earl of Manchester were reassigned to provide regiments for the new army. Although the cavalry regiments were already well up to strength and there was no shortage of volunteers, the regiments of foot soldiers needed 7,000 reinforcements to be brought up to full strength. Men were impressed from Parliamentarian-held areas in the South and East to provide the necessary drafts, but many of these soon deserted and the Army was still 4,000 men short of its paper infantry establishment in May 1645.[1]

A "Soldier's catechism" set out new regulations and drill procedures. The standard daily pay was 8 pence for infantry and 2 shillings for cavalry. The administration of the Army was more centralised, with improved provision of adequate food, clothing and other supplies. Cavalrymen (often recruited from among yeomen or the more well-to-do farmers) had to supply their own horses.

The founders intended that proficiency rather than social standing or wealth should determine the Army's leadership and promotions. Many officers (often the gentlemen amateurs) of existing units merged into regiments of the New Model Army became surplus to the organization and were discharged. Such reformadoes demonstrated several times in London as they sought compensation or relief. Many corporals and sergeants, particularly in the Earl of Essex's army, were unable to find posts in the merged regiments, but they were persuaded to serve as ordinary soldiers. Contemporary accounts reported that this was due to the popular Sir Philip Skippon's success in exhorting them to stay on, but historians have suggested that the reasons were economic: the former non-commissioned officers (NCOs) did not think they could find work outside the Army.

An observer, Sir Samuel Luke, who was one of the officers discharged from the Earl of Essex's Army, wrote on 9 June 1645 that the Army was "the bravest for bodies of men, horse and arms so far as the common soldiers as ever I saw in my life". However, he later complained that many soldiers were drunk, and that many officers were hard to tell from ordinary soldiers.[2]

Cromwell accepted only soldiers and, especially, officers who were dedicated to Protestant ideals, as he was. Earlier during the Civil War (in September 1643) he had written to Sir William Spring saying that he would "rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than what you call a Gentleman and is nothing else".[3] During the Army's formation, some Presbyterians considered it a hotbed of Independents, a potentially dangerous situation given that Parliament's agreement with the Scottish Covenanters stipulated that Presbyterianism would be the established Church in England. Several prominent Presbyterian officers, mainly expatriate Scottish professional soldiers, refused to serve in the New Model Army on religious grounds. Two of the first Colonels appointed in the Army (Edward Montagu and John Pickering) were known extreme Independents. Pickering even preached sermons to his troops, for which Fairfax reprimanded him. The Earl of Essex brought a motion in the House of Lords to prevent Montagu and Pickering, and 40 Captains who were reportedly of the same persuasion, from holding commissions, but after a tied vote, the motion was not passed to the House of Commons and they were allowed to serve.[4]

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, an archetypal cavalier and prominent general in the army of King Charles I, nicknamed the New Model troops "Ironsides". This referred to their ability to cut through opposing forces.


The Oxford English Dictionary dated the earliest use of the phrase "New Model Army" to the works of the Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle in 1845, and the exact term does not appear in 17th or 18th century documents. Records from February 1646 refer to the "New Modelled Army"—the idiom of the time being to refer to an army that was "new-modelled" rather than appending the word "army" to "new model".[5]

Original order of battle

Type Colonel Origin Notes
Horse Sir Thomas Fairfax's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Formerly part of Oliver Cromwell's double regiment of 'Ironsides'. Sir Thomas Fairfax's Lifeguard (formerly the Earl of Essex's Lifeguard troop) formed extra senior troop.
Horse Edward Whalley's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Formerly part of Oliver Cromwell's double regiment of 'Ironsides'. Richard Baxter served as chaplain July 1645–July 1646.
Horse Charles Fleetwood's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Said to have many Independents in its ranks
Horse Nathaniel Rich's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Formerly the Earl of Manchester's Regiment. Originally intended for Algernon Sydney, who declined the appointment due to health concerns. Rich had earlier been rejected by the Commons for a colonelcy.[6]
Horse Bartholomew Vermuyden's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Taken over by Oliver Cromwell after Naseby. Vermuyden, one of the last non-English regimental commanders, resigned in July 1645.
Horse Richard Graves' Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex Formerly the Earl of Essex's Regiment. After June 1647, it was commanded by Adrian Scrope. It was disbanded after 1649 Leveller Mutiny at Burford.
Horse Sir Robert Pye's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex Originally intended for Nathaniel Rich, whose nomination was the only colonelcy rejected by the Commons, though he later received a commission when Algernon Sydney declined his nomination. Pye replaced by Matthew Tomlinson in 1647.
Horse Thomas Sheffield's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex Sheffield replaced by Thomas Harrison in 1647
Horse John Butler's Regiment Army of the Southern Association Originally intended for John Middleton, who declined so he could serve in Scotland against the Earl of Montrose. Butler replaced by Thomas Horton in 1647
Horse * Henry Ireton's Regiment Army of the Southern Association
Horse Edward Rossiter's Regiment Newly raised Originally intended to serve in Lincolnshire. Rossiter was replaced by Philip Twisleton in 1647
Dragoons * John Okey's Regiment Mixed Later converted to a regiment of Horse
Foot Sir Thomas Fairfax's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex Originally the Earl of Essex's Regiment but contained some companies from the Eastern Association
Foot Robert Hammond's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Originally intended for Lawrence Crawford, who refused to serve in the New Model Army
Foot * Edward Montagu's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Montague withdrew from the Army when he was elected MP for Huntingdonshire October 1645. Replaced by John Lambert.
Foot ** John Pickering's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Pickering died of an illness at Antre and was replaced by John Hewson in December 1646.
Foot ** Thomas Rainsborough's Regiment Army of the Eastern Association Originally intended for Colonel Ayloff, who refused to serve in New Model Army.
Foot Sir Philip Skippon's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex
Foot Richard Fortescue's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex Fortescue replaced by John Barkstead in 1647. This regiment suffered the deaths of three successive lieutenant colonels in battle. It was unusual for such high-ranking officers to die.
Foot Edward Harley's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex Originally intended for Colonel Harry Barclay, a Scottish colonel. Harley did not serve in 1645, as he was still recovering from wounds. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Pride commanded in his absence, and succeeded to command in 1647.
Foot Richard Ingoldsby's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex
Foot Walter Lloyd's Regiment Army of the Earl of Essex Originally intended for Colonel Edward Aldrich, who refused to command this particular regiment because it was composed of soldiers from many different precursor regiments. Lloyd died in battle in June 1645 and was replaced by William Herbert, who was in turn replaced by Robert Overton in 1647.
Foot Hardress Waller's Regiment Army of the Southern Association Originally intended for Scottish colonel James Holborne
Foot Ralph Weldon's Regiment Army of the Southern Association Originally the "Kentish Regiment". Weldon was replaced by Robert Lilburne in spring 1646 when Weldon was appointed governor of Plymouth. Weldon's Lieutenant Colonel, Nicholas Kempson, was passed over for promotion and undermined Lilburne's command.

* = a significant effort by the House of Lords to block appointment. ** = a significant effort by the House of Commons to block appointment.