The Battle of
Tewkesbury
4 May 1471

Lancastrians vs. Yorkists
The Wars of the Roses

By Mike Elliott

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One of the most significant and bloodiest battles of the Wars of the Roses was fought at Tewkesbury on Saturday 4th May 1471. The battle was the culmination of a campaign by Edward IV to crush the resurgent Lancastrians and place the Yorkists on the English throne where they remained until1485.

Following her exile in France, Queen Margaret of Anjou (the wife of Henry VI) returned to England in April 1471 with her son Prince Edward of Lancaster, to continue the Lancastrian struggle against the Yorkists which had failed 10 years previously at Towton.

Queen Margaret and her forces moved north from Weymouth via Exeter, Taunton, Bath and Bristol. Meanwhile the Yorkist Edward IV had quickly assembled his forces and marched from London to intercept her. Upon learning of Edward's movements, Queen Margaret moved her army towards Gloucester. Being unable to ford the River Severn at Gloucester to rendezvous with Jasper Tudor and his force coming to her support from Wales, Queen Margaret then marched to the next river crossing at Tewkesbury. Her exhausted troops made camp and awaited the arrival of the Yorkist army.

King Edward and his army had spent the night of the 3rd May encamped at Tredington, 3 miles south of Tewkesbury. On the morning of the 4th they advanced in battle order towards the waiting Lancastrians, who were in a relatively strong position with both flanks protected by water and their front by hedges and ditches.

The battle began with missile exchanges by both archers and artillery. Richard of Gloucester led a charge against the Lancastrian right flank but was beaten back. Somerset then made a bold move. Splitting his battle into two parts, he left one part to hold position while the other moved around the Yorkist left flank in difficult terrain of woods and hillocks. Emerging from the trees they fell on Gloucester's men. It had been Somerset's intention that having achieved this tactical surprise, the rest of the Lancastrian army would attack in support. For some reason, this did not happen and both Wenlock and Devon remained where they were.
Elsewhere the force of 200 spearmen that Edward had posted to the west in Tewkesbury Park had become aware of Somerset's flanking move and joined the battle, attacking Somerset in the rear. Surrounded, Somerset's men fought tenaciously but were inevitably defeated and pursued by Yorkist forces to the "Bloody Meadow" where hundreds were put to the sword. The Lancastrians lost about 2000 casualties.

Meanwhile, King Edward took advantage of the confusion to scatter the remaining Lancastrian forces. Prince Edward was slain as he tried to reach the sanctuary of the Abbey, while Lord Wenlock was murdered by an enraged Somerset for not supporting his advance.
Queen Margaret fled west across the Severn to Malvern but later accompanied King Edward on his victorious return to London. That night, 21st May 1471, Henry VI died and the house of York was at last secure on the throne of England.

The Armies

It is extremely difficult to be precise about the strength of the opposing armies in this period. However, the sources state that the Lancastrians slightly outnumbered the Yorkists and that the former numbered about 6000. Rayner (2004) suggests the Yorkist strength to be thus about 5500.  Both sides used artillery and the Yorkists had handgunners. The Yorkists also had a force of 200 (mounted?) spearmen that played a significant part in the battle.  Based on the size of the armies, each element represent about 500 men.

Lancastrian Army- 1x 3Kn (Gen) (Somerset), 1x 4Bd (men at arms), 3x  4Bd, 6x  3/4Lb, 1x Art.  (Note, this is the "by the book" IV/83 Wars of the Roses army)

Yorkist Army- 1x 3Kn (Gen) (Edward IV), 1 x3Kn (Gloucester), 3x  4Bd, 4x 3/4Lb, 1x Art, 1x 3Sp  (Notes:  The 3Sp element can be replaced by a 3Cv element if the view is taken that the 200 spearmen were mounted.  An additional 2Ps element can be added to represent the handgunners.)

Deployment

Armies of this period typically deployed in three "battles":

Lancastrian

Left Center Right
Earl of Devon
1x 4Bd (men at arms)
1x 4Bd
2x 3/4Lb
Lord Wenlock
2x 4Bd
2x 3/4Lb
Duke of Somerset
1x 3Kn (Gen)
2x 3/4Lb
1x Art

Yorkist

Left Center Right
Richard, Duke of Gloucester
1x 3Kn
1x 4Bd
1x 3/4Lb
1x Art
Edward IV
1x 3Kn (Gen)
1x 4Bd
1x 3/4Lb
Lord Hastings
1x 4Bd
2x 3/4Lb
Flanking Force:  1x 3Sp

Game Map (ASCII)

Given that 1 element represents about 500 men, the ground scale is thus 1" to 50p. The town of Tewkesbury is to the North (the top of the map). Tewkesbury Park is to the west and Bloody Meadow to the north west.

      ======== Lancastrian Baseline ===================
      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M r
      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M r
      . . . . f f f f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M r
      . . . f f f f f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M r
      . . . f f f f f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . f f f f f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      s s s s f f f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . f s f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . f f s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . h h . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . h h h s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . h h h s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . h h h s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . h h . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r       . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
      =========== Yorkist Baseline ====================

SCALE: The space between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going (Good Going)
h =Gentle Hill (Good Going)
f =Light Wood (Bad Going)
s =Stream
r  =River
M= Marsh/Bog (Bad Going)

Special Rules

The appearance of the Yorkist flanking force is handled by using the Flank Marches variant rule. I also recommend the use of the DBA Hit Markers variant rule.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.

Background Resources

Burne, A.H., The Battlefields of England, Penguin, 1996
Pereira, W.D., The Battle of Tewkesbury, Line One Publishing Ltd., 1983
Rayner, M., English Battlefields, an illustrated encyclopedia, Tempus, 2004


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Last Update:  13 Jan. 2005

Thanks to Mike Elliott for contributing this scenario.
Comments and feedback welcome and can be sent to Chris Brantley.