What happened at Axminster during the Monmouth Rebellion?
After the Battle at Bridport on the 14 June 1685, news reached Monmouth at Lyme that the Devon Militia, possibly 5,000 strong, was heading east under the Duke of Albemarle. The following morning the Whigs would break-out from Lyme and march to Taunton to gather more arms and recruits. It was now a race against time, with the Devon and Somerset Militia looking to join forces at Axminster, blocking the Whigs line of march. In Bridport, Strangeways had been joined by another Militia Regiment. Elsewhere, Government forces moved into Bristol and while the regular soldiers had started marching to Salisbury. On the morning of 15 June, Monmouth was close to being surrounded and cut-off from his power base and his source for more recruits.
It was not until 11 o’clock on 15 June that Monmouth’s Army marched north from Lyme. Due to a lack of wagons, the Whigs left behind a small amount of Powder and around 2,000 suites of cavalry armour. As they came within sight of Axminster the vanguard could see the Devonshire Militia closing on the important town. As they doubled their pace the Whigs reached the town to discover that just moments earlier the Somerset Militia had also reached the outskirts from the North. However, word quickly spread within the Government ranks that the Devonshire Militia had joined Monmouth and that it was a trap. Without a shot being fired the Somerset Militia fled back towards Crewkerne and Chard. Monmouth’s men quickly secured the bridges and with the arrival of the main army advanced to meet the men from Devon. This time it took a single volley from the Whigs to persuade the Militia to retreat toward Exeter. Not a single man had been killed and the road to Taunton was open. During the night those Militia sympathetic to the Whigs made their way into Axminster, increasing the size of the Army.
This account is based on a more detail description of the march to Axminster available from Helion & Company in my Book Fighting For Liberty.