11 to 13 June 1685
When did Monmouth sail from Holland?
The day after Argyll’s fleet left Holland, Monmouth’s preparations were delayed with the arrival of English warships at Amsterdam. This forced the Duke to hire and equip a privateer Frigate called the Helderenburg. When this was combined with bad weather, it was not until May 26 that the fleet of three ships left Amsterdam. Onboard were 80 officers and weapons for 5,000 soldiers, but Monmouth was not with them. Only a few days before the fleet sailed, the Duke had been seen by Government spies Rotterdam. Then he disappeared after visiting his cousin at the Hague. On May 29, Monmouth secretly joined his ships off the Dutch coast and finally sailed west at 3 o’clock on May 31. On the way they narrowly avoided English warships cursing in the English Channel but were running two weeks behind schedule, they needed a good wind to make up time.
Why did Monmouth land at Lyme Regis?
The Whigs had selected Lyme as the landing point for the English invasion for a number of strategic reasons. Geographically, the beach was covered and provided good anchorage, while it was far enough from London by road to give them enough time to form their Army, but it was also on the main road to the Capital, giving them a direct link. Lyme was also close to their power base around Taunton, East Dorset and West Wiltshire. All strongly protestant and pro-Monmouth area’s full of eager recruits and a good source of funding.
After a long slow crossing, Monmouth’s fleet reached Chideock, Dorset on the night of 10 June 1685. It was here that two men came ashore, the first was Colonel Venner who headed west to Taunton to raise soldiers. The other was Thomas Dare who went north to Forde Abbey to collect money from local supporters. With these messengers now afoot, the following morning the Whig fleet arrived off Lyme Regis where they waited until seven that evening to send men boats towards the west beach.
Monmouth has landed!
The first man to jump out the boat was Monmouth, followed by a party of purple coated officers and soldiers. With the beach secure, Monmouth marched into the town with a growing crowd of supporters and quickly seized the town hall, the old gates and seafront. That evening the Whigs started unloading supplies and weapons, while other groups of soldiers guarded the entrance into the town. The following morning Monmouth’s dark green standard was raised in the field to the north of the town, and the new recruits assigned into companies, then each was issued a musket or pike and sent to their captains for training. By the end of the day, nearly eight hundred foot and 150 cavalry had signed up, and throughout the night more men arrived in the town. It was on 12 June that the first blood was spilt near Bridport, when one of Monmouth’s patrols killed two Militia troopers.
The following morning on 13 June, Monmouth’s Army had grown to 1,500 men under arms and was time for the first Foot Regiments to be formed. During the day Venner and recruits started to arrive from Taunton, with a report that the Militia held the town. Closer to home worrying reports were arriving indicating that a large Militia force was mustering at Bridport, just 8 miles away. They had blocked the London road and started arresting Whigs heading to Lyme. Therefore, Monmouth ordered a mixed detachment of foot and horse under Lord Grey and Venner beat up the Militia camp at Bridport early the following morning.
What happens next?
As Monmouth was planning his attack on Bridport, King James II received the news that Monmouth had landed at Lyme. Immediately he sent orders to Portsmouth that warships should head west, that all officers should return to their regiments, and an Army Brigade should muster at Salisbury. This would contain four troops of horse, two troops of dragoons and nine companies of foot, plus a small Artillery Train. All to be commanded by Colonel, Lord Churchill. With these preparations under way, the rest of the Army was put on a war footing, with company strengths increased and weapons ordered for new recruits.
This account is based on a more detail description of the Duke of Monmouth’s campaign of 1685 available from Helion & Company in my Book Fighting For Liberty.