14 June 1685
What happened at the Battle of Bridport?
As the morning mist still clung to the rivers the Whigs arrived at on the outskirts of Bridport. Lord Grey’s force contained four companies of foot, and a troop of horse, they faced They found the Bridge over the Brit unguarded and quickly crossed to the other bank. Leaving a stand of pike as a rear-guard, the infantry advanced up West towards the crossroads to the heart town. As they approached, a challenge was called followed by a ragged volley fired by dismounted Militia cavalry. Grey’s men returned fire and moved forwards, and the Militia fell back from street to street. The Whigs had secured the town, and posted a division of foot at each side street, while the main body advanced towards the Militia camp across the River Asker. The firefight in the town had given Colonel Strangeways and his Militia Regiments time to form up and start crossing the Bridge.
As the Whigs marched down the hill, the cavalry and some towns-folks opened from the buildings along East Street. This forced the Whigs soldiers to counter this new threat, at the same time more mounted troopers attacked the divisions holding the side streets. In the chaos, Colonel Venner was wounded, but slowly the Whigs gained the upper hand. In the side streets, the assaults had been repulsed and the flanks of the Whig force were secured. Meanwhile out towards the Asker Bridge, Grey took his cavalry forwards hoping to break the Militia foot.
However, after the first volley from Strangeways men, the raw Whigs troopers broke. As they galloped back though the town, chaos returned to the street and some of the disorganised Whigs Infantry fled into the back streets.
With Grey and the Whig Horse routed, Venner ordered the Whig Infantry to flee. Major Wade had other ideas, and after rallying the Whig foot he turned to face the Militia. As Strangeways marched up the hill, Wade withdrew company by company keeping the enemy at bay. As the Whigs slowly retired, they collected rider-less horses and picked up some of their wounded. Finally, the Whig Infantry reached the rear-guard at the Brit Bridge. However, the Militia had remained in the centre, no amount of taunting would bring the Government soldiers down the hill. Eventually, Wade ordered his men to march back to Lyme in good order, only to meet the Duke of Monmouth with all the Whig cavalry galloping to their rescue.
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.