Captain Thomas Sandford’s Company of Firelocks

Active1642 to 1644
CountryEngland
AllegianceProtestant
Royalist
ConflictsIrish Confederate War
First Civil War
TypeFoot
CaptainThomas Sandford
Coat Colour
Area RaisedEngland
Flag Colour
Flag Design
Field ArmiesOrmonde 1642-3
Byron 1643-4

Independent company of firelocks that was raised for service in Ireland, returned to Britain in late 1643 and fought for the Royalists

Service History

1642

  • 22 March: Land at Dublin.
  • Serving in Ireland under Ormonde
  • April: Kilrush

1643

  • 16 November: Returned to Mostyn, Flintshire from Leinster, Ireland
  • November to December: Siege of Hawarden Castle
  • December: Storm of Beeston Castle

1644

  • January: Siege of Nantwich
  • January: Battle of Nantwich

Notes

Most probably raised in north Shropshire, they initially appear to have been attached to the Lord Lieutenant General’s Regiment of Foot1).

At Beeston local legend has it that Sandford and eight of his men famously scaled the cliffs at night to take the Castle; but there doesn't appear to be any evidence for this taking place. Sandford did persuade the Castle's Governor to surrender of that we can be sure, the events that led up to this appear slightly different to the oft repeated tale. There are a number of accounts which refer to Sandford and his men gaining entry to the Castle via a 'byway' and capturing the garrison's arsenal. If the night time cliff scaling had taken place one would expect Mercurius Aulicus to feature such a dramatic tale in it's reporting of the Castle falling to the King's men - alas it does not.

Sandford's led the initial assault during the siege of Nantwich, their presence (and the assault) was spotted and the alarm raised by a boy on the town's ramparts. Sandford was shot, and the Parliamentarians claimed a 15 year old boy fired the shot. Upon Sandford's death it would appear that Captain Syon Finch took command briefly before he too was killed and the company were captured at the Battle of Nantwich. It is likely those captured defected to the Parliamentarians after Nantwich.

Coats, Flags and Equipment

Equipped with firelock muskets. On returning to England they, along with the rest of the troops from Ireland, were in so poor a condition that Orlando Bridgeman, the Governor of Chester sent requests to neighbouring towns and counties for clothing and shoes for the returning troops. So desperate was the condition of these soldiers that this is mostly believed to be civilian clothing, not standard coloured coats for individual regiments.2)

Notable Officers

Captain Thomas Sandford

Sandford (sometimes Sanford) had previously served as quartermaster in the Earl of Northumberland's Regiment of Foot. The son of a minor gentry family from Shrewsbury; he was described as a 'colourful character' as can be attested to by his letters. One letter addressed to the garrison at Hawarden Castle began “behold the messenger of death, Sanford and his firelocks, who neither use to give, nor take quarter”. He would later be made Governor of Hawarden Castle.

Strength

  • 1642: 200 men3) - although this would appear to be the total strength of the four companies of firelocks attached to Monck's regiment when they reached Chester on the 24th January. Sandford's company mustered 60 men.
  • November 1642: 131 mustered at Dublin
  • November 1643: 50 men shipped back to Flintshire

See Also

1) An English army for Ireland by Ian Ryder, Partizan Press
2) A Collection of Original letters and papers…found among the Duke of Ormonde's Papers (2 Vols), Thomas Carte, London, 1739
3) Historical Manuscripts Commission, Fourteenth Report, Appendix, Part VII, The Manuscripts of the Marquis of Ormonde