Cry Havoc or Sing: Battle Songs of the British Civil Wars (Part Two)

As part of the IJBS Blog Series, Dr Robert W. Daniel (@BunyanSociety), General Secretary of the IJBS and Managing Editor of Bunyan Studies, explores the occasions and motivations for psalm-singing on the battlefield during the British Civil Wars.

While Part One of this blog post explored the printed examples of battlefield psalm singing by the ‘Roundheads’, Part Two focuses on manuscript accounts and the Royalist reaction to these songs. Several diaries – penned by parliamentarian preachers, supporters and soldiers – recorded the use of psalm chanting during military combat in the 1640s and 1650s. Taken together, these accounts show how the opening of Psalm 68 was a popular choice to boom out during the internecine fighting. The Bradford clothier Joseph Lister (1627–1709) reported that foot soldiers under Sir Thomas Fairfax during the Battle of Leeds (23 January 1643) had ‘sung the 1 verse of the 68 Psalm, Let God arise, and then his enemies shall be scattered’. Finding it suitably inspiring, Lister relays that ‘they sung another like verse’ and ‘the enemy fled into the houses’. [1]

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