Robert Overton
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Robert Overton was born in 1609 in Easington, Yorkshire, England; the son of John Overton and Joan Snawsell. Robert married 28 Jun 1632 in London to Anne Gardiner born 1613 in London, England; the daughter of Jeremy Gardiner and Anne Potticary. Together, Robert and Anne had twelve children: Samuel, John, Robert, William, Jeremie, Fairfax and Ebenezer and daughters: Alatheia, Dorcas, Elizabeth, Anne and Joanna.

Easington in East Riding Yorkshire, was a Puritan parish. Robert Overton attended puritan St.John's College at Cambridge. It was at this same time that Thomas Fairfax attended St.John's. At Christ College John Milton was attending and it was probably at this time that the Milton and Overton became friends.

Robert was born during a time in English History when the religious struggles within England would rent the nation apart and cover the land with bloodshed. The tension between King Charles I and the Parliament was building by 1639, when Charles I visited Hull to inspect the defences and arsenal and by 1642 the situation between the King and Parliament had reached a critical level. In anticipation of conflict, Charles I moved the Court to York, to be more near Hull, where Parliament was held. Charles sent his son, later James II, to Hull on 22 April, where he was entertained by the mayor. When Hotham, then governor of Hull, heard that the King was to arrive as well, he ordered the town gates closed and the King forbidden entry. Charles I, rebuked at Hull, travelled to Beverley, where he was joined by his son, James. Charles I declared Hotham a traitor and the Civil War of England began with a three week siege of Hull. The defenders of the town came out twice to attack the Royalists and succeeded in forcing them to lift the siege.

Charles I and family

After Overton returned to Easington, he became involved in local military matters. As Captain Overton in January 1642, he was with John Hotham when three companies of the East Riding Trained Bands, he marched on Hull. Overton probably continued with the Hull Garrison raiding into the increasingly royalist remainder of Yorkshire.

By 1643 their enthusiasm for the parliamentary cause had subsided and they began to have talks with the Royalists. On 29 July Sir John Hotham and his son, John, were arrested and in 1644 they were both executed by Parliament in London. Robert Overton was reported later to be the only officer to have supported the towns people of Hull when they arrested the Hothams in July 1643. At least two other Overtons were in the Hull garrison at this time: Major John Overton (possibly Robert's father) and a Lieutenant Overton.The entire Yorkshire area, apart from Hull were now in Royalist hands. In Jun3 1643, Lord Fairfax, Parliamentary Commander, took refuge in Hull and was made Governor. The second siege of Hull began under the Earl of Newcastle along with a large army, which ended in the Parliamentary forces overrunning the Royalists. The second siege of Hull lasted a little over a month.

Following the second siege of Hull by the Earl of Newcastle, Robert Overton was described as having carried himself with "much honor and gallantry in this action".

It was probably in 1643 that Easington was raided by royalists and in the course of this action, the Overtons and the village was said to have lost some £2000. It was at this time that Robert Overton's father, John Overton, was captured and imprisoned by Sir Hugh Cholmley and Michael Constable.

By June of 1644, Fairfax had given Overton command of a foot regiment in the Northern Association. It is likeley that this regiment was one of those brought from Hull by Lord Ferdinando Fairfax and which took part in the defeat of Lord Belasyse's forces at Selby the prior April. Overton and his regiment were certainly at the siege of York and the battle of Marston Moor, contemporarily called Hessay Moor. Milton describes their action in the battle:


"... when our left wing was put to rout, you were beheld with admiration, making head against the enemy with your brave infantry and repelling his attack, amid the thickest carnage".

Battle of Marston Moor

Following Marston Moor, the war in the North became a protracted mopping-up exercise.

Royalist forces were successful in the north and Fairfax used Hull as the base of his military operations for the remainder of 1643. Andrew Marvell, the poet, was one of the town's M.P.'s during that time.

By June 1645, Overton was governor of the town of Pontrefact and in charge of siege operations around the castle. Following the defeat of the King's Army at Naseby and the rapidly diminishing food reserves in the castle, it surrendered to Overton in July 1645. Two months later, having been defacto governor, Overton was appointed deputy general of Pontrefact; Sir Thomas Fairfax as governor. During this period, Overton had been engaged in besieging the nearby Sandal Castle, which surrendered following a particularly fierce bombardment. The remainder of 1645-1746 was spent in Pontrefact where he was occupied in receiving the surrender of a steady flow of royalists and returning stability to the area.

Execution of Charles I (30 Jan 1649)
The special tribunal for the trial of Charles I was composed of 52 men drawn from the King's enemies. "The execution was a military and not a national act, and at the last scene on the scaffold the triumphant shouts of the soldiery could not overwhelm the groans and sobs raised by the populace."

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell was born in 1599, lord protector of England. Cromwell was educated under Dr.Thomas Beard, a fervent Puritan, at the free school of Huntingdon and on 23 Apr 1616, he matriculated as a fellow-commoner at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. Cambridge was then a hotbed of Puritanism. Cromwell then studied law in London. Cromwell, in 1628, joined Parliament as a member for the borough of Huntingdon. In 1630, he was fined for refusing to take up knighthood. During the next eleven years, Cromwell defined himself as a champion for the cause of the commoners. He was also a strong Puritan supporter. Cromwell died of an ilness 3 Sep 1660 and was privately buried in the chapel of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey. His body was exhumed at the Restoration and on 30 Jan 1661, the anniversay of the execution of Charles I, it was drawn on a sledge from Holburn to Tyburn, accompanied by the universal outcry and curses of the people. There it was hanged on a gallows and in the evening taken down, the head was cut off and set up on Westminster Hall, where it remained as late as 1684, the trunk being thrown into a pit beneath the gallows.

On 3 Sep 1650, Robert Overton took part in the Battle of Dunbar in which the Scots were defeated with 3,000 killed and 9,000 taken prisoner. The English loss was so minor it was incredible; it was stated at 40 men in the entire engagement. Many distinguished Scots were slain in this engagement: the Homes of Wedderburn (father and son); Sir William Douglas of Kirkness fell at Broxmouth and among the prisoners were twelve lieutenant-colonels, six majors, thirty-seven captains. The principle prisoners were taken in Cromwell's coach and the wounded in wagons. It is said that one thousand wounded were sent to the Countess of Winton. The wounded remaining on the field were left to their families to come freely to get them provided they did not take any arms with them.

In 1659, Robert Overton, having served Cromwell in the Civil Wars, was appointed governor in Hull, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. He had been a very unpopular Deputy Governor 1645-55. The winter of 1659-1660 saw the return of the monarchy under Charles II, son of Charles I. Overton began to make preparations for another Royalist siege. Eventually, he must have seen that defeat would be inevitable and he allowed himself to be replaced as governor by Charles Fairfax, though some of the garrison were still opposed to the restoration of the monarchy. Hull was the first town to resist Charles I and the last to accept Charles II. On 8 May 1660, the Royal Arms were replaced and Charles II was proclaimed King.

When he could no longer be supportive of Cromwell and the King, Robert Overton was reduced in rank and was a political prisoner in the Tower of London and twice on the Isle of Jersey. He was released from Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey in 1671 by the order of King Charles II and was returned to England.

Robert Overton, commander at Hull and friend of Milton and Marvell was imprisoned 16 Jan for alleged sedition against Cromwell.

The Battle of Winwick took place 19 Aug 1648 on the southern boundary of the township of Newton. After a day of bitter fighting, the English Parliamentarian forces had managed a major reverse on the Anglo-Scottish Royalist army of the Duke of Hamilton. The bulk of Royalist losses had been confined to the English troops of Sir Marmaduke Langdale and the Scottish contingent of about 15,000 was still virtually intact. Cromwell, with about 6,000 men was heavily outnumbered, especially after ordering 2,000 of his men to guard his rear. The Royalists were unsure whether to hold their position or link up with Royalists in Cheshire and north Wales. They decided to march in the cover of darkness and heavy rain, hoping to gain a head start on Cromwell's forces. The Royalists ordered the destruction of their baggage train, along with most of their artillery and ammunition, as well as food supplies. Cromwell ordered his men in an immediate pursuit and the next day consisted of several rear guard skirmishes. The Parliamentary forces kept up the pressure and 18 August, the Royalists determined to make a stand on some high ground just outside Standish. The Scots, now without food or quantities of ammunition, plundered the town of Wigan. The Scots continued to retreat with sporadic skirmishing.

The troops met at Winwick Pass 19 August, with the situation of the Scots becoming plainly desperate, with increasing numbers of their foot dropping out through hunger and exhaustion. On the southern boundary of Newton, the Scots took a position on the high ground, separated from an open valley by a stream on an isolated sand-stone bluff. Cromwell's forces were unaware of the Scot's stand.

Cromwell's forces managed to defeat the Scots, killing 1,000 and taking 2,000 prisoner. Many of the Scots infantry were deserting and seeking shelter in nearby Dallam Forest, while of the 2,700 remaining without the colors, many without food, arms and ammunition and were close to mutiny.

The Scots surrendered as prisoners of war, giving their colors and arms. Most of the rank and file prisoners died in prison or from hard usage and disease in England. Hamilton survived, followed closely by Cromwell's horse. On 25 August, his men in a state of mutiny and with Parliamentarian forces on all sides, Hamilton surrendered at Uttoxeter. The Second Civil War had ended.

Included in Cromwell's forces was Robert Overton's Regiment under Lt.Col. Thomas Reade. This unit had origins from the Army of the Earl of Essex during the First Civil War. The regiment consisted of 750 men.

Major General Robert Overton died 2 Jul 1676 in London. He is buried in Seaton, Rutland, England. Anne died 12 Jan 1664/5.

English Civil War Helmet

On 20 Jan 1655, Cromwell dismissed the Parliament. Because dangerous plots against his government were rife, Vane, Ludlow, Robert (or Richard) Overton, Harriston and Major Wildman, the head of the Levellers, were all arrested while the Royalist uprising under Penruddock was crushed in Devonshire. All attacks upon Cromwell's authority were met with force. In 1656, Cromwell summoned a new parliament.

The "Levellers", so derisively annointed by Oliver Cromwell, came into the scene during the First English Civil War 1642-1646. Though their movement lasted only a few years, the principles they declared and defended have had a great affect upon British and Western history. In 1776, in his Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson admitted that the ideas contained in the Declaration were not original to him but had rather been a part of the American worldview for some time. Such ideas are traceable to John Locke and his 1690 Second Treatise of Government. The idea of separated powers and natural laws and natural rights and their self-evident authority, are ideas espoused by the Levellers. The three central figures in the Leveller movement were: Robert or Richard Overton, William Walwyn and John Lilburne. These men were motivated by a desire for religious toleration and they withstood repeated imprisonments, public condemnations and threats on their lives for defending private consciences on religious matters. The scores of pamphlets, tracts and briefs they produced were the beginnings of a vision for individualism and limited government.

The Levellers demanded that sovereignty be given completely to the people through the House of Commons. Though originally united in their dislike of Charles I, the Levellers and Cromwell were not in agreement. Cromwell saw their ideas of government with no seat of authority, an opening for anarchy. Like most people of his time, Cromwell did not believe in the radical equality that the Levellers were preaching. Cromwell saw people as unequal and thus they should not enjoy the same rights, natural or otherwise.

Over the next two years, leaders of the Levellers, though still enjoying sporadic support, with their characteristic sea-green ribbons adorning the clothing of thousands of sympathizers, were imprisoned and mutinies among sympathizers in the army were forcibly put down.

After the execution of Charles I on 30 Jan 1649, the Levellers were unsatisfied with their newly acquired liberty. The independents, led by Cromwell, had adopted some important parts of the Levellers argument, even recommending a few Leveller principles as the basis of the new English government. However, the independents had not abolished tithes and excise taxes or removed certain hated monopoly privileges and they had not made the judicial and military demands the Levellers had demanded, so it was not enough for the Levellers. As weeks passed, the independents became stronger and more solidly entrenched, while the Levellers influence waned. Many Leveller leaders began to side with the independents. The Levellers made several attempts to regain army support by severely criticizing independent leadership, particularly that of Cromwell but to increasingly less avail.

Four principles in the Leveller movement were arrested in the early hours of 28 Mar 1649, including Robert or Richard Overton. From their cells on 1 May, these Levellers issued their third Agreement of the People, by which they mustered a large amount of support from the army and populace of London. On 2 May, some 1200 men stopped following orders and demanded the release of the Levellers. On 14 May 1649, Cromwell's troops crushed what remained of the Leveller army at Oxfordshire, ending the Levellers as an organized political movement. After the 1650's and 1660's, the Levellers began to evaporate from British consciousness and by the 1680's were gone from British memory.

I have no idea if or how this Robert or Richard Overton is related to Major General Robert Overton, but they were both Protestants and they both lived about the same time. Perhaps they were cousins or perhaps they were totally unrelated. Robert or Richard Overton, the Leveller, is said to have been born about 1599. It is believed that he matriculated at Queen's College, Cambridgeshire and that he then became a professional actor and playwright in Southwark before becoming involved in politics. It is interesting that both Robert Overton's were imprisoned in the Tower of London and on the Isle of Jersey. Robert or Richard Overton, the Leveller, is said to have died in 1664. It is also said that Robert or Richard Overton was born about 1625 and that he was a former Dutch regufee, a London printer by trade and a supporter of Mortalism.

   

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