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Following the Royalist defeat at Rowton Heath and the Marquis of Montrose's earlier defeat at Philiphaugh, news that Montrose was raising a new army resulted in Charles I making a new attempt to link up with the Scottish forces. Lord Digby was commissioned as Lieutenant General of the King's forces north of the River Trent and dispatched, together with Sir Marmaduke Langdale to join Montrose. As the Royalists moved north towards Ferrybridge, a force of 1,300 Parliamentarian Horse, drawn from around Doncaster and Rotherham and commanded by Colonel Charles Copley, gathered five miles from the latter town at 3am on the morning of 15 October to give pursuit. The Royalists, marching through the night, reached Ferrybridge before Copley. There they learnt that a body of Parliamentarian infantry was nearby at Sherbun in Elmet and immediately advanced on the town. Taking the Parliamentarian force completely by suprise the Royalists put a regiment of Horse to flight and captured the entire body of Foot. Hearing of this reverese, Copley, although outnumbered, determined to attack without delay. As the Parliamentarian Horse passed the south west side of Sherburn, the Royalists came out of town at speed. Hastily matching the enemy's formation, Copley launched his men forward. The rival bodies of Horse met at the charge and the left wing and centre of the parliamentarians were broken. The Royalists were within minutes of victory except that on the right the charge of Major George and the troopers of Lord Fairfax's regiment were successful. Supported by the reserve, which took the Royalist right and centre in flank, the remaining Parliamentarian Horse put the entire Royalist body to flight. The Royalist Horse fled into the town with the Parliamentarians in hot pursuit. Copley's troopers took over 400 prisoners, released the 800 or so captured Parliamentarian infantry, and scattered the remaining Royalist cavalry as far as Skipton.

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