Battle of Stirling Bridge

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5,000 infantry killed[2]

Scottish Independence

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was a battle of the First War of Scottish Independence. On 11 September 1297, the forces of Andrew Moray and William Wallace defeated the combined English forces of John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham near Stirling, on the River Forth.

Contents

The battle

John de Warenne had won an easy victory over the aristocracy of Scotland at the Battle of Dunbar and his belief that he was now dealing with a rabble seems to have affected his judgment. The small bridge at Stirling was only broad enough to allow two horsemen to cross abreast. The Scots deployed in a commanding position dominating the soft, flat ground to the north of the river. Sir Richard Lundie, a Scots knight who joined the English after the capitulation at Irvine, offered to outflank the enemy by leading a cavalry force over a nearby ford, where sixty horsemen could cross at the same time. Cressingham, King Edward's treasurer in Scotland, was anxious to avoid any unnecessary expense in prolonging the war and he persuaded the Earl to reject this advice and order a direct attack across the bridge.

The Scots waited as the English knights and infantry made their slow progress across the bridge on the morning of 11 September. The disorderly Scottish army of 1296 was gone: Wallace and Moray's hold over their men was firm. They had held back earlier in the day when many of the English and Welsh archers had crossed, only to be recalled because de Warenne had overslept. The two commanders now waited, according to the Chronicle of Hemingburgh, until "as many of the enemy had come over as they believed they could overcome." When the vanguard, comprising 5,400 English and Welsh infantry plus several hundred cavalry, had crossed the Bridge, the attack was ordered. The Scots spearmen came down from the high ground in rapid advance towards Stirling Bridge, quickly seizing control of the English bridgehead. De Warenne's vanguard was now cut off from the rest of the army. The heavy cavalry to the north of the river was trapped and cut to pieces, their comrades to the south powerless to help Hugh de Cressingham, whose body was subsequently flayed and the skin cut into small pieces as tokens of the victory. The Lanercost Chronicle records that Wallace had[3] "a broad strip [of Cressingham’s skin] ... taken from the head to the heel, to make therewith a baldrick for his sword". Losses among the infantry, many of them Welsh, were also high. Those who could throw off their armour swam across the river.

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