[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index][Search Archives]

The Battle of Stirling Bridge (Was:re:Braveheart)

Poster: "Edward R. Ewen, Jr." <tewen@gandalf.cs.wcu.edu>

I got this narrative from the displays at Wallace Tower in Stirling.

    The Battle of Stirling Bridge

Being the first victory on the road to the formation of an independent
Scots nation, where 5000 scots irregulars, mostly spearmen, faced 10,000
English foot, 500 heavy cavalry, and an 'unspecified numner' of Welsh

  During the summer of 1297, the Scots, led by Wallace and Moray join 
forces and beseige Dundee.  In response, Edward sent the aforementioned 
force.  Upon receiving news of the English advance, Wallace and Moray head 
south with the intention of observing and harassing the English army.  
Sorely outnumbered, they know a set-piece battle would prove their undoing.

The Scots beat the English to Stirling, and Wallace saw an opportunity to
catch the English at a major disadvantage.  Stirling lies on an island of
solid ground surrounded by river fed bogs.  To the west the bogs were 
impassable, to the east the river was too wide for an army to cross 
without ships.  The English, marching from the south, had but one avenue 
of approach:  Stirling Bridge.  Made of wood, the bridge was just wide 
enough for two horsemen to cross abreast.

This presented an opportunity Wallace couldn't resist.  The English would 
have a severely restricted front, and no opportunity to perform flanking 
maneuvers.  The Scots could fight the whole English army, two men at a time.
In addition, the soft ground was unsuitable for the English heavy 
cavalry, limiting their mobility and turning them into a liablility for 
the English.

On the morning of 11 September, the English began to cross the bridge.  
After approximately half the English had crossed, it was discovered that 
Surrey had overslept and had been unable to lead the English advance, so 
the English withdrew and regrouped, wasting half the day.  Surrey then 
started advancing again, having denyed a request that the cavalry be 
allowed to attempt a flanking move through the bogs to the west.

Wallace waited until half the English foot and cavalry, and all the 
bowmen had crossed before attacking.  The cavalry was, as expected, 
mostly ineffectual.  The bowmen were unable to effectively engage the 
Scots because of the close quarters of the battle and a fear of killing 
English soldiers.

As the battle raged, a section of the bridge collapsed.  The English found
themselves divided with forces on both sides of the river.  Those engaged
on the north shore were cut off, with no means of retreat or

The Scots routed the English on the north shore. Yhough some of the 
lightly armoured Welsh were able to swim to safety, many of the more 
heavily armoured English drowned making the attempt.

The English retreated south to England and were harried all the way by 
the victorious Scots.  Cressingham was killed during the battle, and 
legend has it that he was skinned and his skin made into a leather hilt 
for Wallace's sword.  Moray was also mortally wounded, though he lived 
two months more.

This battle was the high point of Wallace's career and set the stage for
Robert the Bruce's victory at Bannockburn 17 years later.  Wallace was
later betrayed, captured, tortured and executed, and pieces of his body
were sent across England and Scotland to serve as an example to other 
would be heroes of Scotland.

List Archives, FAQ, FTP:  http://sca.wayfarer.org/merryrose/
            Submissions:  atlantia@atlantia.sca.org
        Admin. requests:  majordomo@atlantia.sca.org