Battle of Stirling Bridge #OnThisDay

On 11th of September 1297, the forces of Andrew Moray and William Wallace defeated the combined English forces of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, and Hugh de Cressingham near Stirling, on the River Forth.

The bridge was a narrow wooden one. Stirling, was an extremely important castle. Negotiation took place over several days. Wallace was a formidable knight and defender of the independence of the country he loved. He is reputed to have replied to Surrey’s emissaries:

“We are not here to make peace but to do battle to defend ourselves and liberate our kingdom. Let them come on and we shall prove this to their very beards.”

The small bridge was broad enough to let only two horsemen cross abreast but offered the safest river crossing, as the Forth widened to the east and the marshland of Flanders Moss lay to the west. The Scots waited as the English knights and infantry, led by Cressingham, with Sir Marmaduke Thweng and Sir Richard Waldegrave, began to make their slow progress across the bridge on the morning of 11 September. It would have taken several hours for the entire English army to cross.

Wallace and Moray waited, according to the Chronicle of Hemingburgh, until "as many of the enemy had come over as they believed they could overcome". When a substantial number of the troops had crossed (possibly about 2,000) the attack was ordered. The Scots spearmen came down from the high ground in rapid advance and fended off a charge by the English heavy cavalry and then counterattacked the English infantry. They gained control of the east side of the bridge and cut off the chance of English reinforcements to cross. Caught on the low ground in the loop of the river with no chance of relief or of retreat, most of the outnumbered English on the east side were probably killed. A few hundred may have escaped by swimming across the river. Marmaduke Thweng managed to fight his way back across the bridge with some of his men.

It was a great victory for the Scots. Wallace was appointed Guardian of the kingdom of Scotland and commander of its army.

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