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Battle of Stirling Bridge
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Beginning to A.D. 350
A.D. 350 to 794
A.D. 795 to 1260

The Battle of Stirling Bridge

The Battle of Stirling Bridge took place near the Old Bridge over the River Forth which connects the town to the causeway leading west towards Bridge of Allan. The more modern (although still 500 years old) present day stone bridge, lies more or less, on the spot of the ancient, narrow wooden bridge where the outcome of the battle hinged.

Wallace and Murray arrived at Stirling before the English did and took up position near and on the Abbey Craig. The approaching English army has been estimated at some two hundred knights and mounted men-at-arms and ten thousand foot-soldiers, against the waiting Scottish force of thirty-six cavalry and eight thousand foot, made up of lesser gentry, burgesses and countrymen.

Before the battle the English side made peace overtures to the Scots but they were refused point blank by Wallace. So the scene was set and that evening the Earl of Surrey gave orders for the English army to cross the bridge next morning for a frontal attack on the Scots, then retired for the night to Stirling Castle.

At dawn next morning (11 September) a "false start" occured when the English infantry began to cross the bridge and were deploying on the marshy ground, on the north side of the river, when they were recalled. Their commander in chief, the elderly Earl of Surrey had not risen from his bed, and the action was postponed.

When Surrey arrived, he saw the lightly-armed Scottish army near the slopes of the Abbey Craig half a mile away, and summoned a council of war. Some of the Scottish knights in his army urged caution, arguing that the bridge would be a death-trap because it was so narrow; on the other hand there was a ford farther upstream where cavalry could cross sixty at a time, and could then attack the Scots from the flank allowing the main army to cross the bridge in relative safety.

This sensible tactical advice was rejected and was to be the downfall of the English troops. At just the right moment, Scottish pikemen descended on the troops crossing the bridge and with the Cavalry floundering in the marshy ground, the English lost just over half their compliment in just over an hour.

The Earl of Surrey, headed to the safety of Berwick Castle, leaving the Scots to celebrate their achievement.