On September 11, 1297, a Scottish army led by William Wallace and Andrew Moray met and defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, near Stirling on the River Forth.

Stirling Bridge followed a Scottish defeat at the Battle of Dunbar in April 1296. The English victor, John de Warenne, thought he was facing a rabble at Stirling and didn’t really take proper precautions or utilize much common sense. One of his men urged him to send a cavalry force over a nearby ford to outflank the Scots, but de Warenne was talked out of it by the king’s treasurer, who was just looking to save a few pennies. The treasurer instead persuaded de Warenne to order a direct attack across Stirling Bridge, which was only wide enough for two horsemen to ride across at a time.

The Scottish army had learned a thing or two since its unsuccessful campaigns of the year before. They were much better trained and better led. They watched as the English slowly trickled across the bridge, then fell on them, cutting off the vanguard of 5400 infantry plus several hundred cavalry from the rest of the army. The heavy cavalry was trapped to the north of the river and decimated, and the panicked surviving infantry threw off their armor and tried to swim back across the river to escape the carnage. De Warenne’s confidence was destroyed, and he retreated towards Berwick, abandoning the lowlands to the rebels and leaving the garrison at Stirling Castle isolated.

As the English army withdrew, Wallace pursued them (Moray died of the wounds he received in battle). Wallace managed to invade northern England, which bolstered his army’s morale but did little to further the rebels’ objectives. Still, he was named Guardian of Scotland in March 1298, and was able to enjoy that for a few months before King Edward of England himself came north and defeated Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk that summer.

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