On the morning of, September 11th 1296, William Wallace and Andrew de Moray, joint leaders of the combined Scottish army watched from the hilltop of the Abbey Craig at a bend of the River Forth at Stirling as the vastly superior English army mustered beneath them.
At dawn the English foot soldiers began to cross the bridge but their commander, John de Warrene, was still in bed. He arrived late to the field, recalled his men and sent two Dominican friars as envoys to negotiate the expected Scottish surrender with Wallace and de Moray. They were told by Wallace in no uncertain terms to:
“Tell your commander that we come here with no peaceful intent, but ready for battle, determined to avenge our wrongs and set our country free. Let your masters come and attack us: we are ready to meet them beard to beard.”
John de Warrene called a Council of War but ignored the advice of more seasoned campaigners to be wary of the capabilities of Wallace and de Moray. The despicable Hugh de Cressingham, the English appointed Treasurer of Scotland, urged the Earl of Surrey to cross quickly and finish the Scots once and for all, the delay was costing good money. Over the next few hours the English heavy cavalry - knights and mounted men-at-arms – led by Hugh de Cressingham slowly made their way over the wooden bridge and waited in the loop of the River Forth. Wallace and Moray patiently watched and waited. How hard must it have been to hold back their men and judge the right moment to attack?
At a blast from Wallace’s horn, the lightly armed and armoured Scottish spearmen attacked. They cut off the English escape route back across the bridge and attacked the trapped knights, bowmen and foot soldiers. What followed was a brutal massacre, the mounted knights could not manoeuvre in the marshy ground. In an hour the Scots had slaughtered the trapped men.
Warrene had the wooden bridge set on fire and cut down to prevent the Scots from pursuing his rapid retreat to Berwick. Hugh de Cressingham, was flayed alive by the Scots. It is said that some of his skin was fashioned into a belt for Wallace’s sword. The remainder of his flesh was cut into small pieces, distributed around Scotland and nailed to the gallows that had been erected in every town by the occupying English army. Andrew Moray was seriously wounded during the battle. He never recovered, dying from his wounds two months later. A sad loss to the continuing struggle for Scottish independence.