After proclaiming himself king, Edward IV gathered together a large force and marched north towards the Lancastrian position behind the Aire River in Yorkshire. On 27 March the Earl of Warwick (leading the vanguard) forced a crossing at Ferrybridge, bridging the gaps (the Lancastrians having previously destroyed it) with planks. In the process he lost many men, both to the freezing winter water and to the frequent hail of arrows coming from a small but determined Lancastrian force on the other side. Once the crossing was managed and the Lancastrians seen off, Warwick had his men repair the bridge while camp was established on the north side of the river.
Early next morning the Yorkists were ambushed by a large party of Lancastrians under Sir John Clifford and John, Lord Neville (Warwick’s half-great-uncle). Completely surprised and confused Warwick’s forces suffered many losses. Warwick’s second-in-command at camp, Lord FitzWalter was mortally wounded while trying to rally his men (he died a week later). The Bastard of Salisbury, Warwick's half-brother was slain and in the process of retreating the Earl of Warwick himself was injured, struck by an arrow in the leg. Jean de Wavrin states that nearly 3000 men perished in the fighting.
After the battle Edward arrived with his main army and together Warwick and Edward returned to the bridge to find it in ruins. Warwick sent his uncle, Lord Fauconberg with the Yorkist cavalry upstream to where they crossed the ford at Castleford and pursued Lord Clifford. Fauconberg pursued Lord Clifford, in sight of the main Lancastrian army and defeated him after a fierce struggle. Clifford was killed by an arrow in the throat, having unaccountably removed the piece of armour that should have protected this area of his body.