Battle of Stanhope Park
|Battle of Stanhope Park|
|Part of the First War of Scottish Independence|
|Kingdom of Scotland||Kingdom of England|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Sir James Douglas
Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray
|at least 200 Cavalry, unknown infantry||unknown|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Stanhope Park, part of the First War of Scottish Independence, took place during the night of 3–4 August 1327. The Scots under James Douglas led a raid into Weardale, and Roger Mortimer, accompanied by the newly crowned Edward III on his first campaign, led an army to drive them back. Douglas led, among other ambushes, an attack into the English camp, with 500 cavalry, and almost captured the king.
The opening moves
At the beginning of June 1327, a state of truce existed between England and Scotland but it was clear it would not last. Truce negotiations broke down and by 15 June, Scots forces had crossed over into the English West March. An English army, including a large contingent of Hainaut mercenaries (amongst whom was the chronicler Jean le Bel), set out from York on 1 July to make a counter invasion of Scotland. On 15 July, they were in Durham. It was here that they saw smoke from burning farms in the surrounding countryside and realised that a second Scottish force had entered the English Eastern March and was close by.
The English army pursued the Scots but could not make contact and eventually lost touch with them. At this point, the English changed their tactics and, instead of trying to overtake the Scots, decided to position themselves to intercept the Scottish army heading back into Scotland. Accordingly, they marched to Haydon, where they crossed the River Tyne and encamped on 20 July. Here they stayed waiting for the Scots for a week. However, at the end of this time they realised that they would have to seek out the Scots. A party of men-at-arms was sent out to search for the Scots and the main army marched off again southward. On 30 July, they were met by one of their scouts, Thomas Rokesby, who had blundered into the Scots army and been captured by them. The Scots had released him on condition that he rode back and directed the English army to them. The English followed Rokesby and located the Scots near Stanhope in Durham.
The Scottish position
The Scots had taken up a strong defensive position by the River Wear. The position was too strong for the English to attack but they attempted to get the Scots to fight by drawing up their army on level ground and inviting the Scots to fight and by skirmishing with men-at-arms and archers. Douglas sent them the message that they would stay where they were as long as they liked. This stand-off lasted for three days. On the night of 2–3 August, the Scots decamped overnight moving a short way to a better position within Stanhope Park proper. The English shifted camp to be nearer the Scots.
The night raid
On the night of 3–4 August, Douglas led a night attack on the English camp. Douglas reached Edward III's tent which was collapsed with him inside and nearly captured the English king. Several hundred English were killed. The English were forced to keep constant improved watch after this. On the night of 6–7 August, the Scottish army quietly broke camp and headed back toward Scotland. The English did not pursue.
Although militarily indecisive, the Weardale campaign was a strategic success for the Scots. Their preemptive invasion had stopped a more powerful English army from attacking Scotland. Their Fabian tactics had caused "great shame, dishonour and scorn" to the English. The political impact of the campaign was greater than the military. The campaign had been ruinously expensive for the English, costing about £70,000, with the cost of the Hainauters alone being £41,000. Unable to raise this sort of money again to resist another Scots incursion in 1328, the English were forced to negotiate, leading to the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which recognised Robert Bruce's claim to the throne of Scotland and dropped English claims of feudal superiority over the monarchs of Scotland.
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