Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Battle of Hedgeley Moor, (1464)

The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, fought in Northumberland on 25 April 1464, checked the growth of Lancastrian insurgency in the far north and allowed the continuation of peace talks between SCOTLAND, a former Lancastrian refuge, and the Yorkist government of EDWARD IV.

Early in 1464, Henry BEAUFORT, the Lancastrian duke of Somerset, whom Edward IV had pardoned in the previous year, left his post in WALES and fled into the Lancastrian north, where he declared openly for HENRY VI. After a failed attempt to seize the Yorkist supply base at Newcastle, Somerset appeared at the Northumbrian castle of BAMBURGH, then in Lancastrian hands. Joining forces with Sir Ralph Percy and other recently pardoned Lancastrians, Somerset launched a two-month campaign that by late March had turned northeastern England into a Lancastrian enclave. With Norham Castle and the towns of Bywell, Hexham, Langley, and Prudhoe all in Somerset’s hands, the Anglo-Scottish talks that were set to resume in Newcastle on 6 March had to be rescheduled for late April in York. To safely escort the Scottish commissioners from the border to York, Edward IV dispatched John NEVILLE, Lord Montagu, into Northumbria.

Collecting strength as he moved north, Montagu evaded a Lancastrian ambush and came safely to Newcastle. Resuming his march to the Scottish border, Montagu encountered a force under Somerset about nine miles northwest of ALNWICK on Hedgeley Moor. Although accounts of the battle are sketchy, fighting seems to have begun with the usual exchange of ARCHER fire. But before the two armies could engage, the left wing of Somerset’s force suddenly broke and ran, perhaps because of poor morale. Montagu shifted his position to attack the remaining Lancastrians, who were quickly overwhelmed by the larger Yorkist army. At some point during the fighting, Somerset and most of the Lancastrian army disengaged and scattered, leaving Sir Ralph Percy and his household RETAINERS on the field to be slaughtered. After the battle, Montagu reformed his army and continued his march to the border, where he met the Scottish envoys and conducted them safely to York to resume their talks with Edward IV’s commissioners.

Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995).

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