Battle of Ferrybridge

The Battle of Ferrybridge, 28 March 1461, was a preliminary engagement between the houses of York and Lancaster before the larger battle of Towton, during the period known as the Wars of the Roses.[1]

Battle of Ferrybridge
Part of Wars of the Roses
Date28 March 1461
Location
Ferrybridge in Yorkshire, England

53°42′45″N 1°16′25″W
Result Indecisive
Belligerents
House of Lancaster House of York
Commanders and leaders
Lord Clifford 
Lord Neville
Earl of Warwick
Lord Fauconberg
Strength
unknown unknown
Casualties and losses
3,000

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 Lord Clifford and John, Lord Neville (Warwick’s cousin). 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, his half grand nephew, 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[2] removed the piece of armour that should have protected this area of his body.[3]

Date

Some doubt exists over what date the battle took place on due to the way the historical sources refer to the different times of the day. No contemporary source explicitly states that the battle took place on March 28th but refers to Palm Sunday eve which could refer to the morning before dawn on the 29th.[4] Archaeology evidence indicates that the subsequent engagement near Dittingdale after crossing the river is too close to the location of the main battle at Towton to have been fought on a separate day. As the historical sources all agree that Lord Clifford was killed on the same day as the engagement at Ferrybridge, a new interpretation has been given of there being 3 consecutive engagements in one day – starting before dawn on 29 March and ending at Towton. If this is the case it has been suggested the quoted casualty figures given for the battle of Towton may include those killed at Ferrybridge.

References

  1. Christopher Gravett, Towton 1461:England's Bloodiest Battle, (Osprey, 2003), 32-39
  2. He probably unhinged his bevor so he could breathe better, more quickly scan the battlefield and shout commands but he was killed moments later.
  3. Christopher Gravett, Towton 1461:England's Bloodiest Battle, 38.
  4. Sutherland, Tim (2009). "Killing Time: Challenging the Common Perceptions of Three Medieval Conflicts – Ferrybridge, Dintingdale and Towton – 'The Largest Battle on British Soil'" (PDF). Journal of Conflict Archaeology. 5 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1163/157407709x12634580640173. ISSN 1574-0773.

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