Preparation for battle at Stirling

In the heart of Scotland, Stirling and its castle held essential strategic importance. Those who controlled Stirling were able to control movement between the north and south of the kingdom.

On 11 September 1297, the force commanded by William Wallace and Andrew Moray faced a strong English army on the outskirts of the town.

Scottish preparations

Abbey Hill provided an excellent vantage point
Abbey Hill provided an excellent vantage point

Wallace and Moray saw themselves as 'Commanders of the Army of Scotland'. They moved to strike a decisive blow against English occupation.

They took up position on Abbey Craig Hill, facing the Castle. This was a strong position as it provided an excellent vantage point for directing the battle.

English preparations

The Earl of Surrey, Edward I's lieutenant in Scotland, led the English army with the support of the Treasurer of Scotland, Hugh de Cressingham.

Neither man saw Wallace or Moray as a threat and expected to crush the rebel Scots. However, Cressingham did not possess the military expertise to hold authority in such an important battle.

Cressingham was an extremely unpopular figure amongst the Scots and his presence undoubtedly antagonised the men of Wallace and Moray.

The Earl of Surrey's attitude at Stirling may also have contributed to English defeat. For example:

  • before fighting began, he had already sent some of his soldiers home, to save paying their wages
  • on the morning of the battle he slept late
  • he was indecisive about how to get his army across the River Forth to face the Scots
  • Surrey finally chose to send his army across the narrow Stirling Bridge - despite there being a more appropriate crossing point upstream