Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Bloodshed Begins

On 14 November 1453, the first battle in the first of a series of conflicts that would be known as the Wars of the Roses within eyesight of the city of Durham. The Nevilles and Percies renewed their feud, but now in support of two different claimants for the throne of England. The two forces numbered around 3000 each and fought to a stalemate throughout the day, neither side able to get the upper hand. Then in the afternoon, Fauconberg with a force of around 500 arrived from the north behind the Percy positions. The sudden appearance of an enemy force to their rear sent the Percy troops into disarray. While trying to maneuver his forces to counter the rear attack, the Earl of Northumberland was struck down and not long afterwards his forces broke, fleeing the field and dispersing throughout the north. The Bishop of Durham then opened the city gates and welcomed his brothers Salisbury and Fauconberg while Warwick took some men and rushed south to Middleham to continue recruiting a force to secure the north for Yorkist cause. The news surrounding the events outside Durham quickly spread throughout England, soon there was new of other battles circulating around the country.

In late November, Baron Cobham raised a force from Kent and headed for London in the name of York only to meet a force led by the Earl of Oxford from Barnet resulting in a battled just south of London resulting in a standstill. A small force of London citizenry tried to help Cobham, but as they exited the city Oxford tried to storm the city through the opened gate. Oxford was pushed back and then had to retreat when Cobham attacked from behind, though did prevent the Kentish force from linking up with the residents of London, who retreated back behind their gates. In the southwest, the Earl of Devon had raised a force from Cornwall and Devonshire then led them across the county of Somerset and entered county Wiltshire. On 3 December 1453, the Earl of Ormond having gathered a force from Wiltshire in support of Somerset defeated Devon’s forces at Bradfort-on-Avon. However, bad weather the next day prevented Ormond from following up the victory and Devon retreated into southern Gloucestershire.

As Christmas Day drew closer, the succession crisis had turned into a civil war but neither claimant had personally taken the field in their own cause. The House of York had the victory at Durham while the House of Beaufort had the victory at Bradford-on-Avon to counter it. Both forces of York and Beaufort were at a stalemate outside London with men starting to raid areas around London to gain provisions. The reason both Somerset and York had yet to take the field was because they were actively trying to gain the support of the church and its blessing, however while some clergy choose sides others took the stance of the Bishop of London and supported neither. Soon both men decided it was time to take the field and after having personally gathering armies were about to take to the fields of England to win undisputed control of the throne.

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