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The battle::Battle of Blore Heath

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The battle Audley chose the barren heathland of Blore Heath to set up an ambush.<ref name="Hall"/> On the morning of 23 September 1459 (Saint Thecla's day), a force of some 10,000 men took up a defensive position behind a 'great hedge' on the south-western edge of Blore Heath facing the direction of Newcastle-under-Lyme to the north-east, the direction from which Salisbury was approaching.

Yorkist scouts spotted Lancastrian banners over the top of a hedge and immediately warned Salisbury. As they emerged from the woodland, the Yorkist force of some 5,000 men realized that a much larger enemy force was awaiting their arrival. Salisbury, instead of disbanding or withdrawing his army,<ref name="MichaelHicks">Michael Hicks, The Wars of the Roses, 143.</ref> immediately arranged his troops into battle order, just out of range of the Lancastrian archers. To secure his right flank, he arranged the supply wagons in a defensive laager, a circular formation to provide cover to the men. Fearing a rout, Yorkist soldiers are reported to have kissed the ground beneath them, supposing that this would be the ground on which they would meet their deaths.

The two armies were separated by about 300 metres on the barren heathland. A steep-sided, wide and fast-flowing brook ran between them. The brook made Audley's position seemingly impenetrable.

Initially, both leaders sought unsuccessfully to parley in an attempt to avoid bloodshed. In keeping with many late medieval battles, the conflict opened with an archery duel between the longbows of both armies. At Blore Heath, this proved inconclusive because of the distance between the two sides.

Salisbury, aware that any attack across the brook would be suicidal, employed a ruse to encourage the enemy to attack him. He withdrew some of his middle-order just far enough that the Lancastrians believed them to be retreating. The Lancastrians launched a cavalry charge. After they had committed themselves, Salisbury ordered his men to turn back and catch the Lancastrians as they attempted to cross the brook. It is possible that the order for this Lancastrian charge was not given by Audley but it had the effect of turning the balance in favour of Salisbury. The charge resulted in heavy casualties for the Lancastrians.

The Lancastrians withdrew, and then made a second assault, possibly attempting to rescue casualties. This second attack was more successful with many Lancastrians crossing the brook. This led to a period of intense fighting in which Audley himself was killed,<ref name="MichaelHicks" /> possibly by Sir Roger Kynaston of Myddle and Hordley.

The Earl of Salisbury, which knew the sleights, strategies and policies of warlike affairs, suddenly returned, and shortly encountered with the Lord Audley and his chief captains, ere the residue of his army could pass the water. The fight was sore and dreadful. The earl desiring the saving of his life, and his adversaries coveting his destruction, fought sore for the obtaining of their purpose, but in conclusion, the earl's army, as men desperate of aid and succour, so eagerly fought, that they slew the Lord Audley, and all his captains, and discomfited all the remnant of his people... <ref name="Hall">Edward Hall. The Union of The Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre & Yorke (1548; reprinted as Hall's Chronicle 1809; quoted in English Heritage Battlefield Report: Blore Heath 1459)</ref>

The death of Audley meant that Lancastrian command fell to the second-in-command, Lord Dudley, who ordered an attack on foot with some 4,000 men. As this attack also failed, some 500 Lancastrians joined the enemy and began attacking their own side. At this point, all remaining Lancastrian resistance collapsed and the Yorkists had only to advance to complete the rout.

The rout continued through the night, with the Yorkists pursuing the fleeing enemy for miles across the countryside.

At least 2,000 Lancastrians were killed,<ref name="TrevorRoyle" /> with the Yorkists losing nearly 1,000.<ref>A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East, Vol. II, ed. Spencer C. Tucker, 346.</ref>


Battle of Blore Heath sections
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