The Battle of Otterburn

The Battle of Otterburn took place according to Scottish sources on 5 August 1388, or 19 August according to English sources,as part of the continuing border skirmishes between the Scottish and English.


The best remaining record of the battle is from Jean Froissart's Chronicles in which he claims to have interviewed veterans from both sides of the battle. The Scottish noble James, 2nd Earl of Douglas decided to lead a raid into English territory. It was timed to take advantage of divisions on the English side between Lord Neville and Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland who had just taken over defence of the border.

 

During the battle on a moonlit night Douglas was killed, his death had no influence on the outcome of the battle and went unnoticed until much later, the Percys were both captured, with the remaining English force retreating to Newcastle. Despite Percy's force having an estimated three to one advantage over the Scots Froissart records 1040 English were captured and 1860 killed whereas 200 Scots were captured and 100 were killed. The Westminster Chronicle estimates Scottish casualties at around 500. When the Bishop of Durham advanced from Newcastle with 10,000 men he was so impressed by the ordered appearance of the Scottish force, the din they set up with their horns, and their seemingly unassailable position, that he declined to attack.

 

Such a decisive victory kept the two sides apart for some time. Of such renown was the battle of Otterburn that several ballads were composed in its honour including The Battle of Otterburn and The Ballad of Chevy Chase. 

 

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