The Battle

The Scottish army, some 20,000 strong, were led by Sir Alexander Leslie an experienced commander, with a core of equally experienced professional officers. The Scots deployed in the closes of Newburn village on the north bank of the Tyne. The village sits higher than the meadows on the flood-plain on the south bank, and crucially the Church sits higher still. Leslie was quick to sieze the advantage, mounting several light weight 'leather' cannon on the top of Newburn church tower. Other artillery pieces were placed in the undergrowth along the river bank.

On the eve of the battle the English were dug into earthwork defences with 12/8 cannon sited about 100m from the river, close to the two adjacent fords. The English cavalry initially shelterd in a wooded ridge to the rear. But the infantry were cruelly exposed on the flat meadow with only the hastily erected low earthworks to shield them.

At first the Scottish forces could not cross the river due both to the presence of the sconces and the fact that the tide was in. In the early morning the Scots opened fire. The relatively small numbers of English troops deployed in the sconces suffered heavy casualties from the Scottish artillery on the north bank. But the damage from the cannon on the church tower was devastating. As one of the officers later reported:  ‘we lay so exposed to their battery, that their great shot was bowled in amongst our men, to their great loss and such confusion as made them quit their works’. The English broke and abandoned the artillery and fled. Now the tide had also gone out the Scottish cavalry were able to cross the fords and engaged with the English horse, already disadvantaged by the cannon fire, which was now turned upon them. They too were soon driven back, fleeing to the south with the rest of the army. On the rising ground some of the English infantry were rallied to make a stand, for now they were in safer, enclosed ground with good cover. But they failed to effectively exploit this advantage and soon the whole army was routed by the advancing Scottish forces.


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