The Battle of Barnet
April 14, 1471
Yorkist troops under Edward IV vs. Lancastrian troops led by the Warwick, "The Kingmaker"
Barnet was yet another in a long line of bloody battles we call the Wars of the Roses, staged between the houses of Lancaster and York as they struggled for the crown of England. It owed as much to a personal enmity between Warwick and Edward as it did to policies or alliances. Warwick ostensibly fought to return Henry VI to the throne. At the time of the battle, Edward held Henry in the Tower of London.
Warwick's men were already in position when Edward's army arrived on the night of April 13. Edward disposed his troops in the dark, intending to repel an expected attack at dawn. In the dark, he misjudged the distance between his men and the enemy and drew up much closer to Warwick than he intended.
It proved to be a fortunate error, for the Lancastrian artillery kept up a constant barrage during the night, but overshot the mark almost completely, so Edward's army was intact when the dawn came.
The cause of the Lancastrian army was dealt a terrible blow by sheer mischance. The thick fog of morning made it impossible to see clearly, and in the half-light, Warwick's left and centre mistook the other, first for enemy troops, then for traitors. The damage they did to each other was decisive, for until then the fight had been in Warwick's favour.
Warwick himself was killed on the field, and his forces put to the rout. Casualty figures are unreliable, but it seems likely that 500 Yorkist and 1000 Lancastrians perished.
Barnet marked the end for Richard Neville, "Warwick the Kingmaker", the most powerful baron of his time. For Edward IV, Barnet was just the first act in his desperate attempt to wrest back the throne.
The battle dust had barely settled when news came that Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI's queen, had landed in the west. Only a desperate march by Edward's men prevented her from reaching allies near Wales, and forced her into battle at Tewkesbury.
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