Book 2, Chapter 5, 878 AD to 901 AD – Alfred’s Fortifications
The leader of this new host was Hasten, or Hasting, renowned for his bravery and skill, and the vessels which accompanied him exceeded two hundred and fifty in number, a sight enough to fill even the stout Kentish men with dismay. One large party landed at Romney Marsh, and proceeded to Appledore, where they constructed a fortified camp. The rest entered the Thames and passed round to Milton, near Sittingbourne, where they also threw up strong intrenchments.
To add to the difficulties, the people of the Danelagh sympathised and sided with the new comers, and during the terrible conflicts of the ensuing four years materially aided them not only by furnishing supplies, and by succouring their wives and children, and taking care of their booty, but also by making sudden and swift descents upon the southern and south western coasts while Alfred was resisting his foes elsewhere. Guthrun was dead, and his successors hoped, by the aid of Hasting, to extirpate the Saxons, and secure possession of the entire country.
Alfred’s genius and resources, however, proved too much for the Danes, although for some months the fate of England appeared to tremble in the balance. His first step was to assemble all his forces, and by a bold stroke of strategy, place himself between the two Danish armies, who were twenty miles apart, and this he did with such skill and ability as to hold both in check, and to prevent either from stirring out of the entrenchments without being exposed to a fearful onslaught. He could not be attacked by either army upon the flanks, for his position had been chosen with a view to natural defences offered by forests and swamps, while his front and rear were so defended and presented so strong an aspect that the Danes oared not assail him.
By patiently waiting and watching, and by cutting off all the foraging parties of the enemy, Alfred at length wore them out, and Hasting sued for peace, offering to quit the country, and not only gave hostages but sent two of his sons to be baptized. He then made a show of embarking his troops, but only crossed the Thames and landed at Benfleet, with the intention of joining the men of the Danelagh, and with the expectation of being joined by the other division from Appledore. These latter broke up their encampment and by forced marched crossed the great forest, formerly known as Andredswald, intending to ford the Thames and unite themselves with their brethren in Essex. Alfred followed them closely, and forced a battle near to Farnham, in which the Danes were defeated with immense slaughter, and nearly all their horses and booty captured. Of those who escaped from the battle, many were drowned in their attempts to ford the river, and many more perished in the flight.
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Fortifications
New Attacks under Hasting
Chapter 5, Revolt in the Danelagh
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Educational Efforts
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Industry and Zeal
Chapter 5, Saxon Laws
Chapter 5, Summary of Alfred’s Character
Categories: Book 2