Book 2, Chapter 5, 878 AD to 901 AD – Revolt in the Danelagh
At this crisis, a new danger appeared. The men of the Danelagh, in one hundred ships, sailed round the southern coast and laid siege to Exeter. To relieve that place, Alfred in person, with all his mounted troops, hastened down, leaving his son Edward, and the ealdorman Ethelred, to deal with the encampment at Benfleet. Victory attended the king, and during his absence Hasting received a serious check, for, during a predatory expedition in Essex, Ethelred attacked the camp and captured his wife and children, with many more, and an immense quantity of booty, besides destroying a number of his ships.
On his return from the west Alfred, with true princely generosity, sent back the wife and children of Hasting, with many valuable presents, an act which evincing the highest nobility of mind was quite lost upon the fierce Dane. He retired to Sceoburgh (South Shoebury) where he was joined by fresh bands of adventurers, ready for war and plunder, and being thus reinforced, he sailed up the Thames, crossed the country of the Severn, on the banks of which river, at Buttington, he entrenched himself. Alfred followed and surrounded him, and for several weeks maintained a close blockade.
At length, Hasting, in despair, rushed out with his army, to cut a way through the Saxons, but many thousands were either slain or drowned, and a remnant only managed to reach the garrison left at Shoebury. Alfred also suffered severely in these conflicts, and was so crippled for a time as to be unable to follow up his successes, and Hasting next appeared at Chester, having again been reinforced from the Danelagh With unabated vigour, Alfred followed, with such fresh levies as he had been able to summon, and despatched a number of vessels round to the Mersey to prevent fresh succour arriving by sea, but Hasting would not risk another such slaughter as had occurred at Buttington, and on the approach of Alfred he broke away into North Wales, murdering and plundering on all sides and then by a most circuitous route through Northumbria, Lincolnshire, and East Anglia, he regained his camp at Shoebury, where he wintered.
In the following spring the Danes again sailed up the Thames as far as the confluence of the river Lea, up which they sailed to Ware or Hertford, and erected a fort. The river was much wider and deeper then than now, and possibly the measures which Alfred took to dispossess his foes may have affected the stream, for after the citizens of London had been repulsed in an attack, the king with his army encamped between that city and the Danes in order to protect the husbandmen while gathering the crops, and during that time it occurred to him to lower the stream by digging three deep channels, thereby imperilling the return to the Danish ships. Abandoning alike their vessels and their encampment, the Danes set forth, and scarcely halted until they arrived at Cwatbriege (Quatford, near Bridgnorth) where they continued behind entrenchments during that winter. When spring arrived, they were so utterly wearied and disheartened that they broke up in disorder, and fled in detached parties, some to their friends in Danelagh, some to seek more congenial and profitable occupation on the continent, some to ship under the standard of more successful leaders.
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Fortifications
Chapter 5, Revolt in the Danelagh
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