When I was in elementary school, I spent a considerable amount of time at the local public library. It was located about two miles from our home in a rather nondescript building along a busy highway near the New Orleans airport, and it says something about the times that I was allowed to bike there by myself when I was seven and eight years old.
Some of my favorite books were part of a series called “We Were There,” like “We Were There at the Boston Tea Party” and “We Were There at the Battle of Gettysburg.” The books were children’s fiction (marked with the “Y” of the Dewey Decimal System), and followed a standard format – the story a boy and a girl caught up in momentous historical events. They were designed to get children interested in history, and the strategy surely worked with me. I still remember reading the one about the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese at the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II.
I was reminded of the “We Were There” books when I read the ebook 11 September 1297: The Battle of Stirling Bridge, William Wallace’s Greatest Victory over the English. That’s a long title for a succinct book that can be read in less than an hour. It’s not a book designed for children, however, but for adults. And it’s part of a project by Decisive Days, which is publishing accounts of important days or events in history. The first book in the program is one on the Battle of Agincourt; the next will be on Waterloo.
Stirling Bridge isn’t the romanticized version of the William Wallace story created for the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart; instead, it is a factual (and gripping) narrative of how outnumbered Scot forces defeated the English army. And they won by being smart and picking the battleground. The story is written almost like a factual eyewitness account, but with the needed context to explain why the English were there in the first place, what was happening with the Scot nobility, and how this no-account named William Wallace achieved a significant victory that changed the course of British history and is still remembered today (and celebrated, in Scotland if not England).
I enjoyed this so much that I went to Amazon downloaded the Decisive Days volume on Agincourt. (“We few, we happy few,” as Shakespeare tells it in Henry V).
If you enjoy history, British history, or military history, or think you should but haven’t read any in a long time, try Stirling Bridge. I suspect you will get hooked. I am.
Illustration: The Battle of Stirling Bridge (reconstructed from accounts)