Page images
PDF
EPUB

then called the New Park, about two miles from Stirling. It was studded with trees, and the ground was so irregular, that cavalry, in which the English so much excelled, could not act with advantage. His right wing rested on a small stream called Bannockburn, whose banks secured him from a flank attack in that quarter, his front was protected by a morass, whilst on his left, where the ground was more open, he dug numerous pits in which he fixed pointed stakes, and which were concealed from observation by the sod being carefully replaced. The numerous camp followers were, with the baggage, placed in the rear, behind an eminence, which, from an occurrence that took place on the day of the battle, is still known by the name of the Gillies Hill. King Robert arranged his army in three square columns or battles, of which the van or centre was commanded by the Earl of Moray, the right by Edward Bruce, and the left by Sir James Douglas and Walter the Steward of Scotland. The King himself commanded the reserve, which formed a fourth battle, drawn up immediately behind the centre.

Sir Robert Clifford with eight hundred cavalry had been detached by Edward, who was now advancing with his formidable army, with orders to make a circuit for the purpose of avoiding the Scottish line, and to throw himself and his followers into Stirling Castle. Clifford executed the order so skilfully, that he had actually passed the Scottish army without being observed. King Robert himself was the first who saw him, and directing the attention of Randolph to the English detachment marching rapidly towards Stirling, said to him reproachfully, “ Thomas, there is a rose fallen from your chaplet.” Randolph stung by the reproach hastened with five hundred infantry to intercept the detachment, and succeeded, after sustaining several furious charges from the English horse, in completely repulsing Clifford and driving him back to the main army. Another preliminary action served no less to animate the courage of the Scots, and to give them good hopes of the issue of the approaching battle. The English advanced guard had approached pretty near to the Scottish lines, and Robert Bruce, who was riding in front of his ranks examining their array, distinguished by a golden coronet which he wore on his helmet, was descried by Sir Henry de Bohun, an English knight, who immediately spurred his powerful war-horse up to the Scottish king, in the hopes of finishing the war at a single blow. But Bruce, who was mounted on a small palfrey, dexterously avoiding the lance of his enemy, raised himself in his stirrups, and with one stroke of his battle-axe “dashed helmet and head to pieces, and laid Sir Henry de Bohun at his feet a dead man.

These events took place in the evening, and next morning both armies prepared for battle. The Abbot of Inchaffray passed along the Scottish line, and the men knelt down to receive his blessing. “See,” cried Edward, “ they are kneeling--they ask for mercy.” “They do, my liege,” replied Umfraville, who stood near him, “but it is from God, not from us; those men will win the day, or die upon the field.” Edward ordered the charge to be sounded, and Gloucester and Hereford spurring forward their horses, the English cavalry armed in complete steel charged the right wing of the Scots; and at the first shock many of the knights were thrown from their saddles, and the horses stabbed. Randolph advanced with his division at a steady pace to meet the main body of the English; but his square being outnumbered by ten to one, was soon surrounded and lost among the English, as if it had plunged into a

Sir James Douglas and Walter the Steward bringing up the left wing, the whole line consisting of the three divisions was now engaged, and the battle raged with great fury. At every successive charge the English cavalry lost more men, and fell into greater confusion; whilst, from the confined nature of the ground, the immense mass of their army could not be brought forward to the attack. The Scottish squares, light and compact, moved easily, altering their front to suit every emergency; but Bruce, perceiving them much galled by the English archers, sent Sir Robert Keith with five hundred horse, who, making a circuit round Milton Bog, charged and dispersed the defenceless bowmen. Bruce now brought up his reserve. “ It was awful,” says Barbour the old Scottish historian, “ to hear the noise of these four battles fighting in a line, the clang of arms, the shouts of the knights, as they raised their war-cry;

sea.

to see the flight of the arrows which maddened the horses, the alternate sinking and rising of the banuers, and the ground streaming with blood, and covered with shreds of armour, broken spears, pennons, and rich scarfs, torn and soiled with blood and clay; and to listen tu the groans of the wounded and the dying.” The wavering of the English lines began to be discernible, when, at this critical moment, there was seen on the hill behind the Scots a band advancing with banners towards the field of battle; this was merely the servants and campfollowers with blankets displayed from poles, but the English, who took it for a new army of Scots, were struck with dismay; they immediately broke into disjointed squadrons, part began to quit the field, and no efforts of their leaders could restore order. The flight soon became general, and the slaughter was very great. Twenty-seven barons were slain, and among the number Gloucester, Sir Robert Clifford, and Sir Giles Argentine. Many fell into the pits; numbers were drowned in the Forth, and so great was the carnage at the stream of Bannockburn, that the channel was completely heaped up with the dead bodies of men and horses, so that the pursuers could pass dry over the mass as if it were a bridge. Thirty thousand of the English were left dead upon the field, and amongst these two hundred belted knights, and seven hundred esquires. Edward escaped to Dunbar, where he was hospitably received by the Earl of March, and whence he passed by sea to Berwick. The loss of the Scots in the battle was surprisingly small; the only persons of note who fell, were Sir William Vipont, and Sir Walter Ross, the bosom friend of Edward Bruce.

*The whole baggage and military stores of the English fell into the hands of the victors-cattle and sheep, vessels of gold and silver, chests of treasure, with a large booty in valuable horses, and splendid tent equipage, as well as many warlike engines, which Edward had brought for storming the Scottish castles. This ample spoil was increased by the high ransoms paid by twentytwo barons and sixty knights who had been taken prisoners. The Earl of Hereford was exchanged for Bruce's queen, his sister and daughter, who had been so long kept prisoners in England.

Such was the great and decisive battle of Bannockburn, which established the independence of Scotland, humbled the English monarchy, and completely annihilated all hopes on the part of that power of ever making a conquest of the sister country.

Abridged from Tytler's History.

IV.-EXPLOITS OF DOUGLAS AND RANDOLPH.

DEATH OF KING ROBERT I. So great was the effect of the battle of Bannockburn upon the national mind in England, that one of their own historians says, “ A hundred English would not be ashamed to fly from three or four private Scottish soldiers,—so much had they lost their national courage.” Thrice, within twelve months, Scottish armies commanded by James Douglas and Edward Bruce, broke into the English frontiers, and ravaged them with fire and sword, executing great cruelties on the unfortunate inhabitants. Edward Bruce's impatient ambition led him to accept the crown of Ireland, offered to him by a part of the natives. He proceeded to that country with an army, where, after some successes, he was defeated and slain. Meanwhile hostilities continued to be carried on between the Scots and English. Douglas while lying at Linthaughlee, about two miles above Jedburgh, learned that the Earl of Arundel and the Earl of Brittany were advancing from Northumberland with ten thousand men, to take him by surprise ; but Douglas was never found asleep by his enemies. He caused the copse-wood in a narrow pass or defile to be wrought on each side into a sort of empalement or stockade; and as soon as the English had entered this narrow pathway, his archers, who were lying in ambush, poured upon them a volley of arrows, while Douglas himself, rushing headlong into the melée, singled out the Earl of Brittany, grappled with him, and stabbed him to the heart with his dagger. The English were routed with great slaughter.

About the same time Edmund de Caillou, a French knight, lay with a band of Gascons in the garrison of Berwick; for at this time the English king had many French troops whom he had summoned from his provinces in France. Caillou sallied forth with his Gascons to drive a prey from Scotland; but as they were returning with a great spoil, they were intercepted by Douglas, 'and Caillou lost his booty and his life. Sir Robert Neville was also in Berwick. He upbraided the Gascons that had escaped with cowardice, and as they pleaded the irresistible prowess of Douglas, Neville averred that he would be glad to see the Scottish chieftain's banner displayed, saying, he would himself give battle wherever he beheld it. This vaunt reached the ears of Douglas, and shortly after the formidable banner was seen in the neighbourhood of Berwick, where the smoke of blazing hamlets marked its presence. Robert Neville sallied out with his forces, and Douglas no sooner saw him than he went straight to the encounter. Neville and his men fought bravely; the two leaders met hand to hand, when, after a furious combat, Neville fell by the sword of Douglas, and the English were defeated.

To recount all the exploits of Douglas, and of Thomas Randolph, who almost equalled him in fame, would fill a large volume. We shall only give a brief account of one of the raids which these two warriors made into England in the year 1327. They had two or three thousand men at arms, ten thousand light cavalry, with many followers who marched on horseback, but fought on foot, amounting in all to about twenty-five thousand men. With these forces they invaded the western frontier, and proceeded as far as the bishopric of Durham, marking their course with more than their usual ferocity of devastation. The youthful monarch of England, Edward III., set out from York with a fine army of sixty thousand men, determined to chastise the invaders and destroyers of his country. The English followed where they saw the smoke and flames of the villages, but could not get sight of their enemy, whose light

forces, mounted on small but hardy ponies, easily eluded the slow movements of their heavyarmed pursuers.

Within five miles of the English army they gave by their devastations evidence of their presence, but were not otherwise seen. After a vain and fatiguing pursuit of three days, the English encamped on the Tyne, midway between Newcastle and Carlisle, to intercept the Scots on their return to their own

« PreviousContinue »