Bannockburn, Day I

Here's how Wikipedia describes the first day of the Bannockburn.

Here is the description from In Freedom's Cause:
On the morning of Sunday, the 23d of June, immediately after sunrise, the Scotch attended mass, and confessed as men who had devoted themselves to death. The king, having surveyed the field, caused a proclamation to be made that whosoever felt himself unequal to take part in the battle was at liberty to withdraw. Then, knowing from his scouts that the enemy had passed the night at Falkirk, six or seven miles off, he sent out Sir James Douglas and Sir Robert Keith with a party of horsemen to reconnoitre the advance.

The knights had not gone far when they saw the great army advancing, with the sun shining bright on innumerable standards and pennons, and glistening from lance head, spear, and armour. So grand and terrible was the appearance of the army that upon receiving the report of Douglas and Keith the king thought it prudent to conceal its full extent, and caused it to be bruited abroad that the enemy, although numerous, was approaching in a disorderly manner.

The experienced generals of King Edward now determined upon making an attempt to relieve Stirling Castle without fighting a pitched battle upon ground chosen by the enemy. Had this attempt been successful, the great army, instead of being obliged to cross a rapid stream and attack an enemy posted behind morasses, would have been free to operate as it chose, to have advanced against the strongholds which had been captured by the Scots, and to force Bruce to give battle upon ground of their choosing. Lord Clifford was therefore despatched with 800 picked men-at-arms to cross the Bannock beyond the left wing of the Scottish army, to make their way across the carse, and so to reach Stirling. The ground was, indeed, impassable for a large army; but the troops took with them faggots and beams, by which they could make a passage across the deeper parts of the swamp and bridge the little streams which meandered through it.

As there was no prospect of an immediate engagement, Randolph, Douglas, and the king had left their respective divisions, and had taken up their positions at the village of St. Ninians, on high ground behind the army, whence they could have a clear view of the approaching English army. Archie Forbes had accompanied Randolph, to whose division he, with his retainers, was attached. Randolph had with him 500 pikemen, whom he had withdrawn from his division in order to carry out his appointed task of seeing that the English did not pass along the low ground at the edge of the carse behind St. Ninians to the relief of Stirling; but so absorbed were knights and men-at-arms in watching the magnificent array advancing against the Scottish position that they forgot to keep a watch over the low ground. Suddenly one of the men, who had straggled away into the village, ran up with the startling news that a large party of English horse had crossed the corner of the carse, and had already reached the low ground beyond the church.

"A rose has fallen from your chaplet, Randolph," the king said angrily.

Without a moment's loss of time Randolph and Archie Forbes set off with the spearmen at a run, and succeeded in heading the horsemen at the hamlet of Newhouse. The mail clad horsemen, confident in their numbers, their armour, and horses, laid their lances in rest, struck spurs into their steeds, and, led by Sir William Daynecourt, charged down upon the Scotch spearmen. Two hundred of these consisted of Archie Forbes' retainers, all veterans in war, and who had more than once, shoulder to shoulder, repelled the onslaught of the mailed chivalry of England. Animated by the voices of their lord and Randolph, these, with Moray's own pikemen, threw themselves into a solid square, and, surrounded by a hedge of spears, steadily received the furious onslaught of the cavalry. Daynecourt and many of his men were at the first onslaught unhorsed and slain, and those who followed were repulsed. Again and again they charged down upon the pikemen, but the dense array of spears was more than a match for the lances of the cavalry, and as the horses were wounded and fell, or their riders were unhorsed, men rushed out from the square, and with axe and dagger completed the work. Still the English pressed them hard, and Douglas, from the distance, seeing how hotly the pikemen were pressed by the cavalry, begged the king to allow him to go to Randolph's assistance. Bruce, however, would suffer no change in his position, and said that Randolph must stand or fall by himself. Douglas, however, urged that he should be allowed to go forward with the small body of retainers which he had with him. The king consented, and Douglas set off with his men.

When the English saw him approach they recoiled somewhat from the square, and Douglas, being now better able to see what was going on, commanded his followers to halt, saying that Randolph would speedily prove victorious without their help, and were they now to take part in the struggle they would only lessen the credit of those who had already all but won the victory. Seeing the enemy in some confusion from the appearance of the reinforcement, Randolph and Archie now gave the word for their men to charge, and these, rushing on with spear and axe, completed the discomfiture of the enemy, killed many, and forced the rest to take flight. Numbers, however, were taken. Randolph is said to have had but two men killed in the struggle.
The greater fight was to come.


Joseph W. said...

I was searching for the line I most remember and ran into it here:

"Think you, will these Scots fight?" Edward had asked one of his knights a short time before.

"Ay, that will they," was the reply, "to the last."

But now, seeing them kneel, Edward cried out, "They kneel, they kneel; they ask for mercy."

"They do, my liege," was the answer, "but it is from God, and not from us."

Grim said...

We'll get to that when we get to day two of the battle. :)

raven said...

Far, far braver men than I. May they all Rest in Peace.

Eric Blair said...

You're making more of this than the Scots are. They don't seem to be interested.

Grim said...

No more than the vast majority of Americans were interested in the 70th anniversary of D-Day. It is a flaw in the modern age; but for those who have ears that can hear, we should still speak of these things.