Advance to Bannockburn
In 1313, most of Scotland was under Robert de Bruce. His men had worked diligently and had been rewarded with the capture of most of the English-held castles. Only four castles were still held by the English, including Stirling Castle. The commander of Stirling Castle made a bargain with Edward Bruce, Robert’s brother: if the English army did not arrive within 8 miles of the castle by Midsummer’s Eve (June 24, 1314), then he would surrender to Bruce. The loss of Stirling would be a terrible blow to the English, so Edward II (Edward I had died in 1307; his son had been crowned) had to act.
The English gathered a huge army—100,000 men according to historian G. A. Henty—and crossed the Border. Experienced generals directed the English army. Against this, Bruce called up all loyal Scots. Their numbers amounted to 30,000. 1 Edward outnumbered Bruce by over 3 to 1.
De Bruce’s army was divided into 4 divisions plus cavalry. The leftmost was under Walter the Steward (with Sir James Douglas), the center was commanded by Randolph, Lord Moray, and the right by Edward Bruce. Robert de Bruce commanded the 4th division, which was kept in reserve. The cavalry was under Sir James Keith.
The Bannock Burn (burn means river) came together with the River Forth, making a C. A road led across the Bannock Burn to Stirling Castle. Edward’s army would use the road to get to Stirling, but Bruce’s army was arranged along the road in a column.
On their flanks, the Scots dug deep holes, planted sharp stakes inside them and covered them with turf. When the English cavalry thundered down on the Scots, the turf would collapse and the knights would fall in the holes.
Holes were not their only protection. The 4 divisions were arranged in a special position called a Schiltron. A Schiltron was a square of pikemen four deep all around. Two soldiers knelt with their pikes on an angle while the other two stood with their pikes horizontally. This made a hedge of spears to keep cavalry away.
Before the battle began, Robert de Bruce told his soldiers that whoever was afraid was free to leave (as Deuteronomy 20:8 commands). A few did, but most stayed with the army that was fighting for their king and liberty.