Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Battle of Bannockburn--Part 4 of 6

The Second Day: June 24, 1314
The armies changed position for the second day’s battle.  The Scots put their backs to the road and anchored their lines on the two rivers.  This left a narrow D-shape for the English knights to cross the river and fight the Scots.
On the morning of June 24, 1314, the Scots were encamped.  A priest went around to the various Scottish divisions, praying with them.  Edward II saw them kneeling.
“See yonder folk kneel to ask for mercy!” Edward II said to one of his knights.
“Ay, sire, they kneel and ask for mercy, but not of you; it is for their sins they ask mercy of God.  I know these men, and have met and fought them, and I tell you that assuredly they will win or die, and not even when death looks them in the face will they turn to fly.”
The English trumpets sounded the charge and the knights crossed the river.  Their charge slammed into Edward Bruce’s schiltron.  The Scots stood firm against the English as they charged again and again.  The English knights could not break through the spears.  Douglas and Randolph moved their schiltrons to attack the English cavalry in reserve.  This relieved some of the pressure on Edward Bruce.
Edward II had English and Welsh longbowmen with him, and they opened fire on Robert de Bruce’s schiltron, which was taking little part in the battle.   They did not shoot their arrows outward, but upward, so that they rained down on the Scottish infantry.  2  Because the soldiers were bunched up in squares, the arrows found their mark easily.  If the Scots kept in a square, the archers had an easy mark.  If they moved into a line, the cavalry would ride right through them.  It looked as though the battle would be a Scottish disaster, like Falkirk.
But Edward had made one mistake, and Robert de Bruce exploited it.  There were no infantrymen protecting the archers.  The Scottish cavalry charged the archers and cut many down, scattering the rest.  The archers fled in disorder and their wild rout caused chaos in the English army.  The English army was disorganized, and the schiltrons now moved to attack.  “On! on! They fail!” the Scots shouted.
The final blow, however, came from the “Small Folk,” the camp followers.  Camp followers were male and female civilians who followed an army camp to provide cooking, laundering, horse driving, etc.  They and the camp had been set on a nearby hill, out of the way of the battle.  On seeing the English army disordered, the “Small Folk” attacked.
The English saw them and fled, thinking that a fresh division had joined the battle.  The Scots pursued, but in front of the English was the river.  Many knights drowned, while others who remained on land were killed by their pursuers.
Edward himself fled to Stirling Castle, but the governor turned him away, saying that the castle would now be captured by the Scots (which it was).  After a roundabout journey, Edward landed in England, never to return to Scotland again.

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