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Chapter X The Battle of Falkirk
 While Wallace was endeavouring to restore order in Scotland, Edward was straining every nerve to renew his invasion. He himself was upon the Continent, but he made various concessions to his barons and great towns to induce them to aid him heartily, and issued writs calling upon the whole nobility remaining at home, as they valued his honour and that of England, to meet at York on January 20th, "and proceed under the Earl of Surrey to repress and chastise the audacity of the Scots." At the same time he despatched special letters to those of the Scottish nobles who were not already in England, commanding them to attend at the rendezvous.  
The call upon the Scotch nobles was not generally responded to. They had lost much of their power over their vassals, many of whom had fought under Wallace in spite of the abstention of their lords. It was clear, too, that if they joined the English, and another defeat of the latter took place, their countrymen might no longer condone their treachery, but their titles and estates might be confiscated. Consequently but few of them presented themselves at York. There, however, the English nobles gathered in force. The Earls of Surrey, Gloucester, and Arundel; the Earl Mareschal and the great Constable were there; Guido, son of the Earl of Warwick, represented his father. Percy was there, John de Wathe, John de Seagrave, and very many other barons, the great array consisting of 2000 horsemen heavily armed, 1200 light horsemen, and 100,000 foot soldiers.
Sir Aymer de Vallance, Earl of Pembroke, and Sir John Sieward, son of the Earl of March, landed with an army in Fife, and proceeded to burn and waste. They were met by a Scotch force under Wallace in the forest of Black Ironside, and were totally defeated.
Surrey's army crossed the Border, raised the siege of Roxburgh, and advanced as far as Kelso. Wallace did not venture to oppose so enormous a force, but wasted the country on every side so that they could draw no provisions from it, and Surrey was forced to fall back to Berwick; this town was being besieged by a Scottish force, which retired at his approach. Here the English army halted upon receipt of orders from Edward to wait his coming. He had hastily patched up a peace with France, and, having landed at Sandwich, summoned the parliament, and on the 27th of May issued writs to as many as 154 of his great barons to meet him at Roxburgh on the 24th of June. Here 3000 cavalry, men and horses clothed in complete armour; 4000 lighter cavalry, the riders being armed in steel but the horses being uncovered; 500 splendidly mounted knights and men-at-arms from Gascony; and at least 80,000 infantry assembled together, with abundance of materials and munition of war of all kinds. This huge army marched from Roxburgh, keeping near the coast, receiving provisions from a fleet which sailed along beside them. But in spite of this precaution it was grievously straitened, and was delayed for a month near Edinburgh, as Wallace so wasted the country that the army were almost famished, and by no efforts were they able to bring on a battle with the Scots, whose rapid marches and intimate acquaintance with the country baffled all the efforts of the English leaders to force on an action.
Edward was about to retreat, being unable any longer to subsist his army, when the two Scottish Earls of Dunbar and Angus sent news to the king that Wallace with his army was in Falkirk forest, about six miles away, and had arranged to attack the camp on the following morning. The English at once advanced and that evening encamped at Linlithgow, and the next morning moved on against the Scots.
Late in the evening Archie's scouts brought in the news to Wallace that the English army was within three miles, and a consultation was at once held between the leaders. Most of them were in favour of a retreat; but Comyn of Badenoch, who had lately joined Wallace, and had been from his rank appointed to the command of the cavalry, with some of his associates, urged strongly the necessity for fighting, saying that the men would be utterly dispirited at such continual retreats, and that with such immensely superior cavalry the English would follow them up and destroy them. To these arguments Wallace, Sir John Grahame, and Sir John Stewart, yielded their own opinions, and prepared to fight. They took up their position so that their front was protected by a morass, and a fence of stakes and ropes was also fixed across so as to impede the advance or retreat of the English cavalry. The Scotch army consisted almost entirely of infantry. These were about a third the number of those of the English, while Comyn's cavalry were a thousand strong.
The infantry were formed in three great squares or circles, the front rank kneeling and the spears all pointing outwards. In the space between these squares were placed the archers, under Sir John Stewart.
The English army was drawn up in three divisions, the first commanded by the Earl Marechal, the Earl of Lincoln and Hereford; the second by Beck, the warlike Bishop of Durham, and Sir Ralph Basset; the third by the king himself. The first two divisions consisted almost entirely of knights and men-at-arms; the third, of archers and slingers.
Wallace's plan of battle was that the Scottish squares should first receive the brunt of the onslaught of the enemy, and that while the English were endeavouring to break these the Scotch cavalry, which were drawn up some distance in the rear, should fall upon them when in a confused mass, and drive them against the fence or into the morass.
The first division of the English on arriving at the bog made a circuit to the west. The second division, seeing the obstacle which the first had encountered, moved round to the east, and both fell upon the Scottish squares. The instant they were seen rounding the ends of the morass, the traitor Comyn, with the whole of the cavalry, turned rein and fled from the field, leaving the infantry alone to support the whole brunt of the attack of the English. So impetuous was the charge of the latter that Sir John Stewart and his archers were unable to gain the shelter of the squares, and he was, with almost all his men, slain by the English men-at-arms. Thus the spearmen were left entirely to their own resources.
Encouraged by Wallace, Grahame, Archie Forbes, and their other leaders, the Scottish squares stood firmly, and the English cavalry in vain strove to break the hedge of spears. Again and again the bravest of the chivalry of England tried to hew a way through. The Scots stood firm and undismayed, and had the battle lain between them and the English cavalry, the day would have been theirs. But presently the king, with his enormous body of infantry, arrived on the ground, and the English archers and slingers poured clouds of missiles into the ranks of the Scots; while the English spearmen, picking up the great stones with which the ground was strewn, hurled them at the front ranks of their foes. Against this storm of missiles the Scottish squares could do nothing. Such armour as they had was useless against the English clothyard arrows, and thousands fell as they stood.
Again and again they closed up the gaps in their ranks, but at last they could no longer withstand the hail of arrows and stones, to which they could offer no return. Some of them wavered. The gaps in the squares were no longer filled up, and the English cavalry, who had been waiting for their opportunity, charged into the midst of them. No longer was there any thought of resistance. The Scots fled in all directions. Numbers were drowned by trying to swim the river Carron, which ran close by. Multitudes were cut down by the host of English cavalry.
Sir Archie Forbes was in the same square with Wallace, with a few other mounted men. They dashed forward against the English as they broke through the ranks of the spearmen, but the force opposed them was overwhelming.
"It is of no use, Archie; we must retire. Better that than throw away our lives uselessly. All is lost now."
Wallace shouted to the spearmen, who gallantly rallied round him, and, keeping together in spite of the efforts of the English cavalry, succeeded in withdrawing from the field. The other squares were entirely broken and dispersed, and scarce a man of them escaped.
Accounts vary as to the amount of the slaughter, some English writers placing it as double that of the army which Wallace could possibly have brought into the field, seeing that the whole of the great nobles stood aloof, and that Grahame, Stewart, and Macduff of Fife were the only three men of noble family with him. All these were slain, together with some 25,000 infantry.
Wallace with about 5000 men succeeded in crossing a ford of the Carron, and the English spread themselves over the country. The districts of Fife, Clackmannan, Lanark, Ayr, and all the surrounding country were wasted and burnt, and every man found put to the sword. The Scotch themselves in retreating destroyed Stirling and Perth, and the English found the town of St. Andrew's deserted, and burnt it to the ground.
No sooner had Wallace retreated than he divided his force into small bands, which proceeded in separate directions, driving off the cattle and destroying all stores of grain, so that in a fortnight after the battle of Falkirk the English army were again brought to a stand by shortness of provisions, and were compelled to fall back again with all speed to the mouth of the Forth, there to obtain provisions from their ships. As they did so Wallace reunited his bands, and pressed hard upon them. At Linlithgow he fell upon their rear and inflicted heavy loss, and so hotly did he press them that the great army was obliged to retreat rapidly across the Border, and made no halt until it reached the fortress of Carlisle.
That it was compulsion alone which forced Edward to make his speedy retreat we may be sure from the fact that after the victory of Dunbar he was contented with nothing less than a clean sweep of Scotland to its northern coast, and that he repeated the same process when, in the year following the battle of Falkirk, he again returned with a mighty army. Thus decisive as was the battle of Falkirk it was entirely abortive in results.
When the English had crossed the Border, Wallace assembled the few gentlemen who were still with him, and announced his intention of resigning the guardianship of Scotland, and of leaving the country. The announcement was received with exclamations of surprise and regret.
"Surely, Sir William," Archie exclaimed, "you cannot mean it. You are our only leader; in you we have unbounded confidence, and in none else. Had it not been for the treachery of Comyn the field of Falkirk would have been ours, for had the horse charged when the English were in confusion round our squares they had assuredly been defeated. Moreover, your efforts have retrieved that disastrous field, and have driven the English across the Border."
"My dear Archie," Wallace said, "it is because I am the only leader in whom you have confidence that I must needs go. I had vainly hoped that when the Scottish nobles saw what great things the commonalty were able to do, and how far, alone and unaided, they had ............
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