« ForrigeFortsett »
The English king, on the contrary, had a very large body of the finest cavalry in the world, Normans and English, all clothed in complete armour. He had also the celebrated archers of England, each of whom was said to carry twelve Scotsmen's lives under his girdle ; because every archer had twelve arrows stuck in his belt, and was expected to kill a man with every arrow.
The Scots had some good archers from the forest of Ettrick, who fought under command of Sir John Stewart of Benkill; but they were not nearly equal in number to the English. The greater part of the Scottish army were on foot, armed with long spears; they were placed thick and close together, and laid all their spears so close, point over point, that it seemed as difficult to break through them, as through the wall of a strong castle. When the two armies were drawn up facing each other, Wallace said to his soldiers, “I have brought you to the ring, let me see how you can dance;” meaning, I have brought you to the decisive field of battle, let me see how bravely you can fight.
The English made the attack. King Edward, though he saw the close ranks, and undaunted appearance, of the Scottish infantry, resolved nevertheless to try whether he could not ride them down with his fine cavalry. He therefore gave his horsemen orders to advance. They charged accordingly, at full gallop. It must have been a terrible thing to have seen these fine horses riding as hard as they could against the long lances, which were held out by the Scots to keep them back ; and a dreadful cry arose when they came against each other.
The first line of cavalry was commanded by the Earl Marshal of England, whose progress was checked by a morass. The second line of English horse was commanded by Antony Beck, the Bishop of Durham, who, nevertheless, wore armour, and fought like a lay baron. He wheeled round the morass ; but when he saw the deep and firm order of the Scots, his heart failed, and he proposed to Sir Ralph Basset, of Drayton, who commanded under him, to halt till Edward himself brought up the reserve. “Go say your mass, bishop,” answered Basset contemptuously, and advanced at full gallop with the second line. However, the Scots stood their ground with their long spears ; many of the foremost of the English horses were thrown down, and the riders were killed as they lay rolling, unable to rise, owing to the weight of their heavy armour. But the Scottish horse did not come to the assistance of their infantry, but on the contrary, fled away from the battle. It is supposed that this was owing to the treachery or ill-will of the nobility, who were jealous of Wallace. But it must be considered that the Scottish cavalry were few in number ; and that they had much worse arms and weaker horses than their enemies. The English cavalry attempted again and again to disperse the deep and solid ranks in which Wallace had stationed his foot soldiers. But they were repeatedly beaten off with loss, nor could they make their way through that wood of spears, as it is called by one of the English historians. King Edward then commanded his archers to advance; and these approaching within arrow-shot of the Scottish ranks, poured on them such close and dreadful volleys of arrows, that it was impossible to sustain the discharge. It happened at the same time, that Sir John Stewart was killed by a fall from his horse ; and the archers of Ettrick Forest, whom he was bringing forward to oppose those of king Edward, were slain in great numbers around him. Their bodies were afterwards distinguished among the slain, as being the tallest and handsomest men of the army.
The Scottish spearmen being thus thrown into some degree of confusion, by the loss of those who were slain by the arrows of the English, the heavy cavalry of Edward again charged with more success than formerly, and broke through the ranks, which were already disordered. Sir John Grahame, Wallace's great friend
and companion, was slain, with many other brave soldiers ; and the Scots, having lost a very great number of men, were at length obliged to take to flight.
This fatal battle was fought upon 22d July, 1298. Sir John the Grahame lies buried in the church-yard of Falkirk. A tombstone was laid over him, which has been three times renewed since his death. The inscription bears. “That Sir John the Grahame, equally remarkable for wisdom and courage, and the faithful friend of Wallace, being slain in battle by the English, lies buried in this place.” A large oak tree in the adjoining forest, was long shown as marking the spot where Wallace slept before the battle, or, as others said, in which he hid himself after the defeat. Nearly forty years ago grandpapa saw some of its roots ; but the body of the tree was even then entirely decayed, and there is not now, and has not been for many years, the least vestige of it to be seen.
After this fatal defeat of Falkirk, Sir William Wallace seems to have resigned his office of Governor of Scotland. Several nobles were named guardians in his place, and continued to make resistance to the English armies; and they gained some advantages, particularly near Roslin, where a body of Scots, commanded by John Comyn of Badenoch, who was one of the guardians of the kingdom, and another distinguished commander, called Simon Fraser, defeated three armies, or detachments of English in one day.
Nevertheless, the king of England possessed so much wealth, and so many means of raising soldiers, that he sent army after army into the poor oppressed country of Scotland, and obliged all its nobles and great men, one after another, to submit themselves once more to his yoke. Sir William Wallace, alone, or with a very small band of followers, refused either to acknowledge the usurper Edward, or to lay down his arms. He continued to maintain himself among the woods and mountains of his native country for no less than seven years after his defeat at Falkirk, and for more than one year after all the other defenders of Scottish liberty had laid down their arms. Many proclamations were sent out against him by the English, and a great reward was set upon his head ; for Edward did not think he could have any secure possession of his usurped kingdom of Scotland while Wallace lived. At length he was taken prisoner ; and, shame it is to say, a Scotsman, called Sir John Menteith, was the person by whom he was seized and delivered to the English. It is generally said that he was made prisoner at Robroyston, near Glasgow ; and the tradition of the country bears, that the signal made for rushing upon him and taking him at unawares, was, when one of his pretended friends, who betrayed him, should turn a loaf, which was placed on the table, with its bottom or flat side uppermost. And in after-times it was reckoned ill-breeding to turn a loaf in that manner, if there was a person named Menteith in company; since it was as much as to remind him, that his namesake had betrayed Sir William Wallace, the champion of Scotland.
Whether Sir John Menteith was actually the person by whom Wallace was betrayed, is not perfectly certain. He was, however, the individual by whom the patriot was made prisoner, and delivered up to the English, for which his name and his memory have been long loaded with disgrace.
Edward having thus obtained possession of the person whom he considered as the greatest obstacle to his complete conquest of Scotland, resolved to make Wallace an example to all Scottish patriots who should in future venture to oppose his ambitious projects. He caused this gallant defender of his country to be brought to trial in Westminster Hall, before the English judges, and produced him there
, crowned, in mockery, with a green garland, because they said he had been king of outlaws and robbers among the Scottish woods. Wallace was accused of having
been a traitor to the English crown; to which he answered, “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.” He was then charged with having taken and burnt towns and castles, with having killed many men, and done much violence. He replied, with the same calm resolution, " that it was true he had killed very many Englishmen, but it was because they had come to subdue and oppress his native country of Scotland ; and far from repenting what he had done, he declared he was only sorry that he had not put to death many more of them.”
Notwithstanding that Wallace's defence was a good one, both in law and in common sense (for surely every one has not only a right to fight in defence of his native country, but is bound in duty to do so), the English judges condemned him to be executed. So this brave patriot was dragged upon a sledge to the place of execution, where his head was struck off, and his body divided into four quarters, which, according to the cruel custom of the time, were exposed upon spikes of iron on London Bridge, and were termed the limbs of a traitor.
102.-WALLACE AND BRUCE.
ALLAN CUNNINGHAM. [We have been favoured by Mr. Peter Cunningham with the following extract from an unpublished Drama, from the pen of his father).
Wallace mourning by the body of Greme.
, a sight to make man mad,
Enter Bruce—other side of Carron.
Thou'st proved this day
Wallace. Sir, I am Wallace ;—that thou art the Bruce,
It was a living man this morn, a hero
Yes, I could weep
Now I despair,
Enter Menteth privily unseen.
Bruce. Hist! sure that is the sound of an arm'd foot ?
Wallace. Yea, or the Carron chafing with her rocks,
[asido. Lord Bruce, the poison sinks into thy soul.
Bruce. I cannot reach my hand o'er this wild stream, Nor clasp thee in the arms of strong affection,
But I press thee in fancy to my soul,
Well requited now,
By the cross ! I'll do it !
Wallace. Do that, and Scotland will perform her part.
We must act warily,
Wallace. O Bruce, my king, I have a boon to beg,—
O! I shall hear
[Exeunt Wallace, Bruce, and Menteth.