Battle of Bannockburn: Day Two

On this day in Scottish History

Battle of Bannockburn
Robert the Bruce addresses his troops before battle

At dawn on the 24th June 1314, on the second day of the battle of Bannockburn, the engagement opened with an initial skirmish between both armies archers. Robert the Bruce then sent Sir Robert Keith and 500 horse to scatter the English and Welsh archers, before ordering the schiltrons forward.

Bruce’s schiltrons pushed forward supported by his archers. Resisting repeated cavalry attacks they drove Edward’s cavalry back into his infantry who had nowhere to go, hemmed in between the Bannock and Pelstream burns on their flanks and the River Forth to the rear. At the crucial moment of the battle, Bruce ordered up his reserve of Highlanders and Islesmen led by Angus Og MacDonald, who advanced into the fray, along with the Sma’ Folk, causing morale to fall rapidly in Edward’s force, which now began to disintegrate.

Edward fought with mace in hand, but with his army now breaking up and fleeing the Scottish onslaught he was taken from the field to avoid being captured or killed. He makes for Stirling Castle but is denied entry. He then heads for Dunbar and a ship to safety. Bruce had won an overwhelming victory over Edward II, however, this did not end of the war with the English crown which would continue for another fourteen years.

The victory did secure Bruce’s position in Scotland, ending most opposition to his rule. The victory at Bannockburn also secured the Lordship of the Isles for the Macdonalds of Islay and saw the decline of the Macdougalls of Lorn, who had dominated the western seaboard and had been allied with the English crown against Bruce.

From the Chronicle of Lanercost:

On the morrow an evil, miserable and calamitous day for the English; when both sides had made themselves ready for battle, the English archers were thrown forward before the line, and the Scottish archers engaged them, a few being killed and wounded on either side; but the King of England’s archers quickly put the others to flight. Now when the two armies had approached very near each other, all the Scots fell on their knees to repeat Paternoster, commending themselves to God and seeking help from heaven; after which they advanced boldly against the English. They had so arranged their army that two columns went abreast in advance of the third, so that neither should be in advance of the other; and the third followed, in which was Robert. Of a truth, when both armies engaged each other, and the great horses of the English charged the pikes of the Scots, as it were into a dense forest, there arose a great and terrible crash of spears broken and of destriers wounded to the death; and so they remained without movement for a while. Now the English in the rear could not reach the Scots because the leading division was in the way, nor could they do anything to help themselves, wherefore there was nothing for it but to take to flight. This account I heard from a trustworthy person who was present as eye-witness.

In the leading division were killed the Earl of Gloucester, Sir John Comyn, Sir Pagan de Typtoft, Sir Edmund de Mauley and many other nobles, besides foot soldiers who fell in great numbers. Another calamity which befell the English was that, whereas they had shortly before crossed a great ditch called Bannockburn, into which the tide flows, and now wanted to recross it in confusion, many nobles and others fell into it with their horses in the crush, while others escaped with much difficulty, and many were never able to extricate themselves from the ditch; thus Bannockburn was spoken about for many years in English throats.

Further Reading:

The Scottish Civil War: The Bruces and Balliols and the War for Control of Scotland 1286-1356, (2002), Michael Penman

Robert the Bruce: A Life Chronicled, (2004), Chris Brown

Barbour’s Bruce and its Cultural Contexts: Politics, Chivalry and Literature in Late Medieval Scotland, (2015), Steve Boardman & Susan Foran

Robert the Bruce’s Rivals, the Comyns: 1212-1314, (1998), Alan Young

The Wars of Scotland: 1214-1371, (2004), Micheal Brown

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