We may well suppose that so many soldiers hastening for the battle-field would be the engrossing news of the day. Surrey's move- ments would reach Berwick and Coldstream long before Lord Thomas Howard had passed all his men, artillery, and heavy baggage over Twizel Bridge. The encampment at Flodden would be closely watched by all the Borderers, and every eminence in the neighbourhood of Coldstream would be covered with spectators. Many a gallant Scotchman would cross the Tweed at the mouth of the Leet see Note 20 , either with a determination of mingling in the fight, or with the intention of plundering his enemy should he be worsted in the battle.
The whole town of Coldstream would be there, viewing the Scotch army taking up its position on the ridge of Branxton Hill ; and at that distance many would be able to see the King's flag "fluttering in the breeze. The Heaton ford is not so much as mentioned by any ancient writer of this battle ; nor can I under- stand how, at this day, it should be pointed out as the ford over which part of the English army passed when marching for the battle- field.
It is surrounded on the north side with precipitous banks, not at all calculated for a multitude of men and horses clothed in armour to cross over; indeed, I am fully persuaded that this was not the ford over which the Earl of Surrey and the rearguard passed on their march for the field of battle.
In the centre of this bog, or moat of water, and opposite the road leading to Mardon, there was an ancient bridge, called by the old people " Branx Brig. The foundations of this bridge were to be seen thirty or forty years ago; and, indeed, some of the stones still remain, but in making proper levels through the bog the greater part has been moved away. The rearguard, after having passed Sandy- Tlis Battle of Flodden Field, 43 ford, would inarch westward for the village of Branzton; one part might pass to the south of Pallinsbum bog, and the other through the centre over " Branx Brig," both close in sight of each other, and take up their position south and east of the village.
The vanguard, under Lord Thomas Howard, would march, after passing over Twizel Bridge, on the beaten road by way of ComhiU, then turn for the Bareless toll, on the road that formerly led for Branxton, and take up its position to the west of the church and village, both of which in those days were considerably larger than at present. These two columns, although a few miles apart, would be in constant communication with each other.
Margaret Tudor and the Battle of Flodden
The Borderers, on their fleet steeds, would be galloping to and from each division ; orders would be given, received, and cheeifully obeyed, by men who were expecting eveiy minute to be engaged in deadly combat with their enemy. With Dacre was the Bastard Heron, who also commanded a large troop of horse, than whom none was more formidable on the field, and none more willing for the battle- encounter.
On his left, eastward, he was ably supported by a numerous division of horse and foot soldiers, under the command of Sir Edward Stanley, assisted by Sir William ThB Battle of Flodden Field. The English forces, now drawn up in six divisions, extending from the east to the west of the village, would cover considerably more than a mile and a half in length ; but, from the narrow position of the ground, nearly all in a line. The westward division under Lord Thomas Howard, would be hid from the rest of the English forces on account of an elevation of ground a few hundred yards from the church, supposed to be the " Piper's Hill " alluded to in history, around which the most deadly conflict took place, and where it is supposed the King fell.
Opposite this formidable force stood the Scottish army on the ridge of Branxton Hill, waiting anxiously the order for commencing the dreadful onslaught.
Edinburgh after Flodden - Wikisource, the free online library
In this position stood the contending armies opposite each other before the battle began— one elevated considerably above his opponent, and commanding one of the most splendid views in the country, looking over the greater part of Berwickshire and Eoxburghshire, and even extending beyond the hilly country of Selkirkshire, " Where not a monntain rears ita head nxunuig.
Dr Leyden, in a note to his Ode on Flodden Field, mentions that, on the evening previous to the battle, the Earl of Caithness, a young nobleman who had incurred King James's dis- pleasure for revenging an ancient feud, came to the encampment on Flodden Hill with three hundred young warriors, all dressed in green, and submitted to the King's mercy. James was so pleased with this mark of sub- mission, that he granted to him and his followers an immunity for past offences.
The parchment on which this immunity was inscribed is said to be still preserved in the archives of the Earls of Caithness, and is marked with the drum-strings — having been cut from the head of a drum, no other parch- ment being at hand. The positions of the English forces were drawn up to fiAce the different divisions of the 48 The Battle of Flodden Field. Scotcli army, where they had been for several hours patiently waiting the approach of Surrey; for no sooner was it made known to James that the English were crossing the Till, than he moved from his encampment on Flodden Hill, and took possession of the ridge of Branxton Hill, which gave him a fall view of the country for several miles, over which the van- guard was marching, after having crossed the bridge of TwizeL He is blamed by several historians for abandoning his camp, where he was so strongly fortified ; but any one who has examined the position of the ground, and taken into consideration the flank movement of Surrey, who was then marching between him and Scotland, and by this masterly manoeuvre exposing the rear of his camp, and cutting him off from his own countiy, must admit that the King displayed no mean talent in generalship when he selected such an advantageous and commanding position as that of Branxton Hill.
The armies being now put in battle array, confronting each other, stood thus upon the field : Lord Thomas Howard, with the van- guard, was opposite Huntly and Home, Crawford and Montrose ; the Earl of Surrey The Battle of Flodden Field. The cannons were placed in front along the two lines, at proper intervals hetween each division ; and from the cannon-halls picked up at various times on the field, we may almost conclude, from the posi- tion in which they were generally found, that the greater numher of shot flred hy the Scotch were leaden balls, and by the English iron, — See Note It was now drawing near to four o'clock, and the sun was descending in the western sky; the clouds of night were about to cover the earth, yet was there time enough for thousands of the brave meji who were standing gazing at each other, in the full vigour of manhood and health, to be laid in the dust, when, lo!
All were in readiness and eager for the battle ; the voices of the different commanders were dis- tinctly heard, the clash of armour grated for a Bl 60 The Battle of Flodden Field.
And roaring guns, with fire fast, Then levelled out great leaden lumps. The thunder of the cannon soon ceased on both sides, without doing any serious injury to either; a few shots from each party sufficed, neither of which could be considered very pro- ficient in the art of gunnery. The ground was uneven, and from the elevation of the guns on the English side, and the depression on the Scotch, the shot fell either short of the object aimed at, or passed considerably over the heads of the men, for many balls have been found north and sottth of the field of battle, and also along the side of the hill where the Scotch were stationed.
Such fighting was too slow and desultory in its effects to satisfy either the one or the other ; both sought closer quarters, and the struggle throughout was maintained from hand to hand. His brother, Sir Edmond Howard, being in the extreme west of that division, on the fields leading to Monejiaws, was suddenly confronted by the Borderers under Lord Home see Note 28 , and the Highlanders under Gordon, Earl of Huntly. They had descended from the hill with a shout and slogan-cry to meet the men under Bryan Tunstall, who were ascending the lower acclivity, and they were immediately engaged in close combat with their enemy.
Kothiug could withstand the bold impetuosity of this attack The English were driven from their ground several times, but, cheered on by their commanders, returned again and again to the charge. Three times was Sir Edmond Howard felled to the ground, Tunstall lay dead among the slain, the men began to waver, and at last they fled, leaving Home and Huntly masters of this part of the field after long and continued fighting. Just 62 The Battle of Flodden Field.
The sword and the spear came again in close contact, and men fell fast under the point and thrust of both. Several of Lord Home's friends were killed at this charge see Note 30 ; but he managed to maintain his ground, and kept possession of it throughout the day and night, guarding the numerous prisoners taken on the field, amongst whom was Sir Philip Dacre, brother of the commander of the horse.
The rising ground spoken of as "Piper's Hill" lay between the van and the reargoard, so that The Battle of Flodden Field. In the meantime the King, observing the conflict on his left, and that the troops under Crawford and Montrose, as well as those under Huntly and Home, were hotly engaged, gave orders that all around him ahoold march down the side of the hill and mingle in the fight see Note His heroic bravery would not allow him to filch a victory from his enemy ; and sooner than it should be said that he availed himself of an unfair advantage, he lashly gave up his commanding position on 54 The Battle of Flodden Field.
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Had he but calmly and patiently waited for the English to attack him on the ground he occupied, which only could have been done after breathless exertion and great slaughter, in the face of men resting comparatively at ease, the struggle for victory might have terminated in the total defeat of Surrey's troops. The reserve under Bothwell followed close in the rear of the King, and at this moment thousands throughout both armies steadily moved in the direction of Piper's Hill, where the battle was continued with dreadful carnage during the closing moments of that fearful and bloody day.
The English archers, composed principally of men from Cheshire and Lancashire, did terrible execution on the close ranks of the High- landers and Islesmen ; they fell thick on all sides, and the repeated showers of the unerring long-shaft arrows broke their solid masses, and pat them in confusion. The English billmen at the first onset staggered under the charge, and were obliged to give way — the onslaught was 80 fierce and sudden that it bore down all opposition ; but this short success on the part of the clansmen at last gave way, and the undisciplined Highlanders were assailed in front and flank.
The struggle for victory was dreadful; the English billmen laid hundreds dead at their feet, and Lennox and Argyle, with many of the chiefs of the clans, fell bravely fighting at the head of their men. The left wing of the EngUsh was completely victorious; their enemies were routed and driven from the field, and scattered in all directions ; so much so, that they never again rallied.
He hesitated not a moment ; orders were given to his men, flushed and elated with success, to march in the direction of the combatants ; and, passing hastily ovei; the ground where the royal standard had fluttered before the battle had commenced, he rushed down with his forces in the rear of the King, where all now were contending and struggling for life and for victory. By this strategic manoeuvre the fate of the day was completely changed. The Cheshire and Lancashire men, numbering after their struggle nearly ten thousand, came to the rescue of Surrey and the Admiral at that opportune moment, when the Scotch were upon the eve of victory.
Home was cutting up with fearful havoc the extreme right of the English, and driving them in confusion eastward on the field. This force would be seen by the different combatants descending with hurried steps the slope of the hill above them ; and while to the Scotch it told the harrowing tale that the troops under Lennox and Argyle had been defeated and overthrown, it bespoke to the English that powerful succour was at hand in the hour of need, and they had only to fight on till Stanley and his men closed on the rear of James and Bothwell.
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The preponderating numbers now on the English side began to thicken darkly around them, and every step this crushing force advanced crowded in closer space the troops imder the King and his nobles see Note The arrow, shot even at random, found a quiver of flesh to rest in, for the Scotch who stood on the gently elevated ground on the south side of Piper's Hill, could be picke 58 The Battle of Flodden Field, off with tmemng and deadly certainty.
Crawford and Montrose had been early engaged with the numerous forces under the Lord Admiral The Scotch troops under these two commanders, chiefly c6mposed of men from the interior counties of Scotland, together with several lords and knights, were fiercely attacked by the English forces. The battle had now continued with unabated fury for more than three hours, the left wing belonging to both armies had been victorious, thousands lay dead and dying on the field; but the fate of the day was far from being decided.
The King, with his nobles, spiritual and temporal, had at the first dismounted from their horses, and marched on foot with their The Battle of Flodden Field. By this noblo act of devotion he had shewn to the men around him that he was determined to conquer or to die see Note All were animated with the like enthusiasm, and all were prepared to fall in defence of their King and country. Never were more noble devotedness and heroism displayed, either in ancient or modem times, than was that day exhibited on the battle-field by the King, his nobles, and his men.
At last the Scotch were completely surrounded. The Earl of Surrey was in front and on their right flank. Thus hemmed in on all sides, but not in despair, or in the least daunted or dis- couraged at their perilous and desperate position, they fought and fell, and victory ofttimes trembled in the scale. The billmen plied their ghastly strokes, cutting through the helmet and plaited armour, and the long spear did its hXal work.
Men were falling fast on both sides ; the shout and slogan-cry that urge to the fight, that animate and strengthen the heart and hand of the warrior on the day of battle, were heroically and defiantly uttered 60 Tlis Battle of Flodden Field. The endurance and intrepidity which had signalised him through- out the battle never forsook him nor seemed to flag, and he had the happy method of inspiring all about him with the same heroic ardour.
He and his nobles fought hand to hand with the English billmen, and many of them were cut down, and perished around the King. Here the throng of the battle's strife was the hottest. Nothing could surpass the resolute bravery of the combatants, for it was about his person that the serried ranks so nobly fought and felL Many were the feats of individual heroism performed by either com- batant At last the ground became sodden with blood, and woe to that man who slipped his foot in the clotted gore beneath him! On this spot the battle raged with the most destructive fury.
There was no The Battle of Hodden Field. Inch after inch was only won by the death of hundreds, and the adrantage which was so dearly bought one moment was lost in the next. Every one throughout the battle fought as if he felt that the victory of that day depended solely on his own arm and persever- ing steady conduct on the field.
All that men couM do, was done on that fatal day. Scotland's glory; and England's fame were neither tarnished nor sullied by the combatants, for it is recorded in the page of history that the northern spear was even more fatal than the English axe or bOl. Fortune; which had soared and lingered so long over the heads of both armies, now began to droopi; the King himself was wounded by b2 62 The Battle of Floddm Field.
He hesitated not to engage in deadly combat his inveterate foe, whether of high or low degree. Whoever stood confronting each other immediately strove for victory; and it was not till repeated wounds of ghastly depth, and loss of blood, that he fell on the field, where he had displayed the greatest courage and energy, and which will ever be held sacred by all true patriots wherever history records the death of James IV.
He fell covered with honour amongst the slain, of his nobles, who throughout the battle had never shrunk from death, but bravely to the last fought about their King, guarding his person, and protecting him from danger see Note Life was cheerfully given up in his defence by bishops, earls, lords, and knights ; and the field was honoured with the dust of the noble dead, and saturated with the best and bravest blood of Scotland.