Scotland the Brave
A Concise History of Scotland.
By L. Mack
Durham University Press 2012.
The War of Independence.
The Opening Stages.
It is difficult to get a fully agreed account of the early stages of the War of Independence. Dates, locations, personalities and motivations are all disagreed upon. There is general consensus on the broad outline, but the details are maddeningly blurred. It as if a historian was trying to write a history of the Falklands war using headlines from the Argentinean daily newspapers, and editorials from the "Sun”, as there is little attempt from either Scottish or English sources to be free from Bias. The agreed upon facts are these.
Sir William Wallace a member of the minor gentry near Lanark raised the Standard of rebellion against English rule and to restore King John Balliol to the throne of Scotland. Balliol was then prisoner of Edward I in the Tower.
Wallace was promised support by the Earl of Paisley, James Stewart and Archbishop Wishart of Glasgow, but these magnates inhibited by the English garrison at Glasgow under Clifford failed to support the rising. This was a constant feature of the War; Scottish Lords would support one side, then the other, or no side at all.
There were accusations of Scottish treachery, English bribes and clashing personalities. Wallace had some minor success with defeating isolated English garrisons and in July had a major boost from the forces of Lord Murray, who would subordinate himself to a social inferior, and would stay to the bitter end.
Together with the forces of the powerful Douglas clan they defeated a large English force near Tibbers. Cresingham the English Commander was killed and his head cut of, and sent to Lord Percy, a powerful Northumbria magnate, with a mocking message. This ensured a major offensive across the border along the east coast of Scotland, as well as an attack from English forces from Dumfries under Clifford, reclaiming Tibbers, Ayr Irvine and Glasgow before winter.
The Scottish position which had seemed so promising was now reversed. Percy retook Edinburgh, but was defeated by Lamerton near Stirling and retired to winter in Edinburgh. Clifford now undertook what would be considered a high risk move, a winter campaign that came close to Success. On St Andrews day [30th November] he made a surprise attack on Wallace’s' forces in the hills near Loch Maben.
Clifford attacked at night, relying on the fact the Scots would still be recovering from celebrations. But in the snow the English forces were hard to coordinate. The Scots were defeated, but Wallace escaped.
A similar attack on the Scots at Glen Roe Forest on Xmas Eve had the same results, Wallace’s force roughly handled by the English, but living to fight another day. However, one fourth of the English force died of disease and exposure and Clifford led his depleted forces back to Dumfries.
Edward Long Shanks was coming North in the New Year and it seems Clifford was trying to win the war before the arrival of his unforgiving King. Now the Bruce rallied to Wallace as did Stewart and Wishart. In the New Year Warren’s Garrison at Lanark was taken by a large force under Murray, and Warren was hung from the town Gallows “Like any other Cattle Thief” as a contemporary source says.
Percy had to retreat to Dunbar and town after town fell to the Scots. Wallace’s Force crossed the Border, and held Carlisle to Ransom. Clifford moved to Intercept this force after storming Bruce’s Castle at Loch Maben.
On May Day, the Battle of Dumfries was fought, lasting "From first dawn to Clean dark'. Clifford’s Force was beaten, but managed to retire to Dumfries Castle.
In June 1297 Edward crossed the border with a mighty host, and raised the siege of Dumfries, and pursued Wallace’s main force. Bruce and Lamerton both made their peace with Edward and departed to their estates. Douglas, Murray and Wallace confronted Edward while Wishart menaced Percy’s smaller Force in Edinburgh.
On August 15th Edward finally met Wallace’s' force at St Roberts Burn. Edward tried to engage Wallace man to man in combat, but failed to meet his foe. Wallace’s force was beaten, but managed to retreat as an organized force. There was no rout.
The Campaign was on going when an urgent summons in September came to Edward of a major rising in Wales. Edward was experienced enough to know he could not fight on both fronts, so he agreed to a truce till April 1299, with all English Garrisons to stay in place, but make no hostile moves as long as the Scots left them in peace. With Tibbers, Dumfries Ancrum, Selkirk, Roxburgh, Berwick and Dunbar in English Hands Edward knew he had more than a toe hold in Scotland. Also most of the Scots forces were tired of nearly eighteen months campaigning. Both sides would re-arm and regroup and have the harvest bought in. Both sides knew this was just the first round.