Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/210

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[1307 A.D.-
Robert the Bruce.

force, the King of Scots having his headquarters at Galston. De Valence, who rode with a brilliant staff, adorned with all the heraldic splendour of that age, seems to have treated the King of Scots with the ceremony customary between knightly opponents, though the contrast between the two hosts in equipment and display must have been a strange one, and to have been careful, by omitting none of the usages of chivalrous warfare, to give him no excuse for avoiding a battle, of the result of which de Valence can have felt little doubt.

Formal challenges were exchanged. Robert de Brus had with him about 600 fighting men and about as many "rangale" (rabble); whereas Barbour puts the English strength at 3000. But the King had the advantage in position. He had chosen his ground on the face of Loudon Hill, where both his flanks were protected by peat mosses, impassable by cavalry; across the hard ground in front he dug three trenches uniting the mosses, and a passage was left between the trenches, so that the enemy might be tempted to attack from that quarter.

The fighting began in the foremost trench, where the King himself was in command. As usual, the English sent forward a cloud of bowmen, but archery was of no avail against men lying in a trench, so de Valence ordered up his cavalry to dislodge the Scots. Their attack also was ineffective, men and horses recoiling before the solid hedge of pikes. The Scots had learnt a dangerous trick of thrusting these pikes into the bowels of the horses, which, maddened with pain and terror, swerved from the charge, and, gal-