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KING JAMES MARCHES TO BATTLE.
due north of Flodden hill, but it is not immediately below that eminence. The ground slopes sharply down from Flodden height, and then rises again a little before it descends on Branxton, so that there is a central ridge which, to a spectator standing at Branxton and looking southward, forms the visible horizon, quite shutting out the higher ground of Flodden itself. On this central ridge evidently the battle was fought, and in a line extending about a mile due east and west, between Piper's hill' on the west and Mardon on the east. 24
When the Scottish king had fully grasped the position and saw that the English army was posted between him and Scotland, he seems, after some little hesitation, evinced by his calling a council of war, to have decided to descend from his unassailable position on Flodden height, but to win at least the lower height, the central ridge,' and with such vantage ground as that afforded him, to fight the inevitable battle. It is said25 that he was finally persuaded to make this movement by an Englishman, Sir Giles Musgrave, 26 who assured him that the English were going to range the Merse,' the fruitful plain of Berwickshire. What any Englishman can have been doing at this crisis in the king's camp, and how he can have established himself as a trusted counsellor of the king, is one of the mysteries of the story on wbich we desire further explanation.27
Before he quitted the higher ground, James ordered his men to set fire to their •litter and other filthy ordure, according to their custom.' 28 The smoke of this burning so darkened the air that the movements of each army were hidden from the other till they were only a quarter of a mile apart.29
** It should, therefore, if we wish to be strictly accurate, be called not the battle of Flodden but the battle of Branxton, and it is interesting to observe that in the gazette it is thus described :– Hereafter ensueth the names of sundry noblemen of the Scottes slayne at the sayde batayle and felde called Brainston Moore.
25 Both by Hall and by the ballad. * That gainful Greek,' the ballad calls him, perhaps with an allusion to Sinon and the Trojan horse.
37 The editor of the little volume, in Scottish History from Contemporary Sources, suggests, with some probability, that Musgrave may have come to Scotland in the time of Queen Margaret.
28 So says Hall; not to their tents, which were to be removed to the lower hill.
** This seems almost incredible to any one who knows the ground and sees the wide space that intervenes between Flodilen and Branxton. But the air Was evidently already thick and heavy with vapour, and the wind may have been blowing from the south. The fact is vouched for both by Hall and the ballad, and it certainly increases the improbability that the Scots could have seen the admiral crossing Twizell bridge.
Then, about four in the afternoon, the great battle began.30 When the clouds of smoke cleared away, the English host, still divided into two battles,' the vanguard and the rear, saw the Scotch in five battles,' composed of great plumps, some of which were square, marching down the hill towards them, ‘silently and in good order, after the manner of the Almayns.' For a short time there was an artillery duel between the two armies, and at the first roar of the Scottish guns, we are told, the men of Bamborough and Tynemouth fled in panic from the field. But the English artillery soon asserted its predominance. The master-gunner of Scotland (the same Robert Borthwick who had in vain implored the king's permission to fire on the advancing English) was slain, and the fire from the English guns so galled the Scots that they made the more haste to descend the hill and come to close quarters with their foes. The armies were soon so closely locked in deadly embrace that cannons could be of little service in the fray.
The ordering of the troops on each side was in this wise. It is to be remembered that the Scots, though they had their backs to Cheviot, were facing the north. The English had behind them a small part of England, but much more of Scotland, the Tweed and the whole of the fertile Merse, reaching round from the triple-pointed Eildon hills to conical Duns Law. Each army was therefore in a certain sense cut off from its natural base; either half if beaten might look for utter destruction.
We will take the two lines of battle as they would appear to an observer looking south ward, from behind the English position.
(1) First, on the Scottish left (west), not far from the present homestead of Moneylaws, were two “plumps ’ of borderers, amounting to 8,000 men,31 under the lord chamberlain (Alexander Home) and Alexander Gordon, earl of Huntley.
Opposite to them, on the English right, were young Sir Edmund
29 It is not very easy to understand why the battle began so late in the day. The “Account of the Battle of Flodden, in the Record Office (Letters and Papers, Henry VIII. I. 657, No. 4,441) says that the admiral passed the bridge of Twizell at noon. Yet the same paper says that the battle began between four and five in the afternoon. I presume that we must allow at least an hour for the march from Twizell bridge to Branxton; but there is still an interval of three hours, which, I suppose, was filled by the Scottish council of war, the burning of the litter, striking the tents, and setting the battle in array.
31 Pitscottie, i. 277.
Howard with divers esquires and gentlemen of Lancashire and Cheshire, commanding, doubtless, their own retainers. Here, too, was young Sir Bryan Tunstall, the stainless knight. Apparently the whole of this portion of the army only numbered 3,000 men.32 These two opposing wings disputed with one another the possession of the little hill called Piper's hill,' and the broken ground, mossland, stream margins, and little wooded dell to the west of it.
(2) Next to Home and Huntley in the Scottish line came the Earls of Crawford and Montrose, accompanied with many lords and gentlemen, all with spears, on foot.' 33
Opposite to them, in the English right centre, was the great admiral, Thomas, lord Howard, captain-general of all the vanguard of the army, surrounded not only by his own seasoned soldiers brought over from France, but also by the esquires and gentlemen of Yorkshire and Northumberland, and pre-eminently by the men of the bishopric of Durham, led by Sir William Bulmer, clustering round the banner of St. Cuthbert, and, as I have said, eager to avenge the dishonour done to their saint. The whole of the troops under the immediate command of the admiral amounted to 9,000 men.
The fight in which these troops were engaged must apparently have raged most botly round the little church of Branxton. It is strange that in none of the narratives of the battle is any allusion made to that building.
(3) On the left of the admiral, perhaps somewhat overlapping Crawford and Montrose, and partly facing the Scottish centre, came the gallant old man, Sir Marmaduke Constable,34 with many Constables of his clan, and his son-in-law, Master William Percy. He, too, like Sir Edmund Howard (who occupied the corresponding position on the admiral's right) had 3,000 men under his command, who hailed from Holderness in Yorkshire, and from Northumberland.
(4) In the very centre of the opposing lines were the two supreme commanders, James Stuart and Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, the • noble young prince' and 'the old crooked carle.'
32 Gazette, 'And in either wing of the same battle were 3,000 men.' 33 Hall.
34• Seventy years old 'says White. I have not traced his authority for the assertion.
They must have been on the same parallel of longitude as the present vicarage of Branxton, but how far north or south of that spot, up or down the hill
, the battle may have raged, it is impossible to say. The troops under the command of the Earl of Surrey (5,000 men in number) are still spoken of as belonging to the rearward.' Possibly this is only a remembrance of the position which they had occupied on the march from Barmoor. But though it is hardly possible to understand the plan of the battle if the English army was at first drawn up in two parallel lines, the foremost under the admiral and the hindermost under his father, there does seem to have been something of a diagonal direction in the English line. The right is the first and the left the last to engage in the battle.35
(5) Lastly, on the extreme right (east) of the Scottish position were Stuart, earl of Lennox, and Campbell, earl of Argyle, commanding a body of Highlanders and Islesmen, brave but undisciplined.
Opposite them, on the extreme English left, were the men of Cheshire and Lancashire, probably 5,000 in number, 36 under the command of Sir Edward Stanley.
(6) There were also certain forces held in reserve on either side. On the Scottish side · Adam Hepburn, earl of Bothwell, and the rest of the nobility of Lothian.’37 On the English “the Lord Dacre with a number of horsemen was set apart by himself to succour when need should seem to appear.
As to the character of the conflict and the nature of the weapons employed we have some interesting information in the Gazette. The
suppose the correct way of describing this movement is to say that the English army advanced in échelon.
16 The gazette which gives us such valuable information as to all the rest of the English line unfortunately fails us here. Evidently something (perhaps two whole pages) has dropped out between pp. 4 and 5. But by deducting the numbers already given from 26,000, the ascertained total of the English host, we get 5,000 for the number of Stanley's followers (allowing 1,000 for. Dacre's horsemen yet to be mentioned).
37 Buchanan, p. 138. 33 Holinshed, iii. 596. I think upon the whole the balance of evidence is in favour of the above arrangement of the troops (which is that adopted by Scott in Marmion), but it should be noticed that Holinshed puts Lennox and Argyle on the Scottish left (instead of right) and makes them fight with Edmund Howard. He also puts Huntley on the Scottish right, and herein Hall and the ballad agree with him, and Buchanan also, but he is hopelessly wrong as to the position of the troops. The position of Huntley is the most doubtful point, but inay, I think, be considered as settled by Dacre's letter (No. 5,090 in the Calendar of State Papers), in which he says that he encountered the Earl of Huntley and the chamberlain.