We live in a time and place where there’s much excitement and protest about government spending. But are we being as resourceful as possible? Are we divided and scattered? My mind goes back to another July 22nd in 1298 when the sky was less sunny than it is today, being filled with a torrent of arrows. Freedom was then not being fought on the peaceful grounds of verbal protest and “tea parties,” but rather with swords and spears in marshy swamps. Heroes walked alongside the peasantry, and the face of friend and foe were never far apart.
During 1298, Edward I of England was continuing his tyrannical invasion of Scotland, and in June he reviewed his army at Roxburgh. Under his command were 80,000 infantry (English, Irish, and Welsh), 3,000 fully armed heavy cavalry (veterans from the French wars), 4,000 light cavalry, and finally 500 Life Guards from Gascony decked in their finest. Tyranny looked far more obvious than it does today. In contrast, liberty was far less comfortable than it is now. William Wallace and the rest of the Scottish freedom fighters picked the marshes of Falkirk as battleground. In front of Wallace’s army, a boggy morass would stop a galloping advance of Edward’s cavalry. To their left and right, the army erected palisade walls. Due to internal jealousies, only a few Scottish nobles were among Wallace’s peasant army of about 25,000-30,000 strong. Among the few nobles who served as commanders were Sir John the Grahame of Abercorn and Dundaff; Sir John Stewart of Bonhilll; Duncan MacDuff, 11th Earl of Fife; and John “Red” Comyn, son of the Lord of Badenoch. On July 22nd, St. Magdalen’s Day, Edward’s army fell into fighting positions and the Battle of Falkirk began.
Edward coordinated the attack in three columns of 30,000 men each. The first column was to be led by Earl Marshal. The Bishop of Durham would lead the second column, with Edward himself leading the third. Earl Marshal rolled his force directly into the morass, and was immediately under fire from the Scottish bowman. Deciding that going strait through the bog was no good, he swerved to the left to firmer ground and struck Wallace’s right flank. However Wallace was ready for them. Wallace had armed his army with 12 ft. long spears, and organized his infantry into tight box or oval shaped unites (the Scottish term for this armed formation is “Schiltron”). Earl Marshal’s cavalry charged in vain, being simply impaled on the spears. While Marshal’s force was still fighting hard, The Bishop of Durham’s division wisely decided to ride around the morass, and fall on Wallace’s right. Wallace may have been able to withstand both attacks had he not been betrayed at that vital moment. A rival noble to Robert Bruce, “Red” John Comyn and 10,000 followers, simply left the field. Wallace only had 20,000 to the English force of 90,000. Wallace, the Hector of the Scots, fought from the front raining blows upon the English with his 6 ft. long two-handed broadsword, but it was too late. The Welsh longbows (destined to later become famous in the Battle of Agincourt) poured volley after volley of deadly arrows into the Scottish Schiltrons, weakening them for the overwhelming cavalry charges of the English. Wallace, 7 foot giant though he was, found himself retreating to the Carron ford, as the last rays of the setting sun gleamed on the armor of his pursuers.
Liberty has never been safe with just “a giant.” Unity is the key to success. Toward that end, I would encourage my readers to read the Mackinac Center’s Tea Party Activist Toolbox. What we do during this time is critical, and we certainly can’t just go to our tea parties and return home. We must stay active.