WILLIAM WALLACE—THE BATTLE OF STIRLING BRIDGE
Day by day the army of Wallace grew. From castle
after castle he drove the English. And because he had
not soldiers enough to guard these castles, he pulled
many of them down.
At last King Edward, hearing of all that Wallace was
doing, sent a great army to conquer him. Wallace was
then laying siege to the castle of Dunbar. Dunbar
was now the only fortress in the north which still re
mained in the hands of the English, although it was but
a year since Edward had gone home thinking that he had
As soon as Wallace heard that the English were
coming, he left Dunbar and marched to meet them. The
two armies came in sight of each other near the Forth.
That night they camped one on each side of the river, not
far from the town of Stirling.
Wallace had many men, but the English had three
times more, and he knew that it would take both skill
and bravery to win the day. So he had chosen his
position well and carefully. He had encamped on high
ground above the Forth, and in such a position that most
of his men could not be seen by the English, and there
fore they could not tell how many men he had.
The river was swift and deep, and crossed only by one
narrow bridge. So narrow indeed was the bridge that
THE BATTLE OF STIRLING BRIDGE 119
only two men could walk abreast. To take a whole army
across this narrow bridge was very dangerous. Yet it
was the only way of reaching the Scots, who lay securely
awaiting the enemy on the opposite side.
The English leader felt it to be so dangerous, that in
the morning he sent two friars to Wallace, asking him to
make peace, and promising him pardon if he would lay
down his arms.
‘Go back,’ replied Wallace proudly, ‘and tell your
master that we care not for the pardon of the King of
England. We did not come here in peace. We came
ready for battle. We are determined to avenge our
wrongs and to set our country free. Let the English come
and attack us ; we are ready to meet them beard for
The friars went back, and the English general was so
angry at this bold answer, that he resolved to attack at
once, cost what it might. So two by two his men marched
across the narrow bridge. On and on they came, yet the
Scots moved not hand or foot. But, when a good part of
the English army had passed over, a company of Scots
stole quickly round the hill, and taking possession of the
end of the bridge, they cut off those of the English who
had already crossed from those who were still on the other
Then, as soon as Wallace saw that the English army
was thus cut in two, he thundered down the hill upon
them. The English had had no time to form in proper
order after crossing the bridge, and now, when the Scots
dashed down upon them, they were thrown into utter
Fearful bloodshed followed. Hundreds fell beneath
the long spears and broadswords of the Scots. Hun
dreds more were drowned in the river. Men and horses
120 SCOTLANDS STORY
struggled together in wild disordered masses. Of all who
crossed that narrow bridge, only three returned alive.
When the soldiers on the other side saw what was
happening they turned and fled, their leader with them.
He who had been sent to subdue Scotland galloped madly
southward, never stopping until he had reached Berwick.
Then, after a few hours’ rest, he fled still further, far into
Half the English army lay dead upon the field. Scot
land rang with shouts of joy. The power of the English
King was broken once more.
But the land was wasted, barren and desolate. The
fields lay untilled. The people starved, and there was not
even bread for the army. So Wallace led his men into
England. There they found bread enough and to spare.
There for three months they lived, fighting, ravaging, and
carrying off great spoil from the English.
Wallace was now made Governor of Scotland. But
although the people chose Wallace to be Governor, the
lords and barons were not pleased. They were jealous of
the great love and fame which Wallace had won by his
bravery, and they were so proud that they could not bear
to think of being ruled by a man who was only a simple
gentleman and not a great lord. But this simple gentle
man had shown that he was the one man who could break
the power of England, and he was the best ruler for Scot
land at the time Much sorrow might have been spared
the land, if those proud nobles had put away their foolish
jealousies, and had thought, not of themselves, but only
of their country.
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