The Battle of Falkirk was fought during the First War of Scottish Independence (1296-1328).
Commanders & Armies:
- Sir William Wallace
- 7,000 men
- King Edward I
- approximately 14,000 men
The Battle of Falkirk was victory for Edward I, with both sides losing approximately 2,000 men. While the English won the battle, they were unable to continue their conquest of Scotland due to the scorched earth tactics employed by Wallace before the battle. With his army starving, Edward withdrew south.
Marching north in 1298, Edward sought avenge the English defeat at Stirling Bridge the year before. Badly outnumbered, Wallace conducted a scorched earth campaign and repeatedly retreated north with the goal of starving Edward's army. Upon reaching Edinburgh, Edward's situation was dire and he contemplated a retreat to England. Hoping to pursue the English as they retreated, Wallace advanced to Falkirk, approximately 13 miles from the English camps.
Upon hearing this, Edward opted to give battle. On July 22, the English advanced and attacked the Scottish position. As the English knights approached, Wallace's men assumed enclosed, defensive formations known as schiltrons, with their spears pointing outward. After attacks by his knights and infantry were beaten off by the Scots, Edward ordered his archers to open fire on the schiltrons. As the schiltrons were immobile, the arrows took a heavy toll. With the Scottish ranks thinned, Edwards launched another attack which drove the Scots from the field.
Despite his success on the battlefield, his men were starving and were unable to follow up the victory. Weakened by battle and hunger, Edward withdrew back to Carlisle.