When the English king and all his host had seen the smoke of the fires, which the Scots had made, the alarm was immediately sounded, and everyone ordered to dislodge and to follow his banners: they all, therefore, withdrew to the fields, armed for immediate combat. Three battalions of infantry were formed; each battalion having two wings, composed of five hundred men at arms, who were to remain on horseback.
It was said, that there were eight thousand men at arms, knights and esquires, and thirty thousand men armed and equipped, half of whom were mounted on small hackneys; the other half were countrymen on foot, sent by the towns that paid them. There were also twenty-four thousand archers on foot, besides all of the crew of followers of the army. Thus being drawn up, they marched in battle-array after the Scots, towards the place from whence the smoke came, until it was night. The army halted in a wood, by the side of a small river, to rest themselves, and wait for their baggage and provisions.
The Scots had burnt and pillaged all the country within five leagues1 of the place where they were, without the English being able to come up on them.
At daybreak the next morning every one was armed, and, with banners displayed, marched in good order over mountains and through valleys, but could never approach the Scots, who were advanced before them; for there were so many marshes and dangerous places, that is was ordered, under pain of death, that no one should quit his banner, except the marshals. When it drew towards night, the cavalry, and those who attended the baggage, were so fatigued that they could march no further.
The lords saw that they followed the Scots to no purpose; and that, if the Scots were willing to wait for them, they might post themselves on some mountain, or in some dangerous pass, where they could not be attacked but at extreme disadvantage.
The king then ordered the marshals to encamp the army there for the night, in order that they might consider what was to be done the next day. The army lay in a wood upon the banks of a small river, and the king was lodged in a poor monastery hard by. The men at arms, horses, and baggage were much fatigued. When each had chosen a spot of ground to encamp himself on, the lords retired apart, to consider what would be the best method to force the Scots to battle, considering the situation of the country in which they were. It appeared to them, that the Scots were sheering off to their own country, burning and pillaging as they went, and that it would be impossible to fight them in these mountains without a manifest disadvantage, supposing they should overtake them, which they could not; but, as they must repass the Tyne, it was determined in full council, that if they were to get themselves ready about midnight, and hasten their march the next day, they might cut off the passage of the river, and force them to fight to a disadvantage, or remain shut up, prisoners in England.
After this resolution had been entered into, each retired to his quarters, to eat and drink what he could find there; and they desired their companions to be silent, in order that the trumpets might be heard: at the first sounding of which, the horses were to be saddled and made ready; at the second everyone was to arm himself without delay; and, at the third, to mount their horses immediately, and join their banners. Each was to take only one loaf of bread with him, slung behind him after the manner of hunters, all unnecessary arms, harness, and baggage, were ordered to be left behind, as they thought they should for a certainty give battle the next day, whatever might be the consequences, whether they should win or loose all. As it had been ordered so was it executed, and all were mounted and ready about midnight. Some had but little rest, notwithstanding they had laboured hard the day before.Day begin to appear as the battalions were assembled at their different posts: the banner bearers then hastened on over heaths, mountains, valleys, rocks, and many dangerous places, without meeting any level country. On the summits of the mountains, and in the valleys, were large marshes and bogs, and of such extent, that it was a miracle many were not lost in them; for each galloped forward without waiting for either commander or companion: those who fell into them had difficulty in getting any to help them. Many banners remained there, and several baggage and sumpter horses never came out again.
In the course of the day, there were frequent cries of alarm, as if the foremost ranks were engaged with the enemy; which those behind believing to be true, they hurried forward as fast as possible, over rocks and mountains, sword in hand, with their helmets and shields prepared, without waiting for father, brother, or friend. When they had hastened about half a league towards the place from which the noise came, they found themselves disappointed, as the cries proceeded from some herds of deer or other wild beasts, which abounded in those heaths and desert places, and which fled before the banners, pursued by the shouts of the army, which made them imagine it was something else.
In this manner, the young king of England, agreeably to the advice of his council, rode all that day over mountains and deserts, without keeping any fixed road, or finding any town. About vespers, and sorely fatigued, they reached the Tyne, which the Scots had already crossed, though the English supposed they had it still to repass. Accordingly, they went over the ford, but with great difficulty, owing to the large stones that were in the river.
When they had passed over, each took up his lodgings on its banks as he could; and at this time the sun was set. There were few among them that had any hatchets, wedges, or other instruments, to cut down trees, to make themselves huts; many of them had lost their companions, and even the foot had remained behind, not knowing what road to ask for. Those who were best acquainted with the country said, that they had traveled that day twenty English leagues2 on a gallop, without stopping, except to arrange the furniture of their horses, when it had been loosened by the violent exercise. They were forced to lie this night on the banks of the river in their armour, and at the same time hold their horses by their bridles, for there was not any place where they could tie them. Thus the horses had nothing to eat, neither oats nor any forage; and the men had only their loaf that was tied behind them, which was wetted by the sweat of the horses. They had no other beverage but the water of the river, except some great lords, who had bottles among their baggage: nor had they fire or light, not having anything to make them of; except some few lords, who had some torches, which they had brought on sumpter horses.In such a melancholy manner did they pass the night, without taking the saddles off the horses, or disarming themselves.And when the long-expected day appeared, when they hoped to find some comfort for themselves and horses, or to fight the Scots, which they very much wished for, to get out of their disagreeable situation, it began to rain, and continued all the day, insomuch that the river was so increased by noon, that no one could pass over, nor could any one be sent to know there they were, or to get forage and litter for their horses, or bread and wine for their own sustenance; they were therefore obliged to fast another night. the horses had nothing to subsist on but the leaves of trees and grass. They cut down with their swords young trees, and tied their horses to them. They also cut down brushwood to make huts for themselves.
Some poor peasants, coming that way in the afternoon, informed them that they were fourteen leagues from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and eleven from Carlisle, and that there was not a town nearer whence they could get any accommodations. When this intelligence was brought to the king and the principal lords, they directly sent off messengers with horses to bring them provision, and caused a proclamation to be made in the king's name in Newcastle, that whoever wished to get money, he had only to bring provision, wine, &c., for which he would be instantly paid, and a safe conduct granted him. They were also informed, that they should not move from their present quarters, until they had information where the Scots were. The next day the messengers which the lords had sent for provision about noon with what they had been able to procure for them and their households; but it was not much: and with them came people of the country, to take advantage of the situation of the army, and brought with them on mules and small horses bread badly baked, in baskets, and poor thin wine, in large barrels, and other kind of provision to sell, with which the army was tolerably refreshed, and their discontent appeased. This was the case during the seven days during which they remained on the banks of this river, among the mountains, expecting the return of the Scots, who knew no more of the English than they did of them.
Thus they had remained for three days and three nights without bread, wine, candle, oats, or any other forage: and they were afterwards for four days obliged to buy badly baked bread, at the price of sixpence a loaf, which was not worth more than a penny, and a gallon of wine for six groats, scarcely worth sixpence. Hunger, however, was still felt in the camp, notwithstanding this supply; and frequent quarrels happened from their tearing the meat out of each others hands. To add to their unpleasant situation, it had rained all the week, by which all their saddles and girths were rotted, and the greater part of the cavalry were worn down. They had not the wherewithal to shoe their horses that wanted it; nor had they any thing to clothes themselves, or preserve them from the rain and cold, but their jerkins or armour, and the green huts: nor had they any wood to burn, except what was so green and wet as to be of small service.
Having continued for a whole week, without hearing any tidings of the Scots, who they imagined must pass that way, or very near it, in their return home, great murmurs arose in the army: and many lay the fault on those that had given such advice, adding, that it was done in order to betray the king and his host. Upon which, the lords of council ordered the army to make ready to march, and cross the river seven leagued higher up, where the ford was better; and it was proclaimed, that every one was to be in readiness to march the next day, and follow his banners. There was another proclamation made, that whoever chose to take pains and find out where the Scots were, and should bring certain intelligence of it to the king, the messenger of such news should have one hundred pounds a-year in land, and be made a knight by the king himself. When this was made known among the host, many knights and esquires, to the number of fifteen or sixteen, eager to gain such rewards, passed the river with much danger, ascended the mountains, and then separated, each taking different routes.
The next day the army dislodged; marched tolerably well, considering that they were but ill clothed; and exerted themselves so much, that they repassed the river, though with much danger, from its being swollen by the rains. Many were well washed, and many drowned. When they had crossed over, they remained there for that night, finding plenty of forage in a field near to a small village, which the Scots had burnt as they passed. The next day they marched over hill and dale till about noon, when they came to some burnt villages where there were corn and hay, so that the host remained there the night. The third day they marched in the same manner; but many were ignorant where they were going, nor had they any intelligence of the enemy.
They continued their route the fourth day in this order, when about three o'clock, an esquire3 galloping up hastily to the king, said, "Sire, I bring you news of the Scots: they are three leagues from this place, lodged on a mountain, where they have been this week, waiting for you. They knew no more where you were than you did of them: and you may depend on this as true; for I approached so near to them, that I was taken and led a prisoner to their army, before their chiefs. I informed them where you were, and that you were seeking them, to give them battle. The lords gave me up my ransom, and my liberty, when I informed them that you had promised a hundred pounds a-year as a reward to whoever should first bring intelligence of them, upon condition that he rested not until he gave you this information; and I now tell you that you will find them in the place I have mentioned, as eager to meet you in battle as you yourself can be." As soon as the king heard this news, he ordered his army to be prepared, and turned his horses to feed in the fields, near a monastery of white monks, which had been burnt, and which was called in king Arthur's time Blanche Land. Then the king confessed himself, and each made his preparations according to his abilities. The king ordered plenty of masses to be said, to housel such as were devoutly inclined. He assigned on hundred pounds value of land, yearly, to the esquire, according to his promise, and made him a knight with his own hands, in the presence of the whole army. When they had taken some repose, and breakfasted, the trumpets sounded; and all being mounted, the banners advanced as the young knight led them on; but each battalion marched by itself in regular array, over hill and dale, keeping their ranks according to order. Thus they continued marching, when about twelve o'clock they came in sight of the Scots army.
As soon as the Scots perceived them, they issued forth from their huts on foot, and formed three good battalions, upon the descent of the mountain on which they lodged. A strong rapid river4 ran at the foot of this mountain, which was so full of large rocks and stones, that it was dangerous to pass in haste. If the English had passed this river, there was not room between it and the mountain for them to draw up their line of battle. The Scots had formed their two first battalions on the two sides of the mountain, and on the declivity of the rock, which was not easy to climb to attack them; but they themselves were posted so as to annoy them with stones, if they crossed the river: which if the English effected, they would not be able to return.
When the English lords perceived the disposition of the Scots, they ordered their men to dismount, take off their spurs, and form three battalions as before. Many new knights were made; and, when the battalions were formed, some of the chief lords brought the young king on horseback along the lines, to encourage the men. The king spoke most graciously to all, and besought them to take every pains to do him honour and preserve their own. He ordered, under pain of death, that no one should advance before the banners of the marshals, or move without orders. Shortly afterward, the battalions were ordered to advance towards the enemy in slow time, keeping their ranks. This was done; and each battalion moved on a considerable space, and came to the ascent of the mountain, where the Scots were posted. This manoeuvre was intended in order to see whether the enemy would retire or make any movement; but neither one nor other was to be perceived: and the armies were so near each other that they could see the arms on their shields. The army was ordered to halt to consider what was to be done; and some companions mounted to skirmish with the enemy, and to examine the passage of the river and their appearance more clearly. They sent heralds to make an offer of retiring on the morrow, if they would pass the river, and fight upon the plain; or, if the Scots would not consent to this, that they would do the same.
When the Scots received this proposal, the chiefs retired to counsel, and returned for answer by the heralds, that they would do neither the one nor the other; that the king and his barons saw that they were in his kingdom, and had burnt and pillaged whatever they had passed; and that, if it displeased the king, he might come and amend it; for they would tarry there as long as it pleased them.When the council of the king of England heard the answer, he ordered it proclaimed, that each should take up his quarters where he was, without quitting the ground or his arms; they therefore lay that night very uncomfortably upon the hard ground, among rocks and stones, with their armour on: nor could they get any stakes for the purposes of tying their horses, or procure either litter, or forage, or any bushes to make the fires.
The Scots, seeing the English take up their quarters, ordered part of the army to remain where the battalions had been drawn up; and the remainder retired to their huts, where they made marvelously great fires, and, about midnight such a blasting and noise with their horns, that it seemed as if all the great devils from hell had been come there. Thus were they lodged this night, which was the night of the feast of St. Peter, the beginning of August, 1327, until the next day, when the lords heard mass: afterwards, every one armed himself, and the battalions were formed as on the preceding day. When the Scots saw this, they came and lodged themselves on the same ground they had done before; and the to armies remained thus drawn up until noon, when the Scots made no movement to come towards the English, nor did these on their part make any advances, for they dared not attempt it with so great a disadvantage. Several companions passed the river on horseback, as did some of the foot, to skirmish with the Scots, who also quitted their battalions to meet them, and many on each side were killed, wounded, and taken prisoners. In the afternoon the lords ordered every one to retire to their quarters, as it seemed to them that they were drawn up to no purpose: in this manner they remained for three days. The Scots, on their side, never quitted the mountain, but there were continued skirmishes on both sides, and many killed or taken prisoners: in the evenings they made large fires, and great noises with their horns and with shouting. The intention of the English lords was to keep the Scots besieged there; for, as they could not well fight with them, they hoped to starve them: they knew fro the prisoners that they had neither bread, wine, salt, nor other provision, except cattle, of which they had plenty, that they had seized in the country; - of these they might eat, indeed without bread, which would not be very palatable. But they had some little flour to make such cakes as have been before mentioned, and which some of the English use on their inroads beyond the borders.
The fourth day, in the morning, the English looked for the Scots on the mountain, but saw none of them, for they found that they had decamped secretly at midnight. Scouts of horse and of foot were immediately dispatched through the mountains to know what was become of them; they found them about four o'clock posted upon another mountain, much stronger than that they had left, upon the same river, near a large wood, to be more concealed, and in order more privately to advance or retreat at pleasure.
As soon as this was known, the English had orders to dislodge and to march in battle array towards the place where the enemy was posted; and they encamped on a mountain opposite. They formed their battalions, and seemed as if they meant to advance to them. The Scots no sooner perceived this, than they sallied out of their quarters, and came and posted themselves by the side of the river, directly in front; but they were unwilling to advance or come nearer. The English could not attack them in such a situation without great disadvantage and loss; they remained full eighteen days in this situation upon this mountain, whence the lords sent frequent heralds to the Scots, to offer to give them full place of plain ground to draw up their battalions, or else they would accept the same from them; but they would not agree to either of these proposals.
The two armies had little comfort during the time they remained in this position. The first night5 that the English were posted on this second mountain, the lord James Douglas took with him about two hundred men at arms, and at midnight crossed the river, at such a distance from the camp that he was not noticed, and fell upon the English army most valiantly, shouting, "Douglas for ever! Ye shall die, ye thieves of England!" He and his companions killed more than three hundred; and he galloped up to the king's tent, and cut two or three of it's cords, crying, at the same time, "Douglas! Douglas for ever!" when he set off; and in his retreat, he lost some of his followers, but not many; - he returned to his friends on the mountain. Nothing more of the sort was attempted from that time; but the English in future kept a strong and attentive guard, for they were fearful of another attack from the Scots, and had placed sentinels and scouts to give notice of the smallest movement of the enemy; the chief lords also slept in their armour. There were frequent skirmishes, and many lives lost on both sides. The twenty-fourth day from the time they had received intelligence from the enemy, a Scots knight was taken prisoner, who sore against his will gave the lords an account of the state of the enemy. He was so closely examined, that he owned his lords had given orders that morning for every one to be armed by vespers, and follow the banner of lord James Douglas; that it was to be kept secret; but he was not, for a certainty, acquainted with their attentions further. Upon this the English lords held a council; and they judged, from the information of the Scots knight, that the enemy might perhaps come in full force at night to attack them on both sides at once, and, from their sufferings by famine, which they could endure no longer, make it a very bloody and doubtful combat. The English formed into three battalions, and posted themselves before thier quarters, on three separate spots of ground; they made large fires, in order to see better, and left their pages in their quarters to take care of their horses. They remained under arms all the night, and each was placed under his own standard or banner.
Towards day-break two Scots trumpeters fell in with one of the patrols, who took them, and brought them before the lords of the council, to whom they said. "My lords, why do you watch here? You are loosing your time; for we swear, by our heads, that the Scots are on their march home since midnight, and are now four or five leagues off - and they left us behind, that we might give you the information." The English said, that it would be in vain to follow them, as they would never overtake them; but, fearing deceit, the lords ordered the trumpeters to close confinement, and did not alter the position of the battalions until four o'clock. When they saw the Scots were really gone, they gave each permission to retire to his quarters, and the lords held a council to consider what was to be done. Some of the English, however, mounted their horses, passed the river, and went to the mountain which the Scots had quitted, and found more than five hundred large cattle, which the enemy had killed, as they were too heavy to carry with them, and too slow to follow them, and they wished not to let them fall into the hands of the English alive. They found also more then a hundred cauldrons, made of leather with the hair on the outside, which were hung on the fires full of water and meat, ready for boiling. There were also upward of a thousand spits with meat on them, prepared for roasting; and more than ten thousand pairs of old worn-out shoes, made of undressed leather, which the Scots had left there. There were found five poor English prisoners, whom the Scots had bound naked to the trees, and some of them had their legs broken; they untied them, and sent them away, and then returned to the army, just as they were setting out on their march to England, by orders from the king and council.
They followed all that day the banners of the marshals, and halted at an early hour in a beautiful meadow, where there was plenty of forage for their horses; and much need was there of it, for they were so weakened by the famine, that they could scarce move6. The next day they decamped betimes, and took up their quarters still earlier, at a large monastery within two leagues of Durham. The king lay there that night, and the army in the fields around it, where they found plenty of grass, pulse, and corn. They remained there quiet the next day; but the king and the lords went to see the church of Durham. The king paid his homage to the church and the bishoprick, which he had not before done, and gave largesse to the citizens.
They found there all their carriages and baggage, which they had left in a wood thirty two days before, at midnight, as has been related. The inhabitants of Durham finding them there, had brought them away at their own cosy, and placed them in empty barns. Each carriage had a little flag attached to it, that it might be known. The lords were much pleased at finding them again.
The king and the nobles reposed two days at Durham, and the army in it's environs, for there would not have been sufficient room to lodge them in that city. They had all their horses well shod, and set out on their march towards York.They made such haste, that in three days they arrived there, and found the queen mother, who received the king and the nobles with great joy, as did all the ladies of the court and city. The king disbanded his army, and gave permission for every one to return to his home, and made many acknowledgments to the earls, barons, and knights, for the services they had rendered to him by their advice and prowess. He kept near his person sir John de Hainault and his company, who were much feasted by the queen and all the ladies. The knights made out their accounts for horses, which had been ruined or lost, or had died, and gave them in to the council; and also a statement of their own expenses, which sir John de Hainault took on him as his own debt towards his followers, for the king and his ministers could not immediately collect such a sum as their horses amounted to; but he gave them sufficient for their own expenses, and to carry them back to their own country7. They were afterwards all paid within the year the full amount of their losses.
When the Hainaulters had received their demand for horses, they purchased small hackneys to ride more at their ease, and sent their carriages, sumpter horses, trunks, and servants, on board of two ships, which the king had provided for them, and which landed them at Sluys, in Flanders. They took leave of the king, queen, the earls of Kent and Lancaster, and of all the barons, who had paid them many honours; and the king had them escorted by twelve knights and two hundred men at arms, for fear of the archers, of whom they were not well assured, as they must pass through the bishoprick of Lincoln. Sir John and his company set out, escorted as above, and by easy journeys came to Dover, where they embarked on board vessels ready provided for them. The English who had accompanied them took their leave, and returned to their homes. The Hainaulters arrived at Wissan, where they tarried two days, in order to deck out their horses and the remains of their armour; during the which time sir John de Hainault and some other knights went on a pilgrimage to our lady of Boulogne. They returned together to Hainault, when they separated, and each went to his own house; but sir John went to his brother, who was at that time at Valenciennes: he was received by him with great joy, as he was much beloved by him. The lord of Beaumont then related to him all the abovementioned history.