After the re-capture of Berwick castle, the earls of Northumberland and Nottingham, the two most powerful barons of the army, determined to make an excursion after their enemies, and if they could find them to offer them battle. As they had resolved, so did they execute: early on a morning they marched away taking the road to Roxburgh up Tweedside. When they had marched about three leagues, they called a council, and the two earls thought it advisable to send a detachment to Melrose, a large monastery of black monks, situated on the Tweed, which is the boundary of the two kingdoms, to know if any Scots were lying thereabouts in ambuscade; whilst they with the main body would march into the Merse; by which means they would not fail of hearing some news of the Scots. That valiant knight sir Thomas Musgrave was appointed commander of this detachment: it consisted of three hundred men at arms and as many archers. They left the army, which on the separation, took a different route, one marching to the right and the other to the left. Sir Thomas and his son rode on to Melrose, where they arrived at an early hour, and took up their quarters, to refresh themselves and their horses, as well as to make enquiries after the Scottish army.
They ordered two of their squires, well mounted, to ride over the country, to endeavour to find out the situation of the Scots, and in what order they were. These two squires, on leaving their commanders, continued their route until they fell into an ambuscade of the Scots, commanded by sir William Lindsay, who had posted himself in hopes of meeting with some adventure, and to hear news of Berwick, and also what had been the fate of his nephew, Alexander Ramsay, and into whose hands he had fallen: this he was very anxious to learn: he had with him about forty lances. The English were seized immediately on their entering this ambush, which gave the knight very great pleasure. He demanded from them whence they came: but they were afraid of speaking, lest they should betray their masters: however, they were forced to be explicit, for the knight assured them that he would have them beheaded, if they did not truly answer all the questions he should put to them.
When things became so serious, and they saw no means of escaping, they related how the castle of Berwick had been regained, and all found within put to death except Alexander Ramsay: they afterwards told how the earls of Northumberland and Nottingham were marching along Tweedside in search of the Scots, and how sir Thomas Musgrave, his son, sir John Seton, and sir Richard Breton, with three hundred spears and as many archers, were lodged in the abbey of Melrose, and that these knights had sent them out to discover where the Scots were. “By my truth,” replied sir William Lindsay, “you have found us, and you will now remain with us.” They were then taken aside, and given up to some of their companions, with orders to guard them well under penalty of their lives. Sir William Lindsay instantly sent off one of his men at arms, saying, “Ride to our main army, and tell them all you have heard, and the situation of the English: I will remain here until morning, to see if anything else may happen.”
This man at arms rode on until he came to a large village beyond Morlaine1, which is called Hondebray2, situated on the Tweed, among the mountains, where there were large meads and a plentiful country; for which reasons the Scots had quartered themselves there. Towards evening, the squire arrived; and, as they knew he had brought some intelligence, he was conducted to the earls of Douglas, Murray, Sutherland, and to sir Archibald Douglas, to whom he related all you have just read. The Scots were much vexed on hearing of the recapture of Berwick castle, but they were reconciled by the news of sir Thomas Musgrave and the other English knights being quartered at Melrose. They determined to march instantly, to dislodge their enemies, and make up from them for the loss of Berwick. They armed themselves, saddled their horses, and left Hadingtoun, advancing to the right of Melrose, for they were well acquainted with the country, and arrived a little before midnight. But it then began to rain very heavily, and with such a violent wind in their faces that there was none so stout but was overpowered by the storm, so that they could scarcely guide their horses: the pages suffered so much from the cold, and their comfortless situation, that they could not carry the spears, but let them fall to the ground: they also separated from their companions and lost their way.
The advanced guard had halted, by orders of the constable, at the entrance of a large wood, through which it was necessary for them to pass; for some knights and squires who had been long used to arms said, they were advancing foolishly, and that it was not proper to continued their course in such weather, and at so late an hour, as they ran a risk of losing more than they could gain. They therefore concealed themselves and their horses under oaks and other large trees until it was day. It was a long time before they could make any fire from their flints and wet wood: however, they did succeed, and several large fires were made; for the cold and rain lasted until sun-rise, but it continued to drizzle until the hour of six. Between six and nine o’clock, the day began to get somewhat warmer, the sun to shine, and the larks to sing. The leaders then assembled to consider what was best to be done, for they had failed in their intentions of arriving at Melrose during the night. They resolved to breakfast in the open fields on what they had, to refresh themselves and horses, and send out parties to forage. This was executed, and the greater part of their foragers spread themselves over the country and adjacent villages. They brought hay and corn for the horses, and provision for their masters.
It happened that the English quartered in the abbey of Melrose had that morning sent out their foragers, so that the two parties met, and the English ahd not the advantage: several of their party were slain and wounded, and their forage seized. When sir Thomas Musgrave and the English knights in Melrose heard of it, they knew the Scots were not far distant: they ordered their trumpets to sound, and their horses to be saddled, whilst they armed themselves, for they were determined to take the field. They left the abbey in good order, and in handsome array. The Scots knights had received information from their foragers of their enemies being near: they therefore made all haste to refresh their horses, to arm and draw themselves up in order of battle, alongside and under cover of the wood. They were full seven hundred lances, and two thousand others, whom I call lusty varlets, armed with hunting spears, dirks, and pointed staves. The lord Archibald Douglas and his cousin the earl of Douglas said, “We cannot fail to have some business since the English are abroad: let us therefore be on our guard, for we will fight with them if the parties be nearly equal.” They sent two of their men at arms to observe the order of the English, whilst they remained snug in their ambush.