Raids After Bannockburn after Berwick, April to June, 1318

Yesterday, I talked about the two main events mentioned regarding 1318, in Scottish history--the re-taking of Berwick on April 1 and Edward Bruce's death at the Battle of Faughart, in Ireland, on October 14.

But after re-taking Berwick, little is mentioned.  Certainly James Douglas and Thomas Randolph didn't just take to fishing and talking about old war stories.  The point of everything the Scots did from November 17, 1292 onward was aimed at regaining control of their own country from England.  After Bannockburn, in 1314, the drive had been a peace treaty with England, the terms being quite simple: acknowledge Bruce as our King, Scotland as its own country, and leave us alone.

This had not yet happened, and wouldn't until 1328, with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton.  So, in 1318, the Scots still had quite a long road ahead of them.

The first thing that many of them did was what military men have so often done: hurry up and wait.  While the town of Berwick had quickly fallen to the Scots, thanks to Peter Spaulding, the castle had not.  The English garrison had withdrawn into the keep.  And so siege ensued.  Sieges don't generally make for very interesting stories.  It's a lot of sitting around making sure nobody leaves.  In this case, it took 11 weeks for the English to decide it was better to come out than stay inside and starve to death.  The English burgesses were expelled, we are told.

The moment must have been significant to James Douglas.  It was his father who held the town in 1296 during the brutal sack and pillage (started on Good Friday) by Longshanks.  It was here his father had been captured.  James would have been about ten at the time.  It is here that 'fiction' steps in to make historical figures real to us, to help us see their humanity, rather than a dry sketch of dates and events, to understand that history is driven, largely, by human emotions, character, strengths, and weaknesses.

But I digress.  The goal of recognition from England, however, had not been achieved.  One of the Scots' main tactics after Bannockburn was to make life uncomfortable enough for King Edward II, by way of continually raiding the north of his country, that he would finally agree to the very simple terms.  Recognize Scotland as the independent nation it always was.  Recognize Bruce as our king.  Leave us alone.  Simple.  Unless, of course, you're Edward II of England, I guess.  Because I guess all that business with bad weather, famine, and angry barons--just to name a few things he was also dealing with--weren't enough for him.

So the raids continued.  In fact, says David Ross, Douglas and Randolph now launched the largest raid ever.  Presumably they spent the month of April discussing options, planning, provisioning, and perhaps trying once again to negotiate some sense into Edward II.  (Spoiler alert: good luck with that, boys!  Yeah, I skipped ahead a few chapters.  It's not going to work.  At least not for ten years.)

So, in early May, James and Randolph, leading a large force, once again headed down to their favorite hot spot: Northern England.  This time, they left Durham alone, as it had already bought immunity.  Now the party (isn't that a great name for a war force?) split in two, the western group crossing the River Tees at Barnard Castle, into Yorkshire.  From here they hit Richmond and Wensleydale, then headed on to Ripon.

Barnard Castle, Yorkshire, great castles, Scottish history, medieval history, Scottish raids, 1318The people of Ripon first crowded into the minster, but as God did not strike the Scots dead in their tracks, proceeded with Plan B: negotiate immunity with a promise of 1,000 marks.  Remember, a second point of these raids was to raise money to fund the war effort until such time as Edward II got tired of holding out for the theoretical idea that he was overlord of Scotland--which clearly at this point he was not, in practice.  The Scots agreed to this promise, but also took out insurance in the form of six hostages.  As history later tells us that King Edward ordered Ripon to pay up in order to free their hostages, it seems that maybe the Scots were wise to not take them at their word.

After Ripon, this western group hit Fountains Abbey, gathered another tribune, and then, using the abbey as a base, raided the nearby manors and granges.

Ross doesn't say explicitly that Douglas led this western group, but as he theorizes whether James visited the crypt in Ripon's ancient church of St. Wilfrid, I'm assuming he did.

scottish raid, scottish wars of independence, edward ii, james douglas
Partial map of Scottish raids,today's distances and times
The eastern party, meanwhile, sacked Hartlepool (it was almost a tradition by this point), then crossed into Yorkshire at Yarm, headed south into the Vale of York, and burned Northallerton.  Further south, in Boroughbridge, they took corn from the king's granaries and burned Boroughbridge, too.

Randolph and Douglas met up in Knaresborough, on the River Nidd and, not wanting to break habit--wait for it--set the town on fire.  By the time they were done, says the Lanercost Chronicle, only twenty houses remained standing.  Knaresborough Castle, built around 1100, survived, and still stands today.

For some scale of reference, Yarm to Knaresborough is about 40 miles, depending on the route you take.  The Scots were said to ride up to 60 miles a day on their garrons.  If they were driving any cattle with them at this point, the 40 miles would have taken significantly longer to travel, however.

After burning the town, they hunted the forests for cattle that may have been hidden from them.  But the work was hardly done.  It was on to the parish of Pannal, about 6 miles south-southwest.  Guess what they did there?  You got it.  They burned Pannal, made raids in every direction from there, and then headed over the Pennines.  You know by this time what they did in every town they passed through.

Scottish raids, Wars of Independence, fourteenth century, medieval history
They finished up in the west with Preston and Lancaster, on the west coast of England, about 67 miles west almost directly west of Knaresborough, and finally, headed home.  How long did all this take?

A very rough estimate of the general route and distance gives us nearly 400 miles.  Given it was not that direct a route, multiple raids on town within an area, and the fact that A1 had not been built, we know they put significantly more miles than that on their horse o'dometers.  500?  600?

And, of course, they were not doing this 500 or 600 miles at 60 miles a day.  They were making frequent stops, and at times driving cattle before them.  At least once that we know of on this particular set of raids, they had hostages with them.  Did they send smaller groups back to Scotland with the cattle, or take them on the entire trip?  I have yet to see any dates as to when the raids concluded, and the next dates Ross gives us for Douglas's whereabouts are in 1319.

However, for the purposes of Niall's life, we want to know what the Scots were doing from April 1 to the first week of June in 1318.  Niall may well have been among those waiting in the town of Berwick, watching the keep the whole time.  Or he may have spent April in this duty before heading out in early May with Douglas and Randolph.  Given that Shawn (aka Niall) had raided with Douglas in earlier years, Douglas may well have had Niall come along with him.

That, however, remains to be seen.

It was hard for Amy to comprehend that the Niall she knew, who was kind and gentle, could do all this raiding and burning.  I think many today might find the Scots' raiding and burning appalling.  It cannot be denied it wreaked great destruction on the lives of those in northern England.  However, it must all be seen in context--the context of what had gone before, such as the sack of Berwick and the purpose of the raids.

The purpose was not to conquer England or take its land, but simply to put pressure on Edward II so that he would finally recognize them as the independent nation they had always been.  Like in our own American Revolution, diplomacy had been tried repeatedly.  Requests for a peace treaty had been tried repeatedly and failed.  It must be remembered that these raids would have stopped the moment Edward II granted their very minimal requests: to simply admit that they were their own nation, with their own sovereign.



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