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  The Strategy and Tactics of the Scottish Armies 1296-1314  

The Strategy and Tactics of the Scottish Armies 1296-1314

Ewan J. Innes, MA(Hons Scot. Hist.) FSA Scot


Synopsis:  This essay describes the strategy and tactics used by the commanders of the Scottish armies during the period 1296 to 1314.

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The tactics and strategy employed by the Scottish armies between 1296 and 1314 evolved over the period. Wallace began with the lessons of Dunbar in mind and consequently the development of the lightly armed foot soldier was begun. Wallace also used raids into England as part of his overall strategy, both as a means of raising money and as a means of retaliation. The defeat at Falkirk could be seen as a watershed in the use of foot, for afterwards Bruce altered Wallace's schiltroms in order that they could become more mobile and therefore less of a target for English archers.

Robert Bruce, took Wallace's tactical ideas further forward in evolutionary terms for he used raids into England purely as a means of raising finance through blackmail etc. His long term aim was of course the defeat of the English and the removal of their forces from Scotland. Yet he knew that to do this he would need to defeat the English in the field in a major battle.

Overall the tactics and strategy of the Scottish armies came 'full circle' for after 1296 there was a move away from 'normal' feudal warfare towards a form more suited to Scotland's capability in both financial and military terms. The changes were refined and improved over a succession of military campaigns, from defeat at Falkirk to victory at Bannockburn. Following the death of Robert I in 1329, Scottish tactics suffered a regression. At Halidon Hill and Dupplin Moor in 1332 and 1333 the Scottish schiltroms were destroyed by English archers. It would seem therefore that the tactics worked out by Bruce and his lieutenants died with them.

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