Battle of Sark

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Battle of Sark
Part of the Anglo-Scottish Border Wars
Date 23 October 1448
Location Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway
grid reference NY314662 [1]
Coordinates: 54°59′10″N 3°4′19″W / 54.98611°N 3.07194°W / 54.98611; -3.07194
Result Decisive Scottish victory
Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg Kingdom of Scotland Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Blason Archibald Douglas.svg Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde Armoiries Studigel de Bitche.svgHenry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland
ca.4,000[2] ca.6,000[3]
Casualties and losses
up to 600 3000 killed and drowned

The Battle of Sark, alternatively called the Battle of Lochmaben Stone, was fought between England and Scotland in October 1448. A large battle, it was the first significant Scottish victory over the English in over half a century, following the Battle of Otterburn of 1388. It placed the Scots in a position of strength against the English for over a decade, until Edward IV ascended the English throne, and it brought Clan Douglas to greater prominence in Scotland.


After the 14th century Wars of Scottish Independence, England and Scotland continued to battle periodically along their borders. In 1448, hostilities escalated. Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, destroyed Dunbar in May, and in June the Earl of Salisbury, Lord Warden of the March destroyed Dumfries. In reaction, William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas mustered a force with the support of the earls of Ormonde, Angus and Orkney, destroying Warkworth and Alnwick. When the Scots advanced further into Cumberland and Northumberland, Henry VI authorized the Percies to retaliate.


The stage for the battle was set when, in October, the Earl of Northumberland led a troop of 6,000 men into Scotland, where they made camp near the Lochmaben Stone. Their location proved poorly chosen, as they settled in a tidal waterway between the River Sark and Kirtle Water. Among the Scots, Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, mustered a force of 4,000 from Annandale and Nithsdale, marching against Northumberland on 23 October 1448. Northumberland took the lead in organizing his troops into three wings, with Magnus Reidman, a celebrated veteran of the 100 years war in France, John Pennington,with a large group of Welshmen, with the bulk of the forces at the core commanded by Northumberland himself, which arrangement Ormonde mirrored. Ormonde had Sir William Wallace of Cragie, who opposed Magnus, and against Sir John Pennington was placed the knight of Carlaverock, called Lord Maxwell, and Johnston of Laird of Johnston, with many inland gentlemen. Ormonde and his retinue opposed Northumberland at the centre. Forces on both sides contained a large contingent of plate armored men at arms, some probably mounted. At the beginning of the engagement, the English opened fire, pelting the Scottish ranks with the arrows of the English longbow. After enduring some volleys, the Scots, in avoidance of a repeat of Homildon Hill, made a daring advance. It is said that Wallace cried out with a loud voice, so as he was heard by his followers, "why should we stand still thus to be wounded afar off? follow me, says he, and let us join in hand-strokes, where true valour is to be seen!" The Scots charged, and at arms length the English, sorely pressed by axe, spear and halberd were routed, with Magnus being slain in the melee. When their ranks broke, they were caught by the rising tide, in which a large number drowned. There a great number of prisoners taken, amongst whom were Sir John Pennington, and Sir Robert Harrington, and the Lord Percy son to the Earl of Northumberland, taken while he helped his father to his horse, who thereby escaped capture.


Different sources report the number of Scots who lost their lives in the engagement variously: from as few as 26 (Auchinleck chronicle) to as many as 600 (Pitscottie, Buchanan, Hume). The number of English deaths in the same sources varies from 2,000 (1,500 killed in battle; 500 drowned - Auchinleck chronicle) to 3,000 (killed and drowned). In the light of the nature of the battle, 26 casualties for the Scots seems far too low, given the barrage of arrows and the death of Wallace of Cragie, along with the fairly large numbers of contemporary sources pointing to the numbers suggested by Pitscottie.[4][5][6][7]


  1. ^ Site Record for Battle Of Sark; Lochmaben Stone; Old Graitney; Stormont, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland 
  2. ^ Rose, Alexander (2002). Kings in the North. London: Phoenix. p. 480. ISBN 1842124854. 
  3. ^ Rose (2002), p.481
  4. ^ Thomas Thomson (ed)(1819) , Auchinleck Chronicle, Edinburgh pp.18-19
  5. ^ Dalyell, John Graham, ed.(1814), The Chronicles of Scotland by Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, vol. 1, Edinburgh
  6. ^ ([1]) George Buchanan ,"The History of Scotland: With Notes, and a Continuation to the Present Time : in Six Volumes, Volume 2" earlier recorded as "Rerum Scoticarum Historia 1582" (ed) (1829)]
  7. ^ ([2]) David Hume, "The history of the house and race of Douglas and Angus" (ed) (1820)]

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