After Stirling, the Scottish lords were jealous of Wallace being appointed as the sole guardian of Scotland. Edward was having his own problems with France and with his barons. However, regardless of the problems at home, he planned the following year to deal with Wallace. The barons were fearful that Edward would once again depart for France and leave them to contend with Wallace, which was not an easy task. Edward reassured the barons that he would put down Wallace and assembled an army that consisted of 2500 horse, 12,000 foot, archers from Wales and crossbowmen from Gascony. If an Englishman had lands of a value of £15 you had to be available for service and had to take with you a hauberk (coat of mail), an iron cap, a knife and a horse. If you only had 40 shillings or so you only needed a sword, a knife, and a bow and arrows. This was an easy requirement as most men had these items. These are what they used to hunt with to provide food for their families. Edward had trouble with the Welsh he had conscripted. In the recent past the Welch had been fighting the English and now they were a part of the English army. They objected heavily to the short rations. Edward decided that to keep them on his side, he would issue a supply of wine, which appears to have been a huge mistake. It resulted in a drunken brawl between the Welsh and the English. In this melee 80 Welshmen were killed and the rest of them threatened to join Wallace. Edward reacted to this so violently that the Welsh leaders decided the better part of valor was to remain where they were.
The assemblage presented a formidable force for Wallace to deal with. Some say that Edward had as many as 80-90,000 men. By July of the year the English were advancing up the coast with a fleet of ships for support. Supplies were hard to come by, especially with the size of the army, they were near starvation, and Wallace and his force seemed to have disappeared. Because of the size of the English force, Wallace continued to fall back, destroying behind him what could be of use to the English. The logistics of feeding an army of that size was becoming a real problem for Edward and he was thinking of abandoning the march when he received vital intelligence that Wallace and his men were but 15 miles distant in Callander Wood. Since Wallace had his intelligence also, he must also have known of the English forces assembled. Both sides waited out the night, knowing that the morning would bring another battle for subjugation or freedom.
Wallace could have side-stepped the battle, considering the heavy contingent of English horse that Edward had, but his power and leadership depended upon successful campaigns against the English and upon winning battles to free Scotland. Wallaces forces consisted of volunteers, males between 16 and 60, most of whom came to him without training or experience, and certainly without armor or horses. It is estimated that Wallace had somewhere around 30,000 men. This contingent is what must face the might of the English cavalry, most of them experienced in warfare. As a tactician, Wallace had chosen to deploy his troops well. The English from their vantage point could not know that where Wallace was deployed there was a fast-moving burn that ran into another stream which made the ground wet and boggy. The foot formed into schiltrons, a solid core of spearmen utilizing 12 foot iron-tipped spears. The front rank would kneel and the second would level the spears over the shoulders of the men in front. This presented the English cavalry with a formidable obstacle. Charging horses would impale themselves on the spears, throwing their riders into the midst of their enemy. The men were also inside a circle of stakes which were roped together to form a barrier. Lest we think that Wallace was heavily out-gunned, so to speak, he did have about 1500-2000 spears, a contingent of bowmen between the schiltron and the enclosure, and had his knights in reserve at the back, led by John Comyn.
Edward was assisted by an act of treachery. Many of the Scots nobles held lands in both England and in Scotland and their loyalties lay not with their country as much as with the protection of their possessions and lands. Two of the Scots barons, the Earl of Angus and the Earl of Dunbar rode over to the English side and informed Edward that Wallace was preparing to strike at night, thus having an advantage in surprise. Wallace realized that with his two barons missing, he had been betrayed and since the element of surprise of a night battle was gone, decided to wait until morning to begin the battle.
Norfolk and Hereford, two of Edwards barons, commanded the English forces and they began to deploy in the usual battle order. The King led the rear guard. Their steady advance was thwarted by the softness of the ground forcing the men to the left. An argument erupted between Bishop Bek who led the fore and his lieutenant. The lieutenant, Bassett, wanted to do away with caution and he led the knights forward. Considering the condition of the ground, this was a rash movement and if the Scots had been luckier, Wallace would again have won a major battle. At first, things went as Wallace expected. He wanted the English to charge down the middle, which they did. They became bogged down in the mire and the Scots archers picked their targets. The second wave of cavalry met with more success until they reached the schiltrons. Wallace was, of course, in the midst of the battle, swinging his great sword. Arrows and spears fell all around him but none touched him. However, at this point, another act of treachery took place and the Scots horse abandoned the field the result of which the Scots bowmen were cut down. This second act of treachery would prove to turn the tide in favor of the English. However, the schiltrons held and the English could not get by them. Edward now took control of the situation, sounded the recall, and brought up his Welsh and Gascon bowmen, archers and slingers. Pounded with stones and being felled in droves with the accuracy and range of the archers and longbows, nonetheless they held. The Scots own archers fell to a man. Also, Grahame of Dundaff and the young Earl of Fife and other aristocrats who were loyal to Wallace fell. Gaps appeared in the ranks and the English charged through trampling men with their horses and hacking them to death with their long swords. The Scots resisted with desperation but hundreds died beneath the hooves of the cavalry. The remaining Scots were now fighting behind a wall of dead bodies. Wallace was forced by his loyal men to flee as his army died around him. No doubt many of his hopes for the country died at the same time. He was put on a horse but the horse was so wounded it could only carry him a short distance.
Edward had won this battle but the war was not yet over. Wallace never considered surrender and once again reverted to hiding and striking in guerilla fashion, keeping the defiance of the Scots alive, a flickering flame to be sure, but alive. This bitter day was filled with shame for the treachery that had taken place, but was also filled with pride for the way the Scots resisted.
The English fell back to the border, devastating the peoples and land as they went. Raid and counter-raid was the next phase of the war with the lowlands and the Borders laid waste. Wallace had been abandoned by the fickle Scots nobles and he was never able to build a sufficient army or power base to escalate the war. Soon after Falkirk he resigned his post as Guardian of Scotland. Comyn, de Soulis, Bruce and Lamberton became the Guardians. Wallace tried to enlist support for the Scots cause, even by going to France. But in 1305 (seven years after Falkirk) he was betrayed and taken by the English. Asked to repent and recant, he nevertheless was defiant to the end and he remains one of Scotlands greatest heroes. He was killed in a ruthless and merciless manner - hanged, castrated and disemboweled while living, drawn and quartered, his body hacked to bits, with pieces of it sent to the four corners of the kingdom as an example. His head was displayed on a pike in London. His offense was treason although he had never sworn fealty to Edward. But, he was considered too dangerous a man to let live.
Despite the loss of the battle, and what seemed to be the loss of the Scots freedom, other forces were in play, as we shall see in the Battle of Bannockburn. Although Wallace lost at Falkirk, due in large part to betrayal, he remains to this day a symbol of resistance to tyranny, loyalty to ones country, and a true hero to all peoples of the world.