The Scots open fire
As the English army advanced out of the Pallinsburn the Scottish artillery opened fire.Their inability to fully depress the barrels of their cannon and their slow rate of fire limited the effectiveness of
The English respond
When the English guns responded, for the first time in history they aimed not at Scottish soldiers but at Scottish artillery, engaging in what would later become known as counter-bombardment.The English guns were light and easily elevated so as to reach the Scottish guns.They fired at a higher rate of fire and soon put James’ artillery out of action.They then turned to the Scottish soldiers with devastating effect.
The Scots advance
As commander of the Scottish Army James IV had two main tasks: to choose the ground to fight on, and to issue the order to advance.The ‘Articles of Battaille’, the official English account written by the Lord Admiral on the day after the battle, tell us ‘the Scots advanced silently, in good order, German fashion.’ Around 4pm the command to advance was given by James and the Scottish left flank started down the hill.As the rear men in the left flank passed the front of the next unit (centre-left) the latter would start marching too, and so on.The Scots advanced in ‘echelon’, a diagonal line across the field.The aim was for the left flank to overwhelm the English right, then turn and attack along the English line so that the English would be fighting on two fronts.
The English engage
On the left, Hume and Huntly’s advance was successful, forcing the English right flank to retreat and placing its commander Edmund Howard under great pressure.To the east, the Scottish centre-left walked into a bog that could not be seen until they were standing in it. As this unit stalled, the English advanced and began a massacre of the bogged Scots.
It seems likely that James IV saw this, and departed his command position on the top of Branxton Hill, joining and taking command of the Scottish centre-right unit. His presence forced their advance through the bog where, exhausted, they met the English centre commanded by the Earl of Surrey. Heavy fighting ensued, in which James IV was killed.The Scottish right flank under Argyll and Lennox also became bogged and was overwhelmed by the forces of Stanley on the English left.
On the English right, Edmund Howard was relieved by the English reserve, led by Dacre. Hume and Huntly left the field,probably commanded to do so by James IV, to secure the potential line of retreat to the fords at Coldstream.