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Timeline of Scottish History

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Battle of Largs

On the shore, at this time, was a body of nine hundred Norwegians, commanded by three principal leaders; two hundred men occupied in advance a small hill which rises behind the village of Largs, and the rest of the troops were drawn up on the beach. With the advance also was the king, whom, as the main battle of the Scots approached, his officers anxiously entreated to row out to his fleet, and send them farther reinforcements. Haco, for some time, pertinaciously insisted on remaining on shore; but as he became more and more exposed, the barons would not consent to this, and at last prevailed on him to return in his barge to his fleet at the Cumrays. The Van of the Scottish army now began to skirmish with the advance of the Norwegians, and greatly outnumbering them, pressed on both flanks with so much fury, that, afraid of being surrounded and cut to pieces, they began a retreat, which soon changed into a flight. At this critical moment, when everything depended on Haco's returning with additional forces before the main body of the Scots had time to charge his troops on the beach, a third storm came on, which completed the ruin of the Norwegian fleet, already shattered by the former furious gales.

This cut off all hopes of landing a reinforcement, and they were completely routed. Indeed, without a miracle, it could not have been otherwise. The main body of the Scots far outnumbered the force of the Norwegians; and their advance, under Ogmund, flying back in confusion, threw into disorder the small squadrons which were drawn up on the beach. Many of these attempted to save themselves, by leaping into their boats and pushing off from land; others endeavoured to defend themselves in the transport which had been stranded; and, between the anger of the elements, the ceaseless showers of missile weapons from the enemy, and the impossibility of receiving succour from the fleet, their army was greatly distressed. Their leaders, too, began to desert them; and their boats became overloaded and went down.The Norwegians were now driven along the shore, but they constantly rallied, and behaved with their accustomed national bravery. Some had placed themselves in and round the stranded vessels; and while the main body retreated slowly, and in good order, a conflict took place beside the ships, where Piers de Curry, a Scottish knight, was encountered and slain. Curry appears to have been a person of some note, for he and the Steward of Scotland are the only Scottish soldiers whose names have come down to us as acting a principal part upon this occasion. His death is minutely described in the Norwegian Chronicle. Gallantly mounted, and splendidly armed, his helmet and coat of mail being inlaid with gold, Sir Piers rode fearlessly up to the Norwegian line, attempting, in the chivalrous style of the times, to provoke an encounter.

In this he was soon satisfied; for a Norwegian, who conducted the retreat, irritated by his defiance, engaged him in single combat; and after a short resistance, killed him by a blow which severed his thigh from his body, the sword cutting through the cuisses of his armour, and penetrating to his saddle.* A conflict now took place round the body of this young knight, the plunder of whose rich armour the retreating Norwegians could not resist; their little square was thrown into confusion; and, as the Scots pressed on, the slaughter became great. Haco, a Norse baron, and near in blood to the king, was slain, along with many others of the principal leaders; and the Norwegians would have been entirely cut to pieces, if they had not at last succeeded in bringing a reinforcement from the fleet, by landing their boats through a tremendous surf.

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