Given the overwhelming odds against them, with just
3,000 troops to match a Scottish raiding force of perhaps as many as
18,000, one might have expected the English to withdraw behind the
defences of Carlisle and prepare for a siege. But the English commander,
Wharton, was an experienced, skilled and confidant leader and he preferred
open battle. Trusting to his lancers, he led out his troops from Carlisle
to confront the Scots, who were pillaging and burning through the
'debatable lands', which lay along the border immediately beyond the river
The battle of Solway Moss was over almost as soon as it had begun. The
vastly superior numbers of the Scottish forces should have made short work
of the English army. But lack of cohesion amid the Scottish leaders,
combined with skilful use of troops and topography on the part of the
English, led to a humiliating Scottish defeat.
A report of
George Douglas of Pittendreich who was not present, and some later
chronicle accounts say that in the absence of Maxwell, Oliver Sinclair,
James V's favourite, declared himself to be James's chosen commander.
According to this account of battle, the other commanders refused to
accept his command and the command structure disintegrated. According to
George Douglas, in his delirium he lamented the capture of his banner and
Oliver Sinclair at Solway Moss more than his other losses.
Amongst those taken prisoner was
Sir James Douglas, 7th of
Three weeks later on 14
December 1542 James V died leaving the two week old Mary as Queen.
The area of Arthuret Howe and Arthuret Hill, where the English forces
faced the Scots, remains largely undeveloped agricultural land. However,
the character of the landscape has changed considerably with the process
of enclosure and the draining of the large alluvial floodplain between the
hamlet of Arthuret and the River Esk. The development of the town of
Longtown in the eighteenth century at the crossing of the Esk has
dramatically altered the northern end of the battlefield, while a modern
road and a disused railway also cross the battlefield. There is no
monument and the interpretation panel, beside the road close to Arthret
church, is unfortunately of little value, but access is possible by the
three roads that cross the battlefield and by public footpaths.