Sir William Wallace, a Scottish patriot, born about 1270, executed at Smithfield, Aug. 23, 1305. He was of Anglo-Norman descent, the younger son of Sir Malcolm Wallace, knight of Ellerslie. While at the high school in Dundee, in an altercation he stabbed the son of the English governor of Dundee castle, and fled. For some time he was an outlaw in the fastnesses of the southern highlands; and his accomplishments, personal prowess, and bravery drew around him a considerable number of followers, including several men of note. After the insurrection broke out in 1297, he attacked the English justiciary holding court at Scone, took many prisoners, and killed many more. At the same time Sir William Douglas and others of his adherents surprised and compelled the surrender of the English garrisons in the castles of Durisdeer and Sanquhar. Edward I. sent into Scotland an army of 40,000 men with a small cavalry troop, under Sir Henry Percy and Sir Robert Clifford. The Scottish force had assembled at Lochmaben, and on the approach of the English a night attack was made by Wallace, who was forced to fall back toward Irvine in Ayrshire. Dissensions arose among the chiefs in the Scottish army, and a treaty was agreed upon.
Wallace and Murray of Bothwell alone of the leaders protested, and retired into the northern counties, where they speedily recruited a powerful force, and surprised and captured the English garrisons at Aberdeen, Dunnottar, Forfar, and Montrose. Wallace had begun the siege of Dundee, when he heard of the advance of a powerful English army toward the river Forth in the direction of Stirling. He at once abandoned the siege, and, recruiting as he went, reached Stirling with 40,000 foot and 180 horse. The English, 50,000 foot and 1,000 horse, were under the command of the earl of Surrey. Several titled deserters from the Scottish army, who were with Surrey, were deputed to persuade Wallace to capitulate, a free pardon being offered unconditionally in the name of the English king. The terms were rejected, and a large portion of Surrey's force crossed the river and fought the great battle of Cambuskenneth or Stirling bridge, Sept. 10, 1297. From their advantageous position Wallace's men drove them back and pursued them to the border town of Berwick. King Edward's forces were almost completely cut to pieces, and Wallace, by general consent, in the absence of the lawful monarch (John, then in the tower of London), was declared guardian of the kingdom of Scotland. A severe famine following suggested the invasion of the northern counties of England. Wallace laid waste the country from the borders to Newcastle, and returned with his spoils, to attempt an organization of Scotland. Meanwhile Edward had raised an army of 80,000 infantry and 7,000 horse.
A portion of this force landed by sea on the N. E. coast, and suffered a partial reverse; but the main body advanced northward from the border, and on July 22, 1298, came up with the Scottish forces near Falkirk, where a decisive engagement was fought, in which the army of Wallace was defeated with a loss, according to various historians, of 15,000. For several years after this Wallace carried on a guerilla warfare, and he also went to Paris to secure French intervention. In February, 1304, he was declared an outlaw. Large rewards were offered by Edward for his arrest, and he was ultimately betrayed by Sir John Menteith. The day after his arrival in London the form of a trial was gone through in Westminster hall; the prisoner, in derision of his pretensions to the throne of Scotland,. being decorated with a crown of laurel. He was condemned to death, and the same day dragged at the tails of horses to West Smithfield, and there hung, drawn, and quartered. His head was set upon London bridge, and his limbs were exposed at Newcastle, Berwick, Perth, and Stirling.