THE SEIGE OF DAMASCUS

Seige of Damascus

KING CONRAD III OF GERMANY

KING LOUIS VII OF FRANCE

 

 

 

 

Early in the year 1148 AD, the King's of Europe commissioned a second crusade to return to the holy lands and assist the Crusader’s still present there, with the struggle against the Muslim's. 

The naval fleet arrived on the Syrian coast at the port of Acre and disembarked 50,000 men (40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry). This force was under the command of two of Europe's great Kings, Conrad of Germany and Louis of France. Once assembled, the Crusader’s decided to send a very clear message of their arrival in the region by attacking the city of Damascus, by far the largest and wealthiest city in all of Syria.

The governor of Damascus one Muin Addin Unur was a shrewd and cunning commander, Unur had received word of the Crusader’s approach and made preparations to defend the city. Muslim positions in the surrounding area were fortified and all sources of water along the Crusader’s route were drained, blocked up or poisoned. 

As the Crusader’s approached the outskirts of Damascus, Unur opened the main gate and led out his army. At his disposal were regular Turkish troops, auxiliaries,  citizen militia and volunteers. In all some 30,000 men (26,000  infantry and 4,000 cavalry). Unur believed that his troops enthusiasm and high morale would make up for their lack of numbers against the professional Crusader army before them.

As Unur was attempting to form up his army, Conrad saw an opportunity to attack before the Muslim's were fully deployed. Taking command of the entire Crusader cavalry force, Conrad gave the order to attack. The 10,000 armored horseman thundered forward against the Muslim infantry, in response, Unur ordered his 4,000 cavalry  to counter attack, but they were still in the main column within in the city and had not yet reached the main gate

Unur tried desperately to form up his infantry to withstand the assault but it was to late, the Crusader cavalry had already slammed into the Muslim infantry, driving deep into their lines. Conrad then ordered his cavalry wings to fan out and complete the encirclement of the Muslim's. 

With his lead infantry element’s now under attack from all sides, Unur tried to save what was left of his force’s by retreating into the city and ordering the main gate closed, thus abandoning his infantry unit’s still out on the battlefield.

The Crusader’s showed the trapped Muslim’s little mercy, and took no prisoners, cutting them down to a man. When the slaughter was complete the Muslim’s had lost 6,000 infantry to a mere 500 Crusader cavalry.

 

Crusader Cavalry

CRUSADER CAVALRY

 

 

 

 

After their victory, the Crusader’s began to survey the situation before them. Damascus possessed a very deep moat with large thick walls surrounding the city, these defenses were too formidable for a direct assault. The Crusader’s decided to lay siege to the great city, and set too work building fortification’s and destroying all the secondary bridges. 

As the Crusader’s were setting up camp around the cities main gate. Unur launched a surprise predawn attack with his 5,000 Turkish regulars. The Crusader’s were caught completely by surprise and abandoned the bridge to the Muslim’s suffering 1,000 casualties. 

As the day continued, the Crusader’s launched repeated infantry assaults to retake the bridge. Without the support of their cavalry, the close quarter fighting would cost the Crusader’s 2,000 infantry against 500 of the elite Turkish troop’s. 

As night fell, the Crusader’s ceased their attack’s and were forced to leave the Muslim’s in possession of the bridge. In the confusion of the fighting, Unur managed to get word to the provincial governor of his situation. The governor immediately sent word to the neighboring provinces to send troops and relieve the stricken city.  The governor also released his personal army of 15,000 men (10,000 infantry and  5,000 cavalry) to march to Unur's aid.

As dawn broke the next day, the Crusader’s were awoken by Muslim cheers atop the city walls, for off in the distance, the dust cloud’s of the governor’s relief army were visible, having forced marched a distance of some twenty five miles in under a day. 

The Christian leadership knew these were enemy forces, fore they were the only European army on the peninsula. The Crusader’s were caught by surprise and had little time to construct defenses, Louis quickly assembled a force, taking command of 10,000 men (7,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry) and marched out from the camp to deal with the oncoming threat.

As Louis marched off, Unur launched another attack across the bridge. Possession of this prize was fiercely contested, drawing more infantry from both sides into the fight. Conrad now decided to set a trap for the Muslim’s by pulling his troops away from the bridge and luring the enemy out on the open plains.

 

Addin Unur Damascus

UNUR RECAPTURES THE BRIDGE

 

 

 

 

Believing the enemy to be retreating, Unur ordered his infantry across the moat to chase them down. As the Muslim’s began to reach the deserted Crusader camp, they stopped advancing and began to tear the area down in search of loot and plunder. Once the Muslim’s were out in the open, Conrad ordered his force’s to turn and attack.

The lightly armed Muslim’s were no match for the heavily armored European cavalry and were cut down in waves. Realizing his situation hopeless, Unur ordered his remaining troops back into the city and the gate closed. Once again the trapped Muslim infantry outside the gate’s were given no mercy, the troops atop the walls were forced to watch their comrades butchered, as they pleaded in vain for their lives. 

Unur's attack was very costly, he not only lost possession of the bridge but also 9,000 infantry including his elite Turkish storm troops. Conrad's forces lost 4,000 infantry and 500 cavalry. As this battle was drawing to an end Louis and his forces were about to engage the Muslim relief army.

Both commander’s placed their infantry in line, occupying a central position with cavalry formations protecting each flank. As the two armies faced one another across open desert and scorching heat, the two commander’s could not have been from too more different worlds. Louis was a veteran commander of the European wars, were as his Muslim counterpart Turcoman, owed his command of the Arabic army entirely to his wealth and family ties to the Governor. 

Louis strategy was to block the enemy advance and counter any moves made by the larger Muslim army towards Damascus. Turcoman's battle field inexperience now began to show as he hesitated to use his superior number’s to his advantage, instead choosing to await the Crusader’s first move. It wasn't until early evening that urged on by his subordinate commander’s, Turcoman finally gave the order to attack. 

Simultaneously both Muslim cavalry wings charged forward. Louis responded by launching his cavalry with the addition of foot archers in support. As the cavalry charges on both wings collided, the Crusader’s immediately struggled to hold the line. As fighting continued, it became apparent the Muslim’s were slowly gaining the  advantage and breaking through the ranks of the European cavalry. 

The foot archers in reserve, unleashed volleys of arrows into the pockets of Muslim cavalry breaking through the Crusader line’s inflicting heavy losses upon them, while preventing their complete breakthrough. As nightfall descended, both cavalry force’s had suffered appalling casualties, Louis believed he did not have sufficient cavalry to further support his infantry and decided to pull back under cover of darkness to the safety of the Crusader camp.

 

Muslim Cavalry Damascus

MUSLIM CAVALRY ENGAGE THE CRUSADERS

 

As Louis and his men approached the camp they became puzzled to find that their comrade’s had barricaded themselve’s within the entire area, when Louis reported in, he found the reason for the extra defences. 

Scouting reports had reached the Crusader’s that two Muslim armies numbering 60,000 men, were within a few days march and approaching their position. Added to this formidable force, remained the 15,000 troops still present within the city itself and the 12,000 provincial troops just outside the barricades. The situation seemingly  looked dire for the European Christian’s, who could field an army numbering only 37,000 men. 

Although still a powerful force, the Crusader’s found themselve’s practically surrounded and outnumbered by as much as three to one. The Christian leadership felt if they remained and gave battle, they would be wiped out, It was therefore decided the army was to withdrawal. At dawn the next day the Crusader’s began their retreat north, in an attempt to reach the safety of Byzantine controlled territory. 

The orderly retreat soon turned bloody, as Muslim force’s from the surrounding region’s constantly attacked and ambushed the European’s along path’s the Crusader’s believed to be safe, inflicting heavy casualtie’s upon them. Making the situation even more desperate, was that strong Muslim forces were also repeatedly attacking and defeating the Crusader rear guards. 

As the European’s approached the Byzantine province of Anatolia, the Muslim armies caught up with their force’s near the plains of Dorylaeum, and badly mauled them. After the long retreat, the remaining Crusader’s which reached Constantinople, numbered a mere 10,000 men.

 

 

 

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