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Battle of Hattin

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Author Topic: Battle of Hattin  (Read 3167 times)
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« on: September 23, 2007, 04:18:55 am »

The battle

The crusaders began their march from Sephoria on July 3. Raymond led the vanguard; Guy the main army; and Balian, Raynald, and the military orders made up the rearguard. The crusaders were almost immediately under harassment from the Muslim skirmishers on horseback.

By noon on that day the Frankish army had reached a spring at the village of Turan some six miles from Sephoria. Here, according to Saladin, "The hawks of the Frankish infantry and the eagle of their cavalry hovered around the water."

It was still nine miles to Tiberias. Therefore, with only a half day of marching time remaining, any attempt to leave this sure water source to seek that objective the same day, all while under the constant attack of Saladinís army, would be foolhardy. (In 1182 the Frankish army had only advanced 8 miles in a full day in face of the enemy and in 1183 Guy had managed but six miles in a similar situation, taking a full day.) But, as Saladin wrote, "Satan incited Guy to do what ran counter to his purpose." That is, for unknown reasons, Guy set out that very afternoon, marching his army forward, seeming to head for Tiberias.

It was a fatal mistake. When Saladin arrived from the taking of Tiberias, and after the Frankish army left Turan, the Muslims began their attack in earnest. Saladin sent the two wings of his army around the Frankish force and seized the spring at Turan, thus blocking the Frankish line of retreat. This maneuver would give Saladin his victory.

In the ensuing struggle the Frankish rearguard was forced to a halt by continuous attacks, thus halting the whole army on the plateau. The crusaders were thus forced to make camp surrounded by the Muslims. They now had no water nor any hope of receiving supplies or reinforcements.

Behe ad-Din summarizes the situation of the Frankish army:

They were closely beset as in a noose, while still marching on as though being driven to death that they could see before them, convinced of their doom and destruction and themselves aware that the following day they would be visiting their graves.
On the morning of July 4 the crusaders were blinded by smoke from fires that Saladinís forces had set to add to the Frankish armyís misery, through which the Muslim cavalry pelted them with 400 loads of arrows that had been brought up during the night. Gerard and Raynald advised Guy to form battle lines and attack, which was done by Guy's brother Amalric. Raymond led the first division with Raymond of Antioch, the son of Bohemund III of Antioch, while Balian and Joscelin III of Edessa formed the rearguard. While this was being arranged, five of Raymond's knights defected to Saladin and told them of the dire situation in the crusader camp.

Thirsty and demoralized, the crusaders broke camp and changed direction for the springs of Hattin, but their ragged approach was attacked by Saladin's army which blocked the route forward and any possible retreat. Count Raymond launched two charges in an attempt to break through to the water supply at the Sea of Galilee. The second of these saw him cut off from the main army and forced to retreat. Most of the crusader infantry had effectively deserted by moving on to the Horns of Hattin. Guy attempted to pitch the tents again to block the Muslim cavalry, but without infantry protection the knights' horses were cut down by Muslim archers and the cavalry was forced to fight on foot. Then they too retreated to the Horns.

Now the crusaders were surrounded and, despite three desperate charges on Saladin's position, were eventually defeated. An eyewitness account of this is given by Saladinís son, al-Afdal. It is quoted by Ibn al-Athir:

When the King [Guy] reached the hill with that company, they launched a savage charge against the Muslims opposite them, forcing them to retreat to my father [Saladin]. I looked to him and saw that he had turned ashen pale in his distress and had grasped his beard. . . . Then the Muslims returned to the attack against the Franks and they went back up the hill. When I saw them retreating with the Muslims in pursuit, I cried out in joy: "We have beaten them." But the Franks charged again as they had done before and drove the Muslims up to my father. He did what he had done before and the Muslims turned back against them and forced them back up the hill. I cried out again: "We have beaten them." My father turned to me and said: "Be silent. We shall not defeat them until that tent [Guyís] falls." As Saladin spoke these words, the red tent of the King fell.
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