University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Wolff, R. L.; Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The later Crusades, 1189-1311

XI: The Fifth Crusade,   pp. 376-428 PDF (20.5 MB)

Page 426

exploit to that which the Moslems carried out against Louix IX some years
later, leads one to assume that on this occasion also the enemy ships were
disassembled and transported "on the backs of camels to the canal of al-Mahallah",
where they were launched and then brought secretly into the Nile.176 In this
manner the Moslems were able to block the water route between Damietta and
the Christian camp, not only cutting off supplies, but destroying or capturing
many vessels. 
 This was a staggering and unexpected blow to the plans of Pelagius. After
numerous consultations with the leaders of the army, he was compelled to
order a speedy retreat towards Damietta. Meanwhile the Moslems, employing
a pontoon bridge across al-Bahr as-Saghir, were able to send considerable
numbers of land forces to the rear of the Christian army, blocking their
retreat. On August 26 the crusaders endeavored to retreat to Baramun by night,
but their careless burning of tents and baggage and the great activity in
their camp revealed their plan. Many crusaders also, reluctant to sacrifice
their supplies of wine, endeavored to consume what they could not carry,
drinking themselves into a stupor and falling easy captive to the enemy.
Meanwhile the sultan ordered the cutting of the dikes, thus blocking the
last hope of escape. In the vicinity of Baramun the country had been so flooded
that retreat and fighting were alike impossible. Helpless and desperate,
Pelagius implored king John of Jerusalem, whose advice thus far he had so
stubbornly ignored, to extricate the army from this impossible situation.177
 But the army was hopelessly trapped. Even when the king endeavored to form
a battle line, rather "to die bravely in battle than to perish ignominiously
in the flood", the sultan, seeing that the Christian army could be destroyed
by flood and famine, refused to do battle. Nothing remained to the crusaders
but to sue for peace. William of Gibelet was chosen as emissary, authorized
to offer the restoration of Damietta in return for the freedom of the Christian
army to withdraw. The sultan al-K√£mil favored the acceptance of the
proposal, but his brothers urged the complete annihilation of the invaders.
The sultan knew that the city of Damietta was still garrisoned, and that
the crusaders had strengthened its fortifications. But a still more important
consideration, as the Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi points out, was the probability
that reinforcements, 
 176 Al-Maqrizi, "Histoire d'Egypte," ROL, IX (1902), 481, 491; and XI (1908),
223. On the later incident, see below, chapter XIV, p. 502. 
177 Eracles (RHC, 0cc., II), p. 351. 

Go up to Top of Page