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

XIII: The Crusade of Theobald of Champagne and Richard of Cornwall, 1239-1241,   pp. 463-486 PDF (13.4 MB)

Page 474

for its easy moral standards. Theobald was a poet and had in his train two
fellow rhymers, Ralph of Nesle, younger brother of count John of Soissons,
and Philip of Nànteuil. Peter was probably not a poet himself, but
he was a patron and friend of poets. The town was full of noble ladies such
as Alice of Champagne, daughter of count Henry by Isabel, queen of Jerusalem.
The widow of king Hugh I of Cyprus, she had been briefly married to Bohemond
V, prince of Antioch and count of Tripoli. Before the crusade was over she
was to marry Ralph of Nesle. Although Theobald composed a poem bemoaning
his absence from his lady, it seems likely that local consolation was available.14
Certainly the ordinary knights whose funds were rapidly being spent were
impatient at the leisureliness of their noble leaders.15 
 On November 2, 1239, the host left Acre on its march towards Ascalon. There
were some 4,000 knights, of whom more than half were supplied by the local
barons and the military orders. Like most crusading armies it was short of
horses and provisions. Apparently the sultan of Damascus had learned that
the crusaders planned to lay siege to his capital, and ordered his vassal
chieftains to bring supplies to the city. On the second day after leaving
Acre, Peter of Dreux learned that a large convoy of edible animals bound
for Damascus was passing within striking distance. The army's need for supplies
and probably his own desire for action and glory moved Peter to decide to
intercept the convoy. As he was unwilling to share either the glory or the
booty, he did not mention his plan to his fellow barons. Late that evening
he left camp with a force of two hundred knights and mounted sergeants. At
dawn they reached the castle where the convoy had spent the night. Apparently
there were two possible routes from the castle toward Damascus. Hence Peter
divided his forces. A party under the poet Ralph of Nesle lay in ambush on
one road while Peter himself watched the other. At sunrise the Moslems left
their stronghold and took the road held by Peter's party. When their leader
found that he was intercepted by a force smaller than his own, he decided
to give battle rather than risk the loss of his convoy by retreating to the
castle. Peter had taken up a position where the road emerged from a narrow
defile. This gave him a great tactical advantage. By catching his lightly
armed foes in a narrow place, he had robbed them of their chief asset, speed
of maneuver. The Moslem leader sent forward his archers in the hope of holding
off the French knights until his 
14 Joseph Bedier, Let Chansons de croisade (Paris, 1909), pp. 197—206.
15 Ibid., pp. 229-234. 

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