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)
474 A HISTORY OF THE CRUSADES II 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.
Copyright 1969 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved. Use of this material falling outside the purview of "fair use" requires the permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. To buy the paperback book, see: http://www.wisc.edu/wisconsinpress/books/1733.htm