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“Third Crusade” 820th Anniversary Series: Richard Defends Saladin’s Counterattack at Jaffa with a Minimal Force August 5, 2012

Posted by rwf1954 in crusades, history, Jaffa, Jerusalem, medieval period, Middle Ages, Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, the crusades, third crusade.
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(This post is the 62nd of what will be approximately 70 posts following 820th anniversary highlights of what history now calls the “Third Crusade.” My novel, The Swords of Faith, tells the story of this legendary clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.) 

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After his amazing recapture of Jaffa a few days before with a meager force of attackers, Richard set up camp outside the demolished defenses and waited for Henry of Champagne to arrive with more forces. In the meantime, Richard welcomed envoys from Saladin—peace again was on the table. But again, no settlement could be reached. Saladin’s envoys reported to him, describing Richard’s insufferable boasting of how he had driven the Muslims away from Jaffa in his bare feet, unmounted. But they also detected weariness in Richard, and in the small force at Jaffa. Saladin knew immediately what to do—attack, before reinforcements arrived, before rest could restore strength. Saladin’s attack, 820 years ago today, would lead to a second battle for Jaffa, a battle that would serve to restore and magnify the legend surrounding Richard the Lionheart as a great Christian warrior.

An Italian sentry detected the approach in the early morning hours. Saladin’s men were coming. A headlong assault was imminent. Richard flew into action. He set pikes pointed at about forty-five degree angles, calculated to slice into charging horses’ bellies. He set shields next to the pikes, with crossbowmen ready to fire from behind shields. They would work in pairs, to keep a constant stream of bolts coming from each station. He had only a few horses available. Those would be held for charges at just the right moment. With Richard’s small numbers, the position still looked vulnerable. Saladin knew there would be casualties, but with superior numbers, he figured he could overrun Richard’s small combat force. Charge after charge failed to dislodge the Christians. While Muslims took high casualties, Christian defenders took very few. Some of this was because Saladin’s forces were unenthusiastic about the attacks, especially after casualties mounted. Later in the battle, some refused to attack. Days before, Saladin had dealt roughly with looters at Jaffa, unhappy that his troops were grabbing their own booty while resistance in the city continued, and he was trying to negotiate a complete surrender. Some of these men suggested Saladin’s slave soldier/mamluks, the parties who had enforced Saladin’s decree against looters, should make these headlong charges into crossbow bolts. As the attacks of Saladin’s forces decreased in intensity, the Christians mounted their own cavalry charges, with Richard leading the way. At one point, Richard was unhorsed and surrounded by Saladin’s warriors. Like a whirlwind, Richard slashed and chopped his way free, long enough to be rescued by a fellow knights and whisked back to behind the shield wall. Legend has it that Saladin was so impressed with Richard’s courageous performance that he sent Richard a replacement horse. (I personally find this hard to believe, but this is what the chronicles say.) The battle ended with Richard, on his replacement horse racing up and down the Muslim lines, daring someone to come out and do battle with him. None did. But in essence, this legendary victory against stifling odds simply held the position. 

Previous 820th Anniversary Posts:

July 4th – The 820th Anniversary of the Launch of the “Third Crusade”

October 4th – Richard the Lionheart Sacks Messina

November 3rd – Queen Sibylla Dies

November 11th – Richard the Lionheart Signs a Treaty with King Tancred of Sicily

November 15th – Queen Isabella’s Marriage to Humphrey of Toron is Annulled

November 19th – Archbishop of Canterbury Dies

November 24th – Conrad of Montferrat Marries Queen Isabella

December 25th – Richard the Lionheart Feasts at Christmas

December 31st – Shipwreck at Acre; Muslim Defenders Lose Resupply

January 5th – A Wall Comes Down, Presenting an Opportunity

January 20th – Frederick of Swabia Dies; Leopold of Austria Becomes Top-Ranked German Royalty at Acre

February 2nd – A Playful “Joust” Gets Out of Hand in Sicily

February 13th – Saladin’s Forces Relieve the Garrison at Acre

March 3rd – Richard the Lionheart Settles the Alice Marriage Controversy—Sort Of

March 30th – Philip II Leaves Sicily; Berengeria Arrives

April 10th – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Sicily for “Outremer”

April 20th – Philip II of France Lands at Acre

April 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Lands at Rhodes After His Fleet Scatters

May 1st – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Rhodes to Rescue His Sister and Fiancée

May 8th – Richard the Lionheart and His Troops Storm Limassol

May 11th – Crusaders Opposed to Conrad Visit Richard the Lionheart on Cyprus

May 12th – Richard the Lionheart Marries Princess Berengeria

May 30th – Fighting Intensifies at Acre

June 5th – Richard Leaves Famagusta for the Eastern Mediterranean Coast/Saladin Moves his Camp

June 6th – Richard the Lionheart Refused Admittance to Tyre

June 8th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives at Acre

June 11th – Saladin’s Relief Ship Sinks

June 25th – Conrad of Montferrat Leaves Acre; Saladin’s Receives Reinforcements

July 12th – Acre Surrenders

July 31st – Philip II of France Makes a Promise and Leaves for Home

August 2nd – Envoys Discuss Acre Surrender Terms

August 11th – Date for the First Installment of the Acre Ransom Ends in Stalemate

August 20th – Richard the Lionheart Orders the Executions of the Acre Hostages

August 22nd – Richard the Lionheart Leaves Acre to Move South Toward Jerusalem

September 5th – Richard the Lionheart Meets with Saladin’s Brother al-Adil

September 7th – Christian Forces Win the Battle of Arsuf

September 11th – Saladin Gives the Command to Dismantle Ascalon

Sepember 29th – Saladin’s Troops Nearly Take Richard the Lionheart Prisoner

October 20th – Richard the Lionheart Proposes that His Sister Marry Saladin’s Brother al-Adil

November 1st – Saladin Learns of the Death of his Nephew Taqi al-Din

November 8th – Al-Adil Hosts a Banquet for Richard the Lionheart

November 11th – Saladin’s Council Discusses Recent Negotiations with Western Christian Factions

December 12th – Saladin Falls Back to Jerusalem

December 28th – Richard the Lionheart Moves Into the Judean Hills Unopposed

January 3rd – Richard the Lionheart Moves to Within Twelve Miles of Jerusalem

January 6th – Richard the Lionheart Orders a Retreat

January 20th – Richard the Lionheart Decides to Move on Ascalon

February 20th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives in Acre to Make Peace Between Christian Factions

March 20th – Al-Adil Brings Serious Peace Offer to Richard the Lionheart

April 5th – French Army Leaves the “Crusade” After Easter Feast

April 20th – Conrad of Montferrat Is Designated Undisputed King of Jerusalem

April 28th – Conrad of Montferrat Is Assassinated in Tyre

May 5th – Henry of Champagne Becomes the New King of Jerusalem Designate

May 23rd – Richard the Lionheart Takes Darum

June 7th – Western Christian Forces Start Out from Ascalon for Jerusalem

June 11th – Richard the Lionheart Arrives at Beit-Nuba; Saladin Waits in Jerusalem

June 24th – Richard the Lionheart’s Forces Take a Huge Caravan Bringing Supplies to Saladin

July 1st – Saladin Holds a War Council in Jerusalem

July 4th – Richard the Lionheart Withdraws a Second Time Before Besieging Jerusalem

July 27th – Saladin Moves from Jerusalem to Attack Jaffa

July 31st – Richard Storms the Beaches at Jaffa with a Minimal Force

To review a comprehensive catalog of historical fiction set during the medieval time period, go to http://www.medieval-novels.com:80/.

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