Hattin: Trapping A Victory Essay, Research Paper
On June 26, 1187, the Muslim Sultan Saladin crossed the river Jordan with 20,000 of his followers ? an army consisting of roughly 12,000 light horsemen and a number of footmen to a location south of the Sea of Galilee where he and his men encamped. They had been ravaging the nearby countryside in hopes of provoking a Christian attack, but had been unsuccessful.The Frankish Christians led by King Guy in Jerusalem had also mobilized their own army and camped at the spring at Saffuriyah . Marshall W. Baldwin says that the Franks too had an army 20,000 strong, but it was different in composition. The ?Latins?, as they are called, were a cavalry of 1,200 heavily armored knights, 3,500 lightly armored, mounted sergeants, several thousand foot soldiers, as well as a large number of native auxiliaries as mounted bowmen .Between the two great forces (the largest memorable, Christian gathering in years) lay an arid terrain; the hot summer sun made travel extremely difficult, especially for large numbers. One could easily expect fatigue, dehydration, and low morale when venturing to the east of Saffuriyah until reaching the Sea of Galilee. Strategists of each side knew the consequences of traveling across the region and so, ?the waiting game? was played to see who would be the one to be provoked into a trap through the valleys. Although Saladin had unified large sections of the Muslim world, his army was still not a standing one. The crusaders counted on the fact that Saladin would have trouble holding his army together for a long period of time because his soldiers were not full-time warriors. Many were also tradesmen or farmers that easily disbanded when there was no action to get back home .Saladin knew his situation and continually harassed the area of Tiberias in failed attempts to provoke the Christians into leaving Saffuriyah, until he decided on July, 2 to besiege the city itself. He moved the majority of his troops to the high ground west of Tiberias. From this location, the Muslims could block entrance to the city while still accessing water supplies from the Sea of Galilee through the eastern side of the ridge. Tiberias was poorly fortified and Saladin?s well ? supplied forces had no trouble entering its walls. Residents of the city took refuge in the citadel, including the wife of Count Raymond of Tripoli who urgently sent west for help.Upon receipt of Eschive?s distress call, there was great commotion among the Christian camp and a leadership council was called. James A. Brundage argues that many of the council were in favor of a counter-attack on Saladin?s troops, claiming that ?they all advised that at dawn they should march out, accompanied by the Lord?s Cross, ready to fight the enemy, with all the men armed and arrayed in battle formation . However, the best strategists of the Frankish army were not ?proud-bouncing?, battle hungry fools. They realized that they could not move easily over the terrain to Tiberias and many of them immediately agreed with Count Raymond of Tripoli . Despite that it was his wife under attack, Raymond urged King Guy of Jerusalem to stay at Saffuriyah where there was plenty of water and provisions were accessible. He persuaded the King to hold the favorable position and wait for the Muslim Saracens to come to him. It was thought that perhaps if the Muslims took Tiberias, they would be proud and cross the arid lands to Saffuriyah where they could be crushed easily . Raymond?s words were sensible, advising that ?Saladin might destroy the walls of the town, but these could be rebuilt; he might take captive [my] wife and men, but these could be recovered?do not endanger the Kingdom by endangering the field army; let Tiberias go; remain here at Saffuriyah? .Despite Brundage?s ideas, other less biased sources speak of only one knight at the war council who was anti-Raymond ? Gerard de Ridefort, leader of the Templars. Various historians argue over what exactly caused King Guy to stray from his initial inclination to stay at Saffuriyah. A most probable theory comes from Baldwin, who claims that late that night after the council, Gerard spoke with the King in private. According to Baldwin, Gerard said that Raymond was a traitor, and also implied that should the King ?relinquish the city without a blow?, he was a coward . Almost all sources tell how Guy was a weak-minded King and was therefore easily influenced by Gerard. What is also important to note is that Gerard and Raymond had long been rivals. Gerard disliked Raymond and therefore was more concerned with his personal agenda then the well being of the Kingdom. In addition, R.C. Smail claims that ?before their reconciliation a few weeks before, Raymond had been Guy?s enemy and Rival? . By taking this viewpoint, it can be seen that Raymond was looking to disgrace Guy on his first major campaign as King. However, what Smail fails to mention is the reason for which Raymond reconciled with Guy. Baldwin tells of how on May first of 1187, a raid took place in which many Christian Templars were killed. The Kingdom could not ?afford the loss in manpower and morale and upon hearing the news, Raymond willingly ended his disputes with Guy in an effort to save the Kingdom . Smail?s theory is harder to grasp also because looking at the army that marched, who was leading the vanguard but Raymond? It would not have been wise for Guy to place Raymond to lead his ?first major campaign? had they been such great rivals; doing so would have put the effort at risk from the start. Why would Guy make the decision to allow Raymond to lead his vanguard if they were enemies? Custom would not have been sufficient reason alone15. It was possible though that Guy was compelled to answer the call of a Lady in need and that is why he was so easily swayed to march. Whatever it was that Gerard said to the King on the night of July, 2 worked because the next morning (July, 3), Guy stubbornly gave the order to march to his confused followers.When Saladin heard that the Christians were heading his way, he was thrilled and removed his forces from Tiberias to set up for the attack, spreading is troops along the surrounding hillside. This was the turn of events that Saladin had hoped for; his plan had worked and the Franks would be at a disadvantage, marching through the heat without water or supply.Using his mobile horse archers, Saladin harassed the crusader forces as they marched. His archers were quick enough that they could use the hit-and-run tactic that the Muslims were famous (or notorious depending on your vantagepoint) for. The Christians had no real way of counter-attacking, for their army was not well equipped to handle hit-and-run attacks. In fact, the Latin army was more of a European style; they were used to marching their armies onto a field and charging at each other with their various units ? most effective being the heavy cavalry. The main problem with this was that there was no one for the heavy cavalry to charge at because the light Muslim horse archers were not a stationary target, such as an infantry unit. The Saracens did not venture close to the crusaders either, making it difficult for the Christian infantry to do any damage. The only way the Franks may have been able to effectively attack back at the Muslims were if they were to use their own archers ? longbowmen. However, the problem was that the bowmen had no mass target to aim at and in order to fire, they would have needed to be stationary themselves. Unfortunately for the crusaders, their army was not one that performed well on the march16. Saladin knew this and used it to his advantage. All that the crusaders could do was ignore their losses and press on. The Muslims repeated their tactic again and again; they would empty their quivers into the crusader army, then return for more arrows and repeat the attack. Joshua Prower offers an excellent construction of the formation of the crusader army and it?s problems on the march:The mounted knights were preceded and probably flanked also by archers and crossbowmen, as well as by units of Turcoples, mounted archers who fought like the Saljuq or Turkish contingents. The heavy cavalry were the weakest point of the army when faced with Muslim troops far more mobile than their own. The enemy?s mounted archers could shoot from well outside the range of Crusader spears and lances and thus avoid a frontal encounter with the Frankish cavalry. Once a Frankish horse was hit, the Crusader was at the mercy of the Muslim bowmen. Against their dense rain of arrows there were only Crusader foot-archers. Since they preceded and flanked the cavalry, they prescribed the rhythm of the march and, by slowing it down, made the Franks an easier target17.By the time the crusaders reached the mid-way point to Tiberias at Marescallia, they were exhausted. The rearguard, led by the Templars, had been badgered since the morning by Muslim horse archers and was trailing behind. Realizing this, Raymond stopped and King Guy tried to rally his troops. He discussed the situation with other leaders of the army and decided that there was no way that they would be able to make it the seventeen kilometers to the Sea of Galilee by nightfall18. Instead, a new route for water was planned to a spring located just outside the town of Hattin. In order to reach it, the crusaders would have to risk journeying through a narrow pass between two hills called ?The Horns of Hattin?. The movement would be a gamble, but it was a chance that they had to take; the spring, although through the Horns, was only five kilometers19 from their camp. They pressed on, attacked every step by the same tactic used by the Muslims from the start. Saladin saw the direction of the crusaders, he quickly moved his troops to intercept them at Marescallia. When the Franks began to march from the main road, a state of frenzy enveloped the army. The fast riding cavalry charged onward, leaving the footmen and bowmen to fend off their attackers at the flank20. When they approached the Muslim army awaiting them, the knights attempted to charge through the lines with their lances and onward to Hattin behind the enemy, but failed. The Muslims held and the knights found themselves surrounded by the enemy to the front, to each side and also enclosing to the rear, following the slow-moving footmen.King Guy saw that his men would not reach the spring that day and ordered his troops to set up camp in hopes of rallying them. The outcome of such a decision would cost the crusaders dearly. Guy has been continually criticized for ordering camp on July 3, but in reality he had no choice. His men were obviously tired and there was little hope that they would break the Muslim line.Just before nightfall, Saladin moved a large number of his troops to the Horns of Hattin and spread them out to await the crusader march the next day. From this post, Saladin had control of the Christian?s goal and was able to use the spring at Hattin to supply his own troops once again. That night, his Muslims pestered the tired and thirsty Christians continually with arrows. The Muslims were rejoicing their anticipated victory as they were re-supplied from the Sea of Galilee. They saw the state of their adversary and knew that the morale of the Franks was low. Adding to their attacks of arrows, they sang and shrieked to make their presence known ? to strike fear into the hearts of their Christian rivals.Saturday, July 4, 1187 is a landmark date to the study of the crusades. It was a day of victory for one, and of sorrow for the other. The Christians found that they could no longer retreat and were trapped; for them, it was the beginning of the end. Saladin used his main army and attacked the Templars at the crusader?s flank. While the Templars defended bravely, they were overrun as the main body of Christians pressed on toward Hattin, leaving the rearguard behind without support. The crusaders developed a strategy for combat in which the success depended on the cooperation of both the knights and footmen to help each other for protection. They attempted to march their units in a formation where the infantry would guard the knights from arrow attacks with their shields, and the knights would fend off an enemy charge to the infantry with their lances. While the tactic was well possible, it failed on impact. The tired footmen routed when they came under heavy attack, scattering up the hills to the right and left. Most were slaughtered, leaving the knights extremely vulnerable21. King Guy once again ordered camp in hopes of rallying his men, but to no avail.There was complete chaos among the perishing Christians and Raymond attempted one last charge at the Muslim blockade. Instead of breaking through the line however, the Saracens quickly maneuvered and the Raymond charged straight through the center of the line without inflicting a wound22. As a result, the crusader morale diminished and many of those charging knights ran on in retreat. In hopes of tying up his victory, and making use of the favorable winds, Saladin then set fire to the grass surrounding the remaining Latin forces. From their view, the crusaders could see nothing but dense smoke as arrows rained in from overhead. The losses were great and the Christians lost their Holy Cross, which had been their spiritual inspiration, to Muslim capture. The battle was over when Saladin ordered his final advance. Few Christians escaped as thousands were captured or killed. In general, the knights were treated honorably by their conquerors and with the exception of the Templars, who were executed for their fanatical views, many were later released. The infantry on the other hand, were treated quite differently as many were either slaughtered on the spot or sold into slavery. Baldwin proves this by pointing out that ?a significant observation made by one Moslem chronicler gives further evidence that the separation of the infantry from the cavalry had been decisive. He noticed that although scarcely a horse was left alive, few of the heavily armed knights were injured?23.The Christians, who should have won a conflict against Saladin, were outwitted and defeated. According to Baldwin, they were led into a trap because of ?personal and political animosities particularly on the part of Gerard de Ridefort?24. Had King Guy not been persuaded to move from Saffuriyah, there might never have been a Hattin at all. Likewise, credit must be given to Saladin, whose military tactic and planning at the expense of crusader foolishness helped him to gain the upper hand. Saladin had been victorious the minute that the Christians left their water and supply, leaving themselves defenseless and unequipped. The Latin army, for the first half of the campaign, fought an enemy on the march ? something they were not prepared to do. The Franks had fallen for the trap through the arid lands that they had hoped would be used on the Muslims. Everything that could have gone wrong with the crusader campaign did. It was only a matter of time before Saladin?s victory; it was just a question of how long the Christians would hold out and where. As Baldwin notes: ?This is the tragic significance of Hattin. It was a battle that perhaps need not have been fought and certainly should not have been lost?25. It was a clear case of military strategy at its best; obviously not on the part of the crusaders, but by their adversary. It was not long before Saladin went on to conquer the territories surrounding Jerusalem, and then the city itself. With Saladin spread the nightmare that the Christians had fought against so vigorously during the first crusade; with Saladin, the Mosque26 was returned to Jerusalem.