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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page. 77

 

On the third day, about nine o’clock, our army marched in battle array from the Salt River; for there was a rumour that the Turks were lying in ambush for them in the forest of Assur, and that they intended to set the wood on fire to prevent our troops from crossing it. But our men, advancing in order, passed the place where the ambuscade was said to be, unmolested; and on quitting the wood, they came to a large plain that ran along it, and there they pitched their tents, near the river commonly called Rochetailie. Here they sent spies to reconnoitre, who brought back news that the Turks were awaiting their approach in countless numbers; for their multitudes covered the whole face of the earth around, and were estimated at 300,000 men, while the Christians were only 100,000 strong. The Christian army arrived at the river Rochetailie on the Thursday before the Nativity of the blessed Virgin Mary, and tarried there until the morrow.

Chapter XVII. - How our army, on advancing from the river Rochetailie towards Assur, prepared for battle with the Turks, whom they had vowed to attack on that day with all their might.

On the Saturday, the eve of the Nativity of the blessed Virgin Mary, at earliest dawn, our men armed themselves with great care to receive the Turks, who were known to have preceded their march, and whose insolence nothing but a battle could check. The enemy had ranged themselves in order, drawing gradually nearer and nearer; and our men also took the utmost care to place themselves in as good order as possible. King Richard, who was most experienced in military affairs, arranged the army in squadrons, and directed who should march in front, and who in the rear. He divided the army into twelve companies, and these again into five divisions, marshalled according as the men ranked in military discipline; and none could be found more warlike, if they had only had confidence in God, who is the giver of all good things. On that day, the Templars formed the first rank, and after them came in due order the Bretons and men of Anjou; then followed King Guy, with the men of Poictou; and in the fourth line were the Normans and English, who had the care of the royal standard; and last of all, marched the Hospitallers: this line was composed of chosen warriors, divided into companies. They kept together so closely, that an apple, if thrown, would not have fallen to the ground, without touching a man or a horse; and the army stretched from the army of the Saracens to the sea-shore. There you might have seen their most appropriate distinctions,standards, and ensigns of various forms, and hardy soldiers, fresh, and full of spirits, and well fitted for war. There was the earl of Leicester, Hugh de Gurnay, William de Borriz, Walkin do Ferrars, Roger de Toony, James d’Avennes, Robert count of Druell, the bishop of Beauvais, and William des Barres his brother, William de Garlande, Drogo de Mirle, and many of his kinsmen. Henry count of Champagne kept guard on the mountain’s side, maintaining a constant look-out on the flank: the foot-soldiers, bowmen and arbalesters, were on the outside, and the rear of the army was closed by the pack-horses and waggons, which carried provisions and other things, and journeyed along between the army and the sea, to avoid an attack from the enemy. This was the order of the army, as it advanced gradually, to prevent separation; for the less close the line of battle, the less effective was it for resistance. King Richard and the duke of Burgundy, with a chosen retinue of warriors, rode up and down, narrowly watching the position and manner of the Turks, to correct any thing in their own troops, if they saw occasion; for they had need, at that moment, of the utmost circumspection.

Chapter XVIII. - How our armies were much harassed by the Turks, who attacked them incessantly on all sides, and especially in the rear, wounding and cutting them down; and our men would have yielded under the weight of the battle in despair, had not the grace of God assisted them, when they were just on the point of giving way.

It was now nearly nine o’clock, when there appeared a large body of the Turks, 10,000 strong, coming down upon us at full charge, and throwing darts and arrows, as fast as they could, while they mingled their voices in one horrible yell. There followed after them an infernal race of men, of black colour, and bearing a suitable appellation, expressive of their blackness. With them also were the Saracens, who live in the desert, called Bedouins: they are a savage race of men, blacker than soot; they fight on foot, and carry a bow, quiver, and round shield, and are a light and active race. These men dauntlessly attacked our army. Beyond them might be seen the well-arranged phalanxes of the Turks, with ensigns fixed to their lances, and standards and banners of separate distinctions. Their army was divided into troops, and the troops into companies; and their numbers

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