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Army Notes

Early Crusaders, DBA IV/7

Although the First Crusade was sanctioned by Pope Urban II in Nov. 1095, the Early Crusader list begins with the arrival of the first Crusading armies in the near east in 1096. The Crusade started somewhat inauspiciously, with Count Emicho and his crusaders slaughtering Jews in Germany, before being destroyed while attempting to cross Hungary. Similarly, Peter the Hermit and 20,000 pilgrims of the "People's Crusade" sacked Semin and Belgrade and had to fight their way into Byzantium, suffering serious losses at Nish in July 1096. Making peace with the Emperor, Peter send his army on to liberate Civeot, raiding liberally despite a reverse at Zerigordon. While Peter was in Byzantium pleading for Emperor Alexios for support, his army set out from Civeot in early Fall 1096 and ran headlong into the avenging army of the Turkish Sultan Kilij Arslan. Arslan laid an ambush across a wooded valley, routing Peter's small advance contingent of knights, and then destroying in detail the rabble that followed in line of march. Only 3000 survivors escaped to the coast, to be beseiged until rescued by the Byzantine navy.

Crusading royals and their armies slowly gathered in Constantinople. Duke Godfrey of Bouillon (a direct decendent of Charlemagne) arrived in Dec. 1096 along with Court Hugh of Vermandois. Duke Bohemond of Taranto arrived in Constantinople in April 1097, followed shortly thereafter by his army under command of his nephew Tancred. From southern France came the large contingent of Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse. And in May 1096, Robert, Duke of Normandy arrived with his contingent. In effect there were three seperate Crusader armies under Godrey, Bohemond and Raymond; and cooperation between them was strained despite the efforts of Bishop Adhemar to coordinate their efforts.

The Crusade having been declared in response to a call for aid by Emperor Alexios of Byzantium, the Crusaders joined forces with their Byzantine allies to lay seige to Nicaea, which quickly surrendered. In June 1096, the Seljuk Turks counterattacked at Dorylaeum, falling on the isolated forces of Bohemond who held on long enough for Raymond and Godfrey to ride to his rescue and turn the tide.

In Sept. 1097, Tancred lead a Crusader force in the capture of Tarsus, but then found himself fighting Baldwin at Mamistra, who had his own designs on the region. The other Crusaders concentrated on Antioch, laying seige in Oct. 1097. A Muslim relief army from Damascus was defeated by Bohemond and Robert of Flanders near Antioch in Dec. 1097. In March 1098, Baldwin took possession of Edessa, a Christian Armenian kingdom, and pronounced himself prince of that region, the first Crusader principality in Outremer.

On June 3, the Crusaders besieging Antioch had managed by intrique to occupy all of the city save the central citadel. Meanwhile, a Syrian army under Kerbogha was marching to the relief of Antioch in sufficient force to cause Alexius and his advancing Byzantine army to retire. The Syrian relief lay seige to the Crusaders besieging Antioch, causing great dismay among the Christian ranks until the "Holy Lance" was miraclously discovered in an occupied church. The Crusader knights, most having lost their horses, attacked the Syrian besiegers in force, winning a great victory when Kerbogha's Turkish allies deserted the field. With no hope of relief, the Muslim defenders of Antioch surrendered to Bohemond on June 28, 1098. Bohemond subsequently proclaimed himself prince of Antioch, creating the second principality in Outremer.

In January 1099, the Crusaders advanced on Jerusalem, wasting several months along the way in an unsuccessful seige of Arqa. They reached Jerusalem on June 7 and launched several unsuccessful assaults on the walls manned by Fatimid Egyptian defenders. With the construction of seige towers, the Crusaders finally overwhelmed the defenses on July 15 and proceeded to systematically massacre the inhabitants of the Holy City. Raymond declined the offer of Kingship and thereafter departed the Holyland. The Kingdom of Jerusalem was recognized and Godfrey accepted authority as "Advocate for the Holy Sepulchre." Thereafter, in Aug 1099, the Crusaders defeated an relieving Fatimid army at Ascalon.

The capture of Jersulem in 1099 AD marks the close of the First Crusade. The subsequent period was one of active conflict. Pope Pascal II proclaimed the ill-fated Crusade of 1101 to strengthen the armies of Outremer, which had dwindled with the return of First Crusaders to Europe. Contingents arrived overland in piecemeal fashion and were destroyed similarly by the Turks. That same year, King Baldwin defeated the Fatimids at Ramla, only to suffer a reverse on the same field in 1102 AD. In 1104, Count Baldwin II of Edessa and Bohemond suffered a heavy defeat to the Turks at Harran, with Baldwin taken captive. In 1105 AD, the Fatimids were defeated at the third battle of Ramla. In 1109 AD, Tripoli fell after a five year seige, and Bertram, son of Raymond of Toulouse, declared himself Count of Tripoli. In 1113, King Baldwin was defeated at Sennabra. Crusader fortunes improved in 1115 AD, with Prince Roger of Antioch defeating the Turkish sultan Bursuq of Hamadan at Sarmin. But the impetuous Roger and his army were all but wiped out in 1119 AD at Ager Sanguinus (The Field of Blood) by the Turk Ilghazi of Mardin.

With Baldwin II a captive in the hands of Balak of Khanzit, the Fatimids were emboldened to launch a large-scale invasion in 1123 AD, only to be defeated by the Constable of the Kingdom of Jerusalem with heavy losses. Tyre fell to Crusaders beseigers in 1124 AD with aid from the Venetian navy. Forced to abandon their seige of Zerdana in 1125 AD, a Turkish army was defeated with heavy losses after eschewing their skirmishing tactics to engage the relieving Franks in hand-to-hand combat. With the Turks in retreat, Baldwin II lead a crusader army towards Damascus in 1126 AD, but was forced to abandon his advance after suffering heavy casualties during a back and forth battle at Marj es-Safar.

The Early Crusader list continues until 1128 AD, with the formal recognition of the first Military Orders by the Pope.

Composition

The Early Crusader list includes the following element types:

1x 3Kn (Gen) The Crusader commander and his nobles.
3x 3Kn or 4Bd Crusader Knights and sergeants, with or without their horses.
5x 4Sp Crusader spearmen
1x 2Ps or 3Bw Crusader archers, could also be depicted as Maronite or Syrian archers or Venetian naval archers after 1100 AD.
1x 2Ps or 3Cb Crusader crossbowmen.
1x 5Wb or 2Ps Pilgrims or more archers.

The Early Crusader was a knight in mail hauberk with nasal helm and kite shield; not too far removed from the Norman Knights under William the Conquerer who defeated Harold at Hastings as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. Crusader spear would also wear mail or padded gambesons, or just helms and shields for the lesser foot sergeants, and carry kite shields. This period is prior to formal heraldry, so devices would be simple and limited to important personages. The cross was a predominant device on shields, banners, and surcoats. As the period advances, so does the equippage of the Knights, including wider use of great helms and more colorful heraldry See the Later Crusader list for ideas.

It should be noted that this list does not allow the larger peasant formations found in the ill-fated People's Crusade armies of Peter the Hermit and Walter the Penniless, which would be a good subject for variant army research.

Enemies and Allies

Fatimid Egyptians (III/65), Sejuk Turks (III/73b), Komnenan Byzantines (IV/1a), Cilician Armenians (IV/2), and Syrian (IV/6).

Crusader kings fought in alliance with Komnenan Byzantines (IV/1a), and occasionally joined forces to mutual advantage with the Bedouin (III/53), Cilician Armenians (IV/2) and the Syrians (IV/6).

Tactics

An arable, high aggression army, the Early Crusaders will do most of their fighting on the terrain chosen by their opponents. With the option of fighting the Crusader knights as blades, the army has considerable flexibility against foes numerous in lighter horse and bow, thus turning a historical vice (lack of forage) into a gaming virtue. Only the Cilician Armenians with their preponderance of Aux and Sp troops provide tempting targets for impetuous Knight charges. Otherwise, the Crusaders must use their Knights carefully, and employ their Spear aggressively in order to prevent more mobile opponents from drawing off and flanking the impetuous Knights in detail. This is close to the historical record; as Phil Barker and Richard Bodley Scott note "they usually won if they supported their knights properly with infantry and lost if they did not."

Miniatures

In 15mm, you will find suitable figures in Early Crusader, Norman, and Early Medieval (1000-1200 AD) ranges from Donnington, Essex, Feudal Castings (Anglo-Normans), Gallia, Gladiator, Irregular, Museum, Navigator (Later Franks), Old Glory, Outland Games, Two Dragons (Anglo-Normans), Viking Forge and others. Remember, chain mail, kite shields and nasal helms predominate.

In 25/28mm, there are several options including Amazon, Crusader Miniatures, Griffin Miniatures, Naismith, Old Glory, Perry Miniatures, and Whitecross

Battle Scenarios

  • Dorylaeum (1097 AD) (forthcoming)

Other Resources

Dr. Brendan Moyle's De Bellis in Terra Santa is an excellent resource for historical information for wargamers on the Crusades.

Ian Heath's "Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096 - 1291" by Wargames Research Group (1978) is a primary reference for wargamers, along with Ian's "A Wargamers' Guide to the Crusades" (Patrick Stephens, 1980), which adds background information that would be very useful in establishing a campaign setting.

David Nicolle's First Crusade 1096-1099: Conquest of the Holy Land is the primary Osprey title for this period, and will be available in Oct. 2003. Other useful Osprey reference titles include:

Noteworthy military histories of the First Crusade include John France's Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade and Steven Runciman's A History of the Crusades Vol. 1: The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Also useful is the Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades.

For related resources, the De Bellis Bookstore's Crusades section and/or check out the following websites of potential historical interest:


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Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.

Last Updated: September 24, 2003