The Massacre

The People's Crusade (1096 AD)
A DBA Variant Army List

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In November 1095, Pope Urban II's call for a crusade to liberate Jerusalem was spread throughout Europe by his priests. Soon swarms of poor knights, peasants, vagrants, beggars, women and children were on the move; a "People's Crusade" of paupers and adventurers all fanatical in their zeal to free the Holyland. They marched well in advance of the armies of the Kings and Princes of Europe, which were slow to muster. The mobs were gathered in five large crusading armies, the principal of which was lead by Peter the Hermit, a priest of Amiens, who quickly emerged as the dynamic leader of the People's Crusade, collecting nearly 15,000 crusaders as he marched overland from Flanders to Cologne.

Walter the Penniless (Sans-Avoir), a pious knight sworn to poverty, had started out with eight knights and a company of Frankish foot. His band quickly grew to several thousand strong. They were given safe conduct through Hungary, and were encamped outside Semlin, where they were denied a market. Sixteen of his men were sent to buy supplies and resorted to pilferage when they were refused. They were seized and stripped of their arms and goods. Passing on to Belgrade, Walter was again denied a market and Walter's men responded by helping themselves to lifestock and pasturage. The Belgrade garrison fell upon Walter's forces and scattered them, burning alive 60 who had taken shelter in a chapel. The survivors escaped to Nish, where the Emperor Alexius I granted them safe passage and a military escort to Constantinople.

Walter's band was followed shortly thereafter by the army of Peter the Hermit. Reaching Semlin, they found the spoils taken from Walter's companions displayed on the city's walls and resolved to avenge the wrongs done their fellow crusaders. Godfrey, at the head of two hundred Frankish foot soldiers joined by the knight Reinald of Broyes (Rainald of Breis) and his dismounted followers stormed the walls and opened the gates. The Hungarians fled the city through an eastern gate to the banks of the Danube, where they reformed on the summit of a steep hill, approximately 7000 strong. Here they were overwhelmed by the avenging crusaders, who killed an estimated 4000 to the loss of a hundred pilgrims.

Peter and his followers held the city for five days, until he learned that the Hungarian King was approaching with a formidable host. After a difficult crossing of the Sava river, made more trying by a Byzantine unit of Patzinaks/Pechenegs, they marched to Nish. Again denied a market, they marched onward only to be assaulted by the Byzantine garrison of Nish after Peter's Germans set fire to several mills following a dispute with the townsfolk.  In the ensuring fight, Peter lost his train (including his treasury) and a quarter of his force before abandoning the battle. The remainder of his army pressed on through Sofia and Philippopolis arriving at Constantinople in August 1096, where they were ordered to encamp at a distance.

Peter the Hermit preaching the crusade

Walter and Peter were followed by three armies of crusaders recruited in Lorraine, eastern France, Bavaria and Alemmania, which were collectively dubbed the "German Crusades." Inspired by one of Peter's sermons, Gottschalk gathered a band of 15,000 and set out after the Hermit. His followers arrived peacefully in the kingdom of Hungary, and were favorably received by King Coloman on a bond of peace, but after several days in the Hungarian city, the Germanic crusaders became undisciplined and disorderly. To restore the peace, Gottschalk and his officers counseled their soldiers to turn over their arms. But once the weapons were under lock and key, the Hungarians set upon Gottschalk's host, slaughtering many and dispersing the rest.

Another large force of approximately 12,000 under the command of Count Emico (Emich) of Leinigen followed the footsteps of Gottschalk southward through the Rhenish lands. Emico was a Swabian noble with the reputation of a robber baron, and his army committed horrific pograms at Spier, Worms, Cologne and in the Kingdom of Lorraine as they marched southward.  Arriving at Mainz, they beseiged the city until a ransom was paid, and then stormed it anyway, slaughtering nearly a thousand Jews who had sought sanctuary with Bishop Rothard. They then set forth on the Royal Highway to Wieselburg, an imperial fortress of King Coloman of Hungary, to find the gates closed against them. They breached and stormed the walls, but took fear for some unknown reason, and were overwhelmed in turn. The army of Emico was scattered to the winds, some few finding their way to Constantinople. Emico survived the battle and joined the following of Hugh of Vermandois, arriving in Constantinople in Nov. 1096.

A fifth band under Volkmar (Folcmar) lead crusaders from Saxony south through Bohemia, committing pograms in Magdeburg and Prague. After crossing the border into Hungary, they fell upon the town of Nitra, but were attacked and dispersed by the Hungarian army.

Meanwhile, Peter the Hermit had joined forces with Walter the Penniless outside Constantinople.  Their combined army was bolstered by later arriving survivors of the German Crusades as well as crusaders arriving by ship from Italy. As the crusader encampments became increasingly boisterous, the Emperor Alexius I had the army ferried across the Bosphorus, where they occupied an abandoned military camp at Civetot (Kibotos). The army segregated by nationality into rival camps of Franks and Germans, who then launched a series of local raids against the mostly Christian villages.

Peter counseled the host to wait until more seasoned warriors arrived before proceeding southward against the Turks and Saracens, and then departed to Constantinople to negotiate with the Emperor for regular Byzantine troops to support his army of crusaders.  With Peter away, the Franks launched a raid southward as far as Nicaea, the capital of Kilij Arslan, the Seljuk Turk sultan of Asia Minor, who was off with his army suppressing a rebellion in central Anatolia.

Returning laden with booty, the Frankish success inspired a similar raid by the German crusaders under Reinald, who moved south and then east to occupy an abandoned castle at Xerigordon as a new base of operations.  They chose poorly, finding themselves quickly invested by Turks without supplies or access to water. After eight grueling days in which they were reduced to drinking the blood of their horses and their own urine, the Crusaders surrendered. Those who did not convert to Islam were executed on the spot. Reinald choose conversion and was sold into slavery.

With Peter still in Constantinople, the army at Civetot worked itself into a fervor and marched southward under the command of Geoffrey Burel to avenge Xerigordon. Not far from Civetot, where the road passed through a wooded valley, Arslan's Turks fell upon the unexpecting crusaders. Heavy bowfire raked the knights in the advance of the army, dismounting them and forcing them back into the ranks. The Turkish cavalry outflanked and overwhelmed the straggling crusader army along its line of march, and then overran the encampment at Civetot.  Walter the Penniless was cut down in the fighting.  Of an estimated 20,000 crusaders, only 3,000 survived the rout by escaping to a small fortress on the coast, where they were rescued from the sea by Emperor Alexius I. Thus ended the People's Crusades, although Peter the Hermit and a number of its survivors joined forces with the new bands of crusaders arriving from Europe under the command of the great Kings and Princes.

The Proposed Army List

The DBA Early Crusader (IV/7) is fashioned on the armies of the Princes' Crusade and the corresponding DBM list does not specifically provide for a People's Crusade (or Germans' Crusade) option. The following variant army list is proposed to fill this gap:

IV/7b People's Crusade (1096 AD). Use opponents terrain type. Agression 4. Enemies: Early Hungarians (III/67a), Komnenan Byzantine (IV/1a) and Seljuk Turks (III/73b). 1x3Kn or 4Bd (Gen), 2x4Sp, 1x4Cb, 1x2Ps, 7x7Hd or 7x 5Wb

A slightly different variant is provided for the German Crusade armies of Gottshalk, Count Emico and Volkmar, who are assumed to lead a greater proportion of knights and foot soldiers and fewer pilgrims than was found in Peter the Hermit's entourage:

IV/7c German's Crusade (1096 AD). Use opponents terrain type. Agression 4. Enemies: Early Hungarians (III/67a). 1x3Kn (Gen), 1x 3Kn or 4Bd, 3x4Sp, 1x4Cb, 1x 3Bw or 2Ps, 5x 7Hd or 5x 5Wb

These lists are derived from the DBM Early Crusader list following suggestions offered by Brendan Moyle: "The key is that Peter did not exercise any military leadership- this was left to other followers of a military bent. These are still aptly represented as ally irr Kn(F). Minimise the number of missile troops, don't take any Bw options, minimise the number of milites and Sp and you've got some facsimile of the "first wave" of crusaders."

This method produces a basic DBM list of 9x Knights (including CnC), 16x spear, 6x crossbowmen, 4x archers and 24x pilgrim hordes, which is translated to DBA as above. The Knights are not dismountable in battle but are given a Blade option to fight dismounted, whether by choice or due to loss of horses.  The hordes are taken at their DBM maximums.  The DBM list classifies them as Hd(S) for their religous zeal, which translates into warbands in DBA. They are represented here as a Hd or Wb option, since it is the author's opinion that the Horde classification is more realistic historically and more fun in the DBA context.

Aggression 4 is assigned since the Crusaders were always invading.  In each variant, the  invading Crusader army does not have a home terrain type and therefore uses the terrain of its opponent.

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Last Updated: 20 July 2004