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Battle of Hattin
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Battle of Hattin

History -- Military history -- List of battles

The Battle of Hattin in 1187 was a major setback in the fortunes of the Crusader movement, enabling the Muslims to regain control of Jerusalem from the Christians.

Battle of Hattin
ConflictCrusades
DateJuly 4, 1187
PlaceNear Tiberias
ResultMuslim victory
Combatants
CrusadersMuslims
Commanders
Guy of Lusignan
Raymond III
Saladin
Strength
About 22 000About 30-35,000
Casualties
UnknownUnknown
The battle took place near Tiberias, in an area whose chief geographic feature is a double hill, in fact an extinct volcano, (the "Horns of Hattin") beside a pass through the northern mountains between Tiberias and the road from Acre to the west.

The Darb al-Hawarnah road, built by the Romans, served as the main east-west passage between the Jordan fords, the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean coast. Saladin had taken the town of Tiberias, to the east, on July 2, 1187 with only a small portion of his overall forces. Raymond III of Tripoli, whose wife Eschiva was besieged in the citadel at Tiberias, and King Guy of Jerusalem were at Acre with the bulk of the Crusader army, which consisted of 1200 knights, possibly as many as 20 000 foot soldiers, and a large number of mercenaries hired with money donated to the Kingdom by Henry II of England. Raymond argued that a march from Acre to Tiberias was exactly what Saladin wanted and that Sephoria was a strong position for the Crusaders to defend, but due to internal court politics and accusations of cowardice, King Guy ordered the army to march immediately against Saladin at Tiberias. This was what Saladin had planned, for he had calculated that he could only defeat the crusaders in a field battle, rather than by besieging their fortifications.

The Crusaders began their march from Sephoria on July 3, and were almost immediately under harassment from the Muslim forces. By noon on that day Saladin had joined his forces at Cafarsett and sent his army to engage the Crusaders. The Crusader army was divided into 3 divisions and the rearguard was forced to a halt by continuous attacks, thus halting the whole army. The Crusaders, after a day with no fresh water, were forced to make camp in the middle of the plain, surrounded by the Muslim army, and Saladin's forces started fires around the camp during the night to make the situation worse for King Guy's army.

On the morning of July 4, the Crusaders, thirsty and demoralised, broke camp and changed direction for the springs of Hattin, but their ragged approach was attacked by Saladin's army which blocked the route forward and any possible retreat. Count Raymond launched two charges in an attempt to break through. The second of these saw him cut off from the main army and forced to retreat. Most of the Crusader infantry had effectively deserted on to the Horns of Hattin. Without infantry protection the knight's horses were cut down by Muslim archers and they were forced to fight on foot and they, too, retreated on to the Horns. The Crusaders were surrounded and, despite 3 desperate charges on Saladin's position, were defeated. The Muslims captured the royal tent of King Guy, as well as the True Cross, a relic sacred to the Christian forces. Saladin took Guy prisoner, as well as Raynald of Chatillon, whom Saladin personally executed, fulfilling a threat he had made when Raynald had been harassing Muslim trade and pilgrimage routes earlier in the decade. Gerard de Ridefort, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar and the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller were also captured. Perhaps 3,000 Crusaders escaped. Of those captured, those with wealthy families were ransomed, the rest were enslaved and knights of military orders were executed.

By mid-September, Saladin had taken Acre, Nablus, Jaffa, Toron, Sidon, Beirut and Ascalon, and Jerusalem fell to the Muslim army on October 2, 1187, making the beginning of the end for the Christian presence in Outremer.

News of the disastrous defeat at Hattin was the catalyst for the formation of the Third Crusade.

Chronicle of Ernoul: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1187hattin.html