Reading List: Crusades

Crusading Warfare, 1097 – 1193 by R. C. Smail

A socio-economic description of Crusader warfare practice.  Well worth reading, this book provides a discussion of the crusades I’ve not found else where.  The text focuses on the nuts and bolts of maintaining a Crusader state.  Following the creation of the Latin states, the Crusader leaders moved from a pitched battle strategy to a  stand off strategy.  Campaigns  became periods of watching the opposing army.  With the threat of an intact Crusader force, Arab forces where unable to conduct sieges and without the ability to capture hard targets – campaigns ended in tactical failures.  Pitch battle became a rare occurrence as neither side wanted to risk a direct confrontation.

The primary weapon of the crusader army was the horse.  The warhorse delivered the devastating charge  of the knights.  Great efforts were taken to preserve steads while the crusaders maneuvered.  Marching columns placed infantry on the outer edge with the knights in the middle.  Arrow attacks from Turk horsemen were taken on the armored (replaceable) infantry  rather than on the irreplaceable horses.  In addition to direct attack, horses were frequently lost to lack of water or eaten to stave off starvation.  As an example of a horse poor force, King Richard, during the defense of Jaffa 8-5-1192, commanded a force of 2000 men and all of 10 mounted knights.

When battle was joined, the Frankish armies deployed in squadrons of matching knights and infantry.  Once more, the infantry was used to screen the cavalry unit the critical charge could be executed.  For the battles recorded in the text, Crusaders deployed in 3 detachments with a fourth in reserve.  Frequently, the opposing Arab army would either outnumber or be able to out manouver a Frankish force.  As a remedy, battle lines would typically use a terrain feature such as a hill to anchor one end.

An Illustrated history of the Crusades and the Crusader Knights by Charles Phillips

Provides an adequate over view of the crusader states (mostly from the western perspective).   While not of gaming quality, the book does contain prints of period paintings and current photos of contemporary castles.  Troop counts are few and far between but we do get an account of the King of Jerusalem’s army consisting of only a few hundred knights with Turkopoles, Lebanese archers and Armenian & Syrian infantry numbering 20,000.

‘Men of Iron’ name given to the crusaders by the Turks based on the impressive amount of chain mail armour worn and their determination when fighting.  Other references in the book contrast the relative light weight armour worn by the Turks versus the armour of the Franks.  (A point that WAB does not seem to reflect in most army lists.)

Nation states in the region (1140) include:   MAP

  • Kingdom of Jerusalem
  • County of Tripoli
  • Principality of Antioch
  • County of Edessa
  • Cilician Armenia
  • Byzantine Empire
  • Fatimid Caliphate of Cairo
  • Emirate of Damascus
  • Sultanate of Rum

God’s Warriors by Dr Helen Nicholson & Dr David Nicolle

An Osprey reprint of three earlier books (Hattin, Saracen Faris and Knight Templar).  The text provides a pleasant overview of the three main forces in the conflict.

  1. #1 by PsychosisPC on May 15, 2011 - 11:20 pm

    I have the third one and lot of other books written by David Nicolle. His book Knights Hospitaller was a purchase I made awhile back. It was a fairly decent read following the Hospitaller all the way through to today.

    Don’t have the first two books, will have to take a look at those.

  2. #2 by chicagoterrainfactory on May 16, 2011 - 10:28 pm

    Crusading Warfare is the best book I’ve read so far in my Crusades research, I recommend getting a hold of a copy.

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