Battle of Mansura, 8 February 1250 (Egypt)

Battle that ended any realistic hopes of success for the Seventh Crusade, despite being itself a victory. The crusaders, led by Louis IX of France, advanced from the port of Damietta towards Cairo, following the Nile. Their route was frequently blocked by canals, until finally they were forced to stop at the Ashmoun Canal (also known as the Bahr as-Saghir) opposite the town of Mansura. They were opposed by an army 70,000 men, commanded by Emir Fakr-ed-din, which prevented the crusaders attempts to cross the canal, until after a six week long standoff, a local Coptic Christian showed the crusaders a ford across the canal. Leaving a small force to guard their camp, the bulk of the crusaders moved to cross the canal. The vanguard of the army, led by Robert of Artois, the brother of Louis IX, along with the Templers and an English contingent under William of Salisbury, got across first, with strict orders not to attack until the King had joined them. Instead, Robert decided that he had to attack in order to maintain surprise, and against the advice of both the Grand Master of the Templers and William of Salisbury charged the Egyptian camp. His attack caught the Egyptians totally by surprise, still in camp, and managed to rout them, killing Fakir-ed-din in the attack.

If Robert of Artois had waited for the arrival of Louis IX, then the outcome might have been very different, but instead, buoyed up by his easy victory, decided to chase the retreating Egyptians into Mansura, followed reluctantly by the Templers and William of Salisbury. Within the town, the Egyptian troops had regrouped, led by the future Baibars I, and the crusader cavalry was almost useless. The crusaders that entered the town were almost all wiped out. Both Robert of Artois and William of Salisbury were killed, along with most of their followers, while only five of the two hundred and ninety Knights Templers escaped alive. Louis IX was now in an very vulnerable position, with the vanguard destroyed and his crossbowmen on the other side of the canal. He formed up to defend against the inevitable Egyptian counterattack, which soon came, and for the rest of the day Louis and his men were engaged in a desperate defence, before finally the crossbowmen were able to cross over the canal, and give him a technical victory. The Egyptians retreated into Mansura, while the crusaders occupied their abandoned camp. Although the crusaders had defeated their immediate opponents, they were now stuck before Mansura, without the strength to continue, and hoping vainly for dissention in the Egyptian camp.

Crusades Subject Index - Books on the Middle Ages

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (30 September 2001), Battle of Mansura, 8 February 1250, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_mansura.html

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