Middle Ages Holy War: The Crusades: Part 4 Eyewitness Report

An eyewitness report by Count Stephen of Blois about the long and violent wars in the Middle Ages known as the Crusades.


EYEWITNESS REPORT: During the 1st Crusade, while the Christians laid siege to the Turkish city of Antioch before proceeding to Jerusalem, a wealthy soldier and nobleman named Count Stephen of Blois (who later deserted, and eventually was killed in battle) wrote the following to his wife, Adele, in a letter dated March 29, 1999:

"We found the city of Antioch very extensive, fortified with the greatest strength and almost impossible to be taken. In addition, more than 5,000 bold Turkish soldiers had entered the city, not counting the Saracens, Publicans, Arabs, Turcopolitans, Syrians, Armenians, and other different races of whom an infinite multitude had gathered together there. In fighting against these enemies of God and of us we have, by God's grace, endured many sufferings and innumerable hardships up to the present time. Many also have already exhausted all their means in this most holy enterprise. Very many of our Franks, indeed, would have met a bodily death from starvation, if the mercy of God and our money had not come to their rescue. Lying before the city of Antioch indeed, throughout the whole winter we suffered for our Lord Christ from excessive cold and enormous torrents of rain. What some say about the impossibility of bearing the heat of the sun in Syria is untrue, for the winter there is very similar to our winter in the West.

"I delight to tell you, dearest, what happened to us during Lent. . . . The city of Antioch is about 5 leagues distant from the sea. For this purpose they sent the excellent Bohemond and Raymond, Count of St. Gilles, to the sea with only 60 horsemen, in order that they might bring mariners to aid in this work. When, however, they were returning to us with these mariners, the Turks collected an army, fell suddenly upon our 2 leaders and forced them to a perilous flight. In that unexpected flight we lost more than 500 of our foot-soldiers--to the glory of God. Of our horsemen, however, we lost only 2, for certain. Our men, full of fury at these most evil tidings, prepared to die for Christ and, deeply grieved for their brethren, rushed upon the wicked Turks. They, enemies of God and us, hastily fled before us and attempted to enter the city. But by God's grace the affair turned out very differently; for, when they tried to cross a bridge built over the great river Moscholum, we followed them as closely as possible, killed many before they reached the bridge, forced many into the river, all of whom were killed, and we also slew many upon the bridge and very many at the narrow entrance to the gate. I am telling you the truth, my beloved, and you may be assured that in this battle we killed 30 emirs, that is, princes, and 300 other Turkish nobles, not counting the remaining Turks and pagans. Indeed the number of Turks and Saracens killed is reckoned at 1,230, but of ours we did not lose a single man."

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