Siege of Acre (1191)
This is an excerpt from the 12th or 13th century document "Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi", published in Paul Chevedden's paper " The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet:A Study in Cultural Diffusion".
It describes how the crusaders used 11 trebuchets to attack the Maledicta Tower of Acre between June and July 1191.
(n.b. The account uses the term "Turk" throughout, where later sources would use "Saracen". It does not refer to the population of modern Turkey.)
The artillery bombardment during the siege was hardly a one-way affair. Here one of the defender's machines is described:
"There were plenty of trebuchets [ petrariae] in the city, but one of them was unequalled for its massive construction and its effectiveness and efficiency in hurling enormous stones.
Nothing could stand against the power of this machine. It hurled huge stone-shot: “violent action, far-hurled stones; the blow smashed everything, whatever it struck.” If the stones met no obstruction when they fell, they sank a foot deep into the ground.
The account then moves to the besieging crusaders' machines:
On one side the duke of Burgundy’s trebuchet had no little effect. On the other the Templars’ trebuchet wreaked impressive devastation, while the Hospitallers’ trebuchet also never ceased hurling, to the terror of the Turks.
Besides these, there was a trebuchet that had been constructed at general expense, which they called “God’s Stone-Thrower”. A priest, a man of great probity, always stood next to it preaching and collecting money for its continual repair and for hiring people to gather the stones for its ammunition. This machine at last demolished the wall next to the Cursed Tower for around two perches’ length [10 metres].
The Count of Flanders had had a choice trebuchet, which King Richard had after his death, as well as another trebuchet which was not so good. These two constantly bombarded the tower next to a gate which the Turks frequently used, until the tower was half-demolished.
Besides these, King Richard had two new ones made with remarkable workmanship and material which would hit the intended target no matter how far off it was... He also had two mangonels [traction trebuchets?] prepared.
To move away from the “Itinerarium Peregrinorum “ for a moment, Imad al-Din, in his account of the siege from the other side, said that the walls were left “no higher than a man’s height.” He then continued:
Though the common mob in the crusader army were enraged at rumours of it, on 12th July the city negotiated a surrender & the garrison walked out. Prominent citizens were given as hostages on the promise that Christian prisoners were to be released and (impossibly) that the Holy Cross was to be handed over to the crusaders. The deadline came and went…
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