The town of Acre is well protected on its sea side: built on a promontory jutting out into the gulf of Haifa, it has great sea walls, a fort named the Tower of Flies, and a chain strung across the harbour to prevent the entry of ships.
|Crusaders Attack the Town Walls
On the town walls, running from sea to sea, defenders beat their drums as a signal for Saladin to attack the besiegers from their rear. These Saracen attacks did not stop the crusaders battering at the walls with their siege engines. In the words of the crusading minstrel: 'The Templars' engine missiles sped, that smote on many a Turkish head; while that owned by the Hospital dealt blows that satisfied them all'.
King Philip's engine called 'Bad Neighbour' (pictured above left) competed against the Saracens' own engine called 'Bad Kinsman.' Both were continuously rebuilt as they broke up under bombardment.
When Richard had recovered sufficiently from his illness - a malady called Arnaldia - he directed his own siege engines in the action. Night and day Richard's own engine called 'God's Own Catapult' (pictured right) bombarded the walls hurling huge flinty pieces of rock from a safe distance. One rock reportedly killed a dozen Saracens with one blow.
The Saracens countered by hurling pots of Greek Fire - a naptha-based mix - at the crusaders' engines to set them ablaze. Water had no effect and the Christians only extinguished the fire by throwing vinegar on it.
The King brought up the wooden fortress that he had built in Sicily called 'Mategriffon' and re-built it close to the town walls. It enabled crusader archers to fire their arrows directly at the Saracen defenders in the town.
Sappers undermined the walls by tunnelling in the darkness, underpinning the wall with timber props and other combustible material and then setting it alight. When the wall collapsed, besiegers stormed through the breach of swirling dust and grime only to be met by a defending party on the other side.
The bravery of the beleaguered Saracen garrison brought admiration from the crusaders: 'Never were there braver soldiers than these . . . if only they were of the true faith, it would not have been possible, anywhere in the world, to find men to surpass them.'
The beleaguered Saracens told Saladin - pigeons carried their messages - that they could hold out no longer. When a last desperate attack by Saladin failed to take the Christian camp by storm, they offered terms to King Philip and King Richard. The two kings rejected them, insisting on the return of all towns and all Christian prisoners held in Outremer.
The Saracens then offered to surrender if all the lives of the inhabitants were spared and the Holy Cross returned. Still the two kings would only accept surrender on their terms: Acre to be handed over at once and the lives of the defenders spared in return for 20,000 gold besants if Saladin immediately released the 1,500 Christian prisoners in his hands. The Holy Cross also had to be given over to Christian hands.
Acre finally capitulated on 12 July 'at the will of the Christian kings' in what was a great triumph for the crusaders. Saladin had to agree to the terms made in his name and was forced to try and raise the money.
The crusaders entered the city and started to re-consecrate the churches
|King of Jerusalem
In a compromise decision, King Richard decided that Guy of Lusignon was the true King of Jerusalem but as compensation, Conrad of Montferrat was to share in the kingdom's revenues.
After another argument with King Richard over the spoils, King Philip decided to return home. Perhaps he was sick with fever but 'God's mercy, what a time to leave!'
His men pleaded with him to stay, some with tears in their eyes at the shame of him shirking his Christian duty, but he was adamant. He did promise not to attack King Richard's lands when he returned to France and generously 'King Richard. as a gift, gave him two fine ships, stout and swift - a gift freely made and for which he was badly paid.' The English contingent were more than suspicious.
Duke Leopold of Austria also went home in a sulk believing he had suffered an insult. Trying to stake a claim for a share of the plunder by flying his banner above the walls of Acre, the Duke watched it being torn down by King Richard's men. Not having the cash to attract many men to his banner, the Duke only commanded a small retinue and hardly qualified for an equal share of the spoils.
Prisoners Are Slaughtered
With King Philip's departure King Richard was now supreme commander of the Christian forces and the infidels never faced a bolder opponent. Saladin was supposed to hand over the prisoners and pay the agreed money in three instalments. With the first payment due he had the Holy Cross and 100,000 dinars but not the prisoners demanded by King Richard.
Richard became suspicious when Saladin tried to come to some agreement that involved the exchange of hostages. Suspicions grew amongst many crusaders that Saladin had no intention of honouring the terms and was just playing for time. A wild rumour flew: 'He has murdered all of his prisoners and is set to launch an attack.'
When Saladin refused to give up anything and a deadline went by King Richard declared the prisoners forfeit. The Christians marched all but the important Saracen prisoners, 2,700 in all, out of the fortress in batches and slaughtered them in full view of Saladin's camp. Some of the Christian soldiers delighted in the butchery - revenge for the deaths of their comrades in the siege. 'For making orphans so numerous, for many a damsel without aid and many a widow made.'
Listed amongst the thousands of Christians who died in the siege were a queen and her 2 daughters, 5 archbishops, 12 bishops and 550 dukes, counts and barons.
Two days later King Richard led his army out of Acre, some of them not too enthusiastically, not wanting to leave behind their safe haven 'filled with pleasure, good wines and bountiful, and many damsels beautiful.' The prostitutes had flocked into the town to do business with the crusaders.