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Damascus Attacked
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  Home >> The Crusades >> The Second Crusade >> Damascus Is Attacked

The expedition was botched almost from the beginning. The crusader army was no longer the imposing force that had left Europe and could not even surround the city, though it was still the largest crusader army ever to march in the Holy Land. They arrived on July 24th and encamped in the lush suburbs on the western side of Damascus.

The ruler of the city, the vizier Unur, sent immediately for assistance from Nur ed-Din. Over the next couple of days, the crusaders advanced steadily through the streets and orchards, fighting their way up to the very walls. They were busy cutting down trees to build siege towers, but Muslim reinforcements began to arrive and the crusaders were again driven away from the walls.

The crusaders then moved their army to the east side of the city. They have often been criticized for this because the east side had no water and the position could not be held. Nevertheless, their position on the west side was equally untenable, for the many trees and buildings provided perfect cover for guerilla fighters and the Christian camp could not be made secure. They moved precisely because the east side would provide no such cover, and they knew that they would have to take the city within a very few days, for Nur ed-Din was on the march.

The crusaders moved the army on July 27th. The impossibility of their position became immediately apparent, and councils were held that night. Conrad and Louis were dismayed to find that the same barons who had advised the attack on Damascus in the first place were now urging that the expedition be abandoned. Reluctantly, seeing that the army was divided, and enemies rather than allies were advancing, the kings agreed.

The next day, July 28th, the army began its march back to Palestine, having spent only four days attacking Damascus. They were harassed all the way back to Christian territory, suffering severe losses. But the demoralization was worse. That so great an expedition, even after all the earlier losses, should have accomplished so little was a dark stain on the honor of the princes who participated. 

The Second Crusade had ended in humiliation.

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