Page 1415

1415 THE CRUSADES-FALL OF THE CROSS.

accordingly drew out an immense army of two

hundred thousand men, and in 1291 pitched

his camp before the walls of Acre.

Perhaps at this time there was gathered

within the defenses of the last stronghold

of Christendom in Palestine such a melange

of people as never before or since was congregated in a city. Almost every nation

of Europe was represented in the multitudes that thronged the streets. So great

was the diversity of tongues, races, and religions that seventeen independent tribunals

were instituted in the alleged administration

of justice. It was Gog and Magog with the

immense throng between whom and the

swords of Khatil's Mamelukes only the walls

and towers of Acre interposed.

Such was the distraction of counsels

prevalent in the city, that no adequate

measures of defense could be carried into

effect. The ramparts were imperfectly defended, and the crowds of non-combatants

soon came to understand that safety lay in

the direction of escape. In a short time the

ships in the harbor were crowded with those

who were fortunate enough first to perceive

the situation and avail themselves of the opportunity. This process of debarkation went

on steadily until it appeared that Acre would be

left without an inhabitant. But the knights

of the three military orders and a few other

warriors showed a different mettle.

Perhaps nothing more heroic has been

witnessed in the annals of warfare than the

resolute and unwavering courage displayed by

this band of European and Syrian chivalry

in defending the last fortress of Eastern

Christendom. For thirty-three days they

manned the ramparts against Khatil and his

twenty myriads of Mamelukes. With ever

increasing vehemence the Moslems leveled

their destroying engines against the tottering walls and towers. At last an important

defense, known by the name of the Cursed

Tower, yielded to the assailants, and went

down with a crash. The breach thus effected

in the defenses opened into the heart of the

city. Then it was that Hugh of Lusignan,

whom the folly of the times still designated

as king of Jerusalem, gathering together

a band of friends and favorites, fled in the

darkness, went on shipboard, and left the

city to its fate. But the Teutonic Knights

rallied in the breach with an energy born of heroism rather than despair, and beat back

the Moslems with terrible slaughter. The

latter rallied again and again to the charge,

and at last the bleeding Knights, reduced

to a handful, were overborne by the Infidel

host, and hurled backwards from their post

of glory. In poured the savage tides of victorious Islam, hungry for blood and revenge.

The few inhabitants who remained in the

city were quickly butchered or seized as

slaves. In the last hours the surviving

Knights of the Hospital and the Temple

shared the dying glory of the Teutonic chivalry. Sallying forth from the parts of the

defenses which had been assigned to their

keeping, they charged upon the Moslems, and

fought till only sewn of the gallant band remained to tell the tale of destruction. This remnant of an Order which it is impossible not to

admire for its stubborn exhibition of mediaeval

virtues gained the coast, and, with good reason,

considering that their monastic vows had been

fulfilled, saved themselves by embarkation.

For three days after the assault and capture

of the' city the surviving Templars defended

themselves in their monastery. Here their

Grand Master, Pierre de Beaujeu, one of

the bravest of the brave, was killed by a

poisoned arrow. His companions continued

the defense until the sultan granted them honorable terms of capitulation. No sooner,

however, had they surrendered than they

were assailed with jeers and insults by the

infuriated Mamelukes, who could hardly

be restrained. Enraged at this treatment,

the Knights attacked their enemies with

redoubled fury, and fought until they were

exterminated almost to a man. A few,

escaping into the interior, continued to smite

every Moslem whom they met, until finally,

returning to the coast, they took ship and

sailed for Cyprus.

Such was the last act of the drama. The

few Christians still clinging to the coast towns

of Syria made their escape as soon as possible,

and left the savage Mamelukes in complete

possession of the country. After a continuance

of a hundred and ninety-one years, the contest between the Cross and the Crescent had

ended in a complete restoration of the ancient

regime throughout Syria and Asia Minor. The

semilune of Islam was again in the ascendant.

The hardy virtues of the races of Western and

Northern Europe had not been, perhaps could