Battle of Adrianople (1205)

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The Battle of Adrianople occurred on April 14, 1205 between Bulgarians under Tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria, and Crusaders under Baldwin I. It was won by the Bulgarians after a skillful ambush using the help of their Cuman and Greek allies. Around 300 knights were killed, including Louis of Blois, Duke of Nicaea and Baldwin was captured, blinded, and later died in captivity. The Bulgarians then overran much of Thrace and Macedonia. Baldwin was succeeded by his younger brother, Henry of Flanders, who took the throne on August 20, 1206.

The main source document for this battle comes from the Chronicles of Geoffrey de Villehardouin: It is to be noted that although he was part of the Crusaders who participated in this battle, his view of the fourth crusade is generally biased against the crusaders.

"Kaloyan, Tzar (Emperor) of Wallachia and Bulgaria, came to succour Adrianople with a very great army. He brought with him Bulgarians, Wallachians, and a full fourteen thousand Cumans who had never been baptised."

It was arranged by the Crusaders that Geoffry the Marshal, and Manasses of l'Isle should guard the camp, and that the Emperor Baldwin and all the remainder of the army should issue from the camp if Kaloyan came and offered battle.

Thus they remained till the Wednesday of Easter week, and Kaloyan had by that time approached so near, that he encamped at about five leagues from the Crusaders. Kaloyan sent his Cumans running before the enemy camp. A cry was raised throughout the camp, and the crusaders rushed out to meet their foe. They pursued the lightly armored Cumans for a full league. The rout of the Cumans turned out to be a feigned rout, for when the Crusaders wanted to return to the camp, the Cumans turned around and began to shoot at them, wounding a good many of their horses.

As the crusaders returned to the camp, the barons were summoned to the quarters of the Emperor Baldwin. They took counsel, and agreed that if Kaloyan would attack again, they would set themselves in array of battle before the camp, and not pursue the enemy when they turned around.

The next day, the Thursday morning in Easter week, while the crusaders held mass, the Cumans again ran up to their tents. The Crusaders ran to arms, and issued from the camp with all their battalions in array, as they had agreed.

Count Louis went out first with his battalion, and began to follow after the Cumans, and sent a messenger to urge the emperor to follow him. Count Louis followed in pursuit of the Cumans for at least two leagues, and caught up with them. The Cumans then turned upon them, and began shooting. Count Louis, who had been the first to attack, was wounded in two places and had fallen off his horse. With the Cumans and Wallachians closing in on the Crusader's ranks, one of his knights by the name of John of Friaise, dismounted, and set him back on his horse. Some of his knights pleaded Count Louis to return to the camp: "Sir, get you hence, for you are too sorely wounded, and in two places." Louis responded: "The Lord God forbid that ever I should be reproached with fleeing from the field, and abandon the emperor."

The emperor, who was in great strains on his side, recalled his knights, telling them that he would not flee, and ordered his men to stay by his side. The desperate fight that followed lasted for several hours, but in the end, all Crusaders were slain or fled the field. On the battlefield remained the Emperor Baldwin, who swore to never flee, and Count Louis. The Emperor Baldwin was taken prisoner and Count Louis was slain.

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