Adonis Diaries

Rainbow over the Levant: Tamerlane hordes enter Damascus

Posted on: October 19, 2008

Rainbow over the Levant: Tamerlane hordes enter Damascus 

(A chapter in my novel Rainbow over the Levant)

Hordes from the North

In 140o, Tamerlane (Timor Lank) crushed the Ottoman Sultan forces and put the Sultan in a cage, and used the cage as a step to mount his horse. This newly Turkish Empire (with no naval forces) was enfeebled and the Byzantium Empire enjoyed a couple of decades freed from paying annual dues to its neighboring nemesis.

In the same time, the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was regaining ascendancy after Tamerlane withdrew from Damascus in 1403. The Sultan of Egypt could demand favors from the new Sultan of Turkey and incited him to step in and crush the nascent Republic of the Levant in Lebanon.

In 1410, the Viceroy of Aleppo whose domain extended from Alexandretta, Lattakieh, and all the way eastward to the Jazyra (The northern part between the two great rivers of Euphrates and the Tiger) was still badly rattled after the destruction of Aleppo by Tamerlane and was thus in a serious predicament when the Ottoman army moved toward Syria.

The Viceroy knew that if the Turkish army crossed the Zagros mountain chains or managed to capture the port and city of Alexandretta then he would be done for.  His Emirate was inhabited by various Christian sects dating back to early Christianity such as Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs as well as an amalgam of the more known and well recognized sects.

The Viceroy of Aleppo had received orders from his master the Mameluk’s Sultan to cooperate with the Turks in their coastal advance toward Lebanon, and thus he wavered with the Levant’s government and compromised to the end.

Ultimately, he agreed with the Republic of the Levant to acquire free reign in the port of Alexandretta for an annual tribute and have access to the Zagros Mountains if war were declared.

Most of the livestock were routed toward Jazyra with the long shot possibility that a famished army might redirect its route where there was more food close to the Tatar territory, and thus having to deal with another military force. It was a strategic gamble which might draw the Tatars of Timorlank to reorient their expansion toward Turkey after retreating from Damascus and Aleppo.

The Turkish army experienced desertion but it was not serious enough to divert it from its plan.

The Syrian Viceroy in Damascus got the hint that he was no longer appreciated in Cairo since his assistance was not required and no financial support was contemplated in this coming invasion.  He was also under pressure from Damascus merchants with close connection with the Levant Republic to support the Lebanese uprising for defense and unity.

The Lebanese army sent a detachment of war consultants to manage and direct the war from the Syrian front with intelligence confirming that the Turkish army was directing a two pronged attack toward both the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli. .

The Lebanese had excellent defensible positions around the city of Tripoli and access to the nearby mountains in the East and the sea to the West.  The strategy of the Levant army was to slow down the Turkish advance by putting up a defensive stand by the Awwaly River where the Turkish army was to split its forces after crossing the river.

The strategy of Turkish army was excellent because the narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains would prevent large scale maneuvers for a 35,000 strong army while sending a large detachment to the Bekaa would have a dual purpose. The Levantine army would have to tie up a major part of its smaller forces in the Bekaa and in the same time the Turkish army would not be short on food reserves if the war dragged on.

The first defensive stand on the Awwali River was meant to prevent the Turkish army from sending a large detachment to the Bekaa by inflicting substantial losses on its advanced contingent around well defended positions.  Two defensive lines were prepared; one along the River and another one, well hidden in a sparsely dense forest and on the edge of a low hill, two kilometers away; a long ditch, 5 meters wide and 1, 50 meter deep was dug and fortified.

The first line of defense was for testing the maneuvering capabilities and military arsenal of the Turkish army in order to capitalize on the information to maneuver around the second defensive line, and also to nag the enemy into an angry and unprepared assault forward.

The soldiers of the first line of defense were feddayins because they were forewarned that no help would be forthcoming to save them if overwhelmed by the enemy forces.

Mustafa, the military leader of the Levant army, perched on his black stallion looked much older than he really was and suffering from back ache, felt in a victory mood before the young and determined faces in front of him.  The pain eased while delivering his harangue:

“Soldiers of the Great Levant Nation!  The enemy across this tiny river is a vigorous young army, coming from a rough region even harsher than our mountains.  Those soldiers are used to hardships and their goal is evident: looting Mount Lebanon. Our goal is different: resisting a savage invasion determined to ruin our prosperity and kill our families for money and valuables.  Our purpose is clear: frustrating the plans of the Sultan of Egypt to humiliate our spirit of independence and trample our hard earned liberty for a better life for our children. The Sultan of the Mameluks is testing our will to survive as a full fledge Nation; he thinks that by detaining our leader and President our Nation will crumble into nothingness.  We are here to prove to all nations that as free citizens we are born leaders and can generate leaders to defeat stronger nations if our freedom and liberty are threatened”.

“Soldiers of the free Levant Nation; the enemy across the Awwali River is determined not to retreat without its promised booty.  The Sultan of the Mameluks had lured them with stories of riches and precious prizes hidden in Mount Lebanon.  The treacherous Sultan of the Mameluks who forgot our loyalty for centuries has also forgot that we have been preparing ourselves to defend our way of life and that we are ready to pay the heavy price with our young and warm blood to hold on to every piece of land in our glorious Nation”.

“Soldiers of the haughty Levant Nation; we have no choice but to stop the Turkish army from advancing toward Mount Lebanon, the “Promised Land” by the Sultan of Egypt.  We will have to wage several battles because they are more numerous than us but we know the land and we have a higher determination to win.  The families of our martyrs will be remunerated handsomely and the names of the martyrs will be carried as badges of honors and remembered for centuries to come as valorous citizen-soldiers fighting for legitimate values and for safeguarding our self-determination over our destiny. Long live President Antoun!  Long live the Nation of the Levant!”

This defensive stand bore fruits; first, the cavalry of the Turkish army chasing the retreating defenders was decimated at the second defensive line where the Levant army was in waiting behind the well fortified ditch; and second, the contingent to be sent to the Bekaa Valley was reduced when the Turkish army realized that it would have to contend with a highly organized army.

Before the Levantine army retreated in an organized manner to Tripoli, preparing for the decisive second round of battles, it had buried its fallen soldiers in the ditch and planted trees in honor of their courage. All the injured were retrieved and evacuated in an efficient manner which impressed the enemy. In the mean time the expert consultants of the Levantine army, dispatched to organize war preparations of the army of the Viceroy of Damascus, managed to draw in a sizable contingent of the Turkish army toward the borders of Syria away from the Bekaa Valley and far from the main body of the Turkish army.

During that campaign of tactical retreat in the Syrian front, the Lebanese army was also tactically retreating toward the major coastal city of Tripoli.

At this critical junction the Maronite Patriarch in the northern district of Mount Lebanon announced an edict to all the Maronite Christians to immediately join the Army of the Republic.  The inhabitants of the villages in Bshare, Ehden and Zgorta were whipped in to frenzy and contributed greatly to victory.

The strong castle of Tripoli was the magnet that attracted the forward Turkish army to advance hastily without much planning. The Turkish forward contingent of 8,000 soldiers encircled Tripoli and set up its siege waiting for the heavy equipment of siege to arrive within a week with the main body of the army.

For four days and nights the Turkish army was harassed and could not enjoy any rest or sleep.  They were lured into attacking the Levantine army in their mountain strongholds and were repulsed with heavy casualties. On the fifth day and late afternoon, the Lebanese army descended from the mountains and cut off the forward Turkish army in two.

The Turkish army found itself totally encircled from all sides and from the sea.  The Lebanese army benefited from several advantages: an excellent knowledge of the terrain and a drastic edge in the contribution for reconnaissance and signaling intelligence from the citizens. The slaughter lasted till nine in the night and by day break the retreating Turkish soldiers were attacked by the Levantine cavalry from behind and made prisoners.

In that battle the Levant army introduced its Tortoise; it was a huge, elongated and enclosed cylindrical housing char, mounted on five pairs of wide wheels and driven by protected four pairs of cows and carrying a dozen archers.  This war device was slow and not that efficient at this stage of its development but, as a new monster entering battles, it impressed upon the enemy and destabilized their onslaughts wherever one of the few Tortoises appeared on the battle ground.

The Turkish army acknowledged the futility and the unacceptable losses in that campaign and released its siege on Tripoli. The lack of navy support and the determination of a well trained and well equipped army fighting with vengeance and courage were determinant in sending messengers for peace negotiations.

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October 2008

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