The Battle of Tours

 

@dougwatt‘s post on the Battle of Lepanto reminded me of a post I’ve had floating around in my bean for a while now.

On 3 October 732, the Umayyad  army of Abd al-Rahman, wadi of Al Andalus was headed for Tours when he encountered a large force of Franks in his path. This was a surprise. Abd al-Rahman was in Aquitaine. He hadn’t expected the rest of the Franks to come to the aid of Duke Odo, whom he had defeated at the Battle of the River Garonne. Odo had been at odds with Charles, Duke and Prince of the Franks and the Mayor of the Palaces of Austrasia and Neustria. Charles wasn’t a king. Charles appointed kings. (Nice gig if you can get it.)

Abd al-Rahman didn’t know how many Franks there were. He didn’t know if he could get around them. They were situated on a hill with trees before it and rivers covering each flank. That would put attacking with the Muslims’ primarily mounted force at a disadvantage. Abd al-Rahman decided to wait Charles out. Eventually, the Franks would attack.

Except they didn’t. Charles had come a long way since his first battle at Cologne some 16 years before. Charles had been a wet-behind-the-ears 28-year-old involved in a rather confusing civil war. At Cologne, Charles had been surprised. He wasn’t yet at full strength. His troops were green. Neither the battlefield nor the time had been of his choosing. Any one of those defects could easily have led to his defeat. All of them together definitely did. Charles barely escaped to lick his wounds and gather another army. In the future, he prevented any of those conditions from arising again. He never lost again.

For seven days, the Umayyads and the Franks glowered at each other. Abd al-Rahman wanted Charles to come down the hill. Charles had no intention to. Time was on the side of the Franks. The weather was getting colder, and the Umayyad army did not have heavy clothing. On the other hand, what Abd al-Rahman thought he knew about the Franks was that their forces consisted mostly of hastily assembled militia. They couldn’t withstand a charge by Abd al-Rahman’s heavy cavalry. Yes, the ground was disadvantageous, but that wouldn’t be enough to stop his army once it got rolling.

And so, on 10 October 732, the Muslims attacked uphill and through the trees. Time after time, they hit the Frankish line. Time after time, they were thrown back. The Franks weren’t green. Some of them had been with Charles since he started rebuilding his forces after Cologne. They were professionals.

Late in the day, there was a disturbance in the Muslim camp. Their tents and supplies were there, as well as wagons loaded with booty from the towns they had already sacked and numerous slaves they had taken. A small force of Frankish cavalry had flanked the Umayyads and was setting the slaves free and in general making pests of themselves. Some of the Umayyads turned back to defend their loot. Abd al-Rahman tried to rally them, but he couldn’t be everywhere at once, and the camp was under attack! Others started falling back too, without knowing exactly why. Panic started to spread.

Then the Franks came down the hill. Into the gaps left by missing units. Abd al-Rahman was killed, the panic became a rout, and the Battle of Tours was over. The Franks returned to their camp. They waited for morning rather than launching an immediate pursuit. Muslim chroniclers put this down to Frankish cowardice, which is silly because the last thing you want to do is pursue an enemy that is faster than you into the darkness.

Thus ended this particular Muslim incursion into Gaul. Historians argue to this day about whether it was an invasion or merely a big raid. The fact of the matter is that Charles was in command of the only force capable of defeating the Umayyads. There were raids to come, but nothing on this scale was ever attempted again. If he had lost, the “raid” would have been invasion enough. Putting together another such army would have taken years – years the Franks probably wouldn’t have had. A great weight was lifted from the people of the region, and Charles picked up a nickname.

“Martel.” The Hammer.

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  1. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    The post was good, but the like was for the tag.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw (View Comment):

    The post was good, but the like was for the tag.

    I wondered if anyone would notice.

    • #2
  3. Postmodern Hoplite Coolidge
    Postmodern Hoplite
    @PostmodernHoplite

    Very readable history, @percival; my compliments! I recommend this for promotion to the Main Page.

    Defeating the Muslim Caliphate and then driving it back from France was the first step towards the eventual Reconquista of Spain. It affirms the fact that Dar-al Islam must be resisted by force as well as by faith.

    • #3
  4. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Too bad 1000 years later the French and the western Europeans would allow an invasion. To mention it or lament it casts me as a racist xenophobe. 

    • #4
  5. TheRightNurse Member
    TheRightNurse
    @TheRightNurse

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Too bad 1000 years later the French and the western Europeans would allow an invasion. To mention it or lament it casts me as a racist xenophobe.

    Duly noted for the future gulag.

    • #5
  6. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Too bad 1000 years later the French and the western Europeans would allow an invasion. To mention it or lament it casts me as a racist xenophobe.

    As we just did, probably, with our Afghan so-called Allies.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Very readable history, @ percival; my compliments! I recommend this for promotion to the Main Page.

    Defeating the Muslim Caliphate and then driving it back from France was the first step towards the eventual Reconquista of Spain. It affirms the fact that Dar-al Islam must be resisted by force as well as by faith.

    Certainly the biggest battle to that point. The Battle of Covadonga in 718 (or 722, around there somewhere) frequently get credit for being the beginning of the Reconquista. That was a local affair between the Asturians and the Umayyads. It was a much smaller fight. 

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    It’s always Hammer time.

    • #8
  9. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    When Little Miss Anthrope and I were in Lourdes with the Order of Malta, we visited the hilltop castle/fortress there which was once occupied by Muslim invaders (would it have been the Umayyads?). And I seem to recall that Charles Martel paid a visit, too. I’m sorry I don’t have a better read on the history. We were there on a different kind of pilgrimage, not a history tour.

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    When Little Miss Anthrope and I were in Lourdes with the Order of Malta, we visited the hilltop castle/fortress there which was once occupied by Muslim invaders (would it have been the Umayyads?). And I seem to recall that Charles Martel paid a visit, too. I’m sorry I don’t have a better read on the history. We were there on a different kind of pilgrimage, not a history tour.

    The Château fort de Lourdes has its origins in Roman times. It is in such a good strategic site that there would have been some fortification there from then on. The Umayyads took Lourdes in 732 and held it until Charlemagne ran them off in 778, so if Charles Martel was there, it would have been in the period before that. And that could have been difficult, since Charles and Duke Odo the Great didn’t get along until the Umayyads flattened Odo’s army at the Battle of Garonne. Odo retreated north at that time and appealed to Charles for help. It is probable that he was at the Battle of Tours and maybe it was his cavalry that raided the Muslim camp.

    • #10
  11. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):

    Very readable history, @ percival; my compliments! I recommend this for promotion to the Main Page.

    Defeating the Muslim Caliphate and then driving it back from France was the first step towards the eventual Reconquista of Spain. It affirms the fact that Dar-al Islam must be resisted by force as well as by faith.

    Indeed, this is fine stuff!

    • #11
  12. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Arahant (View Comment):

    It’s always Hammer time.

    They had some pretty cool names back then, although I alway wondered if Charles the Bald was OK with his.

    • #12
  13. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    It’s always Hammer time.

    They had some pretty cool names back then, although I alway wondered if Charles the Bald was OK with his.

    This was an issue in earlier times, too.  It would be cool to be known as Pompey Magnus.  Pompey Strabo?  Not so much.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    It’s always Hammer time.

    They had some pretty cool names back then, although I alway wondered if Charles the Bald was OK with his.

    This was an issue in earlier times, too. It would be cool to be known as Pompey Magnus. Pompey Strabo? Not so much.

    Tell me about it.

    — Aethelred the Unready

    • #14
  15. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    It’s always Hammer time.

    They had some pretty cool names back then, although I alway wondered if Charles the Bald was OK with his.

    This was an issue in earlier times, too. It would be cool to be known as Pompey Magnus. Pompey Strabo? Not so much.

    Shame what happened to Pompeii…

    • #15
  16. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Percival: And so, on 10 October 732, the Muslims attacked uphill and through the trees

    Cavalry’s not very good in the woods.

    • #16
  17. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Great post, Percival. And very well explained for non-specialists like me. Thanks!

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival: And so, on 10 October 732, the Muslims attacked uphill and through the trees

    Cavalry’s not very good in the woods.

    The stuff I have read always mention trees, but never forest. Even scattered trees would be a hinderance. Horses can stumble on tree roots.

    • #18
  19. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    It’s not even that.  To be effective, cavalry has to present a united front.  They can’t do that if there are trees.

    • #19
  20. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    It’s not even that. To be effective, cavalry has to present a united front. They can’t do that if there are trees.

    For disrupting the line, the Franks also had their national weapon, a throwing axe called the francisca.

    They would wait until the enemy was about 10-12 yards away, then unleash a volley of those. One of those could shatter a shield or a helmet.

    • #20
  21. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member
    Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw
    @MattBalzer

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival: And so, on 10 October 732, the Muslims attacked uphill and through the trees

    Cavalry’s not very good in the woods.

    The stuff I have read always mention trees, but never forest. Even scattered trees would be a hinderance. Horses can stumble on tree roots.

    I was thinking about that in regards to the attack not being pushed through. If the retreating army was mostly cavalry they’d have more trouble moving quickly through the night.

    • #21
  22. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    It’s not even that. To be effective, cavalry has to present a united front. They can’t do that if there are trees.

    For disrupting the line, the Franks also had their national weapon, a throwing axe called the francisca.

    They would wait until the enemy was about 10-12 yards away, then unleash a volley of those. One of those could shatter a shield or a helmet.

    Sorta like pila.

    • #22
  23. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    It’s not even that. To be effective, cavalry has to present a united front. They can’t do that if there are trees.

    For disrupting the line, the Franks also had their national weapon, a throwing axe called the francisca.

    They would wait until the enemy was about 10-12 yards away, then unleash a volley of those. One of those could shatter a shield or a helmet.

    Sorta like pila.

    A little. Shorter range. Slightly greater impact.

    • #23
  24. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    It’s not even that. To be effective, cavalry has to present a united front. They can’t do that if there are trees.

    For disrupting the line, the Franks also had their national weapon, a throwing axe called the francisca.

    They would wait until the enemy was about 10-12 yards away, then unleash a volley of those. One of those could shatter a shield or a helmet.

    Sorta like pila.

    A little. Shorter range. Slightly greater impact.

    I’d think it took a lot more skill to effectively throw the francisca than the pila.

    • #24
  25. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    We had a tank platoon attached to our battalion in 2005 in Haditha and Hit, Iraq,  The platoon commander, 1stLt Slaytor is his name, I believe, knew what the war was about but apparently our national leaders didn’t.  Pictures of his tank made national news.

     

     

    They forced him to rename the tank.  He changed it to “Pimp Juice.”  I’ve yet to figure exactly what that means, but it is at least suggestively obscene.  No  one complained about that.

    Our good lieutenant understood what is obvious to anyone with the slightest understanding of history:  The conflict with radical Islam resumes the brief lull we’ve been fortunate to experience the past 150 years.  

    Politicians don’t like truths.  Men are men and they aren’t women.  Corona is relatively mild and not the civilization ending plague they predicted.  The aggression of Islam is growing again.  

    • #25
  26. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    It’s not even that. To be effective, cavalry has to present a united front. They can’t do that if there are trees.

    For disrupting the line, the Franks also had their national weapon, a throwing axe called the francisca.

    They would wait until the enemy was about 10-12 yards away, then unleash a volley of those. One of those could shatter a shield or a helmet.

    Sorta like pila.

    A little. Shorter range. Slightly greater impact.

    I’d think it took a lot more skill to effectively throw the francisca than the pila.

    There was a bar that offered a variety of pastimes not far from where I used to live: pool, billiards, darts, axe throwing. It takes surprisingly little practice to get pretty good at it if you operate at the same distance all the time.

    EDIT: I just checked their website. They may have changed their format somewhat. Either that or football golf(?) and Top Flite Golf suites were always there. I didn’t notice. I went to drink beer and throw axes.

    • #26
  27. davenr321 Coolidge
    davenr321
    @davenr321

    The line is alive in Rick “The Model” Martel.

    • #27
  28. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    And, of course, the classic:

     

    • #28
  29. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    It’s not even that. To be effective, cavalry has to present a united front. They can’t do that if there are trees.

    For disrupting the line, the Franks also had their national weapon, a throwing axe called the francisca.

    They would wait until the enemy was about 10-12 yards away, then unleash a volley of those. One of those could shatter a shield or a helmet.

    Sorta like pila.

    A little. Shorter range. Slightly greater impact.

    I’d think it took a lot more skill to effectively throw the francisca than the pila.

    There was a bar that offered a variety of pastimes not far from where I used to live: pool, billiards, darts, axe throwing. It takes surprisingly little practice to get pretty good at it if you operate at the same distance all the time.

    EDIT: I just checked their website. They may have changed their format somewhat. Either that or football golf(?) and Top Flite Golf suites were always there. I didn’t notice. I went to drink beer and throw axes.

    One of my bosses, who I would not have expected it of, bought a throwing axe, and goes regularly to practice.

    • #29
  30. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    I was always amazed that Muhammad died in 632, but the Battle of Tours took place exactly 100 years later in 732.  Within exactly 100 years, Islam was threatening to take over all of Europe.  I never understand how this happened so quickly, but I guess cavalry and perhaps slaves help to explain this.  However, I would not think that they would have had an endless supply of horses.  Perhaps they would not have been able to get much further due to extremely long supply line, but they were certainly seemed to be quickly and easily defeating everyone before this event.

    Defeating the Muslim Caliphate and then driving it back from France was the first step towards the eventual Reconquista of Spain. It affirms the fact that Dar-al Islam must be resisted by force as well as by faith.

    I always thought growing up that the Hundred Year War had to be the longest war, but then I heard someone explain that the Reconquista took almost 800 years, ending in the year 1492.  (Happy Columbus Day everyone.)

    Too bad 1000 years later the French and the western Europeans would allow an invasion. To mention it or lament it casts me as a racist xenophobe. 

    Today too much of Christendom is just Christian dumb.

    I seem to remember Mark Steyn pointing out that the Charles Martel statue in France now overlooks a bustling Islamic neighborhood.

    • #30