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A stunning example of military prowess and skilled leadership, the Battle of Cowpens near Chesnee, South Carolina, was a critical American victory in the Revolutionary War. This engagement further weakened British attempts to wrest the southern colonies from American control.
How it ended
American victory. After a string of bad luck in the Southern Campaign, the American army demonstrated its worth in a swift struggle that decisively hindered British forces in the South.
By late 1778, the British high command proceeded with their "Southern Strategy." Why did they choose this new “Southern Strategy?” Simply put, economics. The New England colonies produced many of the same products and goods as the British Isles, but the Southern Colonies were a different story. Rice, indigo, tobacco, and other cash crops abounded. Crops that could not be produced in the British Isles. The institution of chattel slavery helped to keep the wholesale prices of these products low, and British mercantilism could profit from cornering the market and selling the goods for substantial profits. Many leaders in London felt that the Southern people supported Toryism, and by default were more apt to take up arms as loyalists. These loyalist forces could be relied upon to bolster the British war effort lending manpower to an army that had been at war with their own colonists since 1775. However, in the South Carolina Low Country, British soldiers freed southern planters’ greatest source of labor and income—enslaved workers. While in the Backcountry, British officers used threats and intimidation against the population. Thus, by alienating the population, the British had difficulty rallying sympathetic allies to their cause, while exacerbating the civil war within a civil war. With little loyalist support, they faced greater challenges in battle as the campaign in the South continued.
The South Carolina backcountry turned out to be Britain’s undoing. The colonial population there was split between patriots and loyalists. The territory was essentially engaged in civil war, with neighbor pitted against neighbor. Both sides organized militias and engaged in armed raids and reprisals. Into this hostile arena, General George Washington sent Major General Nathanael Greene to take command of the Southern Army. Greene, just two weeks into his command, split his force, sending Brigadier General Daniel Morgan southwest of the Catawba River to cut supply lines and hamper British operations.
General Cornwallis, the British commander in the South, countered Greene's move by sending Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to block Morgan's progress. Tarleton was only 26 years old, but he was already an able commander. He was also feared and hated. At the Battle of Waxhaws in 1780, Tarleton was alleged to have attacked Continental Army troops who were trying to surrender. His refusal of offering “no quarter,” is said to be the derivation of the derisive term "Tarleton's Quarter,” meaning “taking no prisoners.” Morgan’s brilliant victory over Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens was humiliating for the elite British army officer. His loss directly contributed to Cornwallis’s defeat in the southern colonies, the British surrender at Yorktown, and American independence.
Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, boosted by the British success at Camden and other victories, aggressively pursues American general Daniel Morgan’s forces through South Carolina. Confident that his 1,150 men will continue to be successful in the South, Tarleton chases Morgan without knowing how many men Morgan actually has at his side. Morgan, however, is well aware of the strength and location of his enemy. He readies his 1,065 men for battle.
Tarleton’s early morning crossing of the Pacolet River on January 16 forces Morgan to abandon his campsite and fall back on Cowpens pasture near Thicketty Creek. This open, rolling woodland of first-growth pines and hardwoods is excellent country for cavalrymen but offers little cover for riflemen. The Americans find a slope ridge, which dips down to a shallow swale and rises again to a higher ridge. Just behind the crown of the second ridge is a deeper gully in which cavalry can be concealed. Morgan spends the evening moving from campfire to campfire, talking with his soldiers before combat and building their resolve.
Shortly after routing the Union Army of Virginia under Maj. Gen. John Pope in the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Battle of Manassas) in August, 1862, Lee led his own Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac into Maryland. Reasons for this invasion included taking pressure off the Shenandoah Valley&mdash"The Breadbasket of the Confederacy"&mdashat harvest time encouraging European support for the Confederacy by winning a battle on Northern soil and demoralizing Northerners to reduce their support for the war while encouraging the slave-holding state of Maryland to secede and join the Confederacy.
Believing the routed Union army would require time to rebuild, Lee took the bold step of dividing his own army, sending portions of it to capture various objectives. Primarily, these objectives involved using part of Lieutenant General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson’s corps to capture the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), while the largest corps, that of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, proceeded on the road toward Sharpsburg. Lee informed his commanders of their routes and objectives in Order No. 191 on September 9.
In a series of events too strange to be believable in fiction, a copy of Order No. 191 was used to bundle a few cigars and the bundle was inadvertently dropped in a field on the Best Farm, where it was found by Federal soldiers of the 27th Indiana Regiment. The marching orders were taken to Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, who had been recalled from the Virginia peninsula along with the Army of the Potomac (see Seven Days Battle).
Whatever his flaws as a field commander, "Little Mac" was an organizer who had the confidence of his troops. On September 12, the Army of Virginia was disbanded and absorbed into the Army of the Potomac, with McClellan as the commander&mdashJohn Pope was sent to Minnesota to fight Indians&mdash and he had the army ready for action sooner than Lee had anticipated.
The benefits of the intelligence windfall that dropped into McClellan’s hands were blunted, however, because a Southern sympathizer informed Lee that McClellan had a copy of his orders, and because McClellan moved with his typical glacial pace. He allowed 17 hours to pass before marching toward Lee’s force, allowing time for the Confederates to begin regrouping around the town of Sharpsburg at the base of South Mountain.
George Washington’s efforts to fortify New York City from a British attack led to the Revolutionary War’s biggest battle. The crushing defeat for the Americans allowed Britain to hold the valuable port until the end of the war.
How it ended
British victory. Shortly after fighting began, the British cornered Washington and 9,000 of his men in Brooklyn Heights. He was surrounded on all sides with the East River to his back and no feasible means of winning the battle. Instead of surrendering, Washington evacuated the army and retreated to Manhattan, a decision that saved the Continental Army and the patriot cause.
New York played a pivotal role throughout the American Revolution, particularly early on. It's central position in the American Colonies and its port made it vital to commerce and a key strategic location. After compelling the British evacuation of Boston in the early months of 1776, General George Washington accurately guessed that the Redcoats’ next target would be New York City. Washington transferred his Continental Army to the city in April and May, hoping to turn back or at least severely cripple the next wave of British invaders.
The Continentals fortified the city in fits and starts. Discipline was sorely lacking among the Americans, many of whom had never been so far from home and had never served in a professional military. They were awed by the arrival of the British fleet in late June. One man remarked that it looked like "all London afloat." The British infantry disembarked on Staten Island.
The British warships had the potential to dominate the river waterways that cut through New York City, rendering the American defense untenable. Nevertheless, Washington sought to fight a battle and inflict some damage before abandoning his position. His defensive arrangement, however, was fatally flawed. He split his forces between Brooklyn and Manhattan, preventing easy reinforcement or escape across the Hudson and East Rivers. Furthermore, his line atop Guan Heights did not stretch to cover the Jamaica Pass, a hole that was exploited by British regulars.
Although a timely retreat saved the Continental Army from destruction at Brooklyn, Washington’s failure there left New York firmly in British hands until the end of the war.
On August 22, British transports move 10,000 infantrymen to Long Island. Wrongly thinking that this is a diversion for a main attack on Manhattan, Washington does not recombine his forces to meet the new threat. British general William Howe, hearing from Loyalists in the area about the undefended Jamaica Pass, sends an advance force there. At the same time, he orders British and Hessian troops to distract the Continental soldiers from the front. The Redcoats march into position on August 26. On August 27, the British launch an attack on the Americans.
– Courtesy Sotheby’s New York –
– (Detail) Courtesy Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, U.S.A. Museum Purchase, 19.69 –>/i>
– Courtesy Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society, Pierre SD –
– Courtesy Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument –
– Courtesy Robert Utley –
Considering George Armstrong Custer died nearly 140 years ago, it’s remarkable that so many feel&hellip
Felix Vinatieri was the band leader of the 7th Cavalry, and in that job he&hellip
CUSTER SURVIVOR: Sergeant August Finckle, Company C, 7th Cavalry, died at the Little Bighorn on&hellip
Battle of Yarmouk
1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead.
2 And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor the captain of whose host [was] Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
4 And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedeshnaphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the LORD God of Israel commanded, [saying], Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude and I will deliver him into thine hand.
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, [then] I will not go.
9 And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.
10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, [which was] of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which [is] by Kedesh.
12 And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, [even] nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that [were] with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up for this [is] the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
15 And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all [his] chariots, and all [his] host, with the edge of the sword before Barak so that Sisera lighted down off [his] chariot, and fled away on his feet.
16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword [and] there was not a man left.
17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for [there was] peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
18 And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
21 Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent , and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her [tent], behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail [was] in his temples.
23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
1 Then sang Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam on that day, saying,
2 Praise ye the LORD for the avenging of Israel, when the people willingly offered themselves.
3 Hear, O ye kings give ear, O ye princes I, [even] I, will sing unto the LORD I will sing [praise] to the LORD God of Israel.
4 LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, the clouds also dropped water.
5 The mountains melted from before the LORD, [even] that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel.
6 In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.
7 [The inhabitants of] the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that I arose a mother in Israel.
8 They chose new gods then [was] war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?
9 My heart [is] toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the LORD.
10 Speak, ye that ride on white asses, ye that sit in judgment, and walk by the way.
11 [They that are delivered] from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, [even] the righteous acts [toward the inhabitants] of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates.
12 Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.
13 Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty.
14 Out of Ephraim [was there] a root of them against Amalek after thee, Benjamin, among thy people out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer.
15 And the princes of Issachar [were] with Deborah even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben [there were] great thoughts of heart.
16 Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben [there were] great searchings of heart.
17 Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.
18 Zebulun and Naphtali [were] a people [that] jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.
19 The kings came [and] fought, then fought the kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo they took no gain of money.
20 They fought from heaven the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.
21 The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength.
22 Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones.
23 Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty.
24 Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent.
25 He asked water, [and] she gave [him] milk she brought forth butter in a lordly dish.
26 She put her hand to the nail, and her right hand to the workmen's hammer and with the hammer she smote Sisera, she smote off his head, when she had pierced and stricken through his temples.
27 At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.
28 The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot [so] long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
29 Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,
30 Have they not sped? have they [not] divided the prey to every man a damsel [or] two to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, [meet] for the necks of [them that take] the spoil?
1 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.
2 And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: [and] because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which [are] in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds.
3 And [so] it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them
4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude [for] both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.
7 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD because of the Midianites,
8 That the LORD sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage
9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land
10 And I said unto you, I [am] the LORD your God fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which [was] in Ophrah, that [pertained] unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide [it] from the Midianites.
12 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD [is] with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where [be] all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
14 And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family [is] poor in Manasseh, and I [am] the least in my father's house.
16 And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
18 Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set [it] before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.
19 And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought [it] out unto him under the oak, and presented [it].
20 And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay [them] upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.
21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that [was] in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.
22 And when Gideon perceived that he [was] an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.
23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace [be] unto thee fear not: thou shalt not die.
24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it [is] yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
25 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that [is] by it:
26 And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.
27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and [so] it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do [it] by day, that he did [it] by night.
28 And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that [was] by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar [that was] built.
29 And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing.
30 Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that [was] by it.
31 And Joash said unto all that stood against him, Will ye plead for Baal? will ye save him? he that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst [it is yet] morning: if he [be] a god, let him plead for himself, because [one] hath cast down his altar.
32 Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, Let Baal plead against him, because he hath thrown down his altar.
33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.
34 But the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet and Abiezer was gathered after him.
35 And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh who also was gathered after him: and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali and they came up to meet them.
36 And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,
37 Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor [and] if the dew be on the fleece only, and [it be] dry upon all the earth [beside], then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said.
38 And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water.
39 And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
1 Then Jerubbaal, who [is] Gideon, and all the people that [were] with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.
2 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that [are] with thee [are] too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.
3 Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever [is] fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand and there remained ten thousand.
4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people [are] yet [too] many bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, [that] of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.
5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink.
6 And the number of them that lapped, [putting] their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water.
7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the [other] people go every man unto his place.
8 So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all [the rest of] Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.
9 And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host for I have delivered it into thine hand.
10 But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host:
11 And thou shalt hear what they say and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that [were] in the host.
12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude and their camels [were] without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.
13 And when Gideon was come, behold, [there was] a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.
14 And his fellow answered and said, This [is] nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: [for] into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host.
15 And it was [so], when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.
16 And he divided the three hundred men [into] three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.
17 And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be [that], as I do, so shall ye do.
18 When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that [are] with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, [The sword] of the LORD, and of Gideon.
19 So Gideon, and the hundred men that [were] with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that [were] in their hands.
20 And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow [withal]: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.
21 And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.
22 And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, [and] to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath.
23 And the men of Israel gathered themselves together out of Naphtali, and out of Asher, and out of all Manasseh, and pursued after the Midianites.
24 And Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan. Then all the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and took the waters unto Bethbarah and Jordan.
1 And the men of Ephraim said unto him, Why hast thou served us thus, that thou calledst us not, when thou wentest to fight with the Midianites? And they did chide with him sharply.
2 And he said unto them, What have I done now in comparison of you? [Is] not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?
3 God hath delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I able to do in comparison of you? Then their anger was abated toward him, when he had said that.
4 And Gideon came to Jordan, [and] passed over, he, and the three hundred men that [were] with him, faint, yet pursuing [them].
5 And he said unto the men of Succoth, Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me for they [be] faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.
6 And the princes of Succoth said, [Are] the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thine army?
7 And Gideon said, Therefore when the LORD hath delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into mine hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.
8 And he went up thence to Penuel, and spake unto them likewise: and the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered [him].
9 And he spake also unto the men of Penuel, saying, When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower.
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna [were] in Karkor, and their hosts with them, about fifteen thousand [men], all that were left of all the hosts of the children of the east: for there fell an hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword.
11 And Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and smote the host: for the host was secure.
12 And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued after them, and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited all the host.
13 And Gideon the son of Joash returned from battle before the sun [was up],
14 And caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and enquired of him: and he described unto him the princes of Succoth, and the elders thereof, [even] threescore and seventeen men.
15 And he came unto the men of Succoth, and said, Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, with whom ye did upbraid me, saying, [Are] the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in thine hand, that we should give bread unto thy men [that are] weary?
16 And he took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught the men of Succoth.
17 And he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city.
18 Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men [were they] whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, As thou [art], so [were] they each one resembled the children of a king.
19 And he said, They [were] my brethren, [even] the sons of my mother: [as] the LORD liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.
20 And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, [and] slay them. But the youth drew not his sword: for he feared, because he [was] yet a youth.
21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, Rise thou, and fall upon us: for as the man [is, so is] his strength. And Gideon arose, and slew Zebah and Zalmunna, and took away the ornaments that [were] on their camels' necks.
22 Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian.
23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.
24 And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they [were] Ishmaelites.)
25 And they answered, We will willingly give [them]. And they spread a garment, and did cast therein every man the earrings of his prey.
26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was a thousand and seven hundred [shekels] of gold beside ornaments, and collars, and purple raiment that [was] on the kings of Midian, and beside the chains that [were] about their camels' necks.
27 And Gideon made an ephod thereof, and put it in his city, [even] in Ophrah: and all Israel went thither a whoring after it: which thing became a snare unto Gideon, and to his house.
28 Thus was Midian subdued before the children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.
29 And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.
30 And Gideon had threescore and ten sons of his body begotten: for he had many wives.
31 And his concubine that [was] in Shechem, she also bare him a son, whose name he called Abimelech.
32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father, in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.
33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god.
34 And the children of Israel remembered not the LORD their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies on every side:
5 Battles That Changed the Middle East Forever
This place gave birth to organized warfare, and things haven't slowed down since.
The Middle East is the cradle of civilization—and the cradle of organized warfare between states and tribes. The oldest recorded battles in history, as well as some of the most impactful, are all from this region. While not a comprehensive list by any means, here are five of the greatest battles fought in the Middle East.
The Battle of Kadesh was fought between the Egyptians and Hittites (from modern Turkey) in 1274 B.C.E. at a site in modern Syria near the Lebanese border. Both powers had been fighting to dominate the Levant for a while. This battle is of particular importance to the history of warfare and diplomacy because it is the earliest recorded battle for which details and tactics are known. Additionally, the subsequent peace treaty is the oldest known surviving peace treaty to date. Not only that, but both the Egyptian and Hittite copies have been found.
Putting aside the obvious importance of the battle for historians, Kadesh was quite significant. It was the largest chariot battle in history, with about 6,000 chariots involved. Subsequently, chariots became a lot less common because of improvements in horse breeding and equipment that made cavalry more useful. Constant warfare between the two states was a factor in the
Fate works in strange ways. Empires that are strong and seemingly undefeatable for centuries crumble in merely a few years. This is what happened to the Assyrian Empire, which had dominated the Middle East for three centuries, ruling over or obtaining tribute from the Israelites, Babylonians, Elamites, Medians, Persians, and many others. Yet the Assyrian Empire, mighty as it was, collapsed very abruptly after the Battle of Nineveh, near Mosul in Iraq, in 612 B.C.E. when the Babylonians, Medes and Persians from modern Iran, and Scythians from the modern Russian steppes brought the Assyrians down.
The Assyrians were a shockingly brutal empire, even by ancient standards. Their rise to power began in the 10th century B.C.E., and they aimed to totally annihilate their enemies by displacing and resettling defeated populations. Assyria peaked around 627 B.C.E. but was constantly exhausted by war, civil war, and dealing with resentful enemies. It had recently conquered Egypt and had to deal with that land too.
After a bitter struggle lasting many years, various peoples allied against Assyria arrived at the walls of Nineveh, the capital of the empire and captured the city after a three month siege. According to a Babylonian record, “they carried off the vast booty of the city and the temple and turned the city into a ruin heap.” Although the Babylonian Empire rose on the ashes of Assyria to rule over much of the same territory, it was never as powerful, and it should not be forgotten that Assyria was only brought down with help from peoples outside of the original area of power and civilization in the Fertile Crescent. Afterwards, power in the Middle East steadily began to move away from Syria and Iraq and towards Persia, Anatolia, and Greece.
The Battle of Gaugamela was one of history’s most important battles in which Alexander “the Great” of Macedon defeated Darius III of Persia in 331 B.C.E. Up till then, the Persian Empire had been the greatest empire the world had ever seen. Alexander invaded it ostensibly as revenge for the Persian invasion of Greece over a hundred years before, but mostly for glory.
And what a glorious campaign it was. Though heavily outnumbered, he won battle after battle and had already seized Anatolia and Egypt after defeating Darius at the Battle of Issus (333). Darius tried to arrange a truce and give Alexander half his empire but Alexander decided to be the sole master of the region thus the two armies met at Gaugamela near Mosul, Iraq.
Greek records undoubtedly exaggerate the strength of the Persians, but the Persians did have a larger force at the battle. Why did the Persians lose so badly despite their numbers and history of successful empire building? Alexander used both psychology and tactics well. He outflanked the Persian forces, drawing their best troops to their sides and then charged at Darius in the exposed center. Darius then broke and fled, along with his army.
Much of the Persian Empire then fell into Alexander’s hands and Darius’ commanders grew restive, including one who murdered him. The fall of the Achaemenid Persian Empire broke Persian power for five centuries and began a period of Greek influence and dominance through the Middle East, and the rise of many Hellenistic Kingdoms. I would be wary, though, of casting this, as some major battle between East and West that resonates into modern times rather it was the victory of one people over another and the subsequent spread of the victor’s culture, a situation common in history.
In the seventh century C.E., the dominant superpowers of the Middle East were the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and the Persian Sassanid Empire. All other states in the region were minor kingdoms or tribes. Nobody at the start of that century would have conceived that the history of the region would change forever very soon, but that’s what happened at Yarmouk near the present day Syrian border with Jordan and Israel in 636 C.E. This battle resulted in the Muslim Arab conquest of Syria and Palestine, and Egypt being cut off from the rest of the empire, making that easy to conquer shortly after. In other words, the modern Muslim Arab Middle East was a direct consequence of Yarmouk.
The first two Caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar began attacking their neighbors, partially to direct the energies of revolting tribes elsewhere. The Arabs had already conquered Damascus and a large Byzantine army went to Syria to put an end to the Arab threat. Under the Arab general Khalid ibn al-Walid, the Arab forces raiding Syria pulled back and concentrated in one spot to fight the Byzantines. A smaller Arab force then defeated a larger Byzantine one over six days using a variety of tactics and a Byzantine failure to use cavalry when needed. Jerusalem fell to the Arabs not too long afterwards, and the Muslim era of the Middle East began in full swing.
It is indeed consequential to world history that within ten years of Muhammad’s death, the Arabs defeated and conquered large parts of both the Byzantine and Persian empires. But while the Byzantines survived, the Sassanid Persians were not so fortunate. While the Arabs were seizing the Levant, they were also fighting the Persians, who they defeated decisively at Qadisiyyah also in 636, conquering Iraq. At this point, all was not lost to the Persians, who were still secure in Iran and Central Asia. But unlike the Byzantines with their distant capital of Constantinople, the Persian capital of Ctesiphon (near Baghdad) was lost. Therefore, the Persians felt obligated to regain Iraq, which lead to further Arab campaigns against Persia, that had not been previously planned.
Thus befell the Battle of Nahavand in 642, a great disaster for the Persians and the “victory of victories” for the Arabs. Nahavand is located in western Iran near Hamadan and the mountainous terrain was thought to have favored the Persians. Again, the Arabs were outnumbered by their enemy. They resorted to a ruse, spreading a rumor that the Caliph had died, which caused the Persians to emerge from their defences onto a plain where they were defeated in the span of three days. After this battle, Persia could not be salvaged, exhausted as it was by war with the Arabs and Byzantines. The entire Iranian plateau was then laid bare to the Arabs who soon conquered Iran and then Central Asia.
Akhilesh Pillalamarri is an assistant editor at the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter:@AkhiPill.
- ^ Kennedy 2006, p. 45
- ^ Nicolle 1994, pp. 64–65
- ^ Islamic Conquest of Syria A translation of Fatuhusham by al-Imam al-Waqidi Translated by Mawlana Sulayman al-Kindi Page 352-353 
- ^ HADRAT 'UMAR FAROOQ By PROF. MASUD-UL-HASAN Published by ASHFAQ MIRZA, MANAGING DIRECTOR, Islamic Publications Ltd 13-E, Shah Alam Market, Lahore, Pakistan Published by SYED AFZAL-UL-HAQ QUDDUSI, Quddusi Printers, Nasir Park, Bilal Gunj, Lahore, Pakistan
- ^ a b Akram 2004, p. 425
- ^ Britannica (2007): "More than 50,000 byzantine soldiers died"
- ^ a b Walton 2003, p. 30
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- ^ a b Nicolle 1994, p. 19
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- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 87
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 246
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- ^ Akram 2009, p. 133
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 402
- ^ Al-Waqidi 8th century, p. 100
- ^ (Armenian) Bartikyan, Hrach. «Վահան» (Vahan). Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. vol. xi. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1985, p. 243.
- ^ Kennedy 2007, p. 82
- ^ a b Akram 2004, p. 409
- ^ Al-Waqidi 8th century, p. 106
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 16
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 399
- ^ a b Nicolle 1994, p. 61
- ^ a b Kaegi 1995, p. 67
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 401
- ^ al-Baladhuri 9th century, p. 143
- ^ a b Kaegi 1995, p. 134
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 407
- ^ a b c d e Nicolle 1994, p. 64
- ^ Schumacher 1889, pp. 77–79
- ^ Kaegi 1995, p. 122
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 63
- ^ Kaegi 2003, p. 242
- ^ John Haldon (2013)
- ^ a b c Nicolle 1994, p. 66
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 34
- ^ Walton 2003, p. 29
- ^ a b Akram 2004, p. 411
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 413
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 39
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 36
- ^ a b Kaegi 1995, p. 124
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 65
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 29
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 30
- ^ Kaegi 1995, p. 39
- ^ Kaegi 1995, pp. 132–133
- ^ Kaegi 1995, p. 121
- ^ Kaegi 1995, p. 130
- ^ Akram 2009, p. 132
- ^ a b c Nicolle 1994, p. 70
- ^ a b Kaegi 1995, p. 129
- ^ Nicolle 1994, p. 92
- ^ a b c Nicolle 1994, p. 68
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 415
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 417
- ^ a b c d e Nicolle 1994, p. 71
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- ^ Regan 2003, p. 164
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- ^ Akram 2004, p. 419
- ^ Akram 2004, p. 420
- ^ a b Nicolle 1994, p. 72
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- ^ a b c Nicolle 1994, p. 75
- ^ a b Al-Waqidi 8th century, p. 148
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- ^ a b c Akram 2004, p. 423
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- ^ Kaegi 1995, p. 143
Early career Edit
Abu Sufyan's given name was Sakhr and he was born in c. 565 to father Harb ibn Umayya, a leader of the Quraysh tribe of Mecca,  and mother Safiyya bint Hazn ibn Bujayr. [ citation needed ] The family belonged to the Banu Abd Shams clan of the Quraysh,  the brother clan of the Banu Hashim, to which the Islamic prophet Muhammad belonged. Abu Sufyan was among the leaders of the Qurayshi opposition to Muhammad in the years preceding the Hijrah (emigration of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622). A prominent financier and merchant, Abu Sufyan engaged in trade in Syria, often heading Meccan caravans to the region.  He owned land in the vicinity of Damascus.  
Opposition to Islam Edit
In 624, a caravan Abu Sufyan was leading back to Mecca from Syria faced an assault by Muhammad, prompting him to send for aid.  In response, a 1,000-strong Meccan army led by Abu Jahl was dispatched.  In the ensuing confrontation, Abu Sufyan, "by skillful and vigorous leadership eluded the Muslims", according to the historian W. Montgomery Watt.  However, under Abu Jahl's command, the Meccans pursued a direct confrontation with the Muslims, which resulted in the rout of the Quraysh at the Battle of Badr. Abu Jahl and the father of Abu Sufyan's wife, Utbah ibn Rabi'ah, were slain. Abu Sufyan's son Hanzala was also killed and another son, Amr, was taken captive, but released.  In the aftermath, Abu Sufyan was charged with avenging Meccan losses, the command he held likely being hereditary. He inflicted significant losses on the Muslims at the Battle of Uhud in 625, but the Quraysh were generally unsatisfied with the battle's results.  Two years later, he led the attempted siege of Medina, but was defeated by the Muslim defenders at the Battle of the Trench.  His morale may have taken a blow from this failure, as Meccan command in the war with Muhammad passed to his Qurayshi rivals, Safwan ibn Umayya, Ikrima ibn Abi Jahl and Suhayl ibn Amr. 
Conversion to Islam Edit
Though he did not participate in the truce negotiations at Hudaybiyya in 628, he held peace talks with Muhammad in Medina when allies of the Quraysh apparently broke the truce.  Information about the results of these talks is unclear, but Watt surmises that Abu Sufyan and Muhammad entered into an understanding of sorts.  When Muhammad conquered Mecca in 630, Abu Sufyan played a key role in the city's surrender, being among the first Qurayshi leaders to submit and guaranteeing protection for his partisans.  He fought alongside the Muslims at the Battle of Hunayn against the Banu Thaqif of Ta'if, traditional rivals of Mecca, and the latter's tribal backers from the Hawazin confederation.  During this battle, which ended in a decisive Muslim victory, he lost an eye, and was rewarded a relatively high percentage of the spoils for his valor.  Because of his past trade relations with Ta'if, where he also owned property and had kinsmen, Abu Sufyan played a leading role in the dismantlement of the pagan sanctuary of al-Lat in the city. 
Abu Sufyan was appointed the governor of Najran, in southern Arabia, either by Muhammad or more likely, by the first caliph, Abu Bakr ( r . 632–634 ).  He initially opposed the latter's succession of Muhammad as leader of the nascent Muslim state.  Abu Sufyan, seeing no hope that a member of the Banu Abd Shams could attain the role, aimed to keep the leadership in the hands of his next closest kinsmen, the Banu Hashim, specifically Ali ibn Abi Talib, a cousin, son-in-law and early supporter of Muhammad.  According to the historian Wilferd Madelung, Abu Sufyan, by dint of his chieftainship of the Banu Abd Shams and the generosity he had received from Muhammad, was duty-bound by a tribal code of honor to offer Ali such support, as doing otherwise "would have been shameful".  Ali, however, refused his support, citing Abu Sufyan's late conversion to Islam and the potential backlash from the Muslim community should he accept his backing.  Western historians generally dismiss this episode as propaganda by the Muslim traditional sources, which were traditionally hostile to the Umayyads,  the branch of the Banu Abd Shams to which Abu Sufyan belonged and which ultimately became the ruling family of the Caliphate in 661 until 750.
Abu Bakr ordered the Muslim conquest of the Levant, in which he gave the Banu Abd Shams a stake, despite their early opposition to him, which he sought to allay.  Abu Sufyan's son Yazid was ultimately appointed to a leading command role in the conquest. Abu Sufyan was present at the Battle of Yarmouk, which resulted in a decisive Muslim victory against the Byzantines in Syria. His advanced age at the time renders it unlikely that he actively participated in the battle.  According to an account cited by Sayf ibn Umar, he observed the battle alongside unspecified Arab sheikhs (chieftains), and accounts cited by al-Tabari further note that he "exhorted" the Muslim troops.  His son Yazid held a command role in the battle and later died in a plague in Palestine in 639.  Another of his sons, Mu'awiya, was appointed the governor of Syria by Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab ( r . 634–644 ). Umar's successor, Uthman ibn Affan ( r . 644–656 ), shared descent with Abu Sufyan from Umayya ibn Abd Shams and was known to show special favor to his kinsmen. To that end, he symbolically honored Abu Sufyan, along with al-Hakam ibn Abi al-As and al-Walid ibn Uqba of the Umayyad line of the Banu Abd Shams, and al-Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib of the Banu Hashim, by allowing them to sit on his throne in Medina.  Abu Sufyan died in 653 at the age of 88. 
Shaam: The Graveyard of its Enemies
On 30 September 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin requested permission from Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, to deploy the country’s military in Syria. On the same day, the Federation Council approved the use of Russian military in Syria to fight ISIS. Permission was granted after a unanimous vote, however any combat operations will be limited to using the air force. Russian media reported that Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad had asked for Russia to intervene by providing military assistance.
Whilst Russia has joined the fray in Syria using the excuse of fighting ISIS to gain legitimacy, it is clear from Russia’s first attacks that they have attacked positions of other resistance groups making it clear that they are seeking to put an end to all resistance to Assad as opposed to fighting ISIS.
Before the Sykes Picot Agreement in 1916, an arrangement which divided the Ottoman Empire’s dominions in the Arab world into British and French “zones of influence,” laying the foundation for the region’s modern borders, the land of Syria belonged to the area known in Islam as Bilad as-Shaam (“land of the North”) together with areas we know today as Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine (including the illegitimate state of Israel). Thus, not only does Shaam consist of the Third city of Islam, al-Quds, but also what can be considered as the Fourth city in Islam, Damascus for it was here that the power base of Islam had transferred during the Umayyad caliphate after the period of the Rashidun. It should not be forgotten that thousands of eyes that saw the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) are buried in Shaam. Homs alone houses the graves of more than 500 companions including Khalid ibnul Waleed RA. It is also the land of righteous people, Awliya and Ulama. Imam An Nawawi, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathir and Ibn Al Qayyim are all buried there (may Allāh have mercy on them).
Since that time, few regions in the world have been invaded by outsider nations as this area of Shaam where many soldiers and civilians of various nationalities are buried under the earth. With Russia and other Western states gearing for their latest imperialist follies in Syria, it would be worthwhile reminding ourselves of some vital lessons from history and the importance and virtues of this blessed region. For indeed Bilad as-Shaam became known in history as ‘The Graveyard of Aggressors”.
Graveyard of the Romans
The advent of Islam in this region began during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) and it was he who instructed and educated his companions and, by extension, Muslims of all times, the value of this region. One such instruction is noted within the following account:
Zaid ibn Thabit reported: When we were with the Prophet writing down the Qur’an on animal skins, he said, “Blessed be Al-Shaam.” They said, “Messenger of Allāh, why is it blessed?” He replied, “Because the angels of Allāh spread their wings over it.”
During the period of the Caliphate of Abu Bakr (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) and then succeeded by ‘Umar (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu), the Muslim army was split into four groups: one under ‘Amr in Palestine, one under Shurahbil in Jordan, one under Yazid in the Damascus-Caesarea region and the last one under Abu Ubaidah along with Khalid (radiy Allāhu ‘anhum) at Emesa.
As the Muslim forces were geographically divided, Heraclius sought to exploit this situation and planned to attack. The Muslims discovered Heraclius’ preparations and being alert to the possibility of being caught with separated forces that could be destroyed, Khalid called for a council of war which was led by the then overall Commander of the Muslim army in Shaam, Abu Ubaidah. Khalid advised him to pull the troops back from other areas and concentrate the entire Muslim army in one place which is what Abu Ubaida commanded and as such, the Muslims established their position in the plains of Yarmouk.
On 20th of the Islamic month of Rajab in 15 AH 636, the Battle of Yarmouk broke out between the Muslim Arab army consisting of between 24,000 – 40,000 and the forces of Byzantine Roman Empire consisting of between 150,000 – 400,000, ending six days later in a decisive victory for the Muslims. The battle consisted of a series of seesaw engagements near the Yarmouk River, along what is today the border between Syria and Jordan, south-east of the Sea of Galilee, 65 km from the Golan Heights. It is regarded as one of the most decisive battles in military history, and it marked the first great wave of Muslim conquests, ending the long sway of the then superpowers, the Romans and the Persians. Amongst the forces of the Muslims were hundreds of sahābah and veterans of Badr. Also amongst the Muslims was Abu Sufyan (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) who fought valiantly in this war where he lost one of his eyes.
The battle of Yarmouk was one of the most disastrous defeats ever suffered by the Roman Empire and it spelled the end of the Roman rule in Shaam where the Muslim army crushed the enemy to powder. Whilst the Muslims were reported to have lost around 4,000, the Romans are reported to have lost up to 120,000 by Tabari’s account and 70,000 by ibn Ishaq.
With the battle of Yarmouk over, the Muslims were able to consolidate their victories which culminated with the opening up and peaceful victory of al-Quds (Jerusalem) with ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) travelling from Madinah to be given the keys to the city.
Graveyard of the Crusaders
From the period above, the area of al-Quds (Jerusalem) remained in the hands of the Muslims until the Crusader invasion in 1099. After almost 100 years of occupation, in the words of Imām al-Dīn al-Khatīb: “Allāh renewed Islām after it had declined and strengthened it after it had grown weak” through Nūr al-Dīn (governor of Aleppo) and then by the man of the hour, perhaps the most celebrated of Muslim soldiers in the history of Islām, Salāh al-Dīn Ayūbi, who threw down the gauntlet to the invading Crusaders.
After a number of battles, the decisive battle once again, as many times previously, took place in the blessed month of Ramadān in the year 1187 at the battle of Hattīn. Leading up to this battle, one of the crusader kings, Renaud treacherously attacked a Muslim caravan during a period of truce. He seized these people, put them to torture, threw them into pits and imprisoned some in dungeons. When the prisoners objected and pointed out that there was a truce between the two peoples, he remonstrated: “Ask your Muhammad to deliver you”. This was the prelude to the famous battle of Hattīn which then followed, which is considered by many to be the key to all the Muslim conquests against the crusaders and represented the period that the crusader tide began to recede which eventually resulted in the liberation of al-Quds on the 27th of Rajab, which was said to have coincided with the Night Journey of the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).
Salāh al-Dīn met the militant crusader forces at a hill top known as the Horns of Hattin in July 1187 with both forces numbering approximately 25,000 men. In the searing summer heat, Salāh al-Dīn launched a surprise attack using an ingenious strategy. Realising the grass was very dry and having already secured the wells close by, Salāh al-Dīn set fire to the ground, causing smoke and panic across the Crusader forces and causing dehydration. Distracted by the billowing smoke, the militant crusader soldiers were no match for the disciplined Muslim forces. By the end of the battle, broken, maimed bodies could be seen everywhere and mingled with the bodies of the crusader soldiers were countless priests, still clutching their crosses and they added to the layer of the graves of the earlier enemies of Islam, the Romans in these plains of Shaam.
Graveyard of the Mongols
Fierce mounted warriors swept out of Mongolia, laying waste to every city that refused to surrender. Genghis Khan called himself “the scourge of God sent to punish humanity for their sins”. Hulagu, the grandson of Genghis Khan continued this destruction and in 1260 (656 AH), they unleashed their fury against Baghdād and breached its walls. They murdered and pillaged for a week – some estimates say that as many as 1,800,000 were killed. The whole Islāmic world trembled in fear of the Mongols. This was such a decisive blow that for the first time since the very early stages of the faith at the time of Badr, there was a real fear that Islām and Muslims could be wiped off the face of the earth.
Amongst all this doom and gloom and when Muslims were in a real position of weakness, fear and apprehension, Allāh raised for the Ummah His servant, Saif al-Dīn Qutuz who was a Mamluk (Mamluks had served as soldier-slaves for the Ayyubid sultans of Cairo). He united the Muslims, prepared them to fight, raised the necessary money and the army was mobilised to engage in the battle to defend Islām, its followers and lands, and to fight the usurping aggressor. Amongst the many renowned scholars who had encouraged the Muslims to unify behind Qutuz and prepare for the battle was the great scholar, al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salām.
The stage was set for a decisive clash between the Muslims and the Mongols. In the month of Ramadān, on Friday the 25th in 658 A.H was the infamous battle of Ain Jālūt. Among the army of Qutuz was his General, Beybars, who would in time carve his own name into the honorary roll of warriors. By the Grace of Allāh, they achieved their victory. The invaders were defeated and the whole of the world sighed in relief and stood in awe at the remarkable achievement of these noble sons of Islām and with this victory, another layer of graves of enemies was added to the soil of this blessed region of Shaam.
In more recent times in 1799, like the Mongols before him, Napoleon’s Syrian campaign is the first unmitigated disaster in his career when he suffered defeat at the hands of the Ottomans in Acre, thus adding another layer of enemy corpses beneath the grounds of this blessed land.
Before reflecting on the lessons from the above, the Russians should seriously ask themselves whether history is repeating itself. In 1978 Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) entered Afghanistan to help another brutal leader of the time who like Assad, his name also started with the letter ‘A’, Amin in Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghan Muslims joined the Mujahideen who wanted to overthrow of the Amin government much like how the resistance want the overthrow of Assad. The Mujahideen declared a Jihad on Amin and his supporters. This was also extended to the Russians who were now in Afghanistan trying to maintain the power of the Amin government. The Russians claimed that they had been invited in by the Amin government and that they were not invading the country – does this sound familiar? They claimed that their task was to support a legitimate government and that the Mujahdeen were no more than terrorists, just like what we are witnessing today.
In the end, Russian soldiers were no match against the Mujahideen – men fueled by their Eeman, and the Russians left with their tails between their legs and history bears testimony as to how a small pebble in Afghanistan, smashed the giant rock of the Soviet Union bringing its eventual decline. The Russians have also been engaged in war with the Muslims in Chechnya now for many decades and so it would seem that having tasted the military might of the Afghani Muslims and that of the Chechnyan Muslims, they will now taste the might of the Arab Muslims. And although the situation in Shaam today has become a game in the hands of the great powers who are devilishly gambling with the land and lives of the Muslims, history teaches us that this land, perhaps more than any other, has witnessed the traverse of the world’s greatest armies on campaigns of conquest visiting and all eventually running into trouble in their encounters with the Muslims. It seems as if the Glorified and Exalted prepared the people and the land there especially for jihad.
This truly is a place where once stood the great luminaries and giants of Islam and though those giants may not be with us today, we should not forget that the very same angels of Allāh, whose wings rested above this region and that witnessed the earth’s absorption of the many enemies of Allāh, the very same angels’ wings rest high above the fighter jets of the enemies today. Angels who will once more preside over the elimination of the latest aggressors in what is likely to be a long protracted war in this blessed region, ultimately adding another layer of graves of aggressors for this is the sunnah of Allāh and you will never find any change therein.