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105.000 Muslims vs 800 Portuguese (The Great Siege of Mazagão)
In the year of 1562, the King of Morocco, Muley Abdala, had knowledge that Portugal’s garrison in Mazagão (Morocco) was heavily reduced in numbers, with only a few arquebusiers defending it. The moorish king seeing an opportunity, gathers a large force in an attempt to reconquer the city fortress from the Portuguese. His army was composed of 15.000 knights, 8.000 arquebusiers, 70.000 infantry soldiers and extra 12.000 of personnel, including with artillery men, war engineers, noblemen and aristocrats.\n\nIn command of the fortress was Captain-major Rodrigo de Sousa with only 100 knights and 700 armed soldiers. \n\nThe Moors attack the fortress from every side of the walls with such intensity that they manage to place one of their large flags on top of one of the towers of the fortress. \n\nThe Portuguese don’t take long to notice it and as the assault continues, they attack the Moors with such «anger» that both sides engage in close-combat, while the dead bodies fill the place, making it further difficult to walk on solid ground. The Moors are unable to resist the Portuguese during the close-combat and retreat, losing thousands of their men and 5 of their flags to the Portuguese.\n\nThe chronicler who witnessed this first round writes: \n«Durou esta sanguinolenta e cruel batalha bem 4 horas, e foy de ambas as partes tão bem pelejada, que se não sabia julgar melhoria de alguma em todo aquelle tempo.. Espectáculo verdadeiramente horrendo à vista e muy digno de ser estimado por todos.»\n\nEnglish: “This bloody ruthless confrontation lasted for at least 4 hours, so well fought from both sides that one couldn’t figure it out which would win it. A truly horrendous spectacle to the eyes, worthy of everyone’s respect.”\n\nThe Moors realizing they can’t take the fortress with their numbers, decide with the skill of their war engineers to build a large mine, with the purpose of reaching inside the walls from below. Their plan was to blow it with a huge portion of gunpowder, to open a breach in the wall, to facilitate their entrance. The Portuguese from inside the fortress and their tunnels, are able to detect the sound of the moorish pickaxes working, so they decide to build another mine, pointed at the same direction against the Moor’s advancement, with purpose of facing them again, within the mine. In the darkness of the night, they meet half way inside and again face each other in a gory up close combat, where the Portuguese are again victorous, forcing the Moors to retreat.\n\nAfterwards, the moorish engineers assume the Portuguese did them a favor by making another mine against theirs, which would of course save them some work to reach the fortress walls from below. As such, the Moors decide to pretend they gave up on the mines and instead, quietly during the night fill them with gunpowder. What the Moors didn’t know, is that the Portuguese built not one, but actually two mines. One facing the mine of the Moors, and the other, just beneath that first one…\n\nThe Portuguese knew the Moors would attempt to fill the first mine with gunpowder so as a response, the Portuguese filled the second mine they quietly built (below the Moor’s one) with even more gunpowder and flooded the entrance of the first one. The Portuguese let the Moors reach the fortress closely enough and blow up the second (lower) mine, making the first (higher) one explode also as a result.\nThe level of the explosion was such that even the plateau raised itself in the air with an immense ammount of Moors in it.\n\nThe chronicler describes the event: \n«Levantou-se para o ar huma grande montanha de terra bem povoada de lustrosos soldados mouros, e turcos, e todos armados, forão pelo ar feitos pedaços. Foram mais de mil cavaleiros mortos e feridos, e queimados hum número quasi infinito. E o terreno se rebaixou mais de vinte palmos, tanto que ficou a nossa artilharia descoberta, e começou a varejar grande estrondo, acompanhado da arcabuzaria e matava nos mouros com espanto.»\n\nEnglish: “A big mountain of soil was raised in the air, filled with lustrous armed moorish and turkish soldiers, all torn to pieces. Over a thousand knights were killed with the explosion and an infinite number of men burned alive. As the ground fell, the Portuguese artillery and arquebusiers became exposed, firing against the Moors with great roaring and killing Moors with surprise.”\n\n— Pedro de Mariz: “Diálogos de Varia Historia”, tomo II, diálogo quinto.\n\n9 years later, after several other battles around the world, the Portuguese would face even larger odds, during the Siege of Chaul in 1571, facing 150,000 Muslims with only 1,200 soldiers and are again victorious.
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