24 May 1218

The Fifth Crusade leaves Acre for Egypt.

The Crusaders left Acre on 24 May 1218, bound for Egypt, and first launched an attack on Damietta, a key Egyptian settlement which guarded the main route up the Nile river to Cairo, in June of 1218. With ranks boosted as a result of the arrival of a large number of French Crusaders led by Cardinal-Legate Pelagius, the Crusaders believed that they were well on their way to taking control of Damietta, the first step in their bid to capture Cairo, which would then lead to the rest of Egypt coming under their control.

The city managed to fend off the Crusaders for several months, and, in February 1219, offered peace terms that included the cession of the kingdom of Jerusalem and the return of the True Cross. While King John and a large number of Crusaders were keen to accept the terms and return home, Cardinal-Legate Pelagius, who argued that the Crusaders were under the Church’s control, refused, and the fighting continued, with thousands of men losing their lives.

Damietta was taken on 5 November 1219, and, once inside the settlement, the Crusaders looted it for a number of days, as their enthusiasm built for their next attack on Cairo, the final obstacle placed in their path by Egypt. From there, they planned to head straight for their top priority – Jerusalem.