King Ferdinand assembled his army at Murcia in the spring of 1488. He left that city on the fifth of June with a flying camp of four thousand horse and fourteen thousand foot. The marques of Cadiz led the van, followed by the adelantado of Murcia. The army entered the Moorish frontier by the sea-coast, spreading terror through the land: wherever it appeared, the towns surrendered without a blow, so great was the dread of experiencing the woes which had desolated the opposite frontier. In this way Vera, Velez el Rubio, Velez el Blanco, and many towns of inferior note to the number of sixty yielded at the first summons.
It was not until it approached Almeria that the army met with resistance. This important city was commanded by the prince Zelim, a relation of El Zagal. He led forth his Moors bravely to the encounter, and skirmished fiercely with the advance guard in the gardens near the city. King Ferdinand came up with the main body of the army and called off his troops from the skirmish. He saw that to attack the place with his present force was fruitless. Having reconnoitred the city and its environs, therefore, against a future campaign, he retired with his army and marched toward Baza.
The old warrior El Zagal was himself drawn up in the city of Baza with a powerful garrison. He felt confidence in the strength of the place, and rejoiced when he heard that the Christian king was approaching. In the valley in front of Baza there extended a great tract of gardens, like a continued grove, intersected by canals and water courses. In this he stationed an ambuscade of arquebusiers and crossbowmen. The vanguard of the Christian army came marching gayly up the valley with great sound of drum and trumpet, and led on by the marques of Cadiz and the adelantado of Murcia. As they drew near El Zagal sallied forth with horse and foot and attacked them for a time with great spirit. Gradually falling back, as if pressed by their superior valor, he drew the exulting Christians among the gardens. Suddenly the Moors in ambuscade burst from their concealment, and opened such a fire in flank and rear that many of the Christians were slain and the rest thrown into confusion. King Ferdinand arrived in time to see the disastrous situation of his troops, and gave signal for the vanguard to retire.
El Zagal did not permit the foe to draw off unmolested. Ordering out fresh squadrons, he fell upon the rear of the retreating troops with triumphant shouts, driving them before him with dreadful havoc. The old war-cry of "El Zagal! El Zagal!" was again put up by the Moors, and echoed with transport from the walls of the city. The Christians were in imminent peril of a complete rout, when, fortunately, the adelantado of Murcia threw himself with a large body of horse and foot between the pursuers and the pursued, covering the retreat of the latter and giving them time to rally. The Moors were now attacked so vigorously in turn that they gave over the contest and drew back slowly into the city. Many valiant cavaliers were slain in this skirmish; among the number was Don Philip of Aragon, master of the chivalry of St. George of Montesor: he was illegitimate son of the king's illegitimate brother Don Carlos, and his death was greatly bewailed by Ferdinand. He had formerly been archbishop of Palermo, but had doffed the cassock for the cuirass, and, according to Fray Antonio Agapida, had gained a glorious crown of martyrdom by falling in this holy war.
The warm reception of his advance guard brought King Ferdinand to a pause: he encamped on the banks of the neighboring river Guadalquiton, and began to consider whether he had acted wisely in undertaking this campaign with his present force. His late successes had probably rendered him over-confident: El Zagal had again schooled him into his characteristic caution. He saw that the old warrior was too formidably ensconced in Baza to be dislodged by anything except a powerful army and battering artillery, and he feared that should he persist in his invasion some disaster might befall his army, either from the enterprise of the foe or from a pestilence which prevailed in various parts of the country. He retired, therefore, from before Baza, as he had on a former occasion from before Loxa, all the wiser for a wholesome lesson in warfare, but by no means grateful to those who had given it, and with a solemn determination to have his revenge upon his teachers.
He now took measures for the security of the places gained in the campaign, placing in them strong garrisons, well armed and supplied, charging their alcaydes to be vigilant on their posts and to give no rest to the enemy. The whole of the frontier was under the command of Luis Fernandez Puerto Carrero. As it was evident from the warlike character of El Zagal that there would be abundance of active service and hard fighting, many hidalgos and young cavaliers eager for distinction remained with Puerto Carrero.
All these dispositions being made, King Ferdinand closed the dubious campaign of this year, not, as usual, by returning in triumph at the head of his army to some important city of his dominions, but by disbanding the troops and repairing to pray at the cross of Caravaca.
HOW THE MOORS MADE VARIOUS ENTERPRISES AGAINST THE CHRISTIANS.