Genghis Khan - Jacob Abbott

The War With The Sultan

Genghis Khan made his preparations for a war on an immense scale. He sent messengers in every direction to all the princes, khans, governors, and other chieftains throughout his empire, with letters explaining to them the cause of the war, and ordering them to repair to the places of rendezvous which he appointed, with all the troops that they could raise.

He gave particular directions in respect to the manner in which the men were to be armed and equipped. The arms required were the sabre, the bow, with a quiver full of arrows, and the battle-axe. Each soldier was also to carry a rope, ropes and cordage being continually in demand among people living on horseback and in tents.

The officers were to wear armor as well as to carry arms. Those who could afford it were to provide themselves with a complete coat of mail. The rest were to wear helmets and breast-plates only. The horses were also to be protected as far as possible by breast-plates, either of iron, or of leather thick and tough enough to prevent an arrow from penetrating.

When the troops thus called for appeared at the place of rendezvous appointed for them, Genghis Khan found, as is said, that he had an army of seven hundred thousand men!

The army being thus assembled, Genghis Khan caused certain rules and regulations, or articles of war, as they might be called, to be drawn up and promulgated to the troops. One of the rules was that no body of troops were ever to retreat without first fighting, whatever the imminence of the danger might be. He also ordered that where a body of men were engaged, if any subordinate division of them, as one company in a regiment, or one regiment in a battalion, should break ranks and fly before the order for a retreat should have been given by the proper authority, the rest were to leave fighting the enemy, and attack the portion flying, and kill them all upon the spot.

The emperor also made formal provision for the event of his dying in the course of the campaign. In this case a grand assembly of all the khans and chieftains of the empire was to be convened, and then, in the presence of these khans and of his sons, the constitution and laws of the empire, as he had established them, were to be read, and after the reading the assembly were to proceed to the election of a new khan, according to the forms which the constitution had provided.

After all these affairs had been arranged, Genghis Khan put his army in motion. He was obliged, of course, to separate it into several grand divisions, and to send the several divisions forward by different roads, and through different sections of the country. So large a body can never be kept together on a long march, on account of the immense quantity of food that is required, both for the horses and the men, and which must be supplied in the main by the country itself which they traverse, since neither horses nor men can carry food with them for more than a very few days.

Genghis Khan put one of the largest divisions under the command of his son Jughi, the prince who distinguished himself so much in the conflicts by which his father raised himself to the supreme power.

Jughi was ordered to advance with his division through Turkestan, the country where the Prince Kushluk had sought refuge, and which still remained, in some degree, disaffected toward Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan himself, with the main body of the army, took a more southerly route directly toward the dominions of the sultan.

In the mean time the sultan himself had not been idle. He collected together all the forces that he could command. When they were mustered, the number of men was found to be four hundred thousand. This was a large army, though much smaller than that of Genghis Khan.

The sultan set out upon his march with his troops to meet the invaders. After advancing for some distance, he learned that the army of Jughi, which had passed through Turkestan, was at the northward of his position, and he found that by turning in that direction he might hope to meet and conquer that part of the Mongul force before it could have time to join the main body. He determined at once to adopt this plan.

He accordingly turned his course, and marched forward into the part of the country where he supposed Jughi to be. At length he came to a place where his scouts found, near a river, a great many dead bodies lying on the ground. Among the others who had fallen there was one man who was wounded, but was not dead. This wounded man told the scouts that the bodies were those of persons who had been slain by the army of Jughi, which had just passed that way. The sultan accordingly pressed forward and soon overtook them. Jughi was hastening on in order to join his father.

Jughi consulted his generals in respect to what it was best to do. They advised him to avoid a battle.

"We are not strong enough," said they, "to encounter alone the whole of the sultan's army. It is better that we should retreat, which we can do in an orderly manner, and thus join the main body before we give the enemy battle. Or, if the sultan should attempt to pursue us, he can not keep his army together in doing so. They will necessarily become divided into detachments on the road, and then we can turn and destroy them in detail, which will be a much surer mode of proceeding than for us to attack them in the mass."

Jughi was not willing to follow this advice.

"What will my father and my brothers think," said he, "when they see us coming to them, flying from the enemy, without having fought them, contrary to his express commands? No. We must stand our ground, trusting to our valor, and do our best. If we are to die at all, we had better be slain in battle than in flight. You have done your duty in admonishing me of the danger we are in, and now it remains for me to do mine in trying to bring you out of it with honor."

So he ordered the army to halt, and to be drawn up in order of battle.

The battle was soon commenced, and it was continued throughout the day. The Monguls, though fewer in numbers, were superior to their enemies in discipline and in courage, and the advantage was obviously on their side, though they did not gain a decisive victory. Toward night, however, the sultan's troops evinced every where a disposition to give way, and it was with great difficulty that the officers could induce them to maintain their ground until the darkness came on and put an end to the conflict. When at length the combatants could no longer see to distinguish friend from foe, the two armies withdrew to their respective camps, and built their fires for the night.

Jughi thought that by fighting during this day he had done all that his father required of him to vindicate the honor of the army, and that now it would be most prudent to retreat, without risking another battle on the morrow. So he caused fresh supplies of fuel to be put upon the camp-fires in order to deceive the enemy, and then marched out of his camp in the night with all his men. The next morning, by the time that the sultan's troops were again under arms, he had advanced far on his march to join his father, and was beyond their reach.

He soon rejoined his father, and was received by him with great joy. Genghis Khan was extremely pleased with the course which his son had pursued, and bestowed upon him many public honors and rewards.

After this other great battles were fought between the two armies. At one of them, a great trumpet fifteen feet long is mentioned among the other martial instruments that were used to excite the men to ardor in making the charge.

In these battles the Monguls were victorious. The sultan, however, still continued to make head as well as he could against the invaders, until at length he found that he had lost one hundred and sixty thousand of his men. This was almost half of his army, and the loss enfeebled him so much that he was convinced that it was useless for him any longer to resist the Monguls in the open field; so he sent off his army in detachments to the different towns and fortresses of his kingdom, ordering the several divisions to shut themselves up and defend themselves as well as they could, in the places assigned to them, until better times should return.

The sultan, however, did not seek shelter in this way for himself. He selected from his troops a certain portion of those who were most active and alert and were best mounted, and formed of them a sort of flying squadron with which he could move rapidly from place to place through the country, wherever his aid might be most required.

Genghis Khan, of course, now prepared to attack the cities where the several divisions of the sultan's army had intrenched themselves. He wished first to get possession of Otrar, which was the place where the embassadors and the merchants had been massacred. But the city was not very large, and so, instead of marching toward it himself, he gave the charge of capturing it to two of his younger sons, whom he sent off for the purpose at the head of a suitable detachment.

He himself, with the main body, set off upon a march toward the cities of Samarcand and Bokhara, which were the great central cities of the sultan's dominions.