The Prussians struck first instead. During the night of October 28–29, the bluecoats succinctly pushed off.24 Prince Henry himself was with Seydlitz. The enemy had been tipped off by a deserter, and, about 0100 hours, the Allies braced themselves for the coming blow. The plan was indeed bold, for Otto Stutterheim’s stroke, if not repulsed, would split open Stolberg’s front, while, more or less simultaneously, Johann Stutterheim and Seydlitz would serve to encircle Stolberg if he were not careful. Prince Henry’s plan, indeed, was nothing short of the complete destruction of the Allied army. General Hülsen took his force (some 10,500 men) and moved up the Triebisch, pressing against the barrier of Buttlar’s men. The latter had some 8,000 men under his charge, which included 24 squadrons of the precious Allied cavalry, and 34 pieces of artillery. Buttlar’s was just one of the different Allied forces round about in that area. General Hadik had his main Austrian force in the vicinity of the Saxon capital, MacQuire staying close to the Weisteritz, with the aforementioned Buttlar bridging the all-important gap between Hadik and the Imperialists of Stolberg. As for Stolberg, his main Imperial army stayed put northwest of Freiberg extending down into the city. There can be little doubt that Stolberg felt the positions his army were holding could not be maintained against aggressive attacks by the Prussians.
Stolberg was bluntly told by Austrian advisers (among them our old friend Major Seeger) he needed to keep close to the vest the outlying wooded areas around Freiberg. His fatal flaw, if he listened to his advisers, lay in the fact that he lacked sufficient numbers of men to hold the very extensive posts that those very same “advisers” were pontificating about. On the Allied right close by to Freiberg, Campitelli’s little force was ensconced, at Klein-Waltersdorf. On the Allied left about Freiberg, Lt.-Gen. Meyer led his force thereabouts. As for the Prussians, the rough terrain around Freiberg had necessitated the splitting of the attack force into four bodies (shades of the king’s plan at Torgau): Seydlitz with the largest (more than 9,000 strong) was to move round the Spittel Wald and sweep in upon Stolberg, headquartered in Freiberg itself, by launching against the Allied left wing. General Otto Stutterheim (with a 3,600-man force) was to lead the second column through the wood, while General Johann Stutterheim (with some 4,400 men) led the third on a diversionary assault upon the eastern end of the works between it and the Mulde.
Otto Stutterheim’s men stormed forward, pressing the enemy as speedily as was possible and practical from the crowded space in front of Klein-Waltersdorf. As soon as that patch of ground was seized from the struggling foe, Prussian artillery was being set up and sited in, while the second column of the younger Stutterheim was moving up to strike at the Spittel-Wald and the positions held by the Imperialists in and about Freiberg. The younger Stutterheim temporarily halted his men and probed briefly at the woods before him. The enemy opposite to him, a body of men under Lt-General Aton Friedrich Rodt, put up an unexpectedly stiff resistance to the Prussian incursions. The bluecoat advance was met most solidly here not only by Rodt’s men, but by the Baden-Baden Infantry.
The initial Prussian efforts thereabouts were repulsed, but Stutterheim brought up reinforcements and finally pressed the foe back from forward posts to fall back slowly upon the lines of abatis behind the Allied forward positions there. Stutterheim’s men pressed against the enemy taking refuge behind those works, but the latter were being reinforced in their turn by Salm-Salm and other units, including Prince Stolberg himself coming forward, sword in hand, in a desperate bid to head off the enemy’s efforts here. After some hard fighting, the Prussian advance was finally headed off, and they were forced to retire from this forward position.
The attacks of Generals Hülsen and Forcade (the latter leading some 3,000 men), along with the valiant efforts of the Stutterheim brothers, were all merely diversions to keep the Imperials & Company busy while the main attack force of Seydlitz and “Green” Kleist, accompanied by Prince Henry, proceeded with its mission. Seydlitz’ column started out from Marbach, and made a wide swinging maneuver to take on the enemy in the area opposite to where they arrived.
Seydlitz’s men reached Klein-Schirma, near the edge of the Spittel Wald, before they encountered significant Imperialist resistance. About 0700 hours, “Green” Kleist encountered and drove part of Török’s command, which had in the meanwhile taken post at Klein-Schirma, back from that locale. Seydlitz’ men had reached open country hard about Brand, where Meyer’s men were deployed. The latter force was a significant body of men, but the bluecoats took a calculated risk that paid off by pitting a small detachment of men to work at trying to contain Meyer while the remainder of the main attack force bypassed this element and proceeded with the main assault.
Meanwhile, though, our old friend Major Seeger had detected the movement of the Prussian main attack force over by the hamlets of St. Michaels and Lindon, and immediately deciphered, as best he could that is, what was going on. The upshot was, while a dispatch rider or two galloped off to headquarters to inform Prince Stolberg & Company what was occurring, Seeger proceeded to round up what forces he could gather, and took post at the edge of the woods. With this force, he battled the oncoming force of Seydlitz & Company to a standstill. Imperialist cavalry tore into the cavalry escort of the Prussian column, and, for a brief time, Seeger and his compatriots threatened to derail the whole enemy plan of action. Although outnumbered from the word go, Seeger managed to keep the bluecoats from debouching into the open terrain in front of them until just past 0900 hours.
Now, unfortunately for the Allied cause, while several of the understrength Imperialist cavalry units were having the day of their careers at Freiberg, their Austrian counterparts, for the most part, did not fare so well. A number of the latter were understrength, too, it must be admitted, but that does not exactly explain the deficiency. As the troopers began to be driven back from the field, even belated reinforcements from Meyer failed to help stem the tide. The Prussian troopers now pressed forward in their turn, in some instances even hitting the backs of units fighting the bluecoat advance from by the Spittel Wald in the rear.
Events seemed on the verge of taking a disastrous turn the worse for the Allies just about then. Then Major-General Vecsey suddenly appeared with two full hussar units, the 34th Hussars of Dessewiffi and those of Baranyáy. These particular entities behaved with more stability and stamina on the day of Freiberg than many of their contemporaries. The newcomers were immediately pressed into a stirring counterattack, against the bluecoat body surging forth from the confines of the Spittel Wald. The Prussians, in their turn, were brought a standstill in the heat of the action. In no time, the bluecoats were driven off the Galgen-Berg, by the surging opponent. It looked like Prince Henry might be on the verge of a devastating defeat. But the fighting then stabilized for the moment thereabouts.
Meanwhile, the fighting to the south, in the vicinity of St. Michaelis and Brand, had taken a decided turn for the better in favor of the Prussians. The bluecoat forces in that vicinity, led head-on by “Green” Kleist and Seydlitz, surged right at the town of Freiberg. Stolberg, who could certainly have mounted a most dogmatic defense of Freiberg by destroying part of the place in order to make the way more difficult for the Prussian force, instead conducted what amounted to a ‘fighting withdrawal’ from Freiberg. This action saved the place from undergoing significant damage in the battle.
As for the efforts of the Stutterheim brothers, their advance had been renewed by about 1030 hours in the morning. First up, Prussian units pressed what was left of the foe clinging to Klein-Waltersdorf out of the place. Otto Stutterheim’s forces, chiefly here the 7th Infantry of Bevern, stormed forward, driving the embattled enemy from a mountain post in which it captured “five cannon and a flag, surrounding the enemy from the south.” The 4th Cuireassiers of Schmettau were another of the nearby formations, they galloped over and through “two regiments at the Spittelwald, captured ten guns and eight flags.”
On the side of these units of Otto Stutterheim, his brother Johann, along about the same time, seized the mantle and renewed his attack with his task force. This one was over towards Freiberg itself. The momentum by just about 1100 hours had swung decisively in favor of the Prussians. The 33rd Infantry of Esterhazy was sent by Buttlar forthwith to help prop up Stolberg, but the foe was encroaching steadily by then from both west and south, and the vision of Stolberg was slowly settling on Frauenstein and the route of escape in that region. Just before 1300 hours, Prince Stolberg began the process of withdrawing his men from the lost battle. General Buttlar played a key role in covering this retreat, and the Prussian commanders, for the most part, did not pursue the retreating Imperialists. Buttlar’s guns, sited in to inflict as much damage to the enemy as was possible, were now utilized, to cover the withdrawal of his force while Stolberg pulled back.
Freiberg’s garrison was alerted, but there were no support troops available yet. Passing the Spittel Wald, the Prussians discovered a previously undetected body of enemy cavalry on the heights near Brand—under Lt.-Gen. Karl Friedrich von Meyer—and a detachment was put out to contain it. Hülsen pressed right up to the Mulde. The general was coming up behind Stolberg’s army, in order to sidetrack the Imperialists as to the main effort, as we have noted above. General Hülsen hitched into Dittmannsdorf and Reinsberg, hard by which Buttlar’s force was ensconced. Freiberg was the last major battle of the war in Saxony. The first major one in the province since Torgau. In short, the attacking columns, unlike at Torgau in 1760, had all struck about the same time; Seydlitz/Kleist rolled up the allied wing, while Otto Stutterheim’s men smashed his front. The Allies reeled back under the blows, while Johann Stutterheim’s assault then finished off the foe. The fighting was fierce indeed, but, the Prussians had taken Freiberg from the enemy. The latter retired as best they could across the Mulde.
General Forcade had the opportunity to close up and hem in the enemy forces, possibly destroying them in the process; he fumbled it! In spite of this, this Battle of Freiberg was short but decisive and it gave Prussia a complete victory just when one was needed. Losses were correspondingly heavy: Prussians, about 1,400 killed/wounded; Austrians, about 2,700 killed/wounded, 4,390 men and 79 officers captured, with 28 guns and 11 battle flags. Even as the Allies slowly retired upon Dippoldiswalde, they realized the war was lost. That being stated, final movements on this front can be quickly wrapped up: Wied got into the vicinity of the Prussians in Saxony after the Battle of Freiberg was already a done deal. October 31, Wied reached Merschwitz, bringing with him a full 20,000 men. Prince Henry moved on Pretzschendorf, where he was joined by Wied (November 4). The forces of General Hülsen had missed the battle entirely.
Wied had one last little enterprise in mind. Early on the morning of November 7, a force of bluecoats, divided into two columns, advanced with Krockow leading the first from Kätzenhäuser; this while the second, under Wied (which consisted of five squadrons of the Ziethen Hussars, the Czettritz Dragoons (the 4th), ten battalions of infantry, and the 9th Cuirassiers (Bredow), along with Prince Henry 2nd Cuirassiers), also progressed.
This command advanced and fell upon an Austrian force under Friedrich Ludwig von Dönhoff, which was made up of two battalions of Croats, two squadrons of cavalry, and a body of some 300 infantry. The action took place at the Landsberg, over near Spechthausen. A short, but sharp fight resulted, in which the Austrians were completely defeated. The entire force under Dönhoff would have fallen into Prussian hands if not for the timely arrival of Major-General Amadei, who marched out of the Tharandter Wald, and forced the bluecoats to back off of their pursuit. As it was, this last fight of the whole war involving Prussians and the Austrians resulted in the bluecoats taking 573 prisoners and lost 32 men as casualties. Dorn states that Prince Henry’s 2nd Cuirassiers “fought in Saxony with Hussar Regiment 2 at Spechthausen, where 600 prisoners and four guns fell into its hands.” Wied took Hülsen’s place in his command; the latter joined Henry. “Green” Kleist was dispatched into Bohemia (November 7), heading for Leitmeritz, although he never made it. Instead, after laying waste to the Austrian supply depot at Saaz, and threatening the main one at Leitmeritz, Henry recalled him to Chemnitz to take post. This closed the Saxon Campaign for this season and the war on this front along with it.
As for the Allies, while Hadik continued to occupy Dresden and vicinity until the bitter end, this with a full 13 battalions of foot, the Imperialists in the meanwhile had retired to Altenberg, with no further field operations in mind. Other than watching the lines-of-communication/supply of General Hadik with home, the Imperialists were retreating. November 13, Stolberg & Company were at Teplitz. In this situation, “Green” Kleist was unbuckled with his otherwise idle cavalry and sent on a “glorious” raid into the heart of the German Reich. Prince Henry detached him (with some 6,000 men) with specific instructions to plunder and lay waste to the more important states of the Reich (November 11). Kleist was to go with the goal of seizing at least half a million talers from the vulnerable enemy countryside and towns.
Kleist took hostages, shelled towns, ranging from Bamberg, Würzberg, Erlangen. The captives and contributions were forthwith started on their way to Leipzig, where Frederick was preparing to take up his headquarters for the coming winter. Kleist was involved in this largest raid into the Reich of the entire war until he and his crew were chased back into Saxony, arriving at Leipzig on December 9. By then a general truce with Hadik was underway. Hadik had reached agreement with his opponents (on November 24) for a general truce to last until Spring.
Now we can look briefly at Prince Ferdinand’s Campaign of 1762 with the French on the Western Front. We left the French and their opponents going into winter quarters at the end of the 1761 season. As we have already seen, Broglie as commander was out, so Soubise had supreme control of the French armies in the field facing Ferdinand. He had subordinates in Marshal d’Estrées and Prince Louis-Joseph de Bourbon Condé—the latter commanding a second, smaller army on the lower Rhine. The Allies continued to operate at a numerical disadvantage: the French totaled more than 120,000 men, joined by Prince Xavier of Saxony, while Ferdinand had less than 85,000 men with him.
Ferdinand came out swinging for the new campaign, defeating Soubise at Wilhelmstahl (June 24), while Prince Xavier, coming up to face him, was similarly beaten by Ferdinand at Lütternberg on July 23. The latter now set to blockading the enemy strongholds in Hesse-Cassel, Ziegenhayn, Marburg, and, of course, Kassel. With his main army mauled by the Allies already, Soubise urgently ordered Condé to bring on his army immediately. Between Lahn and the Mayn, the two French forces performed a juncture, on August 30 near to Freiburg.
The same day, the Prince of Brunswick was rebuffed at Johannisberg (near Nauheim) by the enemy in his designs upon them. Göttingen, however, had fallen to the Allies, already—August 16. Ferdinand was gradually driving the French from most of Hesse-Cassel, and putting Kassel under a siege. Soubise and d’Estrées decided to try to bypass Ferdinand’s forward posts and drive him away from the French posts in Hesse-Cassel. Marshal d’Estrées started maneuvering about, trying to break across the Ohm River. Prince Ferdinand had been throwing up blockposts to prevent the French from interfering with his designs upon Kassel. Marshal d’Estrées tried to seize the Brücken-Mühle bridge near Amöneburg on September 21.
Ferdinand had a garrison of not quite a thousand men within the place, although General Zastrow and his Prusso-Hanoverian troops and Lord Granby’s English soldiers were nearby. About 0500 hours, the French struck; by 0800 hours, their progress was so beyond containment with local defenders that Zastrow was forced to feed reinforcements into the fight. A steadily strengthened French effort brought d’Estrees and Zastrow into a cannonade duel. A protracted struggle waged on into the afternoon, the French inflicting heavy losses on the defenders but failing to gain their bridgehead. By 2000 hours, the discouraged attackers broke off their effort (having themselves suffered more than 1,000 casualties) and fell back. Thus the final French effort to relieve Kassel utterly failed. Ferdinand redoubled his efforts upon the fortress and Ziegenhayn. On November 1, Kassel and its impressive garrison of 10,000 French troops surrendered. This drove Soubise & Company from Hesse-Cassel, and, as the campaign closed, Ferdinand took up winter quarters with the expectation that peace was finally coming.
Back in Silesia, Frederick heard the news of Prince Henry’s efforts in Saxony, including its culmination at Freiberg. November 4, Frederick was in Meissen, and, on November 9, he met Henry and Seydlitz on the scene of Henry’s triumph at the Freiberg battlefield. Prince Henry had sent Kleist into Bohemia, but with his return he was dispatched towards the Reich to try to break Imperialist obstinacy, as we have observed.
The Austrians refused to release Imperialist units to cover the Reich, and as long as Austria remained at war with Prussia, it lay open to the incursions of Prussian raiders. The Reich Diet was induced to thus seek peace with the Prussian king. And, on November 24, the Austrians themselves, worn out and realizing that they could not conquer Prussia alone (with the Imperialists wavering already and the French on the verge of peace with the British), finally approached Frederick’s court to have a truce. But this was only for themselves, as Prince Stolberg took his Imperials into the Reich to defend it.
Stolberg arrived at his destination in late December, but as Kleist had already moved off for home (December 13), there was no enemy present there. The Prussians took winter quarters in Meissen-Freiberg region, Frederick himself once again at Leipzig (December 5). Thus finally ended the military operations of the long, bloody Seven Years’ War in Germany. All of the nations were now ready for peace; all that remained was in working out the details.
The final drama of the war, the peace negotiations, was almost anticlimactic considering the duration and scope of the war. The Prussian representative, Ewald von Hertzberg, met, along with other Prussian diplomats, with Allied representatives in that same old hunting lodge at Hubertusburg that Frederick had pillaged once upon a time.
The Austrian representative, Heinrich von Collenbach, at first held tough; he demanded that Glatz be handed over to the Habsburgs and that Prussia should pay compensation to Saxony, but caved in when Frederick, too, held tough. Glatz was not to be turned over to the Austrians, if the king could do anything about it. Eventually, both sides agreed to return to the status quo of before the war. Finally, on February 15, 1763, the two major opponents officially ended the war by their signatures on the Treaty of Hubertusburg. It had been a long, bloody and costly war, and, no doubt, both in Berlin and Vienna, not to mention Versailles, people were glad that it was finally over with. On February 10, the British, French, and Spanish had already signed the Treaty of Paris, ending their hostilities. As for Frederick, he made his way back home to Berlin, incognito. The crowds gathered, rumors flew about the impending arrival of Prussia’s great king back “home.” The people gathered all right, to greet their monarch, and waited, and waited. March 30, 1763. When the next dawn came, Frederick was back at his desk. Working. Such was the measure of the man!
What had been the cost of the war? The combatants suffered about 500,000 dead, nearly 200,000 of these being Prussian. In fact, the population of Prussia had stood at about 4,400,000 persons before the war, now it totaled about four million even. The Allies had collectively suffered in about equal measure, although individually had gotten off lighter than Prussia. There had been a tremendous amount of damage inflicted upon the entire region of Central Europe, most especially in Germany. There was much work to be done. Such was the war’s heritage.
LCVP No 22 from USS Dickman (APA-13) at Normandy. Note the safety lines hanging from the side in case someone falls overboard.
During the Second World War the LCVP was used in almost all theatres, including North Africa, Sicily, mainland Europe, the Pacific and the Far East. As a result, there are many veterans’ accounts of their experience of landing from an LCVP. Seasickness was rampant and oftentimes troops stepped off the ramp in deep water ‑ sometimes over their heads ‑ because obstructions and other debris prevented the LCVP from reaching the beach itself. Boarding an LCVP was difficult in heavy seas using the scrambling nets as ladders. One had to judge when to let go and jump into the boat at the highest point in the wave. The side armour was limited in extent so when during an opposed landing, troops had to hunker down to benefit from the armour protection. But once beached, the LCVP could be quickly unloaded, much faster than many of its competitors. When leaving the craft, troops in columns were told to jump out to one side or the other of the ramp since there was a possibility that the boat would move forward as it became lighter and the wave action pushed it in further, risking injury to any soldier directly in front of the ramp.
In preparation for an assault landing on a beachhead, a complete checkout of the boat, including installing drain plugs, was carried out, just before the LCVPs were off-loaded from the parent attack transport (APA; the largest of these carried over twenty LCVPs). Just before the LCVP was lowered into the sea, the engine was started to make sure it was running properly. Once on the water, the forward and aft falls (block and tackle) were released, and the LCVP then moved out to a holding pattern circle as shown below. The holding pattern to starboard circled clockwise; that to port, counter clockwise. Spacing between boats in a holding circle was approximately one and one half boat lengths, with speed kept to the minimum that allowed steerageway, which might vary depending on wind and sea conditions. As space became available alongside the APA, an LCVP was called in to load troops. The loading stations alongside the APA were marked with a colour code and number and had a net in position for the troops to use when climbing down into the boat. After loading, the LCVP then went back to the holding circle at the assembly area.
Assembly formation of LCVPs.
After all boats in the assembly area were loaded, the command was then given to move to the rendezvous area. The LCVPs peeled off, being led by a control boat that guided the flotilla to the rendezvous. The control boat was typically a Eureka boat modified with a cabin, communication and radar equipment. The single line ahead formation makes it easy to direct the LCVPs to the rendezvous area. However, if there were a threat of air attack, the LCVPs would scatter and follow in the general direction of the control boat. The flotilla was flanked by support boats, which might carry rockets for the assault, smoke screen equipment or heavy weapons to back-up the flotilla. The support craft might be modified Eureka boats or Patrol Torpedo (PT) boats. The two control boats that define the rendezvous area are shown at the top of the figure. The LCVPs line up in a flank or wave formation when reaching the rendezvous.
Plan of formation for moving to the rendezvous area.
Shown above is the assault wave at the line of departure, ready to hit the beach. The boats are sitting at idle and will proceed at the signal to attack. When the signal is given, the wave starts toward the beach at about 3/4 power keeping the wave lined up. After the support boats have delivered their ordinance, the command is given for full throttle and the LCVPs proceed to the beach at maximum speed.
Serbia had the Adriatic Sea to the west, Hungary to the north and Bulgaria to the east. Stefan divided his principality between his five sons when he died and their mother acted as their go-between. But the barons killed Gojislav; Domanek and Saganek fought; and Radoslav murdered Domanek. Mihailo was appointed Knez in 1050 and he married Kōnstantinos IX’s niece to make peace with the Byzantine Empire. Bulgaria asked Mihailo I to help him attack the Byzantines, following their defeat by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. They even gave the Bulgarian throne to his young son Bodin (who was renamed Petar III) to secure the alliance. But Petar was captured in 1073 and the Byzantine general who was released to rescue him defected.
Mihailo improved relations with the west and he was granted a royal title in 1077 while Duklja became a kingdom. Venetian sailors rescued Bodin and his first act was to support the Byzantine attack on the Normans at Durazzo in 1081. His second was to do nothing when the Normans seized the city. He married the daughter of a Norman nobleman and backed Pope Urban to get Rome’s support but Queen Jakvinta executed, murdered and exiled all claimants to the throne, plunging Duklja into a civil war. The Byzantines recaptured Durazzo, defeated the Pecheneg hordes and then turned on the Serbians in 1090.
Vukan, Grand Prince of Rascia, defeated the first invading Byzantine army but asked for peace when a larger army approached. Emperor Alexios had to accept because the Cumans were raiding his lands. Vukan broke the treaty when he seized Byzantine territory and then offered his son Uroš as hostage when Alexios retaliated. Vukan the Great invaded Macedonia as Alexios faced the First Crusade and invaded Byzantine territory when the Normans attacked the Byzantines in 1106. This time he was defeated and finally had to submit to Alexios; he died in 1112.
Vukan’s nephew, Uroš I, was immediately attacked by the Byzantines so he married his daughter, Jelena, to the blind Béla II to get Hungarian help. Her first act was to execute the sixty barons who had supported the blinding of her husband.
Uroš II was crowned grand prince in 1145 and his brother Beloš brought a Hungarian army to help him defend Serbia. The Byzantines defeated their combined army at the Battle of Tara River in 1150, and while Uroš II swore loyalty to Byzantine Emperor Manouēl I, the emperor abandoned his fight against the Normans in Sicily and concentrated on Hungary. Desa was made co-ruler in 1153 but he ousted Uroš because he refused to be a Byzantine vassal. Emperor Manouēl re-instated Uroš but soon grew tired of him. He appointed his brother Beloš in 1162 but he gave the crown to Desa and returned to Croatia to rule. Emperor Manouēl then appointed Stephen IV, but Beloš took him prisoner and sent him to the Byzantines. The emperor forced Desa to meet him, making him swear humiliating public oaths over his diplomacy with Hungary. He then appointed Tihomir and his brothers as rulers of Serbia in 1162. But one of them, Nemanja, rebelled and deposed the others in 1166, taking the throne for himself.
The emperor wanted Tihomir back on the Serbian throne because he was the weakest leader, so he gave him an army. But Nemanja defeated Tihomir at Pantino and Tihomir was drowned in the River Sitnica. His brothers were captured but they were given land after promising to keep the peace. Nemanja maintained his anti-Byzantine stance by joining the coalition with the Holy Roman Empire, Hungary and Venice in 1172. Unfortunately, Venice left the alliance when an epidemic devastated its fleet and then István II died, leaving the Hungarian throne to the pro-Byzantine Béla III. Emperor Manouēl’s troops defeated the Serbian army and Nemanja was forced to hand his sword over and was taken to Constantinople as a slave.
Nemanja befriended Manouēl and he was recognised as Serbia’s Grand Zupan after vowing never to attack the Byzantine Empire again. Instead he concentrated on dealing with the Bogomil heresy until Manouēl died in 1180. He then allied with Béla III of Bulgaria and advanced to Byzantine-held Sofia until a rebellion forced the Bulgarians to withdraw, leaving the Serbians to fight on alone. Nemanja invited the Third Crusade to stay in Serbia in 1188 but Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa rejected his plan and attacked the Byzantines instead. Both Nemanja and Béla followed the Crusaders until Friedrich made peace with Isaakios II. The Byzantines attacked Serbia as soon as the Crusaders left for the Holy Land. The Byzantines forced Nemanja to relinquish his conquests, recognise Byzantine rule. Emperor Isaakios II also made Nemanja marry his son to the Byzantine Princess Eudokia to split the Serbs from the Bulgarians.
Nemanja became a monk in 1196. He favoured his second son, Stefan, but his first son, Vukan, pledged allegiance to Emeric and seized the throne with Hungarian help. Kaloyan of Bulgaria retaliated by conquering the eastern part of Serbia before Stefan could retake the Serbian throne in 1204. Boril succeeded Kaloyan and while his brother, Strez, took refuge in the Serbian court, Stefan refused money to help him retake the Bulgarian throne. Instead Stefan reclaimed lost Serbian territories while the Latin Empire attacked the Bulgarians.
Stefan the First-Crowned received a crown from Pope Honourius III in 1217, making him the first Serbian king acknowledged by Rome. Although Radoslav succeeded him in 1228, he was rejected because his mother, Eudokia, had been exiled for adultery; a rebellion forced him to retire to a monastery five years later. Vladislav was married to Belošlava, daughter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, but both their countries were ransacked by the Mongols in 1242. Ivan was killed and his successor, Kaliman, made Bulgaria a Mongol vassal. The move ruined Vladislav’s reputation and the nobles replaced him with his brother.
The development of silver mines made Uroš I the Great so rich he invaded Hungary in 1268. But he was captured and had to hand over all his wealth to pay the ransom. Uroš was also forced to marry his eldest son, Dragutin, to Katalin, daughter of the Hungarian heir, and he was outraged when his younger brother was named heir. Uroš was given a Hungarian army to defeat the Serbs at the Battle of Gacko in 1276 and forced his father to retire to a monastery.
Dragutin broke his leg while out hunting and he had to pass the throne to his brother Uroš II (also called Milutin) when he fell ill in 1282 but he continued to rule Syrmia until he died. Meanwhile, Uroš captured parts of Macedonia and Albania from the Byzantines but Emperor Mikhaēl VIII died before he could counterattack. Instead it was the Bulgarians who attacked Serbia first. Although Dragutin and Uroš defeated them, a Bulgarian boyar convinced the Mongols to attack Serbia and Uroš had to hand his son Dečanski over to the Golden Horde as a hostage to stop them.
Uroš made peace with the Byzantine Empire in 1299 and helped them defeat the Ottomans on the Gallipoli Peninsula. When Dragutin died in 1314, Dečanski rebelled when Uroš took control of his father’s lands. Decanski was exiled to Constantinople and partially blinded, while his younger brother Kōnstantinos was made heir. Dečanski soon returned from exile and was pardoned but his brother refused to submit. Uroš II died in 1321 and Vladislav II was freed to rule Syrmia with Hungarian help. Kōnstantinos was captured in battle in 1322. According to some stories, he may have been nailed to a tree and cut in half; it is known for certain that his skull was turned into a wine goblet for the new king Uroš III (the same name Dečanski had taken).
Uroš III was challenged by his cousin Vladislav II, but Vadislav was defeated in battle in 1324 and forced to flee, despite Hungarian support. Uroš was angered to hear Mihail Asen III of Bulgaria had divorced his sister Anna so he could marry the Byzantine princess Theōdora. The Bulgarians and the Byzantines then invaded Serbia in 1330 but Mihail was killed at the Battle of Velbazhd and Andronikos III withdrew. Despite driving off the invaders, Uroš’s advisers convinced his son (also Uroš) to imprison and strangle his father in 1331.
Ivan Aleksandǎr of Bulgaria married his sister, Jelena, to Uroš IV to secure a peace but Serbia continued to raid Byzantine. Lajos the Great’s huge army caused him most trouble when it invaded and defeated him in the Šumajida region in 1336. Uroš struck back by defeating both the Croatian and Hungarian armies and then exploited a Byzantine civil war, conquering most of their Balkan territory by 1342. The Byzantines retaliated, defeating the Serbs with Ottoman help, at the Battle of Stephaniana in 1344. Uroš, or Dušan the Mighty as he was known, fought back by conquering Byzantine lands and attacking Bosnia. Uroš was excommunicated by Constantinople when he took over the kingdom’s churches and he died in 1355, possibly from poison.
Uroš V was a weak ruler who depended on his mother, Jelena, and his advisers. His uncle Simeon (renamed Siniša) made an unsuccessful attempt to seize the throne in 1356 and the empire fragmented as Serbia’s nobles assumed control. Vukašin was made co-ruler in 1365 but he and most of the Serbian nobility were defeated and killed by the Ottomans at the Battle of Maritsa in 1371. Uroš died childless soon after. The surviving Serbian nobles refused to recognise Marko as their ruler and when Nikola Altomanović emerged as the most powerful noble, Prince Lazar and Tvrtko of Bosnia worked together to capture and blind him in 1373. Although Tvrtko became titular king, Serbia’s nobility stopped Lazar reunifying the kingdom.
Lajos I of Hungary died in 1382 and both Prince Lazar and Sultan Murad were killed at the Battle of Kosovo Field in 1389. Serbia was left with too few men to defend its lands and Lazar’s brothers, Andrijas and Dmitar, fled to Hungary with the countries treasury before the kingdom became an Ottoman vassal. The surviving Serbian nobles joined the Bayazid invasion of Wallachia only to be defeated and killed at the Battle of Rovine in 1395.
Stefan the Tall’s Serbian army fought alongside the Ottomans when they defeated Zgismond’s Catholic alliance at the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396. However, Bayezid’s empire began to collapse when the Timurs invaded from the east and they were defeated at the Battle of Ankara in 1402. Stefan had fought well and Bayezid granted him the title of Despot. But Stefan accepted Hungarian suzerainty after his nephew Ðurađ Branković and Bayezid’s son, Suleyman, defeated him at the Battle of Tripolje in 1402.
Zgismond died suddenly in 1427, leaving no children, and the throne went to Ðurađ. The Ottomans captured Thessalonica in 1430, and while Ðurađ paid a ransom to rescue the area’s people, he could not afford the annual tribute and had to hand over his son as a hostage. He fled to Hungary when the Ottomans invaded in 1439 but two years later he was back in Serbia, trying to raise an army.
Ðurađ played an important part in the 1444 Peace of Szeged between Hungary and the Ottomans. He married his daughter, Mara, to Sultan Murad II and gave János Hunyadi lands and in return was allowed to rule Serbia. The truce did not last long and Ðurađ distanced himself from Hungary when it allied with Poland and attacked the Ottomans. Their Crusade ended with an Ottoman victory at the Battle of Varna in 1444. Hunyadi was again defeated by Murad II’s forces at Kosovo in 1448 but he beat Mehmet II at the Siege of Belgrade in July 1456, allowing Ðurađ to reoccupy Serbia before he died.
Lazar’s older brothers, Grgur and Stefan, had been blinded in 1441 for plotting against Murad II. Lazar exiled them both and then poisoned his mother to secure his position. He offered to be an Ottoman despot in 1457 but died the following year. The blinded Stefan became co-ruler with Lazar’s widow, but Jelena married her young daughter Maria to Tomašević, Prince of Bosnia, to hold onto the power.
Mátyás Corvinus of Hungary and Tomaš of Bosnia dethroned Stefan in 1459. Two months later, Tomašević surrendered the Serbian throne to the Ottomans and fled to his father’s court where he became the Ban of Bosnia in 1461. Mehmed the Conqueror invaded Bosnia after he refused to pay tribute to the Ottomans; he captured and beheaded Stephen.
December 1613. A samurai retainer from northern Japan stands on the deck of his ship as it clips along, sails billowing in the wind. For centuries, craft of all kinds have ferried passengers, troops and trade goods around the Japanese archipelago. But the Date Maru is different. At 500 tons, it is enormous by the standards of most earlier vessels, requiring thousands of labourers to construct it. And where other ships cling to the coast, seeking out Japan’s great trading entrepôts, this one is way out in the mid-Pacific. Hasekura Tsunenaga is heading not for Osaka or Nagasaki – but for Acapulco, in the Spanish Empire.
From there, Hasekura will journey overland through the Empire’s Viceroyalty of New Spain, stopping off in Mexico City before departing from Veracruz to sail the Atlantic. This is the first official Japanese embassy ever to be sent to Europe. Its purpose is to establish relations between Hasekura’s lord – the daimyō of Sendai, Date Masamune – and two of the great global leaders of the day: King Philip III of Spain and Pope Paul V.
Lingering for a thousand years on one another’s imaginative peripheries – in myth, legend and rumour – East Asia and Western Europe have become far better acquainted in recent decades. The first known Europeans to set foot in Japan did so in 1543 – by mistake: a small group of Portuguese were forced to make landfall on the island of Tanegashima, just off the southern main island of Kyūshū, when their Chinese junk encountered stormy weather. Portuguese-style firearms, duly nicknamed tanegashima, were soon raising the volume and the body-count on Japanese battlefields. Oda Nobunaga was amongst the earliest and most effective adopters. European maritime technology has also made its way into Japan. The Date Maru was built on the design of a Spanish galleon, with Spanish assistance. It even bears an alternative Spanish name: the San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist).
That name hints at a third European import, possessing the potential to strike far deeper than guns or ships into how a nation thinks about itself, organizes its affairs and deals with its neighbours. The responses of Japan’s leaders to the dilemmas posed by Christianity, across three decades from Nobunaga’s death to the launching of the Date Maru, are set to tax Hasekura’s talents as a diplomat throughout his epic seven-year journey. Trouble is already brewing below deck, where around 140 Japanese merchants and samurai are packed together unhappily with forty Europeans, mostly Spaniards. Hasekura perhaps takes these tensions as a sign of what awaits him: encounters with Europeans that are coloured by recent history and by conflicting ambitions. What do the Japanese aboard the Date Maru want from Europe? And what might Europeans want from Japan?
In the hours and days following Oda Nobunaga’s death, very little retribution came the way of his assailants. Akechi Mitsuhide’s forces proceeded unimpeded from Kyoto to Azuchi, where they looted Nobunaga’s splendid castle. Soon afterwards it burned to the ground, following its owner into oblivion. But then Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s men, pursuing Nobunaga’s planned campaign against the Mōri in western Japan, captured an Akechi emissary and learned of their overlord’s fate. Hideyoshi moved swiftly to claim his inheritance. He persuaded the Mōri to make a truce with Nobunaga, neglecting to mention that the latter was dead. And then he marched his men towards Kyoto, destroying Mitsuhide’s forces not far from the city in early July. The man Nobunaga called ‘that bald rat’ carried the traitor Mitsuhide’s head back to Honnō-ji, where he presented it to the spirit of his former master.
Justice done, coalition-building began. Hideyoshi made terms with Tokugawa Ieyasu. He began awarding fiefs to key allies. And he had himself adopted by a Kyoto courtier, so that he could accept the post of Imperial Regent. Hideyoshi then set out to extend his hegemony across the rest of the country, beginning in the south. Free of Honshū’s costly conflicts in recent centuries, many of Kyūshū’s leading families could trace their roots all the way back to service as warrior-constables and samurai estate-managers in the Kamakura era. The Shimazu clan was currently the paramount power, pushing for control over the whole island. Hideyoshi responded in late 1586 by moving an enormous force – around a quarter of a million men – from Honshū to Kyūshū, where they made short work of the Shimazu.
By 1590, Hideyoshi’s last remaining enemy was the Hōjō clan in eastern Japan. After their leader, Ujimasa, refused calls to submit peacefully, Hideyoshi launched one of history’s least hurried sieges, of the Hōjō stronghold at Odawara Castle. Starting in May, he invited concubines, musicians, dancers, merchants and tea ceremony specialists to provide entertainment for himself and the troops, while the enemy slowly starved. The castle finally surrendered in August, at which point Ujimasa was ordered to perform ritual suicide and his family’s vast holdings were confiscated.
Hideyoshi took the opportunity of the Odawara siege to require the daimyō of northern Japan to demonstrate their loyalty, backing him in teaching the Hōjō a lesson. The region had seen its fair share of intrigue and fighting since the authority of the Ashikaga bakufu broke down and Japan broke apart in the late 1400s. But its remoteness from self-consciously ‘civilized’ central parts of the country – notably Kyoto – had long garnered it a rather unfair reputation for equal parts barbarity and banality: of little political or cultural consequence, save as the wild natural setting for folk tales and travel poetry. Northern warlords had become accustomed to the role of semi-detached observers of events down south.
No longer. Amongst those who travelled to Odawara in 1590 to offer their submission to Hideyoshi was Date Masamune, a much-feared daimyō in the southern part of Mutsu Province, known as the ‘One-Eyed Dragon’ after losing his right eye to smallpox as a child. Confirmed in his fief by Hideyoshi, two years later Date found himself leading an army of retainers all the way down to Kyūshū. One of them was a teenage Hasekura Tsunenaga. Born around 1571 to a northern samurai family, Hasekura served Date as a valued spy, emissary and information-gatherer.
Date, Hasekura and the rest of their northern army joined around 160,000 warriors and supporting personnel mustering at a giant, purpose-built fortress on the north-western coast of Kyūshū. Hideyoshi had made himself master of all Japan. But his ambitions did not end at his own borders. It was time to carve out a place in the wider world for what he called the ‘Land of the Gods’. China would fall, and then India. The first stop along the way would be the peninsula just across the water from Kyūshū. Date and Hasekura were about to take part in a full-scale invasion of Korea.
The East Asian order that Hideyoshi was setting out to overturn had long been shaped by the Chinese concept of tianxia (‘all under heaven’): a physical and moral universe in which China was in every respect central. Successive Chinese dynasties established official tributary relationships with peripheral ‘barbaric’ peoples across East and South East Asia, India, the east coast of Africa and the Persian Gulf. Networks of Chinese traders and pirates played an important ancillary role, spreading Chinese culture far and wide. The Japanese understood themselves as part of this tributary system while at the same time forming the centre-point of their own tianxia. Kanmu’s old northern foes the Emishi were amongst those cast in the role of barbarian outsiders.
Japan’s original place in the European imagination was more impressive: it was Paradise. Working with the Book of Genesis and alighting on the line ‘Now the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden’, writers and map-makers had begun in the early 600s to adapt conventional divisions of the world into the territories of Europe, Africa and Asia by marking out ‘Paradise’ at a location remarkably close to that of the Japanese archipelago. The country’s fall from grace began a few centuries later, with the Venetian traveller Marco Polo (1254–1324). Living at the court of Kublai Khan not long after the latter’s failed invasion of the Japanese islands in 1274, Polo claimed that ‘Cipangu’ was rich in red pearls and gold and that its people were ‘good-looking and courteous’. But they were also given to ‘outlandish and diabolical exploits’, including the killing, cooking and eating of prisoners, whose flesh they considered ‘the finest food in existence’.
The first European actually to set eyes on Cipangu was Christopher Columbus – or so he thought at the time. In fact, his search in 1492 for a lucrative westward sea-route from Europe to spice-rich Asia had led him to Cuba. It was one of a series of unexpected discoveries that persuaded Europeans to rethink their picture of the world and to begin dividing it up between them. The Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) drew a line down the Atlantic, approximately halfway between the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa and the lands discovered by Columbus. The Spanish took everything to the west: much of the Atlantic, all of the Americas, a new ocean beyond – christened ‘the Pacific’ in 1520, for its preternaturally calm waters – and finally the Philippines, claimed and named for King Philip II. The Portuguese travelled in the opposite direction, employing a combination of deal-making and war-making to build a network of trading outposts as they went: the southern Indian port of Calicut (1500), Mozambique Island (1505), Goa (1510), Malacca (1511), Hormuz (1514), Colombo (1518), Bombay (1534) and finally Macau in southern China (1557).
Japanese met European visions of the world in 1543, with the forced landing of a small group of Portuguese at Tanegashima. Japan, for the Portuguese, was the ‘far east’; less rich in resources than many parts of their empire, but promising nonetheless. The chaos of the Sengoku (Warring States) era, and associated problems with piracy, had brought trading relations between China and Japan almost to a halt. Portuguese merchants were able to step in, carrying raw Chinese silk to Kyūshū – where it fetched up to ten times its value in China – and shipping Japanese silver and other goods back in the opposite direction.
The Japanese regarded the Portuguese, in turn, as ‘southern barbarians’ (nanban), since they sailed to Japan from the south-west. They were associated with trade and soon with Christian missionaries, the first of whom arrived in 1549: three Spanish Jesuits, Francis Xavier amongst them, reached the southern tip of Kyūshū in a Chinese pirate ship. Buddhist clergy were fascinated. The missionaries claimed to have come from India (blurring origins and way-points) and they talked about their God as ‘Dainichi’: the celestial Buddha central to Shingon Buddhism. It followed that they must be offering a new interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings. The missionaries soon realized their mistake, switching to the word ‘Deus’ and dismissing Dainichi as ‘an invention of the Devil’. Their disillusioned Buddhist interlocutors gave as good as they got, pronouncing Deus as ‘dai uso’, ‘great lie’.
The Jesuits had better luck with the daimyō, especially in Kyūshū, where enthusiasm for the missionaries’ message combined with interest in the influence they appeared to enjoy over Portuguese merchants’ choices of ports and business partners. By the time Hideyoshi arrived in Kyūshū in 1586, a striking new phenomenon was sweeping the island: Christian daimyō, some of whom were capable of compelling large numbers of their vassals to convert in turn.
A man so concerned with his image that he inked his scalp to approximate the hair that he didn’t have, Hideyoshi was an enthusiast for Kyūshū’s hybrid nanban fashions: Portuguese-style cloaks, worn over armour; helmets based on exotic hat designs; baggy breeches; rosaries, reliquaries and crosses, designed to be hung about the body. Hideyoshi was keen, too, on trade and the wealth it generated. Nor was he philosophically opposed to Christianity. But surveying the scene in Kyūshū, he was reminded of a phenomenon against which he and Oda Nobunaga had struggled hard just a few years before: the coming together of commercial with religious and political power in a way that threatened the project for a single, secular, unified rule in Japan.
Nagasaki provided the clearest, most egregious example of the problem. A small fishing village on Kyūshū’s western coast had gained favour with the Portuguese for its sheltered natural harbour. Beginning in the early 1570s, a ‘Great Ship’ had begun arriving there most years from the Portuguese base at Macau. The Jesuits helped to facilitate this trade, ploughing their share of its enormous profits into missionary work that soon included schools and a printing press. Then, in May 1580, something truly shocking transpired: the Christian daimyō in control of the area gave Nagasaki to the Jesuits. He ceded them control of its land, administration and trade. Barely a fortnight after Nobunaga had forced the Buddhist Patriarch Kennyo out of the Ishiyama Hongan-ji at Osaka, another religious domain had started to take shape in Japan, complete with influential warlord allies and its own burgeoning fortifications.
Elsewhere on Kyūshū, Hideyoshi heard of shrines and temples being attacked by Christian converts. One temple was repurposed as a boys’ prep school, while others had their precious artefacts sold off, thrown into rivers or used for firewood. There were rumours that some foreigners, quite possibly Portuguese, were involved in trafficking Japanese people to China and elsewhere as slaves. To top it all off, a missionary approached Hideyoshi in advance of his Kyūshū campaign, offering to intercede on his behalf with the island’s Christian daimyō – as if their loyalties lay within the Jesuits’ gift.
Here was sacrilege on so many levels, evidence of a changing world order over which Hideyoshi resolved to exercise some serious influence. He began in July 1587. In a rage apparently enhanced by imbibing a generous quantity of Portuguese wine, he produced an edict condemning the ‘pernicious doctrine’ of Christianity and giving the Jesuits twenty days to leave the country. He seized Nagasaki from their grasp the following year, taking over its trade directly. In the end, Hideyoshi let the Jesuits stay: their merchant allies were too important to Kyūshū’s economy. But European influence in Japan had been curbed and Christians put on notice.
Hideyoshi followed up with a flurry of inflammatory missives sent to foreign powers near and far. In 1590, he wrote to the King of Korea explaining that he had been invested by heaven with a unique will to rule in the region: he was the ‘Sun Child’, conceived when his mother dreamed that the sun had entered her womb. On this basis, he expected the king, as his vassal and ally, to assist him in subjugating China. The following year, Hideyoshi wrote to the Philippines, demanding that the (Spanish) nanban there likewise accept his suzerainty. He promised otherwise to attack and destroy their walled enclave at Manila. Similar messages went out to the Ryūkyū Islands, to Japan’s far south, to Taiwan and even to Goa.
Amongst the few to respond to Hideyoshi was the King of Korea, making it clear in 1592 that he would not let Hideyoshi treat his peninsula as China’s driveway. Hideyoshi duly sent his 160,000 men – Date and Hasekura included – into action. The invasion of Korea became one of the most vivid signs of the unprecedented global mixing and mingling taking place in the sixteenth century. A Japanese force crossed the sea to Korea, aboard ships built with European merchant help, and led by daimyō with names like Dom Agostinho Konishi, Dom Sancho Ōmura and Dom Protasio Arima.
Landing at Pusan under their Christian commanders, Hideyoshi’s troops chased the Korean king steadily northwards, out of Seoul and later out of Pyongyang. For a few short months, almost the entire peninsula was in Hideyoshi’s hands. Then the Korean navy, Korean guerrillas and Chinese troops belatedly sent south across the Yalu River began to push his men much of the way back. By early 1593, nearly a third of the Japanese force had been wiped out and the war was at a stalemate. Hideyoshi had remained in Japan all the while – in contrast with Nobunaga, he rarely led from the front. There he moved from planning the precise format of ceremonies for when the Japanese emperor relocated to China to commencing years of humiliating talks on the terms of a truce.
Relationships with Spain and the Philippines went little better. The Spanish hoped to temper Hideyoshi’s bellicosity, establishing friendly trading relations instead. But in 1596 a Spanish galleon called the San Felipe, in service on the Manila–Acapulco route, was wrecked on the Japanese coast. When Hideyoshi proved reluctant to return the cargo, the ship’s pilot intervened, foolishly harping on Spain’s imperial designs for Japan. Brandishing an up-to-date world map to illustrate Spanish in relation to Japanese power, he claimed that missionaries in Japan were spying for the Spanish and that the Christianization of the country – home to around 300,000 believers by this point – was part of a grand colonial plan.
Hideyoshi was at first so angry that he ordered every Christian in Kyoto to be killed. He was persuaded by the governor of that city to limit himself to just twenty-six. Six Franciscans (four Spaniards, one Portuguese and one Mexican), three Japanese Jesuits and seventeen Japanese Franciscan tertiaries were rounded up. Their ears were cropped – a sign of criminal status – and they were taken to Nagasaki, paraded along the way through Osaka. On 5 February 1597 they were led up a hill overlooking the former Christian stronghold of Nagasaki, and crucified.
Hideyoshi died the next year in his lavishly appointed Kyoto home of Fushimi-Momoyama Castle, his planned conquest of Asia stalled in Korea. Discovering in the course of negotiations with the Chinese that they still – after everything that he had achieved – regarded the Japanese as a tributary people, he had launched a fresh invasion of Korea in 1597, this one even more brutal than the first. Hopes of a smooth succession went similarly awry. Hideyoshi’s plan had been for a board of five regents to keep his seat warm until his young son Hideyori came of age. Instead, one of those regents, Tokugawa Ieyasu, began dealing with the other daimyō as though he were now in charge.
Two factions quickly formed amongst Japan’s warlords: one in the east, supportive of Ieyasu, and another in central and western Japan, protecting Hideyori’s claim. The two sides met in battle at Sekigahara in October 1600 and Ieyasu won an epoch-making victory. He bolstered his position by taking the title of shogun, in 1603, and by launching the largest redistribution of land in Japanese history. Eighty-seven enemy daimyō were deprived of their holdings. Others were moved around, in some cases to weaken their support base. Allies were meanwhile rewarded via the creation of brand new domains. One of the great beneficiaries was Date Masamune, receiving the large north-eastern domain of Sendai.
While Kyoto remained Japan’s capital, real power now shifted to the Tokugawa castle town of Edo on the east coast. There, a new bakufu (military government) was established. Ieyasu stepped down as shogun in 1605, determined to achieve the intra-familial transfer of power – to his son Hidetada – which he had so conspicuously deprived Hideyoshi. But he remained very much in charge, seeking to address the legacy of Hideyoshi’s disastrous foreign policy. Ieyasu made peace with Korea in 1605 and limited trade was resumed. In 1609, the recently established Dutch United East India Company (VOC) was granted permission to set itself up at the port of Hirado, near Nagasaki. Agreement was reached with the English East India Company in 1613.
Ieyasu negotiated with the Spanish, too, hoping to increase trade with Manila and to enlist the help of mining experts from New Spain in maximizing profits from Japan’s silver mines – over which Ieyasu exercised personal control. A Spanish explorer by the name of Sebastián Vizcaíno was appointed as New Spain’s first ambassador to Japan, arriving in 1611. Two years later, the privilege of ferrying him back across the Pacific was claimed by Date Masamune, who successfully applied to the bakufu for permission to build a ship. The new vessel would do double-duty: as ambassadorial transport and as the means for Japan’s first official diplomatic embassy to Europe – sorely needed in the aftermath of Hideyoshi’s provocations – to complete the initial leg of a pioneering voyage.
Hasekura Tsunenaga led a reasonably quiet life for a few years after the Korean war. Receiving a commendation from Date for his service in the conflict, he returned home to raise a young family and continue in the service of his lord. Life changed in 1612 when Hasekura’s birth-father was required to perform ritual suicide after charges of fraud were brought against him. Such were the standards of the day – linking suicide with atonement and father with son – that Hasekura should have been ordered to do the same.
But Hasekura was too valuable. Instead of putting him to death, Date put him to work, leading a maritime mission so risky that Hasekura would either disappear along the way or return suitably chastened. In addition to helping his country’s international relationships recover, Date had personal plans for the voyage. No more northern ‘backwater’: he would turn Sendai into a global trading hub, bypassing Nagasaki and Manila. To that end, Hasekura was charged with opening up trade negotiations with Spain and the Viceroyalty of New Spain. He was also to ask King Philip III and Pope Paul V to send Christian missionaries to northern Japan – a diplomatic sweetener for convert-hungry Europeans, and also a source of the kind of cosmopolitan culture that had marked Nagasaki out as special.
Hasekura’s guide and interpreter on the trip was the Spanish Franciscan missionary Luis Sotelo – and he too had his own agenda. There was at present just a single Catholic diocese for the whole of Japan, based at Nagasaki, under the control of the Franciscans’ Jesuit rivals. Sotelo hoped to turn Date’s domain into the centre of a new Japanese diocese. He even hoped one day to become Archbishop of Japan.
What became known as the ‘Keichō Embassy’, after the name of the current era in Japan, departed from Tsukinoura harbour aboard the Date Maru on 23 October 1613. They made it safely across the Pacific to Cape Mendocino on the west coast of North America, while the first English colonists were settling in on the continent’s far eastern fringe. From Cape Mendocino, the Date Maru tracked the coastline down to a port near Acapulco, docking there in late January 1614. An advance party proceeded north overland towards Mexico City, where a Nahua annalist known by the Christian name of Don Domingo de San Antón recorded their grand entrance:
The 4th of the month of March of the year 1614 … there arrived here and entered inside the city of Mexico these Japanese nobles. They came in on horseback at 12 o’clock noon. Their vassals came ahead of them, just coming on foot, holding high something like little long narrow black poles … perhaps that signifies royal leadership there in Japan. They came attired in the same way they go about and are attired back home: they wear something like a tunic, tied in the back, and they tie their hair at the backs of their necks.
Conspicuous by their absence from the annalist’s account were the incomers’ weapons. And for good reason. Tensions between Japanese and Spanish passengers during the Pacific crossing erupted into violence shortly after they landed near Acapulco, ostensibly over who had responsibility for looking after gifts brought from Japan – including a number of folding screens commissioned by Ieyasu. The New Spain ambassador Sebastián Vizcaíno was beaten and stabbed, prompting the Viceroy of New Spain to demand that, with the exception of Hasekura and a handful of others, the Japanese surrender their weapons. It made for an unfortunate first impression.
Hasekura arrived in Mexico City some three weeks after the advance party. He had taken a scenic route through the hills of New Spain, stopping off at a number of Franciscan monasteries along the way, including one at Cuernavaca. Making it to the city in late March, he handed the Viceroy a letter from Date Masamune. Luis Sotelo passed over a separate letter from Ieyasu and Hidetada. Meetings were held with the Franciscan Order, aimed at having missionaries sent to Japan. And over the course of the next month, around sixty of Hasekura’s retainers were baptized and confirmed, with Franciscan friars for their sponsors. Hasekura himself was persuaded to hold off. Baptism would be a diplomatic act as well as a religious one. Better, therefore, to wait until he reached Europe.
In May, Hasekura split his embassy into two groups. One stayed in Mexico City to trade, while the other went with Hasekura to Veracruz. From there, they sailed via Cuba across a stormy Atlantic, arriving at the south-western Spanish port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in early October and cruising up the Guadalquivir River to the town of Coria del Río. Changing into more formal attire, they continued their journey by road to Seville: Luis Sotelo’s home and, more importantly, the only town in Spain permitted to trade beyond Europe.
The mayor and senior dignitaries crowded on to the Triana Bridge to greet Hasekura’s party as they arrived. Locals found Hasekura ‘calm’, ‘humble’ and ‘reasonable’. The archbishop was impressed by the manner and dress of his men, who brought to mind for him the biblical Three Wise Men.
At a special meeting of the Seville Senate, Hasekura presented gifts from Date Masamune, including a sword and a dagger sheathed in silk. Then, unrolling a calligraphic scroll adorned with gold, with Sotelo’s help he presented and elaborated on a message from his lord to the leaders of Seville:
I have learned of the afterlife, after hearing the teachings of Deus. Owing to unavoidable reasons, I cannot yet accept these teachings for myself. But in order to spread the word in my land, I have asked Friar Sotelo for his assistance, and am sending a samurai by the name of Hasekura. I hope for the safe arrival of these two at the feet of the King and the Pope, and the passing on of my wishes. It is my intent, by asserting the viability of maritime travel between Japan and Seville, to begin annual sea voyages.
Such grand requests required ratification at a higher level. So, according to a plan worked out well in advance by Sotelo, Hasekura’s embassy headed north for Madrid. Their caravan of carriages, sedan chairs, guards, guides, patissiers and chefs made for such a spectacular sight that people crowded around them in villages and towns all along the way, slowing their progress and causing them to arrive in the Spanish capital nearly a month behind schedule, on a snowy late December day in 1614.
And there the trouble began. King Philip III’s chamberlain and chaplain came to meet them, assuring Hasekura of the King’s help and encouraging him to make the most of the Christmas season in Madrid. But two weeks went by and still an invitation to meet the King at his home in the Royal Alcázar of Madrid was not forthcoming. The Spanish were beginning to think twice about their guests.
European impressions of the Japanese had come to be dominated, in recent decades, by Jesuit accounts, coloured by their hopes that the conversion of Japan would make up for the Catholic Church’s losses in Reformation Europe. Francis Xavier described the Japanese as ‘the best who have yet been discovered’. They were well-mannered, honourable, educated and proud. They rarely gambled, swore or stole, and they didn’t eat animals – preferring a diet of fish, rice and grain for which Xavier personally had little appetite but which hardly constituted a vice. They were open to having their understanding of the world challenged, and they seemed interested in Christianity and the West. Other Jesuits found the Japanese naturally given to interiority – a compliment, given the Jesuits’ own deep interest in the inner life – and more encouraging of women’s literacy and freedom than was generally the case in Europe.
Shortcomings were relatively few by comparison. Some Japanese held their own country in such high regard that they tended to disdain foreigners as a matter of course. The men seemed overly fond of weaponry – and of one another. Widespread male homosexuality, the missionaries concluded, was the result of Buddhist influence and years of civil war: twin evils that also accounted for the inhumanity of ritual suicide and summary execution, heavy drinking and a tendency to dissemble when questioned. Such difficulties were not insurmountable, and in 1582 the Jesuit ‘Visitador’ to India and the Far East, Alessandro Valignano, had decided to show Europeans at first hand just what a promising place Japan was. He sent four young Christian nobles from Kyūshū on a mini-European tour between 1584 and 1586, where they met, amongst others, King Philip II – the present King’s father – and for a time generated quite a stir.
But then news of the twenty-six ‘martyrs’ of 1597 reached European ears, seeming to confirm some of the more negative Jesuit commentary on Japan. Accounts doing the rounds in Portuguese Macau that year told of Japanese onlookers throwing stones at the men as they made their way to Nagasaki, calling them beasts and stuffing weeds into their mouths. A procession was held in their honour in Macau in December, accompanied by paintings of the grisly events, copies of which were sent to New Spain, Spain and Rome. A sermon was preached in Mexico City the same month – one of the dead, Felipe de Jesús, was a son of the city and New Spain’s first martyr.
The Franciscan missionary Marcelo de Ribadeneira, present in Nagasaki at the time of the crucifixions, published a highly romanticized account of the events and accompanied the remains of the six dead Franciscan friars to Mexico City in December 1598, later travelling to Rome to seek their beatification. His writings eventually became the source for a series of large murals commissioned by the Franciscan Order for the nave walls of the very monastery at Cuernavaca through which Hasekura had recently passed. Cuernavaca was one of the places where Spanish missionaries to Asia would stop on their way to the western coast of New Spain, so here perhaps was a reminder for them of how much they were risking – and why. Hasekura’s men may even have played a part in the creation of the murals, whose detail suggests either that Japanese physiques were used as models or that a Japanese painter did some of the work.
By the time Hasekura arrived in Madrid, King Philip III had thrown his weight behind the martyrs’ claim to sainthood. He had also received disturbing updates about Japan and the Hasekura embassy from the Viceroy of New Spain and from the Council of the Indies, the latter administering the Spanish Empire from within the Royal Alcázar. Hasekura’s embassy, it turned out, originated not with Japan’s national ruler but with a mere regional lord. And though they professed a desire for missionaries, their main aim was trade. Meanwhile, Christianity in Japan was in serious difficulty, returning, it seemed, to the dark days of Hideyoshi.
Unfortunately for Hasekura, Spanish intelligence on this last point was entirely accurate. Ieyasu had initially tolerated Christianity for the same economic reasons as Hideyoshi. But it soon started to seem more trouble than it was worth. Spanish Franciscan missionaries and the Jesuits were constantly at each other’s throats, while Japanese Christians were rumoured to have responded to the execution of some of their number in 1612 by saying prayers, singing hymns and collecting relics of the dead. Here was a religious community, Ieyasu concluded, whose worship centred on a criminal lawfully executed on a cross many centuries ago, and which appeared to treat present-day criminals with similar reverence.
It was an intolerable challenge to the bakufu’s still-fragile authority. So in December 1613, while Hasekura was sailing the Pacific, Christians in Kyoto and Edo were forced to renounce their faith. Churches were destroyed and some of Ieyasu’s own Christian retainers were sent into exile. On 27 January 1614, two days after Hasekura arrived in New Spain, Ieyasu ordered the drafting of a document banning Christianity and expelling all missionaries. It was disseminated across Japan in February, so that while Hasekura was seeking new missionaries in Mexico City, Seville and Madrid, those already in Japan were either leaving or going into hiding.
Aware of much of this by the time Hasekura turned up requesting an audience, King Philip first made him wait and then treated him coolly when he finally granted the audience on 30 January 1615. Hasekura entered the audience room to find the King standing near his throne, leaning casually on a table, surrounded by ministers and nobles. He refused to be greeted in the traditional way, with a kiss on his hand, and instead ordered his guests rather curtly to state their purpose. Luis Sotelo, mindful of his own mission, did what he could to soften the King up. He offered a creative interpretation of Date’s wishes, adding to the latter’s request for missionaries and trade the laying at King Philip’s feet of his vast lands in Sendai, his title and his unstinting service.
This bought the embassy a little warmth. Hasekura’s wish for baptism was granted, at a ceremony conducted in the presence of the King and other members of the royal family, to the strains of a choir singing Laudate Dominum. Hasekura received ‘Felipe Francisco’ for his Christian name, and the powerful Duke of Lerma for his godfather, a man said to have amassed a personal fortune of some 3 million ducats while ruling the realm on behalf of his less-than-conscientious king. Hasekura told Philip how moved he was to be born afresh with the King’s own name. Philip gave him a hug and wrote a letter in support of his request for an audience with the Pope. Philip’s advisers argued that now was not the time for such a meeting. The King countered that now was precisely the time, if matters in Japan were to improve.
The final leg of Hasekura’s European voyage took place that autumn, passing through Barcelona and Saint-Tropez. The latter – unplanned – stop marked the dawn of Franco-Japanese relations. Townspeople marvelled at samurai solemnly attending Mass, eating with the aid not of cutlery but of ‘two sticks’ and blowing their noses into small pieces of paper which they then discarded on the ground – and which the curious of Saint-Tropez proceeded to pick up and claim as souvenirs.
Genoa and the port of Civitavecchia followed, before Hasekura’s party arrived on the outskirts of Rome, to be met once again by European emissaries expressing suspicions about Japanese intentions towards Christianity. Luckily, Hasekura had three things in his favour. One of Europe’s most powerful monarchs had written him a reference. His long journey from Japan was taken as evidence of Date Masamune’s sincerity. And, perhaps most important of all, the Pope had personal need of him.
Paul V, born Camillo Borghese and elected to the papacy in 1605, was acquiring a reputation both for looking after his own – the Borghese family was now far advanced on its journey from Siena elite to Italian aristocracy – and for seeking to promote the Catholic Church’s claims to global universalism. He beatified Ignatius of Loyola in 1609 and would do the same with the one-time Japanese resident Francis Xavier: two of the principal founders of a religious Order, the Jesuits, that was responsible for leading mission work beyond Europe – learning new languages, exploring new cultures and testing the limits of pragmatic accommodation with non-Christian ideas and ways of life. The Pope lent his support, too, to the case for sainthood of the Nagasaki martyrs: heroic advocates for a faith whose progress in the world, from the time of Peter and Paul onwards, had often been marked by tragedy and pain.
The city of Rome would gain a great artistic symbol of this global Church in 1651: Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, representing the Danube (Europe), the Nile (Africa), the Río de la Plata (the Americas) and the Ganges (Asia). Well in advance of that, Pope Paul V was pioneering the use of diplomatic pageantry and art to stake his own claim to centrality in a Catholic tianxia. He had already welcomed embassies from the Kongo (in 1608) and Persia (1609). Now it was the turn of the Japanese to play their part.
So it was that, after a brief informal audience with the Pope at the Quirinal Palace on 25 October, Hasekura was awarded the accolade of a formal entry into Rome. It began at 3 p.m. on 29 October at the Porta Angelica. Wearing a kimono of white silk threaded with gold and silver motifs of flowers, birds and animals, Hasekura set out in a carriage while his men rode in front of him on finely caparisoned horses provided by the Pope. They were joined by ambassadors and aristocrats from Rome, Spain and France, alongside Swiss guardsmen and cavalry. The sound of trumpets and drums resounded around the streets as the embassy passed through, briefly drowned out by welcoming cannon-fire in St Peter’s Square and then the Castel Sant’Angelo. The procession ended at the Capitoline Hill, where Hasekura descended from his carriage and was welcomed to his accommodation by the Pope’s chamberlain.
For all its splendour, this was the economy version of a papal welcome. Senior cardinals and papal aides stayed away, according to rules under which only an embassy sent by a Christian head of state had a claim on their presence. A few days later, Hasekura dressed in his best for his second audience with the Pope, only to find the Holy Father dressing down in simple red, and greeting him in the relatively low-status Sala Clementina, within the Apostolic Palace. It was an impressive occasion nonetheless, for the visitors: the Pope sat on his red-velvet throne, a golden canopy overhead, surrounded by cardinals, archbishops, bishops and secretaries.
Hasekura entered, knelt once in the middle of the room and then again three times at the Pope’s feet, kissing them before he arose. Greeting the Pope in Japanese, with Sotelo interpreting, he took Date Masamune’s letter – written in Japanese and Latin – from a silk bag and presented it to the Pope. He then knelt again, but the Pope motioned him to stand as an aide read the Latin portion of the missive. Date was asking for Franciscan missionaries, pledging to build churches and protect priests. He hoped, too, for a bishop, whom he promised to maintain in appropriate comfort. The Pope’s aide responded by expressing pre-scripted delight that the mission had come from so far away, adding that he hoped for Date’s baptism soon.
In keeping with the best traditions of diplomacy, what each side really wanted could not be included in official correspondence, nor articulated in public. The Pope’s hopes for the visit were made manifest in art a few years after the visit. The Sala Regia, a large audience chamber at the Quirinal Palace, was redecorated, turning the upper parts of the room’s walls into an imagined spectators’ gallery. There, looking down on the Pope’s visitors, was a Japanese samurai dressed in an embroidered kimono of white silk: Hasekura Tsunenaga, freeze-framed in a fresco. Joining him in the image were four of his retainers, along with Luis Sotelo, gesturing downwards as though explaining to the Japanese the meaning of events taking place below. Further along the walls, likewise surveying the scene, were groups of Persians and Kongolese, alongside Armenians and Nestorian Christians from central Asia – all of them based on embassies received by the Pope, and all of it an implied rebuke of Protestant parochialism.
The discerning of Hasekura’s hidden motives required a careful reading of the letter from Date. It contained a rather strange and nebulous line: ‘For all the rest I thoroughly rely on [Sotelo and Hasekura], and I shall ratify anything they may conclude and ratify in my name.’ The Venetian ambassador to Rome suspected that he knew what this meant. He reported back to his Senate that Hasekura had quietly put an additional request to the Pope: ‘to receive under his protection as a sovereign prince his king, Masamune, who is on the way to become Emperor of Japan’.
Bearing in mind European uncertainty around this time over the roles of emperors versus shoguns, the Venetian ambassador seemed to be saying that Date’s real aim in sending the Hasekura mission to Rome was to forge foreign friendships that would help him declare his independence from Ieyasu and Hidetada, and perhaps go after the latter’s job. This was early days for the Tokugawa bakufu, and with Hideyori still alive there was everything to play for. Date perhaps hoped that by bringing the Pope onside he could leverage the latter’s authority and exploit to his advantage Japanese Christian concern over Ieyasu’s hostility towards them.
Whatever the truth behind the Venetian ambassador’s claims, the Pope showed little interest in forming an alliance – or, indeed, in agreeing to anything that Hasekura asked for. He made clear that his jurisdiction did not cover the trade policy of European powers. Nor did he show any willingness to create a new bishopric or support the sending of missionaries, shifting responsibility for the latter back to King Philip. Everything else Hasekura received during his stay in Rome – from honorary citizenship to a papal gift of a thousand gold ducats – represented consolation prizes at best.
Hasekura left Rome in early January 1616, beginning a long and dispiriting journey home. He found himself unwelcome in Spain: King Philip had secretly written to the Pope advising him to refuse all Japanese requests, while the Council of the Indies now barred Hasekura from Madrid and bade him return directly home instead. Hasekura ended up back in Seville for a few months, deploying his newly minted European contacts to the best effect he could. The Duke of Lerma, Pope Paul V and the Senate of Seville all received requests for help in meeting Date’s demands, with Hasekura now claiming that the fate of Japan’s Christians depended on them.
It was all to no avail, and in the summer of 1617 Hasekura was effectively deported: forced to sail back down the Guadalquivir River and to recross the Atlantic to New Spain. From there, his embassy reboarded the Date Maru, arriving in Manila in August 1618. The ship soon ended up in the hands of the Spanish navy, either commandeered by the Governor-General of the Philippines for service in an ongoing war with the English and the Dutch or donated by Luis Sotelo for that purpose. While the Date Maru was refitted for war, Hasekura, Sotelo and the others waited for an alternative ride home.
Hasekura and Sotelo may well have welcomed the delay in their return to Japan; Sotelo perhaps even engineered it, by making a gift of the Date Maru. One reason was the failure of their mission, another the Tokugawa turn against Christianity. Sotelo finally made it back in 1622 disguised as a merchant, only to be discovered, arrested and then burned at the stake with other Christians in 1624. All were tied loosely in the pyre, so that their writhing bodies would impress upon people the pain in store for those who broke the law. Setting out to lead the Christian community in Japan, Sotelo had ended as a martyr. He would be beatified in 1867, the final full year of Tokugawa rule.
Hasekura returned to Japan two years before Sotelo, reaching Sendai in September 1620 with presents for Date Masamune that included a portrait of the Pope and one of himself kneeling at prayer. The one thing he couldn’t give his lord was good news. Having maintained his support for Christianity throughout the period of Hasekura’s voyage, angering the shogun in the process, Date now turned his back. He banned Christianity in his domain and ordered the missionaries out.
No one knows for sure what became of Hasekura after this. Some say that he renounced his Christian faith, others that he died for it, along with his wife, children and servants. The most interesting afterlife afforded Hasekura insists that his ‘death’ in 1622 was faked by his family: a ruse to allow him to escape into the mountains. There he lived on for another thirty years as a recluse, finally passing away in 1654, at the age of eighty-four or thereabouts.
By this time the waters of Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers were flowing in Rome, while in Japan the Tokugawa bakufu had finished mopping up their enemies and were firmly in control of the country’s affairs. Ieyasu and Hidetada had defeated Hideyoshi’s son Hideyori and almost 100,000 of his supporters in 1614–15, besieging them at Osaka Castle and forcing Hideyori and his mother into suicide. Ieyasu had passed away the next year, leaving his successors to continue the arrest and execution of Christians all the way into the 1630s. A final armed stand took place in 1637–8 on the Shimabara peninsula near Nagasaki. Tens of thousands of disaffected samurai and Christian peasants battled the bakufu, but eventually went the way of Hideyori and his loyalists: besieged in a castle, and then wiped out.
If Hasekura was indeed still around in the early 1640s, he would have seen a century of Japanese contact with Europe – beginning with the first shipwrecked Portuguese in 1543 – come almost full circle. Alongside missionaries, Portuguese traders were banned from Japan. Only Nagasaki was open to foreign ships, and soon the only Europeans with whom the bakufu would do business were the Dutch. Japanese were meanwhile forbidden from leaving the country, on pain of execution when they returned. Issued across the 1630s, these rules were known collectively as the sakoku – ‘closed country’ – edicts.
Across the decades that followed, the ban on Christianity was enforced with the help of Japan’s Buddhists, recovered from bloody setbacks under Oda Nobunaga and once again hand-in-glove with the state. Shinran’s sect in particular was so powerful that in 1602 Ieyasu had decided to turn an internal split into a permanent separation of an Eastern (Higashi) Hongan-ji from a Western (Nishi) Hongan-ji. Buddhist temples now ran a nationwide system of compulsory registration, so that the country’s leaders knew who was who and where they lived. And they administered a method of anti-Christian surveillance known as fumi-e (picture-treading). People suspected of harbouring Christian sympathies were required, once a year, to tread on an image of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary, many of them wrought in copper by apostates, working from the heart and taking as their model the kind of art that Hasekura had found everywhere during his travels in Europe.
For that deeply divided continent, long years of bloody religious conflict lay ahead. Japan, by contrast, had brought its own to a close. Its global relationships had also been settled, according to a vision – a Tokugawa tianxia – that prioritized domestic unity and bakufu control over foreign ambitions or friendships. It may have been less than Hideyoshi hoped for the Land of the Gods, but Japan was at last entering an era of remarkable peace and prosperity.
Colonel-General Karl von Einem gennant (named) von Rothmaler prior to being promoted to field marshal by the Kaiser. A cavalryman by training, Einem replaced the defeated General Max Baron von Hausen after his loss at First Marne in 1914 as C.O. of the German 3rd Army.
In June 1933 in Bavaria, Field Marshal von Einem established the pro-monarchist movement League of the Upright, which claimed 100,000-plus members. In January 1934, von Einem’s plans to celebrate the Kaiser’s seventy-fifth birthday with a monarchist demonstration at Berlin were crushed by General Goering, who had SA men break it up; Hindenburg let the Nazi infraction stand.
Col. Gen. Karl von Einem (January 1, 1853 to April 7, 1934) commanded the German 3rd Army during the Great War after having prepared for the early fighting while Prussian Minister of War beforehand (1903–09), being succeeded by Gen. Josiah von Heeringen. Indeed, Col. Gen. von Einem was one of very few of the Kaiser’s general officers to retain the same command during most of the actual fighting, as well as afterwards, from September 12, 1914 to January 30, 1919.
His first combat command in the west ensued when he succeeded Gen. Max von Hausen after First Marne in 1914. He then defeated the French Army’s Champagne Marne attack of two separate periods in 1915, following which he led his forces in the entire trio of Battles of the Aisne River. During that fight’s second struggle, von Einem held French Gen. Antoine’s 4th Army fast as part of the overall Nivelle Offensive of April 16 to May 15, 1917, which led to the French commander’s firing.
In the March 1918 Kaiser’s Battle, Ludendorff chose von Einem to back his July 15–17, 1918 assault on the German eastern flank in the high casualty Champagne–Marne fighting. This was followed by heavy combat with the recently deployed AEF of U.S. Army Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing in the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne over September 26 to November 11, 1918.
On November 10, 1918—the very day before the Armistice took effect—von Hindenburg relieved Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm from his long command of Army Group CP, bestowing it instead on von Einem for its demobilization march back into the Second Reich. Col. Gen. von Einem retired from the army the next year, dying on April 7, 1934 at Mulheim, Germany.
Overall, the Allied 100 Days’ Offensive lasted from August 8 to November 11, 1918, right up until the day of the Armistice that ended the fighting, and it started with the latest Battle of Amiens, drove the Germans effectively out of occupied Northern France and back behind their crumbling Hindenburg Line.
With the curtailment of the effectiveness of the failed Kaiser’s Battle in July 1918, the new Allied Generalissimo French Army Gen. Ferdinand Foch ordered the onset of the long prepared Entente counteroffensive in response, the Second Battle of the Marne River. In consultation with his fellow army commanders, Foch agreed with Haig to strike again at the Somme as in 1916 with the BEF and also to heavily utilize for the first time the AEF of Gen. Pershing.
The open fields of French Picardy were considered good tank terrain, suitable for massive armored thrusts. The attack opened with a French component in the Battle of Montdidier on August 8, 1918, which included ten Entente divisions of BEF, French, Australian, and Canadian forces, boasting 500 tanks. This assault achieved complete surprise, with the Allies rampaging into the German rear areas, punching a hole 15 miles wide in the enemy lines south of the Somme River. This resulted in 330 artillery tubes taken and 17,000 POWs captured, plus an estimated 30,000 Germans killed and wounded.
After three days, the Germans retreated from the gains made during their own earlier attacks to the Hindenburg Line. On the 17th, the French began the Second Battle of Noyon, taking it twelve days later. Three days earlier, the Second Battle of Arras of 1918 also commenced, and the Second Battle of Bapaume saw the fall of that town on the 29th. The Australians crossed the Somme River on the 31st, crashing through the German lines during the Battle of Mont St-Quentin.
A pair of related Entente victories were garnered at the Battles of the Scarpe (August 26, 1918) and the Drocourt–Quéant Line (September 2, 1918), with the French in striking distance of the Hindenburg Line in the Battle of Savy-Dallon on the 10th. The French 10th Army saw it near Laon during the September 14, 1918 Battle of Vauxaillon.
Four days later came the turn of the BEF during the Battle of Épehy on the St-Quentin Canal, with the entire German defensive works about to be brought under direct attack along its full length from Cerny on the Aisne River to Arras.
Prior to Foch’s main attack, the line’s salients jutting out at both Havrincourt and St Mihiel fell during hard fighting on September 12, 1918, and more fell fifteen days later during the Battles of Épehy and the Canal of the North.
Foch launched what he called his Grand Offensive against the Hindenburg Line on September 26, 1918 in a series of inter-Allied struggles. These included the varied Battles of Somme-Py (September 26), Saint-Thierry (the 30th), Montfaucon (October 14–17), and Chesne (November 1, 1918). The main assault, though, commenced on September 29, during the Battle of St-Quentin Canal by Australians, British, and French in concert, and by October 5, the Aryan defense had been breached across a 19-mile-wide front. By the 8th, two full British armies smashed through the line during the Second Battle of Cambrai, at last forcing the shaken duo to admit even to themselves that the war was lost to Germany and had to be ended. In all, it took until October 17, 1918 for the vaunted but crumbling Hindenburg Line to be pierced at last. Gone were any further thoughts of it not falling until the spring of 1919.
Next, King Albert I of the Belgians launched his Army Group of mixed nationalities in the Fifth Battle of Ypres in Flanders. Now the German armies were retreating back through all the territory they had first taken in the summer and fall of 1914, conceding the loss as well of their Metz-Bruges rail line that was vital to their re-supply.
Meanwhile, on August 21, 1918, Field Marshal Haig had opened his own Battle of Albert, knocking the German 2nd Army rearward 34 miles and taking it the next day.
October was a month of routs for most German forces as well: on October 9, 1918, there began the Pursuit to the Selle, followed by the Battle of Courtrai on the 14th, that of Mont-d’Origny of the 15th, the Selle (17th), Lys and Escaut (20th), the Serre (also the 20th), Valenciennes (November 1), the Battles of the Sambre and Guise Rivers (both on the 4th), and that at Thiérache (the same day), the fighting of the last running up to the very minute of the Armistice occurring. Reportedly, the very last man to die was an American soldier from Baltimore, MD, USA, Henry Gunther.
For his magnificent victory over the Germans, Foch was awarded the baton of a marshal of France in August 1918 by French President Raymond Poincaré.
The M80 Stiletto is a recently built naval prototype manufactured by the M Ship Company as an operational experimental platform for the US Navy. It has an unusual catamaran (pentamaran) hull design which makes extensive use of carbon-fibre construction for both strength and stealth. The M80 Stiletto is an American vessel designed primarily for littoral combat and shallow water roles taking its name from the Italian Stiletto – a short dagger. This 27 m-long vessel has an M-shaped hull providing a stable and fast platform for surveillance, weapons and special operations (Figure 7.16). Its shallow draft means the M80 Stiletto can operate in littoral and river environments that other naval vessels cannot operate in (due to their draught) and can even allow for amphibious assault if needed. The Stiletto is equipped with four 1,232 kW engines, modest by comparison with the power levels of the Type 45 Destroyer, but has a top speed over 50 knots and has a range of some 500 NM when fully loaded! It uses jet drives for shallow water operations and beaching and a small flight deck for the launch and retrieval of several UAVs. The Stiletto can set up a communications network between special inserted forces teams by launching a UAV to relay information between the team and the boat, and can send real-time images to the team on shore. The ship is 88.6 ft long, with a width of 40 ft (12 m) and a height of 18.5 ft (5.6 m), and with a surprisingly small draft of just 2.5 ft (0.8 m).
The Stiletto is the largest US naval vessel yet built using carbon-fibre composite and advanced maritime epoxy building techniques, to yield a light but strong hull with a very low RCS to avoid radar detection. The M80’s hull is unusually wide to capture the vessel’s bow wave and redirect the wave energy under the hull. The Stiletto’s double-M hull enables the craft to achieve as smooth a ride as possible in rough seas at high speed, critical for Navy SEALS and Special Operations Forces.
In some ways, this is a practical small-scale supercessor to the US Sea Shadow, which after its Lockheed Martin test days of the 1980s was for a few years used by Northrop Grumman for initial research towards the recently abandoned Zumwalt programme. As a final note perhaps to the history of the Sea Shadow (developed at a cost of a little over £110 million), this stealthy platform was recently offered to be given away along with its barge for free to any museum that would take it. The barge itself was built over 35 years ago to raise a sunken Soviet submarine, but since 2005 both have been housed in San Diego, California.
The old blacksmith and his two sons struggled through the knee-deep snow, making their way down the steep mountainside toward Temujin’s camp. The three of them had come a long way from the dark forest of the taiga west of Lake Baikal that was their home. Up ahead, within sight, was the tree line, where the snow gave way to bare ground and rock. Another few li and they would reach the steppe itself, where the spring temperatures had already begun to turn the Mongolian plain green with new grass. It was spring, the time of year when the Mongol clans left their winter camps in the mountains and drove their horse herds down to the steppes, where the half-starved animals that had survived the brutal Mongolian winter could eat their fill and replenish their bodies. It would take at least a month before the horses were healthy enough to permit their use in that favorite Mongol pastime: war.
The old man’s name was Jarchigudai. He was an Uriangkhai, one of the forest tribes that lived in the mountains and thick forests north of the Mongolian steppe. Twenty years ago, he had made this same journey. Then he had conic with his first-born son, Jelme, now a strapping young man of eighteen summers. Jarchigudai had been a blacksmith then, as he still was, and he carried his blacksmith’s bellows on his back when he came to see Yesugei, the warrior and heir to the Mongol dynasty that had once ruled all the Mongol clans. He had come then to offer Yesugei his first-born as his servant. Yesugei had been camped at Deligun Hill on the Onan River, where his wife had presented him with a son of his own.’ Yesugei had named his first-born, Temujin, after a brave warrior that Yesugei had slain in one of the interminable battles between the clans. Jarchigudai’s son had then also been an infant, having been born in the same month as Temujin. Yesugei had welcomed Jarchigudai’s gift with gratitude, but feared that his wife could not care properly for two infants. So he had sent the blacksmith away with the promise that when Jelme had grown to be a man, Yesugei would welcome him into his service. So Jarchigudai the blacksmith returned to his people in the forest where, over the years, he had plied his trade as Jelme had grown to manhood. During this time, Jarchigudai’s wife had given him another son, but the effort had killed her, and Jarchigudai was alone in the world, except for his two boys.
Then word was brought to Jarchigudai that Yesugei had been killed by the Tartars, poisoned as they falsely offered him the hospitality of the Mongol tent. With Yesugei dead, the young Temujin, barely ten years old, had not been able to hold the loyalty of the warriors in the clan. He, his brothers, and his mother had been abandoned on the steppe without horses when the clan gave their loyalty to new leaders. For some years Temujin and his family had survived and rebuilt their fortunes until, only a year before Jarchigudai had learned of Yesugei’s death, Temujin had formed an alliance with his father’s anda, or blood brother, who in turn brought Temujin under his protection. With this friendship, Temujin, a prince of royal Mongol blood, had begun to attract other men and their families to him. Now, in the spring of 1187, as he camped on the banks of the Onan, Temujin was the leader of a small group of followers, families, and herds. Jarchigudai knew that Temujin was the son of a royal father and heir to the old Mongol dynasty. To a simple man like the blacksmith, a promise was a promise. As he had promised to bring his son to Yesugei when the time was right, so now he travelled a great distance to keep his promise to the son of the man to whom he had given his word.
Jarchigudai and his sons reached the camp late in the morning, when the heat of the steppe had already driven the cool morning air away. Temujin was waiting in front of his tent, having been warned of the strangers’ approach by his sentries. He must have wondered who these travelers were and was on his guard, for the life of a Mongol warrior in those days was perilous indeed. As the Secret History of the Mongols tells the story, Jarchigudai spoke to Temujin:
“Many years ago, I had a son, Jelme, who was horn when you were born and grew up when you grew up. When your people were camped at Deligun Hill on the Onan, when you, Temujin, were born, I gave your father a sable blanket to swaddle you in.” The old man could see from the expression on Temujin’s face that it was the first time he had heard such a tale about his own youth. Every Mongol knew his lineage back at least five generations and could recite it at a moment’s notice. But this, Jarchigudai sensed, Temujin had not known. The old blacksmith went on. “When you were an infant, I also gave my son, Jelme, to your father, but since he was just an infant then I kept him with me.” He paused and looked at Jelme, who, he knew, was eager to join Temujin’s clan. Since boyhood, Jelme had shown neither aptitude nor interest in becoming a blacksmith. Jarchigudai turned hack to Temujin. “Now,” he said, “I have come to keep my promise to your father. Now Jelme is yours, to put on your saddle and open your door.” Then he gave Temujin his son.
The Secret History tells us nothing about Jelme’s younger brother, then ten years old and standing behind his father watching everything that transpired. As the youngest son, he would become the ochigin, or “keeper of the hearth,” for it was the custom of the forest tribes to place the father’s estate in the trust of the youngest son. With Jelme gone, old Jarchigudai expected his youngest to become a blacksmith, for that was the way of the Uriangkhai. We do not know what the young boy thought as he watched. Perhaps he was struck by the physical presence of Temujin, a man taller than most Mongols, of powerful build, and with stone-gray eyes-like a wolf’s, it was said. He had never been out of the forests, and perhaps he was impressed with the openness and beauty of the springtime steppe, with its green carpet of new grass, or with the heat of the sun that he could feel shining directly upon his body, unimpeded by the trees of the thick forests in his own land. Or perhaps he was like his brother in ways his father did not know, in that he had never wished to be a blacksmith. Now that Jelme had found another life for himself, perhaps he, too, might one day seek another way. But all this is uncertain. What is certain is that the meeting between Temujin and the sons of Jarchigudai the blacksmith in the early spring of 1187 was to have enormous consequences for the world. In less than twenty years, the young warrior-prince Temujin would come to unite and rule a new nation composed of “all the people whose tents are protected by skirts of felt.” Chosen in the year 1206 by a vast conclave of all the tribes of Mongolia, Temujin was given a new name, one that would make the world tremble. On that May field long ago, Temujin, once the outlaw, became Genghis Khan. The younger of Jarchigudai’s boys, too, would one day make the world shake. Jarchigudai’s youngest son did indeed disappoint his father. When he was fourteen years old, the time when a Mongol boy became a warrior, he left the land of the Uriangkhai to join the army of Temujin. The boy’s name was Subotai, and he became one of the greatest generals in history.
One of the more interesting paradoxes of military history is that the greatest Mongol general of them all was not, strictly speaking, a Mongol at all. The term Mongol refers to the group of clans that constituted the tribe from which Genghis Khan came. Once he had unified the other tribes of Mongolia-the Kerits, Merkits, Naimans, Tartars, etc.-the general confederation was given the common name of Mongols by Chinese, Muslim, and Christian chroniclers. All the tribes were nomadic steppe people who moved their horse and cattle herds with the seasons in search of pasture. All were horsemen and all shared the same type and method of warfare in that they were horse-borne bowmen. The Uriangkhai, to which Subotai belonged, was among the clans called forest tribes or, somewhat less correctly, forest Mongols. The chroniclers knew the Uriangkhai as the Reindeer People, and they lived in the forest taiga of the upper Yenisei River near the western edge of Lake Baikal.’ They lived a vastly different life from that of the Mongol warriors of the steppe, considering themselves separate from them. Indeed, when Genghis Khan came to power, he quickly sent several military expeditions against the forest tribes to bring them under his control.
Genghis’ interest in the forest tribes stemmed less from any feeling of consanguinity than from stark steppe economics. The Uriangkhai were hunters and fishermen who lived by trapping and trading Siberian furs to the steppe Mongols, who valued them highly as clothing against the harsh Mongolian winters. When hunting, the Uriangkhai wore “small, well-polished hones tied to their feet, with which they speed so swiftly over the ice that they catch animals in flight.” The Uriangkhai were not pastoral; that is, they did not move seasonally with the herds, but lived in clustered villages in permanent log huts covered with hides and birch bark. This stability led some of them to become metal smiths, some of whom traveled to the Mongol seasonal encampments where they practiced their trade repairing metal weapons and household implements. Jarchigudai was one of these smiths.
The climate of the Siberian taiga is much colder and snowier, and it has less daylight than the Mongolian steppe, so the Uriangkhai used animal skins for clothing more than did the steppe peoples. If we can trust the description of the Persian physician Rashid ad-Din, writing in his Jami’at-avarikh (Great Collection of Histories) around 1300, the forest tribes took no part in the tribal wars of the steppe Mongols. Rashid wrote that these tribes usually kept no herds, except for the Uriangkhai, who maintained domesticated herds of reindeer that they called reem. Their descendants, the Reindeer People, still survive in the forests of Siberia, near the Arctic Circle, living much as they did during Subotai’s time. According to Rashid, the forest tribes rarely left their woodlands:
They believe that there is no happier life than their own. Their country being very cold, they hunt much over the snow. They bind to their feet long lengths of wood that they call chana, using their staffs in their hands to push them along in the snow, like the pole of a boat. They shoot down mountainsides so swiftly that they catch up with animals…. This is something you must see, in order to believe it.
As the son of a blacksmith in the Siberian taiga, Subotai was raised much differently than the son of a steppe Mongol. Unlike the boys of the steppe, Subotai was not taught to ride by his mother at age three; he was not given a bow and instruction in its use by age five. Whereas the steppe Mongol spent most of his life on horseback, it is likely that Subotai had never even ridden a horse until he joined Genghis’ army at age fourteen. Nor had Subotai any experience in spending long hours in the saddle in the alternating cold and heat of the Mongolian steppe while the entire tribe moved across the open plain with few landmarks to guide it. He possessed no sense of the wide expanse of the steppe or even a sense of distance. It is doubtful that anything from his life in the thick, mountainous forests would have prepared him for the sheer nakedness of the steppe or the desert, or for the terrible sense of vulnerability that can come with it. Unlike the sons of the steppe, this son of the taiga had no experience in eating uncooked food, drinking kumis, or drinking the blood of his horse for nourishment to sustain him on a long march. It is unlikely that, accustomed to life in the forests, he possessed that unique Mongol ability to spot movement in the open plain miles before it was upon you, or the ability to tell the difference between a man and animal at such great distances. For anyone lacking these abilities, the steppe became a dangerous place where a surprise attack could descend quickly upon the unwary, often with deadly results. Yet this son of a blacksmith somehow became the greatest general in Mongol history. His exploits rank him with the most successful of generals in all of human history. Just how this came to he is a very interesting tale.
Writing in his Historia Mongalorum quos nos Tartaros appellamus in 1248, the Franciscan monk Giovanni di Plano Carpini, who had returned from his papal mission to the Mongol court in 1247, recorded that Subotai, thought of by the Mongols as their greatest general, was still alive and well.” The Chinese biography of Subotai included in the Sou Houng Kian Lou (translated by Jean Pierre Abel Remusat in 1829) says that the great general died at the age of seventy-three. Accordingly, we may place the dates of Subotai’s life from 1175 to 1248. The first mention of Subotai in any source occurs in The Secret History of the Mongols, the great saga of the Mongol people that records the rise and life of Genghis Khan. Written in poetic form, the Secret History is to Mongol history and myth as the Iliad is to the Greek. We first hear of Subotai in connection with the tale of the break between Temujin and his powerful and jealous ally, Jamuga. For more than a year, the two had been allies, and even anda (blood brothers). Their clans traveled and camped together. Eventually, however, as Jamuga became suspicious of Temujin’s growing popularity, the two clans separated and no longer camped together. This signalled to all the clans and warriors of the Mongol tribe that the time had come to choose sides, and most chose Temujin: “People arrived from the Jalayir, from the Onggur and the Manghud. Ogele Cherbi, Borgorchu’s kin, joined from the Arulad, and Jelme’s younger brother, Subotai Bagatur, left the Uriangkhai to join them.”
Subotai had followed his brother’s example, leaving the forests and his father’s forge for a life of adventure in the service of Temujin the outlaw. Young men pretending to be old enough to join the military is a story as old as armies themselves are. By rough reckoning, Subotai was not yet fourteen, the age when a Mongol boy became a warrior.
The poem speaks of Subotai as bagatur, as if he had already possessed this title at the time he joined Temujin. The title itself means brave or valiant, thus Subotai the Valiant, as he was known to the Chinese chroniclers. The term found its way into Russian as bogatyr. It was the title of the Mongol knight and was acquired by Subotai as a young officer serving in Temujin’s bodyguard. The Secret History was written sometime between 1240 and 1260, when Subotai was already well known as a talented general and had already been granted this title. Although Subotai rose to higher rank, throughout his life he used the title of bagatur most often-so much so that foreign chroniclers often mistakenly thought it to he the great general’s surname!
When Subotai joined Temujin, he was but a young boy and surely no knight. He was Jelme’s younger brother, however, and Jelme had become one of Temujin’s closest comrades and advisors. Jelme had come to Temujin when he was at a difficult juncture. Outlawed by the chief of his own clan, his horses stolen, and his wife kidnapped by the Merkits, Temujin had few warriors to stand by him. The esteem in which Jelme was held by Temujin is clear in the Secret History. In 1188, when the clans chose’Iemujin to be their leader in war, all the clan leaders came forward to pledge their loyalty to Temujin. The only exceptions were Jelme and Bogorchu. To stress the esteem in which these two companions were held, the poem tells of Temujin pledging his loyalty and honor to them.
Then Temujin turned to Borgorchu [sic] and Jelme and said, “You two, from the time when there was no one to fight beside me but my own shadow, you were my shadow and gave my mind rest. That will always be in my thoughts. From the time when there was nothing to whip my horses with except their tails, you were their tails and gave my heart peace. That will always be in my heart. Since you were the first two who came to my side, you will be chieftains over all the rest of the people.”
We may reasonably assume from this that Jelme was privy to all the consultation and planning sessions that Temujin held with his officers as they sought to defeat their enemies both politically and on the battlefield. The use of the commander’s conference, in which the leader gathers his trusted commanders and advisors to plan a campaign, has a very long history in the ancient West, and was commonly used by the Mongols as well. It is likely that Jclme’s position as a trusted comrade is what made Subotai’s higher education in military matters possible.
That a young boy from the forests could adjust to Mongol life on the steppe is clear enough from Jelme’s circumstances. Jelme himself was given to “lemujin as a slave, to put on your saddle and open your [tent] door,” a clear indication that Jelme possessed no military skills at all at that time. A few years later, we find him fully acclimated to the life of the Mongol soldier. But Subotai was still only a boy, and not yet ready to become a soldier. What, then, were they to do with him? He could hardly be turned to common labor, or even to rough training at the hands of the troops. If what the poem tells us about Jelme applied as well to Subotai, then it is possible that Subotai was assigned to be Temujin’s keeper of the tent door while he gradually learned the military skills of the Mongol soldier, perhaps under the careful tutelage of a Mongol officer. Subotai’s special status is implied by the poem. Although of no military status whatsoever, Subotai was permitted to pledge his loyalty to Temujin along with the other clan leaders as if, somehow, he was already one of them. In Subotai’s pledge, there is the sense of a boy strongly impressed by the possibility of adventure and even by the sight of Temujin-so much so that one may have reason to believe that Subotai was excessive in his willingness to become Temujin’s subordinate. Whereas other clan chieftains compare their loyalty to their leader in heroic terms, likening themselves to bears and wolves, Subotai’s pledge reveals no such sense of nobility or military prowess:
Then Subotai promised him: “I’ll be like a rat and gather up others I’ll be like a black crow and gather great flocks. Like the felt blanket that covers the horse, I’ll gather up soldiers to cover you. Like the felt blanket that guards the tent from the wind, I’ll assemble great armies to shelter your tent.”
To compare oneself to a crow and a rat suggests a young man a bit too eager to serve his master in any way he is ordered. Subotai has no military skills to offer his chief, and so offers his determination to serve in any capacity, even those usually considered below the Mongol warrior. (One wonders what the other chiefs thought of a boy who would compare his worth to that of a rat, which was regarded by Mongol soldiers as having value only as food.) Subotai’s being like a felt blanket that guards the tent from the wind is instructive, however, for that is exactly the task of the doorkeeper of the tent.
As Jelme’s brother and keeper of Temujin’s tent door, Subotai would have been present at the war councils and discussions of Temujin’s officers; among them, of course, was Jelme. At the same time, we can reasonably surmise that Subotai spent some of his days taking instruction in the military arts of the Mongol soldier: how to ride a horse, shoot a bow, and practice in the maneuver and Are tactics of the Mongol cavalry. Over the next decade, Temujin and his clan engaged in a series of battles with the other tribes, as well as his chief rival and former ally, Jamuga. For the most part, these engagements produced no strategic decisions about unifying the Mongol nation or deciding who would lead it. During this time, Subotai probably received his first taste of battle, perhaps only as a common soldier, and then later as commander of an urban (a squad of 10 men) or djaghoun (company of 100 men). The Secret History is silent with regard to Suhotai’s military experience during this decade of war, but it is likely that the tribal conflicts served to educate Subotai in the Mongol way of war and to season him to the physical and psychological rigors of campaigning. It is only in 1197, at the end of this period, that the records reveal anything further about Subotai’s performance in battle or his fitness for command.
History would suggest that more important than his experience on the battlefield was Subotai’s exposure to the discussions held and questions asked in the commander’s conferences by Temujin’s highest-ranking commanders, Jelme among them. There is no reason to suspect that Subotai was not present at these conferences, perhaps at first only as an accidental observer and then, at some point when his military skills had improved, perhaps sitting behind Jelme while the discussions went on. Ten years of listening to the plans and arguments of senior commanders as they planned their campaigns and subsequently dissected the performance of the men in after-action reports would have given the young Subotai an excellent and very practical military education. Here he would have learned to think beyond unit tactics; to see how the tactical employment of units fit into the larger plan of the campaign, and how they in turn fit into the overall strategy. Although his own field experience at this time would have permitted him to command only smaller units, Subotai was exposed to the planning and execution of war at the operational level. The ability to conceptualize war plans and implement them on a grand scale is one of the most difficult skills for any officer to acquire. Most never acquire this ability, something that may explain why warfare has, over the long centuries of its practice, produced only a few truly great generals. Subotai became one of those generals. His military education was unique. While he was gaining experience in different levels of tactical command, he was simultaneously being exposed over a long period to the discussions, planning, and analysis of battles at the highest levels of command.
As events unfolded, it was Subotai’s education rather than his battlefield experience that shaped his intellect, with the result that he became one of the most successful and innovative generals in history. The closest that modern military establishments come to a military education of the type experienced by Subotai is, perhaps, the German General Staff system. There young officers, often captains, spend much of their careers in parallel staff and combat assignments at higher levels where they are continuously exposed to the deliberations of more senior commanders.
In 1197, when Subotai was twenty-three years old and by now a soldier with some battlefield experience, Temujin undertook an attack against the rival Merkit tribe. According to the account of the war preserved for us by Chinese chroniclers, Subotai was placed in command of a small unit, most likely a djaghoun of 100 soldiers. Up to this time there were no units in the Mongol army larger than the 1,000-man regiments (mingan), command of which was always placed in the hands of Temujin’s senior commanders. The Chinese records offer the following account of Subotai’s role in the war with the Merkits:
Temujin convoked an assembly of his officers to march against the Metkits. He asked … “Who will be the first to attack?” Subotai volunteered and Temujin, noting his courage, offered to send a corps of 100 elite soldiers along with him. But Subotai opposed this saying, “I will take care of everything.” Then Subotai traveled to the Merkit camp and feigned abandoning Temujin’s cause. They [the Merkits] placed such confidence in what Subotai told them that they neglected to make sufficient preparation so that when the great Mongol army arrived at the Tchen River they were taken by surprise, and two of their generals were captured.’
Suhotai’s presence at a commander’s conference of senior officers planning the Merkit attack suggests that, although he was a junior officer, he had become somewhat of a regular attendee at these meetings. The fact that Subotai was permitted to participate fully in the discussions implies that over the years, Subotai, although not an experienced or distinguished field commander as far as we can judge, was nonetheless regarded by Zemujin himself as a valuable source of military counsel. Other men had their courage and physical stamina to offer their commander-in-chief. It was becoming evident that Subotai had something much rarer to offer: a brilliant military mind.
The tale of Subotai’s actions against the Merkits offers the first glimpse into his thinking. What is impressive is his use of deception and surprise, two qualities that repeatedly characterized his future campaigns. Subotai’s armies repeatedly led the enemy into thinking one thing while he was preparing to do the opposite. And when his armies struck, they almost always achieved strategic or tactical surprise. As at the Tchen River against the Metkits, whenever the major blow fell, it always fell at a single point-the Schwerpunkt-where the main army arrived at a single location to concentrate their force. Many times Subotai fought against armies larger than his own, but he always maneuvered to insure that when the final blow was struck, he unfailingly achieved numerical superiority at the decisive point. The Chinese account of Subotai’s actions against the Merkits reveals his willingness to attempt military operations marked by boldness and risk. Although he became known for his detailed planning and attention to intelligence reports, at base Suhotai possessed the soul of a gambler, which, as Napoleon remarked, was the most important trait of a great general. Once he had mastered what he could, Subotai was always willing, as the poet said, to risk his winnings on “one turn of pitch-and-toss.” These traits of character, when joined with a first-rate intellect, made Subotai an extraordinarily innovative and imaginative commander.
Between 1197 and 1206 (when he at last defeated his rivals), Temujin fought a series of battles in which Subotai took part. In 1201, Temujin fought a number of indecisive skirmishes against Jamuga and the Oga Khan. In one of these, Temujin was wounded in the neck by an arrow. The faithful Jelme sucked the wound until it clotted and saved the life of his friend and leader. In 1202, Temujin conducted a campaign against the Tartars. Unlike the previous campaign in 1199, this time Temujin put an end to the Tartar threat by having each Tartar male “measured against the linchpin.” All the captured Tartar males were led past the wheel of a wagon. Those who were taller than the linchpin of the wheel were beheaded; the smaller children were spared, and later taken into the Mongol armies. The women and young girls were turned to slavery. This practice was fairly common among the Mongols, but no one had ever employed it on such a scale before. The result was that the Tartars ceased to exist as a separate tribe.
In 1203, Jamuga and the Oga Kahn had raised a large army from the remaining tribes and brought Temujin to battle at a place called the Red Willows. Badly outnumbered, Temujin’s army fought the enemy coalition to a draw but suffered such heavy casualties that Temujin was forced to withdraw. Of the almost 20,000 men in Temujin’s army who fought in the Battle of the Red Willows, only 2,600 were alive at the end of the day. Temujin and what was left of his army retreated to the northeast, finally stopping at a small lake known as Baljuna. The epic poem tells us that,
As to those of the Mongols who have stayed with Temujin, their plight is such that they have now but one horse to each rider [usually three], no lead horses or pack animals, [the baggage train was captured] and that instead of tents all they have for shelter is the trees of the forest.
The conditions at Baljuna were no better. At this time of year, the lake was almost dry, and what water there was had to be squeezed from a handful of mud. Only a few of Temujin’s officers remained with him, among them the loyal Subotai. It was the Mongol custom to abandon a leader in defeat and seek new accommodations. Temujin never forgot the loyal few who stood beside him in his darkest hour. Like the men around Mao Tse Tung on his long march to Yunan or the “precious few” who stood with Henry at Agincourt, for the rest of his life those who had been at Baljuna were always closest to the Great Khan. He created a special military order for them, the Order of the Ter-Khans, and they were rewarded with wealth and position. Each was permitted to commit nine capital offenses without punishment and was free to enter Genghis’ tent at any time. Temujin’s gratitude for his comrades was expressed in a Persian account:
Moved by the loyalty of those who had not left him in his distress, he promised them, hands clasped and eyes raised to heaven, that hence-forth he would share with them the sweet and the bitter, asking that, if he went back on his word, he might become as the muddy water of the Baljuna. As he spoke, he drank of this water and passed the cup to his officers, who swore in their turn never to leave him. These companions of Genghis Khan were known afterwards as the Baijunians, and were recompensed magnificently for their loyal adherence.
Among these precious few was Subotai, who, true to his original oath taken long ago, stood by his commander and protected him from the wind that was blowing violently across Mongolia.
Less than a year later, after he had rallied his clans and rebuilt his army, Temujin attacked the Oga Khan, taking his army by surprise and trapping it in a narrow pass. This time there would be no mistake. Although the Oga Khan and his son escaped, the army of the Kerits was destroyed. Temujin then captured the remainder of the Kerits and dispersed them into his ranks as slaves so that the Kerits ceased to exist as a separate people. Thus, in the winter of 1203-1204, Temujin had become master of all eastern and central Mongolia. Only the Naimans in the west remained. In the summer of 1204, the Year of the Rat, Temujin
divided his army to form troops of thousands, and having appointed his commanders, having chosen his eighty night guards and seventy soldiers as day guards…. And having sprinkled libations of mare’s milk on his standard of nine tails as a signal to Heaven that he was going to war, he set out with his army against the Naiman.
The army numbered 80,000 men.
Temujin proceeded cautiously on his approach to the Naiman territory. He knew the Naimans would outnumber him when the time came to give battle. Their warriors had a fierce reputation, their commanders known for their tendency to take the offensive and press the attack. But Temujin also knew that the Naiman king, Baibuka Tayang, was not a good general. Long before the present war he had taken the measure of the man and concluded that, “the Naiman are strong in numbers, but their khan is a weak man who has never been out of his tent.” When in command of a strong army, even a weak general can be dangerous, however, for as an old proverb had it, an army of lions led by a donkey was more dangerous than an army of donkeys led by a lion! And so when Temujin approached the land of the Naiman, he ordered that when his army camped at night each man was to light five campfires so that anyone watching would think the army was greater in numbers than it was.
The Naiman generals wanted to attack Temujin immediately. It was the end of May, the time when the Mongols leave their mountain encampments and come down to the plains, where the horses can feed on the thick new grass and rebuild their bodies, which have grown thin, weak, and hollow-flanked from almost six months of fast. For at least a month, the horses are of no use in war, and it was at this time that Temujin’s army was most vulnerable. But when the Naiman Tayang received reports of the number of fires flickering in Temujin’s camp, he became fearful that he was facing a larger army than his own and took counsel of his fears. The Tayang resisted the entreaties of his commanders to attack. He proposed instead to undertake a strategic retreat, forcing the Mongols to follow on their already exhausted mounts.
If we take our people back over the Altai [mountains] retreating in order this way, reforming our army on the other side of the passes, marching back and forth and enticing them to follow, appearing to retreat from them but still fighting small skirmishes along the way … the Mongol horses will be exhausted by then and we’ll throw our army back in their faces.
It was a sound (if cautious) plan, one befitting a general who “had never been out of his tent.” The debate among the Tayang’s generals went on for more than a month until the senggum, the son of the Tayang, put an end to it with his eagerness to attack and convinced his father. So “the Naiman swept down the Tamir River Valley, crossing the Orkhon, passing the eastern edge of Mount Nakhu. As they came to the Chakirmagud, they were seen by Temujin’s sentries.” The delay had served Temujin well. His horses were fit and his army was ready for war, and his sentries had deprived the Naiman of the element of surprise.
The Mongol epic describes the battle in detail and provides us for the first time with an account of Subotai’s performance in battle as commander of a 1,000-man mingan (or regiment) fighting as part of a four-regiment task force commanded by Jebe. The tactical orders of the Mongols have conic down to us, so that the order of march was to be “as thick as grass,” perhaps a reference to marching in solid regimental column to withstand an attack or to maximize shock in the attack. Once on the battlefield, the units were to assume “the lake formation” and were to attack “drill-wise.” Unfortunately, we do not know to what formations and tactics these terms refer. Aware that the Naiman had a reputation for offensive action, Zemujin order his advanced guard immediately into the attack. The impression of the text is that he caught the enemy off-guard as it was assembling its units prior to battle on the open plain. The spoiling attack was successful, and
our forward troops drove the Naiman back from Chakirmagud. Their forces retreated from us, reforming before Mount Nakhu on the skirts of the mountains there. Our forward troops drove them back, herding them together into a great mass before Mount Nakhu.
As in the Iliad, the Mongol epic describes the great battle through the eyes of the commander who, located on the high ground behind his army, watches the armies assemble and the battle unfold before him. The Naiman Tayang inquires of his ally, Jamuga,
Who are these people who charge us like wolves pursuing so many sheep, chasing the sheep right into the flock? Jamuga replies, “These are the Four Dogs of my and a Temujin. They feed on human flesh and are tethered with an iron chain. They have foreheads of brass, their jaws are like scissors, their tongues like piercing awls, their heads are iron, their whipping tails, swords. They feed on dew. Running, they ride on the hack of the wind. In the day of battle, they devour enemy flesh. Behold, they are now unleashed, and they slobber at the mouth with glee. ‘These four dogs are Jebe, and Kublai, Jelme, and Subotai.”
Frightened at the ferocity of the attack, the Naiman ordered his army to withdraw up the mountain.
Here we find the first mention of Subotai as a battlefield commander, his regiment operating in concert with three others. The accounts of Genghis’ later wars mention the use of such special units as the Four Dogs from time to time. We hear of these units in other battles when their commanders are called the Four Torrents, the Four Courses, and the Four Heroes. That Temujin chose his commanders purely on ability and experience is evident in the fact that none of the Four Dogs at the battle of Chakirmagud were of his own tribe. Khubilai was a prince of another tribe, Jebe was of the Tayichigud clan, and Jelme and Subotai were Uriangkhai. Subotai’s command of a regiment at Chakirmagud is evidence that he had shown himself to be a competent combat commander as well as a military thinker. It is also obvious from the poem that the Four Dogs were superb battlefield commanders whose units were known for their ferocity in the attack. At the battle of Chakirmagud they seem to have been used as mobile shock troops, much like a modern armored column, to drive through the enemy ranks at different points, penetrate to the rear, and disrupt the enemy formations. The text tells us in this regard that they “charge us like wolves pursuing so many sheep, chasing the sheep right into the flock.” It is also likely that one of their missions was to attack the enemy commander and disrupt his ability to command. Students of modern war will recognize these tactics as part of the “deep battle,” a concept invented by the Mongols and, as we shall see, transmitted to the future armies of the West.
The battle raged all that day with the Naiman getting the worst of it until they were forced to retreat up Mount Nakhu and darkness ended the fight. During the night, the Naiman attempted to escape:
In the darkness the Naiman tried to drive their carts and horses back down and fell from the cliffs and narrow trails of Nakhu, their bodies falling atop one another, their bones shattering from the fall, their bodies crushing each other like piles of dead trees, and that’s how most of them died.
Come daylight, Temujin resumed the attack, surrounding the Tayang and his commanders, who died fighting to the last man even as the dishonorable Jamuga made his escape. As for the Naiman tribe, the text tells us that they were assembled at the foot of the Altai and were disposed of,” perhaps “measured by the linchpin” as the Tartars had been. The last major obstacle to Temujin’s ambitions in Mongolia was destroyed at Chakirmagud. Only a few pockets of resistance remained. Later that year, Temujin attacked the Merkits and defeated them. The sons of the Merkit king escaped, however, and in the following year, the Year of the Ox (1205), Temujin ordered Subotai to hunt down the last of the Merkit princes and their followers and destroy them.
The Secret History’s account of Subotai’s campaign is rich in detail, some of it confusing and requiring explanation. The difficulty arises immediately at the beginning of the poem, which tells us: “During the Year of the Ox Temujin sent out Subotai equipping his army with iron carts, to pursue the sons of Toghtogat Beki [Toqto’a Beki] and their followers.” The phrase temur-tergen is translated by Kahn and Cleaves as “iron carts,” while Grousset translates it as “iron-framed wagons,” from which Grousset suggests that they were special wagons built to withstand the rough terrain and gorges over which Subotai would have had to travel in his pursuit of the Merkits. This argument is unconvincing in light of the fact that the Mongols routinely conducted campaigns over such rough terrain and there are no other indications of iron carts before the Merkit campaign or after it. The reference to iron carts is puzzling, but may tell us something about the use of iron in the early Mongol armies
In the Mongolian wars, Temujin’s armies probably made only limited use of iron weapons and implements. For the most part, arrows and lances were made from fire-hardened wood, and the “arrow knife” used for manufacturing these weapons and keeping their tips sharp is mentioned several times in the Secret History. Armor and helmets were made not of metal but of boiled leather, fashioned while wet and dried to shape. As a pastoral people, the Mongols were periodically on the move and lacked the stability of place that is usually associated with the practice of metallurgy. Instead, the Mongol tribes relied upon trade with the forest tribes to provide them with iron implements, while the traveling smiths, like Jarchigudai, came among them in the spring to repair their iron weapons and implements and sell them new ones. It is certain that some iron arrowheads and spear blades were in use during this period, for tales were told of Mongol women scouring the battlefield to retrieve these items. During the war with the Chin that began in 1206, the Mongols were exposed to the Chinese metal army. Thereafter, the Mongols began to adopt metal weapons, helmets, and iron in general on a large scale. In their wars with the Muslims and the West, the Mongols usually excluded metal smiths from their slaughter and shipped them hack to Mongolia or distributed them among the army units where they could keep Mongol equipment in repair. The deportation of metal smiths was so extensive in Russia that it required more than two centuries for the craft to reestablish itself once the Mongols had departed.
Against this background, it is interesting to speculate what the Secret History may be telling us about the iron carts and their relationship to Sub otai, the blacksmith’s son. Perhaps Subotai introduced some new element to the Mongol armies. Two possibilities suggest themselves. The first is that the iron carts are mobile forges that the armies, fighting larger campaigns of longer duration over longer distances, now required to keep their increasingly large stock of iron weapons, armor, and other implements in good repair. Even though the use of iron weapons by Temujin’s army was not extensive in 1205, the Secret History was written between 1240 and 1260, when iron weapons were in common use. The chronicler may have simply been writing about what he knew and attributed it to Subotai’s time. This is a common occurrence among ancient chronicles. In the Bible, for example, “chariots of iron” are attributed to David’s army when, in fact, they were not used then. The Biblical chronicler, writing perhaps four centuries after David-when the Assyrians had introduced large armored chariots with metal tire rims, thus “chariots of iron,”-simply modified the chronology and attributed them to David’s army as well.
A second possibility is that Subotai’s knowledge of iron led him to suggest a way to solve a chronic problem of Mongol military mobility. Mongol wagons were equipped with solid, wooden wheels of the kind commonly found in ancient Sumer and Egypt from the time of the third millennium B.C.E. Spokeless and solid, they were easy to manufacture but subject to breakdown in difficult terrain, a problem that also plagued the armies of Sumer and Egypt. Mongol armies usually operated on the treeless steppe or in steep mountains, where the lack of trees made finding the wood to repair broken wagon wheels difficult. Subotai, as the son of a blacksmith, may have hit upon the solution of fabricating an iron rim for the wooden wheel, a solution long known in China and the West. An iron rim would strengthen the wheel and reduce breakage in rough terrain. The iron carts are mentioned only twice in the Secret History, and in both instances they are associated with Subotai.
R. P. Lister, in his history of Genghis Khan, offers yet another explanation regarding Subotai and the iron carts: “Subotai had swiftly grown to enormous stature and bulk; none of the steppe horses could carry him far, and he customarily travelled in an iron wagon.” Unfortunately, Lister does not cite any of the chroniclers in support of Subotai’s obesity. A portrayal of Subotai that appears in the Chinese Sou-Houng-Kian-Lou and is the only known rendering of the man to come down to us. Portrayed in the stance of an attacking tiger, no doubt to imply his ferocity in battle, the drawing does not suggest that Subotai was obese. Nor is the rendering out of proportion to the portrayals of other Mongol generals in the same chronicle. Moreover, the reference to Subotai and the iron carts appears in the Secret History as occurring in 1205, less than a year after Subotai and the Four Dogs performed so gallantly in the battle against the Naiman. Later, in 1221, we find Subotai and Jebe conducting a great cavalry raid around the Caspian Sea covering more than a thousand miles on horseback. Then again, in 1224, when Genghis summoned Subotai to his camp in central Asia, Subotai made a solitary journey of over 1,000 miles on horseback to comply with the Khan’s order. None of these exploits would have been possible had Subotai been obese and required to travel in an iron-wagon.
Subotai was thirty years old when he was assigned his first high-level, independent combat command. Although he had proven himself a capable combat commander at the regimental level, he had never been in sole command of a large force of several regiments until he was assigned to hunt down the Merkit princes. All his previous experience had been in command of units that were part of larger operational forces under the overall command of others. With the order to capture the Merkits, Subotai was assigned his first large, independent command with instructions to undertake operations far from his home base. The Mongol epic goes into considerable detail regarding the instructions given to Subotai by Temujin himself. The first part of these instructions amounts to a heroic narration by Temujin urging Subotai to be determined and courageous. Temujin tells Subotai,
If they [the Merkits] sprout wings and fly up toward heaven, you, Subotai, become a falcon and seize them in mid-air. If they become marmots and claw into the earth with their nails, you become an iron rod and bore through the earth to catch them. If they become fish and dive into the depths of the sea, you, Subotai, become a net, casting yourself over them and dragging them back.
But it is the second part of Temujin’s instructions to Subotai that is puzzling, for in it he seems to be instructing Subotai in the very basic application of Mongol military arts, something that we would have thought completely unnecessary for a commander of Subotai’s rank and experience. Thus, Temujin instructs Subotai:
I’m sending you off to cross high passes and ford great rivers. Keep in mind the distance you will have to travel and spare your horses so they don’t get exhausted. Conserve their strength before its [sic] used up. When a gelding is already worn out, it’s useless to spare him.
Perhaps Temujin recalled that Subotai was not a steppe Mongol by birth, and that, until the Uriangkhai had joined him, horsemanship was unknown to Subotai. So basic a reminder to even a lower-ranking steppe Mongol officer would have seemed strange, indeed. On the other hand, the Mongol epic, like other epics, may include considerable detail only to enlighten or entertain the reader. Perhaps Temujin’s “oration” to Subotai is of the type of similar orations found by battle commanders in other epics and is purely a poetic device.
Throughout the narrative Temujin continues to instruct Subotai in basic military arts. He tells Subotai how to sustain the army on the long march to the objective.
Once you have used up your provisions, there is nothing to save. There will be a great deal of game to hunt on the way. Keep in mind how far you have to go and don’t let the men ride off to hunt at their whim. Only hunt within limits … then set a limit on how much will be killed.
Once more, he instructs Subotai on the proper use of horses: “See to it that your men keep their cruppers hanging loose on their mounts and the hit of the bridle out of their mouth, except when you hunt.” Loosened cruppers and bits not only reduce fatigue on the horses but also make it impossible for the horsemen to chase game on a whim. Next, Temujin tells Subotai that on a long march it is the commander’s responsibility to insure that military discipline is maintained at all times. “Having established these rules see to it you seize and beat any man who breaks them. Any man that I know who ignores my decree, have him brought back to stand before me. Any man I don’t know who ignores this decree, cut off his head where he stands.” Finally, Temujin cautions Subotai that the application of tactics must always be directed toward the higher strategic goal and that tactics must never he permitted to distract the commander from his strategic objective. “Though your army will divide beyond the great rivers, all must continue in pursuit of one goal. Though mountain ranges separate your men from each other, think of nothing else but this task.” Temujin’s advice is sound, of course, but what is puzzling is why he felt it necessary to instruct a senior regimental commander-one whom he had come to rely upon for his strategic insight in the councils of war-in such basic matters. Elsewhere in the Secret History, we find Temujin giving tactical direction to his commanders, but nowhere do we find it in such detail and at so rudimentary a level as we do in the instructions to Subotai. Perhaps because Subotai was not a steppe Mongol, Temujin remained uncertain as to his fitness for higher independent command even though Temujin knew the value of Subotai’s military mind. If so, then sending Subotai against the Merkits in command of his first large-scale, independent operation may well have been a test of his ability. The Mongol epic tells us that Subotai passed the test. “So Subotai the Brave, equipped with iron carts, was sent off to war … he overtook the sons of Toghtoga Beki [sic] by the banks of the Chui River, destroying their forces, and returned.
While Subotai was destroying the remnants of the Merkits, Jebe was hunting down the last of the Naiman princes. Jamuga, too, was captured and put to death. In May of 1206, the Year of the Tiger, “having set in order the lives of all the people whose tents are protected by skirts of felt, the Mongol clans assembled at the head of the Onan. They raised a white standard of nine tails and proclaimed Temujin the Great Khan.” For the first time in almost fifty years, all the Mongol clans were united under the command of a single national leader, and his name was Genghis Khan. He immediately set about creating a national army. When the armies of the clans were combined, there was sufficient manpower to create ninety-five regiments of 1,000 men each, also known as the mingans. Genghis personally selected the regimental commanders and made them all Mingan-u Noyan, or Lords of the Regiments. Among them was Subotai. In appointing his commanders, Genghis had special praise for the Four Dogs, Subotai among them. “`For me you have broken the necks of the strong and the backs of the athletic. When the order, “Forward!” sounded, you clove rocks and stemmed the wild torrent. On the day of battle, with such men before me,’ cried Genghis Khan, “I could rest assured.”
Regimental-strength units were traditional to the Mongol armies. But now, perhaps conscious of his plans for conquest, Genghis introduced new units of 10,000 men. These were the Mongol toumans that were to gain such fame in the forthcoming wars against the Chinese, Muslims, and ultimately the West. Genghis assigned command of one of the three new toumans to Bogorchu to command the Army of the Right, one to Mukhali to command the Army of the Left, and one to Nayaga to command the Army of the Center. But most importantly, Genghis said, “Let the two commanders, Jebe and Subotai, lead armies as large as they can gather.” Here the Secret History tells us that Jebe and Subotai were appointed as the first orloks of the new Mongol army. The term literally means “eagles,” but in the context of the terminology of military command, Jebe and Subotai were appointed Field Marshals. From that day forward, no major military operation was planned or undertaken by Genghis Khan, or later by his son, Ogedai, in which the voice of Subotai was not heard.
Genghis’ selection of these two officers to lead his army is evidence of what historians have recognized as his unfailing capacity to judge the character and ability of the men he selected for high office. Jebe and Subotai could not have been more opposite. Jebe was a dashing and reckless leader of men in battle with considerable combat experience even before he joined Temujin. During one of the battles with the Tayichigud clan, Temujin had his horse shot out from underneath him when an arrow struck it in the spine. Later, when the Tayichiguds had been driven from the field, a young warrior rode into Temujin’s camp. It was Jebe, and he told Temujin that he had shot the horse. Jebe’s bravery so impressed Temujin that he spared his life and made him one of his unit commanders. From that day forward, Jebe was among the bravest of Temujin’s warriors whose exploits are celebrated in the Secret History.
The Mongol epic, by contrast, tells us little about the combat prowess of Subotai. Indeed, the text hints that Temujin had doubts about Subotai’s ability to command men under fire even though he had performed well at the regimental level. But Temujin was a shrewd judge of men, and Suhotai had been present at the war councils for many years, first as a boy observing as he tended the tent door and later, as the Chinese tell us, as a participant in the discussions. Temujin became increasingly impressed by Subotai’s intellect and his grasp of strategy and tactics in operational planning. We cannot know, of course, how many wars, battles, and campaigns undertaken by Temujin in his quest to become Khan might have been influenced or even planned by Subotai, but it is likely that his influence was considerable. Temujin may once have harbored doubts about Subotai’s fitness for field command. Courage and warrior spirit were qualities not in short supply among steppe warriors. Competent field commanders were easily available, but an officer who could plan and coordinate large-scale military operations across thousands of miles was a rarity. Temujin had no doubt watched Subotai’s mind work over many years around the campfires where battles were planned. Now that Genghis Khan had established a Mongol national army, he appointed his most brilliant officer to lead it.
Many of Genghis Khan’s campaigns from this time forward were planned at the strategic level by Subotai. Among the most important of these were the wars against the Chin (1211-1216), the westward campaign against the Muslim empire of Khwarizm (1219-1224), and the attack against Russia and the West (1237-1242). In all of these campaigns, Subotai took the field to direct operations. To be sure, the last word as to design and implementation of the campaigns rested with Genghis himself. The planning, however, was done by Subotai and his staff. Later this staff comprised Chinese and Muslim experts, as well as Mongols. After Genghis’ death, his son, Ogedai, seems to have left all of the military planning and oversight to Subotai. It was the practice of both Genghis and Ogedai to appoint royal princes as the nominal commanders of military operations while real authority rested with Subotai. In the campaign against Russia and the West, for example, Batu was the nominal commander of the army, but Subotai actually planned and directed the battles. In one instance when Subotai and Batu disagreed, Subotai carried the day. In another, Subotai refused to execute a direct order of his commander, implying that the young Batu had lost his courage. Genghis Khan and Ogedai knew the value of Subotai’s brilliance and were not wont to squander it merely to soothe the ego of a royal prince.