Military History
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  1. #1

    Military History

    I'm gonna try to post some references for military history. Many of these posts will be for the express prupose of examining aother country's approach to warfare historically. Many of you have much to share concerning this topic. Please jump in at any time!

    the following link is to a source on books.

  2. #2

    Society for Military History call for papers

    Call for Papers
    The Society of Military History will hold its 70th Annual Meeting at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, May 1-4 2003. The conference theme is "The Military and Society During Domestic Crisis." The Program Committee especially invites proposals for papers and panels that address the role of professional military forces, citizen-soldiers, and civilians during domestic disturbances, insurrections, terrorist acts, natural disasters, national emergencies, civil wars, revolutions, epidemics, and other crises that involve civil-military affairs and relations. This theme will allow participants to incorporate military history with topics that are of interest to historians and individuals working in the public policy arena. As always, proposals for papers and panels treating all aspects of military history are welcome.

    Proposals should include a one-page abstract for each paper, outlining topic, thesis, and sources, and a brief c.v. for all participants. The program committee intends to post the abstracts on the SMH Web site. The committee welcomes volunteers to serve as chairs and/or commentators. Volunteers are asked to provide a brief c.v.

    Please submit proposals for papers and full panels no later than October 1, 2002.

    Remit to:
    Dr. Kurt Piehler
    Center for the Study of War and Society
    220 Hoskins Library
    Knoxville, TN 37996-0411
    Tel: (865) 974-7094
    Web Site:


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    Another link

    With more links!

    another link with a boat load of links!

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    Thumbs up

    Great stuff!

    Here is another site with a lot history starting with the Revolutionary war:

    Patriot Files

    Happens that the owner is also the webmaster here.

    Semper Fi,

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    Ancient battles, armies, tactics.

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    The Mongols
    The Mongols were an obscure people who lived in the outer reaches of the Gobi Desert in what is now Outer Mongolia. They were a pastoral and tribal people that did not really seem to be of any consequence to neighboring peoples. The Mongols were in fact a group of disunified tribes that would gather regularly during annual migrations; although they elected chiefs over the tribes at these meetings, they never unified into a single people. Their religion focused on a sky-god that ruled over nature deities, similar to the Japanese native religion Shinto, and the gods communicated to them through shamans. All that would change however, under the leadership of a powerful and vigorous leader named Timuchin or Genghis Khan.

    Genghis Khan
    Timuchin was the son of a poor noble in his tribe. Born sometime in the 1160's, he gradually unified the disparate Mongol tribes and, in 1206, was elected Genghis Khan, or "Universal Ruler" (also spelled Chingghis or Jenghiz Khan). He began to vigorously organize the Mongols into a military force through conscription and taxes on the tribes. With his small army (no more than one hundred and twenty thousand men), he managed to conquer far larger armies in densely populated areas.

    Genghis Khan was perhaps one of the greatest military innovators in human history, and his army consisted of perhaps the best-trained horsemen in all of human history. They fought on horseback with incredible efficiency; they could hit targets with a superhuman precision while running at a full gallop. Their speed and efficiency struck terror in their opponents who frequently broke ranks. In addition, Genghis Khan organized his troops into decimal units (one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand), and would send hand signals through the fighting to these decimal units. The result in battle was simply mind-boggling. Genghis Khan could literally move troops around in the heat of battle as easily as he would move chess pieces. Moreover, his armies were incredibly mobile and could cover immense distances with numbing speed. Finally, Genghis Khan was ruthless towards people who resisted the advances of his army. If a town or city fought back, he laid siege to the town and, at its conclusion, would exterminate its inhabitants. When news of these tactics spread, Mongol armies easily and successfully took over towns that would surrender as soon as the Mongols showed their faces. The Mongols literally decimated populations in Western Asia and China as they advanced. As a result of all these tactics, the Mongol armies spread across the landscape like wildfire. They marched inexorably south into Chin territory and west into Asia and even Europe. When Genghis Khan died, Mongol armies were poised to conquer Hungary, which they would have accomplished had not their leader died.

    The Mongolian Empire was perhaps the largest empire in human history in terms of geographical expanse. It extended west to east from Poland to Siberia, and north to south from Moscow to the Arabian peninsula and Siberia to Vietnam. For all that, Genghis Khan was primarily interested in conquering China because of its great wealth. While Mongol armies spread quickly west, Genghis Khan preceded cautiously in expanding southward, conquering first the northern Tibetan kingdom and later the Chin empire. When he died in 1227, he had just finished conquering the northern city of Beijing. By 1241, the Mongols had conquered all of northern China.

    Kublai Khan
    The Mongolian Empire, so vast in its reach, was separated into four khanates, each ruled by a separate khan and overruled by a Great Khan. The Kipchak Khanate, or Golden Horde, ruled Russia; the Ilkhanate ruled Persia and the Middle East, the Chagatai Khanate ruled over western Asia, and the Great Khanate controlled Mongolia and China.

    In 1260, Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, became Great Khan. Four years later he relocated his capital from Mongolia to Beijing in northern China, and in 1271 he adopted a Chinese dynastic name, the Yuan. Kublai Khan had decided to become the emperor of China and start a new dynasty; within a few short years, the Mongols had conquered all of southern China.

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    Initially, the Mongols pretty much ruled over China as bandits, sucking out as much wealth as they could. But Kublai Khan slowly adopted Chinese political structures and political theories. In particular, Kublai Khan built a strong central government in order to cement his authority as a foreign ruler over China. During the T'ang dynasty, the Emperor had slowly become an absolute ruler; Kublai Khan finished that process and made the Emperorship absolutely autocratic.

    Kublai Khan established his capital at Beijing and built a magnificent palace complex for himself, the Forbidden City. An architectural triumph, the Forbidden City contained elements of Arabic, Mongolian, western Asian, and Chinese architectural styles; it also contained a vast area of Mongolian nomadic tents and a playing field for Mongolian horsemanship. The Forbidden City of Kublai Khan, then, was in many ways a protected sanctuary of Mongolian culture. This aloofness from the Chinese exemplified by the Forbidden City was carried over into almost every other aspect of Mongolian rule. Although they adopted some aspects of Chinese culture, the Mongols pretty much refused to learn the Chinese language. The government, however, was run by Chinese officials selected under the civil service examination. Communication between the upper and lower reaches of government, then, was possible only through translators.

    Yuan Philosophy
    The single most striking aspect of the Yuan is not only the survival of Chinese culture under a vastly foreign rule, but its singular vitality and growth. To be sure, the Yuan had steadily adopted Chinese ways of thinking. Before the conquest of China, Yeh-lü Ch'u-ts'ai (1189-1243), an advisor to the Mongol Khan Ögödei, reformed the financial administration along the lines of its Chinese form. In 1271, Kublai Khan adopted a Chinese dynastic name, and in 1315, under the Emperor Ayurbarwada (Jen-tsung, 1311-1320), the civil service examination was reinstituted. All of these indicate a steady Chinese influence upon Mongolian rule. At the same time, the Mongols chose not to impose their own pastoral lifestyle, social structure, or religion on the Chinese.

    The traditional philosophies and religions of China continued unabated under Mongol rule. Buddhism in particular found a welcome home among the Mongols who had in part adopted it. Taoism remained vital throughout China, and Confucianism continued. However, the foreign rule of the Mongols allowed for a certain amount of revolution and renewal in Chinese thought. Because the Mongols held Confucianism in contempt in the early years of their rule, the new philosophy of Neo-Confucians, founded in the last century of Sung rule, took hold in China and eventually eclipsed the older forms of Confucianism. The new examination system of 1315 was based entirely on Neo-Confucianism, thus enshrining it as the state philosophy for many centuries.

    Curiously, the Mongols, though Buddhist, did not really support or patronize Buddhism, which was largely left to its own devices. They favored Tibetan Buddhism but really did not financially support the monasteries. When the Mongol rulers decided that too many Buddhists were escaping military service, they instituted a literacy test on Buddhist scriptures. Anyone who couldn't demonstrate literacy in the scriptures lost their military exemption. This put the Mongol rulers in direct conflict with the major Buddhist masters; the central school of Buddhism was Ch'an, or "Meditation" Buddhism. It stressed the primacy of the master over scripture and the silent transmission of religious truth. For that reason, Ch'an Buddhism had no written doctrine. Under pressure from the Mongols, the Ch'an Buddhists began to record their doctrine in a series formulations called kung-an or, in Japanese, the koan.

    Nonetheless, the Mongol rulers were very preoccupied with religions. Kublai Khan in particular invited all sorts of faiths to debate at his court. He allowed Nestorian Christians and Roman Catholics to set up missions, as well as Tibetan lamas, Muslims, and Hindus. The Yuan period, in fact, is one of vital cultural transmission between China and the rest of the world. Europe formally met China during the reign of Kublai Khan with the arriuval of Marco Polo, an Italian adventurer, who served as an official in Kublai's court from 1275-1291. For all this vital interaction with foreign cultures, very little seems to have rubbed off on Chinese culture. The cultural interaction was not really a cultural exchange, for the situation was perhaps too unstable. The Yuan and the Chinese had no cultural direction, no syncretic goal that they were aiming at, so the cultural interaction never really got beyond the formal practice of simple disagreement and argument.

    The Fall of the Yuan
    The Yuan was the shortest lived of the major dynasties. From the time that Kublai occupied Beijing in 1264 to the fall of the dynasty in 1368, a mere hundred years had passed. Kublai was a highly successful emperor as was his son, but the later Yuan emperors could not stop the slide into powerlessness. For one thing, the Beijing Khans lost legitimacy among the Mongols still in Mongolia who thought they had become too Chinese. The fourteenth century is punctuated by Mongolian rebellions against the Yuan. On the other hand, the Chinese never accepted the Yuan as a legitimate dynasty but regarded them rather as bandits, or at best an occupying army. The failure to learn Chinese and integrate themselves into Chinese culture greatly undermined the Mongol rulers. As with all Chinese dynasties, nature conspired in the downfall; the Yellow River changed course and flooded irrigation canals and so brought on massive famine in the 1340's. The decline of the Yuan coincided with similar declines in all the other Khanates throughout Asia.

    Finally, a peasant, Chu Yuan-chang, led a rebel army against the Yuan. He had lost most of his family in the famine, and had spent part of his life as a monk and then as a bandit leader. He took Beijing in 1368 and the Yuan emperor fled to Shangtu. When he drove the Yuan from Shangtu back to Mongolia, he declared himself the founder of a new dynasty: the Ming (1369-1644).

  14. #14


    The Mongol military might

    The characteristics of the Mongol army


    Mediaeval historians used to assert that the Mongol military superiority was due to their overwhelming numbers. As we are now aware of, this is incorrect, and assertions of Mongol numerical superiority must be interpreted as partly a specious excuse for European inferiority when fighting against the Mongols in the battlefield. Even though they never fought against the most powerful warriors who ever existed in the West, the Celts, there is no doubt that the Mongols proved superior to all those whom they met in battle.

    Quality, not quantity, was the key to the incredible unbroken line of Mongolian military successes. Since the spiritual aspects of this phenomenon has been covered elsewhere on these pages, what will be elucidated here is the technical details of their military performance, their equipment and their use of it.


    Overall organization


    Although supreme command lay in the hands of the Supreme Khan, the high Mongol principle of promotion to posts of leadership and authority on the basis of ability alone, introduced and enforced by Chingis Khan, resulted in an unmatched quality of troops from the ordinary soldiers to the top command. Each Mongol warrior was simply incomparably superior to their Western counterparts. This exceedingly high quality ensured the competence and integrity of the commanding leaders. Thus, leaders at every level could always be entrusted with a high degree of independence in the decisions and in the execution of the different moves and operations.

    After the death of Chingis Khan in 1227, none of his successors inherited his genius. For this reason, the real command of the large armies rested with the generals he picked when he was still alive, although the princes of the blood held the nominal command. The diamond among all the generals of Chingis Khan was Subedei, whose mastery of every aspect of warfare, such as intelligence, psychological warfare, military tactics and strategy and logistics, won him a place in history as the mastermind of the great Mongol campaign in Russia and Europe during 1236-1242. Subedei as a man personified the best characteristics of the Mongol forces: caution, high intuition, great intelligence and understanding, mobility, alertness, speed and power. Other eminent Mongol generals worthy of note are Chepe and Muqali, the latter did much to secure Mongol victories in China.

    The organization of the army was based on the decimal system. The largest unit was the tjumen, which was made up of 10.000 troops. A large army used to consist of three tjumens (Plural t'ma in Mongolian), one consisting of infantry troops who were to perform close combat, the two others were meant to encircle the opponent from both sides. Each tjumen consisted of ten regiments, each of 1.000 troops. The 1.000 strong unit was called a mingghan. Each of these regiments consisted of ten squadrons of 100 troops, called jaghun, each of which was divided into ten units of ten, called arban. There was also an elite tjumen, an imperial guard which was composed of specially trained and selected troops.

  15. #15
    Mongol war equipment


    The Mongol warrior used to wear Chinese silk underwear, if it could be obtained. One would not normally consider underwear to be military equipment, but the fact is that silk is a very tough substance. If arrows are shot from a larger distance, they will not easily penetrate the silk. Even if an arrow penetrates the human skin, the silk may hold, so that the arrow can be drawn out from the wound by pulling the silk around. This would also prevent poison from entering the bloodstream. Outside the normal clothes, the warrior carried a protective shield of light yet effective leather armor, which was impregnated with a lacquer-like substance in order make it more impervious to penetration by arrows, swords and knives, and also to protect it against humid weather. Their horses often also carried this type of leather armor. The horses also had saddles with stirrups, because this was necessary in order to carry all the equipment and to fight from the saddle. Mongol warriors also wore helmets, the upper part of which was made of metal, the parts covering the ears and neck were in leather.

    Because the winter temperatures in Siberia and Mongolia can drop down to 60 Celsius degrees below zero, proper clothing was imperative. Thus the Mongols used heavy leather boots with felt socks on their feet. During winter they wore on their bodies several layers of wool. On the outside they typically had a covering coat of fur or sheepskin, and a fur hat with ear flaps over the helmet.

    The legs were often protected by overlapping iron plates resembling fish scales, which were sewn into the boots. Each warrior carried a battle axe, a curved sword known as scimitar; a lance, and two versions of their most famous weapon: The Mongol recurved bow. One of the bows was light and could be fired rapidly from horseback, the other one was heavier and designed for long-range use from a ground position. This heavy bow had an average draw weight of 166 pounds, according to George Vernadsky much more than the strongest contemporary European bow, the English longbow. It was not until the invention of breech-load rifles in the 1860s that the world saw a small weapon which had more power than the bow of the Chingis-Khanite Mongols. As could be expected, the troops had several quivers each. Some were filled with arrows suitable for use against warriors and horses at closer ranges, while another quiver held arrows for penetration of armor or for long-range shots. Each rider had a sharpening stone for keeping the metal arms in top shape. Since self-sufficiency was the order of the day, in addition to the indispensable knife an awl, needle and thread were carried by each rider, to enable quick and effective repair of almost any type of equipment in the field.

    In addition to the light weaponry described above, after the advent of Chingis they built up a light artillery equipped with javelin-throwers and catapults of different kinds, which might be loaded on a two-wheeled wagon, called a kibitka. These advanced weapons were the inventions of Chinese engineers who were enlisted in Chingis Khan's service.

    The principle of independence and self-sufficiency, so important to the Siberian Mongols, applied as far as possible even to the individual warriors. Every warrior was equipped with a full set of tools and spare parts: a lasso, a kettle, a bony needle and sinews. In addition to this he carried a waterproof leather bag which kept the clothing dry, and which would be used like a swimming belt during the crossing of great rivers. They then tied all their equipment to the horses and swam together with the animals. For food, the warriors also carried a ration of dried meat, as well as fermented and/or dried milk. When need arose, the riders would open the jugular veins of the horse, and drink the blood. On a military campaign, each rider had from one to five reserve horses.

    It is worth dwelling with this crucial element in the Mongolian military concept; the relative independence of both the individual soldier, the units and their leaders. Each of these had to be able to participate in major coordinated efforts, but each soldier or unit must also be capable of independent existence and action. There was never any dependence on a central unit for the function of all. The extensive collection of equipment carried by each individual is testimony to the emphasis laid upon this all-important combination of capability of joint engagement on the one side, and capability of independent action and a high degree of individual, even personal, self-sufficiency on the other.


    In the battlefield


    Signals were given by banners, occasionally by beating the kettle or by smoke signals. Remarkably, the Mongols fought in silence. Among them, there was absolutely no histrionics and striving for effect. This might be because of the more feminine nature of their spiritual origin. In the West, mistaken ideas abound about the merciful feminine principle and the merciless and belligerent masculine. In the Siberian and Inner Asian spiritual universe, the dark female forces have invariably been considered very formidable in every respect, and much more pitiless than the male principle. Accordingly, the most skilled Mongol women (even if they formed a small minority) waged war together with the men. This is a historical fact that has been downplayed, perhaps partly because of a subconscious reluctance to accept that women also can be warriors. Nor did the Mongols subscribe to Western ideals of manliness. One of their most formidable tactical moves was the retreat. In the face of a strong opponent, they would more often than not withdraw. This maneuver was often interpreted as implying cowardice and lack of strength. In reality, the Mongols wanted the opponent forces to pursue them, and thus expose their weaknesses. This is the Asiatic principle, known from martial arts like ju jitsu and kung fu, of being soft and yielding where the opponent is strong, and be hard and offensive at spots where weakness is encountered. This principle was developed into a fine art by the Mongols. The principle of brute strength, heavy swords and armor is effective in narrow streets of cities, inside castles and fortresses, but in the open field it pays off to be nimble, smart and alert.

    One type of Mongol battle formation when facing the opponent directly was composed of five squadrons spread wide apart. Because of their mobility, ability to intuitively "sense" the movements of each other, their discipline and resultant ability to rally at a definite point in a very short time, this was no risk. On the contrary, the opposing army never knew where the Mongols were at any given moment. The normal five squadrons were divided into two front, or spearhead, ranks, and three rear ranks. The two spearhead ranks wore the heaviest armor as well as the heaviest weaponry. When an attack began, the three rear ranks broke through the openings between the lines of the front ranks, and harassed the opposing army with continuous hails of arrows. When this had worked its effects for some time, the rear ranks would withdraw in order to be able to encircle the opponent's forces in the event of an attempt of escape. Simultaneously, the front ranks would charge and deliver a decisive blow, and now they would finally engage in close combat, a discipline in which the Old Mongols were extremely skilled. In this context it merits mention that the millennia-old Mongol contact with Chinese had brought them into acquaintance with Chinese traditional martial arts, something very different from the sports wrestling that dominated the scene after the days of greatness were gone.

    Encirclement strategies, often on a very large scale, fitted hand in hand with the above. When Western armies would place heavy emphasis upon strength and heavy armor, the Mongols would prioritize mobility and swiftness. The heavily armed mediaeval knights learned to their sorrow that their heavy iron armor impeded their movements and moreover was of little use when the Mongols just shot the horses dead under them. The Mongols then attacked with dagger and sword, and the Europeans learned another lesson, that the Mongol unwillingness to engage in close combat at the first moment of an encounter was not due to lack of physical strength. They simply wanted to harass the opponent with feints, showers of arrows and javelins until the opposing warrior was "ripe." When the opposing forces were outflanked, sufficiently angered, exhausted and disorganized, the charge began. When the Mongol military might was at its most formidable, that is during the era of Chingis Khan, the Mongols, in spite of their almost always being considerably outnumbered by as much as three to one or even more, never met an army they could not beat.

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