Middle Ages Technologies

Mongol War Strategy

by Andrew Mc Sweeney

The conventional wisdom that civilized peoples lost battles to the Mongols because they had massive hordes was not true.

Mongols were not superior in war because of the quantity of their troops, but because of the quality of their strategy, equipment and leader.

Inventive s trategy was one of the biggest reasons the Mongols proved victorious in their battles. When the Mongols were facing an army head on, they might divide their front into two spear head ranks and then 3 back ranks.

The back ranks of soldiers fired continuous volleys of arrows at the enemy. This was not only an effective way to cause casualties but also tired out enemy troops. Also this was an effective way to anger enemy troops. So when the front ranks reached the enemy they found them to have already suffered many casualties. Now the enemy troops were tired while the Mongols were ready for battle. Once the soldiers met head on, the Mongols quickly pushed through the remaining enemy troops. This strategy was very effective against all types of enemies.

Well-equipped enemies like Muslim warriors and European knights were not a problem to the Mongols. The knights had one big weakness and the Mongols exposed that one big weakness: the horses. In another aspect of strategy, the Mongols took down the enemy horses with their bows, then engaged in close combat with dagger and sword, quickly wiping out the horse-dependent knights.

Many believed the Mongols did not like to engage in close combat because of lack of physical strength, but that was not the reason.The Mongols simply wanted to harass the opponent with showers of arrows and javelins until the opposing army was outflanked, sufficiently angered, exhausted and disorganized. With this well developed-strategy “Mongols could be outnumbered three to one or even more and never met an army they could not beat.”

The Mongol army had many different types of soldiers. Some of these were cavalry, infantry, and archers. Calvary are mounted units. Mongol calvary was armed with either a sword and two bows or a sword and a spear. Cavalry warriors were mainly used as fast attack units for quick and decisive blows. Infantry were usually armed with spears and a sword. Like cavalry they also had shields. Archers carried the powerful Mongol bow and fired volleys of arrows towards the enemy. Even though Mongols used more cavalry and archers, all their units contributed to the success of the mighty Mongol army.

Even though the Mongols had all this great strategy, their equipment helped to further ensure victory. Some of the equipment the Mongols used were their silk under-armor, bows, swords and spears.

The Mongols had a very advanced armor system. Under all their standard armor they would wear silk, but not because it kept them warm and comfortable. The reason Mongols wore silk was because of the protection it offered. Silk is very strong and would not tear, so if an arrow broke through the armor, the silk would slow down the arrow and also keep any poison out of the bloodstream. If the arrow was stuck in a Mongol's body, he could pull the silk on either side of the arrow to pop it back out.

The Mongol bow was unbelievably powerful. Though it was not as large and long as the celebrated Medieval English longbow, it was more powerful. The draw weight of an English longbow averaged around 200 pounds, but the Mongol bow averaged around 266 pounds. An English longbow could shoot at distances up to 750 yards but the Mongol bow can hit its target from 900 yards away. And if the archer is well trained he could reach distances beyond that, even while galloping on horseback. The Mongols usually had a second bow for short range attacks and two different quivers with different arrow types for different situations.

The Mongol spearmen and swordsmen were not as specialized as their mounted units (which the Mongols preferred) but they still had them in their army and they were still used effectively when the situation called for it.

Now you have all you need for an army but who was it that united the contentious Mongols into one empire? Oh that’s right, Genghis Khan. He helped unite the Mongols, a hard task for anyone. The Mongol tribes always fought against each other over food and land because the steppes on which they lived were not filled with resources. With sheer force and persuasion Genghis Khan managed to win a group of diverse tribal people to his side, and by political as well as military means he overcame all resistance against his grand idea of a Mongol empire. Genghis Khan had managed to unite the Mongol people under his leadership which is how all the strategy and equipment came to be developed.

So, overall, it was the quality of the Mongol leader, their equipment and strategy that led the Mongols to a great many victories, and eventually to dominance over the largest land empire ever seen. The Mongol strategy affected war not just in their time but also, through duplication, in our world today.