How did Mongols fight on foot in sieges?

Mrbsct

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
2,611
USA
#1
How did Mongols fight on foot especially on sieges? Did they are uses lances dismounted like pikes, or would they use halberds and maces with shield?
 
Sep 2012
939
Spring, Texas
#2
I imagine they had to get off their horse? You aware that many Mongol Armies had a siege train with Chinese Engineers following the Army? They
used Chinese Engineers to knock holes in the Walls when they took the Great cities in Central Asia.

Pruitt
 
Sep 2017
635
United States
#3
Not sure how they did early on, but you don’t need to necessarily assault a city to take it. Disease, attrition, offers to join and be spared, and straight up fear (the latter two being strong suits of the Mongols) are alternatives that aren’t as risky or wasteful.

I imagine they got off their horses mostly, and did things like cut off supplies and build whatever siege implements they could (once they had captured Chinese engineers this became a lot easier). They probably used whatever melee weapons they had on them, and still probably used their bows too.

I know the Mongols had trouble against stone fortifications in Europe, maybe in part due to the fact that they didn’t have as much access to those Chinese engineers. Not a single stone hold fell in the invasion of Hungary which was otherwise devastating, and the second time, where Hungary had many more stone castles (and more heavy cavalry too), they didn’t do so well.
 
Dec 2018
49
Cheyenne
#4
The Mongolians would use captured people usually from the outer suburbs of a city or earlier captured cities as cannon fodder. So in essence a cities defenses would be largely spent killing their own people whilst the Mongolians figured a way around the defenses. So Mongolian infantry was essentially peoples that were pressed into service
 
Feb 2011
6,231
#5
"However, the Tatars believed that the king [of Hungary] was in the fortress of Klis, and so they began to attack the fort from all sides, launching arrows and hurling spears. However, the place was naturally well fortified, and they could cause only limited harm. So then they dismounted from their horses and began to creep up hand over hand to higher ground. But the defenders of the fort hurled huge stones at them and managed to kill a number of them. This setback, however, only made them more ferocious, and they came right up to the great walls and fought hand to hand. They looted the houses and took away no little plunder. But when they learnt that the king was not there, they abandoned their attack on the fortress, and ascending their mounts rode off in the direction of Trogir. All the same, no small number of them turned towards Split." - History of the Bishops of Split

Master Roger's Epistle is the most detailed one I could find about a Mongol siege, but it doesn't say much about how Mongols fought on foot:

As we said before, King Qadan, having taken Rodna and captured ispán Aristald, selected the best six hundred armed Germans who were under the said ispán. Guided by them, they crossed forests, woods, rocks and gorges and arrived beneath the city of Oradea. The city was very famous in Hungary, therefore many nobles, ladies and peasant women had gathered there. Even though the bishop had left with some of the canons, I stayed there with the remaining people. We had the castle, which we saw damaged on one side, repaired with a strong wall, so that we could find refuge there should we be unable to defend the city. But when one day the Tatars suddenly arrived and my situation in the city was precarious, I did not want to go to the castle, but ran away into the forest and hid there as long as I could. They, however, suddenly took the city and burnt down most of it and left nothing outside the walls of the castle. Having collected the booty, they killed men and women, commoners and nobles alike, on the streets, houses, and fields. What more?

They pardoned neither sex nor age. That done, they suddenly retreated, gathered up everything in the retreat, and settled at five miles from the castle. They did not return for days, and those in the castle thought that they had left because of the strength of the castle that was protected by a deep moat and wooden towers on the walls; there were many armored warriors there, and whenever the Tatars came scouting from time to time, the Hungarian warriors chased them on fast horses. When the Tatars did not come to the castle for several days and everyone thought that they had completely withdrawn from there, many of the warriors and others, who were in the castle, confident that they had withdrawn, left the castle and moved together into the houses that still remained outside of it. Then, one day at dawn, the Tatars, whose whereabouts they could not know, rushed upon them and killed most of those who did not manage to flee to the castle. Then they immediately surrounded the fortification, set up seven siege engines across from the new wall and bombarded it ceaselessly with stones day and night until the new wall collapsed totally. They did not stop at all, and with the towers and walls demolished the castle was taken by storm. They seized the warriors, canons, and others who had not been killed by the sword in the attack. The ladies, damsels and noble girls tried to escape into the cathedral. The Tatars ordered the warriors to hand over their weapons and from the canons they extorted by the cruelest tortures all that they owned. Because they could not easily enter the cathedral, they set fire to it and burnt the church, together with the women and whatever there was in the church. In other churches they perpetrated such crimes to the women that it is better to keep silent lest people get ideas for most evil deeds. Then they ruthlessly beheaded the nobles, citizens, soldiers and canons on a field outside the city. They violated the saints’ graves, trampled upon the relics with their sinful feet, smashed to pieces the censers, crosses, golden chalices and vessels, and whatever else was designed for the service of the altar. They dragged men and women alike into the churches and shamefully mistreated and then killed them there. After they had destroyed everything, and an intolerable stench arose from the corpses, they left the place empty. People hiding in the nearby forests came back to find some food. And while they were searching among the stones and the corpses, the Tatars suddenly returned and of those living whom they found there, none was left alive. And this slaughter was repeated day after day. They finally left for good only when there was no one else to kill. We, who stayed in the forest among the border obstacles, took flight at night towards Tămaşda, a large German village on the River Criş.
 
Likes: Yuyue
Jan 2016
570
United States, MO
#6
Early on before they had hired siege engineers, the mongols had trouble with sieges and only took cities at a high cost. The number one strategy was to simply surround the city and wait for them to starve, but this takes a long time. Another strategy was to simply try and take the walls with ladders or break the doors with numbers. This entailed massive casualties so mongol armies sometimes used large groups of prisoners to try and take the walls which helped alleviate the casualties suffered by troops.
 
Feb 2011
6,231
#7
Yes, I do have some information on Mongol use of siege machinery:

From the YuanShih on the conquest of the Song dynasty:
When the Chancellor Boya campaigned South, he had his crossbow carriages lead at the fore, followed by most of the army. Ferocious like a brave hawk, he had the crossbows at the front, and in all the mountains and precipitous passes, for passing through the barricades, for pacifying the moats, for setting up camps and ambushes, for setting forth unorthodox strategems, Boyan trusted in their use. So to province and township, advancing by land and by water, its responsibility was heavy. His army put down Lin An and extinguished the Song


From the text of Mizra Muhhammad Qazvini on the conquest of the Assassins:
And he sent to Khitai [Jin China] to fetch mangonel experts and naphta-throwers; and they brought from Khitai 1000 households (khana) of Khitayan mangonel-men, who with a stone missile could convert the eye of a needle into a passage for a camel, having fastened the poles of the mangonels so firmly with sinews (pai) and glue that when they aimed from the nadir to the zenith the missile did not return …. When the King's forces had reached the district of Qasran, the castle of Shahdiz, which lay across their path, was invested by [troops under the command of] Ked-Buqa. They encompassed it on every side and captured that stronghold by storm after a day or two. They also took two or three other castles in that vicinity. ….

On the 1 8th of that month [8th of November, 1256] the heaven-residing parasol was opened out on a hilltop facing Maimun-Diz 10 from the North, and the next day the King rode all round it in order to survey and examine the points most suitable for making an attack. Now Maimun-Diz was a castle such as perhaps Abul-'Ala was describing when he says:
Men cannot reach its highest peaks, nor can the lira's,
not even the vulture and the eagle.
And the wishes of a seeker have not desired it } and its
dogs have larked only at the stars
...​
Meanwhile, the garrison of the castle, having prepared by night for battle and entrusted the towers of their heaven-reposing castle to fellow ruffians, began the engagement ; they set up the poles of their mangonels and in the middle of Shawal [Novem- ber, 1256] commenced a brisk discharge of stones. Thou hast tied the rope and dost play boldly: 'tis well if in the end it do not miss. And on this side also the young men were splitting hairs with lance-like arrows and themselves flinching before neither stone nor arrow.

Arrows, which were the shaft of Doom discharged by the Angel of Death, were let fly against those wretches, passing like hail through the sieve-like clouds.The arrows passed through coats of mail as the wind of early dawn through the petals of flowers….From the towers bows sent up swift-feathered shafts, and a kaman-i-gav, which had been constructed by Khitayan craftsmen and had a range of 2,500 paces, was brought to bear on those fools, when no other remedy remained; and of the devil-like Heretics many soldiers were burnt by those meteoric shafts. From the castle also stones poured down like eaves, but no more than one person was hurt thereby……

As for the mangonels that had been erected it was as though their poles were made of pine-trees a hundred years old (as for their fruit, ‘their fruit is as it were the heads of Statans’); and with the first stone that sprang up from them the enemy’s mangonel was broken and many were crushed under it. And great fear of the quarrels of the crossbows overcame them so that they were utterly distraught and everyone in the corner of a stone made a shield out of a veil [ie they availed themselves of such inadequate cover as there was] , whilst some who were standing on a tower crept in their fright like mice into a hole or fled like lizards into crannies in the rocks. Some were left wounded and some lifeless and all that day they struggled but feebly and bestirred themselves like mere women. And when the heavens doffed the cap of the sun and the earth raised the curtain of night from the soil up to the Pleiades, they withdrew from battle”- pg 631-633, Genghis Khan by ‘Ala-ad-Din ‘Ata-Malik Juvaini, original title: Ta’Rikh-i-Jahan Gusha, translated from the text of Mizra Muhhammad Qazvini by J.A. Boyle


For English speakers most primary sources that could be gotten ahold of tend to be about the Mongol invasion of Europe, but unfortunately most of these descriptions tend to be about how the Mongols committed war atrocities, not how they fought in a siege.

The Song Shih did say that surrendered peoples were sent in on the first wave, as seen here when they were invading China:
制置司以寅功遍告列郡。北兵伐木为攻具,增兵至数十万,围州城。进素与寅不协,寅有功,尤为诸将所忌。至是求援甚急,久之,制置司才遣刘锐及忠义人陈瑀等往救,率皆观望不进,锐甫进七方关,瑀未及仇池,皆以路梗告。寅率民兵昼夜苦战,援兵不至,城遂陷。
The Northern Army [Mongols] attacked DongNanMen with 100,000 troops, and those who surrendered were sent in first. YinCao made a public declaration, personally used the flags and drums to stir the soldiers. They met the enemy in battle, arrows and stone fell like rain. The [Mongol] commander retreated, but by morning reinforcements arrived. YinCao used the common soldiers and dare-to-die warriors to meet them in battle. After ten days and nights, the enemy soldiers retreated.

And this was confirmed by Master Roger's Epistle from the Mongol invasion of Hungary:
They started to march towards Arad and Cenad, avoiding the new village between them called Pereg in which the people of seventy villages had gathered. They also bypassed the Cistercian monastery of Igriş, where warriors and a number of ladies had taken refuge as if in a fortified castle. The Tatars [Mongols] did not want to attack these places until they had devastated the region all around. Sometimes, however, they approached them, but the Hungarian warriors chased them off to quite a distance, and thus they started to believe that they might stay unharmed because of their military strength. After the devastation of the region, they surrounded the great village with a combined force of some Tatars together with Russians, Cumans and their Hungarian prisoners. They sent first the Hungarian prisoners ahead and when they were all slain, the Russians, the Ishmaelites, and Cumans went into battle. The Tatars, standing behind them all at the back, laughed at their plight and ruin and killed those who retreated from the battle and subjected as many as they could to their devouring swords, so that after fighting for a week, day and night, and filling up the moat, they captured the village.
 
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Likes: Yuyue
Feb 2018
193
US
#8
The Mongols seem to have been able to fight on foot if the situation required it. Muqali is known to have fought a battle (I believe in 1219?) where he dismounted his cavalry and had them fire on foot from behind their horses to increase their rate of fire and that is unlikely to have been the only time.

They definitely fought on foot when needed in the sack of a city. Ibn al Athir relates how a during a siege in the Khwarezmian invasion, a Mongol woman ran into a home and started hacking people to death with a sword, but was then killed by the inhabitants after they realized she was a woman.

Not sure how they did early on, but you don’t need to necessarily assault a city to take it. Disease, attrition, offers to join and be spared, and straight up fear (the latter two being strong suits of the Mongols) are alternatives that aren’t as risky or wasteful.

I imagine they got off their horses mostly, and did things like cut off supplies and build whatever siege implements they could (once they had captured Chinese engineers this became a lot easier). They probably used whatever melee weapons they had on them, and still probably used their bows too.

I know the Mongols had trouble against stone fortifications in Europe, maybe in part due to the fact that they didn’t have as much access to those Chinese engineers. Not a single stone hold fell in the invasion of Hungary which was otherwise devastating, and the second time, where Hungary had many more stone castles (and more heavy cavalry too), they didn’t do so well.
None of those stone castle sieges would have been for very long, since the invasion lasted less than a year and they did not reach their area until late in the campaign. So there really isn't much data to judge. The Mongols didn't even cross the Danube until after it froze during the winter. Some afghan hill forts or Chinese cities took 15 months or more to besiege. The Mongols took 2 years to subjugate Georgia, which had a number of those castles. The second invasion was nothing like the first, was post-dissolution, and does not seem to have had significant siege equipment.

The Mongols were proven to have much more difficulty in capturing the enormous Chinese fortified cities, some of which took many years. Rapid conquest was really only possible during Bayan's campaign in the 1270's. But the truly enormous ones like Zhongdu, Luoyang, and Kaifeng were required to starve into submission. Other major cities, like Fengxiang, could be taken by massed artillery batteries. Peng Daya records that the Mongols massed 400 trebuchets to break the wall of Fengxiang at a specific point. Then an officer lead a suicide squad to capture the city after a 2-3 month siege.

The Mongols also used this massed artillery battery to target specific points of Kaifeng. However, here it did not work as effectively, as the Jin shrapnel bombs ('thunder crash bombs') proved very effective at defending any aggressive attacks. So they had to play it more slowly behind their lines of circumvallation and starve out the Jin. That ended up being moot after a plague broke out, so the Jin surrendered.

The Song Shih did say that surrendered peoples were sent in on the first wave, as seen here when they were invading China:
制置司以寅功遍告列郡。北兵伐木为攻具,增兵至数十万,围州城。进素与寅不协,寅有功,尤为诸将所忌。至是求援甚急,久之,制置司才遣刘锐及忠义人陈瑀等往救,率皆观望不进,锐甫进七方关,瑀未及仇池,皆以路梗告。寅率民兵昼夜苦战,援兵不至,城遂陷。
The Northern Army [Mongols] attacked DongNanMen with 100,000 troops, and those who surrendered were sent in first. YinCao made a public declaration, personally used the flags and drums to stir the soldiers. They met the enemy in battle, arrows and stone fell like rain. The [Mongol] commander retreated, but by morning reinforcements arrived. YinCao used the common soldiers and dare-to-die warriors to meet them in battle. After ten days and nights, the enemy soldiers retreated.

What battle/year is that from?

I thought 'Dare to Die Warriors' was a specific Mongol designation after reading some excerpts from the biography of Muqali, but as this is in the Song Shi, that is apparently a known Chinese terminology?

Thanks! Very helpful quote.
 
Feb 2011
6,231
#9
What battle/year is that from?

I thought 'Dare to Die Warriors' was a specific Mongol designation after reading some excerpts from the biography of Muqali, but as this is in the Song Shi, that is apparently a known Chinese terminology?

Thanks! Very helpful quote.
It's around the year 1228 when the Mongols attacked Hezhou.

The first time I came across dare-to-die soldiers was from the Zhan Guo Ce talking about the troop totals of each state, and this was written well before the Mongols existed.
 

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