Battles And Sieges


Continuation of the war.--Saganak.--Hassan.--The murdered

embassador.--Jughi's revenge.--Jughi's general policy.--Account of

a stratagem.--The town taken.--A beautiful city.--Toukat.--Toukat

taken.--Arrangements for plundering it.--Kojend.--Timur Melek.--His

preparations for defense.--Engines and battering-rams.--The floating

batteries.--The morass.--Obstinate conflict.--The pretended

> deserters.--No more stones.--Building of the jetty.--The horsemen in

the water.--Timur's boats.--The fire-proof awnings.--The fire-boats

and the bridge.--The bridge burned.--Pursuit.--Battle in the

river.--The boats aground.--Timur's adventures.--He finally

escapes.--The governor's family.--Kojend surrendered.

After the fall of Bokhara and Otrar, the war was continued for two

years with great vigor by Genghis Khan and the Monguls, and the poor

sultan was driven from place to place by his merciless enemies, until

at last his cause was wholly lost, and he himself, as will appear in

the next chapter, came to a miserable end.

During the two years while Genghis Khan continued the war against him,

a great many incidents occurred illustrating the modes of warfare

practiced in those days, and the sufferings which were endured by the

mass of the people in consequence of these terrible struggles between

rival despots contending for the privilege of governing them.

At one time Genghis Khan sent his son Jughi with a large detachment to

besiege and take a certain town named Saganak. As soon as Jughi

arrived before the place, he sent in a flag of truce to call upon the

people of the town to surrender, promising, at the same time, to

treat them kindly if they would do so.

The bearer of the flag was a Mohammedan named Hassan. Jughi probably

thought that the message would be better received by the people of the

town if brought to them by one of their own countrymen, but he made a

great mistake in this. The people, instead of being pleased with the

messenger because he was a Mohammedan, were very much exasperated

against him. They considered him a renegade and a traitor; and,

although the governor had solemnly promised that he should be allowed

to go and come in safety, so great a tumult arose that the governor

found it impossible to protect him, and the poor man was torn to

pieces by the mob.

Jughi immediately assaulted the town with all his force, and as soon

as he got possession of it he slaughtered without mercy all the

officers and soldiers of the garrison, and killed also about one half

of the inhabitants, in order to avenge the death of his murdered

messenger. He also caused a handsome monument to be erected to his

memory in the principal square of the town.

Jughi treated the inhabitants of every town that dared to resist with

extreme severity, while those that yielded at once were, in some

degree, spared and protected. The consequence of this policy was that

the people of many of the towns surrendered without attempting to

defend themselves at all. In one case the magistrates and other

principal inhabitants of a town came out to meet him a distance of two

days' journey from them, bringing with them the keys of the town, and

a great quantity of magnificent presents, all of which they laid at

the conqueror's feet, and implored his mercy.

There was one town which Jughi's force took by a kind of stratagem. A

certain engineer, whom he employed to make a reconnoissance of the

fortifications, reported that there was a place on one side of the

town where there was a ditch full of water outside of the wall, which

made the access to the wall there so difficult that the garrison would

not be at all likely to expect an attack on that side. The engineer

proposed a plan for building some light bridges, which the soldiers

were to throw over the ditch in the night, after having drawn off the

attention of the garrison to some other quarter, and then, mounting

upon the walls by means of ladders, to get into the town. This plan

was adopted. The bridges and the ladders were prepared, and then, when

the appointed night came, a feigned attack was made in the opposite

part of the town. The garrison were then all called off to repel this

pretended attack, and in this way the wall opposite to the ditch was

left undefended. The soldiers then threw the bridges over the ditch,

and planted the ladders against the wall, and before the garrison

could get intelligence of what they were doing they had made their way

into the town, and had opened one of the gates, and by this means the

whole army got in. The engineer himself, who had proposed the plan,

went up first on the first ladder that was planted against the wall.

To take the lead in such an escalade required great coolness and

courage, for it was dark, and no one knew, in going up the ladder, how

many enemies he might have to encounter at the top of it.

The next place which the army of Jughi approached was a quiet and

beautiful town, the seat of several institutions of learning, and the

residence of learned men and men of leisure. It was a very pleasant

place, full of fountains, gardens, and delightful pleasure-grounds,

with many charming public and private promenades. The name of this

place was Toukat, and the beauty and attractiveness of it were

proverbial through all the country.

Toukat was a place rather of pleasure than of strength, and yet it

was surrounded by a wall, and the governor of it determined to make an

effort to defend it. The garrison fought bravely, and they kept the

besiegers off for three days. At the end of that time the engines of

the Monguls had made so many breaches in the walls that the governor

was convinced that they would soon get in, and so he sent to Jughi to

ask for the terms on which he would allow them to surrender. Jughi

replied that he would not now make any terms with him at all. It was

too late. He ought to have surrendered at the beginning.

So the Mongul army forced its way into the town, and slaughtered the

whole garrison without mercy. Jughi then ordered all the inhabitants,

men, women, and children, to repair to a certain place on the plain

outside the walls. In obedience to this command, all the people went

to the appointed place. They went with fear and trembling, expecting

that they were all to be killed. But they found, in the end, that the

object of Jughi in bringing them thus out of the town was not to kill

them, but only to call them away from the houses, so that the soldiers

could plunder them more conveniently while the owners were away. After

being kept out of the town for a time they were allowed to return,

and when they went back to their houses they found that they had been

pillaged and stripped of every thing that the soldiers could carry


There was another large and important town named Kojend. It was

situated two or three hundred miles to the northward of Samarcand, on

the River Sir, which flows into Aral Lake. The governor of this city

was Timur Melek. He was a very powerful chieftain, and a man of great

military renown, having often been in active service under the sultan

as one of the principal generals of his army. When Timur heard of the

fall of Toukat, he presumed that his city of Kojend would be next

attacked, as it seemed to come next in the way of the Mongul army; so

he began to make vigorous preparations for defense. He broke up all

the roads leading toward the town, and destroyed the bridges. He also

laid in great supplies of food to maintain the inhabitants in case of

a protracted siege, and he ordered all the corn, fruits, and cattle of

the surrounding country, which he did not require for this purpose, to

be taken away and stowed in secret places at a distance, to prevent

their falling into the hands of the enemy.

Jughi did not himself attack this town, but sent a large detachment

under the orders of a general named Elak Nevian. Elak advanced toward

the city and commenced his operations. The first thing that was to be

done was to rebuild a bridge over the river, so as to enable him to

gain access to the town, which was on the opposite bank. Then he set

up immense engines at different points along the line, some of which

were employed to batter down the walls, and others, at the same time,

to throw stones, darts, and arrows over the parapets, in order to

drive the garrison back from them. These engines did great execution.

Those built to batter down the walls were of great size and power.

Some of them, it was said, threw stones over the wall as big as


Timur Melek was equally active in the defense of the town. He built a

number of flat-bottomed boats, which might be called floating

batteries, since they were constructed for throwing missiles of all

sorts into the camp of the enemy. These batteries, it is said, were

covered over on the top to protect the men, and they had port-holes in

the sides, like a modern man-of-war, out of which, not cannon balls

and bomb-shells indeed, but arrows, darts, javelins, and stones were

projected. The boats were sent out, some on the upper side of the

town and some on the lower, and were placed in stations where they

could most effectually reach the Mongul works. They were the means of

killing and wounding great multitudes of men, and they greatly

disturbed and hindered the besiegers' operations.

Still Elak persevered. He endeavored to shut up the city on every side

as closely as possible; but there was on one side a large morass or

jungle which he could not guard, and Timur received a great many

re-enforcements, to take the place of the men who were killed on the

walls, by that way. In the mean time, however, Elak was continually

receiving re-enforcements too from Prince Jughi, who was not at a

great distance, and thus the struggle was continued with great fury.

At last Timur contrived an ingenious stratagem, by which he hoped to

cause his enemy to fall into a snare. It seems that there was a small

island in the river, not far from the walls of the city, on which,

before the siege commenced, Timur had built a fortress, to be held as

a sort of advanced post, and had garrisoned the fortress with about

one thousand men. Timur now, in order to divert the attention of the

Monguls from the city itself, sent a number of men out from the city,

who pretended to be deserters, and went immediately to the Mongul

camp. Of course, Elak questioned them about the defenses of the city,

in order to learn where the weak points were for him to attack. The

pretended deserters advised him to attack this fortress on the island,

saying that it could very easily be taken, and that its situation was

such that, when it was taken, the city itself must surrender, for it

completely commanded the place.

So Elak caused his principal engines to be removed to the bank of the

river, opposite the island, and employed all his energies and spent

all his ammunition in shooting at the fortress; but the river was so

wide, and the walls of the fortress wore so thick and so high, that he

made very little impression. At last his whole supply of stones--for

stones served in those days instead of cannon balls--was exhausted,

and as the town was situated in an alluvial district, in which no

stones were to be found, he was obliged to send ten or twelve miles to

the upland to procure a fresh supply of ammunition. All this consumed

much time, and enabled the garrison to recruit themselves a great deal

and to strengthen their defenses.

The operations of the siege were in a great measure suspended while

the men were obtaining a new supply of stones, and the whole

disposable force of the army was employed in going back and forth to

bring them. At length an immense quantity were collected; but then the

Mongul general changed his plan. Instead of throwing the stones from

his engines toward the fortress on the island, which it had been

proved was beyond his reach, he determined to build out a jetty into

the river toward it, so as to get a stand-point for his engines nearer

the walls, where they could have some chance of doing execution. So he

set his men at work to prepare fascines, and bundles, and rafts of

timber, which were to be loaded with the stones and sunk in the river

to form the foundation for the proposed bank. The men would bring the

stones down to the bank in their hands, and then horsemen, who were

ready on the brink, would take them, and, resting them on the saddle,

would drive their horses in until they came near the place where the

stones were to go, when they would throw them down and then return for

others. In this way they could work upon the jetty in many parts at

once, some being employed in building at the end where it abutted on

the shore, while the horsemen were laying the foundations at the same

time out in the middle of the stream. The work of the horsemen was

very difficult and dangerous, on account of holes in the sandy bottom

of the river, into which they were continually sinking. Besides this,

the garrison on the walls were doing their utmost all the time to

impede the work by shooting arrows, javelins, stones, and fiery darts

among the workmen, by which means vast numbers, both of men and

horses, were killed.

The Monguls, however, persevered, and, notwithstanding all the

opposition which the garrison made, they succeeded in advancing the

mole which they were building so far that Timur was convinced that

they would soon gain so advantageous a position that it would be

impossible for him to hold out against them. So he determined to

attempt to make his escape. His plan was to embark on board his boats,

with all his men, and go down the river in the night.

In order to prepare for this undertaking, he employed his men secretly

in building more boats, until he had in all more than seventy. These

boats were kept out of sight, in hidden places in the river, until all

were ready. Each of them was covered with a sort of heavy awning or

roof, made of wet felt, which was plastered over with a coating of

clay and vinegar. This covering was intended both to defend the men

from missiles and the boats themselves from being set on fire.

There was one obstacle to the escape of the boats which it was

necessary to remove beforehand, and that was the bridge which the

Monguls had built across the river, just below the town, when they

first came to besiege it. To destroy this bridge, Timur one night made

a sally from one of the gates, and attacked the men who were stationed

to guard the bridge. At the same time he sent down the current of the

river a number of great flat-bottomed boats, filled with combustibles

of various kinds, mixed with tar and naphtha. These combustibles were

set on fire before they were launched, and, as the current of the

river bore them down one after another against the bridge, they set

the wooden piers and posts that supported it on fire, while the guard,

being engaged with the party which had sallied from the town, could

not go to extinguish the flames, and thus the bridge was consumed.

The way being thus opened, Timur Melek very soon afterward embarked

his family and the greater part of his army on board the boats in the

night; and, while the Monguls had no suspicion of what was going on,

the boats were launched, and sent off one after another swiftly down

the stream. Before morning came all traces of the party had passed


Very soon, however, the Mongul general heard how his intended prey had

escaped him, and he immediately sent off a strong detachment to follow

the southern bank of the river and pursue the fugitives. The

detachment soon overtook them, and then a furious battle ensued

between the Mongul horsemen on the banks and in the margin of the

water and the men in the boats, who kept the boats all the time as

near as possible to the northern shore.

Sometimes, however, when the stream was narrow, or when a rocky point

projected from the northern shore, so as to drive the boats nearer to

the Mongul side, the battle became very fierce and bloody. The Monguls

drove their horses far into the water, so as to be as near as possible

to the boats, and threw arrows, javelins, and fiery darts at them,

while the Mohammedans defended themselves as well as they could from

their windows or port-holes.

Things went on in this way for some time, until, at length, the boats

arrived at a part of the river where the water was so shallow--being

obstructed by sand-bars and shoals--that the boats fell aground. There

was nothing now for Timur to do but to abandon the boats and escape

with his men to the land. This he succeeded in doing; and, after

reaching the shore, he was able to form his men in array, on an

elevated piece of ground, before Elak could bring up a sufficient

number of men to attack him.

When the Monguls at length came to attack him, he beat them off in the

first instance, but he was obliged soon afterward to leave the field

and continue his retreat. Of course, he was hotly pursued by the

Monguls. His men became rapidly thinned in number, some being killed,

and others getting separated from the main body in the confusion of

the flight, until, at last, Timur was left almost alone. At last he

was himself on the very point of being taken. There were three Monguls

closely pursuing him. He turned round and shot an arrow at the

foremost of the pursuers. The arrow struck the Mongul in the eye. The

agony which the wounded man felt was so great that the two others

stopped to assist him, and in the mean time Timur got out of the way.

In due time, and after meeting with some other hairbreadth escapes, he

reached the camp of the sultan, who received him very joyfully, loaded

him with praises for the indomitable spirit which he had evinced, and

immediately made him governor of another city.

In the mean time, some of the boats which had been abandoned by the

soldiers were got off by the men who had been left in charge of

them--one especially, which contained the family of Timur. This boat

went quietly down the river, and conveyed the family to a place of


The city of Kojend, from which Timur and his men had fled, was, of

course, now without any means of defense, and it surrendered the very

next day to the Monguls.