Progress Of The Quarrel


The ambuscade.--The wood and the brook.--The guard left

behind.--Arrival of Vang Khan's army.--False hopes.--Assault

upon the vacant camp.--Advance of the assailants.--The

ambuscade.--Temujin's victory.--Preparations for open

war.--Temujin makes alliances.--Turkili.--Solemn league and

covenant.--Bitter water.--Recollection of the ceremony.--Temujin's

strength.--His letter to Vang Khan.--
ffect of the letter.--Sankum's

anger.--Great accessions to Temujin's army.--Mongolistan.--Final

attempt at negotiation.--Sankum's answer.--Skirmishes.

Temujin's stratagem succeeded admirably. As soon as he had decided

upon it he began to put it into execution. He caused every thing of

value to be taken out of his tent and carried away to a place of

safety. He sent away the women and children, too, to the same place.

He then marshaled all his men, excepting the small guard that he was

going to leave behind until evening, and led them off to the ambuscade

which he had chosen for them. The place was about two leagues distant

from his camp. Temujin concealed himself here in a narrow dell among

the mountains, not far from the road where Vang Khan would have to

pass along. The dell was narrow, and was protected by precipitous

rocks on each side. There was a wood at the entrance to it also, which

concealed those that were hidden in it from view, and a brook which

flowed by near the entrance, so that, in going in or coming out, it

was necessary to ford the brook.

Temujin, on arriving at the spot, went with all his troops into the

dell, and concealed himself there.

In the mean time, the guard that had been left behind in the camp had

been instructed to kindle up the camp-fires as soon as the evening

came on, according to the usual custom, and to set lights in the

tents, so as to give the camp the appearance, when seen from a little

distance in the night, of being occupied, as usual, by the army. They

were to wait, and watch the fires and lights until they perceived

signs of the approach of the enemy to attack the camp, when they were

secretly to retire on the farther side, and so make their escape.

These preparations, and the march of Temujin's troops to the place of

ambuscade, occupied almost the whole of the day, and it was near

evening before the last of the troops had entered the dell.

They had scarce accomplished this manoeuvre before Vang Khan's army

arrived. Vang Khan himself was not with them. He had intrusted the

expedition to the command of Sankum and Yemuka. Indeed, it is probable

that they were the real originators and contrivers of it, and that

Vang Khan had only been induced to give his consent to it--and that

perhaps reluctantly--by their persuasions. Sankum and Yemuka advanced

cautiously at the head of their columns, and when they saw the

illumination of the camp produced by the lights and the camp-fires,

they thought at once that all was right, and that their old enemy and

rival was now, at last, within their reach and at their mercy.

They brought up the men as near to the camp as they could come without

being observed, and then, drawing their bows and making their arrows

ready, they advanced furiously to the onset, and discharged an immense

shower of arrows in among the tents. They expected to see thousands of

men come rushing out from the tents, or starting up from the ground at

this sudden assault, but, to their utter astonishment, all was as

silent and motionless after the falling of the arrows as before. They

then discharged more arrows, and, finding that they could not awaken

any signs of life, they began to advance cautiously and enter the

camp. They found, of course, that it had been entirely evacuated. They

then rode round and round the inclosure, examining the ground with

flambeaux and torches to find the tracks which Temujin's army had made

in going away. The tracks were soon discovered. Those who first saw

them immediately set off in pursuit of the fugitives, as they supposed

them, shouting, at the same time, for the rest to follow. Some did

follow immediately. Others, who had strayed away to greater or less

distances on either side of the camp in search of the tracks, fell in

by degrees as they received the order, while others still remained

among the tents, where they were to be seen riding to and fro,

endeavoring to make discoveries, or gathering together in groups to

express to one another their astonishment, or to inquire what was next

to be done. They, however, all gradually fell into the ranks of those

who were following the track which had been found, and the whole body

went on as fast as they could go, and in great confusion. They all

supposed that Temujin and his troops were making a precipitate

retreat, and were expecting every moment to come up to him in his

rear, in which case he would be taken at great disadvantage, and would

be easily overwhelmed.

Instead of this, Temujin was just coming forward from his

hiding-place, with his squadrons all in perfect order, and advancing

in a firm, steady, and compact column, all being ready at the word of

command to charge in good order, but with terrible impetuosity, upon

the advancing enemy. In this way the two armies came together. The

shock of the encounter was terrific. Temujin, as might have been

expected, was completely victorious. The confused masses of Vang

Khan's army were overborne, thrown into dreadful confusion, and

trampled under foot. Great numbers were killed. Those that escaped

being killed at once turned and fled. Sankum was wounded in the face

by an arrow, but he still was able to keep his seat upon his horse,

and so galloped away. Those that succeeded in saving themselves got

back as soon as they could into the road by which they came, and so

made their way, in detached and open parties, home to Karakorom.

Of course, after this, Vang Khan could no longer dissimulate his

hostility to Temujin, and both parties prepared for open war.

The different historians through whom we derive our information in

respect to the life and adventures of Genghis Khan have related the

transactions which occurred after this open outbreak between Temujin

and Vang Khan somewhat differently. Combining their accounts, we learn

that both parties, after the battle, opened negotiations with such

neighboring tribes as they supposed likely to take sides in the

conflict, each endeavoring to gain as many adherents as possible to

his own cause. Temujin obtained the alliance and co-operation of a

great number of Tartar princes who ruled over hordes that dwelt in

that part of the country, or among the mountains around. Some of these

chieftains were his relatives. Others were induced to join him by

being convinced that he would, in the end, prove to be stronger than

Vang Khan, and being, in some sense, politicians as well as warriors,

they wished to be sure of coming out at the close of the contest on

the victorious side.

There was a certain khan, named Turkili, who was a relative of

Temujin, and who commanded a very powerful tribe. On approaching the

confines of his territory, Temujin, not being certain of Turkili's

disposition toward him, sent forward an embassador to announce his

approach, and to ask if Turkili still retained the friendship which

had long subsisted between them. Turkili might, perhaps, have

hesitated which side to join, but the presence of Temujin with his

whole troop upon his frontier seems to have determined him, so he sent

a favorable answer, and at once espoused Temujin's cause.

Many other chieftains joined Temujin in much the same way, and thus

the forces under his command were constantly increased. At length, in

his progress across the country, he came with his troop of followers

to a place where there was a stream of salt or bitter water which was

unfit to drink. Temujin encamped on the shores of this stream, and

performed a grand ceremony, in which he himself and his allies banded

themselves together in the most solemn manner. In the course of the

ceremony a horse was sacrificed on the shores of the stream. Temujin

also took up some of the water from the brook and drank it, invoking

heaven, at the same time, to witness a solemn vow which he made, that,

as long as he lived, he would share with his officers and soldiers the

bitter as well as the sweet, and imprecating curses upon himself if he

should ever violate his oath. All his allies and officers did the same

after him.

This ceremony was long remembered in the army, all those who had been

present and had taken part in it cherishing the recollection of it

with pride and pleasure; and long afterward, when Temujin had attained

to the height of his power and glory, his generals considered their

having been present at this first solemn league and covenant as

conferring upon them a sort of title of nobility, by which they and

their descendants were to be distinguished forever above all those

whose adhesion to the cause of the conqueror dated from a later time.

By this time Temujin began to feel quite strong. He moved on with his

army till he came to the borders of a lake which was not a great way

from Vang Khan's dominions. Here he encamped, and, before proceeding

any farther, he determined to try the effect, upon the mind of Vang

Khan, of a letter of expostulation and remonstrance; so he wrote to

him, substantially, as follows:

"A great many years ago, in the time of my father, when you

were driven from your throne by your enemies, my father came

to your aid, defeated your enemies, and restored you.

"At a later time, after I had come into your dominions, your

brother conspired against you with the Markats and the

Naymans. I defeated them, and helped you to recover your

power. When you were reduced to great distress, I shared

with you my flocks and every thing that I had.

"At another time, when you were in circumstances of great

danger and distress, you sent to me to ask that my four

intrepids might go and rescue you. I sent them according to

your request, and they delivered you from a most imminent

danger. They helped you to conquer your enemies, and to

recover an immense booty from them.

"In many other instances, when the khans have combined

against you, I have given you most effectual aid in subduing


"How is it, then, after receiving all these benefits from me

for a period of so many years, that you form plans to

destroy me in so base and treacherous a manner?"

This letter seems to have produced some impression upon Vang Khan's

mind; but he was now, it seems, so much under the influence of Sankum

and Yemuka that he could decide nothing for himself. He sent the

letter to Sankum to ask him what answer should be returned. But

Sankum, in addition to his former feelings of envy and jealousy

against Temujin, was now irritated and angry in consequence of the

wound that he had received, and determined to have his revenge. He

would not hear of any accommodation.

In the mean time, the khans of all the Tartar and Mongul tribes that

lived in the countries bordering on Vang Khan's dominions, hearing of

the rupture between Vang Khan and Temujin, and aware of the great

struggle for the mastery between these two potentates that was about

to take place, became more and more interested in the quarrel. Temujin

was very active in opening negotiations with them, and in endeavoring

to induce them to take his side. He was a comparatively young and

rising man, while Vang Khan was becoming advanced in years, and was

now almost wholly under the influence of Sankum and Yemuka. Temujin,

moreover, had already acquired great fame and great popularity as a

commander, and his reputation was increasing every day, while Vang

Khan's glory was evidently on the wane. A great number of the khans

were, of course, predisposed to take Temujin's side. Others he

compelled to join him by force, and others he persuaded by promising

to release them from the exactions and the tyranny which Vang Khan had

exercised over them, and declaring that he was a messenger especially

sent from heaven to accomplish their deliverance. Those Asiatic tribes

were always ready to believe in military messengers sent from heaven

to make conquests for their benefit.

Among other nations who joined Temujin at this time were the people of

his own country of Mongolistan Proper. He was received very joyfully

by his stepfather, who was in command there, and by all his former

subjects, and they all promised to sustain him in the coming war.

After a time, when Temujin had by these and similar means greatly

increased the number of his adherents, and proportionately

strengthened his position, he sent an embassador again to Vang Khan to

propose some accommodation. Vang Khan called a council to consider the

proposal. But Sankum and Yemuka persisted in refusing to allow any

accommodation to be made. They declared that they would not listen to

proposals of peace on any other condition than that of the absolute

surrender of Temujin, and of all who were confederate with him, to

Vang Khan as their lawful sovereign. Sankum himself delivered the

message to the embassador.

"Tell the rebel Monguls," said he, "that they are to expect no peace

but by submitting absolutely to the khan's will; and as for Temujin, I

will never see him again till I come to him sword in hand to kill


Immediately after this Sankum and Yemuka sent off some small

plundering expeditions into the Mongul country, but they were driven

back by Temujin's troops without effecting their purpose. The result

of these skirmishes was, however, greatly to exasperate both parties,

and to lead them to prepare in earnest for open war.