DEBTELIN gives two fascinating accounts of the battle at Sarhv. They give hints as to how the Manchus were able to secure a victory at such incredible odds. Peter Dekker on this battle.
|How to read the map?
The structure of the battles of Sarhv was very complex. Use the numbers in the hard copy of DEBTELIN to follow the Manchus towards their victories.
|On the map, the Manchu armies and their routes are in yellow.|
|The Ming armies and their routes are in blue.|
|Battlefields are marked with red.|
|Most of the places we have found, some are given by proximity. The left and right texts of DEBTELIN show very interesting discrepancies.|
By Peter Dekker | During the battle of Sarhv the Manchus demonstrated their superiority in the field against a vast, modern army. The Ming had massive numbers and superior firepower, while the Manchus were vastly outnumbered, relying mostly on bows, arrows, and edged weapons. DEBTELIN gives two fascinating accounts of the battle at Sarhv. They give hints as to how the Manchus were able to secure a victory at such incredible odds. Peter Dekker on this battle.
First and foremost, the Manchus were highly mobile and very familiar with the area. Fast moving scouts were able to spot troop movements so central command could anticipate the movement of the more sluggish Ming army. Another advantage of their mobility was that they could easily outmaneuver heavy artillery positions and overrun them, possibly before the artillery was able to take proper aim. Their swift movement also enabled them to strike at different places in succession, effectively making them operate almost as if they were a larger force.
In deployment in the field there are mentions of forming a battue. These maneuvers came from the traditional Jurchen ring hunts, where animals were surrounded, driven to an open field, and picked off one by one by horseback archers. Surrounding the Ming soldiers in this way forced them to spread fire to all directions. The muskets at the time were fairly inaccurate smoothbores that were best deployed when concentrating fire at a single body of men, and much less suited for picking off individual targets.
Manchus are often described taking considerable personal risks, riding out with a small body of men on important missions. We also see this in the Sarhv accounts; The grand beile riding out with his sentries for intelligence gathering, or Hong Taiji charging out with a party of only 30 selected soldiers, effectively cutting down enemy artillery positions. Such small raids were by no means exceptions. In 1755 commander Ayuxi brought victory in a night raid, leading only 24 men into an enemy Mongol camp. [n1] It also shows the kind of damage that could be done by only a small force of elite cavalry.
Under the strong leadership of Nurhaci and his beiles, the Manchus that fought this battle were a well-coordinated and disciplined force. The battle of Sarhv was an incredible display of Manchu military supremacy, probably won due to a combination of many factors. Knowledge of the terrain, swiftness of movement, the effectiveness of surrounding tactics perfected over many generations during the ring hunts. They cleverly managed to prevent the Ming army to effectively deploy their main strength; superior firepower, while at the same time getting the most out of their own strengths; mobility and superior close-combat capabilities.