chapter  2
29 Pages

Mongolian siege warfare and the defense of Mamluk fortresses

Mongolian army and it was he who initiated the recruitment of foreign artisans. is became a well-established policy among his successors. Craftsmen essential to the army’s campaigns were recruited from the lands that the Mongols conquered.7 e status, religion or origin of these people was of no significance to the Mongols, and their recruitment was determined only by their skill, knowledge and experience. e need for siege units first arose when Chinggis Khan moved across the

steppe into northern China (1211-1234) and faced the walled cities of the Chin Empire.8 From this time onwards siege units were to be regularly recruited among the conquered states of northern China, and were to serve the Mongol army until the late thirteenth century. In 1211 a Chinese officer by the name of Chang Pa-tu supervised the Mongol army’s siege machines. After him came Hsueh T’a-la-hai who commanded both the siege machines and the navy.9 When Chinggis Khan invaded Central Asia he was said to have had with him ten

thousand soldiers who could work the siege machine batteries.10 e recruitment of siege units among the Northern Chinese continued during the reign of the great Khan Möngke (r. 1253-9) who conscripted blacksmiths, carpenters and gunpowdermakers.11 Hülegü followed suit and in 1253 when the campaign to the west was being organized “he sent messengers to Cathay (North China) to bring a thousand households of Cathaian catapult men, naphtha throwers and crossbowmen.”12 During Qubilai Khan’s reign siege experts were still being recruited among the Northern Chinese and teams were brought from the region of the Huai River. Only in 1272 was this trend interrupted, when Qubilai turned to his nephew the Īlkhān Abagha and asked him to send two Muslim engineers who specialized in building siege engines.13 ree years later he established a Muslim siege unit that included soldiers and artisans specializing in siege weapons of the type used in the Eastern Mediterranean.14 From the year that Chinggis Khan began to besiege the cities of Northern China

and up to the time Hülegü set out on his campaign, the Mongols were constantly

engaged in warfare. During those forty years the Mongol army besieged tens of strongholds and cities possessing larger, stronger and more advanced fortifications than those found in the Levant. Complex siege operations were carried out, some demanding the building of dams, the diversion of rivers and the raising of large earth ramparts. Apart from the necessary engineering knowledge, the scale of these operations required hundreds if not thousands of laborers.15 Prisoners taken from the local populations around the besieged city were often the source of manpower.16 One of the most detailed accounts of Mongolian methods of siege warfare is given by John of Plano Carpini, an emissary of Pope Innocent IV, who traveled in 1245-7 to the court of the Great Khan.