Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Battle of Mohi - Day of Victory

What if the Hungarians had fought a different battle? Could they have won?

In the early morning of the 11th of April, 1241, even before daybreak, the Mongol army of general Batu began to cross the flooded river Sajo through the Mohi bridge. Bela IV of Hungary hesitated to attack, giving the Mongols valuable time to bring their army across and to fan out in the plains.

In this retake of the original battle things happened differently. To begin with, Frederick, Duke of Austria stayed to fight at the battle. Moreover, the Teutonic knights also sent a contingent that arrived in time to take part in the fight.

Each side has 4 "armies", each worth 10,000 florins. The Europeans have the Teutonic knights on the left, the HRE contingent under Frederick next, then a mainly infantry Hungarian army and another Hungarian army with cavalry and the Templar and Hospitallier knights on the far right.

On the Mongol side, there are also 4 armies. On the right is a pure cavalry army worth 10,000 florins opposing the Teutonic knights. In the centre there are two mixed armies with infantry, cavalry and siege engines. On the far left the Mongols have a cavalry force under Subutai on its way from the south. The battle is enacted on the Visby Cliffs battle map and the force under Subutai is somewhat cut off and cannot at first directly attack the Hungarians. As in actual history, he arrives late in the battle. In this case, as it turned out, a little too late.

The Teutonic knights start the battle attacking the Mongol right wing and rearguard who are the last units to cross the river. The Mongols do not skirmish very efficiently. They stay and fight, perhaps to protect the river crossing, and suffer casualties. Other Mongol units retreat. But with the bottleneck at the bridge, they have nowhere else to run off but towards the main force under Batu now engaged with the Duke of Austria and the king of Hungary.

The Teutonic knights annihilate unit after unit among those that hesitate to run off towards Batu. Then they ride to the main battle pushing the Mongol horsemen up against the Holy Roman Empire army. The lighter Mongol horsemen escape in the direction of the river but Batu's bodyguard gets trapped between the Teutonic knights and the HRE army and is destroyed. The Mongol general is killed.

Next the Teutonic knights ride towards the river and overrun the Mongol siege engines. The light Mongol cavalry that had escaped in their direction tries to save the engines but are no match for the Teutonic knights and are annihilated. The remaining Mongols are now mostly on foot with their backs against the flooded river. The Hungarian cavalry is almost upon their siege engines and so the Mongol dismounted lancers and archers attempt to counterattack. Just as they move off from the shore, the first companies of Teutonic knights ride along the shoreline and line up to charge them from behind. With perfect timing, Subutai arrives with a strong cavalry force (standard pale Mongol flags) and attacks with part of that force the Hungarians and with the heavy cavalry the Teutonic knights. However, by now two of the Mongol armies have practically been destroyed. The rest are in disarray, attacked from three sides. Subutai just rides into a trap in a very un-Mongol fashion, obviously in a vain attempt to save Batu's army from complete destruction. He becomes surrounded himself and his bodyguard fights to death. Bizarrely, Bela IV of Hungary makes his appearance alone among the Teutonic knights, with his own bodyguard probably wasted in the fighting, and the two commanders fight a duel. Subutai runs off and is instantly killed. It is not clear if he died from Bela's hand or from the hand of a nearby Teutonic knight but seeing the two generals engaged in a duel was priceless.

With Subutai's death, what resistance there was collapses completely. The Mongols run back to the steppes as fast as they can.

Thanks to Medieval II Total War, Bela IV of Hungary got finally some 8 centuries later his revenge on the Mongols!

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