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Reenactment of Mongol battle

From Temujin to Genghis Khan: Battling Friends and Enemies in Life of Conquest – Part II

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After his young wife, Borte, and family members were kidnapped by a rival clan, Temujin quickly used his new ally, Ong Khan. After entering Ong’s yurt, Temujin said, “We have come to ask you, Qan my father, whether you can restore my wife and son to me.” Qng listened to the young man’s words, leaned forward and said, “Did I not say as much to you last year? When you brought the sable jacket to me you said that, in your father’s time, I and your father swore brotherhood together, and that I am therefore as a father to you. When you placed the coat on me, I spoke these words:

In return for the black sable jacket

I will bring together

the people who abandoned you.

In return for the sable jacket,

I will unite your scattered people.

Temujin responded:

Let my thoughts be in the depths of my bowels and in my ribcage.

Ong reminded Temujin again and responded:

Did I not say those words? Now I will stand by them.

In return for the sable jacket, I will crush the Merkits and rescue Lady Börte for you.

In return for the black sable jacket, I will break all the Merkits into pieces and bring back your qatan Börte.

While a previous blood oath is one of the reasons why Ong agreed to assist Temujin, another reason was purely lucrative. Ong saw this as an opportunity to plunder, and further enrich his personal coffers. Ong provided Temujin with twenty thousand of his own troops to form the right flank. For further military assistance, Ong instructed Temujin to send a message to his vassal Jamuqa (or Jamukha), who also was a longtime friend and blood brother of Temujin’s, to provide an additional twenty thousand to form the left flank.

14th and 15th century paintings showing Mongol Warriors

14th and 15th century paintings showing Mongol Warriors. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Once the two armies combined, Ong informed Temujin that it would be Jamuqa would decide the marching order, time and place of the meeting, and the attack. When Temujin and his brothers returned to their yurt, Temujin told his brother Qasar to take this message to Jamuqa. “Tell my sworn brother Jamuqa that the three Merkits made my bed empty. Are we not one family? How can we gain vengeance? My heart is broken. Are we not blood relatives? How can we take revenge?” Temujin also informed him of his meeting with Ong and the order of battle. Jamuqa responded:

My heart aches, knowing that your bed is empty. My liver aches, knowing that your heart is broken. Let us gain vengeance [by] destroying the Uduyits and Uwas-Merkits. Let us rescue our Lady Börte. Let us avenge ourselves by breaking the Qa’at-Merkits into pieces. Let us restore our qatun Börte. Let us bring her back and save her.

Vengeance on the Move

Once on the move, the allied attack on the Merkits was a sweeping success. Moreover, the attack provided one of the most dramatic, if not seen as the most romantic passages in the Secret History.

The Merkit people fled at night in panic down the Selengge. Our soldiers, despite the darkness, followed closely on their heels, robbing and looting. Temüjin went [among] the panic-stricken fugitives, crying, ‘Börte! Börte!’ Lady Börte, who was among those fleeing, heard and recognized Temüjin’s voice. She got down from the cart and ran towards him. Both Lady Börte and Qo’aqchin recognized Temüjin’s rein and tether, [even] in the night, and seized them. By the light of the moon, [Temüjin] recognized Lady Börte. At this unexpected meeting, they embraced. The same night, Temüjin sent word to To’oril Qan and [his] sworn brother Jamuqa to say: ‘I have found what I sought. Let us not continue through the night but pitch camp here.’ The Merkit people, fleeing in panic and scattering through the night, set up camp in the same place and spent the night there.

With the rescue of Borte, Temujin now had a new issue to deal with—Jamuqa.


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Top Image: Reenactment of Mongol battle (Public Domain)

By: Cam Rea

Cam Rea's picture

Cam Rea

Cam Rea is a Military Historian and currently the Associate Editor/Writer at Strategy & Tactics Press. Mr. Rea has published several books and written numerous articles for Strategy & Tactics Press and Classical Wisdom Weekly. His most current publication is... Read More

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