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China's Great Wall and the Lost Emperor

The previous Chinese Emperor has spent a lot of treasure and manpower in building up the Border Wall (what we know as the Great Wall of China). Unfortunately any wall is a waste of bricks if it isn't part of a more comprehensive defense plan. The Mongols have mounted a three-prong attack and Emperor Zhengtong is leading his army to defend the wall. Before he leaves he appoints his brother as regent and sets out with his troops, following the border and risking his flank. He arrives in time to repel the attack, but on the way back, the Emperor repeats his risky move and comes too close to the border rather than lead his army over his own lands. (Armies can be destructive as they tramp through your garden.) A small army of 5,000 Mongols wipes out the Emperor's forces of 500,000 and takes him captive. His brother (the regent) ransoms him and holds him under house arrest for several years. Zhengtong will be given the title of "grand emperor" that will be quite grand but not really emperor. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
How can 5,000 Mongols destroy an army of 500,000 Chinese led by their Emperor? The most direct problem is that the Emperor is 22 years old with very little military experience. He strings out his forces parallel to the border allowing the Mongols to strike at any point and be devastating locally. Next, the position of commander-in-chief was abolished because it was a threat to the Emperor. Wars are run directly by the Emperor or troop movements are decided by committee from the Capital. (I am reminded of the Vietnam War when President Johnson was picking bombing targets from Washington, D.C..[5]) Finally, armies are supplied by local communities which means the army is often poorly supplied if not starving. The Chinese will be throwing up another line of walls. It will almost be the death of them... almost.[6]

Say Hello to My Little Friend: Mons(ter) Meg

When is launching a quarter ton of stone through the air the most fun? Just about any time. What can make it more fun? Gun powder and Mons(ter) Meg. Phillip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy has this monster cannon (called a bombard) made for King James the 2nd of Scotland. It will fire a stone projectile of 550 pounds and will be used to break down defensive walls during a siege. It is so difficult to move that it will eventually lose it usefulness. Mons Meg will be used only for ceremonies until it bursts apart. In the modern day will be restored and returned to Edinburgh Castle. [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Gun powder is still very weak. The formula is not optimal and they aren't even corning the powder which is a very dangerous procedure but would increase the burn rate of the powder by several magnitudes. And the metal in these iron weapons are still poorly made and unreliable. These weapons are extremely heavy so moving them to where you need them becomes exceedingly difficult and expensive. That is why they became obsolete.

The English Get Spanked By the French... Again

Every since Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, the French army has been kicking the backside of the English. The City of Rouen surrendered to King Henry the 5th of England in 1419. It is also the place where Joan of Arc was judged and eventually burned at the stake in 1431. Now the city has been retaken by the French. King Henry the 6th has been a poor military leader when compared to his father or just about anyone else. He is going to lose France to the French forever. [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
King Henry's wife, Margaret of Anjou, is the niece of the King Charles the 7th of France, her husband's main rival. As King Henry loses more and more battles (and land) the nobles of England will become restless and blame Margaret as sort of a fifth column or spy. She will become one of the main characters in the upcoming War of the Roses, a war over the Throne of England between the Lancasters and the Yorks. [11] [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1449, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Yongle Encyclopedia - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  2. Gernet, Jacques. (translated by Foster, J. R. and Hartman, Charles) A History of Chinese Civilization. Cambridge University Press. 1996. (BOOK) Quote: "From then on incursions into North China became more and more frequent, and in 1449 came the famous incident of the fortress of T'u-mu in northern Hopei, when the emperor Cheng-t'ung was taken prisoner by the Mongols. He was not released until 1457, and only then for a ransom."
  3. Zhengtong Emperor (Cheng-t'ung) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Tumu Crisis - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  5. Operation Rolling Thunder: Strategic_persuasion - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  6. Feng, Longfei. "Tumu Crisis and the Weakness of the Military System of the Ming Dynasty". Toronto: Canadian Center of Science and Education. Asian Social Science, Vol. 5, No. 6, June 2009. (PDF) Quote: "The highest military officials were Generals which located in 83 military distinctions all over the country. And these Generals must obey the command of the Beijing cabinet and the Defense Minister which were controlled by the civil servants. What's more, the military officials even had no right to dispatch their soldiers without the agreement of the local civil servants, and the supplies for the army were also provided by the local governments."
  7. Mons Meg - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  8. Hindley, Geoffrey. Medieval Siege and Siegecraft. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. 2009. pp. 69-70. (BOOK) Quote: "The first half of the fifteenth century was the first golden age of giant guns—a number survive. ”Mons Meg,” now in Edinburgh, fired a stone shot weighing about 550 pounds: ”Dulle Griet” or the ”Great Bombard of Ghent,” one of over 750; and the ”Pumhart von Steyr” (”the bombard of Styria"), in Vienna, a mammoth of 1,530 pounds. Given that the explosive force of gunpowder was still relatively weak, such weapons nevertheless made sense, for that powder was now easily available in quantity and heap. The energy needed to break down walls with stone shot demanded a large missile, and large missiles were now feasible."
  9. Rouen - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  10. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1991. p. 208-209. (BOOK) Quote: "Eng. breaks truce with Fr. and capture Fougères."
  11. Margaret of Anjou - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  12. Charles VII of France - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  13. Alex Shrugged Notes: I am depending on my previous reading to fill in some of the gaps here. I don't have time at the moment to go back and look for exact citations.

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