Friday, March 28, 2014

Analysis of Afghan-Mughal war 1526

In 1524 babur captured lahore.But he returned to kabul to gather reinforcements and finally returned in november 1525.He crossed the indus river in december with 12000 Battle hardened troops.The bulk of them timurid cavalry,supplemented by turkish gunners with gunpowder matchlocks and cannons-till now an unknown feature on the indian battlefield.
On crossing the indus,he was joined by indian allies and also perhaps some mercenaries.

Babur's intelligence system warned him of governor hamid khan,who was moving with a force to join Ibrahim lodi.Babur dispatched his son humayun with a contingent to destroy the reinforcements that neutralized this force.Amidst rumours of Ibrahim lodi approaching with a vast host,babur and his army reached panipat on 1st april 1526.

Babur decided to take up a defensive position with a ditch and the yamuna on his left and the city of panipat to his right and await ibrahim's attack.
Ibrahim lod was facing dissension in ranks.He even had to resort to distributing riches to encourage his troops and promised more.Personally brave,ibrahim was an inexperienced commander and quite vain which upset some of the afghan nobility.

For eight days Both armies stood facing each other without making a decisive move.Finally babur in an attempt to goad lodi into attacking him ordered a night raid by 5000 picked horsemen.However the attack faltered badly,and the mughals narrowly escaped.
Elated by this success,ibrahim lodi now advanced to meet babur's forces on the fields of panipat.

Armies and Tactics

Commander - Zahir-ud-din-Babur.
Strength- 20,000
Including 3,000 Matchlockmen and 20 cannons.

Above depicts both moghul and afghan cavalryman in action.Behind is matchlockman with a protective mantlet.These and cannons were babur's ace card at panipat.The first picture depicts baburid cavalry,heavy and light.

Timurid Horse archers.A product of steppe warfare,these were the primary cause of the superiority of nomadic armies in the age of cavalry.Though the afghans had excellent horsemen as well,they relied on heavy mailed cavalry over mounted archers

The core of Babur's cavalry,would have constituted of these horsemen.Capable of both long range archery and close combat.

Commander - Ibrahim Lodi
Strength - ~50,000
Including 20,000+ Heavy cavalry,30,000~ infantry.
500 War Elephants.

Ibrahim's Primary shock force was his 500+ armoured elephants.A terrifying shock weapon as well as mobile fortress,used properly they were a formidable problem.Against the earlier mongol invasions of the delhi sultanate under the khiljis,the combination of armoured elephants and Sultanate cavalry had proved too much for the mongols.However this descendant of genghis had something-that the earlier chagatai mongols didn't have - Cannons.

Afghan Mailed heavy lancer with equipment.The afghans were a redoubtable enemy,and under capable leaders like sher shah was to prove could easily turn the tables on the mughals.

Afghan foot archer

The Afghans based their battle tactics around the shock strike forces of their elephants and heavy cavalry.Brute force in massed frontal assaults on the flat plains were therefore key elements of Ibrahim lodi's plan.A considerable part of this army was feudal contingents from the various nobles,they were thus not drilled nor trained to work in co-operation with the whole body,and suffered from lack of manuevreability.They were however well equipped and courageous.

Babur was a veteran of continous conflict in central asia and was well acquainted with tactics used by the uzbeks.The basis of his battle array were those pioneered by Tamerlane and tactics -the ancient mongol manuevre called Taulughma or wheel manuevre.He also borrowed elements from general persian-islamic tactics from his exposure with the safavids.

The battle array has a thin screen of horse archers in front of the main body called Qarawal.
They masked the deployment of the main force and harassed opponents.On meeting serious oppoition they would fall back though gaps in the line and reform on two flanks of the vanguard.

The first battle line consisted of the Left wing or Jaranghar,the vanguard or Harawal and the Right wing or Baranghar.These lines were provided with matchlockmen and artillery for fire support and formed the pivot of the army.
The Bulk of the army was deployed on the second line in the Kul or Centre.It could be subdivided into smaller divisions for easier command and control.
The centre was flanked by 2 small contingents called Iltimish.These were Mobile reserves which could be deployed on quick notice on any threatened sector on the first line,especially the right and left wings.
Finally,Further out from the main army were small bodies of crack mongol horse archers which acted as Flanking parties.Once the main enemy body had been engaged these would conduct a wheeling movement or Taulaghma and attack the enemy from the rear.
Finally there was a small rearguard that usually guarded the camp.

The Battle

The Pathans in Green,the Moghuls in Red.

Babur establishes his defensive line with the city walls of panipat anchoring his right flank and a ditch and the yamuna river on his left.He orders his left flank strengthened by a stockade of trees.

1.In front of his army a screen of horse archer cavalry is deployed as the qarawal.
2.On the extreme sides at some distance,are the tulughma flanking parties of mongol horse archers.3
3.To protect his outnumbered front he has a line of 700 ox-carts tied together with rawhide ropes to break up any cavalry charge on this position.Behind this protective line of carts he sites his cannons.
Between every 2 guns,5-6 protective mantlets with matchlockmen[in triangles] were deployed.
4.At intervals of 100-200 yards along the line of carts,passages were created to allow cavalry from within to sally out and attack.These passages were heavily defended by archers and matchlockmen.This tactic of using a defended strongpoint as a central pivot was a common feature of persian-islamic tactics and was called arabes .Similarities can be found with ottoman tactics in this regard.[if you read nicopolis thread]
5.The first Line of the mughals divided into vanguard,left wing and right wing.[Abbreviations used].Khusru kukultash led the vanguard.
6.Babur divides his Kul or centre in,the outer left-centre[LC] and right centre[RC] divisions and the central division where he places himself.
7.The centre was supported by iltimish mobile reserves on sides.[I]
Finally the rearguard protects the mughal camp.
Except the matchlockmen and archers at the cart-line,babur's whole force is cavalry.
8.Ibrahim Lodi deploys his phalanx of armoured elephants in traditional fashion,in front of his battle line.
9.Lodi deploys the rest of his army in 4 Divisions - A large and powerful vanguard and a equally large centre.Flanked by shallower formations of cavalry.His flanks however are exclusively formed of afghan cavalry.
10.The Vanguard of lodi's line consists mostly of cavalry with some infantry.
11.The centre has the bulk of infantry,Lodi places himself with a chosen body of 5000 Picked Mailed lancers just in front of his centre.

1.As the afghan War elephants move up,they are greeted by the utterly unfamiliar noise of mughal cannons which terrifies them and they refuse to advance further.
2.The Afghan Vanguard clashes with the horse archer screen and sweeps it away,sensing success- the pathans surge forward..
3.The horse archers of the screen move back through the passages and reform on the sides of the mughal vanguard.
4.The vanguard of the afghans has advanced too quickly,thus creating a gap with the centre which is still far away .
5.Lodi aims his attack where the mughal right flank meets panipat,and the Afghan right moves forward in columns to try and outflank the mughal right.
6.Babur observes the afghan body inclined to its left advancing on his right flak and immediately reinforces the flank with his iltimish mobile reserve.

[NOTE:The arrows with a forked ending indicate ranged attacks,either bows or artillery and matchlocks.Grey arrows indicate troop movement.And white boxes previous position of a unit before movement]

1.As the leading elements of the afghan left wing approaches the mughal right,they are taken aback by the wagon line fortifications and hesitate on seeing the mughals reinforcing their right flank.As a result the front ranks halt,throwing the rear ranks already in a cramped space into some disorder.
The tulughma flanking parties now wheel and hit them with showers of arrows from the rear.
2.The centre of lodi's vanguard is held up by the concentrated fire from the cart line as the mughal cannons and matchlocks open fire,supported by archers.The noise and smoke terrifies the afghans.
3.The elephants now under artillery attack and totally unnerved turn and trample back through the advancing rear ranks of the afghan army,totally disorganizing and demoralizing it.
4.The mughals begin their celebrated tulughma wheeling manuevre.The right flank reserves move to outflank the Pathan left wing.The afghans now get a taste of the real weapon of the mughals-the deadly turco-mongol composite bow.Capable of shooting 3 times faster than the matchlock,in the hands of a skilled archer it could strike down targets at 200 yards.The afghan heavy cavalry is unable to cope with the mobile timurid horse archers.
5.Babur Piles on the pressure.He dispatches his right centre to join the assault on the afghan left wing.[See how each new reserve takes the place of the preceding formation,as that goes to flank the enemy as if turning a wheel]The afghan left wing is packed into a dense mass,due to the disorder caused by friction between front and rear ranks and becomes a massive target for concentrated mughal firepower from arrows,matchlocks and cannons.They take devastating losses.
6.Similarly on the afghan right wing,the mongol flanking parties bombard the pathans from the rear by wheeling in.
7.Simultaneously the mughal left wing moves in and joins the fray,even as the mughal gunpowder weapons take a toll on the front.
8.Babur senses a growing panic in the afghan ranks,and orders his left centre and left mobile reserve to sally out through the gaps and join the assault on the afghan right wing.

1.Bombarded from all sides,unit cohesion breaks down in the sultanate forces- as the aggresively wheeling mughal flanks compress the afghans into a central mass-a perfect killzone for the mughal artillery and gunners.
2.See the mughal taulaghma wheeling manuevre complete on both sides,as the battalions have wheeled almost in synchronization and surrounded the afghan flanks.This exceptional performance was made possible in part by the drilling and combat experience of babur's cavalry.
3.Lodi makes a desperate charge,cutting down quite a few mughals before he is killed.This was perhaps a premature move as he still had many reserves left and babur had nearly none.
4.Lodis' death triggers general collapse and afghans rout.
5.The second line now disintegrate on hearing of lodi's demise.

Losses - Afghans suffered 15,000 killed or wounded.The mughals 4,000.

Battle Analysis

1] Intelligence - The difference in effiecient intelligence had been apparent.Babur's espionage system allowed him to intercept reinforcements from hamid khan to lodi.
It is said to beat your enemy you must know your enemy.While babur continously probed the afghans during the standoff,ibrahim lodi had not sufficiently prepared for the true nature of the Moghul defences and was surprised.
His intelligence on babur's army too seems to have been minimal as he gave no thought to effect of cannons on elephants and made them a cornerstone of his tactics.

2]Discipline - Babur's army was by far more disciplined,being able to execute the complex wheeling manuevre flawlessly,while the afghans were thrown into disorder by their own follies and also charged prematurely ahead of the centre.

3]Morale - Napoleon is thought to have said- ''Morale is to material as three is to one'' .Morale seems to have been high in babur's camp.Babur treated his soldiers with an air of equality and the mughals were in enemy territory with nowehere to run.Ibrahim Lodis' troops on the other hand ,at least a part of them were discontent and the vanity of lodi himself didn't help matters.The elephant havoc and lodi's death were the last straw.

4]Technology -Babur's forces had the next generation of weapons technology available in form of cannons and matchlocks.While these were still primitive in form they rendered the elphants useless and gave babur an edge.

5]Firepower Dominance -While the afghans placed their faith on shock tactics,the mughals enjoyed a total dominance throughout the battle in firepower.The artillery,matchlocks but above all. the turko-mongol composite bow shattered afghan ranks with a ceaseless barrage.Firepower's effect is not only physical,but also psychological-as there is nothing worse to a soldier than to be fired at without being able to reply.

6]Surprise - Babur's unorthodox tactics
.The use of the cart line and the artillery placement,befuddled the afghans.These were things not seen before in the subcontinent's battlefields.

7]Failure of Elephants - The reverse rout of the elephants trampling through their own ranks,totally ruined afghan rear ranks cohesion and was a major reason why they never participated in the battle.But the elephant was a weapon of a bygone age,the old replaced by the new.

8] Ibrahim's Death - Lodis' charge was premature and unnecessary,while things were desperate upfront,he still had his centre division-shaken and albeit disorganized ,but intact.He would have better served to rally his reserve and assault the flanking mughal columns.If he had lived another hour,the mughals may have lost the battle as babur had minimal reserves left and the mughals too had suffered heavy causalities.