Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288)

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Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288)
Part of the Mongol-Vietnamese War
Battle of Bach Dang (1288).jpg
The Battle of Bạch Đằng
Date 1288
Location Bạch Đằng, present northern Vietnam
Result Decisive Vietnamese Victory
Đại Việt Yuan dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Trần Hưng Đạo
Trần Khánh Dư
Omar Khan  (POW)
50,000+ 80,000 regular troops
30,000 tribal auxiliaries from Yunnan and Hainan
a 1,000-man vanguard
500 ships[1]

The Battle of Bạch Đằng (Vietnamese: Trận Bạch Đằng, Chữ nôm: 陣白藤) was one of the greatest victories in the Vietnamese military history. It was a battle between Đại Việt, commanded by Supreme Commander Trần Hưng Đạo, and the invading army of the Yuan Dynasty, commanded by general Omar Khan. It is considered part of the Third Mongol Invasion (1287-88).[2] The battle took place at the Bach Dang River, near Ha Long Bay in present-day northern Vietnam. The battle was a tactical masterpiece of the same stature as the other battle at Bach Dang River.

The plan[edit]

In early 1288, after the evacuation from the capital Thăng Long (present-day Hanoi), Trần Hưng Đạo has known about the miserable situation of the Mongol Army. He is also detected that Omar and Prince Toyan intended to withdraw. Đại Việt's Grand Commander Trần Hưng Đạo decided to launch an offensive against the Mongolians on the Bạch Đằng River and immediately set to organize the battle.

Trần Hưng Đạo decided to destroy the Mongol fleet, which fled through the Bạch Đằng River. The Bạch Đằng River ran through Yen Hung district (in Quảng Ninh province) and Thuy Nguyen (in Hai Phong) before reaching the sea. This is where the well-known battle of Ngô Quyền against the Southern Han (Nanhan) took place in 938 A.D, ending. It was from March, Trần Hưng Đạo was already there to prepare the battlefield. He borrowed the same tactic that Ngô Quyền used against the Chinese in 938. He studied the tidal lore, had beds of stakes planted under the water and arranged ambushes in a unified plan of campaign.

Trần Hưng Đạo commanded the Đại Việt's Army to prepare for an ambush on the Bach Dang River, where the Mongols fleet will have to go through on the way to retreat. He ordered his soldiers to nail the iron-headed poles under the waters of the Chanh, Kênh and Rút rivers. All three rivers are the northern distributaries of the Bach Dang River. Ghềnh Cốc is a reef located across the Bach Dang to the bottom of Chanh river and to the top of Kênh river. Ghềnh Cốc is used as a place for the ambush, in collaboration with the underwater iron-headed poles. They will block the enemy ships when the tide draw. Đại Việt's small flotilla stationed secrets behind Ghềnh Cốc, Ðồng Cốc, Phong Cốc and on the Khoái, Thái, Gia Ðước, Ðiền Công river. The army arranged in Hung Yen, along the left bank of the river Bach Dang and Tràng Kênh, at the right bank of Bach Dang River and Mount Ðá Vôi.

The battle[edit]

As was foreseen, the Mongolians in Thăng Long suffered an acute shortage of food. Without any news about the supply fleet, Prince Toghan found himself in a tight corner and had to order his army to retreat to Vạn Kiếp.[3] This was when Đại Việt's Army began the general offensive by recapturing a number of locations occupied by the Mongol invaders. Groups of partisans were given orders to harass the enemy in Vạn Kiếp, putting them at a loss. Toghan had to split his army into two and retreat.

In early April the supply fleet led by Omar, a Arab general, and escorted by infantry fled home along the Bạch Đằng river. As bridges and roads were destroyed and attacks were launched by Đại Việt's troops, the Mongols reached Bạch Đằng. Đại Việt's small flotilla provoked and harassed the Yuan formation to wait for the tide to recede. The Mongols cautiously engaged their opponent, fearing an ambush while missing their chance to escape the arranged trap. Soon they found their movement restricted by iron-tipped stakes protruding out of the low tide while the escape routes had been blocked by Đại Việt's large warships. Đại Việt's troops took to boarding and hand-to-hand actions with the aid of fast fire ships and missile weapons, fiercely launched the attack and broke the combat formation of the enemy. Inflicted with a sudden and strong attack, the Mongols tried to withdraw to the sea in panic. Frightened, the Mongolian troops jumped down to get to the banks where they were dealt a heavy blow by a big army led by the Trần king and Trần Hưng Đạo.

The Mongolian supply fleet was totally destroyed, and Omar was captured and executed by the Vietnamese.

At the same time, Đại Việt's Army made continuous attacks and smashed to pieces Toghan’s army on its route of withdrawal through Lạng Sơn. Toghan risked his life making a shortcut through forests to flee home.

17th-century model of a Vietnamese "mông đồng" fighting boat, probably had constituted much of the Vietnamese naval fleet 400 years earlier

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Atwood, Christopher Pratt (2004), Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol empire, New York: Facts On File, p. 579, ISBN 0-8160-4671-9 
  2. ^ Patricia M. Pelley Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past - Page 185 - 2002 "Presiding over the commemorative ceremony, Tran Huy Lieu began: "Not only did the battle of Bạch Đằng conclude the ... army against the Mongol invaders, it also brought all the Mongol invasions that took place between 1257 and 1288 to an ..."
  3. ^ Nha pho Bạch Đằng Vạn Kiếp thiet ke nha pho 3 tang hien dai

Further reading[edit]

  • Karnow, Stanley (1983), Vietnam: A History, New York: Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-007324-8 

External links[edit]