Battle of Jiangling (208)

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Battle of Jiangling
Part of the Red Cliffs campaign
Date Winter of 208 - 209 CE
Location Jiangling (present-day Jingjiang 荆江)
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
Sun Quan
Liu Bei
Cao Cao
Commanders and leaders
Zhou Yu
Ling Tong
Cao Ren
Strength
40,000+[1] 120,000+ (the troops Cao Ren had prior to the battle was more than that of Zhou Yu,[2] and he received reinforcements from Yi Province,[3] Xiangyang,[4] Runan,[5] Jiangxia,[6] Dangyang,[7] and numerous other cities controlled by Cao Cao.)
Battle of Jiangling (208)
Traditional Chinese 江陵之戰
Simplified Chinese 江陵之战

The Battle of Jiangling was fought by the allied forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei against Cao Cao in the late Eastern Han dynasty. The battle was an integral part of the Red Cliffs campaign, and was fought immediately after the Battle of Yiling in 208, and the preceding engagement at Wulin (烏林; in present-day Honghu, Hubei) on land and the marine Battle of Red Cliffs where Cao Cao's navy was destroyed. Note that the battle at Wulin was a byproduct of the Battle of Red Cliffs, and they were not the same battle.

While the fighting around the city of Jiangling was vigorous, there were not much fierce battles taking place in southern Jing Province. Unable to isolate Jiangling from its supporting cities (except those in Yi Province, see Battle of Yiling (208) for details), the campaign became a war of attrition, which resulted in enormous casualties for Cao Cao's side. After a year or so, Cao Cao could no longer afford the continuous losses in personnel and materiel, so he ordered Cao Ren to withdraw from Jiangling.[8]

Background[edit]

After the great victory in the Battle of Red Cliffs, the allies immediately carried out their next step of their strategy by attempting to take control of Nan Commandery from Cao Cao by driving the retreating enemy toward Jiangling (江陵, located in present-day Jingjiang 荆江, not to be confused with present-day Jiangling County, Hubei).

The battle[edit]

Infiltration into the enemy's rear[edit]

Zhou Yu was worried about Cao Cao's unscathed units totaling over 100,000 strong, which were scattered around strategic locations, so he urged Liu Bei to send Guan Yu to block Cao Ren's supply lines via infiltration. Zhou Yu wanted to have Guan Yu attack the enemy rear while bypassing the strongpoint of Jiangling, in order to isolate Jiangling for a coordinated attack. Thus, Guan Yu, along with Su Fei (relationship to the Su Fei who served Eastern Wu remains unclear), led a special force composed of navy and elite infantry, sailed up the Han River, and attacked the city of Xiangyang, which was guarded by Yue Jin. However, Guan Yu was soundly expelled by Yue Jin outside the city.[9] At Xiakou, Guan Yu's fleet met Yue Jin and Wen Ping,[10] and Guan was held off by his rivals. Wen Ping trailed Guan Yu to Han Ford, in which he had Guan's food storage blunt to the ground.[11] As a result, Guan Yu attempted to recuperate at Jingcheng (荆城); however, his pursuers would not allow him to rest, and Guan was forced to fight a naval battle with Wen Ping, which resulted in a total disaster.[12]

Southern Jing Province[edit]

Liu Bei asked for and obtained Zhou Yu's permission to cover the rear and the flank of Zhou's navy by taking the remaining four commanderies to the south of the Yangtze River from Cao Cao. There were hardly any troops left to defend the region, so all of the administrators of Cao Cao's four commanderies, including Jin Xuan at Wuling (武陵), Han Xuan at Changsha (長沙), Zhao Fan at Guiyang (桂陽), and Liu Du at Lingling (零陵) all surrendered without a fight. More importantly, Liu Bei's conquest of these commanderies was an integral portion of the Red Cliffs campaign as part of the goal of the allies. Liu Bei finally had a base of his own and he named Zhuge Liang as Military Advisor General of the Household (軍師中郎將) to oversee the administrative affairs of Changsha, Guiyang and Lingling.

The biggest gain for Liu Bei; however, was that he was joined by Lei Xu (雷緒) and his troops, which almost doubled Liu Bei's force instantly.[13] As soon as the news of Cao Cao's defeat at Wulin was heard, Lei Xu at Lujiang (盧江, in present-day Chaohu City, Anhui) rebelled. Cao Cao's earlier strategy of keeping his veteran force in a separate force in the north to prepare for possible rebellions had paid off as he was able to summon the force to suppress the rebellion quickly by putting Xiahou Yuan in charge, but the victory was not complete: though defeated and lost his turf, Lei Xu's force was largely unscathed; he led them to Liu Bei, strengthening the latter.

Attempt to cut Cao Ren's supply lines[edit]

Liu Bei authorized Zhang Fei and Guan Yu to command his troops. He suggested to Zhou Yu to block Jiangling from receiving new supplies as a means of driving Cao Ren out. Thus, Guan Yu was sent north to intercept enemy reinforcements, and blockades were set along the main passages.[14] However, Cao Cao's general Li Tong fought valiantly; he dismounted and removed the blockades one by one, and advanced forward.[15] Unable to suppress his enemy, Guan Yu ordered a retreat and Li Tong managed to enter Jiangling.

Meantime, Liu Bei placed Xiang Lang in charge of Zigui (秭歸), Yidao (夷道), Wushan (巫山), and Yiling (夷陵)[16] (Yiling was assigned to Liu Bei by Sun Quan after negotiation) counties, all of them were vital to invade Yi Province (covering the Sichuan Basin).

Stalemate[edit]

The allies appeared to be suffering losses but their failures were considered minor as compared to that of Cao Cao's side. A few months earlier, Cao Ren had his elite cavalry suffered a casualty of more than 3,000 men in a single day in an attempt to retake Yiling, besides, Cao Ren and his aide, Xu Huang, were unable to suppress Ling Tong, who were defending Zhou Yu's main camp on his own. Hence, the soldiers inside Jiangling were low on morale, and Cao Ren knew he needed to do something to change the tide of war. To prevent morale from dropping further, Cao Ren recruited 300 volunteers[17] to form an assault force led by general Niu Jin, in hope that they could score a minor victory or demonstrate bravery on the field to boost the morale. While the enemy vanguard reached the outskirt of the city, the small detachment was immediately besieged. Cao Ren ordered several tens of his strongest men to be ready for the rescue, and his Chief Clerk Chen Jiao (陳矯) advised against it, claiming that "the enemy force was too high on morale, and losing several hundred men was not a big deal to us."[18] Cao Ren ignored Chen Jiao's plea and went out, charging directly into the enemy. As Chen Jiao lost sight of Cao Ren, he was certain that Cao Ren was dead. However, to everyone's surprise, not only did Cao Ren rescue Niu Jin on the first attempt, he went back for the second time to save the remaining survivors. As Cao Ren and his troops safely returned to the safety behind the city wall, the total fatalities of combined forces of Cao Ren and Niu Jin were minimal. The surprised Chen Jiao could only mutter one sentence: "General (Cao Ren), you are truly a man from Heaven." As Cao Cao learned this soon after, he rewarded Cao Ren the rank of Marquis of Safeness (安平亭侯) for his bravery in this battle. Encouraged with this incident, Cao Ren set up camps outside the city walls. Zhou Yu personally led raids on Cao Ren's camps, and during one such raid, he was seriously wounded after he was hit by an arrow that broke one of his right ribs.[19]

Withdrawal of Cao Ren[edit]

In addition, the allied force was unable to block the numerous reinforcements continually sent by Cao Cao, so the siege turned out to be a prolonged one. As Zhou Yu could hardly command the troops, the battles were left to Ling Tong, Lü Meng and others, who were forced to expediently alter their temporary objective into inflicting damage to the enemy units. After a year of intense fighting, Zhou Yu regained health and insisted on personally leading the army, he purposefully flaunted before Cao Ren and rallied his army to illustrate his determination to keep on the offensive. Being deceived by Zhou Yu, who was actually still in critical condition, Cao Cao unwillingly ordered Cao Ren to retreat under the rationale that his forces could no longer afford continuous loss of materiel and labour.[20] Therefore, Sun Quan's forces finally succeeded in their objective of capturing Nan Commandery, which holds the upper stream of the Yangtze River, a strategic stronghold that would never be reclaimed by the state of Cao Wei.

Aftermath[edit]

After Liu Bei became a powerful warlord of southern Jing Province, Sun Quan was a bit apprehensive of him, so he arranged a marriage for Liu and his sister.[21] With the help of Sun Quan's strategist, Lu Su, Liu Bei also successfully "borrowed" Nan Commandery from Sun. Thus, Liu Bei had secured everything he needed for the invasion of Yi Province, and he would mobilize his troops towards Yi Province in 211.

Traditionally, the Battle of Jiangling is regarded as the end of the Red Cliffs campaign because as the confrontations ended and the battle turned into a siege, Cao Cao returned to his forward base in Qiao (谯) in the north in March, 209, and Sun Quan also gave up his attack on Hefei (合肥) in the east, and the remainder of the siege of Jiangling was no longer considered as part of the campaign by most historians. The fall of Jiangling to Sun Quan is generally regarded as the aftermath of the campaign.

Order of battle[edit]

Cao Cao forces[edit]

  • General Who Attacks the South (征南將軍) Cao Ren, stationed in Jiangling (江陵; located in present-day Jingjiang 荊江, not to be confused with present-day Jiangling County, Hubei)
    • Chief Clerk (長史) Chen Jiao (陳矯)
    • General Who Swipes Across the Wilderness (橫野將軍) Xu Huang
    • General Niu Jin
  • Administrator of Xiangyang (襄陽太守) Yue Jin
  • Administrator of Runan (汝南太守) Li Tong
  • Administrator of Jiangxia (江夏太守) Wen Ping
  • General Who Demonstrates Bravery (奮威將軍) Man Chong

Sun Quan forces[edit]

  • General in the Center Protecting the Army (中護軍將軍) Zhou Yu, served as commander-in-chief of the allied forces
    • Right Area Commander (右都督) Cheng Pu
    • General of the Household (中郎將) Han Dang
    • General of the Household Who Swipes Across the Wilderness (橫野中郎將) Lü Meng
    • Commandant Who Inherits Fierceness (承烈都尉) Ling Tong
    • Chief of Yichun (宜春長) Zhou Tai
    • Prefect of Dangkou (當口令) Gan Ning

Liu Bei forces[edit]

  • General on the Left (左將軍) Liu Bei, served as vanguard of the allied ground forces
    • Lieutenant General (偏將軍) Guan Yu, served as commander of Liu Bei's naval forces
    • General of the Household (中郎將) Zhang Fei
    • Chief of Linju (臨沮長) Xiang Lang

In fiction[edit]

For dramatic effect, in many literary works, Liu Bei's conquest of the four commanderies south of the Yangtze River were listed as separate battles, and there was a match between Guan Yu and Huang Zhong which became the source of other cultural works, such as Beijing opera. In reality; however, none of these were true.

Contrary to what was depicted in Luo Guanzhong's historical novel Romance of Three Kingdoms, Han Xuan was not killed by Wei Yan, while there was no record when Wei Yan became a subject of Liu Bei or whether Wei Yan took part in this battle.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This number is a rough estimate assuming the allied forces suffered minimal casualties during the Battle of Red Cliff
  2. ^ (曹仁分眾圍寧,寧困急,使使請救。諸將以兵少不足分) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 54, Biographies of Zhou Yu, Lu Su, and Lü Meng.
  3. ^ (益州牧刘璋始受徵役,遣兵给军。) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 1, Biography of Cao Cao.
  4. ^ ((乐进)后从平荆州,留屯襄阳) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 17, Biographies of Zhang, Yue, Yu, Zhang, and Xu.
  5. ^ (刘备与周瑜围曹仁於江陵,别遣关羽绝北道。通率众击之) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 18, Biographies of the two Lis, Zang, Wen, Lü, Xu, Dian, the two Pangs, and Yan. (通) in this passage refers to Li Tong, who was the Administrator of Runan at the time.
  6. ^ ((文聘)与乐进讨关羽於寻口,有功,进封延寿亭侯,) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 18, Biographies of the two Lis, Zang, Wen, Lü, Xu, Dian, the two Pangs, and Yan. Wen Ping was the Administrator of Jiangxia by the time.
  7. ^ (建安十三年,从太祖征荆州。大军还,留宠行奋威将军,屯当阳。) Man Chong was given authority as acting General Who Demonstrates Bravery by Cao Cao specifically to lead troops in anticipation of Sun Quan's invasion, and was stationed at Dangyang with substantial number of soldiers.
  8. ^ (瑜、仁相守歲余,所殺傷甚眾。仁委城走。) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 47, Biography of Sun Quan.
  9. ^ (留屯襄阳,击关羽、苏非等,皆走之) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 17, Biographies of Zhang, Yue, Yu, Zhang, and Xu.
  10. ^ (与乐进讨关羽於寻口,有功,进封延寿亭侯,加讨逆将军。) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 18, Biographies of the two Lis, Zang, Wen, Lü, Xu, Dian, the two Pangs, and Yan.
  11. ^ (又攻羽辎重於汉津) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 18, Biographies of the two Lis, Zang, Wen, Lü, Xu, Dian, the two Pangs, and Yan.
  12. ^ ((文聘)烧其(关羽)船於荆城。) Chen Shou. Record of Three Kingdoms, Volume 18, Biographies of the two Lis, Zang, Wen, Lü, Xu, Dian, the two Pangs, and Yan.
  13. ^ (廬江雷緒率部曲數万口稽顙。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 32, Biography of Liu Bei.
  14. ^ (刘备与周瑜围曹仁于江陵,别遣关羽绝北道。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 18, Biographies of the two Lis, Zang, Wen, Lü, Xu, Dian, the two Pangs, and Yan.
  15. ^ (通率众击之,下马拔鹿角入围,且战且前。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 18, Biographies of the two Lis, Zang, Wen, Lü, Xu, Dian, the two Pangs, and Yan.
  16. ^ (先主定江南,使朗督秭歸、夷道、巫(山)、夷陵四縣軍民事。) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 41, Biographies of Huo, Wang, Xiang, Zhang, Yang, and Fei.
  17. ^ (仁登城望之,乃募得三百人) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 9, Biographies of the Xiahous and Caos.
  18. ^ (贼众盛,不可当也。假使弃数百人何苦,而将军以身赴之!) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 9, Biographies of the Xiahous and Caos.
  19. ^ (瑜親跨馬擽陳,會流矢中右脅,瘡甚) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 54, Biographies of Zhou Yu, Lu Su, and Lü Meng.
  20. ^ Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 47, Biography of Sun Quan.
  21. ^ (权稍畏之,进妹固好) Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms, Volume 32, Biography of Liu Bei.

References[edit]

  • Chen Shou. Records of Three Kingdoms.
  • Sima Guang. Zizhi Tongjian.
  • Selected Examples of Battles in Ancient China Writing Team, Selected Examples of Battles in Ancient China, 1st Edition, published by Chinese Publishing House & Distributed by New China Bookstore Publishing House in Beijing, 1981 - 1984.
  • Yuan, Tingdong, War in Ancient China, 1st Edition, published by Sichuan Academy of Social Science Publishing House & Distributed by New China Bookstore in Chengdu, 1988, ISBN 7805240582
  • Zhang, Xiaosheng, General View of War of Ancient China, 1st Edition in Xi'an, published by Long March Publishing House in Beijing & Distributed by New China Bookstore in Beijing, 1988, ISBN 7800150313 (set)