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The battle of jhelum, 326 bc

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  • 1. The Battle of Jhelum, 326 BC
  • 2. The road to the River Jhelum was short, flat and easy
    • An envoy had been sent to Porus, the king of the area on the other side of the Jhelum River, asking him to bring his tribute and meet Alexander at the river.
    • Porus replied that he would meet Alexander at the river, but his tribute would be armed men instead of gold.
  • 3. Alexander moved his men 110 miles to a camp by the river, where he could see Porus’ army
    • The figures quoted say that Porus had 5,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry, but he probably had far fewer men than Alexander.
    • In between the two armies the river was rising fast, even before the monsoon season began properly in June.
    • Alexander had neither the time nor the opportunity to ship his army (including his 200 elephants) across the river.
  • 4. The river flows fast here, and is about half a mile wide
  • 5. As soon as Porus saw Alexander arrive
    • he sent men upstream to block the nearest crossing points with his elephants. Alexander’s horses were scared of the elephants, which were trumpeting on the far side of the river, and he could not risk crossing the river in front of them.
  • 6.  
  • 7. As at Gaugamela, Alexander began the battle with a war of nerves
    • Daily, parties went onto the river by boat as if to began an attack, but always kept just out of range.
    • Alexander split his men, and told them to make such a noise that Porus was continually kept on the alert. He kept even his own men under a false impression, as he spread the rumour that the river was running too high and too fast to cross, and that the army would camp until autumn.
    • Food was ostentatiously gathered and stored in full view of Porus’ scouts.
  • 8. By night,
    • Alexander would have his men mount up and drill on the far side of the river, shouting and moving up and down the river banks, so that Porus had to move his own men to cover their bank in case Alexander should attack.
    • Porus’ men were soon exhausted by living under this strain. As soon as they had the bank covered where the noise came from it would stop, only to start again elsewhere.
  • 9. The Indians were lulled into a false sense of security
    • They had seen Alexander’s stores, they had defended against countless attacks which never came, and they trusted in the monsoon.
    • They stopped tracking Alexander’s movements at night, confident that he could not mount an attack until the river levels dropped.
  • 10. Meanwhile,
    • Alexander had been scouting the river bank, and while his men had been creating diversions, he had discovered a slight bend in the river, 17 miles upstream.
    • The banks on Alexander’s side were covered with trees, and the ground rose to 1,000 feet. The river was narrow here, partly because an island divided it.
  • 11.  
  • 12.  
  • 13. Preparations for the battle were patient
    • Boats had been built, then dismantled into sections and moved to the crossing point where they were reassembled
    • Rafts of animal skin stuffed with hay had also been readied at the crossing point
  • 14. On the night of the crossing
    • fires were lit at Alexander’s camp to suggest that the entire army was pitched there permanently.
    • Craterus stayed at the camp with around 1/3 of the army, having been told that, unless Porus tried to make an escape, he was to stay on his side of the river
  • 15. Alexander led the rest of his men off, as if on another search for supplies
    • Quietly, though, he returned to the river bank a few miles upstream.
    • Alexander left 3 mercenary commanders with all their hired men and ordered them to cross the river only once the Indians had been fully engaged
  • 16. Alexander took some 6,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry further upstream
    • The cavalry (where Porus was weakest) were crucial – the Royal Squadron of the Companions would deliver the usual charge, while the Scythians, mounted archers and Iranian cavalry would pin down the enemy from longer range.
  • 17.  
  • 18. In the early evening an electric storm broke overhead
    • While the noise covered the sound of Alexander’s movements, the clouds blocked all light from the stars and the Macedonians had to wait for the clouds to clear – almost until dawn.
    • Finally, Alexander set out across the river in a 30-oared boat.
    • Porus’ men spotted him coming and raced back to camp 17 miles away to tell the news
  • 19. Alexander’s boats had not found the opposite bank, however.
    • They had reached the island and unloaded before anyone realised they still had to cross the rest of the channel.
    • Rather than get back into their boats, Alexander set the example and waded out chest-deep into the river, leading the ageing Bucephalus.
    • All 5,000 cavalry crossed the river this way, and the infantry with them also managed to clamber up the muddy banks.
  • 20. Speed was essential now, as Alexander needed to have his men organised by the time Porus’ troops arrived.
    • When they did, there were 120 4-horse chariots and 2,000 cavalry.
    • They were too fast for the slippery conditions and the drivers could not control them. They ran straight into the Companions and the mounted archers and were massacred. Their general (some said he was Porus’ son, some said his brother) was killed.
    • The cavalry waited for the infantry to move in front of them, and then all 11,000 men moved forward.
  • 21. Porus was waiting for Alexander
    • Craterus was waiting to cross the river directly opposite if Porus should try to escape, and Porus wanted to advance away from Craterus to meet Alexander
    • BUT, if he tried that, Craterus could cross the river and attack his rear – he really needed to leave some troops to stop Craterus crossing, but he couldn’t afford to split his men
  • 22.  
  • 23.
    • Porus was outnumbered in cavalry by perhaps 3 -1, but in infantry he outnumbered Alexander by 5 -1.
    • His main advantage was his archers, who carried bows so long they had to be dug into the ground at the bottom, and which fired arrows 4 feet long.
    • At close quarters, however, Alexander had the advantage.
  • 24.
    • Porus advanced towards Alexander, and both armies fanned out.
    • His elephants were placed 50-100 feet apart, with the infantry behind them.
    • On the wings, Porus placed his chariots and cavalry, hoping for a clear run.
  • 25.
    • In the centre, on top of his elephant, rode Porus.
  • 26. Alexander halted to reorganise
    • He had to be clever to make the maximum use of each element in the army.
      • Companions could charge down the light infantry and beat Porus’ cavalry, but had to be kept away from the elephants.
      • The light infantry could attack the elephants and the Indian infantry but would be vulnerable to a cavalry attack.
      • The Indian archers would be hampered by the conditions, and the Iranian mounted archers could attack the infantry and cavalry, but again their horses would not be able to come close to the elephants
  • 27. Alexander decided to rely entirely on his cavalry
    • The battle would be fought in well-defined and expertly timed stages.
    • Because of the Indian elephants they would mass on the right and attack the Indians’ far left wing with their usual wedge-shaped angled attack.
    • Alexander, the mounted archers, the Iranians and 2 squadrons of Companions led by Hephaistion and Perdiccas led the attack, with two other Companion squadrons under Coenus swinging round to attack the Indian right
  • 28.
    • The Indians would see the main force preparing to attack on their left. As they did not have enough cavalry to defend their flank, they would send men from both sides to cover the Companions’ attack.
    • This would leave the right flank undefended, and hopefully, Coenus would attack from the rear just as Alexander broke through from the left.
    • Then, as the cavalry was routed, the infantry would move forward to engage the elephants.
  • 29. The plan worked.
    • When Alexander moved to the Indian far left they sent all their cavalry after him, disregarding Coenus on the other side.
    • The mounted archers and the Companions attacked and the Indians were so harrassed they had no time to fan out into a formation to defend themselves.
    • Too late, they tried to drop back a squadron of cavalry to face Coenus’ attack, but the shock of simultaneous attacks so upset them that most of the cavalry ducked between the elephants for safety.
  • 30.
    • As the elephants charged forward, seeking any Companions who were still chasing Indian cavalry, the Macedonian infantry and archers swarmed among them.
    • While the archers and javelin throwers aimed at the elephant riders, 3,000 Macedonian Shield Bearers swung axes and scimitars at the elephants’ legs and trunks.
    • Some 50 elephants were put out of action in this way. The rest stampeded around, tusking and trampling indiscriminately.
  • 31. The Indian cavalry began to flee. At last, Craterus could cross the river, and he arrived at the same time as the mercenaries who had crossed further upstream
  • 32. Porus was unwilling to admit defeat
    • He had fought in the middle of the battle and only when wounded in the shoulder by an arrow was he willing to retreat.
    • Alexander saw his galantry and offered him his freedom.
    • At first Porus stood ready to fight, but he eventually got off his elephant and surrendered
  • 33. Bucephalus
    • In the opening skirmish with Porus’ chariots, Bucephalus had been wounded, and within hours of the battle, he had died.
    • Alexander had already decided to found two cities on the banks of the Jhelum. The easterly one he called Nicaea, City of Victory, the westerly one, close to the site of the river crossing, was called Bucephala.
    • The site was marked with a grave at the town, and a huge funeral procession was led by Alexander to the tomb.
    • (The site was reportedly washed away, but Michael Wood seems to have found it.)