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Manchu archer and man-at-arms were both famed for their skill and intrepidity; and their equipment left nothing to be desired. The Manchu bow was a formidable weapon, and the cotton-plated mail of the horseman was proof to the shaft or the spear. Noorhachu's indictment of the Chinese took the form of a list of grievances, termed “the Seven Hates," against their border lieutenants, but the peculiarity of the proceeding was in the accompanying ceremony. Instead of forwarding this document to the Chinese Court, he burnt it in presence of his army, so that Heaven might judge the justice of the cause between himself and his enemy.
Thus were the slight power, insignificant resources, and scanty population of the Manchu districts raised to so high and vigorous a point by the thrift and ability of Noorhachu that the invasion of the great empire of China became a possibility. Notwithstanding the skill shown in husbanding and developing their strength, they could not have possessed any conceivable chance of victory had the Mings shown the smallest capacity ; for the Manchus, unlike the Mongols, were very few in numbers, and their recruiting-ground was extremely limited. While this war-cloud was gathering portent on his northern frontier, the Ming Emperor Wanleh was congratulating himself at paltry successes over rebel hillmen in the remote south; and he remained indifferent to the pressing danger at his very door. Noorhachu's invasion of Leaoutung awoke him from his delusion, while it also revealed the most formidable of the enemies who threatened the Ming dynasty with overthrow, and the Chinese people with the horrors of invasion.
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THE Manchus, under their great leader Noorhachu, crossed the frontier into Chinese territory in the year 1618, and they first advanced against the border town of Fooshun, where an annual fair used to be held for the Tartar tribes. This open invasion of the Empire took the local officials by surprise, and the slight preparations they had made to resist such raids as it was alone thought possible that the Manchus might organize appeared insignificant in face of Noorhachu's well-appointed army. The governor was slain while attempting to defend Fooshun, and the town surrendered to the Manchus. After this encounter, Noorhachu sent to Pekin, through the governor of Leaoutung, a list of his grievances, and it was said that he even promised to lay down his arms on his just demands being satisfied. The Pekin Government did not appreciate the situation, and turned a deaf ear to the protests and minatory language of a petty Tartar chieftain, of whose name even the Court chroniclers pretended to be ignorant. Far from showing the least disposition to comply with his terms, the Chinese despatched an army to retake Fooshun and to expel the invader. Its movements were marked by little prudence, and the over-confidence and want of skill of the commanders were justly punished by their complete overthrow on the field of battle. The charge of the Manchus proved irresistible, and carried everything before it. Noorhachu passed a portion of the summer in inaction, to see whether the Celestial Government would make any move towards coming to a pacific arrangement with him, and while
he remained in his quarters the report of his first successes over the Chinese brought him many fresh recruits to swell the numbers of his already elated soldiery. But when the autumn came without any sign of concession from Pekin, Noorhachu broke up his camp and resumed his advance into China. This time he marched in an opposite direction from that which he had taken on the first occasion, and laid siege to Tsingho, where some preparations had been made for a siege. The place was in fact resolutely defended, and the Manchu assaults were several times repulsed. But a traitor opened one of the gates to the foe, and the Manchus thus succeeded in capturing the town when they seemed on the point of failure. More than 6000 of the garrison and Io,000 of the townspeople fell by the edge of the sword. Other successes should have followed from this signal victory, but the clamour of his soldiers, who were anxious concerning the security of their homes, because of the presence in their rear of the hostile state of Yeho, obliged Noorhachu to return to Hingking for the purpose of dealing with this neighbour. The invasion of Leaoutung had, therefore, little more than commenced when Noorhachu found himself compelled to turn aside from it, and to resume his operations against the last of the independent Niuche districts. The campaign against Yeho had only entered upon its first stage, when tidings reached Noorhachu that a large Chinese force threatened his own capital, and he had to hastily retrace his steps for its defence. The successes of the Tartars at Fooshun and Tsingho had at last roused the lieutenants of Wanleh to some idea of the formidable character of the chief with whom they had to deal, and of the military force which he had created. When they heard, therefore, that Yeho was about to feel the full weight of the Manchu attack, they resolved to hasten to its assistance, and to assail Noorhachu before he had crushed his last opponent among his own race. Yangkao, the viceroy of Leaoutung, realized the full significance of the situation at a glance, and placed in the field an army of more than 100,000 men according to the lowest computation, but it was unfortunate that he assumed the command in person, for his incapacity in the art of war SKILFUL STRATEGY.
was notorious. His very first step showed that he had not learned one of the simplest traditions of military science both in his own and other countries, to the effect that victory generally goes with the big battalions; for he at once nullified the advantage he possessed from superiority of numbers by dividing his army into four divisions without any secure means of communication between them. The advance of the Chinese naturally produced a great panic among the Manchus and their allies ; but Noorhachu's confidence, if it was ever shaken, returned as soon as he detected the fatal blunder of his opponent. The Manchu army consisted of about 60,000 trained soldiers, but it is doubtful if on the field of battle it would have proved a match for a well-equipped Chinese army of double its numerical strength. That point never arose, however, for practical decision, as Yangkao voluntarily surrendered his advantage by the distribution of his army in divisions, each of which was inferior in numbers as well as in other respects, to the Manchu force that could by rapid marching be brought against it.
Noorhachu proved his claims to be considered a great general by the skill with which he turned his central position to the most advantage. His tactics emulated those practised at epochs long after his by the two great European captains of modern times, Frederick the Great and Napoleon, who, in the crises of their careers, supplied the want of numbers by the rapid movement and concentration of their troops; and on the occasion we refer to the same strategy thoroughly disconcerted the torpid measures of the Pekin commanders. Yangkao had entrusted the command of the western and most important detachment to Tousong, an officer who craved to distinguish himself, and who set little value on his foe while he held a high opinion of his own abilities. His division was instructed to advance direct from Fooshun on Hingking, but the enterprising Noorhachu perceived that could he disperse it the flank and line of retreat of the other portions of the Chinese army would be exposed to his attack. Tousong moved by forced marches, but exact information of his approach reached Noorhachu's camp; and the Manchu advance to meet him was so timed as to make the meeting
on the banks of the national stream of the Hwunho. Tousong, anxious to secure for himself all the glory that would accrue to the man who gained the first victory over the Manchus, hastened to cross that stream without reconnoitring the further bank. The passage was not effected without difficulty, as the waters were swollen, and neither bridges nor boats were available. Yet, notwithstanding the inadequate means of regaining the western side in the event of a reverse, the Chinese commander recklessly continued his advance; but he had not much farther to march, for the Manchu army was drawn up in battle array close to the Hwunho. Tousong entrenched himself on Sarhoo Hill, while Noorhachu, whose disposable force comprised almost the whole of his army, made his final preparations for attack. Tousong, apparently ignorant of the impending storm, further weakened himself by detaching a small force from his main body to attack the neighbouring town of Jiefan. Here also the Manchus had been too quick in their movements and too well-informed for the Chinese, whose assault was repulsed with some loss. Noorhachu then no longer deferred his attack upon the position round Sarhoo Hill, and after some hours' desperate fighting he drove the Chinese in irretrievable confusion into the Hwunho, where most of those who had escaped from the arrows and swords of the Manchus met with a watery death. Tousong paid the penalty of his rashness with his life, and, instead of being the first to obtain fame by the overthrow of the Tartars, his defeat contributed more than any other achievement to spread their military fame. Noorhachu then hastened to attack the other divisions in turn. That under the command of a general named Malin was the next to receive the brunt of his onset. At first Malin remained on the defensive in a position situated between two hills which he had fortified. On each of these heights he placed a strong detachment, and his main body was drawn up in the valley behind a triple tier of waggons. The position was chosen with judgment, and considerable art had been expended in rendering it more formidable. But