Monday, April 03, 2006

Naval river warfare during the Razadarit era (c. 1416)

I’ve collected and summarized descriptions of river warfare from the later part of Razadarit Ayeidawpon (San Lwin’s unpublished translation). The extracts are presented in chronological order. Several aspects of river warfare circa 1400 are covered:

1. Stakes planted in rivers for defense.

2. Ramming and boarding other warboats.

3. Blockades of supply lines and of the entry and exit points into a region.

4. Smaller creeks and streams used as an element of stealth to avoid detection when attacking or moving troops.

5. Raids and scorched earth tactics were carried out by river as they were by land.

Here is the first extract:

Extract 1: Avan river patrol from Khepaung captures Paik Thinran (c. 1416)

Not long after the Mon failure to take Khepaung from Ava, a small group of Mon warboats were traveling upriver near Khepaung when they were detected by Avan boats on patrol. The Avan boats quickly doubled back to Khepaung to report their discovery, but the Mon boats pursued them and attacked them from behind:

“A warboat [Ava] in the shape of a water-buffalo moved ponderously and lagged behind. Paik Thinran [Mon] caught up with it and attacked it. Its commander [Ava] and those who could reach the shore escaped but some were drowned. Paik Thinran [Mon] was towing his prize away with his warboat when Letwe Nandayawda [Ava] made a counterattack. In this clash Paik Thinran [Mon] was wounded by a spear thrust. All Burmese [Ava]boats rallied together in this encounter but not a single Talaing [Mon] boat came to aid Paik Thinran and he was made a captive [by Ava]. As further Talaing reinforcements arrived, the Burmese [Ava] turned and made for Khepaung” (SL 129-130).

At Khepaung, Minyekyawswa’s provisions were running low and his soldiers forced to live on “yams and tubers”. He faced the choice of destroying his warboats and marching back north by land or confronting the Mon side in a naval battle. When Paik Thinran, one of Razadarit’s most important generals, was taken captive and presented to him, he decided to stay, calculating that taking this important war captive would deal a mortal blow to Razadarit’s resolve.

The Mons, believing that the Avan forces at Khepaung were too strong, decided to blockade Khepaung by driving stakes into the river to stop boats from passing south, forcing them to retreat to the north. Razadarit at Panhlaing sent elephants to strengthen the Mon forces at Panko and sent Upakaung to disrupt Avan supply lines along the river at Henzada (San Lwin, 130-131).

Minhkaung, the king of Ava, sent the prince Minyethihathu from Taungdwingyi south to Prome to ensure that supplies could get through to Khepaung. He also sent his son Thihathu south with a naval contingent to take Henzada and open up the supply line to Khepaung. Razadarit sent reinforcements to Upakaung in Henzada when he learned of this. The Mons defeat the Avan side in a naval battle and the Avan side leaves the water to flee by land:

“As Minyethihathu [Ava] approached Hsapaka [near Prome], he was set on by…three Talaing [Mon] forces. The warboat of 102 feet length commanded by the governor of Mindon [Ava] was engaged by Upakaung’s and Lauknare’s warboats [Mon] and Upakaung shot and killed the governor of Mindon [Ava] with a bow. His head was taken as prize as his crew fell into disarray. Tuyinyawda and the governor of Pandaung [Ava] were captured alive. Seeing this, Minyethihathu [Ava] urged his oarmen forward but his warboat ran aground and sank so that he had to abandon it and flee on horseback. Other Burmese [Ava] troops following in his wake also turned and made for Prome. They were pursued, but escaped…Binnya Bathein [Bassein, Mon] had carried out a raid on the outskirts of Prome setting fire to houses outside the protection of the city walls and carrying away captives” (San Lwin, p. 130).