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The Last Campaign of Genghis Khan

The vassal emperor of Western Xia had refused to take part in the war against the Khwarizm, and Genghis had vowed punishment. While he was in Iran, Western Xia and Jin had formed an alliance against the Mongols. After rest and a reorganization of his armies, Genghis prepared for war against his foes.

By this time, advancing years had led Genghis to prepare for the future and to assure an orderly succession among his descendants. He selected his son Ogedei as his successor and established the method of selection of subsequent khans, specifying that they should come from his direct descendants. Meanwhile, he studied intelligence reports from Western Xia and Jin and readied a force of 180,000 troops for a new campaign.

Late in 1226, when the rivers were frozen, the Mongols struck southward with their customary speed and vigor. The Tangut, well acquainted with Mongol methods, were ready, and the two armies met by the banks of the frozen Huang He. Despite a Western Xia army of more than 300,000 troops, the Mongols virtually annihilated the Tangut host.

Pursuing energetically, the Mongols killed the Western Xia emperor in a mountain fortress. His son took refuge in the great walled city of Ningxia, which the Mongols had failed to conquer in earlier wars. Leaving one-third of his army to take Ningxia, Genghis sent Ogedei eastward, across the great bend of the Huang He, to drive the Jin forces from their last footholds north of the river. With the remainder of his troops, he marched southeast, evidently to eastern Sichuan Province, where the Western Xia, the Jin, and the Song empires met, to prevent Song reinforcements from reaching Ningxia. Here he accepted the surrender of the new Western Xia emperor but rejected peace overtures from Jin.

Possibly a premonition of death caused Genghis to head back to Mongolia, but he died en route during campaigns against the Tanguts, some say s a result of a fall from his horse. On his deathbed in 1227, he outlined to his youngest son, Tului, the plans that later would be used by his successors to complete the destruction of the Jin empire.

The remains of the great Khan were taken back to his birthplace, in what is today the Hentei aimag (province) of Mongolia. Lest his death might be known, by one account the troops who conducted them slew every person whom they met as they traveled. Only when they arrived at the home of Jinghis was his death published to all men. By another account, many princes went to bear the corpse of their mighty leader back to the Kentei Khan region, through the greater part of Tangut and across the broad Gobi. A long, an immense train of people followed it. As they marched they wailed and raised their voices together lamenting.

As the life of Jinghis was unique and original, so were the circumstances of his death and the details of his funeral. A great number of causes were given for his death. It was ascribed to an arrow, to poison, to drowning, to lightning, to the witchery of Kurbeljin Goa the Tangut queen, who had the fame of great beauty, and whom Jinghis had taken as it seems from her husband and added to the number of his many wives.

It is stated by some historians that he had more than 400 wives and concubines. But Bortai, the mother of Juchi, Jagatai, Ogotai and Tului always held the first place. Ssanang Setzen, the chronicler, a descendant himself of Jinghis, describes the last days, death and funeral of his ancestor. This account reads like one of those myth tales found in Siberia.

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Page last modified: 01-07-2012 18:54:07 ZULU