Battle of Khuban, 1499

The battle of Khuban (1499) was Babur's first battle as a commander, and was a victory that should have helped secure his position as ruler of Fergana.

The battle ended a campaign that began soon after Babur re-entered Andijan in June 1499, having re-taken control of his original kingdom of Fergana in the first half of the year. In the aftermath of this triumph he had alienated his Mongol mercenaries, who deserted him and joined Sultan Ahmad Tambal. He advanced towards Andijan, defeating one of Babur's generals at the Ailaish River, and then besieging the city. After about a month Tambal lifted this siege, and moved south-east towards Aush (Osh). This place was too strongly held for him to attack, and so he moved north then launched a raid back towards Andijan.

Babur responded to the defeat on the Ailaish by calling in all of his supporters. When Tambal moved towards Aush Babur followed. At Aush he learnt of the raid on Andijan, and sent some of his troops back to the capital to protect it. Another part of his army conducted its own raid towards Tambal's base at Auzkint. Babur then conducted a brief siege of the fortress of Madu, just to the east of Aush, quickly capturing the strong fort.

After the failure of his raid on Andijan Tambal retreated back east, eventually stopping at the village of Ab-i-Khan. Babur advanced towards him, taking up a position five miles away at Unju-tupa. The two armies remained in this position for the next month, fighting a series of minor skirmishes between the lines.

This stalemate ended after Babur received strong reinforcements. He advanced towards Tambal's camp at Ab-i-khan, only to find that his enemies had abandoned their positions there. While Babur's men looted Tambal's camp, Tambal's men slipped around Babur's left wing, and advanced west to a village called Khuban, about fifteen miles east of Andijan, and between Babur and his capital.

On the next day Babur advanced in the traditional formation in use at the time, with his army divided into four - left, centre, right and vanguard. He had a mix of mailed cavalry and infantry in his army, and at the start of the day the infantry were sent out ahead of the cavalry, carrying heavy mantlets. Babur accompanied the centre, while his household was split between the left and van.

The battle would appear to have developed out of a reckless charge on Babur's part. When his army reached a point two miles east of Khuban Tambal's men came out of their camp and formed up for battle. Babur's cavalry charged ahead, leaving the infantry trailing somewhat behind. The only part of Babur's army to be engaged was his left wing, which broke Tambal's right wing before the infantry had time to reach the battlefield. Seeing the defeat of their right wing the rest of Tambal's army also fled the field. Babur had a chance to win a more decisive victory, but his generals advised against too bold a pursuit, and so most of Tambal's men escaped, as did Tambal and Babur's brother Jahangir. The survivors returned to Auzkint, guaranteeing that the war would continue into the following year.

By 1500 some of Babur's most important supporters, amongst them 'Ali-dost and Qambar-'ali, were clearly beginning to doubt the wisdom of letting him get too powerful, and began to press for peace negotiations. Without their support Babur would have been unable to continue the war, and so he was forced to agree to split Fergana with his brother. The kingdom was divided along the line of the Khujand River (the Syr Darya). Jahangir got the northern part of the kingdom, which included the second city of Akhsi. Babur was to keep the southern part, including the capital at Andijan, and Tambal's former base of Auzkint. It was further agreed that the two brothers should then unite to conquer Samarkand. Babur would then keep Samarkand while Jahangir got Andijan.

This last part of the agreement would cost Babur dear. In 1500 Babur managed to take command of Samarkand without his brother's assistance, but his brother still took Andijan. When Babur was forced to abandon Samarkand after defeat at Sar-i-pul and a long siege he was thus left without a power-base.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 April 2010), Battle of Khuban, 1499 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_khuban.html

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