Siege of Fushanj, 1381

The siege of Fushanj (1381) was Tamerlane's first military successes in Khorasan, and a precursor to his first short siege of Herat. In previous campaigns he had fought against the Mongols to his east and in Khwarezm to his north-west, but the capture of Fushanj was his first major conquest in what was then greater Persian (both Herat and Fushanj, modern Ghurian, are now part of Afghanistan).

Herat and the area around it had been ruled by the Kart dynasty since the middle of the thirteenth century. At first they had been vassals of the Mongol Il-Khans, but after the collapse of the Il-Khan empire in the middle of the fourteenth century they had become independent rulers. Early in his career Tamerlane has actually fought for Malik Muizz ad-din Husayn, the father of the current ruler, Ghiyas ad-Din Pir Ali, but by the end of the 1370s Tamerlane had apparently decided that his mission in life was to restore the former Mongol empires.

In 1379 Ghiyas ad-Din was summoned to attend one of Tamerlane's formal gatherings as a vassal. Ghiyas ad-Din attempted to win time by pretending to be willing to attend, but when Tamerlane's envoy reached Herat it was clear that the city's fortifications were being put in order, ready for a siege.

In 1380 Tamerlane appointed his youngest son, the fourteen year old Miranshah, as governor of Khorasan. A limited campaign followed during that year, before Tamerlane himself took to the field in 1381. After some brief preliminaries Tamerlane's army advanced towards the fortified city of Fushanj, thirty miles to the west of Herat.

This was a significant place in its own right, sitting in a wooded valley and protected by strong walls and a water-filled ditch. When Tamerlane's men arrived the city was strongly garrisoned, and well stocked with supplies, but Tamerlane had no intention of conduction a long siege.

Instead he ordered his men to storm the city. The first step was to cross the moat, using planks and rafts to get across the water. This was followed by an archery duel between Tamerlane's men outside the city and the garrison on the walls, during which Tamerlane was hit twice by arrows.

This was followed by the storm itself. Some of Tamerlane's men managed to get onto the walls, while others managed to overwhelm the defenders of the gates, opening them and allowing the rest of the army into the city. The entire garrison was slaughtered, and the city so thoroughly looted that it disappeared from history, eventually to be replaced by Ghurian.

The success at Fushanj had a major impact on the morale of the defenders of Herat, which surrendered after a short siege. At this point all the city paid was a heavy ransom, but a revolt in 1383 was followed by the increasingly familiar massacres. 

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 September 2010), Siege of Fushanj, 1381 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_fushanj.html

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