Famous Military Unit of the Ming Dynasty — Tian Xiong Jun (天雄軍)

Tian Xiong Jun
Bust of Lu Xiang Sheng, Museum of Famous Historical Figures, Yixing.
Tian Xiong Jun (天雄軍, lit. 'Heavenly might army') was a five thousand strong (later expanded to ten thousand strong) army under the leadership of famous Ming general Lu Xiang Sheng (盧象升). Tian Xiong Jun consisted of Ming troops from Daming*, Guangping and Shunde prefecture, later joined by troops from Xuan Fu (宣府) and Datong garrison. It was one of the more powerful armies of the declining late Ming Dynasty.

*NoteTian Xiong (天雄) is the former name of Daming county, hence the name of this army.


Equipment
Being an army that operated in northern China, the equipment of Tian Xiong Jun deviated little from other northern Chinese armies. The main armaments of Tian Xiong Jun were bow and sabre, followed by quarterstaff and various types of spears. The army also had access to large number of firearms, including arquebus, Shen Qiang (神鎗), San Yan Chong (三眼銃), Mie Lu Pao (滅虜砲), Wei Yuan Pao (威遠砲) and Du Hu Pao (毒虎砲, lit. 'Vicious tiger cannon'). Although crossbow wasn't part of their standard equipment, Tian Xiong Jun famously use it to great effect against the rebel army of Gao Ying Xiang (高迎祥).

For defensive equipment, most of the cavalry were issued iron armour. Infantry were given cotton armour instead. Every troop was given one piece of white cloth and a small iron plate (sewn onto the hat) that act as identification tag. Tian Xiong Jun also made use of Ai Pai (挨牌), cheval de frise and caltrop.


Organisation and tactics
Like most Northern Chinese armies, Tian Xiong Jun was a predominantly mounted force, but it enjoyed the fire support from its foot component as well. The mounted component of Tian Xiong Jun consisted of armoured cavalry that doubled as mounted archer (they usually dismount to shoot), with some lancers, handgonners and quarterstaves mixed in. The foot component was divided into close combat troops (spear or pikemen and quarterstaves), firearm troops (arquebusiers and handgonners) and field artillery with a ratio of 3:2:1.

The army was divided into five regiments, each consisted of two thousand men. The left, right and middle regiment were cavalry, while the vanguard and rearguard were infantry.

Lu Xiang Sheng also tried to raise a one thousand and five hundred strong "special force" that specialised in ambush and supply raid.


Service records
The service of Tian Xiong Jun was short and bloody, as the entire army was basically retrained and reorganised from existing troops, raised specifically to quell the peasant rebellion headed by Gao Ying Xiang (高迎祥), Li Zi Cheng (李自成) and Zhang Xian Zhong (張獻忠). Tian Xiong Jun was a highly disciplined and motivated army that significantly outclassed the peasant rebels it faced. It was able to defeat rebel army several times its size on all occasions, even with its own supply line cut off.

Unfortunately for Lu Xiang Sheng, his army met its demise at the hands of the Manchus in 1639. Due to meddling and backstabbing from the Ming court, Lu Xiang Sheng had to face a thirty thousand strong Manchu army with an army of less than five thousand, no supplies, and completely abandoned by other Ming armies. Even then, not a single troop from Tian Xiong Jun deserted. They struggled on for some time with donated food from civilian and fought valiantly, but eventually succumb to the Manchus after all of their arrows and ammunition were spent.

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