Who’s the greatest military commander of all-time? I am sure Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte and Genghis Khan is the first 3 person that comes to your mind. Well, they are great military leaders but there is one exceptional military commander in history that surpassed the records of these military geniuses in the person of Subutai.
Who is Subutai? Well, he is not that popular compared to Alexander and Napoleon but based on historical records, his military exploits and successes are incomparable. He is the wisest of the wisest and the greatest military strategist of all the strategists who conquered or overran more territory than any other commander in history. However, his popularity is overshadowed by Genghis Khan.
Subutai is a military genius who was born in 1176 and died in 1248 at the age of 72. He was the primary military strategist and general of Genghis Khan and Ogedei Khan.
His name is also spelled in many different ways such as Subetei, Subetai, Subotai, Tsubotai, Tsubetei, Tsubatai, Sübeedei, Sübügätäi or Sübü'ätäi.
Subutai’s Accomplishments and Strategies as Military Strategist
Subutai directed more than 20 campaigns in which he conquered 32 nations and won 65 pitched battles, during which he conquered or overran more territory than any other commander in history.
* A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges.
He gained victory by means of imaginative and sophisticated strategies and routinely coordinated movements of armies that were hundreds of kilometers away from each other.
He destroyed the armies of Hungary and Poland within two days of each other, by forces over five hundred kilometers apart.
Subutai is regarded in history as one of the most prominent generals in terms of ability and tactics helping with the military campaigns in Asia and Eastern Europe.
He commanded many successful attacks and invasions during his time and was rarely defeated.
Subutai was one of the first Mongol generals besides Genghis Khan who realized the value of engineers in siege warfare.
Subutai made use of siege engine such as huge stonethrowers to clear the bank of crossbowmen and open the path for his light cavalry to attack without further such losses.
This novel attack was the first use in the West of such weapons as a form of tactical artillery.
While the stonethrowers were clearing the path to cross the main bridge, Subutai supervised construction of a temporary, emergency bridge downriver to outflank enemies.
These tactics were new to the forces he faced in Europe and the steppe, and they were unprepared to meet them.
Subutai was also well known for incorporating conquered peoples into his forces, especially engineers, who brought specialized skills.
He turned the gathering of intelligence and planning in advance into a fine art by utilizing spies to gather information at least a year before he attacks.
He tailored his strategy to the foe he faced, altering his tactics according to the opponents, the terrain, and the weather.
He emphasized the use of light cavalry in his army, and made sure that his troops were both mobile and self-sufficient. Usually he maneuvered the enemy into a position of weakness before accepting battle.
Unlike European or Japanese armies, which valued personal valor in a commander above all else, the Mongols valued strategic ability and the skill to make tactical adjustments in the heat of battle above all else in their leaders.
Subutai and Batu Khan sat on a hill, far from the engagement, where they could direct the flow of battle with flags. This was one reason among many that Subutai was rarely defeated.
In addition, he is often considered among the greatest of commanders, if not the greatest general ever.
Subutai defeated the Merkits along the Chu River in 1216 and again in 1219 in Wild Kipchak territory.
Subutai defeated the Alans and Don Kipchaks/Cumans and crushed a combined Rus and Cuman army along the Kalka on 31 May 1223.
A raid into Volga River territory is one of the rare defeats of Subutai
Another defeat of Subutai was at Shan-ch’e-hui.
In 1227, Subutai conquered the Jin districts along the upper Wei River.
Subutai was able to outmaneuver the Jin armies and won decisive victories at Sanfeng on 9 February 1232, Yangyi 24 February 1232, and T’ieh’ling 1 March 1232.
Subutai was tasked to direct the operations (under the overall command of prince Batu).
He defeated Kipchak leader Bachman on the north side of the Caspian Sea and next conquered the Volga Bulgars.
The Rus forces were defeated in 3 separate engagements and their cities were taken in quick succession.
In 1239, the Rus state of Chernigov was defeated and their cities were taken.
In 1240, Kiev, Vladimir and other cities were quickly taken.
The Mongols defeated European armies at Chmielnik (18 March 1241), Kronstadt (31 March 1241), Liegnitz (9 April 1241), Muhi (10 April 1241), and Hermannstadt (10 April 1241). Hungary was overrun.
The Mongols set out for home in 1242, after learning that Ögedei had died, relieving Vienna and the rest of Central Europe from further assaults.
The attack on Europe was planned and carried out by Subutai, who achieved his lasting fame with his victories there.
Having devastated the various Russian Principalities, he sent spies as far as Poland, Hungary, and even Austria, in preparation for an attack into the heartland of Europe.
Having a clear picture of the European kingdoms, he brilliantly prepared an attack nominally commanded by Batu Khan and two other princes of the blood.
While Batu Khan, son of Jochi, was the overall leader, Subutai was the actual commander in the field, and as such was present in both the northern and southern campaigns against Kievan Rus.
He also commanded the central column that moved against the Kingdom of Hungary.
Only the death of the Great Khan prevented the attack on the remainder of Europe.
Subutai with Batu Khan also invaded Kievan Rus, Bohemia, Poland and Hungary.
Subutai was placed in charge of the campaign against the Song in 1246, at 70 years old.
Biographical Facts About Subutai
Subutai’s exact date of birth is unknown but Historians believe he was born between the years of 1165–1170, probably just west of the upper Onon River in Mongolia.
He belonged to a tribe called Uriankhai, a tribe of forest people.
His father’s name is Qaban, a blacksmith which was not considered nobility. He was a proof that the Mongol Empire was a meritocracy.
Subutai's family had been associated with the family of Genghis Khan for many generations.
His brother Jelme also served as a general in the Mongol army.
Subutai joined Genghis Khan when he was 17 and within a decade he rose to become one of the senior officers, commanding one of 4 roving detachments operating ahead of the main forces.
In 1212, Subutai took Huan by storm, his first major independent exploit mentioned in the sources.
Genghis Khan called him one of his "dogs of war", a title he earned through his campaigns.
Mongol histories say that Subutai said to Genghis Khan, "I will ward off your enemies as felt cloth protects one from the wind