Turns Out, Elephants Do Forget.

Indian Armored War Elephants Panicked At Cannon Fire And Trampled Their Own Troops At the Battle of Panipat.
Indian Armored War Elephants Panicked At Cannon Fire And Trampled Their Own Troops At the Battle of Panipat.

Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur was a Turk from the Chagatai clan. By his father’s bloodline he was a grand child of Timur. And by his mother’s bloodline, he was a descendant of Genghis Khan. His father died when he was 12 and he inherited land claims and Turkish cavalry. He was a forceful person and a great fighter. Babur was also charismatic enough to have his followers stay loyal through difficult times.

He found it in his to do list to take the Khyber Pass. Today the Khyber Pass separates Afghanistan and Pakistan but throughout history it has been in the storybooks of empires through the Far East and central Asia. Controlling this Pass meant allowing trade and conquering army’s access from the Indian subcontinent into new lands and new riches.

On April 21st, 1526, Babur took 15,000 men into the Pass and Delhi Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi defended the pass with 40,000 troops and some 100-war elephants at the lead. The war elephants were well trained and used to fighting. They provided a platform for archers and an easy way to overcome barricades.

Babur had a secret weapon: gunpowder. Against swords and spears and arrows, they brought 20 cannons, grape shot, noise, and matchlock muskets.

Lodhi massed his troops into a frontal assault and the Battle of Panipat began. Babur dug his  troops behind earthenworks and entrenchments. The assault began and Babur’s troops answered with enfilading cannon and matchlock fire. The first line of Lodhi’s attack force was cut down, and unused to the noise, the elephants panicked and trampled what was left of the front line. Lodhi’s troops began an unorganized retreat when Babur’s troops pursued that became a rout.

This was the beginning of the 300 year Moghul Empire.

Sources and Citations

Davis, Paul K. (1999), and 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present, Oxford University Press.

William Irvine The army of the Indian Moghuls. (London) 1902.

John F. Richards The Mughal Empire (Cambridge) 1993


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