THE BATTLE OF HYDASPES

 

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

 

 

 

 

After destroying the last remnants of the Persian army at Gaugamela, Alexander spent the next two years occupying the heartlands of central Asia. Continuing eastward Alexander's army eventually leftPersia behind and crossed into India.

Unlike Persia, the advance through India was extremely rough going, all along Alexander's line of march the inhabitants of every city and town violently resisted his troops. So much so that when a city was finally captured Alexander felt he had no choice but to set an example by having entire populace including the woman and children put to the sword.

As Alexander's army continued onward, the monsoon season suddenly broke upon them. Alexander's men now found themselves subjected to torrential rain storms that would last not days but continue for weeks on end and rivers that overran their banks turning the ground into open lakes. 

Advancing through continuous rains, swarms of insects and extreme heat, the harsh conditions soon began to take their toll on Alexander's men, even to the point were he now began to openly hear their complaints. Alexander knew he desperately needed a major victory to restore his army's low morale.

It was at the river Hydaspes that Alexander would come across the first serious opposition to his invasion. Awaiting the Macedonian's on the opposite bank of the river stood a large Indian army more than twice their size commanded by King Porus, the most powerful man in all India.

Due to the heavy rainfall the Hydaspes had overrun its banks and could not be forded in that area. In an attempt to make Porus believe that a major attack was forth coming, Alexander ordered his troops activities to continue as if they were preparing to attack across the river.

While this deception continued Alexander's cavalry was scouting the river for a suitable crossing point. Near the town of Jalapur they found the river fordable for both  infantry and cavalry, the town also possessed a small foot bridge large enough to support the supply train. 

Upon receiving this information Alexander decided to cross the Hydaspes that night. While the main army marched toward Jalapur, Alexander ordered his rear guard to light fires and make the camp still appear to be occupied. Alexander also had an officer wear his kings cloak to give the impression that he was also present.

Across the river these enemy movements persuaded Porus to believe the Macedonians to still be encamped. In reality Alexander was already across the Hydaspes and advancing on his position. In an attempt to confuse Porus even further Alexander ordered a detachment of cavalry to charge ahead and pillage all the towns in the vicinity.

Fleeing villagers soon began to inform Porus that these were but small Macedonian units operating against his right flank. Armed with this information Porus ordered his son Raja to take command of a force consisting of 3,000 cavalry and 100 chariots to march out and investigate. 

While advancing along the Hydaspes, Raja began to witness enemy troops appearing in the distance. Observing only small units before him, Raja believed these to be the Macedonian raiders operating against their flank, he thus ordered his entire force to prepare for an assault.

Placing his chariots to the front with himself and the cavalry to the rear, Raja gave the order to attack. Raja's force slammed hard into the Macedonians and easily penetrated their lines. As the Indian troops pushed deeper into the enemy formation their progress began to slow and then was completely halted. The Indian's soon found themselves almost completely surrounded and being attacked from all sides.

Raja now realized he had charged directly into the heart of Alexander's entire army and ordered an immediate breakout attempt. In the heavy fighting that ensued Raja lost his life along with almost his entire command. Only 200 cavalry broke out to safety eventually making it back to Porus to inform him of the defeat.

Upon hearing of Raja's death Porus pulled his army back from the Hydaspes a further ten miles to a level plain where his war elephants and cavalry would have more room to maneuver. Alexander now arrived were Porus once stood, he then ordered his rear guard on the other bank to ford the river and rejoin the main army. With his entire force now across the Hydaspes, Alexander marched inland to face Porus.

When Alexander arrived at the battle field, Porus's army was already formed up and in battle formation. Porus had drawn up his infantry on a wide front with both wings supported by chariots and cavalry. Porus then took up his position to the front of the main infantry line just left of center with the war elephants on his right.

Alexander placed his cavalry on his right wing and drew up his infantry phalanxes to the left of the cavalry. Alexander did not match the broad front offered by Porus, instead choosing to concentrate his army in a more densely packed formation directly across from Porus himself. 

 

 

THE BATTLE LINES AT HYDASPES

  

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Unknown to the Indian King, just out of view of the battlefield Alexander had concealed 1,000 cavalry against his right flank. Their orders were to attack only when the Indian right wing had totally committed itself against Alexander's exposed left flank.

With both armies fully deployed the two commanders now sized up one another. Alexander's army numbering 16,000 men (13,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry) would face an Indian army of 35,000 men (31,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry) in addition Porus could also call upon 200 chariots and an equal number of war elephants. 

Alexander opened the battle by ordering his mounted archers forward towards the Indian left flank, Porus responded by launching his left wing chariots supported by the cavalry. The chariots were no match for the Macedonian horsemen and were quickly swept aside. The Indian cavalry in support collided with the Macedonian charge and a ferocious battle ensued between the two forces.

Porus then ordered his war elephants to advance upon Alexander's extreme left flank. The elephant charge easily smashed through the Macedonian infantry driving deep into their lines. Alexander's troops had never dealt with elephants on this great a scale and they struggled to bring down the twenty ton behemoths before the great beast's could trample them down.

The Macedonians continued fighting the elephants out of sheer terror, each man knew if he turned and ran, he would simply be crushed under foot or impaled on the animal's twelve foot tusk's. 

After a desperate struggle between man and beast the Macedonian weaponry began to take its toll on the elephant's. The surviving animals had suffered deep multiple wounds and began refusing their drivers orders to advance choosing instead to slowly back away from the fighting. 

Although the Macedonian left wing had bent back upon itself it still had not broken. Porus's elephant charge had severely mauled Alexander's infantry formation's leaving his left flank in complete disarray. 

Porus now saw an opportunity to roll up Alexander's entire army, he quickly ordered his right wing chariots and cavalry to attack what remained of the Greek left flank as they were attempting to reorganize. As the Indian charge went forward it was now Alexander who saw the chance he had been waiting for and immediately gave the signal for his hidden cavalry beyond the hills to attack. 

The Macedonian chargers burst out onto the open plain directly behind the advancing Indian forces and caught up with them halfway into their charge. Attacking their foe in the rear they mercilessly cut the Indian cavalry down from their mounts.

Alexander now lead out his elite companion cavalry to assist his right wing mounted archers still locked in a stalemate against the Indian left wing cavalry. Alexander's appearance with fresh units began to turn the tide and push the Indian's back. 

Without the aid of the left flank which was still to shaken and disorganized, Parmenio ordered what was left of the Macedonian infantry phalanxes forward in a general advance. Porus's situation was now critical, not only was he facing a major attack to his front, his left wing was also falling back while on the right his forces were being cut to pieces.

With the battle seemingly going against him, Porus could have easily ordered a general withdrawal saving his army to fight another day. Instead Porus chose to play his last card by personally leading out the last of his infantry formations in one final attempt at victory. 

As the two forces collided in the center of the battle field, the Macedonian phalanxes easily ran down the Indian foot soldiers before them, impaling hundreds of the enemy on their sixteen foot pikes with each advancing step. It was in this carnage that Porus would himself  fall wounded. 

Despite horrific losses the Indian's continued to fight on in an heroic effort to protect their fallen king. But the sheer bravery of each individual soldier could not halt the Macedonian's from advancing on all fronts. 

In the center the already hard pressed Indian forces soon found themselves the only troops left on the battlefield as their left wing began to crumble and melt away at about the same time their countrymen on the right flank were swept aside and utterly destroyed as a fighting force. 

Severely weak from loss of blood Porus now chose to fight alongside his troops to the bitter end, but his officers knew that any further resistance would be futile and forcibly abducted the king and rode from the battlefield.

Alexander was astounded with the events unfolding before him, unlike his battles against the Persian's where as Darius fled the battlefield his army completely disintegrated, in Porus's escape his remaining troops fought even harder and with more determination to make good their kings escape. 

Because of their stubborn refusal to surrender nor retreat and the fanatical devotion to King and country in which they bravely displayed, the Indian army at Hydaspes suffered immensely with some 20,000 dead and 5,000 taken prisoner in comparison to Macedonian losses of 3,000 men.

After the battle Alexander sent word to Porus that he wished a meeting between the two leaders to end hostilities. When Pours arrived at Alexander's camp he was extremely surprised in that he was treated not as a defeated enemy, but with the respect and honor given to royalty. 

 

KING PORUS SURRENDERS HIMSELF TO  ALEXANDER

 

 

 

Alexander set about forming a solid alliance with the man whom he respected as a great king and general. Alexander's terms were thus very generous to the defeated monarch. In the treaty Porus lost no wealth, rank, or any part of his kingdom and was allowed to keep a standing army to defend himself against his enemies. In return each man would come to the aid of the other if the situation warranted.

After Hydaspes, Alexander's men began to grow weary of the continuous battles. Survivors of the Greek - Macedonian army which had crossed the Hellspont seven years earlier 40,000 strong, had now dwindled to a mere 13,000 men. 

The continuous monsoons and fanatical resistance put up by the Indian populace throughout the country had shaken the nerves of Alexander's army to its very core. Nothing Alexander could say or do would spur his men to continue onward, the army was close to mutiny and the men demanded to return home. 

Without the support of his men Alexander was forced to concede the issue. During the long and arduous march back towards Greece the army stopped at the city of Babylon for rest and refitting, where soon after Alexander contracted a mysterious illness and died shortly after.  Alexander's vast empire did not survive his death as civil war between his generals quickly tore it apart.

      

 

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