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A Year: Day to Day Men: 4th of October, Solar Year 2018

Resting on White Sheets

October 4, 1363 marked the end of the Battle of Lake Poyang.

The Battle of Lake Poyang was a naval conflict which took place between August 30 and October 4, 1363 between the rebel forces of Zhu Yuanzhang  and Chen Youliang, a rival local warlord, which eventually led to the fall of the Yuan Dynasty.

General Chen Youliang was a Red Turban rebel, who assassinated the existing Red Turban leader and usurped his regime, the Great Han Dynasty. On August 30, 1363, Chen’s forces conducted a major assault on the Ming Dynasty’s city of Nanchang with a hundred naval vessels. After failing to force entry into the city gates, Chen’s forces were repelled by a barrage of canon fire. Chen set up a blockade, with the hope of starving out the defenders; however, a small boat managed to slip out and reached the city of Nanjing in time to warn Zhu Yuanzhang of the Ming Dynasty.

On August 30, Zhu’s fleet, only about a third the size of Chen’s forces, engaged Chen under orders to get close to the enemy’s ships and set off gunpowder weapons, and finally attack with short range weapons. Zhu’s Ming forces succeeded in burning twenty or more enemy vessels and killing or drowning many of the troops. When Zhu’s flagship caught fire and hit a sandbar, he was forced to withdraw.

On August 31, Zhu’s  forces rammed Chen’s enemy fleet with fire ships, vessels deliberately set on fire and sailed into the enemy ships. Many more ships of Chen’s fleet were destroyed. The two fleets engaged in battle again on the 2nd of September; but the tide turned and this time Chen’s forces were forced to withdraw.

Zhu Yuanzhang decided to blockade the enemy ships and forces. This blockade lasted for a month until Zhu’s forces employed fireships again on the 4th of October. The remainder of Chen’s fleet were destroyed. During the battel, Chen Youliang was killed when an arrow struck his head.

The Battle of Lake Poyang was the last major battle of the rebellion prior to the rise of the Ming Dynasty. Chen’s forces were estimated at one hundred vessels and 650,000 men, of which all the vessels were destroyed and most of his army. Zhu’s forces were estimated at 30- 40 vessels and a force of 200,000 men, of which 1,346 died and 11,347 were wounded.

The Ming victory at this battle cemented their position to take command when the Yuan Dynasty fell, which happened five years later in 1368. Zhu Yuanzhang became the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty under the name of Hongwu. He claimed the Mandate of Heaven and occupied the Yuan capital, Khanbaliq, now present-day Beijing.

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