Cao Cao's Failure: Military Mistakes or Lack of Time?

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Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:14 am

Are you sure Liu Zheng would surrender? He only surrendered when Liu Bei got to Cheng Du and his last reinforcements defected, while Cao Cao attacked Yi then he has to go against a tough defence and some good officers without the good will Liu Bei gained during his stay before the betrayal.
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Unread postby the glorious sun jian » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:34 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Are you sure Liu Zheng would surrender? He only surrendered when Liu Bei got to Cheng Du and his last reinforcements defected, while Cao Cao attacked Yi then he has to go against a tough defence and some good officers without the good will Liu Bei gained during his stay before the betrayal.


iam not sure as i said that it would take some time for cao cao to reach cheng du but it is likely that liu zhang may surrender after some battles ...

also why did not cao cao take the southren jing before chi pi ??
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Tue Sep 04, 2007 10:31 am

Wasn't Southern Jing held by Liu Bei? I thought that was the reason that Wu allowed Liu Bei access to this region. (was it Nan Jun to start with, then more of Jing once Liu Bei took charge??)

In reply to Antiochus-

Well, I can see where you're coming from, as you can see where I'm coming from too- of course, Cao Cao's march South was quite inevitable, and in some ways I would have thought it was very strange for him not to attack, as you've said.

I still think he was over hasty, or that he didn't really think about everything before he set his sights on Wu.

I mean- isn't a fake defection a tactic that Cao may have seen through? Especially when this fake defector gives you advise about your navy.

I mean- Huang Gai was amazing, and he was so smart- not only did he suggest the fire, but he convinced Cao Cao to listen to his advise closely.

IMO- Cao was over confident, as were some others in his army, and they should have been more causios.

Granted Cao did have a lot going for his attack, and to actually pull his army back, or to feed them on the North bank for months would be really tough- especially with a "sickness problem" as you describe it, but he could have set his eyes somewhere else, or he could have occupied local cities and waited out the winter until his men were recuperated etc.

This is what Ceasar did a lot in Gaul- he didn't fight with a weakened army in the winter.

So.. it could have been done, but then SGYY/ SGZ wouldn't have been so exciting right? :lol:
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Unread postby Antiochus » Tue Sep 04, 2007 2:07 pm

I take your point that he was overconfident, probably due to his victorious and easy campaing in Jing. I do maintain however that he should waiting with an army that large would have been ever harder (you have to pay and feed hundreds of thousands of men while keeping them inactive (bad move).

Ceasar also did the mistake of challengings the gallic troups of Vercingetorix while being in a numerical and tactical disadvantage (Vecingetorix had burned most fields in Gaul, stopping the Roman army from getting supplies). It backfired at Gergovia (pretty bad),where Ceasar lost, but allowed him to Win at Alesia. So, sometimes, a good ruler can take risks.
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Tue Sep 04, 2007 3:06 pm

I agree that risks, are of course, part of war.

I do think this was on a knife edge with Cao believeing that the mere mention of a million man army would force anyone to retreat.

Fair enough, but I think that's folly- he underestimated his foe.

Yes, leaving an army inactive and fed for a long period of time while you think is pretty scary- so many mouths to feed etc.

He could have thought of a better plan though- I mean- why didn't he fire attack Wu on the river? I know that nobody could see it coming, but he was a general who had a million men and tons of advisers to help- so surely someone had the brain to think of a good tactic to gain an advantage- and I dont think chaining ships together really is a.. really good tactic.. it's just making sure your men dont fall over.

Dont forget that the main tail wind at that time should have been in Cao's advantage as well- it was just luck that it went Wu's way, so.. he could have burned them!
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Unread postby Antiochus » Tue Sep 04, 2007 3:32 pm

Actually, there is only two way to do a fire attack. A traitor within you own ranks (such as Huang Gai, who faked defection) or send a group of burning suicide boats to ram the enemy fleet.

Cao Cao had the upper hand, so it would have been extreamly unlikely that anyone would have believed a defection in his ranks and sending his men to their death in a suicide fire assault would have been completly stupid if he had the advantage. Cao Cao was a descent ruler since he cared for the survival of his men and only sent them to their death in cases of nescessity.

Also, an unmanned assault is possible, but is likely to fail. Take the exemple of the siege of Quebec city, during wich the defenders sent their boats loaded with explosives to ram the opposing fleet. It was a total failure because it could not change courses or adapt to the wind properly (without people to actually do ut :? ).
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:47 am

True, true and true.

I suppose the other thing is that Wu's warships were not chained together, which means they may have hit and set fire to the odd ship, but it would be isolated unlike the fires in the Wei camps.

They could have forded the river upstream at an undefended position and taken a body across to the other side, forcing Wu's men into the river.

Or they could have moved the army off in secret to ford the river up stream to face Wu on land.

They didn't have to use ships.
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Unread postby Antiochus » Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:01 am

But to avoid the water based fight on porpose would still be an attempt to avoid it. A very unliquely move for someone who is riding momentum since he took Jing. You blame Cao Cao by naming tactics that look good but that also had a weakness.

If Cao Cao would have attempted to go upstream, the more mobile Wu fleet would have intercepted. To cross an army of that size in secret is risky because Wu could have attacked during that process, which would have left Cao Cao's forces much more vulnerable than at Chi Bi (in simple terms, Wu would not even need a fire attack to win that one).

Wu forced the showdown on water, since they wanted to use their fleet and the fire attack as their trump card. Cao Cao was aware of the former's superiority over his own fleet, but he was also aware of the major moral advantage he held, not to mention the numbers. He took that risk, and he got the fire attack in the face.

Wu also took risks. If they were to lose that one, it would be the end of their independance. In a way, I would add desperation to their advantages, since it sometimes (like in that case) breeds determination.
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Unread postby Shi Tong » Wed Sep 05, 2007 11:12 am

Well- as Zhuge Liang did in SGYY, Cao Cao could have kept an appearance that his whole force was on the Northern bank, and moved a section (could be quite a large section), in secret (night marches, no banners, light horse, light armour, no insignia), up the river to a good crossing, made a bridge, hiding it as well as possible, or just choose a fordable part of the river.

Hide his force in woodland and move again in night marches towards the Wu position and unleash an attack on Wu's flank, at the same time signalling to the commander left on the Northern part to lanch his attack symaltaniously.

I know it may fail, but if he could get 70,000 of his 100's of thousands of men across the river, he could match their numbers with ease and may be able to catch them by surprise.
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Unread postby Antiochus » Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:56 pm

Oh, it was possible to do it, I completly agree with you. The risk was just larger than an actual naval battle and would have been useless to do while they were not forced to do it.

Being attacked while having a river in your back is bad, but being attacked while being in the river is the worst thing ever. So, I dont blame Cao Cao, for a strategy that would have been discovered anyway, since Wu knew the ground and had descent tacticiens who would have found it akward for Cao Cao's army to take a divertive stance.

To sum it up, to attempt a cross whitout destroying the Wu army and fleet is a risk that could have resulted to a disaster far greater than Chi Bi was (that being way bad). At Chi Bi, the Wu fleet destroyed Cao Cao's fleet but allowed him a head start for escaping (sending their fleet in was the best way to get them on fire). Without that, Cao Cao's army would have been isolated by an army who had the leisure of chasing him on a friendly terrain. Bad JUJU!
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