Mao’s army began to win more battles. One of Mao’s battalions marched 85 miles in one day and night to seize a Nationalist fort without firing a shot. The fort commanded an important river crossing. When Chiang Kai-shek discovered what Mao’s forces had done, he was furious. Meanwhile, Mao was gaining new recruits and support from the peasants.
Chiang’s KMT army did not have the support of most peasants since his army supported wealthy landowners. The KMT also had a reputation for dishonesty, corruption, and heavy taxation—all the wrongs that had collapsed the Qing Dynasty.
Most peasants trusted the Communists, who treated them with respect and refused to take any food while the Nationalists confiscated all the food and supplies they wanted without paying.
One challenge stood in Mao’s way—the Yi minority, who had stayed free of Chinese rule for decades due to their fierceness. Mao sent an envoy to negotiate and an agreement was reached. In fact, many Yi warriors joined Mao’s army.
However, there was another river to cross and Chiang’s army was moving to trap the Communists. A bridge built in 1701 was the key. The race toward this bridge would lead to the most important battle of the Long March.
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