Little is known about Cao Mao's early life and birth year. Cao Mao, styled Degui, was a naval commander serving under Liu Biao. When fighting in the early battles against Sun Jian, Cai Mao suffered great defeats. Liu Biao's advisor, Kuai Liang told him to execuete Cai Mao, but Liu Biao did not do so.
During Liu Biao's later years, Liu Biao need to choose a heir. It was either Liu Qi who was the eldest and Liu Cong who was the youngest. Liu Cong was considered because Cai Mao and his clan insisted that he was more capable. This was because Liu Cong had married Cai Mao's niece, and so the Cai clan would have much fame.
On Liu Biao's death bed, he selected Liu Qi as his heir, Cai Mao and Zhang Yun wrote a forged testimony naming Liu Cong as the heir. Cai Mao sent Liu Qi back to Jiangxia.
When warlord Cao Cao had his emassed army near their territory, Cai Mao knew they were no match to Cao Cao's army. Thus Cai Mao and Zhang Yun surrendered. Cao Cao said they would reach high rank if they succeeded. Cai Mao later served Cao Cao as a naval commander. His late life is not known after this.
Fact vs Fiction
- Was more a civil official than a naval commander.
- Did not put Liu Cong into power against Liu Biao’s wishes.
- Did not try to kill Liu Bei.