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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Konishi and Kato now again separated


*Encyclopaedia

Britannica, 11th edition; article "Japan," by Brinkley.

THE MARCH TO SEOUL

On the 24th of May, 1592, the first army corps (18,700 men), under the command of Konishi Yukinaga, crossed unmolested to the peninsula. So little did the Koreans anticipate an invasion that the earliest intelligence they had of the advent of the invaders was furnished by the commandant of Fusan, who happened that day to be hunting on Deer Island at the entrance to the harbour, and who sighted the approach of the hostile flotilla. On the 25th, Konishi's troops carried the castle of Fusan by storm, after a brave resistance by the garrison, and, on the 27th, the same fate befell another and stronger fortress lying three miles inland and garrisoned by twenty thousand picked soldiers. Four days after the landing of Konishi's army, the second corps (20,800 strong), under Kato Kiyomasa, reached Fusan, and immediately took the east-coast road, according to the programme of campaign.

Thenceforth, however, it was really a race between the two armies as to which should form the van. At the pass of Cho-ryung a reunion was effected. This position offered exceptional facilities for defence, but owing to some unexplained reason no attempt was made by the Koreans to hold it. A few miles further north stood a castle reckoned the strongest fortress in the peninsula. Konishi and Kato continued the combination of their

forces as they approached this position, but, contrary to expectation, the Koreans fought in the open and the castle fell without difficulty. Thereafter, the two corps separated, Kato taking the westerly road and Konishi the direct route to Seoul. In short, although the two generals have been accused of crippling themselves by jealous competition, the facts indicate that they co-operated effectively as far as the river Imjin, where a strenuous effort to check them was expected to be made by the Koreans.

From the landing place at Fusan to the gates of Seoul the distance is 267 miles. Konishi's corps covered that interval in nineteen days, storming two forts, carrying two positions, and fighting one pitched battle on the way. Kato's corps, travelling by a circuitous and more arduous road but not meeting with so much resistance, traversed the distance between Fusan and the capital in four days less. At Seoul, with its thirty thousand battlements and three times as many embrasures, requiring a garrison ninety thousand strong, only seven thousand were available, and nothing offered except flight, a course which the Royal Court adopted without hesitation, leaving the city to be looted and partially destroyed, not by the Japanese invaders but by the Korean inhabitants themselves.

The King did not halt until he had placed the Imjin River between himself and the enemy. Moreover, as soon as he there received news of the sack of the city, he renewed his flight northward and took up his quarters at Pyong-yang. It was on the 12th of June that the Korean capital fell, and by the 16th four army corps had assembled there, while four others had effected a landing at Fusan. After a rest of fifteen days, the northern advance was resumed from Seoul, with the expectation that a great struggle would take place on the banks of the Imjin. The conditions were eminently favourable for defence, inasmuch as the approach to the river from the south was only by one narrow gulch, whereas, on the northern side, lay a long, sandy stretch where troops could easily be deployed. Moreover the Japanese had no boats wherewith to negotiate a broad and swiftly flowing river. During ten days the invaders remained helpless on the southern bank. Then the Koreans allowed themselves to be betrayed by the common device of a simulated retreat. They crossed in exultant pursuit, only to find that they had been trapped into an ambush. Konishi and Kato now again separated, the former continuing the direct advance northward, and the latter taking the northeastern route, which he ultimately followed along the whole of the coast as far as Kyong-sang, whence he turned inland and finally reached Hai-ryong, a place destined to acquire much importance in modern times as the point of junction of the Kilin-Korean railways.


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