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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Issued orders to General Sassulitch


From

that time there could be no doubt that the intention of the Japanese was to make their first attack upon the enemy by marching up the Korean peninsula, and that the capital of Korea was chosen for a base of operations because of climatic considerations. Chemulpo, however, was not the only landing-place. Fusan also served for that purpose, as subsequently did also Chinnampo, an inlet on the west coast of the peninsula. The distance from the port of Fusan to the Yalu River is four hundred miles, in round numbers, and the roads are very bad throughout the whole country. Hence the advance of the Japanese, which was made in a leisurely manner with the utmost circumspection and attention to detail, involved so much time that April had drawn to its close before the troops deployed on the banks of the Yalu. They consisted of three divisions constituting an army corps, and each division had a ration-strength of 19,000 men with a combatant strength of 14,000 sabres and rifles and thirty-six field-guns. It may be assumed, therefore, that when the Japanese First Army under General (afterwards Count) Kuroki reached the Yalu, it had a fighting-strength of between forty and fifty thousand men. There had practically been no collision during the interval of the advance from the southern extremity of the peninsula to its northern boundary. It is true that, on March 28th, a squadron of Cossacks attempted to surprise the Japanese cavalry at Chong-ju, but the essay proved a failure, and the Cossacks
were driven back upon Wiju, which they evacuated without any further struggle.

The Russian plan of operations did not originally contemplate a serious stand at the Yalu. The idea was to retire gradually, drawing the Japanese into Manchuria towards the railway, and engaging them in the exceedingly difficult country crowned by the Motien Mountains. But at the last moment General Kuropatkin, Russian commander-in-chief in Manchuria, issued orders to General Sassulitch, commander of the Second Siberian Army Corps, to hold the line of the Yalu with all his strength. Sassulitch could muster for this purpose only five regiments and one battalion of infantry; forty field-guns; eight machine-guns, and some Cossacks--twenty thousand combatants, approximately. Kuroki disposed his troops so that their front extended some twenty miles along the Yalu, the centre being at Kiuliencheng, a walled town standing about 180 feet above the river. From this point southward, the right, or Manchurian, bank has a considerable command over the left, and at Kiuliencheng a tributary stream, called the Ai, joins the main river, "which thenceforth widens from 4000 to 7000 yards and runs in three channels between the islands and the mainland. The central channel is navigable by small craft, and the other channels are fordable waist-deep. The Ai River is also fordable in many places during the spring." On the right bank of the Yalu, at the point of its junction with the Ai, the ground rises so as to command the position taken by the Russians.

The plan of the Japanese commander was to threaten an attack on the lower radius of the river; to throw two divisions against Kiuliencheng, and to use the remaining division in a wide flanking movement, crossing the river higher up. The battle took place on Sunday, the 1st of May. During the preceding nights, the Japanese placed a strong force of artillery in cleverly masked batteries, and under cover of these guns, threw seven bridges across the river, the highest upstream being thirteen miles above Kiuliencheng and the lower two being directed to the centre of the Russian position. General Kuroki then telegraphed to Tokyo that he proposed to attack at dawn on Sunday, his plan being to march one division across the fords of the Ai River, and to employ the other two, one in crumpling up the Russian left, the other in attacking Antung, where a large Russian force was in position. This programme was accurately carried out. The Japanese infantry forded the Ai breast-deep, and, swarming up the heights, drove the Russians from these strong positions. Meanwhile, the Japanese guards' division had crossed on the left and directed its march upon Antung, while the remaining division had completely turned the Russian left flank. The fiercest struggle occurred at Homutang, where a Russian regiment and a battery of artillery made a splendid stand to save their comrades at Antung from being cut off.


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