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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Recover possession of Liaoyang



The first great phase of the field-operations may be said to have terminated with the battle of Liaoyang, which commenced on August 25th and continued almost without interruption for nine days, terminating on the 3rd of September. In this historic contest the Russians had 220,000 men engaged. They were deployed over a front of about forty miles, every part of which had been entrenched and fortified with the utmost care and ingenuity. In fact, the position seemed impregnable, and as the Japanese could muster only some 200,000 men for the attack, their chances of success appeared very small. Desperate fighting ensued, but no sensible impression could be made on the Russian lines, and finally, as a last resource, a strong force of Kuroki's army was sent across the Taitsz River to turn the enemy's left flank. The Russian general, Kuropatkin, rightly estimated that the troops detached by General Kuroki for this purpose were not commensurate with the task assigned to them, whereas the Russians could meet this flanking movement with overwhelming strength. Therefore, Kuropatkin sent three army corps across the river, and by September 1st, the Japanese flanking forces were confronted by a powerful body.

Strategists are agreed that, had Kuropatkin's plans found competent agents to execute them, the Japanese advance would have been at least checked at Liaoyang. In fact, the Japanese, in drafting their

original programme, had always expected that Nogi's army would be in a position on the left flank in the field long before there was any question of fighting at Liaoyang. It was thus due to the splendid defence made by the garrison of the great fortress that Kuropatkin found himself in such a favourable position at the end of August. But unfortunately for the Russians, one of their generals, Orloff, who had thirteen battalions under his command, showed incompetence, and falling into an ambuscade in the course of the counter-flanking operation, suffered defeat with heavy losses. The Japanese took full advantage of this error, and Kuropatkin, with perhaps excessive caution, decided to abandon his counter-movement and withdraw from Liaoyang. He effected his retreat in a manner that bore testimony to the excellence of his generalship. The casualties in this great battle were very heavy. From August 25th, when the preliminary operations may be said to have commenced, to September 3rd, when the field remained in the possession of the Japanese, their losses were 17,539, namely, 4866 in the First Army, 4992 in the Fourth, and 7681 in the Second, while the Russian casualties were estimated at 25,000.


On the 2nd of October, General Kuropatkin issued from his headquarters in Mukden an order declaring that the "moment for the attack, ardently desired by the army, had at last arrived, and that the Japanese were now to be compelled to do Russia's will." Barely a month had elapsed since the great battle at Liaoyang, and it still remains uncertain what had happened in that interval to justify the issue of such an order. But the most probable explanation is that Kuropatkin had received re-enforcements, so that he could marshal 250,000 to 260,000 troops for the proposed offensive, and that his news from Port Arthur suggested the necessity of immediate and strenuous efforts to relieve the fortress. His plan was to throw forward his right so as to outflank the Japanese, recover possession of Liaoyang, and obtain command of the railway.

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