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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The reasons which induced Kuropatkin to defy these obstacles


He

set his troops in motion on the 9th of October, but he was driven back after more than a week's fighting. No less than 13,333 Russian dead were left on the field, and at the lowest calculation, Kuropatkin's casualties must have exceeded 60,000 men exclusive of prisoners. There can be no doubt whatever that the Russian army had suffered one of the most overwhelming defeats in its history, and that after a fortnight's hard marching and nine days' hard fighting, with little food or sleep, it had been reduced by terrible losses and depressing fatigues to a condition bordering on extermination. Such was the result of Kuropatkin's first attempt to assume the offensive. Thereafter, fully three months of complete inaction ensued, and the onlooking world occupied itself with conjectures as to the explanation of this apparent loss of time.

Yet the chief reason was very simple. The weather in central Manchuria at the close of the year is such as to render military manoeuvres almost impossible on a large scale, and this difficulty is greatly accentuated by the almost complete absence of roads. In fact, the reasons which induced Kuropatkin to defy these obstacles, and renew his outflanking attempts after the beginning of the cold weather, have never been fully explained. The most probable theory is that held by Japanese strategists, namely, that he desired to find some opening for the vigorous campaign which he intended to pursue in the spring, and that his

attention was naturally directed to the region between the Hun and the Liao rivers, a region unoccupied by either army and yet within striking distance of the bases of both. Moreover, he had received nearly three whole divisions from Europe, and he looked to these fresh troops with much confidence. He set his forces in motion on the 25th of January, 1905. Seven Russian divisions were engaged, and the brunt of the fighting was borne by two Japanese divisions and a brigade of cavalry. Two other divisions were engaged, but the part they acted in the fight was so subordinate that it need scarcely be taken into account. The Russians were finally driven back with a loss of some twenty thousand killed, wounded, or prisoners. This battle of Heikautai was the last engagement that took place before the final encounter.

PORT ARTHUR

The relief of Port Arthur had ceased to be an important objective of Kuropatkin before he planned his Heikautai attack. The great fortress fell on the last day of 1904. It was not until the middle of May that the Kinchou isthmus and Dalny came into Japanese hands, nor was the siege army under General Nogi marshalled until the close of June. During that interval, General Stossel, who commanded, on the Russian side, availed himself of all possible means of defence, and the investing force had to fight for every inch of ground. The attack on the outlying positions occupied fully a month, and not till the end of July had the Japanese advanced close enough to attempt a coup de main. There can be no doubt that they had contemplated success by that method of procedure, but they met with such a severe repulse, during August, that they recognized the necessity of recourse to the comparatively slow arts of the engineer. Thereafter, the story of the siege followed stereotyped lines except that the colossal nature of the fortifications entailed unprecedented sacrifice of life on the besiegers' part. The crucial point of the siege-operations was the capture of a position called 203-Metre Hill. This took place on November 30th after several days of the most terrible fighting ever witnessed, fighting which cost the Japanese ten thousand casualties. The importance of the hill was that it furnished a post of observation whence indications could be given to guide the heavy Japanese artillery in its cannonade of the remaining Russian ships in the harbour.


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