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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Kuropatkin had been confronted by only three armies


It

has been claimed by the Russians that Kuropatkin was thinking of assuming the offensive when the Japanese forced his hand; but however that may be, the fact is that he fought on the defensive as he had done throughout the whole war with two exceptions. Nevertheless, we may confidently assert that at no previous period had the Russians been so confident and so strong. According to the Japanese estimate, the accuracy of which may be trusted, Kuropatkin had 376 battalions, 171 batteries, and 178 squadrons; representing 300,000 rifles, 26,000 sabres and 1368 guns, while the defences behind which these troops were sheltered were of the most elaborate character, superior to anything that the Japanese had encountered during the previous battles of the field-campaign. On the other hand, the Japanese also were in unprecedented strength. Up to the battle of Heikautai, Kuropatkin had been confronted by only three armies, namely, the First, Second, and Fourth, under Generals Kuroki, Oku, and Nozu, respectively. In the middle of February, these numbered three, four, and two divisions, respectively. But there had now been added a considerable number of reserve brigades, bringing up the average strength of most of the divisions to from 22,000 to 25,000 men. Further, in addition to these armies, two others were in the field, namely, the Third, under General Nogi, and the Fifth, under General Kawamura. General Nogi's force had marched up from Port Arthur, but General Kawamura's was a new army
formed of special reservists and now put in the field for the first time.

The Russians occupied a front forty-four miles in extent and from five to six miles in depth. They did not know, apparently, that General Kawamura's army had joined Oyama's forces, nor did they know where Nogi's army was operating. The Japanese programme was to hold the Russian centre; to attack their left flank with Kawamura's army, and to sweep round their right flank with Nogi's forces. The latter were therefore kept in the rear until Kawamura's attack had developed fully on the east and until the two centres were hotly engaged. Then "under cover of the smoke and heat generated by the conflict of the other armies on an immense front, and specially screened by the violent activity of the Second Army, Nogi marched in echelon of columns from the west on a wide, circling movement; swept up the Liao valley, and bending thence eastward, descended on Mukden from the west and northwest, giving the finishing blow of this gigantic encounter; severing the enemy's main line of retreat, and forcing him to choose between surrender and flight. To launch, direct, and support four hundred thousand men engaged at such a season over a front one hundred miles in length was one of the most remarkable tasks ever undertaken on the field of battle by a modern staff."

Of course, all these events did not move exactly as planned, but the main feature of the great fight was that Kuropatkin, deceived by Kawamura's movement, detached a large force to oppose him, and then recalled these troops too late for the purpose of checking General Nogi's flanking operation. The fighting was continuous for almost two weeks, and on the morning of March 16th, the Russians had been driven out of Mukden and forced northward beyond Tiehling. In fact, they did not pause until March 20th, when Linievitch, who had succeeded Kuropatkin in the chief command, was able to order a halt at Supingchieh, seventy miles to the north of Mukden. "The Russian losses in this most disastrous battle included, according to Marshal Oyama's reports, 27,700 killed and 110,000 wounded," while an immense quantity of war material fell into the hands of the victors. The Japanese losses, up to the morning of March 12th, were estimated at 41,222.


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