« AnteriorContinuar »
1st, the 6th, and the 17th cent in advance of those of corps, in all 96 battalions of their opponents. infantry, and 35 batteries of The first object of the Japartillery. Then there was
to confirm general reserve, consisting of Kuropatkin in his belief that the 16th army corps—32 bat- the Japanese soldier was not talions of infantry, and 12 comparable with the Russian batteries of artillery. There was in the low country. On FebMishchenko's cavalry division, ruary 19 the Japanese army consisting of 96 sotnias and 4 of the extreme right, that is battalions of Za-Amur Border Kawamura's army, all veterinfantry; there were 34 sotnias ans from the Chinese War, of Ussuri cavalry, Amur Cos- broke up its standing camp sacks, and Orenburg cavalry; and threw out two advance and there were finally 36 guards to cover the two roads battalions of horse artillery, leading directly upon the Rusmountain-guns, field howitzers, sian fortified positions in the siege - guns, and unattached Ta-ling range. The thaw had artillery. The grand total commenced, but it was not the stood : 376 battalions of in- warm comfortable change fantry, 171 batteries of artil- temperature that we know in lery, and 178 sotnias of cavalry, our temperate zone. It was -making numerically about a thaw that was slow to beat 300,800 rifles, 34,000 gunners the efforts of the frost, and as (with 1368 guns), and 26,700 miserable a season for camsabres, or a grand aggregate paigning almost as the dead of of 361,500 of all arms. Of the winter. But the start had to disposal of this huge force we be made or the ice over the have as yet only the broad out- rivers would not hold; and if line. We know, however, the the ice gave completely, it main division of the three would be weeks before the surarmy corps. Bilderling had face of the soil would have taken over from Gripenberg allowed the pontoon waggons and was responsible for the to arrive. On the 20th and Russian right; Kulbars main- 21st of February, Kawamura's tained the centre; and Linie- advance guards drove in the vitch opposed Kawamura and Russian outposts. Then the Kuroki in the mountains in great serried triple line of the east. Rennenkampf pro- works which topped the still longed Linievitch's line to the snow-driven ridges of Ta-ling left; and Mishchenko, as we have stood out grisly and forbidalready shown, was respon- ding in front of Kawamura's sible for the open alluvial plains veterans. As on all previous of the Liau-ho and the Hun-ho. occasions the Russian enginWe have, therefore, in this eers had spared no pains in action the extraordinary spec- making their intrenchments as tacle of very nearly a million impregnable as the art and of men in action, since we science of military engineering may safely estimate that the would allow. There were the Japanese numbers were 25 per same areas of barbed wire en
tanglements, the endless rows a class of combat which we of spiked pitfalls, and the many ourselves two years ago beopen patches which carried the lieved to have become obsolete. suspicion of contact mine and The Japanese were advancing other diabolic contrivance. in full daylight to the assault But, grisly as they were, these of one of these Ta-ling ridges. works had to be carried; and Every section of the battalion it is curious that so young a
it advanced stood out nation should have been able clearly defined, since the blizto produce an infantry 80 zard, of which we have spoken, dogged, so steadfast, and so had just covered the ground persevering, that it was able, with a thin fresh veneer of by sheer recuperative insist- snow. Even though the ence, to carry obstacles such as powdery flakes were still beatinfantry had never before been ing in the faces of this intrepid called upon to face.
infantry, yet this conspiracy From February 22 to the of nature was not altogether end of February 24 Kawa- an unmixed evil. The carpet mura's veterans were hurling of white which swept up the themselves against this triple slope they had to face left line of defences. On the 23rd exposed the triple row of deathand 24th, to add to the miseries traps which the Russian of these desperate soldiers, a sappers had sunk in the hillblinding blizzard blew down side. For a thousand yards the valley. Even though this there was little cover for the almost irresistible force of advance. Until it could get nature was sweeping in their well under the slope of the faces, this inimitable infantry position, where in places the managed, in the midst of rocks shelved perpendicularly, desperate carnage, to seize one the assault was absolutely exfoothold in the Ta-ling Pass, posed. But experience, the from which they were able to bitter experience of eighteen lever their stubborn, yet less months' war, had taught these active, enemy. The fighting men to take their cover with was Homeric.
We have on them. Each man had a sandrecord the description of one bag on his shoulder, and as of these assaults which will each section faced the blaze stand for nearly every Jap- of infantry fire which opened anese success. This spectator as they unmasked from cover, had the good fortune to be they threw the sandbags as present within
thousand a wall in front of them and yards of one of these desperate grovelled behind them for such struggles for a hill crest, - a scant shelter
as they gave. struggle which lasted without And all the while the razorintermission for forty-eight edge of the position was swept hours. Although in the de- by a hail of shrapnel which scription it may lose much of seemed ceaseless in its continuthe fire and animation of the ity. By these means, on the actual event, yet it gives a first day, considerable progress curiously vivid impression of was made, and by four in the
afternoon the residue of the leave the cover of the cliff and leading battalion had struggled gallantly climb upwards. The as far as the wire chevaux - Russians would rise to meet de-frise, and had prised and them, and before half the ascent levered the supporting poles was made those of the assaulters of these entanglements from left standing would face about, their sockets. This end accom- break, and rush pell-mell down plished, and the leading bat- the hillside. If one such an talion had run its course. But attack were made that forenoon, the sandbags and the dead twenty sections must have bodies of the bearers that it essayed the attempt and failed. had left behind served as Then, at last, when the whole stepping - stones for the next thing seemed useless, suddenly battalion, and by evening this a corporal and four men made support made good the open as good the ascent to the parapet, far as the perpendicular rocks and appeared upon the sky-line. and the last forty yards rise The Russians rose to meet them, before the actual position. It and there, silhouetted against was here that the assault was the winter sky, bayonet to stick. Three times during crossed bayonet.
The long the night were reinforcements taper weapon of the Muscovite pushed up and an endeav- drove the Japanese back, but our made to rush the summit. the interlude of Homeric comThe return of daylight dis- bat had served its purpose. As closed the countless little heaps the little fur-clad infantrymen of brown bodies half covered sank back with steel-pierced with snow,- grim evidence of bodies, another section was supthe ease and completeness with porting them. Saved from that which the Russian defenders pitiless rifle-fire, these latter in had defeated every effort. As their turn appeared upon the bees hang on a honeycomb so sky-line. Section after section the little Japanese infantry poured in behind them. For clung to the face of the per- ten minutes, or perhaps fifteen, pendicular which gave them the figures bobbed and fluctucover from the merciless rifle- ated on that crest-line. It was fire which swept down upon impossible to apportion success them from above. As the or failure. Instinctively, as it wateher lay with his glass were, there was a lull in the glued on the sky-line, he could shell-fire. In the immediate
the Russian infantry- vicinity both armies seemed men raise themselves over spell-bound by the issue being the parapet and fire down struggled for on that single the slope in front of them. hill. Then, suddenly, the puffs Even the pitiless rain of shrap- of shrapnel began to burst nel did not seem to disconcert again, and the watchers could them.
Their persistence in see the black backs of men defence seemed to be as great firing down the reverse slope as that of their enemy in attack of the hill. The Russians Presently another section of had given way. The Ta-ling little fur-clad Japanese would heights were won by just a
score of combats as the one reframe his dispositions. On described.
the 27th, without warning, the On the night of the 24th artillery which Oyama had Kawamura was able to tele- massed in the vicinity of the phone to Kuroki that he had railway on his centre made good the passes for Ta- menced a heavy bombardment ling. The same day, according of the Russian batteries, which to the set scheme, Kuroki had had been pounding the Japanese commenced his advance. He centre for the last ten days. had in front of him just as The sudden unmasking of large much solid honest hill-fighting artillery forces on the Japanese as had Kawamura. But, if centre seemed rather to confirm anything, the Japanese staff Kuropatkin in his original view had underrated the task in than to perplex him. He had front of their two right armies. made up his mind th
that the They knew that it would take Japanese main attack would Kawamura some time to reach be against Fu-shun. Ti-ta, but they had not realised But the last day of February to the full extent the possibili. and the first of March brought ties of the Russian resistance. a very definite appreciation of Thus it is we find that from the situation with it. SimulFebruary 24 to the end of taneously Kuropatkin must the month both these armies have received reports, first were battling their way slowly that, before Kawamura, Linieforward against a constant
constant vitch felt himself insecure at stubborn resistance, and against Ti-ta and Ma-chun-tun; secondalmost impregnable positions. ly, that Oku was advancing;
Kuropatkin does not seem to and lastly and most signifihave shown any special appre- cant of all, that the Japanese hension with regard to his left. cavalry had appeared in HsinHe seems to have been imbued min-ting. Still, so imbued was with the idea that the Japanese Kuropatkin with the correctmain attack would come upon ness of his own appreciation of his left. The persistence and the situation, that he took no the final successes
of the notice of the sudden appearJapanese on Ta-ling seemed to ance of Japanese cavalry on confirm this view. For the rest, his right flank; but when he the remainder of the Japanese heard that Kawamura was lines seemed more or less quies- irresistible with Linievitch's cent. There was no response present force, he became appreto his now heavy bombardment hensive for that flank and imupon the positions in front of mediately entrained his indethe Sha-ho, and at that date pendent reserves to Fu-shun, there had been no compromising whither he also transferred his reports from either the centre own headquarters. or the left of the Japanese Once Kuropatkin was comarmy. It was not till the 27th mitted to the movement of his of February that anything reserves from Mukden he had occurred to give Kuropatkin played completely into the any special line upon which to Japanese plans. Instead of be
ing a mere cavalry demonstra- from sending his reserves to tion, the appearance of an protect his left. We do not, advanced guard at Hsin-min- at the present moment, pretend ting really meant the over- to understand Kuropatkin or throw of that flank. As will his plans, as we honestly bebe seen, each movement of the lieve that he failed as a comJapanese had had its relative mander in the field not because significance. The advance of he was devoid of military intelKawamura and Kuroki had ligence and the other necessary not only secured Oyama's right attributes which go to make flank, but had attracted the a great general, but because he flower and bulk of Kuropat- attempted the impossible in kin's reserves to the opposite endeavouring to maintain in flank, from which the decisive his own hands the command of
apanese attack was to come. the vast army concentrated in Oku in the centre, under cover Manchuria. After mature reof the heavy cannonade which flection, it would seem that to had been opened on February this account must be laid the
moving with his want of co-operation and coright shoulder up in order that hesion which undoubtedly was Nogi with his Port Arthur the main cause of Russia's veterans should not be left in military collapse. We have the air when he finally ap- already shown how, at Liaupeared in definite strength at yang, Kuroki failed to be anniHsin-min-ting. In the mean- hilated because there was no time our old hero Nodzu was one present that front still lying quiet behind the amongst the Russian generals batteries which were banging who had authority to act; we the Russian centre to pieces, have likewise shown how ready to seize the first favour- miserably Gripenberg's operaable opening which would occur tions petered out for want of when Nogi's advance had defi- co-operation; and here again at nitely developed.
That it was
Mukden we have a fresh evian admirably conceived plan of dence that Kuropatkin's prescampaign it would be useless to
was considered essential deny, but it fills the military for the direction of all serious reader with astonishment that fighting. a plan, which was mainly But although Nogi followed admirable on account of its his cavalry into Hsin-min-ting simplicity, should have been so on March 1, the battle of misunderstood by the Russian Mukden was not yet won,-in staff. Even if the little contre- fact, one might almost say that temps at the Hsin-kai bridge the battle had only just behad taken Mishchenko up north, gun. But it had begun with there should have been a suffi- the balance of advantage in cient Intelligence Department Japan's favour. From March left in Hsin-min-ting to have 2 to March 7 the severity of foreshadowed the significance the struggle all along the line of the Nogi movement in time of the Russian front was so to have prevented Kuropatkin great and so undecided that it