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to the conclusion that the Japanese had shunned the plain because they felt their inferiority on the level. This thought was set fast in his mind when he designed the abortive operations at Hei-kou-tai, and after that disaster it was this belief which caused him to mass 20,000 of his reserves at Fushun as a counterpoise to the combined movement which he apprehended Kawamura and Kuroki would make against his left flank. It must be allowed, however, that the development of the final closure of the battle of Hei-kou - tai is an enigma even to this moment. The military student can understand the object of Gripenberg's original movement, his desire to turn the Japanese on the flank on which he believed their military resistance to be the weakest. One can even understand his selecting European troops, for the most part unblooded, to engage upon this enterprise over the frozen plains. Also, it is easy to understand why, as a matter of precaution, the well-tried 1st Siberian Army Corps under General Stackelberg was withdrawn from the left, and sent to stiffen the new phalanxes from European Russia. The order which the mutinous and sore-headed Gripenberg claims to have in his possession, in which Kuropatkin asks him to unmask the situation of the chief masses of the Japanese force beyond the Shaho, is also easy of comprehension. But, beyond this point, there is little that the student or historian can unravel or conscientiously understand. There
is no doubt, however, that the premises of this attempt against Oyama's flank were, at the outset, conducted with considerable skill-that is to say, they were conducted with secrecy, and secrecy in war is synonymous with skill.
On the night of the 23rd the Russians' second army, consisting of the 8th and 10th Army Corps, plus Stackelberg's Siberians, concentrated between Chang-tan and Tu-tifang on the Hsin-min-ting-Liauyang road, about twenty-five miles south-west of Mukden, and five miles to the rear of the defences on the Hun-ho. The weather still remained favourable, as far as a Manchurian winter can be favourable for military operations. night of the 24th Gripenberg moved his army southwards, and crossed the frozen Hun in two places, at Han-chiao-pu and Chi-tai-tzu. Having made the passage of the river at daybreak, the Russian brigades formed for attack, and were launched against an echelon of fortified posts, which furnished the Japanese left. Of these the San-de-pu position was the most important. It is essential that the military reader should at this moment fix in his mind the character of the terrain in which the fighting took place.
The Times of February 4 has given the following expressive picture :
"San-de-pu, like all the other numerous villages around, is a collection of farmsteads, with a caravanserai for winter travellers. Each farmhouse is surrounded by high walls of sundried bricks, well plastered with loam, mixed with chopped straw.
These walls can be neatly loopholed, are about 3 feet thick, and form a splendid defence against bullets. The houses and farm-buildings have all their windows and doors opening into the large courtyards; the gables and rear walls are very thick, and built of the same materials as the compound walls; with rare exceptions every house is thatched. The military would, however, especially the Japanese, probably cover the thatch very thickly with mud or earth to prevent fire. The roofs are of heavy timbers resting on posts, and thus can support great weights. All buildings are low and one-storeyed. The country round San-de-pu is quite level and open, excepting for the villages and burial-places, where there were groves of trees, which have now largely been burned for fuel. The villages are roughly about two miles apart, and vary from 20 to 100 families. The Russians seem
to have been driven over the Hun, which flows at this season beneath ice over 3 feet in thickness, and over which carts weighing, when loaded, five tons, can safely travel, and much heavier loads can be carried if straw or millet stalks are laid over the ice. The Hun flows in this region in a well-defined bed, with steep and often overhanging banks from 15 feet to 20 feet above the level of the ice."
Lord Brooke endorses this view, for he refers to the landscape on this very morning as "a wide flat plain with many villages and a good deal of timber, while low sandy hills diversified the landscape, still in its white mantle of snow."
Although the 1st Siberian Army Corps had been sent as a support to the 2nd European Corps, yet Gripenberg was wise enough to place the seasoned troops in the vanguard, and at daybreak Stackelberg found himself within a mile of the Japanese villages, with instructions to attack at
once. He immediately threw in the 1st and 9th Divisions, while the attacking line of the 8th and 10th Army Corps deployed on his left. On the right of our old friends the Siberians, it looked as if a great dark mantle were being unrolled over the wide expanse of spotless snow. This movement was due to the deployment of the two Cossack divisions which were working on Gripenberg's right, and which had orders to push straight through to the Hsin-min-tingLiauyang road. What a wonderful panorama must have presented itself to those who were privileged to witness this gigantic struggle! To a very considerable extent this sudden debouching of huge Russian columns from beyond their left came as a surprise to the Japanese. Even before the heads of the great grey columns of Russian infantry shook out into advance guards, the Japanese outposts were falling back hurriedly upon the intrenched villages. Rapidly over the frozen snow the Russian attack developed : there was yet no need for guns to unlimber, -the weight of surprise and numbers swept through village after village which the Japanese had held as outposts. Here and there there would be a little desperate fighting in Chinese courtyard and Manchu tomb, but for the time being the resistance was as a drop in the ocean, and the overwhelming and annihilating of these isolated groups of staunch Japanese outposts whetted the lust for victory which successive defeats had
not yet extinguished in Stackel- The élan died out from the adberg's inimitable Siberians.
As the red sun forced its way up through the grey winter atmosphere, the crackle and crash of musketry on the left of the Siberians told how the Kharkov and Odessa reservists were being blooded: on the far right, too, the cavalry were meeting with success. A jubilant staff officer canters up with the information that Mischenko's swashbucklers have captured a whole company of Japanese infantry, and a squadron is marching them back to Chang-tan. Then, above the wicked ring of the bursting shrapnel and the steady detonation of the field-guns in action on the Hun-ho, comes the dull reverberating boom from the north. The turning movement has been successful. Koulbars in the centre and Linievitch on the far left are co-operating. At last the great white Czar's inexorable will is to be exercised upon the armies of the yellow
The peaceful calm of a snow-wrapt winter morning has disappeared. For the moment the season is nothing, and the grey-coated thousands swallow up walled village after village, leaving behind them a dismal wreck of human frames, a miserable pattern on the virgin snow. Then the enemy began in earnest to shell the heads of the many Russian attacking columns. It seemed that the head of the attack had pushed itself into a semicircle of live artillery. So rapid and accurate was the shrapnel fire that the effect of the attacking columns was instantaneous.
VOL. CLXXVIII.—NO. MLXXIX.
vance. Masses of grey-coated infantrymen heaped and teemed upon the snowy reverses of the sand-dunes, or jostled in thousands behind such cover as the walls of captured villages would vouchsafe them. Then, for the first time, the commanders of corps realised that although they had turned the first line. in the Japanese defence and were now advancing directly upon the left rear of the principal flank defences, yet they had miscalculated. They had been ignorant of the second line of defences. They had simply "butted in," to use an an eloquent Americanism, between two held parallels, and now had neither the information nor the direction to grapple with a situation the success or failure of which depended upon the active co-operation of Kuropatkin's centre and left, or a magnificent effort on the part of the Cossack divisions on Gripenberg's right. We now know that the three succeeding days brought no realisation of the elements essential to success. On the night of January 25, although in the detail of fierce fighting there was no diminution of the struggle, yet all chance of success was gone.
Space will not allow us to fill in detail step by step all the rigorous attacks and counterattacks which marked Gripenberg's desperate efforts to seize some point in the Japanese échelon which would give the necessary leverage to turn his attention upon the Japanese second line of defence, which 2 E
he now discovered followed the course of the Shili-ho. The Russian divisions had pushed up to within striking distance of the walled villages of San-depu and Hei-kou-tai, which were the two main keys which prevented the actual turning of the Japanese first line of defence, facing the Hun-ho and Sha-ho rivers. Here the Russian infantry were brought up sharply to the halt. Both villages, and especially San-de-pu, had been placed into a perfect state of preparation. The 33rd Regiment of Siberian Rifles flung itself out into the assaulting line, and staggered up into the blaze of magazine and machinegun fire, which the Japanese brought to bear upon it from their skilfully prepared defences. The gallant effort was made with success against the lesser citadel, but failed in front of San-de-pu. With this failure came the night. Now there was no question of a snug and comfortable zemlianke.1
During the night of January 25 the Japanese were sufficiently conversant with the Russian intentions to make the necessary precautions to turn the initial success on their left into a disaster. The advance divisions of Nogi's corps had already arrived from
Arthur, and even before Gripenberg established his advance, this army had been allotted the left flank of Oyama's front.
The advance divisions and regular reserves held in hand at Liau-yang had been immediately marched up to the line of the Shili-ho. They were in position on January 26. For the time being Nogi considered it expedient to halt them. San-de-pu was holding its own. The longer that the Russians halted, the more decisive, complete, and overwhelming would be the Japanese counter-stroke when it was struck. We have many sketchy accounts of the desperate efforts with which the 33rd and 34th Siberian Rifle Regiments toiled to make good the footing which was gained in the outskirts of San-de-pu. the 26th the Russian artillery was massed against the defences in the village: it was hoped that the rain of shrapnel would so wear down the defenders that by evening Stackelberg's infantry might be able to struggle into possession of the coveted position. In this futile attempt Stackelberg's 9th division was practically annihilated. Again had the wretched Russian troops, now almost starved, to lie out and face the intense rigour of a Manchurian winter. The weather had changed, and all through the day the 9th division had advanced to death and annihilation in the teeth of a blinding snowstorm. Only those who have experienced an Arctic winter can realise what it must be to lie out in a wind
1 Zemlianke is the Russian term for underground shelters, in which practically the whole army was housed during the inactivity of trench life. Each zemlianke generally held from eight to sixteen men. Lord Brooke describes them as having "earthen floors and sides covered with mud. However cold it was outside, it was always beautifully warm in these dug-outs."
blanket, desperate array, launched battalion after battalion against Hei-kou-tai. The moment was ripe to turn the Russian effort into disaster, and Nogi threw his Port Arthur veterans in sledge-hammer attack against Hei-kou-tai. All through the night the desperate assaults were continued; time after time the head of each attacking line was swept away by the sleet of Russian fire poured into it. But the men who had carried Erh-lung-shan, and who had formed part of the army which had 203 Metre Hill to its credit, were not to be denied, and at nine o'clock on the morning of the 29th a mass of half - demented infantrymen, climbing over the dead bodies of their comrades, planted the Rising Sun above the highest gable in the village. The moment of disaster had arrived. Hei-kou - tai lost, Gripenberg ordered his army to retire, and Nogi launched his 30,000 fresh reserves in pursuit. Worn, emaciated, and beaten, the fine European troops in whom St Petersburg had placed such faith, and who six days before had proudly crossed the frozen Hun and advanced to the attack with all the panoply of medieval war, were now hurled back across the ice-a broken and defeated rabble. St Petersburg and the Grand Ducal party had asked for a victory or a counter-irritant. Far be it from us to say that a victory
On the 28th Gripenberg to some extent made progress that is, he forced the Japanese from the high ground to the south of San-de-pu, and practically isolated the village which the Japanese had held so stubbornly. But as long as San-de-pu held firm, the moment must arrive when Nogi would be able to loose his war-dogs in counter - attack. Also on this day it must have occurred to the veteran Gripenberg that something was very wrong in the management of the whole Russian army. Beyond the fitful boom of an occasional gun fired from the Russian centre, there was no evidence of Koulbars having moved a finger to aid him. The moment would now soon be passed when co-operation could help him, and we can imagine the urgent messages that he despatched to the Commander-inChief begging and praying that he would carry out his part of the contract. Of the evasive answers which he received we have as yet no knowledge. But this we know, that by the evening of the 28th the Japanese, in
1 It is officially stated that the thermometer on the occasion of the San-de-pu fighting was ten degrees below freezing.