As a result, officially the Japanese army won - Russian troops retreated, left their positions. But in fact, the Japanese army could not crush the Russian troops, suffered heavy losses, and with more able and decisive leadership from the Russian command could be defeated.
Situation before the battle
After the first unsuccessful battles, the Russian troops were located in three main groups. The first defended Port Arthur, restraining the onslaught of the 3 of the Japanese army under the authority of the Foot of Maresuke. The southern group of the Manchurian army under the command of General N. P. Zarubaev (3 Corps - 1 and 2 and 4 Siberian Corps) and the Eastern Group of General A. A. Bilderling (2 Corps). The southern group was located on the right flank of the Manchurian army along the paths of the 2 th army under the command of Yasukata Oka. The eastern group retreated from the Yalu River and was located against the 1 of the Japanese army under the command of Tammoto Kuroki. I must say that both groups rather strongly dispersed their forces, trying to cover the flanks. In all directions, Russian troops built fortifications. At the approaches to Liaoyan, the fortified positions were also equipped in anticipation of a general battle. The total number of Russian troops reached about 140 thousand people with 507 guns. The Russian troops were directly commanded by Kuropatkin, the supreme leadership was carried out by the viceroy Alekseev with the field headquarters in Mukden.
Japanese forces at this time, not counting the siege army Feet, were divided into three groups. KNUKX's 1 Army attacked Liaoyang, it consisted of 40 thousand soldiers and 120 guns. The Dagushan group under the command of General Kawamura moved to Simuchen, including 16 thousand people and 36 guns. Later, it will include the 5 Division from the Oka Army and it will be transformed into the 4 Army under the command of Nojo. The army of the Oka, meeting no resistance after Wafangou, attacked Liaon from the south, and had in its composition 50 thousands of soldiers and 258 guns. For the same army followed the Japanese commander Oyama.
The plan for Kuropatkin’s immediate actions was based on dubious data, and as it turned out later, erroneous information about the enemy. Intelligence exaggerated the forces of the enemy by half. As a result, Kuropatkin, having an advantage in forces, began to fear an adversary maneuver and decided to clear Yingkou and Tashichao and take the Southern Group to Heichen. According to Kuropatkin, this led to the concentration of troops and distracted the Oka army from Port Arthur. In addition, the Manchurian army received a gain in time to concentrate the rest of the 17 corps arriving in Liaoyang, which later made it possible to give a decisive battle to the enemy. At the same time, the Eastern Group was supposed to try to push the Kuroki army back. Thus, the Southern Group had to retreat under the pressure of a weaker enemy, and the Eastern Group tried to push aside the superior forces of the Japanese in mountainous and roadless terrain. At the same time, the loss of Yingkou led to the loss of communication with Port Arthur.
Kuropatkin’s plan met Alekseev’s strong objections. The Tsar's governor, fulfilling the will of St. Petersburg, who was waiting for the victorious news, demanded to conduct active offensive actions and to release Port Arthur from the blockade. The eastern group, reinforced by the southern group and the incoming parts of the 17 corps, was to push back the Kuroki army. To do this, began the transfer of 12 battalions and 96 guns. At the same time, General Nikolai Zarubaev received vague orders (the same “disease” struck the Russian command in the previous battles of this war): first, a decisive defense was demanded from the Southern group, then they pointed out the need to save troops and withdraw if the enemy advances in superior forces.
In the meantime, if the Russian command suffered from a disease of overestimation of Japanese forces and equipment, then the Japanese underestimated the forces of the Russian army. The Japanese command assessed the Russian forces twice as weak as compared with the real state of affairs, which pushed them to take decisive offensive actions. In addition, the time factor had a great influence on the Japanese. Every week the Russian army strengthened, receiving reinforcements from the European part of Russia.
After the battle at Wafangou (Fight at Wafangou) The Japanese command did not organize an immediate attack due to the need to organize the rear. In the 2 Army of the Oka, the Japanese were busy re-routing the railroad to a narrow gauge in order to be able to use their rolling stock. And Kuroki's army advanced slowly because of the extremely rough terrain and bad roads. In general, the Japanese plan called for the simultaneous advance of the Japanese armies from the east and south in order to reach the enemy. Fearing a detour to the right flank of the 2 Army (the Oku army was chained to the railway), the Japanese strengthened the Dagushan group at the expense of the Kuroki army.
Source: N. Levitsky. Russian-Japanese War 1904-1905
Fighting at the approaches to the Liaoyanskiy fortified area. Fighting with Tashichao and Simuchen
For the time being, the Russian command was carrying out plans for an offensive against Kurokoy’s army and deploying troops. On the morning of July 23, the Oku army struck the Southern group. A two-day battle broke out south of Tashichao, where Russian troops took up positions east of the railway. The defense was occupied by two Russian corps. 1-th Siberian Corps held positions from the railway hill to Strelkovaya mountain. Here the terrain was open. Further along the heights up to Zhanyuantuny, the compounds of the 4 Siberian Corps were located. The heights dominating the terrain were in front of the corpus, so they had to take the forward position at Nandalina. Behind the main position of the 4 corps was its reserve (4 battalion and 8 guns). The reserve commander of the Southern Group had 10 battalions, 6 hundreds and 8 guns. The right wing covered Kossagovsky's cavalry unit, the left wing - Mishchenko's cavalry.
General Oku Yasukata launched an offensive on the 25-kilometer front with four division columns (4-I, 6-I, 3-I and 5-I divisions). However, the strong dirt between the railway and the Mandarin roads forced the Japanese troops to move somewhat to the right. On the right flank of the Japanese army, the terrain was extremely crossed, which made it difficult to bypass the Russian troops.
23 July deal was limited artillery firefight. This time the Russian artillery, taught by previous bitter lessons, stood in closed positions. On the morning of July 24, the artillery duel resumed and the Japanese infantry launched an offensive in the direction of Dafanshen. The right flank of the 2 Siberian Corps repulsed all enemy attacks. The frontal attack of the Japanese army failed. However, at noon, despite the success of the artillery of the 1 Siberian Corps in the fight against the Japanese artillery and the insignificant losses of troops from the effects of enemy fire, the commander of the 1 Corps Shtelkelberg suggested Zarubayev to withdraw. In the evening, the Southern Group commander issued an order to withdraw troops under the cover of darkness to Heichen. Russian troops lost a little more than 1 thousand people in this battle, Japanese losses were slightly higher.
The command directive of "saving forces for a decisive battle" demoralized the command of Russian troops. The Russian troops retreated, despite the fact that the 1 Siberian Corps participated in this battle only with its own artillery; 4 Siberian Corps successfully repulsed all enemy attacks; Russian artillery led a successful duel with the Japanese (suppressed enemy artillery and stopped the advance of the Japanese infantry); reserves and large cavalry were not used, which could affect enemy flanks and rear. Possessing numerous cavalry, Razuvayev was not aware of the forces of the Japanese army, believing that not only the Oku army, but also the Dagushan group was acting against him.
As a result, the premature retreat of the Russian troops saved the Japanese army from excessive efforts and put the enemy in the hands of an important point - Yingkou. In addition, the retreating Russian troops did not destroy the railway, which could hit the economic interests of a certain group of capitalists, which greatly facilitated and accelerated the advance of the 2 Army Oka. True, the Japanese were experiencing a shortage of locomotives, so they continued to massively use the living force of the coolies (porters).
1 th and 4 th Siberian corps moved and took a new position from Heichen. The left flank of the 4 Siberian Corps was now adjacent to the 2 Siberian Corps (24 thousand people and 72 guns), which occupied a position in the area of Simuchen. 2-th corps held a strong position, it stretched in height with steep slopes and was strengthened by engineering structures. This position was considered impregnable. Now the combined forces of Zarubaev represented a formidable force in 48, thousand bayonets and sabers, having 200 guns and preparing for a decisive battle. Meanwhile, the Eastern Group under the general command of A. A. Bilderling, numbering about 50 thousand, turned around on a broad front, having the right wing at Thavuan and the left wing at Dalingow. Between the southern and eastern groups was located equestrian squad Amilahvari.
By July 30, the Oku army had already concentrated in the Tashichao area, having Nozu 4 army on the right flank, into which the Dagushan group, reinforced by the 5 army from the 2 army, was transformed. The Oka Army had 42 thousand people by this time, Nozu’s Army 26 thousand people. Nozu Mititsura received the order to “master, if possible,” Simuchen. Using the methodology of the German operational school, the Japanese did not show any desire to storm Russian positions head-on and began to regroup their forces in order to bypass the right flank of the 2 of the Siberian Corps. The commander of the 2 Siberian Corps discovered this maneuver, but Kuropatkin was more worried about the left flank of the position of the Southern Group.
On July 30 there was an artillery shootout in front of the front of the 2 Siberian Corps. On the night of July 31, the Japanese attacked in three columns into the 18-kilometer gap between the 2 and 4-Siberian corps, where the defense was held by three Russian separate units with a total force of 9 battalions, 16 squadrons and 4 guns. Nozu chose a good site for the offensive of his troops, he bypassed the strongest Russian position and struck at the junction of the positions of the two Russian corps. Scattered Russian troops could not organize interaction, had no success in the battle and began to retreat. Behind them, the right flank of the 2 Siberian Corps began to retreat. Then Kuropatkin gave the order to retreat to the entire 2 corps. In this battle, the Russian troops lost 1670 people, and the Japanese - 860.
In this battle, the Russian command again made a number of obvious mistakes. Thus, the commander of the 2 Siberian Corps, Zasulich, did not use forces stationed on the left flank (the 18 battalions) that could cause a flank counterattack to the advancing Japanese forces; Zarubaev was unable to support the defense of the 2 Corps by the troops of the other two corps of the Southern Group. This eventually led to the defeat and the new retreat of the Russian troops.
When Kuropatkin received news of the failure of the Eastern Group, on August 1 he ordered the withdrawal of the Southern Group of Forces to the Icelandic position. On the new position, the South Group focused on August 4.
Russian General Nikolai Platonovich Zarubayev (1843 — 1912)
East Group Retreat
In the east, fighting began on July 31. 1904. The Eastern Group, after unsuccessful battles in mid-July, when it tried to push back Kuroki’s army, went over to the defensive. On the right flank, on the Janzelin-Thavuan position, stood Keller's squad - 17 thousand people with 66 guns. On the left flank in the position of Pjelin - Yushulin occupied the positions of the 10 Corps - about 24 thousand people with 95 guns. In the 15-kilometer gap between these positions was a regiment isolated from the Keller squad. The left wing of the whole group was covered by the detachments of Grulev and Lyubavin, which stretched along the course of the Tai Chi River. In the area of Liaoyang, 17 corps were in reserve with a population of 24 thousand soldiers and 89 guns. As a result, Kuropatkin had in the east direction to 65 thousand soldiers and 250 guns. They were opposed by the Kuroki army which had 46 thousand people and 108 guns.
The task received by the commander of the Eastern Group, Bilderling, was also notable for the uncertainty of instructions. They demanded stubborn defense from the general and immediately warned about the need to withdraw to the "main" positions in the rear on the Liandian-Anpilin line. This gave the command a reason to retreat.
The Kuroki army at that time was also greatly stretched and held defenses in the positions of Siheyan - Dindypuza - Sandolin. The 1 Army, 12-I, 2-I infantry and Guards divisions, three brigades, a cavalry regiment and reserve units. The Japanese waited for Oyama's order for a further attack. In the near future, Kuroki planned to strike by the forces of the 12 Division and one brigade of the 2 Division in the area of the Yushulin Pass. At the same time, the 2 Division was supposed to attack the Keller unit, preventing it from retreating to Liangasan. The superiority of the enemy forces did not bother the Japanese command. Kuroki was counting on the indecisive actions of the Russian command, the passive nature of the Russian defense.
At dawn 31 July, Japanese troops launched an offensive. The Kigoshi Brigade, supported by 5 mountain batteries, was able to make a detour and caught the left flank of the Tambov regiment of the Yushulin position. The Russian regiment in the first collision lost 250 man and moved to the second crest of heights. The Tambov regiment, reinforced by artillery, tried to restrain the onslaught of the enemy. However, Russian artillery was unable to inflict heavy losses on the terrain of the area. The Japanese occupied Yushulin. At the same time, Japanese troops captured the Pielinsky Pass. Here the Shimamura brigade was advancing.
General Martson attempted a counterattack by sweeping the left flank of the Japanese division's 12 against Pielin. However, he was forced to abandon his undertaking due to the appearance of the Okasaki brigade from the 2 Japanese division in this direction. The Japanese occupied the heights that edged the mountain catwalk from the south, and inflicted considerable losses on their outgoing Russian troops with their own artillery fire.
Source: N. Levitsky. Russian-Japanese War 1904-1905
By the evening, a detour of the left flank of the 10 corps was designated. The corps was threatened with grip from two flanks. The commander of 10 Corps Sluchevsky ordered the retreat. At the same time, Japanese troops struck in the direction of Thavuan. Shackling Russian troops with the help of the 3 Brigade of the 2 Division, Kuroki left the Guards Division, bypassing the right flank of the Keller squad position. True, the offensive in the inaccessible mountainous terrain did not give Kurok the opportunity to fully realize his plan. However, success was obvious. The Japanese guards pushed back the advanced units of the Russians, forced the Lanhe River, covering the Yangzela position from the south.
Towards the end of the day, General Kashtalinsky, who led the detachment in return for the murdered Keller, gathered a military council, which decided to withdraw to Landyan. It must be said that the death of the brave Keller is sometimes compared in importance with the death of Admiral Makarov. The brave general was loved, he cared for his people. A white uniform was walking towards an absolutely white beard, apparently it was his death. During the battle at Yangzelinsky Pass, Keller arrived at the most fired battery and fell, hit by 36 bullets of Japanese shrapnel.
As a result, the Russian troops retreated, losing about 2,5 thousand people in this battle. The Japanese lost about 1 thousand people. Kuroki's army for another transition approached Laoyang. Kuroki skillfully chose the main directions of strikes, concentrated on them almost all the infantry and artillery, having received a great superiority in forces. However, Kuroki did not use the first successes to develop the offensive.
In this battle, the Russian command again made a number of mistakes and did not use the opportunity to win. Thus, the superiority of forces was not used, which made it possible to organize a powerful counter-attack with the coverage of the unprotected right flank of Kuroki's army; the reserve of the 10 Corps was used for reinforcements in various directions; the Kuropatkin Army Reserve (the 17 Corps) did not take part in the battle at all. Artillery capabilities were not fully utilized. For example, in Siheyan only 16 guns from 88 were brought into battle, a third of the artillery was used in the Thavuan position. In addition, the guns were in open positions.
Hero of the Russo-Japanese War, Count Fyodor Eduardovich Keller (1850 — 1904)
So Russian troops were at Liaoyang. The period of war that preceded the decisive battles by the concentrated armies of both sides was over. Both the Russian and Japanese sides quite well imagined that the future battle would be decisive. Kuropatkin said: "I will not leave Liaoyang, Liaoyang is my grave!"
Kuropatkin did everything possible and impossible to gain time. He was completely sure that time was playing on the huge Russian empire (in that he was right). Every day the Russian Manchurian army grew stronger. Russia could gradually transfer huge human and military material resources from the West to the East. Oyama fell into a trap, he could not concentrate all forces against the Manchurian army or Port Arthur, he had to separate them. And the Japanese knew that Russian power was constantly growing. There was no hesitation at the headquarters of Oyama that it was necessary to give a decisive battle, without waiting for the fall of Port Arthur.
N. N. Bunin. “The death of General Keller during the battle at the Yangzelinsky Pass. 1904 year "
To be continued ...