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is safe to say that if the Russians had had any substantial success in any one of the heavy counter-attacks which they hurled against the Japanese centre, it is possible that the great battle would have had to be written off as drawn. During these five days Nogi, on the extreme west, was in a most precarious situation; so much so, that on March 6 he had to send to Oku a supplication for reinforcements, and at that moment Oku was himself so heavily involved that he could not spare a single man. As soon as he had reached Hsin-min-ting, Nogi threw out his army into fighting formation, and pivoting it on Tamin-tin, advanced north-east with the object of striking the Mukden-Tieling railway about fifteen miles north of Mukden. On March 2 he moved eight miles; on the following day he still made considerable progress, since the opposition in front of him was not great, so that on March 4 we find that he had covered nearly twenty miles since leaving Hsin-minting. This brought him within seven miles of the coveted railway. But often in military operations seven miles is almost as significant as a hundred. For on March 2 Kuropatkin realised that he had taken his reserves on a wild-goose chase to Fu - shun, that the real attack, the real menace, was coming from the west. He immediately trained his independent reserve back to Mukden, and marched it out to foil Nogi's advance. He also, by telegram, brought from Tieling part of the force told off to
garrison that strategic point, and also a division of fresh troops which, recently arrived from European Russia, had mobilised at Harbin, and was now on its way down to join the main army at Mukden. Consequently, March 4 and 7 witnessed the most desperate and sanguinary fighting northwest of Mukden that the campaign was destined ever to see. Nogi's veterans realised that they were struggling for a success which would mean the entire overthrow of the Russian army. Kuropatkin, on the other hand, with his troops, realised that, unless Nogi was hurled back in defeat, the whole toil and trouble of the past ten months would be wasted, and the army enveloped in a disaster which had in it all the elements of a total rout. It would be impossible in this paper to give anything like an adequate account of this fearful struggle on the plain. No report that has reached us 80 far has really done justice to the extraordinary issues in this great struggle north of the Mukden Tombs, which hung upon the individual fighting value of the opposing soldiery; but of the accounts that have been published, we venture to think that the letter from a Japanese officer to his friends. at home, as published in 'The Times,' will in a small way bring before the reader some appreciation of the fearful tension which weighed down all combatants during this titanic struggle. Writing of these very operations of Nogi's, this officer says: "The 6th
was the hottest and worst, and the most savage, of the whole series of the Mukden battles. The Russians held a line from San-sen-ho to Nengyo-ho, while we ranged ourselves in or about Gyorimbo, which is about four miles west of Mukden station. The doggedness of that Russian advance! Heavy guns and light guns, handy mountain guns and little dynamite guns, all joined in the bombardment of the positions, while the heroic Russian gunners replied shot for shot and shell for shell. Attacks and counter-attacks succeeded each other like the figures on a fairy lantern. We fought with rifles, we fought with bayonets, then with grenades and with shovels and picks, and then with fists. Why, it is no more or less than a gigantic street brawl. One of the battalion commanders was killed and the colonel wounded severely, and one after another the company officers went down. Once when I whistled to the buglers, and the charge was sounded, just barely forty out of a battalion of skirmishers leaped to their feet, and the rest remained still, no cowards, but dead men-dead at their posts. Those who replied to the call had no right to do so: they ought to have been in the ambulances. Though these doings could never be told vividly enough by my pen, and, perhaps, no words could ever do justice to the bravery of the men, Russian and Japanese, and the hardships they endured. The Russians, five or six times our number, charged time after time so resolutely up to our
position that some of them actually passed through the line-but they never returned. These are the fresh troops from the reserves-determined because of the knowledge that on their action hangs the fate of Kuropatkin and his army. So that day's success remained with the Russians, in spite of all our efforts. Well, they deserved it. At the suggestion of an officer of the Staff Corps we volunteered to reach the works the same night. Men came to their officers and begged to let them go and fill up the trenches with their corpses, so that those following them might walk over their bodies into the defences. At the men's earnest request a deputation of officers and men was sent to the Divisional Commander, who gave them the requested permission, not without some hesitation. . At midnight the men threw off their great winter coats, and white distinguishing bands were put on the sleeves in readiness to move. With drawn swords the officers led, with fixed bayonets the men follow in our usual formation. First grenade men in a line at certain intervals, then the main body in column of sixes, with a grenade man at every few paces in the ranks. With a tremendous yell we stormed into the earthworks. What followed I cannot bear to recite. How many of us returned? A few, a very few. And the works? Intact still? As we rested came the enemy's counter-attack-the officer in command of this section knows his business well. . . After
half a day's desultory firing and leisurely fighting our battalion received an order to take Tahoshitu [Tashichaou], which the enemy held in force. In this my company form the first line. I talk of battalions and companies; but a battalion, particularly ours at this stage, furnished about as many men as a company. We moved through a hail of rifle and machine-gun bullets, which now began to resemble some perfectly natural phenomenon, as of sunshine or of rain, and it was mere child's play compared with the experiences of the awful night of the 6th."
And we almost imagine that similar accounts of the fearful stresses of the battle in this particular engagement might have been written from every other portion of the field. This much is certain, that until midday on the 7th Kuropatkin still fought with the hope of success. For four days he had held Nogi, he was still holding Oku, but of Nodzu he knew nothing, and Linievitch still reported the Russian left secure. But it will be noticed that we have made no mention of Nodzu. Again was this intrepid leader to handle the turning influence in the struggle. Early on March 5 the gunners with Nodzu reported the Russian intrenchments just south of Mukden to be practicablethat is, practicable for Japanese assault. They had been submitted for the last ten days to possibly the heaviest artillery bombardment that had ever been concentrated on a line of field-works. The very intensity of the fire had done
much to lessen the power of the resistance of the troops holding these works; and over and above this, every available man had been withdrawn by Kuropatkin to throw into the operations against the flank attacks. Nodzu, with that military instinct to which we have already on previous occasions referred, knew exactly the right moment when to throw in his unexpected weight.
We find him on
March 6 still with his left at Sha-ho-pu. On the following day, almost without a check, his men are up and over the shattered breast-works which they had been watching for the last six months; and before Kuropatkin quite realises what is happening, and at the very moment that Nogi is beseeching Oku to come to his assistance, Nodzu, with troops that are practically fresh, has thrown himself over the Hun-ho and is practically into Mukden. Simultaneously with this news of an advance, which was almost as disastrous and decisive as the general advance ordered by Wellington on the historic field of Waterloo, there reached Kuropatkin information that his railway communication was severed just south of Tieling. One cannot envy the General his feelings at this moment. It is true that the railway was only cut by a patrol detached from Nogi's left, but when the news arrived at the Russian headquarters Kuropatkin had just been called from superintending a counterattack against Tashichaou to organise a resistance against this new terror advancing directly
from the south. Then it was that he penned the message which, sent by an alternative line, leaked out in St Peters burg, "I am surrounded."
Was there ever a more miserable statement of a situation placed on record than the despairing echo contained in that message?
On the night of March 7 Kuropatkin gave the fateful order that the whole army should fall back on Tieling. It must have been a great wrench to this earnest soldier thus to acknowledge, both to his troops and to the enemy, that he was out-manoeuvred, out-numbered, and beaten; that he could only hope to save himself by flight, and by the excellent roads which he had had constructed between Tieling, Mukden, and Fu-shun. But although Kuropatkin accepted the situation with all the fortitude of a brave man, he did not desert the cause as if it were absolutely lost. He did not, like some other great captains in history, place himself in the forefront of the flight, but turned with all the dogged nature and desperate courage of which the Slav is capable to do his best to repeat the history of Liauyang. Collecting together the troops that had held his centre, he threw them in to the support of the brave legions that had held Nogi at bay for the last five days. It was under the cover of this rearguard that he hoped to emulate his Liauyang retirement and withdraw his army, with some measure of success, behind the intrenchments he had established at Tieling. It will
be remembered that in a previous chapter we commented on the fact that, while the Japanese intrenched their second and third positions within an easy distance of their first line, Kuropatkin had chosen to allow his army a stretch of forty miles before they could hope to reach the field-works, which were destined to be their second line of resistance. was these forty miles of open which killed Kuropatkin's army, which rendered the devotion of his rear-guard useless, and which practically turned the withdrawal of his baggage and his rear-guards into a rout. Again was Nodzu the deciding factor. The majority of the accounts which have reached this country contain the suggestion that it was Nogi who cut
off Kuropatkin's rearguard, and was responsible for the great capture of prisoners and military equipment. careful study of all the reports furnished, however, goes to prove that this impression is quite wrong. As he had intended, Kuropatkin was able to hold Nogi to the very end. In fact, pivoted upon his own right wing in retirement, Kuropatkin swung round in front of Nogi. If it had not been for the wonderful rapidity and energy of Nodzu's advance, the withdrawal from Mukden would have gone down to history as a successful retreat, worthy of a parallel with that of Liauyang.
It was not in Nogi's army, which, the reader must remember, a few hours previously had been urgently soliciting aid and reinforcements, to press a
pursuit, or to cut off as desperate troops as those which Kuropatkin personally conducted into their position as his rearguard. But Nodzu, pressing on, not even waiting to assist Kuroki into Fu-shun, pushed north until he struck the railway at Pu-ho, midway between Mukden and Tieling. All through the 8th and 9th this intrepid soldiery,-which had turned the scale at Tehlitz, had assaulted and pierced the Russian centre at Liauyang and on the Sha-ho, and, here again, had defeated the enemy, and unexpectedly placed itself athwart the line of retreat of Kuropatkin's rear guard, staggered on in face of a Manchurian snow blizzard,-on, until midday on March 10, when the battle of Mukden was finally lost and won.
There are many misconceptions with regard to this great battle. It was a decisive blow against Russian prestige and military power in the Far East. It was a heavy defeat and a crowning disaster to a disastrous campaign. But it was not the crushing, withering, exterminating blow that it has so generally been represented to have been in this country. After examining the evidence of foreign officers who were present on this occasion, we come to the conclusion that the battle of Mukden was almost as disastrous in its military paralysis to the victors as to the vanquished. In fact, if we are to look for the prime factor which conduced to the surprising peace which was recently arranged at Ports
VOL. CLXXVIII.-NO. MLXXX.
mouth, we will not be far wrong if we trace the cause of Japan's magnanimity to the paralysing effect of the battle of Mukden on her military resources. At the time wonderful speculations were rife as to the fate of Linievitch with the Siberian Army Corps. Kawamura was supposed to have dropped from the clouds and to have immediately engulfed a third of Kuropatkin's army in disaster. In reality, of course, we find that Linievitch, learning that Kuropatkin's centre had given way, was himself forced to retire, but knowing the fate that would await him if he debouched directly into Mukden's plain, he withdrew his army more composedly by way of the Wankao passes.
It now behoves us to count the cost of this stupendous struggle. Again we are flung upon the rocks of uncertainty, and are faced with the original difficulty of making the reports and estimates of eyewitnesses coincide with the official returns. According to the Japanese estimates, they captured on the field of Mukden just over 40,000 Russian prisoners. They reckon that the Russians left some 30,000 dead on the field, and that altogether the Russian casualties, in killed and wounded and missing, amounted to 170,000 men. We are asked to believe —that is, we are told in the official Japanese accounts-that this result was attained by a loss to the Japanese themselves of only 50,000 men in all manner of casualties. Already in previous articles we