SinoJapaneseWar.com  

August 1, 1894 – April 17, 1895

 Jiawu Zhanzheng 甲午戰爭   日清戦争 Nisshin senso

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 The Battle  for Pyongyang

 Sept 15, 1894

 Chinese 平壤之戰

Japanese 平壌作戦

 

 

 

 

The Campaign  for Pyongyang ( Ping yang)

 

Chinese troops enter Pyongyang

 

The original plan of the Chinese was to send troops to Korea by two routes : by sea direct to Asan, and by land over the Yalu. The former were to keep the Japanese in check while the latter, a much larger force, thus gained time to advance south and drive the enemy out of the peninsula. The Japanese were to be attacked on both sides, and as the Asan force was situated between the Japanese troops and their country, it would impede the facility of communications and at least render impossible the erection of a telegraph line. In the account of the Asan campaign we have seen that the first part of the plan was rendered abortive by the prompt and successful attack of the Japanese. There still remained the second part of the plan : the army descending from the north, whose numbers were magnified by rumour, and which the Chinese confidently supposed would be able to sweep the Japanese out of Korea. The movements of this army had been closely watched by the Japanese. Pyongyang was a very strong defensive position, with stone ramparts, on a hill, with the Taidong River in front .

 

  

This is a battle scene from "Emperor Meiji and the Great Sino -Japanese War" depicting a Japanese assault in which Harada Jukichiro risked his life to scale the walls and open the gates for the rest of the army.

 

Liet Gen. Nozu Michitsura

 

Toward the last days of August, the Japanese 5th Army Division, under Liet Gen. Nozu Michitsura, was divided into four parts .One column was to go to the east coast of Korea, by sea transport, to the city of Wonson, and start for Pyongyang on Sept 1. Another column under Under Gen Tatsumi Naobumi. The Combined Brigade, which saw action at Seonghwan under Gen Oshima and the main division under Nozu in person, to the right of the mixed brigade and had marched in from Pusan . The plan was to attack the numerically stronger Chinese position at Pyongyang by Sept 15 .The different detachments began to arrive in the Pyongyang area from Aug 1 to Sept 15 .

 

Searchlight used by Japanese in night attack at Pyongyang .

 

 

On July 23, a small party of mounted scouts under lieutenant Machida, were sent north to reconnoitre. From Seoul they rode through an unknown county, lull of natural obstacles, up to the Taidong river,opposite Pyongyang, where the Chinese troops were concentrated and observed them for 9 days .They were spotted and cut to pieces by the Chinese, but managed to get a report back to the main Japanese force.

 

Japanese Army starts to march from Seoul

 

One week after the capture of Asan and the beginning of the retreat of the Chinese, the van of the victorious army started from Seoul, marching towards Pyongyang, one hundred and forty miles distant.

 

Skirmishes

 

About the middle of August the Japanese scouts pressing forward from Pongsan came across an advance guard of the Chinese, who had seized the telegraph line. A brisk skirmish ensued and the scouts fell back. A few days later the Chinese advance guard, numbering five thousand men, encountered the Japanese troops guarding the Pyongyang passes, and drove them out. Two days later an advance was made on the Japanese skirmish lines, and the Japanese were again defeated, this time being turned back as far as Chung-hwa, some twenty miles south of Pyongyang.

 

Japanese transports sent, Chaotic Landing near Pyongyang

 

When the Japanese troops started from Chemulpo and Seoul to advance on Pyongyang, a force of thirteen transports, protected by a strong convoy of war vessels, also started for Pyongyang, carrying some six thousand troops who were intended to cooperate with the forces advancing by land. On the 18th of August these troops were landed in Pyongyang inlet, and they immediately began their march up the cultivated valley of the Taidong River in the direction of the city. When the force had proceeded some distance, it was suddenly attacked by one thousand Chinese cavalry, who succeeded in dividing the column into two parts. The Chinese artillery at the same time caused great havoc among the Japanese. The latter were thrown into complete disorder, and considerably reduced in numbers they fled to the seashore, pursued by the cavalry who cut down many of the fugitives. As they reached the coast the Japanese came within the shelter of the guns of their war vessels, and the Chinese were consequently compelled to desist from further pursuit.

 

The land skirmishes of which mention has been made, involved none except the extreme van of the Japanese forces and the outposts of the Chinese. The main body of the Japanese troops, some fifteen thousand strong, found that the daily rate of progress northward did not exceed six miles, so broken was the road by mountains and streams, the passage of which presented great obstacles. This being the rate of advance, the army had pushed some ninety miles from Seoul, when it was decided that a change of military plan must be made. The Chinese assembling in such great force at Pyongyang, by the union of the two armies, threatened Gensan, on the east coast of Korea. At Gensan ( Wonsan) there was an important Japanese colony, and from there a trunk road led southward to Seoul. The destruction of the colony, a flanking movement against the Japanese army, and an eruption of Chinese troops into the Korean capital, might have been the result of not including Gensan in the Japanese program of operations. A force of ten thousand men was accordingly transported to Gensan by sea,under Col Sado Tadashi with instructions to move westward against Pyongyang, timing its advance and attack with those of the army from Seoul, whose progress northward was suspended to allow time for the passage and disembarkation of this column, and of the column which had been sent from Chemulpo into the Pyongyang inlet. They left Wonson on Sep 1 .

 

A Brief exchange at Wei Hai ( Wei Hai Wei)

 

While these land operations were going on, there were also some naval movements under way, but the latter brought no very definite results. A fleet of Japanese vessels, including a few iron clads and some merchant steamships transformed into cruisers, made a reconnaissance of Wei-hai-wei and Port Arthur about the 10th of August. A few shots were exchanged at long range between the vessels and the forts at each of these places, and the fleet then withdrew. The operations were of little more importance than a mere ruse to draw fire and ascertain the position and strength of the enemy's guns. No submarine mines were exploded, or torpedoes launched. At the request of the British admiral, Sir Edmund Fremantle, the Japanese promised not to renew the attack upon Wei-hai-wei or to bombard Chefoo ( Yantai) without giving forty-eight hours' notice to him, so that measures might be taken to protect the lives of foreign residents.

 

 The Chinese emperor, Defense of Japan, Japan War Loans

 

The emperor of China, taking personal interest in affairs to greater extent than had been his custom, insisted on a full daily report of the warlike operations and plans. He studied special official reports of the naval attack, and then wanted to know why his commanders allowed the enemy's vessels to escape. All this time the Japanese fleet was patrolling the China sea, the Gulf of Pechili and the Korean Bay, trying to reach a conflict with the enemy, and to prevent the tribute of rice from going north. Torpedoes were placed in the entrance to Tokyo Bay and Nagasaki harbor, to guard against an attack by Chinese war vessels. The war spirit in Japan lost none of its warmth. The detachments sent across the straits into Corea in August numbered nearly fifty thousand men, and early in September the total number of Japanese troops available for activity in the peninsula was nearly one hundred thousand. A war loan of $50,000,000 was desired by the government, and so anxious were Japanese capitalists to subscribe for it that foreign subscriptions were refused and more than $80,000,000 were offered.

 

Treaty between Korea and Japan

 

Just at this time, when the lines were drawing closer and closer for a decisive battle, the relations between Japan and Korea were more closely defined by a formal treaty of alliance signed at Seoul on August 26. The preamble of the treaty declared it to be the desire of the emperor of Japan and the king of Korea to determine definitely the mutual relations of Japan and Korea, and to elucidate the relations between Japan and China with respect to the peninsula. The body of the treaty consisted of three articles : " The object of the alliance is the strengthening and perpetuation of the independence of Korea as an autonomous state, and the promotion of the mutual interests of Korea and Japan, by compelling the Chinese forces to withdraw from Corea, and by obliging China to abandon her claims to the right to dominate the affairs of Korea. " Japan is to carry on warlike operations against China both offensive and defensive ; and the Korean government is bound to afford every possible facility to the Japanese forces in their movements, and to furnish supplies of provisions to them at a fair remuneration, so far as such supplies may be needed. "The treaty shall terminate when a treaty of peace is concluded by Japan with China."

 

Korean anger toward the Japanese, Japanese reforms in Korea

 

 

 

At this very time, however, the feeling of the Korean people against the Japanese was very intense and they were everywhere welcoming the Chinese as their friends. Except the strongly guarded positions in the provinces of Seoul and Hwanghai and the country around the treaty ports which were under Japanese influence, the peninsula was in the possession of armed Koreans and Chinese. The Japanese Marquis Saionji landed at Chemulpo, August 28, to congratulate the Korean monarch on his declaration of independence, and the king showed every disposition to cooperate with the Japanese in their efforts to introduce reforms into his country. His Majesty appointed a commissioner to visit Japan and thank the mikado for his promises to restore peace, and to establish a stable government in Korea. He further issued a decree introducing several reforms, including religious freedom, the establishment of a diplomatic service, the abolition of slavery, economies in the public service, the abrogation of the law whereby the whole family of a criminal is punished, and the granting of permission to widows to marry again.

 

Military Headquarters established at Hiroshima

 

Early in September the mikado established headquarters in Hiroshima with the ministers of war and marines and the general staff, deciding to direct the war operations from that city in the future. Emperor Meiji himself went there and was quite active in the preperations.This had already been the place of assembly and embarkation for the troops ordered to the seat of war. At the same time Field Marshal Count Yamagata left for Korea to assume sole command of the Japanese army, which had now been augmented till its numbers were approximately one hundred thousand. Lines were drawing about the Chinese forces nearer and nearer. The indecisive battle which they had fought with the Japanese on August 16 had availed them nothing, and all their available troops were now massed together in Hwang-ju and Sing-chuen.

 

 Chinese retreat into Pyongyang

 

As the three advancing columns of Japanese drew nearer to the lines of the enemy, engagements multiplied and scarcely a day passed without some sort of a skirmish. The three divisions struck the Chinese simultaneously on September 5 and 6. The troops from Chemulpo struck the Chinese center at Chung-Hwa; those from Gensan came up with their enemies at Sing-chuen, where the left flank of the Chinese was strongly entrenched ; and the detachment from the mouth of the Taidong struck the right flank of the Chinese at Hwang-ju. The results from all of these engagements were favorable to the Japanese, and the Chinese were forced back in confusion upon Pyongyang where they united to give final battle. In the retreat, the column advancing from the Taidong again caught up with the Chinese on the 7th and another stubborn engagement was fought. The Chinese did not give way until they were in danger of being surrounded, when they fled in redoubled haste towards Pyongyang. With the Chinese forces in Korea thus surrounded by the Japanese, after the sharp campaign ; and the Chinese fleet of warships in perfect fighting trim collected at Wei-hai-wei, the time was now at hand for the two important conflicts, one on land and one at sea, which resulted in mid-September in the entire victory of the Japanese.

 

The Battle  for Pyongyang

Map of the Pyongyang battle

Click image for a larger view .

 

Ye Zhichao ( The large man ) with his troops in Pyongyang.

 

By early mid Sept, all the Japanese forces were in position around Pyongyang. The Chinese were under the command of Gen. Yeh Chih-ch'ao (Ye Zhichao 叶志超 1838-1899) and had an estimated 15,000 troops .Commander Wei Ju-kai had 6,000, Commander Ma Yu-kwan had 3,000, Commander had Tso Pao-kwei had 3,500 and Commander Nieh Kweilin had 1,500, these men plus the force that had retreated from the battle of Seonghwan gave the Chinese a force of about 15,000. The Chinese were well positioned and supplied and boasted they could withstand a siege of 3 months. The Chinese were also armed with gatling guns, which they used to good effect .

 

Japanese Attacking Taedong Gate

 

Taedong Gate today

 

The Japanese force totalled10,000 . Under the plan made by the Commander in Chief Liet Gen and Viscount Nozu Michitsura, The Japanese would break up their army into four parts and surround Pyongyang. There of the forces would make demonstrations of making a frontal assault, while another army, which had landed at Wonson (Gensan) on the east coast of Korea would surprise the Chinese from the rear . The Japanese force, the first Army Group, was under overall command of Marshall Yamagata Aritomo. The Combined or Mixed brigade, which had fought at Seonghwan, was still under the command of Gen. Oshima Yoshimasa. The Main Division was under Liet Gen. Nozu . Another column, called the Sangyong column, was under the command of Maj Gen. Tatsumi .

 

Sergeant Kawasaki crossing the Taidong River 

 

The position held by the Chinese was one of great natural strength.  Peony Hill, just outside the North Gate of Pyongyang, held the commanding heights and was defended by Gen Tso Pao-kwei and his European drilled force .The fortifications erected by the Chinese were a marvel to the Japanese, who did not expect to find such finished work, and could not imagine how it had been possible to execute it in the forty-two days the city had been occupied. On inquiry it was found that not only all the Chinese troops, but all Koreans, from seventeen to fifty years of age, had been compelled to work, so that each fort, besides its garrison of about 500 men, had 360 Korean coolies to assist in building it. It it was protected by old works, which the Chinese had supplemented by new defenses. True, however, to the extraordinary practice so often adopted by the Chinese armies, they neglected to secure their rear to any adequate degree. The Japanese, who had fought the Chinese before, foresaw that this would be the case, and planned their measures accordingly.

 

Japanese crossing the Taidong in front of Pyongyang

 

The 13th was employed by the Mixed Brigade in making a series of demonstrations calculated to strengthen the Chinese opinion that the main body of the Japanese forces was in front of them, and intended to take the bull by the horns with a front attack. Some sergeants, with a handful of soldier belonging to the 3rd company of the 21st Regiment undertook one of those enterprises of reckless daring They crossed the Tai-dong river and attacked twenty of the enemy's vessels moored on the opposite shore, and, though exposed to heavy artillery and rifle fire, they succeeded in coming back with five Chinese vessels of different sizes. On their way back they also rescued fifty or sixty Koreans who had been left to starve in an island on the river. The Japanese artillery also kept up a brisk cannonade with the forts. The object of this latter feint was to discover the number of the enemy's guns, and they were ascertained to be about ten to fourteen. The capture of the junks was to convince the Chinese that the Japanese were making preparations to cross the river in the neighbourhood of Pyongyang, and to mask the real passage which, about that time, was being effected lower down the river by General Nozu with the main body.

 

"There Stands No Enemy Where We Go: Surrender of Pyongyang"

by Migita Toshihide

Click for larger image .

 

The 14th was a very clear day, and the Chinese commenced their cannonade at 0:30 a.m., but the Japanese did not answer ; their officers were busy with their field-glasses watching all the movements of the Chinese. It was feared they might suspect what was coming on the next day, and divide their forces, but it was soon discovered that their principal apprehensions were for the front attack of the Mixed Brigade. The last preparations were made for the coming action, which was to commence at 3 a.m. of the next day, the 15 th of September.

 

        

Harada Jukichi who opened the

Hyonmu Gate at Pyongyang

 

  The rebuilt Hyongmu Gate today

                                    

 

 

To prosecute the attack on Pyongyang, the Mixed Brigade had to advance on unsheltered ground, under the fire of three strong forts, built near the bridge of boats, and the flank fire of the forts across the river ; at the same time it received little assistance from its own artillery, as the only favourable ground for placing the guns was at a considerable distance from the Chinese forts. On the 14th of September arrangements were made for the attack of the following morning. The Mixed Brigade was divided into several detachments. One was pushed north to join with the Sak-riong detachment ; another was to advance between some hills and attack the Chinese forts in front ; another body was to advance by the main road from Chung-hwa, while Another detachment, under Major Okuyama, was to cross the Tai-dong and attack the south-eastern corner of Pyongyang, co-operating with the main body under Lieutenant-General Nozu.

 

The Chinese sent out three desperate cavalry charges

 

The attack began before daylight, at 4.30 A.M., on the 15th of September, with a furious cannonade. The Japanese guns were directed on the forts on the left bank of the river, which protected the bridge of boats, and on the forts of the opposite shore, which could direct a dangerous flank fire on an advancing enemy. The Chinese answered vigorously, but they fared worst in this artillery duel, as their aim was much inferior to the Japanese. Gradually, under cover of the artillery, the Japanese advanced, but they met a stubborn resistance. The Chinese sent out 3 cavalry charges, which were beaten back with large Chinese losses, around 600 men .

 

Night attack at Pyongyang ( Chinese print )

Click for larger image .

 

Throughout the day the Chinese held their own without much loss except to their defenses, and the; retired to rest with the satisfied feeling of men who have not unsuccessfully opposed a formidable adversary. They had a rude awakening. During the night the two Japanese columns drew a cordon around the Chinese forces, and at three o'clock on Sunday morning the attack was delivered simultaneously and with admirable precision. The columns were the ones who devoted themselves to the rear of the Chinese position, and the entrenched troops suddenly found themselves exposed to attacks from the force they had fought during the day and from new forces of fresh troops of unknown numbers. The Chinese lines which were so strong in front, were found comparatively weak in the rear. The unsuspicious soldiers, taken completely by surprise, fell into panic and were cut down by hundreds. They were surrounded and at every point where they sought safety in flight they met the foe.

 

Peony Hill where Gen Tso Pao-kuei and his force fought to the last man. Gen Tso's wife and mother died with him .The famous Genereal Tso's Chicken dish was not named after him, but Gen.Tso Tsung-t'ang , who died in 1885.

 

The Chinese general Tso Pao-kwei, who had troops drilled under Li Hung Chang's directions in the European system, fought stoutly, stood their ground to the last, all were cut down to a man. But their stand was useless. The Japanese column, swarming over the damaged defenses in the front, completed the destruction of the Chinese. Half an hour after the night attack opened, the splendid position of Pyongyang was in the possession of the Japanese. The Chinese sent up a white flag of surrender at 4:30 PM.

 

“Illustration of Chinese Generals from Pyongyang Captured Alive” by Migita Toshihide

 

   

Chinese Generals surrendering to Let Gen. Nozu(L) and Gen. Oshima after the Battle of Pyongyang

 

The Japanese victory was brilliant and complete. They captured the whole of the large quantities of stores, provisions, arms and ammunition in the camp, besides hundreds of battle flags. The Chinese loss was about two thousand seven hundred killed and more than fourteen thousand wounded and prisoners. Less than a fourth of the Chinese army succeeded in escaping. The Japanese loss was thirty killed and two hundred and sixty-nine wounded. Among the officers of the Chinese killed was General Tso-pao- kwei, the Manchu commander-in-chief of the army, who fought desperately to the last and was wounded twice. In this battle also, General Wei Ju-kwai , and General Nei Kweilin were captured and these practically comprise the effective Chinese staff. Within ten hours of the great battles of Pyongyang, the engineers had completed the military field telegraph between up and had messages on the wires to Seoul.After the Battle of Pyongyang, command of Japanese First Army was turned over from Marshal Yamagata to General Nozu for reasons of health. Nozu's former command of the 5th division was assumed by Lieutenant General Yasukata Oku. After the Battle of Pyongyang, the Japanese advanced north to the Yalu River without opposition.

 

Retreat of the Chinese to China

 

When the Chinese fled from Pyongyang towards Wi-ju they left behind them nearly a million dollars in treasure, thirty -six guns, two thousand tents, one thousand three hundred horses, and a considerable quantity of rice and other stores. Hard pressed by the pursuing Japanese, they abandoned their remaining four guns at An-ju, a town some seventy-five miles north of Pyongyang.

 

Wiju, on the border with China occupied

 

Japanese column reached Yong-chon, a little to the south of Wi- ju, after the difficult march from Ping-Yang, retarded by an ex- tensive commissariat department and many guns. No sign of the enemy was reported at this place. Four days later, scouts re- ported that a small Chinese force still occupied Wi-ju, and a detachment of Japanese infantry and cavalry was thrown forward, supported by light artillery, to dislodge them. The Chinese offered but a slight resistance and fled precipitately before the "smart attack, finally succeeding in getting across the Yalu. The larger body of Chinese troops had withdrawn across the river be- fore this time, so that the forces remaining in Korea numbered not more than two thousand. Their loss in killed and wounded probably did not exceed one hundred. Wi-ju was occupied by the Japanese on the same day, and on the day after they began a reconnoissance which revealed the fact that the Chinese were still in force in the northern bank of the river. Eight intrenched batteries were discovered, and the enemy were rapidly throwing up fresh earthworks and building new batteries. Obviously the next fight was to be expected at this place, and if the Chinese held their grounds it would be a sanguinary one. Marshal Yamagata still maintained his base at Pyongyang, as being more convenient for securing his supplies by sea, while General Nodzu remained in advance with the forces. The Japanese line of communication was now complete throughout Korea, a sufficient number of troops being scattered through the peninsula at Fusan, Asan, Chemulpo, Seoul, Gensan, and Pyongyang to guard against any hostilities on the part of the natives, and to make reinforcement by land safe. The government of Wiju was placed in the hands of a Japanese officer acting as special commissioner. The field telegraph was established in working order within two days after the capture of the place, and a regular courier service to the rear was inaugurated at once.

 

When the middle of October came, the two armies were still facing each other on the banks of tlie Yalu. The Chinese had not yet fired a shot but kept at work night and day improving the natural advantages of their position. On the Japanese side there was no desire unduly to hurry the fighting, Marshal Yama- gata choosing to wait for his heavier artillery and supplies before attacking. Spies kept him admirably informed as to the movements of the enemy, their defenses, and their artillery. They estimated the total strength of the Chinese massed along the north bank of the Yalu as between twenty-five and thirty thousand.

 

 

 

 

 

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July 29, 1894   

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Sept 17, 1894