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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Sir Garnet

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Great Expectations - The Army of the Urals – Ekaterinburg – More Taiping

June 1859

After a year of war, the daringly impossible conquest of Siberia had become a startling reality. Yet surprising success can breed both excessive expectation in the ambitious and cautious circumspection in the prudent. Guanwen felt the strength of both influences. Despite his subordination to Xu Youren (5-2-3) as commander in the capital and to the authority of the Emperor through the Secretariat of War, Guanwen’s star was high as Commander of the successful Central Asian Army Group and the amorphous Army of the Urals. He was well satisfied with success thus far, and above all sought not to forfeit what had been gained for the Emperor, for his armies, and lastly for himself. Preparation for offensive as well as defensive contingencies was the height of prudence, and he had already contemplated a general but probing advance into the Urals in the event of weak resistance or the thorough repulse of a major Russian counterattack.

Guanwen’s own commanders were in excitation over the news from Ufa, and the inquiries and compliments from Peking were being largely supplanted by more aggressively inclined memorials, suggestions and promises of support, facilitated by the chain of newly contrived telegraph wires, signal stations, and courier relays stretching halfway across east Asia. Although the war was not financially terrribly burdensome and the supply of replacements for losses in battle and to attrition had no end in sight, China had raised nearly the maximum possible formations of “modernized” regulars and useful smaller formations. With many small to medium-sized units tied down in the south and Annam dealing with Taiping or local outbreaks, and quite a few more trying to pacify holdout Russians in the painfully difficult northern Siberian wilderness, there were several banners in strategic reserve near the capital but not enormous depth of forces available to fight a very large war in the west (assuming the Russians could manage the logistics involved). Echoing prior European opinions, sentiment in the Forbidden City was now that a long war only helped Russia and the path to a good peace was to advance against weakness and capture more cities. The Emperor had not officially pronounced on this matter, but Guanwen, recognizing that the campaign season was short, assessed the probabilities and felt well-founded and secure in commencing a limited offensive to capture the strategic center of Ekaterinburg and as much of the Urals as was easily practicable.

The Army of the Urals in this campaign would be led personally by Guanwen’s Hupeh Banner supported by the other 3 banner armies in garrison along the Irtych line down to the depot base near Altai. These forces would by necessity advance in echelon from the right (north wing) on Ekaterinburg and points south, preceded by small scouting and raiding detachments detecting enemy presence and movements. Rather than form up a full second line of forces on the Irtych, it was decided that supplies would be conserved by advancing smaller forces west to secur the Irtych line against raiders and possible partisans and provide a defensive shield in the event of a reverse. Commitments were made to commence military road building in China’s far northwest in order to strengthen the chain of supply – there was some economic construction at home, but it was limited.

Guanwen’s banner army at Tobolsk would immediately strike west through Tyumen and Irbit and then attack either the objective city of Ekaterinburg if feasible or if not then swing northwest to capture the small city of Serov as a base. Zuo Zongtang’s banner army at Omsk would as soon as possible advance along the adequately supplied north bank of the Irtych until south of Tobolsk (drawing supplies from stores in Omsk and Tobolsk for the first two provinces) and then strike west toward Ufa. In addition to pacifying the intervening terrain, Zuo Zongtang could reinforce the Ekaterinburg attack, head on to Ufa, or swing left to the south.

The more traditional Shantung Banner at Semipalatinsk would head across the Steppes toward the southern Urals fortress of Orsk to draw Russian attention and provide flank cover for supply wagons, artillery, and other reinforcements headed to join the main offensive. The modernized but fatigued 164th Regular Banner at Aiaguz southwest of Semipalatinsk would push to Karaganda and Tenghiz to tie down the formidable Prospecting Party and 6th Cossack Host Division – which had occasioned so many inconveniences in the steppes. Bao Chao’s corps including a Regular Banner would remain on defense in the Altai Depot area.

The mission of the Army of the Urals was to take as many cities and bases as possible, but stop short of the fortresses at Orsk and Orenburg at the southern end of the Urals and the fortress of Kazan that barred the way farther west. If held in any force by Russians with strong artillery, they were considered unconquerable with the forces that would be available.

In the Urals, the Cavalry Warband that had captured Ufa restored itself to full strength with ample captured supplies and ammunition, frightening off the small Russian detachment that had been besieging that place. Even more promisingly, good scouting found only a Russian internal battalion north in Perm and two Partisan battalions in Ekaterinburg, and no visible enemy in the adjoining level 3 cities of Sarapol to the southwest and the town of Magnitogorsk to the southeast. Mixed scouts sent into Kartali to check on Orsk were blocked and chased away by a modest division comprising a Cossack regiment, the Ukraine Brigade, some engineers, and supply train.

As things developed, Zuo Zongtang was delayed in place before starting out, so Guanwen proceeded alone. Arriving after a steady long march at Ekaterinberg, he attacked on June 26. The experienced Hupeh Banner of almost 15,000 men and 48 cannon was able to engage on a 7-element front and easily defeated the 3000 defenders, who achieved a few lucky shots from their favorable positions but panicked and were crushed. When news of the victory arrived at home, Qing National Morale that just recently risen from 73 to 74 arose again to a satisfactory 75.

On the Steppes, the Army of the Urals’ 164th Regular Banner moved on Karaganda but went to defense due to low cohesion. Its 13,000 men and 48 guns outnumbered the prospectors and horsemen who were now under the competent Russian officer Ivan Krasnov (5-2-1) at Karaganda itself, but the attack woulid await the arrival of the fresh Shantung Banner. This arrived and passed quickly to the assault. In the battle of Karaganda the 25,800 Chinese and 96 cannon of two banners, led by local unit commanders, attacked Krasnov’s 5162 men, mostly cavalry, and 24 cannon who were entrenched in the field. The Shantung Banner assaulted the Cossack 6th Host fiercely. The Banner was well lead but fatigued, and faced effective artillery fire from the Cossacks, who were, however, somewhat unnerved during the attack. 2511 Cossacks were casualties; Imperial losses in infantry were 2844. Krasnov retreated south to Yasi.

In the northeast theatres, Ma Xinyi was unable to catch the Russians in the woods of Bratsk. The Russian cavalry and horse artillery slipped away to the far snowy north region of Chunskoye where they caught and slaughtered 500 bandits near the end of the month. However, Ma Xinyi’s banner was in pursuit, supported by a supply train in Bratsk and its escorts, and would give them little rest.

Farther east, near Amur Fort the 26th Column only besieged the fort loosely due to lost cohesion (though it had ample supplies available to recover in time). Mixed troops from the east and Zeng Guofan’s army from the southwest arrived in Iablonovy (where Fort Amur is located) in late June to reinforce the Imperial presence. Unfortunatley, a weak and fragmented assault on June 19 was outnumbered by the vigorous defenders and lost 845 men to only a handful of the enemy. In the Far East, Imperial troops landed peacefully in Kolyma on June 4 and began taking control of the province.

At home, a tribal revolt in Hue down in Annam was immediately crushed by the Imperial forces. There were ongoing campaigns against the Taiping. Imperial forces advanced up both sides of the Yangtze River to engage the Taiping force that fled west into Luzhou. They were caught and chastised on June 3, but the survivors fled into the western mountains near ungarrisonned Yibin – Imperial regulars and cavalry were in hot pursuit and scattered the Taiping with heavy loss on June 20.

On the south coast, the heavily-gunned citadel of Beihai was finally breached and then stormed on June 9 with heavy loss (3075 casualties) to the armies of 50,000 men in total that had been arrayed in the province. In between the Yangtze and the sea in the south, Taiping detachments appeared and were fought, chased and defeated in various provinces in a now familiar pattern based on a network of garrisons as well as mobile forces. Sengge Rinchen’s dreaded Mongolian Cavalry served with particular distinction.

Further technological learning matured in Naval Professionalism and Flag Signaling, which might someday be useful. News came of more rumors of war and of Chechen revolt in the Russian Empire. Attention, however, remained focused on Siberia.
 
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Sir Garnet

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Loki, PON is really something, and with great potential. The military side explored so well in AARs including yours, as well as economics, diplomacy and more.

Stuyvesant, I'm thinking more about explaining some rules mechanics, however the revised manual does a good job I think. To win a war you need warscore, and for warscore you must do great deeds and take and hold places that matter. It being a long, long way to St Petersburg, China must take what it can get - which is a security zone of provinces along the northern border, with the whole first layer sought in this war.
 

Stuyvesant

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Your triumphant conquest of Russia continues! What gives me hope for the future is that you took on the Cossack Host and managed to best them with fairly even casualty rates (although you did outnumber them almost 5-to-1). So long as the Russians keep dribbling in reinforcements and you can continue to have local superiority in numbers, things look really good. And all those poorly defended cities... Very tempting targets. :)
 

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More good stuff although I confess I'm struggling to visualise the theatre.
 

Sir Garnet

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More good stuff although I confess I'm struggling to visualise the theatre.

A globe is probably best, though a map of Siberia from Baikal to the Urals will serve. The provinces are so large that a screenshot when zoomed out loses the icons and it still does not cover much. I'll see if I can create one of the Irtych to Urals area with captions and not too much difficulty.

EDIT: Captured with FastStone, edited with Gimp (just adding text boxes) butwith some struggle and the application was terminated "unexpectedly". Snag-it was decent but I think pricey for what it does.
 
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Sir Garnet

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The Battles of Ufa – Sweeping the Steppes – Prospects for Reinforcement

July 1859

Guanwen’s advance sent probing Russians in quick retreat back to Perm, where the Battle of Perm followed on July 7. It had a unique character. The 14,862 men and 48 cannon under Guanwen fought a two round meeting engagement with 23,650 Russians, including much more cavalry and 48 cannon. The Chinese were repulsed and retired on Ekaterinburt, but Chinese losses were only 1358 men while Russian losses were 3587 (falling almost entirely on the Ukrainian infantry), the Russians being short on command, with shakier morale, and perhaps saved by favorable ground. Guanwen’s cohesion was reduced too much to want to engage fresh troops in Perm again – he assumed the Russians would hold there on the defensive, and instead moved directly to relieve Ufa and seek a small victory as well as relief of the garrison.

The Russians were already on the attack, assaulting Ufa’s defenders on July 20 with 8500 men and 48 cannon. The defenders suffered heavily – the Bandit scouts were eliminated – but the main defense by the 45th Cavalry was untouched. The next day’s attack was a 2-round defeat for the Russians, losing over 2000 men and several hundred prisoners (largely Partisans) to Imperial forces, but 3 of the 4 elements of the 1000-strong Cavalry Warband were gone. Only a remnant remained. Guanwen had forced a probe toward Ekaterinburg back en route to Ufa and arrived near the besieged town just in time to forestall further assault, but then Alexander Wrangell’s corps arrived, bringing Russian strength to 2 Opolchenie Brigades, 3 partisan brigades, and a battered Mixed Brigade (22,762 men) directed against the 14,662 men and 48 guns of Hupeh banner. The Russians attacked Guanwen and the battle was drawn, with less than 800 Chinese casualties and more than double that for the Russians). An additional Russian division had been spotted arriving to the southwest at Sarapol. Additional troops arrived at Perm that raised the total to 11 units of unknown total strength. Guanwen was induced by the fatigue of his troops to withdraw to Ekaterinburg to consider his plans while Wrangell reopened the siege against the the 150 heroes of Ufa, who manned some defenses with the propped-up bodies of their dead. Guanwen was in need of the supplies stored in Ufa, but was seriously outnumbered and risked a crushing defeat or the Perm forces slipping behind him into Ekaterinburg if he took his veteran banner back to Ufa for another relief attempt. After weighing the choices, he decided he must hold at Ekaterinburg to fix Russian attention while the rest of the Imperial echelons advanced to provide eventual support. His goal was to hold Ekaterinburg through the winter, and his ideal ambition to win a great defensive battle that would allow a counterattack to push the Russians back to their forts in the southern Urals.

There was further reinforcement of the Army of the Urals on the way. Zhang Guoliang (4-4-1 Hotheaded Feu de Bataillon) left his experienced 133rd Regular Banner at Tianjin near the capital and was despatched to the west, to command the southern wing of the Army of the Urals. Other forces were shifting west with the intention of reinforcing the Irtych line. Closer at hand in the northern sector behind Guanwen, but still weeks from arrival, were Zuo Zongtang’s (3-3-3) oft-delayed force moving up the Irtych and some minor units. Guanwen’s army had shown its quality to the Russians by damage inflicted, but was now seriously outnumbered by the identified nearby Russian forces, whose commanders were competent enough to defend Perm and Ufa or seize back the strategic center of Ekaterinburg were it left open rather than firmly defended.

There were relatively more troops advancing to the south, where the situation was changing more swiftly. On July 1, the remaining 400 Russian garrison in Karaganda was wiped out by Shantung and 164th Banners and control of the province was secured. This would leave Krasnov’s two Cossack Hosts of almost 5000 men nearly cut off along the border, so the Russian general quickly withdrew northwest through Tenghiz on occupied Magnitogorsk. On the way his horsemen burned the schools in Yasi and Tenghiz and wiped out a Chinese cavalry detachment scouting through Tenghiz.

Behind the Irtych line, the Russian garrison in northerly Brabinsk was eliminated by a mixed and a cavalry brigade as part of the summer security campaign in the north, and two banners worked to hunt down the Russian 4th Brigade in Chunskoye.

In the northeastern theatres, cohesion difficulties forced converging Imperial columns back from Amur Fort. Zeng Guofan’s memorials to the Secretariat of War regarding the need to rebuild the burned depot in Nerchinsk were at last recognized in the form of new depot construction there.

In the southwest of China, the Taiping who had fled west into the hills in Anshun were hunted down and wiped out by Sengge Rinchen. In the Viet mountains at Caobang, 7000 Taiping lost 2229 men in a defeat by 5850 Chinese (fanatics and regulars) who lost under 1000 casualties. There were further battles with Taiping forces in southwest China, but the suppression of the Taiping was now a routine methodical task.
 

Stuyvesant

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Hmm. The Russians finally show up in force and the results are not pretty. You're not beaten yet, but the risk of serious defeat has gone up substantially.

I hope you can hold on to Ekaterinburg through the winter and that you can get enough reinforcements to the theatre to even things out. I guess it's time to start sniping at lonely or weak Russian units, in hopes that it'll bring you back to a more favorable balance of power.
 

loki100

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sounds like the war is reaching a balance point as the Russians finally start building up ... presume you have problems of distance to bring in reinforcements and the fear of overloading your supply lines to worry over
 

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sounds like the war is reaching a balance point as the Russians finally start building up ... presume you have problems of distance to bring in reinforcements and the fear of overloading your supply lines to worry over

Very much so for the Urals unless the Qing Armies can take the bulk of the cities. The strategic city of Ekaterinburg or its environs might be held on defense until winter, but Perm and Ufa have the significant supplies. Like Napoleon wondering after Grouchy, if only Zuo Zongtang had not stopped repeatedly the army at Ekaterinburg would be twice the size.

A more subtle strategy would be to retreat and hope the Russians advance to the Irtych or even farther to the border. They are already offering reparations for peace, but not enough warscore yet. Long fighting will wear down the Russian manpower pool faster than the Chinese

Yet anything that looks like withdrawal in weakness will present a poor appearance at home and to the world.
 

Sir Garnet

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Heroic Stand at Second Ekaterinburg

August 1859

On August 1 Aleksandr Wrangell (4-2-1) was reinforced to over 43,000 men and assaulted and eliminated the 150 survivors of Ufa, losing 307 men himself, while at Magnitogorsk to the ssouth the 1250 Chinese defenders were assaulted by Krasnov’s 4762 men and 48 cannon and later finished off on the 9th. Meanwhile other Russians dispersed the scouting cavalry brigade to the east.

South of Magnitogorsk, at Ilek on the 19th, however, a Qing Cavalry Warband of almost 1000 horsemen without loss to themselves defeated 6000 militia infantry under General Berg and sent them scurrying back west.

But the fall of leaves is not the measure of the tree – where it mattered most, near Ekaterinburg on the 9th, a Russian column of 23,000 partisans, attempting to outflank Guanwen (5-6-3) to the north was defeated by the 15,000 men and 48 guns of Hupeh Banner and its train in the battle of First Ekaterinburg, losing over 3000 Russians to 615 Qing losses.

That was only prelude. The united commands of three Russian generals with a total of 43,000 men and 48 cannon and including substantially more cavalry than the Qing forces attacked under General Aleksandr Luders on the 19th. Guanwen’s veteran 15,000 men and 48 guns and supply train were entrenched in second-level field defences outside Ekaterinburg (where organization of a depot was now commencing). Guanwen’s message to the troops was short. It mentioned that the Banner had advanced victoriously over one thousand Li from the homeland, and now all they needed to do was hold their ground. A firm base would be established in the Urals for reinforcements that were approaching, but for a time they must fight alone. Second Ekaterinburg would be the hardest-fought battle of the war to date.

In six rounds of bitter fighting that first day, Guanwen’s Hupeh Banner was disadvantaged at range but devastatingly precise in its marksmanship when the attackers closed. It held the line, losing 4176 men to the Russians 10,711 men. It was a stalemate – but that is what was needed to buy time.

The Russians needed only a respite to regroup, and resumed the battle on the 26th with six further attacks using fresher units – Qing loss was 3126 men, leaving about 8000 standing after the fighting. Russian losses were almost 8000 men. The Russians resumed the attack the next morning, but the Russian effort fell short on the third day of battle. This best of the Qing Banners suffered 871 men lost, the Russian force of 25,000 men lost almost 5000 casualties plus prisoners in four rounds of combat and then retired in defeat on Ufa, quitting the province of Ekaterinburg just as the first trickle of Qing reinforcements – some cavalry – started to arrive from the east. The total tally of Second Ekaterinburg was that Guanwen lost a little more than half of his 15,000 men while the the Russians lost 24,000 of the 43,000 engaged. The Qing army was exhausted. Russian reinforcements had been detected.
 

PrawnStar

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Sounds tense and a cliffhanger as well!
 

Sir Garnet

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quite an epic defense ... seems as if in PoN being on the defense if you can is a fundamental advantage?

Tactically for advantage of entrenchments and ground, yes. Also, Guanwen is a 5-6-3, an epic attacker but only an unusually good defender, while typically most commanders may have decent attack but weak defense. It also matters that his Banner is all musket-armed infantry - many of the Qing troops are non-firearm types (focused on security duties in the south, or occasionally for a softening-up assault). The Hupeh Banner is also veteran troops personally led by Guanwen for a while - and the banner's artillery (safe for the most part in combat) are working on their 5th star so very good.

Sounds tense and a cliffhanger as well!

Yes, it is. I've started September but need to finish it before writing things up as a coherent account.
 

Stuyvesant

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That was a bloodbath - some 20-odd thousand Russians killed is quite the feat. Glad that Guanwen managed to hold out - but with half his army dead and only a trickle of reinforcements arriving, I'm concerned about Third Ekaterinburg...
 

Sir Garnet

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Retrenchment in the North – Advance in the South – Amur Remains

Retrenchment in the North – Advance in the South – Amur Remains

September 1859

The Northern Urals: The army of Luders had been badly mauled and fallen back SW to Ufa at the end of August. Unfortunately, fresh Russian forces were also seen approaching approaching from the west as September turned. Guanwen could not risk the destruction of the mauled and exhausted entire banner by continuing to hold at all costs, so was turned out of its defenses in a small sharp action by Mikhail Muraviev’s (4-4-0) who arrived on September 3 with the 4000-man Cavalry Corps– including the Astrakhan Host, LifeGuards Cavalry, and 6th Corps Cavalry Brigade. Joined by more Russians Muraviev took the city of Ekaterinburg and its Depot in progress and also engaged various reinforcing detachments as they arrived – only some of which were able to join Guanwen. Guanwen was forced into a passive posture, retreating east into the wilds of Irbit province, where he could be supplied through the captured outpost of Tyumen and then Tobolsk to the east.

Guanwen had received some reinforcements, others had been caught by the Russians, but the arrival of replacements made an enormous difference to restoring the Hupeh Regulars closer to full. Some small units of all arms were marching to join him, but the total troop strength would not much exceed 15,000 in the foreseeable future. National morale dipped to 73 upon news of the retreat from Ekaterinburg, but Guanwen felt he had enough to keep Russian attention.

The Russians appeared to have massed all they had to secure Ekaterinburg – Krasnov’s corps-size force (everything from cossacks, prospectors and partisans to regulars and engineers), Muraviev’s cavalry corps, the battered remainder of Luders’ army, and miscellany including the Astrakhan Cossack Host. The count of this mass was 77,000 men, with a power of 500, and its assembly appeared to have stripped bare Ufa and the other nearby towns of Russian troops. Guanwen was aware of large though fatigued Qing forces crossing the Steppes to approach the Urals from the southeast, and determined to remain at Irbit building strength in order to occupy the Russian attention in the north and indirectly enable the southern offensive from the Steppes. Guanwen was a master of attack, and should the Russians weaken Ekaterinburg he would act quickly to wrest it back.

To the north the small town of Serov had been taken by Qing troops passing through to join Guanwen but was undefended so Guanwen sent a cavalry brigade to occupy and secure the province but evade combat in case the Russians sent a detachment-they ran into an army moving on Serov of about 35,000 men of all arms and sold their lives as best they could when they were unable to evade away from the Cossacks and were caught on September 28. The news of this large army at Serov was welcome as it put them farther from the key point which was now the southern Urals, but its obvious objective was Guanwen’s army and then the heavily stocked but almost undefended depot of Tobolsk two provinces east. Ekaterinburg was left with a garrison of 13,700 men and 24 cannon. This was not a force Guanwen would hesitate to engage if alone, but the 35,000 men at Serov (though only 250 in power) exerted a tremendous deterrence and threat to Tobolsk Guanwen determined that security required that he recover cohesion and wait.


Southern Steppes Campaign: In addition to some direct reinforcement of Guanwen, a major push in the steppes in the south had been planned and was accelerated by August, with several banners moving across the southern regions near the Khiva border, headed for the fort at Orsk and Magnitogorsk to the north of that place.

A raiding Cavalry Brigade of 1000 men was in fact farther west in a diversion, besieging Uralsk briefly in August but kept moving west on an offensive raid, to burn supplies and evade opposition on its way to the banks of the southern Volga if it could achieve that aim. It was hoped this might draw away several divisions from any Russian forces moving east to reinforce the Urals. This unit grabbed and burned mountains of supplies in the the towns of Busuluk, Aleksandrov, and then Zarev on the Volga, across from Tsaritsyn, which was defended only by a depot garrison (and could be supported from adjacent Saratov to the northwest). A raid on Tsaritsyn served little purpose as the depot was defended and it could be reinforced, so the commander decided to turn north along the east bank of the Volga to make a more direct diversion of Russian resources in the immediate path of the southern flank of the general offensive. They ran into 4950 pursuing Russian foot and mounted partisans at Busuluk and lost half their number, though doing more than twice the damage to the enemy. They then secured Obshi Syrt and its supplies and headed to rendezvous with the 164th Banner approaching Uralsk depot where it planned to rest and supply as the western anchor of the Imperial forces. En route on October 1 the 750 horsemen caught 10,000 militia including some cavalry and handled them roughly, losing 76 men and routing the militia whose horse and foot lost almost 2000 cascasualties.

It appeared the drain of expelling Guanwen from Ekaterinburg and the diversion toward the Volga may have succeeded when Zuo Zongtang’s (4-4-3) regular army of 20,000 men and 64 guns – exhausted but enthusiastic – found Magnitogorsk without defenders in early September and occupied it. Ufa appeared unoccupied as well, but the troops needed rest and his second banner under Zhang Guoliang** (5-4-1) was coming up behind, so the often cautious Zuo held position. In late September nearly 10,000 men under Krasnov appeared at Ufa from Ekaterinburg. Zuo Zongtang’s banner alone was stronger, but once against cautiously defended in place while his men recovered cohesion and Shantung banner came up as reinforcement. Zhang Guoliang headed back to join the 150th Regular Banner southeast at Rudny, where it had stopped to regain cohesion. This was in response to the Russian militia brigade entrenched in Ilek province and the need for a commander to try the forts of Orsk and Orenburg, which for either side was a secure base southwest of the Urals and for the Qing forces a threat against the Russian line of communications at Kazan.

Farther south the 164th Regular Banner was moving along the border to head past Orsk and toward the depot city of Uralsk, thought to be an easy target as was the next town of Obshi Syrt, rich with supplies. The 150th Regular Banner as mentioned would go to Orsk, and there were further troops coming up to increase the strength on the front to equal the mobile Russian forces that had been encountered. The broad Qing advance across the breadth of Kazakhstan and the steppes to the north was sustained by a network of numerous roving supply trains drawing on the great depot at Altai and the Irtych posts farther north, resulting in no need to pillage. They would, however, need to sustain themselves and find good winter positions in the Urals and southeastern Russia if the front was to be held and the Qing cause advanced.


Eastern Siberia: Operations continued to catch several isolated Russian forces, and with the efforts of multiple small forces, each with little cohesion but together a respectable force, a siege position was established outside Amur Fort by the beginning of September so a proper siege could begin. Once the siege lines were established and supplied, excess forces would be sent to the western front, for the Qing Empire believed the vastness of Eastern Siberia would be secure. A Lithuanian Brigade that had moved south to Nerchinsk was caught by Zeng Guofan’s 43,000 men and 100 guns and almost destroyed on September 16 – making safe the province for the depot. The Lithuanian survivors retreated to Amur Fort but were caught by elements of Zeng Guofan’s army of 41,000 men and 104 cannon and annihilated. The 22,050 defenders with 32 cannon at Amur Fort were not directly engaged, but in October the siege was laid and the defenses breached by the end of the month. Zeng Guo Fan (3-4-2) was not going to act in haste. Once the place was fully breached, he still waited. In November he created 3 breaches, but deep cold interrupted supplies and his unsupplied troops suffered and were then forced back to Nerchinsk by a sortie.
 

loki100

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you are doing a superb job of capturing the ebb and flow of this campaign.

the last comment reinforced my suspicion that winter is going to have a lot to say about which of China or Russia has the real advantage in this campaign
 

Sir Garnet

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DOMESTIC STRATEGIC REPORT JULY-DECEMBER 1859

Taiping Rebels were a serious problem only in northern Viet, where they besieged Langson for a time in the summer and controlled the dense jungle countryside before Qing reinforements coul fight through the jungle into the province. They were then forced to retreat into southern China. This appeared to spark further revolts on the on the southern coast and in the Yangtze area which were chased down in now routine fashion.

Implementation of Muzzle-Loading Rifle technology was developed in September 1859, and started to come into service among the troops at home, but would take time to affect the troops in the field against Russia, who would only receive this technology if they could receive it and be trained in its use in the Urals. Such an improvement would help the overall military balance. Reports put total Russian strength at not far from twice that of the Qing Empire. Yet China had immense numbers of patriotic and brave young men eager to fight, and a military expenditure small for an army of great size and with many veterans. The troops jested about most of Russia’s veteran troops being in China’s prison farms fighting insects. A considerable portion of Russian strength was its expensive navy which could not be brought in use against China. The Qing navy was also small and used proven ships, resulting in low expense.

High silk prices led to increased foreign revenue, and foreign trade proved sufficient to help satisfy the 85 food and 41 common goods demands though not in great variety. Howeve, only 3 of 9 luxury demand was met - no luxuries could be purchased from the 4 foreign merchants who sought to trade with China. The possibility of constructing additional manufactories for industrial and luxury goods was placed in consideration after commencement of initial railroad construction.

Despite the ability of coastal craft to provide transport along the coast, the Taiping rebellion had made obvious the advantages of faster internal transport. The Great Canal in the north already provided inland transport from the lower Yangtze toward Peking and this was outside the area of rebellion so military transport was not a substantial concern – the Imperial Guard Army would continue to provide security around Peking. The Yangtze allowed riverine transport from Shanghai to the western mountains. Wuchang on the south bank of the middle Yangtze was selected for the first railways as a rich industrial province as well as the logical central terminus of a railway extending south to Canton that would serve both the needs of both the military and commerce.

Continued pacification had some success in Indochina as the central and northern coastal provinces were trained in the ways of harmonious obedience to the Celestial Empire appropriate to future vassals. Lumber was introduced on a major scale in Hue.

[OOC: Under 1.03, retraining with new equipment requires your Depot.]
 

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Slow Steppes - Forward Urals! – Third Ekaterinburg

October to Early December 1859

The southern plan to advance and secure Uralsk was dislocated at Aktiubinsk where the advancing and exhausted 164th Banner lost 700 men in being driven back east by 5000 fresh partisans on October 7. This isolated the raiding cavalry at Uralsk. The 164th went on defense to rest in Ilik, where the troublesome Russian infantry remained. Shuai Zhang Guoliang took the 150th Regular Banner into Ilik while the defensively skilled Bao Chao’s column continued into Kartali on its way to the fort at Orsk. Farther north the Kwangsi Banner struggled on in parallel westward on Magnitogorsk.

The southern front maintained the Magnitogorsk-Kartali-Ilek line into early November, then planned a push forward late in the month intended to reach the Uralsk depot and besiege Orsk at the same time as Zuo commenced his next offensive move.

Bao Chao under the command of Zhang Guoliang arrived at Orsk and found a brief drawn fight in the snow between the Qing corps that marched to the guns and the 19,000 Orsk defenders and their 12 cannon. The defenders withdrew to their fortress. The striking point of the Steppes offensive reached Uralsk over a month behind schedule, where the battle fought on the 9th of December was won.
Battle of Uralsk, Dec 9, 1859
China Uralsk Dec 9 1859  2012-08-10.jpg

Setbacks in the steppes did not slow the cautious advance of Zuo Zongtang northward into the Urals with 34,000 men and 112 cannon (some tired, the rest exhausted) from Magnitogorsk toward apparently undefended Ufa nor the following movements of the second wave. Zuo's movement was implicitly coordinated with Guanwen, who after ceasing to receive scouting reports of Russians at Serov to the northwest moved in a probe against Ekaterinburg to draw Russian attention or better yet besiege Ekaterinburg. He was sure they had fallen back to Perm because that city offered the best position to reinforce Serov, Ekaterinburg, or Ufa and substantial supplies. This was soon proven correct.

Although still significantly understrength, Guanwen went into a defensively-oriented siege of Ekaterinburg while recovering cohesion in early November thanks to the supply wagons from Tobolsk. 15,000 Russians and 24 guns were besieged in Ekaterinburg – as many men as Guanwen but less than half of his depleted power. Zuo meanwhile secured Ufa and substantial and much needed supplies fell into his hands.

There was a stronger Russian force at Perm under Muraviev and Wrangell. It was snowing and time to secure winter quarters was growing short. The Ekaterinburg depot would take through January to be finished. Supplies would be an issue. Several strategies were available.
Urals Situation Mid November 1859
China Urals L Nov 1859 2012-08-10.jpg
Guanwen’s situation is shown – he had power to besiege and possibly take the city in a strong assault, which would be costly and might risk Muraviev’s intervention. He could direct his forces on Perm but this would leave the Russians loose in his rear, so strategically unsound – particularly considering the supply chain and lack of other forces beside the mixed brigade headed to take Serov. This left continuing the siege as the logical solution.

In Ufa, Zuo*** (4-3-3) had two banners and a regular division plus additional artillery. Shantung banner was in serious need of rest, and would need to secure Ufa and start building a depot that would be ready in the spring. This left Zuo with 17,500 men and 64 cannon in moderately good shape and stronger than Muraviev’s force in Perm. Trained by Guanwen, he saw three offensive alternatives.

The almost instinctive choice was to move west across the river and take Sarapol, outflanking Muraviev. This would cut off Muraviev from the west, seize supplies likely present, and after leaving the regular division on guard could recross the river to face Muraviev** (4-4-0) and fight him with an advantage or besiege him in Perm. This, however, would effectively divide the northern Qing armies by putting Muraviev in a position between them. Zuo could face unexpected enemy from the northwest or southwest and be trapped between them. Too risky.

The direct approach on Muraviev would result in a siege of the city or favorable battle even if Guanwen did not march to the sound of the guns. A second siege would tie down both armies for perhaps critical time. A battle without crushing strength posed the danger of heavy losses to Qing armies of limited size and far from home. Peking was almost three times farther away than Moscow, on a much less accessible route, a fact which weighed heavily on the minds of the Qing commanders.

Better to unite with Guanwen under the third plan, which was to move to assault the town of Ekaterinburg already under siege by Guanwen. By arrival, Guanwen’s bombardment might already have breached the defenses and weakened the garrison, and his forces would almost certainly join in the assault with a combined total then of 30,000 men and 120 cannon against the defenders – who had half the number of troops and a quarter of the Qing 450 power. The motley force of cossacks, partisans, mixed colonial troops, and an Opolchenie Brigade in Ekaterinburg had some artillery but was unsuited to a strong defense. With the defenders quickly destroyed, the Qing armies could then face or envelop Muraviev and either destroy him or tumble him back to the west. That would secure a good winter position in the Urals behind a river line - this would compensate for disappointing performance in September and October on the steppes. Concentration of the Qing banners would also assure the most safety against the worst course of events – the prompt arrival of strong Russian reinforcements in the Urals. So it was decided.

Zuo did not expect Guanwen to make a pre-emptive attack, but he was spurred to do so and lost 563 men to the 768 of the defenders in a brief foray. This did serve to drain defender ammunition.
Probe at Ekaterinburg
China Urals Nov 16 1859 Ekat 2012-08-10.jpg
The Third Battle of Ekaterinburg was not until November 22, 1859, fought in snow that diminished the benefits of a large Qing superiority in artillery. Zuo’s banner assaulted the unbreached defenses on arrival and fought for six hours before stopping from exhaustion. 4,200 Russians were taken prisoner and they suffered 10,455 casualties – the wounded routinely dying in the cold. Zuo’s losses were 4,330 men. The town held out with the remnants of three units still defending.
Third Ekaterinburg Nov 22, 1859
China Urals Third Ekaterinburg Nov 22 1859 2012-08-10.jpg

While this was happening, some brigades of Russians arrived at Ufa and impudently besieged the superior force inside which was still recovering cohesion. Lest they be trapped by Muraviev should they move, the defenders were charged with remaining as a garrison. Ekaterinburg had not fallen, so Guanwen planned to take his turn assaulting Ekaterinburg and then later continue movement on to Ufa to chase the besiegers away, thus obtaining an advantageous position to outflank or encircle Muraviev. Meanwhile Zuo’s troops would rest. Ekaterinburg fell December 1 but in he weather conditions Guanwen did not make it to Ufa.

Snow was growing heavy across the land, and the need for taking up winter quarters and digging in was pressing. Perm was a prize in terms of supplies, and a crushing defeat of Muraviev would probably secure the front until spring unless fresh Russian armies were already near. Questions arrived from the Forbidden City demanding information about results. Important decisions needed to be made.
 
Last edited:

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COUNCIL OF WAR ON STRATEGY AND OPERATIONS: WHAT NEXT?
Kindly view the attached image for Late December 1859 (laboriously GIMPed from FastStone with humble lack of expertise) and provide detailed analysis/recommendation to the council of war for operations to be pursued.
China Urals Situation Mid-Dec of 1859.jpg
Guanwen*** (5-6-3) is at 2/3 strength and low in cohesion as well as is his attached Cavalry division (Warband) and Levy brigade. The total includes a gutted attached Regular Mixed Division to be left as garrison. Guanwen can move as early as the beginning of January and might even march sooner to the sound of the guns, or Hupeh banner could advance with Zuo. Indeed, he could exchange commands and lead an advance while Zuo remains at Ekaterinburg. The Depot there will complete later in the winter.

Zuo Zongtang*** (4-3-3) is near full strength though medium cohesion, reinforced by mixed and levy brigades, 2 artillery units, and a supply train. One idea is to wait for year end to recover cohesion before acting. The fear is that the Russians may be active – they might, for example, concentrate against Ufa. Zuo as a second plan could move down to Ufa, collect the Banner there, and advance north in force. A third plan would be to advance cautiously on the offensive against Perm, either besieging it or lightly engaging the Russians there.

The Traditional Banner in Ufa could disperse the besiegers and move north to Perm to converge upon the Russians along with Zuo. It could move NW to Sarapol rather than Perm, trying to take that city – with Zuo moving either to Perm or to Ufa, leaving it not too far out of position to support the Shantung Banner’s advance. The Depot in Ufa has only recently been started.

Another banner coming from the south will arrive and can secure Ufa, or could move west to Kama immediately as it appears undefended. This would however disperse the banners.

It is unknown what further strength the Russians have. Some has been distracted to the south already, but there may be more nearby and on the march.