In some quarters the force of the new Japanese army was well understood, and the estimates of the balance of military power formed by the minister of war, Kuropatkin, coincided so remarkably with the facts that at the end of the summer of 1903 he saw that the moment had come when the preponderance was on the side of the Japanese.
Further, Dragomirov, a higher military authority even than Kuropatkin, declared that " Far Eastern affairs were decided in Europe."
Kuropatkin, who had taken command of the army, saw from the first that he would have Kuro- to gain three months, and disposed his forces as they patkin's came on the scene, unit by unit, in perfect accord plan.
After he had minutely arranged the Eastern Detachment in a series of rearguard positions, so that each fraction of it could contribute a little to the game of delaying the enemy before retiring on the positions next in rear, the commander of the detachment, Zasulich, told him that " it was not the custom of a knight of the order of St George to retreat," and Kuropatkin did not use his authority to recall the general, who, whether competent or not, obviously misunderstood his mission.
The general distribution of the Russian forces was now as follows: The main army under Kuropatkin was forming, by successive brigades, in two groups - I.
And setting this off against the absence of Linievich and Stoessel, Kuropatkin could expect to have a sufficient superiority in numbers to take the offensive.
Meanwhile Kuropatkin, assembling the main army week by week, was in a difficult position.
From this time forward, Kuropatkin allowed his subordinates little or no initiative.
Kuropatkin, thus required to abandon his own Kum- plan, had only to choose between attacking the ist patkin.
He did not yield at once; a second letter from the viceroy, the news of Nanshan, and above all a signed order from the tsar himself, " Inform General Kuropatkin that I impose upon him all the responsibility for the fate of Port Arthur," were needed to bring him definitely to execute a scheme which in his heart he knew to be perilous.
The Russians, then, at the beginning of June, were divided into three groups, the Southern, or offensive group (3 5,000), in the triangle Neuchwang-Haicheng-Kaiping; the Eastern or defensive group (30,000), the main body of it guarding the passes right and left of the Wiju-Liao-Yang road, the left (Cossacks) in the roadless hills of the upper Aiho and Yalu valleys, the right (Mishchenko's Cossacks and infantry supports) guarding Fenshuiling pass and the road from Takushan; the reserve (42,000) with Kuropatkin at Liao-Yang; the " Ussuri Army " about Vladivostok; and Stessel's two divisions in the Kwantung peninsula.
Lastly, on June 7th, while Stakelberg was proceeding southward on his ill-defined errand, Kuropatkin, imposed upon by the advance of the Takushan column to Siu-yen, forbade him to concentrate to the front, only removing the veto when he learned that the 4th Army had halted and entrenched at Siu-yen.
Similarly, Kuropatkin was in the position of Benedek.
Its next advance brought it to the fortified position of Tashichiao, where Kuropatkin had, by drawing heavily upon his central reserve and even on the Eastern Detachment, massed about two army corps.
It was repulsed with a loss of nearly r000 men in the action at the Motienling (17th July), but it was at least ascertained that considerable forces were still on the Japanese right, and upon the arrival of a fresh army corps from Europe Kuropatkin announced his intention of attacking Kuroki.
Meantime on the Japanese right the 12th division attacked the large bodies of troops that Kuropatkin had massed (Yu-shu-ling) equally in vain.
Kuropatkin having already drawn in his line of defence on the south side towards Liao-Yang, the 2nd and 4th Japanese Armies delivered what was practically a blow in the air.
BLit it was not in confidence of victory that Kuropatkin began the execution of the new plan - rather as a desperate expedient to avoid being cut off by the 1st Army, whose strength he greatly overestimated.
Kuropatkin had drawn together seven divisions on the left rear of the XVII.
Misunderstandings and movements at cross-purposes multiplied on the Russian side, and at midnight Kuropatkin at last obtained information of events on the side of Yentai Mines.
Had the two divisions still kept in Japan been present Kuroki would have had the balance of force on his side, the Russian retreat would have been confused, if not actually a rout, and the war would have been ended on Japan's own terms. As it was, after another day's fighting, Kuropatkin drew off the whole of his forces in safety, sharply repulsing an attempt at pursuit made by part of the 12th division on the 4th of September.
After the battle of Liao-Yang Kuropatkin reverted for a moment to the plan of a concentration to the rear at Tieling.
The Russian commander-in-chief states in his work on the war that Bilderling became engaged a fond instead of gradually withdrawing as Kuropatkin intended, and at any rate it is unquestioned that in consequence of the serious position of affairs on the western wing, not only did Stakelberg use his reserves to support Bilderling, when the 12th division of Kuroki's army was almost at its last gasp and must have yielded to fresh pressure, but Kuropatkin himself suspended the general offensive on the 13th of October.
Kuropatkin was so far averse to retreat that he ordered a new offensive, which was carried out on the 16-17th.
Kuropatkin wished to continue the offensive, but his corps commanders offered so much opposition to a further offensive that he at last gave up the idea.
In January 1905, apart from Mishchenko's cavalry raid 'rear ' Russian Japanese Railways of Oyama's forces (January 8th-16th) the only change in the relative positions of Oyama and Kuropatkin as they stood after the battle of the Sha-ho was that the Japanese had extended somewhat westwards towards the Hun-ho.
Towards the end of January, Kuropatkin took the offensive.
But the usual decousu of Russian operations and their own magnificent resistance saved the Japanese, and after two days' severe fighting, although Grippenberg had not been checked, Kuropatkin, in face of a counter-attack by Oyama, decided to abandon the attempt.
Kuropatkin was reinforced, and appointed Kaulbars to succeed Grippenberg and Bilderling to the command of the 3rd Army vacated by Kaulbars.
The events on this side and misleading information induced Kuropatkin to pay particular attention to his left.
He was held under observation throughout by Russian cavalry, but it seems that little attention was paid to their reports by Kuropatkin, who was still occupied with Kuroki and Kawamura, and even denuded his right of its reserves to reinforce his left.
Kuropatkin was at last convinced, on the 28th of February, of the danger from the west, and did all in his power to form a solid line of defence on the west side of Mukden.
Fighting for localities and alterations in the interior distribution of the opposing forces occupied much time, and by the 3rd, though the battle had become severe, Kuropatkin had merely drawn in his right and right centre (now facing W.
Kuropatkin now decided to draw in his centre and left towards Mukden.
On this day the fighting between Nogi and Kaulbars was very severe, and Kuropatkin now made up his mind to retreat towards Tieling.
Linievich, who succeeded Kuropatkin shortly after the battle of Mukden, retired slowly northward, re-organizing his forces and receiving fresh reinforcements from Europe.