Battle of Songhwan, 29 July 1894

The battle of Songhwan (29 July 1894) was Japan's first overseas battle for three hundred years, and saw the Japanese army in Korea defeat a Chinese force on the road to Asan in a battle that took place several days before the official outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.

China and Japan had both moved troops to Korea in response to an uprising by pro-Japanese elements earlier in 1894. The Korean government had asked for help from China, and China had responded by sending a small army. The revolt quickly collapsed, but Japan still sent an army of its own, and occupied Seoul. The two armies were now separated by about fifty miles, as the Chinese were based at Asan, due south of Seoul.

On 25 July a Japanese force of around 4,000 men, made up of the Twelfth and Twenty-First Infantry Regiments, moved south from Seoul. It was commanded by General Oshima Yoshimasa.

The Chinese had built a camp at Songhwan, a key point on the road about seventeen miles from Asan. Their camp was located on a hill, protected by rice-paddies and wet ground, with a small stream in front of the hill. The Chinese had around 2,500-3,000 men in the position at Songhwan, commanded by General Yeh-chi-chao.

General Oshima decided to cross the stream very early on 29 July. His main force began to cross the stream at 2am, and for an hour there was no resistance. At about 3am, just as the last detachment was crossing the bridge, they were ambushed by a Chinese force that was hiding close to the bridge. In a fight that lasted around fifteen minutes the Japanese lose six dead to Chinese fire, 17 or 18 drowned and 15-16 wounded, while the Chinese lost 18 or 19 dead.

The main battle began at about 5am when the Japanese left wing opened fire. The two wings of the Japanese army then attacked the Chinese positions on the hill. The Japanese were caught by surprise for a second time, this time by a Chinese artillery battery in a wood on the Chinese left. This part of the Chinese line held out for longest, but after about an hour and a half the fighting was over. The Japanese reported losses of 34 dead and 54 wounded.

The Chinese retreated back towards Asan town, but they didn't make a stand there and instead retreated north towards Pyongyang. By mid-August the Chinese survivors had joined the main army at Pyongyang, but the Japanese weren't far behind. On 16 September 1894 the Chinese were defeated at Pyongyang and were forced to retreat north out of Korea.

Armies of the First Sino-Japanese War 1894-95, Gabriele Esposito. Combines a useful account of the build-up to war and the course of the war itself, before moving on to look at the modernised Japanese army and the very varied Chinese forces that opposed them. Provides a good overview of the war that saw Imperial Japan emerge forcefully onto the world stage, and marked a stage in the decline of Qing China. (Read Full Review)
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 May 2013), Battle of Songhwan, 29 July 1894 ,

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