Following the successful action of Yangzigu, and the near destruction of a whole Corps of the Chinese Army, Major-general T.J. Jackson was eager to follow up, even to encounter what seemed to be the core of the whole enemy force, not so very far - according to information offered by prisoners - along the road whence the defeated column had retreated. Even when messages arrived from the south from his trains a day or so to the southeast with news that a Chinese column was somewhere to the west of them, the general was inclined to follow instincts. There was a fourth column somewhere to north as well. Smash the middle and separate the wings by two or more days - the campaign could be wrapped up in short order.
|Strategic situation and moves
'We won the battle, General - shouldn't we march against the enemy?'
'That we shall, sir!' was the quick reply.
'So we'll be advancing backwards, then?'
'I think I may say I am satisfied, sir!'
The General's alternate plan was this. With his whole army he would march south, but about a half-days march would detach Brigadier-General Bidwell with 37th Brigade, half the cavalry and the pioneer battalion, there to form a road block against any enemy following them.
With the remainder of the army, 38th and 39th Brigades, the rest of the horse and the heavy artillery, he continued on south, seeking a fight with any sizeable body of enemy he found there. The half-brigade of cavalry he sent on ahead to locate the enemy force. The prisoners he also hurried forward along the road under a slight guard. He did not concern himself overmuch about escapees - not in this wilderness, and not with his commissariat at full stretch already.
|General Jackson's plan.
Meanwhile, what was happening in the Chinese camps and headquarters?
For his part, realising that his column was discovered and a powerful Union command rapidly approaching from the north, the Chinese commander, Hung T'u Sun, finding a suitable defensive position, turned to face the enemy. His horsemen he called in - and he waited.
Marching almost due eastward, still a half-day's march from Yangzigu as evening of July 17th drew in, the West column began to encounter the broken shards of Li Kuan Yu's column. It was a little dismaying to find that just two formations were still in hand of the five formations that the column comprised. And they were conscripts who had seen little or no action in the day's battle. The question was, what to do with the tattered remains of the regular formations?
T'ai Kun Wu called upon Li Kuan Yu to rally his broken units, gathered up the two surviving conscript units and continued on eastward. At the same time he sent messages to Prince Zeng Seng-Bao to redirect North Column southwards. He estimated it might be two days for the message to reach its destined ears.
Reaching Yangzigu, to his surprise without incident, T'ai Kun turned West Column down the south road, in pursuit of the departed Union force. The 15th and 16th Conscript formations from East Column he dropped off at Yangzigu with instructions to place the settlement in a state of defence - more by way of keeping them employed than to improve such defensive qualities the settlement possessed. The rest of East Column having rallied (he hoped) would join them there.
The march south proceeded rather slowly, for without cavalry he was forced to rely on regular infantry formations for his flank guards - 1st and 2nd to the right and left respectively, well off the sandy, semi-overgrown road. The 8th 'Blue Leopards' formed his advance guard, and the 3rd Regulars his reserve. The bulk of his column comprised the 10th, 11th and 12th Conscripts and his precious rifled guns.
|T'ai Kun Wu runs into Bidwell's road block...
|Jackson's Army faces off against
Prince Hung T'u Sun's South Column.
To be continued: Battle of Weshall Pass
A note on the Battlefield names for most of this campaign. The region being pretty much abandoned for most of a generation - certainly lacking a regular government - locations even when known to the Chinese would not be to the Union. So, being the 'protagonist Army' - the Chinese being the OPFOR antagonists - they will assign their own names to battles - hence, Weshall Pass - the Union encounter with South Column. The blocking action of Bidwell's command will become known to posterity as Midla Nowhere Ridge.