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31 min
Imjin War
1592 - 1593

Imjin War

Words: nono umasy


The Japanese invasions of Korea of 1592–1598 or Imjin War involved two separate yet linked invasions: an initial invasion in 1592 (Imjin Disturbance), a brief truce in 1596, and a second invasion in 1597 (Chongyu War). The conflict ended in 1598 with the withdrawal of the Japanese forces from the Korean Peninsula after a military stalemate in Korea's southern coastal provinces. It ultimately resulted in Joseon Korean and Ming Chinese victory and the expulsion of Japan from the peninsula.






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1585 Jan 1

Prologue

Japan


Prologue


Possible reasons as to why Toyotomi's invaded Korea/ China:


  • Hideyoshi's need for military supremacy as a justification for his rule
  • Fulfill the dreams of his late lord, Oda Nobunaga
  • Mitigate the possible threat of civil disorder or rebellion posed by the large number of now-idle samurai and soldiers in unified Japan.
  • Turnbull also suggests personal ambition and megalomania of Hideyoshi as reasons for the invasion.

1586 Jan 1

Japanese fleet construction

Fukuoka, Japan


Japanese fleet construction
Using saws, adzes, chisels, yarigannas and sumitsubos


The construction of as many as 2,000 ships may have begun as early as 1586. To estimate the strength of the Korean military, Hideyoshi sent an assault force of 26 ships to the southern coast of Korea in 1587. On the diplomatic front, Hideyoshi began to establish friendly relations with China long before he had completed the unification of Japan. He also helped to police the trade routes against the wokou.


1587 Jan 1

Pre-diplomatic motions

Tsushima, Nagasaki, Japan


Pre-diplomatic motions
Toyotomi Hideyoshi | ©Kanō Mitsunobu


In 1587, Hideyoshi sent his first envoy Yutani Yasuhiro, to Korea, which was during the rule of King Seonjo, to re-establish diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan (broken since the Wokou raid in 1555). Hideyoshi hoped to use as a foundation to induce the Korean court to join Japan in a war against China. Around May 1589, Hideyoshi's second embassy reached Korea and secured the promise of a Korean embassy to Japan in exchange for a group of Korean rebels which had taken refuge in Japan.


In 1587, Hideyoshi had ordered an ultimatum to be sent to the Joseon Dynasty to submit to Japan and participate in the conquest of China, or face the prospect of open war with Japan. In April 1590, the Korean ambassadors asked for Hideyoshi to write a reply to the Korean king, for which they waited 20 days at the port of Sakai. Upon the ambassadors' return, the Joseon court held serious discussions concerning Japan's invitation. They nonetheless pressed that a war was imminent. Some, including King Seonjo, argued that Ming should be informed about the dealings with Japan, as failure to do so could make Ming suspect Korea's allegiance, but the court finally concluded to wait further until the appropriate course of action became definite.


In the end, Hideyoshi's diplomatic negotiations did not produce the desired result with Korea. The Joseon Court approached Japan as a country inferior to Korea, and saw itself as superior according to its favored position within the Chinese tributary system. It mistakenly evaluated Hideyoshi's threats of invasions to be no better than the common wokou Japanese pirate raids. The Korean court handed to Shigenobu and Genso, Hideyoshi's third embassy, King Seonjo's letter rebuking Hideyoshi for challenging the Chinese tributary system. Hideyoshi replied with another letter, but since it was not presented by a diplomat in person as expected by custom, the court ignored it. After this denial of his second request, Hideyoshi proceeded to launch his armies against Korea in 1592.


1592 May 23 - 1592 May 24

Battle of Dadaejin

Dadaejin Fort


Battle of Dadaejin
Battle of Dadaejin | ©Angus McBride


While Sō Yoshitoshi attacked Busan, Konishi led a smaller force against the fort of Dadaejin, located a few kilometers to the southwest of Busan at the mouth of the Nantong River. Konishi Yukinaga's first attack was repelled by Yun Heungsin. The second attack came at night when Japanese forces filled the moat with rocks and lumber under cover of gunfire before scaling the walls using bamboo ladders. The entire garrison was massacred.


1592 May 23

Invasion begins

Busan, South Korea


Hideyoshi's Invasion Begins | ©Samuel Hawley
Invasion begins


The Japanese invasion force consisting of 400 transports bearing 18,700 men under the command of Konishi Yukinaga departed from Tsushima Island on May 23 and arrived at Busan harbor without any incident. The Joseon fleet of 150 ships did nothing and sat idle at port. A single vessel bearing the daimyō of Tsushima, Sō Yoshitoshi (who had been a member of the Japanese mission to Korea in 1589), detached from the Japanese fleet with a letter to the commander of Busan, Yeong Bal, demanding that the Korean forces stand down to allow the Japanese armies to proceed on towards China. The letter went unanswered, and the Japanese commenced landing operations from four o'cklock the following morning.


1592 May 24

Siege of Busanjin

Busan Castle


Siege of Busanjin


The Japanese tried to take the south gate of Busan Castle first but took heavy casualties and were forced to switch to the north gate. The Japanese took high ground positions on the mountain behind Busan and shot at Korean defenders within the city with their arquebuss until they created a breach in their northern defenses. The Japanese overwhelmed the Korean defenses by scaling the walls under cover of the arquebuses. This new technology destroyed the Koreans on the walls. Again and again the Japanese would win battles with arquebuses (Korea would not begin to train with these firearms until the Korean General Kim Si-min forged them at a Korean armory). General Jeong Bal was shot and killed. Morale fell amongst the Korean soldiers and the fort was overrun at around 9:00 in the morning—nearly all of Busan's fighting force was killed. The Japanese massacred the remaining garrison and non-combatants. Not even animals were spared. Yoshitoshi ordered his soldiers to loot and burn valuable items. The Japanese army now occupied Busan. For the next several years Busan would be a supply depot for the Japanese. The Japanese continued to supply troops and food across the sea to Busan until Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin attacked Busan with his navy.

1592 May 25

Siege of Dongnae

Dongnae-gu, Busan, South Korea


Siege of Dongnae


On the morning of May 25, 1592, the First Division arrived at Dongnae eupseong. Konishi sent a message to Song Sanghyǒn, the commander of the Dongnae fortress, explaining to him that his objective was the conquest of China and if the Koreans would just submit, their lives would be spared. Song replied "It is easy for me to die, but difficult to let you pass", which led Konishi to order that no prisoners be taken to punish Song for his defiance. The resulting Siege of Dongnae lasted twelve hours, killed 3,000, and resulted in Japanese victory.The Japanese took no prisoners and killed everyone at Dongnae, civilian and military, even killing all of the cats and dogs of Dongnae.


1592 Jun 3

Battle of Sangju

Sangju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Sout


Battle of Sangju


Konishi divided his army into two groups. The first, led by Konishi and Matsura Shigenobu took the town of Sangju without a fight. The second, consisting of 6700 men led by Sō Yoshitoshi, Ōmura Yoshiaki, and Gotō Mototsugu, headed directly to confront Yi. They approached through a forest, observed but out of range of Yi's archers. The archers failed to send warning to Yi, fearing the same fate as the man who had just been beheaded, and Yi was unaware of the Japanese approach until the vanguard emerged from the forest and shot down a scout less than a 100 meters from his position. The Japanese army then fanned out in three groups and rushed the Koreans. At 50 meters Yi's untrained forces broke and were cut down. Yi managed to escape north, discarding his armor and his horse in the process. He continued through the strategic Choryong Pass, which could have been held to good effect against the Japanese, and joined his superior, General Sin Rip at Chungju

1592 Jun 7

Battle of Chungju

Chungju, Chungcheongbuk-do, So


Battle of Chungju
Japanese Arquebusiers


However, as with previous engagements, the superior range and firepower of the arquebus-armed ashigaru soldiers inflicted heavy casualties on the crowded Korean forces while remaining out of range of the defender's bows and spears. Sin Rip did manage one cavalry charge, but found that various vegetation on the plain impeded his horses and that the Japanese forces also employed a considerable number of pikemen, who were able to break his charge before he could penetrate the Japanese lines. Sin Rip and a number of his commanders mounted on horses managed to escape the disaster; however, most of his men were cut down by the Japanese as they attempted to retreat. Sin Rip later killed himself to atone for the defeat by drowning himself in a spring a short distance from Chungju.


1592 Jun 12

Hanseong is taken

Seoul, South Korea


Road to Hanseong (Seoul) | ©Samuel Hawley


Konishi arrived at Hanseong first on June 10 while the Second Division was halted at the river with no boats with which to cross. The First Division found the castle undefended with its gates tightly locked, as King Seonjo and the Royal Family had fled the day before. The Japanese broke into a small floodgate, located in the castle wall, and opened the capital city's gate from within. Katō's Second Division arrived at the capital the next day (having taken the same route as the First Division), and the Third and Fourth Divisions the day after. Parts of Hanseong had already been looted and torched, including bureaus holding the slave records and weapons, and they were already abandoned by its inhabitants. The King's subjects stole the animals in the royal stables and fled before him, leaving the King to rely on farm animals. In every village, the King's party was met by inhabitants, lined up by the road, grieving that their King was abandoning them, and neglecting their duty of paying homage.


1592 Jun 13

Korean fleets moves

Yeosu, Jeollanam-do, South Kor


Korean fleets moves
Korean Geobukseon or Turtle Ship


Yi Sunsin's fleet of 39 warships depart from Yeosu.


1592 Jun 16

Battle of Okpo

Okpo


Battle of Okpo
Battle of Okpo


At the outbreak of hostilities, Admiral Yi had sent out his fleet out on a naval exercise. Upon hearing that Pusan had been captured, Yi immediately set out on an east course to Pusan, hoping to block Japanese naval advances along the coast to aid their land forces.


His first encounter at Okpo was a decisive victory, destroying almost half of the ships of the anchored Japanese fleet of Todo Takatora. Prior to the Okpo Campaign, Yi mainly patrolled the seas near his Jeolla Province, to fortify its position before he began moving westward, due to the call for help from Admiral Won Gyun. A day later, after destroying an additional 18 Japanese transports in nearby waters (at Happo and Jeokjinpo), Yi Sun-sin and Won Gyun parted ways and returned to their home ports after receiving news of the fall of Hanseong.


However, Yi treated each battle with extreme care and made certain that he suffered few serious casualties. From his Okpo battle, the only casualty was a minor gunshot wound on an oarsman from stray musket fire. The Battle of Okpo caused anxiety and nervousness among the Japanese, because afterward Yi began to deploy his navy to attack Japanese supply and carrier vessels.


1592 Jul 1 - 1592 Aug

Hamgyong campaign

North Hamgyong, North Korea


Kato Kiyomasa | ©Samuel Hawley


The Hamgyong campaign, also known as Katō Kiyomasa's northern campaign, was Katō Kiyomasa's invasion of the northeastern Korean province of Hamgyeong during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598). The campaign was largely due to the help of Korean defectors who also handed over to the Japanese their princes Sunhwa and Imhae. The Japanese reached the northeastern edge of Hamgyeong, crossed the Duman River, and attacked the Orangai Jurchens, but met with heavy resistance. Katō returned south and took up residence in Anbyeon while Nabeshima Naoshige headquartered in Gilju. By winter local resistance began pushing back at Japanese occupation and laid siege to Gilju.


1592 Jul 1

Righteous army

Jeolla-do


Uibyeong (Righteous Armies) | ©Samuel Hawley


From the beginning of the war, the Koreans organized militias that they called "righteous armies" (Korean: 의병) to resist the Japanese invasion. These fighting bands were raised throughout the country, and participated in battles, guerilla raids, sieges, and the transportation and construction of wartime necessities.


There were three main types of Korean "righteous army" militias during the war: the surviving and leaderless Korean regular soldiers, the patriotic yangbans (aristocrats) and commoners, and Buddhist monks. By the summer of 1592, there were about 22,200 Korean guerrillas serving the Righteous Army, who tied up much of the Japanese force.


During the first invasion, Jeolla Province remained the only untouched area on the Korean peninsula. In addition to the successful patrols of the sea by Yi Sun-sin, the activities of volunteer forces pressured the Japanese troops to avoid the province in favour of other priorities.


1592 Jul 6 - 1592 Jul 7

Battle of Imjin River

Imjin River


Battle of Imjin River
| ©David Benzal


The Japanese vanguard was the army under Konishi Yukinaga and Sō Yoshitoshi, followed by the army of Kato Kiyomasa and the army of Kuroda Nagamasa. The Japanese forces arrived at the Imjin River without difficulty, but found that the Koreans had finally managed to mount an effective defense, and had 10,000 soldiers amassed on the far bank under the command of Gim Myeongweon. Seeing that the Koreans would not budge after waiting for ten days, the Japanese forces conducted a false retreat to lure them into attacking. The Koreans took the bait and one inexperienced commander Sin Hal immediately ordered his men to cross the river and attack the Japanese. A portion of the Korean army thus crossed the river and rushed past the abandoned Japanese campsite into the ambush. The Japanese fired on them with muskets and chased them to the river where they were slaughtered. The Japanese crossed the river by 7 July and took Kaesong without a fight. Afterwards the three divisions split up. Konishi Yukinaga went north to Pyeongyang, Kuroda Nagamasa went west to Hwanghae, and Katō Kiyomasa headed northeast to Hamgyeong.


1592 Jul 8

Battle of Sacheon

Sacheon, South Korea


Battle of Sacheon
Geobukseon - Korean Turtle Ship


Admiral Yi set out again eastward and encountered another force around the Sacheon-Dangpo area, where he again engaged in minor skirmishes against the Japanese fleet. Yi Sunsin's fleet managed to destroy 13 large Japanese ships. It was the first battle of Admiral Yi's 2nd Campaign in the Imjin War, between Japan and Korea, when the turtle ship was first used. The fierce and sudden Korean attack shocked the Japanese. But unlike their previous poor performance at the Battle of Okpo, the Japanese soldiers fought bravely and returned fire with their arquebuses in a timely manner.


Unfortunately for the Japanese, they did not have a chance to board the Korean ships because of concentrated Korean cannon fire. Also, the turtle ship was impossible to board anyway due to iron spikes on its roof. Then, the Japanese began to panic when the turtle ship smashed into Japanese lines, firing in every direction.


1592 Jul 10

Battle of Dangpo

Dangpo Harbour


Battle of Dangpo
Geobukseon vs Atakebune


As the Korean fleet approached the Dangpo harbor, Yi Sun-shin noticed that the flagship of this Japanese fleet was anchored among the other vessels. Realizing the golden opportunity, Admiral Yi led the assault with his own flagship (a turtleship) targeting the Japanese flagship. The sturdy construction of his turteship allowed Yi Sun-shin to easily ram through the line of Japanese ships and position his ship right alongside the anchored Japanese flagship. The light construction of the Japanese ship was no match for a full broadside assault and was left sinking in minutes. From the turtle ship, a hail of cannonballs rained down on the other ships, destroying more vessels. The Koreans circled the other ships anchored and began to sink them. Then, Korean general Kwon Joon shot an arrow into Kurushima. The Japanese commander fell dead and a Korean captain jumped onboard and cut off his head. The Japanese soldiers panicked upon seeing the beheading of their admiral and were slaughtered by the Koreans in their confusion.


1592 Jul 12

Battle of Danghangpo

Danghangpo


Battle of Danghangpo
Battle of Danghangpo


The Korean fleet assumed a circular formation to navigate the enclosed bay and took turns bombarding the Japanese. Realizing that this would only force the Japanese to flee inland, Yi Sunsin ordered a false retreat. Falling for the ploy, the Japanese fleet gave chase, only to be surrounded and shot to splinters. A few Japanese managed to flee to shore and take refuge in the hills. All the Japanese ships were destroyed. After securing this area (the last in the series of Jeolla coastal defenses), Admiral Yi decided to press the advantage of his enemy's inactivity and moved out to the Noryang-Hansando area. The Korean fleet spent the next few days searching for Japanese ships but could not find any.  On 18 July the fleet was dissolved and each commander returned to their respective ports.


1592 Jul 19 - 1592 Jul 24

Siege of Pyongyang

Pyongyang


Siege of Pyongyang


Realizing that the Japanese attack was coming, Korean General Gim Myeongweon had his remaining men sink their cannon and arms into a pond to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Japanese, and fled north to Sunan. The Japanese crossed the river on 24 July and found the city completely deserted. Suspecting a trap, Konishi and Kuroda sent scouts to a nearby hill to confirm before entering the empty city. Within the city's warehouses, they found seven thousand tons of rice, which would be enough to feed their army for several months. The Japanese occupation of Pyeongyang would not be contested until Ming general Zhu Chengxun arrived with 6,000 men on 23 August 1592.


1592 Jul 20

Envoys sent to Beijing

Beijing, China


Envoys sent to Beijing
Korean envoys sent to Beijing


Desperate Korean envoys had been finally sent to the Forbidden City in Beijing to ask the Wanli Emperor to protect his loyal vassals in Korea by sending an army to drive out the Japanese. The Chinese assured the Koreans that an army would be sent, but they were engaged in a major war in Ningxia, and the Koreans would have to wait for the arrival of their assistance.


1592 Aug 14

Battle of Ichi

Geumsan, Korea


Battle of Ichi
Battle of Ichi


Toyotomi Hideyoshi made an order to Kobayakawa Takakage to attack the Jeolla Province. Jeolla Province was famous for it rice, and Japan needed that rice to feed their army. Also, Admiral Yi Sun-sin's naval force was stationed in Jeolla Province. Capturing Jeolla Province would provide a land route for the Japanese army to attack Admiral Yi, who had interfered with Japanese supply lines for the past two months. So Kobayakawa, who was in Seoul at the time, advanced to attack the Korean army.


Japanese army needed to go from Geumsan County to Jeonju to capture the province. There were two paths that the Japanese could take. One path was blocked by a hill called Ungchi and the other was blocked by Ichi hill. The Japanese split their forces and so did the Koreans. So the battle for Ichi and Ungchi happened at the same time. At the same time, Ko Kyong-myong was advancing to Geumsan to try to trap the Japanese. Although force at Ichi were winning by the 8th, Korean force at Ungchi routed to Jeonju at that time and the Japanese force advanced to Jeonju by that path. However, later on, Japanese force retreated from Ichi and Jeonju. Ko Kyong-myong force has arrived and was attacking the Japanese rear. The Koreans won this battle and stopped the Japanese army from advancing to Jeolla Province. As a result, Japan failed to provide enough rice for its army, which affected its ability to fight.


1592 Aug 14

Battle of Hansan Island

Hansan Island


Battle for the Yellow Sea | ©Samuel Hawley
Battle of Hansan Island


In response to the Korean navy's success, Toyotomi Hideyoshi recalled three commanders from land-based activities: Wakisaka Yasuharu, Katō Yoshiaki, and Kuki Yoshitaka. They were the first commanders with naval responsibilities in the entirety of the Japanese invasion forces. Hideyoshi understood that if the Koreans won command of the sea, this would be the end of the invasion of Korea, and ordered the destruction of the Korean fleet with Yi Sun Sin's head to be brought to him. Kuki, a former pirate, had the most naval experience, while Katō Yoshiaki was one of the "Seven Spears of Shizugatake". However, the commanders arrived in Busan nine days before Hideyoshi's order was actually issued, and assembled a squadron to counter the Korean navy. Eventually Wakisaka completed his preparations, and his eagerness to win military honor pushed him to launch an attack against the Koreans without waiting for the other commanders to finish.


The combined Korean navy of 53 ships under the commands of Yi Sun-sin and Yi Eok-gi was carrying out a search-and-destroy operation because the Japanese troops on land were advancing into the Jeolla Province. The Jeolla Province was the only Korean territory to be untouched by a major military action, and served as home for the three commanders and the only active Korean naval force. The Korean navy considered it best to destroy naval support for the Japanese to reduce the effectiveness of the enemy ground troops.


On August 13, 1592, the Korean fleet sailing from the Miruk Island at Dangpo received local intelligence that a large Japanese fleet was nearby. After surviving a storm, the Korean fleet had anchored off Dangpo, where a local man appeared on the beach with the news that the Japanese fleet had just entered the narrow strait of Gyeonnaeryang that divided Koje Island. The following morning, the Korean fleet spotted the Japanese fleet of 82 vessels anchored in the straits of Gyeonnaeryang. Due to the narrowness of the strait and the hazard posed by the underwater rocks, Yi Sun-sin sent six ships as bait to lure out 63 Japanese vessels into the wider sea; the Japanese fleet pursued. Once in the open water, the Japanese fleet was surrounded by the Korean fleet in a semicircular formation, called a "crane wing" by Yi Sun-sin. With at least three turtle ships (two of which were newly completed) spearheading the clash against the Japanese fleet, the Korean vessels fired volleys of cannonballs into the Japanese formation. The Korean ships then engaged in a free-for-all battle with the Japanese ships, maintaining enough distance to prevent the Japanese from boarding; Yi Sun-sin permitted melee combats only against severely damaged Japanese ships. During the battle, the Korean navy made use of a metal-cased fire bomb that caused substantial damage to Japanese deck crews, and caused fierce fires on board their ships.


The battle ended in a Korean victory, with Japanese losses of 59 ships – 47 destroyed and 12 captured. Not a single Korean ship was lost during the battle. Wakisaka Yasuharu escaped due to the speed of his flagship. After this, Yi set up his headquarters on Hansan Island itself and began plans to attack the main Japanese base at Pusan harbor.


1592 Aug 16

Battle of Angolpo

새바지항, Cheonga-dong, Gangseo-gu


Battle of Angolpo
Korean fleet destroy anchored Japanese fleet


News of the Japanese defeat at Hansan Island reached Busan within hours and two Japanese commanders, Kuki Yoshitaka and Kato Yoshiaki, immediately set sail with 42 ships for the port of Angolpo, where they hoped to face the Korean fleet close to shore.


Yi Sun-sin received news of their movements on 15 August and he advanced towards Angolpo to confront them. This time the Japanese were unwilling to follow the Koreans into open water and stayed onshore. They would not take the bait. In response the Korean fleet moved forwards and bombarded the anchored Japanese fleet for hours until they retreated inland. Later the Japanese returned and escaped on small boats. Both Kuki and Kato survived the battle.


The battles of Hansan Island and Angolpo forced Hideyoshi to give a direct order to his naval commanders to cease all unnecessary naval operations and limit activity to the immediate area around Pusan Harbor. He told his commanders that he would come to Korea personally to lead the naval forces himself, but Hideyoshi was never able to carry through on this as his health was deteriorating rapidly. This meant that all the fighting would be in Korea, not China, and that Pyongyang would be the furthest northwestern advance of the Japanese armies (to be sure, Katō Kiyomasa's second contingent's brief march into Manchuria was Japan's northernmost advance, however, Manchuria was not a part of Imperial China in the 16th century). While Hideyoshi was unlikely to be able to invade China and conquer a large part of it, the battles of Hansan Island and Angolpo checked his supply routes and hindered his movements in Korea.


1592 Aug 23

Ming's small force gets annihilated

Pyongyang, Korea


Ming's small force gets annihilated


Viewing the crisis in Joseon, the Ming Dynasty Wanli emperor and his court were initially filled with confusion and skepticism as to how their tributary could have been overrun so quickly.


The Korean Court was at first hesitant to call for help from the Ming Dynasty, and began a withdrawal to Pyongyang. After repeated requests by King Seonjo and after the Japanese army had already reached Korea's border with China, China finally came to the aid of Korea. China was also somewhat obligated to come to the assistance of Korea because Korea was a vassal state of China, and the Ming Dynasty did not tolerate the possibility of a Japanese invasion of China. The local governor at Liaodong eventually acted upon King Seonjo's request for aid following the capture of Pyongyang by sending a small force of 5,000 soldiers led by Zu Chengxun. Zu, a general who had fought successfully against the Mongols and the Jurchens, was over-confident, holding the Japanese in contempt.


The combined army of Zhu Chengxun and Shi Ru arrived at Pyeongyang on 23 August 1592 in a pouring rain at night. The Japanese were caught completely off guard and the Ming army was able to take the undefended Chilsongmun ("Seven Stars Gate") in the north wall and entered the city. However the Japanese soon realized just how tiny the Ming army actually was, so they spread out, causing the enemy army to stretch out and disperse. The Japanese then took advantage of the situation and counterattacked with gunfire. Small groups of isolated Ming soldiers were picked off until the signal to retreat was sounded. The Ming army had been turned around, driven out of the city, its stragglers cut down. By the end of the day, Shi Ru was killed while Zhu Chengxun escaped back to Uiju. Some 3,000 Ming soldiers were killed. Zhu Chengxun attempted to downplay the defeat, advising King Seonjo that he had only made a "tactical retreat" due to the weather, and would return from China after raising more troops. However, upon his return to Liaodong, he wrote an official report blaming the Koreans for the defeat. Ming envoys sent to Korea found this accusation groundless.


1592 Aug 30

Kiyomasa receives Korean princes

Hoeryŏng, North Hamgyong, Nort


Kiyomasa receives Korean princes


Katō Kiyomasa, leading the Second Division of more than 20,000 men, crossed the peninsula to Anbyon County with a ten-day march, and swept north along the eastern coast. Among the castles captured was Hamhung, the provincial capital of Hamgyong Province. There a part of the Second Division was assigned to defense and civil administration.


The rest of the division, 10,000 men, continued north, and fought a battle on August 23 against the southern and northern Hamgyong armies under the command of Yi Yong at Songjin. A Korean cavalry division took advantage of the open field at Songjin, and pushed the Japanese forces into a grain storehouse. There the Japanese barricaded themselves with bales of rice, and successfully repelled a charge from the Korean forces with their arquebuses. While the Koreans planned to renew the battle in the morning, Katō Kiyomasa ambushed them at night; the Second Division completely surrounded the Korean forces with the exception of an opening leading to a swamp. Those that fled were trapped and slaughtered in the swamp.


Koreans who fled gave alarm to the other garrisons, allowing the Japanese troops to easily capture Kilju County, Myongchon County, and Kyongsong County. The Second Division then turned inland through Puryong County toward Hoeryong, where two Korean princes had taken refuge. On August 30, 1592, the Second Division entered into Hoeryong where Katō Kiyomasa received the Korean princes and the provincial governor Yu Yong-rip, these having already been captured by the local inhabitants. Shortly afterward, a Korean warrior band handed over the head of an anonymous Korean general, plus General Han Kuk-ham, tied up in ropes.


1592 Sep 6

Warrior Monks answer the call

Cheongju, South Korea


Rise of Monk-Soldiers | © Samuel Hawley


Prompted by King Seonjo, the Buddhist monk Hyujeong issued a manifesto calling upon all monks to take up arms, writing "Alas, the way of heaven is no more. The destiny of the land is on the decline. In defiance of heaven and reason, the cruel foe had the temerity to cross the sea aboard a thousand ships". Hyujeong called the samurai "poisonous devils" who were "as virulent as snakes or fierce animals" whose brutality justified abandoning the pacifism of Buddhism to protect the weak and innocent. Hyujeong ended his appeal with a call for monks who were able-bodied to "put on the armor of mercy of Bodhisattvas, hold in hand the treasured sword to fell the devil, wield the lightning bolt of the Eight Deities and come forward!". At least 8,000 monks responded to Hyujeong's call, some out of a sense of Korean patriotism and others motivated by a desire to improve the status of Buddhism, which suffered discrimination from a Sinophile court intent upon promoting Confucianism.


Hyujeong and the monk Yeonggyu gathered a force of 2,600 to attack Cheongju, which served as the administrative center of central Korea and contained a large government granary. It was previously taken on 4 June and was under the control of Hachisuka Iemasa.


When the Koreans attacked, some of the Japanese were still out foraging for food. The Japanese came out and fired at the Koreans, but they were surrounded and killed. The Koreans didn't know how to use the matchlock firearms, so they used them as clubs. At this point a heavy downpour started so the Koreans fell back and retreated. The next day the Koreans discovered the Japanese had evacuated from Cheongju and took the city without a fight.


1592 Sep 22

Monks wiped out but Japanese pull back

Geumsan County, Chungcheongnam


Monks wiped out but Japanese pull back
Battle of Geumsan


After the victory at the Battle of Cheongju, the Korean leaders began to quarrel among themselves over who was most responsible, and it was that when the Koreans took the offensive, the regulars under Yun Songak refused to take part while the Righteous Army under Hyujeong and the warrior monks under abbot Yeonggyu marched separately.


On 22 September 1592, Hyujeong with 700 Righteous Army guerrillas attacked a Japanese force of 10,000 under Kobayakawa Takakage. Turnbull described the second battle of Geumsan as an act of folly on Jo's part as his outnumbered force took on "10,000 of the toughest samurai", who encircled the Righteous Army and "exterminated" them, wiping out the entire Korean force as Kobayakawa ordered that no prisoners be taken. Feeling obligated to come to Jo's aid, the abbot Yeonggyu now led his warrior monks against Kobayakawa at the third battle of Geumsan, who likewise suffered the same fate – "total annihilation".


However, as the Geumsan salient had taken three successive Korean attacks in a row in a single month, the 6th Division under Kobayakawa was pulled back as Toyotomi Hideyoshi decided the salient was not worth the trouble to hold it, and to the suffering people of the region that was all that mattered. The Japanese withdrawal inspired further guerrilla attacks and one Righteous Army leader, Pak Chin, had an object hurled over the walls of the Japanese-held town of Gyeongju, which caused "the robbers", as Korean accounts always called the Japanese, to go examine it; the object turned out to be a bomb that killed 30 Japanese. Fearing his garrison was now under-strength, the Japanese commander ordered a retreat to the coastal wajo (castle) at Sosaengpo.


1592 Oct 1

Jurchen Affair

Jurchen Fort, Manchuria


Jurchen Affair


In October 1592, Katō Kiyomasa decided to attack a nearby Jurchen castle across the Tumen River in Manchuria to test his troops against the "barbarians", as the Koreans called the Jurchens. Kato's army of 8,000 was joined by 3,000 Koreans, at Hamgyong, because the Jurchens periodically raided across the border. Soon the combined force sacked the castle, and camped near the border; after the Koreans left for home, the Japanese troops suffered a retaliatory assault from the Jurchens. Katō Kiyomasa retreated with his forces to avoid heavy losses. Because of this invasion, rising Jurchen leader Nurhaci offered military assistance to the Joseon and Ming in the war. However, the offer was refused by both countries, particularly Joseon, saying that it would be disgraceful to accept assistance from the "Barbarians" to the north.


1592 Oct 5

Battle of Busan

Busan, South Korea


Battle of Busan
Busan: Japanese defending a harbour against Korean attack, 1592 | ©Peter Dennis


Off the coast of Busan, the united Joseon fleet realized that the Japanese navy had readied their ships for battle and the Japanese army had stationed themselves around the shoreline. The united Joseon fleet assembled in the Jangsajin, or "Long Snake" formation, with many ships advancing in a line, and attacked straight into the Japanese fleet. Overwhelmed by the Joseon fleet, the Japanese navy abandoned their ships and fled to the coast where their army was stationed. The Japanese army and navy joined their forces and attacked the Joseon fleet from the nearby hills in desperation. The Joseon fleet shot arrows from their ships to defend and restrict their attacks, and in the meantime concentrated their cannon fire on destroying Japanese vessels.The Korean ships fired on the Japanese fleet and burned them using fire arrows while the Japanese fired on them from above in their forts. Even with cannons captured at Busan, the Japanese did little damage to the Korean warships. By the time the day had ended, 128 Japanese ships had been destroyed. Yi Sunsin gave orders to withdraw, ending the battle.


Yi Sun Shin originally intended to destroy all the remaining Japanese ships, however, he realized that doing so would effectively trap the Japanese soldiers on the Korean Peninsula, where they would travel inland and slaughter the natives. Therefore, Yi left a small number of Japanese ships unharmed and withdrew his navy to resupply. And just as Yi suspected, under the cover of darkness, the remaining Japanese soldiers boarded their remaining ships and retreated.


After this battle, the Japanese forces lost the control of the sea. The devastating blow dealt to the Japanese fleet isolated their armies in Korea and cut them off from their home bases. Since the Japanese forces realized the importance of the defensive lines of Busan Bay to secure the supply line, they tried to bring the west area of Busan under their control, when the Joseon navy came.


1592 Nov 8 - 1592 Nov 13

Siege of Jinju

Jinju Castle, South Korea


Siege of Jinju


The Japanese heartily approached Jinju fortress. They expected another easy victory at Jinju but the Korean general Kim Si-min defied the Japanese and stood firm with his 3,800 men. Again, the Koreans were outnumbered. Kim Si-min had recently acquired around 170 arquebuses, equivalent to what the Japanese used. Kim Si-min had them trained and believed he could defend Jinju. After three days of fighting, Kim Si-min was hit by a bullet on the side of his head and fell, unable to command his forces. The Japanese commanders then pressed even harder on the Koreans to dishearten them, but the Koreans fought on. The Japanese soldiers were still unable to scale the walls even with heavy fire from arquebuses. The Koreans were not in a good position since Kim Si-min was wounded and the garrison was now running low on ammunition. Gwak Jae-u, one of the main leaders of the Righteous armies of Korea arrived at night with an extremely small band, not enough to relieve the Koreans at Jinju. Gwak ordered his men to grab attention by blowing on horns and making noises. About 3,000 guerrillas and irregular forces arrived at the scene. At this time, the Japanese commanders realized their danger and were forced to abandon the siege and retreated.


1593 Jan 1

Ming sends larger army

Uiji


Chinese Counter-Offensive | © Kings and Generals


The Ming Emperor mobilized and dispatched a larger force under the general Li Rusong and Imperial Superintendent Song Yingchang. According to the collection of letters left by Song Yingchang, the strength of the Ming army was around 40,000, composed mostly of garrisons from the north, including around 3,000 men with experience against Japanese pirates under Qi Jiguang. Li wanted a winter campaign as the frozen ground would allow his artillery train to move more easily than it would under the roads turned into mud by the fall rains. At Uiju, King Sonjo and the Korean court formally welcomed Li and the other Chinese generals to Korea, where strategy was discussed. On January 5, Wu Weizhong leads 5,000 men across the Yalu River. Li Rusong's army of 35,000 reaches the Yalu River a few weeks later.


1593 Feb 6 - 1593 Feb 8

Siege of Pyongyang (1593)

Pyongyang, Korea


Siege of Pyongyang (1593)


A Ming force of 43,000 with 200+ cannons and a Joseon army of 10000 with 4200 monks siege Pyongyang held by the Japanese. In the morning of 8 January, Li Rusong's army advanced on the city, their tightly packed ranks "looking like the scales on a fish. The Japanese defense was almost too much. Although nominally successful in repelling the enemies, the Japanese were no longer capable of defending the city. All the gates had been breached, no food was left, and they had suffered horrible casualties. With this in mind Konishi led the entire garrison out into the night and snuck across the frozen Daedong River back to Hanseong. Konishi's men reached Hanseong on 17 February. Song Yingchang invited Seonjo of Joseon to return to Pyeongyang on 6 March.


1593 Feb 27

Battle of Byeokjegwan

Yeoseoghyeon


Battle of Byeokjegwan
Battle of Byeokjegwan


The Battle of Byeokjegwan was a military engagement fought on 27 February 1593 between the armies of the Ming dynasty led by Li Rusong and Japanese forces under Kobayakawa Takakage. It resulted in Japanese victory and Ming retreat. The battle lasted from late morning until noon. Finally Li Rusong was forced to retreat in the face of superior numbers. The Japanese burned all the grass within the vicinity of Hanseong to deprive the Ming cavalry of fodder.


1593 Mar 14

Battle of Haengju

Haengju, Korea


Battle of Haengju


The Japanese attack led by Konishi Yukinaga with 30,000 men. They took turns attacking the stockade due to the limited space. The Koreans retaliated with arrows, cannons, and hwacha. After three attacks, one with siege tower, and one where Ishida Mitsunari was wounded, Ukita Hideie managed to breach the outer defenses and reach the inner wall. When the Koreans had nearly run out of arrows, I Bun arrived with supply ships containing 10,000 more arrows, and they continued to fight on until dusk when the Japanese retreated. Aside from the defeat, the Japanese situation became even more tenuous after Zha Dashou led a small group of raiders to Hanseong, burning more than 6,500 tons of grain. This left the Japanese with less than a month of provisions.


1593 May 18

Stalemate: Japanese abandon Hanseong

Seoul, South Korea


Stalemate: Japanese abandon Hanseong


After the Battle of Byeokjegwan, the Ming army took a cautious approach and moved on Hanseong again later in February after the successful Korean defense in the Battle of Haengju.


The two sides remained at a stalemate between the Kaesong to Hanseong line for the next couple of months, with both sides unable and unwilling to commit to further offensives. The Japanese lacked sufficient supplies to move north, and the defeat at Pyongyang had caused part of the Japanese leadership such as Konishi Yukinaga and Ishida Mitsunari to seriously consider negotiating with the Ming dynasty forces. This got them into a heated debate with other hawkish generals such as Katō Kiyomasa, and these conflicts would eventually have further implications following the war in Japan when the two sides became rivals in the Battle of Sekigahara.


The Ming forces had their own set of problems. Soon after arriving in Korea the Ming officials began to note the inadequate logistical supply from the Korean court. The records by Qian Shizhen noted that even after the Siege of Pyongyang the Ming forces were already stalled for nearly a week due to the lack of supplies, before moving on to Kaesong. As the time went on the situation only become more serious. When the weather warmed, the road condition in Korea also became terrible, as numerous letters from Song Yingchang and other Ming officers attest, which made resupplying from China itself also a tedious process.


The Korean countryside was already devastated from the invasion when the Ming forces arrived, and in the heart of winter it was extremely difficult for the Koreans to muster sufficient supplies. Even though the court had assigned the majority of the men on hand to tackle the situation, their desire to reclaim their country, along with the militarily inexperienced nature of many of their administrators, resulted in their continual requests to the Ming forces to advance despite the situation. These events created an increasing level of distrust between the two sides.


Though by mid April 1593, faced with ever-greater logistical pressure from a Korean naval blockade of Yi Sun-sin in addition to a Ming force special operation that managed to burn down a very significant portion of the Japanese grain storage, the Japanese broke off talks and pulled out of Hanseong.


1593 Jul 20 - 1593 Jul 27

Second Siege of Jinju

Jinjuseong Fortress, South Kor


Talks at Nagoya, Slaughter at Jinju | © Samuel Hawley


The Japanese began on 20 July 1593. First they destroyed the edges of the dikes surrounding Jinju to drain the moat, then they advanced on the fortress with bamboo shields. The Koreans fired on them and repelled the attack. On 22 July the Japanese tried again with siege towers, but they were destroyed by cannon fire. On 24 July the Japanese were able to successfully mine a section of the outer wall under mobile shelters. On 27 July The Japanese now attacked with armored carts called "tortoise shell wagons", which allowed the Japanese to advance up to the walls, where the sappers would pull out the stones and attacked the weakened area of the wall, and with the aid of a rainstorm, were able to dislodge its foundations. The fortress was quickly taken. Like after most Japanese victories in largely populated areas, there was a massacre. The Japanese then retreated to Busan.


1594 May 18

Japanese withdraw from Korea

Busan, South Korea


Japanese withdraw from Korea


There were two factors that triggered the Japanese to withdraw: first, a Chinese commando penetrated Hanseong (present-day Seoul) and burned storehouses at Yongsan, destroying most of what was left of the Japanese troops' depleted stock of food. Secondly, Shen Weijing made another appearance to conduct negotiations, and threatened the Japanese with an attack by 400,000 Chinese. The Japanese under Konishi Yukinaga and Katō Kiyomasa, aware of their weak situation, agreed to withdraw to the Busan area while the Chinese would withdraw back to China. A ceasefire was imposed, and a Ming emissary was sent to Japan to discuss peace terms. For the next three years, there was little fighting as the Japanese retained control of a few coastal fortresses with the rest of Korea being controlled by the Koreans.


By May 18, 1594, all the Japanese soldiers had retreated to the area around Busan and many began to make their way back to Japan. The Ming government withdrew most of its expeditionary force, but kept 16,000 men on the Korean peninsula to guard the truce.





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References



  • Brown, Delmer M. (May 1948), "The Impact of Firearms on Japanese Warfare, 1543–1598", The Far Eastern Quarterly, 7 (3): 236–53, doi:10.2307/2048846, JSTOR 2048846
  • Hawley, Samuel (2005), The Imjin War, The Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch/UC Berkeley Press, ISBN 978-89-954424-2-5
  • Niderost, Eric (January 2002), "The Miracle at Myongnyang, 1597", Osprey Military Journal, 4 (1): 44–50
  • Rockstein, Edward D. (1993), Strategic And Operational Aspects of Japan's Invasions of Korea 1592–1598 1993-6-18, Naval War College
  • Sadler, A. L. (June 1937), "The Naval Campaign in the Korean War of Hideyoshi (1592–1598)", Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Second Series, 14: 179–208
  • Stramigioli, Giuliana (December 1954), "Hideyoshi's Expansionist Policy on the Asiatic Mainland", Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Third Series, 3: 74–116
  • Turnbull, Stephen (2002), Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592–98, Cassell & Co, ISBN 978-0-304-35948-6


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