Russo Japanese War
Battle of Te-li-Ssu
1904 Jun 14 - Jun 15

Battle of Te-li-Ssu

Wafangdian, Dalian, Liaoning,

After the Battle of Nanshan, Japanese General Oku Yasukata, commander of the Japanese Second Army, occupied and repaired the piers at Dalny, which had been abandoned almost intact by the fleeing Russians. Leaving the 3rd Army to lay siege to Port Arthur, and having reports of the southern movement of Russian forces confirmed by cavalry scouts, Oku started his army north on 13 June, following the line of the railway south of Liaoyang. A week before the engagement, Kuropatkin sent Stackelberg southwards with orders to recapture Nanshan and advance on Port Arthur, but to avoid any decisive action against superior forces. The Russians, believing the Japanese Second Army's objective to be the capture of Port Arthur, moved their command facilities to Telissu. Stackelberg entrenched his forces, positioning his troops astride the railway to the south of the town, while Lieutenant General Simonov, commanding the 19th Cavalry Squadron, took the extreme right of the front. Oku intended to attack frontally with the 3rd and 5th Divisions, one on each side of the railway, while the 4th division was to advance on the Russian right flank down the Fuchou valley. 

On 14 June, Oku advanced his forces northward toward the entrenched Russian positions near the village of Telissu. Stackelberg had reasonable prospects for victory that day. The Russians had possession of the high ground and field artillery. However, rather than cooperating with the defenders by charging straight up the valley into the Russian defenses, Oku advanced the 3rd and 5th Divisions along the center as a feint, while maneuvering the 4th Division rapidly to the west in order to envelop the Russian right flank. Although Russian outposts detected this move, misty weather prevented them from using their heliographs to warn Stakelberg in time.

The battle began with an artillery engagement, which demonstrated the superiority of the Japanese guns not only in number but also in accuracy. The new Russian Putilov M-1903 field gun was first introduced in this battle, but it was ineffective due to lack of training of the crews and the outdated conceptions of the senior artillery officers. The better Japanese artillery seem to have had a significant effect throughout the battle. As the Japanese divisions in the center commenced skirmishing, Stakelberg judged that the enemy threat would come against his left flank, rather than his right flank, and thus committed his main reserve in that direction. It was a costly mistake.

Skirmishing continued until late night, and Oku decided to launch his main assault at dawn. Likewise, Stackelberg had also determined that the morning of 15 June was the time for his own decisive counter-stroke. Incredibly, Stackelberg issued only verbal orders to his field commanders and left the actual time of the attack vague. Individual commanders, not knowing when to launch the attack, and without any written orders, did not take action until around 07:00. As only about a third of the First East Siberian Rifle Division under Lieutenant General Aleksandr Gerngross committed to the attack, it surprised the Japanese 3rd Division but did not prevail, and soon collapsed in failure. Before long Stackelberg received panicked reports of a strong Japanese attack on his exposed right flank. To avoid envelopment, the Russians began to fall back, abandoning their precious artillery as Oku's 4th and 5th Divisions pressed their advantage. Stakelberg issued the order to retreat at 11:30, but fierce fighting continued through 14:00. Russian reinforcements arrived by train just as the Japanese artillery was targeting the train station. By 15:00, Stackelberg was facing a major defeat, but a sudden torrential rainstorm slowed the Japanese advance and enabled him to extricate his beleaguered forces towards Mukden. The only Russian offensive to relieve Port Arthur thus came to a disastrous end for Russia.