publisher colophon


Taking the Expedition into North China

After the extensive losses sustained during the general retreat from north­ern Kiangsu and Anhui in April, Nanking’s troops began to move again on May 10, 1927, after a month of fruitless negotiation with Sun Ch’uan-fang while Ankuochün artillery daily bombarded the NRA on the south bank.1 Made up of First and Sixth army regiments and the corps of recently defected Ch’en T’iao-yüan and Ho Yao-tsu, the new offensive crossed the Yangtze into Anhui and invaded Hochou. On May 16, Li Tsung-jen led a force composed of his own Seventh Army and the corps of Wang T’ien-p’ei, Wang P’u, and Yeh K’ai-hsin out of the bridgehead he had been hold­ing in western Anhui. The attackers marched to retake Hofei.

With the Ankuochün thus pressured in the Anhui sector, Chiang un­leashed a coordinated four-pronged crossing downriver in Kiangsu during the next week. Against Ich’eng, Yangchou, Ching-chiang, and T’ungchou, Ho Ying-ch’in led the Fourteenth, Seventeenth, and Twenty-sixth divi­sions of his First Army. By that time in Anhui, Li Tsung-jen had taken P’engpu followed by Suhsien on May 28, after which the beleaguered Ankuochün general, Chang Tsung-ch’ang, withdrew his 15,000 men into Shantung.2

In Kiangsu, the NRA pressed against Sun Ch’uan-fang’s sector via the Grand Canal and coastal roads. On June 9, Ho Ying-ch’in’s troops captured Haichou, the coastal terminal for the east-west railway from Ch’engchou, Honan. That Lung-Hai Railroad opened the possibility of communication with Feng Yü-hsiang should he fight his way across Honan.

130Although the Ankuochün continued to enjoy superiority in firepower due to its heavy artillery, in Kiangsu and Anhui it was outmaneuvered by the NRA with its greater mobility, which it used to flank, encircle, and threaten the railroad to the north—the umbilical cord of the Ankuochün. To this tactical advantage must be added the heavy pressure placed on the Ankuochün on its westernmost flank in Honan. There Wuhan’s troops coordinated their attack with Feng Yü-hsiang’s Kuominchün moving east out of Shensi. Somehow the divided elements of the National Revolution managed to call off their fratricide long enough to attack the warlords. The outcome was positive—but short-lived. Actually both factions were com­peting for the assistance of Feng Yü-hsiang’s large Russian-trained and -equipped army.

Wuhan’s Expedition in Honan

The Peking-Hankow Railroad cut through the mountains bordering Honan at Wusheng Pass where in early May Wuhan began to mass its troops. Although the campaign moved out from a rather shaky base, Wuhan wanted its troops to be the first in North China so that a show of strength could win over northern sympathizers and thus decide which faction would unite China. Nanking shared this motivation. At Wuhan, the GLU continued to lead anti-British and anti-Japanese riots and strikes, which kept the foreign warships anchored in mid-stream with their guns trained on the NRA’s arsenal, warehouses, and rail terminals. Despite Eugene Ch’en’s diplomacy, the foreign powers refused to either leave or disarm their establishments in Hankow.3 In fact British diplomats were in the process of severing their strained relations with Wuhan in favor of negotiations with Nanking’s Foreign Minister, C.C. Wu.4 The ideological purity of Wuhan’s social revolution was apparently bogging down in an economic morass that crippled its armies.

The commencement of Wuhan’s Honan campaign coincided with a timely defection of a portion of Wu P’ei-fu’s army across the mountains in Honan. These defectors were gathered in by T’ang Sheng-chih (Wuhan’s C-in-C), who then moved against Wu near Chumatien and defeated him decisively in the first major battle of the campaign.5

Proceeding north, this combined force met the lines of Chang Hsüeh-liang, the “Young Marshall” and son of the Manchurian C-in-C of the Ankuochün, Chang Tso-lin. The center of the northern line was the town of Hsi-p’ing, Honan, where the Peking-Hankow Railroad crossed a defensible river. The Wuhan force pushed Chang back after a three-day assault forced him to withdraw north to Yench’eng on May 15. Again Chang counted on a river fortified with his artillery to hold against the NRA. This time the northern line held during a week’s heavy frontal attack aimed at crossing the Sha River. Not until a paralleling NRA route moved north downstream from Yench’eng, threatening Chang’s flank and the railroad to the rear, did the Ankuochün line crumble and withdraw.

Of even greater threat to this rail link to North China was the offensive launched out of the Shensi “land within the passes” by Feng Yü-hsiang. 131Starting from the ancient Wei River valley, periodically used as a “rev­olutionary base” in Chinese history, Feng moved his Kuominchün out through T’ung-kuan Pass on May 6 and captured Kuanyint’ang, the moun­tain gateway to Loyang, by the twelfth.6 When Loyang fell on May 28, Feng was less than seventy miles from Ch’engchou, the Peking-Hankow Railroad bridgehead on the Yellow River. Chang Hsüeh-liang responded to this threatened isolation south of the Yellow River without rail com­munications to his rear by withdrawing north. North of the Yellow River, his rail supply line would be shortened appreciably and he would be able to consolidate a defense against one front instead of two.

132Racing east across northern Honan with his cavalry vanguard unop­posed, Feng Yü-hsiang beat Wuhan’s NRA to Ch’engchou and Kaifeng on the Yellow River by the end of May.7 Feng then straddled the Lung-Hai Railroad. Since Hsüchou, Kiangsu, had fallen simultaneously to Chiang’s NRA, the two potential allies were in direct rail communication—as was Feng with Wuhan via the Peking-Hankow line. Thus, Feng received ardent offers from Wuhan and Nanking, both of which would require his aid were they to control North China.

Feng’s existing alliance with Russia and his KMT ties made his inclusion in the revolutionary ranks natural, but he had to choose a faction that could satisfy his own interests. Not only did Feng need to weigh the relative advantages of each side’s offerings, but also whether the entire revolu­tionary movement would outlive its suicidal internal division.

Apparently Feng had become anxious over the disorders evident in Wuhan’s economy and society—especially the confiscation of land by the CCP’s peasants’ associations in Hunan. With its greater resources, Nan­king had more tangible incentives to offer than Wuhan: a promise of C$2 million monthly for maintenance of the Kuominchün plus military aid, and Feng’s chairmanship over the new provisional government of Honan to which Nanking would send Yü Yu-jen as cochairman.8 Yü was Feng’s fellow provincial. Despite Feng’s capture of Honan’s Kung-hsien Arsenal in the Lo valley (which served him, significantly, as his headquarters), his poor industrial foundation in Shensi forced him to depend on outside military aid. Aid from Russia arrived by a long, circuitous, and vulnerable overland route from the north. For several days, Feng had to be concerned over the probable forfeiture of Russian aid were he to join with anti-Communist Nanking. However, once Wuhan, too, broke with the Communists in early June, Feng’s decision-making clarified. By June 20, 1927, Feng Yü-hsiang had decided to join with Nanking (see chapter 29). The decision frustrated Wuhan’s hopes of moving through Honan into North China, but greatly strengthened Nanking’s northern offensive.

Nanking’s Campaign into Shantung

During June, Chiang’s portion of the NRA pressed into southern Shan­tung. Taking Liangch’engchen in late June, the coastal wing reached to within sixty miles of the great port of Tsingtao out on the Shantung peninsula.9 Japan still considered Shantung within its sphere of national 133interests. The Japanese with whom Chiang had discussed relations in late March and early April represented the Katō government and Shidehara’s conciliatory diplomacy—both under attack from Japanese military ele­ments as being too “soft” on disruptive Chinese radicalism and nationalism. These proponents of direct action in meeting Sino-Japanese problems used the antiforeign outrages at Wuhan, Kiukiang, and Nanking as ammunition for their argument. To them the Chinese Nationalists would not be the ones to bring order to China and cooperate with Japan’s interests.

When Prime Minister Katō Kōme died and a new government was appointed, the military element found their opportunity to influence pol­icy on China. The new Prime Minister, General Tanaka Giichi, took up his duties on April 20, 1927, after the talks with Chiang. By the end of May, Tanaka’s cabinet, under pressure from the Japanese Kwantung Army, decided to reinforce Japan’s holdings in Shantung—Tsingtao and its tie with the hinterland, the railroad to Tsinan.10 A Kwantung Army mission numbering 2,000 crack soldiers steamed quickly from Liaotung, arriving at Tsingtao on June 1. For the purpose of protecting Japanese nationals, the Japanese continued to reinforce their lines in Shantung during June.11 The Tanaka government claimed there were 20,000 Japanese nationals in Tsingtao, 2,000 at Tsinan, and another 800 strung out along the railroad. All would be imperiled by the advance of the antiforeign revolutionaries. By early July 1927, at least 6,000 superbly equipped and trained Kwantung Army troops were on standby in Shantung.12

The disadvantages of the Kwantung Army’s style of diplomacy became apparent from the Chinese response. As they learned of the Japanese troop movement, political activists formed committees and gathered mass sup­port for huge demonstrations in Shanghai and other cities to protest the violation of China’s territorial sovereignty. The KMT strategists found the issue an effective means of rallying support, and called for an anti-Japanese boycott.13 The feelings against the Japanese move were of such immediate intensity that even Chang Tso-lin, whom the revolutionaries called a “running dog” of the Japanese imperialists, was affected by public opinion. Having also become infected with nationalism, although he may have solicited Japanese aid earlier in his career, Chang formally protested the Japanese influx in Shantung in early June rather than risk the further taint of being labeled a Japanophile. Chang Tso-lin protested directly to the Japanese ambassador in Peking, but the diplomatic corps had little sway over the Kwantung Army.14 One rationale offered by the Japanese was that during the NRA advance onto the Shantung peninsula, units from Sun Ch’uan-fang’s army had defected and damaged the Japanese railway.15 However, the military presence of the Kwantung Army did help the Ankuochün block NRA entry into Shantung. In the long run, the Japanese intervention of 1927 helped the national revolutionaries—especially Chiang. It was in that emotional period that Chiang and Feng Yü-hsiang met in June to discuss collaboration. Chiang then could present himself as the leading Chinese defender against Japanese imperialism. Wuhan was 134 overshadowed. A decade later, Mao Tse-tung was to capitalize on a similar position during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

135The revolutionary camp that received the ground swell of popular sup­port against the Japanese was still suffering more from internal dissension than from the external threat. Even when facing a “barbarian” challenge, the Chinese have always experienced great difficulty in closing their own ranks against invaders. The attempt to achieve ultimate, preeminent power among Chinese as primary to defending China seems to have been a common response in premodern history, of Chiang in 1927 and during the 1930s, and then of Mao Tse-tung in the “Fu-t’ien Incident” or purge of his ranks in 1930/31, in Mao’s “rectification” of the CCP cadre from 1942-1944, in the repression of opposition during the Korean War, and in the Hsia-fang transfer of millions of urban students and intellectuals during the confrontation with the USSR during 1969 and 1970.

The Threat of Combat within the Revolutionary Movement

When it became apparent to Wuhan in mid-June 1927 that it would not have the cooperation of Feng Yü-hsiang in taking North China, Wang Ching-wei ordered the forces under T’ang Sheng-chih, which had been badly mauled by Ankuochün heavy artillery, recalled to Hupei. Back near Wuhan, those troops could recoup and consolidate the power of the regime in Hunan, Hupei, and Kiangsi. Even within the KMT Left there was the danger of disintegration.

As the confiscation of large landholdings in the surrounding countryside went on under CCP promotion, the class struggle threatened the holdings of the families of the NRA officers, who began to question the direction of Wuhan’s revolutionary movement. The officers and troops of the NRA staged in May an anti-Communist purge at Changsha, Hunan. Following shortly in mid-May was the defection from Wuhan of Hsia Tou-yin, who, joined by pro-Nanking Szechwan forces under Yang Shen, moved on Wuhan with the intent to force out the CCP and its followers.16 The attack failed, but it did show up the need for a strong loyal force to defend Wuhan as the capital of the National Revolution.

With the bulk of their troops concentrated about Wuhan, Wang Ching-wei and his fellow leaders evaluated the opponents: (1) Feng Yü-hsiang was occupied with the Ankuochün in Honan. (2) The Kwangtung forces of the KMT Right would not likely chance a long, difficult attack over the passes into Hunan. (3) Along the Szechwan border, Wuhan’s troops sufficed to guard against Yang Shen. The most vulnerable sector along Wuhan’s periphery was the broad Yangtze approach up from Anhui. Thus, the fraternal conflict with Nanking bulked largest in the view of Wuhan’s military leaders at least—a view shared by the CCP and Russians after Shanghai’s purge. Again can be seen the craving of Chinese leadership for absolute unity within a movement before opposing outsiders. In 1932, after Japanese aggression at Shanghai, Chiang could state: “…it would be necessary to effect internal pacification before we could successfully resist external aggression.”17

136Having recuperated from the campaign in Honan by early July 1927, T’ang Sheng-chih moved his troops out of Wuhan through Kiukiang, Kiangsi, to face Nanking’s units near Anking, Anhui, on the Yangtze—less than 200 miles from Nanking. Responding defensively, Nanking on July 13 ordered back from the Shantung front units of Li Tsung-jen’s Seventh Army and the corps of Ho Yao-tsu and Yeh K’ai-hsin.18 As Wuhan’s civilian regime disintegrated, its military commander, T’ang Sheng-chih, rose as a regional power hostile to the authority Nanking sought to gain. By late June, T’ang held the titles of Hunan’s provincial governor and military head. His presence downriver in July caused Nanking’s vulnerable west­ern flank to bristle.19 Dug in at Anking, T’ang consolidated his hold on the mid-Yangtze and posed a threat to the city of Nanking.

When Chiang moved NRA units from the northern line to check T’ang, the Ankuochün seized the opportunity. In Shantung, the northern side began to regain its lost territories on July 5 and 6 as the NRA lost in quick succession Tenghsien, Linch’eng, and Ts’aochüang along the Grand Canal route, and the Tientsin-P’u-k’ou Railroad.20

Although Ankuochün C-in-C Chang Tso-lin had lost Honan in June, one advantage he had gained was a shortened front, which allowed him to concentrate his armies, while Nanking’s NRA had to string its units out along two fronts. Although the NRA managed to recapture and hold Linch’eng from July 10 to 19, its lines began to crumble under Ankuochün heavy artillery bombardments and the enemy’s fresh reinforcements. On July 23, the Ankuochün crushed the Tenth Army at the strategic crossroad city of Hsüchou, and the Tenth Army fell back into Anhui. Although Chiang got Feng Yü-hsiang to cooperate with Yen Hsi-shan in pushing against the Ankuochün’s flank in Hopei, neither that harassment nor Chiang’s counterattack against Hsüchou halted the northern offensive.21

When Sun threw his 50,000 troops against the NRA line it crumbled. Rolling south into his old United Provinces, Sun took P’engpu on August 9, 1927, as the NRA retreated toward Nanking. In defeat, Chiang’s authority lessened in the eyes of Li Tsung-jen and the generals of the Kwangsi clique. However, as the crisis heightened against the Ankuochün, relations be­tween Nanking and Wuhan’s KMT became more pliable.

Wuhan Breaks with the CCP

During the spring of 1927, the dislocated economy and tension-torn society caused alarm among the KMT of Wuhan. Although the CCP claimed it was cooperating with the KMT Left in regulating the activism of the CCP’s unions and peasants’ associations, by June disillusionment among KMT members had deepened regarding true cooperation with the CCP. Such luminaries as Wang Ching-wei, Sun Fo, General T’ang Sheng-chih, and even Hsü Ch’ien had come to feel impotent before the CCP with its new ministers in Wuhan’s National Government and the power of its mass organizations so in evidence everywhere.22 According to Wang Ching-wei, when Comintern representative M.N. Roy showed him Stalin’s telegram calling for an armed Communist take-over of the National 137Revolution, the KMT was even expected to “actually join the CCP.”23 The indiscreet disclosure further provoked the Wuhan KMT, which was al­ready experiencing strong feelings of reaction. In June, the Wuhan KMT began to plot against the CCP in a move that led to their official split, publicized on July 15 long after the series of anti-Communist actions by military units in May. This lag in time was mainly due to Wang Ching-wei’s hopes of maintaining the United Front until after Wuhan’s troops had neutralized Chiang. Thus, by mid-July, both the so-called Right and Left KMT factions had turned against the CCP-Russian bloc. Chiang in defeat felt the need for a Party reunion. Believing that he stood in the way of the rapprochement, he announced his retirement as C-in-C of the NRA.

The Northern Counterattack

This announcement came on August 12, 1927, just as NRA elements sped to safety on the south bank of the Yangtze24 after strong points to the north had fallen like dominoes before the Ankuochün artillery. The last rear guard escaped to the south bank on August 19. The KMT’s NRA had been decisively defeated and routed—an occurrence enough to shake even a stable regime.

Facing the Nanking government was the old problem of Chinese politics—factionalism. Even the onslaught of the Ankuochün into KMT territory did not halt the divisions. The Nanking regime had been a coalition of KMT members who had agreed on purging the CCP, but whose union now disintegrated over the continuance of support to Chiang—the defeated C-in-C. Within the military, the Kwangsi clique of Li Tsung-jen and Pai Ch’ung-hsi were openly opposed to Chiang’s policies; while Ho Ying-ch’in and others were ambivalent. The divisiveness spread among civilian politicians, so that when Chiang “retired” to Shanghai, following him went an entourage of such improbables as Hu Han-min, Ts’ai Yüan-p’ei, Chang Ching-chiang, Wu Chih-hui, and Li Shih-tseng.25 To them, the alternative of some other general at the helm was not attractive. The exodus did not achieve the recalling of Chiang and the others to Nanking. After a short rest at his family home at Fenghua, Chekiang, near Ningpo, Chiang steamed for Japan where he discussed futilely with Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi the matter of reorganizing the KMT’s National Revolution, and visited acquaintances he had met before 1911 and during Sun’s later exile.26 Chiang’s exile in Japan lasted from September 28 to November 10,27 during which time he managed to gain at least the ap­proval of mother Soong to take daughter Soong Mei-ling as his second wife (the marriage took place back in Shanghai on December 1, 1927).

The situation of the KMT at Nanking was desperate indeed in August. Its seasoned C-in-C was in retirement, but this had not brought the Wuhan faction downstream in reconciliation—instead T’ang’s troops prowled hos­tilely above Nanking. With the artillery shells of the Ankuochün pounding Nanking’s waterfront, KMT fortunes had reached another low ebb. But Sun Yat-sen and his Party had seen many setbacks, and although the KMT had again lost the rich lowlands of Anhui and Kiangsu north of the Yangtze, 138the NRA leaders began to pull back together. In this “do-or-die” situation, the Kwangsi generals, along with First Army Commander Ho Ying-ch’in, defended the south bank with the blessings of Chiang who had ordered the defense of the Nanking government before his departure for Japan.28

Besides Chiang’s resignation, the Nanking KMT signaled its desire for reconciliation with praise of Wuhan for its treatment of the CCP threat in July. Nanking called for a plenary session, which would include all the CEC members authorized in the spring of 1926 in Canton, regardless of their current affiliation.29 After the initial gathering of representatives on August 24, 1927, discussion and negotiation between the two camps be­came routine.

However, the military situation deteriorated further as Feng Yü-hsiang suffered setbacks on the Ankuochün’s Honan flank, which allowed a re­surgence of northern military might into the Yangtze. While the KMT politicians met to work out their modus vivendi, Sun Ch’uan-fang’s artillery pounded NRA positions along the south bank until the Nanking shore was a smoldering ruin. The bombardment on August 25 by Sun was to soften up NRA defenses so that he could move to regain his lost provinces. While Ankuochün leader Chang Tso-lin had favored a containment of the national revolutionaries in an enclave until the KMT further disintegrated, Sun could not pass up the opportunity of regaining golden Shanghai while the KMT was in disarray.30 His existing share of poverty-plagued Shantung was little consolation.

As Sun’s bombardment reached a crescendo during the night of August 25, he dispatched several landing parties toward the Yangtze’s south bank. Some acted as diversionary movements for the main force of two regi­ments, which landed at 3 a.m. the morning of August 26 near the town of Lung-t’an, a station on the Shanghai-Nanking Railroad (see map of lower Yangtze, chapter 12). Having secured a landing zone, the vanguard quickly pressed inland while Sun rushed thousands of troops across the river on all manner of commandeered river craft. Since the NRA had to spread its numbers thinly to cover the entire lower Yangtze, Sun’s vanguard was able to make a penetration quickly in the wide sector defended by Li Tsung-jen’s Seventh Army. Northern troops in civilian dress spread out to cut telegraph and rail lines and to prepare a perimeter around the riverside hilltops.

On the twenty-sixth, the Yangtze near Lung-t’an swarmed with river craft that landed Sun’s units at three adjacent beachheads, from which the troops massed around the Lung-t’an station. As the first day of combat drew to an end, Li Tsung-jen’s troops began to consolidate and were able to resist more effectively so that they drove Sun’s forces off most of the hilltops and away from the Shanghai-Nanking Railroad.31 This initial fight cost the NRA 800 casualties but brought in 3,000 captured enemy troops who had been cut off from their comrades along with their field guns and weapons. Thus ended the first day of what became the “Gettysburg” of the National Revolution.

On August 27, Sun continued to boat troops across the wide Yangtze 139onto the Lung-t’an beachhead. Reinforced, Sun’s attackers again captured the railroad station, thus bisecting the key line. Among them was one of the Ankuochün’s crack White Russian units gleaned from the flotsam of the Russian Revolution that still drifted about Manchuria and the port cities of China. Hurrying troops in from both Nanking and Shanghai, the NRA also reinforced its defenses,32 which grew rapidly to meet the Ankuochün challenge and still managed to contain some 30,000 attackers within a perimeter of several square miles enclosing the landing zone and the Lung-t’an station. As the NRA concentrated all available local troops in the battle area, it sent out communiqués calling for the disintegrated NRA confederation to pull together and to apply pressure to the Ankuochün’s flanks.

As the battle of Lung-t’an raged on during August 28, Feng Yü-hsiang in eastern Honan responded by attacking into Shantung where he threatened Ts’aochou. The rally of the KMT-affiliated corps revealed the power of the revolutionary military system, when the parts worked in concert—which is what Sun had gambled against. The following table shows the proliferated and diverse National Revolutionary Army that gathered to defend Nan­king, and the significance of the many units who defected from their warlords.

On August 30, T’an Yen-k’ai wired Wang Ching-wei and T’ang Sheng-chih from Nanking and asked them to support their revolutionary brethren by moving troops into Anhui from Wuhan territory. Apparently with Chiang offstage, the feelings of Wuhan leaders toward the KMT faction downstream had softened. Launching an offensive toward Hofei, Anhui, the Wuhan NRA sought to flank the Ankuochün’s Tientsin-P’u-k’ou Rail­road. Farther north, Feng’s diversionary tactics took Ts’aochou—a mere seventy miles from the same railway.33 From the direction of Shanghai, Ho Ying-ch’in’s First Army divisions converged on the eastern sector of Sun Ch’uan-fang’s beachhead.

By August 30, the coordinated effort against Sun’s attack across the Yangtze began to tell. Drawing reinforcements from as far away as Hang-chow, Chekiang, the NRA began to tighten its noose around Sun’s beach­head. Bringing its gunboats, the Ch’u-ch’ien and the Ch’u-t’ung, into play, the NRA was able to prevent Sun from shipping more reinforcements across to the south bank.34 In this action these elements of the defected Shanghai navy of Yang Shu-chuang proved their value. Fighting its way through the enemy perimeter, the Seventh Army took the Lung-t’an station for the second time, against desperate resistance, early in the evening of August 30.35

During the night, Sun’s subordinates gathered nearly 40,000 troops in the river mists for a predawn counterattack. The counterattack began with the northern troops fighting with their backs up against the river and little possibility of evacuation because of the presence of the NRA’s river fleet. Their hope was that they could recapture a defensible circle of hills from which they could await Ankuochün aid. Their assault and the NRA defense were equally stubborn—the NRA leaders realized that the fall of Nanking 140Allied Revolutionary Army Units, Combined under Nanking’s Military Council, Defending the Lower Yangtze during the Attack on Lung-t’an would probably mean the loss of the delta. The NRA would be reduced to holing up in the mountainous regions farther south, but without the revenue from Shanghai and its surrounding wealthy provinces the chances of retaining the support of the many defected corps might be slim, for they could not even be fed. During the fierce struggle on August 31, as the First could not even be fed. During the fierce struggle on August 31, as the First Army, which was defending the railway station, reeled under fire, Ho Ying-ch’in ran along the line brandishing his pistol and shouted that if the enemy overran them now, he would turn the pistol on himself. When the momentum of Sun’s attack did finally slow, Sun saw crushed along the Yangtze bank nearly his entire army as well as his dream of retaking Shanghai and his United Provinces. Having thrown the bulk of his 40,000 troops against the front at Lung-t’an, Sun found his escape route block­aded, his flanks surrounded, and his river craft at the bottom of the Yangtze. Although he and his guards managed to escape, Sun had to leave most of his army behind.

Commander         Army Designation Station
First Route under Ho Ying-ch’in
Ho Ying-ch’in   units of First Army Lung-t’an to Shanghai
Wang T’ien-p’ei   Tenth Army *
Lai Shih-huang   Fourteenth Army *
Ts’ao Wan-hsün   Seventeenth Army *
Yang Hsiao   Eighteenth Army *
Chou Feng-ch’i   Twenty-sixth Army *
Second Route under Pai Ch’ung-hsi
Wane P’u   Twenty-seventh Army *
Po Wen-wei   Thirty-third Army *
Ch’en T’iao-yüan   Thirty-seventh Army *
Hsia Tou-yin   New Tenth Army *
Ma Hsiang-pin   New Eleventh Army *
Wang Chin-t’ao   Independent Division *
Yen Teh-chi   Independent Division *
Third Route under Li Tsung-jen
Hsia Wei   Seventh Army Nanking to Lung-t’an
Liu Tso-lung   Nineteenth Army (orig. Fifteenth Army) *
Ho Yao-tsu   Fortieth Army *
Yeh K’ai-hsin   Forty-fourth Army *
Revolutionary Army Naval Units on Yangtze under Yang Shu-chuang
Ch’en Li-liang   First Unit *
Ch’en Shao-k’uan   Second Unit *
Ch’en Hsun-yung   Third Unit *

SOURCE: The information is based upon the KMT account that appears in N. Exp., vol. 3, p. 853, Table 62.

* Units that joined the Revolutionary Army after the July 1926 launching of the Northern Expedition, both defected units and local forces reorganized under the NRA.

141Estimates of Sun’s troop strength had run from 40,000 to 70,000, and when the NRA tallied up its gains at midday August 31, it had accepted: the surrender of 30,000 troops, including ten commanders of brigades, regi­ments, and divisions; thirty pieces of artillery; and 35,000 rifles. Over 10,000 of Sun’s troops died in the six-day conflict. A mere several thousand escaped with Sun to rejoin his small rear guard of less than 10,000 on the north bank. Where he had fielded eleven divisions and six brigades, there remained only three divisions and several brigades.36

The NRA victory was hard won. Although the KMT did not report its losses in detail, it declared them to be between 8,000 and 10,000 dead and wounded. Included among the casualties were 500, or nearly one-half, of the Whampoa Academy’s Fifth Class, graduated just the year before in July 1926.37 The battle marked decisively the high tide of warlord resurgence in the Northern Expedition. It is the battle most cited by the KMT victors (while the CCP glorifies the 1926 victories in rural Hunan). That the badly fractionated KMT had been able to pull itself together at all was amazing, but its coordination of such stiff large-scale resistance to the enemy was an extraordinary feat. The reunification however was a tenuous one because the diverse revolutionaries had responded out of desperation.

The centralizing effect of the KMT organization was equal to the power­ful centrifugal forces of provincialism and militant factionalism, only when subjected to hard outside stress. The divisions experienced at Canton during the March 20 Coup, the KMT-CCP squabbles over the mass movements, the Wuhan-Shanghai split, and the purges of the CCP were only a preview of the factious divisions of the 1930s, which took place under the shadow of invasion from Japan. Chinese nationalism in the 1920s was still too weak to provide the adhesive needed to keep China integrated. Apparently, it would take the stronger centripetal powers of the CCP’s “democratic centralism,” the ideological magic of promising land to the farming masses, and galvanizing doses of xenophobia to force the Chinese into a single nation. Often during the twenties it seemed that the develop­ment of a modern elite group in the twentieth century had only exacer­bated centrifugal potentials in such a large, intersected land mass.

Following Sun Ch’uan-fang’s failure to storm the delta, his decimated remnants dragged themselves along roads heading north and onto the trains bound for Shantung. Had the NRA been secure in a stable base and better able to concentrate firepower in pursuit of the retreating Shantung troops, it might have taken the North China Plain up to the Yellow Riv­er. A vanguard did cross gallantly at P’u-k’ou, but paused when the atmo­sphere 142 at Nanking changed from relief to anxiety when in-fighting returned midst the revolutionaries. On September 2, 1927, Li Tsung-jen and Ho Ying-ch’in reigned in their troops, who were eager to cross the Yangtze. They awaited the arrival at Nanking of the KMT’s diverse “leaders,” providing a ring of military presence around a city wary once more of attack from upstream.

A group from Wuhan—Wang Ching-wei, Ku Meng-yü, Hsü Ch’ien, Ch’en Kung-po, and Ho Hsiang-ning (Mme. Liao Chung-k’ai)—joined at Shanghai with Sun Fo, T’an Yen-k’ai, and other delegates. Meanwhile, Chang Tso-lin’s Po Hai fleet provided them with a constant reminder of the need for unity by its bombardment of Shanghai’s Woosung docks. Shells damaged the coastal batteries and an Ankuochün small aircraft taking off from a gunboat bombed Shanghai. With the resumption on September 7 of reunion talks at Shanghai, the NRA gingerly began to recross the Yangtze, anxious over the political compromises in process behind them. Landing at four points on the north bank, the NRA offensive divided into three columns: the Right followed the route between the Grand Canal and the Yellow Sea, the Center marched north along the railway, and the Left remained stationary in Anhui facing not the Ankuochün, but T’ang Sheng-chuh’s 25,000 troops from Wuhan.38 In early September the various KMT delegates managed to put together the usual temporary coalition, this one later known as the “September Government.”


1. Kuowen (May 1, 1927), n. p.

2. N. Exp., vol. 3, p. 678.

3. SCMP (April 20, 1927), p. 12.

4. Ta-shih chi, p. 258. Kuowen (May 22, 1927).

5. N. Exp., vol. 3, p. 731.

6. Kuowen (May 15, 1927), n. p.

7. Kuowen (June 5, 1927), n. p. N. Exp., vol. 3, p. 748.

8. Kuowen (July 12, 1927), n. p.

9. N. Exp., vol. 3, p. 678.

10. Kuowen (June 5, 1927), n. p.

11. Kuowen (June 26, 1927), n. p. MacNair, p. 124

12. Kuowen (July 10, 1927), n. p.

13. Kuowen (June 12, 1927), n. p.

14. Kuowen (June 5, 1927), n. p.

15. Kuowen (July 10, 1927), n. p.

16. Kuowen (May 29, 1927), n. p.

17. Russia in China, p. 43.

18. Kuowen (July 17, 1927), n. p. Ta-shih chi, p. 263.

19. Ta-shih chi, p. 262.

20. Kuowen (July 10, 1927), n. p.

21. Kuowen (July 17, 1927), n. p.

22. See Wu T’ien-wei, “A Review of the Wuhan Debacle,” Journal of Asian Studies 29(1):125-143.

23. Wang Ching-wei, p. 6.

24. Kuowen (August 21, 1927), n. p.

25. T’ang Leang-li, p. 292.

26. MacNair, p. 125. According to S. Okamoto’s unpublished research, Temple University.

27. Ta-shih chi, pp. 270, 274.

28. Kuowen (August 21, 1927), n. p.

29. T’ang Leang-li, p. 290.

30. Kuowen (August 28, 1927), n. p.

31. N. Exp., vol. 3, pp. 868-869.

32. Ibid., pp. 873-875.

33. Kuowen (September 4, 1927), n. p.

34. Ibid.; N. Exp., vol. 3, p. 894.

35. N. Exp., vol. 3, pp. 897–899.

36. Ibid.

37. Huang-pu chien-chün san-shih-nien kai-shu. p. 24. TSKY, vol. 2, p. 561.

38. N. Exp., vol. 3, pp. 900–903.

Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Creative Commons
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.