The Battle of Bungo
The line infantry of Longstreet's light corps flowed onto the hills, and Pete watched with satisfaction as his officers formed the bulk of the regular line infantry on the last ridge, two solid lines of blue in the face of the massive column that was formed on the plains below. His men had covered nearly twenty miles in a day, and the exhaustion was showing on the faces of the recruits, he even had several dozen fall out from straggling. But the doubts he had initially harboured about these men were put to rest- they were tough, unbelievably tough considering they had no prior combat experience in modern warfare. The peasants, used to the hard toil and labor, took to his commands and orders without complaint, marching for the better part of the day with little to no rest to gain this precious position.
Another thing that astounded him was the order and discipline of his new troops. Back home, the road would have been littered with discarded equipment, backpacks, blanket rolls, tables, pots and pans, and other loot that his men had picked up on their campaign, but the Japanese infantry had piled their belongings in neat rows, with none of the chaotic mess that he was use to in the Confederate army.
A courier reined in beside Longstreet, saluting professionally. "General Longstreet sir." The man was one of Seth's English aides.
"Report." Pete puffed another breath of smoke from his cigar.
"Colonel Yamashita begs to report his batteries are in position, he has observed elements of the enemy forces approaching the foot of the first hill."
Pete instinctively took a look at the distant hill with his binoculars, it was too difficult to see any signal flags through the thickets of trees.
"Yes sir," the courier nodded. "As you described, in skirmish formation, regimental strength."
"Carry on corporal."
The courier saluted in the saddle, then promptly rode off to the rear, leaving Pete alone at the crest, his staff keeping a respectful distance behind him. Major Seth Patrick was standing by as well, his own staff ready to give the signal to the artillery batteries to commence firing.
The Oka army, Longstreet noted with interest, fielded several regiments of what he would have considered regular line infantry, mixed in with a mass of levies and sword-armed samurai. They had roughly the same number of artillery pieces as his own army, but they were scattered amongst the troops and deployed to the rear, whereas his own batteries were concentrated at the crest of the hill, overlooking all the deployments of the Oka army as well as covering their approaches. Scattered explosions bombarded the hillside as the enemy attempted to dislodge Longstreet's men out of the trees, but the dense brush provided enough cover that the damage was minimal. His own focus was on the columns of enemy troops forming in front of him.
It was quite an awesome sight, over ten thousand men deploying in lines to assail his position, the same weight as a Union light corps back home. And he was defending against it with the equivalent of a Confederate light division. But considering the odds of the ground and the training of his men, he was confident that it was more than even.
At this moment, Ōkubo Toshimichi, nominal commander of the Eastern army approached Longstreet, in the crisp blue uniform of the Satsuma regulars.
"My Lord Okubo wishes you a good morning Longstreet-san." Major Takeda, approached with the General, and once again Longstreet marvelled at the organization and work ethic of the man who was simultaneously his chief of staff and translator. Takeda looked like he slept a wink all week.
"Tell him I give him my regards as well." Although Pete would have said this while still observing the enemy back home, he knew the customs of these people by now and bowed politely to Okubo before continuing.
Okubo said something, and Takeda translated almost instantaneously. "My lord comments how much has changed, a year ago, our men would have been in samurai armor and using bows and swords. Now, they are changed, even the enemy has changed."
"And for good reason," Longstreet replied.
He was already observing the enemy lines forming to assault their position. The enemy commander also seemed to concentrate his samurai and spear levies in a massive column behind the western trained troops, as though intending to pierce his line similar to how Saigo Takamori did to the Kumamoto at Higo. Only this mass of men was as numerous as the army Lord Shimazu used then.
"The enemy are trained by the French, they will come in the French style." Longstreet explained for the benefit of his staff. "Closing the distance with massed formations, minimal fire, before deploying in front of us. Three rank lines. We'll need strong skirmish lines to counter their own sharpshooters."
Okubo nodded, watching the battle unfold with interested. To any observer, it seemed as though the mass of men in front of them was like an unstoppable battering ram of steel and flesh, against the thin line that Longstreet had put out.
Pete nodded to Colonel Patrick, his three batteries of guns already armed and primed.
"Seth, you may commence firing."
"Sir! Batteries, on my command!" He raised his sword. "FIRE!" the sword dropped.
A thunderous roar exploded from the parrott guns, slamming into the front ranks of the Oka lines.
It had begun.
Matsuda Keiji, lieutenant of the fifth light company, 42nd battalion, flinched unvoluntarily as the cannon from the hillside roared, belching up smoke and ash. Less than twenty seconds later, he saw the first of the explosions amongst the enemy ranks as the first explosive shells found their mark. Men and horses alike vanished in a cloud of smoke and flame, and spouts of earth shot up along the entire enemy line. It was the new way of war, one that he and his men had devoted the last several months of their lives to mastering, and it terrified him inwardly.
It was not easy to adopt the barbarian ways, even as a samurai, but if his liege lord ordered it, then so be it. While he was armed with a modern rifle, his old katana still hung on its scabbard by his side. Old habits died hard.
Another volley from the cannon roared from the hillside where Taicho Longstreet was commanding from, and for a single moment, he silently thanked the kami of the guns that he was not subject to the bombardment the Oka were going through now. The Oka column shuddered like a wounded animal, as explosions tore through the ranks, throwing up bodies like bloody ragdolls.
Keiji meanwhile, was protected by the brush and trees of the first hill. He and his men were light infantry, the most independent and reliable soldiers in either army, and it was up to them to deliver the first blow on the enemy. A great honor in itself.
"Stay down men! Do not fire until I give the order!" The major of the battalion, a white officer under the orders of Colonel Yamashita, was making his rounds across the companies, striding calmly in front of the ranks as five hundred of his blue uniformed skirmishers remained hidden in the tall grass and trees. A japanese translator accompanied the major, parroting his instructions in the native language as he spoke. Keiji was barely paying attention, instead looking at the massive black column that was fast approaching them.
The Oka were marching fast, eager to close the distance and oblivious to their presence, focusing instead on the battle lines Longstreet had formed at the crest of the hill.
"Give the enemy a good volley!" The major reminded his men, "Then fall back to the second line!"
The words felt like bile in the pit of Keiji's stomach. This was not the traditional way. Normally, archers or musketmen would open with a volley, then both sides would close in to settle it with cold steel. But the world was changing, and Keji realized that if they had done the same, it would be them marching into the guns of the Oka instead of opposite.
"Set your sights for two hundred yards!" The Major reminded his men, and several of the dark blue Satsuma infantry began checking their rifles.
The first enemy shots started pouring into the forest, and Keiji watched as a man had his head torn off by a cannonball from the Oka lines. More explosive shells discharged themselves on the trees above, sending a storm of splinters into the skirmishers that killed several men where they were standing, while others simply cried in pain on the ground.
By this time the column was within three hundred yards of the trees, and Keiji could make out the distinctive jet black armor of the katana samurai, as well as the dull garbs of the peasant levies. The Oka had not heavily invested in modern weaponry, for behind the infantry were three regiments of Yari cavalry, armed and armored in the traditional way. At least the trees would be some obstacle to them.
Sensing the moment right, the Major gave the order.
"Make ready!" The Major roared just as another shell exploded beside him, killing a man of the color party.
Five hundred rifles trained downhill at the massive column.
More rifles were brought up to the men's shoulders. Somewhere at the front of the column, several of the samurai bursted forward, hoping to give the ultimate sacrifice for their comrades.
"Satsuma-sama!" The skirmishers cheered as one, then fired.
Five hundred rifles slammed into five hundred shoulders as the entire forest, once quiet, exploded into a line of smoke and flame. The front of the Oka column seemed to blossom into a cloud of red mist as the front ranks toppled from the opening volley. Some of the rifle balls went through several men before stopping, the old lacquered armor doing nothing against the spinning trajectory of a modern rifle bullet.
Yet still, they came on, and Keiji found himself feeling a small swell of pride in his heart for his enemy. Pride, and shame as well, for having killed so worthy a foe in such a way. Yet the demands of the moment outweighed any ounce of regret he had in his heart.
"Fire at will!" The Major ordered, falling back with his staff as he delegated the task of the fight to his captains and lieutenants.
"Break into pairs!" Keiji shouted at the men of his company. They had been the best of the batch of recruits, personally handpicked by Colonel Yamahshita himself, and they needed no further explanation. As one unit, they suddenly branced off into their assigned pairs, one man taking cover and reloading while his partner aimed at an enemy. As soon as one man shot, the other would cover him and fire, whilst taking cover behind the trees.
A minie bullet spent itself against the tree that Keiji was hiding behind, and he felt a slight scratch on his cheek as a small splinter was shot off the hard wood, but he kept focused, putting the bullet into one of his newly minted breech loading rifles before aiming it into the mass of samurai.
He saw a cavalry leader, dressed in the blood red armor of Oka, and he pulled the trigger, knocking the man off the saddle.
"Fall back!" The Satsuma captains shouted to each of their companies as the first of the Oka reached the treeline. The front wave of skirmishers fired one last volley, before turning to run to the second line. The Oka samurai, enraged at such a cowardly method of war, charged forward, catching a few skirmishers in the back with their swords and bows.
Keiji himself, loaded his rifle as he ran, then checked to make sure each chamber of his colt revolver was full before he turned around to check. Most of his company had made it with him to the crest of the first hill, and already they formed a crude line to cover the retreating comrades who had yet to make it.
"Aim for the officers and katana samurai!" Keiji ordered, his face a mask of gunpowder and sweat, then without waiting further, he aimed his revolver downhill towards the approaching samurai and fired. Again and again.
Puffs of smoke and the low crackling of rifle shots seemed to echo from the forest below Longstreet's position. Immediately to his left, the vast majority of his army lay in wait, kneeling in the tall grass to conceal their positions. Only the officers remained standing.
As he chomped on his cigar, he nodded with quiet approval when he saw through his binoculars that the signal corps on the first crest were waving their flags, informing him of the successful withdrawl from the forest. Good, everything was going according to plan.
Two whole regiments of his sharpshooters had withdrawn from the wood of the first hill, conceding it to the Oka, but making sure they paid a deep price for every step. They were to fix the enemy's attention and draw him in. From what he had observed before, the Shogunate forces could not resist having a battle decided by the cold steel, he would bait them and use that against them. It also distracted the opposing general, whose batteries could only fire at the forest at the base of the hill, and not at his own men at the crest of the larger hill. It also concealed the fact that he also quietly shifted his regiment of revolver cavalry behind his main line.
As the regiments withdrew in an orderly fashion, they left behind a carpet of dead in the forest, both samurai and peasant levies. These men were hand picked by Seth and Yamashita as the best and brightest fighters, men whose talents lay in more than just standing in a straight line trading vollies with other levies, and he saw that his confidence was not misplaced. He must have shattered at least a brigade of levies in the forests, at the cost of perhaps a hundred or so men. Memories of the fields of slaughter he had seen at Fredericksburg and Malvern Hill popped into his mind, and the field he saw this day was not that far from the horrors he had recalled back then. This was another meat grinder, plain and simple. And he had not even played his last card yet.
"Our light companies are being pressed." Seth Patrick reined in beside Longstreet, his face dripping with sweat and soot from the artillery he had commanded. Those same guns were now littering the Oka lines with shells, digging deep craters all along the valley floor.
"They can't have much more behind this." Longstreet said calmly, then clicked his tongue to gesture his horse forward. A small company of elite Koguma Black Bear infantry followed the general closely as he moved.
Already he could see it in the valley below, his skirmishers were running downhill to the lower bowl of the valley behind the two hills, followed closely by the black mass that was the Oka army. The first samurai were already checking their advance, having seen the dark blue lines of the rest of Longstreet's army staring down at them from the crest of the second hill, along with his artillery, while the Oka batteries were still too far to support them.
"Fall back to the main line!" Colonel Yamashita shouted at this light troops as they continued running towards the second, larger hill, where the bulk of Longstreet's troops were hiding.
Lieutenant Keiji didn't need to be told twice, and he quickly finished meleeing the samurai who had occupied his attentions, deflecting his katana blow with the butt of his rifle, before slamming the stock in the man's face. A Bayonet to his exposed throat quickly finished him off while his partner shot another peasant levie that tried to rush them with a spear.
"Keep running!" A blue coated sergeant shouted, only to have his brains explode from a minie bullet that fired from the trees. The Oka were forming their line infantry with their samurai now, and the increased enemy fire was telling on his troops.
"Back to the main line!" Keiji echoed the order as he ran, thanking the heavens that the Oka cavalry were still trapped in the infernal wood, otherwise they would have been cut down as they ran.
He turned back and saw the Oka were organizing now, forming into their lines once again as almost eight thousand troops began emerging from the wood. It was almost as though for every man he and his battalion had killed, three more ressurected to take their place. How could they even hope to stop such a mass?
His answer came as they reached the first line, and only then did Keiji appreciate the magnitude of the trap they had led the Oka in. Four regiments of regular Satsuma line infantry formed in double line standard and three batteries of Parrott guns suddenly opened up on the Oka formations.
At that moment, Keiji was glad that he was on this side of the hill.
The remaining Oka didn't stand a chance.
Four thousand muskets belched flame, dropping hundreds of Oka infantry in an instant, with some being hit as many as five or six times before even falling. Seth's batteries also opened up at that instant, showering the entire hillside with explosive shell and canister.
The first lines of the Oka column crumbled into a bloody heap, bodies were tossed in the air, along with parts of horses and equipment. Longstreet cringed inwardly as he saw a decapitated head fly through the air, a grim reminder of one of his comrades who had died in Mexico.
"Pour it in boys!" Seth yelled as he stood in the saddle, completely caught in the moment. Yamashita meanwhile, simply watched the battlefield quietly, drumming his fingers calmly along the pommel of his saddle.
It didn't take long before the Oka lines dissolved completely. Peasant levies and conscripts were the first to throw away their swords and spears, while the hardened core of the samurai army, those who refused to give up, were simply shredded by the repeating rifle and cannon fire. The Satsuma line infantry were well trained, firing in two ranks and reloading as the other rank fired, pouring a continuous fire into the cauldron of death and flame as the Oka vainly tried to climb onto the hill. He watched in amazement as a group of samurai horsemen charged the line with wild abandon, only to have all of them ripped from their saddles with a crushing volley. Amazingly, a cadre of swordsmen managed to get within ten yards of the line before being mowed down by revolver fire from his cavalry.
Yet, all the bravery in the world could not overcome grim reality, and within minutes, the Oka side of the hill was covered in a mass of death, dying and writhing men. Whatever formations were left, were simply crumpled fragments of men running for their lives. He estimated that at least four thousand were left, fleeing for their lives.
This was the order he hated giving, yet he had to if he wanted to crush the enemy completely. He turned to Takeda Ori.
"Release the cavalry Major Takeda, sweep the remaining infantry aside and capture their cannon. The day is ours." he said, his voice soft and subdued.
Takeda raised his sabre in salute. "At once Longstreet-Taicho!"
He turned to his staff member, who quickly blew the bugle, and on that order, one thousand Satsuma revolver cavalry bursted from the reserve line, cutting down the refugees and shooting those who stood to put up a fight. The screams of the fighting and dying continued even as the cavalry rushed past the forest that was previously occupied by the Oka, and into the shattered core of their army.
"A splendid victory." Seth reined in beside Longstreet. "Please, allow me to shake your hand sir." he extended his hand to Pete.
Longstreet took the hand without emotion on his face. "The only thing as sad as a battle lost, is a battle won. Wasn't that what your Duke of Wellington said?" Pete replied stoically. "It's only one battle, I figure there's more yet to come."
"Yes, but even so, with this victory, Kyushu is as good as ours." Seth pressed on excitedly, "Now nothing will stop Lord Shimazu from taking Nagasaki."
"No." even Pete had to admit that. "But what next...I think, gentlemen, that the Shogun will not take this defeat lightly. Sooner or later, we'll feel the consequences of what we've accomplished here."
Colonel Yamashita nodded solemnly as he heard the translation. In more than one way, Longstreet-Taicho was correct.
The battle for Nippon, the Empire, had only just begun.
chippermovie : Thanks! Glad you like it. and yes i will purchase Rome 2 total war...who knows, depending on how awesome it is, I may write something...:) I will definitely be including some city scenes, but with a focus on the political aspect as well. Although total war does cover this to an extent, that is definitely something i'd like to see more in future games!
StEbAnRoPeRo: Thanks for the review! And yes, the French will have a part to play in this soon enough :)
Commissar Danno: Glad you liked it :) I will definitely update this when I can, burnout unfortunately is a problem with me, but I'll keep working at it slow and steady.