Battle of Liang-la

Battle of Lêng-la
USA Cape Cod 4 MA.jpg
Dawn Coast, where the initial landing occurred
DateJan. 2, 1867
Location
Isle of Lêng
Result Camian victory
Territorial
changes
Isle of Lêng controlled by Camia
Belligerents
 Themiclesia Camia, Maverica
Units involved
  • Camian Navy
     North Floatilla (12 ships)
     10th Marines Regiment
     12nd Marines Regiment
     102nd Light Artillery
  • Camian Army
     14th Infantry Division
     105th Ranger Regiment
     242th Mounted Brigade
     56th Cavalry Wing
     21st Artillery Brigade
     28th Artillery Brigade
  • Maverican Navy
Strength
1,123 c. 29,000
Casualties and losses
1 (as prisoner) 231

The Battle of Lêng-la (Shinasthana: 贏嶼之役, Lêng-la-tje-les; Camian: yeng-yo-je-yih) was a battle fought between Camia and Themiclesia in 1867, through which Camia acquired the Isle of Lêng from Themiclesia. Some authorities do not consider the Battle of Lêng-la a battle, since the Themiclesian forces surrendered without any resistance.

Strategic value of Lêng-la

While Camia achieved independence from Themiclesia in 1701, the terms of the secession did not include the Isle of Lêng, which was geographically closer to Camia than Themiclesia. During the 18th century, the large Themiclesian navy often used the island as a base of operations against encroachment by the Tyrannian Royal Navy in the Halu'an Sea, particularly its west coast. However, in the Raid on Rad, the Royal Navy burnt the bulk of the Consolidated Fleet at its home port, reducing its size in hulls by four-fifths; Themiclesia, burdened by her commitments to the Second Maverican War, which necessitated a large land army, did not rebuild the fleet. After the war, the hawkish faction was silenced by public discontent, and the Themiclesian Navy was left with only a handful of ships that could no longer contest the dominance of the Royal Navy even in the Halu'an Sea. The Isle of Lêng, therefore, became an object of embarrassment, as its position offered Themiclesia opportunities that it could not exploit. The Navy therefore chose to have the island defended and fortified. The Naval Engineers were sent to add several layers of defensive walls around the island and fourteen forts. Four regiments of marines were sent to guard it, and the Navy often sailed by it or docked on it to assert control.

After the Liberal Party came to power in 1845, the Navy's role was further reduced to coastal defence, though the isle was not to be abandoned. On account of budget cuts, the four regiments on the island were reduced to one; it was hoped that the visible fortifications would impress that the island was more guarded than actually. However, as Camia began to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy in the 1840s, the excessive foritifications were seen as a threat to security. The Camian Navy on multiple occasions stated to the government that "Lêng was the singular place where a Themiclesian invasion would start," and the number of fortifications was used to calculate the amount of soldiers that could be readily shipped to Camia and begin the invasion. In 1841, the Camian Navy estimated that as many as 20,000 Themiclesians could be on the island; two years later, that figure was revised to 50,000. In 1854, it was further elevated to 120,000. While the Camian government was skeptical, during the 1850s they increased military expenditure and made plans for such a hypothetical invasion. Due to the gross miscalculation of the amount of troops on Lêng, the Camian government did not prohibit the army or navy to develop several plans for a pre-emptive invasion of the island and, in fact, authorized exercises to be carried out in simulation of such an action.

Planning for invasion

On Nov. 19, 1866, Admiral Mundy of the Camian Navy visited the house of General Sek, then acting chief of the General Staff of the Camian Army, and expressed his desire to go forward with one of the plans of an invasion of Lêng. While Sek was a moderate and advised caution, Mundy galvanized the general and the officers around him saying that the conquest of Lêng was the "final piece of the Revolution started 150 years ago". Quickly, the two parties came to an agreement, and a large force was assembled on the Camian coast, awaiting the Navy's ships to bring them to the island. The Camian Army, formed on foundation of the Colonial Army, was unexpectedly enthusiastic for the opportunity to "try out their shiney new weapons", while the Camian Navy was keen to "accomplish its historic goals to eliminate the Themiclesian menace". Two-thirds of the Army was mobilized for this invasion, with a force encompassing infantry, cavalry, artillery, scouts, and others. The Camian Rangers, mounted troops who were also part of the Colonial Army, were meant to spearhead the invasion once they reached the coast.

The invasion plan called for the entire coastline of the island be divided into 22 points where troops would land. The Camian Navy was responsible for landing troops at the natural harbour on the island, on the side near to the Camian coast, while the Army was to embark westwards from the north, south, and east, where small boats can ferry the troops to the beach unmolested. The reasoning for this arrangement is that the harbour was assumed to be more heavily guarded, and engagement was easier if the Navy's marines, who have been trained to fight in such conditions, landed there; on the other hand, the beaches were assumed to be less guarded and could be used as staging ground for other troops. Ultimately, since the Camians did not know which fort was manned and to what degree, they provisioned for the scenario that all of the fortifications were fully ready for combat, so the entire island had to be covered to prevent Themiclesians from mustering together or having any room for maneouvres.

Maverican involvement

Invasion

The entire invasion force was ferried over to Lêng in an orderly fashion by the Camian Navy's North Floatilla and other ships in the early morning of Dec. 25, 1866. To the Camian Navy's surprise, the harbour was not guarded, and four regiments of marines successfully captured the fort overlooking the harbour with no casualties. On the other side of the island, the 5th and 8th Divisions off-loaded and stood in formation, soon marching west. The Camian Rangers, on their mounts, went ahead of the army to scout for enemy activity, though they found none; all the fortifications they encountered were deserted. Next day, they continued marching and seizing the fortifications they came across, and a few days into the invasion, some commanders wondered if the island was inhabited at all. Nevertheless, on Jan. 2, 1867, the 14th Division came across a fort with a smoking chimney and soon called for artillery support. The invasion force converged on a single, medium-sized structure. Without giving the enemy a chance to communicate, bombardment began around 9 p.m. that day. The three Themiclesian units that were on the island, the 2nd Marines, the 6th Naval Engineers, and the 641st Royal Signals, panicked amongst themselves about the sheer size of the invasion force.

As the marines were the largest unit (regiment size), the two other commanders asked for the opinion of the colonel of the 2nd, Trjuk Dzjin-nêng, who initially contemplated in silence. The Royal Signals captain pressed if the Themiclesian Navy would send relief, but Trjuk said, "If the Camian Navy is here, they must have encircled the Five Islands. We can hardly hold the fleet together and repulse theirs, not to mention us Lêng." Then, the major of the naval engineers opined, "There comes a point when one must act from conscience. My men have not trusted me with their lives for zealotry but soundness, and as their major I feel bound to surrender." At which point, the captain of the Royal Signals company added that, "If the nemesis is what a regiment and a battalion would not contest, then reason demands that the company surrender as well." Allegedly, with a dramatic turn of tone, Trjuk said the following words which have been immortalized in popular media:

This is a democratic island, and two commanders overrule one.

Whereupon the trio walked out of the fortification and announced their surrender, each bearing a bedsheet on a branch as their white flags. Their men were taken as prisoners by the Camians.

Aftermath

Press reaction

The military-backed Camian press was initially indignant about the "battle" that transpired, waxing that "our boys" did not get the "taste of blood" that they yearned for. The Themiclesian press, especially the Conservative papers, heckled at the Camian military for the futility of its massive invasion force, calling it a "farce of an invasion, taking the most ignominious refuge in numbers, in the most risible and catastrophic sense". The Shinasthana Globe, a Liberal paper, uncharacteristically echoed the Conservatives' sentiment, printing in an editorial,

Chance that we had more than one regiment, one battalion, and one company on that island, what would become of the Camians?

The Foreign Office ransomed all three units back to Themiclesia in February; aside from a case of acute pneumonia that carried off one marine in prison, the Themiclesians suffered no casualties during and after the battle. This statistic was emphasized to show that the Camians had lost more men, horses, and artillery pieces than did the Themiclesians.

Captain-General Trjuk

Immediately after returning to Themiclesia, Trjuk was controverted by members of parliament, newspaper editors, and the public. Some, such as editor of the Progressive newspaper Weekly Telegraph, considered Trjuk "a most distinguished coward, without equal in the history of cowardice", while others, such as Conservative MP Mer Hwek said in parliament that he did as his "conscience and good judgment both required and without hesitation, like any good public servant." Trjuk sought out the Navy Secretary's sympathy, but the latter simply refused to assist him to any degree, noting in his diary that Trjuk was a "dangerous character". Ultimately, it was the Foreign Secretary, who had been deputizing for the Prime Minister for the better part of the two previous years, that sported his case in Cabinet when it was proposed in Feb. 1868 to put him to local deliberation. At the time, all Themiclesian public officials above a certain rank were liable to be deprived of eligibility of officialdom if his home county deemed him beneath the commensurate character. Trjuk was suspended as colonel of the 5th Regiment that month and ordered to present himself for the judgment of his home county, whereupon a few young voters publicly castigated him, "on what grounds does he presume to receive salary and state and knowledge by name of the Emperor" (何以盈俸在位,又敢智名于上).

Only a few days before the deliberation was to take place, the Foreign Secretary made a speech in the Council of Protonotaries that thanked the enfranchised public for voting according to their best judgment and asked them to consider the benefits of the Treaty of Hickorysville (1867), by which Themiclesia repealed tariffs on certain Maverican and Camian imports. As soon as the treaty was signed, a number of rural markets were effectively bankrupt; this encouraged labour to flock to the cities, which allowed small, educated entrepreneures to wax in number and thereby strengthen the Liberal government's electoral position. The speech was an implicit critique of the pre-1867 Conservative position of holding onto the Isle of Lêng by maintaining a "reasonably sized navy". While the terms of the treaty were never popular, the Prime Minister encouraged the public to think about the "gains occasioned by losses". Trjuk's fellow gentlemen therefore considered him in a less unfavourable light; the deliberation did not deprive him of eligibility to officialdom. While he was thus re-instated in May 1868, the three other colonels in the Marines started a ten-day strike to protest his return; the incumbent Captain-General was equally unimpressed but also chided the three colonels for absenteeism.

When the Captain-General resigned in 1870, the Ministry of Administration was due to choose his replacement.[1] Per custom, the Navy Secretary submitted five names, Trjuk, his three colleagues, and the Procurer of the Ordnance, and the Ministry required the five candidates to evaluate each other. The four others confederated to submit the most unflattering report about Trjuk. They accused that Trjuk was corrupt, not knowledgeable about relevant laws and ordinances, incompetent with accounting, literate and malicious, and unable to discharge the office. These were standard criteria for assessing the aptitude of public officials. While literacy was not yet widespread, it was commonplace to swindle the illiterate with literacy (particularly of law) as a threat or weapon. In the standard template for describing a good, integral public servant, he would be "literate but never malicious"; to describe Trjuk as "literate and malicious" is to assert that he was an unscruplous and vicious character. The Ministry was therefore strained to nominate Trjuk, as never before had such an ill-received person been nominated. The Permanent Secretary reported that the appointment would create an unwelcome precedent. The Admiral of the Consolidated Fleet advised that Trjuk, if appointed, would face immesurable difficulties to command the confidence of gentlemen and the obedience of other men.

It is rumoured but remains unproven that the Cabinet Secretary wrote to Trjuk that he "knew how to take a hint and will be expected to continue to do so". Most scholars who accept the veracity of this message believe it refers to his decision to surrender after reading the Foreign Secretary's speech condemning a future war with Camia and Maverica in the Hansard. Under immense pressure, the Ministry of Administration reluctantly rejected his rivals' reports as "contrived, envious, and dishonest" and nominated Trjuk. Immediately, it triggered a wave of resignations in the Marine Corps and indignation in the Admiralty. Reportedly, even the Emperor laughed, when Trjuk appeared for the appointment ceremony. Though the canonical analysis would conclude that the three other colonels felt unable to serve a captain-general who recently surrendered without firing a single shot, recent historians have supplied alternative views.

Since the captain-general is not really a general (i.e. someone leading troops into battle), Trjuk's apparent cowardice was not something the three colonels took as the principal barrier to his becoming an agreeable captain-general. The primary function of this office is in preparing the budgetary instrument and assessing the performance of officers, and the colonels must have feared that Trjuk's views about the force would be disagreeable to theirs, resulting in bad evaluation reports. This view is supported by the fact that Trjuk certainly knew about his colleages' hostility and probably would have retaliated had they all remained in office. Furthermore, if the office of captain-general did require as much valour as some previous historians thought, why did the colonels discredit him on the grounds of being a poor administrator, rather than a poor commander?

References

  1. This translation is customary; more literally, it means "ministry of officialdom", and its jurisdiction is not limited to the "civil" service.

See also