Notes On A Guerrilla Campaign:
Japan's campaign of conquest in the Northeastern Provinces was backed by "a formidable mobilization of modern weapons," wrote Associated Press correspondent Morris Harris from Changchun. "It is in its modern mechanical equipment that the Japanese army is overwhelmingly superior to its poorly equipped and loosely organized foe." Operating from major aerodromes at Mukden, Tsitsihar, and the capital of Kirin, as well as Harbin, Changchun, and Chinchow, Japanese reconnaissance planes maintained an aerial vedette to detect partisan activity, while bombers raided towns in partisan districts when not operating in direct support of ground forces, and fighters (still armed to the Great War standard of but two synchronized rifle-caliber machine-guns) roved every quarter of the region, seeking opportunities to strafe. "The Japanese airmen let off their guns at every shrub," Josef Franz was told by his north Kirin informant. "They explain as a stampede of terror-stricken bandits," he said, "the sight our running to cover," but it was the opinion of the Lytton commissioners that "the greater part" of Chinese losses were due to "the use of aircraft on the Japanese side." Japanese air bombs were "five feet tall and weighed some 200 pounds," blasting out craters "twelve feet deep and eighteen feet across at the top," J. B. Powell was told by "one of the foreign military observers who inspected some of these bomb-holes." Even when a cascade of such missiles achieved little materially (as was not infrequently the case), their moral effect was tremendous, and sometimes sufficient in itself to force a Chinese retirement. J. B. Powell reports that when at the end of March, 1932, forces under gen. Ting Chao routed the Manchukuo garrison at Nungan, 35 miles northwest of Changchun, the Japanese "succeeded in driving the Kirin Self-Defence forces out of the town in less than 24 hours mainly as a result of airplane bombing." Japanese artillery, plentiful and well supplied with shells and communications gear, struck similarly powerful blows. E. U. Barung reports that when a large force of National Salvation Army partisans seized Hengtaohotse on the Eastern branch of the C. E. R. mainline early in June 1932, and "held it under their control for about a week, repulsing several attacks," their resistance was broken once the Japanese counter-attacks reached a climax in which "reports state that more than a thousand shells fell within the town, destroying many houses and also causing a fire." Ed Hunter of International News service was able to witness the Japanese attack "a few Chinese huts on a slight slope, and about twenty Chinese" at nearby Erho; "Mounted Japanese officers rode to another hill, where long lines of telephone wires were strung, and field wireless set up. There was a hustle and a bustle for an hour. Then a barrage. Thousands of dollars worth of ammunition went sizzling through the air. Under this barrage the Japanese troops advanced. Once in a long interval one of the Chinese on that little slope would fire a bullet," Mr. Hunter reported, and by the time the Japanese troops had reached their objective "all that was left of the Chinese was their footprints. They had fled long before."
While Japanese use of tanks and armored cars in the Northeastern province drew much comment from visiting western newspapermen, at the time of the "Mukden Incident" the development and use of such weapons by the Imperial Japanese Army remained in its infancy; their scarcity prevented their playing a decisive role on any grand scale, although they proved irresistible where they appeared. Josef Franz was told by his north Kirin informant a Japanese attack spearheaded by two armored cars against the defenders of Harbin produced such consternation that "We came to our senses only after the retreat," and evidently not one Japanese armor vehicle was ever destroyed in combat by the Chinese in the Northeastern Provinces. Japan's "land-cruisers" saw their principal usage on the prairies of Heilungkiang, where two cavalry brigades operating in late spring of 1932 each contained an "armored company" of seven armored cars, and during the March 1933 invasion of Jehol province, which incorporated an independent tank company. Japanese Army Railway Engineers also possessed armored cars, able to operate on both rail and road, and these, though intended for security duties, were often pressed into more vigorous operations. J. B. Powell reports the National Salvation Army partisans in the April 23 attack against Imienpo on the eastern branch of the C. E. R. mainline referred to above, were driven off when "the Japanese, supported by an armored train and several armored cars, made a successful counter-attack. The Chinese, after holding on a while, began to retreat, pursued by the Japanese."
In the face of such commanding advantages as their well equipped foes enjoyed on the battlefield, the partisans waging "a continued guerrilla warfare" to defend China's Northeastern Provinces, writes P. S. Yin, "would avoid open clashes. When a greatly superior force is facing them, they would scatter away like sands among the adjacent regions, whom the Japanese could not find out. And they would attack only those Japanese troops which are vulnerable." C. Y. W. Meng reports "the strong words from the lips" of one delegate from the Courageous Citizens Militia, describing how he and his comrades went into battle: "We attack the invader when we see his forces are not strong enough. When the reinforcements arrive, we immediately scatter about in the field and ourselves," he said. "When the reinforcements withdraw, we attack them again." Well aware that the superior firepower of Japanese (and Manchukuo) troops was dependent on their maintenance of an adequate supply of ammunition, partisan forces frequently maneuvered against the communications of enemy units which were isolated or involved already in prolonged combat. The Rengo service reported on March 28, 1932, that during the defense of Nungan against Gen. Ting Chao's forces referred to above, "a party of 100 policemen from the Kirin Police Station was surrounded by the bandit troops this afternoon when they were proceeding to Nungan by 6 trucks. All of them were either taken prisoner or surrendered to the bandits." Deprived of "200,000 rounds of rifle ammunition and 50,000 trench mortar shells" from the Kirin City Arsenal being carried by the captured convoy, the resistance of Manchukuo forces in Nungan dissolved next day. Josef Franz's north Kirin informant describes another such ambuscade, executed with considerable craft between the eastern mainline of the C. E. R. and Ninguta, a large town south of the tracks where Japanese and Manchukuo troops struggled to maintain a garrison throughout the spring and summer of 1932. "Since the town is far away from the railway and can be gained only by a road winding across the hilly country, the communication was at our mercy," he said. "We knew that the reinforcement would be rushed from the railway to the town, so we arranged to waylay it in close formation on the top of a brush covered hill, overlooking the road. Next day, about noon, three truck loads came into view and were allowed to pass along unmolested. But a column of about fifteen trucks and motor busses that followed were captured. The drivers of the trucks and guards were greeted with a shower of rifle and machine-gun fire and with bangs of trench mortars. This dumbfounded the enemy. The stampede was almost indescribable." C. Y. W. Meng at Nanking (citing "eye-witnesses, war writers, and other reliable sources") describes how men with "big swords" and a watchword of "rush forward to behead the enemy" sought to use their medieval equipment on an early mid-20th century battlefield: "They cried as loud as they could 'Sah (kill)'" and accompanied their cry with a great "rattle of swords" while they "rushed to the Japanese positions to engage in a hand-to-hand fight with the enemy." When the Japanese advanced against them, "the Chinese were silent," waiting till "the Japanese came as near as about 200 meters" before swarming out "to have another hand-to-hand fight to kill the enemy with 'big swords'" While the firepower of small Japanese detachments might be overwhelmed by fanatic numbers, and that of larger Japanese formations evaded by timely withdrawal Japanese aircraft might appear overhead at any moment. Josef Franz's north Kirin informant put the best possible face on the considerable disruption that even successful evasion of Japanese air power entailed. "From long experience we know now what to do in case of air attacks --- we disperse and then continue our march," he said, adding, "Of course there are casualties which can't be helped, since it is war, and not child's play." He dignified as "volley fire" the irregular fusillades which often broke out among the partisans when Japanese aircraft were sighted, and these prodigal expenditures of scarce bullets were not always ineffectual: Kwantung Army H.Q. acknowledged the loss of at least 6 aircraft on operations during 1932, one crashing when its pilot was shot in the thigh within ten miles of Mukden on November 24, and fainted from his wound while attempting to land at a Mukden airfield.
The pattern of partisan organization was already clear by early April 1932, when on the eve of Gen. Ma Chun-shen's volte face against Manchukuo, J. B. Powell reported "All the organized Chinese armies have been broken, but scores of bands, ranging from 200 to 1,000 or more men, are operating --- attacking the Japanese in rapid raids and then retreating, looting towns and villages as they go." According to P. S. Yin's account of partisan practice, "These defenders of their soil are formed into groups comprising fifties or hundreds at most," while the Lytton commissioners accepted "an official Japanese document" provided to them as authentic in its "enumerating a large number of so-called route armies and other Chinese units, each containing not more than 200 to 400 men, which form the subdivisions of the volunteer armies." Since partisan forces had to rely on "communication being maintained by messenger, in the face of the absence of the telegraphic or radio communication," E. U. Barung reports, leaders of these dispersed bands necessarily enjoyed a great deal of autonomy. Josef Franz was told by his informant among the north Kirin guerrillas ("a stalwart Chinese, some thirty years old and seemingly in command of some sixty plain-clothes men") that each such detachment "operates quite independently of others," and that "each commander has been given what you call carte blanche" to direct his unit as he saw fit. A highly elaborated military structure was erected on paper above these practically independent band leaders (Chu Chi-ching, the Nationalist Party emissary, describes the organization of "the North-Eastern Volunteers" in early July 1932 as "at present five route armies, two independent detachments, nine independent divisions, and several independent cavalry regiments and one training regiment"), but commanders of these putative higher echelon formations were able to provide little more direction to their subordinates than a summons to concentrate on a particular locale or loose a wave of assaults on a particular date. Their attempts at strategic coordination throughout the Northeastern Provinces faced even greater obstacles, wrote E. U. Barung. For "all the railways and water routes were in the hands of the enemy, so that there existed no effective inter-communication between them." Nonetheless, this fractionated structure with its dispersed command, each constituent element of it acting in accordance with the same qualities of opportunism and self-preservation which informed their battle-craft, not infrequently managed to perform with at least an appearance of strategic coordination (and effectiveness) in far-flung response to Japanese operations. Japanese concentration northwest of Harbin against Gen. Ma Chun-shen in spring and summer of 1932 was answered by escalating partisan activity in Kirin and Fengtien, which culminated in simultaneous attacks on cities throughout the "S. M. R. Zone" as the August floods both halted Japanese operations based on Harbin, and isolated the troops engaged on them. Japanese preparations for invading Jehol province later that year evidently were halted by the need to subdue the unexpected recrudescence of widespread partisan activity in Heilungkiang, and with Japanese forces concentrated to the west, the forces of Feng Chan-hai and Wang Teh-lin managed the extraordinary coup of briefly occupying the capital of Kirin province.
"The Japanese troops in Manchuria have had not a little difficulty in the suppression of bandits in view of the large expanse of land, its geographical and climatic conditions," Lt. Gen. Araki, Japan's Minister of War, told the Tokyo Diet on September 1, 1932. The region's size meant that, as J. B. Powell noted dryly from Shanghai, "whenever the Japanese begin to spread out they find their troops spread out very thin indeed." Small garrisons and independent detachments operated at considerable risks from the very outset of widespread partisan activity. Hsinmintun on the Mukden-Pieping railway was garrisoned by a company of Japanese infantry at the start of 1932, and according to "a dispatch from Mukden January 12" reported in The China Weekly Review, this force was "engaged by a horde of bandits" at dusk outside the town walls, finding itself fighting "a desperate action" in which "four Japanese officers were killed, over 30 men were killed and all but 10 of the remaining men were wounded," while a week later as Lao Pie-feng's adherents invaded the southern reaches of the "S. M. R. Zone", Kwantung Army H.Q. announced on January 19 "Near Haicheng yesterday Lieutenant Kawano, commanding a company of Japanese infantry, was killed and three of his soldiers were seriously wounded in a clash with Lao Pie-feng's bandits. Lieutenant Kawano was killed while en route with his men to Pakiatze to fight bandits." As the conflict widened, with the Japanese faced with the need not only for expeditions into the hinterlands but maintaining the security of vital rail lines and populous centers, it remained frequently impossible to garrison even principal towns in greater than company strength, though this was wholly insufficient to dominate the countryside around them, and often barely adequate for self defense in the absence of prompt reinforcement. A Japanese garrison commanded by Capt. Hayashi at Taian on the Tsitsihar-Koshen railway was for eight days "encircled by some 4,000 Volunteers," according to a Rengo telegram, before it finally "succeeded in repulsing them on October 28 (1932) following severe fighting" in which fourteen Japanese (including Capt. Hayashi) were killed and an equal number wounded. The danger faced still by independent detachments was typified most spectacularly the fate of the Kawase detachment of cavalry, 59 horsemen sent out that very day toward embattled Taian, who seemingly disappeared on the frosted prairie within 24 hours: Rengo reported on November 8 "As a result of search by the Japanese air-force the bodies of 8 Japanese soldiers and 27 horses have been discovered but the remaining 51 are still missing." Two days later the sole survivor, a Sgt. Iwakami, arrived in Tsitsihar to tell how the detachment "encountered heavy odds in the vicinity of Taianchen and was annihilated
While the prairies of Heilungkiang offered partisan bands "plenty of room to run about in," wrote A. P. correspondent Morris Harris, Lt. Gen. Araki's "geographical and climatic conditions" told most strongly against the Japanese in such mountainous regions as the Jehol borderlands, southeastern Fengtien, and the timbered crags of Kirin province. Mr. H. Y. McCartney, a Standard Oil geologist, wrote an account of departing the capital of Kirin early in February 1925 to drive into the province's eastern interior (where "according to an old missionary doctor no motor car had ever gone"): in the region of the capital, he reports that "there is much underbrush in the valleys and on the sides of the mountains but the large trees have all been taken out." Before long, he and his party were passing "through the wildest country we have ever seen" on a road, already "little more than a beaten path," which devolved into "the rocky trail cut through the forest" cloaking a steep mountainside, and which even on level ground "lay through the woods with many twists and turns." Despite the temperature "never rising above zero (Fahrenheit)," while trying to cross "a low flat frozen marsh" Mr. McCartney found his overloaded Dodge "wedged in a foot of ice and water" when the surface gave way, and after becoming stuck "into a snowbank three feet deep" on a mountain slope while "the heavy snowstorm was fast making the road impassable for us to proceed either way," he turned back defeated while still 40 miles short of his journey's goal of Tung Hwa Hsien. "Winter in this part of the world is a reality," the Reverend Leonard wrote from Harbin. "The thermometer usually ranges around thirty-five degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) during much of the three severe months of winter." He was himself sufficiently inured to the climate to describe the daylight temperatures of twenty below zero encountered by the Japanese around Tsitsihar in November and December of 1931 as "still ideal and not extremely cold," but such temperatures froze the lubricant of Japanese light machine-guns and the recoil cylinders of Japanese fieldpieces. J. B. Powell reported that when the Japanese drove Gen. Ma Chun-shen's men from before Tsitsihar in mid-November "the armor car section could not assist, as it was entirely frozen up. The airplanes had been kept running steadily for two days before the battle so as to prevent them also from being frozen up." Japanese soldiers could stand the cold no better than their weapons; even once they were provided winter garments for operations up the Nonni valley, Reverend Leonard reported from the Tsitsihar hospital "more than a hundred Japanese soldiers have been brought in from the north the past few days with frozen feet and legs, and they continue to come." Snow on the prairie hampered operations as greatly as in the mountains. In early January 1932 the drifts formed by "the heavy snowfall, the first real one of the season," reports reverend Vos from Tsitsihar, were thick enough to halt "the little shuttle train from Angangki" on its narrow gauge rails. Even in southern Fengtien the broad Liao River had frozen clear to its mouth at Yinkow by late December 1931, nor did the grip of winter soon ease upon a land subjected to 260 days of frost in a typical year; in east Kirin at the end of March in 1932, the Reverend Leonard traveling in his horse-drawn wagon between Tungking and Suifenho passed "where the road runs through the Crooked Gorge" during a heavy snowstorm (for the hun-hutze "were said to be adverse to leaving their shelters in rough weather"), while in the scrub and scree mountains of southwest Fengtien on the Jehol border in that same month, "the snow is still as high as a man," C. Y. W. Meng was told by the delegate from the Courageous Citizens Militia. "But this gives advantages to the Chinese militia," the delegate added, since "the invaders are not familiar with the trails which are now covered completely with snow." Such unfamiliarity added to the dangers posed by the winter treacherous going in east Kirin particularly; according to "Chinese messages received from Pieping" during operations against Gen. Wang Teh-lin's forces in December 1932 "a number of Japanese armored cars, tanks and field guns were submerged in an ice-field at Chuho. Three Japanese soldiers are stated to have been drowned."
The coming of spring only altered the nature of the obstacles faced by Japanese operations. E. U. Barung at Harbin predicted accurately that great difficulties would attend a projected resumption in mid-April 1932 of the Japanese drive down the Sungari River towards the "Old Kirin" seat at Sahnsing; "In about two weeks the ground will be covered with grass, making a splendid fodder for the horses of the Chinese partisans, whose movements from place to place then becoming unimpeded by the burdens of forage, will be swift. The woods will be clothed with foliage, which will hide Chinese soldiers from the eyes of Japanese aerial scouts, and afford places of ambush." J. B. Powell reports that on operations into Kirin during spring and summer, "Owing to the mountainous and timbered nature of the country that Japanese could not use their artillery or tanks, while the airbombing raids proved futile due to the impossibility of the aviators scattering the Chinese forces. The Japanese troops were subjected to continuous guerrilla warfare at the hands of the Chinese troops which were familiar with the terrain." The country folk of the Northeastern Provinces, growing soybeans and wheat as cash crops, derived most of their own sustenance from kiaoliang, utilizing its coarse, pea-sized grains as food and a source of brewed liquor while stoking their fires with its stalks; where-ever there existed settled habitation in the region, summer raised up thick fields of this "species of millet or broom-corn with the seed at the top which grows to a height of eight or ten feet, sufficient to hide a small army," J. B. Powell wrote, reporting that Lt. Gen. Honjo, commander of the Kwantung Army "forbade the Chinese farmers from planting kiaoliang within a certain distance of the tracks of the various Manchurian railways, the Japanese war-lords apparently realizing that the kiaoliang crop would facilitate the activities of the Chinese loyalists and in this regard they were entirely correct for the activities of the Chinese loyalists did increase during the summer and has kept on increasing in geometric progression since." Even where the immediate vicinity of railway stations and track was laid bare by execution of these orders, kiaoliang fields enabled substantial partisan bodies to operate in the very heart of the "S. M. R. Zone" itself during summer. Josef Franz reported from Changchun that after an attack against that city on August 1, 1932, "the aerial scouting, carried out the next day, could not reveal much, since the rebels appeared to be hiding in the kiaoliang now in full growth." And P. S. Yin exulted that "Japanese aeroplanes and cannon are of very little use" against partisan forces concealed in the grain, who themselves "could attack the Japanese forces unseen." Nor were significant operational difficulties owing purely to climate confined to the bitter cold and snow of winter. When Gen. Ma Chun-shen's bands managed near the start of July 1932 to evade "a large-scale enveloping movement" by Japanese forces, The China Weekly Review reported, "The failure of General Honjo's plan is attributed the fact that the tanks (actually armor cars) and aeroplanes upon which he depended were rendered ineffective by the heavy rain during the last few days," even prior to the August inundations, which soon would halt all military operations in the area, and cause a loss "due to crumbling of Chinese mud houses, loss of standing crops and washing away of farmlands" that reverend Leonard reported "runs into many millions of dollars."
While their flexible structure and command, and the myriad covers provided by the country, enabled the partisan bands to operate effectively, obtaining supplies needed to maintain their combat effectiveness proved extremely difficult. Not infrequently partisan supplies of ammunition gave out entirely in the heat of battle. C. Y. W. Meng was told by one delegate from the Courageous Citizens Militia that "having exhausted our ammunition, we resorted to a hand-to-hand fight with the invaders" when Japanese troops drove into the hills west of Chinchow at the end of February 1932. The endemic shortage of ammunition afflicting the partisan forces greatly aggravated the disparity in firepower between them and the Japanese; "Although our enemies are profuse in shooting," said Josef Franz's north Kirin informant, "we now shoot only occasionally, with good aim, counting the bullets." E. U. Barung considered it the supreme obstacle facing the partisans of the Northeastern Provinces that "they have no arsenals which would have supplied them with the continuous flow of arms and ammunition; in this respect they had to depend upon the supplies coming from China Proper --- a hazardous and unreliable mode of supply." According to the Lytton report, "the main lines of communication which still exist between China Proper and the Chinese forces in Manchuria run through Jehol," while it was the commissioners' opinion that "old Kirin" forces on the Lower Sungari, at least in the early part of 1932 "seemed to have maintained some contact with headquarters at Pieping, whence they received some support from time to time." These tenuous connections hardly constituted a national or even military mode of supply; they in fact amounted to a thriving black market of cut-throat smugglers and unscrupulous merchants in which, Josef Franz was told by his guerrilla leader informant in north Kirin, "Nobody gives arms, ammunition, clothing, food, to poor volunteers." Though denouncing "simple and pure banditry," and claiming himself to have been a shop-keeper in more peaceful days, he stated emphatically the kidnappings he carried out while wrecking trains on the Chinese Eastern Railway "can't be helped --- we must have rich prisoners and we must have big ransoms for them. War requires funds, you know." The exigencies experienced by partisan bands in obtaining supplies produced such a tangling of patriotism and outlawry that, even as China was being swept over amid violent enthusiasm to a boycott of Japanese and Manchukuo goods, enforced by wildly popular vigilantism against the "traitor" who sought to import or sell them, Josef Franz was told by a fur-trader on the Jehol border that "For a few pistols or bullets a Volunteer group will deliver a nice lot of goods from up here, and it really doesn't cost much more than the old transportation plus border 'squeeze.'"
When partisan forces seized a town, the force which had initially been capable of ejecting the garrison frequently became vulnerable to even an unsupported counter-attack by them, due to the band's having dissolved into riotous plundering in the interim, as at Yaomin on the C. E. R. spur-line between Changchun and Harbin, where on September 10, 1932, "1,000 'bandits' surprised the 'Manchukuo' garrison," J. B. Powell reported; "They drove out the garrison and for two hours the looting and fighting went on. The garrison answered the attack and eventually repulsed the marauders." Nevertheless, partisan leaders had little choice but to conduct their operations with an eye towards acquisition of loot as much as military utility, regardless of the extra dangers this might subject their forces to, or the possible harm to the popular support so necessary for successful guerrilla operations which might result. P. S. Yin lamented that "many must be led into the belief that the Volunteers must be composed of bandits, beggars, and other undesirable characters," but as the summer of 1932 drew to a close, it was becoming nearly impossible to draw a meaningful distinction between patriot and outlaw in the Northeastern provinces; J. B. Powell reports of a raid on September 11 by "Chinese Volunteers (or 'bandits')" on the C. E. R. tracks between Changchun and Harbin that "After the derailing the bandits fell upon the train and robbed the survivors, kidnapping some of them, including five Japanese, presumably for ransom," and cites "the Japanese press" to the effect that, in mid-October, "Before leaving Antachen (west of Harbin on the C. E. R. mainline) the anti-Manchukuo forces are said top have forced the merchants of the city to give half a million dollars (U.S. 100,000) to them, while they confiscated every horse in sight."
Necessities of life, not just of combat, became increasingly difficult for the partisans to obtain as the conflict wore on. "They eat the grain of the peasants that can't be sold now anyhow," Josef Franz was told of the partisans in the Jehol borderlands, "and, since where they operate there are no tax collectors, the peasants are not much worse off," but there remained little stored food to be commandeered in the villages after the wholesale exactions levied on them during spring and summer of 1932, while the many fields left unplanted due to economic dislocation and farmer's resort to war or banditry, combined with the destruction of standing crops to clear fields of fire or in the course of battle where they served as shelter, greatly reduced the harvest to be gathered come autumn.
Shortages were particularly acute on the lower Sungari and in Heilungkiang after the devastation wrought by the August flooding. When Gen. Ma Chun-shen's bands emerged from their fastnesses in the wooded Little Hsingan Mts. On the Amur River, venturing south again onto the sodden plain in early September, while J. B. Powell relates that "Reports reaching Pieping during the week indicated that the Heilungkiang troops and the Volunteers are being supplied with provisions by the people," it is hardly to be imagined this was done willingly, and soon enough there simply was nothing left to seize. "Gen. Ma's men are now subsisting on horse-flesh and are using the bones for fuel," according to "a Chinese dispatch received at Nanking" in mid-November.
While during the previous winter the partisans had enjoyed advantages of acclimatization and in many cases superior winter garb over the Japanese, this was now no longer true. Chiang Chou-shan, an emissary from the Heilungkiang guerrillas, told students and faculty at the National Normal University in Pieping on October 27 "that at first they were well clothed, but as they frequently crossed the forests, their uniforms were soon torn. Their leather boots fared worst and had to be discarded for those made of horse-skins or pig-skins," while J. B. Powell writes at the end of October with evident belief "The Japanese reports say that many of the Volunteers are in a sorry plight owing to the shortage of winter clothing and food." Widespread destruction of shelter by flood and battle exacerbated the bitter bite of winter, and just as privation and long exertion rendered the bodies of the partisan fighters more vulnerable to its extremities, so did hard usage without supplies for maintenance affect their equipment; according to a courier from Taheiho arrived at Nanking in December, "The weather there is so cold that the rifles often fail to function," requiring that they be discarded in favor of "long spears."