The Impact of Military Expansion
A large-scale expansion of armed forces was one immediate effect of the 1911 Revolution in most revolutionary provinces. In Hunan, for example, an estimated fifty to seventy thousand new troops were raised in the first weeks after the Changsha uprising. One account reports that as many as two hundred thousand men were ultimately recruited in the province over the course of the revolution. Even though such figures are possibly exaggerated, military recruit-
ment was a priority of the early revolutionary regimes and was carried out with considerable success, with important consequences.
One particular manifestation of successful military recruiting was a proliferation of military units. In both Hunan and Hubei, the creation of new units was encouraged by policies that rewarded effective recruiters with the command of the forces they raised. Thus a man who recruited enough soldiers, or collected enough arms, for a battalion was appointed battalion commander. This process was especially apparent at Wuhan, where the Hubei military government was under pressure to strengthen its defenses against a Qing counterattack. The original New Army participants in the October Wuchang uprising would only have filled a single infantry brigade, but by the end of November eight infantry brigades had been formed in the Wuhan area alone, along with expanded artillery, cavalry, and engineering corps. This "regular" army was joined by numerous irregular units of various sizes, including a student army and a special women's corps. Finally, Hubei's troop strength was also swollen by a number of large expeditionary forces from Hunan and other neighboring provinces.
Over the course of the revolutionary struggle, the organization of revolutionary armies underwent considerable changes. Military forces from Hubei and Hunan suffered heavy losses in battles with Qing forces on the Hubei front, especially during their unsuccessful defense of the cities of Hankou and Hanyang in late November 1911. Some units disintegrated as a result of these battles, and their soldiers either deserted or were absorbed into other units. The military situation only stabilized after a cease-fire was negotiated in early December, which lasted until the abdication of the Manchu emperor on February 12, 1912. Even with wartime casualties and desertions, though, the Hubei and Hunan military forces that survived into early 1912 were considerably larger than the armies the two provinces had fielded before the revolution. The Hubei army in early 1912 was estimated at between 100,000 and 120,000 soldiers, approximately three times the size of the province's prerevolutionary forces. Tan Yankai estimated that Hunan's army emerged from the revolution with some 50,000 men, more than double the combined strength of Hunan's New Army and Patrol and Defense forces before the revolution.
The final organization of revolutionary forces after the cessation of hostilities also reflected the tremendous military expansion that had taken place. In January 1912, Hubei's main revolutionary forces were reorganized into a new eight-division regular army. The eight infantry
brigades originally formed at Wuhan, as well as other irregular units, provided the foundation for the army's first six divisions. In western Hubei, a large army formed around a core of New Army troops that carried out the revolution at Yichang became Hubei's 7th Division. The 8th Division designation was assigned to a consolidation of forces raised by local revolutionary leaders along the Han River in north-western Hubei. The creation of these eight divisions stands in sharp contrast to Hubei's one division and one mixed brigade New Army before the revolution.
Few if any of Hubei's eight divisions actually had the full complement of soldiers, let alone equipment, that would have been required for a New Army division. These new divisions generally consisted of only two infantry brigades, and many of these brigades were considerably undermanned. Indeed, one estimate puts the average size of Hubei's divisions at six thousand men, only three-fourths the troop strength required for two New Army brigades, and only half the size of a full New Army division. Most of these eight divisions also lacked the non-infantry components required by New Army standards. Instead, independent cavalry, artillery, engineering, and transportation units were created. Since it is questionable whether actual troop strength and equipment could have justified the formation of so many divisions, this expanded military organization seems to have been based largely on political considerations. On one hand, this divisional strength fortified Hubei's political position vis-à-vis the provisional government at Nanjing. On the other hand, the formation of these divisions created many new officer's positions that the Hubei government could use to reward revolutionary participants. For whatever reason, the proliferation of military units was an important reflection of the military expansion of the revolutionary period.
The complexity of the Hubei army in early 1912 is further revealed by the number of units remaining outside the eight-division regular army. Some irregular forces, such as the student army, retained their original organizations, while others were combined into special guard or police units. Many revolutionary troops were incorporated into a specially designated Area Defense Army (Jinweijun), which expanded from a brigade to a full division in February 1912. A two-thousand-man Training Corps (Jiaodaotuan) was another special force based on Hubei's original New Army 31st Regiment. This regiment participated in the revolution in Sichuan, where it had been sent before the Wuchang uprising to suppress that province's railroad-protection movement. Receiving this special designation after returning to Hubei
in mid January 1912, the New Army troops of this regiment were theoretically reserved to fill army instructors' posts as they became available.
A number of revolutionary forces outside the Wuhan area also retained independent designations. One example was Liu Gong's Northern Expedition Army, stationed in northern Hubei. This army had been organized in Wuhan with about one thousand troops and then expanded to some five to six thousand men during Liu's northward march. Another large independent unit garrisoned in northern Hubei was commanded by Zhang Guoquan, a New Army cavalry soldier who had led a revolutionary uprising at Xiangyang. Taking the title of commander-in-chief of the Xiangyang Branch Military Government, Zhang raised an army of some twenty thousand largely unarmed men. By early 1912, though, Zhang was forced to contract his army to a mixed brigade of five to six thousand men.
The departure of most non-Hubei forces for their home provinces in early 1912 somewhat reduced the diversity of armed forces in Hubei. One exception was a division under the command of Li Tiancai. Li originally commanded a brigade of Guangxi troops that had joined revolutionary forces in the capture of Nanjing. After the expansion of this brigade to a division with local recruits, Li had been sent to reinforce the Wuhan front. Unlike most other extraprovincial forces, Li's division remained in Hubei, perhaps because its mixed composition left it without a true home province.
Although Hunan's postrevolutionary troop strength was only half Hubei's, the organization of its military forces was equally complex. An initial consolidation created a "regular army" of five divisions and two independent infantry brigades. As in Hubei, these units fell short of New Army standards, with only five to six thousand men per division and many more men than arms. Lacking sufficient equipment to provide each division with its required artillery, cavalry, engineering, and transportation components, independent regiments or battalions were again created in each of these categories.
In Hunan, as in Hubei, a number of forces remained outside the organizational structure of the regular army. First there were the unreconstructed remnants of Hunan's old-style forces. The disbanding of Green Standard forces ceased with the revolution, and nine to ten thousand of these troops remained at their garrisons in western Hunan. Before the revolution, disbandment had reduced Hunan's Patrol and Defense forces to thirteen thousand men. Most of these troops were eventually incorporated into revolutionary units and then
into the province's new divisions. However, some three thousand men still remained in a number of scattered companies. A number of irregular revolutionary units also remained, particularly those that returned relatively late from the Hubei front. One such force was the Nanwu (Southern Martial) Army of Zhang Qihuang. Before the revolution, Zhang had been Hunan's south route Patrol and Defense commander. After Jiao Dafeng's assassination, Zhang joined the revolution and was sent with his troops, redesignated the Nanwu Army, to the Hubei front. After some disbandment, the Nanwu Army returned to Hunan in mid 1912 with between one to two thousand men. Another similar force was an army of approximately two thousand men raised during the revolution by Wang Zhengya, a retired official from northern Hunan. On orders from Tan Yankai, Wang led this force to join the siege of the Manchu garrison at Jingzhou in Hubei and remained there until returning to Hunan in mid 1912. Hunan also had a number of smaller irregular units garrisoned at Changsha, such as special guard battalions and a Training Corps formed from New Army veterans.
Hubei and Hunan both faced serious financial problems as a result of the expansion of their military forces. Pay increases granted to encourage recruits and to reward revolutionary soldiers exacerbated an already difficult situation. Before the revolution, New Army soldiers' monthly pay of approximately six yuan had been considered generous. With the revolution, a common soldier's pay in Hubei was raised to ten yuan a month. In Hunan, Jiao Dafeng promised a similar pay increase for new recruits. Tan Yankai met considerable opposition when he tried to restrict this pay to those troops who actually served at the Hubei front. In the end, he was forced to grant uniform pay of ten yuan for all soldiers. Needless to say, the salaries for new officer and staff positions created in the proliferation of military units also increased military costs. Before the revolution, financial problems prevented the completion of the two-division New Army planned for Hubei or Hunan's projected one division. After the revolution, the new provincial regimes suddenly faced the necessity of providing for not only a much larger but a much more expensive army.
Military expansion during the 1911 Revolution thus saddled the provincial governments of Hunan and Hubei with unprecedented military expenditures. In the early months of 1912, troop pay in Hunan was estimated at about 600,000 taels a month. In the end, the province's military expenses for 1912 reached a total of 8,675,580 taels. As seen from 1911 budget figures provided in Table 3, this
was more than double Hunan's military expenditures for the year before the revolution. Hubei's military expenses were even higher. Li Yuanhong estimated that military expenses in early 1912 cost the Hubei government nearly 1,700,000 taels a month. If extended over an entire year, Hubei's military expenditures would have reached the incredible sum of twenty million taels, nearly four times higher than the province's military outlay the previous year.
The impact of postrevolutionary military expenses on provincial finances can be gauged by looking at their increased share of provincial budgets. As seen in Table 4, military expenses were by far the largest item on Hunan's 1912 budget, representing 49 percent of provincial expenditures. This is in contrast to 1911, when, as seen in
Table 3, military outlays made up 39 percent of provincial expenditures. Although no similar Hubei budget for the entire year of 1912 is available, a budget for the first six months after the Wuchang uprising, reproduced in Table 5, gives some idea of the disproportionate share of the province's funds that went to military expenses. Another source confirms that at least 60 percent of Hubei's monthly expenses in the first half of 1912 went to military pay and supplies. This is in contrast to only 35 percent before the revolution.
Existing provincial revenues in Hunan and Hubei could not meet the new financial demands created by military expansion. Indeed, in 1912 each province's total military expenditures alone exceeded its total income from the previous year. One consequence of military expansion in the revolutionary period, then, was to force the new provincial regimes to find new means of revenue enhancement. Hubei was fortunate in that a large surplus totaling some three million taels, or five million yuan, was discovered in provincial treasuries. With this money in hand, the Hubei government initially sought to strengthen its popular base by remitting land taxes and eliminating several other
taxes, including the lijin commercial tax. Nonetheless, the surplus was quickly spent and soon all the eliminated taxes had to be reinstated. Lacking the financial surplus that had buffered Hubei's early months, Hunan was forced to take more immediate steps to meet its increased expenses. Ultimately, the province's revenues were raised by some six million taels through a number of extraordinary measures, including special levies on the rich, a tax on rice exports, and an increase in salt taxes. In the end, neither Hubei nor Hunan was able to raise sufficient funds to meet all its expenses. For example, as seen in the budget in Table 4, Hunan's 1912 expenditures still exceeded its income by over four million taels. Both provinces eventually turned to printing money as the only way to meet their deficits.
Joseph Esherick has shown that the need for greater revenues in Hunan and Hubei was also caused by the commitment of the provincial governments to extend late Qing reform programs. Thus, non-military expenditures in areas such as industrial development, education, judicial and constitutional reform, and transportation and communication also showed significant increases. Nonetheless, as seen in Tables 4 and 5, the expenditures in these areas were dwarfed by the tremendous growth in military expenses. If anything, the enormous demands of military financing must have inhibited the full extension of reform programs that may have been envisioned by the elite supporters of the new provincial regimes. In this regard, the expanded military that had seemed so necessary during the revolution quickly became a financial impediment once the revolution was over.