The Realignment of Central and Provincial Military Power
The extension of central authority over the Yangzi River provinces was largely made possible by the southward expansion of the Beiyang Army and other northern units loyal to Yuan during the Second Revolution. Nonetheless, the remaining provincial military forces still posed some threat to the consolidation of central power. Thus one important task of the new centrally imposed provincial regimes was a realignment of central and provincial military power that would ensure provincial subordination to the center. This required both the continued strategic dominance of northern forces and the reduction or marginalization of those provincial forces whose loyalty to the center could not be trusted. The rearrangement of military power in Hubei and Hunan after the Second Revolution clearly shows the achievement of these objectives.
As noted in Chapter 4, the buildup of northern troops in Hubei began, with Li Yuanhong's permission, before the outbreak of the Second Revolution. By the end of the war, between thirty and forty thousand northern troops were deployed within Hubei's borders. Eventually many of these troops would be transferred either eastward into Jiangxi or southward into Hunan. After this, the Beiyang 2d Division under Wang Zhanyuan was left as the main northern army of occupation in central Hubei. In extending his military control over the Yangzi provinces, Yuan had to spread his armies quite thin. To remedy this. Yuan generally encouraged the expansion of occupying Beiyang armies. Thus Wang added a "supplemental brigade" (buchonglü ) to his 2d Division. In 1914, this brigade was expanded into an independent mixed brigade, ultimately given the designation of the National 6th Mixed Brigade, under the command of one of Wang Zhanyuan's 2d Division brigade commanders, Wang Jinjing. Yuan relied on these two forces then to maintain his control over Hubei.
The extension of Yuan's military power into Hunan began with the occupation of Yuezhou by the Beiyang 3d Division under Cao Kun and the 39th Brigade of the Fengtian 20th Division under Wu Xiangzhen in late September 1913. Yuan initially appointed Wu Xiangzhen
as Yuezhou garrison commander (zhenshoushi ), but after Tang Xiangming's advance to Changsha, parts of Wu's army were shifted to central Hunan and Wu's title was revised to Chang-Yue (Changsha-Yuezhou) garrison commander. Later in 1914, Cao Kun was also given the special title of commander-in-chief of upper Yangzi River defenses (changjiang shangyou jingbei zongsiling ). While his headquarters remained at Yuezhou, Cao's forces were spread out over a number of strategic points both in Hunan and along the Yangzi River in Hubei.
Yuan's use of Beiyang and other northern troops as instruments of central power was, of course, only possible because they were willing to subordinate themselves to his authority. Any one commander's subordination to Yuan may have been influenced by a number of factors, ranging from close personal or professional ties to a patriotic faith in Yuan's ability to provide national unity. Nonetheless, Yuan's victory in the Second Revolution also gave those officers and commanders who had shown their loyalty increased opportunities for career advancement. Conversely, insubordination would be quickly dealt with by other commanders seeking Yuan's favor. Whatever the case, Yuan's control over these commanders was evident in his ability to determine their posts and to deploy their forces wherever a show of central power was necessary. In 1913, for example, Wu Xiangzhen's "Fengtian" brigade was shifted first to Hubei, then to Yuezhou, and then to Changsha. In 1914 Wu's assignment was changed again to South Hunan garrison commander. Finally, in late 1915, Yuan transferred Wu out of Hunan to a new post as South Sichuan garrison commander. Likewise, Wang Zhanyuan's 2d Division, although assigned to Hubei, was sent into Henan in 1914 to help fight the bandit White Wolf. Although Cao Kun's 3d Division was concentrated along the Yangzi River, parts of it were also sent further afield as the need arose. For example, one of his subordinate brigade commanders was detached to replace Wu Xiangzhen as South Hunan garrison commander. Such deployments reflected a very high degree of responsiveness to central military command.
Whereas the northern forces transferred into Hubei and Hunan provided a strong base of central military power, they were not the only military forces in the two provinces. Despite the large-scale troop disbandments that had taken place before the Second Revolution, considerable provincial forces still existed. Although weakened by their fragmented organization, taken together these provincial troops outnumbered Yuan's armies. To redress this imbalance, and further consolidate northern military power, one objective of the new military
governors in Hubei and Hunan was the further reduction of provincial forces.
As noted in Chapter 4, Li Yuanhong continued his program of disbandment during and after the Second Revolution. Thus even before his removal, Li proposed the contraction of Hubei's undermanned three divisions and two independent brigades into one division and two mixed brigades. Upon assuming the military governorship of Hubei, Duan Qirui reportedly favored the total disbandment of the Hubei army and its eventual replacement with a new provincial army to be recruited from northern provinces. Although he never fully implemented this plan, the troops discharged by Duan during his short term of office further reduced the size of the Hubei army. Finally, in February 1914, the regular army's remaining troops were combined into a single division, the Hubei 1st Division, under the command of Shi Xingchuan. At first, this division was composed of three infantry brigades, but in May 1914 Shi was ordered to bring his division into line with national army regulations by the further elimination of one brigade. After this, no further disbandment occurred. However, to limit its power, most of the 1st Division was deliberately scattered among small garrisons in outlying towns.
In contrast to the contraction of the regular Hubei army, no attempt was made to disband or reduce Li Tiancai's Jiangnan 1st Division. No doubt Yuan Shikai, like Li Yuanhong before him, saw the non-Hubei composition of this force as a factor in its favor. Moreover, Li Tiancai and his division had proven their loyalty during the Second Revolution by aiding in the northern attack on Jiangxi and the suppression of revolutionary uprisings in Hubei. Yuan thus not only allowed Li to keep his division intact but rewarded him with several special appointments. In April 1914, Li was made Jingzhou garrison commander, headquartered at the site of the late Qing Manchu garrison. In January 1915, his appointment was changed to Xiang-Yun (Xiangyang-Yunyang) garrison commander, guarding the upper reaches of the Han River. In 1915, Li's division was also honored with an upgrade in its designation from a local (Jiangnan) force to a "national" unit, the 11th Division (revised in 1916 to the National 9th Division). This placed Li's army directly under the Ministry of War, which theoretically meant better and more reliable pay. By patronizing Li's division. Yuan sought to take advantage of its position as a "guest" army on Hubei soil to make it a supplemental agent for central military control.
The former Hubei 2d Division commander, Du Xijun, also retained
his post as Hankou garrison commander. It was no coincidence that Du was a native, not of Hubei, but of Zhili Province. Du's Hubei troops also presented little threat because they had been reduced to a small police force, only a battalion in size. It is of significance that a 1915 plan to increase Du's troops proposed recruiting soldiers not from Hubei but from Henan Province.
The consolidation of central military control over Hubei marked the culmination of the disbandment process that had begun under Li Yuanhong's influence. The regular Hubei army, which had grown to over eight divisions after the 1911 Revolution, retained only one division. At the same time, non-Hubei "guest" armies had progressively supplanted Hubei troops as the province's dominant military forces. One contemporary account notes that "Hubei men from this time forward lost [the opportunity] for a military livelihood." The broader purpose served by this change, though, was to divorce military forces in Hubei from any connection to provincial interests. The new configuration of military power in the province thus reduced the potential for military-supported resistance to Yuan's centralization program.
A similar reduction of provincial military forces took place in Hunan after the Second Revolution. This process again had some help from Tan Yankai before his departure. As previously noted, there had been a hurried attempt to rebuild the regular Hunan army before the outbreak of the revolt. A number of new units were thus recruited under the command of anti-Yuan military officers. Anticipating that war might increase local disorder, Guard Corps District commanders were also ordered to expand their troops to ten battalions per district. After the cancellation of Hunan's independence, Tan ordered the demobilization of all new units as a sign of good faith to Yuan. After its return to Changsha from the Hubei border, Zhao Hengti's Guangxi brigade was again the only regular army unit left in the province. In the interim before Tang Xiangming's arrival in Changsha, a number of local forces were also eliminated. For example, Zhao forcibly disbanded the Capital Guard Corps after an uprising in August 1913. Following the northern occupation of Yuezhou, 3d District Guard Corps units stationed in that city were also disbanded, while their commander, Chen Fuchu, was arrested and sent to Beijing to stand trial for his support of the Second Revolution.
After Tang Xiangming took office as Hunan military governor, he secured his position by eliminating all the provincial or local forces in Changsha and its surrounding counties. Because of its participation in
the Second Revolution, Zhao Hengti's Guangxi brigade was completely disbanded, and Zhao was sent to Beijing to stand trial. Tang also disbanded other small units, such as guard forces, left behind by Tan Yankai in Changsha. By the end of December 1913, Tang had demobilized the last remaining battalions of the 3d District Guard Corps stationed at Xiangyin between Changsha and Yuezhou. From December 1913 to April 1914, the 1st District Guard Corps, garrisoned east and south of Changsha, was also disbanded. At this point, then, the only troops left in the strategic and economic heart of the province around Changsha was the Fengtian 39th Brigade, commanded by Wu Xiangzhen, thus assuring northern military dominance.
Even with the establishment of northern military control over the center of the province, a large number of provincial Guard Corps and Green Standard troops remained in western and southern Hunan. Most of these forces were subsumed under a new garrison commander system, shown in Table 10. In most cases, these garrison commander appointments simply recognized the original commanders of these forces. Thus Tian Yingzhao's appointment as West Hunan garrison commander confirmed his authority over the Green Standard army that he had first received when Tan Yankai made him West Hunan zhentai in mid 1913. The 4th District Guard Corps commander Wang Zhenya continued to control his original forces as Chang-Li (Changde-Lizhou) garrison commander. The 2d District Guard Corps
commander Zhao Chunting was made South Hunan garrison commander. Zhao, however, was also given control over the 6th District Guard Corps. Less straightforward was the appointment of Tao Zhongxun as West Hunan vice garrison commander. Tao had originally been commander of the 3d District Guard Corps at Yuezhou. Before the outbreak of the Second Revolution, Tao had been ordered to exchange positions with Chen Fuchu, commander of the 5th District Guard Corps at Hongjiang in southwest Hunan. After a short time, he also left this post. Tao's garrison commander appointment placed him back in control of the 5th District's troops.
To see the purpose of these appointments, it is important to understand the place of garrison commands in the military structure of power created by Yuan Shikai in this period. This is particularly true in contrast to the position of garrison commanders in later Republican history. Eventually, like military governor , the title garrison commander became almost synonymous with warlord . In the warlord period, the granting of such titles often simply confirmed the positions of powerful local or regional military commanders who were already beyond central control. The reality of what garrison commanders would ultimately become should not, however, distort an understanding of these commands in this period. In most cases, Yuan was not simply giving central recognition to unassailable local military powers. Yuan had no trouble shifting the appointments of these commanders when he desired, even the stronger ones like Wu Xiangzhen or Li Tiancai. Indeed, such transfers worked to prevent the development of settled territorial bases or local ties. Furthermore, the garrison commands in this period were still merely military posts, without any authority over civil administration. Their commanders were thus given less chance than later warlords to build independent power bases. More important, Yuan was able to use these appointments for centralizing purposes.
The garrison command system was initially conceptualized as part of a centralizing scheme to eliminate the provinces as administrative units. Replacing the provinces would be smaller units, the circuit (dao ) on the civil side and the garrison command on the military side. The goal of this administrative reorganization was to remove the threat to the center represented by the concentration of civil and military power at the provincial level, especially as seen in the postrevolutionary military governorships. At the same time, circuit and garrison command boundaries would not be contiguous, thereby lessening the possibility of future military interference in civil administration. A
tentative implementation of this plan can be seen in several southern provinces, though not in Hunan or Hubei, where Yuan initially replaced military governors with several garrison commanders. In the end, though, the proposed elimination of provinces was never carried out. While still in the process of consolidating his position, Yuan could not afford to risk the instability that might accompany such a drastic administrative change. Nonetheless, the appointment of garrison commanders still achieved some of the centralizing goals that had originally been intended for them. First, Yuan used garrison command appointments, along with other titles, to reward loyal commanders, as well as to assert his authority over them. The appointments given Li Tiancai in Hubei fit well into this category. Second, even if the military governors were not eliminated, the garrison commanders could still function as potential central checks on them. Certainly, Wu Xiangzhen's various garrison commander appointments in Hunan served this purpose in relation to Tang Xiangming.
The appointments of garrison commanders from among Hunan's local commanders also served Yuan's purposes. The political objective behind these appointments can be seen in their timing. These appointments were first issued by Yuan on August 9, before Hunan annulled its independence. Tian Yingzhao, Zhao Chunting, and Tao Zhongxun had all been open in their opposition to Hunan's participation in the Second Revolution. This was no doubt the original reason for Tao's transfer from his original post at strategic Yuezhou to more remote Hongjiang. Although available records are silent on Wang Zhengya's position on the Second Revolution, his conservative background suggests that he was probably not a strong supporter. Yuan's appointment of these four men to garrison command posts thus appears to have been an attempt to ensure, or reward, their loyalty, and to create internal divisions in Hunan's military. Because the initiative for these promotions came from the central government, not from the province, a stronger central claim was staked over Hunan's military structure. For the same reason, the men who benefited from these appointments could be expected to show their appreciation through loyalty to Yuan. Finally, the confirmation of preexisting commands seen in these appointments does not support the conclusion that these commanders were too strongly placed to be removed. Rather, their comparative weakness is shown in Tang Xiangming's ability to carry out a fairly successful disbandment of a good number of their troops.
In terms of maintaining a balance between northern and provincial forces, Tang was far from comfortable with the number of Hunan
troops left under arms within the garrison command system. At the time of his arrival in Hunan, well over twenty thousand troops probably remained of Hunan's original Guard Corps and Green Standard forces. In late 1913, Tang ordered the disbandment of all excess troops from Guard Corps units beyond their original regulation sizes. During this time, as noted above, he also initiated the complete disbandment of 1st and 3d District Guard Corps remnants. In April 1914 Tang proposed a comprehensive plan to discharge most of the remaining Guard Corps troops controlled by the Hunan garrison commanders, leaving only a small number to serve as police under local magistrates. Although this program was never carried out in its entirety, it did lead to a fairly drastic reduction of Guard Corps troops.
One of Tang's main targets was the Chang-Li garrison commander, Wang Zhengya. Beginning with a five-battalion base, Wang had eventually expanded his 4th District Guard Corps to nine battalions. After a series of reductions ordered by Tang, by mid 1914 Wang's army retained only four companies, the equivalent of one battalion. Equally significant was the transfer of Wang's headquarters from Changde to Lizhou. Located close to the point where the Yuan river ran into Dongting Lake, and thus to the Yangzi River, Changde was the commercial gateway to western Hunan. With Wang's removal, northern troops took over the defense of this strategic city.
The second main target in Tang's disbandment program was the South Hunan garrison commander, Zhao Chunting. Neither Tang nor Yuan had much confidence in Zhao, and they distrusted Zhao's troops even more because of their participation in the 1911 Revolution. The ultimate goal in Zhao's case, then, was to make the reduction of his army a prelude to the complete abolition of his post. Tang first weakened Zhao's command by removing the 6th District Guard Corps from his direct control and placing it under a Hubei protégé, Wang Yunting. By mid 1914, Zhao was ordered to carry out a four-fifths reduction of his remaining troops, leaving only two battalions. After some foot-dragging, Zhao began to carry out these orders. Just then several units gathered for demobilization at the city of Chenxian mutinied. Although the mutineers at first appeared only opposed to disbandment, revolutionary activists soon persuaded them to declare their mutiny an uprising against Yuan Shikai. Soon other troops of Zhao's joined the rebellion, and they were reinforced by new troops recruited by revolutionaries.
Although provoked by the act of disbandment itself, the Chenxian mutiny was exactly the type of political threat in Hunan's military
forces that Tang's program of disbandment sought to eliminate. Thus, both Tang and Yuan took the uprising very seriously. Northern troops from Cao Kun's 3d Division and Wu Xiangzhen's 39th Brigade were quickly sent south to keep the rebellion from spreading. By early August, the rebellion was suppressed. Naturally, with the defeat of the rebellion, the disbandment of Zhao's troops was easily completed. In September 1914, Zhao himself was removed from office and Wu Xiangzhen was appointed South Hunan garrison commander. One effect of the rebellion, therefore, was to draw northern military power from central to southern Hunan.
All Guard Corps forces were not, however, removed from southern Hunan. The 6th District Guard Corps troops at Yongzhou under the control of Wang Yunting proved their value in campaigns against local bandits and in the suppression of the Chenxian mutineers. Although these troops had originally all been slated for disbandment, Tang limited their reduction from ten to six battalions. Yongzhou, located on the main pass controlling Hunan's southern trade with Guangdong, was another strategically important city, and Tang relied on Wang's loyalty to keep control over this area and saw to it that he was rewarded for his efforts. In early August 1915, arguing that the extreme southern counties were too distant to be patrolled effectively by regular troops, Tang received permission for Wang's appointment as Lingling (an alternate name for Yongzhou) garrison commander.
Tang was generally less concerned about the local forces stationed in western Hunan. Although initially slated for extensive disbandment, the 5th District Guard Corps forces under Tao Zhongxun's West Hunan vice garrison command were left with five battalions, about one-half their original number. There is no sign that Tang made any effort to tamper with the Green Standard forces under Tian Yingzhao. In general, western Hunan was a poor, mountainous region with very limited arable land and difficult lines of transportation. As a result, provincial authorities in this period seldom put a high priority on western Hunan's military arrangements—a factor that influenced the survival of Green Standard forces there in the first place. Tang seemed to carry on this policy of neglect toward western Hunan. At the same time, with their headquarters at Hongjiang and Fenghuang on Hunan's remote western border, neither Tao nor Tian presented much threat to Tang's Changsha government.
Less than a year after his assumption of Hunan's military governorship, Tang Xiangming had accomplished a considerable realign-
ment of military power in Hunan. After an extensive program of disbandment, the only Hunan troops left were much reduced forces along the province's periphery. The heartland of the province, meanwhile, was well under the control of northern troops. As in the case of Hubei, then, the extension of Yuan Shikai's authority into Hunan was buttressed by reducing the strength of provincial forces in relation to occupying northern armies. It is significant, though, that no effort was made in either Hubei or Hunan to eliminate all local or provincial forces in favor of central armies. This may have been a matter of temporary expediency, so that the northern forces loyal to Yuan would not be stretched too thin by their sudden expansion into central and southern China. At the same time, this situation suggests a continuing tendency to see an advantage in the counterbalancing effects of the organizational fragmentation of the military.