What was the Siege of Ulsan (1598)?

Introduction

The Siege of Ulsan (Korean: 울산성 전투; Hanja: 蔚山城戰鬪; RR: Ulsanseong Jeontu) was an unsuccessful Ming-Joseon attempt to capture Ulsan from the Japanese, during the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598).

The siege lasted from 26 January to 19 February 1598.

Background

Yang Hao, Ma Gui, and Gwon Yul met up at Gyeongju on the 26 January 1598 and marched on Ulsan with an army of 50,000.

The Battle

The allied army reached Ulsan on 29 January.

The battle began with a false retreat that lured the Japanese garrison into a frontal attack. They were defeated with 500 losses and were forced to retreat to Tosan fortress. The allies occupied the city of Ulsan.

On 30 January, the allies bombarded the fortress and then took the outer wall of Tosan. The Japanese abandoned much of their food supplies and retreated into the inner fortress. The allies assaulted the inner fortress, at one point even taking a portion of the wall, but suffered heavy casualties. Their cannons were of no help since the fortress was situated too high to reach. Eventually the attack was called off and a long siege began.

On 19 February, the allied forces attacked again and were repelled. Seeing Japanese reinforcements arrive, Yang Hao decided to lift the siege and retreat, but the disorganised movement led to many stragglers being cut down by the Japanese, leading to heavy casualties.

Aftermath and Legacy

According to one source, of the original 10,000 garrisoned at Ulsan, less than 1,000 survived the siege. However other sources put the original garrison force at 20,000 and 23,000.

Yang Hao would ultimately be called back to Beijing for his failure at Ulsan on 12 August 1598.

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