a memorial for all wars: the Polynational War Memorial


Northern Expedition

Years: 1926-1928
Battle deaths: 126,500 [1]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]

Published prior to 2013 | Updated: 2014-08-04 08:55:39
The Northern Expedition (Chinese: 北伐; pinyin: běi fá), was a military campaign led by the Kuomintang (KMT) from 1926 to 1928. Its main objective was to rule China by ending the rule of Beiyang government as well as the local warlords. It led to the end of the Warlord Era, the reunification of China in 1928, and the establishment of the Nanjing government.

The main targets of this expedition were three notorious and powerful warlords: Zhang Zuolin who governed Manchuria, Wu Peifu in the Central Plain region and Sun Chuanfang on the east coast. Advised by the famous Russian general Vasily Blyukher under the pseudonym Galen, the HQ of the expedition decided to use all its power to defeat these warlords one by one: first Wu, then Sun, and finally Zhang.

On July 9, 1926, Chiang gave his lecture to 100,000 soldiers of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA), which was set up by the students trained in the Whampoa Military Academy and equipped with Russian and German weapons in the opening ceremony, which was the official commencement of Northern Expedition. NRA soldiers were far better organized than the warlord armies which they faced due to their military advisers. In addition, the NRA was regarded as a progressive force on behalf of ordinary people persecuted by warlords, for which it received warm welcome and strong support from peasants and workers. It was no surprise the NRA could march from Zhu River area to Yangtze River in less than half a year and annihilate the main force of Wu and Sun, and strengthen its force from 100,000 to 250,000.

Following the defeat of the Zhili clique, Chiang decided to purge all Communists from the Kuomintang. In the Shanghai massacre of April 12, thousands of Communists were executed or went missing, while others were arrested and imprisoned. The purge caused a split between the KMT’s left and right wings. The leftists, led by Wang Jingwei in the KMT capital at Wuhan, condemned Chiang’s purge. Chiang, however, subsequently established his own capital in Nanjing. As a result, the Nationalist party and its military forces were in a state of disarray during the summer of 1927.

The Northern Expedition is viewed positively in China today because it ended a period of disorder and started the formation of an effective central government. However, it did not fully solve the warlord problem, as many warlords still had large armies that served their needs, not those of China.

Source: Wikipedia, published under the GNU FDL. Retrieved 2014-08-04


Notes on fatalities

[1] Battle deaths: Correlates of War, Intra-State War Data v4.1 #700

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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