Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff.

Banzai! by Parabellum online

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The American press, it is true, still suffered from the delusion that
our militia - consisting of hundreds of thousands of men - and our
volunteers would be prepared to take the field in three or four weeks,
but the indescribable confusion existing in all the military camps told
a different story. What was needed most were capable officers. The sad
experiences of the Spanish-American campaign were repeated, only on a
greatly magnified scale. We possessed splendid material in the matter of
men and plenty of good-will, but we lacked completely the practical
experience necessary for adapting the military apparatus of our small
force of regular soldiers to the requirements of a great national army.
We felt that we could with the aid of money and common-sense transform a
large group of able-bodied men accustomed to healthy exercise into a
serviceable and even a victorious army, but we made a great mistake. The
commissariat and sanitary service and especially the military
train-corps would have to be created out of nothing. When in June the
governor of one State reported that his infantry regiment was formed and
only waiting for rifles, uniforms and the necessary military wagons, and
when another declared that his two regiments of cavalry and six
batteries were ready to leave for the front as soon as horses, guns,
ammunition-carts and harness could be procured, it showed with horrible
distinctness how utterly ridiculous our methods of mobilization were.

The London diplomats went around like whipped curs, for all the early
enthusiasm for the Japanese alliance disappeared as soon as the English
merchants began to have such unpleasant experiences with the
unscrupulousness of the Japanese in business matters. As a matter of
fact the alliance had fulfilled its object as soon as Japan had fought
England's war with Russia for her. But the cabinet of St. James adhered
to the treaty, because they feared that if they let go of the hawser, a
word from Tokio would incite India to revolt. The soil there had for
years been prepared for this very contingency, and London, therefore,
turned a deaf ear to the indignation expressed by the rest of the world
at Japan's treacherous violation of peace.

At last at the end of July the transportation of troops to the West
began. But when the police kept a sharp lookout for Japanese or Chinese
spies at the stations where the troops were boarding the trains, they
were looking in the wrong place, for the enemy was smart enough not to
expose himself unnecessarily or to send spies who, as Mongolians, would
at once have fallen victims to the rage of the people if seen anywhere
near the camps.

Besides, such a system of espionage was rendered unnecessary by the
American press, which, instead of benefiting by past experience, took
good care to keep the Japanese well informed concerning the military
measures of the government, and even discussed the organization of the
army and the possibilities of the strategical advance in a way that
seemed particularly reprehensible in the light of the fearful reverses
of the last few months. The government warnings were disregarded
especially by the large dailies, who seemed to find it absolutely
impossible to regard the events of the day in any other light than that
of sensational news to be eagerly competed for.

This competition for news from the seat of war and from the camps had
first to lead to a real catastrophe, before strict discipline could be
enforced in this respect. A few patriotic editors, to be sure, refused
to make use of the material offered them; but the cable dispatches sent
to Europe, the news forwarded triumphantly as a proof that the Americans
were now in a position "to toss the yellow monkeys into the Pacific,"
quite sufficed to enable the Japanese to adopt preventive measures in

While the American Army of the North was advancing on Nogi's forces in
the Blue Mountains, the Army of the South was to attack the Japanese
position in Arizona by way of Texas. For this purpose the three brigades
stationed in the mountains of New Mexico were to be reënforced by the
troops from Cuba and Porto Rico and the two Florida regiments. All of
these forces were to be transported to Corpus Christi by water, as it
was hoped in this way to keep the movement concealed from the enemy, in
order that the attack in the South might come as far as possible in the
nature of a surprise, and thus prevent the sending of reënforcements to
the North where, at the foot of the Blue Mountains, the main battle was
to be fought. But unfortunately our plan of attack did not remain
secret. Before a single soldier had set foot on the transport ships
which had been lying for weeks in the harbors of Havana and Tampa, the
Japanese news bureaus in Kingston (Jamaica) and Havana had been fully
informed as to where the blow was to fall, partly by West Indian
half-breed spies and partly by the obliging American press. One regiment
of cavalry had already arrived at Corpus Christi from Tampa on July
30th, and the Cuban troops were expected on the following day.

* * * * *

Two American naval officers were standing on the small gallery of the
white light-house situated at the extreme end of the narrow tongue of
land lying before the lagoon of Corpus Christi, gazing through their
glasses at the boundless expanse of blue water glittering with myriads
of spots in the rays of the midday sun. Out in the roads lay seven large
freight steamers whose cargoes of horses and baggage, belonging to the
2d Florida Cavalry Regiment, were being transferred to lighters. A small
tug, throwing up two glittering streaks of spray with its broad bow, was
towing three barges through the narrow opening of the lagoon to Corpus
Christi, whose docks showed signs of unusual bustle. Short-winded
engines were pulling long freight-trains over the tracks that ran along
the docks, ringing their bells uninterruptedly. From the camps outside
the town the low murmur of drums and long bugle-calls could be heard
through the drowsy noon heat. A long gray snake, spotted with the dull
glitter of bright metal, wound its way between the white tents: a
detachment of troops marching to the station. Beyond the town one could
follow the silver rails through the green plantations for miles, as
plainly as on a map, until they finally disappeared on the horizon.

Now the whistle of the tug sounded shrilly, blowing scattered flakes of
white steam into the air. The quick, clear tolling of church-bells rang
over the roofs of the bright houses of the city. It was twelve o'clock
and the sun's rays were scorching hot.

One of the naval officers pulled out his watch to see if it were
correct, and then said: "Shall we go down and get something to eat
first, Ben?"

"The steamers from Havana ought really to be in sight by this time,"
answered Ben Wood; "they left on the twenty-sixth."

"Well, yes, on the twenty-sixth. But some of those transport-ships
palmed off on us are the limit and can't even make ten knots an hour.
Their rickety engines set the pace for the fleet, and unless the
_Olympia_ wishes to abandon the shaky old hulks to their fate, she must
keep step with them."

Lieutenant Gibson Spencer swept the horizon once more with his
marine-glass and stopped searchingly at one spot. "If that's not the
_Flying Dutchman_, they're ships," he remarked, "probably our ships."

The light-house keeper, a slender Mexican, came on the gallery, saying:
"Ships are coming over there, sir," as he pointed in the direction which
Spencer had indicated. Lieutenant Ben Wood stepped to the stationary
telescope in the light-room below the place for the lamps, and started
to adjust the screws, but the heat of the metal, which had become
red-hot beneath the burning rays of the sun, made him start: "Hot hole,"
he swore under his breath.

Lieutenant Spencer conversed a moment with the keeper and then looked
again through his glass at Corpus Christi, where the tug was just making
fast to the pier. The third barge knocked violently against the piles,
so that a whole shower of splinters fell into the water.

"Gibson," cried Lieutenant Wood suddenly from his place in the
light-room, his voice sounding muffled on account of the small space,
"those are not our ships."

Spencer looked through the telescope and arrived at the same conclusion.
"No," he said; "we have no ships like that, but they're coming nearer
and we'll soon be able to make out what they are!"

"Those ships certainly don't belong to our fleet," he repeated after
another long look at the vessels slowly growing larger on the horizon.
They had two enormous funnels and only one mast and even the arched
roofs of their turrets could now be clearly distinguished.

"If I didn't know that our English friends owned the only ships of that
caliber, and that our own are unhappily still in process of equipment
at Newport News, I should say that those were two _Dreadnoughts_."

"I guess you've had a sunstroke," rang out the answer.

"Sunstroke or no sunstroke, those are two _Dreadnoughts_."

"But where can they come from?"

The three men examined the horizon in silence, till Lieutenant Wood
suddenly broke it by exclaiming: "There, do you see, to the left, just
appearing on the horizon, that's our transport fleet - eight - ten ships;
the one in front is probably the _Olympia_."

"Twelve ships," counted the keeper, "and if I may be allowed to say so,
the two in front are battleships."

"There they are then," said Ben Wood, "and now we'll get something to
eat in a jiffy, for we'll have our work cut out for us in an hour!"

"Where shall we eat?" asked Spencer, "I'll gladly dispense with the grub
at Signor Morrosini's to-day."

"I'll tell you what," said the other, "we'll go across to one of the
transport-steamers; or, better still, we'll go to the captain of the
_Marietta_ - we'll be sure to get something decent to eat there."

"Right you are!" said Spencer, peering down over the edge of the
railing. "Our cutter is down there," he added.

At the foot of the light-house lay a small, white cutter with its brass
appointments glittering in the sunlight. Her crew, consisting of three
men, had crept into the little cabin, while the black stoker was resting
on a bench near the boiler.

"Ho, Dodge!" shouted Spencer, "get up steam. We're going over to the
transport-ships in ten minutes."

The firemen threw several shovels of coal into the furnace, whereupon a
cloud of smoke poured out of the funnel straight up along the
light-house. Lieutenant Wood telephoned over to Corpus Christi that the
transports with the troops on board had been sighted and that they would
probably arrive in the roads in about two hours.

"We're going over to one of the transport-ships meanwhile," he added,
"and will await the arrival of the squadron out there."

While Lieutenant Spencer was climbing down the narrow staircase,
Lieutenant Wood once more examined the horizon and suddenly started. The
thunder of a shot boomed across the water. Boom - came the sound of
another one!

The lieutenant clapped his marine-glasses to his eyes. Yes, there were
two _Dreadnoughts_ out there, evidently saluting. But why at such a

"Gibson," he called down the staircase.

"Come on, Ben!" came the impatient answer from below.

"I can't, I wish you'd come up again for a minute, I'm sure something's

The gun-shots were booming loudly across the water as Lieutenant Spencer
reached the gallery, covered with perspiration.

"I suppose they're saluting," exclaimed Spencer somewhat uncertainly.

Ben Wood said nothing, but with a quick jerk turned the telescope to the
right and began examining the transport-ships.

"Heavens," he shouted, "they mean business. I can see shells splashing
into the water in front of the _Olympia_ - no, there in the middle - away
back there, too - One of the transports listed. What can it mean? Can
they be Japanese?"

Again the roar of guns rolled across the quiet waters.

"Now the _Olympia_ is beginning to shoot," cried Ben Wood. "Oh, that
shot struck the turret. Great, that must have done some good work! But
what in Heaven's name are we going to do?"

Lieutenant Spencer answered by pushing the light-house keeper, who was
in abject fear, aside, and rushing to the telephone. Trembling with
excitement, he stamped his foot and swore loudly when no notice was
taken of his ring.

"All asleep over there as usual! Ah, at last!"

"Halloo! what's up?"

"This is the light-house. Notify the commander at Corpus Christi at once
that the Japanese are in the roads and are attacking the transports."

Over in Corpus Christi people began to collect on the piers, the bells
stopped ringing, but the sound of bugles could still be heard coming
from the encampments.

Now the light-house telephone rang madly and Spencer seized the
receiver. "They are, I tell you. Can't you hear the shots?" he shouted
into the instrument. "There are two large Japanese ships out in the
roads shooting at the _Olympia_ and the transports. Impossible or not,
it's a fact!"

Suddenly a thick column of smoke began to ascend from the funnel of the
little American gunboat _Marietta_, which was lying among the transports
out in the roads. The whistles and bugle-calls could be heard
distinctly, and the crew could be seen on deck busy at the guns. The
steam-winch rattled and began to haul up the anchor, while the water
whirled at the stern as the vessel made a turn. Even before the anchor
appeared at the surface the gunboat had put to sea with her course set
towards the ships on the horizon, which were enveloped in clouds of
black smoke.

"There's nothing for us to do," said Spencer despairingly, "but stand
here helplessly and look on. There isn't a single torpedo-boat, not a
single submarine here! For Heaven's sake, Ben, tell us what's happening
out there!"

"It's awful!" answered Wood; "two of the transport-ships are in flames,
two seem to have been sunk, and some of those further back have listed
badly. The _Olympia_ is heading straight for the enemy, but she seems to
be damaged and is burning aft. There are two more cruisers in the
background, but they are hidden by the smoke from the burning steamers;
I can't see them any more."

"Where on earth have the Japanese ships come from? I thought their whole
fleet was stationed in the Pacific. Not one of their ships has ever come
around Cape Horn or through the Straits of Magellan; if they had, our
cruisers off the Argentine coast would have seen them. And besides it
would be utter madness to send just two battleships to the Atlantic. But
where else can they have come from?"

"There's no use asking where they come from," cried Wood excitedly, "the
chief point is, they're there!"

He gave up his place at the telescope to his comrade, thought for a
moment, and then went to the telephone.

His orders into town were short and decisive: "Send all the tugs out to
sea immediately. Have them hoist the ambulance-flag and try to rescue
the men of the transports."

"And you, Spencer," he continued, "take the cutter and hurry over to the
transport-steamers in the roads and have them hoist the Red Cross flag
and get to sea as quickly as possible to help in the work of rescue.
That's the only thing left for us to do. I'll take command of the
_President Cleveland_ and you take charge of the Swedish steamer
_Olsen_. And now let's get to work! Signor Alvares can play the rôle of
idle onlooker better than we can. Our place is out there!"

Both officers rushed down the stairs and jumped into the cutter, which
steamed off at full speed and took them to their ships.

Three-quarters of an hour later the tug mentioned in the beginning of
the chapter appeared again at the entrance to the lagoon. Several men
could be seen in the stern holding a large white sheet upon which a man
was painting a large red cross, and when the symbol of human love and
assistance was finished, the sheet was hoisted at the flagstaff. Two
other tugs followed the example of the first one.

But could the enemy have taken the three little tugs for torpedo-boats?
It seemed so, for suddenly a shell, which touched the surface of the
water twice, whizzed past and hit the first steamer amidships just below
the funnel. And while the little vessel was still enveloped by the black
smoke caused by the bursting of the shell, her bow and stern rose high
out of the water and she sank immediately, torn in two. The thunder of
the shot sounded far over the water and found an echo among the houses
at Corpus Christi.

"Now they're even shooting at the ambulance flag," roared Ben Wood, who
was rushing about on the deck of the _President Cleveland_ and exhorting
the crew to hoist the anchor as fast as possible so as to get out to the
field of battle. But as the boiler-fires were low, this seemed to take
an eternity.

At last, about three o'clock in the afternoon, they succeeded in
reaching a spot where a few hundred men were clinging to the floating
wreckage. The rest had been attended to by the enemy's shots, the sea
and the sharks.

The enemy had wasted only a few shots on the transport-steamers, as a
single well-aimed explosive shell was quite sufficient to entirely
destroy one of the merchant-vessels, and the battle with the _Olympia_
had lasted only a very short time, as the distance had evidently been
too great to enable the American shots to reach the enemy. That was the
end of the _Olympia_, Admiral Dewey's flag-ship at Cavite! The two
smaller cruisers had been shot to pieces just as rapidly.

The results of this unexpected setback were terribly disheartening,
since all idea of a flank attack on the Japanese positions in the South
had to be abandoned.

* * * * *

But where had the two _Dreadnoughts_ come from? They had not been seen
by a living soul until they had appeared in the roads of Corpus Christi.
They had risen from the sea for a few hours, like an incarnation of the
ghostly rumors of flying squadrons of Japanese cruisers, and they had
disappeared from the field of action just as suddenly as they had come.
If it had not been for the cruel reality of the destruction of the
transport fleet, no one would soon have believed in the existence of
these phantom ships. But the frenzied fear of the inhabitants of the
coast-towns cannot well take the form of iron and steel, and nightmares,
no matter how vivid, cannot produce ships whose shells sweep an American
squadron off the face of the sea.

It had been known for years that two monster ships of the _Dreadnought_
type were being built for Brazil in the English shipyards. No one knew
where Brazil was going to get the money to pay for the battleships or
what the Brazilian fleet wanted with such huge ships, but they continued
to be built. It was generally supposed that England was building them as
a sort of reserve for her own fleet; but once again was public opinion
mistaken. Only those who years before had raised a warning protest and
been ridiculed for seeing ghosts, proved to be right. They had
prophesied long ago that these ships were not intended for England, but
for her ally, Japan.

The vessels were finished by the end of June and during the last days of
the month the Brazilian flag was openly hoisted on board the _San Paulo_
and _Minas Geraes_, as they were called, the English shipbuilders having
indignantly refused to sell them to the United States on the plea of
feeling bound to observe strict neutrality. The two armored battleships
started on their voyage across the Atlantic with Brazilian crews on
board; but when they arrived at a spot in the wide ocean where no
spectators were to be feared, they were met by six transport-steamers
conveying the Japanese crews for the two warships, no others than the
thousand Japs who had been landed at Rio de Janeiro as coolies for the
Brazilian coffee plantations in the summer of 1908. They had been
followed in November by four hundred more.

We were greatly puzzled at the time over this striking exception to the
Japanese political programme of concentrating streams of immigrants on
our Pacific coasts. Without a word of warning a thousand Japanese
coolies were shipped to Brazil, where they accepted starvation wages
greatly to the disgust and indignation of the German and Italian
workmen - not to speak of the lazy Brazilians themselves. This isolated
advance of the Japs into Brazil struck observers as a dissipation of
energy, but the Government in Tokio continued to carry out its plans,
undisturbed by our expressions of astonishment. Silently, but no less
surely, the diligent hands of the coolies and the industrious spirit of
Japanese merchants in Brazil created funds with which the two warships
were paid at least in part. The public interpreted it as an act of
commendable patriotism when, in June, the one thousand four hundred Japs
turned their backs on their new home, in order to defend their country's
flag. They left Rio in six transport-steamers.

Brazil thereupon sold her two battleships to a Greek inn-keeper at
Santos, named Petrokakos, and he turned them over to the merchant Pietro
Alvares Cortes di Mendoza at Bahia. This noble Don was on board one of
the transport-steamers with the Japanese "volunteers," and on board this
Glasgow steamer, the _Kirkwall_, the bill of sale was signed on July
14th, by the terms of which the "armed steamers" _Kure_ and _Sasebo_
passed into the possession of Japan. The Brazilian crews and some
English engineers went on board the transports and were landed quietly
two weeks later at various Brazilian ports.

These one thousand four hundred Japanese plantation-laborers, traders,
artisans, and engineers - in reality they were trained men belonging to
the naval reserve - at once took over the management of the two mighty
ships, and set out immediately in the direction of the West Indies. At
Kingston (Jamaica) a friendly steamer supplied them with the latest news
of the departure of the American transports from Cuba, and the latter
met their fate, as we saw, in the roads of Corpus Christi.

A terrible panic seized all our cities on the Gulf of Mexico and the
Atlantic coast, as the Japanese monsters were heard from, now here, now
there. For example, several shells exploded suddenly in the middle of
the night in the harbor of Galveston when not a warship had been
observed in the neighborhood, and again several American
merchant-vessels were sent to the bottom by the mysterious ships, which
began constantly to assume more gigantic proportions in the reports of
the sailors. At last a squadron was dispatched from Newport News to
seek and destroy the enemy, whereupon the phantom-ships disappeared as
suddenly as they had come. Not until Admiral Dayton ferreted out the
Japanese cruisers at the Falkland Islands did our sailors again set eyes
on the two battleships.

_Chapter XVIII_


It had been found expedient to send a few militia regiments to the front
in May, and these regiments, together with what still remained of our
regular army, made a brave stand against the Japanese outposts in the
mountains. Insufficiently trained and poorly fed as they were, they
nevertheless accomplished some excellent work under the guidance of
efficient officers; but the continual engagements with the enemy soon
thinned their ranks. These regiments got to know what it means to face a
brave, trained enemy of over half a million soldiers with a small force
of fifty thousand; they learned what it means to be always in the
minority on the field of battle, and thus constant experience on the
battle-field soon transformed these men into splendid soldiers.
Especially the rough-riders from the prairies and the mountains, from
which the cavalry regiments were largely recruited, and the exceedingly
useful Indian and half-breed scouts, to whom all the tricks of earlier
days seemed to return instinctively, kept the Japanese outposts busy.
Their machine-guns, which were conveyed from place to place on the backs
of horses, proved a very handy weapon. But their numbers were few, and
although this sort of skirmishing might tire the enemy, it could not
effectually break up his strong positions.

Ever on the track of the enemy, surprising their sentries and bivouacs,
rushing upon the unsuspecting Japs like a whirlwind and then pursuing
them across scorching plains and through the dark, rocky defiles of the
Rockies, always avoiding large detachments and attacking their
commissariat and ammunition columns from the rear, popping up here,

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Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 17 of 23)