Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff.

Banzai! by Parabellum online

. (page 22 of 23)
Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 22 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Mad cheers from below induced the secretary to open the window, and
immediately the sounds of the "Star Spangled Banner" came floating up
from thousands of throats. Suddenly his wife touched his arm saying:
"James, here's a telegram."

The secretary turned around and literally tore the telegram out of the
servant's hand. He ran his eye over it hurriedly and then drew a deep
breath. And with tears in his eyes at the almost incredible news, he
said softly to his wife:

"This will deliver us from the dark slough of despair."

Then he returned to the window, but his emotion made it impossible for
him to speak; he made a sign with his hand and gradually the noise of
the crowd ceased and all became still.

"Fellow Citizens," began the secretary, "I have just this moment
received - " Loud cheers interrupted him, but quiet was soon restored,
and then in a clear voice he read the following dispatch:

"Bahia Blanca, December 8: The torpedo-destroyer _Paul Jones_ arrived
here this morning with the following message from Admiral Dayton: 'On
the 4th of December I found the Japanese cruisers _Adzuma_ and
_Asama_ and three destroyers coaling in the harbor of Port Stanley
(Falkland Islands). I demanded of the British authorities that the
Japanese ships be forced to leave the harbor at once, as I should
otherwise be obliged to attack them in the harbor on the morning of
the following day. On the afternoon of the 4th I opened fire on the
Japanese ships four miles outside of Port Stanley. After an hour's
fighting all five Japanese ships were sunk. On our side the destroyer
_Dale_ was sunk. Total loss, 180 men. Damaged cruiser _Maryland_ sent
to Buenos Ayres. Sighted the Japanese cruisers _Idzumo_, _Tokiwa_,
_Jakumo_ and four destroyers at the entrance to the Straits of
Magellan on the morning of December 6th. Pursued them with entire
fleet. Battle with the _Idzumo_ and _Tokiwa_ at noon, in which former
was sunk. Battle temporarily suspended on account of appearance of
two hostile battleships. Destroyers keeping in touch with the
Japanese squadron.'


Perfect silence greeted these words; no one seemed able to believe the
news of this American victory: the first joyful tidings after almost
nine months of constant adversity. But then the enthusiasm of the people
broke loose in a perfect hurricane that swept everything before it. In
the rear the crowd began to thin out rapidly, for everybody was anxious
to spread the glad tidings of victory, but their places were soon taken
by others pouring in from all sides to hear the telegram read once more.

And now on the opposite side of 17th Street the American flag suddenly
ran up the bare flagstaff on the roof of the Winders Building, unfurling
with a rustle in the fresh breeze. The secretary pointed up to it, and
at once the jubilant crowd joined once more in the air of the "Star
Spangled Banner."

"This is a day," said the secretary, taking his wife's hand, "which our
country will never forget. But now I must get to work and then I'm off
to the President."

As his wife left the room, he rang the bell and asked the servant who
appeared in answer to his summons to show in the British Ambassador.

The man disappeared noiselessly, and the next moment the ambassador

"I must ask Your Excellency's pardon for having kept you waiting," said
the secretary, advancing a few steps to meet him. "To what do I owe the
honor of this visit - - "

"I have come to reply to the protest lodged against us by the United
States government for permitting the Japanese to use the harbor of
Esquimault as a station for their ships. The British government fully
recognizes the justice of the protest, and will see to it that in future
only damages that affect a ship's seaworthiness are repaired at
Esquimault, and that no other ships are allowed to enter the harbor. The
British government is desirous of observing the strictest neutrality and
is determined to employ every means in its power to maintain it."

"I thank Your Excellency and thoroughly appreciate the efforts of your
government, but regret exceedingly that they are made somewhat late in
the day. I am convinced the English government would not consider it
within the bounds of strict neutrality for a Japanese squadron to employ
an English port as its base of operations - - "

"Certainly not," said the ambassador emphatically, "and I am certain
such a thing has never happened."

"Indeed?" answered the secretary seriously, "our latest dispatches tell
a different story. May I ask Your Excellency to glance over this

He handed the telegram from Bahia Blanca to the ambassador, who read it
and handed it back.

The two men regarded each other in silence for a few moments. Then the
ambassador lowered his eyes, saying, "I have no instructions with regard
to this case. It really comes as a great surprise to me," he added, "a
very great surprise," and then seizing the secretary's hand he shook it
heartily, saying: "Allow me to extend my private but most sincere
congratulations on this success of your arms."

"Thank you, Your Excellency. The United States have learned during the
past few months to distinguish between correct and friendly relations
with other powers. The English government has taken a warm interest in
the military successes of its Japanese ally, as is apparently stipulated
in their agreement. We are sorry to have been obliged to upset some of
England's calculations by turning Japanese ships out of an English
harbor. If we succeed in gaining the upper hand, we may perhaps look
forward to similar favors being shown us by the English government as
have thus far been extended to victorious Japan?"

"That would depend," said the ambassador rather dubiously, "on the
extent to which such friendly relations would interfere with our
conceptions of neutrality."

At this moment the President was announced and the ambassador took his

_Chapter XXII_


Just as in the war between Russia and Japan, the paper strategists found
comfort in the thought that the Japanese successes on American soil were
only temporary and that their victorious career would soon come to an
end. The supposition that Japan had no money to carry on the war was
soon seen to lack all real foundation. Thus far the war had cost Japan
not even two hundred millions, for it was not Japan, but the Pacific
States that had borne the brunt of the expense. Japan had already levied
in the States occupied by her troops a sum larger by far than the total
amount of the indemnity which they had hoped to collect at Portsmouth
several years before.

The overwhelming defeat of the Army of the North at Hilgard had taken
the wind out of a great many sails. The terrible catastrophe even
succeeded in stirring up the nations of the Old World, who had been
watching developments at a safe distance, to a proper realization of the
seriousness and proximity of the yellow peril.

Even England began to edge quietly away from Japan, this change in
British policy being at once recognized in Tokio when, at Canada's
request, England refused to allow Japanese ships to continue to use the
docks and coal depots at Esquimault. Later, when after the victories of
the American fleet off Port Stanley and near the Straits of Magellan,
the governor of the Falkland Islands was made the scape-goat and
banished - he had at first intended exposing the cabinet of St. James by
publishing the instructions received from them in July, but finally
thought better of it - and when the governors of all the British colonies
were ordered to observe strict neutrality, Japan interpreted this action
correctly. But she was prepared for this emergency, and now came the
retribution for having fooled the Japanese nation with hopes of a
permanent alliance. Japan pressed a button, and Great Britain was made
to realize the danger of playing with the destiny of a nation.

Apparently without the slightest connection with the war in America, an
insurrection suddenly broke out in Bengal, at the foot of the Himalayas
and on the plateaus of Deccan, which threatened to shake the very
foundations of British sovereignty. It was as much as England could do
to dispatch enough troops to India in time to stop the flood from
bursting all the dams. At the same time an insurrection broke out in
French Indo-China, and while England and France were sending
transport-ships, escorted by cruisers, to the Far East, great upheavals
took place in all parts of Africa. The Europeans had their hands full in
dozens of different directions: garrisons and naval stations required
reënforcements, and all had to be on guard constantly in order to avoid
a surprise.

These were Japan's last resources for preventing the white races from
coming to the aid of the United States.

Remember Hilgard! This was the shibboleth with which Congress passed the
bill providing for the creation of a standing militia-army and making
the military training of every American citizen a national duty. And how
willingly they all responded to their country's call - every one realized
that the final decision was approaching.

Remember Hilgard! That was the war-cry, and that was the thought which
trembled in every heart and proved to the world that when the American
nation once comes to its senses, it is utterly irresistible.

What did we care for the theories of diplomats about international law
and neutrality; they were swept away like cobwebs. Just as Japan during
the Russian war had been provided with arms and equipment from the East,
because the crippling of the Russian fleet had left the road to the
Japanese harbors open and complaints were consequently not to be feared,
so German steamers especially now brought to our Atlantic ports
war-materials and weapons that had been manufactured in Germany for the
new American armies, since the American factories could not possibly
supply the enormous demand within such a short period.

Remember Hilgard! were the words which accompanied every command at
drill and in the encampments where our new army was being trained. The
regiments waited impatiently for the moment when they would be led
against the enemy, but we dared not again make the mistake of leading an
unprepared army against such an experienced foe. Week after week, month
after month passed, before we could begin our march in the winter snow.

The Pacific Army, which advanced in January to attack the Japanese
position on the high plateaus of the Rocky Mountains towards Granger,
numbered more than a third of a million. After three days of severe
fighting, this important stronghold of the Japanese center was captured
and the enemy forced to retreat.

Great rejoicing rang through the whole land. A complete victory at last!
Fourteen Japanese guns were captured by the two Missouri regiments after
four assaults and with the loss of half their men. The guns were dragged
in triumph through the States, and the slightly wounded soldiers on the
ammunition-carts declared, after the triumphal entry into St. Louis,
that the tumultuous embraces and thousands of handclasps from the
enthusiastic crowds had used them up more than the three days' battle.

The capture of Granger had interrupted the communication between the
Union Pacific Railroad and the Oregon Short Line branching off to the
northwest; but this didn't bother the enemy much, for he simply sent his
transports over the line from Pocatello to the South via Ogden, so that
when the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Army renewed the attack on
the Japanese positions, he found them stronger than he had anticipated.

The attack on Fort Bridger began on the second of February, but the
enemy's position on the mountain heights remained unshaken. Several
captive balloons and two motor air-ships (one of which was destroyed,
shortly after its ascent, by hostile shots) brought the information that
the Japanese artillery and entrenchments on the face of the mountain
formed an almost impregnable position. Thus while the people were still
rejoicing over the latest victory, the Pacific Army was in a position
where each step forward was sure to be accompanied by a severe loss of

Six fresh divisions from different encampments arrived on the field of
battle on the fourth and fifth of February. They received orders to
attack the seemingly weak positions of the enemy near Bell's Pass, and
then to cross the snow-covered pass and fall upon the left flank of the
Japanese center. All manner of obstacles interfered with the advance,
which was at last begun. Whole companies had to be harnessed to the
guns; but they pressed forward somehow. The small detachments of
Japanese cavalry defending the pass were compelled to retreat, and the
pass itself was taken by a night assault. Frost now set in, and the guns
and baggage wagons were drawn up the mountain paths by means of ropes.
The men suffered terribly from the cold, but the knowledge that they
were making progress prevented them from grumbling.

On the seventh of February, just as Fisher's division, the first of
General Elliott's army to pass Bell's Pass, had reached the valley of
the Bear River preparatory to marching southward, via Almy and Evanston,
in the rear of the Japanese positions, cavalry scouts, who had been
patrolling downstream as far as Georgetown, reported that large bodies
of hostile troops were approaching from the North. General Elliott
ordered Fisher's division to continue its advance on Almy, and also
dispatched Hardy's and Livingstone's divisions to the South, while
Wilson's division remained behind to guard the pass, and the divisions
of Milton and Stranger were sent to the North to stop the advance of the
enemy's reënforcements. Milton's division was to advance along the left
bank of the Bear River and to occupy the passes in the Bear River Range,
in order to prevent the enemy from making a diversion via Logan. Mounted
engineers destroyed the tracks at several spots in front of and behind

It will be seen, therefore, that General Elliott's six divisions were
all stationed in the narrow Bear River Valley between the two hostile
armies: Fisher's, Hardy's and Livingstone's divisions were headed South
to fall upon the left wing of the enemy's main army, commanded by
Marshal Oyama; while Milton's and Stranger's divisions were marching to
the North, and came upon the enemy, who was on his way from Pocatello,
at Georgetown. General Elliott therefore had to conduct a battle in two
directions: In the South he had to assume the offensive against Oyama's
wing as quickly and energetically as possible, whereas at Georgetown he
would be on the defensive. Bell's Pass lay almost exactly between the
two lines, and there General Elliott had posted only the reserves,
consisting of the three weak brigades belonging to Wilson's division. If
the Japanese succeeded in gaining a decisive victory at Georgetown,
General Elliott's whole army would be in a position of the utmost

_Chapter XXIII_


On the streets of Washington there was a wild scramble for the extras
containing the latest news from the front. The people stood for hours in
front of the newspaper offices, but definite news was so long in coming,
that despair once more seized their hearts and they again became
sceptical of ultimate victory.

Seven long anxious days of waiting! Were we fighting against
supernatural forces, which no human heroism could overcome?

A telegraph instrument had been set up next to the President's study in
the White House so that all news from the front might reach him without
delay. On a table lay a large map of the battle-field where the fighting
was now going on, and his private secretary had marked the positions of
the American troops with little wooden blocks and colored flags.

Suddenly the instrument began to click, a fresh report from the general
staff of the Pacific Army appeared on the tape:

"Fort Bridger, Feb. 8, 6 p.m. Our captive balloon reports that the
enemy seems to be shifting his troops on the left flank. Two Japanese
battalions have abandoned their positions, which were at once
occupied by a line of skirmishers from the 86th Regiment supported by
two machine-guns. An assault of the second battalion of the 64th
Regiment on the Japanese infantry position was repulsed, as the enemy
quite unexpectedly brought several masked machine-guns into action.
The firing continues, and General Elliott reports that the battle
with the hostile forces advancing along the Bear River Valley began
at 3 p.m. south of Georgetown. As the enemy has appeared in
unexpectedly large numbers, two brigades of Wood's division have been
sent from Bell's Pass to the North.


The private secretary changed the position of several blocks on the map,
moving the flags at Bell's Pass and pushing two little blue flags in the
direction of Georgetown. Then he took the report to the President.

At midnight the report came that the stubborn resistance of the enemy at
Georgetown had made it advisable to send Wilson's last brigade from
Bell's Pass to the North.

"Our last reserves," said the President, looking at the map; "we're
playing a venturesome game." Then he glanced at his secretary and saw
that the latter was utterly exhausted. And no wonder, for he hadn't
slept a wink in three nights. "Go and take a nap, Johnson," said the
President; "I'll stay up, as I have some work to finish. Take a nap,
Johnson, I don't need you just now."

"What about the instrument, sir?" asked the secretary.

"I can hear everything in the next room. I'll have no peace anyhow till
it is all over. Besides, the Secretary of War is coming over, so I'll
get along all right."

The President sat down at his desk and affixed his signature to a number
of documents. Half an hour later the Secretary of War was announced.

"Sit down, Harry," said the President, pointing to a chair, "I'll be
ready in five minutes." And while the President was finishing his work,
the Secretary of War settled down in his chair and took up a book. But
the next moment he laid it down again and took up a paper instead; then
he took up another one and read a few lines mechanically, stopping every
now and then to stare vacantly over the edge of the paper into space. At
last he jumped up and began pacing slowly up and down. Then he went into
the telegraph-room, and glanced over the report, a copy of which he had
received half an hour ago. Then he examined the various positions on the
map, placing some of the blocks more accurately.

Then a bell rang and steps could be heard in the hall. The door of the
adjacent room opened and shut, and he heard the President fold up the
documents and say: "Take these with you, they are all signed. Tomorrow
morning - oh, I forgot, it's morning now - the ninth of February."

Then some one went out and closed the door and the President was alone
again. The next moment he joined the Secretary of War in the

"Harry," he said in a low voice, "our destiny will be decided within the
next few hours. I sent Johnson off to bed; he needed some sleep.
Besides, we want to be alone when the fate of our country is decided."

The Secretary of War walked up and down the room with his hands in his
pockets, puffing away at a cigar. Both men avoided looking at each
other; neither wished the other to see how nervous he was. Both were
listening intently for the sound of the telegraph-bell.

"A message arrived from Fort Bridger about ten o'clock," said the
President after a long pause, "to the effect that our captive balloons
reported a change in the positions of the enemy's left wing. This may
mean - - "

"Yes, it may mean - " repeated the Secretary of War mechanically.

Then they both became silent once more, puffing vigorously at their

"Suppose it's all in vain again, suppose the enemy - " began the
Secretary of War, when he was interrupted by the ringing of the bell in
the next room.

The message ran:

"Bell's Pass, Feb. 9, 12.15 a.m. Milton's division has succeeded in
wresting several important positions from the enemy after a night of
severe fighting. Unimportant reverses suffered by Stranger's division
more than offset with the aid of reënforcements from Bell's Pass.


"If they can only hold Georgetown," said the Secretary of War, "our last
reserves have gone there now."

"God grant they may."

Then they both went back to the study. The President remained standing
in front of the portrait of Lincoln hanging on the wall.

"He went through just such hours as these," he said quietly, "just such
hours, and perhaps in this very room, when the battle between the
_Monitor_ and the _Merrimac_ was being fought at Hampton Roads, and news
was being sent to him hour by hour. Oh, Abraham Lincoln, if you were
only here to-day to deliver your message over the length and breadth of
our land."

The Secretary of War looked hard at the President as he answered: "Yes,
we have need of men, but we have men, too, some perhaps who are even
greater than Lincoln."

The President shook his head sadly, saying: "I don't know, we've done
everything we could, we've done our duty, yet perhaps we might have made
even greater efforts. I'm so nervous over the outcome of this battle; it
seems to me we are facing the enemy without weapons, or at best with
very blunt ones."

Again the bell rang and the President moved towards the door, but
stopped halfway and said: "You better go and see what it is, Harry."

"Fort Bridger, Feb. 8, 11.50 p.m. From Fisher's division the report
comes via Bell's Pass that two of his regiments have driven the enemy
from their positions with the aid of searchlights, and that they are
now in hot pursuit. MAJOR GENERAL ILLING."

Without saying a word the Secretary of War moved the blocks representing
Fisher's division further South. Then he remarked quietly: "It doesn't
make much difference what happens at Georgetown, the decision rests
right here now and the next hour may decide it all," and he put his
finger on the spot in the mountains occupied by the enemy's left wing.
"If an attack on the enemy's front should make a gap - - "

He didn't complete the sentence, for the President's hand rested heavily
on his shoulder. "Yes, Harry," he said, "if - that's what we've been
saying for nine months. If - and our If has always been followed by a
But - the enemy's But."

He threw himself into a chair and shaded his tired eyes with his hand,
while the Secretary of War walked incessantly up and down, puffing on a
fresh cigar. -

The night was almost over. - The shrill little bell rang again, causing
the President to start violently. Slowly, inch by inch, the white strip
of paper was rolled off, and stooping together over the ticking
instrument, the two men watched one letter, one word, one sentence after
another appear, until at last it was all there:

"Fort Bridger, Feb. 9, 1.15 a.m. A returning motor air-ship reports a
furious artillery fight in the rear of the enemy's left wing. Have
just issued orders for a general attack on the hostile positions on
the heights. Cannonade raging all along the line. Reports from Bell's
Pass state that enemy is retreating from Georgetown. Twelve of the
enemy's guns captured.


"Harry!" cried the President, seizing his friend's hand, "suppose this
means victory!"

"It does, it must," was the answer. "Look here," he said, as he
rearranged the blocks on the map, "the whole pressure of General
Elliott's three divisions is concentrated on the enemy's left wing. All
that's necessary is a determined attack - - "

"On the entrenchments in the dark?" broke in the President, "when the
men are so apt to lose touch with their leaders, when they're shooting
at random, when a mere chance may wrest away the victory and give it to
the enemy?"

The Secretary of War shook his head, saying: "The fate of battles rests
in the hands of God; we must have faith in our troops."

He walked around the table with long strides, while the President
compared the positions of the armies on the map with the contents of the
last telegram.

"Harry," he said, looking up, "do you remember the speech I made at
Harvard years ago on the unity of nations? That was my first speech, and
who would have thought that we should now be sitting together in this
room? It's strange how it all comes back to me now. Even then, as a

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22

Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 22 of 23)