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Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff.

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were absolutely no indications as to the side from which the enemy might
be expected.

The chief cause for anxiety at the moment was furnished by the question
whether the squadron which had started for Mindanao was already aware of
the outbreak of war. In any case, it was necessary to warn both it and
the transports expected from San Francisco before they arrived at
Mindanao. The only ships available for this purpose were the few little
gunboats taken from the Spaniards in 1898; these had been made fit for
service in all haste to be used in the harbor when the cruiser squadron
left. Although they left much to be desired in the way of speed - a
handicap of six days could, however, hardly have been made up even by
the swiftest turbine - there was nevertheless a fair chance that these
insignificant-looking little vessels, which could hardly be
distinguished from the merchant type, might be able to slip past the
Japanese blockading ships, which were probably cruising outside of
Manila. This, however, would only be possible in case the Japanese had
thus far ignored the squadron near Mindanao as they had Manila, for the
purpose of concentrating their strength somewhere else. But where? At
any rate, it was worth while taking even such a faint chance of being
able to warn the squadron, for the destruction of the _Monadnock_ could
have had no other reason than to prevent communications between Manila
and the squadron. The enemy had evidently not given a thought to the
rickety little gunboats. Or could it be that all was already at an end
out at Mindanao? At all events, the attempt had to be made.

Two gunboats coaled and slipped out of the harbor the same evening,
heading in a southeasterly direction among the little islands straight
through the archipelago in order to reach the eastern coast of Mindanao
and there intercept the transport steamers, and eventually accompany
them to Manila. Neither of these vessels was ever heard from again; it
is supposed that they went down after bravely defending themselves
against a Japanese cruiser. Their mission had meanwhile been rendered
useless, for the five mail-steamers had encountered the Japanese
torpedo-boats east of Mindanao three days before, and upon their
indignant refusal to haul down their flags and surrender, had been sunk
by several torpedoes. Only a few members of the crew had been fished up
by the Japanese.

As a reward for his decisive action in destroying the _Kanga Maru_, the
commander of the _Mindoro_ was ordered to try, with the assistance of
three other gunboats, to locate the commander of the cruiser squadron
somewhere in the neighborhood of Mindanao, probably to the southwest of
that island, in order to notify him of the outbreak of the war and to
hand him the order to return to Manila.

The gunboats started on their voyage at dawn. In order to conceal the
real reason for the expedition from the natives, it was openly declared
that they were only going to do sentry duty at the entrance to the Bay
of Manila. Each of the four vessels had been provided with a wireless
apparatus, which, however, was not to be installed until the ships were
under way, so that the four commanders might always be in touch with one
another, and with the cruiser squadron as well, even should the latter
be some distance away.

The next morning the gunboats found themselves in the Strait of Mindoro.
They must have passed the enemy's line of blockade unnoticed, under the
cover of darkness. At all events, they had seen nothing of the Japanese,
and concluded that the blockade before Manila must be pretty slack. On
leaving the Strait of Mindoro, the gunboats, proceeding abreast at small
distances from one another, sighted a steamer - apparently an
Englishman - crossing their course. They tried to signal to it, but no
sooner did the English vessel observe this, than she began to increase
her speed. It became clear at once that she was faster than the
gunboats, and unless, therefore, the latter wished to engage in a
useless chase, the hope of receiving news from the English captain had
to be abandoned. So the gunboats continued on their course - the only
ships to be seen on the wide expanse of inland sea.

In the afternoon a white steamer, going in the opposite direction, was
sighted. Opinions clashed as to whether it was a warship or a
merchant-vessel. In order to make certain the commander of the _Mindoro_
ordered a turn to starboard, whereupon it was discovered that the
strange ship was an ocean-steamer of about three thousand tons, whose
nationality could not be distinguished at that distance. Still it might
be an auxiliary cruiser from the Japanese merchant service. The
commander of the _Mindoro_ therefore ordered his vessels to clear for
action.

The actions of the strange steamer were followed with eager attention,
and it was seen that she continued her direct northward course. When she
was about five hundred yards to port of the _Mindoro_, the latter
requested the stranger to show her flag, whereupon the English flag
appeared at the stern. Eager for battle, the Americans had hoped she
would turn out to be a Japanese ship, for which, being four against one,
they would have been more than a match; the English colors therefore
produced universal disappointment. Suddenly one of the officers of the
_Mindoro_ drew Parrington's attention to the fact that the whole build
of the strange steamer characterized her as one of the ships of the
"Nippon Yusen Kaisha" with which he had become acquainted during his
service at Shanghai; he begged Parrington not to be deceived by the
English flag. The latter at once ordered a blank shot to be fired for
the purpose of stopping the strange vessel, but when the latter calmly
continued on her course, a ball was sent after her from the bow of the
_Mindoro_, the shell splashing into the water just ahead of the steamer.
The stranger now appeared to stop, but it was only to make a sharp turn
to starboard, whereupon he tried to escape at full speed. At the same
time the English flag disappeared from the stern, and was replaced by
the red sun banner of Nippon.

Parrington at once opened fire on the hostile ship, and in a few minutes
the latter had to pay heavily for her carelessness. Her commander had
evidently reckoned upon the fact that the Americans were not yet aware
of the outbreak of war, and had hoped to pass the gunboats under cover
of a neutral flag. It also seemed unlikely that four little gunboats
should have run the blockade before Manila; it was far more natural to
suppose that these ships, still ignorant of the true state of affairs,
were bound on some expedition in connection with the rising of the
natives. The firing had scarcely lasted ten minutes before the Japanese
auxiliary cruiser, which had answered with a few shots from two light
guns cleverly concealed behind the deck-house near the stern of the
boat, sank stern first. It was at any rate a slight victory which
greatly raised the spirits of the crews of the gunboats.

Within the next few hours the Americans caught up with a few Malayan
sailing ships, to which they paid no attention; later on a little black
freight steamer, apparently on the way from Borneo to Manila, came in
sight. The little vessel worked its way heavily through the water,
tossed about by the ever increasing swell. About three o'clock the
strange ship was near enough for its flag - that of Holland - to be
recognized. Signals were made asking her to bring to, whereupon an
officer from the _Mindoro_ was pulled over to her in a gig. Half an hour
later he left the _Rotterdam_, and the latter turned and steamed away in
the direction from which she had come. The American officer had informed
the captain of the _Rotterdam_ of the blockade of Manila, and the latter
had at once abandoned the idea of touching at that port.

The news which he had to impart gave cause for considerable anxiety. The
_Rotterdam_ came from the harbor of Labuan, where pretty definite news
had been received concerning a battle between some Japanese ships and
the American cruiser squadron stationed at Mindanao. It was reported
that the battle had taken place about five days ago, immediately after
war had been declared, that the American ships had fallen a prey to the
superior forces of the enemy, and that the entire American squadron had
been destroyed.

At all events, it was quite clear that the squadron no longer needed to
be informed of the outbreak of hostilities, so Parrington decided to
carry out his orders and return to Manila with his four ships. As the
flotilla toward evening, just before sunset, was again passing through
the Strait of Mindoro, the last gunboat reported that a big white ship,
apparently a war vessel, had been sighted coming from the southeast, and
that it was heading for the flotilla at full speed. It was soon possible
to distinguish a white steamer, standing high out of the water, whose
fighting tops left no room for doubt as to its warlike character. It was
soon ascertained that the steamer was making about fifteen knots, and
that escape was therefore impossible.

Parrington ordered his gunboats to form in a line and to get up full
steam, as it was just possible that they might be able to elude the
enemy under cover of darkness, although there was still a whole hour to
that time.

Slowly the hull of the hostile ship rose above the horizon, and when she
was still at a distance of about four thousand yards there was a flash
at her bows, and the thunder of a shot boomed across the waters, echoed
faintly from the mountains of Mindoro.

"They're too far away," said Parrington, as the enemy's shell splashed
into the waves far ahead of the line of gunboats. A second shot followed
a few minutes later, and whizzed between the _Mindoro_ and her neighbor,
throwing up white sprays of water whose drops, in the rays of the
setting sun, fell back into the sea like golden mist. And now came shot
after shot, while the Americans were unable to answer with their small
guns at that great distance.

Suddenly a shell swept the whole length of the _Mindoro's_ deck, on the
port side, tearing up the planks of the foredeck as it burst. Things
were getting serious! Slowly the sun sank in the west, turning the sky
into one huge red flame, streaked with yellow lights and deep green
patches. The clouds, which looked like spots of black velvet floating
above the semicircle of the sun, had jagged edges of gleaming white and
unearthly ruby red. Fiery red, yellow, and green reflections played
tremblingly over the water, while in the east the deep blue shadows of
night slowly overspread the sky.

The whole formed a picture of rare coloring: the four little American
ships, pushing forward with all the strength of their puffing engines
and throwing up a white line of foam before them with their sharp bows;
on the bridges the weather-beaten forms of their commanders, and beside
the dull-brown gun muzzles the gun crews, waiting impatiently for the
moment when the decreasing distance would at last allow them to use
their weapons; far away in the blue shadows of the departing day, like a
spirit of the sea, the white steamer, from whose sides poured
unceasingly the yellow flashes from the mouths of the cannon. Several
shots had caused a good deal of damage among the rigging of the
gunboats. The _Callao_ had only half a funnel left, from which
gray-brown smoke and red sparks poured forth.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion, and the _Callao_ listed to port. A
six-inch shell had hit her squarely in the stern, passing through the
middle of the ship, and exploded in the upper part of the engine-room.
The little gunboat was eliminated from the contest before it could fire
a single shot, and now it lay broadside to the enemy, and utterly at the
latter's mercy. In a few minutes the _Callao_ sank, her flags waving.
Almost directly afterwards another boat shared her fate. The other two
gunboats continued on their course, the quickly descending darkness
making them a more difficult target for the enemy. Suddenly a lantern
signal informed the commander of the _Mindoro_ that the third ship had
become disabled through some damage to the engines. Parrington at once
ordered the gunboat to be run ashore on the island of Mindoro and blown
up during the night. Then he was compelled to leave the last of his
comrades to its fate. His wireless apparatus had felt disturbances,
evidently caused by the enemy's warning to the ships blockading Manila,
so that his chances of entering the harbor unmolested appeared
exceedingly slim.

The Japanese cruiser ceased firing as it grew darker, but curiously
enough had made no use whatever of her searchlights. Only the flying
sparks from her funnel enabled the _Mindoro_ to follow the course of the
hostile vessel, which soon passed the gunboat. Either the enemy thought
that all four American ships had been destroyed or else they didn't
think it worth while to worry about a disabled little gunboat. At all
events, this carelessness or mistake on the part of the enemy proved the
salvation of the _Mindoro_. During the night she struck a northwesterly
course, so as to try to gain an entrance to the Bay of Manila from the
north at daybreak, depending on the batteries of Corregidor to assist
her in the attempt. Once during the night the _Mindoro_ almost collided
with one of the enemy's blockading ships, which was traveling with
shaded lights, but she passed by unnoticed and gained an entrance at the
north of the bay at dawn, while the batteries on the high, rocky
terraces of Corregidor, with their long-range guns, kept the enemy at a
distance. It was now ascertained that the Japanese blockading fleet
consisted only of ships belonging to the merchant service, armed with a
few guns, and of the old, unprotected cruiser _Takatshio_, which had had
the encounter with the gunboats. The bold expedition of the latter had
cleared up the situation in so far that it was now pretty certain that
the entire American cruiser squadron had been destroyed or disabled, and
that Manila was therefore entirely cut off from the sea.

The batteries at Corregidor now expected an attack from the enemy's
ships, but none came. The Japanese contented themselves with an
extraordinarily slack blockade - so much so that at times one could
scarcely distinguish the outlines of the ships on the horizon. As all
commerce had stopped and only a few gunboats comprised the entire naval
strength of Manila, Japan could well afford to regard this mockery of a
blockade as perfectly sufficient. Day by day the Americans stood at
their guns, day by day they expected the appearance of a hostile ship;
but the horizon remained undisturbed and an uncanny silence lay over the
town and harbor. Of what use were the best of guns, and what was the
good of possessing heroic courage and a burning desire for battle, if
the enemy did not put in an appearance? And he never did.

When Parrington appeared at the Club on the evening after his scouting
expedition he was hailed as a hero, and the officers stayed together a
long time discussing the naval engagement. In the early hours of the
morning he accompanied his friend, Colonel Hawkins of the Twelfth
Infantry Regiment, through the quiet streets of the northern suburbs of
Manila to the latter's barracks. As they reached the gate they saw,
standing before it in the pale light of dawn, a mule cart, on which lay
an enormous barrel. The colonel called the sentry, and learned that the
cart had been standing before the gate since the preceding evening. The
colonel went into the guard-room while Parrington remained in the
street. He was suddenly struck by a label affixed to the cask, which
contained the words, "From Colonel Pemberton to his friend Colonel
Hawkins." Parrington followed the colonel into the guard-room and drew
his attention to the scrap of paper. Hawkins ordered some soldiers to
take the barrel down from the car and break open one end of it. The
colonel had strong nerves, and was apt to boast of them to the novices
in the colonial service, but what he saw now was too much even for such
an old veteran. He stepped back and seized the wall for support, while
his eyes grew moist.

In the cask lay the corpse of his friend Colonel Pemberton, formerly
commander of the military station of San José, with his skull smashed
in. The Filipinos had surprised the station of San José and slaughtered
the whole garrison after a short battle. Pemberton's corpse - his love
for whisky was well known - they had put into a cask and driven to the
infantry barracks at Manila. Parrington, deeply touched, pressed his
comrade's hand. The insurrection of the Filipinos! In Manila the bells
of the Dominican church of _Intra muros_ rang out their monotonous call
to early mass.




_Chapter II_

ON THE HIGH SEAS


The _Tacoma_ was expected to arrive at Yokohama early the next morning;
the gong had already sounded, calling the passengers to the farewell
meal in the dining-saloon, which looked quite festive with its colored
flags and lanterns.

There was a deafening noise of voices in the handsome room, which was
beginning to be overpoweringly hot in spite of the ever-revolving
electric fans. As the sea was quite smooth, there was scarcely an empty
place at the tables. A spirit of parting and farewell pervaded the
conversation; the passengers were assembled for the last time, for on
the morrow the merry party, which chance had brought together for two
weeks, would be scattered to the four winds. Naturally the conversation
turned upon the country whose celebrated wonders they were to behold on
the following day. The old globe-trotters and several merchants who had
settled in East Asia were besieged with questions, occasionally very
naïve ones, about Japan and the best way for foreigners to get along
there. With calm superiority they paraded their knowledge, and eager
ladies made note on the backs of their menus of all the hotels, temples,
and mountains recommended to them. Some groups were making arrangements
for joint excursions in the Island Kingdom of Tenno; others discussed
questions of finance and commerce, each one trying to impress his
companions by a display of superior knowledge.

Here and there politics formed the subject of conversation; one lady in
particular, the wife of a Baltimore merchant, sitting opposite the
secretary of a small European legation who was on his way to Pekin to
take up his duties there, plied him with questions and did her level
best to get at the secrets of international politics. The secretary, who
had no wonderful secrets to disclose, had recourse to the ordinary
political topics of the day, and entertained his fair listener with a
discussion of the problems that would arise in case of hostilities
between America and Japan. "Of course," he declared, vaunting his
diplomatic knowledge, "in case of war the Japanese would first surprise
Manila and try to effect a landing, and in this they would very likely
be successful. It is true that Manila with her strong defenses is pretty
well protected against a sudden raid, and the Japanese gunners would
have no easy task in an encounter with the American coast batteries.
Even though Manila may not turn out to be a second Port Arthur, the
Americans should experience no difficulty in repelling all Japanese
attacks for at least six months; meanwhile America could send
reinforcements to Manila under the protection of her fleet, and then
there would probably be a decisive battle somewhere in the Malayan
archipelago between the Japanese and American fleets, the results of
which - - "

"I thought," interrupted a wealthy young lady from Chicago, "I thought
we had some ships in the Philippines." The diplomat waved his hand
deprecatingly, and smiled knowingly at this interruption. He was master
of the situation and well qualified to cast the horoscope of the
future - and so he was left in possession of the field.

The lady opposite him was, however, not yet satisfied; with the new
wisdom just obtained she now besieged the German major sitting beside
her, who was on his way to Kiao-chau via San Francisco. He had not been
paying much attention to the conversation, but the subject broached to
him for discussion was such a familiar one, that he was at once posted
when his neighbor asked him his opinion as to the outcome of such a war.

Nevertheless it was an awkward question, and the German, out of
consideration for his environment on board the American steamer, did not
allow himself to be drawn out of his usual reserve. He simply inquired
what basis they had for the supposition that, in case of war, Japan
would occupy herself exclusively with the Philippines.

The secretary of legation had gradually descended from the clouds of
diplomatic self-conceit to the level of the ordinary mortal and,
overhearing the major's question through the confusion of voices and
clatter of plates, shook his head disapprovingly and asked the major:
"Don't you think it's likely that Japan will try first of all to get
possession of the prize she has been longing for ever since the Peace of
Paris?"

"I know as little as anyone else not in diplomatic circles what the
plans and hopes of the Japanese Government are, but I do think there is
not the slightest prospect of an outbreak of hostilities in the near
future; there is, accordingly, not much sense in trying to imagine what
might happen in case of a war," answered the German coolly.

"There are only two possibilities," said the English merchant from
Shanghai, one of the chief stockholders of the line, who sat next to the
captain. "According to my experience" - and here he paused in order to
draw the attention of his listeners to this experience - "according to my
experience," he repeated, "there are only two possibilities. Japan is
overpeopled and is compelled to send her surplus population out of the
country. The Manchuria experiment turned cut to be a failure, for the
teeming Chinese population leaves no room now for more Japanese
emigrants and small tradesmen than there were before the war with
Russia; besides, there was no capital at hand for large enterprises.
Japan requires a strong foothold for her emigrants where" - and here he
threw an encouraging glance at the captain - "she can keep her people
together economically and politically, as in Hawaii. The emigration to
the States has for years been severely restricted by law."

"And at the same time they are pouring into our country in droves by way
of the Mexican frontier," mumbled the American colonel, who was on his
way back to his post, from his seat beside the captain.

"That leaves only the islands of the Pacific, the Philippines, and
perhaps Australia," continued the Shanghai merchant undisturbed. "In any
such endeavors Japan would of course have to reckon with the States and
with England. The other possibility, that of providing employment and
support for the ever-increasing population within the borders of their
own country, would be to organize large Japanese manufacturing
interests. Many efforts have already been made in this direction, but,
owing to the enormous sums swallowed up by the army and navy, the
requisite capital seems to be lacking."

"In my opinion," interposed the captain at this juncture, "there is a
third possibility - namely, to render additional land available for the
cultivation of crops. As you are all no doubt aware, not more than one
third of Japan is under cultivation; the second third, consisting of
stone deserts among the mountains, must of necessity be excluded, but
the remaining third, properly cultivated, would provide a livelihood
for millions of Japanese peasants. But right here we encounter a
peculiar Japanese trait; they are dead set on the growth of rice, and
where, in the higher districts, no rice will grow, they refuse to engage
in agriculture altogether and prefer to leave the land idle. If they
would grow wheat, corn, and grass in such sections, Japan would not only
become independent of other countries with respect to her importation of
provisions, but, as I said before, it would also provide for the
settlement of millions of Japanese peasants; and, furthermore, we should
then get some decent bread to eat in Japan."

This conception of the Japanese problem seemed to open new vistas to the
secretary of legation. He listened attentively to the captain's words
and threw inquiring glances toward the Shanghai merchant. The latter,
however, was completely absorbed in the dissection of a fish, whose
numerous bones continually presented fresh anatomical riddles. In his


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Online LibraryFerdinand Heinrich GrautoffBanzai! by Parabellum → online text (page 3 of 23)