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A study of the Russo-Japanese war online

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at liauyang, Port Arthur, and Yongampo before the
war, though for diplomatic reasons they were denying
the existence of such works, at the very moment when
these denials were handed to Baron Komura in Tokio,
reports were lying on the table of the War Minister from
Japanese officers, who, in the character of labourers,
were helping to build these works. Therefore, when
a nation is prepared to go to this length in order to
pursue its national schemes, it is not surprising that
they should have been the first to understand where
Eussia's weakness lay. That they have finally, to
use a vulgar expression, pricked the Bussian bubble,



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RUSSUN officials' VENALITY. 15

we are not prepared to allow. But that they have
shown that there was much to warrant the use of
the expression we readily admit, though we venture
the opinion that there is a vast difference between
pricking a bubble and emptying the whole of the
washing-tub.

The main cause for Russia's unpreparedness for
war in her newly acquired province was not only
the paucity in numbers of troops, the want of muni-
tions of war, or the inefl&ciency of the railway com-
munications. What the Bussian army in the Far
East lacked was system. There is undeniable proof
that much of the moneys which should have been
expended against possible hostilities found its way
into the pockets of superior oflScers. Where venality
exists, it is impossible to have discipline. Dishonest
direction means a rotten company. Therefore, as far
more time had been spent by the superior officers in
Manchuria in lining their own pockets than^in pre-
paring against a possible Japanese invasion, when
that moment came there was practically no machinery
to make profitable use of such military and naval
material as existed.

It has been seriously stated on the authority of
a Bussian naval officer that none of the battleships
in the Far East had ever attempted gun-practice with
their primary armaments. By collusion with accom-
plices in St Petersburg, the money which should have



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16 BUSSU'S NAVAL PRETENSIONS.

supplied ammunition for the heavy guns disappeared
as cash into somebody's banking account. As a proof
that such scandals were possible, we have the dis-
graceful aflfair of the Eoyal Hospital train. But it
would be useless to follow up the long list of official
venality : it will suffice to say that, although it may
have been hid from the knowledge of such superior
officers as did not participate in it, yet it had never
escaped the vigilance of the Japanese, and it doubtless
to a large extent accounted for the sanguine manner
in which they entered upon the campaign.

Yet in spite of their knowledge of these deficiencies,
the administrators in Manchuria pinned extraordinary
confidence in their naval supremacy. And it must be
borne in mind that"" ffie^preraKng influence at the
moment in Manchuria was naval rather than military.
On paper the Russian fleet showed a slight superiority
in power over the naval strength of Japan. But as
this total tonnage in the case of Japan was distributed
over many ships of inferior class, and the prevailing
impression in Western naval schools was that the
battleship would be the decisive factor in modern
naval warfare, and as on paper the Japanese were
considerably inferior to the Russians in this class of
vessel, the Russian officers were satisfied that their
Pacific fleet would be able to carry the war to the
coasts of Japan until the time was ripe to engage
upon a land campaign. And until they were dis-



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alsxisff's belated enebgy. 17

illusioned on the fateful evening of 8th February,
they rested secure in this belief. This has been
proved to a great extent by Admiral Alexieff 's state-
ments made for publication after his recent return to
St Petersburg. For he then readily allowed that if
the Japanese had pressed their initial advantage with
more vigour, they would have found the defences of
Port Arthur in poor condition.

But from all this, it must not be imagined that
Bussia was overtaken in a hopeless state of unpre-
paredness. Although the character of her system
allowed of enormous pilfering of public money, yet
that state of venality had not been reached that the
* whole of the public funds were embezzled. We. know
that towards the end of 1903 Bussia was making
large purchases of warlike stores, — she was even
purchasing canned meats in Japan, — and large orders
were lodged in America and elsewhere : even it was
possible to see in Tokio in January a considerable
museum of samples of various preserved fruit-stuffs
which Bussia was then importing into Manchuria
from over-sea; and it was doubtless the fact that
Alexieff had awakened to the serious nature of the
Japanese preparations which determined Japan to
open hostilities as soon as the season should be
favourable, in spite of the very strenuous endeavours
of her more peacefully inclined ally.
Of the Manchurian railway we shall have more to
B



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^



18 THE NI3SHIN AND KA8UGA.

say when we deal with the land operations, though
we are inclined to believe that the Japanese, in
common with the several military theorists in this
country and the Continent, were misguided in their
estimates of the capabilities of that communication.

We will not enter here into the diplomatic relations
which actually preceded the outbreak of hostilities.
It is definitely apparent that although the quaint
code of false morality which rules diplomatic relations
throughout the whole world required a certain amount
of formal representation, yet Japan had determined
upon war while the season was propitious, before
Bussia had awakened to the full significance of the
peril of her position in Manchuria.

That there was a considerable apprehension in
Japanese naval circles that Russia would forestall
them in striking the first blow is proved by the
nature of the telegraphic correspondence received by
the commanders of the Nisshin and Kasuga at the
later ports called at on their journey outwards. Also
by the state of consternation into which Sasebo was
thrown when it was announced on 4th February that
the Eussian fleet had sail ed from Port Arthur for an
utiSno^n destination. Until the return of the fleet
to Port Arthur was reported, it looked as if Admiral
Starck was bringing his fleet to force matters in
Japanese waters, and at that moment such a stroke
might have altered the entire complexion of the first
year's hostilities.



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JAPANESE MOBILISATION. 19

But this bubble burst almost as soon as it ap-
peared, and on 6th February Admiral Togo sailed
from Sasebo. Mr Cowen has graphically described
this great occasion: —

Like a great, complex, perfect machine, every section set in
motion simultaneously by the simple act of pressing a button,
the entire fighting force began to move at the moment the
signal was given. Soldiers who had been for days and weeks
waiting for the " cue," quietly and methodically filed out of
barracks and into boats to board the waiting troop-ships at
Sasebo. Provisions and ammunition, field equipment, and all
other necessaries had been stowed on board in advance, and the
flotilla of troop-ships for the invasion of Korea moved out of
Sasebo before daylight on February 6th, the main body of the
fleet accompanying.

One can well imagine the feelings of anxiety which
must have exercised the Cabinet Ministers in Tokio
on this momentous occasion. In the existence of that
fleet was vested the whole of the scheme of expansion
which had inspired all their labours and ambitions of
the last twenty years. Would their deductions and
planning prove to be correct, or had they committed
the Western sin of over -appreciation of their own
powers. That they were confident there is no doubt.
But war is a series of surprises, and it could not^ at
that moment, have been a confidence untempered with
apprehension. In Admiral Togo's hands were vested
the very destinies of the new-bom nation.

The first objective of the Japanese offensive was
Korea. A glance at the map will show the soundness



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20 INVASION OF KOREA.

of this first venture. At the moment the Russians
were reinforcing their outposts on the river Yalu,
and had even pushed south a mounted force into Korea
proper. It was therefore essential that Russia should
be forced from the "hermit kingdom" before she
might gain a hold suflBcient to upset the Japanese
plan of campaign. It must be understood that Korea
was just as essential to Japan for the purpose of
naval strategy as for the military campaign. Togo
required the west coast of the peninsula for his
ofifensive strategy; while it was absolutely essential
that Admiral Starck should not secure one of the
many harbours to aid him in an attack against Japan.
That this was contemplated by the Russian schemes
is suggested by the large stores of coal accumulated
by the Russians at Chemulpo. Therefore Japan's ob-
ject was to land an expeditionary force on the coast
of Korea, to establish itself first at Seoul, the capital,
and then as quickly as possible at Ping-yang, the
main strategic point in the north of the peninsula.
This force having established itself, would then prove
the advance point of the first invading army. If suc-
cessful, this move would prevent the Russians from
establishing a land supremacy which would control
the harbours in the north.

With this object the fleet of transports carrying
a portion of the 2nd Division, under the escort of
Admiral Uriu's cruiser squadron, entered Chemulpo,



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EUSSIAN WARSHIPS TBAPPED. 21

and effected a landing under the bows of two Bussian
warships at anchor in the harbour: another transport
deflected to the north, landed a company of infantry
at Haiju, whose mission was to make a forced march
upon Ping-yang. Both these forces successfully carried
out their missions.

The situation in Chemulpo was of extraordinary
interest. Owing to the incapacity of the Port Arthur
command, the Varioffy the fastest cruiser on the Pacific
station, the gunboat Korietz, and the Volunteer steam-
ship Sv/ngari were lying at anchor amid the inter-
national squadron of warships, unapprised of the fact
that hostilities existed. The commander of the Variag
I was unprepared to act in the circumstance of an ob-
I viously hostile landing in a treaty port. Moreover, he
I was trapped at his anchorage by the appearance of
Uriu's superior squadron in the outer harbour. In
these circumstances one is inclined to think that if he
had been a man of grit he would have opposed the
landing. But it is evident that he was as slow in
arriving at a conclusion as he was in directing the
fighting qualities of the ship. The Korietz, on the
first appearance of the transports, had steamed out
to the open harbour, and here, being confronted by
Uriu's fleet, had fired at a torpedo-boat. This is
claimed by Japan to have been the first act of war.
An obviously absurd assertion, since the music of the
windlasses of Togo's fleet in Sasebo harbour as they



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22 ADMIRAL URIU'S DEMAND.

up-anchored to escort the transports was the opening
act of war. But we are not concerned with such
trivial details. The Russian ships were trapped,
though if the commander had been a man of any
moment, the very fact that the evening before Uriu's
squadron arrived the Japanese cruiser Ghiyoda slipped
out of the Chemulpo anchorage without lights should
have been sufficient indication to him to have rejoined
his admiral in Port Arthur without a moment's delay.

As it was, when the landing had been completed,
Uriu sent a request to the commander of the Variag
that he should come out and fight, together with a notice
to the commanders of the foreign war-vessels that
they should move from the anchorage, as it was his
intention to attack the Russians in the harbour. We
do not for a moment think that Admiral Uriu intended
to put in practice this bold threat, since there was no
precedent which would warrant his carrying war into
a treaty port. But it had the desired effect, for the
weak little Russian squadron steamed out of the
harbour to accept battle amid the enthusiastic accla-
mations of the other naval forces collected there.

This action of the commander of the Variag has
been claimed by Russia and her sympathisers as a
very gallant proceeding. Doubtless it was gallant in
its conception. There is, however, a tradition in our
own navy — a tradition which we trust will never
pass into oblivion — that if a ship has to fight, no



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THE SINKING OF THB VARIAQ. 23

matter the odds, she will fight and sink with her
battle-flags aloft. It was doubtless the intention of
the commander of the Variag to do likewise. Although
XJriu's squadron was so superior, be it said to his
credit and the credit of the Japanese navy that it
did not bring the whole of its gun-power to bear
upon the solitary Russian cruiser. We say solitary,
because she rapidly out-distanced the little Korietz.
Uriu engaged the Variag with his flag -ship, the
Asama, alone. After a brief exchange of shots, the
courage of the commander of the Variag forsook him,
and he turned and made for his late anchorage, the
gunboat turning with him, and it was during this
homeward journey that he suffered so severely from
the Asaraa's fire. Back he went to his anchorage,
and immediately opened the sea-cocks in his vessel
and ordered the destruction by explosion of the
Korietz and the Sungari. A dismal ending!

It may be pointed out here, as an aside, that in the
enthusiasm of this first success the nature of the en-
gagement was much exaggerated, for we read in the
Japanese reports that the little Korietz was riddled
with holes. She was never in action at all. Also
we heard of the devastating effect of the Japanese
shrapnel. It may be pointed out that shrapnel forms
no part of Japanese marine artillery, except in the
case of 9-pounder field-guns for landing-parties. It is
evident from Mr Cowen's description of the affair, as



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24 , POBT AETHUR.

in all his other battle descriptions, that he has drawn
on the local official and newspaper reports for his
information. Speaking of the Korietz, he says: —

Then came the Japanese answer. Only half a dozen more
shells from the AsamOj and the Korietz was pierced through
and through, leaking so rapidly that it seemed she must sink
before she could get back into shelter. She certainly could not
go on, she would not haul down her flag, and she did not want
to sink out there. So back she came less than a half-hour after
she had started. She just managed to reach shallow water in
time, and sank on the i^ud on an even keel, her deck stiU
standing out of the water.

Again, speaking of the same occasion, *^ Shrapnel shells
were bursting all the time with deadly accuracy, filling
the air like rain." Later on he forgets that he has
already sunk the Korietz, for he says, " Though the
Korietz was by no means so badly shattered as the
bigger ships, it was decided to blow her up, so that
she should not fall into the enemy's hands."

We will now deal with the first naval attack on
Port Arthur. This really took place before the de-
struction of the Eussian ships in Chemulpo— in fact,
the first hostile act against the main Eussian fleet
occurred while the Japanese troops were disembarking
in Korea. It may be taken for granted that Admiral
Togo was kept informed up to the last moment of the
movements of the Eussian ships at Port Arthur. He
knew that the battleship squadron preferred to anchor
in the outer roadstead owing to the difficulties of



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TOGtO'S OBJECT., 25

negotiating the narrow channel of the harbour proper.
The fighting power of its ships was then an unknown
quantity, and their paper superiority to his own
squadron of battleships warranted his attempting to
reduce this superiority by any meana that would still
keep the striking power of his own battleships intact

. Unless it were forced upon him, he would not have
been justified in engaging in a fleet action. Being

' well aware of the naval custom prevailing in Port
Arthur, and trusting in the fact that his rapidity of
action would find Port Arthur still doubtful as to
whether a state of war existed or not, he despatched
two divisions of destroyers, with the object, if the
circumstances proved favourable, of delivering his
first blow against the Bussian battle squadron as it
lay at anchor in its own roadstead. It is not our
object to enter upon any discussion as to the morality
of the Japanese stroke : we will confine ourselves to
the bare statement that, judging by the precedent
contained in the history of past declarations of war,
and remembering that the whole of the Japanese
success depended upon rapidity of action, they were
justified in using any means calculated to place them
upon an equality with their enemy in a struggle which
has well been called a life-or-death struggle.

Togo's information proved to be as correct as his
conjecture, and the result rang through the length
and breadth of the world with galvanic effect. The



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26 THB TOEPKDO ATTACK.

Bussians were caught napping; but that they had
apprehensions was shown in the movements of their
own destroyer flotilla. Two divisions were patrolling
in the vicinity of Shantung promontory. ' iliese were
sighted by the Japanese destroyers as they steered
for Port Arthur, and, according to the most reliable
information, the result was a race for the roadstead,
and, as has proved so fatal in many land engagements,
the Bussians suffered from the attack because their
retreating outposts and the attacking forces arrived
simultaneously. This would account for the Bussian
statement that the Japanese torpedo craft made the
Bussian signals.

The attack, which was made about midnight, was
over in a few minutes. Accurate accounts are con-
flicting ; but there is sufficient reason to believe that
the great Bussian battleships were lying in line ahead
with their anchor lights lit, that the crews were
not even at quarters, and that several of the senior
deck officers were on shore, Never before, and
never possibly again, had torpedo craft such an
opportunity.

But the dramatic side of the scene is painful in *
the extreme. The silence of the night broken first
with the chime of the fleet bells sounding the hour ;
then, as the anchor-watch is changed, the sudden
suspicion of the panting breath of torpedo craft ; the
indistinct lights of their own returning flotilla, and



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TWO LEVIATHANS TOBPKDOBD. 27

the dark moving bodies sweeping in from the sea-
board; the dull reverberation as two torpedoes take
effect on the largest of the Bussian leviathans. One
can almost feel the convulsive shudder that must have
quickened that sleeping fleet. The frenzied rush to
quarters, the anxious glances cast by the more re-
sponsible officers towards the flag-ship/ for some signal
to apprise them of the meaning of this sudden uproar.
The ignorance of the said flag-ship, ringing with the
cry for collision-mats, and then the sudden tumult of
guns fired blindly into the appalling darkness out of
which the attack had come.

But before the Bussian crews had recovered from
their panic the perpetrators of the trouble had dis-
appeared into the great unknown. All that remained
were two huge battleships in helpless distress, the
unparalleled situation of a powerful fleet reduced to
impotent consternation.

Although one cannot help being moved to admira-
tion of the spirit which prompted the Japanese in this
splendid effort, yet one cannot help thinking that they
made a very small use of their unique opportunity.
The destroyers, having passed down the line of battle-
ships, sped away into the darkness, nor did they renew
their attack until much later in the night. If they
had returned again and again, they would have main-
tained the panic which their first appearance had
caused, and it is impossible to estimate what other



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28 MOBAL EFFECT.

damage they might have achieved. As it was, at
the time that they saw fit to renew the attack some
semblance of order had been restored; so much so,
that their second appearance produced no further
results but an expenditure of ammunition from both
ships and land forts. But although in this first
instance the fullest advantage was not taken of the
opportunity, yet the moral effect of this attack, aside
from the fact that the two most powerful ships in
the Bussian fleet had been temporarily damaged,
was a great achievement, and it may safely be said
that the Japanese navy that night established its
moral supremacy.

The scope of this work will not allow of our fol-
lowing in similar detail all the naval actions. We
can only hope to quote enough to establish the
broad lines of the general strategy employed. On
the day following the torpedo attack Togo steamed
in towards Fort Arthur and demonstrated in front
of the Bussian stronghold. The Bussian fleet was
still at anchor, though the two injured battleships
had been temporarily beached at the entrance of
the harbour. It is probable that, as soon as Togo
was informed of the success of the night-raid, he
considered he would be strong enough to risk a
fleet action with the remainder of the Bussian
ships. Anyway, he gave Admiral Starck this
opportunity. But the paralysis which has marked



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TOGO'S BASES. 29

the attitude of the Eussian Pacific squadron
throughout the war had already set in, and the
demonstration developed into an exchange of
shots at long range, and to a certain amount of
bombardment between the Japanese fleet and the
shore defences. *

It had been arranged that as soon as the Jap-
anese fleet left Sasebo it would first base itself at
Mokpo. a suitable bay at the south-west corner of
the Korean peninsula. To this place already the
cable-boats and the naval transports had been sent.
As long as there had been a possibility, however
remote, of the Bussian fleet attempting to take the
offensive against Japan, Mokpo furnished an admir-
able base for the Japanese battle squadron, while
the cruisers patrolled the one hundred and twenty
miles of sea between the Shantung promontory and
Sir James Hall group. Mokpo may therefore be
considered as the defensive naval base chosen by
Japan.

But Togo was now satisfied that he would be
able to undertake the offensive without let or
hindrance. It behoved him therefore to have an
offensive base nearer to his objective than either
Mokpo or Sasebo. This, of course, was laid down
in the scheme of Japanese naval strategy, and
instead of returning to Mokpo, Togo took his fleet
into an indifferently charted bay behind the Sir



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30 SECRECY OF JAPANESE MOVEMENTS.

James Hall grou p, which brought him within ten
hours' steam df Port Arthur. To this place all his
necessary plant, supply, coal, and transports were
brought, and the advance -base was established.
Everything had been ready in Sasebo for this
undertaking, and almost before the admiral's battle
squadron first cast anchor, the wireless stations,
which were to keep communication along the coast
of Korea, were in working order, while his coal-
supply was already awaiting him.

It would be well here to dilate upon the extra-
ordinary secrecy with which these arrangements
were carried out; and it is probable that, until this
base was discarded as a primary base, not half a
dozen Europeans knew the spot which had been
chosen. Of course it was obvious that a base
existed somewhere in the Yellow Sea, and the
wildest speculations were current: even now the
well-informed are at fault, for we find that Mr
Cowen asserts, with a positiveness which might
well convince the uninformed, that Togo's fleet
returned to Sasebo, and that his primary base was
at the Elliot Islands. He says : ^* Betu^ning to
Sasebo, two days* steam from Port Arthur, Admiral
Togo sent ashore the dead and wounded, and
quickly effected the repairs needed." And a few
pages later he repeatedly refers to the Elliot
Islands as Togo's base.



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NAYAIi SITUATION GONSEDIBSD. 31

We will point out here that, although the moral
effect of his initial success had been so great, it
would have been foolhardy for the Admiral in the



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