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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Since at the Yalu types and tactics were still transitional


The

_Kaiser's_ combat, though more severe, was typical of what was going on elsewhere. The Italian gunboat _Palestro_ was forced to withdraw to fight a fire that threatened her magazines. The _Re d'Italia_, which was at first supposed by the Austrians to be Persano's flagship, was a center of attack and had her steering gear disabled. As she could go only straight ahead or astern, the Austrian flagship seized the chance and rammed her squarely amidships at full speed, crashing through her armor and opening an immense hole. The Italian gunboat heeled over to starboard, then back again, and in a few seconds went down, with a loss of 381 men.

This spectacular incident practically decided the battle. After an hour's fighting the two squadrons drew apart about noon, the Austrians finally entering St. Giorgio harbor and the Italians withdrawing to westward. During the retreat the fire on the _Palestro_ reached her ammunition and she blew up with a loss of 231 of her crew. Except in the two vessels destroyed, the Italian losses were slight--8 killed and 40 wounded. But the armored ships were badly battered, and less than a month later the _Affondatore_ sank in a squall in Ancona harbor, partly, it was thought, owing to injuries received at Lissa.

For a long time after this fight, an exaggerated view was held regarding the value of ramming, line abreast formation, and bow fire. Weapons condition tactics, and these tactics

of Tegetthoff were suited to the means he had to work with. But they were not those which should have been adopted by his opponents; nor would they have been successful had the Italians brought their broadsides to bear on a parallel course and avoided a melee. What the whole campaign best illustrates--and the lesson has permanent interest--is how a passive and defensive policy, forced upon the Italian fleet by the incompetence of its admiral or otherwise, led to its demoralization and ultimate destruction. After a long period of inactivity, Persano weakened his force against shore defenses before he had disposed of the enemy fleet, and was then taken at a disadvantage. His passive strategy was reflected in his tactics. He engaged with only a part of his force, and without a definite plan; "A storm of signals swept over his squadron" as it went into action. What really decided the battle was not the difference in ships, crews, or weapons, but the difference in aggressiveness and ability of the two admirals in command.

_The Battle of the Yalu_

Twenty-eight years elapsed after Lissa before the next significant naval action, the Battle of the Yalu, between fleets of China and Japan. Yet the two engagements may well be taken together, since at the Yalu types and tactics were still transitional, and the initial situation at Lissa was duplicated--line abreast against line ahead. The result, however, was reversed, for the Japanese in line ahead took the initiative, used their superior speed to conduct the battle on their own terms, and won the day.

Trouble arose in the Far East over the dissolution of the decrepit monarchy of Korea, upon which both Japan and China cast covetous eyes. As nominal suzerain, China in the spring of 1894 sent 2000 troops to Korea to suppress an insurrection, without observing certain treaty stipulations which required her to notify Japan. The latter nation despatched 5000 men to Chemulpo in June. Hostilities broke out on July 25, when four fast Japanese cruisers, including the _Naniwa Kan_ under the future Admiral Togo, fell upon the Chinese cruiser _Tsi-yuen_ and two smaller vessels, captured the latter and battered the cruiser badly before she got away, and then to complete the day's work sank a Chinese troop transport, saving only the European officers on board.


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