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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Advanced toward Tsushima Straits


[Footnote

1: Semenoff, RASPLATA, p. 45.]

Both fleets suffered from mines. Vice Admiral Makaroff, Russia's foremost naval leader, who took command at Port Arthur in March, went down with the _Petropavlosk_ on April 13, when his ship struck a mine laid by the Japanese. On May 14, on the other hand, the Russian mine-layer _Amur_ slipped out in a fog, spread her mines in the usual path of Japanese vessels off the port, and thus on the same day sank two of their best ships, the _Hatsuse_ and _Yashima_. Mining, mine-sweeping, an uneventful Russian sortie an June 23, progress of Japanese land forces down the peninsula and close investment of Port Arthur--this was the course of events down to the final effort of the Russian squadron on August 10.

[Illustration: HARBOR OF PORT ARTHUR]

By this time Japanese siege guns were actually reaching ships in the harbor. Action of any kind, especially if it involved some injury to the enemy navy, was better than staying to be shot to pieces from the shore. Yet Makaroff's successor, Witjeft, painfully and consciously unequal to his responsibilities, still opposed an exit, and left port only upon imperative orders from above. Scarcely was the fleet an hour outside when Togo appeared on the scene. The forces in the Battle of August 10 consisted of 6 Russian battleships and 4 cruisers, against 6 Japanese armored vessels and 9 cruisers; the combined large-caliber

broadsides of the armored ships being 73 to 52, and of the cruisers 55 to 21, in favor of Togo's squadron. In spite of this superiority in armament, and of fully a knot in speed, Togo hesitated to close to decisive range. Five hours or more of complicated maneuvering ensued, during which both squadrons kept at "long bowls," now passing each other, now defiling across van or rear, without marked advantage for either side.

At last, at 5.40 p.m., the Japanese got in a lucky blow. Two 12-inch shells struck the flagship _Tsarevitch_, killing Admiral Witjeft, jamming the helm to starboard, and thus serving to throw the whole Russian line into confusion. Togo now closed to 3000 yards, but growing darkness enabled his quarry to escape. The battle in fact was less one-sided than the later engagement at Tsushima. On both sides the percentage of hits was low, about 1% for the Russians and 6 or 7% for their opponents. Togo's flagship _Mikasa_ was hit 30 times and lost 125 men; the total Japanese loss was about half that of the enemy--236 to 478.

Much might still have been gained, in view of the future coming of the Baltic fleet, had the Russians still persisted in pressing onward for Vladivostok; but owing to loss of their leader and ignorance of the general plan, they scattered. The cruiser _Novik_ was caught and sunk, another cruiser was interned at Shanghai, a third at Saigon, and the _Tsarevitch_ at Kiao-chau. The rest, including 5 of the 6 battleships, fled back into the Port Arthur death-trap. Largely in order to complete their destruction, the Japanese sacrificed 60,000 men in desperate assaults on the fortress, which surrendered January 2, 1905. As at Santiago, the necessity of saving battleships, less easily replaced, led the Japanese to the cheaper expenditure of men.

On news of the Port Arthur sortie, the Vladivostok squadron, which hitherto had made only a few more or less futile raids on Japanese shipping, advanced toward Tsushima Straits, and met there at dawn of August 14 a slightly superior force of 4 cruisers under Kamimura. The better shooting of the Japanese soon drove the slowest Russian ship, the _Rurik_, out of line; the other two, after a plucky fight, managed to get away, with hulls and funnels riddled by enemy shells.


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