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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

The Baltic fleet under Admiral Rojdestvensky 8 battleships


complete annulment of Russia's eastern fleet in this first stage of hostilities had enabled Japan to profit fully by her easier communications to the scene of war. Its final destruction with the fall of Port Arthur gave assurance of victory. The decisive battle of Mukden was fought in March, 1905. Close to their bases, trained to the last degree, inspired by success, the Japanese navy could now face with confidence the approach of Russia's last fleet.

_Rojdestvensky's Cruise_

After a series of accidents and delays, the Baltic fleet under Admiral Rojdestvensky--8 battleships, 5 cruisers, 8 destroyers, and numerous auxiliaries--left Libau Oct. 18, 1904, on its 18,000-mile cruise. Off the Dogger Bank in the North Sea, the ships fired into English trawlers under the impression that they were enemy torpedo craft, and thus nearly stirred England to war. Off Tangier some of the lighter vessels separated to pass by way of Suez, and a third division from Russia followed a little later by the same route. Hamburg-American colliers helped Rojdestvensky solve his logistical problem on the long voyage round Africa, and German authorities stretched neutrality rules upon his arrival in Wahlfish Bay, for the engrossment of Russia in eastern adventures was cheerfully encouraged by the neighbor on her southern frontier. France also did her best to be of service to the fleet of her ally, though she had "paired off" with England

to remain neutral in the war.

With the reunion of the Russian divisions at Nossi Be, Madagascar, January 9, 1905, came news of the fall of Port Arthur. The home government now concluded to despatch the fag-ends of its navy, though Rojdestvensky would have preferred to push ahead without waiting for such "superfluous encumbrances" to join. Ships, as his staff officer Semenoff afterward wrote, were needed, but not "old flatirons and galoshes"; guns, but not "holes surrounded by iron."[1] After a tedious 10 weeks' delay in tropical waters, the fleet moved on to French Indo-China, where, after another month of waiting, the last division under Nebogatoff finally joined--a slow old battleship, 3 coast defense ironclads, and a cruiser. Upon these, Rojdestvensky's officers vented their vocabulary of invective, in which "war junk" and "auto-sinkers" were favorite terms.

[Footnote 1: RASPLATA, p. 426.]

Having already accomplished almost the impossible, the armada of 50 units on May 14 set forth on the last stage of its extraordinary cruise. Of three possible routes to Vladivostok--through the Tsugaru Strait between Nippon and Yezo, through the Strait of La Perouse north of Yezo, or through the Straits of Tsushima--the first was ruled out as too difficult of navigation; the second, because it would involve coaling off the coast of Japan. Tsushima remained. To avoid torpedo attack, the Russian admiral planned to pass the straits by day, and fully expected battle. But the hope lingered in his mind that fog or heavy weather might enable him to pass unscathed. He had been informed that owing to traffic conditions on the Siberian railway, he could get nothing at Vladivostok in the way of supplies. Hence, as a compromise measure which weakened fighting efficiency, he took along 3 auxiliary steamers, a repair ship, 2 tugs, and 2 hospital ships, the rest of the train on May 25 entering Shanghai; and he so filled the bunkers and piled even the decks with fuel, according to Nebogatoff's later testimony, that they went into action burdened with coal for 3,000 miles.[2]

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