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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Under this terrible fire the Ossliabya went down


This

was the disposition when, shortly after one o'clock, the Japanese main divisions appeared to northward about 7 miles distant, steaming on a westerly course across the enemy's bows. Since morning Togo had covered a distance of 90 miles. From his signal yards fluttered the stirring message: "The fate of the empire depends upon to-day's battle. Let every man do his utmost." Ordering all his cruisers to circle to the Russian rear, and striking himself for their left flank, which at the moment was the weaker, Togo first turned southward as if to pass on opposite courses, and then at about two o'clock led his two divisions around to east-northeast, so as to "cross the T" upon the head of the enemy line.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF TSUSHIMA, MAY 27, 1905

_Japanese_ I Division (Togo) II Division (Kamimura) Mikasa, B.S. Idzumo Shikishima, B.S. Iwate Asahi, B.S. Adzumo Fuji, B.S. Asama Nisshin, A.C. Tokiwa Kasuga Yakumo

_Russians_ I Division II Division Suvaroff Ossliabya (flag) Alexander III Borodino III Division Orel]

Just as Togo's flagship _Mikasa_ straightened on her new course, nearly north of the _Suvaroff_, and 6400 yards distant, the _Suvaroff_ opened fire. It

has been suggested that at this critical moment the Russian admiral should have closed with the enemy, or, leading his ships on a northwesterly course, laid his starboard broadsides on the knuckle formed by the Japanese turn. But the position of the enemy cruisers and destroyers, and worry over his transports, guided his movements. Moreover, he had not yet completed an awkwardly executed maneuver to get his ships back into single column with the 1st division ahead. The _Ossliabya_ and other ships of the 2d division were thrown into confusion, and forced to slow down and even stop engines. Under these difficulties, the _Suvaroff_ sheered more to eastward. As they completed their turn the Japanese secured a "capping" position and could concentrate on the leading ships of both the 1st and the 2d Russian divisions, 4 ships on the _Suvaroff_ and 7 on the _Ossliabya_. Under this terrible fire the _Ossliabya_ went down, the first modern battleship (in the narrow sense of the word) ever sunk by gunfire, and the _Suvaroff_ a few moments later fell out of line, torn by shells, her forward funnel down, and steering gear jammed. "She was so battered," wrote a Japanese observer, "that scarcely any one would have taken her for a ship."

With an advantage in speed of 15 knots to 9, the Japanese drew ahead. The _Alexander_, followed by other Russian ships in much confusion, about three o'clock made an effort to pass northward across the enemy rear, but they were countered by the Japanese first division turning west together and the 2d division in succession at 3.10. The first and decisive phase of the action thus ended. Both fleets eventually resumed easterly and then southerly courses, for considerable periods completely lost to each other in smoke and haze.

Plunging through heavy seas from the southwest, the Japanese cruisers had in the meantime punished the Russian rear less severely than might have been expected. Two transports went down in flames, two cruisers were badly damaged, and the high-sided ex-German liner _Ural_ was punctured with shells. On the other hand, Dewa's flagship _Kasagi_ was driven to port with a bad hole under water, and Toga's old ship _Naniwa Kan_ had to cease action for repairs. Hits and losses in fact were considerable in both the main and the cruiser divisions of the Japanese, their total casualties numbering 465. Late in the afternoon the Russian destroyer _Buiny_ came up to the wreck of the _Suvaroff_, and lurched alongside long enough for Rojdestvensky, wounded and almost unconscious, to be practically thrown on board. He was captured with the destroyer next day. In spite of her injuries, the _Suvaroff_ held off a swarm of cruisers and destroyers until at last torpedoed at 7.20 p. m.


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