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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Hitachi Maru and the Sado Maru


War in the Far East, by the Military Correspondent of "The Times."


To have left the Japanese in undisturbed possession of the neck of the Liaotung peninsula would have been to abandon Port Arthur to its fate. On the other hand, the Russians ought not to have entertained any hope of their own ability to carry such a position by assault after they had signally failed to hold it in the face of attack. Nevertheless, finding it intolerable, alike to their prestige and to their sense of camaraderie, to take no measure in behalf of the great fortress and its thirty thousand defenders, they determined to march at once to its assistance. To that end celerity was all important, and on June 14th, that is to say, only eighteen days after the battle of Kinchou, a Russian army of some thirty-five thousand combatants, under the command of General Baron Stackelberg, moving down the railway to recover Kinchou and Nanshan, came into collision with the Japanese and fought the battle of Telissu. The Russian general, clinging always to the railway, advanced with such a restricted front that the Japanese, under General Oku, outflanked him, and he was driven back with a loss of about ten thousand, killed and wounded, fourteen guns, and four hundred prisoners.


On June 15th, the very day after the Telissu victory, the Japanese

met their only naval catastrophe. While their fleet was watching the enemy off Port Arthur, the battleships Hatsuse and Yashima struck mines and sank immediately. Moreover, on the same day, the cruisers Kasuga and Yoshino collided in a dense fog, and the latter vessel was sent to the bottom. As the Japanese possessed only six battle-ships, the loss of two was a serious blow, and might have emboldened the Russians to despatch a squadron from the Baltic to take the earliest possible advantage of this incident. Foreseeing this, the Japanese took care to conceal the loss of the Hatsuse and Yashima, and the fact did not become known until after the battle of Tsushima, a year later, when the Russian fleet had been practically annihilated.

Meanwhile, the Russian squadron at Vladivostok had accomplished little. This squadron consisted originally of three armoured cruisers, Gromovoi, Rossia, and Rurik, with one protected cruiser, Bogatyr. But the last-named ship ran on a rock near Vladivostok and became a total wreck in the middle of May, a month marked by many heavy losses. These cruisers made several excursions into the Sea of Japan, sinking or capturing a few Japanese merchantmen, and cleverly evading a Japanese squadron under Admiral Kamimura, detailed to watch them. But their only achievement of practical importance was the destruction of two large Japanese transports, the Hitachi Maru and the Sado Maru. In achieving this feat the Russians appeared off Tsushima in the Straits of Korea, on June 15th, and the transports which they sunk or disabled carried heavy guns for the bombardment of Port Arthur.

Of course, nothing was publicly known about the cargo of the Hitachi and her consort, but there could be no question that, in timing their attack with such remarkable accuracy, the Russians must have obtained secret information as to the movements of the transports and the nature of their cargo. Considerable criticism was uttered against Admiral Kamimura for failure to get into touch with the Vladivostok vessels during such a long interval. But much of the censure was superficial. Kamimura redeemed his reputation on the 14th of August when, in a running fight between Fusan and Vladivostok, the Rurik was sunk and the Gromovoi and Rossia were so seriously damaged as to be unable to take any further part in the war. On this occasion six hundred Russians were rescued by the Japanese from the sinking Rurik, and it was noted at the time that the Russians had made no attempt to save Japanese life at the sinking of the Hitachi Maru.

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