The first hour of the contest decided its issue.
Continuing The Russo-Japanese War,
with a selection from Article in Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume XX by Charles F. Horne published in 1914. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. This selection is presented in nine easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in The Russo-Japanese War.
Place: Tsuhima Strait
In this, the greatest naval conflict of modern times, the Japanese had four battleships. The Russians had eight, but these were older and feebler than those of the foe; and in cruisers, torpedo-boats, and other lesser craft Togo had the advantage. He was also successful in maneuvering for position. The Russians apparently expected to be attacked from the east, from Japan, and advanced in two columns, all their stronger ships on the supposed side of danger. But Togo came upon them from the west, from Korea, and so, meeting the feebler column first, seriously damaged it before attacking the heavier ships. The main cause of victory seems to have been the superior effectiveness of the Japanese gunfire; though Admiral Togo’s official report attributes all his success to the virtues of the Japanese Emperor and of that gentleman’s beneficent ancestors.
The first hour of the contest decided its issue. After that the Russian ships, badly damaged, lost formation, became huddled together, fired wildly, and then scattered in flight. The swifter Japanese vessels pursued them relentlessly hither and thither across the seas. Two battle-ships surrendered, the others were sunk. Of the lesser vessels, six escaped to neutral ports and were there dismantled, five were captured, and sixteen destroyed. Admiral Rojestvensky was carried, badly wounded, from the sinking wreck of his flagship to a torpedo-destroyer, and on board this smaller vessel was surrendered as a prisoner. Of all the mighty fleet, only two fugitive vessels reached their destination, Vladivostok. Never was naval victory more complete and overwhelming.
Russia, thus defeated and temporarily helpless on both land and sea, made no overtures toward peace. Her distance from the seat of war, which before had so hampered her, now proved her salvation. She sat silent in her distant cities, where no blow could reach her. She strained every nerve to create fresh armies; and Linievitch was again reinforced. Japan, however, wisely refused to destroy herself as Napoleon had done, by advancing into the fastnesses of the North. Instead, she bethought herself of her ancient possession, the arctic island of Saghalien, wrested from her in her days of weakness by the same foe. A force was sent to take possession of Saghalien, and overran it almost without opposition. Then came a pause of inertia.
The monstrous spectacle of suffering soldiery and starving peasants had begun to rouse a pitying cry from all the outside world. Sorrow and shame for our common human nature revolted against the awful holocaust of human lives. The United States, as the nation farthest removed from the scene of strife, could most easily intervene without suspicion of self-interest, and President Roosevelt appealed to both sides to make peace. Under his auspices was arranged a conference at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, between the Russian envoys, M. Sergius Witte and Baron Rosen, and the Japanese, Baron Komura and Mr. Kogoro Takahira. At first there seemed little chance that the conferees could agree on terms of settlement. Japan insisted on the attitude of a conqueror. Not only did she demand the points she had fought for — Port Arthur and the Russian withdrawal from Manchuria and Korea — but she asked also for Saghalien, for a huge money indemnity, and for restrictions to be placed upon the naval force Russia might ever assemble in the East. Mr. Witte, on his side, maintained that Russia was undefeated. She had but engaged in a frontier contest, and had met temporary reverses which left her main strength unimpaired, and for which, if the war continued, she would exact a fearful vengeance. The Russian Government might yield on the original matter of dispute, but these new demands were humiliations, calling for confessions of defeat to which she would never consent.
For a time the conference was at a standstill. Agreement between these widely diverging views seemed hopeless. But President Roosevelt again lent his aid to the discussion; he pleaded with the envoys, and finally he appealed to the two emperors themselves. Nicholas of Russia offered to give up half of Saghalien, as it had once belonged to Japan. Mutsuhito of Japan then suddenly bade his envoys to yield all the other disputed points. From the Russian official standpoint, this means that Japan confessed herself too much exhausted to continue the gigantic conflict. The Japanese say that in the interests of humanity, of Russia’s suffering peasantry, as well as their own, they resolved, and could afford, to be magnanimous. The preliminary peace treaty was signed at Portsmouth, August 29, 1905. One more enormous and momentous war had become in its turn a matter of the past.
Stated in briefest and most obvious form the results of the war appear to be: First, several most valuable military and naval lessons have been supplied for the study of future generals and the guidance of future statecraft. Second, the evil and incompetence of the Russian autocratic Government has been most startlingly emphasized, and Russia has been plunged into a series of internal revolutions, the ultimate results of which lie still beyond our vision. Third, Japan has been accepted among the powers of the earth, ranking perhaps with Italy or Austria, though not, of course, with England or Russia; for it must be kept always in mind that Russia fought under the enormous disadvantage of having to exert herself thousands of miles away from the center of her strength. Fourth, and most important of all, a check has been given to the mighty onrush of Caucasian dominion over the earth. This war constitutes the only military success of a non-Aryan as against an Aryan people in modern times. This has perhaps changed the fate of all the Asiatic races, though only later generations can know whether Japanese intellect, patriotism, and indifference to death are indeed to constitute a lasting barrier against the hitherto hardly disputed supremacy of the Aryans.
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