The History of the Russo-Japanese War
RUSSO-JAPANESEI WAR (1904-05). A conflict between Russia and Japan growing out of Russia's attempt to make herself the most powerful nation in the Far Fast and her share in the curtailment of the conquests Japan had made at the expense of China in 1895. In that year Japan secured a foothold on the mainland of Asia by the acquisition of the Liaotung peninsula. Russia in concert with France and Germany compelled Japan to retrocede this rich province to China. In 1898 Russia leased this same peninsula and made Port Arthur the much desired ice-free, port and naval base on the Pacific. In 1900, in spite of her treaty stipulations, Russia further extended her sphere of influence by obtaining control of Manchuria as a result of the Boxer uprising. (See China; FAR EASTERN QUESTION.) The immediate cause of the war was Russia's attempt to extend her methods of Russification and exploitation to Korea, which Japan considered her special sphere of influence. After several attempts to settle the difficulties by treaties in which Japan demanded especially the open-door policy in Korea and a delimitation of the influence of the two countries in Manchuria, war was declared on Feb. 10, 1904, although hostilities actually began almost a week previous.
Naval Operations. Active preparations for war had been going on for months in the two countries, The Japanese fleet had been put in first-class condition and was far superior to the Russian fleet in Eastern waters. The first engagement occurred on Feb. 8-9, 1904, when Admiral Togo (q.v,) surprised the Russian fleet just outside the harbor of Port Arthur and damaged it to such an extent that while it was being repaired, it was possible for Japan to transport troops to the mainland without interference. The activities during the neat three months consisted mainly of raids by the Vladivostok fleet, in which several transports and large quantities of contraband were captured or destroyed. The second week in August was a disastrous one for the Russians. The Port Arthur fleet was practically put out of action for the rest of the war in a long-range running fight on August 10. One vessel was interned at Kiaochow and another at Shanghai. Those that were able to get back to Port Arthur were destroyed just before the surrender of that city, without putting to sea again. Admiral VithŲft was killed in the engagement. The Vladivostok fleet was also seriously damaged on August 14 by Admirals Kamimura and Uriu. The Rurik was sunk and the other ships escaped, but only after serious injury.
Russia hastily collected another fleet in the Baltic and dispatched it to the Far East. It was poorly manned and disciplined, as is attested by the fact that it fired on British fishing boats on the Doggerbank as well as on some of its own vessels. Admiral Rozhdestvensky (q.v.) was in command. After taking aboard provisions and coal in Madagascar and French Indo-China, despite Japan's protest, it proceeded northward through the Sea of Japan. The main fleet consisted of 35 vessels, of which the most important were 8 battleships, 9 cruisers, and 7 destroyers. The enemy was sighted near Tsushima. It appeared unexpectedly from the east and found the Russian fleet arrayed for an attack from the west. Although the fight lasted two days it was decided in the first hour. The Russians lost 26 ships, about 4000 men, and 7000 prisoners. Six ships were interned in Manila and Shanghai. The Japanese lost 3 destroyers and about 670 killed and wounded.
Military Operations. The first important battle in the land activities was called the battle of the Yalu. General Kuropatkin, the commander in chief of the Russian forces, determined to hold a defensive position on the Liaotung peninsula until sufficient reŽnforeements arrived to assure some degree of success to an offensive movement. Instead of concentrating in Mukden or Port Arthur, he determined to make his base at Liao-Yang and to fortify a position along the Yalu River. Consequently he spread his force of between 15,000 and 20,000 men over a distance of 15 miles from the mouth of the river through his main position at Kiulien-cheng. He was outnumbered almost four to one by the Japanese under General Kuroki. The latter forced the passage of the river and completely routed the Russians, who lost 2300 men. The Japanese loss was about 1100.
The second Japanese army under General Oku was landed at Pi-tzŻ Wo (q.v.), north of Nanshan on the Liaotung peninsula early in May, for the investment of Port Arthur. Oku, with about 40,000 men and 216 guns and with the aid of the guns of the fleet, captured Nanshan on May 25, with the loss of 4300 men. The Russians lost 835. Dalny was occupied May 30, and the third Japanese army under General Nogi (q.v.) disembarked at this point to relieve Oku of the investment of Port Arthur. Oku turned north to meet an army under General Stackelberg, which Kuropatkin had sent to the relief of Port Arthur. Stackelberg was decisively defeated at Wafangkou by Oku and was compelled to retreat hastily northward.
The Japanese plans of campaign now called for a concentrated attack on Liao-Yang, where they hoped to fight the decisive battle of the war. For this purpose Generals Kuroki, Oku, and Nodzu (commander of a fourth army) united. In the battle which followed the Russians and Japanese were drawn up in two arcs. The Russian, 20 miles long, had its base at LiaoYang; the second line, under command of Stackelberg, rested on Hsin-Min-Tun hill. The Japanese, 70 miles long, was in front of the city. The Russians had about 200,000 men and 650 guns, the Japanese 220,000 men and 700 guns. On August 26 the Japanese attacked along the entire line and drove the Russian right back on the city. The left was turned in an unsuccessful attempt to cut off the retreat to Mukden. The Japanese were victorious along the whole line under cover of the artillery and entered the city on September 4, but their troops were too exhausted to press the pursuit, The Russian loss is estimated at 16,000 officers and men and the Japanese from 18,000 to 20,000.
In October, after the formation of a second Manchurian army, the Russians determined to take the offensive and gradually work their way southward. This movement was checked at the battle of the Sha River, which the Russians had crossed. The armies were drawn up in parallel lines, the Russian rear resting on the Sha. As Kuropatkin was forced to weaken his right wing to protect his centre, Nodzu took advantage of the move and Kuropatkin was compelled to retreat after losing approximately 25 per cent of his army of 60,000 men. A return offensive movement under General Gripenberg (battle of Hei-ku-tai, Jan. 25-26, 1905) was nearly successful, but upon the arrival of Japanese reŽnforcements was abandoned, with a loss of 10,000 men.
While the Russians were being pushed further from the seaboard, General Nogi was engaged in the reduction of Port Arthur. The army with the aid of the fleet occupied, one by one. all the positions commanding the fortress (August-October). During December the advanced positions of the fort itself were taken with considerable losses and on Jan. 2, 1905, the terms of capitulation were signed. Approximately 41,500 Russians under the command of General Stoessel surrendered.
The final battle of the war was that which resulted in the fall of Mukden. This was the most tremendous battle in history up to that time. The Russians were drawn up before the city in the shape of a crescent. The Japanese aim was to fold in the points of the crescent and form a circle with the entire Russian army and Mukden in the centre. Kuropatkin determined the plan of attack by weakening his right wing in order to cover his retreat. The Japanese, taking advantage of this, attacked the Russian right in force and finally compelled Kuropatkin to withdraw his left and centre across the Hun River to prevent the enveloping movement the Japanese were attempting. The task was hopeless for the Russians. Kuropatkin was forced to fall back upon the city and, as Nogi had pierced his centre (which permitted the retreat of the left wing), his retreat was cut off. Mukden was entered by the Japanese on March 10. The Russian losses were over 90,000, the Japanese 40,000 to 50,000. This practically ended the continental campaign. During July the Japanese occupied the Russian island Sakbalin (q.v.).
Treaty of Portsmouth. At the instigation of Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, eommissioners from both the belligerents met at Portsmouth, N. H., in August-September, 1905, and concluded a treaty of peace which was ratified on October 14 by the emperors of Russia and Japan. The chief provisions were: Russia transferred Port Arthur and adjacent territory to Japan; Russia recognized the paramount interest of Japan in Korea; Manchuria was to be restored to China; the portion of Sakhalin south of the fiftieth parallel of latitude was ceded to Japan.
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. XX (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 266-268.