The Project Gutenberg EBook of Port Arthur, by Richard Barry

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Title: Port Arthur
       A Monster Heroism

Author: Richard Barry

Release Date: November 23, 2017 [EBook #56038]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by John Campbell and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
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Some minor changes are noted at the end of the book.


From a painting by Massanovich From Everybody’s Magazine, by permission
Out from the maize, on a dog trot, springs a battalion, pushing across the winnowed terraces, over the stubble. Scientific fanatics, they, pressing on up to the griddle of death.





Illustrations from Photographs
taken on the field by the Author




Copyright, 1905, by
Moffat, Yard & Company

Published April, 1905


Grateful acknowledgment of permission to reprint some of the articles and photographs which enter, with additional new material, into the redaction of this volume is made to the Century Magazine, Everybody’s Magazine, Collier’s Weekly, the Saturday Evening Post, the Scientific American, the London Fortnightly Review and Westminster Gazette, the Paris L’Illustration and Le Monde Illustre, and the London Illustrated News, Black and White, Sphere and Graphic, in which journals they in part originally appeared. The reproduction of the frontispiece in oils by Mazzanovich, redrawn from Mr. Barry’s snapshot on the field, is here made by courtesy of Everybody’s Magazine.

[Pg 7]


The Siege at a Glance15
The Investment, Siege, and Capture of Port Arthur17
The City of Silence33
The Invisible Army40
Two Pictures of War—A Glance Back67
The Japanese Kitchener81
203-Meter Hill118
A Son of the Soil142
The Bloody Angle152
A Battle in the Storm164
The Cremation of a General183
The General’s Pet191
Courting Death Under the Forts198
From Kitten to Tiger211
Scientific Fanatics234
Japan’s Grand Old Man253
The Cost of Taking Port Arthur276
A Contemporary Epic289
The New Siege Warfare316
The Downfall339



Going into Action. From a Painting by Massanovich. Out from the maize, on a dog trot, springs a battalion, across the terraces, over the stubble, these Scientific Fanatics press on, up the Griddle of DeathFrontispiece
Richard Barry and Frederick Villiers. They were mess-mates during the siege. Mr. Villiers, the veteran war artist of seventeen campaigns, was dean of the War Correspondents at Port Arthur. The photograph shows them before their Dalny home34
Starting for Port Arthur. Reserve regiment leaving Dalny for the firing line, eighteen miles away46
General Baron Nogi, Commander of the Third Imperial Japanese Army, studying the Defenses of Port Arthur in his Manchurian Garden in the Willow Tree Village62
General Baron Kodama, Chief of the Japanese Staff, standing on his door step84
Bo-o-om! Discharge of the Japanese 11-inch mortar during the Grand Bombardment of October 29th. This gun stood a mile and a half from Port Arthur and is shown firing into the Two Dragon Redoubt. The vibration made a clear photograph impossible112
The Hyposcope. Lieutenant Oda looking from 203-Meter Hill through the hyposcope at the Russian fleet in the new harbor at Port Arthur120
[12] Orphans. Driven from home by shells which killed their father and mother, these brothers tramped from camp to camp selling eggs148
Human Barnacles. Clinging to the bases of the forts, like barnacles to a ship, these sturdy Japanese existed in wretched quarters throughout the summer, autumn and half the winter160
Ammunition for the Front180
How They Got in. Eighteen miles of these terminal trenches were dug through the plain before the Russian forts202
The Last Word. The officer is giving last instructions to his men before the Grand Assault of September 21st. This photograph was taken in the front Parallel, 300 yards from the Cock’s Comb Fort222
Preparing for Death. A superstition holds that the Japanese soldier who dies dirty finds no place among the Shinto shades; so, before going into action, every soldier changes his linen, as this one is doing241
A map of Port Arthur. Showing the defenses and the direction of the Japanese attack281
Home. The shack, 800 yards from the firing line, occupied for three months by the fighting General Oshima, Commander of the Ninth Division290
Plunder. Showing Adjutant Hori, Secretary to General Oshima, standing near plunder taken from the captured Turban Fort290
In action. Loading a 4.7 gun of the ordinary field artillery during the assault of September 20th312
The Osacca Babe. Loading the 11-inch coast defense mortar during the general bombardment of October 29th, two miles from Port Arthur332


Cloud girt among her mountains,

Nippon, in wrath as of old,

Unleashes her young warrior;

Lo, the world’s champion behold!

He comes abysmal as chaos,

A boy with the smile of a girl,

Tumbles his man with a handshake,

And spits him up with a twirl.

Nourished on rice and a dewdrop,

He fans him to sleep with a star,

Believing the fathers of Nippon

Created things as they are.

So up and across the short ocean

He sails to the land of can’t,

To keep up the name of his fathers

And smash down the things that shan’t.

Ah! What a freshet of glory

When into the noisy fray

Against a shaggy old giant

Comes this youth asmile and gay!



The sea attack on Port Arthur began on February 9th, 1904, at noon. The land isolation occurred on May 26th, when the Second Army, under General Oku, took Nanshan Hill. Four grand series of Russian defenses from Nanshan down the peninsula were then taken by the Japanese. The capture of Taikushan on August 9th, of Shokushan two days later, and of Takasakiyama the following day, drove the Russians into their permanent works. The real siege of Port Arthur began, thus, on August 12th, and continued for four months and nineteen days.

The failure of the first grand assault, continuing seven days from August 19th, forced Nogi and his army to go slowly about the terrific job of digging a way into the fortress. In the following four months there occurred six more grand assaults, the periods between them being occupied in mining, sapping, and engineering.[16] What was known as the second assault was made from September 19th to 25th; the third from October 29th to November 1st; the fourth from November 28th to 30th; the fifth from December 4th to 9th; the sixth from December 18th to 20th; the final assault from December 28th to 31st. The morning of January 1st, 1905, General Stoessel, the Russian commander, asked for terms of capitulation, and the following day these terms were submitted and ratified.

The grand strategy of the Japanese operations was simple. It comprehended one brief design: to demonstrate on the west, where 203-Meter Hill is, while the infantry and the heavy ordnance smashed the Russian right center, where are located the principal Russian forts, Keekwan (Cock’s Comb), Ehrlung (Two Dragons), and Panlung (Eternal Dragon). Four and a half months of sapping, mining, bombarding, and hand-to-hand fighting, than which history holds no record of more desperate contest, won the forts of the Cock’s Comb and the Two Dragons for the Japanese. The fall of the Two Dragons on December 31st brought Stoessel to his knees.



In all the long history of military exploits, there is not one that can compare, in point of difficulties surmounted, with the reduction of Port Arthur. That this fortress should have been taken by assault entitles the Japanese operations to rank with the finest work done by any army in any age; that it should have been taken in five months from the day on which the investment was completed (the day on which the Russians were driven into their permanent works) is an exploit which has never been approached. For Port Arthur’s defenses had been laid out on the most modern plan. Nature, moreover, has cast the topographical features of the place on lines that are admirably suited to defense. The harbor is surrounded by two approximately concentric ranges of hills, the crests of which are broken by a series of successive[18] conical elevations. The engineers took the suggestion thus offered, and ran two concentric lines of fortification around the city, building massive masonry forts on the highest summits, and connecting them by continuous defensive works. The inner line of the forts lay at an average distance of one mile from the city, and constituted the main line of permanent defense; the outer line, at an average distance of a mile and a half from Port Arthur. Beyond these again were the semi-permanent defenses. The positions of the various forts were chosen in such a relation to each other that they were mutually supporting—that is to say, if any one were captured by the enemy, it could not be held because it was dominated by the fire from the neighboring forts; and, indeed, it often happened that the Japanese seized positions from which they were driven in this way.

In the majority of cases the slope of the hills was very steep, and what was even worse for the Japanese, smooth and free from cover; so that if an attempt were made to rush the works, a charge would have to be made over a broad glacis, swept by the shrapnel, machine gun, and[19] rifle fire of the defenders. Once across the danger zone, the attack was confronted by the massive masonry parapets of the fort, over which the survivors, cut down to a mere handful, would be powerless to force an entrance.

The defense of Port Arthur, however, did not stop at the outer line of fortifications, but extended no less than eighteen miles to the northward, to a point where the peninsula on which Port Arthur is situated narrows to a width of three miles. Here a range of conical hills, not unlike some of those at Port Arthur, reaches from sea to sea; and these had been ringed with intrenchments for troops and masked (or hidden) emplacements for artillery. Between Nanshan and Port Arthur the Russians had built four more lines of intrenchments, reaching from sea to sea, all very strong and admirably suited for defense. Now it must be borne in mind that all this wonderful net-work of fortifications, strong by nature of the ground, strong by virtue of the great skill and care with which it had been built, was distinguished from all other previous defensive works by the fact that in this fortress, for the first time, were utilized all those[20] terrible agencies of war which the rapid advance of science in the past quarter of a century has rendered available. Among these we may mention rapid-fire guns, machine guns, smokeless powder, artillery of high velocity and great range, high explosive shells, the magazine rifle, the telescopic sight giving marvelous accuracy of fire, the range-finder giving instantaneously the exact distance of the enemy, the searchlight, the telegraph and the telephone, starlight bombs, barbed-wire entanglements, and a dozen other inventions, all of which were deemed sufficient, when applied to such stupendous fortifications as those of Port Arthur, to render them absolutely impregnable.

The Russians believed them to be so—certainly the indomitable Stoessel did. And well he might; for there was no record in history of any race of fighters, at least in modern times, that could face such death-dealing weapons, and not melt away so swiftly before their fury as to be swept away in defeat.

But a new type of fighter has arisen, as the sequel was to tell.

On February 8, 1904, the first blow fell upon[21] Port Arthur in that famous night attack by the torpedo boats. On February 9th occurred the engagement between the remnant of the Russian fleet and the Japanese fleet under Admiral Togo which ended in the Russian retreat into the harbor and the closing of Port Arthur by sea.

On May 26th the Japanese Second Army, which had been landed at Petsewo Bay, attacked the first line of defense at Nanshan, eighteen miles north of Port Arthur, and gave an inkling of the mettle of the Japanese troops by capturing the position in a frontal attack. The Japanese pushed on to Port Arthur and there followed, in quick succession, a series of bloody struggles at the successive lines of defense in which the Japanese would not be denied. The fiercest fight took place at the capture of a double height, Kenshan and Weuteughshan, which Stoessel re-attacked vainly for three days, losing three times as many men as were lost originally in the attempt to hold the position.

On May 29th Dalny was occupied, and became the base of the besieging army. A railway runs from Dalny for three miles to a junction with the main line from the north to Port Arthur.


On August 9th to 11th the outlying semi-permanent works Taikushan and Shokushan, lying about three and one-half miles from Port Arthur, were taken, and the Russians driven in to their permanent positions.

The army detailed for the capture of Port Arthur was 60,000 strong; Stoessel at the date of the battle of Nanshan probably had 35,000 men.

Encouraged by their uninterrupted success in capturing Russian intrenchments by dashing frontal attack, the Japanese, particularly after their brilliant success of August 9th to 11th, believed that they could storm the main defenses in like manner. They hurled themselves against the Russian right center in a furious attack upon the line of forts stretching from the railway around the easterly side of the town to the sea. For seven days they battled furiously. But the wave of conquest that had flowed over four lines of defense, broke utterly against the fifth; and after a continuous struggle, carried on day and night, beneath sunlight, moon, and searchlight, they retired completely baffled, with an awful casualty list of 25,000 men.


On September 1st the Japanese, finding that they could not take Port Arthur by assault, settled down to reduce it by an engineering siege. This latter was carried on by means of “sapping and mining,” supported by heavy bombardment, its object being to shake the defense by terrific artillery fire, blow up the parapets and other defenses by subterranean mines, and capture the fortress by fierce assaults delivered from concealed trenches close to the fortifications. Sapping and mining may be described as a method of attack by tunneling. The Japanese found that they could not get into the forts by a rush above ground, so they determined to burrow in below ground. The main attack was directed against the line of forts to the east of the city, or the Russian right center. The first operation was to cut a deep trench, not less than six feet in depth and a dozen or more feet in width, roughly parallel with the line of forts, and at a distance of about 1,000 yards therefrom. From this trench three lines of zigzag trenches were dug in the direction of the principal forts of Ehrlung, Keekwan, and Panlung. These trenches were about six feet deep (deep enough[24] to hide the sappers from view) and eight feet wide (wide enough to allow the troops to march to the assault four abreast). The zigzag consisted of an alternate approach and parallel, the former extending diagonally toward the fortification, the latter parallel with it. The angle of the diagonal approaches was always carefully mapped out by the engineers, and was so laid with reference to the enemy’s forts that it could neither be seen nor reached by shell fire. The digging was done chiefly at night, and the soil was carried back through the excavated trenches in gabions and on stretchers, and dumped out of sight of the enemy. As the parallels were advanced across the valley or level spaces, they were roofed at intervals, with planks covered with soil and grass, so that as the Russians looked out toward the ravine in which the army was supposed to be encamped, there was nothing to indicate that the enemy was cutting a series of covered roadways, right up to the base of the forts themselves. Of course in many cases the trenches were located, and desperate night sorties were made in the endeavor to break up the work. But it went remorselessly forward.[25] When the foot of the fortified slopes was reached, a second great parallel, extending around the whole face of the fortified eastern front, was cut—this latter for the purpose of assembling the troops for the final dash upon the forts. From this parallel the Japanese cut tunnels straight through the hills until they found themselves immediately below the massive parapets of such forts as they wished to reach. Here cross tunnels were cut, parallel with the walls and immediately below them, in which tons of dynamite were placed and the wires laid ready for the great explosion—much of this being done, it must be remembered, entirely unknown to the Russians, secure in their great fortifications overhead. The work of the sappers and miners was now complete.

It must not be supposed that while this slow work was being carried on, the garrison at Port Arthur, or the city itself, or even the fleet in the harbor, was being left in peace, or had any respite from the harassments of the siege. For as soon as the investment was complete, the Japanese erected hidden batteries in various carefully-selected positions, until they had no less[26] than 300 guns trained against the city. All the furious assaults that failed so disastrously were preceded by bombardments, the like of which had never been witnessed in the history of the world. These batteries consisted of regular siege guns of from 5 inches to 6 inches caliber, a large number of naval guns of 4.7-inch and 6-inch caliber, and the regular field ordnance of the three divisions and two independent brigades composing the Third Imperial Army.

By far the most formidable pieces used in the bombardment, however, were the powerful 11-inch mortars, which were mounted in batteries of from two to four in various positions behind the ranges of hills which effectually screened the Japanese from Russian observation. The pieces are the Japanese latest type of coast-defense mortars, such as are used along the Straits of Shimoneseki and about the Bay of Yezo. They were brought by sea to Dalny, carried by railroad for a distance of fifteen miles to the end of the track, and from thence were hauled by hand over special tracks laid direct to the emplacements. In some cases, indeed, the guns were dragged on rollers through the sand, as many[27] as 800 men being required to haul a single mortar; for the mortar barrels, without the carriage, weigh eight tons apiece. This task was accomplished under fire, in rainy weather, and in the night, to the accompaniment of bursting shrapnel and other discouragements which would have daunted a less dauntless race. Even when the selected site of the batteries was reached, every one of the eighteen mortars had to be placed upon a concrete foundation eight feet in depth and eighteen feet in diameter. In each case an excavation had to be dug, the concrete prepared and rammed into place, the heavy foundation plates, traversing racks, and the massive gun carriage, weighing much more than the gun itself, erected and adjusted, and the whole of the heavy and costly piece put together with the greatest nicety. All through the long months in which the sappers and miners were cutting their trenches, the engineers were putting in place these huge mortars, which were not originally intended, be it remembered, for such field operations as these; but were designed for permanent sea-coast fortifications around the harbors of Japan.


The mortar itself has a bore of 28 centimeters, or 11 inches. The shells are designed to burst on contact. They are loaded with a high explosive designed by the Japanese Dr. Shimose, and corresponding in its terrific bursting effects to the English lyddite, the French melinite, and our own maximite. Each shell weighs 500 pounds. Its cost is $175, and the cost of each discharge, including that of the impelling power, is about $400. During the heavy bombardments, each gun was fired once every eight minutes, and as the grand bombardment lasted in every case about four hours, the cost for these mortar batteries alone must have been over $200,000, and for the whole of the batteries, including naval guns, machine guns, etc., the cost of each bombardment was approximately half a million dollars. The 11-inch mortar has a maximum range, with a moderate degree of elevation, of seven or eight miles; but as none of these batteries were more than three miles distant from the point of attack, they were fired at angles of as great as sixty degrees, the huge shells hurtling high into the heavens, passing over two ranges of hills, and falling like thunderbolts[29] out of the blue sky, vertically upon the devoted city.

But if the batteries were located behind hills that entirely shut out the object of attack from view, how, it will be asked, could the guns be aimed with such accuracy, to sink, as they did, a whole fleet of warships, one by one? It was in this way: For the attack of stationary objects such as forts, docks, buildings, ships at anchor, etc., the artillery officers were provided with a map of the whole area of bombardment, which was laid out in squares, each square having its own number. The Japanese having, at the close of the Chinese war, been in possession of Port Arthur themselves, and having possessed during the past few years an excellent bureau of intelligence, knew the exact location of every building or object of importance in and around the city. Consequently, when the artillery officers were directed to attack a building in a certain square, or a particular fort, they knew exactly what angle of elevation to give their gun, and how far to traverse it, so as to cause the shell to fall with mathematical accuracy upon the particular object to be hit.


The attack upon the warships, however, was another proposition, for they could be, and were, shifted, from time to time. To make sure of hitting them, it was necessary to have some direct line of vision. The Japanese knew that such a line of vision could be obtained from the top of a hill to the west of the city known as 203-Meter Hill—the Russians knew it, too. Hence that awful struggle for possession of this hill, which cost so many thousands of lives. The Japanese won the position. When they had taken it, they placed observers provided with the hyposcope—a telescope that enables the observer to observe the surrounding country with out exposing himself above the surrounding parapet—upon the summit, in suitable positions, and held the hill with sufficient force to prevent its being retaken. The batteries were then trained at the individual warships, and the effects of the shells was telephoned from 203-Meter Hill to the various batteries, and the errors corrected, according as they were long, short, or wide, until the huge shells commenced to drop with unerring accuracy down through the decks and out through the bottom of the doomed warships.[31] The ships tried to escape observation by hiding on the outside of the harbor behind the Tiger’s Tail hills, and in a cove behind Golden Hill; but there was no escape, and ultimately every ship of the squadron was sunk.

That was the beginning of the end. The 11-inch batteries when directed at the forts tore gaping holes in the parapets, and according to the testimony of General Stoessel, they were simply irresistible. One by one, after furious bombardments, the walls of the great forts were blown up by the explosion of the subterranean mines that had been laid by the sappers and miners, and the Japanese massed in readiness for the attack in the inner parallels swept in through the wide gaps thus formed, and seized the fortifications, from which, a few months before, they had been swept back in terrible and crushing defeat.



Chapter One

Dalny, August 3d: Guns have blown their thunder to us distantly all the afternoon. The sounds boom a low thud with monotonous distinctness. Lounging on the taffrail of a small cargo steamer in Dalny Bay they strike those of us who are innocent of war, who have never felt the thrill, the halt and the plunge of battle as tame; almost without interest. In a California cottage, a summer’s night, a mile from the seashore I have listened before now to the surf climb up and lay down upon the beach with the same heavy lust.

This sound has in it, too, something of nature’s immanence and majesty; an elemental force of decay and a primal grandeur of progress. Yet[34] it is ominously deadly. The sky above is a perfect azure, the sea below a perfect turquoise, the town beyond a haze of tranquil ocher. We are lying among warships, but they are silent. Beyond us a troopship is unloading a thousand conscripts for the trenches, but they are silent. The city of Dalny is beautiful—and silent. Silence everywhere. Then comes that boom—silence—boom—boom—boom! The captain steps up and speaks a few words. We begin to realize that we are listening to siege guns pounding the life out of a doomed city. The captain waves an arm toward a point of land to be seen faintly through a glass. Only half a day’s walk that way and beyond—to the southeast—lies Port Arthur.

We are ten. Yesterday there landed here eight military observers—four British, one Spaniard, one German, one Chilean and one American. These eighteen have been assigned by the Japanese Government to the army now operating against Port Arthur. The eighteen are the only Occidentals who will see the siege.

Richard Barry and Frederic Villiers. Mr. Villiers (in knickerbockers) the veteran of seventeen campaigns, was Dean of the War Correspondents before Port Arthur.

Four days ago we left Moji in a transport steamer, the Oyomaru. The ship’s name tells[35] of the trip—“The prosperous ocean ship.” We might have come across a millpond so placid was our journey. Yesterday afternoon we sighted a line of sand piles and verdure-covered rocks rising out of the ocean. We were about to steam past when a flash of sunlight, like a gay salute from a boy’s pocket mirror, struck our bow. It was the heliograph. The Oyomaru put to port and slid in under the lee of the islands. As we came up an old gray battleship veered on her anchor to give us room and as we turned her bows we floated in among the fleet, dragging at its chains, steam up, waiting to dash at the word to Port Arthur, four miles away.

We were at the Elliot Islands, inhabited by fisher folk and seized by the Japanese for a naval base. Around us lay the silence of death, though twenty men-of-war were within gun shot. Only the spiral upshoot of smoke from fifty stacks and the heave and push of tide-driven fighting craft gave evidence of the tensity we were in. From the highest hill a thin shaft, like a straw in the wind, cut against the sunset. There lay the wireless-telegraph station to which[36] are flashed signals from the torpedo craft and cruisers guarding the mouth of Port Arthur.

At dawn we left the fleet, silent, with that lazy curl of smoke uplifting its ragged fringe. On for five hours we came at ten knots until we rounded a cape and turned into Talienwan Bay. In the farther curve, as a pebble in a sling, lay Dalny.

“It looks like Greece; the Piraeus with Marathon in the distance,” said Frederic Villiers. I thought of another place; San Diego Bay with Point Loma curving a crescent out of the Pacific.

The Russians came here to stay; that is plain. We can see miles of brick buildings, some five stories high. The great brick chimney of an electric light plant towers above the city. The public buildings, hospitals, schools and railroad station are as fine as those of Los Angeles. Costly villas with spacious grounds, coolie covered, stretch back under the hillsides. A zoological garden of several dozen acres can be seen off at the left. There are miles of new wharves cemented and built with stone. Two piers strike out four hundred yards into the harbor,[37] locked down by solid masonry. A breakwater half a mile long stretches at our stern.

Ten years ago could the Romanoff seated in the Winter Palace at Petersburg, placing a finger on the map of western Asia, as he said: “Let there be a Russian city here;”—could he possibly have foreseen to-day?—the Russians gone, half of the magnificent city burned, the safe and beautiful harbor filled with Japanese transports and men-of-war, the railway held for a Japanese line of advance and Russian prestige on the Manchurian littoral smashed like a rotten egg!

This afternoon we have found how desperate the silence is. For mere movement after three days on shipboard and five months solitary confinement in Tokyo we asked to launch the ship’s boat and row about the harbor. The captain assented. Eight of us got in and started off among the transports. Next to us was a hospital ship painted white with a green stripe running across her middle like an abdominal bandage round an invalid. “Looks as enticing as a cocktail before dinner,” said one of the boys. It did have a cool glance that must be grateful[38] to a wounded man just in from the battlefield. We but turned her bows when we ran into a warship—a gunboat of the third class. She was in black, with red stripes about her portholes and stanchions. The gun carriages were outlined in red—stuff put on to keep off rust. Just beyond the gunboat lay a torpedo destroyer—the most devilish craft that floats—long, thin, low, with four thick funnels above engines like a bull’s lungs.

As we passed the gunboat a bugle piped “to quarters” and several officers turned their glasses on us. But on we went, gay with the freedom of the lark, and stretching our ship-bound muscles against the buffeting of the choppy sea. Yonder lay the torpedo boats and brother destroyers and beyond an armored cruiser of the second class. The cruiser piped “to quarters” and more glasses were leveled on us.

About this time the coxswain turned her nose to the Oyomaru, but before we got there the ship’s sampan glided alongside, the mate in her alive, jabbering Nipponese and gesticulating toward the ship. We hurried back.


As we climbed on board Villiers yelled: “You’ve spoiled it now. You’ll never see Port Arthur.”

Then we found we had created a sensation—this strange boat manned by eight foreigners, appearing in broad afternoon in the harbor of the nearest naval base to the scene of the fleet’s activities. Two warships had prepared to fire on us at word of command and signaling from the fleet to the shore had only found that it was “supposed” we were “neutral allies,” but that officially we could not be recognized. The captain was reprimanded and we were told to keep close to the ship until released. Tokyo had said nothing of us to Dalny. To-morrow we will be released. But we will not again go about the harbor. We will go on shore. We will have ears and eyes, but no legs or tongues.


Chapter Two

Ho-o-zan, (the Phœnix Mountain) three miles from and looking into Port Arthur, Sept. 14th: Here we are with the Third Imperial Army waiting for Russia’s downfall in the Far East. With her fleet gone, Russia’s sea power has vanished. With Kuropatkin smashed it will be another year before she can have a great army in the field. So now there remains only impregnable Port Arthur to say that Russia but eight months ago held all Manchuria.

Ten of us are privileged to follow the fortunes of the army of investment. We alone of eighty-four war correspondents who entered the field are here to record the details of a siege that promises to go down in history with Plevna and Sebastopol. At the present time I may tell you only of how the army lives and works, and what sensations engulf one in the midst of this elemental[41] contest at the apex of a world, where two civilizations are in life and death throes.

Impregnable is the word for the line of forts confronting us. Military authorities innumerable have predicted it would never be taken from a white soldiery, although Japan ten years ago did take it, in a single day of fierce assault, from the weakly armed and poorly trained Chinese. But through seven years Russia has been preparing for what she faces to-day—a great army of veteran troops from a warlike nation, equipped for scientific fighting and officered by men trained in the best schools in the world. She has repaired and rebuilt the old Chinese Wall till it lies across the back of the city, from sea to sea, a buttress of protection and menace, plentifully loopholed for rifles and hung at intervals, like huge fobs on a gigantic chain, with forts. Every natural elevation is commanded by a battery, and every weak depression built up for similar defense. Six miles from sea to sea, convex into the valley, and cutting off the apex of the Liaotung peninsula as a conical cake might be cut by a spoon, lies this bristling line. Looking at it, and what confronts it from above,[42] this appears as grand a battlefield as the mind can conceive.

The mere names of some of the forts bring gleams of the situation. To our right, in the center, lie Anzushan and Etzeshan, the Chair and Table Mountains. Some giant might hang his legs over Anzushan and sup from Etzeshan, but were he built in proportion he would be nearly two thousand feet high, for they rise from the valley precipitously half that distance. It was here, the key to the center, that the Japanese pierced the line ten years ago, but they have tried no such move this time; a different foe confronts them now. Far beyond the Chair and Table Mountains, the key to the outer, we see Golden Mount, the key to the inner defenses, at once a sea and land fort. It shines glorious and confident in the sunlight, the model of a conventionally built fortification, rising square and solid from the hills, buttressed with sod and sand bags and parapeted on a bevel.

After all the outer seventeen forts have fallen and after that terrible Chinese Wall has been pierced, there still remains Golden Mount, the Tiger’s Tail and Liaotishan. Just below Golden[43] Mount, to be seen only from a certain angle in the valley in front of us, lie the shattered remnant of the Russian fleet—three gray old battleships, four tarnished cruisers and a half dozen torpedo boats, smashed and done by Togo’s fleet, whose smoke curls irregularly over the sky line as it tugs warily there on perpetual watch, a watch uninterrupted for seven months, in which the monotony has been varied by three great naval battles.

To the right of Golden Mount and still below it lies the new town of Port Arthur built by the Russians. Hid behind a hill is the old town of frame houses. There is not a living thing to be seen on the streets, lying in plain view through a strong glass, as though in miniature on the palm of your hand. It is unharmed and spotless, seemingly in fresh paint. Four sticks piercing the sky line tell of the wireless telegraph station. To the right a huge crane can be seen sticking up to indicate the dock yards and a patch of blue, landlocked water, the west harbor. Nearest us the arsenal and railroad shops are plain. Then comes the railroad mockingly deserted in the sunlight. Then a high embankment[44] shuts the view, but we know that under the embankment nestles a series of barracks. Far out on the plain, between the two armies, and between us on the mountain and the Russian forts, two miles off, a lone factory chimney up-slants to the blue; though bursting shells have been thick about there it is unharmed, and, so far as we can see, Port Arthur is unharmed. So far the Japanese have not shelled it at all. But we are told the navy has wrecked the Russian quarter. The army scorns to destroy the city which now lies at the mercy of its siege guns, just as it scorns to starve out the beleaguered garrison. It is a civilized game the Japanese are playing, one of strategy and force.

Far down in the plain called the Mariner’s, or the Shuishiying Valley, a little to the left and back of the lone chimney, is a great fort known as the Two Dragons, a most difficult place to take because of its long approaches. It is the advance guard of the Russian line; only eight hundred yards from the Japanese trenches. Far out to the right, resting on the northern arm of Pigeon Bay, is a bald-headed peak some eight hundred feet high. This is Liaotishan, the extreme[45] left of the Russian position. Behind the town are great peaks, the highest hereabouts, and on them, in the early morning, four brass cannons can be seen glittering. They are thought to be dummy cannon, for they have not yet spoken.

To the left of the town, with its Golden Mount, begin the really great forts, scenes of carnage destined for history’s brightest page, and about which have taken place the battles I am about to describe. The Eternal Dragon and the three batteries of the Cock’s Comb are the essential. Far behind this Eternal Dragon and the wall, a few hundred yards from the sea, is a wooded driveway, leading to a mountain called Wangtai, or “the watch tower.” Up this, of an afternoon, a carriage can sometimes be seen drawn by white horses. Prisoners tell us it is General Stoessel’s carriage and that he thus goes to his headquarters. Why is he not fired upon? Because he is out of close rifle range and the Japanese never waste a shell on a single man or on even a group.

Occasionally we can see men moving a heavy gun about, or walking in squads through the[46] town. The Japanese wait to concentrate their fire; they never harass the enemy. On the contrary, the Russians, now when they should hoard every shell, waste hundreds each day. They will fling a six-inch screamer at a mule or an umbrella, and no part of the Japanese rear is safe, though distances are so great that the chances of being hit are one in a thousand.

A reserve regiment leaving Dalny for the firing line eighteen miles away.

All is quiet except that now and then a Russian shell whizzes. The sound can no longer be called the “boom of cannon,” so savage and rending is the detonation of these mighty modern charges. To hear one explode even half a mile off sets every fiber of the body in action, so angry is the report. Infantry popping can be heard, oftenest in the night, as the outposts come together, or the sentries chaff each other by showing dummy heads or arms. But over beyond that ragged line we know that twenty thousand men, driven into a corner—and what a corner it is!—are fighting like rats in a hole, that they are of the same blood that defeated Napoleon when on the defense a century ago, the same that half a century ago stubbornly contested Sebastopol, the same that a quarter of a[47] century ago, at appalling loss of life, reduced the marvelous Plevna. They sit thus hunted, at bay, well ammunitioned and provisioned, determined to sell every ounce of blood dearly.

To take Port Arthur seems impossible. It takes men drunk with victory and strong in ancient might to dare the task. It is only looking at what the Japanese have already taken that makes one have faith in their ability to do what they are now trying; otherwise, looking across at that six-mile line, one would say as he might have said of the ridges lying behind us: human energy and prowess cannot force them; only madmen would attempt it. But the Japanese have already forced at least five positions, seemingly as difficult as Port Arthur. First, they took Nanshan, which was even worse than this, for the approaches were gradual for two miles, while here precipitous heights and deep ravines give shelter. Nanshan the Japanese took in a single desperate day; Kenzan, where they had to climb hand over hand, they scaled in a night; Witozan, where they broke in over parapets built on rocks seven hundred feet above the sea,[48] they reduced at high noon; Anshirey, where the road climbs up a spiral for a mile, and is raked at every yard, they enfiladed and took in two days; and Taikushan, a saddle of malachite and granite straddling the main road to Port Arthur, they shelled out in thirty-six hours. Thus it is we have faith that some morning the world will wake to hear that the Rising Sun flies over Port Arthur, which the military experts of the Powers have declared impregnable.

Bitter as the contest is, war has not touched the bowels of the land. Looking into the plain behind me I can see a score of busy and peaceful villages serene in a sea of golden harvest. Maize and buckwheat, beans and millet, cabbage and barley alternate green and russet over the meadows. Springless bullock carts, ancient as Jerusalem, helped by tiny donkeys and naked children, painfully garner the grain. Women sing in low monotones at the primitive stone mills where blindfolded donkeys travel all day in a circle, grinding out the seed and flour. Lines of coolies wend through the footpaths, spring-kneed with huge weights on limber poles. Shells at the rate of four or five an hour drop[49] into this great area, separated from the field of battle by a range of mountains, plowing up a hill, shattering a house, tearing a road, killing a donkey, wounding a coolie, but of no great damage. No one minds. The harvest goes on. The glorious, golden September continues. The women sing, the naked children play, the tiny donkeys labor.

It is the plain in front, under the Cock’s Comb and the Golden Mount, guarded by the Two Dragons that has desolate quiet. There the maize is untouched and the heavy heads of the millet fall from sheer weight, while the cabbages are crushed by infantry passing in the night. Fires have blackened the villages, the Manchurians have fled, and in ragged lines from sea to sea the two armies hold their hostile trenches, from which, through the twenty-four hours, goes up the intermittent ping and pop of rifle bullets.

What of the army? You cannot see it; much less can you hear it. An army of a hundred thousand men is here, around us, among us, but we do not know it, we can hardly guess it. Little would one think, were it not for the firing, that[50] so much as a company were idling along that plain. A machine gun rattles, a low, deep boom comes from the sea; the forts reply, a flash streaks the air, we see a puff of smoke, then a cloud of earth is thrown up; finally, after a long while, as we are about to turn away, the angry shriek of a shell comes over and we hear it burst a thousand yards below in the valley. Only our ears tell us that war is on. The Japanese are as invisible as the Russians. It will take days and weeks to spy out the labyrinthine ways of this great army as it toils among the hills, into the valley and up the ravines, mounting its guns, and digging its way up to the parapets, where its units will cling, like barnacles to a ship, until the monstrous hulk founders.

But getting down into the rear plain, traveling the road, taking a different one each day, passing among the villages and through the hills, one begins to realize that the country is honeycombed by grim activity. Back and forth, from the front to Cho-ray-che, a railroad station halfway from Port Arthur to Dalny, travel lines of transport. Each line has from one to five dozen light wagons drawn by single small[51] shaggy horses, each guided by a small dust-visaged soldier.

“There is the strength of our army,” said an officer to me one day as a company of them passed, grimed, heated, menial. They are the flower of Japanese youth, clerks, professional men, students, exiled on rice and pickled plums, getting none of the glory of war. They are the unnamed and unknown but all-powerful commissary.

As the transport passes in, loaded with bags of rice, there comes out another line, this time of coolies, paired, and well burdened with human freight. They are bearing the wounded, in bamboo stretchers that do not jolt the piteously shattered frames, to the railroad station, whence they go by train to Dalny, thence by hospital ship to Japan. Every day comes this dribble of wounded, some days only a score, but after a battle the ways are thick with them—hundreds, thousands.

Occasionally, but very seldom, a battalion or a regiment of infantry will be seen moving in, with compact lines, knapsacks on back, bearing rifles with the barrel holes brass covered. The[52] other night over by the western sea I suddenly came upon a troop of cavalry racing along the sands in the sunset. They rode their horses well, considering that the Japanese is not a horseman. Each had an extra mount. They frolicked like plainsmen till the coves rang. I had not seen so much gayety before in all the Japanese army. But what can cavalry do at a siege?

For the sublime we need not go to the firing line where men risk their lives and lose them. At the front of our mountain lies a deep rutted road, at the end of which, hid well among the hills, is the hole for a concrete gun-emplacement, redoubted with sandbags, the glacis slippery with shale. Along this road as the sun sinks we see what looks like a gigantic snake, its tail pulling an ugly head slowly backward, its dust-covered belly squirming laboriously. Descending we find a cable thick as a man’s thigh stretched between two long lines of men, each of whom has hold and is pulling that ugly head—a siege gun—nose and breech clap-boarded, and wallowing, without its carriage, on wooden rollers. We count the men—300. Men alone can do the work, for they alone can move in[53] unison, quietly, at the word of command. There is no noise. The commands cannot be heard five hundred yards away. The three hundred bend their backs as one and the Pride of Osacca bunts her nose through the dust a rod nearer emplacement. They toil there a week to get that monster into position, pygmies moving a power that will rend the mountains, as tradition has it that Hendrick Hudson and his crew moved the ships’ cannon into the Catskills for the eternal generation of Knickerbocker thunder. To look upon that gun, helpless but disputatious in the hands of the three hundred, to realize that a week hence its bulk, into which one of these naked Manchurian children can easily creep, will toss five hundred weight of shell five miles through the air into one of those Russian forts where it will shatter the skill, labor, and life of an Empire—ah, that is sublime! Is it not also terrible?

The same scientific skill with which the gun is handled is seen throughout the army. Even after a battle, in the disorder of regiments, the search for the wounded, the burial of the dead, there is no confusion. All moves quietly and[54] quickly. No officer swears, for the simple reason that the Japanese language hasn’t the words. Only the interpreters, who know English, swear. They, however, can be excused; they handle the correspondents, to whom they can’t speak, as the soldiers do to the Russians, with lead. You read of “the confusion and bustle of an army” and “the terrors of war.” There is no confusion, no terror here. No shrieks, no shouts, no hurrying. Once, as a regiment, after losing half its men, scaled the top parapet of one of those lower forts across the way, it gave out three rapid “Banzais.” Just that triple cry in the early dawn, from troops drunk with victory and mad with fatigue, is about the only evidence I have that the army possesses nerves. It rings in my ears yet and will always ring there—a wild shriek of samurai exultation floating out of the mist of the valley above the voice of rifle and cannon. “The officers lost control for a few minutes, but not for long,” explained a certain general to me later, apologetically. He didn’t countenance such enthusiasm. War is business here—the most superb game of chess ever played upon the chequered board of the world.


One thing that relieves the situation of much of the evident hurry that once made war picturesque is the absence of the orderly. The mounted officer, riding for life, dispatch in breast-pocket or saddle bag, from the general to his brigadiers and his colonels, is food for reminiscence. The telephone rang his knell. This is the first time in history that the field telephone has come successfully into extensive active use. General Nogi can sit in his headquarters, four miles from Port Arthur, and speak with every battery and every regiment lying within sight of the doomed forts. Little bands of uniformed men, carrying bamboo poles and light wire frames on transport carts, and armed with saws and shovels, have intersected the peninsula with lines of instantaneous communication. It is the twentieth century. Yet, as I walked over the hills near the headquarters of the commander of artillery yesterday, I saw, hanging from one of the bamboo poles and all along a wire leading from it to the artillery commander’s tent, strips of white cotton cloth called “goheis.” You can see the same before all the Shinto shrines in Japan. They are offerings[56] of supplication to the spirits of the fathers. Some simple linesman, garbed in khaki and wearing an electric belt, not content with telephonic training, would thus guard his general. “Oh, ye who have watched over Japan, in peril and in safety, from the age of Jimmu, even to the present day,” he cries, “now, in a foreign land, faithfully guard this, our talisman and signal!”

I have said there are no sounds in the Japanese army. But there are—a few. At night, from far back on the rear plain, comes the monosyllabic sound of singing, several companies in unison, interspersed with light laughter—nothing hilarious, nothing loud, only an overflow of happy spirit into the night—never in the daytime, always at night. The song is a long one by Fukishima, a Major-General now in the north with Marshal Oyama, with a refrain: “Nippon Caarte, Nippon Caarte; Rosen Marke-te.” (Russia defeated is, Japan victorious.) The laughter comes from the game they play, something like our fox and geese, an innocent sport with nothing rough about it. Of late the Osacca band has been here, playing for the[57] generals at luncheon and for the convalescents in the field hospitals, but very quiet music—The Geisha, some Misereres, waltzes from Wang, and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s tunes. They avoid the military, the dramatic, and the inspiriting. The music is taken to soothe, just as their surgeons use opium when necessary. How different from the Russian, of whom each regiment has a band busy every day with the pomp and circumstance of conflict! One day, a week before we came here, the Russians made a sortie into the plain, parading for several hundred yards in front of the Two Dragons. That was before the lines were as closely drawn as they are now and the Japanese looked with amusement on the show-off. At the head marched two bands, brassing a brilliant march. Then came the colors flashing in the sun. The officers were dashingly decorated, and the troops wore colored caps. It was a rare treat for the Japanese, for they had never seen anything such as that in their own army. Like a boy bewildered at the gay plumage of a bird he might not otherwise catch, the simple and curious Japanese let the foe vaingloriously march back into the town. So here[58] they sit, playing children’s games, to the chamber music of women, as gentle as girls—but you should see them fight!

The transport camps are sheltered by mountains so high and steep that Russian shells cannot be fired at an angle to drop in behind them. Through one of these nooks I came one morning, unable to find the main road, and pushed among the horses. As I emerged at the farther end a soldier rushed at me with a bayonet and slashed at my legs. The bayonet was sheathed and I had a stout stick, so no damage was done. I soon explained who I was. He sullenly let me pass and his comrades began chaffing him. Some officers across the ravine also laughed. I thought they were laughing at me. Almost any human nature laughs at the foreigner. That was the first evidence of violence and the first evidence of rudeness I had seen in the Japanese soldier. I passed the day off in the regiment and, as night fell, came back through the horses, where I went without comment. Round a corner, out of sight of the camp I suddenly came upon the same soldier apparently waiting to see me. I grasped my stick[59] tightly, but he was weaponless, and advanced smiling, cigarette box in hand. He wanted to apologize and be friends. His comrades had been laughing at him, not at me, and had taunted him till he felt so ashamed of himself that unless I smoked with him and returned for some tea he would never stand right with them again. We had the tea and the whole mess joined in. That was a private soldier—a hostler. The courtesy of the officers is embarrassing, it is so continuous and exacting. Everywhere, from general to private, it is real and delightful, especially toward an American. I have heard many say that it is only a crust, that underneath the Japanese is a devil and a dastard. But a very nice crust. Let us enjoy it; as to the pie underneath, let the Russians testify.

For the essence of courtesy and thoughtfulness there is General Nogi. James Ricalton and I went to call on him two days ago. He spent half an hour with us at his headquarters in the village of Luchufong, which is Chinese for Willow Tree Apartment. It is one of the prettiest villages in the great plain, on the edge of a brook, fringing the zone of fire. Everything[60] shows seclusion and quiet, though there is located the brain that directs these gigantic operations, the girth of which Nogi alone comprehends. “Do you understand the situation?” I asked weeks ago of Frederic Villiers, the veteran English war artist, survivor of seventeen campaigns, present ten years ago at the other fall of Port Arthur, and dean of the war correspondents.

“No,” said he, “I was at Plevna with the Russians, but that was jackstraws to this game of go. I know nothing of go. Ask the military attachés.” In turn I asked the different military attachés—the German, French, English, Chilean, Spanish, Swedish, and finally the young lieutenant here for the United States. They all understood all about Port Arthur, but the trouble was, no two knew it the same. So I went back to Villiers. “Nogi is the only man that knows,” said he; “Nogi alone can tell you how the batteries are placed, how the divisions and regiments are to be deployed and played, what forts are the keys, what Russian batteries the weakest, the reserve force, the commissary and hospital supplies.”


So, naturally, coming to meet such a man we must have some awe, some curiosity and some respect for the master strategist, commander of the army which drove the Russians down the peninsula and which holds it now in a death trap. We expected to meet a man of iron, for Nogi is the General whose eldest son, a lieutenant in the Second Army, was killed at Nanshan; who has under his command a second son, a lieutenant, and who wrote home after the first disaster: “Hold the funeral rites until Hoten and I return, when you can bury three at once.”

The General received us in his garden. He was at a small table, under a willow, working with a magnifying glass over a map. He wore an undress blue uniform with the three stars and three stripes of a full general on the sleeve—no other decoration, though once before I had seen him wearing the first class order of the Rising Sun. His parchment-crinkled face, brown like chocolate with a summer’s torrid suns, beamed kindly on us. His smile and manner were fatherly. It was impossible to think that any complicated problem troubled his mind. A resemblance[62] in facial contour to General Sherman arrested us. Lying near, in his hammock, was a French novel. He reads both French and English, but does not trust himself to speak in either. Miki Yamaguchi, Professor of languages in the Nobles School, Tokyo, for seven years resident in America, and graduate of the Wabash college, was the interpreter.

“Look after your bodies,” the General said after greeting us. “I was out to the firing line the other day and came back with a touch of dysentery, so take warning. I do not want any of you to be sick. At the first sign of danger consult our surgeons. We have good surgeons.”

“We are of little account, General,” said Ricalton, “but it is a very serious thing for a man on whom the world’s eyes are centered to have dysentery.”

The General smiled. “I am quite well now,” he said; “but how old are you?” he asked, looking at Ricalton’s gray hairs. They compared ages. Ricalton proved to be three years the older.

From Stereograph, Copyright 1904, by Underwood & Underwood, New York

The photograph shows the Commander of the Third Imperial Japanese Army studying the defenses of Port Arthur in his garden in the Willow Tree Village, Manchuria

“The command of the army, then, belongs to me,” said Ricalton. “I’m your senior.”

“Ah,” said the General, “but then I should[63] have to do your work and I fear I could not do it as well as you do.”

That night a huge hamper came to Ricalton’s tent in charge of the headquarters orderly. It contained three huge bunches of Malaga grapes, half a dozen Bartlett pears, a peck of fine snow apples, and bore a card reading: “The General sends his compliments to his senior in command.”

“He is a great man,” said Ricalton, “who can so notice, in the midst of colossal labors, a passing old photographer.”

But, as Nogi goes, so go the other generals, and so goes the army. Villiers and I went yesterday to call on a certain Lieutenant-General who commands the most important third of the forces. His division has borne the brunt of the fighting, and he doesn’t live as Nogi does, on the edge of the zone of fire, but close under the guns within a mile of the Russian forts, so close that in his lookout two of his staff officers were recently killed. His home is a dugout in the side of a mountain. It is large enough for him to lie down in and turn over. He had a heavy white blanket, a rubber pillow to be inflated[64] with lung power, a fan, an officer’s trunk that carries sixty pounds, and a small lantern of oiled silk—this was his furniture, his complete outfit. On a peg hung his sword, and outside, on the ground, lay his boots. Some member of his staff had fixed up an iron bedstead and a water bowl, but they were lying off at the side of the dugout, untouched. He came to meet us in a thin pair of rubber slippers, his uniform a bit worn, the string on his breast, where the order of the Rising Sun is usually worn, barren, his eyes kindly, his manner fatherly and his hospitality generous; he spread a lunch bountiful as Nogi’s.

“I know the Russians,” said Villiers that night. “I was with them all through the Russo-Turkish War. I remember Skoboleff, their great cavalry leader, a magnificent type of man, a soldier to the ground, but fiery, emotional, vivacious, vain, fond of orders, jewels, wine and women, looking on war as a lark, dashing and brilliant, the scourge of Europe! He was not this type of man—a scientific chap, sober, full of business to the chin, no lugs to him, and as unemotional as a fish. Kuropatkin was Skoboleff’s[65] Chief of Staff and you see what these fellows have done with him. The day of cynical dash and reckless valor has gone by in war, my boy. We are living in an age of modesty and gentleness, of science and concentration; Japan is the master.”

We lay under the searchlights, which were turning the night valley into a noontide halo, as Villiers spoke. Every light came from the Russian side, which lay wary and restless beyond us. From the Japanese side came no light, no sound. All was secrecy and silence. Yet we knew those hills were alive with toiling brown figures, that a ten-mile line of rifle pits was guarded at every rod by a sleepless soldier watching for the Rising Sun and that the tents of those Generals blinked unceasingly with the steady glow of the oiled silk lanterns, quivering cabalistically with ideographs.

As I looked upon swaying and heavy searchlights, I could think only of the Indian cobra and his mortal enemy, the mongoose. Silently, rolled in a ball, alert for a fatal spring, the little mongoose watches, and the hooded cobra swings ponderously, more nervous with[66] each move. All other enemies he can crush; none other he fears; his body is murderous, his fangs deadly, his stealthy glide noiseless and sure. How well he knows his power! Despot of the jungle, why should he fear? And yet, since the world dawned his tribe has done well to avoid the mongoose.

Steadily swings the cobra; viciously he lunges. Now look! In the folds of the cobra’s neck those incisive teeth, those death-dealing claws! With the fury of whirlwinds lashes the cobra. With eternal calm cling the teeth and claws. Hour after hour goes the unequal struggle. The huge coils relax, the great head falls. Then the beady eyes twinkle. The mongoose slips off in the darkness; prone lies the cobra. Who sheds tears?


Chapter Three

Tokyo, June 1st:—Who pays for the war? Here are a few telling one another that they are the bankers. It is at a Sunday concert in the fifth city of the world, a wilderness of sheds flimsy over two million human beings. In the midst rise vast acres of country solitude and rest. A tangle of cryptomeria and fir shade puzzled paths winding through furse of elderberry and hawthorn. Haze and vista spread away past hills and forests, past hothouses and lawns of firm packed earth. A lake dimples a vale, as a smile the cheek of a lovely woman, and its pebbly bed reflects the laughter of the sun. About it fluttering flags, new and gay, festoon the sentiment of all nations, one—Russia—excepted. Thousands, tens of thousands, dot the paths, are merry with the lake, instill from the greenery a quiet joy. Hundreds of voices, atune with instruments,[68] filter the fragrant air with music. Beyond the fence is squalor so dense three sen a month pays for a dwelling; here is leisure so luxurious the senses float in dreams. In a corner a moldy Diabutsu, the calm of Nirvana on his face, nods on a leaf of lotus; “out of the slime itself spotless the lotus grows.”

Tokyo is beautiful—brunette and beautiful. This first day of June she has risen past the cherry blossom, past the wistaria, through the freshness of spring to the full radiance of summer. Pink, like the fleece of clouds in the sky, and heliotrope, like the first flush of sunrise, are past. Now green, rich and deep from a soil of winnowed sustenance, mantles her in Oriental splendor—a splendor simple and elegant with the wealth of the east, shadowy and sunny with the blow of Japan. It folds her about with the assuring clasp of a lover, and she responds with the shy, voluptuous acceptance of a maid o’erwon.

This is a summer of content, a dream of gayety, of insouciance. A million babies gurgle with the baby glory of it. A million mothers coo and coddle at the eternal freshness of it. But[69] here, to-day, in this wilderness of terraced garden, in this bouquet of smiling East, have assembled the daintiest mothers in the land—the peeresses. The son of one is a major-general. Others have captains, colonels, aides-de-camp to tug their heartstrings with fear, to inflate their pulses with pride. Have we not penetrated to the very viscera of war’s nature when we find the mothers of its heroes thus assembled?

One of these mothers, a Princess, passes. Should she buy that delicate lace and lingerie, so charming with all that’s feminine, from boxes labeled and graded, she would choose misses’ sizes, so tiny is she. A toy of a woman, demure and pretty; yet put up by the finest of Parisian makers. The dotted mulle of her veil sweeps slightly away, scallop-like, from a face thin with aristocratic aquilinity. Behind that face, with wax complexion and eyes of bead-like purity, scintillates a mind bred on intellectual fashions. She speaks with the cultured English of Vassar. She knows Omar Khayyam as well as any. The major-general is her son. Beside her walks another son, his gold-rimmed spectacles completing a fine picture of esthetic[70] pride. His silk tie is the envy of every Japanese not bred abroad, for his clothes are from Piccadilly. The garden is full of these and such as these. They are giving a concert for the relief fund.

The music! It is the choicest that the sensuous imagination of man has built out of rules and dreams. “William Tell” thunders its diapason from the hid footholds of the earth. The audacious march of Leroul spits out its song of triumph. “America” murmurs a swelling hymn. A Weber overture sparkles, ascends, leaping crags, whirling diaphanous gayety through cloud and shadow.

Then a Japanese aria, weird with the rapt genius of the land, molten with Malay poise, floats a mystery of ancient longing through the broad day’s haze. It weaves through fir and cryptomeria, assaults the hearts of thousands, and, triumphant, storms the heavens; is lost in the faint sky, a sky blue with the dreaminess Whistler would have etched in immortal phantasy.

The Relief Fund gets fifty sen apiece from these peeresses with Piccadilly sons, brothered[71] by major-generals. And all other manner of folk, down to the little sister, carrying on her back a future soldier of the emperor, daughter of a rice cleaner in a three-sen dwelling beyond the gate, thus while the pleasant hours away.

On the heights of Tokyo they are paying for the war.

Here are the heights of Nanshan on the 27th of May. It is 5.20 o’clock in the morning and seas of sunlight are hid in a fog across Korea Bay. The fog lifts, and as the day bursts in along the whole line the banner of the Rising Sun is planted on the Russian ramparts of Kinchow. Since midnight the artillery of the third division has been hammering from the right, off toward Talienwan. At intervals the infantry of the first and fourth divisions charge from the front whence they have been advancing for two days. It is the second army of 60,000 Japanese and the investment of Port Arthur has begun. The railway has long been cut. Now Kinchow is taken and the Russians are helter-skelter Dalnyward.

Here, then, is the theater, scene of such sublime[72] assault and conquest as the eye of history has not looked upon since Grant stood on Orchard Knob and watched his thin blue line scale Missionary Ridge; the hill of Nanshan, key to the advance on Port Arthur. Turned in its lock Nanshan confronts the Japanese, impregnable, ghastly grim in the fresh sunlight. We may well pause to inspect the position. It rises, formidable, the height of a church steeple, from a narrow plain. The edges of this plain dip sheer down a hundred feet of slippery rock to the two bays—Talienwan and Kinchow. From bay to bay is scarce three miles. From Nanshan we may see, through a glass, the bay of Kinchow. Riding on it are four of the enemy’s gunboats. Their shells are flying over our heads. They have not yet found the range. To the left in Talienwan, a Russian gunboat, guarding four transports, is enfilading the third Japanese Division and supporting a regiment of its own men flanking the base of the hill. The hill has been cleared of underbrush and terraced, divided into four intervals and on these intervals trenches built. One hundred and ten cannon are there manned. At the bottom are[73] barbed-wire fences, Spanish trocha, not like the fences of a cow pasture, but dovetailed and doubled so that if a man breaks through one he stumbles into the oblique, bloody arms of another.

This the Japanese are to assault before noon. There is no timber, only a few bushes and rock the size of a bull’s head, hard things to wade through, but no defense. They must cross the open plain, 500 yards, in full range of those one hundred and ten cannon, smash the barbed wire, climb the terraced plateaus where they will be picked off like rabbits in a shooting gallery, assault the trenches and finally take the heights. To take one trench seems heroic achievement, four an impossibility. Impossible but for one thing—orders. The navy was ordered at the outset of the war “to exterminate” the Russian fleet, this Second Army went out to “take Port Arthur.” And they obey orders—these Japanese. So why contemplate that to attempt that Hill of Nanshan is folly, to take it madness?

The Russians wait. All is silence—the awed hush preceding carnage, terror, death. Waiting they sing, not light tunes heard so bright and[74] gay on the heights of Tokyo to-day; chansons of France, Italy’s peerless compositions, America’s solemn new-born hymn or Japan’s flute note weird and penetrating. From deep bass throats and barytones majestic rolls organ music of fierce, wild grandeur, as through some vast forest aisle the harmonies of winds and woods and waves unite in mighty pæans, celebrating to the august fastnesses glories yet fresh to man. Schools, traditions, customs civilized have not touched the fiber of that central gauntness, shining up through the spirit of the singers, like dreamland on a tragedian’s afterglow. Siberia with all its wildness, with all its immensity, where aback the mammoth wallowed; the Caucasus tossing aloft primeval ecstasy the long slant of the steppes, and Russia, bold, defiant, revengeful; all rolled in one, are in that note. The clothes of the men are heavy, ungainly, ill-made, nothing serviceable but the boots, which are well adapted for running away. The faces—sodden with ignorance and vice—reflect only stolid endurance; no initiative, no individuality. Only through the song shines the soul.

The singing ceases. There is a dreadful[75] hush. It is eleven o’clock. Off toward Kinchow, which is hid by a fringe of low fir trees, something is moving. Soon hunchbacked dabs can be seen bobbing across the furze, leaping over the stones, pausing, searching, then onward dashing. The firing begins. Two machine guns—only ten of the one hundred and ten are quick-firers—lead off. You can easily tell them. The sound is little, like the popping of a dozen beer bottles in quick succession. Then silence. The strip of cartridges is torn aside, another inserted, again a dozen pops. So it goes until the ten are brought into action and there is no intermission. Flicks of dust are kicked up by the shells, most falling short, a few passing on through the trees. One of the bobbing dabs falls, the rest press on. Now the gunners are getting the range; the shells pick off more hunchbacks.

But there is no stop. This is not reconnoisance; it is battle. The skirmishers deployed and well up, now the main line advances. Out from the trees on a dog-trot springs a battalion. It is going to try that griddle of death. The men dash valiantly on, agile fellows, intense as[76] fanatics. Now the hundred field cannon come into play. Most are Chinese of ancient date, some are modern, rim-firing. Smoke fills the plain. It is difficult to see. The torrent of lead is on. Snatched through the noise of firing you can hear great cries; they grow spasmodic, then cease. The firing slows. Soon only the automatic pops are heard. The smoke drifts off. The foremost man is there on the wire, gutted. He hangs, a frightful mass, limp on the barbs. Here and there a poor fellow is crawling, as you have seen some worm trodden on vainly seek its hole. Not a man of the battalion has survived. A thousand brave, faithful soldiers are gone. So this is civilized warfare!

Yes. They now see it was folly to attempt the hill of Nanshan. So they open up with artillery, a whole regiment of it, infinitely superior to the sixty antiquated cannon, the forty Canet pieces and the ten quick-firers. For an hour they rain that leaden taunt back at dubious Nanshan, who austerely barks out a thin reply, coughs a wheezy growl and ceases. Meanwhile the thousands in leash, battle inflamed, recall that the dead battalion are Osacca men,[77] and, being merchants from the Japanese Chicago, had been hailed as cowards by sons of samurai. A company of Osaccans went down, stuck, like pigs, in the Kinshu Maru. But after Nanshan the pork packers of Osacca will hold their heads decently high with the boldest.

Toward three o’clock the second advance is ordered. Half the third division and a part of the first, nearly 15,000 men, close in. They get across the plain, dropping a few hundreds, and smash the wire. Drunkenly dizzy, flaring with the lust of battle, the vanguard tears clothes, limbs, and tosses on the treacherous barbs.

They have no scissors, no choppers, no axes. Worse, they have no time. They keep on at the fence, gashing shins, stripped of impediments, down to the instincts and passions, all discipline gone, every vestige of civilization lost. Now they are through, half-naked, savage, yelling, even Japanese stoicism gone. Up to the very muzzles of the first entrenchment they surge, waver and break like the dash of angry waves against a rock-bound coast. It seems no tide or wind can melt that precipitous front. But only seems. A rest, a terrible breathing spell, the[78] slow, wounded gasp of an animal in pain, and again the intrepid Japanese lash their haggard forms against that low trench. Glory! They win! The Rising Sun glares in the afternoon as it greeted the sun of that morning above Kinchow.

Yet only a quarter of the battle is won. Another rest. Another assault. Again and again they go up. Nine times they hammer away, muskets to jowl, heads down like bulls in the ring, with one thought; nay! not a thought, an instinct—to win or die.

The officers are picked off by sharpshooters, as flies are flicked from a molasses jug. Two colonels are killed, the list of done captains swells. Then, through the haze, commanding the first division, looms a prince of the blood, the general whose peeress-mother is but this afternoon smiling serene on Tokyo heights. He below Kinchow, smoke-stained, grimed with death, hears the artillery report that ammunition is about gone, but one round left and Nanshan still Russian. Defeat stares Prince-General in the face. Retreat, disgrace seems right ahead. And orders were to “take Port Arthur.”[79] Smiling, he tells the gunners to wait. “Charge again,” he says.

So up they go, for the tenth and last time. At the top more civilized warfare. Spottsylvania Court House was no more savage. Japanese bayonets clash with Russian sabers. Bayonets struck from hands they grasp knives carried suicidally in belts. Thus, hand to hand, they grapple, sweat, bleed, shout, expire. The veneer of centuries sloughed, as a snake his cast-off skin, they spit and chew, claw and grip as their forefathers beyond the memory of man.

The Prince-General waits, ready to fire his last round, and retreat, hopeless. It has been a desperate fight—yes, reckless, unparalleled. If lost he loses nobly. “Are you through, General?” his aide asks. “I have just begun my part of the fighting,” he answers. His name is Fushimi—remember it. As he speaks a weak cry goes up—weak because even victory cannot rouse spirits so terribly taxed.

It was a bloody sun going down in Korea Bay that night, but it saw its rising counterpart flaunting above Nanshan, while the Russians[80] were making use of the best part of their apparel, sprinting towards the Tiger’s Tail.

The cost! The fleeing ones left five hundred corpses in the four trenches. The others paid seven times that price—killed and wounded—to turn across the page of the world’s warfare that word Nanshan, in company with two others, perhaps above them—Balaklava and Missionary Ridge.

Now who pays for this war?


Chapter Four

Headquarters, Third Imperial Army, Before Port Arthur, Oct. 12th:

“Goddama’s here!”


“General Goddam—what’s his name?”


“That’s it. Who is he? They couldn’t do more for the Emperor—special train, guard mounted, and all that. He came while I was in the staff tent—a mite of a fellow in a huge coat.”

Thus Villiers two weeks ago announced the advent to the army of the Chief of the General Staff. Who is he? The soldiers know, for they have a verse in their interminable war song:

“On with Nippon, down with Russia

Is the badge of our belief;

The Son of Heaven sends us saké,

And Kodama sends us beef!”


But who is he? A poor, unlettered samurai of the famous Censhu clan who to-day, at fifty-two years of age, rules Japan and guides her armies. Many will dispute this. They will tell you that the illustrious Mutsuhito, member of the oldest dynasty in the world, rules Japan. They believe that the Marshal Marquis Oyama and the Marshal Marquis Yamagata, veteran spirits, great warriors, shrewd in counsel, valorous in conflict, guide their armies. They forget, perhaps they do not know, that Gentaro Kodama, whose rank is that of Lieutenant-General, his title Baron, his position Assistant Chief of the General Staff, thinks while the others sleep and works while the others eat; that the “illustrious ones” may “guide” and “rule.” People seldom know the boss behind the President, the power behind the throne, or the advisor at the general’s ear.

Most public men in Japan will tell you that Kodama is an unsafe person of second-rate capacity. That is what the Directorate said of Napoleon, it is what Halleck and his staff said of Grant, it is what the Crown Prince said of Von Moltke. They will tell you that his charge[83] of the commissary and transport in the China war was an accident. That is what the Directorate said of Napoleon after Egypt, what Halleck said of Grant after Donelson and Henry, what the Crown Prince said of Von Moltke before the Franco-Prussian war.

The public men sent Kodama to Formosa to get rid of him, as Napoleon was sent to Italy, as Grant was sent to Pittsburg Landing, as Von Moltke was shipped from Metz. Kodama went and raised Formosa from savagery to commerce and prosperity. He could have been Prime Minister. “No,” he said. “I would rather pull strings than be one of the strings to be pulled. Russia is peeking up over the border. Let us prepare. Give me a desk in the War Office.”

The public men shook hands, grateful that the unsafe upstart was out of the way. Only soldiers and seers foresee war. Kodama is not a seer. The public men reveled in peace and wondered occasionally that Kodama should bury himself in that dry hole of a war office. They were grateful because the unsafe upstart kept out of the way.


Then the war came and what a scrimmage there was as the public men scrambled for place! One had his finger on things; this only one knew just where, when and how to strike. He alone knew where every merchant steamer in Japan was and how quick each could be turned into a transport. He alone knew the points in the Korean coast where an army could be landed and how quick it could be gotten there. Above all he had audacity—the audacity of genius. His name was Gentaro Kodama, sometime military governor of Formosa, sometime chief of the etape bureau.

From Stereograph, Copyright by H. C. White Co., N. Y.

The photograph shows the Chief of the Japanese Staff on his doorstep.

How shameful for the upstart to command! He had never left his native land. He spoke only Japanese. He had a most vulgar way of pitching into things, of living on the tick of the watch, of showing people in and out minus ceremony, of laughing as a boy might at the things he liked and of frowning ingenuously at what displeased him. More horrors! He scorned a frock coat for ordinary wear and stuck to a kimono. Only upstarts defy the fashions. Sometimes, however, the upstart happens to be a great man—a Socrates barefoot, a Grant without[85] his shoulder straps. Now there were plenty of men who had been abroad, who could speak French and English perfectly, who could crease their trousers and who could add the proper dignity to a function. Besides, Kodama was only a lieutenant-general, of whom the realm had a dozen others, to say nothing of four full generals, two field marshals and an emperor. Why should he run the war?

But Yamagata and Oyama knew and the Emperor knew. They were too keen not to see and they were too patriotic to let Japan suffer. They could not give Kodama the place, but they crowned him with power. So to-day he has the only coach on the Japanese end of the Trans-Siberian railway and is the first to pass over the rebuilt road from Liaoyang to within sight of Port Arthur.

Yamagata stays in Tokyo, one foot in the grave, holding himself to work with will and prayer, snowed with seventy years, in counsel with the Emperor; Oyama, loved by the people, always a figurehead, goes to command the northern armies, and Nogi is given the glory of reducing the “Gibraltar of the East,” but[86] Kodama, with his hands on everything, the brains of all, unifies the whole. I saw him leave Tokyo, cheered by the coolies of the streets, who, like the Emperor and his marshals, know. Already the campaign was in his hands. He went straight to Liaoyang and saw the first great blow struck at Kuropatkin. Then he came here, stayed two days, saw his plans being effected to his satisfaction and got back to Liaoyang before the battle of the Shaho. It was on his way back, during the day’s rest in Dalny, that I saw him for the second time, when he granted me an interview, in which he made his first public utterance.

Certain names flash across an age as meteors across a sky. Cæsar and Napoleon are such names to the student of history, Bernhardt and Irving to the lover of the stage, Shakespeare to the man of books. Their mere pronouncement has a mysterious power, some occult influence to startle and make dumb. Like a searchlight’s flare they throw one into a hopeless sense of insignificance and awe. So it was with me, a student of the war, when Villiers uttered that word, “Goddama,” two weeks ago. I recalled the[87] months in Tokyo when we stormed the war office in vain, how London, Washington and Berlin brought their influences to bear, how the cabinet was assembled, how the ministers pleaded that correspondents, creators of that vast, indefinable power called “public opinion” have some rights. Kodama said they had no rights; they might have privileges, but no rights. One day a grave-faced official announced: “I am very sorry, gentlemen, but you will have to wait the pleasure of General Kodama. We have done all we could for you. The question now is, shall the ministers or Kodama run the war? I much fear Kodama is the man of the hour.”

Thus the name rose over me as a symbol of power and hauteur. Three days ago I started to Dalny from the front to lay in stores. There was a four- or five-mile walk to Cho-ray-che, the field base where acres are covered with rice and ammunition cases and where a shattered Russian station is being used by the Japanese commissary. On the siding lay the train of flat cars we were to take. In the center was the first coach seen on the Liaotung since the battle of Nanshan,[88] May 26th. It was an ordinary Japanese third-class coach, with paneled doors for each compartment, and hard seats. Out of the corner chimney rose a whirl of smoke and it was easy to see what an improvement even those hard seats would be over the tops of ammunition cases where there was a three-hour ride to be made in the face of a sleet Manchurian wind.

“Back to civilization,” I cried.

“Not for us,” said Gotoh, my interpreter. “That is General Kodama’s coach. It was transported especially for him and he has just brought it down from Liaoyang.”

Then I saw him, with his salient, pointed chin, and his goatee like a French noble, bent over an improvised table, scanning papers. Five or six members of his staff gazed lazily out at a company of soldiers doing fatigue duty with the empty ammunition cases, swarming up over the track and back again, human ants. They had heard the captain say the eyes of Kodama were upon them and they worked feverishly, with rhythmical precision. The General never saw them. His staff did, but he had work to do, and he knew the men were doing theirs.


As we lay shivering on that jolty ride into Dalny, day dying out with bursts of grand color and night coming in to the orchestral music of battle opening in our rear, Gotoh snuggled among the empty cases at my feet, pulled his overcoat about his head, and hummed a song composed by the biwa players of Kioto:

“As a slender boat alone in a great storm,” it ran, “so Japan sails the sea of modern civilization; does she not then need great leaders for her forty million souls!”

The mudflats of the bay were chocolate brown in late sunset as we turned south and slid into the city, shivering, crouched low on the pouches kept huge for bullets anon. Two kerosene lamps in the coach and the sparks from the engine streaked the night as we tooted into the revamped station of spruce and corrugated tin which stands where the hole in the ground was out of which the Russians blew their beautiful Byzantine architecture. We slipped to the ground, cold, hungry, tired, and slouched under the two arc lights that make Dalny a brilliant metropolis after our six weeks around camp fires and tallow dips.


Hurrying along I suddenly found myself in a group of officers bound the same way. All but one instinctively fell back and left me ahead with a tub of a man in a fur coat and a red cap with two braid stripes which told him to be a lieutenant-general. Swathed to his ankles in an overcoat of thick martens he looked huge, but the two red braids and the star of Nippon were level with my armpit. When he shook hands he lost all the clumsiness of the fur. As his fingers grasped mine in real earnest there passed from them the spirit of the island empire—its tininess, its audacity, its febrile intensity—for the grip was sinuous and sure as the clasp of a wild thing, hearty and elegant as a comrade’s. He walked with the stately swing of a star actor, poised his cigar with the air of a gentleman of leisure and smiled roguishly on me as he talked. A word brought a thin man in spectacles—his secretary—from the group behind. Through him the General said he had not seen a foreigner in three months, he remembered me from a chance word over a tiffin in the Shiba detached palace last May, and would I be kind enough to call on him to-morrow when he would have a[91] day of rest before his trip north toward the Shaho. We parted at the first corner and he walked on with his stately swing, which his enemies call the strut of a turkey cock, his staff grouped artistically behind.

Dalny bristled with the military. The base now of all the armies, it had become a huge supply depot through which passed the food and ammunition for a third of a million men, and to which poured the dribble of wounded. Every house in the Russian quarter, including two magnificent churches and the fine hotel, were used for hospitals, in which four thousand patients then were. A hospital ship left every day for Japan, carrying from 200 to 1,000 wounded and prisoners. Each day a transport came in bearing twice as many fresh troops. A brigade had just landed and was to be sent north at dawn to take the place of the lost in the Liaoyang battle. There was no barrack room, and though the general wore a fur coat his men stacked arms on the curbs and slept on the pavements. It was two days after the arrival of the advance guard of the civic invasion of Manchuria. Fifteen Tokyo[92] and Osacca merchants had left home with all their fortunes to try luck in a new land. In a Chinese restaurant that night I met one of them, an old Tokyo friend who spoke English. It was a great moment in his life, he said, this parting with the old and taking on of the new. He had already been given a house in the old Russian quarter at a nominal rental, which he expected later to acquire from his government at a low figure. In a few days he expected to open a store. He asked me to call on him and gave me his card with an address in “Nogimachi.” Thus I learned that all the town has been re-christened. The old Russian names attached to the elegant streets which looked more like roads among fashionable English villas were changed. Japanese generals had been honored. The chief hospital was in Oyamamachi, the etape office on Yamagatamachi, the reserve detail bivouacked on Fukishimamachi and I slept on Kurokimachi.

In Kodamamachi Gotoh and I the next day called on General Kodama, who was living in the Russian Mayor’s house. In a side room where the secretary ushered us we waited for the[93] General, then in his bath. This gave us time to examine the house. The Mayor was the engineer who laid out Dalny, and, naturally, he spread himself on his own home. Three stories high, with a wide balcony, a yard full of flowers and a big brick fence, it looks out on the convergence of the two main streets. It is built like the early palaces on what is now Tar Flat in San Francisco, with casements two feet thick, buttressed by solid masonry. The walls are thick enough to harbor great Russian stoves and bear evidence to the coming cold. The ceilings are enormously high, the double windows stained glass, the balustrades massive, the flooring of matched hardwood polished, all conveniences in the latest modern style. I know of no house in all Japan so fine. The panels were scratched in places where the Chinese bandits had sacked, and there was little furniture. Otherwise, all was in good condition. In scorn of the place the Japanese guard had slipped his neat, low futon into an alcove, but in respect he stood at “present arms,” his rifle loaded, to prevent outlawry. The silence was deep, the dispatch of business swift. Occasionally a messenger passed[94] through the hall, with no hurry and with no dignity. It would have been difficult to persuade Sherlock Holmes that the army was about.

Presently the secretary announced that the General was ready, and led us down a corridor to a side room on the west, which the sunlight, falling through the stained windows, dyed purple and gold. As we advanced I could not but think of the superb setting Mansfield gave the throne room scene in “Richard III,” and how he knelt by the dais as the light died out, whispering to himself, “Richard, to thy work!”

Here there was no false splendor, only the light of purple and gold—and a great character. I felt his presence before he advanced to meet me with a lithe stride. He shook hands with the intensity of the night before and again I felt that clasp as of a palm all sinew and nerves. But there was gayety in his gesture as he threw his hands out, palms up, like a Frenchman, and bade me welcome. He wore a kimono and slippers—nothing more. I could see the bare V sloping in to his chest, thin and skin-drawn, and it was plain where the brown[95] of sun-tan shaded into the clothes-covered white. He stepped back around a table and, dropping the slippers, climbed into a great chair, against whose russet leather he nestled the kimono and became lost, curling his bare toes under, whence, from time to time, they peeked and wiggled.

Overwhelmed by his littleness, for the swivel armchair could easily have held three generals like him and have had room left, top and bottom, for several colonels and a major, I thought of the huge overcoat of the night before and remembered what Lincoln said to Grant when the two met Alexander H. Stephens in a similar greatcoat on the River Queen in the fall of ’64: “That certainly is the littlest ear out of the biggest shuck that ever I did see.”

Gotoh and the General plunged into the labyrinths of the impossible Japanese language and left me to the joy of studying the toes and mustaches of this remarkable personality. He did not touch his mustaches, which, though long, had none of the ordinary poise and polish. No. They partook of the nature of the man and seemed the superficial ganglia of his sensitive[96] alertness. Three single hairs from each side, twisted in a loose wisp, glimmed the air furiously like the whiskers of a cat, as the General’s salient, pointed chin chopped out the sentences. Then I noticed a phenomenon. While the body of the mustache and the whiskers on one side were as black as my coat, untouched by time, the right wisp was white with hoary snow. It was as if the Genius of his time had selected him from among the common race of men and touched him there.

“The General wishes to apologize for receiving you this way—in a kimono.” At last the interpreter spoke, after the two had been chattering several minutes. Could it really be the great General familiar with a mere man of words like Gotoh, so insinuating the smile, so comradely the gossip? Yet, doubtless, in that few minutes he got from Gotoh every pertinent rag of information the interpreter had about me. “But he has been a long time without the luxury of a good bath, and the Russian Mayor left a fine one——”

“Tell the General,” I interrupted, “that he is the first man I have met in six months who[97] has given me the satisfaction of appearing as he is. This is his finest tribute to Western civilization—informality.”

Then they went at it again—chattering. The General, thrusting his elbows on the table, banged his chops into his palms, and, with his eyes, pierced first me, then Gotoh, a roguish twinkle lighting up his face for an instant to be replaced by the curl of irony on his lips. Could this be the man of lightning decision, and of iron will, who gave the order on February 8th to attack Port Arthur before a declaration of war? I looked at his head, round and small like a bullet, yet singularly long from nose bridge to dome. The absence of excess tissue, skin stretched tight over parietal bones and neck scrawny from spirited strain, together with a peculiar atmosphere of concentration and mastery which invested him, said it was as full of meat as an Edam cheese. Not a statesman, the ministers say, but a giant of organization, a master of detail, the brains of new Japan.

Is he not also the greatest editor in the history of journalism? Because it is he who for six months has cornered the news market of the[98] world, so that, until the present time, not a single authentic account has come from the field except those issued in the official reports of his own generals. He has controlled the news as he has controlled the armies—noiselessly, perhaps clandestinely, but nevertheless absolutely. If the telegraph announces Japanese victories, he reasoned, the public will not listen to the wail of the special correspondent. He has substituted fact for criticism, and, like the Duke of Wellington, announces his victories first, his reverses afterward. Now that the campaign is outlined and all can see what he is driving at, the time for speech has come; so he speaks.

“You have seen Port Arthur. You may think it easy to take,” he went on through Gotoh. I protested.

“It is not easy,” he continued. “It is quite difficult to take.”

“Of course—of course—thirty forts—ten years of engineering—impregnable natural defenses—a stubborn army of great fighters—clever officers to face——”

“But——” he reached halfway across the[99] table, not waiting for Gotoh to tell him what I said, and I had no need of an interpreter to know the five words he uttered:

“I hold Port Arthur there!” I looked into the hollow of his hand, twitching nervously, and saw the palm that is without bones, the palm all nerves and sinew.

“But where will the army winter? You are not building barracks. You have only shelter tents, flimsy as paper, which the Manchurian winds would laugh at.”

“Do not worry. You shall winter inside. We will take it soon. I hesitate to use the big guns for fear of hurting noncombatants.”

Then the tea came, via a soldier whose shoulder straps bearing the figure 9 showed him to be one of the few survivors of the famous 9th regiment, which lost 94 per cent. of its men in repeated unsuccessful assaults on the Cock’s Comb forts during the three days battle from August 21st to 23d, and I saw that Kodama, like Nogi, rewards the heroism of private soldiers by relieving them from duty on the firing line and giving them honorable work as body servants.


The General fondled his tea, delicious in a lacquered cup; Giokuro it was, the best Japan grows, and bits of the leaf glittered in the bottom like particles of steel. The steam curled about his face. He lit a cigar, puffed vigorously, and smoke wreathed with steam. Through the haze his whiskers, twisted in a loose wisp, bobbed spasmodically as his pointed chin spat out the sentences. He pulled himself further together, tying his legs acrobatically, and made room in the great chair for still another general. I wondered if he would disappear entirely, wizard-like, in a cloud of smoke. Then I thought of that criminal condemned to capital punishment, executed in experiment by the tea expert, who drank and drank until he shriveled and shrunk to powdery fiber. Plainly Giokuro, Havana and hot baths had helped hard work in drying up this tiny great man.

“We can’t tell what damage the big guns will do,” went on the aspirate voice out of the smoke. Gotoh was turning over the sentences now as fast as they came. “This is the first time in history that coast defense guns have battled with each other. We have brought ours from Japan.[101] As the Russians cannot use theirs against our navy they have turned them landward.”

“Why not against your navy?”

“Because—” he quickly drew from a drawer a brass tube attached to a pot of India ink. Out of the tube he drew a brush and began sketching nervously on a piece of blotting paper. The brass tube was a yatate, the first one I have seen in the army. Generations before siege artillery Japanese warriors who took arrow holders from the enemy disgraced them by converting them into ink pots and brush holders, for to soil a thing with business in those days was to disgrace it. But merchants found the device a neat invention and made arrow holders in miniature. The idea spread and soon all the men of business in the empire carried yatates in their belts. The army discarded them in disgust. Now Kodama comes, oblivious of tradition, satisfying his caprice and comfort, and to his work, as a samurai of old, introduces the yatate. When he finds the samurai superstition concerning the gaining of eternal life by a soldier killed in battle of value in his chess game of war he cherishes the belief, but when the silly prejudice against business[102] gets in his way he cuts acquaintance with the samurai.

Quickly, under the yatate brush, there grew a sketch of Port Arthur and the peninsula—curves for the east and west harbor, a cross for the town, fuzz for Liaotishan, a loop for the Tiger’s Tail. Then from east to west of the Liaotung he drew a dotted line in a semicircle and paralleled it with another dotted line.

“Our mines,” he said, pointing to the outer; “their mines,” pointing to the inner. “We have laid a series of electric mines counter to theirs, which, if firing at, they explode, will ignite their series and damage their coast defenses and harbor. Locked in this mutual mining our navy and their coast defense must remain inactive, as neither cares to take an initiative. So they have turned not only their coast defense, but their navy guns landward. We, in reply, have landed our navy guns and brought from Japan our coast defense artillery. So you will see the spectacle of two great naval equipments fighting on land. I wish I could bring all the tacticians in the world to witness. There will be much to learn for future warfare.” He[103] puffed vigorously. The whiskers poised themselves. His eyes, looking at the sketch, were lost in introspection. He was reveling in the situation.

“You think it, then, a battle of strategists?”

“Only that. This is entirely a game of strategy. The chief question is: are our naval and siege guns, reinforced by field artillery, more powerful than their naval and coast defenses reinforcing the forts? Lesser questions concern the individual generalship of divisions and brigades.”

“But the boy in khaki—is he not the deciding force?” My mind ran back to those terrible August days when I lay in the broiling sun watching the soldiers hurled against the barbed wire, under the machine guns, onto the parapets, only to melt away like chaff before the wind. I thought of the night in the storm when the general in command gave the order to retreat, but before his aide could deliver it to the colonel in the field, the soldiers, impatient, went in and took the opposing trenches. I thought of all the sights in that mighty game I had just left; great guns in the shock of battle peppered[104] by shrapnel but holding to their work like bulldogs on the grip, the sappers creeping with pick and shovel through the night hounded by shells, the pioneers going up with pincers to nip the wire met by the death sprinkle of Maxims, the infantry in a thin brown line following, the men popped out as expert drivers flick off flies with a whiplash, but advancing, advancing, till a handful out of a host creeps up, and flings itself, fanatical with the lust of battle, worn in the gory charge so that life never can be the same again in sweetness and in peace, into the redoubt paid for a dozen times with blood, and which even then is but curtain raiser for drama still more heartrending, because, beyond, rising tier on tier, series after series, are redoubts and forts, trenches and barbed wire, moats and gorges, rifles and cannon until the soul grows sick with the thought that Port Arthur must be bought with sacrifice so great, agony so monstrous.

“No,” said Kodama. “This is a question of military strategy.” He thrust the yatate from him, stretched back into his chair and puffed cigar wreathings into the air. They looked like the smoke of a volley from a battery of howitzers.[105] As he settled down to the talk again, sometimes his eyes flashing, sometimes his mustaches, one black, the other white with a venerable sign, twitching, his bare toes twisting with suppressed energy, I thought I saw a huge black spider serene in the Russian chair.

“Will you bring any more reserves?”

“No. We have an army large enough to take Port Arthur. The enemy has about 20,000 men, we about 60,000. Three to one makes the odds about even when you consider the defenses. More men are not necessary. It is not a question of men now, but of ammunition and generalship.”

“How about food? It has been reported that you let junks and even transports run the blockade, that you won’t starve them out, but want the glory of forcing them to surrender?”

His eyes snapped as he answered: “That is absolutely false. We have them entirely hemmed in and maintain a perfect blockade.”

“Do you find the forts stronger than you expected?”

“They are very well built—on the Belgian model, I believe. They are like the forts on the[106] Belgian frontier where the lay is similar. Toward the sea side they are iron plated, but toward us there is only earth, with some concrete and masonry. It is the arrangement that puzzles us. A very clever engineer must have devised them, for we find an absolute change from the Chinese war of ten years ago when we took Port Arthur in a day. Then, one fort, Issusan, taken the others fell. That was the key to the position. Now, one cannot say that any single fort is the key. All are so arranged we must take them in detail. The capture of one means only the capture of an individual fort, not of a series as in the old days. Study as we may we find it difficult to minimize their strength. They have even carried the fortifications to such an extent that the sea escarpments jut over and they bathe there with ease and safety.”

He looked so cosy in his kimono, redolent of the bath, that I ventured: “You envy them, then. Aha! This is the secret of Japanese persistence. The Russians have such a fine place to bathe.”

He gurgled and continued: “We began yesterday to shell with our new guns—the Osacca[107] mortars. It will be most interesting to watch their effect on the earth forts.”

The General paused. It was time to go. We had taken the better part of an hour from him. We rose. He slipped from the chair, tickled his toes into his slippers, and threw his shoulders back jauntily, giving himself the air that a little man does unconsciously when a sense of the physical is borne in upon him.

Then I felt that creepy clasp as of a boneless hand. When I closed the door he crept back to his perch. So I left him, noiseless leader of forty millions, swathed in the great Russian chair, lost in the Mayor’s Byzantine house, withered to essence like a tea leaf.

And his salary is the same as that of a congressman of the United States.


Chapter Five

Before Port Arthur, Headquarters Third Imperial Army, Oct. 9th: We have left the mountain—the Phœnix—where by day we saw artillery duels and by night flashes of lightning illumining the big guns, while the plains stood out under the searchlights. There we could step from our lunch table and, down the cliff, look into the upturned ecstasy of a victorious army, or feel the dull weight of its despair surge in and close upon us.

Now we are with the army, part of it. From the Manchurian hut, where we live in insect powder, on tinned beef, biscuit and jam, we go a few rods to a plateau and look into Port Arthur. The path of the army can be traced by beer bottles—Asahi, Yebisu, Kabuta and Saporo—but in all the army there is not a guardhouse. If the company has a man who doesn’t smoke[109] cigarettes he is pointed out as a curiosity; the empty boxes—Peacock, Tokiwa, Pinhead, Old Rip, Cherry and Star—dot the fields thick as the beer bottles; the price of a box is two days’ pay; there is no way to have money sent from Japan to the front, but a field savings bank to take it back; and yet, into this field bank, from the three cents a day pay, in spite of the beer and the cigarettes, over $10,000 has gone since the opening of the campaign. Approach a battery and find a lot of uncouth boys, gentle and friendly as children, curious as savages, as lacking in assertion as a comedian off the stage; you take them for menials, for most Americans in such a place would carry mountains of dignity and be covered with placards, “hands off.” These are expert gunners, handling scientific instruments, and yet simple. Generals the same! It is an unaccountable thing, this naturalness and modesty, like the morality of a man of genius. A paradox? Yes; when you think of what fighters they are! But how does a hen know when to turn her eggs, and where does a girl carry her powder puff?

But to us, of whom there are three—Frederic[110] Villiers, the war artist, James Ricalton, the war photographer, and myself. The public knows about Villiers, hero of Plevna and the Soudan, discoverer of artistic Abyssinia, decorated by seven governments, veteran of seventeen campaigns, dean of the war correspondents, who has traveled the world round lecturing, sketching, writing. The public knows less of Ricalton, one of its obscure great men. He has gone through a long life with his nose to his work, like a dog to a scent, heedless of fame and money. He is original, alone, and has done things no other man has done. It was he that Thomas A. Edison sent into all the tropical jungles twenty years ago to search for a vegetable fiber for the electric lamp. He took most of the photographs for John H. Stoddard’s lectures. He was the first foreigner to walk through northern Russia, 1,500 miles from Archangel to St. Petersburg. He has traveled through every country on the globe, exposing 75,000 negatives, and has photographed most of the great men of his generation. Of late years he has become one of the most expert of war photographers. In the Philippines he was the[111] only man to get troops actually firing on the foe. At the battle of Caloocan a soldier near him was winged; Ricalton picked up the useless rifle, grabbed the cartridge belt and went up with the skirmishers. At the siege of Tien Tsin he stood on the walls and photographed Americans as they were dropped by Chinese bullets. Little the public knows when it sees photographs of war how few of them come from the front. Ricalton is one of the few who gets the real thing. He is sixty years old, yet he tramps ten and twenty miles a day with a thirty-pound camera under his arm, for he sneers at the snap shot and will carry a tripod. Yet he outlasts the young men on the march. Here he goes everywhere—into captured forts while the corpses are still about, through the most dangerous artillery positions, among reserves waiting for battle, into the actual fighting if they would let him. To-day he is off to gratify one of his few remaining ambitions, for he is sighing like Alexander at already exhausting the world. He wants to get one of the new siege shells, 500 weight, as it leaves the gun on its trip to the battleships in the bay. Four of these shells were dropped yesterday[112] into the Retvizan and Pallada. To-day the gunners will try to put in another. Ricalton plans to have his camera all set and tilted at the proper angle behind. Then as the gunner pulls the lanyard he presses the bulb. He has stuffed his ears with cotton so the shock will not break the drums, for a gunner yesterday was deafened for life. He will probably be hurled to the ground and his camera may be smashed, but he wants that shell hurtling through the air, no bigger than a bee, while the dust of the recoil curls up over the emplacement and all the grand tensity of power and motion is about the place.

“Why take the risk?” say I, “when you can so easily take the gun at rest and then paint in a little dust and that wee dot up in the air.”

Discharge of the Japanese 11-inch Mortar during the Grand Bombardment of October 29. The gun is a mile and a half away, and is firing into the Two Dragon Redoubt. The vibration made a clear photograph impossible.

“But it wouldn’t be the real thing,” said he, as he started off. Then I saw why he is Ricalton and not some faker at his ease over a chemical tray in the city. Just now, looking out of the window under which I write, I can see the battery where he has gone. It lies snug among the hills, two great guns cocked on concrete and flanked by howitzers aloft on peaks. The Russians[113] have the range and are pumping shells in, two or three a minute. It looks as if nothing could live there, but I know that probably not a man is injured, for I was there yesterday and saw how safe the dugouts are. Villiers looks up from his sketching and watches the firing through his glasses. A ten-incher plunges into the hillside and the earth boils up as if the foundations were ripped away.

“I hope dear old Ricalton is out of that,” he exclaims.

“Don’t fear for him. He has gone through too much to be rapped by that,” I reply. I remember how he walked there yesterday, his eye always on a dodgehole. A ten-incher came just as this one to-day. He threw himself flat on his stomach, hugging his machine, tenderly as though it were a baby, in a ditch by the roadside. Ten yards off the shell exploded. The pieces flew over and clods of earth fell on him. Hardly had the pieces stopped before he was up and after them, for he is as great a curio hunter as he is a photographer, and he has a house in Maplewood, New Jersey, converted into a museum, which the natural history experts declare[114] is the finest private collection in America. But enough of Ricalton.

Along a deeply rutted road in front of our village we gaze in awe at the big guns and their accouterment spread beside a narrow-gauge track. A pile of empty shells with points like needles and thick as a telephone pole, so heavy two men can hardly lift one, lies scattered down the slopes. A recoil vamp lumbers a truck. An ungainly steel thing nestles belly deep in the sand while a company of human ants sweats and wrestles with it. Then suddenly we come upon the beautiful breech, delicate as clockwork, dazzling as a jeweler’s case, gleaming in the sun, and Ricalton exclaims:

“The only thing that gives one respect for man—his achievement—is to look at such a piece of mechanism. It has the power of a jungle of elephants, yet is as sensitive as a little girl!”

Some days we take trips off to the various divisions and get close in for a big battle, feel the pitch and pallor of war, see heights assaulted, won and lost, hear the adventure of conflict from heroic mouths and get in close upon the red anathema. Then we visit the hospitals[115] and know the slow agony of it—the suffering, endurance, silent sacrifice. Two weeks ago I saw the same operation that was performed on President McKinley—laparotomy. A soldier’s stomach was pierced, as McKinley’s was. The surgeons took it out, sewed it up and replaced it. To-day I was told the man would recover. He is a strong, hardy chap, a peasant boy, who lives on rice, fish and tea, which was not McKinley’s diet. The soldier at the same time lost his right arm by amputation. Visiting him again yesterday I asked how he was getting on.

“Well enough,” he replied. “The hard thing is not to think about it. You’re all right if you only don’t think. It’s the mind that rips one up, sir, the doctor says.”

Our village shelters most of the impedimenta that an army headquarters must carry. Band-musicians are our neighbors. The interpreters, next door, swap tea, cigarettes and news with us. The Russian interpreter, who lived in Moscow three years, sketches so well, Villiers says he will take him to Paris and make him the fashion. Behind us are the Japanese correspondents, so clandestine in their ways that even a Manchurian[116] farmer must know they are yellow journal reporters. Of a morning we see a curious pair strolling off over the hills, one with a fowling-piece, looking for snipe, the other with a camera watching for a chance to get a shell as it explodes. One is Mr. Arriga, the expert on international law, who will adjudicate all property rights as soon as Port Arthur falls; the other is the official photographer.

Then there are the war correspondents, who have a camp three miles off. In bargaining for junks to take the news out, two of the cable men have become so bitter in rivalry that they go around with Mauser pistols, each threatening to shoot the other if he tells how the censor was evaded. There is the Norwegian nobleman with the eyes of a viking who is writing serials for one of Harmsworth’s London dailies. Finally, there is what Villiers calls “The Bartlett pair”—A. Bascom Bartlett, Esq., son of the Hon. E. Bascom Bartlett, M. P., who came out to see the fun and what Villiers calls the Tossup, because it was a toss-up whether or not he should come, and who is here to make fun. It was he, who recently, after hearing a general[117] tell of the desperate charge of a brigade, patted the officer on the back and said: “A very noble act, sir. I shall relate that in Tossup Hall.”

The elder Tossup is a country brewer in Yorkshire. The younger insists that he is an officer and a gentleman and knows how to conduct himself. But a few days ago he was caught, while visiting an outpost with an officer, in a crossfire, and ducked into a trench. The officer tried to reassure him by following into the trench. There, while a battle was raging beyond, and in the presence of all the sublime panorama that surrounds us here the Tossup said: “I hope you will come and visit me in England. We will go to the autumn maneuvers.”

The officer, not expert with English, pulled out his dictionary and ran his thumb down the “ma’s.” “man—man—manur” he read. “Ah,” he cried at last, “the autumn manuring! I see, sir, yours is an agricultural country.”


Chapter Six

What Blaine’s unfortunate “three R’s” were to his Presidential campaign “203-Meter Hill” was to the siege of Port Arthur. Risen to the dignity of key to the situation, it had, in an ordnance sense, little to do with the case. It was but one of seven advance posts for final assault. A pimple of progress to the engineer, it was not permanently fortified, did not belong to the primary scheme of defense, and was dominated by three of the finest forts—Etzeshan, Anzushan, and Liaotishan: mountains of the Chair, the Table, and the Lion’s Mane. For three reasons heavy guns could not be mounted there. First, the cost in energy and life would be too vast, because rifles whose barrels alone weigh from two to eight tons each would have to be hauled by hand up 680 feet of rock, a task heroic even in peace. In war, wedged among three magnificently intrenched hostile positions, this would[119] be impossible. Second, even if these heavy guns—only of any value against forts or fleets—had been gotten there, they would have been pounded to pieces within an hour of arrival by the more numerous and better emplaced artillery of the Chair, the Table, and the Lion’s Mane. Finally, heavy guns are never emplaced on mountain peaks in an offensive campaign.

“203” had one value—a great one. It was the best point of observation the Japanese had yet had. Line of vision, not line of fire, was what they needed. From “203” they could look into all portions of the harbor that could float a warship, but, what was more essential, they could look around the promontory of Golden Hill into the cove, where the hunted remnant of the Russian fleet had been hiding, at loose anchor, since the disastrous attempt to escape on August 10th. They had no need for better artillery posts than the positions which they had held for four months and from which they had been able to place shells in any spot on the Russian side.

Copyright, 1905, by Collier’s Weekly

Showing Lieutenant Oda looking from 203-Meter Hill through the hyposcope at the Russian fleet in the New Harbor of Port Arthur

“Any spot,” that is, if they knew where the[120] spot was. To locate the spot had been the difficulty. “203” gave the line of vision, but it was so wedged in among commanding batteries that its value depended upon an instrument new to warfare—the hyposcope. This is merely a telescope cut in half—the front half elevated above the other, like the head of an ostrich above the body, and the two connected by a further length of scope. In the joints thus formed mirrors are placed. Thus a view of the interior of Port Arthur was brought over the topmost trench of “203” to the eyes and brain of the Japanese lookout, protected there by the rocks. Through the hyposcope a lookout could observe the effect of every shot from his own batteries, located not on “203” or anywhere near “203,” but distant, most of them, two or three miles. While he operated the hyposcope with his left hand, with his right he held to his ear the receiver of a telephone connected directly with each of these firing batteries. These batteries were emplaced, not on mountain peaks, not on the front of the mountain range from which their operations were being directed, but entirely behind this range, which was parallel to the coast range,[121] forming the permanent line of Russian defense. From these points, scattered in the rear of the Japanese position, distant from the Russians, the nearest half a mile, the farthest three miles, the work of the bombardment went on. The firing was what the military man calls “high angle” or “plunging”; that is, the shell traveled in the line of a parabola over two mountain ranges, which separated the Japanese batteries from the Russian ships. The gunners never had a sight of what they were firing at, the officers in command of the batteries never had a sight of what they were firing at. Only the lookout on “203” knew where the shells went, and he got his knowledge through a mirror. This knowledge was used by the artillery officer, who found the range by means of a quadrant. The hyposcope, the telephone, the quadrant—these were the scientific ganglia that wiped the mountains from the map of the Liaotung Peninsula, and brought the operations, in the mind’s eye, to the level of a billiard table. “203” was the cushion needed for successful caroming. It would be useless to lug heavy guns up there; the hyposcope was carried up, but not artillery.


Dispatches have said that the capture of “203” gave the besiegers command of the town. Such dispatches concerning other captured positions were published repeatedly. Their effect was to keep the world continuously expecting the fall of Port Arthur. Let it once be comprehended that none of the positions captured up to December 15th was permanent, that none was a part of the grand scheme of defense perfected by the Russians through the past seven years; that there still remained seventeen primary and twenty-five secondary positions on the land side in addition to the finest forts which are on the sea side, and it will be apparent that this expectation was not, until General Stoessel decided that further resistance was useless, justified by the actual conditions.

Commanding the town meant little. The Japanese navy put shells into the town on the 8th of February, and had been able to put them in ever since; the army put them in on the 11th of August, and had been qualified for destruction ever since. They wanted to save the town. They looked upon it as their property. Why smash up what they would have to rebuild?[123] The fleet had been their chief objective. Though inert for four months, it was a menace until sunk; that out of the way, they need not worry. Of course their shells had searched about for arsenals and storehouses; if the town got in the way of the search—well, so much the worse for the town, but the Japanese effort had been to save their own. It was not Port Arthur, but Stoessel and his forts, that Nogi was after, just as it was not Richmond, but Lee and his army, that Grant was after.

As for the strategic position, no one can say that any one fort at Port Arthur is the key. Nature assisted expert engineers in devising those forts. All are so arranged that each is commanded by two or three, and, in some cases, by a dozen others; thus when one was taken it drew Russian fire from its fellows until it became untenable. Such was the situation at “203-Meter Hill.” The Japanese had driven the Russians out, but they were unable to mount guns of large caliber there, or do aught but locate a farther station from which to direct final assaults. Ten years ago, when the Japanese took Port Arthur from the Chinese in a day, one[124] fort, Etzeshan, taken, the others fell. That was the key. To-day no single fort is so important. “203” is dominated by the Table fort, the Table fort by the Chair fort, the Chair fort by Golden Hill, and Golden Hill by the Lion’s Mane. And after all this was taken, there would still remain the east forts. Yet, the capture of “203” was decisive. On September 19th, the Japanese lost two thousand men in trying to take it. The attempt failed. The division with the job in hand sat down, waited, and worked. Two months and a half of sapping, and one day of assault, on December 4th, turned the trick. Though it did not mean the fall of Port Arthur, it meant the beginning of the end. This for the reason that every contraction in the Russian line meant a gain in Japanese strength. The smaller the circumference the less the capacity for resistance. And, after all, the physical fact of the fall was simply a question of mathematics. The loss of life appalls, the spectacle attracts, the glory inthralls, but the intellect, backed by whatever impulse it is that gives man resolution for the supreme sacrifice, commands. A chessboard and two master minds—such was Port[125] Arthur, Nogi, and Stoessel. The checking move was made as long ago as May 26th, when the battle of Nanshan was fought. The fate of Port Arthur was sealed then just as it was sealed again when “203” was taken.

Let us look at that September assault on “203,” of which the one in December was but a repetition, and glimpse what it meant to storm Port Arthur. Could all the bloody story of the siege be told, “203” would be forgotten, a detail lost in vista, swamped in gigantic operations, veiled in the mist of vast sacrifices. Yet the mind, puny as it is, must grasp an incident and cling tight, as a poet to the fringe of metaphor, for comprehension even distant.

Passing from the rear of the army to the front, you might realize something of the tricky skill used to move those pawns over that vast chessboard. To the eye of an eagle all would have been invisible. The sum of his sight would have been a tongue of land making faces at the sea, ridged with deep blotches from whose recesses thin pricks of smoke slipped to the crack and roar of great guns.

Yet lively work was seen. Close to the right[126] rear was the first battery, a six-gun emplacement of field four point sevens. At one o’clock in the afternoon the telephone rang, the lieutenant in command called, and instantly the redoubt swarmed with figures that sprang like ants from the earth. Busy as ants, they answered the order from brigade headquarters for the signal shot to open the grand bombardment. They had come from their bomb-proofs, into which they would dodge again as soon as the shot was fired. There was much pride in the chief gunner as he took a cartridge from its bomb-proof shell chest, ran to his gun, threw open the cordite chamber, pulled out the breech block, rammed in the shell, snapped the block, and stepped back to signal the lanyard man; more pride than is usual in the Japanese gunner, a timid, simple being, dexterously handling his delicate instrument with as little vanity as he would handle a potato hoe.

Hurrying on the road to escape the shock, and looking back, the battery was invisible. The bewilderment of the eagle, if told that danger lurked there, would be overwhelming. A shell spat out, revealing the battery behind a mass of earth forming a natural redoubt. This was in[127] a narrow valley with only a small range of foothills between it and the sea, a place later called “The Valley of the Shadow of Death.” Behind every mountain shoulder, and up every gorge, firing high angle over the eminence in front, was a battery nestled in its redoubt, with bomb-proofs for the men and bomb-proofs for the ammunition. It was hardly a valley, but a ravine, barren of grass, a torrential place through which, in spring, huge rains tore. Soon other rain—red rain, powdery and leaden—was to pour there.

Directly in front, out of the west, loomed “203,” flanked by its gigantic brothers, granite-tossed, the Chair and the Table and the Lion’s Mane. Bone of the world’s vertebræ, Russia had capped them with science and determination. Their cordoned batteries, cunning and intricate, spoke not a word in reply to the Japanese taunts hurled in upon them, savage and vain. Why reply? They knew their strength. Before “203” lay a height down on the map, like the disputed key itself, under figures to denote in meters its reach skyward; “176” they call it, lacking more intimate speech, but the soldiers[128] quickly dubbed the hill “Namicoyama,” for they saw its resemblance to a flying fish abundant in these waters, called by us the trepang, by Japanese the namico. The mongers of Kamikura, after disemboweling, inflate this fish for hanging lamps. There it lay—the namico—its slopes spread finwise, its two peaks, furze-capped, rising above the mists of the valley as incandescents struggle through the fog of the night. Ringed with barbed wire was each peak and close about the top were lines of loopholed rock. As the following step of a stair, “203” rose beyond, fortified likewise. From the nearer peak the tardy glint of the sun caught the brass muzzles of two cannon. From the farther, down the slope, ran a trench continued to the sea.

The battle was on. Before the Russian outlook knew it the Japanese advance was at the base of Namicoyama. Each man was stripped to his khaki uniform, his cartridge belt and his rifle. Four hundred rounds of ammunition were in the four leather boxes at his belt, and in his hip pocket was a ration, dubbed with a soldier laugh, “iron”—three hard biscuits with a piece of salt fish the size of his palm.


Up they went cautiously, a squad of twenty at a time, slinking along the ravines, their rifle-butts dragging the ground; one file of twenty, then another and another, until the slopes were dotted with figures colored like the earth—silent, nimble, tiny.

Now the artillery was at it heavily. Beginning with the battery we had seen go into action, the pieces spoke up, one by one, until near a hundred guns were spitting fire from the nooks behind; astonishing to an eagle, but the Russians seemed not to mind. The shots increased, the din augmented. A shell appeals to the imagination—snarls like a wild beast, flings fierce shrieks into unwilling ears, rends tooth and claw at fear. The place might have been a nest of demons with the old devil hen hatching them out. The Japanese kept those two ridges so hot with shrapnel that not a man dared show himself. For twenty yards below the parapet the slope bubbled as does a pot boiling above the kettle’s brim. Not a sound from the nearer Russians. From Anzushan, from Etzeshan, from “203,” and even from far-off Liaotishan the replies spoke distant and absurd, but Namicoyama, slated for assault, was[130] silent, silent as though no brass cannon were mounted in the sight of all men, as though no twenty companies of sharpshooters were lying low with Maxims and repeating rifles waiting to receive the final charge. Were there cowardly Japanese it was a secret shared by no man with his neighbor. Sound to the core or not, they went on with the precision of a clock. As the infantry advanced, occasionally a huddled figure, inert, was grouped here and there with others who moaned piteously. At times a squad, sinking, would lose itself in a hollow, only to climb presently up the opposite slope, there to sink on one knee, rifles at fixed bayonets, while the lieutenant in command reconnoitered to right or left, searching for the line of best deploy. Then on, skurrying another few rods, to another halt, until they came to the precipitous rocks up which it seemed a goat would have skinned his shins in climbing. Here, hugging the mountain proper, having lost but few, considering the advance made, they waited for night.

Meanwhile, aloft, hell reigned. Shells constantly bursting apparently shattered guns and killed gunners, but when the dust cleared all was[131] instantly life again, the gnomish figures busy—busy as ants with eggs. For a minute thus, then all would drop back into the earth simultaneously with the reply, and at the very moment that another Russian shell was in upon them.

Was it the same beyond in Namicoyama and in “203”? Doubtless the Russians were as safe, though with them the shells must have been multiplied by twenties, because the space of a few rods, lying exposed to every range, received the constant fire of every Japanese gun. The Russians had a wider target, a range of hills from which occasionally they could see smoke curling upward. It was far more difficult to hit than the Japanese target, for nothing was plain, all was guesswork. The Russians could not see a thing they were aiming at. A range of hills, seared with autumn, bare of husbandmen, innocent of apparent defense, alive with hissing venom, confronted them. They lashed it desperately as they could, frantically as a boy beset with nightmare. The little men had a plain target, parapets outlined against the sky, trenches clear and distinct. Yet the Japanese were often covered with dust from bursts on the slope beyond,[132] and through the Valley of the Shadow the diabolic screeches mounted with the dying of day. Night came with the wild clamor on in full fury, the little brown squads still at the base of Namicoyama, the reserves creeping around toward “203.”

Could they climb it—that six hundred feet of almost perpendicular rock, where, in daytime, with sticks and hobnailed boots, the best of mountain climbers would have found an adventure? And they must go up dragging rifles, shrapnel dropping among them, shells bursting overhead, bullets mowing them down, not to rest at the top, but, once there, to plunge against troops well rested, superbly intrenched.

The reserves threw up shelter tents and staked down the flaps with heavy rocks, but the wind, howling across from the inlet, flung them to the laugh of the rising equinoctial. Some sought rest on bean straw, under blankets, the September moon streaming in, but there was no rest.

A flash in the eyes and the mountain is thrown into a silhouette of fire, then plunged into blackness. From the extreme Russian left the searchlights are wheeling into position, one by one,[133] until the whole seven are out, playing day over the battlefield, throwing suspicious investigation into the little squads of brown. Science has intensified war. Formerly men could get their fill of fighting by day, but now they needs must flare the candle at both ends. Like Joshua, these generals are deciding their empires’ fates under light of their own ordering.

The second searchlight comes out of the right. In between, the others dance, now a minuet, now a tarantella. Then a red line streaks the air, parabola-like, and its end breaks into molten balls, illumining the Valley of the Shadow of Death as by candelabra of stars. Its path is crossed by another. Still a third leaps into life till the night is frightful with fireworks. Processions peaceful and gay have danced through the cities to such salvoes fostered by Pain. You have seen them on Coney Island, you have watched for them on Manhattan Beach, you have romped through merry summer nights canopied by their dazzle; you have seen them split into golden bursts and rain diamonds of child joy; but do not wish to see them bred by the Russians, grisly and deadly, laying bare[134] every joint of action and throwing into ghastly relief every hope of surprise.

A growl among the mountains rolls into power, and a naval shell from our left has burst in “203.” The forts respond, the mountains reply. The small arms open up, the machine guns rattle, the pompoms clatter in. Pitch, fuzz, dingle and pop are drowned. Crash, roar, hurtle and boom are out. The devil is loose.

A clatter on the stones below comes nearer, steadily, rhythmically. Listen! The tread of soldiers marching! Soon an indistinct line wavers into sight. A low whistle and it turns square across the Valley of the Shadow toward that terrible din. Another whistle and it twists up from single to double file. Each man has his full kit on his back, an extra pair of hobnailed boots, the pick, the shovel, the rifle. The steel is hooded with brass caps, a challenge to the dew. Officers’ swords, sheathed in dull cloth, defy the glitter of sunlight and of searchlight. It is the reserve regiment advancing to reinforce at dawn. Company by company it passes, and at the end marches the gray-haired colonel, stumbling[135] in the dark, peering off at the searchlights, blinking at their bravado. The troops enfile into the farther ravine and deploy by battalions. The din lessens not. So another grist is fed into the mill of war.

The reserves’ echo dies to the incoming of crunches on the stones as of a wagon lumbering—a heavy wagon. Then out of the mists a caisson rolls behind six horses, the mounts walking, calmly, slowly. Another caisson and another, then the guns—one, two, three, four, five, six in all—while overhead whistles the shot and beyond gleams the searchlight. The rear battery is going forward, past the front battery, almost to the base of Namicoyama, where, at a sixty-degree angle, it can reinforce the infantry as the sun comes up.

Sleep is fitful when blaze is flirting with blackness and sentries with death. Long before light the trench guards on the front ridge are waiting for the big guns to salute the morn. The fire has slackened. There is fair quiet. When one has heard the wild gabble of a thousand guns he is blasé before the chatter of a dozen. Down the Valley of the Shadow a shell[136] sometimes wings a nasty way and the searchlights hold vigil, but the infantry sleeps.

Then a little light fades the immense shadows, and soon over the rim of the world peers a new day. Peace, beauty, tingling health—this for another moment—when off to the right a shell wheezes. The snap is touched. The army wakes. Again it is on—the fearful din, the unendurable bombardment. So it has been for two months; so it will be until the end. Again and again.

But what is that under the crest of Namicoyama where it rises, furze covered, its incandescent struggle fighting fog? A patch of brown, then a patch of blue, then a flag—yes, a flag—a white flag, with a red sun in the center, the most legible flag in the Volapük of bunting, the Rising Sun of Japan!

In the night they have done it because they have slipped the thongs of civilization and risen triumphant to the hold of rice paddy and sacred mountain. What they did was simple—they changed shoes; rather, they threw away shoes. If one asks how the Japanese took “203” the answer is in terms of feet.


Such heights had been attacked before with scant success. Boots, though the nails be hobbed, help no man trained as the chamois to nature’s aid. Yet boots were all they had. The government in flirting with the ways of white men recognized nothing but leather and thread as proper footgear for Mikado worshipers. But that was before “203.” Here, at last, the soldiers knew more than the officials of state. They knew enough to toss aside a weapon made for pavement fighting when they went against precipice and moss. Reduced to essentials, fighting for life, they forgot the ambitious new ways. Instead of boots they tied on their feet waraji, the Japanese straw sandal. Having none of proper make, they improvised from the rough rice sacking brought by the commissary. Since then the government has been compelled to officially supply waraji.

Barefooted, but for the tight cling of the straw, hid from the searchlights by the shadows of Namicoyama and “203,” in the night they had climbed the heights and are now waiting the introduction of Mr. Bombshell before they reel audaciously across the parapet.


The brown is khaki-covered men, the blue those with overcoats. Far down at the lower left is a gray-haired figure standing apart—the colonel. He makes no effort to shield himself. The artillery of two armies have concentrated their fire above his head. That is their business, no concern of his, so he hazily observes the unfurling of day beyond the Tiger’s Tail as he would dwell upon the empurpling of a convolvulus. At Nanshan he led the victorious charge. Three bullets went through his coat and two through his hat. He wears Shinto emblems and believes he was not born to be killed in battle. He has been in forty-seven engagements without a wound. His name is Tereda, and he commands the first regiment of the first division; in rank but a lieutenant-colonel, his colonel slain May 26th.

Shrapnel begins bursting above. The Russians are far from sleep, farther from death. It being high time for business, the white flag with the red sun in the center waves once to the left, once to the right, and twice to the front. It is the artillery signal. Again the ridge falls under the terrific fire of the day before. But[139] this time the infantry is 150 yards nearer, and this 150 yards is in a direction similar to that pursued by a telephone lineman when he follows his calling. The men crouch low, their own shells bursting less than fifty yards above them.

The introduction is long. The Russians are saucy hosts. They parley and talk back with their big guns, and that bluster of the day before is repeated. All day long Tereda and his men emulate the furze, for when they take the fort they want night handy to help them intrench, to give them a bit of cover despite the searchlights and star bombs. Besides, one climb of that sort is enough for twenty-four hours. They must have the cumulation of another twenty-four for the final charge. Yet it is costly recuperation. Blood spurts frequently. Wounded wilt under the sun, the dead lie untouched.

At half-past four in the afternoon Tereda orders the final charge. Three cheers go up—Banzai! Banzai! Banzai! With bayonets fixed the squads deploying as before, the khaki-covered spots begin to move. In advance the men crawl hand over hand, helped by blessed waraji. Twenty feet from the parapet they pause and[140] fling something that leaps through the air like balls from catcher to second base. These hand grenades of gun-cotton explode on and in the parapet, introduction more intimate. The brilliant bursts play off the fast settling evening as the khaki-covered ones go in, Tereda pausing and peering with his glass. The entire battalion tumbles over the parapet. Then the reserves begin climbing from the base.

Silence. All is over. What has happened? Five, ten minutes pass, then the firing recommences, but now the object is changed; all the Japanese shrapnel is playing over the road leading to the Chair fort and all the Russian fire is directed against Namicoyama. The Russians are retreating, throwing their rifles as they run. Over Namicoyama floats the white flag with the red sun in the center.

Two hours later a fat old man with a heavy beard and baggy trousers is brought in—a prisoner. An officer, originally in the commissary, he had been called into the line, business being dull in his department. He commanded six companies on Namicoyama. Wounded in the arm and sullen, he has no greeting for us.


“The pigs,” he cried; “I stood at the end of the trench with my pistol ready to shoot every bolter, but it was no use. The beasts! Ah, my poor Russia.”

He had a son in a Siberian regiment shot four days previously before his eyes. For a year he had had no word from his wife and two younger children in the Trans-Baikal, but he was well fed. Bearded, tanned, deep-eyed, he loomed with dignity and might above his captors. There was no consoling him.

“The beasts,” he cried, “papa disowns them. Why didn’t I use the pistol?”

There was plenty of flour and small-arm ammunition over there, he said. The troops were in good morale, but needed bucking up by the officers. What could be done for him?

“Nothing,” he replied. “My boy is dead, my wife, my children, where are they? And Russia, ah, Russia, where is she!”

To him Port Arthur had fallen.


Chapter Seven

Headquarters Third Imperial Army, Before Port Arthur, Oct. 9th: Often we dine with the Army’s leaders. To-day all the temporary occupants of the headquarters village, which include the human impedimenta of an army, such as the expert on international law, the official photographer and the correspondents, were called to the General’s house. My invitation read:

“Sir: I am desired by General Baron Nogi to write to you, and tell you, with his compliments, that he will be happy if you will favor him with your company at tiffin on Sunday, the 9th inst., at one o’clock. He wishes to become well acquainted with you by having chit-chats. I have the honor to be, sir,

“Your Obedient Servant,
Y. Yoshioka, Major Aide-de-Camp:
“By Order.”


We went. There were some long tables peppered with aluminum ware, fruit and wine under the pear trees of a Manchurian back yard. We stood up to the cold luncheon, partly foreign, partly native, charmingly served by soldiers. There was a crowd of dignitaries distinguished by uniforms. They were of all ranks, from the three stars and three stripes of the General of the forces to the single star and stripe of the sub-lieutenant, who is commissary adjutant. But it was not an affair of dress, so out of the crowd rose two personalities who burned themselves into my consciousness, where they hang yet, resplendent in energy. There was about them a native dignity, a primal force, that indefinable something that distinguishes great men.

One wore a pair of yellow boots and might have stepped from an American fashion plate. There was American vitality and freshness in him, too. He dispensed with ceremony, spoke keenly, decisively, almost brusquely, and looked you square in the eye with a twinkle that said he appreciated all the social gayety and yet kept back his own opinion. He had a square jaw, thick neck, broad shoulders, massive palms and[144] a head long from chin to crown—all unusual for a Japanese. This was Major Yamaoka, the parliamentaire who recently rode into Port Arthur with the Emperor’s offer of safety to noncombatants. He is one of General Nogi’s most trusted aides, a popular orator, a man of decision. He walks like a thoroughbred. Had Cæsar seen Major Yamaoka walk across that Manchurian garden he would surely have put him on his staff.

The other wore a pair of Pomeranian top boots, elegant and serviceable as Yamaoka’s were fresh and hardy. They were pulled snugly over his knees to keep out the bitter Manchurian wind. Above were a pair of white kersey breeches, spectacular as Napoleon’s. He was fond of rising on the toes of these boots and writhing sinuously in them, like an acrobat testing, as he responded to a toast or applauded the music and fun. Everything about him indicated the strong man of action—the tensity of his muscles, the flex of his waist, the sure set of his heels, the poise of his head, the ease and power of his bearing, his well-knit mouth, his regular, beautiful teeth, the clarity of his eyes,[145] the sincerity of his smile, even the straight, tough fiber of his hair. In physique the opposite of Yamaoka, for he is five feet nine in height, exceedingly tall for a Japanese, slender, and with delicate hands, the two yet have the same vivacity and shrewdness, the same kindliness touched with hauteur. But the second man is chief of the army, not only in rank, for it was General Nogi, but in worth as well. His mastery was easily felt to-day. He stands at the pinnacle of a wonderful career and the world’s eyes center on him. How handsome he was—and how simple and friendly, how easily pleased, how innately courteous! Is he not also that ideal philosopher whom the Roman Emperor Aurelius wrote about as bethinking him always of his enemy’s comfort? I asked him how he would like to exchange places with General Stoessel.

“I think often of General Stoessel,” he replied. “To be frank I think of him every day. When I go to bed at night and when I get up in the morning, and often between times I wonder about him, how hard his position must be, and how well he defends it, and if he is really injured[146] as we have heard. Sometimes I put myself in his place and imagine what I should do. Then I try to think that some day I might be in just his position. And so I fight the battles all over again from his side and from mine.”

“Does it teach you much?”

The General laughed heartily. “We have learned much from the Russians. I am always pointing them out to my soldiers as model fighters.” He took from the ground a pick whose handle had been splintered by a shell, evidently found on the battlefield. Both nose and heel had been worn half away, rounded with dullness and rust. It was not like the Japanese picks, which are small and short-handled.

“I assembled all the battalion commanders a few days ago,” he continued, “and showed them this pick as an object lesson. It has turned over many a hundred weight of earth and shows how expert the Russians are at trench-making. Our soldiers do not like to dig trenches. Many of them are of gentle blood and think it is coolie work. Besides, they say: ‘We are going forward in the morning. Why dig trenches to-night?’[147] The Russians have taught us tactics, too.”

Here Villiers interrupted. “Men who, like the Russians, build trenches so they must show themselves on the skyline to shoot can’t teach tactics,” he said. The talk slid on to the bonzais, mutual promises to dine together next in Port Arthur, and au revoirs.

But I started to write of the Manchurian. He knows not, neither does he learn. Yet you can scarcely ask who let down that shaggy jaw and who sloped that head away, for he has a magnificent, strong, clean jaw and his head is handsome and high. That he bathes only once a year and cares not who owns the land so long as he tills it; and that his wife and daughter sit on the stone fence of his donkey stable picking the lice from one another’s heads, doubtless has nothing to do with the question propounded by our sociological poet.

Nor is the Manchurian uncivilized. He has, indeed, reached quite a state of development, for he is the abject slave of fashion—at least his wife and daughter are. They bandage their feet until where a No. 8 boot should go they wear[148] baby 6’s. This, I dare say, is a less harmful fashion than that other silly one of corsets, for surely the organs beneath a shoe lace are not so vital as those under a waistband, but it looks sillier. To see women in the harvest fields, by the roadside washing clothing, cleaning the donkey stable, baking bread, spanking boys, suckling babies, attending husbands, all the time balancing themselves as a première danseuse on her toes, is to think of stake and rack! They say that this is not real Manchuria, that up North, where the other army is, the women do not bind their feet. The present Dowager Empress of China, considered by many the most remarkable living woman, is a native of northern Manchuria. In all this vast country the women are noted for modesty and virtue. Ten years ago, during the China-Japan War, many committed suicide to escape expected ravishment. But it was well learned then that the Japanese never outrage a woman. An incident of such atrocity by Japanese, in either war, has yet to be recorded. It is said that the Russians are different, though it is difficult to see how any Westerner could look with more than curiosity[149] on a Manchu woman. Certain it is that they go about their lives here in complete freedom and security. Not only do the Japanese respect women; they respect property also. Here is a fertile country with rich crops sustaining a vast army, yet no farmer has lost a bushel of grain, except when the chance of battle has substituted shot for scythe.

Driven from home by shells which killed their father and mother, these brothers tramped from camp to camp selling eggs.

A son of the soil is the Manchurian, but not a friend of nature, with whom he wars valiantly for his daily bread. He fights terrible suns in summer and ghastly winds in winter. When the winds and snows drive out the flies that eat him up, the lice come in until the sun and flies can have another turn. So can you blame him for being a money grabber? He thinks only of this season’s maize crop and of next spring’s plowing. Whether the Russians or the Japanese or the Chinese rule the land is much the same to him. He will put his tax into the Governor’s coffer and go on with his toil. Why should he bother? He remembers that Confucius was born on the Liaotung and that Confucius taught to resist no violence and remember the fathers. Consequently he fills the country with tombstones and[150] babes while other men fill it with war and nameless graves. Over in the valley is a granite monolith erected in the memory of one who honored his father and mother. A Russian shell has struck it in the pit of the stomach and Japanese bullets have shattered its back.

Patriotism? No. But he has his religion and it is this: to remember the fathers and owe no man.

Recently the master of our house went out with us for a day to carry supplies. A stray shell passed over us, perhaps twenty feet above. We all ducked, but as soon as the coolie recovered he ran. We called him, for we were without other help. He kept running. We sent a soldier. The coolie came back grudgingly. Finally we gave him a yen. But he shook the yen impudently in our faces, and fell back simulating death, crying out: “Coolie dead, yen no good.”

He should be used to danger now. His neighbors are. The shells and bullets are to them what blowsnakes and mosquitoes are to an American country district. To-day I saw children playing among corn stubble while three[151] shells burst within a hundred yards. The children did not look up. For three months the Russians were in the land; now for three months the Japanese have been in the land. For three months the Manchurian nonchalantly carried Russian wounded into Port Arthur and buried Russian dead by the roadside for fifty kopeks a day. For three months he has nonchalantly carried Japanese wounded into Dalny and buried Japanese dead in the fields for fifty sen a day. What concern is it of his which survivor he gives up sen and kopek to afterwards?


Chapter Eight

General Nogi’s Headquarters Before Port Arthur, Oct. 22d: To-day we went to the Eternal Dragon, and looked in on the bloody angle. D’Adda was with me—the Marquis Lorenzo D’Adda of Rome, naval expert, military engineer, designer of the Niishin and Kasuga, which, even now, on clear days, our spyglasses can discern held in leash, ten miles off, by Togo.

Yesterday, from the Phœnix, D’Adda looked on the fortress—its two mountain ranges, its stone wall, its chain of twenty forts, its concrete glaces, its barbed wire morass, its artillery pregnant with repose, its infantry hideous with secret might—and said:

“Eemposseebl! Eet ees eemposseebl—absolutelee. Zee Japonaise can nevaire take. Eet ees stronger zan Sevastopol—stronger zan Gibraltar—absolutelee.”


To-day, from the foot of the Dragon, he looked down into a plain lost to the husbandman who bears on his arm no red cross, yet furrowed far deeper with vast and terrible furrows, its creased and aching joints curled into the glaring sun. Up, he looked under the muzzles of Russian cannon, useless now that the plain they were wont to fill with dead is lost to them.

“Extraordinaire—colossal!” he cried. “Port Art—eet will be one smoke puff zee nex attac.”

We had left the siege parallels and were climbing into the fort, our backs bent low so that no Russian sharpshooter might give his government cause to decorate the forgotten names of two noncombatants. We had wormed our way, zigzag, a mile and a half through the valley along a trench that a division might foot with equal safety, four abreast. Lives precious, toil enormous, and brains cunning and quick had hid their army from the enemy as prairie dogs hide their spring litters. A clever attaché with the Boers had shown how they who learned the tricks from the Kafirs, hid vulnerable turnings with maize stalks. Another, schooled with[154] D’Adda in the arts that Julius Cæsar taught the legions in Gaul and which have not been improved on to this day, had outlined the most economic angles of advance, had shown how to take advantage of every gully, how to hide behind every terrace tuft, how to cross sodded planks above at equal distances until the way resembled the weave of an Indian basket. All of this that we had passed was but a sixth of the work of one division, of which the army holds three. And it has been done in less than two months.

The Marquis continued to exclaim that since the invention of gunpowder there has been no such engineering. “I know zee historee well,” he said, “veree well. I know Plevna, Sevastopol, Dantzig, Paris, Vicksburg, Metz, Ladysmith. Zay are no-thing. Port Art—eet ees zee greatest. Zee world cannot comprehend.”

Halfway back we had passed a Chinese village, shattered by shells, blackened by smoke, its tumbling walls utilized for the trench. Earthen wine pots had been filled with shale and placed on the sandbags to deceive the gunners beyond. Two days before there was rain and in one part[155] the trench was filled with muddy water. We had to pick our way on submerged stones and planks. As I hurried along, looking at my feet, I noticed that the water grew dull red as though the wine pots above had burst. At that moment I stumbled and caught the wall for steadiness. My hand struck something flabby. I drew it back in horror and found sticking to the palm a white piece of flesh dented with convolutions—a bit of human brain. A pace away he lay, his feet toward me. A stray shell had blown him off from brain base to nose bridge. He was still warm and the officer called back shrilly for a soldier to come with pick and shovel. Then we took notice of the shells bursting, some five miles off, some a thousand yards away. This had happened within the hour.

As we came closer to the Dragon a stretcher was borne down by two red cross men. A bullet had picked a private through a peephole. Just ahead of us two soldiers were walking, one with his full kit, rifle and shovel on his back, the other bareheaded and barebacked. Both wore on their sleeves the two yellow stripes of the distinguished soldier. The finger of the one who[156] was to go was held by the hand of the one who was to stay. Neither spoke. They walked silently and slowly in the full sunlight. He of the full kit was ordered into the thirty-minute trench to take the place of the one who had passed out on the stretcher. He, too, is almost sure to pass, ere long, the same way. As the two comrades walked toward the place of death I saw how true Dickens is, for it was precisely thus—finger in palm—that he sent Sydney Carton and the seamstress to la guillotine in “The Tale of Two Cities”; the one who was to go clasping the finger of the one who was to stay, the one who was to stay looking with kind, brave strength calmly into the face of the one who was to go.

“Ah! Tragique!” cried D’Adda.

The officer said we might one at a time go into the front trench. I started. It was a short climb over shale and debris of sundered shells and of a sudden I hobbled into a hollow space, girt with bags and silent, silent as is the place of execution the morning of capital punishment. It was the redoubt, thrust into the air like the maw of a dragon. The sun beat in beautiful[157] and sure. The rocks, with deadly glare, spat up their challenge. An occasional bullet sang as a ripsaw tears through a pine knot. Then a machine gun rattled and the shale beyond pattered. I was carried back to a boiler factory and an automatic riveter. Of all war sounds that of the machine gun is least poetic, is the most deadly; it has the ring of business.

Silence, blankness, death. At first I could see no life, but the officer spoke a low word—here all words are whispers as they are beside the couches of those about to leave this world—and four spots on the wall that had seemed monotonous and brown as the shale moved. Four simple, peasant faces with the star of Nippon above looked at me. Then one, attracted by something beyond, suddenly kneeled, seized the rifle beside him, leveled it through a chink and pulled the trigger. That deadly rip sawed its knot.

Boldened by the presence of soldiers kneeling as I was, I began to look around. A groan, first aspirate, then low, as of an asthmatic man snoring, brought my eyes across the bag-protected dragon’s mouth and I saw two figures[158] kneeling above a third. Presently the two lifted the third into a stretcher and filed past me with it. I saw a face blood-dabbed, the lips piteously moving. A bandage across the eyes saved me the worst. The officer beckoned for me to peek through the farther hole. The incident was but a bit of the day’s work for him. I followed and saw a shattered field glass under the parapet. It told the story. He was—had been—a non-commissioned officer in charge of the sentry squad and was looking across at the Russians when a sharpshooter spotted the glass. I felt that I was hurt more than he, for I lay awake thinking of it much of that night, only to remember that the surgeon-general had told me that a man shot through the brain is instantly unconscious, though his lips move and he moans for minutes.

“Each day—how many?” I asked the officer.


“And how many days?”


“How many to take the fort?”

“Four thousand six hundred and fifty-three.”

“With each night a battle to resist a sortie?”


“Yes. Each night a sortie, each night a battle.”

“Thus—by night—how many to hold this awful place?”

“Since the beginning? Perhaps a regiment, perhaps a few more.”

He motioned me to the corner hole—the hole through which a minute before the bullet had sped into the officer’s eye. I emulated neither bullet nor officer, but at a respectful two feet glimpsed a ridge ghastly and glimmering in the sun like any other ridge in this hell hole. Quite near enough to reach in a short dash—200 yards, the officer said—a row of sandbags were backed business-like toward me. Between us were five heaps of blue clothes, four in a huddle and one a bit off—Russian dead killed in the battle of Hatchimakiyama four days ago in the zone where nothing lives. Grass withers there. Vermin alone germinate.

Behind those sandbags and behind these men crouch and have crouched every minute for two months hunting game the most lordly and the most cunning, the most deceitful and the most contemptible, the boldest and the fiercest, the[160] most inspired and the most depraved this earth can boast.

The Russians on three sides held us in a vise. The bottom of the crater was paved with empty cartridge shells and bullets flattened on the rocks. Constantly more knots were being ripped by the saw above. Except for that rasp—a rasp that bore in with crescendic violence on the nerves—the silence was profound. Life was everywhere—intelligence at the keenest pitch, ingenuity the most diabolical, agility the most intense, sacrifice heroic, daring, sublime—but not a sound, not a motion. Everywhere the silence kept—the unendurable silence of the Eternal Dragon. Its insatiable maw thrust up there in the ghastly sunlight, drenched in blood, yet cried for more.

Clinging to the bases of the forts, like barnacles to a ship, these sturdy Japanese existed in miserable quarters throughout the summer, fall and half the winter.

Sick with the thought that through this bloody angle, bought at so dear a cost, held at so terrible a price, there must yet be fought the supreme fight that will eventually reduce the citadel I turned to go. At the top of the downward trench I paused, kneeling, where three soldiers stood with rifles waiting to relieve the sentry on duty. Down through the plain swept[161] the ten-mile front of the two armies—the might of Russia and the might of Japan, locked in a struggle so desperate there was no sound but the asthmatic wheeze of the ripsaw buzzing above. It was very close to the other world—yet the resources of two empires centered there, the heartthrobs of great people, raging like the wind in from two seas, swept it all into a typhoon of gore and grief.

I felt my hand clasped by a palm moist and gentle with feeling, friendly with comradeship. The eyes I looked into were not those of a beast of prey. They were quite pleasant eyes, even lovable. The face was touched with soil. I could see it came from the rice paddies, yet it had sympathy, and pity, and much capacity for happiness. Was there not also capacity for suffering? The low word came and he went off, food for powder. Will he be one of the twenty? The sun was quite as devilish as ever in the Dragon’s maw as he stepped into it. As I scrambled into safety I saw him propped against the wall, his rifle against a chink, his cheek to the breech, “sniping.” It was a salute and an appeal that he pressed into my hand, a reproach and a challenge.[162] I was a white man, he a yellow, and he was killing white. What difference was there between us? Could I not also have found friends two hundred yards farther on? Still the ripsaw buzzed the knots. Again the machine gun rattled, without poetry, business-like and deadly.

“Tragique!” whispered D’Adda, as he came back from the same journey and sat beside me. “Zis ees zee focal point—most eentense, most sublime. Perhaps here Port Art will be taken—and by surprise. I know zee historee. I study Plevna, Sevastopol, Metz, Gibraltar, Vicksburg, Ladysmith. Always by surprise. Zee physical is but zee one aspect of zee situation. Zere are zee three aspect—zee physical, zee mental and zee moral. Zee moral aspect will be—what you call it? zee final decidence. When what you call zee psychologique mo-ment come—in zee wind, zee rain, zee storm, zee quick rush—zen zee high spirit go low—phwaat! like zat—zen Port Art fall. By a surprise. One sergeant he take Dalny, one private soldier he will take Port Art.”

We loiter along the parallel on our way back. The ripsaw strikes a knot above our heads and[163] we shy to windward. D’Adda reminds me that once when Skoboleff, greatest of all Russian soldiers, thus ducked in giving way to a purely physical reflex action, he immediately leaped to the parapet, and walked along in full view of the enemy, until two members of his staff dragged him down as he sputtered out his disgust with himself.

We stop, winded. Again the ripsaw. Again the shrink. Then, content with what breath we have, fearful we may have no more, we hurry on, our knees sprung, our heads drawn in, like turtles slinking through the mud. We have no troops to encourage, no reputations to sustain. We are not Skoboleffs.


Chapter Nine

Ho-o-zan (the Phœnix Mountain), Manchuria, August 28th:—Ninety-six hours of almost incessant fighting—from sun to moon, from moon to searchlight and from searchlight to dawn—is more than human endurance, backed though it be by Japanese pluck, can stand, and there was nothing to do last night but rest. Only an occasional sentry pop or the roll off to the right of a wheezy cannon whose shot traveled on wheels in need of grease, told us that the sublime panorama of mountains and valleys lying before us hid a hundred thousand armed and warring men.

Until last night the weather has been all sun and moonlight, with dawns and sunsets tinted persimmon russet, and the valleys bright twenty hours out of the twenty-four; fighting conditions ideal for the defense, whose searchlights and[165] star bombs made the other four hours bright and left surprise as difficult as to a poker student playing with his back to a mirror. But mirror or no mirror the Japanese attacked. Night was day to them and daytime hell, as they hurled themselves against that iron chain of forts, only to break as the waves of the sea climb up to shatter upon the rocks. The rocks disintegrate. Yes. Yet hard on the waves—and slow.

Losses? Officially it was admitted that more than twenty-five thousand were done for. Not since Grant hurled his inefficient brigades on Cold Harbor has there been such a slaughter against a fortress. In the Ninth division, which lay in our immediate front and which formed the center of the army, two regiments were entirely decimated and a battalion and a company of artillery put out of action, to a man. For a week the roads at the bases of our mountain dribbled stretchers loaded with masses of flesh, clothes and blood. The soldiers’ “bandaging places” overflowed, and the living were so busy helping others to live, and still others to die, there was no time to bury the dead.


And all for nothing. Not a single permanent fort had been taken, not a prisoner, not a gun from the enemy was in our hands. The opposing mountains, responsive with explosives to the touch, where no art of the engineer was lost, held before us as always, grim, monstrous, calm in mighty strength. On their under-features, between the opposing outposts, lay thousands whom no first aid dared reach, and other thousands whom no burial squad came near. The men of words argued long that week. They could not agree whether it was a reverse or a repulse. The anti-Japanese contended that as we had not gained one point the action was a “reverse.” The lenient were certain that as we had not been driven back no one vain of military technique could call it more than a “repulse.” The fifty thousand interested parents in Japan knew not if it was victory or defeat; presently they are to find that it is death. “Reverse” or “repulse” the commander cared not: he had disobeyed an Imperial order, for the instructions were to enter Port Arthur on the 21st of August. And the caterers of the treaty ports, what cared they of “reverse” or “repulse”? The banquets had been ordered,[167] the five-dollar tickets sold, the day fireworks stored for the fall of the eastern Gibraltar on this pre-ordained day. And now the eggs were no longer strictly fresh, the vegetables were stale, the meats off-color, while the back of Port Arthur was still game and careless in all that brilliant weather.

With us, to meet an officer was to see a face drawn and grave. Useless to utter sympathy, superfluous to express confidence. They had underestimated a great foe, miscalculated his strength, and were paying the price—a fearful one—with the “two o’clock in the morning” courage of desperately determined men. They did not waver or complain, but it was terrible to see them, calm, patient, silent, suffering, still resolute to go on, meeting each salutation with a hollow smile, ghastly with ache.

“What fine weather,” we say, wanting better speech.

“For him—yes. Bad for us.” “Him” is the enemy, on whom the sun shone gayly and for whom the new moon was a few hours off.

Clouds came with last evening. Slowly the houses on the edge of the old town disappeared[168] against the murky hills. Then the new town went. The huge cranes that marked the western harbor, where lay the hunted warships, evaporated, the docks faded away, the stone quarry was lost. At length the tall factory chimney on the outskirts, which for days had been our chief landmark, went out in the haze. That was the last we saw of the complete Port Arthur, whose beleaguered, respected front had mocked us for eight desperate days.

The moon had a hard time. She came up with a huge cigar in her face—shocking in a lady moon!—which choked her till she spewed and sputtered and went out. She was a new moon and died gamely, filling the air with impudence and bravado, so it was some time after midnight before the rain pattered her off about her business with that silly cigar behind the clouds, and filled the valley with mist. Thus, the rain was our friend and we welcomed it, casting happy and fragrant remarks into the rising storm, singing the mountain to sleep with our lullaby of content, for we knew that “his” searchlights could do little, perhaps nothing, against our soldier boys, already sore and tired,[169] but valiant down there in the huge night. Foiled in the light, we looked for them to do something in the dark.

But even before that we knew the night was big with promise, for eight officers climbed up at dusk to stay the night with us. We lay at length under rubber blankets and rough oiled paper used in Japan for cart covers, with our noses stuck between the rocks, scenting for excitement as deer are fire-stalked in the great woods.

This mountain, the Phœnix, is directly in the rear center of Nogi’s army and about a mile from his advance posts. Thus, with little danger, we command as grand a battlefield as the world has yet produced. From here we have seen, at the same time, exasperating as a three-ring circus, two infantry assaults, three artillery duels, and a naval engagement. The human impetus we knew not until last night. Until then we knew only the sound and color of battle, and its wild glory. So we fell asleep, the rain pattering.

Past midnight and only stray sentry shots have carried out that promise of something big.[170] With difficulty we keep awake, yet the officers behind lie expectant and the night is young. The fresh rain dapples delicious coolness and filters mosquitoes—tiger mosquitoes—more terrible than war. I hear deep breathing—then quiet—and dreamland.

Rain pelting in my face wakes me to greet a flash of lightning. I tuck in the rubber blanket, reach for my watch and by the next flash see the hands at seven minutes past three. I snuggle myself into a ball and crunch the rocks closer. Another flash behind and I spasmodically close my eyes, but open them in time to see the mountain side and road below livid. Two horses are lying in the road, killed, I suppose, by the flash. But, no, I remember that a shell laid them out yesterday. Ricalton cries:

“They’ve begun.”

“No,” I yell, “it’s the storm,” and my voice is lost in the thunder.

Is it thunder? Is it cannon? Who can tell? The vivid flashes, too great for artillery, lighting up the whole mountain, come in now on all sides and as fast as the lanyards of a battery could be pulled.


The horrid grandeur rises. Prayerfully thankful to be in it I desperately resolve not to run. How the molten sheets drag me from that hole in the rocks! Surely every glass in Port Arthur is leveled here! The next instant the Russian fire will concentrate on the Phœnix. Yes. There it is—a flash from Golden Mount, like a dynamic spark from one electrode to another, pointed this way, lost in the ink of night.

A double fear—the fear of shame and the fear of death—consumes me. I shiver. But I grow brave, for I am not alone. Ricalton leaps to his feet, wrapped in the trailing cart cover.

“Sublime!” he cries, waves his arms aloft, laughs at the storm.

More flashes from the Russian hills, the Japanese answer. The vast night is hideously alive. Artillery flicks as fireflies spark, spits tongues of flame, answering thunder with thunder, lightning with lightning. The rain beats down a torrent.

In the intermittent flashes the ugly eye of the searchlight looks in, licks phosphorus about us and ambles off into the valleys, as a cow might[172] run the fur of her tongue over a cocklebur and calmly go to grass. No taste for rocks over there. They are out for softer game. Six more fling their deviltry from the head of Cyclops and down in the valley struggle with mist and rain.

Then, ’mid the sky’s and cannon’s belch, as a fairy into the land of demons, a thin red line is tossed gracefully over the valley from the Russian side. It reaches high over the mountains from the sea forts and above the center of the great plain falls, as a sailor casts a halyard over the yardarm on to the deck beyond. In mid-air bursts the feu de joie, the delight of fireworks, in war a spy. On other nights this deathly star bomb revealed all secret movements, but now the Japanese have allies in the mist and rain. Neither searchlight nor star bomb can penetrate the storm veil.

Now comes the crackle of infantry, followed by the pop, pop, pop, of quick-firers, the clatter of Hotchkiss howitzers, the more sprightly click of Maxims. Another assault—and they have had eleven in a week! Will they win this time? They are going for the Cock’s Comb, whose crest stands out ominously against the sky.


Boom! Bo-o-o-m! Far out of the distance a deep voice.

“The navy. That’s a twelve-inch gun. Togo’s with us to-night!” Ricalton ought to know, but who can tell? Is it a Japanese siege mortar, a Russian coast defender, field artillery, star bomb, machine gun, howitzer, or that grand bombardment from the heavens? They are all in action to-night. Is it defeat or victory? Can they take the fort?

I can answer none of these questions. I only know that “a child could understand the De’il had business on his hand.”

As the crashes increase, the wind rising, the furor mounting, I throw the cart cover aside wrap the blanket more closely about me and run down the mountain. Ricalton calls, but I hear him not. The reality of this din must be known. Over my shoulder as I run the Phœnix looms up monstrous, haughty, wise and terrible, silhouetted as she was born, anon in fire.

At the foot a regiment is drawn along the road, the men squatting on their heels, ponchos over heads, their rifle barrels, brass-capped,[174] peeping from the corners. I make for the valley.

Seeking a trench where I have been before, between the lines of fire, I hurry for the village of Shuishiying, the location two days before of our outposts. No living thing is to be seen, but overhead the big bullets crash from behind and lumber in from the front. Down here between the two lines of batteries the way grows long, the village distant, the desire to return manifold. The artillery of two armies centers on me; not a pleasant sensation! Not on me, of course, but I am not a Christian Scientist—nor yet a veteran! It gets on my nerves. I turn back. Then through the dark I feel a file of soldiers near and go on.

Starting at every sound, in the purest darkness, not knowing whether we or the enemy occupy the village, and yet so far by this time I cannot return, I enter the village. A dull light around the first corner shows me the headquarters of the infantry line officers commanding the reserves—a place I had been two days before. I go up. Only a sergeant is there answering the telephone.


“My friends? Where?”

He waves an arm toward the front. I tumble out of the village and there are the advanced reserves drawn up, squatting on heels, poncho-covered, rifles uncapped. A movement is beginning. I fall in with the young lieutenant I know. The regiment quickly breaks into charging formation—squads of twelve, and deploys single file into the mealie fields to the left. I am discovered, ordered to the rear. I protest. The sentry orders arms, bayonets fixed. I go—back. The regiment goes—ahead.

But why be foiled? Why come halfway round the globe to be turned back at the summit? There is another way—to the right. I hurry along it as day begins to break. The mists are heavy, the rain drizzling, the first light struggling. I find the conical hill in the center of the plain, quite detached from the fortress proper, taken by our troops the day before and called the Kuropatkin battery. I struggle through battered abattis and entanglement for the elevation. The foss is filled with water—the only moat before Port Arthur that has the traditional morass. The place is deserted and[176] if I can reach the front trench the whole action will lie before me like a chessboard. Across the parapet lies a line sergeant, his head gone. There has been no time for the dead. The trail is thick with khaki bodies. Picking my way slowly forward, halting at each yard to be sure that I am not in range of the musketry whose wild rattle is now filling the air, I at length find myself near a bombproof partially splintered by shells. The plain now luminous, I pause for rest and safety, the din not lessening.

But no sooner do I look around than I scramble quickly on—into danger. Two figures are rigid there in the half-light of the bombproof, one in khaki uniform, one in blue blouse and marengo pants. The one in khaki has his teeth in the throat of the other, whose eyes, popped like peas from the pod, peer over, rakishly curious, at his limp hand dropped over the khaki back and holding a pistol. The khaki hip is drenched with blood, partially dried. The sun is come and gone and is now here again since that happened. The faces are ghastly with bloat. I leave the half-light of the shelter and go out where bullets are.


The star bombs cease, the searchlights die away, the artillery flags, the infantry grows noisier. Then I see the reserves falling back, the squads of twelve escaping from one terrace to another, in good formation, continually firing, but still falling back. This Kuropatkin battery may see other dramas like the bombproof duel. I hasten down. In the village I find the lieutenant busy with trenches, improvising the defense. He throws all his English at me as I come up:

“The Russians—they come—I fix them. They are very wild. Our men are very wild. Ah, it is a wild war.” The telephone rings. He runs to speak with the general. Then the sergeant informs me.

They had attempted an assault in the rain and dark. Beginning with shrapnel they had tried to find the searchlights. Charges burst above two of them nearest the Cock’s Comb, and they expired, as if hit. The guileless infantry then went in, supposing the way clear. Halfway up the glacis every searchlight, including the two apparently hit, converged on them, throwing them out, in spite of the rain, clearly against[178] the red earth. More. They carried nippers able to cut wire theretofore found before Russian positions, but here the wire was as thick as the little finger, not cutable with their weapons. Thus, instead of a lump of dough to be bowled over the first dark night the advance regiment had found, even in the rain, that the Cock’s Comb stood out intact as a racing yacht stripped for her tryout.

Yet another Russian dodge, for a battlefield is as full of intrigue as a ballroom, completed the disaster. Under our fire of the afternoon which preceded the rivalry with the storm Stoessel had his batteries reply, but when we opened up with the storm he ordered his guns to cease, one by one, battery by battery. Soon our forces thought that like the searchlights the artillery was done for. So when the advance, after creeping through the nipper-defying barbed wire, expecting their job done, was about to leap with a “Banzai” over the parapet, they were met by light and fire. Turning to look for their comrades of the second regiment they found these deep in the dunga, attempting, not to come on, but to cut their way back, for a battery[179] of pompoms and a regiment of sharpshooters had sortied, almost segregating them from the command. The whole brigade was threatened with annihilation and at this moment the reserves I had joined were ordered to the relief.

The regiment under fire of the machine guns retreated precipitately, leaving one-half its number on the slope. Turmoil again through the barbed wire and plump into the rear of the second regiment, also retreating, not into its own lines, but into the Maxims and Nordenfeldts. Overwhelmed on all sides, tricked, defeated, two-thirds of the men killed or wounded, grimy with sweat and powder and almost fainting in the muggy August, the decimated brigade, its regiments back to back, fought as Custer fought on the Little Big Horn, with a coolness that comes to men in the supreme hour.

Most of them died as Custer died, for out of that brigade of 6,000 men there are to-day uninjured but 640. These were saved by the reserves from Shuishiying, my lieutenant and his comrades, who, as dawn came in, hammered the Russian rear and drove the Siberians, sullen with[180] the joy of successful trickery, up into their trenches.

Wandering back toward Ho-o-zan, the forenoon well on, the rain almost finished, I wondered was it “reverse” or “repulse”? Coming to a place where the rear guard had been at my descent of the mountain before dawn I looked for them in vain. Instead of the greeting I expected from the side of the road the dust about me, here and there, was flicked up, as if stones were thrown at me.

“Is this a bit of soldier fun?” The pelting kept up. One of the stones struck a few inches from my toe, when I heard the well-known voice of Ricalton yelling from behind a shoulder of rock:

“Here—out of that, you young ass!”

Then I saw him frantically waving, from behind his shelter. But why should he look for shelter there? The artillery fire was down. All I could hear was a counter-attack of infantry a mile and a half in my rear. But as soon as I got near him he ran out and dragged me into the ditch at his side.


“Where are the soldiers?” I asked. Then I[181] saw his fun. “You were tossing things at me,” I cried.

“Those! Spent bullets! You ——!”

At this moment an orderly galloping along fell from his horse several hundred yards up the road, and crawled into the ditch ahead of us. We wormed up to him and found a slug had traveled from shoulder to trunk under his ribs and into his thigh.

They were fighting down the reverse slope of the Eternal Dragon, an outwork of the Cock’s Comb, and the Russian bullets, aimed at the foe above, cut a parabola in the air, and came down with their initial velocity two miles off across the plain—where we stood. The Russians on the reverse, the Rising Sun must be above the Eternal Dragon.

It is now noon. We are back on Ho-o-zan, looking out to sea. Twelve warships are on the horizon. From one, the nearest in, comes an occasional puff of white smoke, then a low, long bo-o-om! A shell drops into the town. The eye follows.

Now we see how the brigade is avenged. The houses of the old town are charred and broken.[182] The new town is gutted and smoldering. A shell has carried away the factory chimney. One leg of the crane is demolished and the other sags. The rain has put out the flames and a dirty brown smoke fills the gap from Golden Mount to Tiger’s Tail.

Between sun and sun the navy, brother of the army, has laid a heavy paw upon the place. Its claws away, the deep scratches show where Port Arthur bleeds.


Chapter Ten

Before Port Arthur, Sept. 27th.—Major-General Yamamoto was shot and instantly killed two days ago. The brigade he commanded—one leading the right wing of the Army—had captured the outworks of “203.” This mountain had been long in dispute and was dominated by certain Russian forts, which made it, while Japanese territory, yet untenable by our forces. Yamamoto’s brigade, however, clung under the reverse ridges and occupied trenches at the top, keeping the foothold secure until artillery could be advanced to reduce the opposing positions. In this critical situation the General thought it best to be on the ground in person and advanced his headquarters to the base of the mountain, which exists on the map only under the figure “176,” denoting its height in meters, but which his soldiers[184] had cherished “Namicoyama,” because of its resemblance to the trepang or namico, a long angular fish abundant in eastern waters.

The night of the move Yamamoto climbed the mountain and crept into the trenches for a look at the contested heights opposite. He came before he was expected and his engineers had not had time to prepare a bombproof shelter through whose chinks he could look in safety. He would not wait, but put his glasses through a rift in the trenches and settled into a comfortable seat to study the situation. There was no regular firing, but only the desultory popping that is heard night and day along the whole ten-mile front, where sharp-eyed pickets are keen and cautious. The General became bold, raised his head—whit—a bullet through his brain.

Neither officers nor men can be said to be reckless, or even incautious. The army is devoid of that extravagance expected of war, when each man’s courage seems in question and cowardice impels bravado. Evidently, there is not a coward in the army, for the bravery of each soldier and of each officer seems taken for granted. All make of war a serious business,[185] in which lives are units to be kept for the Emperor and skillfully used, as a go-player advances his pawns, saving all he can for final victory. The labor done in a week to build cover would gather all the harvests of Manchuria, which just now are mellow ripe and gloriously beautiful in the keen sunlight. Whole mountains are tunneled, in some places through solid rock; in others through slanting shale, to afford covered ways. At each divisional headquarters, of which the army has three, the lookout has two bombproofs dug in the solid rock on commanding heights, buttressed by three layers of sand bags, covered with two feet of earth, all supported by poplar poles, with the loophole for lookout cunningly slanted so the sun will not show behind and indicate to the enemy—perhaps only 500 yards away—the precious eyes behind. These bombproofs sometimes are made quite comfortable with rugs and improvised stools, but mostly knees suffer and the wretched correspondent traveling from post to post comes to complain not of “writer’s cramp,” but of “general’s stoop.” A month ago on the left wing of the army two staff officers were killed in a bombproof[186] by a bursting shell. The army was scared, for a staff officer is valuable freight. Since then care has been redoubled; sand bags have been laid a layer deeper on all lookouts, ramparts have been heightened, and now venerable, curious heads sink lower as they turn up for a view.

The death of the General, Yamamoto, was another warning. It was also a severe blow. He was one of the most competent men in the army, commanded a star brigade and was slated for early advancement. Last night his memory received a most distinguished honor: the corpse was cremated on the battlefield where he lost his life.

To appreciate how great the honor was it will be necessary to explain two conditions: First, wood on the peninsula here is worth its weight in cash. The country is not wooded to begin with, which is the cause of another difficulty the army has to face—scarcity of water. About the villages there are usually a few poplars, but the mountains have nothing but Scotch heather and the plains only Ventura County bean pods and San Joaquin wheat fields. Then[187] two great armies have boiled water and savagely wrangled here for three months, until all the rotten timber of old Manchurian dwellings has gone for firewood. As a consequence a frequent sight is a transport cart with some stubs of spruce tied to the whiffletree, being carried from Dalny, twenty-two miles away. Dried maize stalks are the universal fuel. Cracker boxes sell for a dollar apiece and the other day I found my servant brushing the pencil whittlings from the floor to use for kindling. Second, it was the samurai’s belief that a warrior who sacrificed his life in combat should be honored by cremation on the spot of his vicarious atonement. And the difference between the army of to-day and a samurai clan of a generation ago is far less than the difference between cuirass and bombproof; you can’t wipe out the clinging beliefs of generations in forty years—not in the Orient. It may take hyposcopes and searchlights, wireless telegraphy and machine guns to win victories, but only funeral pyres and Shinto sacrifices will pay for them.

Wood-impoverished, the army cannot honor its humble dead; i. e., not immediately; wait[188] till Port Arthur falls—but of that later. It is different with generals. As a daimyo in feudal times received the forehair of all his clan as a final offering, so to-day a general gone gets the camp fires of his soldiers. Last night the brigade which had lost its intrepid head ate its rice dinner cold and went without hot water for its tea. All the mess fires were contributed to make a pyre worthy the deceased.

Just as the sun went down, at the bottom of Namicoyama, whose heights war had swept but a day before, in sight and sound of the grim proofs of his last victory—emplaced batteries and occupied field hospitals—the body of the major-general was given to the flames, while his men in the trenches above sternly held the Russians at bay. Occasional cannon rent the air, infantry popping cracked in the stillness, myriad tent lights twinkled up into the moonlight; the blaze shot up, waned, crackled and died down. The midnight shift of sentries presented silent arms. A donkey brayed out of the valley. Miles to the left a howitzer boomed. The ocean lay black like ink beyond a fringe of shore gray under the moon. A line of coolies passed with bamboo[189] stretchers carrying piteously mangled forms—the day’s harvest to which the coolies had been called from their maize and their millet. Embers gleamed from the brigade’s mess fire. Two orderlies stepped up with a wooden box, kicked the embers away, and placed in it some ashes.

A week hence a family in Tokyo—a quiet, dry-eyed Japanese lady with two half-grown boys—will receive the wooden box. It will be borne a few days later through the streets of the capital on a gun carriage to Aoyama Cemetery. There, after two white-robed priests have said a few words over it, a long shelf in a narrow vault will receive the wooden box. The widow will have notification by special messenger that his August Highness, the Emperor, sees fit to remember the illustrious deeds of the departed by conferring upon him—who is not dead, but who has passed on to wait—the order of the Rising Sun, and, in the absence of the husband the wife will be permitted to receive the pension attached thereto. Japanese history will record that Major-General Yamamoto, after a valiant career in the service of his Emperor, gave up his[190] life at the Battle of Namicoyama, in Manchuria, Sept. 24th, 1904.

Last night the brigade bivouacked in joyous envy. Had not its general received what every soldier longs for—death before the enemy; had he not also received the soldier’s apotheosis—cremation on the scene of his exaltation? This is as near religion as these people get. But the staff and the new major-general, educated in Europe and living in the twentieth century, when they climb Namicoyama to spy upon Port Arthur will wait until the engineers have safe-marked the heights with bombproofs.


Chapter Eleven

He was small, like all his race, and he looked as harmless as a musician. In fact, his eyes had the dreaminess of a musician’s, and the clasp of his hand was like that of a woman. He touched me on the arm one day as I came out of the staff tent at General Nogi’s headquarters, and asked me in fairly good English if I knew San Francisco. Together, with a crooked stick, we traced out a map of the city on the sand at our feet. He knew it as well as I and he pointed to his former home, near the corner of Washington and Mason streets. Then he pulled from his breast pocket a letter sweat-stained and travel-worn, which, read:

“To whomever this may concern, I wish to say that the bearer, George, is the most faithful servant I have ever had, that he is a good cook,[192] and that he has a lovely character. I will consider it a favor to myself if his next employer treats him generously.

Mrs. H. L. Hevener,
“1180 Mason Street
“San Francisco.”

His real name was Eijiro Nurimiya. He had seen me the day before at the General’s tiffin and had read the word, “San Francisco,” on my arm band, but had not ventured to speak to me when in the General’s presence. He was one of Nogi’s bodyguard, and I immediately knew he must be a man of some distinction, for throughout the camp it was well understood that Nogi had about him only those private soldiers who had become eminent for service in the field. That day and the following days when Nurimiya came to my bean shed, we had long talks over the tea and cakes. Thus his story is here set down:

He left the Hevener home nearly a year before the war began and worked in a watchmaker’s shop on Jackson Street in San Francisco. Like all of his countrymen he had ambition and[193] desired to rise above the kitchen. But he was a reserve conscript, subject, as such reserves are, to the call of the Emperor at any crisis similar to the one that his country is now in. So he responded to this call March 23d, sailing on the Korea from San Francisco to Kobe, twenty miles from which his home lay in the Ugi Provinces.

His father, a mender of broken barrels, is separated from his mother, who keeps a tea house in Kioto. There is one sister at the tea house with his mother. He had three days with his parents, the first time he had seen them in six years. Then he sailed for Manchuria, where he joined the famous Ninth Regiment, the Black Watch of Japan, a part of the Ninth Division of the Third Army chosen to conduct the operations against Port Arthur. This same regiment had a number of other American Japanese.

The campaign had progressed two months, when Nurimiya saw his first great battle. It was the grand assault against the permanent forts of Port Arthur, lasting through seven frightful August days. He is one of the fifteen survivors[194] of Company C of this Ninth Regiment, which marched into the Seven Days’ Battle three hundred and fifty strong.

The first day Nurimiya went with his comrades against the north battery of the Cock’s Comb Fort, which was finally captured on December 18th. Thus, it took the Japanese four months of desperate work to accomplish that for which Nurimiya’s comrades were lost those seven days in August. Most of the regiment was wiped out in front of the Cock’s Comb. What was left, including Nurimiya, was ordered to reinforce the Seventh Regiment, operating to the right against the fort of the Eternal Dragon. Against the Cock’s Comb Nurimiya fought in the front line. He also had the same good fortune in the fight against the Eternal Dragon, for to the Japanese such an opportunity is considered good fortune. More of his comrades were lost here, including all that came from America. The following two days he lay with a few others hugging the base of the fort in the broiling sun, cut off from provisions. About this I asked him:

“Were you thirsty?”


He replied: “By-m-by very much want to drink, so I make water—red water.”

With that he struck his wrist mimically showing that he had slit one of his veins to slake his thirst.

But the great act of Nurimiya’s life came on the 25th of August, when he made the ninth assault he had participated in during the seven days—and the first successful one. Each Japanese infantryman carries in his breast a linen flag—a cheap affair that you might pick up in a department store for a few pennies—a red sun on a white field. The first man into an opposing trench or redoubt waves this flag above his head. It is a signal to his own artillery, showing them where they must not fire, and also acquaints the commanding officer, viewing the action from some eminence in the rear, with the situation. Nurimiya was the first man to wave his little flag over the Eternal Dragon. The Eternal Dragon was the only fort which the Japanese held in that permanent Russian line through the three months of August, September and October, and it was the object essential to the engineers in outlining their vast siege operations across the[196] plain. Thus it was the San Francisco watchmaker who planted the flag of the Rising Sun on the key fort at Port Arthur.

General Nogi chose Nurimiya and his fourteen comrades for body servants and relieved them for the rest of the campaign from active duty on the firing line.

This is how I found him at the General’s house. I asked if he wanted to go back to America. He replied:

“War all finish I go. Nogi-San need me I stay.”

Then with great eagerness he told me how he wanted to get back into the fight and for the first time in all our acquaintance his eyes lost their dreaminess and the clasp of his hand became taut with energy.

I did not tell him how I that morning had learned from the General himself that never again should Nurimiya be subjected to the supreme test.

“Is it not pleasant here at headquarters, with the band, and the foreigners, and the nice cooking, and the easy work?” I asked.

He was not interested in what I said. He[197] waved an indefinite arm toward the front and replied:

“By-m-by they make plenty die off there. Then I go back.”

He had not yet learned that he was the General’s Pet.


Chapter Twelve

Willow tree village, Headquarters Third Imperial Army, Manchuria, four miles from Port Arthur, Oct. 5th:

It was in August that the Japanese took the Eternal Dragon, advanced their outposts beyond its walls, threw up trenches, and settled down this inch nearer the coveted goal. In this fearful fight a certain part of the field was taken and retaken seven times, and finally, for strategic reasons, though the fort which was the bone of contention rested with the victors, a piece of dead ground beyond, over which these repeated charges had occurred, lay partly within the Russian lines and partly within our own. Dead bodies mingled with wounded—Russians jowl by cheek with Japanese—lay over it so thick that a man might have walked from one trench to another without touching the earth. The wounded could not be succored, the dead could[199] not be buried except when they lay behind the opposing trenches. Between, no living thing could exist. The lines were but three hundred yards apart—a distance at which even a poor marksman could shoot fatally, and through all the twenty-four hours the two trenches were lined by sharpshooters a rod apart and on the constant lookout.

The weather was perfect. By day the sun shone; by night the moon, assisted by searchlights and star shells, kept the plain of death as light as day. The light showed the loopholes of the trenches so well that they could not be used, for the moment a shadow appeared behind one a marksman from the other side would put a bullet through it. The men sighted the hyposcope—an instrument first used extensively at this siege—which is a telescope arranged with mirrors at a reflex angle, so the scope goes over a wall while the eye sees in perfect safety twelve inches below. At occasional places, carefully shadowed, they kept chinks covered by stones, which, when the sun sank to the proper angle, or at dawn, could be uncovered to make a peephole large enough for a man’s eye.


Now for a month, under a torrid sun, unmarred by a day of rain or scarce a fleck of cloud, hundreds of dead have lain rotting in that compact space. A flag of truce to bury them was out of the question. The Japanese had far the worst of it, as their lines, drawn in a lunette, partly surrounded the charnel house below which they lay, steeped in its noisome drains. Moreover, in hastily throwing up their trenches the night of the battle, corpses, loosely covered; had been used to improvise the walls, so bodies and stones together formed a shelter which in life the men thus commandeered could not have made. Well the Russians knew of the disease the sun was breeding, and refused a truce, for the dead played well into their hands. Stench could be a weapon more effective than bullets or strategy. So, day after day they held the Japanese there, as a dog’s nose is rubbed in his own mess.

Watch on sentry posts was cut from four hours to two, and at the worst portion of the line to one hour. The pickets swathed their thin brown faces in towels and the commissary supplied smelling salts. An officer who served on[201] that picket line twelve days told me that the sun alone was enough to defeat an ordinary man in four hours. Added to that the slightest zephyr bore a fetid breath more foul than the lowest of a city’s sewers.

During the first day groans could be heard occasionally from the contested ground. Wounded—no one could guess how many—lay there dying. To have attempted succor would have been suicide. The pickets did all they could. They threw rations of biscuits beyond the trenches, scattering them along the ground, blindly, of course, but carefully as a farmer strews a field. A company divided itself; one part sacrificed its water bottles, slinging across their shoulders beer bottles, instead of the handy and handsome aluminum ones furnished by the army. Then the aluminum bottles, that would stand the shock of striking, which might shatter a beer bottle, were tossed over to the starving, thirsty wretches.

The second morning there came some desultory groans from the farther side. The groans suddenly ceased. Successive rifle pops told that the Russian sharpshooters had picked off the[202] wounded. Picket duty in the trenches became more deadly. The army had settled, with quiet determination, into a siege. One night, as the moon rose over another division of the army, two thousand yards to the west, there appeared above the trenches a cap. A bullet pierced it instantly, but it was only a feint cap on the end of a stick. The picket nearest saw it was a Japanese cap, and called his challenge, “Who goes there?”

“Tomodachi!” (a friend) came the response.

“Show your arm.”

A small grimed hand on an emaciated forearm was thrust above the parapet. The picket grasped it and pulled sharply. With a groan of agony and relief a bundle of rags, dirt and clotted blood tumbled into the trench. The picket forgot his duty as he knelt over his comrade, for, ground in filth and caked as it was with dried blood, he could not mistake the universal brown khaki, and under an arm was slung a bit of cotton-incased wood—a Shinto emblem, for this time, at least, triumphant. The wounded soldier fainted.

Copyright, 1905 by Collier’s Weekly

Eighteen miles of these trenches were dug through the plain before the Russian forts.

In a field hospital this afternoon I was privileged[203] and honored in looking upon and talking with this hero. He is a distinguished soldier of the famous Ninth Regiment, the Black Watch of Japan, which lost all but ten per cent. of its forces in that illustrious assault under the Chinese wall. So marvelous is the recovery of the wounded that the soldier smiled as he lay, speaking occasionally a few words in response to my interpreted questions. His head and legs were swathed in bandages and he was sipping saké—a present from his Emperor. How these soldiers love their Emperor! Well they may, for a week ago there sailed into Dalny harbor a transport laden with presents from His Majesty to his sick soldiers. All the privates got saké, all the officers brandy. In addition, every private received a present of three yen in cash, the non-commissioned officers from three to ten yen, and the commissioned officers from ten to sixty yen each.

Here is the soldier’s remarkable account:

“I was one of the few who reached the Chinese wall that terrible August afternoon. There were but a few of us left, scarce half a company out of a regiment, when the Captain in command[204] ordered us to scale the wall. I had but reached for the stones when my legs went from under me—melted away. A shell fragment had smashed them as a bamboo pole is smashed under a hammer. The pain was little, but it gradually spread over my body. I became numb, then unconscious, and though shells were busy all about me, lay for hours with no further hurt. I came to, under the stars.”

The soldier told little of what he felt and saw, but it can be imagined; the vast plain, silent but alive with hostile trenches; the gloomy fortress above, bristling with cannon, but silent; the concealed batteries—his own—miles beyond, from which an occasional boom and whiz startled the gaunt and shivery searchlights in their fantastic pencilings; then his sense of comrades lost, of dear ones perhaps dead within sound of his voice, with memories of home and better days; then desolation at defeat, the foe victorious, pride alone resolute, triumphant to the last.

He could hear sounds of pick and spade scratching the chilly earth, clamping into the shale. Only a few rods away the reinforcements were hastily throwing up earth-works to[205] hold the hard-won ground. He saw indistinct forms groping in the dusk, pulling about other forms, inanimate ones, and hastily covering them with earth. The dead were being used to more quickly fill in the embankments. In a few days those carcasses—rotting—would charge usurious toll for all the improvised help they were this fatal night.

The soldier tried to crawl toward his comrades, but he could move only a few inches at a time, so intense was the agony in his legs, for the cool of night and renewed circulation had brought back his senses in full keenness.

Soon dawn came and with it hell. The battle was on again, this time in other parts of the field, but the shells and bullets so often passed over him that he came to think of himself as a dead man and lived on only because nature exerted her just law. Like an opossum he feigned death. Within his sight were more than a hundred dead and twice as many wounded. Groans welled up like bubbles from a pot. Arms tossed feverishly. Backs writhed in despair. Then biscuits began falling from his own trenches; one fortunately fell near him. He also managed to get[206] a tossed-over water bottle. To reach it he was obliged to crawl a few feet and as his hand touched it he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and the blood trickled. A bullet had pinked him. Instinctively he fell as if dead.

It was then that there occurred the thing which has inflamed the army as tow is inflamed on bonfire nights. The whole vast amphitheater was quiet. It was sundown. Nature was in her most gorgeous raiment. Both armies were at supper and an involuntary truce seemed to still the hills and valleys so lately fire-ringed. In the midst of this peace and beauty a desultory firing rang from the Russian trenches nearest the bloody angle in which lay the soldier with his comrades—dead and worse than dead. The bullets were directed, not into the opposing trenches, but into the wounded in the bloody angle.

“Stand to your guns, men!” came from the Japanese trenches, and the men sprang as though to resist a sortie.

But there was no sortie. The Russians were killing the wounded, that the bodies might rot and drive their comrades from below.


The moving ceased, the groans ceased, the sun went down, the stars and searchlights came. Impelled by the first law of nature the soldier dragged on, wearily, as he supposed, toward his friends. But the ground was level and he must have gone laterally. Toward dawn he tumbled into a deserted trench and found a sort of sheltered dugout. It was a covered passage to the Russian fort and untenable now by either side. In it were two Japanese so desperately wounded they could not move and could barely speak. He shared his last drop of water with them.

As they were drinking a figure slouched along the trench and blocked the doorway. It wore a black-visored cap, shiny with celluloid—a Russian cap. Searching the gloom the Russian found the three wounded soldiers. Then he poked his rifle in and fired three bullets—one at the brain of each. Two died instantly. The third—the soldier who had already survived as by a miracle—passed into what he thought was the rigor of death. All grew black before his eyes. Never from that moment to this—seventeen days later—has he seen even a glimmer, nor will he ever see again. The bullet[208] passed across his eyes as he lay side down and shattered the optic nerve.

The Russian thought his work complete. Leaving his rifle outside he passed into the dugout and emptied the pockets of the two dead men and the third, whom he believed to be dead. Then sneaking back up the passage, the Russian regained his own lines.

For five days the soldier lay in the dugout, unable to move, unable to see, numb from long suffering. Almost crazed by thirst and hunger, he at length severed the arteries of one of his fallen comrades, newly dead, and lived on. He found worms crawling in the wounds of his legs. He tore up the shirt of a corpse and bound them.

Then began as memorable a journey as man ever made, as heroic a combat for life as pioneer or warrior ever underwent. He started to crawl to the Japanese lines. Blinded, paralyzed, his legs shattered, one arm useless, half dead with fatigue, his tongue swollen with thirst, and starving, he made his piteous way a few yards each night.

Directions were useless. Seeing nothing he could not tell whether firing came from friend[209] or foe. He only knew that his way was down. So down he crawled. Bullets and shells passing over him became so common he lost all sense of them. By a terrible mistake—an error that cost twelve days of agony, for otherwise he might have traveled the few essential yards in a night—he missed the captured fort which marked the apex of the wedge driven into the Russian lines. And so his fearful, sublime crawl was for a thousand yards along the front of his own lines, into which at any time, had he turned straight along the face of the hill, he might have come and found sound legs and new, clear eyes. But down was his direction and down he went—a thousand yards in twelve nights. He found a few new dead with biscuit in their pockets and blood in their veins—this saved him.

So history repeats itself. Ten years ago—to the month—the Japanese lay without Port Arthur as they do to-day. Instead of Russians, Chinese were inside. But as the Japanese advanced along the western wall they suddenly at a bend in the way came upon ten bodies—no more—of their own comrades, stripped and mutilated, the heads grinning from pikes above.[210] The Chinese had visited their own vengeance on successful enemies. But the act lost them Port Arthur. The Japanese became an army of fanatics, a tribe of solemn, righteous men, inflamed with the zeal of retribution, blazing with revenge, as did once that ancient civilization founded on the prophetic watchword, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” The next day Port Arthur fell. Those ten bodies cost the Chinese a province, a fortune and an island kingdom.

How will the Russians pay? I asked this of a certain Lieutenant-General, who told me some of the details I have just related. He raised his arm and pointed beyond the bombproof in which we sat to where the western harbor, with its magnificent Russian stone dwellings rising beyond could be plainly seen.

“We have a proverb in our country,” said he, “like this, ‘Once won, well won; twice won, never lost.’”


Chapter Thirteen

Headquarters, Third Imperial Army, Before Port Arthur, Sept. 30th:—We went yesterday to the foremost firing line, where all the venom of war is concentrated in a score of yards among a dozen men. There we saw how the besiegers of Port Arthur are besieging it, how they live, what manner of men they are, and some of the facts of modern warfare which those who want to know about the humanity of science had better not read. Before we went an officer led us to a bombproof on the Japanese side of the great valley across which we were to go to gain the captured fort.

“Look!” said he, turning over his hyposcope, “the way is about a mile and a half. The real danger is in the fort itself, but if you are very careful to crawl with your heads low you are safe. If you decide to go you must relieve our[212] authorities from all responsibility for your lives.”

Across the valley a puff of white spat out a tongue of flame; a shell crashed into the escarpment below us. From across the valley came the intermittent puffing of outposts. A mis-shot bullet lapped up a patch of dust twenty paces to our right.

“Well, gentlemen, will you go? It’s a quiet morning. We had better start soon if at all, for the sun is in their eyes now; soon it will be against us and then they can pick us off like flies.”

Villiers was with me. “What do you say?” he asked. “It’s time to measure risks. Think what you’ll get out of it. A correspondent dead is of no use to his paper, and people remember him as a fool who got shot in some reckless venture. Remember, you’re going into bullet fire for the first time. You’ve had shell fire only, up to now, and shell fire is to bullets what a bluebottle fly is to a tiger mosquito. Forbes used to have a supreme contempt for shell fire and a supreme respect for bullets. A shell buzzes and blows—a bullet flits in quietly,[213] spits through an artery, the heart, the head—and it’s all over. Their rifles fire point blank at 200 yards and up where you want to go the lines are but forty yards apart. They can pick off a ten-cent piece at that distance. Remember, if your head shows so much as an inch above that parapet, you’re only good to sniff at when the wind blows from you, for these people have no extra stretcher for your useless carcass.” Villiers can say these things. Somewhere in his London studio is his order of St. George which the Czar gave him for audacity at Plevna. Also some seven other governments have decorated him for fit war behavior, so he is an expert on battlefields.

“But,” said I, “think of what there is up there: the bloody angle, scene of the death of 3,000 men, heaps of unburied slain, trenches made of corpses, sentries firing, the living sleeping, eating, working among their dead comrades, the enemy on three sides, with this single line of supply and retreat down which only four men can march abreast. This captured fort is to the siege of Port Arthur what Nanshan is to the campaign—its decisive battle. It is the[214] wedge Japan is driving into the heart of Russia and we’ll be on its tip. When the nations hear the truth about this fort—the assault that captured it, the odds against which it was fortified and held for six weeks—it will be the marvel of the age. Think! Would you miss standing on the apex of the world?”

“I was a youngster myself once and I’m not old now,” replied Villiers. “They fake these things in London almost as well as I can do them in the field, so why risk my bones? But I’m as good as a Japanese officer or an American reporter. Up to now we’ve been chaperoned scribblers; here we become war correspondents. It smells of the old days: Forbes, Cameron, Pierce, McGahan, Jackson, Burleigh—and that crowd of gay devils. Lead on.” Perhaps you will be more interested in Villiers to know that he is supposed to be the original of Kipling’s character, Dick the Artist, in “The Light that Failed.”

So we went into the chipmunk’s burrow, up through the cornfields, frowned on by a hundred thousand guns, menaced by two armies, until we nestled in the ragged hole Japan has[215] torn in Russia’s impregnable last stand. Laterally down the line of our advance, but high over our heads, shells often rammed their harsh bewilderment and we could hear them strike, sometimes rods, sometimes miles away. How like a live thing a shell snarls—as some wild beast, in ferocious glee thrusting the cruel fangs in earth and rock, rending livid flesh with its savage claws, and its fetid breath with poison powder scorching the autumn wind! ’Most always it fizzes and funks in shameful waste. Bullets are the nasty things; a who-whit, a dry spat, a thin hole drilled in a frightful way, as snakes sling their venom in sly and easy scorn. When we got halfway up, and into the angle, so that Russian trenches were on three sides, a number sped about us. Hardly a minute but one passed over our heads.

The situation looks well in print. Yet we were in little danger. Our wits kept—we were safe. For this let us profoundly thank the engineer who built that siege parallel—a cunning masterful Yankee of the East, whose name as a military engineer must be handed down to future generations of technical students. He[216] had taken advantage of every rise in the ground and of every depression. Of corn stubble he made a drapery, of hillocks a screen, of ravines an ambuscade, until Nature so aided him that she and not the Japanese infantry was the assaulting force against those heights beyond.

We walked twenty meters apart, for, should we by any chance lift our heads together and be sighted in a party, the Russians could drop a bit of shrapnel over us. Otherwise we might be off for a morning stroll down a country lane. We crouched as we walked, for the trench was built for Japanese, who average a few inches less in height than a foreigner. The distance as the crow flies was little over half a mile; we went nearly a mile and a half. At one side ran a telephone wire, staked down at intervals with broken, rusty rifles. At every angle a sentry saluted, stepping forth grimly from a dugout. Halfway up we passed a stretcher bearing a body, the face covered with coarse matting, sewn roughly—a corpse of the night before. Farther on came a soldier with his arm in a wet, crimson sling. Half an hour before, feeling secure after days in the ominous place, he had[217] passed into a ravine he thought safe, but out of the path chosen by the clever engineer. He was in the Russian fire zone and presently a shell fragment smashed his arm. From a dozen to fifteen are lost that way every day.

Across the valley we halt at the foot of a hill and then turn into the fort. Chloride of lime is sprinkled here over the human effluvia that nowhere else can be deposited, but a bone sticks out of the trench wall. I look closely. It is a human femur. From it projects a heavy coil of rubber-insulated cable. The officer explains that this formed the electric communications with the barbed wire entanglements through which we are passing, and that on the day of the fight it was charged so that when the Japanese pioneers tried to cut the wire with pincers they were prostrated with the shock and had to wait for glove-handled tools. Beside it is a long strip of bamboo, torn and shattered. This was carried to the attack by two soldiers who with it tossed into the fort a short strip of bamboo stuffed with gun cotton. This, exploding, tore a hole through which the men could charge. It was a more effective bombardment than the[218] shells. As we turned the corner we came upon the men and at last we saw the besiegers of Port Arthur, where they were living, 200 yards from the Russian trenches, in the famous redoubt where enough men have been killed to cover the place four deep with corpses.

The officer took up a pick lying in the trench. “Look!” said he, “the point was sharp as a grindstone could make it to begin with, but in some places, you know, the rock is hard and—” he would apologize. He was very sorry we should find the picks in such bad condition. He was always apologizing. He apologized for the length of the way, the heat of the sun, the annoyance of the shells. But the boys in khaki smiled on. Word passed as to who we were and they greeted us dumbly, spread out their pitiful small blankets, pulled from obscure coats and corners their precious sweetmeats, advanced the cigarettes that mean more than beef to a soldier, offered us their still more precious tea. All over them was written their joy in being recognized, in having someone share their hardships.

Death on the battlefield is the height of this soldier’s ambition. But not uncleanliness on the[219] battlefield, and all the time we sat there I was aware of a pervasive, sickening odor, something strange, something frightfully offensive.

“What can it be?” I said as it bore in upon me and I felt suddenly nauseated.

“Well, in the hurry of building these trenches, in the night, under fire, a few dead bodies—only a few—were rolled into the escarpment. We very much regretted it——.” The officer apologized profusely, but they had been under fire ever since and the trenches could not be torn down. So they stood—human walls. “But I can assure you there is no smell now. The first week, in the hot sun—Ah! then I should not have liked to bring you here.” As I leaned against the wall something crushed, like the snap of a pencil, under my back. I leaped, in alarm, to my feet. As I turned around a blue coat, which I had pushed back in my fatigue, fell over the skeleton of a hand, and at my feet dropped the joint of a forefinger. Villiers pulled me to my knees.

“Look over there,” he said and pointed beyond the trench. I saw fresh earth heaped up. “It is the brow of the Russian works,” he said,[220] “but look in between—that pit of uniforms.” A mound of soiled, tattered clothes, higher than a man could stand, and longer than a company street, lay before us, not fifty feet away. At the base, facing me, detached from the rest, a hideous skull leered. “Unburied dead,” Villiers said, “hugging the ground, sent back into the earth from whence they came.”

Then the officer apologized. Yes, there was no chance to bury the dead. Under constant fire for six weeks, between hostile lines, they slowly rotted away until only bones and rags remained—Russian and Japanese inextricably together on the scene of the last desperate Russian stand, where was concentrated all the machine gun fire of both sides.

Wounded and dying had been mixed with dead. No succor was possible. A general must count his men as fighting units and he could not afford to pay a dozen good lives for one injured. We turned to go—stomach and heart sick, but the boys in khaki smiled. They were used to it. Just then the postman passed. He had a handful of cards, scrawled over with loving messages.


As we saw how complete the service was—mail delivered under the shadow of guns, and as a man goes on to the firing line to offer up his life—we suddenly came to the telephone which made us think how near we were to all we held dear. That line was connected with headquarters, headquarters with Tokyo, Tokyo with New York and London. I suddenly saw myself ringing up the editor to catch an edition.

“Hello! just arrived at the Eternal Dragon. Quiet this morning. Russian sortie last night. Repulsed. One Japanese, eighteen Russians lost—three wounded between the lines calling for water——”

“Hold on, what’s that?”

“Wait a minute till I stop this infernal racket.” Down with the receiver. To the Colonel: “Can’t you stop that battery a minute? I’m at the ’phone.”

“All right, editor. Wounded man says—Hold on a minute. It’s that blasted volley firing. All right. I was saying, a wounded—Hell, here comes a shell!”

We turned another corner and came upon the commander of the regiment—a lieutenant-colonel,[222] stern-faced, with that eternal smile, a countenance nationally characteristic. He welcomed us to his shelter between two walls—which the Russians had built and which our shells destroyed. His staff—a captain and a major—sat crosslegged on one side. We sat on a red-blanketed bench on the other. Crosslegged, on his red blanket, he was no better fitted than his men. At his side on a nail hung his sword and cap. Behind him suspended from two wires was the regimental flag, in a plush case. It is 30 years old, has been in 18 battles, and is all but gone from bullet fire. To the regiment it is a sacred emblem. This is the illustrious Seventh Regiment which captured the Eternal Dragon, after losing all but ten per cent. of its number and which now, after a month with the reserves when its ranks were replenished, is back for a week on sentry duty. So intense is the service there, one week in four is all a single regiment can stand. We were served with tea in daintily lacquered cups and then the lieutenant-colonel passed saké and tea, asking permission to drink our health.

Copyright, 1905, by Collier’s Weekly

An officer giving final instructions to his men before the Grand Assault of September 21. This photograph was taken in the front parallel, 300 yards from the Cock’s Comb Fort.

“Where is the Colonel?” I asked the officer.[223] Then he apologized again. He was sorry he couldn’t oblige me, but unfortunately the Colonel had been killed about twenty yards from where I then sat. His body had been cremated within three paces of my present seat. Just beyond the tent I could see his grave, should I look. I leaned out and in a niche of the wall saw a plain white stick ideographed in black. At the base was a bottle of flowers and a Chinese pumpkin. It contained the ration a soldier calls “iron,” and some sweetmeats beside a can of water. Then we knew what some living soldier had done. The ghost might come wandering back in the night and be hungry. It should not suffer. We went on to more tea with the new live Colonel and some sweetmeats which we utilized differently than the ghost had evidently utilized his. “How was he killed?” I asked. Then we heard the story of the capture of the Eternal Dragon.

“It was a hot August afternoon,” said the officer, our interpreter, “and the general of this division, a very determined man, resolved that the time had come to pierce the Russian center. So he chose the Seventh Regiment for the[224] honor. It is the regiment to which the young Captain, wounded, and rescued by the Russian prisoner, of whom you were talking this morning, belonged. The Colonel made his plan of attack to have his command advance in three battalions, one on each flank and one in the front, the flanks to be the real attack, the front to be a feint. He, himself, commanded the feint, and, as usual, stayed in the rear. He sent his pioneer corps ahead to cut the barbed wire entanglements. They came back with the report of electric charge. They went forward again with insulated pincers and the regiment followed. All the way to the base of the hill, where we now are, they were almost unmolested, when they had expected to meet a fierce shell fire. This made them confident. But the Russian general, as we afterward learned, had ordered his men to reserve their fire till we got within close range, and then to give it to us with machine guns. So the two side battalions got safely well up to the slope, only to meet a terrible rain of steel from the top. The aim was so sure and the firing so heavy that nearly two-thirds of the command was mowed down at once. And the surprise[225] we found was in their construction of the fort. Where we supposed our shells had opened gaps in it, we found it intact and our assaulting party unable to gain foothold, for the Russians had placed boiler plates under two feet of earth and the shells had had little or no effect on it.

“When the Colonel learned all this he got mad, and instantly ordered the third Battalion to assault the front in force. He led the charge. A few of the men got in and fought hand to hand with the Russians. By that time another regiment had arrived with reinforcements, charged through the breach and overwhelmed the Russians, driving them out of the place. Though we are dominated by six of their batteries and have been assaulted by them eighteen times in attempts to recapture, we have ever since held it. The Colonel’s body was found under a heap of slain. In it were twenty-four bullet holes. His sword was broken at the hilt. His cap was missing and we searched for it a long time without success, until one day our lookout spied it between the lines. Certain death seemed the price for a man to try to get it, but as soon as the Colonel’s servant, a soldier, learned[226] where it was, he volunteered and succeeded one dark night in regaining it, so the cremation could take place properly. If you wish now, follow the Captain into the fort and you will see the foremost trenches. Keep your heads low.”

Then we saw the kitten become a tiger. We passed from the hospitable soldier, with his sweetheart’s letters, his welcoming smile, his innocent and friendly telephone, his harmless tea and cakes, to the firing line, to death, and to worse than death.

It was hands and knees into the fort and the front trenches. This is the tip of the bloody angle, with the enemy on three sides. Bullets passed over us continually. Shells were bursting far away. Twice we passed half ruined chambers built of timber below ground—Russian food and ammunition shelter. It was high noon. At length we lay, panting, under a pile of sapling poplars; above us were sand bags six deep.

“We are perfectly safe here,” said the officer, and we looked out.

“Except from ricochet bullets,” added Villiers.[227] “The zone of fire of those chaps yonder is away from us and as long as they exchange we’re all right. Shells can’t reach us, even shrapnel would be nullified by this covering, but when those bullets strike a stone no one can tell how they will come. They can shoot around a corner from a flat stone as easily as in the open through a loop-hole.”

I heard nothing. Standing up, secure, my eyes came upon him suddenly—the soldier of the Emperor, the boy who does the trick—at work. He was crouched under the parapet in front, rifle to cheek, its steel nose through a loophole, his finger on the trigger. The tensity of his muscles and his eyes glancing down that barrel in deadly aim made me think of nothing but a great cat pausing for a spring. One leg was drawn up, his cap was pulled down viciously over his eyes, the sun beat upon him and he lay, venomous with pent-up passion, cut in silhouette against the trenches, a shade darker than the shale. A minute before he had offered me tea and a cigarette; now he was dealing out hot lead. Yet, who could suspect danger, with all so still and clear! But life most intense and[228] death the most terrible and swift dwelt all about us. Through chinks in the wall a row of sand bags on a mound of earth could be seen. They marked the Russian trenches behind which the enemy lay as silent and deadly as the boys on our side. Not a minute passed without its bullet. Forty meters was the distance, the officer said, the closest place in the whole ten-mile front of the two armies. By day, when the Russians stay quiet, sentries stand three yards apart, by night, shoulder to shoulder. They are changed every thirty minutes so intense is the strain. A regiment can stay in the fort only seven days because the Russians are above and on three sides, and they must keep them out, while they stew in their own juice and their comrades rot beyond the wall. When a sortie is made neither side asks for quarter nor expects it. The Russians know that unless they regain their trenches they will not live, for to be wounded and fall in the bloody angle means slow death where no aid can come; to meet the Japanese line means instant death. The Japanese know their chances, if wounded, are the same, and if they reach the Russian lines they accept only two things—victory[229] or death. So it is that here through long weeks the siege has concentrated its bitterest essence, living has come to be a burden and death a joy.

Then came the thud of a bullet. It was a different thud from any we had had up to that time, and though I had never before heard a bullet strike flesh, I could not mistake the sound. It goes into the earth wholesome and angry, but into flesh ripping and sick with a splash like a hoof beat of mud in the face.

I turned to look. I saw the nearest sentry sinking to his knees. His rifle had dropped and was leaning against the wall, butt down. He sank together all in a heap and his head hung limp, his chin against his breast.

“Poor chap,” said Villiers, “he was looking at us and got in front of the loop hole. I suppose we are so great a novelty in his strained existence that he could not resist the temptation to neglect his duty for a minute.”

We crawled back and out silently and quickly, bade a hurried good-by to the Colonel, hastened past the smiling, oblivious men—they are used to it—and over a mile and a half of chipmunk[230] burrow. The General was waiting tiffin for us in his tent. There was a jar containing strawberry jam like grandmother used to make. With a flash it brought back all the comforts of home. An empty shell in the center of the table held some field daisies and wild chrysanthemums. All the fragrance of the fields and the beauties of nature came with them. At my mess plate lay an American newspaper, just delivered by this incomprehensible field post. With it civilization, its myriad passions and joys, floated in. As the cigars were passed I opened the paper. I found an interview with Dr. Nicholas Senn, of Chicago, in which he said:

“All the talk of inhumanity which some correspondents are sending out from the Orient is foolish. Statements of soldiers being wounded in the mouth and reports of all similar acts of atrocity can be set down as being without foundation. Russia has the best Red Cross Society in the world and the Russians are an extremely humane people. Likewise, this war is going to be a humane war. As for the Japanese, the worst that can be said of them is that they are a proud people.” I read this aloud. It[231] was translated and the officers, Lieutenant-General Oshima and his staff, listened. None of them replied. Finally Villiers said:

“The question is not: Are the Japanese or the Russians a humane people, or not a humane people? It is: Are individual men, under conditions the most terrible the imagination can devise, Christians or savages? Both Japanese and Russians socially are delightful people. I’ve lived with the armies of both nations and their soldiers are delightful and humane. But that is not the question.

“Now, is it possible for soldiers living as we saw them to-day—in their own filth, unable to succor the wounded, preyed on by stenches from the dead, until battle in which they neither ask nor give quarter is a welcome relief—can the word ‘humane’ be uttered in speaking of lives such as theirs? Or can it be uttered of the Russians—driven into a trap, half-starved, night and day in the trenches, confronted by overwhelming numbers, with certainty of no relief, yet defending a lost hope with lives easier lost than lived? Would you be ‘humane’ under such conditions? I am sure I would not.


“No. The truth about war cannot be told. It is too horrible. The public will not listen. A white bandage about the forehead with a strawberry mark on the center is the picture they want of the wounded. They won’t let you tell the truth and show bowels ripped out, brains spilled, eyes gouged away, faces blanched with horror. The only painter fellow who ever told the truth about war was Verestchagin, poor chap, drowned over there in the harbor. He in paint and Zola in words told the truth and they were howled down and ostracized all their lives, simply because the theorists, like this surgeon, fed up with themselves, nursed in the belief that science is all powerful, will always assure the public that modern war is humane.

“Scientific warfare! Let me tell you the facts about science. Archibald Forbes predicted twenty years ago that the time would come when armies would no longer be able to take their wounded from the field of battle. That day has come. We are living in it. Wounded have existed—how, God alone knows—on that field out there, without help, for twelve days, while shell and bullets rained above them, and if a comrade[233] had dared to come to their assistance his would have been a useless suicide. The searchlight, the enginery of scientific trenches, machine guns, rifles point blank at 200 yards with a range of 2,000—these things have helped to make warfare more terrible now than ever before in history.

“Red Cross societies and scientific text-books—they sound well and look pretty, but as for ‘humane warfare’—was there ever put into words a mightier sarcasm!”

This was translated. The officers—Lieutenant-General Oshima and three of his staff—listened, gravely. No one said anything. Finally, we walked home silently as the sun went down.


Chapter Fourteen

Noon found me well up toward the firing line, assured by the staff that it would be the day of days. To get there I passed a mile and more of batteries—the Osacca guns vomiting balls of fire, puff-balls of smoke and fat, heavy balls of steel; the howitzers—coyotes of artillery—spitting from peaks, snapping, louder than the monsters growl below; the naval six-inch turret firers, rakishly sunk in valleys, their greyhound noses dappled with mud, baying out reverberations at which even the sulking sun might have shuddered; the field four-point-sevens, bag-redoubted, conventional as pictures, flinging forth the business barks of house dogs; then, finally, the hand one-pounders, hauled well up the parallels, their bodies angled half-wise and as forlorn amid such colossal music as a penny whistle before a symphony orchestra. To be[235] in it, to pass through it, to feel this whiz and boom people the air above with demon gossip, to sniff from ravines the gusts seeped with cordite and with phosphorus, while in the far-stretched vistas bluecoat files wind through the fierce, vain taunts hurled in among them—ah, this is the atmosphere—the grand, the fearful, the unspeakably sublime atmosphere of war.

Cloudy! Yes, but what day could smile in the face of such a row as this? The grand bombardment has been on for five days. We call it the “grand” bombardment, to distinguish it from that other trifling bombardment of a few hundred field guns that was on for nearly three months. Now the big coast defense mortars from Osacca, hurling shells the size of donkeys, are ripping the lining from the doomed fortress. We cry for rest, but there is no rest. Night and day the fearful din keeps up. The paper windows of the Manchurian house where we live, two miles away, have been blown out twice by concussions. The mountains tremble. If you get within a hundred yards of the guns, you must wear cotton batting in your ears and walk tiptoe to save ear-drums. This for a ten-mile front,[236] with infantry and regular artillery hammering the spaces out, was enough to discourage the sun. Sun, however, is an incident. War waits for no weather.

Halfway in among the batteries I paused for guidance. There were certain lines between our batteries and the Russian batteries which were called “lines of fire,” and these lines were good places to avoid. Soon two soldiers, each with a rice bag on his back, came along, and I picked up their trail. There was a narrow valley which led to the Ninth Division, whose firing line was to be the center of the attack and for which I was bound. Along the center of this valley seemed to me the right way, but the soldiers headed straight across it, business-like, stolid, as if they knew where to go, and I followed. We were fair in the midst of it then. In ravines on both sides the Osacca mortars were hid. From behind and directly over our heads a naval battery was firing, and in front of us there were four or five batteries of field artillery, opening the engagement. There was never a moment without two or three shells in the air directly over our heads. So long as they were[237] friendly shells—imagine a shell being friendly!—no one seemed to mind. (That “seemed” is a good word to describe my state.) But directly they came viciously from across the valley—look out! Presently one did come that way. I knew it was coming. How? I felt it. So the ground in front found my stomach and my nose sniffed the gravel. It could not have passed very far above our heads—this shell—for when it exploded behind the dust showered over us, and I thanked myself for lying down, else a fragment might have rapped me so I would have cared nothing for dust or dirt of stale encampments. Of course, the soldiers must have lain down, too—they surely must have known the danger. I looked up to laugh with them, but they were trudging on stolidly, as if they were carrying a pound of meat home from the butcher’s. When the dust came they blinked—that was all. I was so ashamed I hardly dared show myself; yet I needed my legs to get on out of the line of fire, and there are times one forgets his pride. I ran; but no need to be ashamed; they had not seen me fall, had neither quickened nor lessened pace, had turned not so[238] much as an eyelash to left or right. They had orders to take that rice to the battery, and to the battery they were going. So I paused—amazement surviving fear—and looked at them, cogs of the machine, secret of an army’s strength, of its indomitable bravery. As well expect the shafts of an engine to cry quits when the trucks spring a hot box!

At length I found myself where the pewit of bullets beat a quickstep for the inferno aloft. It was on the crest in front of the farthest field artillery, at the rear of the parallels in which the infantry lay, huddled masses of blue dabbed above with glints of bayonet steel, waiting for the assault. Occasionally the sun came out and sent a heliograph message from those bayonets to me, and then, like myself, sought cover again. The four forts slated for attack by the two divisions in my view lay directly in front, about a mile and a half by parallels and approaches, but, as my vision went, eight hundred yards for the nearest, fifteen hundred for the farthest. From the rear that assorted pack of war-dogs flung suspense and agony, surprise and death, over my head. Beyond, the forts, hung like a corona of[239] barbarous gems on the brow of the mountain range, gushed forth pain and disgust.

The Pine Tree fort (Shodzuzan) on the extreme right was afire, had been for two hours, and the smoke from it, blown by a northwest wind, lifted raggedly square across the field. Through the slight haze each explosion opposite could be seen, as it tore out, now a chunk of a mountain and now a crater from a parapet. About half-past twelve the star bomb chamber of the south battery, the one nearest, was struck, and for ten minutes an explosion of day fireworks held the line. On the north battery two guns hung across the parapet, their backs broken, useless. On the two smaller forts between, the P and M redoubts, men could be seen feverishly working at a rear intrenchment. Evidently they were preparing to retire from the front line, where they already scented danger. But they as evidently showed determination to fight to the last ditch—which they did. All four of these forts, spread fanwise halfway down this mountain slope, formed the group called the Cock’s Comb (Keikan, Japanese; Keekwan, Chinese), and above them on the skyline[240] the comb could be plainly seen, lacking only the dab of red, later to be given its approaches, to give it the cock color. It was on the Cock’s Comb that half of the great losses in August occurred. Some ten thousand Japanese had already been mowed down there, for every slope was prepared for enfilading by two batteries, the moats were deep, the fortifications of masonry and the glacis sheer and slippery. Yet the Cock’s Comb once taken, the Russians must yield, for it was to the siege of Port Arthur what Nanshan was to the campaign—the decisive position. Once driven from there, the enemy’s back would be broken. The fall of the Cock’s Comb and the Two Dragons, on December 31st, forced Stoessel’s surrender.

Copyright, 1905, by Collier’s Weekly

A superstition holds that the Japanese soldier who dies dirty finds no place among the Shinto Shades; so before going into action every soldier changes his linen, as this one is doing, preceding the battle of October 29.

At one o’clock the bombardment seemed to have reached a climax of intensity. The parapets of the four forts were alive with bursting shrapnel. A hundred a minute were exploding on each (at fifteen gold dollars apiece). The air above them was black with the glycerine gases of the mortar shells, and the wind blowing toward the sea held huge quantities of dust. Timber splinters were in the air and rocks were[241] flying. Not a fort replied, and from the entire eight-and-one-half-mile front of the Russian line there were few answers. Once about every ten minutes a wheezy battery off on the Liaotishan Peninsula sent a shell promiscuously into our vast field, apparently to show that the defense was yet at least gasping for breath.

In the front parallels the infantry seemed on the move. There was a shifting of rifles, and in three of them, from end to end, a man could be seen running. The night before I had been up there to find all of the soldiers changing their linen and sponging themselves off as best they could with old towels and soiled handkerchiefs. They were purifying themselves for death. A superstition as old as Japan says that a man who dies dirty finds no place among the Shinto shades. Now they were waiting calmly, each with an overcoat and spade across his back. Why the spade? Will it be necessary to hastily intrench for the night far up the slope? Each had an “iron” ration in his pocket, and a pint of cold tea in his flask. Two hundred rounds of ammunition in his three leather pouches go to help the bayoneted rifle that he slings by its strap,[242] its butt dragging as he goes up the hill. What a job it is, this, of living in a pocket handkerchief, on compressed air, giving and receiving death, for three cents a day!

At one-fifteen our fire changes. The four forts are left to their silence and devastation, and the fat balls travel westward to the Pine Tree and the Two Dragons. For a moment the slopes stand out, ghastly with smoke, pitted like strawberries, each pit a shell hole deep enough to give a man shelter.

Before anyone knows it the assault is on. The four get it at once. From the bottom of each, out of the approach sapped there in the night, a handful of men is fed, as corn might drop, grain by grain, ground from a hopper. They get a few rods up when another handful is fed, then another, until the whole face of the hill is swarming with tiny figures, their blue turned in the distance to black, the space between each at no place less than two yards, at none more than two rods. Not in battalion phalanx, as the picture books show, shells dismembering, arms thrown aloft, faces wild with battle’s glory, terror, agony, but steadily, sanely seeking every[243] cover, deploying with skirmish formation, they go on and up, into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell. Not a life is thrown away, not a precious head wasted.

Not fifty yards up the Russian lookout scouts them, and then we see we are not facing a beaten foe, but a waiting one. Until that moment no sound came from the enemy. No shells chucked away at hidden batteries, no rifle ammunition plumped into the sandbags of parallels, no shrapnel sent hit-or-miss over the fields searching for an unseen foe—not any of that stupid, wild game for them. They have let the preparation go on, all the fuss and fury, the bombardment, the sapping, and now we see what they are up to. It is all hit with them, no miss, they have no ammunition to waste. Their backs are to the wall. Their defense is determined, great. Deadly purpose is in that silence.

The sun is out for a moment, the smoke has lifted. Through my glass I see it all as perfectly as though on a chessboard; the sprawling blue ants creeping up, rifle-butts dragging, the line officers ahead, the field behind. Far in advance of the squad on the P fort a young lieutenant[244] is running, carried out of himself in passion, foolish in zeal, waving his sword. Almost fifty yards behind him, his nearest file-sergeant lumbers stolidly on, as stolidly as my two companions of the morning lumbered with their bags of rice. At that moment they meet what they changed their linen for the night before. From all the Russian batteries, from silent nooks, from huge, open emplacements, from mountain recesses, from the entire line of parapets, it comes—the Russian reply. So here is the why of that previous ghostly silence. Every shot must tell. Bursts directly above send vitreous blue shoots of smoke as of strata sidewise, then curl voluminously upward, the edges unfolding to the breeze; the deadly shrapnel downward shooting bits of lead and steel. Enfilading from all crests, over the shoulders of the slopes, come shells, plowing the ground, hurling stones and fragments. From above rattle the Nordenfeldts and Maxims, spraying bullets into the advancing ants as kerosene is sometimes sprayed from a hose nozzle on the tribe of real pests.

It was to be expected. Not a man lives. The[245] fire ceases. They all lie prone—some hid in the shell holes, some lost in the gullies, some face down bare on the open sand. Most of them lie lengthwise, their heads upward, shot apparently as they stumbled forward. On the second slope in one place the legs and trunk of a man are sprawled, armless, headless. An entire shell must have met him halfway. Occasionally the figures are huddled, piteously deprived of action, sending upward the silent, unanswerable appeal that death makes. But most of them have that curious upward slant, bodies rigid, as of determined men hugging the ground. Were they bulleted straight? Anyway, it is a glorious death—this of the infantry soldier storming Port Arthur, lifted on the crest of the world’s fiercest passion, puffed into vapor as the crest of a storm-tossed wave! Painless, too. A touch and all is over. But can they all be dead, all of those figures slanted curiously upward? There must have been remarkable sharpshooters above to pick every man off, for shells are notoriously extravagant of bravado and bluff.

Ten minutes pass—fifteen—twenty—and only the giant shells wheezing through the sky to distant,[246] unseen marks remind one that here is indeed a battlefield.

Then suddenly those figures with the curious upward slant come to life. Another handful of war corn is fed from the human hopper below. The young officer waves his sword. The line-sergeant stolidly climbs. The deploying lines curl their microbe grip more firmly into the slope. There was a hitch in the machine. Now it moves, slow, inexorable.

The piteously huddled figures remain. The comrades go on, with never a look down, never a look behind, half-stooped, rifle-butts dragging, laboring with the terrific climb. Ten paces from the fresh start, and that hail of bursting steel meets them again. They struggle on, perhaps a hundred feet, perhaps a hundred and fifty, then commence dropping one by one, by the dozen, fifteen at a time, two by two. They rest again. Again the time drags. Again the fresh start, with more piteously huddled figures. So it goes, the hopper below supplying every loss.

At length the young officer pauses. Just for a moment he lingers and then digs his boots into the crater that one of those friendly shells tore[247] out for him an hour before. Without waiting for his men, fifty yards beyond the nearest, he leaps to the parapet, reels for an instant on the skyline, then plunges out of sight. I never see him again. What must have been his fate inside there, alone, before his men came up? Was he shot down as he entered? Did he keep the Russians at bay till his supports came up? Dear, foolish boy, did you think that, single-handed, with that bit of toy steel, you could take Port Arthur?

It seems ages and ages before the line-sergeant and his deploying figures leap to the skyline, reel for an instant, and disappear. The grist from the hopper below hastens and the rifle-butts spring from ground to shoulders. It was the first man who was needed. Now that the charm is broken, they no longer skulk, but run eagerly to the crater and tumble in. The hopper has fed well-eared corn into the mill, and it has come out ground meal. The grits lie scattered all along the slope. Some move. The most lie still, their battle with cold nights in exposed trenches finished, sentry duty done. And in many a thatched cot among the rice paddies[248] across the sea the old hataman will tell to his gray wife how their boy helped take Port Arthur, and both will make a little journey to the sacred mountain to assure the fathers they are thankful to have bred brave stock.

At a quarter-past one the young lieutenant started on his mad errand, supported by the same mechanism. At a quarter-past two the flag of the Rising Sun floated from both north corners of the P fort. At a quarter-past three the stretcher-bearers are on the slope searching among the huddled figures. They move swiftly along, turning a figure over, giving it a quick look and dropping it with business precision; to another, dropping it; to another, pausing, out with the lint, perhaps the hypodermic needle, perhaps a sip from the tea flask, the arms of one bearer hastily passing under the arms of the figure of the other under the knees, dropping it on the stretcher, passing in and out among the shell holes, down the hill, while back on the slope the carrion figures lie with the slant of the setting sun struggling through the clouds to flash over the bayonets beside them!

Meanwhile, over the rest of the vast field, of[249] which the P fort was but a fragment, the assault had been continuing. The Russian fire had not abated. As soon as they saw the P fort was gone they turned their shells into the redoubt itself, and cut up our forces where they were seeking cover in the very places their own shells had previously destroyed. But the slopes of the other three forts were kept just as hot as in the beginning. The moment the thin line advanced, that moment the hail commenced, and it ceased only when the line ceased; nor did it entirely cease then, for shrapnel was dropped above the forms, those huddled and those lying curiously straight.

Suddenly, on the farther slope, where near a battalion of men had crawled almost two-thirds of the way up the glacis, a panic seemed to have seized them. The whole crowd ran down and to the right. They disappeared over the scruff of the hill, toward their own trenches, brushed off as a handful of flies might be blown away from a heel of bread. The cowards! to run like that when their comrades are valiantly struggling up the nearer heights!

But no. It is not a panic. Halfway to their[250] trenches they all drop into the ground. Shell holes and gullies swallow them up. As they disappear the scruff of the hill from which they ran is blown into the air, the flame shooting from the center of the rocks and dirt, and the white smoke rising above. A mine has gone off there.

The pioneer ahead found the contact signal—clever fellow—ran back to the advance officer, who led his men in their retreat. So it was not a panic, but a well-ordered movement. Soon the advance goes on, up the nearer angle of the slope, the men deploying carefully as before, the hell shooting down from above, the hopper feeding from below. So I learn to criticise nothing on a field of battle. Who but the commanding officer can ever disclose motives? Not a word of authentic news leaks from this place. Once the citadel is down, say the generals, let criticism rage. Port Arthur will have been taken. Meanwhile, let us have silence, concentration, determination!

Then, under the middle parapet, I find a squad of men hanging, having survived the ordeal below. With no leader so headstrong as the young officer, they halt for supports to go in and[251] capture the fort, for they are but twenty, or at most thirty. No supports come. The shrapnel plays over them, the bullets rain through.

Into the crater torn on the parapet of the fort opposite by one of our Osacca shells, and which with an enfilading fire can command the squad, there marches a company of Russian soldiers, four abreast. The hole accommodates four at a time, and they stand as if on parade, an officer to the left rear, his sword drawn, giving the word of command. Still farther in behind is another officer, pistol in hand, holding the men to their work. They order arms, prepare, aim, fire, wheel to the left, defile, the next squad takes their places, and again comes this drill in manual of arms. A splendid sight; men in the crux of action as if on parade; an object lesson for discipline to the whole Russian army. The Japanese need no such object lesson. Each man is an individual, though he is part of the machine; he has a brain to think, eyes to see, legs and arms to act. Just below the firing squad, within twenty yards, a company of our boys has crawled up and is lying face down waiting for the word to make the final charge. Hid by the angle of[252] the parapet, neither squad nor company sees the other, and the Russians above fire directly over the heads of the Japanese below into the assaulting party on the opposite slope, distant some four or five hundred yards. When the last four have emptied their rifles, the crater becomes again black with emptiness. Evening is falling. The assaulting party creeps on up.

Under the parapet of the north battery, where the forsaken squad was left, I now see the why of the inaction. The twenty or thirty, in half an hour, have thrown up a shallow trench. So this is the meaning of the spade that each man carries at such cost, up those terrific heights. They are fixing themselves for the night. Under cover of darkness the supports will come up, and before dawn the way from valley to parapet will be entirely protected with trenches, so that a whole regiment can be poured up for the final assault without losing a man. As the price of it on the slope there lie thousands of huddled figures.


Chapter Fifteen

The Itos are the Smiths of Japan. There is one President of the Privy Council, one the chief naval authority and head of the naval board. There are two generals named Ito and statistics alone know how many private soldiers are thus made still more common. The Asahi to-day told of an Ito hanged for a triple murder. In the adjoining column account was made of another Ito decorated by the Portuguese government. The reason, not stated, was that the king of that decrepit monarchy, wishing to assimilate some stray rays of good fortune from this rising sun, chose three men in Japan on whom to bestow his ribbons of mark. These were the Emperor, the Emperor’s son and an old man by the universal name of Ito.

A strange circumstance permitted me to ride for an hour one morning in a railway coach with this other Ito—the only Ito. Ambitious[254] of that smartness which can save where any simpleton can spend I procured a second-class ticket from Yokohama to Tokyo, a run that covers some twenty-eight miles in twice as many minutes. The ticket cost fifty-three sen, and as the rate of exchange for American gold here now is 213 you will see that the ride cost less than a quarter. I could have gone first class for seventy-four sen, or ten more American cents—hardly worth the saving. Still, it is more interesting second class. Only foreigners, and Japanese who ape foreigners, ride first class.

Japanese railway coaches are of three classes. It is not necessary to experience the third to know it. A look is enough. Red, like the emperor’s, they are the antithesis of imperial. Only in an imperial land, dyed in the ancient belief that certain men are by birth superior to other men, could these third-class coaches exist. They are for the common people. Small as the dummy cars of an intramural railway they are boxed off in sections similar to continental compartments. These are loaded with as many of the riffraff as the station guards can crowd in. Hard seats and plain company with transportation[255] at the mere cost of hauling is the rule there. The fare is thirty sen (fifteen cents). The government, which owns the railway, conducts its business on the theory employed by Japanese merchants—sell to the poor at cost and let the rich pay the profits.

The difference between the first and second class is twofold. One is the color—white for the first class, blue for the second. The accommodation is just the same—leather and plush upholstering of seats plenty large enough, with washstand, toilet and drinking water handy and clean midway of the car. The chief difference is sociologic, tinged with political, economic and moral degrees. First class is for the nobility, second for the bourgeoisie. Though the first-class carriage is lawfully open to anyone possessing seventy-four sen, no second-class Jap ever dares aspire to it. So secure are the officials in the morale of the people that tickets are never examined. You show your pasteboard at the gate as you enter the platform at the beginning of the journey, again as you leave the platform at the end, but not on the train. A third-class fare could easily ride in a first-class coach.[256] No one but a foreigner would ever think of this. I tried it one day and succeeded, getting seventy-four sen worth of nobility for thirty sen. It is an axiom that all foreigners are noble; hence all foreigners should travel first class. Some day Japan will really be civilized.

This morning the first-class coach was filled with London tiles and Paris frocks, all silked and diamonded. It was the day of the imperial garden party and all foreigners of note in Yokohama were on their way to the palace in Tokyo. There was a crush of German, French and English. I detected one pair Castilian in suavity of accent. All were agog with gossipy gayety. The men, sleek on Oriental dining as fresh pork packers, plumped seats unusually commodious quite full of broadclothed avoirdupois. The women were agush with scents, mowed from the four quarters. Feminine with suggested lingerie, they left the men to the papers, for the London mail was just in, and toasted some stale diplomatic scandal whose drift I vainly strove to get. Between silk tiles and be-birded bonnets there was not a vacant seat left in the first-class coach.


I found a seat in the rear of the second-class coach, which was but half filled. The occupants were Japanese, evidently business and professional men of note, perhaps fifteen all told. Except for the complexions, the upward slant of the eyes and the uniform small stature they might have passed for the occupants of the nine o’clock car downtown any American morning. The dress was the same, the average of intelligence the same. Before I began my paper I studied each face. The Japanese countenance is inscrutable. From coolie to Mikado exists the same placid, patient, nearly always alert expression of canny indifference. Before such uniformity, such hidden power, purpose and weird beginning toothed in the husk of time the most expert western physiognomist is baffled. The geography alone of these humanists of hardy strife can be sketched. Of their history, legends, poesy, knowledge and aspiration little may be said at the outward glance.

In the far corner sat a man whose personality attracted with an unmistakable potency. Sensitive to what psychologists call the aura, I instinctively felt that he was a person of distinction,[258] a distinction genuine in that it must be inherent, for nothing obvious indicated his difference from the other Japanese. He wore a frock coat which had seen use and a beaver hat, apparently of English make, as it had a Piccadilly smugness found nowhere else. None of his countrymen in the car wore cuffs like his, which were links. The others were old-fashioned in plain roundness. His tie was ample and of heavy silk, four-in-hand with a certain regality of flourish. His shoes were wide, short, homely, well-furnished. Only two items of his apparel were unlike those of anyone else. One was the pendant from his watchchain, a superb head of polished onyx on which I could make out the square and compass of the Masonic regalia. The other was a button the size of an American copper cent which he wore in his left lapel. It looked like the button of the Legion of Honor. Later I learned that it was the insignia of the first-class order of the Rising Sun. Only twenty-two men in the world have the right to wear that. I also noticed that his left leg was slightly bent. He appeared to be bow-legged.

The unknown held a newspaper in front of[259] his face. When the train had been two minutes out of Yokohama he put the paper down and looked out upon the landscape. Then I recognized the Marquis Ito, who was born a poor boy of ordinary family in an imperial land, and who is now known before the world as the father of the New Japan.

Some historian has written that the Nineteenth Century produced four constructive statesmen of the first rank; two—Bismarck and Cavour—in the west, and two—Li Hung Chang and Ito—in the east. Another puts him down as the greatest of the four because he is the most humble.

Of Ito’s place in history it is not the purpose here to speak. This is but the record of a chance hour when I saw him this morning take a second-class carriage to Tokyo that he might escape the crowd of foreigners whom he doubtless felt would annoy him with attention, when he wishes to be undisturbed. He has one sure mark of the prophets, that of being unhonored in his own country. The people say that he is proud, which is their interpretation of his aloofness, and that he does things unbecoming a gentleman.[260] By this they mean his fondness for geisha, which he makes no attempt to conceal, despising public opinion and thus calling upon his head that which he despises. He is the antithesis of Disraeli, of whom Gladstone could say that he was the only public man in England, unmarried, who could live his maturity without being mixed up with a petticoat. Ito makes no secret of his feminine promiscuity.

The Marquis can well afford to ignore public opinion. With what monarch of what age would he trade places? He has no position, no titles and no responsibilities. Yet he is the most powerful person in Japan. He is simply referred to as the chief of the “genro,” or elder statesmen. What a benign reference! He is general utility man for the government, and with that self-effacement which marks the Japanese of whatever station he accepts his duties with as unswerving a fidelity as the meanest gunner at his post.

When the Emperor wanted a delicate mission to Korea executed he sent Ito with absolute diplomatic power. Ito went, conducted the business with entire success and returned[261] home quietly. He has political enemies, of course, but these in the great hour of need stand aside and recognize his voice for what it is, the guiding genius of the nation. Emperor, ministers and generals come to him for final advice. He is not bothered with the routine of an office or the social duties of a position. He lives as obscurely as I saw him this morning in the second-class coach, yet on such significant occasions as that presentation by the Portuguese King he is the one man selected.

Ito is now sixty-two years old. In this magnificent prime of a great life he is at one of the ideal positions of all time—the real dictator of the glorious future of a coming people. What a contrast to petty jealousies and inefficient systems of western races, who have so ill disposed of men of similar stamp! At the same age Bismarck was hurling his thunders of wounded pride from Friedrichsruhe at the young William. Cavour, momentarily anxious, was tottering in an insecure seat; Grant, honored by the nations, had to submit to the humiliation of a defeat at the hands of his own party; Gladstone, hoary in public service, wavered between[262] the fires of an outraged public and an obtuse monarch; Cleveland and Harrison, whose service may be said to compare with that of the Japanese, at the very moment when their experience, their age and their disinterestedness would be of most service to the state, are relegated, like broken horses, to quiet pastures. Ito alone holds his rightful power—unchecked, supreme at the helm of state where alone the joy of the soul of such a man can find a vent.

His appearance! Of the cryptogram of that typical Oriental countenance only stray ideographs can be learned. Like them all it is inscrutable. The skin, old and yellow with the impenetrable age and the hoary toughness of parchment, lay in sleek, well-grained folds across a dome of brow. The eyes gazed out with reserve, incisive, mild from a flat setting. The iris—as what Japanese is not?—was brown-black, the white yellow with the musty haleness of yellow marble. The look was simple and quiet. Yes. It was profound. Yet it was alert.

I realized that I was looking on that which was older than the saber-toothed tiger or the[263] mausoleums of time, as old as the riddle of the Sphinx. I was gazing upon the oldest thing in the world—the spirit of progress.

When the train reached the last station, Shinegawa, eight minutes from Shimbashi, which is to Tokyo what the Grand Central station is to New York, there were but two vacant seats left in the car, one beside the Marquis, one next myself. Two Japanese entered. The first was well dressed, foreign style, and, without looking, plumped into the seat near the Marquis. I was, apparently, the only one in the car who had recognized the great man.

The second newcomer was one of those queer specimens of the hiatus from old to new which may be seen in the streets of the large cities. He wore the wooden Japanese geta and a half-caste kimono, but on his head was a dinky derby hat so low in the crown that the ticket he had stuck in the band was as tall as the hat. He halted in the door, abashed. Plainly he had taken the wrong coach. He should have gone third class. He was in a land where caste is everything and he felt out of his element. His limp attitude told his embarrassment and even his inscrutable[264] face showed his pain. But the train had started and he could not get out.

Marquis Ito touched the man on the arm and pointed out the seat at the farther end of the car. The poor fellow was only more embarrassed. He looked like a street tramp who might have stepped into a Fifth Avenue prayer meeting. At one shrewd glance the Marquis Ito saw the situation. He rose from his seat, offered it to the stranger with a simple gesture and himself walked the length of the car to the vacant place.

Know a nation’s great men and you know the nation, says the spirit of biography. Marquis Ito is to Japan what Count Tolstoi is to Russia, with this difference: Ito is in power, Tolstoi all but exiled. You may say that one is a statesman, the other a writer, and that hence they are not comparable. Yet, each stands before the world as the most significant intellectual figure among his people.

There are other differences between the two. Ito is silent, Tolstoi has a clarion voice; Ito is omnipotent, Tolstoi powerless; Ito has no ostensible[265] followers, Tolstoi counts his by the tens of thousands. Again you will say this is the difference not between men, but between statesman and prophet. Granted. But a curious fact lessens the force of that truth. Ito and Tolstoi are working for the same ends. Both seek the enfranchisement of men. The true difference between them is this: Ito sinks his personality in the cause he champions, satisfying Tolstoi’s own definition of the great man as being one too great to tell of his own goodness, while Tolstoi stalks his stalwart way to the limelight and focuses upon himself the attention of an age.

Hundreds have written of Marquis Ito, and the only reason for writing of him again is that he may thus be seen in some new light. He is not the only interesting man in Japan, nor the only great one, but he is certainly a dominating figure which fills the horizon with a mighty presence. He is not popular. The papers make only formal announcements of his movements. He passes to and from his country residence and the Imperial Palace without escort or demonstrations. He has no official position, Katsura being the prime minister, except the titular one[266] of President of the Privy Council, which carries with it neither stated duties nor salary. He may be easily approached and is seen by all who have the desire. He is as free from pose as it is possible for man to be. He doesn’t chop trees like Gladstone or pet great danes like Bismarck or walk in melancholy solitude like Disraeli. As a picturesque personality he is disappointing. He is more like Ben Harrison leaving the White House to practice law in Indianapolis; or, imagine Abraham Lincoln surviving the war and settled quietly in a side street in Washington and you will have Marquis Ito as he is to-day. Only add to that the absolute confidence of an all-powerful emperor and the support of all politicians, even those of life-long enmity.

Yet, in spite of seclusion, in spite of a simplicity possible only to men of the very first rank, Ito charms and holds attention. One finds traces of him, hears accounts of him, feels his pervading influence everywhere. When I told of riding in the second-class coach with him from Yokohama to Tokyo the day of the imperial garden party, I did not tell of the talk I had with him after he had given up his seat to[267] the abashed countryman and had taken one next to mine. After a minute and when I saw that he was not occupied I had the temerity to say:

“Your Excellency, I am an American, and as I see you are unoccupied would be glad if you might say a few words that I could repeat to my countrymen.” The never-to-be-forgotten way in which he turned to me replying, “Certainly,” was at once benign and shrewd. There was something of the fatherly old priest about him. Yet through his naïve simplicity there shone a canny alertness such as critics say the French landscapist, Corot, preserved in all his idealist vagaries.

The way in which the old statesman interviewed me was masterly, yet as gracious and lovable as any of the compelling things produced by any of the artists of these forty million. I had before then been sent on newspaper embassies to famous interviewers of the west. Of these J. Pierpont Morgan is of the roughest squeeze, ripping the marrow from a scribe with one smash of his lion paw. Elihu Root glances through one like a rapier, gashing incisive questions into the very pith of the attempt. But you[268] leave such knights of power and purpose dismayed and disheartened. You have been baffled and beaten, the door slammed in your face; you have been caught up by a strong wind and flung blindly to the ground. You need not cry. It is only the wing of destiny clipping a wee mortal as it hurls skyward in its flight.

Not so with Ito. He is all gauzy silk over his shimmering steel. I left him satisfied, enthusiastic about his priceless simplicity, jubilant over his grave dexterity, worshipful at his fatherly equality. Surely, he was a great man worthy of the name.

What had he told me? Nothing.

What had I told him? Everything.

Do not laugh, thinking mine the joy of one self-pleased at his own prattle. No. It was sheer delight in the knowing of one who towers above the greatest without conscious effort, and who reaches to the lowest without condescension. When I shook hands with him I felt that I had known him all my life. When I saw him into his carriage ten minutes later I felt that I should call him brother through all the lives that Buddha promises.


How did he do it? By flattery? How vain! By subtlety? How futile! There were a few details of person to note—a slim flex of the wrist as it dangled majestically across his lap, the weatherly gray old look of battles fought and conquered and of tempests braved and won; then always that inscrutable squint of the brown-black eyes with their yellow whites. For the rest you must seek it in that alchemy which the world, in spite of poets and prophets innumerable, seems still to overlook.

In the last quarter century the Marquis Ito has made the same change in his attitude toward the Japanese house of peers that Gladstone made in his lifetime on the slavery question. In the beginning he believed—or at least contended—that it should hold but one allegiance—toward the Emperor. Now he believes that it should owe a duty to the people, as well. Count Ogura, leader of the opposing political party, has had the honor of bringing him around. Ogura from the first has been a stanch democrat. Ito has been neither imperialist nor democrat; he has been both. Like every successful[270] constructive statesman he has been an opportunist, taking things as they existed and improving them as he could. And he has had as phenomenal a success as any man that ever lived. His attitude on the peers question alone will illustrate the manner of his policy. In the beginning he feared to make too great a breach from the old ways, not sure that either people or peers would stand it. Slowly he released the old beliefs, educating his countrymen, by other innovations, to the new. Now when he finds that neither peers nor populace will stampede at so complete a revolution he forsakes that consistency which is the weakness of little minds.

Again to-day I came across Marquis Ito—his mark. In this Japanese room made of a roof on pegs, with walls of paper shutters, and its floor ten blanketed mats, there are three decorations. They belong to a hotel of the second class. First is a spray of lordly wistaria, leaning slender and dainty from a majolica vase. Next is a bronze statue of a Chinese prophet, sword-habited and tiara-coiffured. The third faces me,[271] leaning above the sliding paper doors. It is a motto in Chinese characters, two yards long and a yard wide. At the left end is a signature and below the signature two seals, one an ochrish yellow, the other vermilion. For days that motto has stared at me its baffling puzzle. Were it the conventional lettering of any language but that of the East I would not be so much concerned. But in the dreamy half light of evening or in filmy moonbeams these ideographs dance; they cry aloud; they gesticulate; they demand utterance. Each stroke is masterly; each separate character a picture—more a poem! I am haunted by their blazing signals. Are they of appeal, or of warning, or of blessing? I try to study them out and fancy I can make a tortoise of the first. The last is a straight dash, the exclaimer of a prodigious font of type, clasped by two crossbeams. Perhaps this ideograph shows a man embraced by welcome arms—appropriate for a bedroom. At last my curiosity bubbles over and I drag Kato in to translate.

“It is very difficult to explain the meaning,” he says. “It is simple to a Japanese, but impossible to a foreigner. The first character is a[272] tortoise, which to us is the symbol of wisdom and eternity. The next means to pray. The last shows pilgrims climbing the sacred mountain, Fujiyama. That straight dash with the cross-beams is the crater with clouds floating about it.”

“The motto thus means, ‘Pray that you may be as a tortoise on the sacred mountain.’”

“Yes. It means to wish eternal wisdom and happiness to the dweller in this room.”

“And the signature?”

Kato looks again. “Hiburimo Ito,” he spells. “The Marquis Ito.”

“The Marquis Ito,” I cry.

“There is only one,” says he.

“The motto was given by him to the master of this house. See! the yellow and red seals are his. He did the work himself. This is the mark of his brush.”

“Is he a friend of the master?”

“No. But the master has a friend who came from the same province, Tosa, in the south. It is called the Statesman Province, for Ogura and Komura also came from there, while Satsuma in the west, from which Yamagata, Oyama and[273] Hirose came, is called the Warrior’s Province. This friend went to school with the Marquis Ito when they were both poor and now that the Marquis is rich and powerful his friend asked him for some motto of good fortune. And he was given this. It is a custom.”

The Marquis Ito says but little. Of whatever subjects he speaks he illumines, and he never hesitates to break into a conversation if it interests him. Some time ago he rivaled that unknown New Yorker who achieved fame for a single toast of nine words:

“The new woman, once our superior, now our equal.”

It was at a reception and the Marquis interrupted a discussion of the difference between American and Japanese women to say to an American: “When I marry I take on a head servant; when you marry you become one.”

It was only last week at a banquet that Mrs. Wood, wife of the United States Military Attaché at the legation here, was asking Baron Komura, Minister of Foreign Affairs, if it was true that the Japanese government had made an[274] appropriation to buy back the heirlooms which needy Japanese of good family had sold abroad.

“No,” said Komura, “we are too poor. What is gone is gone. It may be that some private parties are buying them up, but not the government. I have heard that even some of the temple relics, their most prized bronzes and lacquers, have gone. The people forsake the old gods, the priest gets poor, the curio man comes with gold and away go the musty monuments of centuries.”

At this moment, with an almost sinister frown the Marquis Ito interrupted. “What’s that?” he called. The conversation was repeated. The inscrutable eyes closed, then he opened them with a squint and said to Mrs. Wood:

“America can have all the relics Japan has—her bronzes, gilts, ivories, lacquers, silks, her temples, everything but the land and the people—for gold. We want American gold.”

“Couldn’t America buy Japan?” asked Mrs. Wood, playfully.

The old man mused a while. Finally he said:


“I have no doubt that America has the enterprise to build a ship large enough to float our island to the Golden Gate and anchor it there, but if you do that I bid America beware that we do not annex her!”


Chapter Sixteen

Port Arthur stood formidable and haughty on the night of February 8th, when Togo first saluted it with his turret six-inchers. That salute of the shell was lengthy and costly. For ten months it kept up from nearly seven hundred guns, approximately two hundred and forty in the navy and three hundred and fifty in the army. Each gun fired its weight in metal twenty times over. About two thousand tons of bursting shell went into that proud and mighty citadel, cordoned with its cunningly hung and ingeniously intrenched forts. Each firing cost an average of twenty-four gold dollars. Thus the moneyed treasure hurled against the fortress exceeded thirty millions. And men—but of the human later.

What bait lured and what force repelled that money and blood? To comprehend we must[277] review briefly Port Arthur, its fortification, and its siege. Nature there was the greatest ally the Russians ever had. Topographically, Port Arthur was fitted with a defense that taught tricks to the most skillful engineers. Two ranges of hills, almost concentric, surrounded the harbor. The crests of these were broken by a series of successive conical elevations. Here was a suggestion that the mightiest engineer—an Archimedes or a Michelangelo—would have seized. The Italians who helped the Russians in laying out their defenses, taking these concentric ranges for the primary grand scheme, ran completely about the city two concentric lines of fortifications. Massive masonry forts were built on the shoulders of the high summits, and were connected by continuous defensive works. Hugging the city close, distant from one thousand yards to a mile and a half, lay the inner line of permanent defense, whose backbone was an old Chinese wall, broadened, deepened, and loopholed. Beyond, and filling the interstices between these forts, were semi-permanent works. The forts were so related to each other that they gave mutual support. Each one[278] was dominated by fire from neighboring heights, and it often happened that the Japanese seized positions, which, though untenable for the Russians, they were unable to hold themselves. The slopes of the hills were steep. Also, they were smooth and free from cover. To rush the works charges had to be made over a broad glacis, swept by the shrapnel, machine gun, and rifle fire of the defenders. Should the assault survive the scientific deathtraps of this danger zone, the valiant few were confronted by massive masonry parapets, through which they could not force an entrance.

This wonderful network of fortifications, strong by nature, strong by virtue of the skill and care with which it had been built, was distinguished from all previous defensive works by the fact that here for the first time were used all those terrible agencies of war which science in the last century has rendered available. There were steel shields to protect skirmishers, machine guns, smokeless powder, artillery of high velocity and great range, high explosive shells, the magazine rifle, the telescopic sight, giving marvelous accuracy of fire; the range-finder,[279] giving instantaneously the exact distance of the enemy; the searchlight, the telegraph and the telephone, starlight bombs, barbed-wire entanglements, and a dozen other diabolic inventions, the sum of which, allied to this stupendous fortification of nature by man, enabled the military authorities of the world to pronounce upon Port Arthur that superlative word, impregnable.

Reducing the scale of this fortress, we might see in miniature its intricate construction if we looked upon the hair-clippers of a barber. The forts were the teeth, the murderous scientific apparatus the death blades of this monstrous clipper. For five months they shaved clean everything that approached them.

At the beginning of the operations, in the War Office at Tokyo, the plan of campaign against Port Arthur was laid out as all Japanese campaigns are laid out—by the General Staff. With a passion for detail and a mania for precision, the fortress was plotted and the operations against it mathematically separated into stages. Now that Port Arthur calls on history for an answer, the exact nature of this plan, and how[280] rigidly it was adhered to, may be for the first time disclosed.

There were to be four stages in the reduction of the fortress. The work was divided into stages, because the Japanese are so practical that they must plainly see on paper what they project. They live by system. They have reduced accomplishment to a problem of economics. They believe that the most successful man is he who makes the closest analysis. It was fore-ordained that they would be successful, for they analyzed Port Arthur.

The first of the four stages laid out comprehended the capture of the Chinese wall, which is the main line of permanent Russian land defense on the east, and its protection of twelve forts; three permanent, four semi-permanent, and three redoubts. The second stage comprehended the taking of Etzeshan and Anzushan (the Table and Chair forts), which are considered the keys to the west defenses, with the lunettes, batteries, and redoubts which formed their out and in works. The third stage comprehended the capture of the town of Port Arthur, and the great sea forts located on the[281]
Tiger’s Tail and Golden Hill. The fourth and final stage, in which it was expected that the desperation of defense would mount to the height of a fierce guerrilla warfare, comprehended the taking of the tip of the peninsula, called Liaotishan.

The first stage was the most vital military move, for once accomplished it meant the crumbling of the Russian line, though the defense might linger after that for months.

The second stage was politically the great essential, for not until it was well accomplished could the world be told that Port Arthur had fallen. Through this Chair fort the town was taken ten years ago, but now it rises so formidably that the Japanese have not even dared to attack it. It looks like the crater of an extinct volcano, bulwarked with loose sand at a seventy-five degree angle, so that on assault men sink to their knees and lie inert under merciless fire. “203” was but a semi-permanent outwork of this Chair fort, which dominated it.

Such was the project. Execution needed only Stoessel and his defenders to make the plan of the Tokyo War Office precise. They failed on[283] the defense of the last three stages, so that when the Japanese accomplished the first stage, Port Arthur fell. Nogi’s original intention was to pierce the Russian right center through the line of forts from Keekwanshan and Ehrlungshan, while he demonstrated on the left, where lie “203” and Etzeshan. He pursued this plan to the end and was consistent through a bitter, costly half-year. He planned to enter Port Arthur, through Keekwanshan and Ehrlungshan, on August 21st. He entered Port Arthur through Keekwanshan and Ehrlungshan, January 2d—four months and a half late—but he got there, as he originally planned.

It was predicted that if the Russian line could be broken at any one point, the fortress would fall. No one but the mathematical heads in the War Office took stock in the idea of the four grand stages. But Nogi and his generals held to the plan by foreseeing beyond the actual defense, by checkmating it at every point that might possibly have bearing upon these various stages, and as a chess player surveys every possibility of defeat, counting on consummate ability in the opponent. Then they finally[284] got what they were after, even before they expected it.

Had Nogi met what his foresight led him to expect—a consistently determined defense—his capture of Ehrlungshan and Keekwanshan in the last days of December would have left him only with one-quarter of his work finished. But as a general giving full credit to his adversary, he could not count on the Russian failure in the two vital respects which spelled the final surrender. These two vital things were ammunition and morale. If the Russians had had plenty of ammunition and had been pervaded, rank and file, with Stoessel spirit, they would have fought on while they held Anzushan and Etzeshan, and all of that great chain of forts from Golden Hill through to Liaotishan.

The siege of Port Arthur presents many phases—military, political, ethnical, scientific, spectacular, and dramatic—in short, all the great vital phases of human life. About the siege of Sebastopol the libraries hold thirty volumes—about Plevna twenty. Port Arthur surpasses both. Politically, vaster interests were [285]at stake. In a military sense the operations were more extensive; so we cannot hope to cover the ground delved into by hundreds of writers about former sieges.

We can but pick the grand salient features that seared themselves into the memory of the few who lived through it. Of these the chief is the proof that human tenacity and valor are as great to-day as at any time in the world’s history. The great guns at Port Arthur were marvelous. They impressed one with that power seen in a jungle of elephants, yet they were sensitive and delicate as a little girl. The battling under searchlights was as grand a spectacle as the imagination can devise. The ingenuity and precision of the movements outlined by generals bred in all the duplicity and culture of the schools, and reared through every vicissitude of camp and march, were astounding. The ingenious, quiet deviltry of the engineer puzzled the brain. But all would have been useless without the private soldier. The boy in khaki—he did the trick.

And after all the story of Port Arthur has been thrashed out, its questions settled, that soldier of Nippon, with a calm, plain face, stamped[286] with the soil, rises supreme, saluting his equally glorified yokel brother from the Trans-Baikal.

Shells make a lot of noise and led the hotel correspondents many miles away to see blood on the face of the moon, but at Port Arthur their damage was out of all proportion to their cost. Only one out of four hundred of the Russian shells was effective in the Japanese camp. It is not likely that more than twice that ratio—namely, one out of two hundred—would cover the proper statistics of Japanese effectiveness. Of course, the Japanese had the great advantage of a plain target.

Bullets did the harm. There were about forty million discharged during the five months of the siege, and forty million bits of steel flying with cutting velocity are bound to hit some hearts in Japan and other hearts in Russia. The weight of the total number of men killed at Port Arthur on both sides, if compared with the weight of the steel sent from the large and small guns of both armies, will show that the death of every soldier cost his weight in metal.

But the deaths were not frightful. It was life that was frightful. In the contested redoubt[287] of the Eternal Dragon, where the Japanese drove the tip of their wedge into the Russian right center in mid-August, and which they held against numberless sorties for three months, the Japanese soldiers lived in conditions that would be impossible to men of any other race. The enemy was within forty yards of them on three sides. Their way back to their base of supplies was across half a mile of valley, every yard of which was swept by the enemy’s fire. Few prisoners were taken on either side. Through the four chief months of the siege only seventy-one Russians were captured, and the number of Japanese found alive in Port Arthur at the time of its surrender was less than one hundred.

There are a few instances on record of mutual devotion between the enemies, which is vastly heightened by the other frightful record of mutual unswerving hatred. One day a Russian sergeant appeared in front of a Japanese trench, bearing over his shoulder a wounded Japanese lieutenant, whom he had picked up with a shattered leg under the parapet of one of his own forts. This sergeant had been on the point of thrusting his bayonet through the brain[288] of the Japanese lieutenant, when the other man moved, moaned, opened his eyes, and from his pocket took a bit of biscuit, offering it to the other. The Russian dropped his bayonet, bound the shattered leg, hoisted the Japanese to his shoulders, and walked by moonlight that night to the opposing trenches.


Chapter Seventeen

That Port Arthur would fall on the 21st of August was believed by every man in the Japanese army; the island nation was sure of it; the world thought it certain. And the Japanese did try. They lacked neither the bravery, nor the numbers, nor the skill. They failed because Nature stood in their way. Nature built the mountains, and without the mountains the Russians could not have defended Port Arthur as they did. The forts were so arranged that each was commanded by two or three others, and some by ten or twelve. One taken, the others immediately concentrated fire there and made it untenable. One thing only could be done—take all the forts simultaneously. Since there were seventeen permanent, forty-two semi-permanent, and eighteen improvised fortifications, two miles of fortified Chinese wall, and a triple line of trenches eight and a half miles long, defended by a stubborn foe, this was impossible.


“Impossible?” That is an English word. The Japanese do not understand it. “You are expected to do the impossible things,” read the first imperial order their troops received. They have done impossible things. So have the Russians done impossible things. The ordeal has raised the story of the siege of Port Arthur into an epic. Without the perspective of Troy, it has some of Troy’s grandeur. The glory, to us, is that we have touched shoulders with an age that has produced men as willing as any ever have been to fight nobly and die heroically.

The Shack occupied for three months (800 yards from the firing line) by General Oshima, Commander of the Ninth Division.
Adjutant Hori, Secretary to General Oshima shown standing amid a quantity of plunder from one of the captured Forts.

Skill and bravery had their value, of course, but to take Port Arthur a man was needed—a man like Grant, who could fight it out on one line all summer and all winter. This man was Nogi; with a face parchment-crinkled, brown like chocolate, with beard gray, shaded back to brown where it met the skin, so that he seemed a monotone in sepia, with eyes small and wide apart, perfect teeth, tiny, regular nose, and a beautiful dome of a head flaring out from the temples in tender and eloquent curves. He stands five feet ten, unusually tall for a Japanese, showing the loose power of a master in his[291] joints and in that mighty jowl shaded by the gray-brown beard. He has had to weather fierce storms of public indignation in Japan for two reasons—because he did not take Port Arthur as scheduled; and because he sacrificed so many lives. Turn over the pages of our history and read the story of Grant’s campaign from the Wilderness, through Cold Harbor and Spottsylvania, to Petersburg and Richmond, and you will read the story of Nogi’s campaign against Port Arthur. In northern Virginia the mighty battle-ax cut down the keen Damascene sword. On the Liaotung Thor’s hammer smashed the straying fasces of an overripe empire. The North cried out that the man who felt himself an agent of Destiny in conquering northern Virginia was a butcher; just so Japan cried “butcher” against the iron man who reduced Port Arthur.

In 1894 Nogi saw the Chinese besieged and Port Arthur taken by a feint. He saw the big Japanese demonstration then made against the front while the bulk of the army slipped along the coast to the west and south, enveloping the enemy’s left wing and driving the silly Chinese[292] into a net where they were caught fast under the great forts, which speedily fell. Again, apparently, the same strategy was about to be repeated. But instead of making the real attack in the rear of the Russian left flank, Nogi made only a demonstration there, where “203” is on the west, and drove his straight, hard blow into the eastern line of permanent land defense. To pierce the Russian right center, enfilade its left flank, and stand Port Arthur on end—this was the plan. Gloriously it was attempted, gloriously it failed. Regiment after regiment went in, regiment after regiment went down. Corpses lay eight deep in the creek which ran red to the sea.

This grand assault—the first—began August 19th. For seven days and nights without cessation the battle raged, in the vain endeavor to pierce that right center. It is said that the Japanese are all heroes—that none are cowards. Some are also sensible. There was the Eighth Regiment, which, when ordered in to the assault where the regiment before it had been swept down, sent back through its commanding officer the word that the way was impossible. This[293] word was so new to the Brigade-General that he ordered the regiment to the rear for fatigue duty, the worst punishment that can come to Japanese soldiers in an army where there are no guard-houses. Another regiment, the immortal Ninth, was ordered to cross the field to the foot of the slope on which lay, dead and dying, many of the men of the regiment which had gone before. The Colonel, Takagagi, surveying the task set for his regiment, sent back a report that it was not feasible. The Brigade-General Ichinobe replied hotly that one regiment was enough to take one battery. Takagagi stepped out of the ravine, in which he had been seeking shelter, at the head of his command. Before, he had been marching, as colonels usually do, in the rear, while his line officers led the advance. Now, he leaped forward up the slope, out in front of his men. A dozen paces from the ravine he fell with four bullets through his breast. The Lieutenant-Colonel took up the lead and was shot a few yards farther on. The majors were wiped out. Every captain but one went down. The last Captain, Nashimoto, in charge of D Company, found himself, at length, under the[294] Chinese Wall with seventeen men. Looking down upon the shell-swept plain, protected for the moment from the sharpshooters above, with that handful of heroes, a mile and a half in advance of the main body of the Japanese army, he grew giddy with the success of his attempt. Of a sudden he concluded that he could take Port Arthur with his seventeen men. He started in to do it. There was only the wall ahead—the wall and a few machine-guns—beyond, the city itself—a five minutes’ run would have brought him to the citadel. He scaled the wall and fell across it—his back bullet-broken. Eight of his men got over, scaling the height beyond, called Wangtai or the Watch Tower, a place to which the Russian generals formerly rode on horseback to survey the battlefield. On this slope, for three months, in full sight of both armies, the eight lay rotting. The Russians referred to them as “The Japanese Garrison.”

This was the high tide of the advance made in August. Nogi paid a frightful price to learn his terrible lesson—that he could not so quickly wipe out a foe thus allied with Nature. The lesson cost him twenty-five thousand men. After[295] the first ghastly assault he sat down with his army and went sensibly and slowly at the enormous task. Instead of storming Port Arthur with his army, he and Kodama saw that he must dig into it. Realizing that Nogi was sure to pass into the fortress through the earth where he had failed to enter above ground, Kodama might well have chuckled as he said that he held the besieged city in the hollow of his hand.

Yet both Kodama and Nogi thoroughly realized what they had to face. The permanent forts of the Russians were built on the advantageous shoulders that projected two-thirds of the way down the slopes. The mountains, fortunately for the Russians, were so situated that, though irregular in detail, yet their line formed a complete semicircle enveloping the city. Making use of these natural advantages, they were able to build a grand fortress with seventeen locks, for every one of which they held the key. The Japanese might spring one of the locks, but the fortress could be instantly closed with any or all of the other sixteen. Each depression between the main shoulders of the mountains was used for the emplacement of a battery. Batteries[296] and forts were connected with barbed-wire entrenchments, and the glaces were made sheer and slippery. Some were formed of concrete, some were built crater-like of a sliding sand, so that a man advancing found himself slipping to the knees and quagmired. Around the great forts moats of unknown depth and width were built. In these moats caponieres were placed to enfilade daring assaulters. Some of the barbed wire was electrically charged, so that men attempting to cut it with nippers were electrocuted. Down the forward slopes of the mountains mines were sunk in the earth; some were exploded by contact with an electric button on the surface, others by direct contact from some tripping man as he passed over the spot. Around two of the forts torpedoes taken from the ships were buried, and their finlike stems were turned into contact flanges projecting from the earth. All these defenses were connected with a network of covered ways; in two places deep tunnels ran from fort to fort, and from all of the principal forts back to the Chinese Wall was a deep tunnel. Behind the wall lay machine guns, the most deadly weapons in modern[297] warfare, sprinkling bullets as a hose sprinkles water.

The very names of these forts characterized the forms of the granite of which they were built and out of which they rose. The Eternal Dragon, the Two Dragons, the Chair, the Table, the Lion’s Mane, and that flippant old rooster, who is the grimmest and sauciest of them all, the Cock’s Comb, stood out defiant in Chinese hoariness.

To get across the plain, up the slopes, and into those forts by digging trenches and tunnels was the problem, and the Japanese were able to solve it. In those two months one hundred men at a time did the job, for only that number could work at once in the tunnels. Often shells found them out; rifle-fire harassed them every hour. The loss was many companies, but they never lacked the one hundred to do the work, always by night, always silently; crawling through the night, pick and shovel in hand, came that antlike hundred, the individuals constantly varying, as figures in a kaleidoscope where death is at the handle, but never quitting its terrible task.


In darkness a company begins its labor in unison. Guided by clever engineers, the picks advance through the blackness; the shovelers smartly after. The Russian searchlight swings menacingly to play upon the little group. A shell hurtles in. A dozen men fall, some never to rise again. Up with the first aid, down with the stretchers, to the rear with the victims. Advance another squad—on goes the hundred. So for two months—and then through the finished trenches the rest of the army walked impudently in the broad sun, laughing at those useless bullets singing so saucily overhead.

The plain lay overripe with harvests, but not a living thing was on its surface. The autumn sun hung indolent and golden. Blackened villages were deserted. Among the chain of forts, bristling with cannon, there lay one with its nearest side completely honeycombed. All the other forts were silent and bare on their near sides. That honeycomb was made by the gridironing of Japanese trenches. Between it and the line of mountains, parallel to the Russians on the north, the ground was ridged with mounds of fresh earth, as if some gigantic mole[299] had zigzagged across the plain. From neither army was there the slightest evidence of life, except that between the two lay that telltale fresh earth, as though a huge animal had been busy in the night. Yet, behind the northern parallel range, the distance of a rifle-shot from the Russians in Port Arthur, ominously silent, monstrously at work in preparation, was the Japanese army—siege-mortars cocking their twenty tons of steel on solid masonry as a Mauser pistol cocks on a man’s fist; monster naval guns, rakish devils, buried in the earth, with frightful noses menacing the blue; howitzers perched on peaks; lines of transport laden with rice and biscuit; hospitals brilliant as the sunlight and quiet as its stillness; regiments of men receiving instructions—how to escape beri-beri, how to keep nightdews from the rifle-barrels, how to bind a fractured leg, how to scupper an adversary in a hand-to-hand fight—but on the field of battle, on the opposite sides of which the opposing hosts were held like hounds in leash, there was nothing human—only silence, beauty, sublimity.

From September 19th to the 25th occurred[300] what is known as the second assault, although it might more properly be described as a reconnaissance in force. As an assault it failed. Then on the last day in October the war-demon awoke again to his full ferocity. Where the twenty-five thousand had been lost in August, a division could now be poured right up to the parapets of the Russian forts without losing a man. Coast-defense guns had been brought from Japan to battle against the Russia coast-defense guns, which had been turned landward. The Japanese had hauled their guns by hand, eight hundred men to a gun, through mud, up the mountains, in the dark, under fire, and had placed them in silence on solid concrete foundations. But after they had crossed the valley the Japanese still had a frightful obstacle to face. There was but one way to get to the forts—up the slopes. Every inch of these was commanded by guns trained carefully through three months of actual use against a real foe and through four previous years against an imaginary one. The Russians lay confident and calm above their terrible fortress. They did not have to bluster with bombardments. They knew their strength.[301] They merely waited until the Japanese advance reached a certain spot on the slopes. It was not a question of aiming the guns, as it is where troops are constantly fighting over fresh ground. All that was necessary was to pull the triggers. There was about the proceeding little of the sport of war. The order to advance was as certainly fatal as the hangman’s signal in an execution-chamber, and when the Japanese did advance the few who survived the murderous fire found behind those superb entrenchments men just as brave, just as cunning, just as strong as they themselves. If it is ever asked which is the braver, Japanese or Russian, no answer can be given. No one nation distinguished itself at Port Arthur. The glory belongs to both.

It was in the third grand assault, when the final operations commenced, that General Ichinobe, the commanding officer who had ordered the sacrifice of Takagagi and his immortal Ninth Regiment and who had summarily sent the sulking regiment to the rear, became the Japanese Marshal Ney. Two battalions under his command succeeded in entering the P redoubt, an outwork of the great Cock’s Comb[302] fortification. Ichinobe left his battalions after midnight, secure in the conviction that his work had been successful. Toward three o’clock in the morning he was roused by an orderly, who reported that the men had been driven from the P redoubt. Ichinobe was then half a mile as the crow flies, nearly one and a half miles as the trenches lay across the valley, from the slope of the redoubt. Leaping from his couch, he called about him his staff-officers, issued hurried orders to the reserves, and, at the head of his immediate followers, ran through the zigzag trenches. Reaching the foremost line, now under the fire of Russian machine-guns, he found his men not demolished, but surprised, outnumbered, and being driven sullenly back. Drawing his saber, Ichinobe thrust the ranks aside, passed through, and charged up the slope, leading his heroes for the second time into the contested fort. With his own hand he killed three Russians. When dawn came his brigade occupied the P redoubt. His immediate commander, General Oshima, had an account of the exploit telegraphed to the Emperor at Tokyo. That afternoon an Imperial order[303] reached the army, christening the fort “Ichinobe.”

In the assault of August 19th to 26th, the few men who reached the parapets had received in their faces storms of what the Chinese call “stinkpots”; that is, balls of fresh dung. This assault wholly failed. The dead were left to rot, and the wounded were shot as they lay, the stench of the corpses being used as a weapon of offense against the Japanese, who were trying to maintain the advantage they had gained at the foot of the slope. The demonstration of September 19th, which also failed, was met with hand-grenades of guncotton. In the third assault on October 29th, halfway up the Cock’s Comb, the advance stumbled over a mine, and the entire lower shoulder of the mountain was blown into the air, taking with it some twenty-five men, heads awry, legs and arms twisted, trunks shattered. Nevertheless, new volunteers advanced through the crater thus formed, up the glacis of the redoubt, until they reached a new and dangerous obstruction. This was a moat so cunningly concealed under the very edge of the parapets that an observer below[304] could gain no hint of its existence even with the most powerful field-glasses. The ditch was so deep that once in, a man could not get out even by climbing over another man’s shoulders. To fall in was certain death, for in every turn of the concealed moat was a masonry projection called by the cunning men who devise such traps, a caponiere. These caponieres were built of stone and covered with earth. They were tiny forts, concealing and protecting four or five Russian riflemen and a machine-gun. Consequently, under perfect protection and with their foe in limited area, trapped like woodchucks in a hole, unable to escape, the Russians merely had to deal out whistling steel at their leisure. The Japanese did not falter. The first men who leaped into that moat knew that they were leaping to certain death, but they knew, too, that the men in the caponieres could be overwhelmed by the force of the numbers to come after. The two caponieres were captured at once.

Under the parapets of this fort, dominated by all the artillery of the two armies, occurred some of the grimmest fighting that history records. It was at midnight of the second day of[305] final occupation. The black mountains lay behind, the black forts in front, the blacker plain below. A Japanese lieutenant, Oda, asked for a volunteer Keissheitai, or certain-death party. Thirty Keissheitai men came forward. Oda put himself at their head and ventured along the bed of the moat toward the rearmost caponiere, with the idea of capturing it. The fort is very long—about one and a half times the length of an ocean liner—so he found room and time for adventure. There was no moon, and the moat was too close to the Russians for them to depress their searchlights sufficiently to illuminate it. In the blackness, halfway down the moat, Oda and his men met a Russian lieutenant prowling with a squad of men behind him, bent on the recapture of the two caponieres which the Japanese had seized. They had it out, not with bullets, but bayonet to bayonet, fist to fist, and even teeth and nails. Oda and the Russian, in locked embrace, reeled back and forth, falling, rising, scratching, first one on top and then the other, each losing sight and control of his men, all of whom were engaged in individual combats just as savage.


The two leaders, grappling for an opportunity that each sought, bumping against the walls of the narrow moat, reached, without knowing it, an embrasure which led to the rear of the fort and into the gorge. Tripping over this, not knowing where they were going, the two plunged headlong down the slope. Above frowned two Russian batteries. Beyond rose the great red-capped sky line of the Cock’s Comb. A hundred yards, scratched by the stones, smashed by the shale, they slipped and writhed, until they struck a tiny plateau halfway down the mountain. Here the two, clinched, stopped as might a dislodged stone toppling from its socket. In the struggle Oda had been able to get his right arm free, which he reached over across his enemy’s back, grasping the hilt of his straight, samurai sword. Pulling it halfway out of the scabbard, which was tightly lashed to his waist, he sawed and pulled until the slender, tapering steel had gashed through the Russian’s clothing, full to his backbone.

Late the following night, after the sun had gone, Oda crawled into his own trenches at the base of the mountain. His men had been repulsed[307] by a second party of Russians who had made a sortie to relieve the first. But, still the Japanese held the two caponieres in front and the Russians the two in the rear. Oda got no medals nor applause. Two days later a breast-wound which sent him to a hospital in Japan saved his life, for had he stayed he would have certainly gotten himself killed.

The Japanese during the first two nights hastily dug out approaches and had a partially covered way from the base of the mountain to the moat. This gave them their vital hold on the north battery of the Cock’s Comb. So resolute were the Russians in holding every inch of ground that it was a full month and a half after that before the Japanese could take the complete fortification. And when the complete fortification was taken it availed but little, for it was but one of three great batteries which formed the series known as East Keekwan, which was itself but a portion of the eastern line of permanent defenses.

To see how the rest of the great Northeast Keekwan (Cock’s Comb) Battery was taken is to see how Port Arthur was taken, for all the[308] forts were reduced in the same way. 203-Meter Hill, the Two Dragons, the Eternal Dragon, Quail Hill, Wangtai, and the Pine Tree fell as did the Cock’s Comb. The only difference lay in incident.

It must be remembered that the fight was never over with the taking of the outer parapet. Inside the forts, beyond the parapets, well protected by moats and caponieres, was a sheltering earthwork called the contrascarp, crossing which, storming parties met a close and unerring fire from men concealed beyond, in ways formed of timber balks and sandbags, and called traverses. Below these traverses were galleries where the garrison lived; and below the galleries were the bombproofs protecting the ammunition. Under the traverses, covering the galleries and bombproofs, was heavy masonry from two to three feet thick.

To undertake the capture of the whole chain of fortifications by such sacrifices as those which gained a single one of the Keekwan forts might have entailed the extermination of the whole besieging army and of all the reinforcements which could have been sent to its support. But[309] with one fortress in the chain in Japanese hands there was another way—sapping.

Through November the Japanese engineers were busy digging underground from the advantageous hold they had on the north battery. They started straight down through the solid rock. Only a few men could work at a time, and these could dig only while the trench protecting them, which was a few yards in advance, was held by their comrades, vigorously firing, to keep down the Russian garrison, now not more than a hundred feet away. Moreover, sometimes when the Japanese sappers were half concealed in the earth, sometimes when they were wholly underground, companies of desperate Russians would suddenly break forth on them, spurred by Stoessel’s promise of the Cross of St. George and a money prize to whoever should break up any Japanese work. Thus at night, hounded by shells, sleuthed by searchlights, and harassed by heroes from across the way, the hole was dug. Forty feet down it had to go to get below the level of the galleries and bombproofs, then another twenty feet forward to find a spot under the vitals of the fortification.


Stupendous as the task was, the tunnels were finished at last, and on December 18th a quarter of a ton of dynamite was placed in two such mines, and the galleries and bombproofs of the north battery were blown into the air, with the demolished bodies of some forty-five men of the garrison.

And even this was only the beginning of the end. Already the Japanese had accomplished a herculean task. They had sweated, endured, writhed in agony, died, and they had taken only one battery. Ahead of them still rose, tier on tier, forts and batteries, moats and walls, until the soul grew sick to think that Port Arthur must be bought with sacrifice so vast. But the Japanese did not turn back, did not weep, showed no despair. They came to work, to meals, as cheerfully as ever they had done in the rice paddies. And this, notwithstanding that winter was on them, that the keen, equinoctial gales blew in from both seas, that the thermometer fell to zero and below. They were surrounded by charnel houses of their own making, and protected only by miserable, hasty dugouts shielded from cold and wind by a few broken[311] boughs, light shelter-tents, and hastily packed earth. Death was preferred to a wound, for the wounded had small hope of succor; yet life was cherished and fostered.

Meanwhile the Russians were busy. They devised a new scheme of defense. Kerosene was taken through a subterranean gallery of the Two Dragons into a moat and there poured on piles of straw. Then they waited.

At the fifth grand assault, when the north battery of the East Cock’s Comb was taken, the Two Dragons were simultaneously attacked. A company of Japanese headed for the moat. The kerosene and straw were set on fire and the men who leaped into the moat, expecting to find caponieres as they had found them in the Cock’s Comb, were caught by flame. Many perished miserably. Some valiantly fought the flames, but few survived. These few—that is, the few who do the work in warfare—the few who accomplish that for which the thousands die—made possible the Japanese advance. Through, over, and beyond these few, the Japanese finally entered Port Arthur.

Science is well, up to a certain point. Then[312] it becomes useless and cruel. The genius of the engineer helps the soldier across the valley and to the parapet, but there leaves him in an agony of suspense, over electric mines, under dynamite batteries, crisscrossed by machine guns. If the nerves of this marvelous soldier survive the ordeal, and if his body escapes the flying chunks of steel, he is reserved for the extremity of modern torture—hand-to-hand fighting in scientific warfare. At a moderate distance he tosses balls of guncotton; he closes with stones and stinkpots; he parleys with the bayonet, and finishes with teeth and fists.

Loading a 4.7 gun of the ordinary field artillery during the assault of September 20.

By chance, one morning in September, as the dawn came in, there was revealed in a captured bombproof one little instance of the hideousness of the conflict. The arm of a Japanese boy in khaki hung limply across the back of a huge blond fellow in baggy trousers. From the hand of the boy had fallen a pistol, which had caught in the blouse of the big one; it had not fallen too soon, for just below the muzzle the blouse was matted thick with the life stream that had welled out in response to the death call. The big teeth were clinched deep and tight into the[313] little jugular. On the boy’s slant-eyed face, good-natured, yet stamped with the strange pathos of a people close to the soil, was written a mute appeal for mercy. To that appeal there was no answer. The boy’s dead face stared into the unresponsive block timber of the bombproof.

In the bloody angle of the Eternal Dragon, the most fiercely contested zone at Port Arthur, you might have seen these boys any day of those three frightful midsummer months, when the slim wedge was being driven inch by inch into the Russian right center. Everything was covered with the white powder of dried mud. All was wrecked. The path lay through a series of shell holes, connected rudely with pick and spade. Up to that point the ground had been neatly cut, but here it became rough and crude. No inch of dirt had been unnecessarily touched, because the enemy lay within forty yards on three sides. The débris of battle was all about—torn Russian caps, conical and heavy, mingled with the light brown of Japanese uniforms, cartridge pouches half filled, shattered rifles, demolished sabres, a gun carriage[314] smashed till the wheel spokes splintered the breech, rocks pounded by bullets as by a hammer, and, over the wall, seen as you stole by the chinks, khaki bags, loose over rotting bones.

All through the night when this bloody angle was first taken and after it had been protected with trenches from recapture, Oshima, the general commanding the division, sat in his tent without sleep. He was shaken by sobs, for he had been compelled to order that the entrenchments be made of the bodies of the dead and wounded. Only rock was there and to hold the place a quick shelter was essential. The half-dead men whose bodies were used by comrades to stop the steel hail smiled in approval at the work; they knew it was done for the best, but Oshima could not sleep; he wept bitterly all night.

Along that bloody angle and through all the eight-mile front for many months lay on duty the soldier of the Emperor, the boy who won the victory. He crouched under the parapet, rifle to cheek, its steel nose through a loophole, his finger on the trigger. The tensity of his muscles and his eyes glancing down the barrel in[315] deadly aim, made him look like a great cat pausing for a spring. One leg was drawn up and his cap was pulled viciously over his eyes. The sun beat upon him as he lay, venomous with pent-up passion, cut in silhouette against the trench, a shade darker than the shale. A minute before he had offered tea and cigarettes; now he dealt out hot lead. He might be a university student, or a merchant, or a professional man. Wherever he came from he was the pride of his neighborhood. Physically he was superb—perfect eyes and teeth, digestion hardy and fit as clockwork; this must have been so or he would not have been allowed to enlist. Moreover, he was a veteran of four months’ severe campaigning, seven pitched battles, and two months’ hard siege. Here he stood, far out on the firing line, clashed between two civilizations, hurled into the pallor of conflict, tossed by the greed of nations. Yes. Down there in the ditches lived the real besieger of Port Arthur. Not science, nor generalship, nor race bravery reduced Port Arthur; it was done by men who could live and die with the simple heroism of cavemen and vikings.


Chapter Eighteen

One morning in August General Nogi stood before his battalion commanders at Port Arthur with a pick in his hand. Its nose and heel had been worn away until the shank of rusted iron resembled an earth-dappled cucumber. Fondling it, the General said: “Take a lesson from this Russian pick. Your men must dig. They are too eager to ask, ‘Why intrench to-night when we are going forward in the morning?’”

Nogi here went to the heart of his problem. It had cost him 25,000 men to learn that the military engineer must precede siege assaults, as his brother, the civil engineer, precedes rapid transit in New York. The lesson, taught by Julius Cæsar to the legions in Gaul nineteen hundred years ago, Nogi and his heroes re-learned before Port Arthur in 1904. The advance[317] in that cycle of time has been not in digging, but in ways of digging. The Japanese had to cross a valley a mile wide and six miles long, dominated at all points by every degree of hostile fire. This did not appall them. They accepted the problem, grappled with it, and mastered it.

They honeycombed the valley, in the classic manner, with eighteen miles of trenches and tunnels. The chief element in the problem was to hide these from an enemy with lookouts above the plain. “Till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane,” the prophecy that sounded Macbeth’s doom, had already been heeded by the Russians before Kuroki’s northern operations. Here the witch, whispering in Stoessel’s ear, might have warned him of his end when “maize-stalk fields shall climb the Dragon’s front”; for it was under the protection of maize-stalks, twisting through a shell-swept plain, that the sappers crept on their slow but inevitable advance.

The Japanese attaché in South Africa had seen the Boer commandos, under fire, suddenly vanish in waving stalks of corn, projected,[318] screen-like, across a telltale front. It was a savage trick, learned by the Boers from the Kaffirs; and though school-bred British minds sneered at a ruse apparently so childish, yet many times their game was lost through such maneuvers. The Boers used their maize in wholesale fashion, covering their front with deep layers of whole sheaves. The Japanese improved on this. Students of nature, disciples of nature, they gave no gross imitations. In late autumn, over a field battle-tossed for three months, trampled by two armies, and sickled by the husbandman Death, they advanced, resurrecting the corn-fields as they went, till the Russian eye beyond could not guess the point where maize standing by chance left off and maize erected by besiegers began. Each angle of advance was concealed by these brown, withered sheaves.

But maize was only the screen, and could not hide the thousands of tons of earth which had to be taken from the plain. To throw the earth beside the trenches, thus bringing into Russian sight a furrow like that of a gigantic plow, would have revealed the Japanese position as[319] clearly as a blue pencil could have diagrammed it on white paper.

To hide the earth of this digging was the appalling task. It was done gloriously. The advance sappers threw their first trickle of mole-like progress backward between their legs from the furious indent of their tiny spades. Helpers behind immediately deepened and widened the rivulet of shelter thus begun. The infantrymen, closing in at daybreak throughout the hot sun, perfected it, but the reserves accomplished the new thing. As fast as the earth was displaced they carried it with gabions and bamboo stretchers back through the zigzag lines behind the mountain range which concealed their own heavy guns. Here, parallel with the Russian defense, mile after mile of fresh-smelling mounds slipped up through the cautious, industrious months following that frightful August. Passing across the valley through these tunnels, deep enough to shelter regiments, three months after the Aceldama of midsummer, one could, in safety, be frowned on by hostile batteries, distant three hundred yards, or look into the plain gridironed with cunning trenches, and, like the[320] foe above, see no evidence of life. The maize-stalks hid the trench turnings, and though the plain was alive with its thousands of armed men, even the practiced eye that had just been among them could not tell where they lay. Where had the output of that enormous digging gone? As well ask the chipmunk where he puts the dirt from his hole. It was a new experience for the Russians to fight a foe who could wiggle through the earth as easily as he could cross it, and, underneath, escape the death that he met on top.

Both sides had sailors on land. The Japanese emplaced the navy six-inch guns in the bottom of a valley. The army field guns were perched along the peaks in front, from which they could bark down like noisy house-dogs. But the savage bite came from the big guns, a quarter of a mile behind, the location of which was mistaken by the Russians as identical with that of the blustering field-pieces on the ridge. The sailors did not trust alone to the improbability of their hiding-place. They cut out earth the size of a ship’s hull, mended the broken crust with timber balks, and thrust the noses of[321] the six-inchers out of two square openings that might have been turret-holes. Thus, entirely protected, though within easy range of the enemy, they escaped serious injury. This was the most effective Japanese battery; it has become famous for tenacity.

For the first time coast-defense guns battled with each other. The Russians turned most of theirs landward. The Japanese learned that field artillery was useless against either the fleet or the permanent forts. Such knowledge prompted the assignment of a naval brigade to the initial bombardment, which, with the first grand assault, failed. Then they immediately turned to home for heavier ordnance. Mortars for coast-defense along the Straits of Shimonoseki and on the Bay of Yezo were all but completed in the military shops at Osacca. Twenty-six of them were immediately sent by transport to Dalny, and thence by rail over the tip of the mended Trans-Siberian to the last station outside the zone of the Russian fire.

The shipment of these great guns, the mortar-barrel of one weighing eight tons, up to that point where cranes, steamships, and locomotives[322] of the finest type were available, was a gigantic undertaking. Arrived at the shattered station in the night—for day work was impossible—the task was only begun. From there the guns were hauled by hand, for horses or Manchu oxen could not be used where silence and concerted intelligence were essential. Eight hundred men were detailed to each gun, which was mounted on skids such as lumbermen use in the North Woods. Four abreast, with hemp thongs across their shoulders, and all attached to a long cable as thick as a man’s leg, the men labored on through the mud, after dark, with the Russian shells flinging out searching challenge over their heads, occasionally a quart of shrapnel bullets spurting promiscuously into their ranks. Of the positions to which the guns were thus taken the nearest were a thousand yards and the farthest three and a half miles away. Once they were there, no emplacement of shale or earth, such as sufficed for field artillery and for naval guns, would do. So under each gun was laid eight feet of concrete, firm and deep; and when it had hardened the gun was emplaced. All this was done under fire, in[323] the night, the men being spat upon frequently by the glare of the searchlight, pelted sometimes by wind and rain, and, toward the end of autumn, seared by the winds howling in from two seas. It was prodigious toil, obscure heroism unbelievable. But it was successful, for it was this coast-defense artillery that sank the Russian fleet. None other could have done it. The monster labor of placing these guns on the bleak Manchurian hills, from which they have contested with the finest defenses in the world, is one of the thrilling engineering feats of modern times.

For the first time in history armies battled under searchlights. There had before been fights at sea, and at Kimberley a few skirmishes under searchlights; but in front of Port Arthur they have lighted up decisive engagements, extensive maneuvers, and vast losses. Science has intensified war. It has limited numerical loss, but it has increased individual suffering; and, as in modern city life, it strains brain and nerves to the breaking-point.

In August, for seven days and seven nights without cessation, a great battle was fought—the[324] first grand assault, which failed and failed and failed until Nogi learned his lesson. Maneuvers as intricate and almost as extensive as those in the north at Liaoyang were conducted alternately under sun, moon, and searchlight. The crux of this action rested on one of Stoessel’s searchlight tricks, played on the night of the seventh blow of Nogi’s hammer, desperately driving a wedge into the fortress. All the afternoon the Japanese artillery had been fiercely bombarding the ridges of the Cock’s Comb, the Eternal Dragon, and the Two Dragons. One by one the Russian batteries ceased firing. It seemed that they were silenced. Night fell, with prospects fair for assault. A rising storm increased the Japanese hope, for in wind and rain the searchlights would be nullified. Then, as night and rain came down together, the searchlights struggling with both, the Japanese shrapnel opened up against the lights. They had tried before, unsuccessfully, to reach the dynamos hidden in the hills. This time the attempt apparently succeeded. The man behind the light waited until a Japanese shell burst in the line of vision between him and his foes, and[325] then turned off the switch, giving the Japanese the impression that the light had been shattered. In this manner, one after another, three of the searchlights playing over the center of the field were “shattered.” With lights and guns apparently out of the contest, and favored by the storm and the night, Japanese expectation rose higher.

After midnight the most desperate of the eleven assaults conducted through the seven days was made against the Cock’s Comb and the Eternal Dragon. Halfway up the slope of the Cock’s Comb the three “shattered” lights, converging at one point, threw the advance out in silhouette against the red earth and the white shale. At the same moment the “shattered” batteries opened up, every gun alive. Simultaneously a regiment of Siberian sharpshooters sortied from the Two Dragons, caught the flanks in their onslaught, and all but annihilated the two regiments in front. Reinforced, bringing to the task that dour pluck that has given the Anglo-Saxon his hold on his big corner of earth, a quality the possession of which by the Japanese was once questioned, the reserves hammered the[326] Siberians into their trenches; and though the assault against the Cock’s Comb failed, shortly after dawn the Eternal Dragon fell. This was the tip of the wedge, driven at fearful cost into the Russian right center, and was the objective needed by the engineers to outline across the valley the vast mining operations of those three months.

Between the hostile lines, held all summer and autumn with desperate determination, lay a zone on which the dead were not buried or the wounded succored. To send Red Cross men into this field was to lose two fighting units for every one saved, and no general would be guilty of such folly. The intensity of scientific conditions, the forces of which are the searchlight and the star bomb, the military engineer and the hyposcope, thus brought the fulfillment of Archibald Forbes’s prophecy, made twenty years ago. The time has come, as he said it would, when the wounded cannot be rescued from a battlefield.

Kimberley saw the dawn of the fireworks branch of warfare. It was left for Port Arthur to bring into permanent use this feu de joie of[327] holiday nights, a delight in peace, in war a spy. Rockets, such as we use on the Fourth of July, bursting above the plain, threw phosphorus over the advancing sappers and lighted up acres as though by candelabra of stars. The Russians used three batteries of such star bombs, and their dazzle added spectacle to horror. Some Japanese officers contended that they caused no annoyance, but my observation of the results was that they gave annoyance, but were not a decisive factor. By lying low, advancing troops could always escape being seen when the light came their way.

It was to be expected that a people like the Japanese, inventive, versatile, and industrious, would develop extraordinary resources when confronted with such a problem as Port Arthur, the reducing of which has caused them great agony and cost vast treasure. Archimedes would have rejoiced to know Colonel Imazawa. Major Yamaoka of General Nogi’s staff once said: “The world makes too much fuss over the unreasoning bravery of the private soldier. It pays too little attention to the obscure effort of the engineer, who risks as much, but with[328] full realization of what it means.” Yamaoka was speaking of Imazawa. The two are friends.

Imazawa’s most effective device was the wooden grenade gun, an invention to save assaulters from death by their own explosives. He found that a soldier carrying hand-grenades of guncotton up a slope under fire, if properly hit, became a more frightful menace to his comrades than an opposing mine. So he made a wooden barrel three feet long, erected it at an angle of forty-five degrees on a wooden upright, and by a catch-spring tossed the balls of guncotton from it several hundred yards into the Russian parapet.

After the taking of Hatchimakiyama (the Turban Fort), Imazawa found his men for the first time on a height above the Russian trenches. Then he invented the dynamite wheel. This is a steel cylinder containing five hundredweight of dynamite, with a projecting shield for soldiers who roll it forward under fire until it reaches the declivity down which it is hurled. The opposing trench precipitates the explosion.

Imazawa also improved the saphead shield,[329] used by besiegers since the Middle Ages. Formerly it was a heavy log of wood, protected by armor-plate, behind which pioneer soldiers advanced their trenches when close to the enemy and under outpost fire. A solid log was too heavy for the Japanese purposes, so Imazawa contrived a framework of kiri-wood, both light and tough, over which he built a steel shield such as Maxim put on his machine-gun. The shield stuck out in advance of the framework like a cow-catcher on a locomotive. It was rolled out of the saphead one or two feet toward the enemy. Behind it two sappers, on their bellies, dug out from under their legs the beginning of a wide, safe trench in which, two days later, a regiment could find shelter. Nervous work this, with bullets raining overhead like hail on a tin roof; but Imazawa made it practicable.

Before he finally hit on his grenade gun, Imazawa employed a bamboo grenade lift, his first device to let assaulters hurl their explosives into redoubts without danger to themselves. These were twenty-foot lengths of heavy bamboo, to the ends of which balls of guncotton were tied.[330] Two soldiers carried one of these lifts up a slope, projected the grenade over a trench or a parapet, and let the furious Russians smash it and themselves into destruction.

The last thing Imazawa did was a mistake—not his, but still a mistake. In preparing for the third grand assault on October 29th, after the sapheads had been worked to within a hundred yards of the parapet on the Two Dragons redoubt, it was found that a dry moat separated the Japanese from their prey. The width and depth of this moat were difficult to determine. In the most fiercely contested zone, and on a plateau so situated that it could not be accurately seen from any of the heights possessed by the Japanese, its exact nature remained a mystery. Scouting was difficult, for it was commanded not only by the batteries of the Two Dragons, but also by the batteries of the greatest forts at Port Arthur—the Chair, the Table, the Cock’s Comb, and Golden Hill. To reach it a scout would have to cross several hundred yards of red earth, bare to every sight, and commanded by sharpshooters. Of those who went in for information about that mysterious dry[331] moat, for a week none came back. Finally one scout, more cautious than the rest, returned and reported to Imazawa, “Ten meters.” Thirty-nine feet is big width for a moat, and no one could wonder that, sneaking along there in the dark, with momentary fear of searchlights and sharpshooters, the scout, finding a hole wider than his imagination, thought the distance great if it was ten meters. So Imazawa made his bamboo ladders fourteen meters long. On the day of the assault, everything having progressed favorably up to that point, the bombardment and the flank work against forts on each side being successful, the advance went in with Imazawa’s fourteen-meter ladders. Under fierce fire nearly half of the men dropped from the ranks, and only enough were left to handle three ladders, the glacis of the redoubt being littered with four others whose bearers had been slain. The hardy scaling party at last placed their ladders securely on one edge of the moat and dropped them across, expecting the next moment to dash across them to victory, leaving the reserves crouched in the trenches, waiting for the word to follow. Judge of their dismay when the ladders[332] fell from the perpendicular to horizontal, from the horizontal to the perpendicular again! They failed to touch the other side, failed to touch bottom, and disappeared. The moat was fourteen meters wide. The dismayed assaulters hastened back to Imazawa. That night a party advanced and dropped a thousand bags, at one point, into this terrible moat. These sand bags disappeared, and not a ripple of their indent could be seen. This sunken road of Ohaine baffled the army and was the chief reason that Port Arthur did not fall on the Emperor’s birthday. Had they passed it, the Two Dragons redoubt would have fallen and the town could have been entered.

Those who charge the Japanese with suicidal folly should remember that when confronted with this crack in the earth they did not emulate emotional Frenchmen at Waterloo. They sat down and gave Imazawa a chance to study. They did not die in a climax of frenzy. Their sacrifice is for a grand and patriotic idea. Sensational despatches about losses spread the belief that they die like flies. The truth is, they never waste a life.


Copyright, 1905, by Collier’s Weekly

Loading the 11-inch Coast Defense Mortar during the general bombardment of October 29. Two miles from Port Arthur.

The use of many successful inventions showed the Japanese equal to all the progress of the age. The hyposcope enabled them to observe what went on in the town, and from 203-Meter Hill revealed the fleet. This is a telescope cut in half, the front elevated two feet above the rear by a further length of scope, and the line of vision between made straight past the angles by two mirrors. It gives a lookout within a few hundreds yards of the enemy’s line a chance to explore calmly at his leisure.

Bombproofs for the generals were cut in the solid rock a thousand yards in advance of the artillery and overtopping the firing-line. Thus commanding officers could get the traditional bird’s-eye view of the battlefield. Instead of sitting at headquarters, miles in the rear, as the generals in the North were compelled to do, and directing the action from an office desk, as a train-despatcher regulates his system, the divisional, brigade, and regimental commanders with their own eyes could observe all that was going on. The commander-in-chief had a fine lookout in the rear center of his army, two and a half miles from the town of Port Arthur.[334] From there his eye glanced over as grand a battlefield as the world has yet produced, for within an area of ten square miles was brought every possibility of modern warfare. Even cavalry maneuvered. While his optic vision was extraordinary, his mental horizon was vast and comprehensive. Telephones centering to a switchboard in the next bombproof connected him with every battery and every regiment under his command. He was in instant touch with the most outlying operations, and, almost with the ease and certainty of Napoleon at Austerlitz could march and countermarch, enfilade and assault.

Telephone and post office follow the flag. In the advance of the Japanese army down the peninsula, telephone linesmen bearing on their shoulders coils of thin copper wire, not much larger and of no more weight than a pack-thread, followed through the kaoliang-fields on each side of the commander. The moment he stopped, a table was produced, a receiver was snapped on the wire, and a telegrapher stood ready. More remarkable was the advance of the telephone into the contested redoubt of the[335] Eternal Dragon, where a station was placed and operated for four months, with the Russians holding trenches only forty meters distant and on three sides. At this station, along the front of which twenty men a day were slain by sharpshooters, mail was delivered every time that a transport arrived, which was almost daily. Men on the firing-line received postal cards from their sweethearts and mothers an hour before death.

Telephone and post office followed the flag; the Red Cross preceded it. The medical corps came, not in the wake of the army, but close on the heels of the pioneers. Before even the infantrymen entered a Chinese village it was explored, the water of its wells analyzed, its houses tested for bacteria, and the lines of encampment laid down. This unusual sanitation is looked upon by surgical authorities as perhaps the chief cause of Japanese success.

But one could find another cause of Japanese success, if the analytical probe is to be used and the mystic impulse which gives men resolution for supreme sacrifice ignored. This great cause may be called originality. The record of[336] superficial observers of her recent advance is that Japan to-day selfishly and slavishly reaps the values wrung from time and chance through many centuries by other nations. If this be true, she is original enough to survive the ordeal of imitation. Had a single person shown the qualities displayed at Port Arthur he would be charged with having the audacity of genius. This audacity did not hesitate to make use of anything, new or old, possible or impossible, conventional or unconventional, which might win success from desperate conditions.

Let me give an instance: the problem that faced Japan’s soldiers when they had dared to capture a minor position in the fortress’s line of defense. Audacity won it, originality held it. The trench-line of this bloody angle of the Eternal Dragon lay down the slope and thus beneath the opposing Russian trench-line. The maxims of assault declared it untenable unless the contiguous positions to which it was subsidiary could be immediately taken; wise generalship seemed to dictate that it be abandoned. To hold it would be hardly worth the cost. Napoleon thus laid down in general treatise and[337] Von Moltke specifically so dictated; but not Nogi. Give him an inch and he keeps it. Besides, he needed this inch for his engineers.

In the bloody angle the ordinary sand-bag redoubt would not do. There was no opportunity to erect the permanent masonry or even the semi-permanent timber redoubt. The men must have some protection that would let their heads be sheltered a foot or more below the top of the trench, and yet give them loopholes for firing. Any conventional trench built from experience or laid down in the text-books was impracticable. A French, a German, an English, a Russian soldier would have thrown up his hands because his father and his grandfather knew no medicine for such a hurt. The American, had he been far enough away from red tape, might have improvised. The Japanese did not hesitate. Around the bloody angle he raised a trench modeled on the medieval bulwarks of his samurai fathers. It was built with ingenious quickness due to his twentieth-century training. He erected a front of rock, like the turret of a castle, and through the deep embrasures of this turret[338] fired his machine-guns, while the ragged skyline overtopped and kept him safe. On the spot he married old with new. He was following the destiny of his race—to tie the ages together.



D ’Adda—the Marquis D’Adda of Rome—had studied history well, and he declared that the end would come at “ze psychologique mo-ment—in ze wind, ze rain, when ze high spirit go low.”

D’Adda was wrong. Port Arthur did not fall—it capitulated. It was not stormed and won. It was worn out. The military critics of the world were right. Port Arthur is impregnable, and well may some other power some day learn this, when it is defended by Japanese soldiery, properly provisioned, properly officered, and properly supplied with ammunition. It was because the Japanese were ever vigilant and never lost an opportunity to push their victorious arms onward that they entered the city as soon as they did.

The end came unexpectedly with the new year. There was nothing dramatic about it—nothing[340] spectacular, and he who wanted excitement would have required excess imagination to find in the event the dramatic climax of a great war. When Port Arthur was taken ten years before, it collapsed in a day, and the unspeakable carnage before and after furnished one of the lurid chapters of history. Chinese were massacred, the town was plundered, and the world rang with outrage. When Plevna fell, thirty years before, the Turkish prisoners marched through the snow, across the Volga, dropping thousands of starved, scurvy-ridden, frozen comrades by the ebbing mile stones. When Metz went down a vast army came to the victor, and hemisphere-resounding was the scandal. Nothing of the sort distinguished the surrender of Port Arthur on the morning of January 2d, 1905. A stalwart, grim-visaged soldier in Turkoman cap rode on a white charger out of the town to a little village on the plain, saluted his victorious adversary, and presented him the beautiful white horse. The adversary, Nogi, with exquisite courtesy, refused the gift. On being pressed by Stoessel, in the Turkoman cap, he accepted it on behalf of his army. Complimented[341] upon his achievement he replied: “I see no reason for exaltation—the cost has been too great.” The next day this courteous soldier, Nogi, the soul of chivalry, a prince of leaders, marched in at the head of his worn but marvelous followers. The Russians marched out, some to honorable parole, and some to tender care among their enemies. There was no massacre, no spectacle, no great dramatic incident. War had become a business. It was thus that these two great men—Nogi and Stoessel—wrote “finis” at the close of the first chapter of this interesting new volume, called “Civilized Warfare.”

It is less than fifty years since Sebastopol fell, and not forty since Lee abandoned the trenches at Petersburg. Yet the weapons used at these memorable sieges are now as obsolete as the catapult and the crossbow. And yet Port Arthur was won as were Tyre, and Carthage, and Constantinople. Men will charge on machine guns as readily as on crossbows. Apparently no defensive works or engines can stop first-class soldiers. Nothing so well describes the last few days of the great siege as this letter which[342] came to me in New York a month after Stoessel started on his way to St. Petersburg. It was written by a man whose whole knowledge of English came from his own countrymen. His position is that of Adjutant of the Ninth Division of the Third Imperial Japanese Army; his service that of private secretary to Lieutenant-General Oshima, who commands the division.

The letter is transcribed, spelling and all, as it was written:

Near Port Arthur,
Jan. 3d, 1905.

Dear Sir:

“At last Port Arthur strongly defended and well known in the world came to the end quite late yesterday. Let me tell you a little about it. After you left here we took front part of Niryuzan as far as to the ditch which was 14 meters wide and deep. We made two roads into the ditch destroying two caponires and reaching the other side of the ditch, we dug four holes under the Russian bom-proof—the holes were about 14 meters deep. Then we filled them up with gun cotton to blow it up. On the 28th of last month we blew that up using 2.700 kirogram of gun[343] cotton, at the same time our soldiers made an asolt, and took hold of it. By that explosion many Russians, large stones, and sand went up high into air. It was just like a volcano. The Russians increased and threw out many hand granates and very hard fighting went on. But about 5:30 of that evening the whole fort was occupied by our men, after six hours of continual fighting. After that we opened the road to push out beyond Niryuzan. On the 31st the first division captured Shojuzan greatly helped by our men in Niryuzan. Before the dawn of the 1st of this month this division took hold of all Russian line from H. peak to Banryuzan new fort, except Bodai. By a severe attack of the 35th regiment at 4:20 of that afternoon, Bodai was taken by us. Though we had a good battle on the happy new years day, yet the rest of the army did not have any. Early next morning General Stoessel sent in an officer and had the letter of surrend sent to General Nogi. On the 2nd negociation took place and the battlefield began to be entirely calm, by and by no sound of a rifle. I felt something.

“I really wished you could stay here till this[344] time to walk in together to Port Arthur. I got slightly wounded after you left and lost hearing of one ear. Wishing to see you at Mukden and with best regards,

“Yours faithfully,
Lieut. K. Hori,
“9th Division.”



Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.

Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example, bomb-proof, bombproof; machine gun, machine-gun; firing-line, firing line; hyposcope; tensity; deviltry; diapason.

Pg 12, ‘defense motar’ replaced by ‘defense mortar’.
Pg 23, ‘subterreanean mines’ replaced by ‘subterranean mines’.
Pg 46 (caption), ‘leaving Dalney’ replaced by ‘leaving Dalny’.
Pg 61, ‘parchment-krinkled’ replaced by ‘parchment-crinkled’.
Pg 68, ‘the fragant air’ replaced by ‘the fragrant air’.
Pg 70, ‘His silk tile’ replaced by ‘His silk tie’.
Pg 74, ‘primeval ectasy’ replaced by ‘primeval ecstasy’.
Pg 136 ‘rice paddie’ replaced by ‘rice paddy’.
Pg 160, ‘reduce the catidel’ replaced by ‘reduce the citadel’.
Pg 203, ‘commssioned officers’ replaced by ‘commissioned officers’.
Pg 221, ‘To the Colenel’ replaced by ‘To the Colonel’.
Pg 230, ‘wild crysanthemums’ replaced by ‘wild chrysanthemums’.
Pg 240 (caption), ‘the Jananese soldier’ replaced by ‘the Japanese soldier’.
Pg 240 (caption), ‘preceeding the battle’ replaced by ‘preceding the battle’.
Pg 303, ‘chistening the fort’ replaced by ‘christening the fort’.
Pg 319, ‘have diagramed it’ replaced by ‘have diagrammed it’.
Pg 325, ‘guns apparenly’ replaced by ‘guns apparently’.

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