Mr. Swift to Mr. Blaine.

No. 111.]

Sir: I have the honor to apprise you of the fact that I have been absent from Tokio for a period of 6 days, beginning with the 30th ultimo and ending the 4th instant. This time was occupied in going to, coming from, and, whilst there, witnessing a series of military and naval maneuvers and exercises of His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s land and sea forces, ending with a grand review of troops, covering 4 days ofoferations within the above period, carried on at and in the immediate vicinity of a large city called Nagoya, on the eastern coast of Japan, and about 235 miles in a southerly direction from the capital.

The members of the diplomatic corps were invited by direction of the Emperor, and, with two or three exceptions, all attended. The invitations, however, so far as the diplomatic body was concerned, were limited to chiefs of missions, except in case of legations having military attaches, when such attachés were also invited. The utmost pains were taken by the officers of His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s household department to make our visit enjoyable. Every possible provision was made for our comfort, and the officers having the matter in charge, as well, in fact, as all with whom we were brought in contact, from the Emperor down, were courteous and polite to a degree difficult to describe, but most delightful to enjoy. A large and commodious Japanese inn was fitted up in European style for our accommodation, with the electric light especially introduced for the occasion. Here an excellent table was served, and every day from 20 to 40 people, including 3 imperial princes, the entire cabinet, the generals of the army, and the foreign ministers present, sat down and dined together.

The fact that this is the first time, at least in Japan, that the diplomatic body has been invited to witness these maneuvers and displays of force renders it not improbable that the Government are of the opinion that the army and navy have now reached a point of completeness in numbers, equipment, and discipline that they can with [Page 600] benefit to the prestige of the country exhibit them to the powers and boldly challenge criticism. Not having myself any military knowledge beyond that obtained by having to some extent traveled in Europe with more or lessofportunity to witness parades and reviews of troops, but, except during the Franco-Prussian war, chiefly in time of peace, my opinions of what I saw can be of little or no technical value. But it scarcely requires professional skill to discover that Japan has made very considerable progress in creating both an army and navy modeled upon European systems of construction and discipline, and the recent maneuvers about Nagoya were well calculated to show to the best advantage the progress that has actually been made. The entire affair was laid out so that the operations should be conducted as in a genuine state of war, the general outlines of which alone were prearranged. The scheme of maneuvers and sham battles assumed that an alliance against Japan had been formed between two foreign powers for the conquest of the country; that these allied forces with a powerful fleet of war ships dominated the sea, under the protection of which fleet an army of invasion had been disembarked on the eastern coast off Nagoya; that other hostile vessels of war menaced all the prominent cities of the Empire from Hakodate, on the north, to Nagasaki, on the south; that for defense the Japanese army had completed its mobilization in its various garrisons, while the navy was concentrated in certain protected harbors, and the merchant marine, under the protection of such harbor defenses, were securely anchored in the same ports. The defenses of these ports were assumed to be completely organized. The invading army, so said the scheme ofoferations, had obtained possession of the railroads south of Nagoya on the Osaka side, while the army of defense held those leading from Tokio south, and from thence approached to repel the invaders.

The 31st of March was taken up with a naval sham battle, which I did not have theofportunity to witness. But I am able to inform you that the fleet of defense contained no less than six powerful iron or steel men-of-war, built and armed in Europe upon the best modern plans, with a number of torpedo boats; while that of attack had nine cruisers or gunboats of similar class and quality, among which I noticed the Naniwa, after the model and lines of which the U. S. cruiser Charleston, recently constructed at San Francisco, is, I believe, copied. The fleet of attack was accompanied by three transports.

The sham fight and other maneuvers at sea which took place on Monday, according to information I received from Captain In galls, a British naval officer of high standing who was present and saw them, were highly creditable to both ships and crews and showed that, at least so far as operating the ships and guns was concerned, the Japanese have but little, if anything, to learn from western nations.

The land operations were carried on between two ópposing armies embracing on the actual field of battle in the aggregate about 28,000 troops of various arms of the service, including artillery, cavalry, and infantry. The opposing forces moved forward over the country as in actual war, the fight commencing whenever contact was felt at any point. I need hardly call attention to the fact that more troops were actually engaged in these maneuvers than are now contained in the entire United States Army. As for the make-up and equipment, personal bearing, appearance, and movement of the rank and file of the Japanese army at Nagoya, I will only say that, to the best of my judgment, all were in the highest degree complete, effective, and soldierly, according to the best European standards. Though at present I [Page 601] believe such foreign military instructors as remain in Japanese service are mostly German, the dress and equipment of the Japanese army are strongly marked by earlier French influence. The troops dress much as French soldiers dress. They are well clothed in serviceable uniforms, with good substantial leather shoes, and on the march bear a neatly constructed knapsack with a second pair strapped in sight. The dress of all branches of the service as to material and make and as to color and style of trimmings follows closely the French military dress and is well calculated to command respect for the wearer and at the same time to inspire the soldier wearing it with a proper and useful pride in his uniform and profession.

Soldierly bearing is encouraged here, as in France, by the private soldier of all arms of the service being allowed, whether on or off duty, to wear his side arms, the sword bayonet of the infantryman being specially. fitted with a scabbard and belt for that purpose. The foot soldiers seen alone walking the streets of Tokio would, for style, step, and dress, pass fairly well in Paris. The weapon of the Japanese foot soldier is a rifle invented in Japan by Colonel Marata, is very similar to the Henry-Martini, and is considered fully equal to the best breech-loading gun in use in Europe and America. In the maneuvers at Nagoya ordinary black powder was generally used, but the Government is understood to have a smokeless powder, the secret of which they are zealously guarding, which they claim to be an assured success. The artillery, of which a relatively sufficient force of field batteries was engaged, was all of the best and latest pattern of brass breech-loading and rapid-firing guns, and, So far as I could see, well served. On one occasion during the sham battle I stood in the Emperor’s suite on the brow of a hill which had been defended by a battery of ten (breech-loading) mountain guns, when an order was given to replace them with a like number of field ordnance. The small guns were taken out of position, mounted with the carriages, equipment, and ammunition on the backs of horses, and moved off the field, while a battery of larger field guns, 12-pounders, I think, on wheels galloped up, were placed in position, and fire resumed from them, the change being made with a degree of rapidity and precision of maneuver that I thought admirable. Not knowing at first the meaning of the movement, I did not time theoferation, but thought that within 5 minutes from the cessation of fire from the light guns the heavy onesofened it again from the same spot.

The weakest arm of the service, and the only one I felt disposed to compare unfavorably with that of other countries, was the cavalry, and this mainly because of the smallness of the horses, which were of the native Japanese breed. The Japanese horse, though strong and possessing many good points, is too small for a good cavalry horse, besides having so hard a mouth that it must be difficult to manage with the bridle. These are faults that can only be mended by improving the breed by judicious crossing, which will take several years to bring about, though progress is already being made in that direction by the service of imported stallions.

During the field operations I was mounted upon a half-bred horse sent down from the imperial stables at Tokio, of good form and as an example most promising of what will be the future horse of Japan.

The difficulty of prosecuting military operations in the seacoast territory of Japan, owing to the fact that rice is so extensively cultivated, with the consequent almost impassable paddy field, an actual swamp, was brought sharply to my attention. As a defense, the rice fields are of great strategic value to the country. The roads through them are [Page 602] few and very narrow. In fact, were the land absolutely covered with water navigable for any kind of boats it would be more easily crossed thn when used for rice culture. It is absolutely impossible for artillery or cavalry to march except by single and always exceedingly narrow roads, and the same is practically true as to infantry. To display a force or to march even on foot in any manner except in column along these narrow roads skirted by rice swamps, when men would sint to their knees at every step, to say nothing of the irrigating canals and ditches that abound everywhere, is substantially out of the question. It follows that the defensive force holding the high ground where the road leaves the rice land has a position of immense advantage.

On the first day the attacking army organized a storming column to rush along one of these dikes against the defense thus posted. But after having advanced at double-quick pace along the road, quite up to the line of defense, they were ordered by the umpire, His Imperial Highness Prince Arisugama, to retire, he having, as it seemed to me, very justly decided that in actual battle they inust have been either forced back or annihilated by the musketry fire at the end.

Considered as a whole, the maneuvers and display of force were very creditable and must have been very satisfactory to the Emperor and his cabinet, who were all on the ground.

In a personal interview, held on the field with the various foreign ministers, the Emperor asked the opinion of each of them upon all that had occurred. What the others said I do not know, but, for myself, I sincerely expressed my admiration for his army, its equipment, discipline, and conduct.

That the splendid showing of military and naval strength and discipline manifested on this occasion will tend to render His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Government firmer in their overtures for modifications of existing treaties upon points with which they have long been dissatisfied seems to me not improbable.

I have, etc.,

John F. Swift.