Mr. McCormick to Mr. Hay.

No. 132.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith some extracts from the report of the Russian minister to Korea, Mr. Pavloff, with reference to the naval action off the Bay of Chemulpo and the action of Captain Marshall of the Vicksburg, which I am sure will be of interest both to the Department of State and the Navy Department.

I have, etc.,

Robert S. McCormick.

Extracts from the report of the Russian minister to Korea, M. Pavloff.

* * * At 7.30 a.m. (of 27/9th. Feb), the commanders of the foreign men-of-war at anchor in the harbor, of the English cruiser Talbot, the French cruiser Pascal, and the Italian cruiser Elba, and of the American [Page 781] gunboat Vicksburg, received from the commander of the Japanese squadron. Rear-Admiral Uriu, an official communication, which contained information to the effect that hostilities between Russia and Japan had already commenced and that the Russian men-of-war had already been invited to leave the harbor not later than 12 o’clock noon, under the threat that if they did not they would be attacked in the harbor itself, and it was proposed to the foreign men-of-war, in case the Russian ships did not comply with the demand made upon them that they, in their turn, should leave the harbor not later than 4 p.m.

On receiving this communication the commanders of the foreign vessels gathered on board the cruiser Pascal for consultation, to which was also invited Captain of the First Rank Rudneff. It was only when the latter was already on board the French cruiser that he was handed, in a sealed envelope, the summons from the Japanese admiral mentioned in the communication to the foreign commanders, through the mediation of the Japanese consul and the Imperial vice-consul in Chemulpo.

At the consultation all the foreign commanders, with the exception of the American, decided to send the Japanese admiral a protest against his breaking the neutrality of a Korean port, but at the same time they warned Captain Rudneff that if the Varyag and Korietz did not go out of the harbor by 12 o’clock noon they, with a view to their own safety, would be compelled to leave.

In view of such declaration the commander of the cruiser Varyag decided to accept a fight outside the harbor.

At 1 o’clock in the afternoon the Varyag and Korietz returned to the harbor and cast anchor.

Convincing himself that to renew the fight was quite impossible, and, on the other hand, not wishing that the two ships intrusted to his command should become the prize of the Japanese, Captain Rudneff decided to take advantage of the agreement made with him by the commanders of the French, English, and Italian cruisers to transport our crews on board the said foreign vessels in order to then destroy the Varyag and Korietz by blowing them up. This plan was executed exactly in regard to the gunboat Korietz, which precisely at 4 o’clock in the afternoon was blown up and sank, breaking into three parts. As to the cruiser Varyag, in consequence of the insistent persuasion of the above-mentioned foreign commanders that she should not be blown up, in view of the danger to the cruisers Talbot and Pascal, anchored quite near the Varyag, it was decided to simply render the ship completely useless by setting her on fire and sinking her. The necessary instructions were given in clue time by the commander of the Korietz to the captain of the Eastern Chinese Company steamer Sungari, which had arrived in Chemulpo the evening before, and whose officers and crew were first transtion, saluted the Varyag and Korietz with loud cheers, while on the Italian oped in flames, finally went down after sunset.

From the very moment when the commander of the cruiser Varyag left the cruiser Pascal with the intention of accepting the challenge and accepting a fight with the enemy, the commanders of the French, English, and Italian ships of war expressed to our men the unconcealed sympathy and enthusiastic surprise (admiration) at the heroic exploit undertaken by them. When our ships, weighing anchor and going to meet the enemy, passed alongside the above-mentioned foreign cruisers, the crew of the last one, standing at attention, saluted the Varyag and Korietz with loud cheers, while on the Italian cruiser Elba the military band played our national anthem. On the return of our ships after the fight to the harbor, from all three foreign vessels were at once sent boats with officers to render aid to the wounded and to take the other sailors off, at which time the commander of the cruiser Pascal, captain of the second rank Senes, came personally on board the Varyag and warmly greeted Captain Rudneeff and his crew. The commander of the American gunboat Vicksburg sent, in his turn, one boat with a physician, who offered medical assistance, but at the same time declared, in the name of his commander, the impossibility of taking any of our people on board the American ship on account of not having the necessary permission.

The commander of the Varyag, in view of this, declined any services of the American seamen, and our sailors were distributed on board the three foreign cruisers.

During the time of my presence on the cruiser Pascal, after the departure of the mission from Seoul, I was a personal witness of the sympathy and attention [Page 782] shown our sailors by the commanders, officers, and men of all the three above-mentioned foreign men-of-war, endeavoring to surround them with all possible comforts.

The American minister, wishing to express to us his sympathy (the Russian minister having been informed confidentially by representatives of other foreign countries that the Japanese would probably demand the removal of the Russian legation), expressed his readiness to agree with the American admiral to the effort that, in case the departure of the legation should be decided upon, the two American war transports lying at Chemulpo would be placed at my disposal for the transportation of myself and the members of the legation as well as the wounded officers and sailors of our ships. * * *

As regards the offer of Mr. Allen to place at my disposal the American transports, I declined it, stating that I did not doubt that in case I really had to leave Korea the French Government would allow me to use the cruiser Pascal, on board of which were already both our crews and the greater part of the wounded.

Gangrene broke out among the wounded sailors, and the commander of the Pascal, fearing contagion, decided to at once have a portion of the wounded taken from his ship. For the determination of this question the commanders of all the other vessels in Chemulpo were invited, and the French, English, and Italian commanders unanimously expressed the opinion that the best way would be to place the said wounded in the two absolutely free (in use for no other purpose) American war transports, as the transfer of those wounded who were suffering with gangrene to the English or Italian cruisers, in view of there being other wounded on board as well as a great many of our sailors, would have been just as dangerous. But this time also the commander of the American boat Vicksburg decidedly declined, and said that he had no right under any circumstances to permit the placing of our sailors on the American transports under him. Thus the only way left was to send the 24 most dangerously sick men ashore.

In conclusion I can not refrain from again dwelling upon the warm and cordial attention and eager cooperation, which in these difficult times were shown our sailors, the members of the Imperial legation and all the Russians leaving with me, as well as their families, by the French chargé d’affaires, Viscount de Fontenez, the French consul, M. Berteau, M. Bradier, of the French legation, the commander, officers and men of the cruiser Pascal, who all were of inestimable service to us. In the same measure are worthy of attention the services rendered us by the commander of the English cruiser Talbot, Captain Bayly, and of the Italian cruiser Elba, Captain Marquis Borea, as well as by all the officers and crew of both of these foreign war vessels.