Mr. Loomis to Mr. McCormick.

No. 148.]

Sir: Referring to your No. 132, of May 11 last, inclosing copy of a report made by the Russian minister to Korea, reflecting in some respects upon the action of Captain Marshall, of the U. S. S. Vicksburg, while at Chemulpo, I inclose for your information a copy of a report made by that officer to the Secretary of the Navy, detailing events preceding and following the naval battle between the Japanese and Russians.

I am, etc.,

F. B. Loomis,
Acting Secretary.

Commander Marshall to the Secretary of the Navy.

Sir: I herewith acknowledge the receipt this day of an unsigned communication from the Navy Department, dated June 4, 1904, addressed to the commanding [Page 783] officer U. S. S. Vicksburg, inclosing a copy of extracts from the report of the Russian minister to Korea, Mr. Pavloff.

(2) In reply thereto, I have to state that at 7 o’clock on the morning of February 9, 1904, a steam launch flying the Japanese merchant flag, came alongside with a communication from Rear-Admiral Uriu, commanding the Japanese forces in these waters.

“His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Ship, Naniwa,
Chemulpo Roadstead, February 8, 1904.

Sir: I have the honor to notify you that as hostilities exist between the Empire of Japan and the Empire of Russia at present I shall attack the men-of-war of the Government of Russia, stationed at present in the port of Chemulpo, with the force under my command, in case of the refusal of the Russian senior naval officer present at Chemulpo to my demand to leave the port of Chemulpo before the noon of the 9th of February, 1904, and I respectfully request you to keep away from the scene of action in the port so that no danger from the action would come to the ship under your command. The above-mentioned attack will not take place before 4 o’clock p.m. of the 9th of February, 1904, to give time to put into practice the above-mentioned request.

“If there are any transports or merchant vessels of your nationality in the port of Chemulpo at present, I request you to communicate to them the above notification.

“I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,

S. Uriu,
“Rear-Admiral, Commanding a Squadron of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

“P. S.—This notification will be delivered to you before or at 7 o’clock a.m. of the 9th of February, 1904.”

At the time of the receipt of Admiral Uriu’s communication, the Vicksburg was coaling from the collier Pompey alongside. Preparations were made to have the Pompey tow the Vicksburg clear of the vicinity of the Russian vessels should the Vickburg’s engines at the expiration of the time limit set by Admiral Uriu not be ready, and for the Zafiro to proceed a mile or so up the river, where an English merchant steamer, as well as the whole of the Korean navy, had shifted berth so as to be clear of the probable line of fire.

(3) Between 8 and 10 o’clock, from seeing the frequent passing to and fro of the gigs of the Russian cruiser Varyag, the French cruiser Pascal, and the Italian cruiser Elba between their respective vessels and the English cruiser Talbot, I surmised that a consultation or conference on some subject bearing on the Japanese admiral’s communication was taking place on board the Talbot, and, as I subsequently learned, the conference was for the purpose of drawing up a communication, to be sent to the Japanese admiral, protesting against any violation of Korean neutrality by him. I was not invited to be present at this conference, nor did any communication, written, verbal, or by signal, pass between the Vicksburg and the other three neutral vessels, or the Russian vessels, in regard to my being present at or taking part in any conference whatever. I am unable to state why it was not considered necessary to have me as the United States naval representative, present at the conference, unless it was due to the knowledge some of the conferees must have had of my position in regard to the question of a violation of Korean neutrality. At various times previous to the date in question, in calls exchanged with the captains of the Pascal and Elba, and others, I had, in a friendly way, discussed with them the possible conditions likely to arise in these waters in the event of war breaking-out between Russia and Japan. Among the various situations talked about was that of an engagement taking place in this port between the naval vessels of the two powers, and what ought to be the attitude of the representatives of the neutral powers present in such an event. I had very clearly stated the stand I would take in behalf of my Government, and that would be, in addition to protecting American interests, to observe strict neutrality; that the question of the violation of Korean territory would be a matter entirely between Korea and the belligerents involved, and with which I had nothing to do.

(4) In reference to that part of Mr. Pavloff’s report in which he animadverts, by inference, upon the failure of the Vicksburg to show “unconcealed sympathy and enthusiastic surprise (admiration),” I have to state that the anchorage place of the Russians with reference to those of all the neutral men-of-war was such that in standing out of harbor they had to pass close by the English, French, and Italian cruisers, but nowhere near the Vicksburg.

(5) On the return of the Russian vessels from their engagement with the [Page 784] Japanese, and before the Varyag even had anchored (which was at 12.50 p.m.), I had the whaleboat manned by men broken off from the coaling ships and sent the medical officer and a hospital apprentice to the Varyag with offers of medical assistance. At that time I knew nothing of the condition of affairs on board the Varyag, nor of the understanding or agreement arrived at between the Russians and the other neutrals. My instructions to the medical officer were to go on board the Varyag and render such surgical help as might be needed, at the same time cautioning him to be prepared to leave should the Japanese force enter the harbor with the intention of renewing the engagement, and for this purpose the whaleboat was to be kept under oars near at hand, with our ensign and the Reel Cross flag displayed. In a short while the doctor returned to’ get bandages and surgical appliances, he reporting the supply on the Varyag as being very limited, then going back and assisting in the care of the wounded until all had been removed to the other neutral vessels. Shortly afterwards the cockswain of our whaleboat wig-wagged “Abandoning Varyag—shall we help?” and I, interpreting the message as meaning an emergency—that the Varyag was, through stress of battle, rapidly sinking—answered in the affirmative, and also at once sent the sailing launch and the second cutter to assist in taking off the Russians.

My instructions to the officers in charge of the sailing launch and second cutter were to assist in taking the Russians and putting them on board any vessel other than those under my control, and my reason for giving such an order was that I considered the Russian mail steamer Sungari, anchored quite near, should be used for housing the Russians. The last persons taken off the Varyag were two engineer officers by our whaleboat. They were brought on board the Vicksburg and received every attention from the officers’ mess. After being on board for an hour or more, they expressed a wish to go to the Elba to interview with their captain, and on being taken there, and after talking with their commanding officer, sent word to me that they would prefer remaining on the Elba with their messmates, at the same time expressing thanks for the attentions shown them.

(6) In reference to the alleged agreement between the “American minister” and the “American admiral,” as stated by Mr. Pavloff, to place our vessels at the disposal of himself and legation, our minister, Mr. Allen, was induced to suggest that a possible solution of the very grave situation which had arisen might be found by using the collier Pompey and the storeship Zafiro to take all the Russians (including those on the three neutral men-of-war) to Shanghai, or some other port agreeable to the Japanese Government. When this was brought to my notice I at once sent word to Mr. Allen that the vessels under my command could not be used for any such purpose except by direct order from the commander in chief of the Asiatic fleet, or from the Department; that such an agreement would mean nothing less than shifting the responsibility for the settlement of the acute question (the then present and the future status of the Russians) upon our Government. Mr. Allen very kindly acknowledged the correctness of the stand I took and there the matter ended.

(7) In regard to that part of Mr. Pavloff’s report referring to the condition of the wounded on the Pascal: Three days after the battle, in the afternoon of February 12, receiving a request from the captain of the Pascal to consult with him on “some matter of grave importance,” I at once went on board that vessel. There Captain Series of the Pascal, as well as Captain Borea of the Elba, who was present, urged upon me to take charge of all the Russian wounded, suggesting that I temporarily commission the storeship Zafiro and use her for this purpose. The reason given for this request was the overcrowded condition of the three neutral vessels, making the presence of the wounded Russians a serious menace to the health of their crews. I at once asked, “Why do you not send the wounded ashore to the Red Cross hospitals?” receiving the reply, “We have been refused permission to use the hospital.” My next question, “Why do you not leave Chemulpo and land the wounded Russians at some Chinese port?” was met with the answer, “Even if a safe conduct were given by the Japanese minister, the danger of being fired into or torpedoed by the Japanese blockading squadron” (outside of Chemulpo harbor) “is too great to run the risk.” I regretted not being able to take charge of the wounded, stating, however, that I would at once appeal to the Japanese myself for the necessary authority to land the wounded Russians; that in case I failed, then I would cable my commander in chief and abide by his instructions. At this stage of the consultation Captain Senes was handed a communication, which, on opening it, proved to be a permit to send the wounded Russians ashore [Page 785] to the hospital. I heard afterwards that the use of the hospital had been offered twelve hours after the battle, but had been declined. Aside from any question of involving my country in the controversy, which, by taking charge of the wounded Russians would necessarily have followed, my reason for the refusal was that the same grave risks menacing the health of the crews—urged as a reason why we should relieve the other neutrals of the care of the wounded—would at once be transferred to the crew of the Vicksburg. The storeship Zafiro was totally unprovided with any sort of accommodations for forty odd severely wounded men to be quartered on board of her, and in the severe winter weather then prevailing it would have been inhuman to have sent them there—which meant that the Vicksburg would have to be used instead.


W. A. Marshall,
Commander U. S. Navy, Commanding.