Flagship Mikasa, Eastern Sea
The opening gambits of this war have progressed well. Our opening attack on Port Arthur in February, followed by the sinking of the Varyag and Korietz at Chemulpo, and the successful mining of the Battleship Petropavlovsk, have opened the way to realise the strategy of Imperial Naval Staff in full. It is now up to me to ensure it is brought to fruition.
We have wrested the command of the sea from the Russian eastern Fleet and have them bottled up in Vladivostok and Port Arthur. With my more modern fleet between them, I must ensure that they remained divided – unable to reinforce one another or challenge me in a general engagement. By keeping supplies and reinforcements out of Port Arthur I will also hasten the Victory of General Nogi’s 3rd Army investing that place. Periodic bombardments, such as that conducted on 23 June, will also assist keeping the Tsar’s forces opposing him imbalanced.
Vice Admiral Vitgeft has commanded the Russian squadron in Port Arthur since Admiral Makarov’s death in combat aboard Petropavlovsk on 13 April. After his abortive attempt to sortie from Port Arthur on 23 June he has shown little inclination to seek battle, perhaps seeking to preserve his fleet in being while awaiting reinforcements. Intelligence reports that Admiral Vitgeft was honourably wounded in the action of 23 Jun. If true, he may perhaps regain his fighting spirit as his health returns in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, my efforts to bottle him up inside the harbour using block ships have yet to significantly hamper the enemy’s freedom of action. I must maintain my close blockade to prevent any reinforcement from the cruiser force Vladivostok and keep the pressure upon him to remain in harbour.
But the war at sea has not gone entirely with us. A Russian cruiser force has staged dramatic raids into Tsushima Strait, sinking merchant ships and troop transports to drown over a thousand soldiers from the 10th Division on passage to the front. Fortunately, Rear Admiral Bezobrazov’s aggressive nature seems to be a rare commodity amongst the Russian fleet. Nonetheless, I have had to dispatch Rear Admiral Kamimura’s 2nd Squadron to contain, and if possibleneutralise, the threat that Bezobrazonv poses. Kamimura’s ships are sorely needed here if I am to maintain a constant blockade in the coming months.
The summer weather has been kind thus far, but winter gales and ice will tell sorely upon us and our ships. We must finish the remnants of the Russian naval force here in the east before reinforcements can be dispatched to their aid from the Baltic or Black Sea Fleets. Time is marching against us but we will not be found wanting or disappoint His Imperial Majesty. The eyes of the world are upon Japan and our Rising Sun battle flags.
|“Illustration of the Great Naval Battle at the Harbor Entrance to Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese War”|
by Rosetsu, February 1904 [2000.073] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston