The Coronation of Queen Victoria, 1837

2022-06-28T14:32:19-05:00June 28, 2022|HH 2022|

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. —Psalm 71:18

The Coronation of Queen Victoria,
June 28, 1837

Eighteen years old, five feet tall, and eventually the mother of nine children, she became the most powerful woman on earth. Queen Victoria reigned in England for sixty-three-and-a-half years of the 19th Century. She ruled over the British Empire, which covered about 25% of the earth’s land surface, while the British fleet controlled the oceans. She served as monarch of approximately 400 million people, only 30 million of whom lived in the British Isles. Her coronation took place on June 28, 1837. Not for nothing is the second half of the 19th Century known as “The Victorian Era.”

King George III and his wife Charlotte in 1770, with their six eldest children: George IV, Frederick, William IV, Charlotte, Edward (future father of Queen Victoria), and Augusta Sophia

Victoria’s grandfather, George III, reigned for sixty years, lost the American colonies, and spent the last ten years of his life considered mentally disturbed, hence “mad King George.” King George and his wife Charlotte had fifteen children. When Victoria was born to King George’s fourth son, the Duke of Kent, she was the fifth in line of succession to the throne. In a series of unusual providences, George’s oldest son succeeded him as George IV, but everyone else between Victoria and the throne died before she turned eighteen. The King died less than a month after her 18th birthday, thus avoiding a regency.

Victoria at age 4

At 6am on June 20, 1837, Victoria receives the news of death of her uncle King William IV, and her consequential accession to the throne

Young Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, raised her apart from all other children, spending her time with tutors, her dolls, and her dog, Dash. Her mother put her on display in a series of journeys to different parts of the realm, meeting only people of whom her mother approved. When she came of age, the Duchess saw to it that a parade of noble princes made their way to her home for inspection and consideration for marriage. Victoria fell in love with her cousin Prince Albert of Belgium and their eventual marriage in 1840 became the beau ideal of wedded bliss and harmony until his untimely death twenty-one years later.

Victoria in 1833 with her spaniel, Dash

Prince Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819-1861)—known as Prince Albert— was first cousin and beloved husband to Queen Victoria from their marriage in 1840 until his untimely death in 1861

William Lamb, The Viscount Melbourne, the Prime Minister and a childless widower, became Victoria’s close advisor and confidant in the first four years of her monarchy. She would be served by more than thirty-three Prime Ministers, including fifteen from New Zealand and seven from Canada over her long reign. Of the ten who served her in Britain, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli served the longest. As a constitutional monarch, her influence over policy enacted by Parliament could have been slight, but Victoria worked behind the scenes to make her wishes known and would use her popularity and position to direct the affairs of government on issues in which she strongly believed.

The earliest known photograph of Queen Victoria, shown here with her eldest daughter, also named Victoria, 1844

William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), served several terms as PM to Victoria

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881), served several terms as PM to Victoria

Because of the extent of the British Empire, and the control they exerted over foreign nations in Africa, Asia, and both North and South America, conflicts both commercial and military erupted throughout her reign. Little wars all over the globe required Victoria, ever mindful of her authority, position, and duty, to send the British Fleet and active duty regiments or brigades to defend English hegemony and reduce or pacify recalcitrant tribes. They served in remote places like Ethiopia, West and South Africa, India, New Zealand, and China—wherever the Union Jack flew and its authority was challenged.

The extent of the British Empire under Victoria in 1898

Queen Victoria lived a personal life of self-discipline and probity. So far did she exhibit Christian moral values, that her name itself became an adjective to describe religion, morality, evangelicalism, industrial work ethic, and personal improvement. During her reign, the international slave trade was abolished and enforced by the Royal Navy, slavery was ended in England’s colonies, and child labor in British factories. The first modern police force was created in London under P.M. Robert Peel’s guidance—hence their nickname, “bobbies”—and many ministries to the poor, and other private philanthropic enterprises went forward with the Queen’s approval. The cultural basis for such endeavors had been laid in the previous decades by Evangelicals, but with the support of the new monarch, they increased throughout the century.

A rare glimpse of Victoria’s more jolly side, captured in 1887 by Charles Knight, and which he titled “Her Majesty’s Gracious Smile”

An 1840 watercolor of Edward Oxford’s assassination attempt—one of several attempts by various players, all of which failed

There were three or four assassination attempts on her life and all the perpetrators were captured and “transported” to Australia. Her popularity soared after every attempt. Besides the normal speculation and interest in the royal family, crises and scandals within the Royal household kept Victoria’s administrations in the news. The Irish potato famine, for instance, was both a crisis and a scandal, but a great grief to her—she personally donated the modern equivalent of 6.5 million pounds to Irish famine relief.

Prince Albert died of typhoid fever in 1861 and Queen Victoria was devastated; she wore black mourning clothes the remaining 40 years of her life. The Queen went into isolation for several years, travelling from one royal residence to another, never going out in public. She also ate to excess and gained weight, another incentive to remain private and isolated. She supported the Reform Act which doubled the electorate, but was strongly opposed to the women’s suffrage movement. When faced with a women’s suffrage bill passed in Parliament she responded with “she feels so strongly upon this dangerous and unchristian and unnatural cry and movement of ‘woman’s rights’… that she is most anxious that Mr. Gladstone and others should take some steps to check this alarming danger and to make whatever use they can of her name… Let woman be what God intended; a helpmate for a man—but with totally different duties and vocations.” The exception, of course, was herself, who was forced to be Queen by duty.

A mutually devoted couple,
Victoria and Albert in 1854

The royal family in 1846

She supported P.M. Disraeli’s Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874, which removed several Catholic rituals from the Anglican Worship. The Queen liked shorter and simpler worship, privately, more in accord with the Presbyterians of Scotland. In 1887 England celebrated the Golden Jubilee (fiftieth year) of her reign, during which fifty kings and princes were invited to attend the festivities. Nine years later, she surpassed her grandfather as the longest reigning monarch in England’s history. She died at the age of eighty-one in January of 1901, attended by her son and successor Edward (VII) and grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. She was dressed in white for her funeral, her grief over the death of Albert finished, the grief of a grateful nation just beginning. Of her 42 grandchildren, 34 lived to adulthood, 9 sat on royal thrones of Europe and several were instrumental in bringing about World War I—The German Kaiser (Willie), the Russian Tsar (Nickie), and the King of England (Georgie).”

Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Portrait, 1887

Victoria admired this 1875 portrait of herself by Heinrich von Angeli for its “honesty, total want of flattery, and appreciation of character”

The Birth of Justice Clarence Thomas, 1948

2022-06-22T16:12:25-05:00June 22, 2022|HH 2022|

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-ending stream. —Amos 5:24

The Birth of Justice Clarence Thomas,
June 23, 1948

The Supreme Court has always been a political football, with the party in power seeking to perpetuate its beliefs and constitutional theories through SCOTUS appointments. The Court reflects certain views of their own power, limited only by having to pass muster with the Senate. Either impeachable bad behavior or death forces removal from the Court, the latter being by far the most common means of leaving the Court. The political left will stop at nothing to prevent a new member of the Court with “Original Intent” views. They pulled out all the stops when Clarence Thomas was nominated for Justice in 1991, as a black candidate, following the death of the liberal black member of SCOTUS, Thurgood Marshall.

Justice Clarence Thomas (1948-)

Justice Thomas was born June 23, 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia, near Savannah. His family were descendants of West-African slaves and still spoke Gullah, which is a mixture of English and African words, some of which trace to the 17th Century. His father left when he was two years old and his mother earned pennies a day as a maid. Their house burned down, leaving the family homeless, and Clarence moved to Savannah to live with his mother’s parents where, for the first time, he had regular meals and indoor plumbing. At the age of ten, Thomas worked sunrise to sunset on a farm with his grandfather who counseled “don’t ever let the sunrise catch you in bed.”

Pin Point Heritage Museum in Pin Point, Georgia, birthplace of Justice Thomas

Clarence Thomas went to Catholic parochial schools for his entire boyhood formal education, and for his B.A. attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Having grown up speaking Gullah, Thomas majored in English literature to “conquer the language” in college. He graduated in 1971 cum laude, having proven himself an accomplished and hard-working student. His boyhood culture and his formal education gave him a rather conservative Christian outlook on life, which was reinforced when he witnessed leftist campus riots in the 1960s. Thomas earned his Juris Doctor degree at Yale, finishing in the middle of his class. He had difficulty finding a position in a law firm because they tended to assume his Yale bona fides were a result of affirmative action rather than actual intellectual prowess.

The library and reading room at Yale Law School

Justice Thomas began his long climb to the Supreme Court with his law career inauguration in Missouri in 1984. He served as Assistant Attorney General under former Yale classmate Thomas Danforth, who moved to D.C. as Senator from Missouri in 1977. Thomas soon joined Danforth’s staff in the nation’s capital. President Ronald Reagan appointed Thomas to the Office of Civil Rights and then the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). Thomas held to his principles of individual responsibility and self-reliance, in the face of stiff resistance by his mostly Democratic colleagues. A federal appeals court judgeship in 1990 came his way under George Bush, Sr. His rather libertarian and original intent views did not seem to cause a barrier to cordial relationships with more liberal members of his legal fraternity and the Senate.

John Danforth (1936-)
as Missouri Attorney General, 1969

Thomas in 1986 with President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004),
at the end of Thomas’ tenure with the EEOC

In 1991, Judge Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, and President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace him. The nominee was known as a critic of affirmative action—the belief that minority candidates for jobs and offices should be given preferential treatment because of their color—presaging substantial resistance from highly partisan Democratic Senators and “civil rights” activists. Shrieking pro-abortion feminists feared that as a Christian, Thomas might oppose the slaughter of unborn babies and support the repeal of Roe v. Wade, so they would form a bulwark of resistance to his approval to SCOTUS.

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)

The Senate Judiciary committee allowed Thomas’s nomination to go forward for full Senate confirmation ”without recommendation.“ In the grueling confirmation hearings, a former assistant of Thomas when he was chairman of the EEOC, Anita Hill, made allegations of sexual harassment which were then leaked by the FBI to the press, and brought to the public hearings of the Senate. Tawdry recriminations by Hill were aired on national television, what Justice Thomas called “a high-tech lynching” by his lying accusers. He was narrowly confirmed.

Anita Hill testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991

Since those days, more than thirty years ago, Thomas has proven to be one of the most reliable “conservative” judges, perhaps the closest—along with the late Justice Scalia—to “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution. He has written more than 690 opinions and has been the third most dissenting opinion. He invokes federalism in more cases than any other justice. He is one of six Roman Catholic Justices currently serving and, at the age of 73, is the senior member of the United States Supreme Court.

Thomas being sworn in as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court by Justice Byron White during an October 23, 1991, White House ceremony, as his wife Virginia looks on

Current members of the Supreme Court of the United States:
Front: Justice Alito, Justice Thomas, Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor.
Back: Justice Kavanaugh, Justice Kagan, Justice Gorsuch, Justice Barrett.

The Battle of Waterloo, 1815

2022-06-22T16:45:11-05:00June 22, 2022|HH 2022|

“Pride goes before destruction
And a haughty spirit before stumbling
—Proverbs 16:18

The Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815

No individual in history so dominated the continent of Europe as did Napoleon Bonaparte from 1800-1815. He seemed to be the embodiment of the “Great Man Theory” that became prominent in the 1840s—that highly skilled and brilliant but violent leaders so dominated certain eras that other explanations to describe the stream of western civilization seem inadequate. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon made the most of their brief appearances on the stage of history. And they all received their providential comeuppance. Bonaparte’s came in a lowly corner of what is today Belgium, a place known as Waterloo.

The Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812

Fifteen years earlier, almost to the day, Napoleon had defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo, which solidified his hold on Paris as the “1st Consul,” a position he had assumed the previous November in a coup d’état. His army secured their dominant position over the pretensions of other French generals, and Napoleon Bonaparte began what became a fifteen-year military conquest of Europe, piling up between 3.5 to 6.5 million dead, civilian and military combined. The total does not count those who perished in the French Revolutionary wars, which actually began in 1792. During those first fifteen years of the 19th Century, grand coalitions of European nations combined to fight Revolutionary France, resulting in Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia and penultimate defeat by five armies, “The Sixth Coalition.” He abdicated the throne in April, 1814, and was exiled by the victors to the Island of Elba.

The Battle of Marengo (June 14, 1800) was Napoleon’s first significant victory as head of state

The Battle of Leipzig, October 16-19, 1813—one of numerous conflicts between Napoleon’s forces and the allies of the Sixth Coalition including forces from Austria, Prussia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and a number of German states. The battle was the largest in European history before WWI, and the Coalition victory resulted in Napoleon’s exile to Elba.

Separated from his family, without the promised income, and angry at rumors that he would be sent to an island far away from France, Napoleon escaped from Elba, joining seven hundred followers, and landed in France. When word got out that the Emperor had returned, King Louis XVIII sent Bonaparte’s greatest general Marshall Ney and a regiment of troops to round up the miscreant and his entourage. In the event, when the troops spotted Napoleon, alone, trudging up a dirt road, they shouted “Vive L’empereur,” and Ney, having boasted he’d bring him back in an iron cage, dismounted and kissed Napoleon. Together they marched on Paris, the King fled the country, and the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon Bonaparte an outlaw. He swiftly became an outlaw with a 200,000-man army.

Napoleon exiled on the Island of Elba, a small island just off the northwestern coast of Italy

After Napoleon’s forced abdication following the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he was exiled to Elba. He remained there only ten months before his escape on February 26, 1815, depicted above.

The new European coalition came after him, and the armies of two countries, Great Britain and Prussia, met the French army and their restored emperor at Waterloo on June 15, 1815. Napoleon planned to defeat his foes in detail, considering the Prussians inexperienced and led by a superannuated septuagenarian Field Marshall Gebhard von Blücher and the British, who had sent their best troops to fight the Americans in the War of 1812 (Battle of New Orleans), but were nonetheless led by their best General Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington.

Gebhard von Blücher (1742-1819)

Château d’Hougoumont, a walled farm compound near Waterloo, Belgium, served as a defensible position for the Anglo-allied army under the Duke of Wellington

The British commander marched his men from Brussels to Waterloo and positioned them along a sunken road with his flanks anchored on a stout chateau called Hougoumont and its gardens and orchard and the other flank in the hamlet of Papelotte. Because the battlefield was only two and a half miles wide, he was able to line up many of his men in depth behind hills where they could not be seen. He had at his command about 30,000 British soldiers and 37,000 German and Dutch allies, along with 156 cannons. If Blücher’s Prussians arrived in time for battle, it would add another 50,000 men. Napoleon commanded about 73,000 French troops. When Marshall Soult expressed some dissatisfaction at the French deployments, Napoleon told him that Wellington was a bad general, the “English are bad troops, and this affair is nothing more than eating breakfast.”

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)

Due to a providential all-night rain, the field was soaked, causing Napoleon to delay his attack and thus giving Blücher more time to get his army to the battlefield. Around 10:00am the attack began, the battle focusing on the capture of the Huogoumont. Both sides fed troops into that part of the field throughout the day, eventually totaling about 30,000 soldiers. The British held the chateau to the end. Around noon, the French Grand Battery of eighty guns began shelling the British center causing many casualties, though some of the artillery rounds buried in the wet ground and did not explode.

Marshal General Jean-de-Dieu Soult (1769-1851), 1st Duke of Dalmatia

Marshal Ney leading the French cavalry charge at Waterloo

Marshall Ney led the grand infantry assault on the English center, focused on a walled farmhouse called La Haye Sainte. As the French infantry broke through the center of the British line, Wellington unleashed the heavy cavalry “gallop at everything, never consider the situation, or think of manoeuvring.” They chopped down the French infantry and continued across the field, losing all coherence and into the guns of the grand battery. The service rendered came at a high cost, as did every aspect of the day’s fighting. More than half of the cavalry did not return, upon the French counterattack by their Cuirassier’s. The French cavalry were in turn shot to pieces by the British squares of infantry. Horses will not throw themselves on hedges of bayonets, but can in turn be shot by infantry in such formations.

Michel “Marshall” Ney (1769-1815), French military commander who fought in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars

The storming of La Haye Sainte

La Haye Sainte finally fell to the French infantry and Wellington, trapped in an infantry square said “Blücher or nightfall must come.” As Providence would have it, Blücher arrived on the French flank before nightfall. One final attempt by Napoleon’s Old Guard to win the day failed, and the army broke to pieces. About 17,000 allies lay dead or wounded on the field and about 25,000 French. Napoleon’s last bid for power had failed in one of the mightiest, bloodiest and decisive battles of European history. It ended the French First Empire and proved a turning point in history. Napoleon was again exiled, to the Island of St. Helena, where he died six years later.

Napoleon spent his final six years in exile on the Island of Saint Helena, some 1,200 miles off the southwestern coast of Africa

The painting Scotland Forever! depicts the Royal Scots Greys charging at the Battle of Waterloo

At the 200th Commemoration of Waterloo (Bicentennial) in 2015, Belgium minted a two-Euro coin commemorating the battle. French protest resulted in Belgium melting them down, never issued. They made a successful unlooked-for flank attack, however, by issuing an identical non-standard issue commemorative coin for 2.5 Euros, valid only in the issuing country, but sold for 6 euros. English General Wellesley, known as Wellington, remains one of the greatest generals of history, Napoleon one of the greatest tyrants.

2.5 Euro coin minted in Belgium commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo

The Founding of the YMCA, 1844

2022-06-03T20:40:37-05:00June 6, 2022|HH 2022|

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” —1 Corinthians 15:58

The Founding of the YMCA, June 6, 1844

Throughout the 19th Century, millions of people, especially in the English speaking world, moved from farm to city, from rural to urban areas, causing great social upheaval and the exponential growth of cities. The modern industrial “revolution” and the need for manual and machine laborers is most often cited by historians as the motive behind such shifting demographics. In most places, the churches were unable to keep up with the massive, newly-created housing and feeding needs that such population shifts demanded, not to mention the moral and spiritual decline and temptations that accompanied the relocations and dislocations that resulted. Christians created voluntary associations to help meet the demands of the urbanization crises, often through para-church clubs outside of the jurisdiction or accountability that was associated with normal denominational or diaconal controls. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) became the most successful and popular of the pragmatic para-church clubs.

A mural inside the YMCA of New Philadelphia, OH clearly demonstrates the distinctly Christian roots and purposes of the organization

An engraving from 1888 showing men practicing gymnastics, climbing, and club-swinging at the Young Men’s Christian Association gymnasium in Longacre, London

The YMCA began as the “brain-child” of English draper George Williams in London on June 6, 1844. Williams was likely converted around the age of 16, in 1837. He left the Anglican Church and joined an independent Congregationalist Church, involving himself in evangelism and godly service in the church. He rose through promotions in the draper business he had joined as an apprentice, to become a partner in the firm and finally, sole owner by 1868. He married his partner’s daughter, with whom he fathered seven children.

As a Christian layman, Williams determined to create a ministry to young men by providing a place for them to gather for fellowship, sports, and other activities, beginning with eleven fellow workers. They emphasized self-discipline and self-sacrifice and what would later be defined as “manliness.” Williams earned enough money in his business to finance the YMCA, and, as a philanthropist, also presided over the YWCA, the London City Mission, and the Railway Mission. Organized one hundred years to the day before the D-Day assault on the beaches of Normandy, the “Y” within ten years could claim a seventy-six country international alliance of four million members, and within another hundred fifty years, forty-five million members in one hundred twenty five countries. He became Sir George Williams when knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894.

Sir George Williams (1821-1905) was an English philanthropist, businessman and founder of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)

The YMCA serving soldiers within the shelling zone during WWI, near Ypres, Belgium, September 21, 1917

The American branch of the YMCA began in 1851 at Old South Church in Boston. A retired Boston sea captain—Thomas Valentine Sullivan, working as a missionary to seamen—saw the need to create a “home away from home” for sailors and merchants. A former slave, Anthony Bowen founded the first YMCA for African Americans in Washington, DC, two years later. During the first year of the American Civil War, YMCA volunteers banded together to provide aid and physical and spiritual comfort to sick and wounded Union soldiers. In a short time, they were found in the front lines assisting the chaplains and surgeons, and distributing Gospel tracts, coffee, and counsel. With the support of churches and the encouragement of President Lincoln, fifteen YMCA representatives created the United States Christian Commission—the first “Armed Service YMCA.” They would be present in every war in which American soldiers were engaged thereafter. In 1941, the YMCA would join with several other similar ministries to found the USO, active in peace and war to assist American military personnel around the world.

Boston, MA boasted the first US branch of the YMCA in 1851, but by 1882, had grown to necessitate a larger building, seen here

A YMCA tea car ‘in action’ on the front in Anzio, Italy during WWII, May 4, 1944

Throughout the 20th Century, the YMCA in America expanded its programs to include swimming lessons, basketball leagues, and family assistance endeavors. In the 60s, the “Y” sometimes became the welcoming meeting place for the “Civil Rights Movement.” As the YMCA has become more and more connected to the Federal Government, the social activism that enjoys government support and promotion has quietly entered the statements of purpose and the programs of the YMCA, now simply known as the “Y” to deemphasize both the male-centered and Christian nature of its origins and history.

In a 2021 article by Carole Haynes in The Haynes Report, on the developing purposes of the “Y” in Dallas, Texas, she observed that their stated mission has now gone from “Christian principles to race-based Marxism.” In 2020 the YMCA of Dallas created a new “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Team” that launched Racial Equity and Innovation Centers in nine city YMCA locations. They are “on a journey to become an anti-racist, multicultural organization…to lead social change…to ensure that everyone, regardless of ability, age, cultural background, ethnicity, faith, gender, gender identity, ideology, income, national origin, race or sexual orientation, has the opportunity to reach their full potential with dignity.”

An ad for the explicitly Christian, male-centered local YMCA as it appeared in the Macon, GA city directory in 1896

The cover of the June 1919 edition of “YMCA Association Men” magazine

Like so many para-church ministries and private charitable or educational associations who receive millions of dollars to provide services that become connected to the political bureaucracies, and whose utopian social schemes permeate the popular culture, it seems the “Y” has happily joined the rush to destroy all the foundations of Christian society.

World Alliance of YMCAs logo then (1881)

…and now (as of 2020)

The Battle of Tsushima Ends, 1905

2022-05-30T13:45:47-05:00May 30, 2022|HH 2022|

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” —Proverbs 11:2

The Battle of Tsushima Ends,
May 29, 1905

The military history of the Far East had little resonance or study in the West prior to the 20th Century. Japan was not open to Western contact until the 1850s, and China remained a fabled but closed land to most Americans. Europeans had more success in trade with the East than the U.S. did, but “military history of the Orient” remained little known. In 1905, a sea-change in interest occurred with the Battle of Tsushima Straits, which is listed in the most significant battles of the 20th Century, and has taken its place in the top tier of important military engagements in history. This naval battle between Russia and Japan certainly played an important role in Japanese strategic thinking thirty-six years later in the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō on the bridge of the Battleship Mikasa
as the Battle of Tsushima commenced, May 27, 1905

In a brief war in 1894-95, Japan conquered Korea and the Liaotung Peninsula in China, including Port Arthur. The Europeans reacted swiftly and compelled the Japanese to give up their territorial conquest, an insult in an “honor-based” society, especially coming from Europeans who looked down on the Japanese as an inferior country with weird cultural ways and inbred hostility toward non-Japanese. Upon Japan’s acquiescence to the demands to cede the territory back to China, the Russians moved right in and extorted the rights to build the trans-Siberian railroad through Manchuria to Port Arthur, infuriating the Japanese. When the “Open Door” trade agreement was reached with China, Japan saw the opportunity to access the raw materials so abundant in Manchuria and without which, resource-poor Japan could not continue its industrial growth. Russia denied access and brought in troops to ensure their own control.

Wrecked Russian ships in Port Arthur after The Battle of Port Arthur, which took place February 8–9, 1904 and marked the commencement of the Russo-Japanese War

Japan had had enough of Russian duplicity; Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō attacked the Russian fleet with destroyers and torpedo boats in Port Arthur and Inchon, landing an army at the latter location to begin the investment of Manchuria. The Russo-Japanese War exploded in earnest. To avenge the loss of his Pacific Squadron, Czar Nicholas II sent five divisions of the Russian Baltic Fleet, including eleven of its thirteen battleships, around the world, under command of Admiral Zinovy Rozhdestvensky to destroy the upstart Japanese. The campaign certainly made history.

Marshal-Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō (1848-1934)

Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia (1868-1918)

Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky (1848-1909)

In a most inauspicious start, the Russian fleet encountered British fishing vessels off Dogger Bank in the North Sea and, thinking they might be Japanese gunboats, opened fire, sinking one and killing a few fishermen; they even shot at some of their own ships by mistake, but poor gunnery limited the loss of life. Russian diplomats scrambled to prevent England from declaring war on Russia! Due to lack of coal, the fleet took six months to reach the Straits of Tsushima. They reportedly also stopped along the African coast and collected exotic animals to take back to Russia. The Japanese fleet awaited in ambush, inferior in number, but much faster in deployment tactics, and more modern and accurate in technical skills.

The Dogger Bank Incident occurred on the night of October 21/22, 1904

In the interim six months of preparations after the initial battles, Admiral Tōgō trained his crews constantly, improved the ammunition of his big guns and positioned his four battleships, eight cruisers, twenty-one destroyers and sixty torpedo boats near Korea where they could speed to the most advantageous areas of attack. He also employed the new wireless communications network to keep informed of the enemy’s approach. On May 27, a picket ship alerted Tōgō of the Russian fleet’s sailing nearby for Vladivostok, not looking for battle, near the small island of Tsushima.

Mikasa is a pre-dreadnought battleship built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in the late 1890s and served as the flagship of Vice Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō throughout the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, including the Battle of Port Arthur on the second day of the war and the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima

Tōgō, in his flagship Mikasa, led the battleships across the column of Russian ships (known as “crossing the T”), where his big ships could fire full broadsides and the Russians only fire their forward guns. When the Russian Admiral tried to maneuver his ships to return broadsides, the faster Japanese ships darted out of the way and pummeled the enemy battleships. A Japanese officer recounted that “after the first twenty minutes the Russians seemed to go all to pieces, and their shooting became wild and almost harmless.” Admiral Rozhdestvensky himself was wounded twice, and ordered his second in command to get as many ships as possible through the straits to safety. Only a single cruiser and two destroyers survived to enter Vladivostok. Tsushima Straits was the most decisive fleet naval engagement since Trafalgar ninety years earlier. At a cost of about 1,000 casualties suffered by the Japanese, they destroyed the Russian Navy and cost them more than 10,000 casualties.

Admiral Tōgō visits a wounded Admiral Rozhdestvensky in a Japanese hospital after the battle

Negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth, September 5, 1905 at Portsmouth Naval Yard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. From left to right: the Russians at far side of table are Korostovetz, Nabokov, Witte, Rosen, Plançon; and the Japanese at near side of table are Adachi, Ochiai, Komura, Takahira, Satō

Japan, however, had shown the world that they were a Pacific naval power to be taken very seriously. How seriously would be revealed thirty-six years later at Pearl Harbor.

Resources for Further Study

For more information on the battle, consult internet articles or books such as 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present by Paul K. Davis.

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