The Russian-Chinese Convention of 1898 transferred Port Arthur to Russia for 25 years with the right to extend this period. The Russians, once on the Liaodong Peninsula, began to redo everything in their own way: in a few years, a small Chinese village had become the main base of the Russian military fleet in the Pacific. By 1904, a Russian-Chinese bank was operating in Port Arthur, the buildings of the engineering administration and the headquarters of the military administration were towering, and numerous soldiers' barracks stretched around. By that time, more than 50 thousand people lived in the city.
Port Arthur before the war
On the eve of the war, not all Russian military leaders saw the danger of the siege of Port Arthur. Thus, for example, the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in Manchuria, Yevgeny Alekseev, in his plan of military operations indicated that “the Japanese offensive against Port Arthur is unthinkable, why only a garrison with small additions can be assigned for defense”. At the same time, the Daily Mail war correspondent, Benjamin Norrigaard, noting the weak training of the troops, wrote: “The Russians, however, were not aware of the modern development of fortification art and most of their fortifications were of the same type used in half of the last century.” Major General Kostenko speaks even more pessimistically about the defense of the fortress: “Arthur not only had neither the right nor the grounds to be considered a“ stronghold ”, but then didn’t really have the character of a fortified camp. In his original form, Arthur was positively hopeless in terms of protection and vulnerable at any point. The remark by one of our most popular generals that the “macaques” are starting a war with “some of them” was also fully justified on Arthur. ”
Anyway, on the eve of the summer of 1904, Port Arthur was cut off by land from the Manchurian army, some time later the sea communication was blocked, finally, on July 30, 1904, the siege of the fortress by Japanese troops actually began.
In early August, the Japanese attacked the advanced fortifications of the fortress: as a result of stubborn fighting at the cost of serious losses, the Japanese were able to seize the redoubts of Dagushan and Xiaogushan. The first successes gave the Japanese leadership confidence - the troops of General Legs immediately began to prepare for the assault.
“It was necessary to recruit such chiefs to Port Arthur,” admiral Von Essen complains in his diary. Describing the confusion during the first assault, he says: “Captain 2nd Rank Nikolayev commanded the boat“ Gremyashchy ”, already a very old man sent to the east to serve the qualification. This commander fell ill immediately, as soon as his boat had the prospect of taking part in hostilities. “Gilyak” was commanded by Stronsky - a young officer, but not possessing either the energy or the courage, so necessary for the commander ”.
Medics in Port Arthur
An employee of the port-arturskaya newspaper Novy Kray, Larenko, in his memoirs, describes the storming of the fortress by the Japanese as follows: “This morning, our batteries are a hell, the Japanese are bombarding our northeastern front, concentrating on one battery or another. Our batteries are shooting as hard. The mountains are covered with smoke from the bursting Japanese shells and from the shots of our guns, and above this black smoke and dust it explodes in the air with white smoke like scraps of cotton wool, shrapnel, showering positions with a rain of bullets. The rumble and roar merge so that it is impossible to make out who is shooting from where and where the shells are torn. ”
“Until the darkness, continuous volleys of guns thundered, and in the fortress, in the area of the 10th regiment, music thundered and repeated“ Hurray! ”Explosions were heard - this is the 14th regiment, standing here in reserve, continues its regimental holiday: , battle and death, and here there are funny clicks and absolutely not the belligerent sounds of the regimental orchestra, ”Colonel Rashevsky recalls this day in his diary.
Burial of the dead in Port Arthur
For four days, the Japanese general Nogi had unsuccessfully tried to seize the fortress: as a result, according to historians, he lost almost half of his soldiers - about 20,000 killed. Russian losses amounted to about 3 thousand people. Despite this, the inhabitants of the fortress were indignant. So, for example, engineer Mikhail Lilye writes: “I had a longing and yet stupid bitterness at St. Petersburg careerists, at Korean lumbermen, at all those who lived so sweetly away from these places, where people were now streaming Russian blood.
The unsuccessful assault forced the Japanese commanders to proceed to a long siege: they waited for reinforcements and built siege structures. Already in the first months of the sea and land blockade, the Russians began to experience food problems. Journalist Larenko mentions: “While everywhere, in the city and in positions, life came handy, we learn that General Stoessel still has a hundred pigs and many other edible living creatures. He stocked thoroughly all. Angry-ironical remarks are heard at his address, by the way, the question is asked - if General Stoessel has 100 pigs, so how many pigs are there in total? The answers do not converge. ”
Defensive line of the fortress
With all this, the Japanese also did not have to relax. The English journalist Norrigaard, who lived in the Japanese military camp, says in his materials: “The firefight did not stop day or night, sometimes shrapnel and shells fell into the trenches, so the soldiers could never be calm and had to be constantly on guard for a week which they spent in these trenches. If they were forgotten even for a minute and stuck their heads out of the trench, then they were subjected to shelling and were often killed on the spot, as the Russians appointed their best shooters for this. ”
The Japanese carried out the second assault in early September. “The main attention of the Japanese is on High Mountain. There, all the time, without ceasing, there is a very strong gunfire, to which, from time to time, rolls of guns are sent, sending whole clouds of liddite shells. From the side it seems completely incomprehensible how one can remain safe and sound in this hell and continue to repel the enemy’s desperate attacks, ”said Mikhail Lilie, engineer of the Russian army, on the first day of the assault. Indeed, a fierce and stubborn battle was going for High Mountain, which the Japanese did not manage to take. Special heroism, according to eyewitnesses of that battle, was shown by Lieutenant Podgursky, who with three hunters knocked out three companies of Japanese with swords, who had occupied fortifications. The next attack was repelled, as a result of which the Japanese lost four times more soldiers (about 6,000) than the Russians.
Soldiers after the next assault
After another setback, the Japanese concentrated on the demining work: they were digging trenches to the forts and fortifications of Port Arthur. During the long siege, provisions were completely depleted: front-line soldiers received horsemeat twice a week, while the rest of the time they had to be content with bread. In addition, scurvy raged in the fortress, which, no worse than bullets and shells, reduced the number of the garrison.
The third assault at the end of October, the Japanese army again failed: the general attack ended with the defeat of the Japanese. “In general, despite the hells of the fire, the Japanese did not seize more than one solid fortification: if we also succeed in repelling the next assault, then perhaps we will sit out at all” - Colonel Rashevsky left such an entry in his diary on the day of the Japanese attack.
Abandoned artillery guns
Indeed, the next assault did not take long to arrive: after receiving reinforcements, the army of General Foot had launched the most ambitious attack on Port Arthur in late November. For ten days, the Japanese could not break through the front of the Russians, but they fulfilled an important strategic goal - they occupied the High mountain, from which the entire port-arthur harbor was viewed. Immediately, the Japanese gunners opened fire with 11-inch howitzers around the city and the ships of the Port Arthur squadron. Russian battleships and cruisers were irretrievably lost. At the same time, the British journalist Norrigaard did not write about the successes of the Japanese, but about the heroic feat of the Russian soldiers: “Both sides fought madly, especially the Russians, who on that day attacked with unparalleled courage. No one could resist their violent attack. General Nakamura was seriously wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Okuba was killed and over a thousand soldiers were out of action. ”
“To the High Mountain a company of sailors went in a stretched formation. People walk cheerfully, calmly - to almost certain death. The sound of an explosion made us look back at the harbor. There over the battleship "Poltava" rose a huge club of yellowish-brown smoke. Probably the enemy 11-inch projectile hit the powder cellar of the vessel. P. came and said that the Japanese were already at the very top of the High Mountain. I can not believe it. I wouldn’t like to believe! ”Recalls those days an employee of the newspaper“ Novy Kray ”Larenko.
Disabled Port Arthur Garrison Soldiers
Less than a month from the end of the last assault, Port Arthur fortress lasted. Commandant Stoessel, contrary to the decision of the Military Council of the fortress, who was in favor of continuing the defense, surrendered to Port Arthur. On January 5, 1905, the garrison, exhausted by siege, handed over its weapons and handed over Port Arthur to the Japanese. The officers who promised not to fight again in this war were sent home.
“The story of the siege of Port Arthur is, from beginning to end, the tragedy of Japanese weapons. Neither in the field of strategy, nor in the field of military art, anything outstanding or especially remarkable was shown by the Japanese. Everything was limited by the fact that thousands of people were placed as close as possible to the enemy positions and threw themselves into continuous attacks, ”writes the English correspondent Ellis Bartlett, who was in the camp of the Japanese troops all this time.
General Legs, feeling guilty for the death of thousands of soldiers, wanted to commit the seppuku ritual - ritual suicide by tearing open the abdomen. However, the emperor forbade him to do so. The general, together with his wife, carried out his intention after the death of the emperor.