Battle Off Ulsan

At 0520 on 14 August 1904 the fleets had closed to 8,500 yards (7,800 m), and the Japanese ships fired first.

For some reason, Kamimura, in assigning targets, concentrated fire on the Rurik, the last and weakest in the Russian column. Subjected to twice the bombardment administered to her stronger comrades. Rurik lost most of her officers in a short time, and although extremely damaged, remained afloat, the diminishing number of survivors continuing to fire the few remaining guns until the very last, in a gallant display of classic heroism that won the admiration of the Japanese.

On the easterly run the Japanese ships took some hits, but nothing comparable to what they inflicted. It would be assumed that when the Russians sheered away, Admiral Kamimura would have pressed his advantage closer. Inexplicably, this did not happen. Kamimura oddly held his course during the Russian turn, and when the Japanese turned a few minutes later, it was to a new tack that actually lengthened rather than narrowed the range.

The remaining Russian cruisers tried to cover the Rurik, but with increasing damage, Admiral Jessen decided at 0830 to scuttle the Rurik, and save his other ships by heading back towards Vladivostok. Japanese cruisers chased them for some time, and firing continued, with more damage to the Russian cruisers and slight damage to the Iwate and the Azuma. The Russians were in far worse condition than the Japanese, but Admiral Kamimura then made another inexplicable decision: after pursuit of only three hours, while still on the high seas, and with long daylight steaming hours between the Russian cruisers and Vladivostok, at 1115 hours the Japanese ceased the chase, and turned back towards Pusan.

Despite Kamimura’s failure to destroy the two remaining Russian cruisers, he was hailed as a hero in Japan, and the Vladivostok Cruiser Squadron never threatened Japanese shipping again.

Since no arrangements had been made to preserve communication with the destroyer flotilla attacking Port Arthur, the results of the first attack were quite unknown. By 0500 hrs on the morning of the 9th, the now reconcentrated destroyer flotillas were clearing Round Island and heading for Asan. Admiral Togo was some 20 miles to the northward of Chifu with the rest of the Japanese fleet. It was now time for the main battle fleet to play its part. Togo altered course for Liau-ti-shan. At 0800 hrs Admiral Dewa was sent ahead with his four cruisers to look into the Port Arthur anchorage. His only instructions were that if he met a strong Russian force at sea he was to try and draw it towards Togo's heavy divisions, which would steer for a point south of Encounter Rock (about 20 miles S.E. of Port Arthur).

At 0900 hrs Admiral Dewa was near enough to Port Arthur to make out the Russian fleet through the morning mist. There were 12 battleships and cruisers, three or four of which seemed to have a bad list or to be aground. Also there were some destroyers, gunboats, and mining vessels outside the harbor entrance, apparently huddled together in no particular order. Dewa held course till he was within 8,200 yards of the harbor, but no notice was taken of the Japanese cruisers. Closing to about 7,500 yards he leisurely made his reconnaissance. Still, not a shot was fired nor any movement made that he could see. Convinced by what he observed that the destroyer attack was a success and that the Russians were thoroughly demoralized he sped off to report to Togo. Since Dewa had pushed no nearer than 3nm it is no wonder that his conclusion was wrong. The Russians had steam up and were lying ready for action with battle flags flying.