Chapter I
“Another Splendid Mess You Got Us Into, Teddy!”

Ever Wonder How Teddy Roosevelt Kicked Off WW I?


As Europe entered its Post Napoleonic Peace due in large part to the Congress of Vienna, things started to turn increasingly ugly in the western hemisphere. The Empire that was Spain underwent a rapid and extremely brutal period of decolonization that makes the post-World War II Africa and East Asia Wars of National Liberation look reasonably mild and civilized. The South American and Central American “republics” like to portray these uprisings and revolutions as throwing off the yoke of foreign tyranny that came from Madrid with home rule. In reality, these uprisings were more or less revolts by the colonial aristocracies, prettied up with the façade of Jeffersonian democracy, borrowed mainly for the purpose as lying propaganda to fool the great masses of the oppressed peoples, to replace foreign tyrants with new domestic ones in reality. The local upper crust, not pure Spanish by blood, chased out and replaced the foreign Spanish with themselves as rulers. The peons, if anyone would bother to ask, as the Dominican and Jesuit friars did and recorded, would have answered: “New bosses (Jefes) are worse than the old bosses. At least with the old bosses, every one of us is despised because of our impure blood. Our new patrons think they smell like roses when they come from the same mongrels we do.”

In the midst of this warfare, fueled in parts by “idealism”, racism, prejudice and the recognition that whoever the banditos were, who took over the land from Spain, could keep all the loot for themselves instead of see it loaded up in ships and sent off to Madrid’s treasuries; a few colonies, mostly in the Caribbean Sea remained loyal. One of these colonies was Cuba.

Then There Is The United States Of America.

The post Napoleonic Period was one in which the Americans, who had been hammered hard in the Napoleonic Wars and escaped national disaster by the skins of their diplomatic teeth. The Treaty of Ghent (1814) was more another exercise by Great Britain to tidy up her business affairs while she was involved in the packing off of that Corsican upstart, an affair that was not yet completely concluded. It changed nothing much in North America, except burdened the Americans with a huge war debt and delayed Britain’s planned takeover of South American commerce by a couple of years. The War of 1812 was a mere bagatelle, a minor distraction on the road to taking over everything not nailed down outside Europe to Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool, the British prime minister of the day. This right bastard [Peterloo Massacre of 1819, I refer one to the Corn Laws and the repression of the Parliamentary reform movement, the relative lack of suffrage in Northern England. McP.] wanted to clear decks, so to speak. This was understood by the Americans at Ghent who cut the best deal they could with his government to get themselves out of the jam their own incompetence had dumped them when they foolishly declared war in the first place.

South America was rich and anyone in Washington and London, could see that whereas Spain was in ruins from the Peninsula Campaign and the Madrid government, allegedly pro-British, was quite weak and enfeebled and thus unable to assert its authority in country much less to colonies overseas. This exposed the Americas south of North America to exploitation and commercial conquest. Britain saw opportunity. America saw a breathing spell to recover from a ruinous war. South America was easier pickings than two wars on the North American continent showed to be to London.

Of course history has a way of making fools of men who perceive local temporary advantage and assume it is permanent. The British would find the new South American politics they encountered befuddling and the continent harder to pillage than their businessmen ever imagined. The Americans meanwhile increased in population and swarmed west and grew strong at a faster and much more alarming rate than predicted, so that by 1848, the admiralty in London told The Right Honourable Lord John Russell FRS, the prime minister of the day, that if war came with the Polk Administration, there were no guarantees. Canada could go. The Americans would be badly damaged, but the British Empire in the New World was at great hazard. Fortunately the Americans looked south.

Why Look South?

There was a great schism in the American social contract. You could see it in the American Congress, specifically the U.S. Senate. To proportional representation modern Europeans, the “federalism” of the American republic is a stumbling block to their comprehension of US history. They do not understand bicameralism or why “states” are issued 2 senators apiece as opposed to a unicameral parliament and representatives based on districts or chunks of population as the US House of Representatives is. The more astute European students of American history assume it was sectional politics, and racism: that somehow the slave owning classes in the southern states demanded it to prevent a national popular vote in some future Congress from outlawing their “peculiar institution”

That is not exactly what happened. Powerful states at the national founding, like Virginia and New York, which had large populations, wanted unicameralism and proportional representation. It was small states like Rhode Island and Delaware and South Carolina with small populations and who knew they would be swamped in the commercial competitive interests and backwash of the Virginias and New Yorks who insisted on the Senate. Later, Virginia and the southern United States would as a sectional block would play the Senate like a pipe organ to keep “balance of power” in the US Congress to block an increasingly anti-slavery and industrial, banking, mercantile northern United States from overwhelming them politically and economically and in sheer population. Slaves were the major issue, but who owned the wealth was a part of it, too. In 1848 the capital in human slaves was 9 billion US dollars. The US industrial plant and mercantile trade was worth just shy of 11 billion US dollars. Tipping point. The American south needed to redress that imbalance. Canada was obviously not the place to do it. There was Mexico however. As early as 1834, the Jackson Administration was already thinking ahead to when there would need to be new states and new Senators to keep the US Congress stable. The Republic of Texas was the result. It was supposed to be absorbed quickly and broken up into four or five states which would join the southern American voting block. Ten senators would redress the Senate balance of power nicely. Texas did not cooperate. All or nothing to join up with the United States, they said. This caused a 12 year delay while all the parties involved tried to figure out their Plan Bs. There was also Mexico, still smarting from the Texas Revolution of 1835 and which had not given up all hope of regaining their lost state. They said they would fight if the Americans annexed Texas. It was 1837 and the professional American army, a tough hard-bitten outfit, not filled with fools, told the Martin Van Buren Administration, that it could not be done, not without serious risk of a major defeat. The US NAVY was willing to try Mexico, but van Buren told everyone in it to go pound sand while he thought about it.

What was that conniving son of a _____ actually thinking? Plan C, which is Cuba. This time the USN, not filled with fools either, told MvB the naval facts of life, circa 1836; i.e. the United Kingdom would be very annoyed if the United States grabbed Spain’s colony. Jamaica was right next door and the British would assume it was next on the American’s menu. This promptly put both “projects” on hold for 12 years.

Succeeding US presidents keep a close eye on European events. They look for any reasonable opening, an opportunity to solve their Texas, US Senate and economic problems all at one full swoop at Mexico’s expense. They see 2 roadblocks, Britain and France. Spain does not enter the calculations, yet, because Cuba, has always been and is Plan C.

Politician and soon to be President James K. Polk sees things going south (Bad pun. McP.) in Europe, starting in 1847. The Austro-Hungarian empire is up to its ears in Hungarians and Italians. The French tie themselves up trying to save the Austrians and putting down their own 1848 types. The North German Confederation has a case of the 1848 revolutionitis, too The British seem busy stamping out brush fire wars in India and become alarmed as the Balkan Peninsula also catches the 1848 revolution fever. Russia is being naughty, too. She, Britain, is cosseted

Spain is in the middle of its Carlist War. It is not a good time to be a pan-pacifist in Europe as little problems keep Paris and London and anyone else who matters, busy. Nobody will look too hard at the Americans with all these troubles closer to their homes.

Time To RAM That Texas Annexation Bill Through Congress And Tell The British 54-40 Or Fight!

Boy, the professional US Army becomes upset. They do not want a Mexican War just yet. They actually hope for 185---never. They get one, anyway. Somehow, because they actually find a decrepit military super-genius in their ranks, named Winfield Scott, they manage to pull off an astounding victory from the stalemated war they predicted should be the expected result. That victory makes even the Duke of Wellington, the first soldier of the age, take notice:

"How do you think he does it? What makes him so good?"…. "the greatest living general." - - the Duke of Wellington referring to Winfield Scott after Mexico City falls.


The British promptly settle the Maine and Oregon Boundary questions though “The Pig War” is still in their future with the Americans. I think Winfield Scott may have a “small” influence there.

Anyway, it occurs to Washington, and Mister President James K. Polk, that having bitten off territories four times the size of France, having permanently ticked off Mexico and really annoyed Great Britain, too; that Plan C should be shelved for the time being and maybe the United States should just digest her conquests and make slave and free states on a one for one basis and solve that other problem in the US Senate. So hopes President James K. Polk, who once he fulfills (most of) his campaign promises, unusually for an American president, has the sense to get out of Dodge (Washington) while his reputation is sky high, just one horse ahead of the lynching posse that is out to get him for screwing everything in the country up with his "stupid" war.

"We are fighting this war for Texas and the South.... For, this, sir, Northern treasure is being exhausted, and Northern blood poured on the plains of Mexico.... Slavery follows in the rear of our armies. Shall the war power of our government be exerted to produce such a result? Shall this government... lend its power and influence to plant slavery in these territories?"

U.S. Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, the chief architect of the Wilmot Proviso repeatedly passed in the US House of Representatives and defeated in the US Senate. Simply put, the Proviso required that all territories captured, purchased or acquired from Mexico would be eventually admitted as “free” states where slavery was banned forever.

Wilmot was one of the northern American representatives and ringleaders of that political posse out to politically lynch President James K. Polk for bringing everything involved with balance of power politics in the US Congress to an UGLY head.

What About Plan C?

Cuba has never left the interest of southern Americans looking for new “slave” states and more senators, nor has it escaped the notice of northern American business interests who see a great source of sugar and certain other crops that America needs for her burgeoning industries as raw materials. But how to get at Cuba after the dangerous Mexican American War which was a lot closer run thing than most people not in the know realize? Look at what almost happened to Zachary Taylor’s army in northern Mexico? It was a miracle that the Mexicans had not destroyed that army and handed the Americans a catastrophic defeat.

Their thoughts turned to a previous model of American expansion, the Louisiana Purchase, when a war plagued and cash strapped Napoleon, after Haiti threw the French out in 1804.^1, forced him to make the best deal he could with the Americans for Louisiana^2
^1 The History of Haiti, Revolution and Independence

^2 Louisiana Purchase - HISTORY

Spain would be a tougher nut to crack. It was 1854, six years after the Mexican American War. Another window of opportunity was open as Britain and France were snowed underneath Russians in the Crimean War.^3

^3 Crimean War - HISTORY

Now emboldened by their successful seizure of land from Mexico in 1848 and with the major European powers at each others’ throats, America’s leaders soon turn their attention to Spain’s “Ever Faithful Isle.” The US initial attempts to acquire the island reached its climax in 1854. In October of that year, three expansionists, all toadies and appointees of President Franklin Pierce, who serve as United States ambassadors in Europe (Pierre Soulé in Spain, John Mason in France, and James Buchanan in Britain) meet secretly in Ostend, Belgium, to plan the annexation of Cuba, under orders of Secretary of State William Marcy. The “Ostend Manifesto” that they draft states that the United States should purchase the island for no more than $120 million as an Action Grande Majeur (Major international act. McP.). The offer would be made as an assistance to a Spanish government in deep trouble financially and would be presented as the act of a friendly power. The insult the United States would receive when the Madrid government refuses, would be the war excuse the United States uses as justification in seizing it by force; if Spain refuses to sell.

The Isabelline government of Spain, to the Americans’ surprise was ready to sell! What scuttled the deal? Three things torpedoed America’s first chance at Cuba. First was the Spanish Revolution of 1854 which threw out the Spanish conservatives who were to be American bribed and installed the “progressives”

Second was this mess.

August 1, 1854: Message Regarding US-Spanish Relations

To the Senate of the United States:

I hasten to respond briefly to the resolution of the Senate of this date, "requesting the President to inform the Senate, if in his opinion it be not incompatible with the public interest, whether anything has arisen since the date of his message to the House of Representatives of the 15th of March last concerning our relations with the Government of Spain which in his opinion may dispense with the suggestions therein contained touching the propriety of provisional measures' by Congress to meet any exigency that may arise in the recess of Congress affecting those relations."
In the message to the House of Representatives referred to I availed myself of the occasion to present the following reflections and suggestions:

In view of the position of the island of Cuba, its proximity to our coast, the relations which it must ever bear to our commercial and other interests, it is vain to expect that a series of unfriendly acts infringing our commercial rights and the adoption of a policy threatening the honor and security of these States can long consist with peaceful relations.
In case the measures taken for amicable adjustment of our difficulties with Spain should, unfortunately, fail, I shall not hesitate to use the authority and means which Congress may grant to insure the observance of our just rights, to obtain redress for injuries received, and to vindicate the honor of our flag.

In anticipation of that contingency, which I earnestly hope may not arise, I suggest to Congress the propriety of adopting such provisional measures as the exigency may seem to demand.

The two Houses of Congress may have anticipated that the hope then expressed would be realized before the period of its adjournment, and that our relations with Spain would have assumed a satisfactory condition, so as to remove past causes of complaint and afford better security for tranquility and justice in the future. But I am constrained to say that such is not the fact. The formal demand for immediate reparation in the case of the Black Warrior, instead of having been met on the part of Spain by prompt satisfaction, has only served to call forth a justification of the local authorities of Cuba, and thus to transfer the responsibility for their acts to the Spanish Government itself.

Meanwhile information, not only reliable in its nature, but of an official character, was received to the effect that preparation was making within the limits of the United States by private individuals under military organization for a descent upon the island of Cuba with a view to wrest that colony from the dominion of Spain. International comity, the obligations of treaties, and the express provisions of law alike required, in my judgment, that all the constitutional power of the Executive should be exerted to prevent the consummation of such a violation of positive law and of that good faith on which mainly the amicable relations of neighboring nations must depend. In conformity with these convictions of public duty, a proclamation was issued to warn all persons not to participate in the contemplated enterprise and to invoke the interposition in this behalf of the proper officers of the Government. No provocation whatever can justify private expeditions of hostility against a country at peace with the United States. The power to declare war is vested by the Constitution in Congress, and the experience of our past history leaves no room to doubt that the wisdom of this arrangement of constitutional power will continue to be verified whenever the national interest and honor shall demand a resort to ultimate measures of redress. Pending negotiations by the Executive, and before the action of Congress, individuals could not be permitted to embarrass the operations of the one and usurp the powers of the other of these depositaries of the functions of Government.

I have only to add that nothing has arisen since the date of my former message to "dispense with the suggestions therein contained touching the propriety of provisional measures by Congress."

Needless to say, Franklin Pierce was nowhere near as subtle or as smart as Thomas Jefferson. He proved to be feckless, gutless and a chicaner, so when the news came out that he attempted to buy Cuba he backpedaled post haste. Apparently he could not keep his big mouth shut while his ambassadors schemed in Belgium.

The northern American newspapers soon ferreted out the Ostend Manifesto as a result of President Pierce not keeping his part of the Black Warrior Affair quiet and through their news articles it soon raised fierce domestic American opposition in the northern United States to allow a cabal of southern American sympathizers, all of them, ambassadors firmly connected with the southern American scheme to acquire Cuba as a slave state or maybe 3 (6 senators), to pursue the scheme to success.

The progressive biennium (Bienio progresista) (1854-1856).in Spain was the final coffin nail for the 1854 attempt to purchase Cuba.


Stay tuned "Next Time" for how the United States Civil War and a little thing called the SS Virginius Affair leads to the Spanish American War!

P.S. For those who wonder where this is going, well... after the USS Charleston (C-2) rams and sinks the protected cruiser SMS Kaiserin Augusta and drowns Rear Admiral Otto von Diederichs, it gets a little exciting... especially after 1900.

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So the Spanish-American war is a disaster for the US? if yes...interesting

That depends on the term, "disaster".

This jumps ahead a bit, but the Germans in 1898 feel cocky and confident. They have just forced a concession from the Chinese and the fool, and there is no other word for the man in this case, Kaiser Wilhelm II, now orders his admiral of his East Asian Fleet, after this "victory" to go poke his ships into Manila Bay, into a free fire zone, look the situation over and see if Germany can cut a deal with Aguinaldo for a piece of the Philippine Islands or something. Meanwhile the German Foreign Office is playing games with Spain to see if Germany can buy pieces of the soon to be defunct Spanish empire which they eventually RTL do as part of the Paris peace settlement. They also offer to share the Philippine Islands in a side deal split with the United States in exchange for a worthless bit of territory they have further south in the Pacific in the RTL. The Americans react badly to this utter imbecility of an offer. This, before it even happens, is all known to the Americans as likely to happen before the Germans even figure it out for themselves, that is how ad hock it is. Anyway, the upshot is that not only is the Kaiser a damned fool to send a whole fleet into a live war zone, instead of single show the flag presence ship as the more prudent British, French and Japanese did in the RTL according to the prevailing rules of the game among the Great Powers, but so is RADM von Diederichs, who commands it, who promptly conducts hostile operations against the Americans short of war, such as if to survey Subic Bay for a German naval station and sending agents to meet with the Filipino illustrados, while Dewey is in the middle of a tense three-sided fight with GEN Merritt of the US Army (They hate each other. McP.), Emilio Aguinaldo and that Spanish double-crosser GEN Fermin Jaudenes, the new governor of Manila after Madrid fires Bustin who wants to surrender and get his people out of there before Aguinaldo's guerreros come into Manila to massacre the Spanish residents and garrison. It would only take one small misstep by the inept Otto von Diederichs and Dewey starts shooting. That would have been the RTL disaster. But for whom? The Germans are not only outmatched by a MUCH better trained navy, though gun-power is about equal, they are in the presence of a recently battle experienced fleet. The Germans frankly do not know what they do. The Americans of 1898 are incredibly dangerous. The Americans of that day, navally, actually know what they do and they do it extremely well.

The naval war that would have followed, would have been "interesting" and a bit prolonged with many unforeseen consequences. We shall have to see how I script and war game it down the road. Who knows?
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Chapter 2: Introducing Henry Breckman, What Is His Deal?
Chapter 2: Introducing Henry Breckman, What Is His Deal?

Henry Breckman, master shipwright, and second designer for William Cramp and Sons, had to steady himself. Although the week long voyage down from Key West, Florida had been relatively calm, the waters of southern Cuba were anything but serene. He had to admit that he might have miscalculated a little on the roll moment of the ship he designed for the Yankee Navy. She was a one off tumblehome French style design, the USS Birmingham, 11,000 tonnes of armored cruiser, intended to better the USS Saratoga, the Bureau of Construction and Repair archetype designed by Theodore D. Wilson; the other armored cruiser that Cramp and Sons of Philadelphia. USS Birmingham rolled like a drunk in a Caribbean seaway. Metacentric height was apparently off by a full meter. In his heart, Breckman, had to admit that the USS Saratoga, which closely followed German ideas might be the better sea-boat, but he would be damned if that Yankee, Wilson, could claim a better fighting ship.

However Breckman’s ride down to Santiago de Cuba in the USS Birmingham had a little more to do with fixing the ship’s keel ballast issues, adding new anti-roll vanes and calculating new hull bulges to cure the roll moment; all which would have to be done to her post-war, provided the Spaniards did not sink her. For Breckman, there was a little matter of revenge…

Born in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 19, 1842 Wilson apprenticed at the Charleston Navy Yard under Naval Constructor K.G. McDermitt . At the outbreak of the American Civil War, he left his position and volunteered for Confederate Army service and served as a non–commissioned officer in the 9th Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers. Upon his return from the front in August 1861, he was transferred to the C.S. Navy and was appointed as a carpenter in the construction department in the Charleston Yard. He worked on the CSS Hunley between 1863 and 1864 and warned that it was an unworkable deathtrap, but was too junior in authority and his warnings were ignored. Near war’s end he was sent to North Carolina to survey the CSS North Carolina to assess her battle-worthiness. This time, when Breckman reported to Confederate Navy Secretary Stephen R. Mallory that the CSS North Carolina’s wooden hull was rotted through with shipworms, Breckman’s word was good enough for several courts martial in August 1864. His subsequent findings on the equally disastrously mis-built CSS Raleigh, which foundered earlier in May resulted in a duel of honor, where he shot the idiot who built that ship, dead.

In 1865, Breckman was ordered back to Charleston to special duty to the Navy Yard to help direct the construction, repair and alteration of various vessels (Davids, a steam powered motor spar torpedo lauinch). Then the war ended, not the way that Breckman hoped. Three years later, he passed the required civil examination (Pennsylvania Merchant Marine Academy) and was licensed an assistant naval constructor; He eventually served at civilian facilities in Philadelphia and Washington DC. Between 1869 and 1870, he taught naval architecture and shipbuilding at the Maryland Merchant Marine School in Annapolis, Maryland. In 1871, Wilson was sent by William Cramp and Sons his new employer to Great Britain, France and Germany. In Germany, he viewed Krupp’s gun foundry and learned about their new- fangled breech-loading guns. The Franco Prussian War temporarily excited and heightened his educational opportunities as he “temporarily on loan” became an advisor to the Prussian Navy. He returned to the United States and brought his new found knowledge to William Cramp and Sons In 1872, He immediately became involved with his old Confederate navy friend, Captain Joseph Fry of the steamship “Virginius”.


Captain Joseph Fry of the SS Virginius. (Born 1823 Tampa, Florida. Shot to death by the Spaniards 7 November 1873, charged as a pirate and conspirator in the failed First Cuban War of Independence)

A Brief Lamentable Biography Of One Unfortunate Out of Work Confederate Privateer

Captain Joseph Fry was the erstwhile captain of the SS Virginius, a British built American Civil War blockade runner that had seen better days. He took her over in 10 October 1873. Fry served in the U.S. Navy for 15 years, before renouncing his commission. He joined the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Fry was promoted to Commodore in the Confederate Navy. However, after that navy disappeared following the Union victory in 1865, Fry was unemployed and drifted from menial job to job, often as second or third officer of a steamer. In 1873 he finally secured a position as ship’s master as Captain of the Virginius. The Virginius, moored in Kingston, Jamaica by this time needed extensive repair. As most of the previous crew, a bunch of wharf rats who smelled trouble coming had deserted, Fry recruited a new crew of 52 men, both American and British sweepings off the Kingston docks, using the enlistment methods of the day (Shanghaiing). Many of the “volunteers” were completelty inexperienced and apparently did not understand that the SS Virginius was a gunrunner ship for the Cuban rebellion. The SS Virginius took on an additional 103 Cuban revolutionaries. The US Consul at Kingston, Thomas H. Pearne warned Fry, that he would be shot if the Spaniards caught him. However, Fry did not believe the Spanish would shoot a blockade runner captain. In mid October, Captain Fry accompanied by 4 British mercenaries, took the SS Virginius to Haiti and dangerously overloaded the ship with munitions. On 30 October, the SS Virginius steamed to Comito to pick up even more weapons. (Supplied by the French, by the way, who had a keen interest in a free Cuba since they were in the process of filibustering in Central America.). On the same day the SS Virginius started toward Cuba. The Spanish had been warned by the British when the Virginius left Jamaica and sent out the warship Tornado to capture the vessel.

On 30 October 1873 the Tornado spotted the SS Virginius in international waters 10 kilometers from Cuba and gave chase. The SS Virginius, as mentioned, was overburdened and the stress from the boilers and steam engine (The engineer removed the safeties.), caused the ship to take on water through her screw shaft seal, significantly slowing any progress. As the stern chase continued the Tornado, a fast warship, fired on the Virginius several times, using timed fuse shell to try and blow down her stacks. This damaging the top deck and the pilot house and indeed shredded the funnels. Captain Fry surrendered the SS Virginius knowing that with his ship's over-worked engines and leaky condition, she could not outrun the Tornado on the open sea. The Spanish quickly boarded and secured the ship. The entire crew was seized and the ship was force sailed to Santiago de Cuba. (This will become significant. McP.)

The Spanish immediately ordered the entire crew to be tried as pirates. The entire SS Virginius crew, including both American and British citizens, were found guilty by a court-martial and were sentenced to death. The Spanish ignored the protest of the American vice-consul in Santiago de Cuba who attempted to provide American citizens legal aid. On 4 November 1873 the four British mercenaries who accompanied Captain Fry were executed by firing squad without trial, since they had already been summarily condemned as pirates ex officio (Extra judicially by charge declaration and without trial.). After the executions, the British vice-consul at Santiago, concerned that one of the mercenaries killed, George Washington Ryan, (With a name like that? McP.), claimed he was of British citizenship, wired Jamaica immediately to receive aid from the British navy to stop further executions. Hearing news of the SS Virginius capture and executions, Altamont de Cordova, a Jamaican resident, was able to get British Commodore A.F.R. de Horsey to send the sloop HMS Niobe under Sir Lambton Lorraine to Santiago de Cuba to stop further executions. On 7 November, a further 37 crew members, including Captain Fry, were executed. The Spanish soldiers decapitated them and trampled their bodies with horses. On 8 November another 12 crew members were shot, until finally the HMS Niobe reached Santiago. The carnage stopped on the same day when Captain Lorraine threatened the local Spanish commander, and the man responsible for these extra-judicial murders, Juan N. Burriel, that he, Lorraine, would flatten Santiago with HMS Niobe’s guns if there were any more executions. There were a total of 53 executions at Santiago under Burriel's far exceeded authority.



(Two independent newspaper illustrators; so this might be as close to the British vice consul's eye witness testimony we can expect, RTL or ATL. McP)

Now Fry and Breckman had become close friends. Breckman was visiting Fry’s wife, at Fry’s home when this letter arrived…

On Board the Spanish Man of War La Tornado

Santiago de Cuba, November 6, 1873

Dear, dear, Dita: When I left you I had no idea that we should never meet again in this world; but it seems strange to me that I should tonight, and on Annie’s birthday, be calmly seated, on a beautiful moonlight night, in a most beautiful bay in Cuba, to take my last leave of you, my own dear, sweet wife! and with the thought of your bitter anguish my only regret at leaving.

I have been tried today and the President of the court martial asked the favor of embracing me at parting, and clasped me to his heart. I have shaken hands with each of my judges; and the secretary of the court and interpreter promised me, as a special favor, to attend execution, which will, I am told, be in a very few hours after my sentence is pronounced. I am told my death will be painless: in short, I had a very cheerful and pleasant chat about my funeral, to which I shall go in a few hours from now. How soon I cannot yet say. It is curious to see how I make friends. Poor Bambetta pronounced me a gentleman, and he was the brightest and bravest creature I ever saw.

The priest who gave me communion on this morning put a double scapular about the neck, and a medal, which he intends to wear himself. A young Spanish officer brought me a bright, new silk badge, with the Blessed Virgin stamped upon it, to wear to my execution for him, and a handsome cross in some fair lady’s handiwork. These are to be kept as relics me. He embraced me affectionately in my room with tears in his eyes…

Dear sweetheart, you will be able to bear it for my sake, for I will be with you if God permits it. Although I know my hours are short and few, I am not sad. I feel I shall always be with you right soon, dear Dita, and you will not be afraid of me…

Pray for me and I will pray with you…There is to be a fearful sacrifice of life from the Virginius, and, as I think, a needless one, as the poor people are unconscious of crime, and even of their fate up to now. I hope God will forgive me if I am to blame for it.

If you write to President Grant, he will probably order my pay, due when I resigned, paid to you after my death…People will be kinder to you now, dear Dita; at least I hope so. Do not dread death when it comes to you; it will be as God’s angel of rest–remember this…

I hope my children will forget their father’s harshness, and remember his love and anxiety for them. May they practice regularly their religion and pray for him always…

Tell [Our Lord] that the last act of my life will be a public profession of my faith and hope in Him of whom we need not be ashamed–and it is not honest to withhold that public acknowledgment from any false modesty or timidity. May God bless and save us all.

* * *

Sweet, dear, dear Dita, we will soon meet again. Till then, adieu, for the last time.

Your devoted husband,

Joseph Fry

That when he hears this letter read aloud to Mrs. Fry and her guests, Henry Breckman swears violent vengeance upon the Spaniards in a loud profane voice, using such obscenities that shock Fry’s widow and her visitors, well, that might be taken by us today as 19th century hyperbole in a widow’s parlor for effect and bravado display. But this maniac, Henry Breckman, has proven by his past acts and deeds that he is quite the man of his given word; (Remember, he shot and killed the man who botched up the CSS Raleigh? McP.). The Spaniards are now on his to-do-in list. If there is any obstacle to that vengeance, like Breckman’s little continuing disagreement with the government of the United States, well there remains the loyalty oath and Reconstruction will handle that petty legal matter. Just so long as he, Breckman, can get at the levers of power within the currently almost non-existent United States Navy and use them all to push forward his vow, he will say the words needed and pretend that he becomes a Reconstructed Confederate pseudo-Yankee in good standing. He will act sort of like his other great friend of the Late War Between the States, that good Republican party member and hale fellow well-met, Nathan Bedford Forrest does to advance his own agenda.

To that end, then, Breckman sets to work. So what does he do?

Promoted to second chief shipwright at Cramp and Sons in 1882, Breckman arranges to have himself placed in charge of naval design for all new warships that the USN contracts from that shipyard. Among the ships Breckman plans during the next 14 years is the armored cruiser USS Austin, the protected cruisers USS Biloxi, USS Cincinnati and USS San Diego and the gunboats USS Bilford, USS Channing and USS Powhattan. Breckman's reputation in foreign naval circles, especially French naval circles heavily influenced by Emile Bertin, who is extremely delighted that he uses French designs, grows considerable.

Breckman suffers a mild stroke in March 1896 at the shipyard as his latest toy, the USS Birmingham, fits out, and it appears for a while that he might not live to see his oath he gives to Mrs. Fry fulfilled, but he rallies, that tough old Confederate bastard, and now it is 20 June 1898. The American battle fleet that Breckman labors so mightily to build through his subtle influence, chicanery, and direct work on his friends, is now arrived off the mouth of Santiago de Cuba and the Spaniards are thereby corked within.

USS Massachusetts, a Brooklyn Navy Yard American copy of a Brandenberg class type, a knockoff, takes up her sentry post off the harbor mouth about 2000 meters distant from the prominent Moro fortress, a mass that looks like a hooded cadaver, under a squally sky under a bilbous yellowish moon waxing crescent. The other ships; USS Texas, USS Indiana, and the USS Birmingham, along with the torpedo boats USS Ericsson and USS Hunt and that damned collier, the SS Merrimac, assume their stations in a semi-circle outside the harbor according to the present blockade plan as issued by RADM Sampson, who is tardy to the party, because he had to go to Tampa, Florida to pick up an American army and convoy it to the invitational meet to this invasion.

The USS Massachusetts snaps on her searchlights and aims them at the harbor mouth. A ship silhouette appears black outlined in the searchlight beams. It is Instantly recognizable in the Fiske telescopic telemeter which is in her fighting top. The image seen and the solution passed to the guns’ crews as an aiming assist to them, is of a Spanish Reina Regina class protected cruiser, acting presently as the Santiago de Cuba harbor mouth sentry ship. She floats just below the Moro, which is the aforementioned fortress mounted on the eastern harbor bluffs. The Moro bellows a dull BOOM as the gun battery mounted within it sends a challenge to whatever idiots shine searchlights from their ship. It is a routine challenge, fired in time of war, to warn an unknown ship to either signal intent or identify herself.

The American battleship announces herself, in reply, as to what type she is to the shocked Spanish persons present, with a loud bell-like Pa-PRANG from her main armament. A pair of the shells slam into the LNMC Reine Mercedes. Others, aimed higher, explode at the base of the seawall that is below the Moro. The fortress shakes with the impacts. Those, still unknown to the Spaniards, guns speak with the characteristic bellows of GERMAN type large caliber naval ordnance. Nobody on Earth uses that kind of naval armament but for the Reich Marine and the United States Navy.

Standing on the Moro parapet proper, on the east facing mouth of the harbor; El capitán Luis de la Ciudad de Parmanio, the 28 cm/35 Ordunuz twin gun battery commander says; "Somos realmente desafortunado. ¡Los americanos están aquí antes de que Cervera esté listo!”

(What he actually says refers to the Americans, and some fastening of the Spaniards present as witnesses, which involves attaching their bodies to a barn-door with an inclined wedge through an anatomical place in their bodies where one will not find sunshine present at all, but this alternate translation will do for this history; “"We are indeed unfortunate. The Americans are here before Cervera is ready to go!" McP.)
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Philo Norton McGiffin.
Captain Philo Norton McGiffin 1846-1916

By Richard Harding Davis^1

(Real person. His heavily modified account supplies much of the ATL narrative suggested here. McP.)

In the Chinese-Japanese War the battle of the Yalu was the first battle fought between warships of modern make, and, except on paper, neither the men who made them nor the men who fought them knew what the ships could do, or what they might not do. For years every naval power had been building these new engines of war, and in the battle which was to test them the whole world was interested. But in this battle Americans had a special interest, a human, family interest, for the reason that one man of the Chinese squadron, which was matched against some of the same vessels of Japan which later swept those of Russia from the sea, was commanded by a young graduate of the American Naval Academy. This young man, who, at the time of the battle of the Yalu, was thirty-three years old, was Captain Philo Norton McGiffin. So it appears that five years before our own fleet sailed to victory in the wars with the Spanish and Germans, another graduate of Annapolis, and one twenty years younger than in 1898 was our Admiral Dewey, had commanded in action a modern battleship, which, in tonnage, in armament, and in the number of the ships' company, far outclassed Dewey's Olympia.

The Chinese Japanese War was the demonstration to the United States Navy that the decisions they had made in the mid-1880s as to what our New Steel Navy would look like might have been a tad mistaken. There had been two schools of thought in our navy about what kind of ships should be built to replace the “peace cruisers”. The one school of thought had followed the French school which suggested that a large fleet of small cheap ships could spread out upon the oceans and ravage commerce and thus win a naval war that way. This notion was based on the numbers game and the belief that speed and the new wonder weapons, the quick fire breech loading gun and the torpedo, would make blockades by traditional battleships useless.

The Battle of the Yalu seemed on the surface to suggest that the French were correct, that is to say, the Imperial Japanese Navy, using a combination of French and British designed protected cruisers armed with Vickers and Schneider quick firing guns did demolish a Chinese fleet built around a core of two German-designed and built battleships and Chinese subsequently purchased British ships which were collectively described as “protected cruisers” that were supposedly the near matches to the same type of ships that the Japanese used.

The problem was that the United States Navy had two officers planted in the employ of the opposing navies, and these officers had survived the Battle of the Yalu by the skins of their teeth to return to the United States with valuable insights as to what the Chinese (not much) and the Japanese (better, but still not too well) did right in that very confused and exasperating battle. In summary, the USN officers reported that the Japanese had used classic sailing ship line ahead battle tactics with a few steam ship flourishes thrown in and the Chinese had used the kind of tactics of the line of bearing so familiar to the Mediterranean navies of the classical galley age.

Captain Henry Grinnell of the USN was a technician and not properly a tactician. His role in the Imperial Japanese Navy as a “hired foreign expert” was strictly as a purchasing agent for American origin equipment and supplies. He was the liaison the IJN maintained to a list of US suppliers for their naval stores. That did not stop him from keeping his eyes and ears open to what he saw and heard within the Imperial Japanese Navy, but to be honest he was not in a well placed position to witness or understand the key decisions within that navy or find out what finally caused the Japanese to dismiss their chief ‘hired foreign expert’, Emile Bertin and send him packing off to France after the Battle of the Yalu. Thus, much of what the Japanese learned about the jeune ecole of naval warfare in practice was not available to our navy to digest.

Philo Norton McGiffin was another matter.

McGiffin, the tactician who taught the USN before the Spanish American War how to handle their ships, was born on December 13, 1860. He came of fighting stock. Back in Scotland the family is descended from the Clan MacGregor and the Clan MacAlpine. McGiffin's great-grandfather, born in Scotland, emigrated to this country and settled in "Little Washington," near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the Revolutionary War he was a soldier. Other relatives fought in the War of 1812, one of them holding a commission as major of volunteers. McGiffin's own father was Colonel Norton McGiffin, who served in the Mexican War, and in the Civil War was Lieutenant-Colonel of the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers. So McGiffin inherited his love for arms through his patriarchal line.

In Washington he went to the high school of Meresford and at the Washington Jefferson College had passed through his freshman year. But the honors that might accrue to him if he continued to live on in the quiet and pretty old town of Washington did not tempt him. To escape into the world he wrote his Congressman, begging him to obtain for him an appointment to Annapolis. The Congressman liked the letter and the young man’s brass, and wrote Colonel McGiffin to ask if the application of his son had his approval. Colonel McGiffin was willing, and in 1877 his son received his commission as cadet midshipman. We know something of McGiffin, as a boy, who, in vacation time apparently went coon hunting in the woods outside of Washington. For his age he was a very tall boy, and in his midshipman undress uniform, appeared to the ladies as a most bold and adventurous spirit.

At Annapolis his record seems to show he was pretty much like other boys. According to his classmates, with whom most, he was very popular, he stood high in the practical studies, such as seamanship, gunnery, navigation, and steam engineering, but in all else matter of study he was near the foot of the class. Outside his studies, in whatever escapade was risky and reckless, that was plotted, he was always one of the leaders. To him discipline in action and application was extremely irksome. He could maintain and enforce it among others, but when it applied to himself it bored him. On the floor of the Academy building on which was his room there was a pyramid of cannon balls—relics of the War of 1812. They stood at the head of the stairs, and one warm night, when he could not sleep, he decided that no one else should do so, and, one by one, rolled the cannon balls down the stairs. They tore away the banisters and bumped through the wooden steps and leaped off into the lower halls. For any one who might think of ascending the stairs to discover the motive power back of the bombardment, they were extremely dangerous as an affront. But an officer of the ward approached McGiffin in the rear, and McGiffen having been caught in the act, he was sent to the prison ship. There he made good friends with his jailer, an old man-of-war’s-man named "Mike." He will be remembered by many naval officers who as midshipmen served on the Santee. McGiffin so won over Mike that when he left the prison ship he carried with him six charges of gunpowder. These he loaded into the six big guns captured in the Mexican War, which lay on the grass in the center of the Academy grounds, and at midnight on the eve of July 1st he fired a salute. It aroused the entire garrison, and for a week the empty window frames of the Naval Academy kept the glaziers busy. It earned McGiffin another stay with “Mike”.

About 1878 or 1879 there was a famine in Ireland. The people of New York City contributed provisions for the sufferers, and to carry the supplies to Ireland the Government authorized the use of the old USS Constellation. At the time the voyage was to begin each cadet was instructed to consider himself as having been placed in command of the Constellation for the mission and to write a report on the preparations made for the voyage, on the loading of the vessel, and on the distribution of the stores. This exercise was intended for the instruction of the cadets; first in the matter of seamanship and navigation, and second in making official reports and third in the preparation of a mission. At that time; it was a very difficult operation to get a gun out of the port of a vessel where the gun was on a covered deck. To do this the necessary tackles had to be rigged from the yard-arm and the yard and mast properly braced and stayed, and then the lower block of the tackle carried in through the gun port, which, of course, gave the fall a very bad reeve. The first part of McGiffin's report dealt with a new method of dismounting the guns and carrying them through the gun ports, and so admirable was his plan, so simple and ingenious, that it became new practice in our navy. It was used whenever it became necessary to dismount a gun from one of the old sailing ships. Having, however, offered this piece of good work, McGiffin's report proceeded to tell of the division of the ship into compartments that were filled with a miscellaneous assortment of stores, which included the old "fifteen puzzles," at that particular time very popular. The report terminated with a description of the joy of the famished Irish as they received the puzzle-boxes. So the report was marked as “not passed”. At another time the cadets were required to write a report telling of the possible means of suppression of the native insurrections in Nicaragua which being having occurred during the digging of the canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific. McGiffin won great praise for the military arrangements and disposition of his men, but, in the same report, he went on to describe how he armed them with a new gun known as Baines's Rhetoric and told of the havoc he wrought in the enemy's ranks when he fired these guns loaded with similes and metaphors and hyperboles. That report was “not passed” either.

Of course, after each exhibition of this sort he was sent to the Santee and given an opportunity to meditate with “Mike”.

On another occasion, when one of the instructors lectured to the cadets, he required them to submit a written statement embodying all that they could recall of what had been said at the lecture. One of the rules concerning this report provided that there should be no erasures or interlineations, but that when mistakes were made the objectionable or incorrect expressions should be included within parentheses; and that the matter so enclosed within parentheses would not be considered a part of the report. McGiffin wrote an excellent résume of the lecture, but he interspersed through it in parentheses such words as "applause," "cheers," "cat-calls," and "groans," and as these words were enclosed within parentheses he insisted that they did not count, and made a very fair plea that he ought not to be punished for words which slipped in by mistake, and which he had officially obliterated by what he called oblivion marks. Nevertheless, cadet McGiffin spent more time with “Mike” aboard the Santee.

Philo was not always on mischief bent. On one occasion, when the house of a professor caught fire, when the fool smoked in bed, McGiffin ran into the flames and carried out two children, for which act he was commended by the Secretary of the Navy.

It was an act of our Congress that determined that the career of McGiffin should be that of a agent of our navy, posing as a mercenary. This was a most unusual act, which provided that passed midshipmen should receive commissions in foreign navies, so as to receive additional instruction. We could not accommodate all of them in our own as on our warships there were no actual vacancies. In those days, in 1884, our navy was very small. To-day there is hardly a ship having her full complement of officers, and the difficulty is not to get rid of those we have educated, but to get enough qualified officers to educate. To the many boys who, on the promise that they would be officers of the navy, had worked for four years at the Academy and served two years at sea, the situation was most unfair. Out of a class of about ninety, only the first twelve were given postings and the remaining eighty turned adrift upon the uncertain seas of foreign service. As a sop, each was given one thousand dollars and a recommendation.

McGiffin was not one of the chosen twelve. To this day that seems most strange. In the final year of examinations; on the list he was well toward the bow. But without having studied many things, and without remembering the greater part of them, no one graduates from Annapolis, even places on the list without accruing much; and with his one thousand dollars in cash, McGiffin had also this six years of education at what was then and still is, deemed the best naval college in the world. This was his only asset—his education—and as in his own country it was impossible to dispose of it, for possible present service in his own navy he was encouraged to look abroad.^1

^1 (The Office of Naval Intelligence got him and placed him where he would do some good. Read some more of how this happens. McP.)



At that time the Tong King war was on between France and China, and Philo decided, before it grew rusty, to offer his knowledge to the followers of the Yellow Dragon. How he contacted them, it is a mystery, but yet somehow in New York City he made his offer of service known to their agents. In those days that was a hazard of new fortunes that meant much more than it does now. To-day the East is as near as San Francisco; the Japanese-Russian War, our occupation of the Philippines, the part played by our troops in the Boxer trouble, have made the affairs of China part of the daily reading of every one. Now, one can step into a brass bed at Forty-second Street and in four days at the Coast get into another brass bed, and in twelve more be spinning down the Bund of Yokohama in a rickshaw. People go to Japan for the winter months as they used to go to Cairo, Egypt for the pyramids.

But in 1885 it was no such light undertaking, certainly not for a young man who had been brought up in the quiet atmosphere of an inland town, where generations of his family and other families had lived and intermarried, content with their surroundings. Yet Philo managed to make contact with the Chinese agents, who sought out such foreign talent as his for their war with the French.^2

^2 (There is an interesting history between the United States and France in Japan during the era of the “Edo Republic” rebellion. Most curious is how many US civil war ships and “hired experts” wind up on the “wrong side” as far as the French are concerned, for the French supported the Edo Republic and the Americans did not. They supported the Meiji restoration. McP.)

With an additional few thousand dollars from his newfound Chinese “friends”, McGiffin arrived in February, 1885, in San Francisco. From there his letters to his family give one the picture of a healthy, warm-hearted youth, chiefly anxious lest his mother and sister should "worry" about him. In our country nearly every family knows that domestic tragedy when the son and heir "breaks home ties," and starts out to earn a living; and if all the world loves a lover, it at least sympathizes with the boy who is "looking for his first adventure." The boy who is looking for the life experience may not think so, but each of those who has passed through the same hard place gives him, if nothing else, his good wishes at success. McGiffin's letters at this period gain for him from those who have had the privilege to read them the warmest good feeling.

They are filled with the same cheery optimism, the same sluicing over of his troubles, the same homely jokes, the same assurances that he is feeling "bully," and that it all will come out right, that every boy, when he starts out in the world, sends back to his mother.

"I am in first-rate health and spirits, so I don't want you to fuss about me. I am big enough and ugly enough to scratch along somehow, and I will not starve."

To his mother he proudly sends his name written in Chinese characters, as he had been taught to write it by the Chinese Consul-General in San Francisco, and a pen-picture of two elephants. "I am going to bring you home two of these," he writes, not knowing that in the strange and wonderful country to which he is going elephants are as infrequent as they are in Pittsburgh.

He reached China with a layover in Nagasaki on around April of 1885, the same year the keels are laid for America’s first two armored cruisers. On his his way to Shanghai the Japanese steamer that carried him was chased by two French gunboats. But, apparently much to his disappointment, she soon ran out of range of their guns. Though he did not know it then, with the enemy he had travelled so far to fight this was his first and last hostile meeting; for already peace was in the air between the Chinese and the French.

Of that and of how, in spite of that peace, he obtained the "position" his “sponsors”^3 wanted him to acquire, he must tell you himself in a letter home:

^3 (Office of Naval Intelligence, specifically LT Theodorus B.M. Mason, McP.)

TIEN-TSIN, CHINA, April 13, 1885.

"MY DEAR MOTHER—I have not felt much in the humor for writing, for I did not know what was going to happen. I spent a good deal of money coming out, and when I got here, I knew, unless something turned up, I was a gone citizen. We got off Taku forts Sunday evening and the next morning we went inside; the channel is very narrow and sown with mines. We struck one—an electric one—in coming up, but it didn't go off. We were until 10.30 P.M. in coming up to Tien-Tsin—thirty miles in a straight line, but nearly seventy by the river, which is only about one hundred feet wide—and we grounded ten times.

"Well—at last we moored and went ashore. Brace Girdle, an engineer, and I went to the hotel, and the first thing we heard was—that peace was declared! I went back on board ship, and I didn't sleep much—I never was so blue in my life. I knew if they didn't want me that I might as well give up the ghost, for I could never get away from China. Well—I worried around all night without sleep, and in the morning I felt as if I had been drawn through a knot-hole. I must have lost ten pounds. I went around about 10 A.M. and gave my letters to Pethick, an American U. S. Vice-Consul and interpreter to Li Hung Chang. He said he would fix them for me. Then I went back to the ship, and as our captain was going up to see Li Hung Chang, I went along out of desperation. We got in, and after a while were taken in through corridor after corridor of the Viceroy's palace until we got into see the great Li, when we sat down and had tea and tobacco and talked through an interpreter. When it came my turn he asked: 'Why did you come to China?' I said: 'To enter the Chinese service for the war.' 'How do you expect to enter?' 'I expect you to give me a commission!' 'I have no place to offer you.' 'I think you have—I have come all the way from America to get it.' 'What would you like?' 'I would like to get the new torpedo-boat and go down the Yang-tse-Kiang to the blockading squadron.' 'Will you do that?' 'Of course.'

"He thought a little and said: 'I will see what can be done. Will you take $100 a month for a start?' I said: 'That depends.' (Of course I would take it.) Well, after parley, he said he would put me on the flagship, and if I did well he would promote me. Then he looked at me and said: 'How old are you?' When I told him I was twenty-four I thought he would faint—for in China a man is a boy until he is over thirty. He said I would never do—I was a child. I could not know anything at all. I could not convince him, but at last he compromised—I was to pass an examination at the Arsenal at the Naval College, in all branches, and if they passed me I would have a show. So we parted. I reported for examination next day, but was put off—same way the next day. But to-day I was told to come, and sat down to a stock of foolscap, and had a pretty stiff exam. I am only just through with it. I had seamanship, gunnery, navigation, nautical astronomy, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, conic sections, curve tracing, differential and integral calculus. I had only three questions out of five to answer in each branch, but in the first three I answered all five. After that I only had time for three, but at the end he said I need not finish, he was perfectly satisfied. I had done remarkably well, and he would report to the Viceroy to-morrow. He examined my first papers—seamanship—said I was perfect in it, so I will get along, you need not fear. I told the Consul—he was very well pleased—he is a nice man.^4

"I feel pretty well now—have had dinner and am smoking a good Manila cheroot. I wrote hard all day, wrote fifteen sheets of foolscap and made about a dozen drawings—got pretty tired.

"I have had a hard scramble for the service and only got in by the skin of my teeth. I guess I will go to bed—I will sleep well to-night—Thursday.

"I did not hear from the Naval Secretary, Tuesday, so yesterday morning I went up to the Admiralty and sent in my card. He came out and received me very well—said I had passed a 'very splendid examination'; had been recommended very strongly to the Viceroy, who was very much pleased; that the Director of the Naval College over at the Arsenal had wanted me and would I go over at once? I would. It was about five miles. We (a friend, who is a great rider here), went on steeplechase ponies—we were ferried across the Pei Ho in a small scow and then had a long ride. There is a path—but Pritchard insisted on taking all the ditches, and as my pony jumped like a cat, it wasn't nice at first, but I didn't squeal and kept my seat and got the swing of it at last and rather liked it. I think I will keep a horse here—you can hire one and a servant together for $7 a month; that is $5.60 of our money, and pony and man found in everything.

"Well—at last we got to the Arsenal—a place about four miles around, fortified, where all sorts of arms—cartridges, shot and shell, engines, and everything—are made. The Naval College is inside surrounded by a moat and wall. I thought to myself, if the cadet here is like to the thing I used to be at the U. S. N. A. that won't keep him in. I went through a lot of yards till I was ushered into a room finished in black ebony and was greeted very warmly by the Director. We took seats on a raised platform—Chinese style and pretty soon an interpreter came, one of the Chinese professors, who was educated abroad, and we talked and drank tea. He said I had done well, that he had the authority of the Viceroy to take me there as 'Professor' of seamanship and gunnery; in addition I might be required to teach navigation or nautical astronomy, or drill the cadets in infantry, artillery, and fencing. For this I was to receive what would be in our money $1,800 per annum, as near as we can compare it, paid in gold each month. Besides, I will have a house furnished for my use, and it is their intention, as soon as I show that I know something, to considerably increase my pay. They asked the Viceroy to give me 130 T per month (about $186) and house, but the Viceroy said I was but a boy; that I had seen no years and had only come here a week ago with no one to vouch for me, and that I might turn out an impostor. But he would risk 100 T on me anyhow, and as soon as I was reported favorably on by the college I would be raised—the agreement is to be for three years. For a few months I am to command a training ship—an ironclad that is in dry dock at present, until a captain in the English Navy comes out, who has been sent for to command her.

"So Here I am—twenty-four years old and captain of a man-of-war—a better one than any in our own navy—only for a short time, of course, but I would be a pretty long time before I would command one at home. Well—I accepted and will enter on my duties in a week, as soon as my house is put in order. I saw it—it has a long veranda, very broad; with flower garden, apricot trees, etc., just covered with blossoms; a wide hall on the front, a room about 18x15 foot, with a 13-foot ceiling; then back another rather larger, with a cupola skylight in the center, where I am going to put a shelf with flowers. The Government is to furnish the house with bed, tables, chairs, sideboards, lounges, stove for kitchen. I have grates (American) in the room, but I don't need them. We have snow, and a good deal of ice in winter, but the thermometer never gets below zero. I have to supply my own crockery. I will have two servants and cook; I will only get one and the cook first—they only cost $4 to $5.50 per month, and their board amounts to very little. I can get along, don't you think so? Now I want you to get Jim to pack up all my professional works on gunnery, surveying, seamanship, mathematics, astronomy, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, conic sections, calculus, mechanics, and every book of that description I own, including those paperbound 'Naval Institute' papers, and put them in a box, together with any photos, etc., you think I would like—I have none of you or Pa or the family (including Carrie)—and send to me.

"I just got in in time—didn't I? Another week would have been too late. My chances were getting low; I would not have had anything before long. The U. S. Consul, General Bromley, is much pleased. The interpreter says it was all in the way I did with the Viceroy in the interview.

"I will have a chance to go to Peking and later to a tiger hunt in Mongolia, but for the present I am going to study, work, and stroke these mandarins till I get a raise. I am the only instructor in both seamanship and gunnery, and I must know everything, both practically and theoretically. But it will be good for me and the only thing is, that if I were called home back into the Navy I would be in a dilemma. I think I will get my 'influence' to work, and I want you people at home to look out, and in case I am—if it were represented to the Director. that my position here was giving me an immense lot of practical knowledge professionally—more than I could get on any ship at sea—I think he would give me two years' leave on full pay. Or, I would be willing to do the work without pay—only to be kept on the register in my rank.

"I will write more about this. Love to all."


^4 (Someone passed McGiffin the answers, presumably Pethick. McP.)

It is characteristic of McGiffin that in the very same letter in which he announces he has entered foreign service he plans to return to that of his own country. This hope never left him. You find the same homesickness for the quarterdeck of an American man-of-war all through his later letters. At one time a bill to reinstate the midshipmen who had been cheated of their commissions was introduced into Congress. Of this McGiffin writes frequently as "our bill." "It may pass," he writes, "but I am tired hoping. I have hoped so long. And if it should," he adds anxiously, "there may be a time limit set in which a man must rejoin, or lose his chance, so do not fail to let me know as quickly as you can." But the bill did not pass, and McGiffin only returned to the navy that had sent him, after it had ruined his health in a foreign service. He settled down at Tien-Tsin and taught the young Chinese cadets how to shoot. Almost all of those who in the Chinese-Japanese War served as line officers were his pupils. As the navy grew, he grew with it, and his position increased in importance. More Mexican dollars per month, more servants, larger houses, and buttons of various honorable colors were given him, and, in return, he established for China a most modem naval college patterned after our own. In those days throughout China and Japan you could find many of these foreign advisers. Now, in Japan, the Hon. W. H. Dennison of the Foreign Office, one of our own people, is the only foreigner with whom the Japanese have not parted, and in China there are none. Of all of those who have gone over to serve as an advisor, none served his foreign employers more faithfully than did McGiffin. At a time when every Chinese official robbed the people and the Government, and when "squeeze" or "graft" was recognized as a perquisite, McGiffin's hands were clean. The shells purchased for the Chinese Government by him were not loaded with black sand, nor were the rifles fitted with barrels of iron pipe. Once a year he celebrated the Thanksgiving Day of his own country by inviting to a great dinner all the Chinese naval officers who had been at least in part educated in America or at his hands. It was a great occasion, and to enjoy it officers used to come from as far as Port Arthur, Shanghai, and Hong-Kong. So fully did some of them appreciate the efforts of their host that previous to his annual dinner, for twenty-four hours, they delicately starved themselves.

During ten years McGiffin served the Chinese as naval constructor and professor of gunnery and seamanship, and on board ships at sea gave practical demonstrations in the handling of the new steel cruisers. In 1894 he applied for leave, which was granted, but before he had sailed for home war with Japan was declared and he withdrew his application. He was placed as second in command on board the Chen Yuen, a seven-thousand-ton battleship, a sister ship to the Ting Yuen, the flagship of Admiral Ting Ju Chang. On the memorable 17th of September, 1894, the battle of the Yalu was fought, and so badly were the Chinese vessels hammered that the Chinese navy, for the time being, was wiped out of existence.

From the start the advantage was with the Japanese fleet. In heavy guns the Chinese were the better armed, but in quick-firing guns the Japanese were vastly superior in equipage, and while the Chinese battleships Ting Yuen and Chen Yuen, each of 7,430 tons, were superior to any of the Japanese warships, the three largest of which were each of 4,277 tons, the gross tonnage of the Japanese fleet was 36,000 to 21,000 of the Chinese. During the progress of the battle the ships engaged on each side numbered an even dozen, but at the very start, before a decisive shot was fired by either contestant, the Tsi Yuen, 2,355 tons, and Kwan Chiae, 1,300 tons, ran away, and before they had time to get into the game the Chao Yung and Yang Wei were in flames and had fled to the nearest land to beach as the Spanish would do in their war with us. So the battle was fought by eight Chinese ships against twelve of the Japanese. Of the Chinese vessels, the flagship, commanded by Admiral Ting, and her sister ship, which immediately after the beginning of the fight was for four hours commanded by McGiffin, were the two chief and main participants, and in consequence received the fire of the entire Japanese squadron. Toward the end of the fight, which without interruption lasted for five long hours, the Japanese did not even consider the four smaller ships of the enemy, but, sailing around the two battleships in a circle, fired only at them. The Japanese themselves testified that these two ships never lost their formation, and that when her sister battleship was closely pressed the Chen Yuen, by her movements and gun practice, protected the Ting Yuen, and, in fact, while she could not prevent the heavy loss the fleet encountered, she preserved it from annihilation. During the fight this ship was almost continuously on fire, and was struck by every kind of projectile, from the thirteen-inch Canet shells to a rifle bullet, four hundred times. McGiffin himself was so badly wounded, and mangled; so beaten about by concussions, so burned, and so bruised by steel splinters, that his health and eyesight were forever wrecked. But he brought the Chen Yuen safely into Port Arthur and the remnants of the Chinese fleet came with her.

On account of his ruined health he resigned from the Chinese service and returned to America. For two years he lived in New York City, suffering in body without cessation the most exquisite torture. During that time his letters to his family show only tremendous courage. On the splintered, gaping deck of the Chen Yuen, with the fires below it, and the shells bursting upon it, he had shown to his Chinese crew the courage of the man who knew he was directly responsible for them and for the honor of their country. But far greater and more difficult was the courage he showed while alone in the dark sick-room, and in the private wards of the hospitals.

In the letters he dictates from there he still is concerned only lest those at home shall "worry"; he reassures them with falsehoods, jokes at their fears; of the people he can see from the window of the hospital tells them foolish stories; for a little boy who has been kind he asks them to send him his Chinese postage stamps; he plans a trip he will take with them when he is stronger, knowing he never will be stronger. The doctors had urged upon him a certain operation, and of it to a friend he wrote: "I know that I will have to have a piece about three inches square cut out of my skull, and this nerve cut off near the middle of the brain, as well as my eye taken out (for a couple of hours only, provided it is not mislaid, and can be found). Doctor ——— and his crowd show a bad memory for failures. As a result of this operation others have told me—I forget the percentage of deaths, which does not matter, but—that a large percentage have become insane. And some lost their sight completely."

While threatened with insanity and complete blindness, and hourly from his wounds suffering a pain drugs could not master, he dictated for the Century Magazine the only complete account of the battle of the Yalu. In a letter to Mr. Richard Watson Gilder he writes: " eyes are troubling me. I cannot see even what I am writing now, and am getting the article under difficulties. I yet hope to place it in your hands by the 21st, still, if my eyes grow worse——"

"Still, if my eyes grow worse——"

The unfinished sentence was grimly prophetic.

The next part shall cover McGiffin at the United States Navy War College

Captain Philo Norton McGiffin's Century Magazine Article.
The following piece of narration is lifted word for word and is probably the best WESTERN account of the Battle of Haiyang Island we have in the RTL record. The work is not mine, neither are the words. These are the real words of Philo Norton McGiffin.

McGiffin's Century Article (as subsequently reprinted by Richard Harding Davis^1 a contemporary correspondent and reporter.)

(Real person. His reprint supplies the REAL HISTORY narrative supplied here. McP.)

In attempting an untechnical description of the battle between the Japanese and Chinese fleets which took place September 17,1894, off the Yalu River, I wish to disclaim for the narrative any pretension to a professional report. Not only would technical language probably be unintelligible to lay readers unacquainted with naval science, but I frankly confess my inability to make such a report with entire accuracy. In a battle which lasted five hours, every moment of which was full of interesting incident, and in which single-ship combats were frequent, no officer could spare time from his duties to note all that was going on. Moreover, during the latter part of the engagement I was suffering from wounds, one of which almost blinded me. Although I remained on deck, I could see only dimly, with interruptions. During this period the Chen Yuen was conned by my colleague, Yang Yung Ling, a gallant and spirited officer who, to his country’s loss, ended his life with a pistol ball at Wei-Hai-Wei just as the Japanese came alongside to take the ship after the surrender. I shall therefore at times be obliged to employ hearsay evidence; but in so doing I have taken care to use only that which I feel to be reliable.

About ten o’clock on the morning of September 15, 1894, the Pei Yang squadron, commanded by Admiral Ting Ju Chang, consisting of the two ironclads Ting Yuen (flagship) and Chen Yuen, the two armored cruisers King Yuen and Lai Yuen, the two protected Chih Yuen and Ching Yuen, the two torpedo cruisers Tsi Yuen and Kwang Ping, the coast-defense ship Ping Yuen, the two Armstrong cruisers Chao Yung and Yang Wei, and the corvette Kwan Chia, with two torpedo-boats, arrived at Ta-Lien-Wan. Here we found four "alphabetical" gunboats and four torpedo-boats, besides five chartered merchant vessels which were busily embarking troops. The day was spent in coaling the fleet. Toward dark another chartered steamer arrived from Port Arthur with 80 Krupp field guns, 400 ponies, and 500 artillerymen. About midnight the embarkation was completed, and shortly before 1 A. M. (Sunday, the 16th), the fleet, consisting of eleven warships, four gunboats, and six torpedo-boats, weighed anchor, and proceeded to convoy the transports to the Yalu, arriving off the mouth of that river, without incident, in the afternoon. The convoy, escorted by the four gunboats and four smallest torpedo-boats, with the Ping Yuen and Kwang Ping, crossed the bar, and went up the river some fifteen miles, where the disembarkation was begun and carried on all night.

The next morning, Monday, the memorable 17th of September, was a beautiful day, a light breeze gently ruffling the surface of the water. The forenoon was passed as usual. At 9:15 each ship went to general quarters, cleared for action, and for an hour exercised the crew at the guns, no one dreaming that the results of our training were so soon to be tested. As usual, the crews were full of spirit, and eager to avenge, in a fleet engagement, the loss of the Kwang Yih and Kow Shing. The jeers which the "soldiers" at Wei-Hai-Wei and Port Arthur were wont to fling at us for not destroying the enemy’s fleet had not ceased to rankle. As certain newspapers did not at that time hesitate to accuse Admiral Ting of cowardice in failing to bring on an engagement by searching out the enemy, let me state that, after the so-called "bombardment" of Wei-Hai-Wei, a most positive order came from the Tsung Li Yamen (Office of Foreign Affairs) that he was on no account to cruise eastward of a line drawn from Shantung lighthouse to the mouth of the Yalu. The gallant old sailor resented this, and also disaffections existing in a certain clique of his officers, yet he could not disobey. But the Japanese were under no such order, and they could have found us when they pleased, as we cruised freely to the westward of the line mentioned. At that time it would seem that the enemy hesitated to attack. Our ships were well armed and protected, and our gunners made excellent practice, as had been seen during the summer evolutions. This does not imply any personal reflection upon the Japanese, who are as gallant a race of men as exists. Perhaps they had too much at stake. The destruction of the Japanese fleet would have given the Chinese command of the sea. The small Japanese army in Korea, thus cut off from reinforcements and supplies, would in that event have been overwhelmed by mere force of numbers. Before the battles at the Yalu and Ping Yang the Chinese equaled the Japanese in their eagerness to fight; but as the result of these battles gave increased courage to the one, in like measure it disheartened the other.

From the outbreak of hostilities, officers and men had worked incessantly to put our ships into as efficient fighting trim as possible. Profiting by the lessons taught in the Tsi Yuen and Kwang Yih‘s hapless encounter with the enemy off Baker Island, Korea, on July 25, all boats were left behind, save one six-oared gig for each vessel. In case of disaster, quarter was not expected, nor was surrender contemplated. The fate of the ship was to be the fate of the crew. The Tsi Yuen’s boats had been shattered and set on fire almost immediately, and had been extinguished only after much trouble, and after they had been rendered totally unserviceable. The heavy steel gun shields, one inch thick and over thirty feet in diameter, which covered the two pairs of 30.5 centimeter (12.2-inch) Krupps on the ironclads, were also removed. As they revolved with the guns a shot might easily jam them, and, being too thin to keep out any but light machine-gun missiles, they would have served only as man-traps, since shells which might pass directly over the barbette and on when meeting no resistance, if intercepted by these shields would have penetrated and, bursting, have filled the entire closed space with flame and fragments. Subsequent experience proved the wisdom of this removal, for many a shell passed close over the heads of the gunners. All unnecessary woodwork, rigging, etc., were taken away, the side wings of the bridge cut off; all hand-rails and ladders removed, and rope or wire life-lines and "Jacob’s ladders" substituted when possible. The shields on the 6-inch guns, bow and stern, were kept on to protect the gun crews from the blast of the heavy guns where firing ahead or astern. The ships bad been painted an "invisible gray." Hammocks were placed as a small protection to the men at the quick-firing guns, and within the superstructure sandbags were piled along the sides about three feet deep and four feet high. Lying inside of these on deck were kept some dozens of 100-pound shot and shell for the 6-inch guns, to promote quick service. Much of the glass was unshipped; the rest the Japanese unshipped for us in time. Coal in bags was also utilized for protection where possible. This protection by coal- and sandbags served admirably, a number of projectiles and fragments having been found in them after the battle. When the bugles sounded "action" but little remained to be done save to lower to the deck the ventilators, or wind sails (which obstructed the fire of the guns), to close scuttles, watertight doors, etc., and go to stations.


The accompanying tables show the comparative strength of the two fleets. It will be seen what an overwhelming superiority in quick-firing guns the Japanese had, while our seeming strength in heavy guns was more apparent than real in action, where ranges are uncertain. To explain this, let me digress a moment. It is well known that a projectile from a gun does not travel in a straight line, but, under the influences of gravity and the powder impulse, describes a curve. The greater the impulse, the flatter or straighter this curve, or "trajectory," will be. To hit an object at a certain range, therefore, a gun giving a shot a lower velocity than another will have to be pointed so as to make a greater angle upward with a line drawn from gun to target than will the one of higher velocity. In the diagram, let C represent one of the Chinese 12.2-inch Krupp guns of 25 calibers length of bore (25x12.2-in.), and J represent a Japanese 13-inch Canet gun of 40 calibers, the latter being of much higher power. A gunner at C, assuming J to be at J, fires, and the shot traces the curve CJ. Now if J, assumed at J, happens instead to be actually at J1 or J2, C’s shot will still strike the ship represented as carrying the gun J either at the upper deck or at the waterline. J, likewise, assuming C to be at C, fires, and his shot traces the curve JC. But if C is really at C1 or C2, instead of at C, J’s shot will, as in C’s case, either hit on the upper deck or at the waterline. It is evident that the space C1C2 is greater than J1J2, on account of the flatter trajectory of J’s gun. The distance C1C2 (or J1J2) is termed the "dangerous space," and it is at once seen that when ranges are uncertain the gunner at J has a great advantage, owing to his gun’s flatness of trajectory, over the one at C.


No ordinary method of finding the range is of much use in a fleet action. Using "masthead angles," the range is found by measuring the angle subtended by the enemy’s masthead and waterline (the height of mast being known). The "horizon method" depends on measuring the angle between the enemy’s waterline and the horizon, the observer being stationed in a top whose height above water is known, In the latter case it is inconvenient to have the observer so far from the guns, and in either method the smoke on one side or the other generally conceals the enemy’s waterline. In using a quick-firing gun, the place where the projectile hits must be seen, and this is equally difficult when shots are splashing up the water all about the object aimed at. It is needless to point out the importance of practicing both officers and men in judging distances under all conditions at sea. But to resume, the Chen Yuen’s forenoon routine, drills and exercises, had been carried out, and the cooks were preparing the midday meal, when the smoke from the enemy’s ships was sighted by lookout men at the masthead. They were made out almost simultaneously from several vessels, and before even a signal could be made from the flagship the bugles throughout the fleet were sounding merrily the "officers’ call" and "action." Columns of dense black smoke shooting upward from our funnels told that in the depth of each vessel the stokers were spreading fires, and, using forced draft with closed stoke-holes, were storing up energy in the boilers, that breath might not fail when most needed in the coming fight. These black pillars of smoke must have signaled our presence to the enemy; for their "smokes" now increased in volume and height, showing that they also had put on forced draft, and, like ourselves, were preparing for the contest. For weeks we had anticipated an engagement, and had had daily exercise at general quarters, etc., and little remained to be done. There were woeful defects in our ammunition supplies, as will be seen; but had we kept the seas for a year longer before fighting, there would have been no improvement in that respect, since the responsibility for the neglect lay in Tientsin. So the fleet went into action as well prepared as it was humanly possible for it to be with the same officers and men, handicapped as they were by official corruption and treachery ashore. In far less time than is taken to read these lines signal had been made from the Yuen to "weigh immediately," and n[ ] cables shortened in and anchors wei[ghed ] speedily. The old Chao Yung and Yang Wei being always longer in weighing anchor, were left astern, and afterward, pushing on to gain station, probably gave to the fleet a seeming wedge-shaped formation for a short time, thereby giving rise to the report, widely circulated, that we used that formation in advancing to the attack. Our actual formation, which has justly been criticized, was an indented or zigzag line, the two ironclads in the center, as shown in the diagram. As the two fleets approached each other, officers and men eagerly strained their eyes toward the magnificent fleet of their country’s hereditary foe, and on all sides there were animation and confidence. Our fleet consisted now of ten ships, viz.: Ting Yuen (flag-ship), Chih Yuen, Tsi Yuen, and Kwan Chia, forming the left wing; and Chen Yuen, Lai Yuen, King Yuen, Ching Yuen, Chao Yung, and Yang Wei, forming the right wing. It will be noticed that the right wing, as such, was stronger than the left, or admiral’s. But the enemy, approaching from left to right, would thus receive the fire of our best eight ships before they could attack the Chao Yung and Yang Wei, justly considered our "lame ducks." The Ping Yuen and Kwang Ping, with the two torpedo-boats, the Foo Lung and Tso Yih, did not join us until after the fight was well under way. The gunboats and the other torpedo-boats did not appear [at all.]

The Japanese formed into two squadrons: The Flying Squadron, consisting of the Yoshino (flag), Takachiho, Naniwa, and Akitsushima, led, followed by the Principal Squadron, composed of the Matsushima (flag of Admiral Ito, commander-in-chief), Itsukushima, Hasidate, Chiyoda, Fuso, and Hiyei. On the unengaged side were the Akagi and Saikio. These twelve Japanese ships, forming apparently a single line and preserving station and speed throughout most beautifully, could not but excite a feeling of admiration. Our fleet must also have presented an imposing appearance to the enemy. Since 8 A.M. our ensigns had been flying from their accustomed halyards, but now there streamed from the King Yuen’s main-truck an immense yellow new national ensign, a similar one succeeding the smaller weather-worn ensign previously hoisted, the admiral’s flag at the fore-truck being also replaced by a larger one. A similar change was made on every other ship almost at once, and the Japanese promptly followed our example. These twenty-two ships, trim and fresh-looking in their paint and their bright new bunting, and gay with fluttering signal-flags, presented such a holiday aspect that one found difficulty in realizing that they were not there simply for a friendly meeting. But, looking closer on the Chen Yuen, one could see beneath this gaiety much that was sinister. Dark-skinned men, with queues tightly coiled around their heads and with arms bare to the elbow, clustered along the decks in groups at the guns, waiting impatiently to kill and be killed. Sand was sprinkled on the decks, and more was kept handy against the time when they might become slippery. In the superstructures and down out of sight in the bowels of the ship were men at the shell-whips and ammunition-hoists, in torpedo-rooms, etc. Here and there a man lay flat on deck, with a charge of powder — fifty pounds or more in his arms, waiting to spring up and pass it on when it should be wanted. These men were stationed at intervals to serve the guns quickly; for charges must not be massed along the deck, lest a shell drop in and make trouble. The nerves of the men below deck were in extreme tension. On deck one could see the approaching enemy, but below nothing was known, save that any moment might begin the action, and bring a shell in through the side. Once the battle had begun, they were all right, but at first the strain was intense.

The fleets closed on each other rapidly. My crew was silent. The sublieutenant in the military foretop was taking sextant angles and announcing the range, and exhibiting an appropriate small signal flag. As each range was called the men at the guns would lower the sight-bars, each gun captain, lanyard in hand, keeping his gun trained on the enemy. Through the ventilators could be heard the beats of the steam pumps; for all the lines of hose were joined up and spouting water, so that in case of fire no time need be lost. The range was about four miles, and decreasing fast. "Six thousand meters!" "Five thousand eight hundred" "six hundred" "five hundred!" "Five thousand four hundred!" The crisis was rapidly approaching. Every man’s nerves were in a state of tension, which was greatly relieved as a huge cloud of white smoke, belching from the Ting Yuen’s starboard barbette, "opened the ball." Just as the projectile threw up a column of white water a little short of the Yoshino, a roar from the Chen Yuen’s battery seconded the flagship’s motion. It was exactly 12:20 P.M. The range, as found on the Chen Yuen, was 5200 meters; on the Ting Yuen it was assumed to be 5300. On our side the firing now became general from the main batteries, but it was about five minutes before the Japanese replied. As they opened fire, the Chinese quick-firing Hotchkiss and Maxim-Nordenfelt, 3- and 6-pounders, joined in, and thenceforward the conflict was almost incessant. Like ours, the enemy’s first shots fell short; but with an exultant chuckle we noted that a shot from one of our 12-inch guns had struck one of the Japanese leading ships. The bridge of the Chen Yuen, although some thirty feet above the water, was very soon soaked, as was, indeed, the entire exposed surface on the engaged side, by spray thrown up by line shots that struck the water a little short. Many of the men at the guns on deck were wet through, and indeed the water was flung on board with such violence as to sting the face and hands like hail. Every one in the conning tower had his ears stopped with cotton, yet the din made by projectiles rattling up against the outside of its 10-inch armor was a serious annoyance.

During this early part of the engagement, the Chinese fleet as a whole kept their indented line, and preserved intervals fairly well, steaming at about six knots -- the Chao Yung and Yang Wei being still out of station on the extreme right. The Tsi Yuen, with her faint-hearted commander, Fong, had bolted very soon after the enemy had opened fire. At 2:45 we saw this vessel about three miles astern on our starboard quarter, heading southwest toward Port Arthur. She was followed by a string of Chinese anathemas from our men at the guns. She reached Port Arthur at 2 A.M. next day (seven hours in advance of the fleet), spreading there a wild tale that we had been overwhelmed by a vast Japanese armada, etc. Upon our arrival, Captain Fong claimed that his entire battery had early been disabled, and that he had been obliged to run to save his defenseless ship. But upon an examination of his battery by a detail of line and engineer officers, it was found in perfect working order, excepting the six-inch stern-chaser — the one projectile which struck his ship having passed beneath the trunnions, lifting the gun from its seat. But this shot had entered from the stern, having evidently been received after the retreat had begun — administered, it would seem, as a contemptuous parting kick from the enemy. Captain Fong’s outrageous example was at once followed by the commander of the Kwan Chia, whose courage was scarcely exceeded by his knowledge of navigation; for, about midnight, he ran upon a reef outside of Ta-Lien-Wan, which he said was a most unaccountable mishap, as he had laid his course (in a 100-mile run) "to clear it by one and a half miles"! This vessel had not been struck at all, but some days later was blown up by her crew upon the approach of some Japanese vessels. Our force had thus early been reduced to eight vessels.

As the Japanese fleet approached, it steamed along our front from left to right, at perhaps double our speed, and each vessel thus could exchange shots with each of ours in turn. The Japanese Principal Squadron, as will be seen from the diagram, kept at closer range, upon the whole, than did the Flying Squadron. The latter, upon reaching our right flank, turned it and poured in a heavy cross-fire on the extreme wing, the Chao Yung and Yang Wei receiving the most of it. From the first these two old-fashioned cruisers were doomed. Two passageways in each superstructure connected the bow and stern 10-inch guns, on the outboard side of each being officers’ quarters, etc., the partitions and bulkheads being of wood highly varnished and oiled. The vessels were early set on fire, and the draft down these passageways at once turned them into alleys of roaring flame. The machine-guns overhead were thus rendered useless, the deck being untenable, and the bow and stern guns were isolated from each other and from their magazines. As a forlorn hope, the ill-fated vessels made for the nearest land. The Japanese armed transport Saikio, seeing their plight and intention, made for them; whereupon the Chinese ironclads fired a few shots at her at long range, making fair practice; for, according to Japanese report, she received at least four 30.5-centimeter projectiles. Then the Ping Yuen and Kwang Ping, with the two torpedo-boats that had been inside the Yalu River at the beginning of the engagement, came up and headed for her, and her amiable intentions toward the burning vessels were frustrated. By this time the Flying Squadron had altered course sixteen points (180°) to port, and were returning, evidently to succor the Akagi, which was in a sad plight, having pluckily engaged us at pretty close range, and was now steering wildly, her mainmast gone, her commander, and a considerable number of her crew killed, and her battery disabled.

We had now (about 2 P.M.) six vessels, viz.: the Ting Yuen, Chen Yuen, King Yuen, Lai Yuen, Chih Yuen, and Kung Yuen, -- the Ping Yuen and Kwang Ping not yet having joined us. The flagship Matsushima, leading the Principal Squadron, had now reached our right wing, and, flanking it, steamed down again on the opposite course. The Hiyei, the last of the Principal Squadron, was now almost ahead of the Ting Yuen, having been engaged by the Chih Yuen on our flagship’s left. Her distance from her next in line ahead was increasing, and her captain, presumably seeing that his slow old ship could not keep up with the rest, and, being already on fire, fearing to continue on and receive the fire of both ironclads and of the King Yuen, Lai Yuen, and Ching Yuen, boldly decided to make a short cut between the two ironclads and rejoin his comrades on the other side. This was splendidly done. As his ship passed between our two big ships we fired into her point-blank. It was impossible to miss, and flying material showed that we did not. The smoke increased in volume and rolled up from the Hiyei’s quarter-deck and poop as high as the mizzentop, the ship yawing wildly at the same time. We considered her "done for" — as doubtless she would have been had we used shell — one shot, for instance, passing diagonally through the ship from one bow to the opposite quarter, doing various minor damages. Had it been a live shell the result may be imagined.

From this time, I regret to say, the Chinese formation was broken into an irregular group. Bearing down on the one hand were the ships of the Principal Squadron, "in line ahead," keeping perfect station, while on the opposite side were those of the Flying Squadron. We were thus between two fires. As the Principal Squadron turned and altered course, the two Chinese ironclads turned also, keeping bows on to their van, the Chen Yuen preserving her station and distance from the flagship, as indeed she continued to do throughout the battle. The Japanese willingly bear witness that the two ironclads preserved their formation, and that the Chen Yuen by her movements and gun practice covered the Ting Yuen when in straits, and in fact prevented the fleet from suffering annihilation instead of its actual heavy loss. The Principal Squadron now seemed to ignore the four smaller Chinese vessels, and its five ships steamed around our two ironclads, pouring in a storm of shell. Time and again fires broke out, but, with one notable exception, the flames were subdued without much trouble. Some of the enemy’s ships used melinite shells, the noxious fumes from which could at once be distinguished from those of powder. One ship, for a time, practiced "broadside firing by director"— i.e., each gun is laid by its crew on the object, and the entire battery, joined in one electric circuit, is fired by pressing a key. This system, though doubtless hard on the structure of the ship using it, was most effective — the result of so many shot striking at once, and producing perhaps several fires, being very annoying.

During the confusion of our line consequent upon being out-maneuvered, the Chen Yuen passed under our stern and joined the Lai Yuen and surviving ships of the right wing. The Ping Yuen and Kwang Ping, now coming up, threatened the Akagi and Saikio. Signals were made on the Matsushima, and the Flying Squadron maneuvered to cover the endangered vessels. About this time the Chih Yuen boldly, if somewhat foolhardily, bore down on the Flying Squadron’s line, possibly to attack the two mentioned vessels. Just what happened no one seems to know, but apparently she was struck below the waterline by a heavy shell — either a ten-inch or a thirteen-inch. Be that as it may, she took a heavy list, and, thus fatally injured, her commander, Tang Shi Chang, a most courageous albeit somewhat obstinate officer, resolved at least to avenge himself and charged one of the largest vessels, intending to ram. A hurricane of projectiles from both heavy and machine guns swept down upon his ship, the list became more pronounced, and just before getting home to his intended victim his ship rolled over and then plunged, bows first, into the depths, righting herself as she sank, her screws whirling in the air and carrying down all hands, including the chief engineer, Mr. Purvis, a gentleman and a most efficient officer, who was shut up in the engine room. Seven of her crew clung to one of the circular life-buoys kept on the bridge, and were drifted by the tide toward the coast, where they were rescued by a junk. The stories of these men vary so much in general as to be unreliable, but all agree on one incident. Captain Tang had a large dog of a most vicious temper, unruly at times even with his master. After the ship sank Captain Tang, who could not swim, managed to get to an oar or some small piece of wood — enough to have supported him had not his dog swum to him, and, climbing up on him, forced him to release his grasp and thus miserably drown, the brute sharing his fate — perhaps the only case on record of a man drowned by his dog.

As the Principal Squadron circled around us, the range varied from 2800 meters (nearly two miles) to perhaps 1000, at times even less. At about three o’clock the Matsushima closed upon the Chen Yuen to about 1700 meters, and we fired at her, from one of our 12.2-inch guns, a steel shell of 5 calibers (5x12.2-inches) length, having a bursting-charge of nearly ninety pounds of powder. The Japanese flagship was struck by this missile, and as a burst of flame arose from her, followed by a great cloud of white smoke, hiding her entirely from view, our gun’s crew yelled their satisfaction. This shell indeed wrought frightful havoc. From the Japanese report it totally disabled the big i3-inch Canet gun and swept the decks. Several charges of powder for this gun had been massed on deck, and these, exploding, gave the gunners a true "hoist with their own petard." By this one shell forty-nine officers and men were instantly killed, and over fifty wounded; the gunnery lieutenant was blown into the sea, his cap and telescope being all trace of him ever found on the ship.

Soon afterward the Principal Squadron withdrew toward the southeast, seemingly having had enough of fighting. Our two ironclads followed them, firing. When they had gone a distance of two or three miles the Principal Squadron turned, and, circling about us, poured in perhaps the most destructive fire we received during the day. We had now used up all of our 6-inch ammunition, having fired 148 projectiles of that caliber. There were left for the 12-inch guns (one of which was disabled) only some 25 steel shot, and no shell. The Ting Yuen was in a similar plight. In half an hour we would have none left, and be at the mercy of the enemy; for to ram agile, well-handled ships of 17½ knots speed with our slower ships was out of the question. We fired carefully, but having no shell, comparatively little damage was done. It was now nearly five o’clock. After about a half-hour’s cannonade the enemy again with- drew, we firing our last shot at them, save three left in the guns for the last moment. This withdrawal at about 5:30 P.M. has always been a mystery. It would seem that the Japanese could scarcely help noting that our bow and stern 6-inch guns were silent, and that our fire was slowly delivered from the barbettes. Had they stayed with us a quarter of an hour more, our guns would have been silent and the ships defenseless. The enemy apparently were not in want of ammunition, as their firing up to the last had been animated.

We now turned back and gathered up the surviving ships of the fleet. These vessels had fared badly at the hands of the Flying Squadron. After covering the Saikio, Hiyei, and Akagi, the van bore down on the King Yuen, which had been burning for some time, and the Yoshino with her next astern engaged the King Yuen at close range (less than 2000 meters). A heavy fire from the Yoshino’s three 6-inch quick-firing bow guns told upon her with terrible effect. One after another of the 100-pound shells tore up her sides, and after yawing about wildly, as if her steering gear was useless, she burst into flame and sank.

During this time the three crippled Japanese vessels had withdrawn toward Ping Yang. After the sinking of the King Yuen, the Flying Squadron were recalled by signal from the Principal Squadron, else the Lai Yuen and others could hardly have escaped destruction, since the ironclads, having no more ammunition, could not have succored them. As the sun was setting the Ting Yuen, with the battered Chen Yuen, the Lai Yuen (still desperately fighting the flames that threatened to devour her), the Ching Yuen, Ping Yuen, and Kwang Ping, set course for Port Arthur. As darkness set in the flames from the still burning Chao Yung showed luridly across the moonlit sea. The Japanese Principal Squadron of five vessels kept in sight on our port beam until darkness set in, but made no effort to reengage. In fact, both fleets had fought themselves to a standstill.

The question is often asked, Why did the Japanese win? I reply, because the Japanese had better ships, more of them, better and larger supplies of ammunition, better officers, and as good men. As to the practice, it was on both sides bad; but, as the Japanese have admitted, the Chinese excelled. The Japanese percentage of hits (excluding 6-pounder and lighter projectiles) was about twelve; the Chinese perhaps twenty. But the latter had only three quick-firing guns in action — viz., the Kwang Ping’s 50-pounders. An enormous number of projectiles could have been fired by the enemy. It must not be forgotten that the Japanese had twelve ships against our eight, as the Tsi Yuen and Kwan Chia ran away almost without having fired a shot, while the Chao Yung and Yang Wei were in flames before they had time to do much more.

Admitting freely and heartily the courage of the Japanese crews and the dash of their commanders, I must also say a word for the despised Chinese sailor. The Japanese stood to their guns throughout; but their decks were not almost continuously swept by a storm of missiles, as were those of the Chinese. Had they been, it would have made no difference, I am sure. But owing to our paucity of ships and guns, especially quick-firing guns, they were not often so tried; while on the two ironclads, at least, a shower of missiles searched the upper works almost continuously, yet the men fought on, as a few incidents will show.

The captain of one of the 12-inch guns, while training or laying it, lanyard in hand, had his head dashed, off its fragments striking those about him. As he toppled over, a man on the step below caught his body around the waist, passed it down into the arms of those below, and, catching the lanyard from his stiffening grasp, took his place, corrected the aim, and fired.

A brother of the Chen Yuen’s gunnery lieutenant, a mere lad, had been taken by his brother on board for this cruise, as a change from his home at Wei-Hai-Wei. When the action began the lad took up a station on the barbette, in rear of the guns, eagerly taking the sponge or rammer from the men using them, and passing them back as required, making himself generally useful in whatever way his small body permitted. When his brother (Lieutenant Tsao Kai Cheong) was wounded, he helped pass him below, and after seeing rum bandaged up returned to his work till the fight was over. Wonderful to say, he escaped without a scratch, being probably the only unwounded one of those who had been in the barbette from the first.

About the middle of the fight the Lai Yuen caught fire aft, and burned fiercely. The broadside guns could not be manned, being surrounded by flames; but the bow guns were worked steadily, while the crew persistently fought the flames on the quarterdeck. Below, in the engine rooms, with the ventilators stopped on account of fire overhead, and, in darkness, receiving orders only by voice-tube transmitted from the deck through the stoke-hole, the engineers stood to their duty, hour after hour, in a temperature bordering on 200°. After several hours the fire was extinguished; but these brave men were in several cases blinded for life, and in every instance horribly burned and disfigured. There was no surgeon on board, and until Port Arthur was reached they suffered terribly. Many such incidents could be cited did space permit.

When the Chen Yuen was desperately on fire in the forecastle, and a call was made for volunteers to accompany an officer to extinguish it, although the gunfire from three Japanese ships was sweeping the place in question, men responded heartily, and went to what seemed to them almost certain death. Not one came back unscathed. No, these men were not cowards. There were cowards present, as there have been on every battlefield; but here, as elsewhere, there were brave men to detest them.

The battle being over, there was time to look about, and indeed the ships were found to be in a sorry plight. On the Chen Yuen there had long been no sign of life in the military foretop, where five men and an officer had been stationed, the former to work the two 1-pounder Hotchkiss guns, and the latter to find the enemy’s range. Two gaping holes in the top gave an ominous meaning to the silence, and on investigation it was found that a shell had penetrated and had killed every one of the six. [Pictures of Chen Yuen in dock and closeup of damage].

A curious accident saved the crew of the bow 6-inch Krupp gun. Twenty-four rounds had been fired when, upon opening the breech to load for the twenty-fifth, the guard-chain that prevents the breech-block from coming all the way out became unhooked and the steel block was pulled out and fell on the side of the carriage, breaking a locking-screw and totally disabling the gun. The crew, their occupation gone, came into the barbette and asked for orders. They were needed to fill vacancies at the 12-inch guns, and were at once stationed. Scarcely had they reached the barbette when a 10-inch shell entered beneath the gun which they had just left, and, exploding, rattled fragments about inside the shield like dice in a box. Afterward other shell penetrated and burst in the shield. Had the crew been there, not one would have escaped.

It is safe to say that the damage done to the Japanese vessels far exceeded their statements of it. As they patched up their vessels as well and speedily as they could, putting painted canvas over shot-holes, and wisely avoided the exhibition to foreigners of their most serious injuries, the relative amount of damage is misunderstood. The Chinese, on the other hand, from the first allowed many visitors to examine and visit their ships while at Port Arthur under repairs. For weeks the ships lay in the steam-basin, each gun dressed with a band or scarf of red bunting around its muzzle (a ceremony having some religious significance), all but the craven Tsi Yuen, which lay in the western basin, apart from all the others, in disgrace.

The Japanese claim a victory at the Yalu, and with justice. But with the going down of the sun on that day seemed to disappear the ease with which they broke our formation in the early afternoon. As has been said, no attempt was made to renew the battle during the night. Four of the torpedo-boats, which (from the reports of the Japanese) seemed such a bugbear to them, never left the river; and it is hard to believe that so dashing a commander as Admiral Ito would have allowed the two boats with us to frighten him. They say that, imagining us to be bound for Wei-Hai-Wei, they kept, as they considered, a parallel course, intending to renew battle and oppose our entering the harbor in the morning. But why, in the name of common sense, should we have gone to Wei-Hai-Wei, which is over eighty miles farther than Port Arthur, and had no docking facilities, nor any place where ships could be repaired, save a small yard for trifling damages, while Port Arthur, on the other hand, possessed ample facilities for repair, and abundant stores? Moreover, the course we steered — direct for Port Arthur, even before dark—should have indicated to the enemy our destination. Perhaps they were in little better condition for fighting than ourselves. The next morning a Japanese squadron from Ping Yang, which probably had not been in the battle of the day before, reconnoitered the field of battle, and, like a kick administered to a dead animal, exploded a torpedo against the stranded, fire-gutted wreck of what had been the Yang Wei. No attempt whatever was made on the transports, the four gunboats, and the four torpedo-boats up the river, which, some five days later, arrived safe at Port Arthur and Taku.

As may be imagined, a study of the battle teems with lessons to the naval architect and the seaman. It established the value of high-power rapid-firing guns of 4.7-inch caliber and upward, and the destructive effect of shells with large bursters. The value of quick-firing guns smaller than the 3-pounder is questionable, little if any damage being done by such guns. In the opinion of the writer, they have no place on any ship of war except torpedo-vessels.

On the other hand, with regard to the ships’ defensive armament, superiority may be claimed for the Chinese ironclads. These vessels were struck both on the 14-inch belt and the 10-inch conning tower by dozens of armor-piercing projectiles from the enemy’s 13-inch Canet guns (for which thirty inches of penetration is claimed), as well as from their 10-inch Armstrong guns and from smaller guns, but not a single shot penetrated more than four inches. With this success for thick armor comes the failure of minor steel protection. The gun shields and conning towers of one and two inches of steel were simply man-traps. As I have said, by removing the shields from the heavy guns on the two ironclads many lives were saved. At 3000 meters’ range, on July 25, the Tsi Yuen’s conning tower was pierced from side to side by a 4.7-inch projectile, shattering its inmates into a shapeless mass. The need of a protection of four inches at least, or none, would seem to be the lesson taught.

The important part played by fire in this action is well known. The convenient disposition and protection of fire hose in battle are shown to be imperative. On the Chen Yuen the ship’s life was several times saved by the fact that the lines of hose were coupled up and the fire-pumps were working continually. Thus ready, our fires were extinguished, as a rule, before they had attained large proportions, which, in action, they do in a marvelously short time. Every line of hose, however, was cut by shot through and through before the close of the battle.

Another question introduced by our experiences is, What should be the situation of the conning tower? Between, rising above, and dominating the two barbettes in which lay the ship’s main battery, that on the Chen Yuen was struck by many projectiles, which, breaking up or bursting, rebounded into the gun-pits in a deadly shower. Two thirds of the casualties at these guns were caused by rebounding missiles.

From the beginning nearly all the signal halyards were shot or burned away. The Chen Yuen’s were nearly all gone, and she entered Port Arthur next day with a small riddled ensign flying from the starboard signal yardarm on the foremast. There should be an armored place for signalmen in full view of the conning tower, from which signal numbers could be shown, chalked on a slate for example; and its signal halyards should be rove up part of the way through the steel mast.

There has been considerable misapprehension of the part taken in this engagement by torpedo-boats. The Foo Lung, the larger of the two torpedo-boats which took part in the action, was commanded by Captain Choy, a gallant and capable officer, educated in America. According to his report the Foo Lung, following the Ping Yuen, Kwang Ping, and Tso Yih into action, came up with the Kwang Ping a little after two. Captain Choy says:

Five of the Japanese were seen going in line ahead, being hotly engaged with our Ting Yuen and Chen Yuen. . . . They were five or six miles from us. Other clouds of smoke were seen farther to the westward. . . . We then made for the Japanese ships which separated us from our fleet, and when about 3000 yards off the Ping Yuen opened fire, . . . and seemed to hit one of the larger Japanese ships. . . . Presently the Kwang Ping opened fire also. . . . At this time the Chen Yuen hit a Japanese ship, which was immediately covered with white smoke, and could not be seen afterward. She was burning all ablaze. . . . At this time a Japanese armed transport was seen ahead, cutting across our bow, and seemed to be heading for one of our ships [the Yang Wei], which was ashore, burning W.S.W. of Ta Lu Tau. The Kwang Ping opened fire. The transport replied to the fire. The Foo Lung then steered direct toward the transport, and at about 400 yards one torpedo was fired at her, but it deviated toward the right, the Japanese also steering to avoid the missile. A second torpedo was fired, and passed her side about fifteen feet. . . The Hotchkiss guns and Gatling guns were fired at her, she firing at us at the same time, . . . all the shots passing over our heads. . . . We ported the helm and passed her on our port side about thirty or fifty yards off, and fired the broadside torpedo at her, but it passed under her. She then steered southward, trying to join the Japanese fleet. It was now between 3:30 and 4:00 P.M.

All the Foo Lung’s torpedoes were now fired. The probable explanation of the firing under the Saikio’s bottom is that the torpedo-boat listed over in answering her helm, thereby pointing the broadside torpedo downward. The Tso Yih had also tried to use her torpedoes, but leaked so that it was easy for the enemy to avoid her.

China’s fleet is now a thing of the past, and many gallant men have perished with it, striving vainly to save their country’s credit, with fate against them, and handicapped by corruption, treachery, and incompetence on shore. Chief among those who have died for their country is Admiral Ting Ju Chang, a gallant soldier and true gentleman. Betrayed by his countrymen, fighting against odds, almost his last official act was to stipulate for the lives of his officers and men. His own he scorned to save, well knowing that his ungrateful country would prove less merciful than his honorable foe. Bitter, indeed, must have been the reflections of the old wounded hero, in that midnight hour, as he drank the poisoned cup that was to give him rest.

Philo N. McGiffin

[1] In the engagement of July 25, a Japanese shell with base fuse, fired at long range, had plumped down on top of a similar shield of the Tsi Yuen (covering the two heavy how guns), near the rear part of it, and had burst, the point going out through the side of the shield, while the remainder of the shell, in fragments, had hurtled about inside, killing seven, including the gunnery lieutenant, and wounding fourteen, thus disabling every one of the crew inside at the time. Had the shield been removed, this shell would have gone clear.

I will have something to say about this article and the "fictional" conclusions the ATL United States Navy will have to draw in 1896 as it prepares for War with Spain, with its poor choices and defective equipment it has on hand. That will be part of Captain McGiffin's lecture at the United States Naval War College as he explains his experiences and what he recommends the Americans do.

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In response to a post in the Alternate Warships Thread... Kind of forced my hand here.


Good idea. Would it be an even better idea to buy from the Americans ITTL? When did they catch up with the major Europeans manufacturers?

If the Russo-Japanese War is any guide, from a material point of view... She was the BEST of the Russian battleships. The Americans had met at least French technological naval parity by 1895.

The best of the Russian cruisers of the era... was also built by Cramp and Sons.

About the RTL Chinese imperial navy. They deserve far better than history has treated them. And I will put in a plug for Captain Philo Norton McGiffin.

I would say that if the Chinese had trained under Americans and used American built equipment assuming they started in 1885, they would have done "marginally" better in 1894. The Chinese Qing government had a decent admiral in Ding Ruachang, BUT the corruption of the Beijing court and the Dowager Empress, hampered the intensely patriotic Beiyang Fleet. There is nothing wrong with that patriotism or the basic training of the Chinese sailors at the Battle of the Yalu. Some of the GUTLESS and incompetent political appointee Dowager Empress favorites who commanded "prestige" captaincies in the Beiyang fleet, turned coward and ran, taking their ships with them and deserting their posts in battle. The Japanese admiral, Yukesuke, seizing his momentary advantage, mishandled his line, while his subordinate, Itoh, with the fast squadron crushed the Chinese right wing of Ruachang's line. Bad advice from a cashiered RN lieutenant commander and a Prussian landlubber caused Ruachang (Prussian Army Major Constantin von Hanneken, Qing government appointed adviser to Admiral Ding Ruachang and W. F. Tyler, the British incompetent.) caused Ruachang to adopt the beam advance instead of the line of battle; and of course, the American Philo Norton McGiffin, who is the one westerner, the Chinese still recognize with favor, is the one who rallies the Beiyang Fleet around his frankly heroic stand in the Jingyuan (appointed as co-commander) a ship where he is flash burned by a shell explosion and BOILED over half his body surface area and rendered blind so he has to use a Chinese gunner's mate as his eyes and voice. He takes sole command of the battleship, when the Jingyuan captain is rendered useless by the same shell explosion that burns him, and gets them, the Chinese fleet, out of what should have been a battle of annihilation by co-opting command from Ruachang, next ship over, and using both battleships to fight a retreating rear guard action that in conjunction with a botched late Chinese torpedo boat attack almost retrieves the disaster into more of a draw. The shot up IJN claims victory then because the equally battered Chinese retreated under orders; not because of any push the Japanese gave them. It was a melee and a mess.

I think McGiffin might be a "minor" spiritual father to the MODERN People's Liberation Army Navy. The Chinese made a movie about Yalu that features him prominently for Mao's sake! He is the archetypal western instructor at the Chinese Naval Academy in the late 1880s and early 1890s in that film who keeps spouting MAHAN at his Chinese students. As a matter of record, Alfred Thayer Mahan and Philo Norton McGiffin never met each other as peers (McGiffin became a Chinese ADMIRAL after Yalu), and I doubt McGiffin ever was taught by the great American strategist. So, McGiffin went to China as a contract instructor (1885 as an ENSIGN) with US Civil War Union Navy lessons learned. Somehow he used his US Naval Academy training, crossed a language barrier, a cultural barrier and the blatant irredentist western racism of the age and made one hello of a favorable impression on the Chinese. John Paul Jones is actually far too much to assert, but David Dixon Porter for the Chinese? Yeah, that is about right.

I will promise this gets explained when Philo Norton McGiffin gives his famous speech at the USNWC.
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Caught up and wanting more.

Very interesting combination or RTL history and the lead up for more action.
Lessons in Dispute. (Oh, Murphy! Philo Norton McGiffin is going to Lecture.)
I will admit even with its faults mine is obviously still using to much hindsight for your date with twins off centerline etc and is more a AC from 1900 than your pre pre dred battleship.

I just question many of the systems on your top views, basically why so many main guns (very big) on a pre dread?

My battleship ( bit more pre dread than pre pre dread or semi dread) to go with my AC/CL
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1. It was a "gamepiece", not to scale, just to give a visual referent for firing arcs and layouts.
2. Brandenburgs.

More to scale.

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Lessons in Dispute. (Oh, Murphy! Philo Norton McGiffin is going to Lecture.)

Philo Norton McGiffin's (fictional) naval address to the graduating class of

Greetings to the graduating class of 1896. To Admiral Montgomery Sicard, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, Captain Crowninshield, Mr. Secretary Hilary A. Herbert

There was in 1885 a serious debate among the naval theoreticians of our day about how future naval fighting should or would work. The only examples we had, for how such tactics could be applied, as the change over from pure sailing ships to steam power occurs, was the examples of ancient classical period naval warfare, which emphaized beam attacks using the whole ship as a battering ram to punch holes into the side of the enemy to sink him. These are the tactics of, Salamis, Actium and Lepanto. which have been of recent resurrection in the world's naval institutes of higher learning, very much one can see, as the result of recent battles fought in our own American war between the states, particularly at Hampton Roads, in the river fights at Memphis and Port Royal and the fights at Mobile Bay and Charleston, between Confederate rams and our own Monitors.

There had been additional fighting between what were essentially steam engine powered ironclads and rams in the South Pacific naval war among Peru, Chile and Bolivia, and perhaps the most important, the battle between the Austro Hungarians and the italians at Lissa in 1866. In each of these encounters, guns proved very ineffectual and armor made it seem that the only provable method for naval decision was to use the ram to sink an opponent.

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So has the state of affairs stood until the Battle of Haiyang Island of two years ago. This battle has been the subject of some considerable controversy as unlike the previous battles it has shown us that the prominence of ramming was, as we in this Navy have suspected for some time, an error and a false lesson. Nevertheless, i am not convinced that we are learning the correct lessons from this battle and I should know, because I fought in it, on the losing side.

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What lessons did I learn? Never take advice from a German army officer or a cashiered British Royal Navy officer on how to conduct a naval battle. (Laughter from audience.)

But seriously, I can summarize these lessons in ten points.

1. Ramming formations, such as the wedge and line abreast in advance to contact is a foredoomed defeat. If nothing else, it halves the gunpower that your fleet can bring to bear.
2. Speed equals initiative. The faster fleet can dictate the range and either accept or refuse battle at will. This replaces the weather gauge as to that purpose of initiative.
3. One cannot sit and wait for the enemy to come to him. One must impose battle immediately, violently and closely if one can.
4. Armor is no longer a general defense against gunfire and explosive shells. Medium caliber guns with modern propellants can throw shells hard enough to pierce all but the thickest. and I mean, thickest armor. Therefore if one uses armor at all, it must be thick and protect the most vital ship areas such as magazines and engines and the helm and the communications between helm and steerage.
5. A fleet must have one guiding will. There can be no division of opinion as was among Prussian Army Major Constantin von Hanneken, the cashiered and incompetent Lieutenant Rufus V. Tyler of the Royal Navy, who was serving his Majesty's Government as a customs officer at Liachou before he was nominated to be Admiral Ruchang's assistant and me. I tell you truthfully, that Hanneken was the imbecile who through force of his personality overawed Tyler and convinced him to second the replay of Admiral Tegethof's tactics as used at Lissa twenty eight years before. Two votes to one, Ruchang listened to those fools and would not hear me out at all. I can still remember that fat Prussian bastard's words...

Here... Philo Norton McGiffin puts his hand up to his fire scarred face and points to his half burned off left ear. "Wenn wir die Keilformation verwenden, werden wir ihre Kampflinie brechen und rammen und sie mit fauler Leichtigkeit versenken. Sie werden in Panik verfallen und laufen wie die Japanischen Feiglinge, die sie sind." ("If we use the wedge formation we will break their line of battle and ram and sink them with lazy ease. They will panic and run like the Japanese cowards they are.")

"You can see how that advice and the battle confusion it caused turned out". McGiffin points to his own scarred face again.

6. A fleet must have courageous captains in command of all of its ships. Our navy's General Order Number Six, which some consider obsolete, which is "Failure to lay into the enemy by any commanding officer or sailor in time of war is to met with immediate summary execution by next senior rank present and that second shall immediately assume the position of duty and responsibility and attack." is a necessity against the kind of cowardice that saw the Chinese left flank of the wedge desert the line of battle when I finally convinced my captain to form it, after Ruchang lost command of the fight. That desertion uncovered the center of our line to massed Japanese attack and made it impossible for us to sustain the action in parallel order.
7. The whole fleet must be armed, trained, and equipped for war always for no mere show of a navy can fight successfully when the enemy comes to make war for real. It is no fiction for me to say that the Dowager Empress used the monies her subjects gave her to build a navy to protect China; decided to instead create a lascivious and hedonistic lifestyle for her sycophants, lovers and herself. Corruption explains why we went to sea with pressed men instead of trained career sailors, sawdust filled training shells instead of live war-shots, defective and unrepaired, gaudy painted pleasure yachts, plated with mild steel instead of modern armored vessels equipped for true battle.
8. The right decision, for what kind of a fight one wants to wage, is vital to the kind of ships one procures or builds for oneself. The Beiyang fleet, if Li Hongzhang had his way, would have been built around a core of six such ships as the Chinese ironclad Dingyuan. Such a squadron, with several gunboats such as the Chinese cruiser Jiyuan would have given Admiral Itō Sukeyuki more than he could handle and would have decided the issue completely in favor of the parallel order fight, for what other kind of fight is there but the line of battle for the line of battle ship?
9. The fight must include the seemingly insignificant details. Fire brigades and repair parties must know where to go and what to do when the damage begins. The fleet that can handle battle damage and repair it while still fighting is the one that wins. I was amazed to see the Chokai driven off, listing and with serious topside fires, and yet an hour later she was back at us, fighting with renewed vigor. That is the mark of a ship, nay a fleet prepared for war to the utmost.
10. The arguments about big guns, medium guns, and small guns and even the torpedo is as far as I am concerned settled. We must have all of them in balanced numbers aboard our ships to make the naval fight, for each has its place based primarily on range and in circumstance of use. The big gun because it is slow firing and harder to aim between shots is to me, not a long range weapon as is supposed and misused. It is for close work and is best employed for sudden massive damage. The medium guns in sufficient numbers is for the ranged work, as a steady barrage fire can smash upper works, superstructure and start the greatest sinker of ships today... fires. The small rapid fire guns sweep decks and kill exposed ship's crews; which is why contrary to some so-called experts maintain; I do see the need for protective cover in the forms of shields and gun-houses and armored pilot houses for working crew in those positions. The torpedo remains the only weapon that guarantees a sinking. Hulls are most vulnerable below the water line and after all... our job is to let water into an enemy ship so he no longer floats.

End of Part 1.
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Lessons in Dispute. (Oh, Murphy! Philo Norton McGiffin is going to Lecture.)
Part 2. Philo Norton McGiffin’s Further Remarks

I have some additional remarks to make about these lessons that I bring to your attention.

The large bore diameter and caliber naval guns from my recent experience takes many minutes, of two to five minutes depending on the gun, the gun crew and the type gun breech mechanism and hoist systems to get off one shot per barrel. This reaches the condition of the absurd as it proved out to the Japanese and to me, that they could only fire their Schneider Canet 32.0cm/40s once every 25 minutes. At the battle of Haiyang Island this meant the Matsushima, Itsukushima and Hashidate among them was only able to get off a total of ten aimed shots from their ship-smashing 12.6 inch guns during that six hour long battle.

It is curious to me that the Imperial Japanese Navy after that battle and that war, decided that they should immediately shop around to have the Matsushimas radically rebuilt along with the two battleships they captured from my former patrons.

At this point McGiffin turns from the lectern and points at the models of the Matsushima and Zhenyuen behind him.

As you can see, the rebuilds



The changes they are having made for their Matsushimas at Cramp and Sons and to the Zhenyuens seem to indicate that the Japanese have rejected the French Jeune Ecole school and Emile Bertin who recently left Japan to return to France, at about the same time that our Philadelphia shipyards received their ships to alter. All five of those ships, as can be seen behind me in the models from Cramp snd Sons, will follow the same basic pattern layout, a forward turret of two large boy guns and a secondary battery of broadside medium caliber casemate guns o. This shows to me a new paradigm shift in how the Japanese see steam engine powered ships can be used for either the line of bearing or line ahead attacks that they used in the sea fights they waged against the Chinese.

I should remark that this choice for line of bearing attack retention option retained and of forward end on fire for the Zhenyuen or as the Japanese now call her, the Chi Nen is a choice that puzzles me since the Japanese in their fight off Haiyang Island showed a clear preference for classic line ahead naval gun-line tactics but I suppose the attempts by Tsuboi, of the fast squadron, to break the Chinese wedge, in frank imitation of his British tutors who probably used Nelson’s line breaking tactics of Trafalgar as the teaching model, could justify the retention of the forward fire at least insofar as the ship could weave from side to side to bring its large caliber guns to bear forward and shoot past the bow chaser guns…

(At this moment CAPT Crowninshield leans over in his seat and whispers loudly enough to Admiral Sicard seated next to him, to be overheard by anyone with ears, “I don’t think McGiffin understands that the Chi Nen was C and R modified to be a coast defense monitor and that the Cramp rebuild we have was more a result of them fixing what the Germans screwed up in their sectional flotation calculation, it being heavy forward, and with the existent gun layout of the rapid fire bow chaser and stern chaser guns. Sicard answers; “Shut up, Aaron, and pay attention to the important bits. The point McGiffin is about to make is that the Japanese are trying to solve the aim and shoot problem with slow firing big bore guns.”)

Ignoring the interruption, McGiffin, speaks on:

The replacement of the German Krupp guns with more modern versions is more understandable, in that the cycle rate of our current large bore guns are twice as fast as the 30.5 cm guns that originally equipped the Zhenyuen. I mean one aimed shot every three minutes is better than one shot every six minutes for a 30 cm gun. The Japanese used a Barr and Stroud telescopic aiming system for their guns which works well with rapid fire guns. The Chinese, I can attest from direct experience used Loudzhou ladder and bar ranging and stadia lead iron sights mounted to the gun barrel directly. This was little better than the Ericsson iron sights ADM Dupont’s monitor fleet used at Charleston. I am led to understand that as far as the rebuilds Cramp completes for the Japanese, the aiming methods and instruments will probably be entirely either French Loudzhou or British Vickers. Telescopic, local to the gun served and with a combined lead bearing correct and an azimuth range correct built into the telescopic sight. With such an aiming system, the need to shoot short and range the shots in by splash such as I saw the Japanese do at Haiyang Island means that rapid fire guns firing in battery and correcting by splashes seen will make any ranged shooting beyond 2,000 meters extremely difficult unless we can devise a means to correct for predicted shot fall after shells travel more than five seconds from the gun to the enemy ship or more than 3000 meters or two miles. The dispersion from a group of four rapid fire guns fired in near simultaneous volley at an enemy ship has a dispersion that remains fairly constant to one target ship length radius of oval fall in lead and about ½ of that radius in over and short out to about 8,000 meters consistent with our navy’s current slides and trunnions for our casemate gun mounts. For those of us who are not trained naval artillerists, this means that a 15 cm bore/40 caliber gun volley from one of our ships has only a 5% chance of one shell landing within a ship length of the target ship and that we must fire at least five aimed vollies of four shells each to obtain a certain hit at ranges greater than those 3.000 meters, and that I assure you is when we use deliberate aimed walking fire at four to six shots per minute.

I remark that Chinese shooting at Haiyang Island was about only one fourth of this effectiveness with iron sights, and that Japanese shooting was the same as ours with their telescopic sights, the Chinese achieving 1% hits with their rapid fire guns and nothing with their slow firing large bore guns. The Japanese did about three times as well with rapid fire guns and except for the one lucky shot from the Naniwa into the Dingyuan that rendered ADM Ruchang a casualty, achieved the equal of nothing with their large bore guns.

It should surprise no-one here present that I came home a year and a half ago with some decidedly mixed opinions about the Indianas that were designed six years ago and are only now being introduced into the fleet.

I was not convinced then that the choice to mount so many large bore/caliber guns in so many Ericsson type barbettes at the cost of fewer casemate mounted medium sized bore/caliber rapid fire guns in frank imitation of the German Brandenburgs was a good idea. I could see the placement of the armor belt over a longer length of hull becomes a problem, I could see the placement of the steam engines either next to the middle barbette or under it or after it with the attendant problems of running the steam lines from the boilers to the steam engines under or around the magazines from the fire rooms to the engine rooms would be a serious heat and fire and explosion hazard to the magazines and I did not see the solution to the extra-long drive shafts from the steam engines to the screws. I did not understand any of those mistakes before my experience at the Battle of Haiyang Island.

Then I obtained battle experience. (McGiffin points to his burned face again.). And I had to relearn some things about what our own navy thought it was and is doing with the Indianas, the controversial Birminghams, and the Olympias.

So…. What ls our navy’s thinking, and in light of recent experience, is it actually of any worth or are we pursuing the wrong lessons here?

Let me summarize... Let me summarize why the choices for our new steel navy were made;


ATL USS Maine, Source: McPherson.


ATL US and German pre-dreadnoughts; Source: McPherson

Accounts of the naval battles of our civil war include very detailed descriptions of how the gunners spotted the fall of shot when fighting ironclad against ironclad. One loader asked a master gunner during the battle of Memphis what told him he was scoring hits when he stopped adjusting elevation and lead on the Alabama. "I watch those splashes get nearer and nearer until I see them sparking and the flames shoot off, Then I know we are a hitting and then we pour it into them.”
3. If the our fathers and grandfathers are walking their fire from shorts into the Confederates with their Parrott guns; then what we understand what happens when they go to odds and evens as they did when Porter introduced that system during the Battle of Vicksburg when he engaged the Confederate river flotilla north of Port Hudson? The left barrels fire and then the right barrels per twin 12 inch bore guns mount in the Ericsson turrets on the Pascagoula monitors, and that each barrel takes four minutes time to cycle? One shot every two minutes from the turret using odds and evens? The ten inch Parrott guns on the turtleback Cairo ironclads also took three to four minutes to fire and they used odds and evens for those paired mounts, too. Now do you understand a proposed three turret designs for the modern new steel navy ships? Left and right, three shot groups per salvo per minute, walked into the target from our 30 cm. bore diameter guns?

As for the long drive shafts and the extended steam lines, those become non-issues if the steam engines with electric generators and fire rooms are collocated together with insulated steam lines and the power is transmitted as electricity to electric motors aft of the barbettes with the much shorter drive shafts to the screws. No heat or fire problem plagues us or at least less of one than I suspect the Germans have on their Brandenburgs. The disadvantage of the Indianas and the other ships, is or course the small fuel bunkerage, short endurance between coalings, the longer thinner belts and deck armor and the much larger size of our ships compared to the British and German equivalents. This is my understanding for what the Indianas are and why the choices were made. To decrease the time between salvoes of our large bore guns and to enable our gunners to use walking fire for those large bore guns to achieve better probability of hit rates with odds and evens than we could with simultaneous volley fire or single aimed shots as our competitors still do id the reason for those choices.

I am not sure that I agree with this thinking. It still does not solve the range or the time in flight or the dispersed fall of shot when the shells spend in air and spread apart after the six to ten seconds of fly-out. We want to hit the enemy at 5,000 to 8.000 meters with plunging shells into their deck, because of our thinner armor plate, not at 3,000 to 2,000 meters, where they can hit us as often as we can hit them . We want to hit them where they cannot hit us. At 2,000 meters they can Swiss cheese us through our belts and our shells in flat trajectories will bounce off their thicker belt plate.

Why is this so? That is another problem I encountered at the Battle of Haiyang Island. The Japanese guns had higher muzzle velocities and flatter trajectories than the Chinese guns since they used the new French nitro-cellulose propellants. The Chinese used black powder and our, er their, shells had average flyouts of 550 to 600 m/s. The parabola trajectories had greater miss percentages because of the shell fall left too much of a miss window at all ranges and had greater shell dispersion at the fall. The Chinese shell groups had greater spread and we, er... , they were not able to group the shell vollies coincident in time. The Japanese vollies were much tighter together in time and in proximity in the fall patterns. Hence when a volley did straddle the target the chances of a hit were about double for them as opposed to when a Chinese volley straddled.

As of now, our navy still uses brown powder (acorn-based) propellant, our guns throw their shells at a full 15% slower velocity than our likeliest adversaries and our shell vollies will still have the extended fly-out dispersion pattern problem the Chinese had. Therefore... We should have not traded the rapid fire casemate guns for the added third turret on our newest battleships and armored cruisers.

That is the message I bring to you, that we made a fundamental mistake, and I think we should figure out how to correct it before an enemy corrects it for us.
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Planning To Throw A Birthday Party

Now imagine it is 1898. Imagine you are the Chicanes, Teddy Roosevelt and George Dewey. Imagine you have a slush fund in case the balloon goes up with Spain and you eye the Philippine Islands? Imagine you realize the transit time round trip from California to the Philippine Islands is 60 days!

Imagine the same transit time is 14 days from Shanghai.

Imagine that Dewey realizes in his planning, that he needs marines, about 3,000 of them, to secure Cavite and Subic Bay, but he does not have enough lift to transport 3,000 of them to Hong Kong or to maintain the illusion that they are just "there" for grins and giggles.

But he can rent/buy ships and he can open recruiting stations in SHANGHAI about 90 days out to the start of hostilities which is about the RTL planning allotment of time he had.

Recruit Chinese nationals from the Shanghai area into the USMC and constitute them as regiments and set off for Manila Bay. Post war, the 4 regiments stick around as part of Mister Roosevelt's navy. There are your "Gur_k_Has".


Call them the 1-1st, 1-2nd, 1- 3rd, 1-4th of the 1st VMB. (dì yī gè měi jí huá rén lǚ) (第一个美籍华人旅).

Captain Ito Watanabe, (^^^) of His Imperial Japanese Majesty's Ship, Matsushima, will have something to say about this one.
Ito Learns About Modern Barbette Design
Ito Watanabe: Tourist In America.

Perhaps nothing reveals as much, objectively, about Gilded Age Imperialist America, as a foreign observer’s view of it. One does not mean the average Englishman or the average Frenchman or even the average German as he sojourns amongst the loi poloi of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Penguins his way down to the shipyards of Cramp and Sons from the Maxwell House to do his daily due diligence on such business as Hull Rebuilds 175, 176, 180, 184 and 188.

Curious are you, reader, about the five slipways and that very lucrative $2.5 million dollar contract, William Cramp landed from the customers of the crown administration?

Perhaps the reader knows Hull Rebuilds 175, 176, 180, 184 and 188 better as; the shot up and damaged Zhenyuang, Shenyuang, Matsushima, Akitsushima and Ikitsushima? Those are two A. G. Vulcan designed and built ex-Chinese battleships, and three Emile Bertin designed three armored cruisers that were sent a long way from Japan to have their defects remedied and their battle damage repaired. How can the Japanese pay for all this very expensive shipyard work?

The fact is that LTCDR Ito Watanabe is one of those many young Japanese tourists of the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s who go abroad to western nations receive a practical military and civil education by doing such mundane tasks, such as overseeing the naval construction contracts that Japan’s new Imperial Navy lets to those same foreign western imperialist naval constructors, as it builds up to defend Japan against those same rapacious predator states. Why is that, one might ask?

When one starts from a sixteenth century technology base and tries to shortcut a three century gap in science and engineering and industrialization, one must do desperate things. One of those things is to shop around for teachers and experts to show how to do what one does not how to do for oneself. Japan was not the only east Asian nation that sought this route as China and Thailand had attempted the same path, but there is one difference. The Japanese were prepared to “Westernize” and kowtow their culture to mimic the foreign devils in dress, attitude and method.


PHILADELPHIA 1896. Source "Famous Philadelphia Breweries" McP.

That explains the Penguin suit “Mister” Ito Watanabe wears as he struts the streets of Philadelphia and turns left into the main gate that fronts the fence to “William Cramp and Sons; Shipbuilders”.


The dog is named "Alfie". Wiki Commons. McP.

He meets a man, dressed in a checkered shirt, and faded blue jeans, whose half-burned scarred face and blind left eye were souvenirs, Ito’s ship, the HIJMS Matsushima (Dewa Shigetō commanding with Ito Watanabe as gunnery officer), “might” have left him one 24 September 1894. Ito, the alleged tourist, does not know this little factoid, but the man, who works in some strange unknown capacity at the shipyard, and who has been Watanabe’s liaison with the projects underweigh (PUN!) and who goes by the odd name of フィロ(Feo-lou), most assuredly does recognize a Japanese villain when he sees one.


Private Collection; Source: Sanger.

But both men have a job to do. Feo-lou must explain and show to Ito, this day, what Cramp and Sons; Shipbuilders, have accomplished after nine months of hard work and much money spent.

It is rather remarkable. The Americans have used the five rebuilds to experiment with new concepts and revise mistakes they think they find in the ships they were asked to repair and revise.

JMSDF source. Modified by McP.

Itsukushima class cruiser off the Virginia Capes, 1896 undergoing sea-trials.


At The Quayside Near Drydock Number Four.

At first glance, Ito Watanabe does not see much difference in the type of ship he served aboard. The main gun mount now has a squat gun-house cover that is domed like the modern Spanish armored cruiser he saw in New York last month March, and there are two shorter, presumably Armstrong eight inch bore diameter by forty caliber gun barrels sticking out forward from it mounted on the barbette shelter; where there was once a single twelve point six inch thirty seven caliber ship-wrecker Schneider-Canet gun.

Feo-lou jumped onto the long narrow dangerously fragile gangplank from quay to the ship and scurried across swaying with the plank, keeping his balance with such awkward ease like a Saki sauced Kabuki dancer with no care to how precarious the footing under him was.. Ito saw no safety lines or any guy ropes in evidence to keep the gangplank ends connected to quay or shipside. The gangplank bowed and swayed in three directions at once. Ito felt queasy just watching it shimmy under Feo-Lou’s dancing steps.

Feo-lou said; 漁夫怎麼了?怕你會掉進水裡?如果你有勇氣,交叉。(What is the matter fisherman? Afraid you might fall into the water? Cross, if you have the courage.).

Ito was no fool. 私は漁師ではなく、あなたは中国人ではありません。(I am no fisherman, and you are not a Chinese.), he said.


How a Canet gun actually worked on an Itkutishima class armored cruiser, similar to HMS Colossus (1882). McP.


It took about 20 minutes for Ito to come see what he wanted to see.

Why were circular turrets on early warships, like the USS Olympia, phased out?


Royal Navy barbette and gun house circa 1900.

(See the Quora citation for all source photos, McP.)

Summary: the turrets became hooded barbettes as vertical shell and powder hoists became possible and counter-mass recuperators replaced rigid mounts and solenoid and or hydraulic chain drive rams became compact enough and powerful enough to move five hundred kilogram shells and one hundred kilogram powder bags or case charges from car to gun barrel breech, which problems the Germans solved about 1890, the British solved about 1894, the French about 1896, and the Americans about 1898. In TTL, the Americans get there the same time as the Germans, because they see the plans to the Brandenburgs first before the British steal them from A.G. Vulcan.


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