THE GENERAL’S PET

Before Port Arthur, Sept. 27th.–Major-General Yamamoto was shot
and instantly killed two days ago. The brigade he commanded–one
leading the right wing of the Army–had captured the outworks of
“203.” This mountain had been long in dispute and was dominated by
certain Russian forts, which made it, while Japanese territory, yet
untenable by our forces. Yamamoto’s brigade, however, clung under
the reverse ridges and occupied trenches at the top, keeping the
foothold secure until artillery could be advanced to reduce the
opposing positions. In this critical situation the General thought
it best to be on the ground in person and advanced his headquarters
to the base of the mountain, which exists on the map only under
the figure “176,” denoting its height in meters, but which his
soldiers had cherished “Namicoyama,” because of its resemblance
to the trepang or namico, a long angular fish abundant in eastern
waters.

The night of the move Yamamoto climbed the mountain and crept
into the trenches for a look at the contested heights opposite.
He came before he was expected and his engineers had not had time
to prepare a bombproof shelter through whose chinks he could look
in safety. He would not wait, but put his glasses through a rift
in the trenches and settled into a comfortable seat to study the
situation. There was no regular firing, but only the desultory
popping that is heard night and day along the whole ten-mile front,
where sharp-eyed pickets are keen and cautious. The General became
bold, raised his head–whit–a bullet through his brain.

Neither officers nor men can be said to be reckless, or even
incautious. The army is devoid of that extravagance expected of
war, when each man’s courage seems in question and cowardice
impels bravado. Evidently, there is not a coward in the army,
for the bravery of each soldier and of each officer seems taken
for granted. All make of war a serious business, in which lives
are units to be kept for the Emperor and skillfully used, as
a go-player advances his pawns, saving all he can for final
victory. The labor done in a week to build cover would gather all
the harvests of Manchuria, which just now are mellow ripe and
gloriously beautiful in the keen sunlight. Whole mountains are
tunneled, in some places through solid rock; in others through
slanting shale, to afford covered ways. At each divisional
headquarters, of which the army has three, the lookout has two
bombproofs dug in the solid rock on commanding heights, buttressed
by three layers of sand bags, covered with two feet of earth,
all supported by poplar poles, with the loophole for lookout
cunningly slanted so the sun will not show behind and indicate to
the enemy–perhaps only 500 yards away–the precious eyes behind.
These bombproofs sometimes are made quite comfortable with rugs
and improvised stools, but mostly knees suffer and the wretched
correspondent traveling from post to post comes to complain not of
“writer’s cramp,” but of “general’s stoop.” A month ago on the left
wing of the army two staff officers were killed in a bombproof
by a bursting shell. The army was scared, for a staff officer is
valuable freight. Since then care has been redoubled; sand bags
have been laid a layer deeper on all lookouts, ramparts have been
heightened, and now venerable, curious heads sink lower as they
turn up for a view.

The death of the General, Yamamoto, was another warning. It
was also a severe blow. He was one of the most competent men
in the army, commanded a star brigade and was slated for early
advancement. Last night his memory received a most distinguished
honor: the corpse was cremated on the battlefield where he lost his
life.

To appreciate how great the honor was it will be necessary to
explain two conditions: First, wood on the peninsula here is worth
its weight in cash. The country is not wooded to begin with, which
is the cause of another difficulty the army has to face–scarcity
of water. About the villages there are usually a few poplars, but
the mountains have nothing but Scotch heather and the plains only
Ventura County bean pods and San Joaquin wheat fields. Then two
great armies have boiled water and savagely wrangled here for three
months, until all the rotten timber of old Manchurian dwellings
has gone for firewood. As a consequence a frequent sight is a
transport cart with some stubs of spruce tied to the whiffletree,
being carried from Dalny, twenty-two miles away. Dried maize stalks
are the universal fuel. Cracker boxes sell for a dollar apiece and
the other day I found my servant brushing the pencil whittlings
from the floor to use for kindling. Second, it was the samurai’s
belief that a warrior who sacrificed his life in combat should be
honored by cremation on the spot of his vicarious atonement. And
the difference between the army of to-day and a samurai clan of a
generation ago is far less than the difference between cuirass and
bombproof; you can’t wipe out the clinging beliefs of generations
in forty years–not in the Orient. It may take hyposcopes and
searchlights, wireless telegraphy and machine guns to win
victories, but only funeral pyres and Shinto sacrifices will pay
for them.

Wood-impoverished, the army cannot honor its humble dead; _i. e._,
not immediately; wait till Port Arthur falls–but of that later.
It is different with generals. As a daimyo in feudal times received
the forehair of all his clan as a final offering, so to-day a
general gone gets the camp fires of his soldiers. Last night the
brigade which had lost its intrepid head ate its rice dinner cold
and went without hot water for its tea. All the mess fires were
contributed to make a pyre worthy the deceased.

Just as the sun went down, at the bottom of Namicoyama, whose
heights war had swept but a day before, in sight and sound of the
grim proofs of his last victory–emplaced batteries and occupied
field hospitals–the body of the major-general was given to the
flames, while his men in the trenches above sternly held the
Russians at bay. Occasional cannon rent the air, infantry popping
cracked in the stillness, myriad tent lights twinkled up into the
moonlight; the blaze shot up, waned, crackled and died down. The
midnight shift of sentries presented silent arms. A donkey brayed
out of the valley. Miles to the left a howitzer boomed. The ocean
lay black like ink beyond a fringe of shore gray under the moon. A
line of coolies passed with bamboo stretchers carrying piteously
mangled forms–the day’s harvest to which the coolies had been
called from their maize and their millet. Embers gleamed from the
brigade’s mess fire. Two orderlies stepped up with a wooden box,
kicked the embers away, and placed in it some ashes.

A week hence a family in Tokyo–a quiet, dry-eyed Japanese lady
with two half-grown boys–will receive the wooden box. It will be
borne a few days later through the streets of the capital on a gun
carriage to Aoyama Cemetery. There, after two white-robed priests
have said a few words over it, a long shelf in a narrow vault will
receive the wooden box. The widow will have notification by special
messenger that his August Highness, the Emperor, sees fit to
remember the illustrious deeds of the departed by conferring upon
him–who is not dead, but who has passed on to wait–the order of
the Rising Sun, and, in the absence of the husband the wife will be
permitted to receive the pension attached thereto. Japanese history
will record that Major-General Yamamoto, after a valiant career
in the service of his Emperor, gave up his life at the Battle of
Namicoyama, in Manchuria, Sept. 24th, 1904.

Last night the brigade bivouacked in joyous envy. Had not its
general received what every soldier longs for–death before the
enemy; had he not also received the soldier’s apotheosis–cremation
on the scene of his exaltation? This is as near religion as these
people get. But the staff and the new major-general, educated
in Europe and living in the twentieth century, when they climb
Namicoyama to spy upon Port Arthur will wait until the engineers
have safe-marked the heights with bombproofs.

He was small, like all his race, and he looked as harmless as a
musician. In fact, his eyes had the dreaminess of a musician’s,
and the clasp of his hand was like that of a woman. He touched
me on the arm one day as I came out of the staff tent at General
Nogi’s headquarters, and asked me in fairly good English if I knew
San Francisco. Together, with a crooked stick, we traced out a
map of the city on the sand at our feet. He knew it as well as I
and he pointed to his former home, near the corner of Washington
and Mason streets. Then he pulled from his breast pocket a letter
sweat-stained and travel-worn, which, read:

“To whomever this may concern, I wish to say that the bearer,
George, is the most faithful servant I have ever had, that he is
a good cook, and that he has a lovely character. I will consider
it a favor to myself if his next employer treats him generously.

“MRS. H. L. HEVENER,

“1180 Mason Street

“San Francisco.”

His real name was Eijiro Nurimiya. He had seen me the day before at
the General’s tiffin and had read the word, “San Francisco,” on my
arm band, but had not ventured to speak to me when in the General’s
presence. He was one of Nogi’s bodyguard, and I immediately knew he
must be a man of some distinction, for throughout the camp it was
well understood that Nogi had about him only those private soldiers
who had become eminent for service in the field. That day and the
following days when Nurimiya came to my bean shed, we had long
talks over the tea and cakes. Thus his story is here set down:

He left the Hevener home nearly a year before the war began and
worked in a watchmaker’s shop on Jackson Street in San Francisco.
Like all of his countrymen he had ambition and desired to rise
above the kitchen. But he was a reserve conscript, subject, as such
reserves are, to the call of the Emperor at any crisis similar to
the one that his country is now in. So he responded to this call
March 23d, sailing on the _Korea_ from San Francisco to Kobe,
twenty miles from which his home lay in the Ugi Provinces.

His father, a mender of broken barrels, is separated from his
mother, who keeps a tea house in Kioto. There is one sister at the
tea house with his mother. He had three days with his parents,
the first time he had seen them in six years. Then he sailed for
Manchuria, where he joined the famous Ninth Regiment, the Black
Watch of Japan, a part of the Ninth Division of the Third Army
chosen to conduct the operations against Port Arthur. This same
regiment had a number of other American Japanese.

The campaign had progressed two months, when Nurimiya saw his first
great battle. It was the grand assault against the permanent forts
of Port Arthur, lasting through seven frightful August days. He is
one of the fifteen survivors of Company C of this Ninth Regiment,
which marched into the Seven Days’ Battle three hundred and fifty
strong.

The first day Nurimiya went with his comrades against the north
battery of the Cock’s Comb Fort, which was finally captured on
December 18th. Thus, it took the Japanese four months of desperate
work to accomplish that for which Nurimiya’s comrades were lost
those seven days in August. Most of the regiment was wiped out
in front of the Cock’s Comb. What was left, including Nurimiya,
was ordered to reinforce the Seventh Regiment, operating to the
right against the fort of the Eternal Dragon. Against the Cock’s
Comb Nurimiya fought in the front line. He also had the same
good fortune in the fight against the Eternal Dragon, for to the
Japanese such an opportunity is considered good fortune. More of
his comrades were lost here, including all that came from America.
The following two days he lay with a few others hugging the base of
the fort in the broiling sun, cut off from provisions. About this I
asked him:

“Were you thirsty?”

He replied: “By-m-by very much want to drink, so I make water–red
water.”

With that he struck his wrist mimically showing that he had slit
one of his veins to slake his thirst.

But the great act of Nurimiya’s life came on the 25th of August,
when he made the ninth assault he had participated in during the
seven days–and the first successful one. Each Japanese infantryman
carries in his breast a linen flag–a cheap affair that you might
pick up in a department store for a few pennies–a red sun on a
white field. The first man into an opposing trench or redoubt waves
this flag above his head. It is a signal to his own artillery,
showing them where they must not fire, and also acquaints the
commanding officer, viewing the action from some eminence in the
rear, with the situation. Nurimiya was the first man to wave his
little flag over the Eternal Dragon. The Eternal Dragon was the
only fort which the Japanese held in that permanent Russian line
through the three months of August, September and October, and it
was the object essential to the engineers in outlining their vast
siege operations across the plain. Thus it was the San Francisco
watchmaker who planted the flag of the Rising Sun on the key fort
at Port Arthur.

General Nogi chose Nurimiya and his fourteen comrades for body
servants and relieved them for the rest of the campaign from active
duty on the firing line.

This is how I found him at the General’s house. I asked if he
wanted to go back to America. He replied:

“War all finish I go. Nogi-San need me I stay.”

Then with great eagerness he told me how he wanted to get back into
the fight and for the first time in all our acquaintance his eyes
lost their dreaminess and the clasp of his hand became taut with
energy.

I did not tell him how I that morning had learned from the General
himself that never again should Nurimiya be subjected to the
supreme test.

“Is it not pleasant here at headquarters, with the band, and the
foreigners, and the nice cooking, and the easy work?” I asked.

He was not interested in what I said. He waved an indefinite arm
toward the front and replied:

“By-m-by they make plenty die off there. Then I go back.”

He had not yet learned that he was the General’s Pet.

Willow tree village, Headquarters Third Imperial Army, Manchuria,
four miles from Port Arthur, Oct. 5th:

It was in August that the Japanese took the Eternal Dragon,
advanced their outposts beyond its walls, threw up trenches, and
settled down this inch nearer the coveted goal. In this fearful
fight a certain part of the field was taken and retaken seven
times, and finally, for strategic reasons, though the fort which
was the bone of contention rested with the victors, a piece of dead
ground beyond, over which these repeated charges had occurred,
lay partly within the Russian lines and partly within our own.
Dead bodies mingled with wounded–Russians jowl by cheek with
Japanese–lay over it so thick that a man might have walked from
one trench to another without touching the earth. The wounded could
not be succored, the dead could not be buried except when they
lay behind the opposing trenches. Between, no living thing could
exist. The lines were but three hundred yards apart–a distance at
which even a poor marksman could shoot fatally, and through all the
twenty-four hours the two trenches were lined by sharpshooters a
rod apart and on the constant lookout.

The weather was perfect. By day the sun shone; by night the moon,
assisted by searchlights and star shells, kept the plain of death
as light as day. The light showed the loopholes of the trenches so
well that they could not be used, for the moment a shadow appeared
behind one a marksman from the other side would put a bullet
through it. The men sighted the hyposcope–an instrument first
used extensively at this siege–which is a telescope arranged with
mirrors at a reflex angle, so the scope goes over a wall while
the eye sees in perfect safety twelve inches below. At occasional
places, carefully shadowed, they kept chinks covered by stones,
which, when the sun sank to the proper angle, or at dawn, could be
uncovered to make a peephole large enough for a man’s eye.

Now for a month, under a torrid sun, unmarred by a day of rain
or scarce a fleck of cloud, hundreds of dead have lain rotting
in that compact space. A flag of truce to bury them was out of
the question. The Japanese had far the worst of it, as their
lines, drawn in a lunette, partly surrounded the charnel house
below which they lay, steeped in its noisome drains. Moreover,
in hastily throwing up their trenches the night of the battle,
corpses, loosely covered; had been used to improvise the walls,
so bodies and stones together formed a shelter which in life the
men thus commandeered could not have made. Well the Russians knew
of the disease the sun was breeding, and refused a truce, for the
dead played well into their hands. Stench could be a weapon more
effective than bullets or strategy. So, day after day they held the
Japanese there, as a dog’s nose is rubbed in his own mess.

Watch on sentry posts was cut from four hours to two, and at the
worst portion of the line to one hour. The pickets swathed their
thin brown faces in towels and the commissary supplied smelling
salts. An officer who served on that picket line twelve days told
me that the sun alone was enough to defeat an ordinary man in four
hours. Added to that the slightest zephyr bore a fetid breath more
foul than the lowest of a city’s sewers.

During the first day groans could be heard occasionally from the
contested ground. Wounded–no one could guess how many–lay there
dying. To have attempted succor would have been suicide. The
pickets did all they could. They threw rations of biscuits beyond
the trenches, scattering them along the ground, blindly, of course,
but carefully as a farmer strews a field. A company divided itself;
one part sacrificed its water bottles, slinging across their
shoulders beer bottles, instead of the handy and handsome aluminum
ones furnished by the army. Then the aluminum bottles, that would
stand the shock of striking, which might shatter a beer bottle,
were tossed over to the starving, thirsty wretches.

The second morning there came some desultory groans from the
farther side. The groans suddenly ceased. Successive rifle pops
told that the Russian sharpshooters had picked off the wounded.
Picket duty in the trenches became more deadly. The army had
settled, with quiet determination, into a siege. One night, as the
moon rose over another division of the army, two thousand yards
to the west, there appeared above the trenches a cap. A bullet
pierced it instantly, but it was only a feint cap on the end of a
stick. The picket nearest saw it was a Japanese cap, and called his
challenge, “Who goes there?”

“Tomodachi!” (a friend) came the response.

“Show your arm.”

A small grimed hand on an emaciated forearm was thrust above the
parapet. The picket grasped it and pulled sharply. With a groan of
agony and relief a bundle of rags, dirt and clotted blood tumbled
into the trench. The picket forgot his duty as he knelt over his
comrade, for, ground in filth and caked as it was with dried blood,
he could not mistake the universal brown khaki, and under an arm
was slung a bit of cotton-incased wood–a Shinto emblem, for this
time, at least, triumphant. The wounded soldier fainted.

[Illustration:

_Copyright, 1905 by Collier’s Weekly_

HOW THEY GOT IN

Eighteen miles of these trenches were dug through the plain before
the Russian forts.]

In a field hospital this afternoon I was privileged and honored
in looking upon and talking with this hero. He is a distinguished
soldier of the famous Ninth Regiment, the Black Watch of Japan,
which lost all but ten per cent. of its forces in that illustrious
assault under the Chinese wall. So marvelous is the recovery of the
wounded that the soldier smiled as he lay, speaking occasionally
a few words in response to my interpreted questions. His head
and legs were swathed in bandages and he was sipping saké–a
present from his Emperor. How these soldiers love their Emperor!
Well they may, for a week ago there sailed into Dalny harbor
a transport laden with presents from His Majesty to his sick
soldiers. All the privates got saké, all the officers brandy. In
addition, every private received a present of three yen in cash,
the non-commissioned officers from three to ten yen, and the
commissioned officers from ten to sixty yen each.

Here is the soldier’s remarkable account:

“I was one of the few who reached the Chinese wall that terrible
August afternoon. There were but a few of us left, scarce half a
company out of a regiment, when the Captain in command ordered
us to scale the wall. I had but reached for the stones when my
legs went from under me–melted away. A shell fragment had smashed
them as a bamboo pole is smashed under a hammer. The pain was
little, but it gradually spread over my body. I became numb, then
unconscious, and though shells were busy all about me, lay for
hours with no further hurt. I came to, under the stars.”

The soldier told little of what he felt and saw, but it can
be imagined; the vast plain, silent but alive with hostile
trenches; the gloomy fortress above, bristling with cannon, but
silent; the concealed batteries–his own–miles beyond, from
which an occasional boom and whiz startled the gaunt and shivery
searchlights in their fantastic pencilings; then his sense of
comrades lost, of dear ones perhaps dead within sound of his voice,
with memories of home and better days; then desolation at defeat,
the foe victorious, pride alone resolute, triumphant to the last.

He could hear sounds of pick and spade scratching the chilly earth,
clamping into the shale. Only a few rods away the reinforcements
were hastily throwing up earth-works to hold the hard-won ground.
He saw indistinct forms groping in the dusk, pulling about other
forms, inanimate ones, and hastily covering them with earth. The
dead were being used to more quickly fill in the embankments. In a
few days those carcasses–rotting–would charge usurious toll for
all the improvised help they were this fatal night.

The soldier tried to crawl toward his comrades, but he could move
only a few inches at a time, so intense was the agony in his legs,
for the cool of night and renewed circulation had brought back his
senses in full keenness.

Soon dawn came and with it hell. The battle was on again, this
time in other parts of the field, but the shells and bullets so
often passed over him that he came to think of himself as a dead
man and lived on only because nature exerted her just law. Like an
opossum he feigned death. Within his sight were more than a hundred
dead and twice as many wounded. Groans welled up like bubbles from
a pot. Arms tossed feverishly. Backs writhed in despair. Then
biscuits began falling from his own trenches; one fortunately fell
near him. He also managed to get a tossed-over water bottle. To
reach it he was obliged to crawl a few feet and as his hand touched
it he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and the blood trickled. A
bullet had pinked him. Instinctively he fell as if dead.

It was then that there occurred the thing which has inflamed
the army as tow is inflamed on bonfire nights. The whole vast
amphitheater was quiet. It was sundown. Nature was in her most
gorgeous raiment. Both armies were at supper and an involuntary
truce seemed to still the hills and valleys so lately fire-ringed.
In the midst of this peace and beauty a desultory firing rang from
the Russian trenches nearest the bloody angle in which lay the
soldier with his comrades–dead and worse than dead. The bullets
were directed, not into the opposing trenches, but into the wounded
in the bloody angle.

“Stand to your guns, men!” came from the Japanese trenches, and the
men sprang as though to resist a sortie.

But there was no sortie. The Russians were killing the wounded,
that the bodies might rot and drive their comrades from below.

The moving ceased, the groans ceased, the sun went down, the stars
and searchlights came. Impelled by the first law of nature the
soldier dragged on, wearily, as he supposed, toward his friends.
But the ground was level and he must have gone laterally. Toward
dawn he tumbled into a deserted trench and found a sort of
sheltered dugout. It was a covered passage to the Russian fort
and untenable now by either side. In it were two Japanese so
desperately wounded they could not move and could barely speak. He
shared his last drop of water with them.

As they were drinking a figure slouched along the trench and
blocked the doorway. It wore a black-visored cap, shiny with
celluloid–a Russian cap. Searching the gloom the Russian found
the three wounded soldiers. Then he poked his rifle in and fired
three bullets–one at the brain of each. Two died instantly. The
third–the soldier who had already survived as by a miracle–passed
into what he thought was the rigor of death. All grew black before
his eyes. Never from that moment to this–seventeen days later–has
he seen even a glimmer, nor will he ever see again. The bullet
passed across his eyes as he lay side down and shattered the optic
nerve.

The Russian thought his work complete. Leaving his rifle outside he
passed into the dugout and emptied the pockets of the two dead men
and the third, whom he believed to be dead. Then sneaking back up
the passage, the Russian regained his own lines.

For five days the soldier lay in the dugout, unable to move,
unable to see, numb from long suffering. Almost crazed by thirst
and hunger, he at length severed the arteries of one of his fallen
comrades, newly dead, and lived on. He found worms crawling in the
wounds of his legs. He tore up the shirt of a corpse and bound them.

Then began as memorable a journey as man ever made, as heroic a
combat for life as pioneer or warrior ever underwent. He started
to crawl to the Japanese lines. Blinded, paralyzed, his legs
shattered, one arm useless, half dead with fatigue, his tongue
swollen with thirst, and starving, he made his piteous way a few
yards each night.

Directions were useless. Seeing nothing he could not tell whether
firing came from friend or foe. He only knew that his way
was down. So down he crawled. Bullets and shells passing over
him became so common he lost all sense of them. By a terrible
mistake–an error that cost twelve days of agony, for otherwise he
might have traveled the few essential yards in a night–he missed
the captured fort which marked the apex of the wedge driven into
the Russian lines. And so his fearful, sublime crawl was for a
thousand yards along the front of his own lines, into which at any
time, had he turned straight along the face of the hill, he might
have come and found sound legs and new, clear eyes. But down was
his direction and down he went–a thousand yards in twelve nights.
He found a few new dead with biscuit in their pockets and blood in
their veins–this saved him.

So history repeats itself. Ten years ago–to the month–the
Japanese lay without Port Arthur as they do to-day. Instead of
Russians, Chinese were inside. But as the Japanese advanced along
the western wall they suddenly at a bend in the way came upon ten
bodies–no more–of their own comrades, stripped and mutilated, the
heads grinning from pikes above. The Chinese had visited their
own vengeance on successful enemies. But the act lost them Port
Arthur. The Japanese became an army of fanatics, a tribe of solemn,
righteous men, inflamed with the zeal of retribution, blazing with
revenge, as did once that ancient civilization founded on the
prophetic watchword, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” The
next day Port Arthur fell. Those ten bodies cost the Chinese a
province, a fortune and an island kingdom.

How will the Russians pay? I asked this of a certain
Lieutenant-General, who told me some of the details I have just
related. He raised his arm and pointed beyond the bombproof in
which we sat to where the western harbor, with its magnificent
Russian stone dwellings rising beyond could be plainly seen.

“We have a proverb in our country,” said he, “like this, ‘Once won,
well won; twice won, never lost.’”

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