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Ch. 14: The Japanese-Russian War

During the fall and early winter of 1903 Richard and his wife lingered on in Marion, but came to New York after the Christmas holidays. The success of his farce "The Dictator" had been a source of the greatest pleasure to Richard, and he settled down to playwriting with the same intense zeal he put into all of his work. However, for several years Robert J. Collier and my brother had been very close friends, and Richard had written many articles and stories for Collier's Weekly, so that when Collier urged my brother to go to the Japanese-Russian War as correspondent with the Japanese forces, Richard promptly gave up his playwriting and returned to his old love--the role of reporter. Accompanied by his wife, Richard left New York for San Francisco in February.


February, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

We are really off on the "long trail" bound for the boundless East. We have a charming drawing-room, a sympathetic porter and a courtly conductor descended from one of the first Spanish conquerors of California. We arranged the being late for lunch problem by having dinner at five and cutting the lunch out. Bruce and Nan came over for dinner and we had a very jolly time. They all asked after you all, and drank to our re-union at Marion in July. Later they all tried to come with us on the train. It looked so attractive with electric lights in each seat, and observation car and library. A reporter interviewed us and Mr. Clark gave us a box of segars and a bottle of whiskey. But they will not last, as will Dad's razors and your housewife. I've used Dad's razors twice a day, and they still are perfect. It's snowing again, but we don't care. They all came to the station to see us off but no one cried this time as they did when we went to South Africa. Somehow we cannot take this trip seriously. It is such a holiday trip all through not grim and human like the Boer war. Just quaint and queer. A trip of cherry blossoms and Geisha girls. I send all my love to you.

DICK.


SAN FRANCISCO, February 26th.

DEAR MOTHER:

We got in here last night at midnight just as easily as though we were coming into Jersey City. Before we knew it we had seen the Golden Gate, and were snug in this hotel. Today as soon as we learned we could not sail we started in to see sights and we made a record and hung it up high. We went to the Cliff House and saw the seals on the rocks below, to the Park, the military reservation, Chinatown, and the Poodle Dog Restaurant. We also saw the Lotta monument, the Stevenson monument, the Spreckles band stand, the place where the Vigilance Committee hung the unruly, and tonight I went to a dinner the Bohemian Club gave to the War correspondents. I made a darned good speech. Think of ME making a speech of any sort, but I did, and I had sense enough not to talk about the war but the "glorious climate of California" instead and of all the wonders of Frisco. So, I made a great hit. It certainly is one of the few cities that lives up to it's reputation in every way. I should call it the most interesting city, with more character back of it than any city on this continent. There are only four deck rooms and we each have one. The boat is small, but in spite of the crowd that is going on her, will I think be comfortable. I know it will be that, and it may be luxurious.

DICK.


On way to Japan.

March 13th, 1904.

About four this afternoon we saw an irregular line of purple mountains against a yellow sky, and it was Japan. In spite of the Sunday papers, and the interminable talk on board, the guide books and maps which had made Japan nauseous to me, I saw the land of the Rising Sun with just as much of a shock and thrill as I first saw the coast of Africa. We forgot entirely we had been twenty days at sea and remembered only that we were ten miles from Japan, only as far as New Bedford is from Marion. We are at anchor now, waiting to go in in the morning. Were it not for war we could go in now but we must wait to be piloted over the sunken mines. That and the flashlights moving from the cruisers ten miles away gave us our first idea of war. To-morrow early we will be off for Tokio, as it is only forty miles from Yokohama. Of course, I may get all sorts of news before we land, but that is what we expect to do. It will be good to feel solid earth, and to see the kimonos and temples and geishas and cherry blossoms. I am almost hoping the Government won't let us go to the front and that for a week at least Cecil and I can sit in tea houses with our shoes off while the nesans bring us tea and the geishas rub their knees and make bows to us. I am sending you through Harper's, a book on Hawaii and one of Japan that I have read and like and which I think will help you to keep in touch with the wanderers. With all my love to all.

DICK.


TOKYO, March 22nd, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

The "situation" here continues to remain in such doubt that I cannot tell of it, as it changes hourly. There are three "columns," so far existing only in imagination. That is, so far as they concern the correspondents. The first lot have chosen themselves, and so have the second lot. But the first lot are no nearer starting than they were two weeks ago. I may be kept waiting here for weeks and weeks. I do not like to turn out Palmer, although I very much want to go with the first bunch. On the other hand I am paid pretty well to get to the front, and I am uncertain as to what I ought to do. If the second column were to start immediately after the first, we then would have two men in the field, but if it does not, then Collier will be paying $1000. a week for stories of tea houses and "festivals." Palmer threatens to resign if I take his place in the first column and that would be a loss to the paper that I do not feel I could make up. If it gets any more complicated I'll wire Collier to decide.

Meanwhile, we are going out to dinners and festivals and we ride. I have a good pony the paper paid for Cecil has hired another and we find it delightful to scamper out into the country. We have three rooms in a row. One we use for a sitting room. They look very welland as it is still cold we keep them cheerful with open fires. We have a table in the dining-room to ourselves and to which we can ask our friends. The food is extremely good. Griscom and the Secretaries have all called and sent pots of flowers, and we are dining out every other night. In the day we shop and ride. But all day and all night we the correspondents plot and slave and intrigue over the places on the columns. I got mine on the second column all right but no one knows if it ever will move. So, naturally, I want to be on the first. The rows are so engrossing that I have not enjoyed the country as I expected. Still, I am everlastingly glad we came. It is an entirely new life and aspect. It completes so much that we have read and seen. In spite of the bother over the war passes I learn things daily and we see beautiful and curious things, and are educated as to the East, as no books could have done it for us. John Bass who was my comrade in arms in Greece and his wife are here. They are the very best. Also we see Lloyd daily, and the hotel is full of amusing men, who are trying to get to the front. Of course, we know less of the war than you do. None of the news from Cheefoo, none of the "unauthorized" news reaches us. Were it not for our own squabbles we would not know not only that the country was at war but not even that war existed ANYWHERE in the world. We are here entirely en tourist and it cannot be helped. The men who tried to go with the Russians are equally unfortunate. Think of us as wandering around each with a copy of Murray seeing sights. That is all we really do, All my love.

DICK.


YOKOHAMA--April 2, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

I just got your letter dated the 28th of February and the days following in which you worried over me in the ice coated trenches of Korea. I read it in a rickshaw in a warm sun on my way to buy favors for a dinner to Griscom. We have had three warm days and no doubt the sun will be out soon. The loss of the sun, though, is no great one. We have lots of pleasures and lots of troubles in spite of the Sun. Yesterday the first batch of correspondents were sent on their way. I doubt if they will get any further than Chemulpo but their going cheered the atmosphere like a storm in summer. The diplomats and Japanese were glad to get rid of them, they were delighted to be off. Some had been here 58 days, and we all looked at it as a good sign as it now puts us "next." But after they had gone it was pretty blue for some of them were as good friends as I want. I know few men I like as well as I do John Bass. Many of them were intensely interesting. It was, by all odds, the crowd one would have wished to go with. As it is, I suspect we all will meet again and that the two columns will be merged on the Yalu. None of the attaches have been allowed to go, so it really is great luck for the correspondents. Tell Chas I still am buying my Kit. It's pretty nearly ready now. I began in New York and kept on in Boston, San Francisco, and here. It always was my boast that I had the most complete kit in the world, and in spite of Charley's jeers at my lack of preparedness everybody here voted it the greatest ever seen. For the last ten days all the Jap saddlers, tent makers and tinsmiths have been copying it.

DICK.


TOKIO--May 2, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

Today, we walked into our new house and tomorrow we will settle down there. We rented the furniture for the two unfurnished rooms; knives, forks, spoons, china for the table and extras for 35 dollars gold for two months. It took six men to bring the things in carts. They got nothing. Yesterday, I took two rickshaw men from half past twelve to half past five. Out of that time they ran and pushed me for two solid hours. Their price for the five hours was eighty cents gold. What you would pay a cabman to drive you from the Waldorf to Martin's. I wish you could see our menage. Such beautiful persons in grey silk kimonos who bow, and bow and slip and slide in spotless torn white stockings with one big toe. They make you ashamed of yourself for walking on your own carpet in your own shoes. Today we got the first news of the battle on the Yalu, the battle of April 26-30th. I suppose Palmer and Bass saw it; and I try to be glad I did what was right by Collier's instead of for myself. But I don't want to love another paper. I suppose there will be other fights but that one was the first, and it must have been wonderful. On the 4th we expect to be on our way to Kioto with Lloyd and his wife and John Fox. By that time we expect to be settled in the new house.

DICK.


TOKIO, May 22nd, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

You will be glad to hear that the correspondents at the front are not allowed within two and a half miles of the firing line. This I am sure you will approve. Their tales of woe have just been received here, and they certainly are having a hard time. The one thing they all hope for is that the Japs will order them home. My temper is vile to-day, as I cannot enjoy the gentle pleasures of this town any longer and with this long trip to Port Arthur before I can turn towards home. I am as cross as a sick bear. We were at Yokohama when your last letters came and they were a great pleasure. I got splendid news of The Dictator. Yesterday we all went to Yokohama. There are four wild American boys here just out of Harvard who started the cry of "Ping Yang" for the "Ping Yannigans" they being the "Yannigans." They help to make things very lively and are affectionately regarded by all classes. Yesterday, they and Fox and Cecil and I went to the races, with five ricksha boys each, and everybody lost his money except myself. But it was great fun. It rained like a seive, and all the gentlemen riders fell off, and every time we won money our thirty ricksha men who would tell when we won by watching at which window we had bet, would cheer us and salaam until to save our faces we had to scatter largesses. Egan turned up in the evening and dined with John and Cecil and me in the Grand Hotel and told us first of all the story the correspondents had brought back to Kobbe for which every one from the Government down has been waiting. It would make lively reading if any of us dared to write it. To-day he made his protests to Fukushima as we mapped them out last night and the second lot will I expect be treated better. But, as the first lot were the important men representing the important syndicates the harm, for the Japs, has been done. Of course, much they do is through not knowing our points of view. To them none of us is of any consequence except that he is a nuisance, and while they are conversationally perfect in politeness, the regulations they inflict are too insulting. However, you don't care about that, and neither do I. I am going to earn my money if I possibly can, and come home.

DICK.


TOKIO, June 13th, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

We gave a farewell dinner last night to the Ping Yannigans two of whom left on the Navy expedition and another one to-morrow for God's country. There were eight men and we had new lanterns painted with the arms of Corea and the motto of the Ping Yannigans. Also many flags. All but the Japanese flag. One of them with a side glance at the servants said, "Gentleman and Lady: I propose a toast, Japan for the Japanese and the Japanese for Japan." We all knew what he meant but the servants were greatly pleased. Jack London turned up to-day on his way home. I liked him very much. He is very simple and modest and gave you a tremendous impression of vitality and power. He is very bitter against the wonderful little people and says he carries away with him only a feeling of irritation. But I told him that probably would soon wear off and he would remember only the pleasant things. I did envy him so, going home after having seen a fight and I not yet started. Still THIS TIME we may get off. Yokoyama the contractor takes our stuff on the 16th, and so we feel it is encouraging to have our luggage at the front even if we are here.

DICK.


YOKOHAMA, July 26th, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

We gave in our passes to-day, and sail to-morrow at five. They say we are not to see Port Arthur fall but are to be taken up to Oku's army. That means we miss the "popular" story, and may have to wait around several weeks before we see the other big fight. They promised us Port Arthur but that is reason enough for believing they do not intend we shall see it at all. John and I are here at a Japanese hotel, the one Li Hung Chang occupied when he came over to arrange the treaty between China and Japan. It is a very beautiful house, the best I have seen of real Japanese and the garden and view of the harbor is magnificent. I wish Cecil could see it too, but I know she would not care for a room which is as free to the public view as the porch at Marion. It has 48 mats and as a mat is 3 x 5 you can work it out. We eat, sleep and dress in this room and it is like trying to be at home on top of a Chickering Grand. But it is very beautiful and the moonlight is fine and saddening. No one of us has the least interest in the war or in what we may see or be kept from seeing. We have been "over trained" and not even a siege of London could hold our thoughts from home. I have just missed the mail which would have told me you were at Marion. I should so love to have heard from you from there. I do not think you will find the Church house uncomfortable; and you can always run across the road when the traffic is not too great, and chat with Benjamin. I do hope that Dad will have got such good health from Marion and such lashers of fish. I got a good letter from Charles and I certainly feel guilty at putting extra work on a man as busy as he. Had I known he was the real judge of those prize stories I would have sent him one myself and given him the name of it. Well, goodbye for a little time. We go on board in a few hours, and after that everything I write you is read by the Censor so I shall not say anything that would gratify their curiosity. They think it is unmanly to write from the field to one's family and the young princes forbade their imperial spouses from writing them until the war is over. However, not being an imperial Samaari but a home loving, family loving American, I shall miss not hearing very much, and not being able to tell you all how I love you.

DICK.


DALNY, July 27th, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

We left Shimonoseki three days ago and have had very pleasant going on the Heijo Maru a small but well run ship of 1,500 tons. Fox and I got one of the two best rooms and I have been very comfortable. We are at anchor now at a place of no interest except for its sunsets.

We have just been told as the anchor is being lowered that we can send letters back by the Island, so I can just dash this off before leaving. We have reached Dalny and I have just heard the first shot fired which was to send me home. All the others came and bid John and me a farewell as soon as we were sure it was the sound of cannon. However, as it is 20 miles away I'll have to hang on until I get a little nearer. We have had a very pleasant trip even though we were delayed two days by fog and a slow convoy. Now we are here at Dalny. It looks not at all like its pictures, which, as I remember them were all taken in winter. It is a perfectly new, good brick barracks-like town. I am landing now. The two servants seem very satisfactory and I am in excellent health. Today Cecil has been four days at Hong Kong. Please send the gist of this letter dull as it is to Mrs. Clark. When I began it I thought I would have plenty of time to finish it on shore. Of course, after this all I write and this too, I suppose will be censored. So, there will not be much liveliness. I have no taste to expose my affections to the Japanese staff. So, goodbye.

R.


July 31st, 1904.

DEAR MOTHER:

We have been met here with a bitter disappointment. We are all to be sent north, although only 18 hours away. We can hear the guns at Port Arthur the fall of which they promised us we would see. To night we are camping out in one of the Russian barracks. To-morrow we go, partly by horse and partly by train. A week must elapse before we can get near headquarters. And then we have no guarantee that we will see any fighting. This means for me a long delay. It is very disappointing and the worst of the many we have suffered in the last four months. I have written Cecil asking her to seriously think of going home but I am afraid she will not. Were it not for that and the disappointment one feels in travelling a week's journey away from the sound of guns I would be content. My horse is well and so am I. It is good to get back to drawing water, and carrying baggage and skirmishing about for yourself. The contractor gave us a good meal and the servants are efficient but I like doing things myself and skirmishing for them. We make a short ride this morning of six miles to Kin Chow and then 30 miles by rail. "Headquarters" is about a five days ride distant. Tell Chas my outfit seems nearly complete. Maybe I can buy a few things I forgot in Boston at Kin Chow. Fox and I will get out just as soon as we see fighting but before you get this you will probably hear by cable from me. If not, it will mean we still are waiting for a fight. The only mistake I made was in not going home the first time they deceived us instead of waiting for this and worst of all.

to you all.

DICK.


MANCHURIA, August 14, 1904.

We have been riding through Manchuria for eleven days. Nine days we rode then two days we rested. By losing the trail we managed to average about 20 miles a day. I kept well and enjoyed it very much. As I had to leave my servant behind with a sick horse, I had to take care of my mule and pony myself and hunt fodder for them, so I was pretty busy. Saiki did all he could, but he is not a servant and sooner than ask him I did things myself. We passed through a very beautiful country, sleeping at railway stations and saw two battle fields of recent fights. Now we are in a Chinese City and waiting to see what should be the biggest fight since Sedan. The Russians are about ten miles from us, so we are not allowed outside the gates of the city without a guide. Of course, we have none of that freedom we have enjoyed in other wars, but apart from that they treat us very well indeed. And in a day or two they promise us much fighting, which we will be allowed to witness from a hill. This is a very queer old city but the towns and country are all very primitive and we depend upon ourselves for our entertainment. I expect soon to see you at home. In three more days I shall have been out here five months and that is too long. Good luck to you all.

R. H. D.


MANCHURIA, August 18th, 1904.

We still are inside this old Chinese town. It has rained for five days, and this one is the first in which we could go abroad. Unless you swim very well it is not safe to cross one of these streets. We have found an old temple and some of us are in it now. It is such a relief to escape from that compound and the rain. This place is full of weeds and pine trees, cooing doves and butterflies. The temples are closed and no one is in charge but an aged Chinaman. We did not come here to sit in temples, so John and I will leave in a week, battle or no battle. The argument that having waited so long one might as well wait a little longer does not touch us. It was that argument that kept us in Tokio when we knew we were being deceived weekly, and the same man who deceived us there, is in charge here. It is impossible to believe anything he tells his subordinates to tell us, so, we will be on our way back when you get this. I am well, and only disappointed. Had they not broken faith with us about Port Arthur we would by now have seen fighting. As it is we will have wasted six months.

Love to Dad, and Chas and Nora and you.

DICK.


In writing of his decision to leave the Japanese army, Richard, after his return to the United States, said:

"On the receipt of Oku's answer to the Correspondents we left the army. Other correspondents would have quit then, as most of them did ten days later, but that their work and Kuroki, so far from being fifty miles north toward Mukden, as Okabe said he was, was twenty miles to the east on our right preparing for the, closing-in movement which was just about to begin. Three days after we had left the army, the greatest battle since Sedan was waged for six days.

"So, our half-year of time and money, of dreary waiting, of daily humiliations at the hands of officers with minds diseased by suspicion, all of which would have been made up to us by the sight of this one great spectacle, was to the end absolutely lost to us. Perhaps we made a mistake in judgment. As the cards fell we certainly did.

"The only proposition before us was this: There was small chance of any immediate fighting. If there were fighting we would not see it. Confronted with the same conditions again, I would decide in exactly the same manner. Our misfortune lay in the fact that our experience with other armies had led us to believe that officers and gentlemen speak the truth, that men with titles of nobility, and with the higher titles of General and Major-General, do not lie. In that we were mistaken."

Greatly disappointed at his failure to see really anything of the war, much embittered at the Japanese over their treatment of the correspondents, Richard reached Vancouver in October. As my father was seriously ill he came to Philadelphia at once and divided the next two months between our old home and Marion.

On December 14, 1904, my father died, and it was the first tragedy that had come into Richard's life, as it was in that of my sister or myself. As an editorial writer, most of my father's work had been anonymous, but his influence had been as far-reaching as it had been ever for all that was just and fine. All of his life he had worked unremittingly for good causes and, in spite of the heavy burdens which of his own will he had taken upon his none too strong shoulders, I have never met with a nature so calm , so simple, so sympathetic with those who were weak--weak in body or soul. As all newspaper men must, he had been brought in constant contact with the worst elements of machine politics, as indeed he had with the lowest strata of the life common to any great city. But in his own life he was as unsophisticated; his ideals of high living, his belief in the possibilities of good in all men and in all women, remained as unruffled as if he had never left his father's farm where he had spent his childhood. When my father died Richard lost his "kindest and severest critic" as he also lost one of his very closest friends and companions.

During the short illness that preceded my brother's death, although quite unconscious that the end was so near, his thoughts constantly turned back to the days of his home in Philadelphia, and he got out the letters which as a boy and as a young man he had written to his family. After reading a number of them he said: "I know now why we were such a happy It was because we were always, all of us, of the same age."


Richard Harding Davis