The war had started in February 1904 with a Japanese attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. Since then, the Japanese tried unsuccessfully to block the harbor, while the Russians attempted to break out of the Japanese blockade. A breakout attempt on June 23 had failed, and by July, the port was under siege from the land side by the Japanese army. On August 10, the Russian fleet under Admiral Vitgeft tried again.
The Russian squadron consisted of six battleships, four cruisers, and 14 destroyers. The Japanese fleet, under Admiral Togo, included four battleships, two armored cruisers, eight cruisers, 18 destroyers, and thirty torpedo boats. The Russian ships left harbor in the morning, and were met by the Japanese at midday. In a brief artillery duel, they succeeded in breaking through the Japanese line, but Togo’s ships gave chase. They caught up and resumed the battle at 1600 hours. All of the Russian battleships suffered hits, and shortly after 1800, a Japanese shell hit the Russian flagship and killed most of the command staff. The Russian line became disorganized, and most ships set a return course to Port Arthur. With darkness falling, Admiral Togo broke off the chase. The Russian battleship Tsesarevitch and three destroyers went to Tsingtao, a cruiser and a destroyer made it to Shanghai, and another cruiser went to Saigon. All of those ships were interned. The cruiser Novik headed east towards the Russian port of Vladivostok, but was run aground at Sakhalin Island by Japanese cruisers. All other Russian ships returned to Port Arthur. Russian casualties from the battle were 343 dead and wounded, while the Japanese suffered 226 casualties and one torpedo boat sunk.
The remaining ships of the Russian Pacific squadron never attempted another breakout. The crews and guns were reassigned for the defense of Port Arthur during the siege. On December 6, 1904, the Japanese army captured Port Arthur, and the Russian ships were sunk, scuttled, or captured.
- The Russo-Japanese War, by Geoffrey Jukes, Osprey Publishing, 2002
- A History of War at Sea, by Helmut Pemsel, Naval Institute Press, 1975
- The Battle of the Yellow Sea from the Russo-Japanese War Research Society