Meanwhile the Chinese ships had been forced still nearer to the land, and the Chao-Yung, an absolute ruin, drifted helplessly ashore, half a league from where we stood. By the aid of our glasses we could perceive her condition clearly—her upper works knocked to pieces; her decks, strewn with mutilated bodies, an indiscriminate mass of wreck and carnage. Her crew were abandoning her, struggling to land as best they could. Subsequently the Yang-Wei went ashore similarly battered to pieces and burning. She was much further off, and we made her out less distinctly. On the Japanese side not one ship had sunk as far as we had seen, and though the flagship and some of the smaller craft were in an unenviable state, the attack was kept up with immense spirit, and prompt obedience was paid to signals, which were frequent, whereas we looked in vain for any sign of leadership on the part of the Celestials. Later in the action another of their best ships, the Chih-Yuen, came to grief. She had evidently been for long in difficulties, labouring heavily, with the steam-pumps constantly in requisition, as we could tell by the streams of water poured from her sides. Bravely she fought on unsupported, and her upper deck and top guns were served until she sank. At length her bows were completely engulfed; the stern rose high out of water, disclosing the whirling propellers, and bit by bit she disappeared. We could hear distinctly the yelling sounds of triumph that rose from the Japanese ships as she went down. The Chen-Yuen and Ting-Yuen, which seemed to fight together during the action, tried when too late to assist her.
At five o’clock, as darkness came on, the firing rapidly decreased, and the opposing squadrons began to separate. Some of the Chinese vessels were out of sight in the gloom to the southward, and the Japanese slowly drew off seaward. We thought it now high time to regain the Columbia, and took to our boat, discussing the fight and speculating on the probable renewal of it. We felt little surprise that the Chinese should have had the worst of it, for we had had good reason to suspect that their fleet had greatly fallen off from the state of unquestionable efficiency to which English tuition had brought it. Whilst ashore in Talienwan I had a conversation with Mr. Purvis, an English engineer on board the Chih-Yuen. I asked him what he thought would be the result of an encounter with an equal Japanese force. He said the Chinese would have a good chance if well handled, expressing on that head distinct doubts.
“They are very brave,” said he—and I can answer for it that there was no perceptible flinching on their part during the action—“and I believe Ting to be a good man, but he is under the thumb of Von Hannecken”—meaning Captain or Major Von Hannecken, a German army officer, one of the foreign volunteers in the fleet. The significance of the remark is apparent when we consider