Battle of Asan, Sino-Japanese War, 1894

A skirmish that opened up the war, as both sides were trying to ferry troops to Korea; notable for the sinking of a Chinese troop transport, from which the Japanese only rescued a few British officers (the Brits would later become an ally of Japan) and left thousands of Chinese soldiers to drown.

The action started when the Tsi Yuen and the Kuang Yi, which had escorted an earlier convoy to Korea, were confronted on the return trip by the three Japanese cruisers (on a similar mission). The largest Chinese cruiser, the Tsi Yuen, had two powerful 8.2-in guns (extremely heavy weapons for the size of these protected cruisers) but quickly took damage and retreated from the battle, as the Naniwa could match its heavy firepower while the Yoshino and Akitsushima had a more balanced armament of smaller guns capable of more rapid fire. Although retreat in this outnumbered and outgunned situation may have been sensible, the Tsi Yuen's captain would repeat his "avoid the enemy" tactics with less honor at the battle of Yalu. The Kuang Yi, a more lightly armed and unprotected ship, stayed to fight to the bitter end, perhaps covering the escape of the cruiser, and was sunk by the Japanese. The Yoshino reportedly chased the Tsi Yuen but must not have been determined given its superior speed. The little gunboat Tsao Chiang and the transport Kowshing, carrying more Chinese troops, happened onto the scene. The Tsao Chiang fled but was later captured by the Japanese cruiser Akitsushima. The Kowshing was held up by the Naniwa, whose captain Togo could not allow 1500 Chinese troops to reach Korea; although there was risk of international outcry the Naniwa eventually opened fire with the bloody results mentioned above.

Japanese ships on left; Chinese ships on right

The Chinese transport Kowshing (no diagram) was a ship of 2,134 tons