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WAR WITH RUSSIA.

A CALAMITY FOR AUCKLAND. HOSTILE VISIT OE A .RUSSIAN IRONCLAD. SEIZURE op GOLD and HOSTAGES .* [Tbe telegraph has informed us that great consternation was caused in Auckland on Monday last by the publication in the Southern Gross of an imaginary description of the arrival of a Russian man-6f-war in the Waitemata. The greater portion of the article, which appeared under the above heading, we publish below, without any fear of such terrible consequences following its perusal as those to which it is reported to have given rise in the town where it first appeared. If the people of Auckland are so scared by an imaginary Cask o' Whisky, what are the feelings ' that must be aroused in their minds by a real one ?] Notwithstanding the telegraphic communication from England to Melbourne, and the periodical intercourse by steamer between New Zealand and the Australian ports, the sudden Declaration of War between Russia and England, arising out of the Central Asian difficulty and the- dishonesty of the Emperor of Persia, was only made known to Auckland on Sunday, Feb. 16, by ODe of the greatest calamities that ever overtook the colony — an event productive of grave disaster to New Zealand, and destructive of the . ancient prestige of England and her boasted supremacy as Sovereign of the Seas. That event was the sudden appearance of the hostile iron-clad man-of-war, the "Kaskowiski," which took possession of the British war- ship lying in tbe waters of the Waitemata, seized our principal citizens as hostages, demanded a heavy ransom for the city, and emptied the coffers of the banks of all the gold and specie they contained. The consternation which for a time overwhelmed the people of the province ■who were made aware of this nefarious aud barbarous transaction, which is utterly at variance with the laws and practice of modern warfare, may be understood by the reader, bus cannot be described here. At this moment we are under the complete domination of Russia, our own guns in our own man-of-war being pointed against the city, ready to be opened on us at any moment that the barbarous caprice of her captors may select. A domiciliary visitation to the office of this paper for daring to publish this narrative is what will probably have taken place ere these lines meet the eyes of our more distant readers. Duty io tbe public, however, demands that we set down the particulars of this terrible visitation, regardless of any ' consequences or temporary loss or inconvenience to ourselves. * * ,* # * * * . It should be mentioned here that the 'Kaskowiski' (as we learn from the statement of one of the crew, a native of the United States, who was found by our shipping reporter on the Bastion Bock, which, it appears, was first taken for a fort, and which was reconnoitered by a boat's crew, who left the American behind by mistake), was built oa the Alaska Peninsula. , Alaska, as is well known, was sold by Russia to the United States some years ago; but, by a baseness of treachery which only the lax supervision of our consular agents could, have rendered possible, tlie Government of Washington, had permitted the secret construction of this ironclad ih that remote region, so that, when the time came for action, she might enter the Pacific and, lunpnnptinced^ pounce upon the unprotected^' colonies of the British Empire. 7 She has _. a complement of 953 men and officers, all ; tpjd; i is -pro?.. 7v_si<)Ma ; ita:ja;-ye^

guns, and has machinery for the manufacture of the deadly water-gas invented by the late General Todtleben, and only now practically employed in warfare by Russia, the sole depository of the secret. At 7 o'clock on Saturday, the ' Wonga Wonga,' while off Kawau, descried a large vessel, hull down, steaming apparently towards her. After a short time, darkness came on, and she lost sight of the ship. At 8.10 p.m. a shot was fired across her bows; she slowed her engines, and a boat came alongside. In peremptory tones, its occupants demanded what she was, whither bound, and her cargo. On obtaining a reply, the order was given iu good English to lie-to as a prisoner of a Russian ship of war. On hearing this, a gallant naval officer, who was on board the • Wonga,' with the aid of some passengers acd crew lifted a small cannon on the carriage, raised it over the bulwarks, and dropped it into tbe boat. A loud crash followed. The feat was successful. The gun stove the boat, and in a moment she sank, leaving the crew struggling in the boat, helpless. All lights on board the ' Wonga ' were immediately extinguished. She altered her course, and made for Auckland; but sbe saw, as the moon rose, that tbe great speed of the Russian ship, 17 knots an hour, was too much for her, and that, unless she sought refuge in some of the harbors on the coast, she would be inevitably overhauled and captured. Accordingly, she made for shelter to Mahurangi; and, a point of land intervening between her and her pursuer, she evaded the chase. The swift-sailing cutter 'Volunteer' was providentially in the river at the timo of her arrival, and the captain of the ' Wonga ' despatched her to Auckland, with a favoring breeze, to apprise the authorities of their danger. It was " too late ! " The great speed of the Russian rendered these well-meant efforts fruitless, for the cutter did not arrive until Sunday morning, by which time the 'Kaskowiski' bad done her work; had seized our war steamer in tbe darkness, arrested our citizens and bankers, left a prize crew on board the captured ship, and bad gone off* at full steam to resume the chase of the * Wonga' for the double purpose of preventing her carrying the intelligence to Australia and of avenging the destruction of her boat and crew, and at tbe same time making a prize of the ship and the treasure in golddust which she carried. Heaven help the crew and passengers, and save our Australian town from the power of this almost invulnerable vessel, and her scientific apparatus for dealing death and destruction ! Arriving stealthily in our harbour, and without showing any lights, the 'Kaskowiski ' sent ber submarine pinnace, well- manned, and witb the mephitic watergas apparatus on board, towards our warship. This new invention silently proceeded, sailing six feet below tbe surface of tbe smooth water of the Waitemata, and, rising at the distance of a cable's length, projected the fatal gas on the vessel. Heavier than our atmospheric air, this vapor speedily penetrated the interior of the ship, producing semi-suffocation to all on board. The watch alarmed those below, but it was again ' ' too late." Six boats laden with marines surrounded the vessel, and she was boarded. The captain and some of the officers of our ship, with a handful of the crew, weak and almost breathless, attempted to face the boarders, but without effect. It was resolved to fire the magazine and prevent the foe from taking the vessel. Taking instructions from the captain, who was overcome by the vapor, one of tbe lieutenants crawled below. He was seen and followed by one of the Russian officers, who cut him down as he was about to fire a pistol into tbe msgazine, tbe hatch of which was then closed. There was a brief struggle on deck; the fainting blue-jackets were overpowered ; the ships was in the enemy's hands, and she now lies with tbe hated double eagle floating at the main above our loved " meteor flag of England." * # # * * * During the night the captain of the Russian ship, Vice-Admiral Herodskoff, landed witb a body of Russian marines and sailors, armed with cutlasses aud repeating needle carbines. He proceeded to the Provincial Council Chamber, and thence sent messengers commanding the attendance of the Superintendent of the province, the Mayor of the city, all the bankers and bank-directors, and members of the Assembly. These gentlemen were ordered out of bed, and, amidst the dismay and terror of their families, were led to the Council-room. On .their arrival they were placed in the' centre of the chamber, the armed men, with carbines loaded and bayonets fixed, lining the walls of the room. 7 Seated on the Speaker's chair, Admiral Herodskoff, in good English, read a requisition demanding immediate payment Tlof t one-and^a-half $Hllioi of -r^ubtetf f (£256;06t) sirlmg^a 'fransom for the safety} of the oity , and in ti-

mating that, if the money were not paid within three hours, he should retire, to his ship and burn the town. He first asked what the Superintendent had to produce from the provincial chest. Whereupon his Honor (exhibited the Treasurer's accounts, and proceeded to prove tbat the province had no "accumulated savings," that the assets had entirely disappeared in consequence of recent financial arrangements under the hands of his officials. He proposed that the General Government should ,be applied to, as from his own experience he' knew there were funds in that exchequer. He was proceeding to show the means by which the money might be forthcoming from Wellington when he was interrupted by the Admiral, who said he should himself see to that port, with which the Superintendent bad nothing to do, and he should take care he never should-, and he discourteously added that in Russia his Honor would have been knouted and sent lo Siberia for daring to construct such a balance sheet as he had produced. Mr Sheeban, M.H.R., and Mr Lusk, Provincial Secretary, both lawyers, humbly suggested that tbe action of the Russian Admiral was in contravention of the laws of war. Mr Sheehan quoted from Vattel at the wrong place respecting the law of i nations, and Mr Lusk sought to show the '"invalidity" of the whole proceedings, but with a bow admitted his error, and dropped to the rear, when the Admiral haughtily waved his hand towards his armed force, and remarked thut their presence proved the perfect " propriety " of his action. Mr Creighton, M.H.R., proffered as his contribution to the ransom the secret for smelting our iron sand at one process, which be said would be a great boon to Russia; at the same time suggesting to tbe Superintendent that a poll-tax should be levied on the people of the province to recoup himself and his partners for the sacrifice. Both proposals were instsntly rejected, the Admiral scornfully remarking that Russia bad long been in possession of the secret, and was only waiting until it was convenient to annex Norway and Sweden, in order to apply the discovery to Swedish iron. On behalf of the new National Bank, I Mr. W. S. Grabame, and Mr. Hean, the manager, said tbey were* anxious to save the city from ruin, and offered to provide £60,000, or one-fifth of the sura demanded, on the security of the English shareholders; but were sternly informed that with such security to back them they ought to provide double the sum. Mr. Thomas Russell said the Bank of New Zealand was prepared to give £50,000; but on this Bum being declared too little by a fifth, he agreed, at the suggestion of some of the directors, to provide the other £10,000. The representatives of tbe other banks wero ordered to furnish their quota; and armed parties were told off, in charge of the bank managers to ransack the cellars for the specie and gold dust they contained. During their absence some one suggested that the old floating paper in Auckland, and the mining scrip should be tendered as part of the ransom; but the proposal was derided with scorn by the stern Russian. It was not a moment for mirth; but the suggestion brought a smile to many of the anxious faces which looked upon the hard, impassive face of this self-appointed judge. After the lapse of balf-an-hour, the detachments returned from the banks with all the gold and silver that could be found. It amounted to only £131,098 17s 6d., little more than half the sum demanded. Admiral Herodskoff threatened the lives of the gentlemen that were before him, and at last gave orders to have them taken on board the ' Kaskowiski,' stating that immediately after, daybreak he would sail in pursuit of the ' Wonga Wonga,, and, if he overtook her, and found sufficient gold on board to make up the sum required, he should land his hostages, at Fiji. He then rose; the hostages Twere marched down stairs, and placed in the centre of a hollow square formed. by the sailors and marines, and in this fashion they were marched to Wyhyard Pier in the dull grey of the peaceful-looking morning, put on board two boats, and taken to the ' Kaskowiski,' which -almost immediately steamed out of the harbor, leaving the town,. as we have said, at the mercy of the prize crew put on board our own war ship. We have given a narrative of this terrible disaster, as succinct as could be gathered iu the circumstances. The grief of the community it is unnecessary , to parade. Deep as that is at the loss of our treasure, a far deeper pang fastens On each heart to" think of the dishonor this;'! affair has cast on the ; British flag and the British nation. Lord ■ Granville promised to defend- EnglahdVcolbuies with '■ Enjgland's "last ship [.and ..'her Jast .BhUiiii^'^7:|.:^« : Bßia has taken both in Auckiand waters. From , ; the 'de j>th; ; ofa/our ,despair^e7ecy W;, x, 7" Where is the Beitish Navx. ??*■■■; * Written ' for the, Daily ' Southern Cross of 'Mpi^ i the'iM^(iß7S^y'7' 7 .-. ;

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NEM18730224.2.14

Bibliographic details

WAR WITH RUSSIA., Nelson Evening Mail, Volume VIII, Issue 48, 24 February 1873

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2,261

WAR WITH RUSSIA. Nelson Evening Mail, Volume VIII, Issue 48, 24 February 1873

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