The Imperial Russian Navy's First Pacific Squadron, commanded by Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft, had been trapped in Port Arthur since the Imperial Japanese Navy's blockade began on 8 February 1904 with the Battle of Port Arthur. Throughout late July and early August, as the Imperial Japanese Army laid siege to Port Arthur, relations between Admiral Vitgeft and Russian Viceroy Yevgeni Alekseyev increasingly soured. Viceroy Alekseyev, a former admiral, favored an aggressive sortie so as to enable the First Pacific Squadron to link up with the Vladivostok Squadron and thereby create a naval force powerful enough to challenge the Japanese fleet. Admiral Vitgeft believed in a fleet in being, which simply stayed at anchor, while at the same time contributing some of his weaponry to the land battle as the safest course to follow. Although passive, Vitgeft's preference was actually more in keeping with the Russian Navy's doctrine, which was building up strength (waiting for the arrival of the Baltic Fleet, also known as the 2nd Pacific Squadron), and then engaging the Japanese navy in decisive battle.
Alekseyev appealed to St. Petersburg, and Tsar Nicholas II replied that he fully shared the Viceroy's opinion. Faced with an Imperial writ and threat of legal action, Admiral Vitgeft was ordered to sail for Vladivostok immediately. By 06:15 hours, on 10 August 1904, Admiral Vitgeft, flying his flag in the battleship Tsesarevich, began leading his battleships from the harbor.
Midship view of the Russian flagship, Tsesarevich