United States expedition to Korea: Wikis


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Battle of Ganghwa
Ganghwa 3-edit.jpg
Americans after capturing the Deokjin Fort
Date June 10–11, 1871
Location Ganghwa Island, Yellow Sea, Joseon
Modern day: Ganghwa Island, Yellow Sea, South Korea
Result United States victory
US Naval Jack 37 stars.svg United States Navy Korea-arms2.gif Joseon Army
Winfield Scott Schley
John Rodgers
General Eo Jae-yeon
6 artillery pieces,
1 frigate,
2 sloops-of-war,
1 gunboat,
1 screw tug
~300 infantry,
~30 artillery,
Selee River Forts
Casualties and losses
3 killed,
10 wounded
243 killed,
unknown wounded,
20 captured,
~30 artillery pieces captured,
Selee River Forts destroyed

The United States expedition to Korea or Shinmiyangyo or simply the Korean Expedition in 1871 was the first American military action in Korea. It took place predominantly on and around the Korean island of Ganghwa. The reason for the presence of the American military expeditionary force in Korea was to support an American diplomatic delegation sent to establish trade and political relations with the peninsular nation, to ascertain the fate of the General Sherman merchant ship, and to establish a treaty assuring aid for shipwrecked sailors. The isolationist nature of the Joseon Dynasty government and the assertiveness of the American seamen led to a misunderstanding between the two parties that changed a diplomatic expedition into an armed conflict. The United States won a military victory, but as the Koreans refused to open up the country to them, the United States failed to secure their diplomatic objectives until 1882.


Initial contact

Ganghwa Island's location in the Yellow Sea.
United States expedition to Korea

Koreans who died in Gwangseong Garrison. Albumen silver print by Felice Beato, 1871.
Korean name
Hangul 신미양요
Hanja 辛未洋擾
Revised Romanization Shinmiyangyo
McCune–Reischauer Shinmiyangyo

The expedition consisted of about 650 men, over 500 sailors and 100 marines, as well as five warships[1]: USS Colorado, USS Alaska, USS Palos, USS Monocacy, and USS Benicia. On board the Colorado was Rear Admiral John Rodgers, also Frederick F. Low, the United States Ambassador to China.[2][3] The Korean forces, known as "Tiger Hunters", were led by General Eo Jae-yeon (Hangul; 어재연 Hanja; 魚在淵).

The Americans safely made contact with the Korean inhabitants, described as "people wearing white clothes". When they inquired about the SS General Sherman incident, the Koreans were initially reluctant to discuss the topic, ostensibly to avoid having to pay any recompense. The Americans consequently let the Koreans know that their fleet would be exploring the area, and that they meant no harm. This friendly gesture was misinterpreted; as Korean policy at the time prohibited foreign ships from sailing on the Han River, as it led directly to the capital city of Hanyang, modern day Seoul. On June 1 the Korean fortress fired at the U.S. fleet as they sailed up the Ganghwa Straits, which leads to the river. The U.S. forces were not badly damaged, due "to the bad gunnery of the Coreans, whose fire, although very hot for the fifteen minutes in which they maintained it, was ill-directed, and consequently without effect." Along with the cannons being arranged in rows, one tier above another on the hill-side, and fired by a train of powder."[4] When, in their judgement, no satisfactory explanation for this action was offered to them, the Americans planned a punitive assault.[3]


A Korean carrying empty American bottles and a newspaper. Albumen silver print by Felice Beato, 1871
Officers of the USS Colorado during the United States expedition to Korea

On June 10, 1871, the Americans attacked Choji Garrison on Ganghwa, along the Salee River, lightly defended by Koreans, who were armed with severely outdated weapons, such as matchlock rifles. The Koreans were quickly overrun so the Americans moved onto their next objective, the Deokjin Garrison. The Korean forces banded together as guerrilla units, once again armed with only antique weapons, they were kept from effective range by American 12 pound howitzers. The US troops continued on towards the next objective, Deokjin Fort. Upon arrival, the U.S. fightingmen learned that the Korean forces had abandoned Deokjin Fort and began massing further to the north. The sailors and marines quickly dismantled this fortress in the same fashion as they had Choji Fort. American forces continued to Gwangseong Garrison, a citadel. By this time, Korean forces had regrouped there. Along the way, some Korean units tried to flank the US forces; they were beaten off again, by the strategic placement of artillery on two hills near the fortification.

Map of the Korean forts on Ganghwa, with their American names.

Artillery from both ground and USS Monocacy and the other four ships offshore pounded the citadel and the hill directly west of it, in preparation for an assault by US forces. The US troops of nine companies of sailors and one company of Marines grouped on the facing hill, keeping cover and returning fire. Once the bombardments stopped, the Americans charged the citadel, led by Lt. Hugh McKee. The slow reload time of the Korean matchlock rifles allowed the Americans, who were armed with superior Remington rolling block carbines, to make it over the walls; the Koreans even ended up throwing rocks at the attackers.

USS Colorado in Korea, 1871

Lt. McKee was the first to make it into the citadel and was shot in the groin and speared in the side. After him came Commander Winfield Scott Schley, who avenged his comrade.[5] The flag of the Korean commander, General Eo Jae-yeon, which is called the "Sujagi" by Koreans, was captured by Corporal Charles Brown of the USS Colorado's guard and Private Hugh Purvis of the USS Alaska's guard.[6] General Eo was killed by Private James Dougherty.[7] While serving as the color bearer for the Colorado's crew and Marines, USS Colorado Carpenter Cyrus Hayden planted the American Flag on the ramparts under heavy enemy fire. Privates Brown and Purvis and Hayden received the Medal of Honor.

The fighting lasted fifteen minutes. In the end, 243 Koreans were counted dead in the forts and three Americans were also killed in the fighting. The American casualties were Lt. McKee, Seaman Seth Allen, and U.S. Marine Corps Private Denis Hanrahan,[8] ten Americans were wounded, and twenty Koreans were captured, several of whom were wounded. Five Korean forts were taken in total, eleven 24 pounders, fourteen 24 pounders, two 20 pounders and an unknown number of 2 and 4 pound guns were among the fortifications.[9][10] The Korean deputy commander was among the wounded who were captured.[11] The US hoped to use the captives as a bargaining chip to meet with local officials, but the Koreans refused, calling the captives cowards and "Low was told that he was welcome to keep the wounded prisoners".[12]

Point Du Conde, part of Ganghwa Island. During the 1871 assault on the Du Conde fortress.

Following the military operations of June 10–12, the United States Asiatic Squadron stayed at anchorage off Jakyak Island until July 3 when they left for China.[13][14]


The U.S. diplomatically was not able achieve its objectives, as the Koreans refused to open up the country to them. In fact, these events led the regent Daewon-gun to strengthen his policy of isolation and issue a national proclamation against appeasing foreigners.[15] However, in 1876, Korea established a trade treaty with Japan after Japanese ships approached Ganghwado and threatened to fire on Seoul. Treaties with European countries and the U.S. soon followed.

Nine sailors and six Marines were awarded the Medal of Honor, the first for actions in a foreign conflict.

The next U.S. military presence in Korea took place after the end of WWII, in September 1945; then again during the Korean War from 1950–53. The US military maintains a presence to the present day.

Captured sujagi aboard USS Colorado June 1871. From right to left: Corporal Charles Brown (USMC) and Private Hugh Purvis (USMC); the sailor on the left is believed to be Cyrus Hayden (USN). Print by Felice Beato In October 2007, after many years of petitioning the United States government, the flag was returned to Korea on a long-term, ten-year loan. It is currently housed at the National Palace Museum of Korea in Seoul.[16]

The Korean-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce

From April to May 1882, Korea and the United States negotiated and approved a 14 article treaty, which established mutual friendship and defense in case of attack, the ability of Koreans to immigrate to the United States, most favored nation trade status, extraterritorial rights for American citizens in Korea, and non-interference of Christian missionaries proselytizing in Korea.

The treaty remained in effect until the annexation of Korea in 1910 by Japan, which maintained control over Korea until the end of World War II. [17]

See also


  1. ^ The number of ships is confirmed by Lee (1984), p. 264.
  2. ^ Lee (1984), loc. cit.
  3. ^ a b Colorado Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
  4. ^ Report of Rear-Admiral John Rodgers to the Secretary of the Navy, June 3, 1871
  5. ^ Lexington Morning Herald November 28, 1897
  6. ^ Report of Captain McLane Tilton to the Secretary of the Navy, Korea, June 16, 1871
  7. ^ Report of Commander L.A. Kimberly (USN) to the Secretary of the Navy, Korea, July 5, 1871
  8. ^ Dispatch from Commodore John Rodgers to the Secretary of the Navy, Corea, June 23, 1871
  9. ^ Nahm (1996), p. 149.
  10. ^ Rear-Admiral John Rodgers, General Order No. 32, June 12, 1871
  11. ^ "The Corean War", New York Times, Vol. 20, No. 6215, August 22, 1871
  12. ^ http://www.asianresearch.org/articles/1462.html
  13. ^ Report of Rear-Admiral John Rodgers to the Secretary of the Navy, July 5, 1871
  14. ^ Deck logs for the USS Colorado, USS Alaska, USS Benecia, USS Monocacy, and USS Palos from June 10, 1871 to July 3, 1871
  15. ^ Nahm (1986), p. 149-150; Lee (1984), p. 266.
  16. ^ http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/art/2007/10/148_12340.html
  17. ^ http://www.asianresearch.org/articles/1462.html


  • Lee, Ki-baek, tr. by E.W. Wagner & E.J. Shultz (1984). A new history of Korea (rev. ed.). Seoul: Ilchogak. ISBN 89-337-0204-0. 
  • Nahm, Andrew C. (1996). Korea: A history of the Korean people (2nd ed.). Seoul: Hollym. ISBN 1-56591-070-2. 

External links

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