World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Korean Expedition

Korean Expedition

American forces after capturing the Deokjin Fort during the Battle of Ganghwa in 1871.
Date June 1, 1871 – July 3, 1871
Location Ganghwa Island, Yellow Sea, Joseon
(now Ganghwa Island, Yellow Sea, South Korea)
Result American withdrawal; Joseon reaffirms its isolation policy
 United States Joseon Dynasty
Commanders and leaders
John Rodgers
Winfield Scott Schley

The United States expedition to Korea, the 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 naval 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 merchant ship General Sherman, and to establish a treaty assuring aid for shipwrecked sailors. When Korean shore batteries attacked two American warships on June 1, 1871, a punitive expedition was launched ten days later after the commanding American admiral failed to receive an official apology from the Koreans. The isolationist nature of the Joseon Dynasty government and the assertiveness of the Americans led to a misunderstanding between the two parties that changed a diplomatic expedition into an armed conflict. On June 10, about 650 Americans landed and captured several forts, killing over 200 Korean troops with a loss of only three American dead. Korea continued to refuse to negotiate with the United States until 1882.

Initial contact

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 gesture was misinterpreted; 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 Koreans, 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] The U.S. demanded an apology within ten days; there was no response so Rodgers decided on a punitive assault on the forts.[3]

Battle of Ganghwa

Main article: Battle of Ganghwa

On June 10, 1871, the Americans attacked the lightly defended Choji Garrison on Ganghwa, along the Salee River. The Koreans were armed with severely outdated weapons, such as matchlock muskets. After they were quickly overrun, the Americans moved onto their next objective, the Deokjin Garrison. The poorly armed Korean forces were kept from effective range by American 12 pound howitzers. The American troops continued on towards the next objective, Deokjin Fort, which they found abandoned. The sailors and marines quickly dismantled this fortress and 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, but were beaten off again due to the strategic placement of artillery on two hills.

Artillery fire from ground forces and the USS Monocacy offshore pounded the citadel in preparation for an assault by US forces. A force of 546 sailors and 105 Marines grouped on the hills west of the fortress (infantry troops were on the hill directly west of the fortress, while artillery troops on another hill both shelled the fortress and also covered the Americans' flanks and rear) 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 matchlocks aided 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.

McKee was the first to make it into the citadel, and was fatally wounded by a shot to the groin. After him came Commander Winfield Scott Schley. Schley shot the Korean soldier who killed McKee.[5] The flag of the Korean commander, General Eo Jae-yeon, 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 US flag on the ramparts under heavy enemy fire. Corporal Brown, Privates Dougherty and Purvis, and Carpenter 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 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, with dozens of various small cannon.[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]

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 United States was not able to achieve its objectives diplomatically, as the Koreans refused to negotiate. 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.

Treaty of Amity and Commerce

Main article: United States-Korea Treaty of 1882

From April to May 1882, the United States and Korea negotiated and approved a 14-article treaty.[16] The treaty established mutual friendship and mutual assistance in case of attack;[17] and also addressed such specific matters as extraterritorial rights for American citizens in Korea[18] and most favored nation trade status.[19]

The treaty remained in effect until the annexation of Korea in 1910.

See also



  • Gordon H. Chang, "Whose "Barbarism"? Whose "Treachery"? Race and Civilization in the Unknown United States-Korea War of 1871," Journal of American History, Vol. 89, No. 4 (Mar., 2003), pp. 1331–1365 in JSTOR
  • Yŏng-ho Ch'oe; William Theodore De Bary; Martina Deuchler and Peter Hacksoo Lee. (2000). Sources of Korean Tradition: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press. 10-OCLC 248562016

External links

  • US Naval Historical Center on 1871 US Korean campaign
  • medal of Honor Link {1871} reference only
  • 1871 US Korea Campaign
  • The early US-Korea relations - Excerpt from "A Brief History of the US-Korea Relations Prior to 1945"
  • Gateway to Shimiyangyo
  • My Ganghwa dot com, a Korean site dedicated to the Ganghwa Isle
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.