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1st Seoul Expedition - 19 Jun 1888 - 30 Jun 1888

In the l6th century a prolonged war was fought, which ended with the failure of Japan to make good her footing on the mainland. In more modern times, l875, l882 and l884, Japan had .repeatedly sent expeditions to Corea, and had fostered the growth of a pro gressive party in Seoul. The difficulties of l884 were settled by the convention of Tientsin, wherein it was agreed that in the event of future intervention each should inform the other if it were decided to despatch troops to the peninsula.

Although, on several occasions in the years immediately preceding, detachments of the U. S. Marine Corps had seen heavy and arduous service, the events in Korea and China in the year 1884 gave eminent opportunity to know the American sailor and Marine under test conditions. The progress of the war between China and Japan determined the U. S. Government to dispatch the Cruiser Cincinnati, later also the Monocacy and Yorktown, of the Asiatic Station, to protect American interests in the seat of hostilities.

Among the most important tasks facing Admiral McNair, Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. Naval force, was the protection of the American consulate at Seoul, the capital city of Korea, as well as the numerous missionaries and foreign residents collected there. On 23 July 1894 telegrams urgent in tone were received on board from our minister in Seoul asking for a guard to protect the legation, also stating that the Japanese had seized the palace and king the night before after a small skirmish, in which 40 Koreans and 3 Japanese were killed or wounded.

The force, consisting of twenty-one Marines and twenty-nine sailors, under command of Captain G. F. Elliott, USMC, made a night march from the post at Chemulpo to the city of Seoul, a total distance of thirty-one miles, part of the way through submerged rice fields and in the midst of intense heat. Arriving at the Capital with very few mishaps, the detachment performed important services in guarding the American and several foreign consulates and in helping to preserve order. Later Captain Elliott was ordered, with his force and the Marine detachment of the Monocacy, to embark at Tientsin for service, in case of need, in protecting American interests in the City of Peking against riots occasioned by the approach of the Japanese army. This expedition was later found to be unnecessary. Through courtesy, needed supplies were sent up from the Baltimore in a small steamer purchased from a Chinese merchant by the British charg d'affaires.

Up to the 26th of August 1884 no man left the compound. All thoroughly understood the situation, that the Japanese garrison had been depleted to 300 men in order to send troops to Pingyang, and that in case they were defeated their legation would probably be attacked in Seoul. An event of this kind would endanger the lives of all foreigners, for there is a strong party of Koreans whose cry is Korea for Koreans; also a religious sect of fanatics calling themselves Tonghaks, organized to do away with Christianity; but the term is now generally applied to rebellious Koreans. This belief proved to be true, for a letter written by the king's father, the old regent, to the commanding Chinese general in Pingyang, stated: You gain a victory and I will stir the foreigners up here in rear. The regent was confronted by this letter in the hands of the Japanese minister in Seoul later, and admitted he wrote it, and for this lost most of the power to which they had restored him.

In the 19th century, American warships often visited Jemulpo [modern Incheon]. Usually their presence was benign ? training and resupplying ? but other times the ships visited with the intent on showing the flag to bolster the morale of the small American population and to signify the American government's willingness to protect its citizens. The appearance of the U.S.S. Essex at Jemulpo in the summer of 1888 was for the latter reason. In early June, the corpses of several Korean children were discovered in the streets of Seoul. The children had been horribly mutilated and parts of their bodies had been removed. Rumors circulated in the streets that the foreigners ? particularly the Americans and Japanese ? were the culprits. Many superstitious Koreans believed children's eyes were an essential part in developing film for photographs. Others believed that blood and organs were used in making Western medicine. Some even suggested that Hugh Dinsmore, the American minister to Korea, ate roasted Korean babies in the American legation. Threats were whispered and calls for the expulsion of foreigners began to circulate. Alarmed at the growing unrest, Americans were urged to refrain from wandering the streets and were informed that a single shot would be fired at the legation if an attack upon foreigners seemed imminent. If the signal was given, all Americans were to make their way as quick as possible to the legation.

The Corean "pot" continued to "boil," with an occasion al outbreak which threatened foreign consulates, and foreign citizens and their property. One of these occurred in June 1888 at Seoul, the capital. The American Minister deemed it serious enough to warrant an armed force to pro tect the interests of the United States. A serious rebellion in 1888 induced the Corean government to apply for military assistance from China. Early in June a small force of Chinese troops was sent to Asan, and Japan, duly informed, replied by furnishing her minister at Seoul with an escort, rapidly following up this step by despatching 5000 troops under General Oshima. Japan proposed that the two powers unite to suppress the disturbance, and inaugurate certain reforms. China considered that these measures should be left to Corea her self. This controversy continued, until about the middle of July 1888, when it became apparent that, unless China was willing to abandon all claims over Corea, war with Japan was inevitable. At Seoul the issue was forced by the Japan ese minister, who delivered an ultimatum to the Corcan gov ernment on July 20th. On the 23rd the palace was forcibly occupied by the Japanese, and on Aunaist lst war was declared, Rear Admiral Charles C. Carpenter, commanding the US Navy Asiatic Squadron, was issued instructions relative to pro viding utmost protection for American interests, due to the unsettled conditions in consequence of the war. During the latter part of the year, when the Japanese army approached quite near to Peking, there was occasion for great excitement. Riots occurred with frequency, foreigners were un welcome, and the foreign diplomatic representatives were apprehensive for their own safety. Admiral Carpenter, who was on his flagship, the Baltimore, at Nagasaki, Japan, at the time, received a cablegram to proceed at once, and place his Marine guard at the disposal of the American Minister, Colonel Charles Denby, at Peking, to protect the Legation. he Essex, Com mandant Theodore F. Jewell, commanding, was moored in the harbor of Chemulpo and the Minister requested him to fur nish a suitable guard, which he did. On 19 June 1888 Marines landed in Korea and marched 25 miles to protect the Seoul Legation. Marines and seamen from the steam bark USS Essex landed at Chemulpo, Korea, and marched to Seoul to protect the American consulate during a period of political unrest. Much to the relief of the American residents of Seoul, 28 marines took up position in the American legation. The Korean government protested against their arrival but soon fell silent when the Russian and French representatives also summoned and received their own legation guards. With the arrival of so many foreign marines and the Korean government's crackdown on people spreading malicious rumors, peace returned to the streets. Several people had lost their lives ? victims of mob lynchings.

The landing force of l3 Marines and 13 sailors, with lst Lieutenant Robert D. Wainwright of the Marines, Ensign Hoggatt and Lieutenant C. D. Galloway of the Navy, commanding, remained on this duty until the 30th, at which time they returned to their ship.



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