Very few people know that the Korean war of 1950 - 1953 was the second war the US had with Korea.
Starting in the 1830's England, France, and the US worked on "opening" Asia to trade. The ruling classes
saw their power being undercut, so they fought back. This caused a series of small wars all over Asia.
In Korea, at the time a kingdom, the King order all ports closed and no trade to be done with foreigners.
In 1866 at the end of the US Civil war the USS General Sherman was sighted on the Tae-tong River. The
ship was loaded with trade goods mainly cotton cloth, tin goods, glass, and other items. It was, of course,
also a warship.
Governor Park Kyoo Soo of Pyung-an sent an aide to investigate the ship's presence. The aide
was told that the foreigners came to exchange goods with the Koreans. He, the aide, informed them that
Korea did not trade with foreigners and that only the King could change this law; and that the governor
had no authority to deal with the foreigners.
After the aide left the ship they sailed further up the river. Due to high water they were able to sail all
the way to Pyongyang (today the capital of North Korea). The next day the water dropped and they were
The King ordered:
"Tell them to leave at once. If they do not obey, kill them."
Since the water had dropped Governor Park ordered an attack on the ship. The fighting lasted four days. At
last the Koreas tried fire ships, ie they set an old ship on fire and drove it into the General Sherman. This
did not work the first time, they had to do it again. On the third try the General Sherman caught fire and
burned to the waterline. Most of the people on the General Sherman was killed in the water. A few were
able to make it to shore where they were executed.
The Koreans captured two or three cannons, which are displayed in the armory of Pyongyang. They also
recovered the Sherman's anchor chains, which was hung from the East Gate Tower of Pyongyang.
On the General Sherman was the first Protestant missionary to Korea. His name was Robert Thomas.
Legend has it that he was one of those who made it to the shore. There he knelt down to say his last
prayer and gave his bible to his executioner before he was killed.
When the General Sherman did not return the US Navy sent ships looking for her. In the spring of 1868
The USS Shenandoah under Captain John C. Febiger reached the Taedong River's mouth
and received official acknowledgement of the death of all crewmen of General Sherman.
The USS Colorado arrived on the west coast of Korea during the latter part of May 1871, along with
four other ships of the Asiatic Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral John Rodgers. Having anchored
off the mouth of the Han River, and desiring to examine approaches to Seoul, Rodgers sent out a Navy
surveying party on one June. The survey party, while working its way up the channel (Salee River), was
fired upon by one of the five forts which protected the approach to the Han River. After waiting 10 days
to give the Korean officials time to apologize, Rodgers and Low decided to carry out punitive measures
in response to the hostile action.
On 10 June, Marine Captain McLane Tilton with 3 officers and 105 Marines, who comprised part of the
landing force, led the assault against the Korean forts. During the ensuing battle, which
required hand-to-hand combat, Marine Corporal Charles Brown and Private Hugh Purvis made their way
to the flagstaff and tore down the enemy flag. This flag now hangs in the US Naval Adademy's Chapel.
When the battle ended over 200 Koreans lay dead.
There is no doubt that the Americans felt themselves victorious; they had lost three men, the Koreans
350. Although no successful treaty was immediately negotiated, hostile activity towards the Americans
ceased. When the American ships left Korea on 3 July little else had been accomplished, and the Koreans
were able to regard it as a great victory because the Americans had sailed away without gaining any
particular advantage, just as the French had done in 1866.
Oddly, Japan was the first to succeeded in imposing a Western-style treaty in February 1876,
giving its nationals extraterritorial rights and opening three Korean ports to Japanese commerce. It was
not until May 22, 1882 that the US signed a treaty (Treaty of Chemulpo) with Korea. It was signed by
Commodore Robert W. Schufeldt for the US.
The General Sherman was built in 1861 for service in the Irish sea. Its original name was
"The Princess Royal". It was used during the US Civil War as a Confederate navy blockade runner.
It was 619 tons, 197 feet x 27 ft x 11 ft. It had one propeller,
2 boilers, one horizontal geared engine and could make 11 knots. It carried a crew of 90 and two
On January 29, 1863, the USS Unadilla captured the Princess Royal off Charleston (South Carolina).
The Union navy rebuilt her into a gunship.
On June 28, 1863, The Confederate army attacked Fort Butler. The Fort was surrounded and about to
surrender when the Union's Princess Royal came to the garrison's aid and helped repel the attackers.
Crew OF USS General Sherman as January 1, 1865
- CALDWELL, George W.: Actg 3rd Asst Engnr
- CANNON, William E.: Actg Master's Mate
- CHANDLER, Thomas K.: Actg Asst Surgeon
- FALLON, James E.: 2nd Asst Engnr
- HUNTLEY, William: Actg 1st Asst Engnr
- JOHNSON, Lewis: Actg Master's Mate
- McKAY, Charles E.: Lieut
- MORTON, Francis T.: Actg Asst Paymaster
- MOULE, John J.: Actg Ensign
- PORTER, Cyrus K.: Actg Ensign
- REDMOND, Andrew J.: Actg 3rd Asst Engnr
- REYNOLDS, Alfred H.: Actg Ensign
- TAYLOR, Peter: Actg 3rd Asst Engnr
- WITHAM, Thomas A.: Actg Ensign
- WOOLSEY, M. B.: Commander
Today at the site of the battle is a large stone telling of the ship. Also the site is the home of the
USS Pueblo, the ship took over by the North Koreans in 1968.
In 2012 I came across this note on one page.
The GENERAL SHERMAN did not sink she was grounded, but she was not lost, as some sources give; when the river levels rose she was refloated and moved to Seoul.
She was repaired and for some time was she the first engine powered warship of the Korean Navy. Under pressure of China she was handed back to her former American owner Samuel C. Cook in 1867.
Early 1868 bought by William F.Weld Co. Boston, Mass., who was building up his Merchants of Boston SS Co.
After a recondition and alternation she was put in the service from Boston to New Orleans service with accommodation for some passengers.
Her last voyage was, when she left on 04 January 1874 New York with on board a crew of 42 men and 4 passengers and general cargo consigned to New Orleans.
During the voyage the weather worsened and on 07 January at 02.00am. she sprung a leak, and the pumps could not manage the water level pouring in.
Her crew were rescued by the schooner SPRAY and FLORENCE and salvaged some cargo and the baggage of the passengers who disembarked at Wilmington N.C.
10 January the steam tug BRANDT steamed out from Wilmington and found the GENERAL SHERMAN still afloat, she managed to put a hawser on the ship and started towing.
Near Tub's Inlet, twenty-seven miles from Cape Fear the GENERAL SHERMAN sank.