Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Powhatan Arrives in Hong Kong, Tatnall and Battle of the Taku Forts and Japanese Infighting

The Polynesian’s September 3, 1859 edition reported that the U.S.S. Powhatan had arrived in Hong Kong on May 10.

“The U.S. steam-frigate Powhatan arrived at Hongkong, May 10, with Gen. Ward, the American Minister. The Powhatan leaves for Tien-tsin [Tianjin today], and will be the first to test the reported obstructions at the mouth of the Pei-ho. It is supposed the Russians will have a steamer of light draft awaiting the arrival of Gen. Ward.”

In the same story is this: “There is a report that the Russian Government has given eight thousand pieces of cannon to the Chinese in consideration of land cessions at the Amoor.”

I was looking for specific references to Commodore Josiah Tatnall’s coming to the aid of a British ship during their military exchanges with the Chinese. None were found.

More details of the “disastrously defeated” British naval forces were prominently featured in the October 8, 1859 edition of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, published in Honolulu. “The British naval force at the mouth of the Pei-ho made an attack upon the Chinese on the 25th of June, and were disastrously defeated with terrible loss of life.” More detailed were featured on the first page of the October 15 edition of the paper.

The January 12, 1860 edition of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser provided further details through a published letter from R.S. Maclay on the third page, dated September 21, 1859 from “Fuhchau, China.” Despite the battle at the Pei Ho the following is reported regarding American Minister Ward:

“Mr. Ward, the American Minister, arrived at Pekin about the 28th of July, 1859, and remained there fifteen days with his suite. The President’s letter was delivered at Pekin, and the exchange of the treaties took place at Pehtang, a town at the northern entrance of the Peiho.” But still no mention of Commodore Josiah Tatnall. Go to this link to see the connection.

The September 3 edition of the Polynesian also reported infighting in the Japanese government, casting doubt on the Japanese Embassy visit to the United States:

“THE MINISTER FROM JAPAN TO THE UNITED STATES. The latest number of the China Herald has this paragraph: There seems to be considerable doubt if the proposed embassy to the United States will take place. The conservative party, who are opposed to all innovations, are determined to prevent this infraction of the law which prohibits Japanese from leaving their country. The two delegates who have been named for Washington are themselves anxious to go but their departure will certainly be delayed for the present at least. A council for foreign affairs has been established at Jeddo, consisting of five princes.”

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