Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Charles Guillou, the U.S. Exploration Expedition and the Japanese Embassy of 1860

One of the most overlooked stories from American history is covered in Nathaniel Philbrick’s Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery The U.S. Exploring Expedition 1838-1842. 

Go to this link for an electronic edition of the book:

Recently, I re-read Philbrick’s book at which time I happened to come across a name familiar to me through my current research on the Japanese Embassy visit to Hawaii: Charles Guillou.
In an earlier posting I mentioned that in the October 24, 1857 edition of The Polynesian it was announced that Dr. Guillou was taking charge of the American Consular Hospital in Honolulu.
In yet another posting my research uncovered a March 10, 1860 article from The Polynesian that reported on a ball held at Dr. Guillou’s home honoring Admiral Josiah Tatnall and the officers of the U.S. S. Powhatan. That event was attended by Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma, with some of the Japanese delegation present.

Guillou was apparently a very popular and well-connected gentleman among the residents of Honolulu.

It also turns out that Dr. Charles Guillou was the assistant-surgeon of the U.S. Exploring Expedition (also known as the “U.S. Ex Ex.”). Go to this link to learn more.

The first mention of his name in Philbrick’s book is on page 154 in the chapter on Antarctica.

Click here for a page on Wikipedia, and this one with the College of Physicians in Philadelphia:
Charles Fleury Bien aime Guillou, naval surgeon, was born in Philadelphia on 26 July 1813. He married Dinah Postlethwaite (b. 1817) in 1852; they had one daughter, Margaret A. Guillou Blackmore, and an adopted daughter, Eloise ("Polly") Thibault. Guillou died of pneumonia in New York on 1 January 1899.

In Philadelphia, Guillou studied medicine with a naval surgeon, Thomas Harris, and, in 1836, received an M.D. from the Universityof Pennsylvania. He also attended courses at the Medical Institute of Philadelphia and the Therapeutic Institute of Philadelphia.

In 1836, Guillou was appointed Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy. He served aboard the "Peacock" as part of the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) under Charles Wilkes. In 1842, he helped William P. C. Barton to organize the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

While Surgeon of the "Columbus" in 1845, he was present at the ratification of the first treaty between the United States and China. Guillou was later assigned to the U.S. Frigate "Constitution" and attended Pope Pius IX.

He was assigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard as Surgeon aboard the Receiving Ship "North Carolina", circa 1852. He resigned from the Navy in 1854 to assume charge of a Marine Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii.

During his sojourn in Hawaii, Guillou was Court Physician to King Kamehameha IV, the first secretary of the Hawaiian Medical Society, and Italian Consul.

He left Hawaii in 1866, moving first to Petersburg, Virginia, then to New York City, where he became a manufacturing pharmacist.

Dr. Guillou died in New York City on New Year’s Day, 1899 at 86 years of age. His obituary appeared in the January 3 edition of the New York Times on Page 9:

Dr. Charles F. Guillou, formerly a Surgeon in the United States Navy, died on Sunday at his residence, 26 East Eleventh Street, of pneumonia. He was born in Philadelphia, July 26, 1813, and was educated in the University of Pennsylvania. He was appointed an Assistant Surgeon in the Navy in 1883 [note: this is a typo in the Times piece], and was later assigned to the United States ship Peacock. He served in the Mexican War, and was afterward appointed Surgeon of the United States ship Columbia, going on an extended cruise in Asiatic waters on board of her. He was afterward assigned to the United States frigate Constitution, and when on one of her cruises in European waters the vessel touched at Gaeta, Italy, Dr. Guillou went with the American Consul and the Captain of the Constitution to visit King Ferdinand II and Pius IX. These personages visited the Constitution the next day, when the Pope was taken ill and was attended by Dr. Guillou. The day after Dr. Guillou was sent for by his Holiness, who wanted to confer an order upon him. Dr. Guillou being an American, this could not be done, but the Pope granted him a plenary indulgence. Dr. Guillou on his return home was detailed to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, from which service he resigned in 1854 to assume charge of the hospital in Honolulu. While in the Hawaiian Islands he also served as Italian Consul by special appointment of Victor Emmanuel. He remained in Honolulu until 1867. He married in 1852 Miss Dinah Postlethwaite of Natchez, Miss., who died several years ago. There was but one daughter, Mrs. Blackmore of Hampton, Va., but there was an adopted daughter, Miss Heloise Thibault, Dr. Guillou’s constant companion until his death. Dr. Guillou was a thirty-third degree Mason and a member of the Medical Society of the County of New York. His body will be taken tonight to Petersburg, Va., for burial beside that of his wife. A private mass will be celebrated to-morrow morning at St. Ann’s Church.

I was paging through the 1857 editions of The Polynesian, the government newspaper published in Honolulu. This is a story from the October 24, 1857 edition that mentioned Dr. Guillou's appointment:

The Right Men in the Right Place:

Mr. Pratt, the U.S. Consul, has recently made the appointment of the officers of the American Consular Hospital, and short as the time since his arrival the parties selected are exactly those whom the community, if it was any business of theirs to speak in the matter, would have pointed out. Dr. Chs. F. Guillou, Consular Physician and Surgeon, enjoys a professional reputation of the highest order, whilst his urbanity of manners renders his visits agreeable to his patients. There is a great deal in that. But the doctor's long experience as a Surgeon in the U.S. Navy, makes him especially fit to take charge of a hospital. He knows Jack's ways and wants, and has a good inkling of his tricks. Capt. G.T. lawton, the new Purveyor, is of course just as well or better posted. He is a very noiseless man, but those who know him speak of him in the highest terms. We have not the pleasure of his special acquaintance and therefore only speak of him according to his reputation, which stands on the "first letter." 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Recriminations: British Defeat at China's Pei-ho in 1859

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 the 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.
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.”

I found this story from the October 8, 1859 (page 2, column 5) edition of The Polynesian:

Late and Important from China.
SEVERE BATTLE-THE ENGLISH FORCES DISASTROUSLY DEFEATED. –From the San Francisco Times we learn that the bark Sea Nymph arrived at Victoria, V.I., on the 13th ult., 37 days from Hong Kong, with files of China papers up to the day of sailing. The news is important.

The British naval forces at the mouth of the Pie-ho made an attack upon the Chinese on the 25th of June, and were disastrously defeated. The fleet consisted of 12 vessels, mounting 28 guns and manned by 1,000 to 1,200 men.

There were 7 officers killed, and 28 wounded. The affair seems to have grown out of a misunderstanding of the preliminaries to the exchange of treaties between the allied ministers and the Chinese authorities, consequent on which an attempt was made by Admiral Hope to force the passage of the Pei-ho.

The North China Herald says that the total loss is as follows: -British, total killed and wounded, 464; French, 4 kiled and 10 wounded (including Captain Tricault of the Chayle, wounded in the arm.)
A correspondent of the China Mail (Hong Kong) says: The belief is universal throughout the squadron that Europeans manned the batteries, as well as Chinese. Men in grey coats with close cropped hair and with Russian features, were distinctly visible in the batteries, and the whole of the fortifications were evidently designed by Europeans.

The Mail says:
The lamentable intelligence we have to convey by this mail is a new difficulty with the Chinese authorities, which led to an attack on the 25th of June from and upon the Taku forts at the mouth of the Pei-ho, resulting in the total defeat of the British force, with the loss of no less than five gunboats, and between four and five hundred men, or about one-third of our force employed.

This matter will form a subject of Parliamentary discussion. The Hon. Mr. Bruce has not the power to collect troops for carrying on a new war with China; and if he applies for assistance, as it is reported he has done, to the Governor-General of India, we trust that Lord Canning will not comply with the request until her Majesty’s government have had time to examine the whole affair. There is more in it than meets the eye, and the most intelligent in this country-are disposed to believe that the Chinese are entirely to be blamed.
Five Days later.
By the ship Maria, arrived at this port from Hong Kong, we have dates to Aug. 9. From the Overland Mail we quote:
Since then matters have gone from bad to worse, and more unsatisfactory tidings than this mail communicates, were never perhaps taken from China. In the first place, as to the effect of the Peiho disaster upon political relations. The dispatch of Sangkolinsin, the Tartar Generalissimo, (a translation whereof is affixed,) duly appeared in the Pekin Gazette. This completely fastens upon the Chinese as deliberate act of treachery, for whist the Generalissimo boasts of the conception and perpetuation of the deed, the High Commissioners had studiously by their fair promises completely discarded all ideas of resistance from the minds of the members of the foreign Legation.

Since the defeat, the British and French Ministers have wisely forborne to negotiate with the Chinese authorities, either directly or otherwise, and are evidently awaiting instructions from their respective governments.

Nothing has been heard from the United States Minister since the dispatch of the last mail. He certainly proceeded north of the Peiho to the point indicated by the Chinese authorities where an officer of rank would meet and convey him to Pekin. The Chinese have it that he has actually proceeded thither, which would appear very probable.

Of Russian complicity to the disaster at Takow, there can be no doubt whatever. The Cantonese aver that Russian engineers built the forts, Russian guns armed them and Russian artillerymen manned them.