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." 

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