Four notebooks of various sizes, 1870-1874. 1) Large notebook with entries for 1870-1872. Ca. 21x17,5 cm. Over 100 lined leaves. Ink manuscript title by Rickards on the first leaf “U.S.S. Benicia, Nagaski, Japan, May 3d 1872.” Period brown quarter sheep with marbled papered boards, rubbed on extremities, loose on hinges and with minor loss of the top and the bottom of the spine. Several leaves or parts of leaves cut out, including the entry for June 3, 1871 of the “Extracts from Log of U.S.S. Benicia on the Expedition to Corea.” 2) Medium-sized notebook with entries for 1873-1874. Ca. 18,5x12,5 cm. Ca. 50 leaves. Ink manuscript title by Rickards on the first leaf “Cruise of U.S.S. Alaska of 73, 74, 75, part of 76 in the Mediterranean. Wm. H. Rickards, Carpenter, U.S. Navy.” Period brown full sheep notebook, slightly stained and rubbed on extremities. 3) “Bancroft’s Diary for 1871,” mainly containing entries for 1873. Ca. 15,5x8,5 cm. Standard black sheep binding with overlapping back cover. 4) Small red full sheep notebook with metal clasps, ca. 8x12 cm; mainly contains entries related to USS “Alaska.” Bindings of the notebooks generally worn, several leaves from the first notebook cut out (including a piece on the Korean Expedition), but overall a very good collection.
Rare first-hand account of the United States 1871 Expedition to Korea and the Battle of Ganghwa Island, which became the first armed conflict between the two nations.
“The United States expedition to Korea, known by the Koreans as the Shinmiyangyo (lit. “Western Disturbance in the Shinmi (1871) Year”) or simply the Korean Expedition, in 1871, was the first American military action in Korea. It took place predominantly on and around Ganghwa Island. The reason for the presence of the American land and naval force in Korea was to support an American diplomatic delegation sent to establish trade and political relations with the peninsular nation, to ascertain the fate of the merchant ship General Sherman, and to establish a treaty assuring aid for shipwrecked sailors. When Korean shore batteries attacked two American warships on June 1, a punitive expedition was launched 10 days later after the commanding American admiral failed to receive an official apology from the Koreans. The isolationist nature of the Joseon dynasty government and the assertiveness of the Americans led to a misunderstanding between the two parties that changed a diplomatic expedition into an armed conflict. On June 10, about 650 Americans landed and captured several forts, killing over 200 Korean troops with a loss of only three American soldiers dead. Korea continued to refuse to negotiate with the United States until 1882” (Wikipedia).
The notes kept by W.H. Rickards, a carpenter of one of the expedition ships, USS “Benicia,” provide a more personal outlook on the events, with the details of the ships’ and troops’ movements and major engagements, but also with notes on carpenters’ duties (to make stretchers to carry the wounded), sailmakers providing soldiers with haversacks, and “all hands bussy [sic!] grinding cutlasses.” Very interesting is his interpretation of the Korean ambassadors’ speech, which urged the Americans to leave. Two lengthy entries for June 10 and 11 give a full picture of the Battle of Ganghwa Island, with notes on the number of American marines involved, casualties from both sides, and the mortal wound of Lt. Hugh W. McKee (1844-1871). The other entries in the notebook include “Orders from Executive, Oct. 28, 1870 – May 20, ” (3 pp., carpenter duties); “Draft of U.S.S. Benicia” (itinerary from March 2, 1870 to June 10, 1872, all in South-East Asia, including Korea; 17 pp.); and “Mess Accounts” (June-September 1872, food supplies, ca. 25 pp.). The notebook also contains numerous amateur pencil drawings (sailboats, cutters, steamships, ships’ bows and sterns, rigging, architectural details, a pencil-drawn view of “Dennisville, Cap. May County,” portrait of a sailor, etc.), arithmetic calculations, calligraphic names of Rickards, his younger brother George C. Rickards Jr. (1847-1940), Shakespeare’s verses, etc.
The smaller notebook contains the following entries: “Draught of U.S.S. Alaska” (itinerary from New York and around the Mediterranean, 25 August 1873 – 7 December 1874, ends a few days before Rickards’ death, 21 pp.); “Carpenter Crew, U.S.S. Alaska, 1873” (1 p.); “Paymaster Account” (1 p.), “Order Book” (1 p.), etc. The “Bancroft’s Diary for 1871” records some proceedings onboard USS “Alaska” in 1873: “Caulking, imployed, Oct. 27 1873, Barcelona, Spain” (2 pp.), “Mess Stores”( 2 pp.), “Smithwork orders at Barcelona, Monday, Sept. 29th 1871” (3 pp). The small red notebook records “Artical [sic!] for U.S.S. Alaska” (5 pp.), “Received from Equip. Store” (6 pp.), and others.
Overall a rare first-hand account of the US navy 1871 expedition to Korea.
William H. Rickards was born in Philadelphia in the family of a “wood corder” George C. Rickards Rickerts (1814-1875). By 1855 he was in service in the US Navy. In 1869-1871, he served as a carpenter on USS “Benicia,” in 1872 – as a carpenter on the League Island naval station, Penn., and in 1873-1874 as a carpenter on USS “Alaska” (See: Register of the Commissioned, Warrant and Volunteer Officers of the Navy of the United States… To January 1870 - … 1875. Washington, 1870-1875v). Rickard died at sea on December 14, 1874, at Port of Longone, Isle of Elba, and buried in a Protestant cemetery at Spezia, Italy.
Some quotes from the “Extracts from Log of U.S.S. Benicia on the Expedition to Corea:”
“The Fleet left Nagaski Tuesday morning, May 6th 1871, the Colorado taking the lead, and after getting out clear of the land took up position assigned by the Admiral in the from [sic!] of letter. [A little scheme with the ship’ names placed in a V-shape to indicate their position]. Nothing of note happened until 19th May, when the fleet anchored off a group of islands on the west coast of Corea, the fog being too thick to proceed.
20th May. Fleet still at anchor, weather foggy. At 4 p.m. a gun was fired from the flagship to summon the commanders of the different vessels.
May 21st. At 9 a.m. fleet got under weight, the smaller vessels on the lead, each vessels taking sounding and telegraphing to the flagship. The fog again settled thickly and at 4 p.m. fleet came to anchor, several islands and rocks in sight, weather getting cold.
22d May. Weather foggy, fleet still at anchor. At 10 a.m. a junk with Coreans ran close to us in the fog and on sighting us pulled off in a hurried and frightened manner. At 4 p.m. the fog cleared, several junks in sight. Close under the coast are our vessels all in sight.
23d May. At 9 a.m. the fog having risen the fleet got under weight, Palos and Monocacy on the lead, steaming slowly and taking sounding. At 4 p.m. fleet anchored in an Archipelago (Sea of Islands) which place us at a stand and preparation wase [sic!] now made to send all the steam launches and the Palos to survey behind the island and search for the mouth of the river witch [sic!] extends some 200 miles in the interior of the country, yet does not reach the capital. And this porpose [sic!] 3 day provisions where [sic!] placed in each boat, it was no [sic!] discovered that the valve seat in the condenser on board of are [sic!] ship had broke down witch [sic!] would cause delay for repairs.
24th May. At 5 ½ a.m. the Palos and the 4 steam launchers got under weight, fully armed and equipted [sic!] taking separate routes but wase [sic!] supposed to meet at night to rendezvous together. At 10 p.m. the cutter from different ship wase [sic!] lowered and unter [sic!] sail commenced surveying in the emmediate [sic!] vicinity of the fleet. The ship wase [sic!] now making preparation for action, such as snaking the rigging, &c. <…>
28th May. All day long everybody was on the look out for the return of the boats. Held Divine Service on the quarter deck. At 7 p.m. a light was reported off the starboard bow, witch [sic!] proved to be the Palos with the long absent boats in tow, and from them we learned that they had gone some 40 miles towards the mainland and even passed the mouth of river, running sufficienty [?] to see by glasses that the Coreans ware [sic!] building a couple of mud forts to protect the mouth of the river, at one point they went close enough to see the natives who tried to scare them off with yell. The reported depth of water sufficient for the fleet to advance. <…>
1 June. Weather cloudy amd raining very hard, with a heavy thunder. Vessel still at anchor, getting steam launches ready to send up the river to survey, which will be going three days. 10 ½ a.m. Steam launches in company the Monocacy and Palos steam up river towards the capital. 12 a.m. Weather clear. <…> At 2 p.m. heavy fires, hard from up river <…> are [sic!] boats has fired into. At 3 p.m. and we have then returned the fire from the boats and sum [sic!] up there are having a busy [?] time. <…> At 4 ½ falled sail fired sill [sic!] going on up the river. 5 p.m. Monocacy, Palos and steam launch reported return toward the fleet. At 6 p.m. boats return and reported that they fired on by Coreans from 3 forts. Are [sic!] boats silenced all the forts and drove the Coreans back. The Corean is well armed with muskets and large cannons furnished to the [sic!] by Chinese. The Monocacy run on a rock and noch a hole in her bottom. 2 of are [sic!] men was wounded, don’t know many of the Coreans were killed.
2 June. Getting every thing ready to send the landing force up the river. Carpenter crew making strechers [sic!] to carry the wounded. Sail maker crew making haversacks, all hands bussy [sic!] grinding cutlasses <…> 3 p.m. Words pass that the mail will close tonight. The Palos will take it to Che Foo and bring it up are [sic!] mail. The Expedition will leave in 10 days or as soon as the Palos returns. Admiral let to Chee Foo to charter a small steamer & to have coal sent up to us…
4 June. Palos left at daylight with mail for Che Foo. All hands to muster. Laws and regulations of the navy read on the quarter deck. <…> 4 p.m. <…> Natives seen off on the hill top building forts and watching us… No news from the Corean Governor yet.
5 June. Weather clear & pleasent [sic!]. At 9 ½ a.m. went to general quarters, went the big gun exercise. At 11 a.m. drilled all the landing company in small arms and howitzers…
6th June. Weather clear and pleasent [sic!]. At 9 ½ went to quarters for inspection. At 11 a.m. 2 junk come down to the flagship. One was loaded with beans[?], sheep, ducks, chickens and potatoes with some of the head men. They wanted to know what we stayed here so long, if we wanted provision they would give us all we wanted. But they want us to leave these [sic!] country. They say that the poor people keep from coming down the river to fish, say winter coming on and they will have nothing to eat and they will starv [sic!]. They say they have got along 4000 years without foreigners and they can be without them. They say if they make a treaty with us, we will bring money in these country, and one man will get more then [sic!] another, and that will make them jealous of one another, and lie and cheat one another, so they want us to leave these country. But the Admiral <…> told them we was going up to the capital, peacefully if we could, forcefully if we must.
June 9. <…> 10 ½ drill the men in small arms, served out 2 day rations, everybody bussy [sic!] getting ready to ashore tomorrow morning.
10th June. Weather clear. All hands getting ready to go ashore. Men equip. with canteens & haversacks with 2 days rations. Howitzers in boats. At 11 o’clock Monocacy, Palos with 21 cutters and 4 steam launchers loaded with men. 166 men from Benicia, 164 from Alaska, 450 from the flagship, with a batterie [sic!] of 14 howitzers. Men arm with carbines and muskets. At 12 p.m. no fires herd [sic!] yet and 12 ½ Admiral with some of his staff came onboard, got fire onto two boilers to condense water. At 1 o’clock havy [sic!] and sharp fires herd [sic!] up the river <…> At 6 p.m. more fires herd [sic!] from the boats. I have got the morning watch…
Sunday, May [actually, June] 11th, 1871. Weather clear and pleasent. At 6 a.m. muskets fires herd [sic!] from the river, a big smoke seen <…> if are [sic!] boats has set some of the town on fire. At 12 a.m. are [sic!] men has been seen by the glasses ashore, and they have captured one of the large forts and raised are [sic!] flag on it. Fires still going on further up the river. At 3 p.m. a whale boat come from up the river with dispatches to the Admiral, saying that we have captured all these forts and mine them and blow them up. One fort, the ship throwed shell in to him for 2 hours without […?] them out, and then are [sic!] land force charge on the fort and cary [sic!] it by storm, killing 180 of the Coreans and 1000 wounded and captured a great many prisoners (with all their guns and ammunition), drove a great many of them over board & <…> a great may of them drowned. With the cost on are [sic!] side 2 men killed, 5 wounded with Lt. McKey of the Colorado badley [sic!] wounded with musket bull in the hip and a spear thrust in the right side. <..> At 8 p.m. signal was seen from are [sic!] land force, two rockets and a blue light. It meant that they was all right.
June 12th, 1871. Weather clear and pleasent [sic!]. At 11 a.m. Monocacy with all the boats returned from up the river and passing. <…> At 12 a.m. Palos come down with the steam launches and are [sic!] Officers report that they took the fort with the point of bayonet, the Coreans fought very hard.”.
Price: $3,250.00 USD