Any list of iconic moments in U.S. naval history must include Matthew Calbraith Perry’s 1850 expedition to open Japan. Perry’s mission, one of the most successful examples of “gunboat diplomacy,” made the commodore a national hero and displayed America’s heightened status in global affairs.1
Yet Perry was not the only naval officer to introduce American influence into a previously isolated nation. Three decades later, Commodore Robert Wilson Shufeldt accomplished the same mission in Korea, a mission that arguably did more to usher in an age of U.S. imperialism in the Pacific than Perry’s.2 Shufeldt also acted without the support of a powerful fleet to enforce his demands; instead, he achieved American access to Korea almost alone as a naval attaché in China. Yet, “for every thousand Americans who have at least a vague awareness that Perry opened up Japan, [only] one might realize that Shufeldt opened up Korea,” laments one historian.3
1. For Perry’s mission, see John H. Schroeder, Matthew Calbraith Perry: Antebellum Sailor and Diplomat (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2001), 154–248.
2. The literature on American imperialism at the turn of the 20th century is vast. For an excellent synthesis, see George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 299–377.
3. David F. Long, Gold Braid and Foreign Relations: Diplomatic Activities of U.S. Naval Officers, 1798–1883 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1988), 408.
4. Frederick C. Drake, “Robert Wilson Shufeldt: The Naval Officer as Commercial Expansionist and Diplomat,” James C. Bradford, ed., Captains of the Old Steam Navy: Makers of the American Naval Tradition, 1840–1880 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986), 277–78.
5. Frederick C. Drake, Empire of the Seas: A Biography of Rear Admiral Robert Wilson Shufeldt, USN (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1984), 33–42; Herring, From Colony to Superpower, 232–33.
6. Drake, Empire of the Seas, 58–71.
7. Long, Gold Braid, 396.
8. Long, Gold Braid, 395–97.
9. Bruce E. Bechtol Jr., “Avenging the General Sherman: The 1871 Battle of Kang Hwa Do,” master’s thesis, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, 2.
10. Jinwung Kim, History of Korea: From Land of the Morning Calm to States in Conflict (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012), 281–82; Han Woo-keun, The History of Korea, Lee Kyung-shik, trans., (Seoul, Korea: The Eul-Yoo Publishing Company, 1970), 361–64.
11. Drake, Empire of the Seas, 232–35.
12. Long, Gold Braid, 374–75; Drake, Empire of the Seas, 96–102.
13. Bechtol, “Avenging the General Sherman,” 2–7, 17–40; Gordon H. Chang, “Whose ‘Barbarism’? and Whose ‘Treachery’?: Race and Civilization in the Unknown United States–Korea War of 1871,” Journal of American History (March 2003), 1331–1365.
14. Charles Oscar Paullin, “The Opening of Korea by Commodore Shufeldt,” Political Science Quarterly 25, no. 3 (1910): 483–84; Long, Gold Braid, 404–5.
15. Kim, History of Korea, 286–87.
16. Long, Gold Braid, 404–5.
17. Drake, “Shufeldt,” 290–91.
18. Shufeldt to Sargent, January, 1882, reprinted in Drake, Empire of the Seas, 355–362.
19. Long, Gold Braid, 405–9.
20. Paullin, “Opening of Korea,” 498.
21. Drake, Empire of the Seas, 286–292; Paullin, “Opening of Korea,” 492–96.
22. Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States of America and Korea, May 22, 1882, reprinted in Drake, Empire of the Seas, 363–68. Quoted text appears on pages 361 and 368.
23. Woo-Keun, History of Korea, 385–86.
24. Drake, “Shufeldt,” 289–90.