Responding to attacks on foreign shipping, in 1863, the sloop Wyoming engaged three Japanese warships at Shimonoseki. This engraving shows the sinking of one, the brig Kosei.
During the American Civil War, the Union sloop Wyoming was assigned to patrol western Pacific waters in search of Confederate raiders—the infamous Alabama in particular. The search proved fruitless, however, and the Wyoming’s captain, Commander David S. McDougal, was preparing to return home from Hong Kong when, on 4 April 1863, he was summoned to Yedo (Tokyo) by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Robert Pruyn.
Since 1854, when Commodore Matthew Perry forced the opening of Japan to foreign interaction, tensions had run high among various Japanese warlords, some of whom advocated expulsion of the “hairy barbarians.” In March 1863, Emperor Komei joined the calls for expulsion, decreeing “the ugly barbarians are watching the Empire with greedy eye, and you will . . . perform the exploit of sweeping them away.”