Hampton Roads Naval Museum Educator
While the majority of the US Navy in the Civil War was involved in blockade operations along the Southern seaboard, a few ships were needed to patrol the high seas because of the success of Confederate commerce raiders. In July 1863, USS Wyoming was finishing its cruise spent searching for CSS Alabama in the Pacific. Commander David McDougal, captain of Wyoming, received orders to head back to the United States. However, just before the crew was to leave from Yokohama, they heard of a nearby attack on the American merchant steamer, Pembroke. Perhaps contrary to expectations, the aggressor was not Raphael Semmes and the Alabama, but Japanese forces flying their national flag. This was alarming, as the United States and Japan were not at war, having signed a treaty only a few years before.
|USS Wyoming (from Official Records)|
|(image from http://www.shimonoseki-fc.jp/)|
|McDougal's map of the battle (From Official Records)|
|USS Wyoming (center) attacks between the Japanese ships|
|Koshin's (Lancefield) boiler exploding, causing an estimated 40 casualties. Wyoming to the right.|
Due to the continued threat of CSS Alabama, USS Wyoming put off returning to the United States for another year, only arriving in Philadelphia in July 1864, in dire need of repair. However, the threat of another Confederate raider, CSS Florida, forced McDougal and his crew to return to sea. For all their likely grumbling, this endeavor proved to be short-lived as a faulty boiler prompted its return to the navy yard for repairs, likely to the crew's great appreciation.
Commander McDougal believed that his actions against the Choshu had taught them "a lesson that will not soon be forgotten," but he was being too optimistic. European ships would continue to be harassed at the Shimonseki Straits, causing international ire and resulting in action the following year. (to be continued)
*All quotations taken from The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series 1, Vol. 2 and The Narrative of a Japanese, Vol. 1 by James Heco.
** Sailors and marines shot "100 rounds of musket-ball cartridges, 50 of Sharps rifle ball cartridges, 50 pistol-ball cartridges, 50 revolver cartridges."