Battle of Ganghwa

This article is about the American intervention in Korea in 1871. For the Japanese intervention in 1875, see Ganghwa Island incident.
Battle of Ganghwa
Part of the Korean Expedition

A map of the Korean forts with American names.
DateJune 10–11, 1871
LocationGanghwa Island, Yellow Sea, Korea
Result United States victory
 United States Joseon Dynasty
Commanders and leaders
United States John Rodgers
United States Winfield Schley
Eo Jae-yeon 
109 marines
542 sailors
6 artillery pieces
1 frigate
2 sloops-of-war
2 gunboats
~300 infantry
~40 artillery pieces
6 forts
4 shore batteries
Casualties and losses
3 killed
10 wounded
1 gunboat damaged
243 killed
20 captured
40 artillery pieces captured
5 forts destroyed
1 fort damaged
Dozens of small cannons captured
4 shore batteries destroyed

The Battle of Ganghwa was fought during the conflict between Korea and the United States in 1871. In May, an expedition of five Asiatic Squadron warships set sail from Japan to Korea in order to establish trade relations, ensure the safety of shipwrecked sailors, and to find out what happened to the crew of the SS General Sherman. When American forces arrived in Korea, the originally peaceful mission turned into a battle when guns from a Korean fort suddenly opened fire on the Americans. The battle to capture Ganghwa Island's forts was the largest engagement of the conflict.


The United States Navy expedition involved over 1,400 personnel, 542 sailors, 109 marines and six 12-pounder howitzers made up the landing party. Frigate USS Colorado, the sloops USS Alaska and USS Benicia and the gunboats USS Monocacy, and USS Palos were assigned to the operation, all together mounting 85 guns under the command of Rear Admiral John Rodgers and Commander Winfield Scott Schley. Korean forces included the six Selee River Forts, of various sizes, and four shore batteries with over 300 men and dozens of artillery pieces. While negotiations were going on at Inchon, on June 1, 1871, USS Palos was engaged by one of the forts so the Palos and USS Monocacy returned fired and silenced it. Rear Admiral Rodgers demanded an apology but none came so nine days later, the expedition attacked in force.


The battle began on June 10, when the American squadron arrived of Point Du Conde and began bombarding the fort there. The shore party was landed by boats which immediately launched an attack on Fort Du Conde which was taken without serious resistance. Next, the Americans proceeded north a short distance where they captured Fort Monocacy, skirmishing with bodies of Korean troops along the way. After the fall of Fort Monocacy, the Americans rested for the night and became the first western military forces to camp on Korean soil. On June 11, the main engagement occurred, the five warships began bombarding the four remaining forts while the shore party attacked from land. About 300 Koreans, armed with matchlock rifles, swords, and clubs held Fort McKee which was the heart of Korean defenses. One by one the Americans led by Lieutenant Hugh McKee climbed over the fort's walls. Fierce close quarters combat ensued but it lasted only fifteen minutes until the fort was secure.

In the end, 243 Koreans were counted dead, twenty captured and a few wounded. Over forty cannons ranging from two to 24-pounders were also taken and within the next few days the forts were dismantled, with the exception of Fort Palos, on the other side of Ganghwa Straits. Corporal Charles Brown captured a large sujagi, for this he received the Medal of Honor. Under heavy fire, Carpenter Cyrus Hayden planted the American flag on top of the Korean fort, an act which earned him the medal as well. Private James Dougherty personally shot and killed the Korean commander General Eo Jae-yeon, he was also awarded the Medal of Honor along with six others. Only three Americans were killed and ten were wounded, USS Monocacy grounded on rocks off Fort McKee during the battle, she was re-floated and sustained only slight damage.

Though the battle was a victory for American forces, the Koreans refused to begin trading with the United States. It was not until 1882 when a trade treaty was finally signed.


See also


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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