How did the Civil War affect Americans in Asia?

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
Hi folks,
It's an obscure topic, but by 1861 there was already an American diaspora in several different parts of Asia, as well as shipping connections between Asian and American ports. For instance the USA had a concession in Shanghai since 1848 (later merged into the Shanghai International Settlement in 1863), and there were also American merchants hanging around Japan by this period (thanks to USN Commodore Perry opening up the country in 1853). Yankee whalers working the North Pacific were also known to stop off in Hawaii and Japan at this time, and many came under attack by the Confederate raider Shenandoah. There was also a US military presence in Asia at the time, for example the USN Yangtze Patrol (formed in 1854) and East India Squadron (formed in 1835).

I'm curious to know, for example, whether most Americans living/working in Asia at this time were pro-Union, or if there were any Confederate sympathisers out there. I'd also like to learn the history of US military units in Asia during the Civil War, what they got up to and whether the USA sent more forces out there during the war to guard against potential Confederate threats like the Shenandoah, or recalled some of their forces from Asia to fight back home in the Civil War.

Could anyone help me out?
 

Zack

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
If you have a NYTimes subscription, here’s an article about the situation in China:
https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/a-little-trouble-in-big-china/

In summation - most Americans in Shanghai, China were Northerners and had to weather a lot of mean jokes and even got into some brawls with their Confederacy-supporting British neighbors.

The Trent Affair did lead to a bit of a scare for Americans in Shanghai. They feared that the British would arrest them and destroy what few American ships were there. Then it was believed that Frederick Townsend Ward would launch a preemptive strike on the British. Obviously war did not break out, but the machinations and fears make for a great read.
 

Zack

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
As for Japan and Confederate Raiders -

The USS Wyoming was deployed to the Pacific to hunt the CSS Alabama, a notorious Confederate commerce raider.

Meanwhile, in Japan, anti-Western sentiment grew following the opening of Japan by commodore Matthew perry in 1854.

The Wyoming docked in Yokohama as a show of force to try to quell anti-foreign sentiment and protect American lives. It didn't work and the anti-foreign sentiment escalated through the summer and culminated in the 1863 Expel all Foreigners order from the emperor (he would reverse course after the Boshin war 1868-1869).

The Tokugawa Shogunate was weakened at the time and not really in a position to enforce the policy, but the Choshu clan decided to take it super literally and began firing on any western vessels in the area. After firing on a US merchant ship in the Shimonoseki Straits, the US ambassador considered this an unforgivable offense and, consulting with the captain of the USS Wyoming, decided an immediate response was necessary to make sure this attitude didn't solidify. So the USS Wyoming ran the guns in the Shimonoseki Straits on July 16, 1863 and, at a loss of 4 killed, pretty much annihilated the Choshu navy and forts in the area.

The conflict continued with other European powers getting involved but that was about the extent of the US involvement.
 

Zack

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
This is a pretty cool thread on Twitter about a Japanese biography of US Grant in 1879:
EZHaydBUwAAOrWO?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


Grant training the 21st Illinois:
EZHbRVcVAAEb_3t?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


Vicksburg:
EZHbbr-UYAAnTMC?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


Lookout Mountain, surrendering Confederates bottom left (they seem to have a Union flag):
EZHcPIIU4AEOydb?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


Lee's Army fleeing during Overland Campaign (again a Union flag for the Rebs):
EZHccAgUwAIoAhh?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


On the left hand page - Lincoln and Grant on the Left vs. Davis and Lee on the Right
EZHcnL_U0AAytDP?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


Appomattox:
EZHc4xBUYAEZynR?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


The assassination of Lincoln (either lack of sources or considerable dramatic license is at play here):
EZHdILRU4AApiEr?format=jpg&name=4096x4096.jpg


https://www.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kotenseki/html/bunko11/bunko11_a0470/index.html

Additionally, here is an illustration of a battle from the Civil War from the 1872 multi-volume Japanese history of America Seiyo shinsho ("New Book on the West")

The American Civil War is referred to as the nanboku senso or "The North-South War."

battle2.jpg

https://news.blogs.lib.lsu.edu/2015/08/10/north-south-far-east/
 
Last edited:

Zack

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Not really politics/war/strategy but a fun fact - the term "Tycoon" actually comes from this period. In fact, John Hay and John Nicolay would sometimes refer to Lincoln as "The Tycoon." (https://www.npr.org/sections/codesw...-of-how-a-shoguns-boast-made-lincoln-a-tycoon)

Here's why:

When Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan open in 1853-1854 he demanded to speak to only the top officials. What Perry didn't know was that the Emperor was more or less a figurehead and the Shogunate was the real power. Consequently, when Perry talked to representatives he presumed he was speaking to representatives of the Emperor rather than the Shogun.

The problem was simple: Shogun only means "General of the Armies," which isn't an impressive enough title. To Matthew Perry, it just sounded like a General-in-Chief, not a leader of the nation. So the Japanese borrowed the word Takiun from Chinese - which means "Great Prince" - and changed it into Taikun. This was how they referred to the Shogun when conversing with foreigners in order to convey his power.

When Perry brought the word back to America it was quickly corrupted into "Tycoon." Its first appearance in print dates to 1857. In 1863 John Hay wrote of President Lincoln, "The Tycoon is in fine whack. I have rarely seen him more serene & busy. He is managing this war, the draft, foreign relations, and planning a reconstruction..."

Between 1918 and the 1940s the word attained its modern definition as a description for business magnates.

That being said, this does transition into strategy. The warships of Perry's fleet - led by the USS Mississippi - were all part of the Pacific Squadron. When the Civil War broke out, many of these ships were withdrawn from the Pacific Squadron to serve as blockading vessels in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. According to this source (http://www.militarymuseum.org/Pac Sqdn.html) in 1861 the Pacific Squadron was composed of only six sloops-of-war - the USS Lancaster, USS Saranac, USS Narragansett, USS Cyane, and the previously mentioned USS Wyoming. They concentrated their actions mostly on the California and Mexican coast but roamed from San Francisco to Panama to Alaska to Chili to Hawaii to China to Japan to Australia and to the South Seas.

The USS Mississippi, one of the legendary Black Ships, would meet its fate under the guns of Port Hudson on March 14, 1863 (with a young George Dewey onboard).

Only two Confederate raiders operated in the Pacific - the CSS Alabama and the CSS Shenandoah. The CSS Alabama captured only three vessels in its brief sojourn. The CSS Shenandoah took more prizes but it was too late to make a difference. But for the most part, the Pacific Squadron, even in its weakened state, combined with geographic inconvenience to pretty much eliminate serious Confederate operations in the Pacific.

Japanese depiction of Perry's ships
1280px-Japanese_1854_print_Commodore_Perry.jpg


This may be a depiction of the USS Mississippi:
1*gnMZCvmyKF137YDiDXtL_Q.jpg


The USS Mississippi in 1863:
USS_Mississippi_1863.jpg
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Hi folks,
It's an obscure topic, but by 1861 there was already an American diaspora in several different parts of Asia, as well as shipping connections between Asian and American ports. For instance the USA had a concession in Shanghai since 1848 (later merged into the Shanghai International Settlement in 1863), and there were also American merchants hanging around Japan by this period (thanks to USN Commodore Perry opening up the country in 1853). Yankee whalers working the North Pacific were also known to stop off in Hawaii and Japan at this time, and many came under attack by the Confederate raider Shenandoah. There was also a US military presence in Asia at the time, for example the USN Yangtze Patrol (formed in 1854) and East India Squadron (formed in 1835).

I'm curious to know, for example, whether most Americans living/working in Asia at this time were pro-Union, or if there were any Confederate sympathisers out there. I'd also like to learn the history of US military units in Asia during the Civil War, what they got up to and whether the USA sent more forces out there during the war to guard against potential Confederate threats like the Shenandoah, or recalled some of their forces from Asia to fight back home in the Civil War.

Could anyone help me out?
I have a thread about the Yanktze River Patrol. During the ACW the USN had about four small ships assigned to it the British had most likely more ships assigned to China then the US. The Shendoah really wasn't that big a threat and it operated late in the war. US Asian trade was not that important economically speaking until post WWII. Yes the US traded with Asian countries since 1783 and indeed as a British colony prior but it wasn't a critical part of the US economy until the WWII era.
I can bump up my Yankzte thread if you want.
Leftyhunter
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
I have a thread about the Yanktze River Patrol. During the ACW the USN had about four small ships assigned to it the British had most likely more ships assigned to China then the US. The Shendoah really wasn't that big a threat and it operated late in the war. US Asian trade was not that important economically speaking until post WWII. Yes the US traded with Asian countries since 1783 and indeed as a British colony prior but it wasn't a critical part of the US economy until the WWII era.
I can bump up my Yankzte thread if you want.
Leftyhunter

Maybe you could drop a link to that thread in this thread? That way others who might be interested could easily find it too :smile:
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
This is a pretty cool thread on Twitter about a Japanese biography of US Grant in 1879:
View attachment 404778

Grant training the 21st Illinois:
View attachment 404779

Vicksburg:
View attachment 404780

Lookout Mountain, surrendering Confederates bottom left (they seem to have a Union flag):
View attachment 404781

Lee's Army fleeing during Overland Campaign (again a Union flag for the Rebs):
View attachment 404782

On the left hand page - Lincoln and Grant on the Left vs. Davis and Lee on the Right
View attachment 404783

Appomattox:
View attachment 404784

The assassination of Lincoln (either lack of sources or considerable dramatic license is at play here):
View attachment 404785

https://www.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kotenseki/html/bunko11/bunko11_a0470/index.html

Additionally, here is an illustration of a battle from the Civil War from the 1872 multi-volume Japanese history of America Seiyo shinsho ("New Book on the West")

The American Civil War is referred to as the nanboku senso or "The North-South War."

battle2.jpg

https://news.blogs.lib.lsu.edu/2015/08/10/north-south-far-east/
That picture of Lincoln’s assassination. Pretty sure that’s not exactly how it played out 😂
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
You're saying he wasn't swarmed by a pack of knife-wielding assailants on the street? :bounce:

The artists should have depicted JWB doing the deed with a shoulder mounted 12-pounder.

It's funny, but I have to wonder if folks in Asia would have reacted the same way to some of our "accurate" historical depictions of them ... Fu Manchu probably raised some laughs in early-20th century China :D
At least Lincoln looks like a normal human being in those Japanese artworks :tongue:
 

Zack

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
I've been meaning to read the book "Ghosts of Gold Mountain" about Chinese workers on the Transcontinental Railroad.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FKDLFP5/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

It's a pretty forgotten story overall. What's so tragic in my opinion is that many of the Chinese immigrants were in fact fleeing the brutal Taiping Rebellion (1850 - 1864) which claimed the lives of some 30-50 million people. They arrived in America only to face tremendous racism while working without recognition on the most dangerous stretches of our seminal industrial achievement of the era - the transcontinental railroad.

But I'm off topic now. Although the railroad was started during the war so there's that.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
It's funny, but I have to wonder if folks in Asia would have reacted the same way to some of our "accurate" historical depictions of them ... Fu Manchu probably raised some laughs in early-20th century China :D
At least Lincoln looks like a normal human being in those Japanese artworks :tongue:
Good point. Much artistic freedom can be found in artwork, both old and new.

For example, I saw a documentary on NHK about Catholics in Japan during the 19-20th centuries. Christ is portrayed in an “Asian” manner. He often appears as a Buddha looking figure. Ultimately, these cultural distinctions are mere amusement.
 

SeaTurtle

Private
Joined
Jun 14, 2021
I've been meaning to read the book "Ghosts of Gold Mountain" about Chinese workers on the Transcontinental Railroad.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FKDLFP5/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

It's a pretty forgotten story overall. What's so tragic in my opinion is that many of the Chinese immigrants were in fact fleeing the brutal Taiping Rebellion (1850 - 1864) which claimed the lives of some 30-50 million people. They arrived in America only to face tremendous racism while working without recognition on the most dangerous stretches of our seminal industrial achievement of the era - the transcontinental railroad.

But I'm off topic now. Although the railroad was started during the war so there's that.

I do believe there were a handful of Chinese immigrants who found their way into uniform during the ACW though. For example this fellow: https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/50843/civil-war-veteran-joseph-pierce/
 

Zack

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Good point. Much artistic freedom can be found in artwork, both old and new.

For example, I saw a documentary on NHK about Catholics in Japan during the 19-20th centuries. Christ is portrayed in an “Asian” manner. He often appears as a Buddha looking figure. Ultimately, these cultural distinctions are mere amusement.

Yes and no actually. For example, the Taiping Rebellion hinged on the influence of Christianity in China. I won't pretend to be an expert on this, but here's the gist of it:

After failing the civil service examinations multiple times (don't mock him - the pass rate was less than 1%), Hong Xiuquan fell into a terrible fever and delirium in which he saw visions of two Heavenly figures, one of which was identified as his older brother. For a long time he thought little about this, but after examining the pamphlets handed out by Christian missionaries (most likely received from this dude https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Stevens_(missionary)), Hong Xiuquan came to believe the figures were God and Jesus and that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. He then set about crafting his faith.

What's interesting though is that his version of Christianity - called the God Worshipping Society - was very different from the more western versions of the religion. For example, he did not believe that Jesus was divine, but rather that he was a man that God worked through as an intermediary. He also believed that Jesus was merely the oldest of a number of children that God had.

Like I said, I'm not an expert so can't really go through point by point and outline all the differences, but it is interesting to see Hong's unique interpretation of Christian texts and explore the influence of Chinese folk religions on such interpretation (though Hong was violently opposed to all other faiths). It would all be mere trivia had he not led a movement that ultimately caused the deaths of several tens of millions of people.

Chinese history is absolutely fascinating and I wish I knew more about it.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
Yes and no actually. For example, the Taiping Rebellion hinged on the influence of Christianity in China. I won't pretend to be an expert on this, but here's the gist of it:

After failing the civil service examinations multiple times (don't mock him - the pass rate was less than 1%), Hong Xiuquan fell into a terrible fever and delirium in which he saw visions of two Heavenly figures, one of which was identified as his older brother. For a long time he thought little about this, but after examining the pamphlets handed out by Christian missionaries (most likely received from this dude https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Stevens_(missionary)), Hong Xiuquan came to believe the figures were God and Jesus and that he was the younger brother of Jesus Christ. He then set about crafting his faith.

What's interesting though is that his version of Christianity - called the God Worshipping Society - was very different from the more western versions of the religion. For example, he did not believe that Jesus was divine, but rather that he was a man that God worked through as an intermediary. He also believed that Jesus was merely the oldest of a number of children that God had.

Like I said, I'm not an expert so can't really go through point by point and outline all the differences, but it is interesting to see Hong's unique interpretation of Christian texts and explore the influence of Chinese folk religions on such interpretation (though Hong was violently opposed to all other faiths). It would all be mere trivia had he not led a movement that ultimately caused the deaths of several tens of millions of people.

Chinese history is absolutely fascinating and I wish I knew more about it.
He wasn’t a Christian, though. More of a mentally ill heretic.

Regarding your last point, I would say that Chinese history is not really taught in any detail here in the States. In the same way, I would assume that a fair, detailed narrative of our own history isn’t taught there either.
 

Zack

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
He wasn’t a Christian, though. More of a mentally ill heretic.

Not by any European/American Protestant standards, no. He certainly thought of himself as Christian. Regardless, he was influenced by Christianity, which he then took in unique directions. My larger point is that these cultural/religious exchanges and varying interpretations influenced by cultural differences had dramatic consequences.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
Not by any European/American Protestant standards, no. He certainly thought of himself as Christian. Regardless, he was influenced by Christianity, which he then took in unique directions. My larger point is that these cultural/religious exchanges and varying interpretations influenced by cultural differences had dramatic consequences.
In order for one to be a Christian, he has to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is divine. He had no siblings. This man was indeed a heretic.

I do agree with your larger point. Interesting how major events can have such seemingly innocuous catalysts.
 
Top