Commodore George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Station, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
United States Naval Force on Asiatic Station.
FEBRUARY 1st, 1898.
1. I have the honor to report the following distribution and employment of the vessels attached to the Squadron under my command for the month of January, 1898.
2. I assumed command on January 3d and exchanged the usual visits, including one with Governor of Nagasaki,1 and on the 11th and 12th inspected the OLYMPIA.
3. The OLYMPIA left Nagasaki on January 15th, the trial of the assailants of the late Frank Epps,2 apprentice, first class, being finished, and arrived at Yokohama on January 18th. I have exchanged visits with the Governor of Yokohama and have requested an audience with the Emperor,3 which will be given me on the 4th instant. On January 21st I inspected the U.S. Naval Hospital at this port.
4. The BOSTON has remained at Chemulpo, Korea, in view of the unsettled condition of affairs in that quarter.4
5. The RALEIGH arrived at Aden January 6, left there January 11, arrived at Colombo5 January 22 and left there January 29 for Singapore, with orders to proceed to Hong Kong and await my arrival.
6. The MONOCACY has remained at Shanghai.
7. The Petrel has remained at Canton.6 The foreign residents of that port have expressed to her Commanding Officer7 their satisfaction at her presence there at present time; the turbulent element among the Chinese being likely to become riotous, about their New Year (Jan.22) unless restrained by the presence of an armed vessel.8
8. As soon as I have an audience with the Emperor of Japan, I propose to leave with the Flagship OLYMPIA for Hong Kong, there to meet and inspect the RALEIGH and Petrel. After this, the RALEIGH will be ordered to relieve the BOSTON at Chemulpo and the latter vessel be sent to Nagasaki to make the repairs requested in my No.34-D, of the 24th ultimo. The Petrel will be ordered to cruise up the coast of China and visit the treaty ports.
9. If the CONCORD arrives here before my departure, the above may be modified so far as to have her relieve the BOSTON at Chemulpo instead of the RALEIGH.
10. The health of the command is good.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commodore, U.S. Navy,
Commanding U.S. Naval Force on Asiatic Station
Source Note: CyS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 362. Address below close: ”The Secretary of the Navy,/Washington, D.C./[Bureau of Navigation]” Copy was sent to the Bureau of Navigation. Copy on “United States Naval Force on Asiatic Station,” stationary. Document reference: “No.39-D.”
Footnote 1: Governor Komatsubara Eitarō.
Footnote 2: Apprentice First Class Frank Epps was killed on December 12, 1897 by two Japanese sampan operators.
Footnote 3: Emperor Mutsuhito. Mutsuhito was later given the title Meiji the Great.
Footnote 4: The city of Chemulpo is modern day Incheon. In 1898 control of Chemulpo and nearby Port Arthur was contested between Great Britain and Russia.
Footnote 5: Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Footnote 6: Canton is now Ghangzuo, China.
Footnote 7: Cmdr. Edward P. Wood.
Footnote 8: The need for Petrel at Canton was precipitated by a series of violent confrontations between Western residents, sailors, and missionaries and Chinese nationals. These altercations were often used as a pretext for foreign occupation of Chinese coastal ports, as occurred when the German Asiatic Squadron under Vice Admiral Otto von Deidrichs occupied Kiao-chouBay.
On 1 November 1897, Chinese bandits murdered two German Catholic missionaries in the Shantung province. Under orders from Kaiser Wilhelm, Vice Admiral Deidrichs ordered the Chinese military out of Kiao-chou Bay and a naval landing force of 717 men seized the bay and the fishing village of Tsingtao. This was Germany’s first official colony on the Chinese Coast. Germany negotiated a 99 year lease on the colony and held it until it was seized by the Japanese in the World War I.
The primary concern for foreign states in the event of such an occupation was the prospect of the port being ceded to the occupying power and trade to the port being restricted. When Dewey writes about protecting American trade he is referring to both violence by locals towards American citizens and preventing the annexation of the port by foreign powers. The German capture of Kiao-chou Bay created considerable concern on the Asiatic Station of possible future aggression by the German fleet. Holger H. Herwig, ‘Luxury’ Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888-1918 (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: The Ashfield Press, 1987), 98-99.