Simpson, Edward (1824-1888)
Autograph manuscript signed
Title: Journal of a cruise in the U.S.S. Portsmouth on the East Indian station. A. H. Foote Esq. commander book I.
Calf cover. As part of the East Indian Squadron, the U.S.S. Portsmouth, under the command of Andrew Hull Foote, was ordered to observe British operations against Canton, China during the Second Opium War (1856-60) and to protect American interests there. On 16 November, 1856, Foote and a landing party were returning to the ship when they were fired on by Chinese shore batteries, despite prior promises of safe passage. The shots fell short, but Foote determined to retaliate. On 20-21 November, he led a landing party that quickly seized the Cantonese barrier forts. The action was both a military and diplomatic coup for the United States. Excerpts: [17 May 1856] "The 'Portsmouth' went into commission at Norfolk on the 22d April left the Navy Yard on the 26thâ€¦we have kept well to and are now about 1500 miles to the Eastd of Cape Henry." [31 May] "During the afternoon exercised firing at a target with shells, a perfect waste of ammunition as there was no order whatever observed; we fired away generally without seeing the target-all confusion and hustle-I don't know what it will come to, the captain is so timid and irresolute that nothing is well done." [11 June] "My opinion of our captain is very down; he is a miserable captain and I have to be always reminding myself of his kindness and apparently good intentions to reconcile me at all to him. He has no confidence in anybody; such men never have any confidence in themselves; and it seems to me that he adopts the custom of always consulting his officers upon the subject of navigating etc for the purpose of bringing upon them some of the censure in case of anything serious ever happening to the ship." [6 July] "...this is a bad business, the short allowance of wood deprives the men of their dough, and the short allowance of water deprives them of their bean soup; and this too after they have consented to stop their grog at the Capt's request-it is not right!" [13 August] From the China Sea: "A Native Prince visited the ship; he brought a fool, his jester who wore a rooster's head and kept up an incessant cackling crowing etc. In afternoon went on shore and dined with 30 Dutch officersâ€¦at the Consul's." [20 August] "Exercised my divisionâ€¦The Captain wants me to join Dahlgren, with view to occupying his place when he has to go to sea." [29 August] "From Hong Kong: "At 9.A.M. got underway and beat up to an anchorage near De Silver's wharf. Saluted the English flag with 21 guns (returned from fort on shore)-saluted English Commodore with 13 guns (returned from flag ship). American consul (Keenan) visited the ship, saluted him with 9 guns." [12 September] "Sat a member an a summary Court Martial, George Davis, tried for desertion-swimming ashore from the ship. Condemned him to twenty days confinement (solitary) in double irons on bread and water, and loss of pay for two months." [20 September] "Hotter yetâ€¦Was attacked with Diarrhea, took morphia; God knows what may be before us for our men are going down fast with dysentery." [16 October] "The English have taken a Chinese war junk as a satisfaction for some indignity said to have been offered to the English flag, which was hauled down by Chinese authorities on board of a trading junk because she was breaking a regulation of the customs. The British consul complains that the junk was employed on legal trading business; the Chinese deny the same, accusing her of smuggling; the Chinese refuse to apologise for hauling down the flag....Canton, the celestial city is seven miles off and I cannot get up any interest to see it; I am so disgusted, the more I see of Chinamen, that the afford me no amusement." [29 October] "English breaching the walls in the wake of fire yesterday. English at 2.30PM attacked the walls. The defense was insignificant. The attacking party was about 550 sailors and marines. They occupied the Governor's palaceâ€¦Consul Kennan (from Hong Kong) showed the American flag in the breech; and Capt. is indignant; has already disavowed the act to the English consul." [31 October] "The dispatch says that these troubles could have been probably averted if the article of the treaty had been carried out. The treaty allowed functionaries to speak face to face, but Canton was still shut. [The Admiral] says that Canton is in his power and he can burn it when he chooses; that feelings of mercy towards the people of Canton have restrained him thus far." [5 November] "Yeh writes to Perry, and says that in case his soldiers should charge upon the factories, it would be impossible for them to discriminate between Americans and English; he therefore advises all Americans to clear out as being the only safe way." [16 November] "Received at 8 o'clock an order to come down to Whampoa. Went down in little steamer [Cumfa], with our Howitzer, San Jacinto's Howitzer and Simms' Marines. Went down Macao passage. Discovered that Capt. Foote was returning yesterday to Canton with orders to bring down the force when, passing the barrier forts he was fired at five times. No shot took effect. He returned to the Commodore at Whampoa. This morning a boat from the San Jacinto, while sounding near the barrier was fired into killing the [leadsman]. I joined my ship; we received on board 50 men from the San Jacinto. Most of our crews were at Canton. Steamer Williamette took us in tow; [Cumfa] took the Levant in tow. Commadore came on board of us. Capt. Bell in command of Levant. At 3.30, within 600 yds. of the nearest fort, Chinese commenced firing, cutting away some rigging. Cast off the steamer and anchored about 490 yds. from Barrier fort; received several [raking] shot before we could spring a broadside sprung the starboard broadside & blazed away. Ceased firing at dark, the Chinese ceasing first. Recd several shots in our hull. One marine lost his arm & was otherwise badly hurt." [19 November] "Received permission to go on with work even to the taking of the forts if the Chinamen continue to increase their defences." [21 November] "At 4 A.M. San Jacinto's men came on boardâ€¦bombarded lefthand fort; a round short struck San Jacinto's Launch, killed three and wounded six othersâ€¦I had a sun stroke and caved in from pure exhaustion." [22 November] "Capt. Foote went in Cumfa to see the Commodore, and came back with orders to destroy the walls of the forts which will be a heavy undertaking. Sent the dead to the San Jacintoâ€¦Six killed and twenty wounded!!!!!" [1 December] "Rumor of junks going to attack us; got stream chain through cabin port again, ready to spring broadside. More explosions at fort No. 3, which destroyed the wall." [4 December] "The English cannonade briskly during the morning, apparently at French Folly. There has been a large fire kindled by the shells or carcases, and we suppose that French Folly has been taken, but we have no news yet." [13 December] "There is one fort here in charge of Chinamen, which has been permitted by the Admiral because the Mandarin in charge sent word off that he did not want to fight." [16 December] "The English bombarded Canton for three hours, setting fire to it in Several places with shells and carcases; these fires were promptly put out by the Chinese, but it made a great impression on them." [17 December] "The destruction of the Factories has been complete; also all old and and new China streets." [1 January 1857] "Heard that on the 30th ult. The packet boat burned by a party of Mandarin soldiers who come on board disguised as passengers and who murdered nearly all the people on board; eleven Europeans were killed; it is said that only ten Chinamen composed the party who did the damage." [14 February] "Ning-Po-Fou" "One plan of the Portuguese to raise money is to force a fleet of Chinese junks to take the escort of one of their armed lorchas and then to make them pay heavily for the protectionâ€¦" [Additional excerpts available.]