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Guide to the Naval History Society Collection
1721-1995 (bulk 1781-1936)
  MS 439

New-York Historical Society
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New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Celia Hartmann.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 09, 2019
Description is in English

Container List

Series 46. William K. Wheeler (1860-1975)

Scope and Content

The series consists of the logbook of Flag Lt. Commander William Knox Wheeler aboard USS Colorado during an expedition to Korea from May 19 to June 25, 1871; contemporary newspaper clippings about the expedition; a one-page document in Chinese; and later materials related to use of the logbook as a primary historical source, including articles based on it.

The logbook turns over to a scrapbook kept by Wheeler's mother, Mrs. T.H. Wheeler of Delhi, New York, of clippings documenting Lt. Wheeler's correspondence from USS Plymouth published in his hometown newspaper (1860); the rescue of survivors from USS  Iroquois (1864); Wheeler's assignment to torpedo duty and subsequent court-martial for refusal to perform manual labor (1873); his death from Bright's disease while at sea aboard steamer   Alaska; his burial in Libreville, Africa, and his subsequent disinterment, transportation to the United States, and reburial in Delhi (1876).

The 20th century materials include articles written about the 1871 expedition and information on acquisition of the logbook. There is 1975 correspondence between Robert L. Robinson, associate professor of history at University of Texas at Houston, and New-York Historical Society librarian James Gregory regarding Robinson's article (which is also included) "Gunboat Diplomacy, 1871: An American Officer in Korea," submitted for publication in Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute. An undated photocopy of pages from "Americans in eastern Asia: A critical study of the United States' policy in the Far East in the 19th century," published in 1922 by Tyler Dennett was clipped to William M. Leary's article, "Our Other War in Korea," published in the  Proceedings in 1968. There is also 1975 information from Roger Butterfield, Inc. Antiquarian Booksellers, offering the original diary for sale. Gregory's letter to Robinson indicates that the logbook had been recently acquired at the time of his writing.

Historical Note

USS Colorado, as flagship for Rear Admiral J. Rodgers' squadron, carried the US Minister to China on a diplomatic mission to Korea in April, 1871, attempting to open Korea to contact as Perry had earlier done in Japan (cf. Series 29). Attacks from shore batteries on two ships of the squadron as it made soundings in the Han River led American forces to begin a punitive expedition. It destroyed the forts and inflicted heavy casualties on the Koreans, with minimal loss of American lives.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Clippings: Harper's Weekly
1871 September 9
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Photocopy: "Americans in Eastern Asia," by Tyler Dennett, pp. 452-453
Box: 1 Folder : 3 "Our Other War in Korea," by William M. Leary, Jr., U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 94, no. 6: 46-53
1968 June
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Description of Wheeler logbook for sale, from Roger Butterfield, Inc., antiquarian bookseller
1975 January 24
Box: 1 Folder : 5 "Gunboat diplomacy, 1871: An American officer in Korea," by Robert L. Robinson
1975 September 24
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Document in Chinese
Volume: 1 Log book of the Corea expedition

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