Harper's Weekly, September 9, 1871
THE COREAN WAR
Our readers are already in possession of the main facts of Admiral Rodger's
short but decisive campaign against the Corean barbarians, and only a brief
resume will be necessary to explain the illustrations on this and the following
page, engraved from photographs taken on the spot by our special artist, Sr. F.
Beatto, who accompanied the expedition as the official photographer.
The first illustration shows the interior of Fort M'Kee, so named in honor of
the gallant young officer who was killed in the attack. It will be remembered
that the expedition was undertaken with the purpose of effecting a treaty with
the Corean coast. Minister Low was charged with the negotiation, but was
instructed to confer fully at every step with Admiral Rodgers. The object of
sending the fleet was to afford suitable conveyance to Minister Low, and to
protect him if necessary; and hostilities were not to be engaged in unless an
attack was made upon our forces.
The fleet arrived off the mouth of Salt River about the last of May.
Communication was at once opened with the authorities, who readily gave the
fleet permission to make a survey of the river. The survey was undertaken on
the 1st of June, and was proceeding quietly until the boats reached a bend in
the river, where an attack was made upon them from an ambuscade. The attack
was repulsed with great promptitude and gallantry, and the enemy was driven
from his guns and position. The Corean government having failed to apologize
for this treacherous attack, an expedition was dispatched on the 10th of June to
bring the enemy to his senses and to terms. In his official dispatch to the
government Admiral Rodgers says:
"The operations of 10th and 11th inst., which resulted in the capture of five
smaller forts, culminated on the 11th in taking by assault the enemy's
stronghold, located in a most formidable position, at a very dangerous part of
the river, and desperately defended. Two hundred and forty-three of the
enemy's dead were counted within and around these works, and fifty flags were
taken. The works were formidable not only from the natural features of the
land, from shoals and violent currents in the river, but rendered artificially so
by hundreds of weapons of various kind placed by the enemy for their defense.
The gallant band which encountered and overcame the perils of the navigation,
which fought its way, against vastly superior numbers, through mud and marsh,
over precipitous hills and across difficult ravines, and finally stormed and
captured the enemy's stronghold, is worthy of all praise."
Fort M'Kee was taken by assault. The attacking party was met by a
discharge of musketry from the ramparts, and next instant was climbing over
the parapet. A brief hand-to-hand conflict took place, when the yellow banner
of the Coreans was drawn down and the stars and stripes waved in its place.
The ammunition of the Coreans had become exhausted; but, chanting a
death-song, which resounded high above the din of the combat, they met our
bullets with stones, our revolvers with clubs, and with desperate courage fought
until conquered. Our men never flinched, but fought nobly, and won the day.
Lieutenant M'Kee and three soldiers met death at this place. Our artist has
portrayed a vivid view of the interior of the fort immediately after capture, the
bodies of the dead lying in ghastly heaps at the point where the assault was
The powder-magazine took fire immediately after the capture, and was soon
burning fiercely. The interior of the fort was strewn with bodies apparently
dead; but as the heat of the flames increased, many of the supposed corpses
sprang up and ran away.
Our second illustration shows the exterior of Fort Monocacy immediately after
its capture by the marines, on the 11th of June.
Our portrait of Lieutenant M'kee is from a photograph by W. Kurz. This
gallant young officer was the first to enter the citadel when the assault was
ordered, and no sooner had he set foot within the walls than he fell dead,
struck by a bullet and pierced by a spear. Lieutenant M'Kee was a citizen of
Kentucky. He was in the very prime of manhood, and his death was universally
regretted by all who knew him.
We also give a picture of the Corean junk which put off to the fleet
immediately after its arrival. On its approaching the Colorado Mr. Drew, acting
secretary of legation, went on board, and finding messengers from the Prefect of
Foo Ping, invited them on board the ship. They manifested great interest in
every thing, The crew of the junk were soon dispersed about the Colorado, and
in every nook and corner could be seen some Corean loading himself up with
jars, empty bottles, hard-tack, Harper's Weekly, and other wonders to the
uncivilized. They showed perfect confidence in our friendliness, and it was with
difficulty the officials could get together the junk's crew upon their departure.
Our last illustration shows the council of war held on board the flag-ship
Colorado before the attack of June 10. The names of the officers present are
printed beneath the picture, and no further explanation is required. The
accompanying map will be useful as showing the situation of the forts-five in
all-which were taken and demolished by the fleet.