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The First Pacific War: Britain and Russia, 1854-56

The First Pacific War: Britain and Russia, 1854-56

John D. Grainger
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81sh9
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  • Book Info
    The First Pacific War: Britain and Russia, 1854-56
    Book Description:

    The `Crimean War' was much more than a series of battles in the Crimea. One of the most neglected aspects has been the naval campaign in the Pacific Ocean - as highlighted in this full-scale survey, which brings out the involvement of China and Japan. The campaign took a joint British and French squadron from Chile to Kamchatka, to be defeated in battle at Petropavlovsk - where the British Admiral committed suicide. Despite their victory, the Russians withdrew from all their Pacific coastal settlements, and the British and French concentrated on searching for the mouth of the Amur River, thought to be a Russian base. The Russians in turn also concentrated there, in order to build a base, sending repeated expeditions along the river. Both China, who claimed to rule along the Amur, and Japan, only just `opened up' by Commodore Perry's expedition, were involved - indeed, the British used a Japanese port as their advanced base. The United States had only recently reached the Pacific coast and several Americans had their eyes on Russian Alaska and Hawaii as territories for future acquisitions. All this meant the Allies had to tread very delicately in Pacific waters. The war in Europe ended before a decisive action could take place in the Pacific. Ironically, having lost in the fighting, the Russians ended with a great advance in their territory.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-638-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Dates and Names
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    From a European or eastern American viewpoint, the Pacific Ocean is on the other side of the world. From the Pacific, the North Atlantic is a long way off. It can be approached by going west, by way of America, through California or Panama or round Cape Horn, or by going east, by way of Russia and Siberia, or by sea by way of the Indian Ocean. Whichever route is followed, the Pacific is a long distance away, and all the more so in the days of horse- and wind-power. And when you get there it is at the end...

  7. 1 The Royal Navy in the Pacific
    (pp. 1-26)

    The only institution in the world in the middle of the nineteenth century which was present in all the oceans and close to all the continents and islands was the Royal Navy. Its presence in the Pacific had been gradually extending since the 1820s, approaching the ocean from several directions. The establishment of a British settlement colony, New South Wales, on the east coast of Australia in 1788 was one stage in the process. Along the coasts of southeast and east Asia the British presence was due to the trading activities of the East India Company, which had traded in...

  8. 2 The Pursuit to Petropavlovsk
    (pp. 27-49)

    In complete ignorance of Muravev and his ambitions, of Perry and Japan, and with only a general knowledge of events in China, Rear-Admiral Price set about his work in the leisurely way of the peacetime Navy. He had been at Valparaiso for a fortnight before his predecessor Moresby sailed for home, and then he spent a further three weeks in that port before sailing to inspect his area of command. He sent the Virago along the South American coast to Arica in southern Peru and then to Callao, the port for the Peruvian capital Lima. A revolution was brewing in...

  9. 3 Japan, China, the Amur River
    (pp. 50-69)

    Commodore Matthew Perry’s voyage to Japan had been well publicised, deliberately so. This gave time for the Japanese to be informed, by way of the Dutch factory at Nagasaki, so that the government in Edo might prepare itself. At the same time it also alerted European states to the prospect of the United States gaining a particular advantage in Japan. This had not happened in China, where the opening brought about by the British victory in the war of 1839–1842 had been rapidly followed by the extension of the same privileges to several other Western states. But Japan was...

  10. 4 Petropavlovsk Again
    (pp. 70-86)

    The Allies’ activities in the Pacific during 1854 had been marginal and accidental, with no visible effects on the wider war. The presence of the Russian frigates, which led to the discovery of one of them at Petropavlovsk, had been inadvertent, and the hunt for them had been in large measure an improvisation. The ship the Admiralty had been watching was Diana, but the one which Price discovered was Aurora; he had gone to Petropavlovsk because he seems to have heard in Honolulu that that was where one of the ships he was searching for had gone. All this was...

  11. 5 The Gulf of Tartary
    (pp. 87-113)

    Rear-Admiral Stirling had been deprived of his two main steamships, Encounter and Barracouta, by orders of the Admiralty in March 1855, and did not receive them back until late June, though he then also received another ship, Pique. He was also joined by two more ships, the French Constantine (30 guns), and La Sybille (40 guns), giving him a suddenly considerably larger force. He also had a complex problem before him.

    There was not much Stirling could do in regard to the major part of the problem, which was to find out what was going on at the mouth of...

  12. 6 The Sea of Okhotsk
    (pp. 114-137)

    Elliot took his new squadron out of Hakodate on 10 July. He examined the former Russian post at Muravevsk, which the British called Aniwa, and which they at last realised was Russian – this was what had worried the Japanese – and saw that it was deserted. The Japanese village had been reoccupied even while the Russians were present.¹ The squadron then sailed north along the east coast of Sakhalin. Elliot took a week on the voyage, examining the coasts and bays in search of any more Russian settlements. None were found.

    At the north cape of Sakhalin, Cape Elizabeth,...

  13. 7 The Amur Estuary
    (pp. 138-160)

    Governor-General Muravev planned a second expedition down the Amur River for 1855. He sent a note to Peking to that effect on 2 March. No doubt he was much encouraged by the success of his expedition of the previous year, and by the successful defence of Petropavlovsk, which had been largely due to the soldiers he had sent there from the Amur in August. The Russian position at the Amur had thus, to some extent, proved its value even in 1854. He set 28 April as the date on which the expedition was to sail.

    This new voyage was to...

  14. 8 Plans
    (pp. 161-178)

    Commodore Elliot finished his report on his second expedition into the northern part of the Gulf of Tartary, in which the extent of Russian settlement on the Amur River had become much clearer, by suggesting that this would be a secure base for the development of Russian naval power. Behind the shoals and sands, but on a navigable river, ‘the extension of her naval power in the east should not be overlooked, nor can its importance be overrated’. Indeed, though he did not spell it out for lack of precise information, that naval base already existed, with a frigate (Aurora),...

  15. 9 The Victims
    (pp. 179-189)

    The conclusion of a peace treaty was notified to all commanders-in-chief of British naval stations by a circular letter from the Admiralty dated 4 April 1856.¹ It had been well signposted in advance, and had been expected in Europe at any time from February onwards. This expectation had diffused outwards, and was received in the Pacific and China commands by April, though the official news did not arrive until early in June and did not reach the Allied naval forces until the beginning of July. This uncertainty made it impossible to do more than make preparations in case no peace...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 190-192)

    The geopolitical results of the campaign in the Pacific were crucial to the future development of the whole region, and their effects are being felt even now in relations between Japan and China, China and Russia, and Russia and Japan, with the United States intervening. It was one of those moments in history when one is very tempted to discuss ‘what if’ things had happened otherwise – what if, the war continuing, the British had invaded the Amur; what if the Manchu emperor had been more alert, and had responded to the tentative British offers of an alliance; what if...

  17. Sources and Bibliography
    (pp. 193-198)
  18. Index
    (pp. 199-208)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. None)