Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: In pursuance of the joint resolution of the representatives to proceed to Osaka, of which I informed you in my last (No. 24) on Thursday, the 5th instant, I went on board of the United States ship Oneida, accompanied by the Italian and Prussian representatives, and proceeded to that city. We found there everything quiet, it being in the possession of the troops of the Mikado, the citizens having returned and being in the performance of their accustomed avocations. The residence of the late Tycoon within the walls of the castle had been entirely destroyed by fire, while the walls themselves and the turrets were shattered by explosions. The barracks surrounding it, together with the buildings formerly occupied as the English legation had also been burned; the building occupied as the French legation and the governor’s house and offices were much torn to pieces, and some fires had occurred in other portions of the city. I found Uraijee, the temple I had occupied as a legation, in good condition and ready to receive me. A portion of my furniture, which I had been compelled to leave behind on our hasty departure, had been taken away or destroyed by the troops that had subsequently occupied the temple. I landed and marched through the city, some seven miles, taking with me only a marine guard of ten men, under command of Midshipman Emory, all of whom were kindly furnished me by Commander Creighton of the Oneida. On the next day, the 8th instant, I received a visit of ceremony from Higashi Kuze, Sakinoshosho and Date Tyonokami, the two commissioners for foreign affairs, who congratulated me upon my arrival and expressed a desire to continue and cultivate friendly relations between the government of the United States and that of the Mikado. I reciprocated their friendly desire and good wishes. They informed me again, in answer to inquiries put, that large bodies of troops were marching toward Yedo, that three envoys had been sent with them to treat with Tokugawa Yoshinobu, (the late Tycoon,) [Page 698] and that the officers had instructions to observe the rights of all foreigners and to treat them with consideration. I then told them that the interests of my government were very large at Yokohama, within about two miles of which place these troops would pass on their march to Yedo; that Yokohama was occupied by a governor, officers and troops of the late Tycoon, and I feared that the great interests I represented might in some way be jeopardized; that their troops marched without order, straggling and apparently under no command, and that duty seemed to require that I should at once leave for Yokohama; that I had made my preparations and should sail on the following Monday, (March the 9th.)
On the 7th instant all the representatives met the two commissioners at a large temple near the centre of the city, and were there introduced to the governor of Osaka recently appointed a Kuge of the court of the Mikado, and to eleven high officers representing eleven of the large Daimios, who are supporting the Mikado and furnishing contingents for his army. The conversation was of a general character, principally upon the question of finance and currency, the commissioners desiring that a regular rate of exchange of boos for Mexican dollars should be established, and that such rate should be the same throughout the empire. But nothing decisive was agreed upon. I then took leave of the commissioners, informing them that on the following Monday I should leave for Yokohama. Similar information was given to them by the representatives of Prussia and Italy.
On the evening of the next day (March 8th) I received a communication from the two commissioners for foreign affairs desiring a conference, and they visited me at half-past twelve o’clock in the night. They then informed me that a collision had occurred that afternoon at Sakai, a suburb of Osaka, on the bay and about eight miles from my legation, between some natives and foreigners, and they believed a foreigner had been injured. At the same time they gave me a verbal invitation to visit the Mikado at Kioto. I told them that I extremely appreciated the honor, and would readily accept the invitation; that the President of the United States desired to be on the most friendly terms with the Mikado and his government, but that some time must be allowed me to properly present myself at his court; that now, as I had already on two or three different occasions informed them, my duties demanded my immediate return to Yokohama to protect there the interests of my government and the lives and property of my countrymen; that if tbey would fix such time in the future as would enable me to fulfill that duty, I would return to Osaka and proceed to Kioto; that now, as they well knew, my arrangements had all been completed for leaving on the following day. They then promised to call on me in the morning and consult further upon the subject.
About half-past one o’clock, (a. m.,) and soon after the commissioners had left me, I was summoned to a conference of the representatives at the legation of the French minister, where, upon arrival, I found all my colleagues assembled, with the news, just officially received, of the cob lision at Sakai, and of which the commissioners must have been fully informed before their visit to me.
At Sakai one branch of the main river, passing through Osaka, debouches into the Gulf of Osaka. This branch is sometimes used for the passage of boats and junks into the gulf when the surf is high on the bar at the mouth of the main river. The French frigate Venus and corvette Dupleix were lying off Osaka. The French admiral had given orders to the commander of the Dupleix to cause this passage through Sakai and the bay near there to be properly surveyed and sounded. In compliance [Page 699] with this order, the commander of the Dupleix had concluded to send in his boats a surveying party, on the morning of the 8th instant, and had given information of his intention to the French minister. This information was transmitted to the commissioners for foreign affairs and by them to the guard at Sakai, with instructions not to interfere with such foreigners. This instruction was hardly necessary, because Sakai is especially opened to foreigners by the arrangements completed with the Japanese government for the opening of Osaka, and which were published on the 1st of January last. Captain Boy, of the Venus, and the French consul at Hiogo, Mr. Viault, had been spending the previous day with the French minister, and on the morning of the 8th, mounted on horseback and escorted by three jakunins, started to go to Sakai for the purpose of meeting the boats and surveying party and then going off to the Venus. After reaching the bridge crossing the branch of the river near Sakai, they were not permitted to pass by the guard in charge of it, but were compelled to return to the legation. The surveying party which were there from the Dupleix were in two boats, one containing one officer and seven men, the other a steam-launch containing one officer and fifteen men.
They had hauled up the steam-launch close to the landing-place, and had been kindly treated by all the residents of the place with whom they had come in contact. Two of the men went ashore, and after passing a short distance up a street, were arrested by some Japanese two-sworded men, who attempted to take them off. One of them pulled away from the guard and attempted to run back to the boat, when suddenly from all sides a large number of Japanese armed men sprang up, fired at this man, wounding him, and rushed down to the boat, firing at all foreigners in sight. After reaching the landing near where the steam-launch was lying, they fired at all the crew and continued their attack until they had, as they believed, killed all on board. They then retired. Eleven men, including the midshipman in charge of the launch, were killed, four were wounded, and one escaped unhurt. The wounded men, in conjunction with the one unhurt, succeeded in getting the launch off and out of reach of the shore, where they were subsequently picked up by boats from the Dupleix. The smaller boat’s crew succeeded in getting off with only one man wounded. In the two boats were two officers and twenty-two men. One officer and ten men were killed and five men were wounded. The commanding officer of the Dupleix immediately sent armed boats toward the shore, but finding that the forts were manned and every preparation had been made to resist an attack, prudently retired to his ship. This affair occurred about 5 o’clock p. m. of the 8th instant, and was the work of the retainers of Tosa, a prince whose people have had little acquaintance with, and are therefore inimical to foreigners, but who were in charge of the town of Sakai, under orders from the Mikado’s government. We were up all night consulting as to measures to be pursued under the circumstances, and not being entirely confident of our own safety. On the morning of the 9th, the commissioners of foreign affairs and all the representatives held a conference at my legation. The commissioners expressed the regret of the government and their own personal regret for the occurrence, declaring that there was no provocation for the attack, and assuring us that prompt satisfaction should be given. Six of the bodies of the unfortunate Frenchmen had been left on shore, not having reached the launch before they were killed; these were afterwards delivered on board the Dupleix in coffins.
On the afternoon of the 9th instant, in company with the Italian and [Page 700] Prussian representatives, I embarked. on board the Oneida. The French minister also embarked, on that day, on board the French frigate Venus. On the next day, the English minister embarked on board the Ocean. The 10th was windy, and we remained in the roadstead of Osaka. The United States steamer Monocacy arrived on that day, having come from Yokohama for the purpose of taking me to that port, the Iroquois being disabled from the performance of that duty by reason of having several cases of small-pox among her crew.
This morning, having transferred myself and suite on board the Monocacy, we came to this port, accompanied by the Oneida. The French corvette Dupleix and the English iron-clad Ocean also came down, and we have just attended the funeral of the unfortunate eleven men who have been so cruelly murdered. To-morrow, I hope to leave this port on board the Monocacy for Yokohama.
I have the honor to transmit herewith—
Inclosure No. 1. In relation to the murder.
Inclosure No. 2. Official report of the same.
Inclosure No. 3. Official report continued.
Inclosure No. 4. Sketch of the port of Sakai.
Inclosure No. 5. Mr. Van Valkenburgh to the Mikado’s government.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.