Chinese Soldiers

In Book 3 of his Narrative, Shelby Foote mentions that Lee’s lines around Petersburg were stretched so thin, he couldn’t even allow his Jewish soldiers time out of the trenches for Yom Kippur. I was amazed to think of Jewish soldiers, and even more amazed when I read about this website, which is commemorating the contributions of Chinese soldiers to the Civil War.

The silk and porcelain (china) trade brought Westerners in contact with the Chinese. Canton (Kwangchow), of Kwangtung province, became the center of foreign trade, in 1760. England led the western powers in “opening” China to trade. The Treaty of Nanking, after the Opium War (1839-42) opened five ports for commerce. Hong Kong (fragrant harbor) was ceded to the British. Extraterritorial laws were enforced. An indemnity of 21 million silver dollars was imposed. Taxes soared. Local cottage industry could not compete with imported manufactured goods. The result was disastrous to local economy. Furthermore, the Treaty of Tienjin added more indemnity and land Kowloon (nine dragons) to the English. The British and French occupied Canton between 1856 to 1860 and their presence made it easier to recruit peasant boys abroad as cheap labor. Christian missionaries engaged in preaching the gospels enthusiastically. It was under these circumstances that some missionaries and some sea captains “adopted” some small Chinese boys and raised them in North America. This was how the Chinese, boys Joseph Pierce, Antonio Dardelle, Edward Day Cohota and Hong Neok Woo ended up staying in America and served in the Civil War.

Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War.

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