GENERAL SHERMAN. This US ship arrived at Pyongyang in August 1866, sailing up the Taedong River to reach the Turu Islet on 22 August. Five days later it reached Mangyongdae on the outskirts of Pyongyang. The aim was to force the Koreans to trade with the United States in the same way that Commodore Matthew Perry had sailed into Japan in 1853 and ‘opened’ it for US traders. Chartered by the British trading firm Meadows and Company in Tientsin (Tianjin), China, the ship's owner was W. B. Preston who brought Robert Jermain Thomas, a Protestant missionary, to serve as an interpreter, and another Briton, George Hogarth. The crew included Captain Page, Chief Mate Wilson, 13 Chinese and three Malay sailors. The cargo included cotton, tin and glass.
On 27 August a guard boat which had been sent by the Pyongyang authorities to keep an eye on them was attacked and the Americans captured the officer Yi (or Ri) Hyon Ik, who was the deputy governor of Pyongyang.
Negotiations started for the release of the officer and other Koreans taken prisoner. Preston apparently said that he would leave only if he could enter Pyongyang and also be given 1,000 sok of rice, as well as gold, silver and ginseng.
However as the General Sherman reached Mangyongdae, large crowds of Koreans appeared on the shore. There were rumours that the Americans had come to rob the ancient tombs there.