Henry H. Bell

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Henry Haywood Bell
Henry H Bell.jpg
Born (1808-04-13)April 13, 1808
Orange County, North Carolina
Died January 11, 1868(1868-01-11) (aged 59)
Osaka Bay, Japan
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1823–1868
Rank USN Rear Admiral rank insignia.jpg Rear Admiral
Commands held Boxer
USS San Jacinto
East India Squadron
Battles/wars

American Civil War

Formosa Expedition

Henry Haywood Bell (13 April 1808 – 11 January 1868) was an admiral in the United States Navy. In the American Civil War, he took part in the liberation of New Orleans and the lower Mississippi. Later he was sent to the Far East to command the East India Squadron. In summer 1867, he led a punitive expedition to avenge the Rover incident, where American sailors had been killed by Taiwanese Aborigines. In January of the next year, while trying to force the Japanese to accept trade concessions, he died under suspicious circumstances, officially attributed to bad weather.

Biography[edit]

Bell was born in Orange County, North Carolina. Appointed a Midshipman on 4 August 1823, during the next two decades he served afloat in U.S. Atlantic waters, the Mediterranean Sea and the West Indies as an officer of the frigates Constitution and United States; the sloops of war Erie, Vincennes, and Marion; and the schooner Grampus. In March 1831, while in Vincennes, Bell was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. He was assigned to special service on a vessel named Hunter (apparently not part of the U.S. Navy) during the mid-1840s, then was off Africa and in the Mediterranean as an officer of the frigate United States and as commanding officer of the schooner Boxer. Between early 1849 and mid-1855, Bell served ashore at the Philadelphia, Norfolk and New York Navy Yards.

Promoted to the rank of Commander in August 1854, Bell went to the East Indies in 1855-1858 as commanding officer of the steamer San Jacinto. He spent the late 1850s and early 1860s as a member of the Board of Examiners at the U.S. Naval Academy and on ordnance duty at both Cold Spring, New York and the Washington Navy Yard.

During the Civil War he served as Fleet Captain of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron under Admiral David Farragut. He served in the series of campaigns that captured New Orleans and gradually opened the Mississippi River for exploitation by Federal forces. In July 1862, while so-engaged, he attained the rank of Commodore. After completing his Gulf assignment in 1864, he was assigned to the New York Navy Yard as Inspector of Ordnance.

With the Civil War at an end, in July 1865 Commodore Bell was sent to the Far East to command the East India (later Asiatic) Squadron. He was advanced to Rear Admiral a year later and placed on the Retired List in April 1867, but remained active as the Asiatic Squadron's commander.

Mysterious death[edit]

In summer 1867, Rear Admiral Bell led the Formosan Expedition, a punitive operation in response to the Rover incident, where American sailors had been killed by Taiwanese aborigines. His squadron including screw sloops of war, Hartford (flagship), Shenandoah, and Oneida, with warships of other western countries, anchored in Osaka Bay to increase pressure on the Japanese government (Bakufu) to open Hyogo Port on 1 January 1868 as committed. On 11 January 1868, having passed Tempozan en route upriver, his boat was overturned by heavy seas; Bell and all but three of the craft's other occupants perished in this accident. Other sources suggest that the Admiral was en route to rescue another launch which had capsized, when the Admiral`s launch also capsized, the listed dead not inclusive of the first capsized launch, which was returning from having successfully reached upriver on the Aji, carrying the Royal Navy`s Admiral Keppel. The circumstances are regarded as suspicious, as the naval logs claim that the whaling longboat used by the Admiral to go ashore was wrecked by bad weather, while the IMO records Ōsaka-wan (including Kobe) as one of the safest anchorages in the world, naturally protected from rough seas. This made Bell the highest ranking American naval officer killed by the Japanese until 73 years later at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Keppel set sail for Yedo (Yokohama) the day Bell perished, 11th January, 1868.

Namesakes[edit]

Two ships, USS Bell, have been named for him.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Cicero Price
Commander, East India Squadron
11 August 1865–11 January 1868
Succeeded by
none