George Balch bigraphy, stories - United States Navy admiral

George Balch : biography

8 January 1821 - 18 April 1908

George Beall Balch (8 January 1821 – 18 April 1908) was an admiral in the United States Navy who served during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War.


Two ships, , have been named for him.


Early career

Balch was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on 3 January 1821, and was appointed acting midshipman on 30 December 1837. After serving in the sloop during a cruise to the Mediterranean between 24 June 1838 and 16 May 1841, Balch saw duty in the schooner and the sloop before attending the Naval School in Philadelphia, where he was promoted to passed midshipman on 29 June 1843.

Mexican-American War

Eventually assigned to the steamer , Balch served in her during the war with Mexico. He participated in the abortive August 1846 assault on Alvarado, where strong currents in the river prevented the flotilla's boats from landing, and in the successful 9 March 1847 landing of General Winfield Scott's army at Vera Cruz. During the latter campaign, Balch served as acting master of captured schooner .

Returning to Princeton, he accompanied the steamer on a two year cruise to the Mediterranean, sailing east on 17 August 1847 and returning to the Boston Navy Yard on 17 July 1849. He then saw service at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., where he was promoted to lieutenant on 16 August 1850.

Expedition to Japan

Balch then served as executive officer of the sloop-of-war , sailing to the Orient on 23 August 1851 for an extended cruise on the East Indies Station. While there, Plymouth joined Commodore Matthew C. Perry's expedition to Japan and, in company with side-wheel steamers and and sloop-of-war , entered Tokyo Bay on 8 July 1853 for trade negotiations with the Tokugawa shogunate. The squadron departed on 17 July after presenting a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Japanese asking for the opening of two ports to American trade and better treatment for shipwrecked sailors. The squadron spent the fall in Canton, Hong Kong and Shanghai, helping to protect American trade interests there (primarily tea and silk) following the continued spread of the Taiping Rebellion in southern China.

While most of Perry's squadron returned to Japan in February 1854, where the Commodore eventually signed a limited trade agreement on 31 March 1854, Plymouth remained at Shanghai to help protect American-owned warehouses and other property ashore. In February, soon after the squadron's departure to Japan, Imperial Chinese troops began assaulting foreigners, sacking warehouses and exacting tolls on boats sailing up and down the Huangpu River. On 3 April, after two British citizens were accosted by sword-wielding soldiers, the commanders of the British ships Encounter and Grecian, as well as Commander Kelly from Plymouth, together resolved to drive off the Chinese troops, who had established fortified camps in the city. The next day, Balch led 60 sailors and marines and 30 sailors from American merchant ships against the left flank of the entrenchments, while a force of 150 British sailors and marines, and additional "Shanghai volunteers," attacked on the right. Supported by gunfire from two privately owned field pieces and a howitzer, the Allied force routed the Chinese defenders, who "fled in great disorder, leaving behind them a number of wounded and dead." Balch suffered wounds in the action, which also saw one sailor killed and two marines wounded. The sloop-of-war returned to Norfolk on 11 January 1855 before conducting a spring cruise off the east coast as a Naval Academy school ship.

After an assignment to the Washington Navy Yard in 1855-57, Balch again went to sea in Plymouth to support a training cruise. He later served in the sloop , joining her in December 1857 for a cruise in the West Indies before he traveled to Mare Island, California, for service in sloop-of-war . After a short cruise off the west coast of Central America between August 1858 and February 1859, Balch returned to the east coast via Panama.

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