The Attack on Quallah Battoo in 1832 was an amphibious assault against the town of Quallah Batto by the USS Potomac. The assault was in response to the massacre of the crew of the merchantman Friendship a year earlier
The island of Sumatra is renowned as an excellent source of pepper, and throughout history ships have come to the island to trade for it. In 1832 the American merchantman Friendship under Captain Charles Endicott had come to Quallah Battoo in order to secure a cargo of pepper. Various small trading boats darted back and forth along the coast trading pepper with the merchant ships waiting offshore. On February 7, 1831 the captain of the Friendship went ashore to purchase some pepper from the natives when three boats attacked his ship, massacred the crew, and plundered its cargo. Endicott and a handful of his crew fled to another port with the assistance of a friendly native chief named Po Adam. There they enlisted the help of three other merchant captains. With their help Endicott managed to retake his ship and sailed back to Salem, Massachusetts. Upon reaching Salem there was a general uproar about the massacre and President Andrew Jackson dispatched the frigate USS Potomac under Commodore John Downes to punish the natives for their treachery.
The Potomac reached Quallah Battoo on February 5, 1832. Here Downes met Po Adam who advised them that the local Rajas would in no way be partial towards paying compensation for the attack on the Friendship. Commodore Downes then decided to disguise his ship as a Danish merchantman in order to keep the element of surprise in his favor. The disguise worked so well that when a party of Malays boarded the Potomac attempting to sell a cargo of pepper, they were, to much surprise, detained so as not to alert Quallah Battoo of the real identity of the Potomac. Downes then sent a reconnaissance party to scout out the defenses of the port. At least four forts were found to be guarding the town with the majority of them near the coastline. Downes ordered a detachment of 282 marines and sailors into the ship’s boats that he had equipped with some of the ship’s lighter cannon. It was from these boats that the sailors and marines of the Potomac assaulted the forts. Support from the guns of the Potomac itself was also used to help silence the fire coming the Malay forts. The modern rifles the Americans used were far superior to the outdated matchlock weapons of the Malays, but the natives fought fiercely and the fighting devolved into hand to hand combat in which one of the Rajas commanding the forts was killed along with about 150 other warriors. Only two Americans died during the attack and another 11 were injured. After the coastal forts fell the remaining Malays fled towards the rear of the town where another fort lay, but instead of engaging the last remaining fort the Americans attacked the town itself. Large scale looting and pillaging occurred with a range of valuable items being plundered from the town as well as many civilians slain. Downes later ordered his men to return to the ship and bombarded the town until it surrendered killing around 300 more natives.
The remaining Rajas begged for mercy and Downes informed them that if any American ship were attacked again the same treatment would be given to the perpetrators. Other rajas from nearby states also sent delegations to the ship pleading that Downes spare them from the same fate as Quallah Battoo. Downes left the area to continue his journey eventually circumnavigating the globe and even entertaining the king and queen of Hawaii aboard his vessel. The troubles with Quallah Battoo were not over though and in 1838 another ship was massacred and true to Downes’s word another expedition bombarded Quallah Batto as well as another chiefdom in response.
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