Carpenter Cyrus Hayden lifted high the colors as he struggled up hill under a terrible fire from the determined Korean warriors within the fort that the Americans called the Citadel, on 11 June 1871. The Korean soldiers, many of them fierce Tiger Hunters, bellowed war cries, fired heavily into the advancing sailors and Marines, and rolled boulders down onto them.
The Americans persevered, however, and reached the ramparts, where they fought the enemy with cutlasses and bayonets in a mêlée that cost many Americans wounded. As the sailors and Marines forced the Koreans backward, Hayden, the color bearer for the battalion, rushed forward to plant Old Glory on the Citadel’s ramparts, and then protected the flag under the continuing heavy fire from the Koreans. For his extraordinary heroism and for inspiring his shipmates, Hayden received the Medal of Honor.
Born in York, Maine, in 1843, Hayden joined the Navy in time to participate in the Korean Expedition. The Koreans had isolated themselves from the outer world for centuries, and when U.S. merchant schooner General Sherman attempted to explore the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ in 1866, the seclusionist Asian warriors had murdered her crew. The Americans dispatched six warships to Korean waters, and when the Koreans fired at the ships, sailors and Marines landed and assaulted the enemy forts. Both sides fought bravely; the men of the squadron stormed the enemy works despite galling shot and shell, and the Tiger Hunters, who fought to the bitter end, earned the respect of the hardened sailors and Marines.