History of the Transfer
In the spring of 1867, word was sent and received that the territory of Alaska had been sold to the United States of America and that preparations for the official transfer should be made. On the 18th of October that year, the Commissioners arrived in New Archangel (Sitka) and the formal transfer took place.
The U.S. troops, 250 strong and in full uniform, landed about 3 o'clock and marched through the small town of New Archangel. The population was approximately 900, most of which where born in the territory and many had Native heritage. The town was owned and operated by the Russian American Company. They were the sole supply of food and clothes. They provided schools, supported the Russian Orthodox church, and took care of employees who could no longer work. Outside of the Russian blockade was a Tlingit village of about 1200. Both communities were dependent upon the fur trade.
The U.S. soldiers marched to the Governor's house which was predominately placed atop Castle Hill. Here the transfer took place, 100 Russian soldiers to the left of the flagstaff, the American troops to the right.
The official account of the affair as presented by General Rousseau to Secretary of State, William Seward, continues:
To read more about General Rousseau's account click here.
Just like that, the United States was officially in possession of the territory of Alaska. They invested 7.2 million dollars (about 2 cents per acre), which in 2020 would be approximately $125,414,756.76.
"...the troops being promptly formed, were, at precisely half past three o'clock, brought to a 'present arms', the signal given to the Ossipee...which was to fire the salute, and the ceremony was begun by lowering the Russian flag...The United States flag...was properly attached and began its ascent, hoisted by my private secretary, George Lovell Rousseau, and again salutes were fired as before, the Russian water battery leading off. The flag was so hoisted that in the instant it reached its place the report of the big gun of the Ossipee reverberated from the mountains around... Captain Pestchouroff stepped up to me and said, 'General Rousseau, by authority from his Majesty the Emperor of Russia, I transfer to the United States the Territory of Alaska' and in a few words I acknowledged the acceptance of the transfer, and the ceremony was at an end. Three cheers were then spontaneously given for the United States flag by the American citizens present..."