The US purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 was not popular. Widely derided as Seward’s Folly, critics thought the US was paying seven million dollars for a worthless, sparsely populated Arctic wasteland. The Senate approved the treaty negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward by one vote. Criticism of the purchase would continue until the Klondike gold strike of 1896.
The capital of Russian Alaska was Sitka, also known as New Archangel. On October 18, 1867 US troops landed at Sitka and the stars and stripes was raised. General Lovell Rousseau reported on the proceedings to Secretary Seward:
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 [and son], 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.
The anniversary of the transfer of Alaska to the US is a state holiday in Alaska each October 18.