HotFreeBooks.com
China
by Demetrius Charles Boulger
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Chung Wang then laid regular siege to Sunkiang, where Ward was in person, and he very nearly succeeded in carrying the place by escalade. The attempt was fortunately discovered by an English sailor just in time, and repulsed with A loss to the rebels of 100 men. The Taepings continued to show great daring and activity before both Sunkiang and Tsingpu; and although the latter place was bravely defended, it became clear that the wisest course would be to evacuate it. A body of troops was therefore sent from Shanghai to form a junction with Ward at Sunkiang, and to effect the safe retreat of the Tsingpu garrison. The earlier proceedings were satisfactorily arranged, but the last act of all was grossly mismanaged and resulted in a catastrophe. Ward caused the place to be set on fire, when the Taepings, realizing what was being done, hastened into the town, and assailed the retiring garrison. A scene of great confusion followed; many lives were lost, and the commandant who had held it so courageously was taken prisoner. Chung Wang could therefore appeal to some facts to support his contention that he had got the better of the Europeans and the imperialists in the province of Kiangsu.

From the scene of his successes Chung Wang was once more called away by the timidity or peril of Tien Wang, who was barely able to maintain his position at Nankin, but when he hastened off to assist the chief of the Taepings he found that he was out of favor, and that the jealousy or fear of his colleagues had brought about his temporary disgrace and loss of title. Shortly after Chung Wang's departure Ward was killed in action and Burgevine succeeded to the command, but it soon became apparent that his relations with the Chinese authorities would not be smooth. General Ching was jealous of the Ever-Victorious Army and wished to have all the credit for himself. Li Hung Chang, who had been appointed Futai or Governor of Kiangsu, entertained doubts of the loyalty of this adventurer. Burgevine was a man of high temper and strong passions, who met the wiles of the Futai with peremptory demands to recognize the claims of himself and his band. Nor was this all. Burgevine had designs of his own. Although the project had not taken definite form in his mind the inclination was strong within him to play the part of military dictator with the Chinese; or failing that, to found an independent authority on some convenient spot of Celestial territory. The Futai anticipated, perhaps, more than divined his wishes. In Burgevine he saw, very shortly after their coming into contact, not merely a man whom he disliked and distrusted, but one who, if allowed to pursue his plans unchecked, would in the end form a greater danger to the imperial authority than even the Taepings. It is not possible to deny Li's shrewdness in reading the character of the man with whom he had to deal.

The Futai Li, in order to test his obedience, proposed that Burgevine and his men should be sent round by sea to Nankin to take part in the siege of that city. The ships were actually prepared for their conveyance, and the Taotai Wou, who had first fitted out a fleet against the rebels, was in readiness to accompany Burgevine, when Li and his colleague, as suspicious of Burgevine's compliance as they would have been indignant at his refusal, changed their plans and countermanded the expedition. Instead of carrying out this project, therefore, they laid a number of formal complaints before General Staveley as to Burgevine's conduct, and requested the English government to remove him from his command, and to appoint an English officer in his place. The charges against Burgevine did not at this time amount to more than a certain laxness in regard to the expenditure of the force, a disregard for the wishes and prejudices of the Chinese government, and the want of tact, or of the desire to conciliate, in his personal relations with the Futai. If Burgevine had resigned, all would have been well, but he regarded the position from the standpoint of the adventurer who believes that his own interests form a supreme law and are the highest good. As commander of the Ever-Victorious Army he was a personage to be considered even by foreign governments. He would not voluntarily surrender the position which alone preserved him from obscurity. Having come to this decision it was clear that even the partial execution of his plans must draw him into many errors of judgment which could not but imbitter the conflict. The reply of the English commander was to the effect that personally he could not interfere, but that he would refer the matter to London as well as to Mr. Bruce at Pekin. In consequence of the delay thus caused the project of removing the force to Nankin was revived, and, the steamers having been chartered, Burgevine was requested to bring down his force from Sunkiang and to embark it at Shanghai. This he expressed his willingness to do on payment of his men, who were two months in arrear, and on the settlement of all outstanding claims, Burgevine was supported by his troops. Whatever his dislike to the proposed move, theirs was immeasurably greater. They refused to move without the payment of all arrears; and on January 2 they even went so far as to openly mutiny. Two days later Burgevine went to Shanghai and had an interview with Takee. The meeting was stormy. Burgevine used personal violence toward the Shanghai merchant, whose attitude was at first overbearing, and he returned to his exasperated troops with the money, which he carried off by force. The Futai Li, on hearing of the assault on Takee, hastened to General Staveley to complain of Burgevine's gross insubordination in striking a mandarin, which by the law of China was punishable with death. Burgevine was dismissed the Chinese service, and the notice of this removal was forwarded by the English general, with a recommendation to him to give up his command without disturbance. This Burgevine did, for the advice of the English general was equivalent to a command, and on January 6, 1863, Burgevine was back at Shanghai. Captain Holland was then placed in temporary command, while the answer of the home government was awaited to General Staveley's proposition to intrust the force to the care of a young captain of engineers, named Charles Gordon. Chung Wang returned at this moment to Soochow, and in Kiangsu the cause of the Taepings again revived through his energy. In February a detachment of Holland's force attacked Fushan, but met with a check, when the news of a serious defeat at Taitsan, where the former Futai Sieh had been defeated, compelled its speedy retreat to Sunkiang. Li had some reason to believe that Taitsan would surrender on the approach of the imperialists, and he accordingly sent a large army, including 2,500 of the contingent, to attack it. The affair was badly managed. The assaulting party was stopped by a wide ditch; neither boats nor ladders arrived. The Taepings fired furiously on the exposed party, several officers were killed, and the men broke into confusion. The heavy guns stuck in the soft ground and had to be abandoned; and despite the good conduct of the contingent the Taepings achieved a decisive success (February 13). Chung Wang was able to feel that his old luck had not deserted him, and the Taepings of Kiangsu recovered all their former confidence in themselves and their leader. This disaster inflicted a rude blow on the confidence of Li and his assistants; and it was resolved that nothing should be attempted until the English officer, at last appointed, had assumed the active command.

Such was the position of affairs when on March 24, 1863, Major Gordon took over the command of the Ever-Victorious Army. At that moment it was not merely discouraged by its recent reverses, but it was discontented with its position, and when Major Gordon assumed the command at Sunkiang there was some fear of an immediate mutiny. The new commander succeeded in allaying their discontent, and believing that active employment was the best cure for insubordination resolved to relieve Chanzu without delay. The Taepings were pressing the siege hard and would probably have captured the place before many days when Major Gordon attacked them in their stockades and drove them out with no inconsiderable loss. Having thus gained the confidence of his men and the approbation of the Chinese authorities Major Gordon returned to Sunkiang, where he employed himself in energetically restoring the discipline of his force, and in preparing for his next move, which at the request of Li Hung Chang was to be the capture of Quinsan. On April 24 the force left Sunkiang to attack Quinsan, but it had not proceeded far when its course had to be altered to Taitsan, where, through an act of treachery, a force of 1,500 imperialists had been annihilated. It became necessary to retrieve this disaster without delay, more especially as all hope of taking Quinsan had for the moment to be abandoned. Major Gordon at once altered the direction of his march, and joining en route General Ching, who had, on the news, broken up his camp before Quinsan, hastened as rapidly as possible to Taitsan, where he arrived on April 29. Bad weather obliged the attack to be deferred until May 1, when two stockades on the west side were carried, and their defenders compelled to flee, not into the town as they would have wished, but away from it toward Chanzu. On the following day, the attack was resumed on the north side, while the armed boats proceeded to assault the place from the creek. The firing continued from nine in the morning until five in the evening, when a breach seemed to be practicable, and two regiments were ordered to the assault. The rebels showed great courage and fortitude, swarming in the breach and pouring a heavy and well-directed fire upon the troops. The attack was momentarily checked; but while the stormers remained under such cover as they could find, the shells of two howitzers were playing over their heads and causing frightful havoc among the Taepings in the breach. But for these guns, Major Gordon did not think that the place would have been carried at all; but after some minutes of this firing at such close quarters, the rebels began to show signs of wavering. A party of troops gained the wall, a fresh regiment advanced toward the breach, and the disappearance of the snake flag showed that the Taeping leaders had given up the fight. Taitsan was thus captured, and the three previous disasters before it retrieved.

On May 4 the victorious force appeared before Quinsan, a place of considerable strength and possessing a formidable artillery directed by a European. The town was evidently too strong to be carried by an immediate attack, and Major Gordon's movements were further hampered by the conduct of his own men, who, upon their arrival at Quinsan, hurried off in detachments to Sunkiang for the purpose of disposing of their spoil. Ammunition had also fallen short, and the commander was consequently obliged to return to refit and to rally his men. At Sunkiang worse confusion followed, for the men, or rather the officers, broke out into mutiny on the occasion of Major Gordon appointing an English officer with the rank of lieutenant-colonel to the control of the commissariat, which had been completely neglected. The men who had served with Ward and Burgevine objected to this, and openly refused to obey orders. Fortunately the stores and ammunition were collected, and Major Gordon announced that he would march on the following morning, with or without the mutineers. Those who did not answer to their names at the end of the first half-march would be dismissed, and he spoke with the authority of one in complete accord with the Chinese authorities themselves. The soldiers obeyed him as a Chinese official, because he had been made a tsungping or brigadier- general, and the officers feared to disobey him as they would have liked on account of his commanding the source whence they were paid. The mutineers fell in, and a force of nearly 3,000 men, well-equipped and anxious for the fray, returned to Quinsan, where General Ching had, in the meanwhile, kept the rebels closely watched from a strong position defended by several stockades and supported by the "Hyson" steamer. Immediately after his arrival, Major Gordon moved out his force to attack the stockades which the rebels had constructed on their right wing. These were strongly built; but as soon as the defenders perceived that the assailants had gained their flank they precipitately withdrew into Quinsan itself. General Ching wished the attack to be made on the eastern gate, opposite to which he had raised his own intrenchments, and by which he had announced his intention of forcing his way; but a brief inspection showed Major Gordon that that was the strongest point of the town, and that a direct attack upon it could only succeed, if at all, by a very considerable sacrifice of men. Like a prudent commander Major Gordon determined to reconnoiter; and, after much grumbling on the part of General Ching, he decided that the most hopeful plan was to carry some stockades situated seven miles west of the town, and thence assail Quinsan on the Soochow side, which was weaker than the others. These stockades were at a village called Chumze. On May 30 the force detailed for this work proceeded to carry it out. The "Hyson" and fifty imperial gunboats conveyed the land force, which consisted of one regiment, some guns, and a large body of imperialists. The rebels at Chumze offered hardly the least resistance; whether it was that they were dismayed at the sudden appearance of the enemy, or, as was stated at the time, because they considered themselves ill-treated by their comrades in Quinsan. The "Hyson" vigorously pursued those who fled toward Soochow, and completed the effect of this success by the capture of a very strong and well-built fort covering a bridge at Ta Edin. An imperialist garrison was installed there, and the "Hyson" continued the pursuit to within a mile of Soochow itself.

The defenders of Quinsan itself were terribly alarmed at the cutting off of their communications. They saw themselves on the point of being surrounded, and they yielded to the uncontrollable impulse of panic. During the night, after having suffered severely from the "Hyson" fire, the garrison evacuated the place, which might easily have held out; and General Ching had the personal satisfaction, on learning from some deserters of the flight of the garrison, of leading his men over the eastern walls which he had wished to assault. The importance of Quinsan was realized on its capture. Major Gordon pronounced it to be the key of Soochow, and at once resolved to establish his headquarters there, partly because of its natural advantages, but also and not less on account of its enabling him to gradually destroy the evil associations which the men had contracted at Sunkiang.

The change was not acceptable, however, to the force itself; and the artillery in particular refused to obey orders, and threatened to shoot their officers. Discipline was, however, promptly reasserted by the energy of the commander, who ordered the principal ringleader to be shot, and "the Ever-Victorious Army" became gradually reconciled to its new position at Quinsan. After the capture of Quinsan there was a cessation of active operations for nearly two months. It was the height of summer and the new troops had to be drilled. The difficulty with Ching, who took all the credit for the capture of Quinsan to himself, was arranged through the mediation of Dr. Macartney, who had just left the English army to become Li's right-hand man. Two other circumstances occurred to embarrass the young commander. There were rumors of some meditated movement on the part of Burgevine, who had returned from Pekin with letters exculpating him, and who endeavored to recover the command in spite of Li Hung Chang, and there was a further manifestation of insubordination in the force, which, as Gordon said, bore more resemblance to a rabble than the magnificent army it was popularly supposed to be. The artillery had been cowed by Major Gordon's vigor, but its efficiency remained more doubtful than could be satisfactory to the general responsible for its condition, and also relying upon it as the most potent arm of his force. He resolved to remove the old commander, and to appoint an English officer, Major Tapp, in his place. On carrying his determination into effect the officers sent in "a round robin," refusing to accept a new officer. This was on July 25, and the expedition which had been decided upon against Wokong had consequently to set out the following morning without a single artillery officer. In face of the inflexible resolve of the leader, however, the officers repented, and appeared in a body at the camp begging to be taken back, and expressing their willingness to accept "Major Tapp or any one else" as their colonel.

With these troops, part of whom had only just returned to a proper sense of discipline, Gordon proceeded to attack Kahpoo, on the Grand Canal south of Soochow, where the rebels held two strongly-built stone forts. The force had beep strengthened by the addition of another steamer, the "Firefly," a sister vessel to the "Hyson." Major Gordon arrived before Kahpoo on July 27; and the garrison, evidently taken by surprise, made scarcely the least resistance. The capture of Kahpoo placed Gordon's force between Soochow and Wokong, the next object of attack. At Wokong the rebels were equally unprepared. The garrison at Kahpoo, thinking only of its own safety, had fled to Soochow, leaving their comrades at Wokong unwarned and to their fate. So heedless were the Taepings at this place of all danger from the north, that they had even neglected to occupy a strong stone fort situated about 1,000 yards north of the walls. The Taepings attempted too late to repair their error, and the loss of this fort caused them that of all their other stockades. Wokong itself was too weak to offer any effectual resistance; and the garrison on the eve of the assault ordered for July 29 sent out a request for quarter, which was granted, and the place surrendered without further fighting. Meanwhile an event of far greater importance had happened than even the capture of these towns, although they formed the necessary preliminary to the investment of Soochow. Burgevine had come to the decision to join the Taepings.

Disappointed in his hope of receiving the command, Burgevine remained on at Shanghai, employing his time in watching the varying phases of a campaign in which he longed to take part, and of which he believed that it was only his due to have the direction, but still hesitating as to what decision it behooved him to take. His contempt for all Chinese officials became hatred of the bitterest kind of the Futai, by whom he had been not merely thwarted but overreached, and predisposed him to regard with no unfavorable eye the idea of joining his fortunes to those of the rebel Taepings. To him in this frame of mind came some of the dismissed officers and men of the Ward force, appealing to his vanity by declaring that his soldiers remembered him with affection, and that he had only to hoist his flag for most of his old followers to rally round him. There was little to marvel at if he also was not free from some feeling of jealousy at the success and growing fame of Major Gordon, for whom he simulated a warm friendship. The combination of motives proved altogether irresistible as soon as he found that several hundred European adventurers were ready to accompany him into the ranks of the Taepings, and to endeavor to do for them what they had failed to perform for the imperialists. On July 15, Dr. Macartney wrote to Major Gordon stating that he had positive information that Burgevine was enlisting men for some enterprise, that he had already collected about 300 Europeans, and that he had even gone so far as to choose a special flag, a white diamond on a red ground, and containing a black star in the center of the diamond. On the 21st of the same month Burgevine wrote to Major Gordon saying that there would be many rumors about him, but that he was not to believe any of them, and that he would come and see him shortly. This letter was written as a blind, and, unfortunately, Major Gordon attached greater value to Burgevine's word than he did to the precise information of Dr. Macartney. He was too much disposed to think that, as the officer who had to a certain extent superseded Burgevine in the command, he was bound to take the most favorable view of all his actions, and to trust implicitly in his good faith. Major Gordon, trusting to his word, made himself personally responsible to the Chinese authorities for his good faith, and thus Burgevine escaped arrest. Burgevine's plans had been deeply laid. He had been long in correspondence with the Taepings, and his terms had been accepted. He proclaimed his hostility to the government by seizing one of their new steamers.

At this very moment Major Gordon came to the decision to resign, and he hastened back to Shanghai in order to place his withdrawal from the force in the hands of the Futai. He arrived there on the very day that Burgevine seized the "Kajow" steamer at Sunkiang, and on hearing the news he at once withdrew his resignation, which had been made partly from irritation at the irregular payment of his men, and also on account of the cruelty of General Ching. Not merely did he withdraw his resignation, but he hastened back to Quinsan, into which he rode on the night of the very same day that had witnessed his departure. The immediate and most pressing danger was from the possible defection of the force to its old leader, when, with the large stores of artillery and ammunition at Quinsan in their possession, not even Shanghai, with its very weak foreign garrison, could be considered safe from attack. As a measure of precaution Major Gordon sent some of his heavy guns and stores back to Taitsan, where the English commander, General Brown, consented to guard them, while he hastened off to Kahpoo, now threatened both by the Soochow force and by the foreign adventurers acting under Burgevine. He arrived at a most critical moment. The garrison was hard pressed. General Ching had gone back to Shanghai, and only the presence of the "Hyson" prevented the rebels, who were well- armed and possessed an efficient artillery, from carrying the fort by a rush. The arrival of Major Gordon with 150 men on board his third steamer, the "Cricket," restored the confidence of the defenders, but there was no doubt that Burgevine had lost a most favorable opportunity, for if he had attacked this place instead of proceeding to Soochow it must have fallen.

General Ching, who was a man of almost extraordinary energy and restlessness, resolved to signalize his return to the field by some striking act while Major Gordon was completing his preparations at Quinsan for a fresh effort. His headquarters were at the strong fort of Ta Edin, on the creek leading from Quinsan to Soochow, and having the "Hyson" with him he determined to make a dash to some point nearer the great rebel stronghold. On August 30 he had seized the position of Waiquaidong, where, in three days, he threw up stockades, admirably constructed, and which could not have been carried save by a great effort on the part of the whole of the Soochow garrison. Toward the end of September, Major Gordon, fearing lest the rebels, who had now the supposed advantage of Burgevine's presence and advice, might make some attempt to cut off General Ching's lengthy communications, moved forward to Waiquaidong to support him; but when he arrived he found that the impatient mandarin, encouraged either by the news of his approach or at the inaction of the Taepings in Soochow, had made a still further advance of two miles, so that he was only 1,000 yards distant from the rebel stockades in front of the east gate. Major Gordon had at this time been re-enforced by the Franco Chinese corps, which had been well disciplined, under the command of Captain Bonnefoy, while the necessity of leaving any strong garrison at Quinsan had been obviated by the loan of 200 Belooches from General Brown's force. The rebel position having been carefully reconnoitered, both on the east and on the south, Major Gordon determined that the first step necessary for its proper beleaguerment was to seize and fortify the village of Patachiaou, about one mile south of the city wall. The village, although strongly stockaded, was evacuated by the garrison after a feeble resistance, and an attempt to recover it a few hours later by Mow Wang in person resulted in a rude repulse chiefly on account of the effective fire of the "Hyson." Burgevine, instead of fighting the battles of the failing cause he had adopted, was traveling about the country: at one moment in the capital interviewing Tien Wang and his ministers, at another going about in disguise even in the streets of Shanghai. But during the weeks when General Ching might have been taken at a disadvantage, and when it was quite possible to recover some of the places which had been lost, he was absent from the scene of military operations. After the capture of Patachiaou most of the troops and the steamers that had taken it were sent back to Waiquaidong, but Major Gordon remained there with a select body of his men and three howitzers. The rebels had not resigned themselves to the loss of Patachiaou, and on October 1 they made a regular attempt to recover it. They brought the "Kajow" into action, and, as it had found a daring commander in a man named Jones, its assistance proved very considerable. They had also a 32-pounder gun on board a junk, and this enabled them to overcome the fire of Gordon's howitzers and also of the "Hyson," which arrived from Waiquaidong during the engagement. But notwithstanding the superiority of their artillery, the rebels hesitated to come to close quarters, and when Major Gordon and Captain Bonnefoy led a sortie against them at the end of the day they retired precipitately.

At this stage Burgevine wrote to Major Gordon two letters—the first exalting the Taepings, and the second written two days later asking for an interview, whereupon he expressed his desire to surrender on the provision of personal safety. He assigned the state of his health as the cause of this change, but there was never the least doubt that the true reason of this altered view was dissatisfaction with his treatment by the Taeping leaders and a conviction of the impossibility of success. Inside Soochow, and at Nankin, it was possible to see with clearer eyes than at Shanghai that the Taeping cause was one that could not be resuscitated. But although Burgevine soon and very clearly saw the hopelessness of the Taeping movement, he had by no means made up his mind to go over to the imperialists. With a considerable number of European followers at his beck and call, and with a profound and ineradicable contempt for the whole Chinese official world, he was both to lose or surrender the position which gave him a certain importance. He vacillated between a number of suggestions, and the last he came to was the most remarkable, at the same time that it revealed more clearly than any other the vain and meretricious character of the man. In his second interview with Major Gordon he proposed that that officer should join him, and combining the whole force of the Europeans and the disciplined Chinese, seize Soochow, and establish an independent authority of their own. It was the old filibustering idea, revived under the most unfavorable circumstances, of fighting for their own hand, dragging the European name in the dirt, and founding an independent authority of some vague, undefinable and transitory character. Major Gordon listened to the unfolding of this scheme of miserable treachery, and only his strong sense of the utter impossibility, and indeed the ridiculousness of the project, prevented his contempt and indignation finding forcible expression. Burgevine, the traitor to the imperial cause, the man whose health would not allow him to do his duty to his new masters in Soochow, thus revealed his plan for defying all parties, and for deciding the fate of the Dragon Throne. The only reply he received was the cold one that it would be better and wiser to confine his attention to the question of whether he intended to yield or not, instead of discussing idle schemes of "vaulting ambition."

Meantime, Chung Wang had come down from Nankin to superintend the defense of Soochow; and in face of a more capable opponent he still did not despair of success, or at the least of making a good fight of it. He formed the plan of assuming the offensive against Chanzu while General Ching was employed in erecting his stockades step by step nearer to the eastern wall of Soochow. In order to prevent the realization of this project Major Gordon made several demonstrations on the western side of Soochow, which had the effect of inducing Chung Wang to defer his departure. At this conjuncture serious news arrived from the south. A large rebel force, assembled from Chekiang and the silk districts south of the Taho Lake, had moved up the Grand Canal and held the garrison of Wokong in close leaguer. On October 10 the imperialists stationed there made a sortie, but were driven back with the loss of several hundred men killed and wounded. Their provisions were almost exhausted, and it was evident that unless relieved they could not hold out many days longer. On October 12 Major Gordon therefore hastened to their succor. The rebels held a position south of Wokong, and, as they felt sure of a safe retreat, they fought with great determination. The battle lasted three hours; the guns had to be brought up to within fifty yards of the stockade, and the whole affair is described as one of the hardest fought actions of the war. On the return of the contingent to Patachiaou, about thirty Europeans deserted the rebels, but Burgevine and one or two others were not with them. Chung Wang had seized the opportunity of Gordon's departure for the relief of Wokong to carry out his scheme against Chanzu. Taking the "Kajow" with him, and a considerable number of the foreign adventurers, he reached Monding, where the imperialists were strongly intrenched at the junction of the main creek from Chanzu with the Canal. He attacked them, and a severely contested struggle ensued, in which at first the Taepings carried everything before them. But the fortune of the day soon veered round. The "Kajow" was sunk by a lucky shot, great havoc was wrought by the explosion of a powder-boat, and the imperialists remained masters of a hard fought field. The defection of the Europeans placed Burgevine in serious peril, and only Major Gordon's urgent representations and acts of courtesy to the Mow Wang saved his life. The Taeping leader, struck by the gallantry and fair dealing of the English officer, set Burgevine free, and the American consul thanked Major Gordon for his great kindness to that misguided officer. Burgevine came out of the whole complication with a reputation in every way tarnished. He had not even the most common courage which would have impelled him to stay in Soochow and take the chances of the party to which he had attached himself. Whatever his natural talents might have been, his vanity and weakness obscured them all. With the inclination to create an infinity of mischief, it must be considered fortunate that his ability was so small, for his opportunities were abundant.

The conclusion of the Burgevine incident removed a weight from Major Gordon's mind. Established on the east and south of Soochow, he determined to secure a similar position on its western side, when he would be able to intercept the communications still held by the garrison across the Taho Lake. In order to attain this object it was necessary, in the first place, to carry the stockades at Wuliungchow, a village two miles west of Patachiaou. The place was captured at the first attack and successfully held, notwithstanding a fierce attempt to recover it under the personal direction of Chung Wang, who returned for the express purpose. This success was followed by others. Another large body of rebels had come up from the south and assailed the garrison of Wokong. On October 26 one of Gordon's lieutenants, Major Kirkham, inflicted a severe defeat upon them, and vigorously pursued them for several miles. The next operation undertaken was the capture of the village of Leeku, three miles north of Soochow, as the preliminary to investing the city on the north. Here Major Gordon resorted to his usual flanking tactics, and with conspicuous success. The rebels fought well; one officer was killed at Gordon's side, and the men in the stockade were cut down with the exception of about forty, who were made prisoners. Soochow was then assailed on the northern as well as on the other sides, but Chung Wang's army still served to keep open communications by means of the Grand Canal. That army had its principal quarters at Wusieh, where it was kept in check by a large imperialist force under Santajin, Li's brother, who had advanced from Kongyin on the Yangtse. Major Gordon's main difficulty now arose from the insufficiency of his force to hold so wide an extent of country; and in order to procure a re-enforcement from Santajin, he agreed to assist that commander against his able opponent Chung Wang. With a view to accomplishing this the Taeping position at Wanti, two miles north of Leeku, was attacked and captured.

At this stage of the campaign there were 13,500 men round Soochow, and of these 8,500 were fully occupied in the defense of the stockades, leaving the very small number of 5,000 men available for active measures in the field. On the other hand, Santajin had not fewer than 20,000, and possibly as many as 30,000 men under his orders. But the Taepings still enjoyed the numerical superiority. They had 40,000 men in Soochow, 20,000 at Wusieh, and Chung Wang occupied a camp, half-way between these places, with 18,000 followers. The presence of Chung Wang was also estimated to be worth a corps of 5,000 soldiers. Had Gordon been free to act, his plan of campaign would have been simple and decisive. He would have effected a junction of his forces with Santajin, he would have overwhelmed Chung Wang's 18,000 with his combined army of double that strength, and he would have appeared at the head of his victorious troops before the bewildered garrison of Wusieh. It would probably have terminated the campaign at a stroke. Even the decisive defeat of Chung Wang alone might have entailed the collapse of the cause now tottering to its fall. But Major Gordon had to consider not merely the military quality of his allies, but also their jealousies and differences. General Ching hated Santajin on private grounds as well as on public. He desired a monopoly of the profit and honor of the campaign. His own reputation would be made by the capture of Soochow. It would be diminished and cast into the shade were another imperial commander to defeat Chung Wang and close the line of the Grand Canal. Were Gordon to detach himself from General Ching he could not feel sure what that jealous and impulsive commander would do. He would certainly not preserve the vigilant defensive before Soochow necessary to insure the safety of the army operating to the north. The commander of the Ever- Victorious Army had consequently to abandon the tempting idea of crushing Chung Wang and to have recourse to slower methods.

On November 19 Major Gordon collected the whole of his available force to attack Fusaiquan, a place on the Grand Canal six miles north of Soochow. Here the rebels had barred the Canal at three different points, while on the banks they occupied eight earthworks, which were fortunately in a very incomplete state. A desperate resistance was expected from the rebels at this advantageous spot, but they preferred their safety to their duty, and retreated to Wusieh with hardly any loss. In consequence of this reverse Chung Wang withdrew his forces from his camp in face of Santajin, and concentrated his men at Monding and Wusieh for the defense of the Grand Canal. The investment of Soochow being now as complete as the number of troops under the imperial standard would allow of, Major Gordon returned to General Ching's stockades in front of that place, with the view of resuming the attack on the eastern gate. General Ching and Captain Bonnefoy had met with a slight repulse there on October 14. The stockade in front of the east gate was known by the name of the Low Mun, and had been strengthened to the best knowledge of the Taeping engineers. Their position was exceedingly formidable, consisting of a line of breastworks defended at intervals with circular stockades. Major Gordon decided upon making a night attack and he arranged his plans from the information provided by the European and other deserters who had been inside. The Taepings were not without their spies and sympathizers also, and the intended attempt was revealed to them. The attack was made at two in the morning of November 27, but the rebels had mustered in force and received Major Gordon's men with tremendous volleys. Even then the disciplined troops would not give way, and encouraged by the example of their leader who seemed to be at the front and at every point at the same moment, fairly held their own on the edge of the enemy's position. Unfortunately the troops in support behaved badly, and got confused from the heavy fire of the Taepings, which never slackened. Some of them absolutely retired and others were landed at the wrong places. Major Gordon had to hasten to the rear to restore order, and during his absence the advanced guard were expelled from their position by a forward movement led by Mow Wang in person. The attack had failed, and there was nothing to do save to draw off the troops with as little further loss as possible. This was Major Gordon's first defeat, but it was so evidently due to the accidents inseparable from a night attempt, and to the fact that the surprise had been revealed, that it produced a less discouraging effect on officers and men than might have seemed probable. Up to this day Major Gordon had obtained thirteen distinct victories besides the advantage in many minor skirmishes.

Undismayed by this reverse Major Gordon collected all his troops and artillery from the other stockades, and resolved to attack the Low Mun position with his whole force. He also collected all his heavy guns and mortars and cannonaded the rebel stockade for some time; but on an advance being ordered the assailants were compelled to retire by the fire which the Taepings brought to bear on them from every available point. Chung Wang had hastened down from Wusieh to take part in the defense of what was rightly regarded as the key of the position at Soochow, and both he and Mow Wang superintended in person the defense of the Low Mun stockade. After a further cannonade the advance was again sounded, but this second attack would also have failed had not the officers and men boldly plunged into the moat or creek and swum across. The whole of the stockades and a stone fort were then carried, and the imperial forces firmly established at a point only 900 yards from the inner wall of Soochow. Six officers and fifty men were killed, and three officers, five Europeans, and 128 men were wounded in this successful attack. The capture of the Low Mun stockades meant practically the fall of Soochow. Chung Wang then left it to its fate, and all the other Wangs except Mow Wang were in favor of coming to terms with the imperialists. Even before this defeat Lar Wang had entered into communications with General Ching for coming over, and as he had the majority of the troops at Soochow under his orders Mow Wang was practically powerless, although resolute to defend the place to the last. Several interviews took place between the Wangs and General Ching and Li Hung Chang. Major Gordon also saw the former, and had one interview with Lar Wang in person. The English officer proposed as the most feasible plan his surrendering one of the gates. During all this period Major Gordon had impressed on both of his Chinese colleagues the imperative necessity there was, for reasons of both policy and prudence, to deal leniently and honorably by the rebel chiefs. All seemed to be going well. General Ching took an oath of brotherhood with Lar Wang, Li Hung Chang agreed with everything that fell from Gordon's lips. The only one exempted from this tacit understanding was Mow Wang, always in favor of fighting it out and defending the town; and his name was not mentioned for the simple reason that he had nothing to do with the negotiations. For Mow Wang Major Gordon had formed the esteem due to a gallant enemy, and he resolved to spare no effort to save his life. His benevolent intentions were thwarted by the events that had occurred within Soochow. Mow Wang had been murdered by the other Wangs, who feared that he might detect their plans and prevent their being carried out. The death of Mow Wang removed the only leader who was heartily opposed to the surrender of Soochow, and on the day after this chief's murder the imperialists received possession of one of the gates. The inside of the city had been the scene of the most dreadful confusion. Mow Wang's men had sought to avenge their leader's death, and on the other hand the followers of Lar Wang had shaved their heads in token of their adhesion to the imperialist cause. Some of the more prudent of the Wangs, not knowing what turn events might take amid the prevailing discord, secured their safety by a timely flight. Major Gordon kept his force well in hand, and refused to allow any of the men to enter the city, where they would certainly have exercised the privileges of a mercenary force in respect of pillage. Instead of this Major Gordon endeavored to obtain for them two months' pay from the Futai, which that official stated his inability to procure. Major Gordon thereupon resigned in disgust, and on succeeding in obtaining one month's pay for his men, he sent them back to Quinsan without a disturbance.

The departure of the Ever-Victorious Army for its headquarters was regarded by the Chinese officials with great satisfaction, and for several reasons. In the flush of the success at Soochow both that force and its commander seemed in the way of the Futai, and to diminish the extent of his triumph. Neither Li nor Ching also had the least wish for any of the ex-rebel chiefs, men of ability and accustomed to command, to be taken into the service of the government. Of men of that kind there were already enough. General Ching himself was a sufficiently formidable rival to the Futai, without any assistance and encouragement from Lar Wang and the others. Li had no wish to save them from the fate of rebels; and although he had promised, and General Ching had sworn to, their personal safety, he was bent on getting rid of them in one way or another. He feared Major Gordon, but he also thought that the time had arrived when he could dispense with him and the foreign-drilled legion in the same way as he had got rid of Sherard Osborn and his fleet. The departure of the Quinsan force left him free to follow his own inclination. The Wangs were invited to an entertainment at the Futai's boat, and Major Gordon saw them both in the city and subsequently when on their way to Li Hung Chang. The exact circumstances of their fate were never known; but nine headless bodies were discovered on the opposite side of the creek, and not far distant from the Futai's quarters. It then became evident that Lar Wang and his fellow Wangs had been brutally murdered. Major Gordon was disposed to take the office of their avenger into his own hands, but the opportunity of doing so fortunately did not present itself. He hastened back to Quinsan, where he refused to act any longer with such false and dishonorable colleagues. The matter was reported to Pekin. Both the mandarins sought to clear themselves by accusing the other; and a special decree came from Pekin conferring on the English officer a very high order and the sum of 10,000 taels. Major Gordon returned the money, and expressed his regret at being unable to accept any token of honor from the emperor in consequence of the Soochow affair.

A variety of reasons, all equally creditable to Major Gordon's judgment and single-mindedness, induced him after two months' retirement to abandon his inaction and to sink his difference with the Futai. He saw very clearly that the sluggishness of the imperial commanders would result in the prolongation of the struggle with all its attendant evils, whereas, if he took the field, he would be able to bring it to a conclusion within two months. Moreover, the Quinsan force, never very amenable to discipline, shook off all restraint when in quarters, and promised to become as dangerous to the government in whose pay it was as to the enemy against whom it was engaged to fight. Major Gordon, in view of these facts, came to the prompt decision that it was his duty, and the course most calculated to do good, for him to retake the field and strive as energetically as possible to expel the rebels from the small part of Kiangsu still remaining in their possession. On February 18, 1864, he accordingly left Quinsan at the head of his men, who showed great satisfaction at the return to active campaigning. Wusieh had been evacuated on the fall of Soochow, and Chung Wang's force retired to Changchow, while that chief himself returned to Nankin. A few weeks later General Ching had seized Pingwang, thus obtaining the command of another entrance into the Taho Lake. Santajin established his force in a camp not far distant from Changchow, and engaged the rebels in almost daily skirmishes. This was the position of affairs when Major Gordon took the field toward the end of February, and he at once resolved to carry the war into a new country by crossing the Taho Lake and attacking the town of Yesing on its western shores. By seizing this and the adjoining towns he hoped to cut the rebellion in two, and to be able to attack Changchow in the rear. The operations at Yesing occupied two days; but at last the rebel stockades were carried with tremendous loss not only to the defenders, but also to a relieving force sent from Liyang. Five thousand prisoners were also taken. Liyang itself was the next place to be attacked; but the intricacy of the country, which was intersected by creeks and canals, added to the fact that the whole region had been desolated by famine, and that the rebels had broken all the bridges, rendered this undertaking one of great difficulty and some risk. However, Major Gordon's fortitude vanquished all obstacles, and when he appeared before Liyang he found that the rebel leaders in possession of the town had come to the decision to surrender. At this place Major Gordon came into communication with the general Paochiaou, who was covering the siege operations against Nankin, which Tseng Kwofan was pressing with ever- increasing vigor. The surrender of Liyang proved the more important, as the fortifications were found to be admirably constructed, and as it contained a garrison of fifteen thousand men and a plentiful supply of provisions. From Liyang Major Gordon marched on Kintang, a town due north of Liyang, and about half-way between Changchow and Nankin. The capture of Kintang, by placing Gordon's force within striking distance of Changchow and its communications, would have compelled the rebels to suspend these operations and recall their forces. Unfortunately the attack on Kintang revealed unexpected difficulties. The garrison showed extraordinary determination; and although the wall was breached by the heavy fire, two attempts to assault were repulsed with heavy loss, the more serious inasmuch as Major Gordon was himself wounded below the knee, and compelled to retire to his boat. This was the second defeat Gordon had experienced.

In consequence of this reverse, which dashed the cup of success from Gordon's hands when he seemed on the point of bringing the campaign to a close in the most brilliant manner, the force had to retreat to Liyang, whence the commander hastened back with one thousand men to Wusieh. He reached Wusieh on the 25th of March, four days after the repulse at Kintang, and he there learned that Fushan had been taken and that Chanzu was being closely attacked. The imperialists had fared better in the south. General Ching had captured Kashingfoo, a strong place in Chekiang, and on the very same day as the repulse at Kintang, Tso Tsung Tang had recovered Hangchow. Major Gordon, although still incapacitated by his wound from taking his usual foremost place in the battle, directed all operations from his boat. He succeeded, after numerous skirmishes, in compelling the Taepings to quit their position before Chanzu; but they drew up in force at the village of Waisso, where they offered him battle. Most unfortunately, Major Gordon had to intrust the conduct of the attack to his lieutenants, Colonels Howard and Rhodes, while he superintended the advance of the gunboats up the creek. Finding the banks were too high to admit of these being usefully employed, and failing to establish communications with the infantry, he discreetly returned to his camp, where he found everything in the most dreadful confusion owing to a terrible disaster. The infantry, in fact, had been outmaneuvered and routed with tremendous loss. Seven officers and 265 men had been killed, and one officer and sixty-two men wounded. Such an overwhelming disaster would have crushed any ordinary commander, particularly when coming so soon after such a rude defeat as that at Kintang. It only roused Major Gordon to increased activity. He at once took energetic measures to retrieve this disaster. He sent his wounded to Quinsan, collected fresh troops, and, having allowed his own wound to recover by a week's rest, resumed in person the attack on Waisso. On April 10 Major Gordon pitched his camp within a mile of Waisso, and paid his men as the preliminary to the resumption of the offensive. The attack commenced on the following morning, and promised to prove of an arduous nature; but by a skillful flank movement Major Gordon carried two stockades in person, and rendered the whole place no longer tenable. The rebels evacuated their position and retreated, closely pursued by the imperialists. The villagers, who had suffered from their exactions, rose upon them, and very few rebels escaped. The pursuit was continued for a week, and the lately victorious army of Waisso was practically annihilated. The capture of Changchow was to be the next and crowning success of the campaign. For this enterprise the whole of the Ever-Victorious Army was concentrated, including the ex- rebel contingent of Liyang. On April 23 Major Gordon carried the stockades near the west gate. In their capture the Liyang men, although led only by Chinese, showed conspicuous gallantry, thus justifying Major Gordon's belief that the Chinese would fight as well under their own countrymen as when led by foreigners. Batteries were then constructed for the bombardment of the town itself. Before these were completed the imperialists assaulted, but were repulsed with loss. On the following day (April 27) the batteries opened fire, and two pontoon bridges were thrown across, when Major Gordon led his men to the assault. The first attack was repulsed, and a second one, made in conjunction with the imperialists, fared not less badly. The pontoons were lost, and the force suffered a greater loss than at any time during the war, with the exception of Waisso. The Taepings also lost heavily; and their valor could not alter the inevitable result. Changchow had consequently to be approached systematically by trenches, in the construction of which the Chinese showed themselves very skillful. The loss of the pontoons compelled the formation of a cask-bridge; and, during the extensive preparations for renewing the attack, several hundred of the garrison came over, reporting that it was only the Cantonese who wished to fight to the bitter end. On May 11, the fourth anniversary of its capture by Chung Wang, Li requested Major Gordon to act in concert with him for carrying the place by storm. The attack was made in the middle of the day, to the intense surprise of the garrison, who made only a feeble resistance, and the town was at last carried with little loss. The commandant, Hoo Wang, was made prisoner and executed. This proved to be the last action of the Ever-Victorious Army, which then returned to Quinsan, and was quietly disbanded by its commander before June 1. To sum up the closing incidents of the Taeping war. Tayan was evacuated two days after the fall of Changchow, leaving Nankin alone in their hands. Inside that city there were the greatest misery and suffering. Tien Wang had refused to take any of the steps pressed on him by Chung Wang, and when he heard the people were suffering from want, all he said was, "Let them eat the sweet dew." Tseng Kwofan drew up his lines on all sides of the city, and gradually drove the despairing rebels behind the walls. Chung Wang sent out the old women and children; and let it be recorded to the credit of Tseng Kwotsiuen that he did not drive them back, but charitably provided for their wants, and dispatched them to a place of shelter. In June Major Gordon visited Tseng's camp, and found his works covering twenty-four to thirty miles, and constructed in the most elaborate fashion. The imperialists numbered 80,000 men, but were badly armed. Although their pay was very much in arrear, they were well fed, and had great confidence in their leader, Tseng Kwofan. On June 30, Tien Wang, despairing of success, committed suicide by swallowing golden leaf. Thus died the Hungtsiuen who had erected the standard of revolt in Kwangsi thirteen years before. His son was proclaimed Tien Wang on his death becoming known, but his reign was brief. The last act of all had now arrived. On July 19 the imperialists had run a gallery under the wall of Nankin, and charged it with 40,000 pounds of powder. The explosion destroyed fifty yards of the walls, and the imperialists, attacking on all sides, poured in through the breach. Chung Wang made a desperate resistance in the interior, holding his own and the Tien Wang's palace to the last. He made a further stand with a thousand men at the southern gate, but his band was overwhelmed, and he and the young Tien Wang fled into the surrounding country. In this supreme moment of danger Chung Wang thought more of the safety of his young chief than of himself, and he gave him an exceptionally good pony to escape on, while he himself took a very inferior animal. As the consequence Tien Wang the Second escaped, while Chung Wang was captured in the hills a few days later. Chung Wang, who had certainly been the hero of the Taeping movement, was beheaded on August 7, and the young Tien Wang was eventually captured and executed also, by Shen Paochen. For this decisive victory, which extinguished the Taeping Rebellion, Tseng Kwofan, whom Gordon called "generous, fair, honest and patriotic," was made a Hou, or Marquis, and his brother Tseng Kwotsiuen an Earl.

It is impossible to exaggerate the impression made by Gordon's disinterestedness on the Chinese people, who elevated him for his courage and military prowess to the pedestal of a national god of war. The cane which he carried when leading his men to the charge became known as "Gordon's wand of victory"; and the troops whom he trained, and converted by success from a rabble into an army, formed the nucleus of China's modern army. The service he rendered his adopted country was, therefore, lasting as well as striking, and the gratitude of the Chinese has, to their credit, proved not less durable. The name of Gordon is still one to conjure with among the Chinese, and if ever China were placed in the same straits, she would be the more willing, from his example, to intrust her cause to an English officer. As to the military achievements of General Gordon in China nothing fresh can be said. They speak indeed for themselves, and they form the most solid portion of the reputation which he gained as a leader of men. In the history of the Manchu dynasty he will be known as "Chinese Gordon"; although for us his earlier sobriquet must needs give place, from his heroic and ever-regrettable death, to that of "Gordon of Khartoum."



CHAPTER XXI

THE REGENCY

While the suppression of the Taeping Rebellion was in progress, events of great interest and importance happened at Pekin. It will be recollected that when the allied forces approached that city in 1860, the Emperor Hienfung fled to Jehol, and kept himself aloof from all the peace negotiations which were conducted to a successful conclusion by his brother, Prince Kung. After the signature of the convention in Pekin, ratifying the Treaty of Tientsin, he refused to return to his capital; and he even seems to have hoped that he might, by asserting his imperial prerogative, transfer the capital from Pekin to Jehol, and thus evade one of the principal concessions to the foreigners. But if this was impossible, he was quite determined, for himself, to have nothing to do with them, and during the short remainder of his life he kept his court at Jehol. While his brother was engaged in meeting the difficulties of diplomacy, and in arranging the conditions of a novel situation, Hienfung, by collecting round his person the most bigoted men of his family, showed that he preferred those counselors who had learned nothing from recent events, and who would support him in his claims to undiminished superiority and inaccessibility. Prominent among the men in his confidence was Prince Tsai, who had taken so discreditable a part in the arrest of Parkes and his companions at Tungchow, and among his other advisers were several inexperienced and impetuous members of the Manchu family. They were all agreed in the policy of recovering, at the earliest possible moment, what they considered to be the natural and prescriptive right of the occupant of the Dragon Throne to treat all other potentates as in no degree equal to himself. No respect for treaties would have deterred them from reasserting what had solemnly been signed away, and the permanent success of the faction at Jehol would have entailed, within a comparatively short period, the outbreak of another foreign war. But the continued residence of the emperor at Jehol was not popular, with either his own family or the inhabitants of Pekin. The members of the Manchu clan, who received a regular allowance during the emperor's residence at Pekin, were reduced to the greatest straits, and even to the verge of starvation, while the Chinese naturally resented the attempt to remove the capital to any other place. This abnegation of authority by Hienfung, for his absence meant nothing short of that, could not have been prolonged indefinitely, for a Chinese emperor has many religious and secular duties to perform which no one else can discharge, and which, if not discharged, would reduce the office of emperor to a nonentity. Prince Tsai and his associates had no difficulty in working upon the fears of this prince, who held the most exalted idea of his own majesty, at the same time that he had not the power or knowledge to vindicate it.

While such were the views prevailing in the imperial circle at Jehol, arrangements were in progress for the taking up of his residence at Pekin of the British minister. After Lord Elgin's departure, his brother, Sir Frederick Bruce, who was knighted for his share in the negotiations, was appointed first occupant of the post of minister in the Chinese capital, and on March 22, 1861, he left Tientsin for Pekin. Mr. Wade accompanied Sir Frederick as principal secretary, and the staff included six student interpreters, whose ranks, constantly recruited, have given many able men to the public service. Before Sir Frederick reached the capital, the Chinese minister had taken a step to facilitate the transaction of business with the foreign representatives. Prince Kung—and the credit of the measure belongs exclusively to him—will always be gratefully remembered by any foreign writer on modern China as the founder of the department known as the Tsungli Yamen, which he instituted in January, 1861. This department, since its institution, has very fully answered all the expectations formed of it; and, although it is erroneous to represent it as in any sense identical with the Chinese government, or as the originating source of Chinese policy, it has proved a convenient and well- managed vehicle for the dispatch of international business. Prince Kung became its first president, and acted in that capacity until his fall from power in 1884.

Before long, reports began to be spread of the serious illness of the emperor. In August Prince Kung hastened to Jehol, the object of his journey being kept secret. The members of the Tsungli Yamen were observed by the foreign officials to be pre-occupied, and even the genial Wansiang could not conceal that they were passing through a crisis. Not merely was Hienfung dying, but it had become known to Prince Kung and his friends that he had left the governing authority during the minority of his son, a child of less than six years of age, to a board of regency composed of eight of the least intelligent and most arrogant and self-seeking members of the imperial family, with Prince Tsai at their head. The emperor died on August 22. A few hours later the imperial decree notifying the last wishes of the ruler as to the mode of government was promulgated. The board of regency assumed the nominal control of affairs, and Hienfung's son was proclaimed emperor under the style of Chiseang. In all of these arrangements neither Prince Kung nor his brothers, nor the responsible ministers at the capital, had had the smallest part. It was an intrigue among certain members of the imperial clan to possess themselves of the ruling power, and for a time it seemed as if their intrigue would be only too successful. Nothing happened during the months of September and October to disturb their confidence, for they remained at Jehol, and at Pekin the routine of government continued to be performed by Prince Kung. That statesman and his colleagues employed the interval in arranging their own plan of action, and in making sure of the fidelity of a certain number of troops. Throughout these preparations Prince Kung was ably and energetically supported by his brother, Prince Chun, by his colleague, Wansiang, and by his aged father-in-law, the minister Kweiliang. But the conspirators could not keep the young emperor at Jehol indefinitely, and when, at the end of October, it became known that he was on the point of returning to Pekin, it was clear that the hour of conflict had arrived. At Jehol the Board of Regency could do little harm; but once its pretensions and legality were admitted at the capital, all the ministers would have to take their orders from it, and to resign the functions which they had retained. The main issue was whether Prince Kung or Prince Tsai was to be supreme. On November 1 the young emperor entered his capital in state. A large number of soldiers, still dressed in their white mourning, accompanied their sovereign from Jehol; but Shengpao's garrison was infinitely more numerous, and thoroughly loyal to the cause of Prince Kung. The majority of the regents had arrived with the reigning prince; those who had not yet come were on the road, escorting the dead body of Hienfung toward its resting-place. If a blow was to be struck at all now was the time to strike it. The regents had not merely placed themselves in the power of their opponent, but they had actually brought with them the young emperor, without whose person Prince Kung could have accomplished little. Prince Kung had spared no effort to secure, and had fortunately succeeded in obtaining, the assistance and co-operation of the Empress Dowager, Hienfung's principal widow, named Tsi An. Her assent had been obtained to the proposed plot before the arrival in Pekin, and it now only remained to carry it out. On the day following the entry into the capital, Prince Kung hastened to the palace, and, producing before the astonished regents an Imperial Edict ordering their dismissal, he asked them whether they obeyed the decree of their sovereign, or whether he must call in his soldiers to compel them. Prince Tsai and his companions had no choice save to signify their acquiescence in what they could not prevent; but, on leaving the chamber in which this scene took place, they hastened toward the emperor's apartment in order to remonstrate against their dismissal, or to obtain from him some counter-edict reinstating them in their positions. They were prevented from carrying out their purpose, but this proof of contumacy sealed their fate. They were promptly arrested, and a second decree was issued ordering their degradation from their official and hereditary rank. To Prince Kung and his allies was intrusted the charge of trying and punishing the offenders.

The next step was the proclamation of a new regency, composed of the two empresses, Tsi An, principal widow of Hienfung, and Tsi Thsi, mother of the young emperor. Two precedents for the administration being intrusted to an empress were easily found by the Hanlin doctors during the Ming dynasty, when the Emperors Chitsong and Wanleh were minors. Special edicts were issued and arrangements made for the transaction of business during the continuance of the regency, and as neither of the empresses knew Manchu, it was specially provided that papers and documents, which were always presented in that language, should be translated into Chinese. Concurrently with these measures for the settlement of the regency happened the closing scenes in the drama of conspiracy which began so successfully at Jehol and ended so dramatically at Pekin. For complete success and security it was necessary that all the ringleaders should be captured, and some of them were still free. The bravest, if not the ablest, of the late Board of Regency, Sushuen, remained at large. He had been charged with the high and honorable duty of escorting the remains of Hienfung to the capital. It was most important that he should be seized before he became aware of the fate that had befallen his colleagues. Prince Chun volunteered to capture the last, and in a sense the most formidable, of the intriguers himself, and on the very day that the events described happened at Pekin he rode out of the capital at the head of a body of Tartar cavalry. On the following night Prince Chun reached the spot where he was encamped, and, breaking into the house, arrested him while in bed. Sushuen did not restrain his indignation, and betrayed the ulterior plans entertained by himself and his associates by declaring that Prince Chun had been only just in time to prevent a similar fate befalling himself. He was at once placed on his trial with the other prisoners, and on November 10 the order was given in the emperor's name for their execution. Sushuen was executed on the public ground set apart for that purpose; but to the others, as a special favor from their connection with the imperial family, was sent the silken cord, with which they were permitted to put an end to their existence. In the fate of Prince Tsai may be seen a well merited retribution for his treachery and cruelty to Sir Harry Parkes and his companions.

Another important step which had to be taken was the alteration of the style given to the young emperor's reign. It was felt to be impolitic that the deposed ministers should retain any connection whatever in history with the young ruler. Were Hienfung's son to be handed down to posterity as Chiseang there would be no possibility of excluding their names and their brief and feverish ambition from the national annals. After due deliberation, therefore, the name of Tungche was substituted for that of Chiseang, and meaning, as it does, "the union of law and order," it will be allowed that the name was selected with some proper regard for the circumstances of the occasion. Prince Kung was rewarded with many high offices and sounding titles in addition to the post of chief minister under the two empresses. He was made president of the Imperial Clan Court in the room of Prince Tsai, and the title of Iching Wang, or Prince Minister, was conferred upon him. His stanch friends and supporters, Wansiang, Paukwen, and Kweiliang, were appointed to the Supreme Council. Prince Chun, to whose skill and bravery in arresting Sushuen Prince Kung felt very much indebted, was also rewarded. With these incidents closed what might have proved a grave and perilous complication for the Chinese government. Had Prince Kung prematurely revealed his plans there is every reason to suppose that he would have alarmed and forewarned his rivals, and that they, with the person of the emperor in their possession, would have obtained the advantage. His patience during the two months of doubt and anxiety while the emperor remained at Jehol was matched by the vigor and promptitude that he displayed on the eventful 2d of November. That his success was beneficial to his country will not be disputed by any one, and Prince Kung's name must be permanently remembered both for having commenced, and for having insured the continuance of, diplomatic relations with England and the other foreign powers.

The increased intercourse with Europeans not merely led to greater diplomatic confidence and to the extension of trade, but it also induced many foreigners to offer their services and assistance to the Pekin government, during the embarrassment arising from internal dissension. At first these persons were, as has been seen, encouraged and employed more in consequence of local opinion in the treaty-ports than as a matter of State policy. But already the suggestion had been brought forward in more than one form for the employment of foreigners, with the view of increasing the resources of the government by calling in the assistance of the very agency which had reduced them. A precedent had been established for this at an earlier period—before, in fact, the commencement of hostilities—by the appointment of Mr. Horatio N. Lay to direct and assist the local authorities in the collection of customs in the Shanghai district. Mr. Lay's experience had proved most useful in drawing up the tariff of the Treaty of Tientsin, and his assistance had been suitably acknowledged. In 1862, when the advantages to be derived from the military experience of foreigners had been practically recognized by the appointment of Europeans to command a portion of the army of China, and in pursuance of a suggestion made by the present Sir Robert Hart in the previous year, it was thought desirable for many reasons that something should also be done to increase the naval resources of the empire, and Mr. Lay was intrusted with a commission for purchasing and collecting in Europe a fleet of gunboats of small draught, which could be usefully employed for all the purposes of the Pekin government on the rivers and shallow estuaries of the country. Mr. Lay, who undertook the commission, said, "This force was intended for the protection of the treaty-ports, for the suppression of piracy then rife, and for the relief of this country from the burden of 'policing' the Chinese waters"; but its first use in the eyes of Prince Kung was to be employed against the rebels and their European supporters of whom Burgevine was the most prominent. Captain Sherard Osborn, a distinguished English naval officer, was associated with Mr. Lay in the undertaking. An Order of Council was issued on August 30, 1862, empowering both of these officers to act in the matter as delegates of the Chinese. Captain Osborn and Mr. Lay came to England to collect the vessels of this fleet, and the former afterward returned with them to China in the capacity of their commodore. The transaction was not well managed from the very commencement. Mr. Lay wrote in August, 1862, to say that he had chosen as the national ensign of the Chinese navy "a green flag, bearing a yellow diagonal cross," and he wrote again to request that an official notification should appear in the "Gazette." Had his request been complied with, there would have been very strong reason for assuming that the English government was prepared to support and facilitate every scheme for forcing the Chinese to accept and submit to the exact method of progress approved of and desired by the European servants of their government, without their taking any part in the transaction save to ratify terms that might be harsh and exorbitant. Fortunately, the instinctive caution of our Foreign Office was not laid aside on this occasion. Mr. Lay was informed that no notice could appear in the "London Gazette" except after the approval of the Pekin authorities had been expressed; and Prince Kung wrote, on October 22, to say that the Chinese ensign would be of "yellow ground, and on it will be designed a dragon with his head toward the upper part of the flag." Mr. Lay preceded the vessels—seven gunboats and one store-ship—and arrived at Pekin in May, 1863.

Prince Kung had been most anxious for the speedy arrival of the flotilla; and the doubtful fortune of the campaign in Kiangsu, where the gunboats would have been invaluable, rendered him extremely desirous that they should commence active operations immediately on arrival. But he found, in the first place, that Mr. Lay was not prepared to accept the appointment of a Chinese official as joint-commander, and in the second place, that he would not receive orders from any of the provincial authorities. Such a decision was manifestly attended with the greatest inconvenience to China; for only the provincial authorities knew what the interests of the State demanded, and where the fleet might co-operate with advantage in the attacks on the Taepings. Unless Captain Osborn were to act on the orders of Tsen Kwofan, and particularly of Li Hung Chang, it was difficult to see of what possible use he or his flotilla could be to China. The founders of the new Chinese navy claimed practically all the privileges of an ally, and declined the duties devolving on them as directing a department of the Chinese administration. Of course, it was more convenient and more dignified for the foreign officers to draw their instructions and their salaries direct from the fountain-head; but if the flotilla was not to be of any practical use to China it might just as well never have been created. The fleet arrived in safety, but remained inactive. The whole summer and autumn of 1863, with its critical state of affairs round Soochow, passed away without anything being done to show what a powerful auxiliary Mr. Lay's ships might be. The ultimate success of those operations without the smallest co-operation on the part of Captain Osborn or his flotilla virtually sealed its fate. In October, Wansiang, in the name of the Foreign Office, declared that the Chinese could not recognize or ratify the private arrangement between Mr. Lay and his naval officer, and that it was essential for Captain Osborn to submit to receive his instructions from the provincial authorities. In the following month Mr. Lay was summarily dismissed from the Chinese service, and it was determined, after some delay and various counter suggestions, to send back the ships to Europe, there to be disposed of. The radical fault in the whole arrangement had been Mr. Lay's wanting to take upon himself the responsibility not merely of Inspector-General of Customs, but also of supreme adviser on all matters connected with foreign questions. The Chinese themselves were to take quite a subordinate part in their realization, and were to be treated, in short, as if they did not know how to manage their own affairs. Mr. Lay's dreams were suddenly dispelled, and his philanthropic schemes fell to the ground. Neither Prince Kung nor his colleagues had any intention to pave the way for their own effacement.

After Mr. Lay's departure the Maritime Customs were placed under the control of Mr. Robert Hart, who had acted during Mr. Lay's absence in Europe. This appointment was accompanied by the transfer of the official residence from Pekin to Shanghai, which was attended with much practical advantage. Already the customs revenue had risen to three millions, and trade was steadily expanding as the rebels were gradually driven back, and as the Yangtsekiang and the coasts became safer for navigation. Numerous schemes were suggested for the opening up of China by railways and the telegraph; but they all very soon ended in nothing, for the simple reason that the Chinese did not want them. They were more sincere and energetic in their adoption of military improvements.

The anxieties of Prince Kung on the subject of the dynasty, and with regard to the undue pretensions and expectations of the foreign officials who looked on the Chinese merely as the instruments of their self- aggrandizement, were further increased during this period by the depredations of the Nienfei rebels in the province of Shantung. During these operations Sankolinsin died, leaving Tseng Kwofan in undisputed possession of the first place among Chinese officials. Sankolinsin, when retreating after a reverse, was treacherously murdered by some villagers whose hospitality he had claimed.

The events of this introductory period may be appropriately concluded with the strange stroke of misfortune that befell Prince Kung in the spring of 1865, and which seemed to show that he had indulged some views of personal ambition. The affair had probably a secret history, but if so the truth is hardly likely to be ever known. The known facts were as follows: On April 2, 1865, there appeared an edict degrading the prince in the name of the two regent-empresses. The charge made against him was of having grown arrogant and assumed privileges to which he had no right. He was at first "diligent and circumspect," but he has now become disposed "to overrate his own importance." In consequence, he was deprived of all his appointments and dismissed from the scene of public affairs. Five weeks after his fall, however, Prince Kung was reinstated, on May 8, in all his offices, with the exception of that of President of the Council. This episode, which might have produced grave complications, closed with a return to almost the precise state of things previously existing. There was one important difference. The two empresses had asserted their predominance. Prince Kung had hoped to be supreme, and to rule uncontrolled. From this time forth he was content to be their minister and adviser, on terms similar to those that would have applied to any other official.

The year 1865, which witnessed this very interesting event in the history of the Chinese government, beheld before its close the departure of Sir Frederick Bruce from Pekin, and the appointment of Sir Rutherford Alcock, who had been the first British minister to Japan during the critical period of the introduction of foreign intercourse with that country, to fill the post of Resident Minister at Pekin. Sir Rutherford Alcock then found the opportunity to put in practice some of the honorable sentiments to which he had given expression twenty years before at Shanghai. When Sir Rutherford left Yeddo for Pekin, the post of Minister in Japan was conferred on Sir Harry Parkes, who had been acting as consul at Shanghai since the conclusion of the war. The relations between the countries were gradually settling down on a satisfactory basis, and the appointment of a Supreme Court for China and Japan at Shanghai, with Sir Edmund Hornby as Chief Judge, promised to enforce obedience to the law among even the unsettled adventurers of different, nationalities left by the conclusion of the Taeping Rebellion and the cessation of piracy without a profitable pursuit.

While the events which have been set forth were happening in the heart of China, other misfortunes had befallen the executive in the more remote quarters of the realm, but resulting none the less in the loss and ruin of provinces, and in the subversion of the emperor's authority. Two great uprisings of the people occurred in opposite directions, both commencing while the Taeping Rebellion was in full force, and continuing to disturb the country for many years after its suppression. The one had for its scene the great southwestern province of Yunnan; the other the two provinces of the northwest, Shensi and Kansuh, and extending thence westward to the Pamir. They resembled each other in one point, and that was that they were instigated and sustained by the Mohammedan population alone. The Panthays and the Tungani were either indigenous tribes or foreign immigrants who had adopted or imported the tenets of Islam. Their sympathies with the Pekin government were probably never very great, but they were impelled in both cases to revolt more by local tyranny than by any distinct desire to cast off the authority of the Chinese; but, of course, the obvious embarrassment of the central executive encouraged by simplifying the task of rebellion. The Panthay rising calls for description in the first place, because it began at an earlier period than the other, and also because the details have been preserved with greater fidelity. Mohammedanism is believed to have been introduced into Yunnan in or about the year 1275, and it made most progress among the so-called aboriginal tribes, the Lolos and the Mantzu. The officials were mostly Chinese or Tartars, and, left practically free from control, they more often abused their power than sought to employ it for the benefit of the people they governed. In the very first year of Hienfung's reign (1851) a petition reached the capital from a Mohammedan land proprietor in Yunnan named Ma Wenchu, accusing the emperor's officials of the gravest crimes, and praying that "a just and honest man" might be sent to redress the wrongs of an injured and long-suffering people. The petition was carefully read and favorably considered at the capital; but beyond a gracious answer the emperor was at the time powerless to apply a remedy to the evil. Four years passed away without any open manifestation of the deep discontent smoldering below the surface. But in 1855 the Chinese and the Mohammedan laborers quarreled in one of the principal mines of the province, which is covered with mines of gold, iron, and copper. It seems that the greater success of the Mohammedans in the uncertain pursuit of mining had roused the displeasure of the Chinese. Disputes ensued, in which the Mussulmans added success in combat to success in mineing; and the official appointed to superintend the mines, instead of remaining with a view to the restoration of order, sought his personal safety by precipitate flight to the town of Yunnan. During his absence the Chinese population raised a levy en masse, attacked the Mohammedans who had gained a momentary triumph, and compelled them by sheer weight of numbers to beat a hasty retreat to their own homes in a different part of the province. This success was the signal for a general outcry against the Mohammedans, who had long been the object of the secret ill-will of the other inhabitants. Massacres took place in several parts of Yunnan, and the followers of the Prophet had to flee for their lives.

Among those who were slain during these popular disorders was a young chief named Ma Sucheng; and when the news of his murder reached his native village, his younger brother, Ma Sien, who had just received a small military command, declared his intention to avenge him, and fled to join the Mohammedan fugitives in the mountains. In this secure retreat they rallied their forces, and, driven to desperation by the promptings of want, they left their fastnesses with the view of regaining what they had lost. In this they succeeded better than they could have hoped for. The Chinese population experienced in their turn the bitterness of defeat; and the mandarins had the less difficulty in concluding a temporary understanding between the exhausted combatants. Tranquillity was restored, and the miners resumed their occupations. But the peace was deceptive, and in a little time the struggle was renewed with increased fury. In this emergency the idea occurred to some of the officials that an easy and efficacious remedy of the difficulty in which they found themselves would be provided by the massacre of the whole Mussulman population. In this plot the foremost part was taken by Hwang Chung, an official who bitterly hated the Mohammedans. He succeeded in obtaining the acquiescence of all his colleagues with the exception of the viceroy of the province, who exposed the iniquity of the design, but who, destitute of all support, was powerless to prevent its execution. At the least he resolved to save his honor and reputation by committing suicide, and he and his wife were found one morning hanging up in the hall of the yamen. His death simplified the execution of the project which his refusal might possibly have prevented. May 19, 1856, was the date fixed for the celebration of this Chinese St. Bartholomew. But the secret had not been well kept. The Mohammedans, whether warned or suspicious, distrusted the authorities and their neighbors, and stood vigilantly on their guard. At this time they looked chiefly to a high priest named Ma Tesing for guidance and instruction. But although on the alert, they were after all, taken to some extent by surprise, and many of them were massacred after a more or less unavailing resistance. But if many of the Mussulmans were slain, the survivors were inspired with a desperation which the mandarins had never contemplated. From one end of Yunnan to the other the Mohammedans, in face of great personal peril, rose by a common and spontaneous impulse, and the Chinese population was compelled to take a hasty refuge in the towns. At Talifoo, where the Mohammedans formed a considerable portion of the population, the most desperate fighting occurred, and after three days' carnage the Mussulmans, under Tu Wensiu, were left in possession of the city. The rebels did not remain without leaders, whom they willingly recognized and obeyed; for the kwanshihs, or chiefs, who had accepted titles of authority from the Chinese, cast off their allegiance and placed themselves at the head of the popular movement. The priest Ma Tesing was raised to the highest post of all as Dictator, but Tu Wensiu admitted no higher authority than his own within the walls of Talifoo. Ma Tesing had performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, he had resided at Constantinople for two years, and his reputation for knowledge and saintliness stood highest among his co-religionists.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse