On May 19 the allied fleet proceeded to the mouth of the river, and summoned the commandant to surrender the Taku forts on the following morning. No reply being received, the attack commenced, and after the bombardment had gone on at short range for an hour and a quarter the Chinese gunners were driven from their batteries, and the troops landed, occupying the whole line of forts and intrenched camps. An attempt to injure our fleet by fire-ships miscarried, and considering that the Chinese had some of their best troops present, including a portion of the Imperial Guard, their resistance was not as great as might have been expected. Their general committed suicide, and the Chinese lost the best part of their artillery, which had been removed from Pekin and Tientsin for the defense of the entrance to the Peiho. The fleet proceeded up the river to Tientsin, and Lord Elgin took up his quarters in that city. The Chinese government was brought to reason by this striking success, and, with his capital menaced, the emperor hastened to delegate full powers to two high commissioners, Kweiliang and Hwashana, both Manchus and dignitaries of the highest birth and rank. Their powers were superior to those granted to Keying at the time of the old war, and they were commanded with affectionate earnestness to show the foreigners that they were competent and willing to grant anything not injurious to China. Nothing could be more satisfactory than the proposals of the new Chinese representatives, and they were anxious to settle everything with the least possible delay. At this point there reappeared upon the scene a man whose previous experience and high position entitled him to some consideration. Less than a week after his first interview with the imperial representatives, Lord Elgin received a letter from Keying, who, it was soon found, had come on a self-appointed mission to induce the English by artifice and plausible representation to withdraw their fleet from the river. His zeal was increased by the knowledge that the penalty of failure would be death, and as his reputation had been very great among Europeans there is no saying but that he might have succeeded had there not been discovered in Yeh's yamen at Canton some of his papers, which showed that he had played a double part throughout, and that at heart he was bitterly anti-foreign. When he found that the English possessed this information he hastened back to Pekin, where he was at once summoned before the Board of Punishment for immediate judgment, and, being found guilty, it was ordered that as he had acted "with stupidity and precipitancy" he should be strangled forthwith. As an act of extreme grace the emperor allowed him to put an end to his existence in consideration of his being a member of the imperial family.
After the departure of Keying, negotiations proceeded very satisfactorily with Kweiliang and Hwashana, and all the points were practically agreed upon, excepting the right to have a resident minister at Pekin. This claim was opposed on several grounds. It was not merely something that had never been heard of, but it would probably be attended with peril to the envoy as well as to the Chinese government. Then the commissioners wanted to know if he would wear the Chinese dress, if all the powers would have only one minister, and if he would make the kotow? Finding such arguments fail they asked that the visit of an English embassador to Pekin should be postponed till a more favorable occasion. They made the admission that "there is properly no objection to the permanent residence at Pekin of a plenipotentiary minister of her Britannic Majesty," and they even spoke of sending a return mission to London; but they deprecated the proposal as novel and as specially risky at this moment in consequence of the formidable Taeping Rebellion. These representations did not fail to produce their effect, for it was not to the interest of Europeans generally that the emperor's authority should be subverted on the morrow of his signing a treaty with us. In consequence of these feelings, and with a wish to reciprocate the generally conciliatory attitude of the Chinese officials, Kweiliang and Hwashana were informed that the right would be waived for the present, except that it would be necessary for the English minister to visit Pekin twelve months later, on the occasion of exchanging the ratifications of the treaty; and so the matter was left pending the arrival of that occasion. While the Treaty of Tientsin provided for the conclusion of a peace that promised to be enduring, and arranged for the future diplomatic relations of the two countries, commissioners were duly appointed to meet at Shanghai and draw up a tariff. But at Tientsin the great crux in the commercial relations between us and the Chinese had been settled by the legalization of opium. It was agreed that opium might be imported into China on payment of thirty taels, or about fifty dollars, per chest. Experience had shown that leaving the most largely imported article into China contraband had been both futile and inconvenient, while the Chinese government was a direct loser by not enjoying a legitimate source of revenue. How general the view had become that the evils of the use of opium were exaggerated, and, even admitting them, that there was no better way of diminishing their effect than by legalizing the import of opium, can be judged by the ready acquiescence of the Chinese commissioners; and here, from many other matured opinions, we may quote the final and deliberate conviction of Sir Henry Pottinger:
"I take this opportunity to advert to one important topic on which I have hitherto considered it right to preserve a rigid silence—I allude to the trade in opium; and I now unhesitatingly declare in this public manner that after the most unbiased and careful observations I have become convinced during my stay in China that the alleged demoralizing and debasing evils of opium have been and are vastly exaggerated. Like all other indulgences, excesses in its use are bad and reprehensible; but I have neither myself seen such vicious consequences as are frequently ascribed to it, nor have I been able to obtain authentic proofs or information of their existence. The great, and perhaps I might say sole, objection to the trade, looking at it morally and abstractedly, that I have discovered, is that it is at present contraband and prohibited by the laws of China, and therefore to be regretted and disavowed; but I have striven—and I hope with some prospect of eventual success—to bring about its legalization; and were that point once effected, I am of opinion that its most objectionable feature would be altogether removed. Even as it now exists it appears to me to be unattended with a hundredth part of the debasement and misery which may be seen in our native country from the lamentable abuse of ardent spirits, and those who so sweepingly condemn the opium trade on that principle need not, I think, leave the shores of England to find a far greater and more besetting evil."
The ink on the Tientsin treaty was scarcely dry before reasons began to be furnished against the sincerity of the emperor and his desire for peace. Before the fleet left the Peiho workmen were already engaged repairing and re-arming the Taku forts, and the morrow of Lord Elgin's departure from Hongkong witnessed the revival of disturbances round Canton, where the new imperial commissioner Hwang, instead of seeking to restore harmony, had devoted himself to inciting the population to patriotic deeds in emulation of Commissioner Yeh. It was found necessary to take strenuous measures against the turbulent patriots of Kwantung, and to break up their main force in their strong and well-chosen position at Shektsin, which was accomplished by a vigorous attack both on land and water. The suspicion that the Chinese were not absolutely straightforward in their latest dealings with us was confirmed by the discovery at Shektsin of secret imperial edicts, breathing defiance to the foreigners and inciting the people to resistance. These and other facts warned the European authorities on the spot that there was no certainty that the Treaty of Tientsin would be ratified, or that a British envoy would be admitted into the capital for even the temporary business of a diplomatic ceremony. While people in Europe were assuming that the Chinese question might be dismissed for twenty years, the English consuls and commanders in the treaty ports were preparing themselves for a fresh and more vigorous demonstration of Chinese hostility and animosity. The matter that was to prove the sincerity and good faith of the Chinese government was the reception at Pekin of the English officer intrusted with the duty of exchanging the ratified copies of the treaty. If he were allowed to proceed to Pekin there would be reason for accepting the assurances of the emperor that a permanent arrangement should be effected later on, when it would not injure his dignity or authority.
Mr. Frederick Bruce, who had been secretary to his brother, Lord Elgin, and who had previously served at Hongkong, was appointed her Majesty's representative for the purpose of exchanging the ratifications of the treaty. He was instructed to inform the Chinese officials that, while the British government would not renounce the right of having a permanent resident minister at Pekin, they were prepared to waive it for a time by allowing diplomatic intercourse to be carried on at Shanghai. But no deviation was to be permitted from the arrangement that the ratifications were to be exchanged at Pekin, and Lord Malmesbury warned the new envoy that "all the arts at which the Chinese are such adepts will be put in practice to dissuade you from repairing to the capital." Mr. Bruce received his instructions on March 1, 1859, and the exchange of ratifications had to be effected before June 26. Mr. Bruce reached Hongkong in April, and he found the air full of unsatisfactory rumors; and when he reached Shanghai the uncertainty was intensified by the presence of Kweiliang and Hwashana, who seemed to think that everything might be settled without a journey to Pekin. They endeavored to get up a discussion on some unsettled details of minor importance, in the hope that the period for the ratification of the treaty might be allowed to expire. Mr. Bruce announced his imminent departure for the Peiho to Kweiliang, and expressed the hope that arrangements would be made for his safe conveyance to and appropriate accommodation at Pekin. Neither Mr. Bruce's instructions nor his own opinion justified any delay in proceeding to the north, and the fleet sent on in advance under the command of Admiral Hope reached the mouth of the Peiho on June 17, three days before Mr. Bruce. The admiral on arrival sent a notification to the Chinese officers in command of the forts that the English envoy was coming. But the reception given to the officers who conveyed this intimation was distinctly unfavorable and even hostile. The two boats sent ashore found that the entrance to the river was effectually barred by a row of iron stakes and by an inner boom, and that a large and excited crowd forbade them to land. A vague promise was given that an opening would be made in the obstructions to admit the passage of the English ships; but on the boats repeating their visit on the succeeding day they found that the small passages had been more effectually secured, and that there could no longer be any doubt that the Chinese did not intend to admit the English envoy. It was therefore determined to make a demonstration with the fleet, and if necessary to resort to force, which it was never doubted would be attended with little risk and crowned With complete success.
On June 25 the attack on the Taku forts began with the removal of the iron stakes forming the outer barrier by the steamer "Opossum," and this part of the operations was performed without a shot being fired. When, however, the eleven ships forming the English fleet reached the inner boom all the Chinese forts and batteries began to fire with an accuracy which showed that the guns had been trained to bear on this precise spot. The result of this unexpectedly vigorous bombardment was soon shown in the damaged condition of our ships. Two gunboats were sunk, all the vessels were more or less damaged, and when, after three hours' cannonade, it was sought to retrieve the doubtful fortune of the day by a land attack, the result only went to accentuate the ill results of the naval engagement. In this disastrous affair more than 300 men were killed and wounded, which, added to the loss of three gunboats, represented a very serious disaster. But the worst of it was that it convinced the emperor and his advisers that they could hold their own against Europeans, and that it placed the extreme party once more in the ascendant at Pekin. Sankolinsin, the Mongol prince who had checked the advance of the Taepings, became master of the situation, and declared that there was nothing to fear from an enemy who had been repulsed by the raw levies of the province while he held the flat country between the Peiho and Pekin with the flower of the Banner army. Mr. Bruce returned to Shanghai, the fleet to Hongkong, and the matter remained suspended until fresh instructions and troops could be received from Europe.
After some hesitation and delay, a plan of joint action was agreed upon in November, 1859, between France and England, and it was hoped that the whole expeditionary force would have reached its destination by April, 1860. Pending its arrival Mr. Bruce was instructed to present an ultimatum with thirty days' grace demanding an immediate apology, the payment of a large indemnity amounting to $12,000,000 to both England and France, and the ratification of the Treaty of Tientsin. The minister, Pang Wanching, replied, categorically refusing all these requests; and, as neither indemnity nor apology was offered, there remained no alternative but the inevitable and supreme appeal to arms.
The troops which were to form the expedition were mainly drawn from India, and Sir Hope Grant, who had not merely distinguished himself during the Mutiny, but who had served in the first English war with China during the operations round Canton, was appointed to the command of the army; while Admiral Hope, strongly re-enforced in ships, retained the command of the naval forces. A force of five batteries of artillery, six regiments of infantry, two squadrons of cavalry, together with a body of horse and foot from the native army of India, amounting in all to about 10,000 men, was placed at the general's disposal in addition to the troops already in China. The French government agreed to send another army of about two- thirds this strength to co-operate on the Peiho, and General Montauban was named for the command. The collection of this large expedition brought into prominence the necessity of employing as embassador a diplomatist of higher rank than Mr. Bruce; and accordingly, in February Lord Elgin and Baron Gros were commissioned to again proceed to China for the purpose of securing the ratification of their own treaty. Sir Hope Grant reached Hongkong in March, 1860, and by his recommendation a stronger native contingent (one Sikh regiment, four Punjab regiments, two Bombay regiments, one Madras regiment of foot, and two irregular regiments of Sikh cavalry, known as Fane's and Probyn's Horse; Sir John Michel and Sir Robert Napier commanding divisions under Sir Hope Grant) was added, raising the English force in the field to more than 13,000 men. A lease was obtained in perpetuity, through the skillful negotiation of Mr. Parkes, of Kowlun and Stonecutter Island, where, from their salubrious position, it was proposed to place the troops on their arrival from India or England. Chusan was occupied the following month without opposition by an English brigade of 2,000 men.
The summer had commenced before the whole of the expedition assembled at Hongkong, whence it was moved northward to Shanghai about a year after the failure of the attack on the forts on the Peiho. A further delay was caused by the tardiness of the French, and July had begun before the expedition reached the Gulf of Pechihli. Then opposite opinions led to different suggestions, and while the English advocated proceeding to attack Pehtang, General Montauban drew up another plan of action. But the exigencies of the alliance compelled the English, who were ready, to wait for the French, who were not, in order that the assault might be made simultaneously. Before that time arrived the French commander had been brought round to the view that the proper plan of campaign was that suggested by the English commander; viz., to attack and capture Pehtang, whence the Taku forts might be taken in the rear. It is somewhat remarkable to observe that no one suggested a second time endeavoring to carry by a front attack these forts, which had in the interval since Admiral Hope's failure been rendered more formidable.
At Pehtang the Chinese had made few preparations for defense, and nothing of the same formidable character as at Taku. The forts on both sides of the river were neither extensive nor well-armed. The garrison consisted largely of Tartar cavalry, more useful for watching the movements of the foreigners than for working artillery when exposed to the fire of the new Armstrong guns of the English. The attacking force landed in boats and by wading, Sir Hope Grant setting his men the example. No engagement took place on the night of disembarkation. When morning broke, a suspicious silence in the enemy's quarters strengthened the belief that Pehtang would not be defended. While the garrison had resolved not to resist an attack, they had contemplated causing their enemy as much loss as if he had been obliged to carry the place by storm by placing shells in the magazine which would be exploded by the moving of some gunlocks put in a spot where they could not fail to be trodden upon. This plot, which was thoroughly in accordance with the practices of Chinese warfare, was fortunately divulged by a native more humane than patriotic, and Pehtang was captured and occupied without the loss of a single man. This success at the commencement enabled the whole of the expedition to land without further delay or difficulty. Three days after the capture of Pehtang, reconnoitering parties were sent out to ascertain what the Chinese were doing, and whether they had made any preparations to oppose an advance toward Taku or Tientsin. Four miles from Pehtang they came in sight of a strongly intrenched camp, where several thousand men opened fire upon the reconnoitering parties with their gingalls, and several men were wounded. The object being only to find out what the Celestial army was doing, and where it was, the Europeans withdrew on discovering the proximity of so strong a force. The great difficulty was to discover a way of getting from Pehtang on to some of the main roads leading to the Peiho; for the whole of the surrounding country had been under water, and was more or less impassable. In fact, the region round Pehtang consisted of nothing but mud, while the one road, an elevated causeway, was blocked by the fortified camp just mentioned as having been discovered by the reconnoitering party. A subsequent reconnaissance, conducted by Colonel (now Lord) Wolseley, revealed the presence of a cart-track which might prove available for the march of troops. This track was turned to advantage for the purpose of taking the Chinese position in flank, and to Sir Robert Napier's division was assigned this, as it proved, difficult operation. When the maneuver of out-flanking had been satisfactorily accomplished, the attack was commenced in front. Here the Chinese stood to their position, but only for a brief time, as the fire from eighteen guns, including some forty-pounders, soon silenced their gingalls, and they precipitately abandoned their intrenchments. While the engagement in front had reached this favorable termination Sir Robert Napier had been engaged on the right hand with a strong body of Tartar cavalry, which attacked with considerable valor, and with what seemed a possibility of success, until the guns opening upon them and the Sikh cavalry charging them dispelled their momentary dream of victory. The prize of this battle was the village of Sinho with its line of earthworks, one mile north of the Peiho, and about seven miles in the rear of the Taku forts.
The next day was occupied in examining the Chinese position and in discovering, what was more difficult than its capture, how it might be approached. It was found that the village, which formed a fortified square protected by batteries, could be best approached by the river bank, and the only obstacle in this quarter was that represented by the fire of the guns of two junks, supported by a battery on the opposite side of the river. These, however, were soon silenced by the superior fire directed upon them, and the guns were spiked by Captain Willis and a few sailors, who crossed the river for the purpose. The flank of the advance being thus protected, the attack on Tangku itself began with a cannonade from thirty- six pieces of the best artillery of that age. The Chinese fire was soon rendered innocuous, and their walls and forts were battered down. Even then, however, the garrison gave no signs of retreat, and it was not until the Armstrongs had been dragged within a very short distance of the walls, and the foot-soldiers had absolutely effected an entrance, that the garrison thought of their personal safety and turned in flight.
Some days before the battle and capture of Tangku, Lord Elgin received several communications from Hang, the Governor-general of Pechihli, requesting a cessation of hostilities, and announcing the approach of two imperial commissioners appointed for the express purpose of ratifying the Treaty of Tientsin. But Lord Elgin very wisely perceived that it would be impossible to negotiate on fair terms unless the Taku forts were in his possession. The capture of Tangku placed the allied forces in the rear of the northern forts on the Peiho; and those forts once occupied, the others on the southern side would be practically untenable and obliged to surrender at discretion. Several days were passed in preliminary observations and skirmishing. On the one side, the whole of the Tartar cavalry was removed to the southern bank; on the other, a bridge of boats was thrown across the Peiho, and the approach to the northern fort carefully examined up to 600 yards from the wall. At this point the views of the allied generals again clashed. General Montauban wished to attack the southern forts. Sir Hope Grant was determined to begin by carrying the northern. The attack on the chief northern fort commenced on the morning of August 21 with a heavy cannonade; the Chinese, anticipating the plans of the English, were the first to fire. The Chinese fought their guns with extraordinary courage. A shell exploded their principal magazine, which blew up with a terrible report; but as soon as the smoke cleared off they recommenced their fire with fresh ardor. Although even this fort had not been constructed with the same strength in the rear as they all presented in the front, the resistance was most vigorous. A premature attempt to throw a pontoon across the ditch was defeated with the loss of sixteen men. The coolie corps here came to the front, and, rushing into the water, held up the pontoons while the French and some English troops dashed across. But all their efforts to scale the wall were baffled, and it seemed as if they had only gone to self-destruction. While the battle was thus doubtfully contested, Major Anson, who had shown the greatest intrepidity on several occasions, succeeded in cutting the ropes that held up a drawbridge, and an entrance was soon effected within the body of the works. The Chinese still resisted nobly, and it was computed that out of a garrison of 500 men but 100 escaped. The English loss was 22 killed, and 179, including 21 officers, were wounded. To these figures must be added the French loss.
There still remained four more forts on the northern side of the river, and it seemed as if these would offer further resistance, as the garrisons uttered threats of defiance to a summons to surrender. But appearances were deceptive, and for the good reason that all of these forts were only protected in the rear by a slight wall. The French rushed impetuously to the attack, only to find that the garrison had given up the defense, while a large number had actually retired. Two thousand prisoners were made, and the fall of the forts on the northern bank was followed by an immediate summons to those on the southern to surrender; and as they were commanded by the guns in the former they yielded with as good a grace as they could muster. The following day formal occupation was made, and the spoil included more than 600 cannon of various sizes and degrees of efficiency. On that day also the fleet, which had during these operations been riding at anchor off the mouth of the river, proceeded across the bar, removed the different obstacles that had been intended to hinder its approach, and Admiral Hope anchored in security off those very forts which had repulsed him in the previous year, and which would in all probability have continued to defy any direct attack from the sea. Let it not be said, therefore, that Sir Hope Grant's capture of the Taku forts reflected in any way on the courage or capacity of Admiral Hope for the failure in 1859.
By this decisive success the road to Tientsin was opened both by land and by the river. The fleet of gunboats, which had participated as far as they could without incurring any undue danger in the attack on the forts, were ordered up the Peiho; and the English embassador, escorted by a strong naval and military force, proceeded to Tientsin, where it would be possible, without any loss of dignity, to resume negotiations with the Pekin government. The advanced gunboats arrived at Tientsin on August 23, and three days later the greater portion of the expedition had entered that city. No resistance was attempted, although several batteries and intrenched camps were passed on the way. Precautions were at once taken to make the position of the troops as secure as possible in the midst of a very large and presumably hostile population. The people showed, according to the ideas of Europe, an extraordinary want of patriotic fervor, and were soon engaged, on the most amicable terms, in conducting a brisk trade with the invaders of their country; but there was never any doubt that on the first sign of a reverse they would have turned upon the foreign troops, and completed by all the means in their power their discomfiture. Several communications passed between the opposite camps during these days; and when Hang announced the withdrawal of all Chinese troops from Tientsin he expressed a wish that the English embassador would not bring many vessels of war with him. But such requests were made more with the desire to save appearances than from any hope that they would be granted. The reality of their fears, and of their consequent desire to negotiate, was shown by the appointment of Kweiliang, who had arranged the Treaty of Tientsin, as high commissioner to provide for the necessary ceremonies in connection with its ratification. Kweiliang apparently possessed powers of the most extensive character; and he hastened to inform Lord Elgin, who had taken up his residence in a beautiful yamen in Tientsin, that he had received the emperor's authority to discuss and decide everything. In response to this notification the reply was sent that the three conditions of peace were an apology for the attack on the English flag at Peiho, the payment of an indemnity, including the costs of the war, and, thirdly, the ratification and execution of the Treaty of Tientsin, including, of course, the reception at Pekin of the representative of the Queen of England on honorable terms adequate to the dignity of that great sovereign. To none of these was Kweiliang himself disposed to raise any objection. Only in connection with the details of the last named point was there likely that any difference of opinion would arise; and that difference of opinion speedily revealed itself when it became known that the English insisted on the advance of their army to the town of Tungchow, only twelve miles distant from the walls of Pekin. To the Chinese ministers this simple precaution seemed like exacting the extreme rights of the conqueror, before, too, the act of conquest had been consummated; for already fresh troops were arriving from Mongolia and Manchuria, and the valor of Sankolinsin was beginning to revive. That the Chinese government had under the hard taskmaster, necessity, made great progress in its views on foreign matters was not to be denied, but somehow or other its movements always lagged behind the requirements of the hour, and the demands of the English were again ahead of what it was disposed to yield.
If the Chinese government had promptly accepted the inevitable, and if Kweiliang had negotiated with as much celerity as he pretended to be his desire, peace might have been concluded and the Chinese saved some further ignominy. But it soon became clear that all the Chinese were thinking about was to gain time, and as the months available for active campaigning were rapidly disappearing, it was imperative that not the least delay should be sanctioned. On September 8, Lord Elgin and Sir Hope Grant left Tientsin with an advance force of about 1,500 men; and, marching by the highroad, reached the pretty village of Hosiwu, half-way between that town and the capital. A few days later this force was increased by the remainder of one division, while to Sir Robert Napier was left the task of guarding with the other Tientsin and the communications with the sea. At Hosiwu negotiations were resumed by Tsai, Prince of I, a nephew of the emperor, who declared that he had received authority to conclude all arrangements; but he was curtly informed that no treaty could be concluded save at Tung-chow, and the army resumed its advance beyond Hosiwu. The march was continued without molestation to a point beyond the village of Matow, but when Sir Hope Grant approached a place called Chan-chia-wan he found himself in presence of a large army. This was the first sign of any resolve to offer military opposition to the invaders since the capture of the Taku forts, and it came to a great extent in the manner of a surprise, for by a special agreement with Mr. Parkes the settlement of the difficulty was to be concluded at Chan-chia-wan in an amicable manner. Instead, however, of the emperor's delegates, the English commander found Sankolinsin and the latest troops drawn from Pekin and beyond the wall in battle array, and occupying the very ground which had been assigned for the English encampment.
The day before the English commander perceived that he was in face of a strong force Mr. Parkes and some other officers and civilians had been sent ahead with an escort of Sikh cavalry to arrange the final preliminaries with the imperial commissioners at Tungchow, both as to where the camp was to be pitched and also as to the interview between the respective plenipotentiaries of the opposing powers. This party proceeded to Tungchow without encountering any opposition or perceiving any exceptional military precautions. Troops were indeed observed at several points, and officers in command of pickets demanded the nature of their business and where they were going, but the reply "To the Commissioners" at once satisfied all inquiries and opened every barrier. The one incident that happened was of happy augury for a satisfactory issue if the result went to prove the fallaciousness of human expectations. A change had in the meanwhile come over the minds of the imperial commissioners, whether in accordance with the working of a deep and long-arranged policy, or from the confidence created by the sight of the numerous warriors drawn from the cradle of the Manchu race for the defense of the capital and dynasty, can never be ascertained with any degree of certainty, Their tone suddenly assumed greater boldness and arrogance. To some of the Englishmen it appeared "almost offensive," and it was only after five hours' discussion between Mr. Parkes and the commissioners at Tungchow that some sign was given of a more yielding disposition. The final arrangements were hastily concluded in the evening of September 17 for the arrival of the troops at the proposed camping ground on the morrow, and for the interview that was to follow as soon after as possible. While Mr. Parkes and some of his companions were to ride forward in the morning to apprise Sir Hope Grant of what had been agreed upon, and to point out the site for his camp, the others were to remain in Tungchow with the greater part of the Sikh escort.
On their return toward the advancing English army in the early morning of the following day, Mr. Parkes and his party met with frequent signs of military movement in the country between Tungchow and Chan-chia-wan. Large bodies of infantry and gingall-men were seen marching from all quarters to the town. At Chan-chia-wan itself still more emphatic tokens were visible of a coming battle. Cavalry were drawn up in dense bodies, but under shelter. In a nullah one regiment of a thousand sabers was stationed with the men standing at their horses' heads ready for instant action. At another point a number of men were busily engaged in constructing a battery and in placing twelve guns in position. When the Englishmen gained the plain they found the proposed site of the English camp in the actual possession of a Chinese army, and a strong force of Tartar cavalry, alone reckoned to number six or seven thousand men, scouring the plain. To all inquiries as to what these warlike arrangements betokened no reply was made by the soldiers, and when the whereabout of the responsible general was asked there came the stereotyped answer that "he was many li away." To the most obtuse mind these arrangements could convey but one meaning. They indicated that the Chinese government had resolved to make another endeavor to avert the concessions demanded from them by the English and their allies, and to appeal once more to the God of Battles ere they accepted the inevitable. When the whole truth flashed across the mind of Mr. Parkes, the army of Sir Hope Grant might be, and indeed was, marching into the trap prepared for it, with such military precautions perhaps as a wise general never neglected, but still wholly unprepared for the extensive and well-arranged opposition planned for its reception by a numerous army established in a strong position of its own choosing. It became, therefore, of the greatest importance to communicate the actual state of affairs to him, and to place at his disposal the invaluable information which the Englishmen returning from Tungchow had in their possession. But Mr. Parkes had still more to do. It was his duty to bring before the Chinese imperial commissioners at the earliest possible moment the knowledge of this flagrant breach of the convention he had concluded the day before, to demand its meaning, and to point out the grave consequences that must ensue from such treacherous hostility; and in that supreme moment, as he had done on the many other critical occasions of his career in China—at Canton and Taku in particular—the one thought in the mind of Mr. Parkes was how best to perform his duty. He did not forget also that, while he was almost in a place of safety near the limits of the Chinese pickets, and not far distant from the advancing columns of Sir Hope Grant, there were other Englishmen in his rear possibly in imminent peril of their lives amid the Celestials at Tungchow.
Mr. Parkes rode back, therefore, to that town, and with him went one English dragoon, named Phipps, and one Sikh sowar carrying a flag of truce on his spear-point. We must leave them for the moment to follow the movements of the others. To Mr. Loch was intrusted the task of communicating with Sir Hope Grant; while the remainder of the party were to remain stationary, in order to show the Chinese that they did not suspect anything, and that they were full of confidence. Mr. Loch, accompanied by two Sikhs, rode at a hard canter away from the Chinese lines. He passed through one body of Tartar cavalry without opposition, and reached the advanced guard of the English force in safety. To tell his news was but the work of a minute. It confirmed the suspicions which General Grant had begun to feel at the movements of some bodies of cavalry on the flank of his line of march. Mr. Loch had performed his share of the arrangement. He had warned Sir Hope Grant. But to the chivalrous mind duty is but half-performed if aid is withheld from those engaged in fulfilling theirs. What he had done had proved unexpectedly easy; it remained for him to assist those whose share was more arduous and perilous. So Mr. Loch rode back to the Chinese lines, Captain Brabazon insisting on following him, again accompanied by two Sikhs but not the same who had ridden with him before.
Sir Hope Grant had given him the assurance that unless absolutely forced to engage he would postpone the action for two hours. This small party of four men rode without hesitation, and at a rapid pace, through the skirmishers of the Chinese army. The rapidity of their movements disconcerted the Chinese, who allowed them to pass without opposition and almost without notice. They rode through the Streets of Chan-chia-wan without meeting with any molestation, although they were crowded with the mustering men of the imperial army. They gained Tungchow without let or hinderance, after having passed through probably not less than 30,000 men about to do battle with the long hated and now feared foreigners. It may have been, as suggested, that they owed their safety to a belief that they were the bearers of their army's surrender! Arrived at Tungchow, Mr. Loch found the Sikh escort at the temple outside the gates unaware of any danger—all the Englishmen being absent in the town, where they were shopping—and a letter left by Mr. Parkes warning them on return to prepare for instant flight, and saying that he was off in search of Prince Tsai. In that search he was at last successful. He found the high commissioner, he asked the meaning of the change that had taken place, and was told in curt and defiant tones that "there could be no peace, there must be war."
The last chance of averting hostilities was thus shown to be in vain. Prince Tsai indorsed the action of Sankolinsin. Mr. Parkes had only the personal satisfaction of knowing that he had done everything he could to prove that the English did not wish to press their military superiority over an antagonist whose knowledge of war was slight and out of date. He had done this at the greatest personal peril. It only remained to secure his own safety and that of his companions. By this time the whole party of Englishmen had re-assembled in the temple; and Mr. Loch, anxious for Mr. Parkes, had gone into the city and met him galloping away from the yamen of the commissioner. There was no longer reason for delay. Not an Englishman had yet been touched, but between this small band and safety lay the road back through the ranks of Sankolinsin's warriors. From Tungchow to the advanced post of Sir Hope Grant's army was a ten mile ride; and most of the two hours' grace had already expired. Could it be done? By this time most of the Chinese troops had reached Chan-chia-wan, where they had been drawn up in battle array among the maize-fields and in the nullahs as already described. From Tungchow to that place the country was almost deserted; and the fugitives proceeded unmolested along the road till they reached that town. The streets were crowded partly with armed citizens and peasants, but chiefly with panic-stricken householders; and by this time the horses were blown, and some of them almost exhausted. Through this crowd the seven Englishmen and twenty Sikhs walked their horses, and met not the least opposition. They reached the eastern side without insult or injury, passed through the gates, and descending the declivity found themselves in the rear of the whole Chinese army. The dangers through which they had passed were as nothing compared with those they had now to encounter. A shell burst in the air at this moment, followed by the discharge of the batteries on both sides. The battle had begun. The promised two hours had expired. The fugitives were some ten minutes too late.
The position of this small band in the midst of an Asiatic army actually engaged in mortal combat with their kinsmen may be better imagined than described. They were riding down the road which passed through the center of the Chinese position, and the banks on each side of them were lined with matchlock-men, among whom the shells of the English guns were already bursting. Parties of cavalry were not wanting here, but out in the plain where the Tartar horsemen swarmed in thousands the greatest danger of all awaited them. Their movements were slow, painfully slow, and the progress was delayed by the necessity of waiting for those who were the worst mounted; but they were "all in the same boat, and, like Englishmen, would sink or swim together." In the accumulation of difficulties that stared them in the face not the least seemed to be that they were advancing in the teeth of their own countrymen's fire, which was growing fiercer every minute. In this critical moment men turned to Mr. Parkes, and Captain Barbazon expressed the belief of those present in a cool brave man in arduous extremity when he cried out, "I vote Parkes decides what is to be done." To follow the main road seemed to be certain destruction and death without the power of resisting; for even assuming that some of them could have cut their way through the Tartar cavalry, and escaped from the English shell, they could hardly have avoided being shot down by the long lines of matchlock-men who were ready to fire on them the instant they saw their backs. There was only one possible avenue of escape, and that was to gain the right flank of the army, and endeavor to make their way by a detour round to the English lines. Assuredly this was not a very promising mode of escape, but it seemed to have the greatest chances of success. But when the Chinese, who had up to this regarded their movements without interfering, saw this change in their course, they at once took measures to stop it. A military mandarin said if they persisted in their attempt they would be treated as enemies and fired upon; but that he was willing to respect their flag of truce, and that if they would accompany him to the general's presence he would obtain a safe conduct for them. The offer was accepted, partly no doubt because it could not be refused, but still also on its own merits. Safe conducts during the heat of battle, even with civilized European peoples, are, however, not such easy things either to grant or to carry out. Mr. Parkes accepted his offer, therefore, and he, Mr. Loch, and the Sikh trooper Nalsing, bearing a flag of truce, rode off with the mandarin in search of the general, while the five other Europeans and the Sikh escort remained on the road awaiting their return. They proceeded to the left, where it was understood that Sankolinsin commanded in person. They met with some adventures even on this short journey. Coming suddenly upon a large body of infantry, they were almost pulled from their horses, and would have been killed but for the mandarin rushing between them and shouting to the men "not to fire." A short distance beyond this they halted, when the approach of Sankolinsin was announced by loud shouts of his name from the soldiery. Mr. Parkes at once addressed him, saying that they had come under a flag of truce, and that they wished to regain their army. The Chinese commander replied to his remarks on the usages of war in true Tartar fashion—with laughter and abuse. The soldiers pressed round the unfortunate Englishmen and placed their matchlocks against their bodies. Escape was hopeless, and death seemed inevitable. But insult was more the object of the Mongol general than their death. They were dragged before him and forced to press the ground with their heads at the feet of Sankolinsin. They were subjected to numerous other indignities, and at last, when it became evident that the battle was going against the Chinese, they were placed in one of the country carts and sent off to Pekin. While Mr. Parkes and Mr. Loch were thus ill-used, their comrades waiting on the road had fared no better. Shortly after their departure the Chinese soldiers began to hustle and jeer at the Englishmen and their native escort. As the firing increased and some of the Chinese were hit they grew more violent. When the news was received of what had happened to Mr. Parkes, and of how Sankolinsin had laughed to scorn their claim to protection, the soldiers could no longer be restrained. The Englishmen and the natives were dragged from their horses, cruelly bound, and hurried to the rear, whence they followed at no great distance their companions in misfortune. While the greater portion of these events had been in progress, Colonel Walker, Mr. Thompson, and the men of the King's Dragoon Guards, had been steadily pacing up and down on the embankment as arranged, in order to show the Chinese that they suspected no treachery and had no fears. They continued doing this until a French officer joined them; but on his getting into a dispute with some of the Chinese about his mule, he drew his pistol and fired at them. He was immediately killed. There was then no longer the least hope of restraining the Chinese, so the whole of the party spurred their horses and escaped to the English army under a heavy but ineffectual fire from matchlocks and gingalls. Their flight was the signal for the commencement of the battle, although at that very moment, had they only known it, the chief party of Englishmen had gained the road east of Chan-chia-wan, and, if the battle had only been delayed a quarter of an hour, they might all have escaped.
But the two hours of grace were up, and Sir Hope Grant saw no further use in delay. General Montauban was still more impatient, and the men were eager to engage. They had to win their camping-ground that night, and the day was already far advanced. The French occupied the right wing, that is the position opposite the spot where we have seen Sankolinsin commanding in person, and a squadron of Fane's Horse had been lent them to supply their want of cavalry. The battle began with the fire of their batteries, which galled the Chinese so much that the Tartar cavalry were ordered up to charge the guns, and right gallantly they did so. A battery was almost in their hands, its officers had to use their revolvers, when the Sikhs and a few French dragoons, led by Colonel Foley, the English commissioner with the French force, gallantly charged them in turn, and compelled them to withdraw. Neither side derived much advantage from this portion of the contest, but the repulse of the Tartar cavalry enabled the French guns to renew their fire with great effect on the line of Chinese infantry. While the French were thus engaged on the right, the English troops had begun a vigorous attack on both the center and their left. The Chinese appeared in such dense masses, and maintained so vigorous, but fortunately so ill- directed, a fire, that the English force made but little progress at either point. The action might have been indefinitely prolonged and left undecided, had not Sir Hope Grant suddenly resolved to re-enforce his left with a portion of his center, and to assail the enemy's right vigorously. This latter part of the battle began with a charge of some squadrons of Probyn's Horse against the bodies of mounted Tartars moving in the plain, whom they, with their gallant leader at their head, routed in the sight of the two armies. This overthrow of their chosen fighting-men greatly discouraged the rest of the Chinese soldiers, and when the infantry advanced with the Sikhs in front they slowly began to give ground. But even then there were none of the usual symptoms of a decisive victory. The French were so exhausted by their efforts that they had been compelled to halt, and General Montauban was obliged to curb his natural impetuosity, and to admit that he could take no part in the final attack on Chan-chia- wan. Sir Hope Grant, however, pressed on and occupied the town. He did not call in his men until they had seized without resistance a large camp about one mile west of the town, where they captured several guns. Thus ended the battle of Chan-chia-wan with the defeat and retreat of the strong army which Sankolinsin had raised in order to drive the barbarians into the sea.
Although the battle was won, Sir Hope Grant, measuring the resistance with the eye of an experienced soldier, came to the conclusion that his force was not sufficiently strong to overawe so obstinate a foe; and accordingly ordered Sir Robert Napier to join him with as many troops as he could spare from the Tientsin garrison. Having thus provided for the arrival of re-enforcements at an early date, he was willing to resume his onward march for Tungchow, where it was hoped some tidings would be obtained of the missing officers and men. Two days intervened before any decisive move was made, but Mr. Wade was sent under a flag of truce into Tungchow to collect information. But he failed to learn anything more about Mr. Parkes than that he had quitted the town in safety after his final interview with Prince Tsai. Lord Elgin now hastened up from Hosiwu to join the military headquarters, and on September 21, the French having been joined by another brigade, offensive operations were recommenced. The delay had encouraged the Chinese to make another stand, and they had collected in considerable force for the defense of the Palikao bridge, which affords the means of crossing the Peiho west of Tungchow. Here again the battle commenced with a cavalry charge which, despite an accident that might have had more serious results, was completely successful. This achievement was followed up by the attack on several fortified positions which were not defended with any great amount of resolution, and while these matters were in progress on the side where the English were engaged, the French had carried the bridge with its twenty-five guns in position in very gallant style. The capture of this bridge and the dispersion of the troops, including the Imperial Guard, which had been intrusted with its defense, completed the discomfiture of the Chinese. Pekin itself lay almost at the mercy of the invader, and, unless diplomacy could succeed better than arms, nothing would prevent the hated foreigners violating its privacy not merely with their presence, but in the most unpalatable guise of armed victors.
The day after the battle at the Palikao bridge came a letter from Prince Kung the emperor's next brother, stating that Prince Tsai and his colleagues had not managed matters satisfactorily, and that he had been appointed with plenipotentiary powers for the discussion and decision of the peace question. But the prince went on to request a temporary suspension of hostilities—a demand with which no general or embassador could have complied so long as officers were detained who had been seized in violation of the usages of war. Lord Elgin replied in the clearest terms that there could be no negotiations for peace until these prisoners were restored, and that if they were not sent back in safety the consequences would be most serious for the Chinese government. But even at this supreme moment of doubt and danger, the subtlety of Chinese diplomacy would have free play. Prince Kung was young in years and experience, but his finesse would have done credit to a gray-haired statesman. Unfortunately for him, the question had got beyond the stage for discussion: the English embassador had stated the one condition on which negotiations would be renewed, and until that had been complied with there was no need to give ear to the threats, promises and entreaties even of Prince Kung. As the prince gave no sign of yielding this point during the week's delay in bringing up the second division from Tientsin, Lord Elgin requested Sir Hope Grant to resume his march on Pekin, from which the advanced guard of the allied forces was distant little more than ten miles. The cavalry had reconnoitered almost up to the gates, and had returned with the report that the walls were strong and in good condition. The danger to a small army of attempting to occupy a great city of the size and population of Pekin is almost obvious; and, moreover, the consistent policy of the English authorities had been to cause the Chinese people as little injury and suffering as possible. Should an attack on the city become unavoidable, it was decided that the point attacked should be the Tartar quarter, including the palace, which occupied the northern half of the city. By this time it had become known that Parkes and Loch were living, that they were confined in the Kaou Meaou Temple, near the Tehshun Gate, and that latterly they had been fairly well treated.
In execution of the plan of attack that had been agreed upon, the allied forces marched round Pekin to the northwest corner of the walls, having as their object the Summer Palace of the emperor at Yuen Min Yuen, not quite four miles distant from the city.
On the approach of the foreign army, Hienfung fled in terror from his palace, and sought shelter at Jehol, the hunting residence of the emperors beyond the Wall. His flight was most precipitate; and the treasures of the Summer Palace were left at the mercy of the Western spoilers. The French soldiers had made the most of the start they had obtained, and left comparatively little for their English comrades, who, moreover, were restrained by the bonds of a stricter discipline. But the amount of prize property that remained was still considerable, and, by agreement between the two generals, it was divided in equal shares between the armies. The capture and occupation of the Summer Palace completed the European triumph, and obliged Prince Kung to promptly acquiesce in Lord Elgin's demand for the immediate surrender of the prisoners, if he wished to avoid the far greater calamity of a foreign occupation of the Tartar quarter of Pekin and the appropriation of its vaster collection of treasures.
On October 6 Mr. Parkes wrote from his place of confinement that the French and English detained were to be returned on the 8th of the month, and that the imperial commanders had been ordered at the same time to retire for a considerable distance from Pekin. These promises were carried out. Prince Kung was at last resolved to make all the concessions requisite to insure the speedy conclusion of peace. The restoration of these captives removed what was thought to be the one obstacle to Lord Elgin's discussing the terms on which the invading force would retire and to the respective governments resuming diplomatic relations. It was fortunate for China that the exact fate of the other prisoners was unknown, and that Lord Elgin felt able, in consequence of the more friendly proceedings of Prince Kung, to overlook the earlier treatment of those now returned to him, for the narrative of Mr. Parkes and his fellow prisoners was one that tended to heighten the feeling of indignation at the original breach of faith. To say that they were barbarously ill-used is to employ a phrase conveying a very inadequate idea of the numerous indignities and the cruel personal treatment to which they were subjected. Under these great trials neither of these intrepid Englishmen wavered in their refusal to furnish any information or to make any concession compromising their country. Mr. Loch's part was in one sense the more easy, as his ignorance of the language prevented his replying, but in bodily suffering he had to pay a proportionately greater penalty. The incidents of their imprisonment afford the most creditable testimony to the superiority which the pride of race as well as "the equal mind in arduous circumstance" gives weak humanity over physical suffering. They are never likely to pass out of the public memory; and those who remember the daring and the chivalry which had inspired Mr. Parkes and Mr. Loch on the day when Prince Tsai's treachery and Sankolinsin's mastery were revealed, will not be disposed to consider it exaggerated praise to say that, for an adventure so honorably conceived and so nobly carried out, where the risk was never reckoned and where the penalty was so patiently borne, the pages of history may be searched almost in vain for an event that, in the dramatic elements of courage and suffering, presents such a complete and consistent record of human gallantry and devotion as the capture and subsequent captivity of these English gentlemen and their Sikh companion.
The further conditions as preliminary to the ratification of the Treaty of Tientsin were gradually, if reluctantly, complied with. On October 13 the northeast gate was handed over to the allied troops, but not before Sir Hope Grant had threatened to open fire on the walls. At the same time Prince Kung returned eight sowars of Fane's Horse and one Frenchman, all the survivors, besides those already surrendered, of the small band which had ridden from Tungchow nearly a month before. The Chinese prince stated in explanation that "a certain number were missing after the fight, or have died of their wounds or of sickness." But the narrative of the Sikhs was decisive as to the fate of the five Englishmen and their own comrades. They had been brutally bound with ropes which, although drawn as tight as human force could draw them, were tightened still more by cold water being poured upon the bands, and they had been maltreated in every form by a cruel enemy, and provided only with food of the most loathsome kind. Some of the prisoners were placed in cages. Lieutenant Anderson, a gallant young officer for whom future renown had been predicted, became delirious and died on the ninth day of his confinement. Mr. De Normann died a week later. What fate befell Captain Barbazon and his French companion, the Abbe de Luc, is uncertain, but the evidence on the subject inclines us to accept as accurate the statement that the Chinese commander in the fight at Palikao, enraged at his defeat, caused them to be executed on the bridge. The soldier Phipps endured for a longer time than Mr. Bowlby the taunts and ill-usage of their jailers, but they at last shared the same fate, dying from the effects of their ill-treatment. The bodies of all the Englishmen, with the exception of Captain Barbazon, were restored, and of most of the Sikhs also. The Chinese officials were more barbarous in their cruelty than even the worst scum among their malefactors; for the prisoners in the jails, far from adding to the tortures of the unfortunate Europeans, did everything in their power to mitigate their sufferings, alleviate their pains, and supply their wants.
The details of these cruel deeds raised a feeling of great horror in men's minds, and, although the desire to arrange the question of peace without delay was uppermost with Lord Elgin, still it was felt that some grave step was necessary to express the abhorrence with which England regarded this cruel and senseless outrage, and to bring home to the Chinese people and government the fact that Englishmen could not be murdered with impunity. Lord Elgin refused to hold any further intercourse with the Chinese government until this great crime had been purged by some signal punishment. Sir Hope Grant and he had little difficulty in arriving at the decision that the best mode of expiation was to destroy the Summer Palace. The French commander refused to participate in the act which carried a permanent lesson of political necessity to the heart of the Pekin government, and which did more than any other incident of the campaign to show Hienfung that the hour had gone by for trifling. On October 18 the threat was carried into execution. The Summer Palace was destroyed by fire, and the sum of $500,000 was demanded and obtained from the Chinese as some compensation for the families of the murdered men. The palace of Yuen Min Yuen had been the scene of some of the worst sufferings of the English prisoners. From its apartments the high mandarins and the immediate courtiers of the emperor had gloated over and enjoyed the spectacle of their foreign prisoners' agony. The whole of Pekin witnessed in return the destruction wrought to the sovereign's abode by the indignant English, and the clouds of smoke hung for days like a vast black pall over the city.
That act of severe but just vengeance consummated, the negotiations for the ratification of the treaty were resumed. The Hall of Ceremonies was selected as the place in which the ratifying act should be performed, while, as some punishment for the hostile part he had played, the palace of Prince Tsai was appropriated as the temporary official residence of Lord Elgin and Baron Gros. The formal act of ratification was performed in this building on October 24. Lord Elgin proceeded in a chair of state, accompanied by his suite, and also by Sir Hope Grant with an escort of 100 officers and 500 troops, through the streets from the Anting Gate to the Hall of Ceremonies. Prince Kung, attended by a large body of civil and military mandarins, was there in readiness to produce the imperial edict authorizing him to attach the emperor's seal to the treaty, and to accept the responsibility for his country of conforming with its terms and carrying out its stipulations. Some further delay was caused by the necessity of waiting until the edict should be received from the emperor at Jehol authorizing the publication of the treaty, not the least important point in connection with its conclusion if the millions of China were to understand and perform what their rulers had promised for them. That closing act was successfully achieved, and more rapidly than had been expected. The Pekinese beheld English troops and officers in residence in their midst for the first time, and when the army was withdrawn and the plenipotentiary, Lord Elgin, transferred to his brother, Mr. Frederick Bruce, the charge of affairs in China as Resident Minister, the ice had been broken in the relations between the officials of the two countries, and the greatest, if not the last, barrier of Chinese exclusiveness had been removed. The last of the allied troops turned their backs upon Pekin on November 9, and the greater portion of the expedition departed for India and Europe just before the cold weather set in. A few days later the rivers were frozen and navigation had become impossible, which showed how narrow was the margin left for the completion of the operations of war.
The object which the more far-seeing of the English residents had from the first hour of difficulty stated to be necessary for satisfactory relations—direct intercourse with the Pekin government—was thus obtained after a keen and bitter struggle of thirty years. Although vanquished, the Chinese may be said to have come out of this war with an increased military reputation. The war closed with a treaty enforcing all the concessions made by its predecessor. The right to station an embassador in Pekin signified that the greatest barrier of all had been broken down; the old school of politicians were put completely out of court, and a young and intelligent prince, closely connected with the emperor, assumed the personal charge of the foreign relations of the country. As one who had seen with his own eyes the misfortunes of his countrymen, Prince Kung was the more disposed to adhere to what he had promised to perform. Under his direction the ratified Treaty of Tientsin became a bond of union instead of an element of discord between the cabinets of London and Pekin; and a termination was put, by an arrangement carried at the point of the sword, to the constant friction and recrimination which had been the prevailing characteristics of the intercourse for a whole generation. The Chinese had been subjected to a long and bitter lesson. They had at last learned the virtue of submitting to necessity; but although they have profited to some extent both in peace and war by their experience, it requires some assurance to declare that they have even now accepted the inevitable. That remains the problem of the future; but in 1860 Prince Kung came to the sensible conclusion that for that period, and until China had recovered from her internal confusion, there was nothing to be gained and much to be lost by protracted resistance to the peoples of the West. Whatever could be retained by tact and finesse were to form part of the natural rights of China; but the privileges only to be asserted in face of Armstrong guns and rifles were to be abandoned with as good a grace as the injured feeling of a nation can ever display.
THE TAEPING REBELLION
We left the Taepings supreme at Nankin, but maintaining themselves there with some difficulty against two imperial armies raised by the loyal efforts of the inhabitants of the central provinces. This was at the beginning of 1857; and there is no doubt that if the government had avoided a conflict with the Europeans, and concentrated its efforts and power on the contest with the Taeping rebels, they would have speedily annihilated the tottering fabric of Tien Wang's authority. But the respite of four years secured by the attention of the central government being monopolized by the foreign question enabled the Taepings to consolidate their position, augment their fighting forces, and present a more formidable front to the imperial authorities. When Prince Kung learned from Lord Elgin the full extent of the success of the Taepings on the Yangtse, of which the officials at Pekin seemed to possess a very imperfect and inaccurate knowledge, the Manchu authorities realized that it was a vital question for them to reassert their authority without further delay, but on beginning to put their new resolve into practice they soon experienced that the position of the Taepings in 1861 differed materially from what it was in 1857.
The course of events during that period must be briefly summarized. In 1858 the imperialists under Tseng Kwofan and Chang Kwoliang renewed the siege of Nankin, but as the city was well supplied with provisions, and as the imperialists were well known to have no intention of delivering an assault, the Taepings did not feel any apprehension. After the investment had continued for nearly a year, Chung Wang, who had now risen to the supreme place among the rebels, insisted on quitting the city before it was completely surrounded, with the object of beating up levies and generally relieving the pressure caused by the besiegers. In this endeavor he more than once experienced the unkindness of fortune, for when he had collected 5,000 good troops he was defeated in a vigorous attempt to cut his way through a far larger imperial force. Such, however, was his reputation that the imperial commanders before Nankin sent many of their men to assist the officers operating against him, and Chung Wang, seizing the opportunity, made his way by forced marches back to Nankin, overcoming such resistance as the enfeebled besiegers were able to offer. The whole of the year 1859 was passed in practical inaction, but at its close the Taepings only retained possession of four towns, besides Nankin, on the Yangtse. It again became necessary for Chung Wang to sally forth and assume the offensive in the rear and on the line of supplies of the beleaguering imperialists. His main difficulty was in obtaining the consent of Tien Wang, who was at this time given over to religious pursuits or private excesses, and Chung Wang states that he only consented when he found that he could not stop him. In January, 1860, Chung Wang began what proved to be a very remarkable campaign. He put his men in good humor by distributing a large sum of money among them, and he succeeded in eluding the imperial commanders and in misleading them as to his intentions. While they thought he had gone off to relieve Ganking, he had really hastened to attack the important city of Hangchow, where much spoil and material for carrying on the war might be secured by the victor. He captured the city with little or no loss, on March 19, 1860, but the Tartar city held out until relieved by Chang Kwoliang, who hastened from Nankin for the purpose. Once again the imperial commanders in their anxiety to crush Chung Wang had reduced their force in front of Nankin to an excessively low condition, and the Taeping leader, placed in a desperate position, seized the only chance of safety by hastening from Hangchow to Nankin at full speed, and attacking the imperial lines. This battle was fought early in the morning of a cold snowy day—May 3, 1860— and resulted in the loss of 5,000 imperialists, and the compulsory raising of the siege. The Taeping cause might have been resuscitated by this signal victory if Tien Wang had only shown himself able to act up to the great part he assumed, but not merely was he incapable of playing the part of either a warrior or a statesman, but his petty jealousy prevented his making use of the undoubted ability of his lieutenant Chung Wang, who after the greatest of his successes was forbidden to re-enter Nankin.
The energy and spirit of Chung Wang impelled him to fresh enterprises, and seeing the hopelessness of Tien Wang, he determined to secure a base of operations for himself, which should enable him to hold his own in the warring strife of the realm, and perhaps to achieve the triumph of the cause with which he was associated. It says much for his military energy and skill that he was able to impart new vigor to the Taeping system, and to sustain on a new field his position single-handed against the main forces of the empire. He determined to obtain possession of the important city of Soochow, on the Grand Canal, and not very far distant from Shanghai. On his way to effect this object he gained a great victory over Chang Kwoliang, who was himself killed in the battle. As the ex-Triad chief possessed great energy, his loss was a considerable one for the government, but his troops continued to oppose the advance of the Taepings, and fought and lost three battles before Chung Wang reached Soochow. That place was too large to be successfully defended by a small force, and the imperialists hastily abandoned it. At this critical moment —May, 1860—Ho Kweitsin, the viceroy of the Two Kiang, implored the aid of the English and French, who were at this moment completing their arrangements for the march on Pekin, against these rebels, and the French were so far favorable to the suggestion that they offered to render the assistance provided the English would combine with them. Mr. Bruce, however, declined the adventure, which is not surprising, considering that we were then engaged in serious hostilities with the Chinese, but the incident remains unique of a country asking another for assistance during the progress of a bitter and doubtful war. The utmost that Mr. Bruce would do was to issue a notification that Shanghai would not be allowed to again fall into the hands of an insurgent force. The viceroy who solicited the aid was at least consistent. He memorialized the Throne, praying that the demands of the Europeans should be promptly granted, and that they should then be employed against the Taepings. His memorial was ill-timed. He was summoned to Pekin and executed for his very prudent advice. With the possession of Soochow, Chung Wang obtained fresh supplies of money, material, and men, and once more it was impossible to say to what height of success the Taepings might not attain. But Chung Wang was not satisfied with Soochow alone; he wished to gain possession of Shanghai.
Unfortunately for the realization of his project, the Europeans had determined to defend Shanghai at all hazards, but Chung Wang believed either that they would not, or that their army being absent in the north they had not the power to carry out this resolve. The necessity of capturing Shanghai was rendered the greater in the eyes of Chung Wang by its being the base of hostile measures against himself, and by a measure which threatened him with a new peril. The wealthy Chinese merchants of Shanghai had formed a kind of patriotic association, and provided the funds for raising a European contingent. Two Americans, Ward and Burgevine, were taken into their pay, and in July, 1860, they, having raised a force of 100 Europeans and 200 Manila men, began operations with an attack on Sunkiang, a large walled town about twenty miles from Shanghai. This first attack was repulsed with some loss, but Ward, afraid of losing the large reward he was promised for its capture, renewed the attack, and with better success, for he gained possession of a gate, and held it until the whole imperial army had come up and stormed the town. After this success Ward was requested to attack Tsingpu, which was a far stronger place than Sunkiang, and where the Taepings had the benefit of the advice and leading of several Englishmen who had joined them. Ward attacked Tsingpu on August 2, 1860, but he was repulsed with heavy loss. He returned to Shanghai for the purpose of raising another force and two larger guns, and then renewed the attack. It is impossible to say whether the place would have held out or not, but after seven days' bombardment Chung Wang suddenly appeared to the rescue, and, surprising Ward's force, drove it away in utter confusion, and with the loss of all its guns and stores. Encouraged by this success, Chung Wang then thought the time opportune for attacking Shanghai, and he accordingly marched against it, burning and plundering the villages along the road. The imperialists had established a camp or stockade outside the western gate, and Chung Wang carried this without any difficulty, but when he reached the walls of the town he found a very different opponent in his path. The walls were lined with English and French troops, and when the Taepings attempted to enter the city they were received with a warm fire, which quickly sent them to the right-about. Chung Wang renewed the attack at different points during the next four or five days, but he was then obliged to retreat. Before doing so, however, he sent a boasting message that he had come at the invitation of the French, who were traitors, and that he would have taken the city but for the foreigners, as "there was no city which his men could not storm." At this moment the attention of Chung Wang was called off to Nankin, which the imperialists were investing for a sixth time, under Tseng Kwofan, who had been elevated to the viceroyalty of the Two Kiang. Tien Wang, in despair, sent off an urgent summons to Chung Wang to come to his assistance, and although he went with reluctance he felt that he had no course but to obey.
Having done what he could to place Nankin in an efficient state of defense, Chung Wang hastened back to Soochow to resume active operations. It is unnecessary to describe these in detail; but although Chung Wang was twice defeated by a Manchu general named Paochiaou, he succeeded, by rapidity of movement, in holding his own against his more numerous adversaries. In the meantime an important change had taken place in the situation. The peace between China and the foreign powers compelled a revision of the position at Shanghai. Admiral Hope sailed up to Nankin, interviewed the Wangs, and exacted from them a pledge that Shanghai should not be attacked for twelve months, and that the Taeping forces should not advance within a radius of thirty miles of that place. In consequence of this arrangement Ward and Burgevine were compelled to desist from recruiting Europeans; but after a brief interval they were taken into the Chinese service for the purpose of drilling Chinese soldiers, a measure from which the most important consequences were to flow, for it proved to be the origin of the Ever-Victorious Army. These preparations were not far advanced when Chung Wang, elated by his capture of Ningpo and Hangchow, resolved to disregard Tien Wang's promise, and make a second attack on Shanghai, the possession of which he saw to be indispensable if his cause was to attain any brilliant triumph. He issued a proclamation that "the hour of the Manchus had come! Shanghai is a little place, and we have nothing to fear from it. We must take Shanghai to complete our dominions." The death of Hienfung seems to have encouraged Chung Wang to take what he hoped would prove a decisive step.
On January 14, 1862, the Taepings reached the immediate vicinity of the town and foreign settlement. The surrounding country was concealed by the smoke of the burning villages, which they had ruthlessly destroyed. The foreign settlement was crowded with thousands of fugitives, imploring the aid of the Europeans to save their houses and property. Their sufferings, which would at the best have been great, were aggravated by the exceptional severity of the winter. The English garrison of two native regiments and some artillery, even when supported by the volunteers, was far too weak to attempt more than the defense of the place; but this it was fortunately able to perform. The rebels, during the first week after their reappearance, plundered and burned in all directions, threatening even to make an attack on Woosung, the port at the mouth of the river, where they were repulsed by the French. Sir John Michel arrived at Shanghai with a small re-enforcement of English troops, and Ward, having succeeded in disciplining two Chinese regiments of about one thousand strong in all, sallied forth from Sunkiang for the purpose of operating on the rear of the Taeping forces. Ward's capture of Quanfuling, with several hundred rebel boats which were frozen up in the river, should have warned the Taepings that it was nearly time for them to retire. However, they did not act as prudence would have dictated, and during the whole of February their raids continued round Shanghai. The suburbs suffered from their attacks, the foreign factories and boats were not secure, and several outrages on the persons of foreigners remained unatoned for. It was impossible to tolerate any longer their enormities. The English and French commanders came to the determination to attack the rebels, to enforce the original agreement with Tien Wang, and to clear the country round Shanghai of the presence of the Taepings for the space of thirty miles.
On February 21, therefore, a joint force composed of 336 English sailors and marines, 160 French seamen, and 600 men from Ward's contingent, accompanied by their respective commanders, with Admiral Hope in chief charge, advanced upon the village of Kachiaou, where the Taepings had strengthened their position and placed guns on the walls. After a sharp engagement the place was stormed, Ward's men leading the attack with Burgevine at their head. The drilled Chinese behaved with great steadiness, but the Taepings were not to be dismayed by a single defeat. They even resumed their attacks on the Europeans. On one occasion Admiral Hope himself was compelled to retire before their superior numbers, and to summon fresh troops to his assistance. The re-enforcements consisted of 450 Europeans and 700 of Ward's force, besides seven howitzers. With these it was determined to attack Tseedong, a place of great strength, surrounded by stone walls and ditches seven feet deep. The Taepings stood to their guns with great spirit, receiving the advancing troops with a very heavy fire. When, however, Ward's contingent, making a detour, appeared in the rear of the place, they hastily evacuated their positions; but the English sailors had carried the walls, and, caught between two fires, they offered a stubborn but futile resistance. More than 700 were killed and 300 were taken prisoners. The favorable opinion formed of "the Ever-Victorious Army" by the action at Kachiaou was confirmed by the more serious affair at Tseedong; and Mr. Bruce at Pekin brought it under the favorable notice of Prince Kung and the Chinese government. Having taken these hostile steps against the rebels, it necessarily followed that no advantage would accrue from any further hesitation with regard to allowing Europeans to enter the imperial service for the purpose of opposing them. Ward was officially recognized, and allowed to purchase weapons and to engage officers. An Englishman contracted to convey 9,000 of the troops who had stormed Ganking from the Yangtse to Shanghai. These men were Honan braves, who had seen considerable service in the interior of China, and it was proposed that they should garrison the towns of Kiangsu accordingly as they were taken from the rebels. The arrival of General Staveley from Tientsin at the end of March, with portions of two English regiments (the 31st and 67th), put a new face on affairs, and showed that the time was at hand when it would be possible to carry out the threat of clearing the country round Shanghai for the space of thirty miles.
The first place to be attacked toward the realization of this plan was the village of Wongkadza, about twelve miles west of Shanghai. Here the Taepings offered only a brief resistance, retiring to some stronger stockades four miles further west. General Staveley, considering that his men had done enough work for that day, halted them, intending to renew the attack the next morning. Unfortunately Ward was carried away by his impetuosity, and attacked this inner position with some 500 of his own men. Admiral Hope accompanied him. The Taepings met them with a tremendous fire, and after several attempts to scale the works they were repulsed with heavy loss. Admiral Hope was wounded in the leg, seven officers were wounded, and seventy men killed and wounded. The attack was repeated in force on the following day, and after some fighting the Taepings evacuated their stockades. The next place attacked was the village of Tsipoo; and, notwithstanding their strong earthworks and three wide ditches, the rebels were driven out in a few hours. It was then determined to attack Kahding, Tsingpu, Nanjao, and Cholin, at which places the Taepings were known to have mustered in considerable strength.
The first place was taken with little resistance, and its capture was followed by preparations for the attack on Tsingpu, which were hastened rather than delayed by a desperate attempt to set fire to Shanghai. The plot was fortunately discovered in time, and the culprits captured and summarily executed to the number of two hundred. Early in May a strong force was assembled at Sunkiang, and proceeded by boat, on account of the difficulties of locomotion, to Tsingpu. The fire of the guns, in which the expedition was exceptionally strong, proved most destructive, and two breaches being pronounced practicable the place was carried by assault. The rebels fought well and up to the last, when they found flight impossible. The Chinese troops slew every man found in the place with arms in his hands. A few days later Nanjao was captured, but in the attack the French commander, Admiral Protet, a gallant officer who had been to the front during the whole of these operations, was shot dead. The rebels, disheartened by these successive defeats, rallied at Cholin, where they prepared to make a final stand. The allied force attacked Cholin on May 20, and an English detachment carried it almost at the point of the bayonet. With this achievement the operations of the English troops came for the moment to an end, for a disaster to the imperial arms in their rear necessitated their turning their attention to a different quarter.
The troops summoned from Ganking had at last arrived to the number of five or six thousand men; and the Futai Sieh, who was on the point of being superseded to make room for Li Hung Chang, thought to employ them before his departure on some enterprise which should redound to his credit and restore his sinking fortunes. The operation was as hazardous as it was ambitious. The resolution he came to was to attack the city and forts of Taitsan, a place northwest of Shanghai, and not very far distant from Chung Wang's headquarters at Soochow. The imperialist force reached Taitsan on May 12, but less than two days later Chung Wang arrived in person at the head of 10,000 chosen troops to relieve the garrison. A battle ensued on the day following, when, notwithstanding their great superiority in numbers, the Taepings failed to obtain any success. In this extremity Chung Wang resorted to a stratagem. Two thousand of his men shaved their heads and pretended to desert to the imperialists. When the battle was renewed at sunrise on the following morning this band threw aside their assumed character and turned upon the imperialists. A dreadful slaughter ensued. Of the 7,000 Honan braves and the Tartars from Shanghai, 5,000 fell on the field. The consequences of this disaster were to undo most of the good accomplished by General Staveley and his force. The imperialists were for the moment dismayed, and the Taepings correspondingly encouraged. General Staveley's communications were threatened, and he had to abandon his intended plan and retrace his steps to Shanghai.