|Home Loney home Life & career Documents Album Ships Portrait Uniform Background||Search this site|
William Loney RN - Background
|Home-Loney-Background-The Royal Navy||(1/2) (2/2)|
W.L. Clowes on the Second Anglo-Chinese War ("Opium war") of 1856 - 1860 (2/2)
But China remained defiant. After having waited in vain for plenipotentiaries from Peking, Lord Elgin and Baron Gros determined to go northward, hoping that a naval demonstration in the vicinity of the capital of the empire would tend to accelerate the course of events. In order, moreover, to allow the ministers of the United States and of Russia to associate themselves in the negotiations, it was formally declared that the war with China, so far as Great Britain and France were concerned, was confined to the city of Canton. The arrival of large military reinforcements in the river enabled the Admirals to withdraw with a number of their ships. The plenipotentiaries first invited representatives of the Emperor of China to meet them at Shanghai, whither they proceeded; but, no one appearing there, they went on to the mouth of the Peiho, where Lord Elgin anchored on April 14th, 1858. A commissioner named Tan was sent down to the town of Taku to negotiate, or rather, no doubt, to procrastinate. Soon, however, it became apparent that the enemy had no serious intention of treating on such lines as would be agreeable to the allies. Seymour and Rigault de Genouilly reached the mouth of the river in April; but part of the naval force was slow in making the rendezvous, owing to bad weather, the lateness of the monsoon, and the small steam power of some of the gunboats; and the Admirals were only just ready to act when, on May 19th, recognising the uselessness of further delay, the plenipotentiaries placed the matter in the hands of their fighting colleagues.
The British screw gun-vessels, Nimrod, 6, and Cormorant, 4, with the French gunboats Dragonne, Fusée, Avalanche, and Mitraille, had already lain for several days within the bar, and within easy shot of the forts, though a little below them. On the evening of the 19th these craft were joined by the small gunboats Slaney, bearing during the attack the flags of both Admirals, Firm, Opossum, Leven, Staunch, and Bustard; the Slaney, Firm, Staunch, and Bustard having British, and the Leven and Opossum French landing parties on board.
"The Chinese," says Seymour, "have used every exertion to strengthen the forts at the entrance of the Peiho. Earthworks, sandbag batteries, and parapets for the heavy gingals, have been erected on both sides for a distance of nearly a mile in length, upon which eighty-seven guns in position were visible; and the whole shore had been piled (i.e., lined with piles driven into the mud) to oppose a landing. As the channel is only about 200 yards wide, and runs within 400 yards of the shore, these defences presented a formidable appearance. Two strung mud batteries, mounting respectively thirty-three and sixteen guns, had been also constructed about 1000 yards up the river, in a position to command our advance. In the rear several intrenched camps were visible, defended by flanking bastions." (See plan, p. 126.)
At 8 A.M. on May 20th, Captain William King Hall and the French Flag-Captain Reynaud delivered to Commissioner Tan a summons to deliver up the forts within two hours. By 10 o'clock no reply had arrived; and a signal was hoisted for the attack to be made in the prescribed order, Commander Thomas Saumarez (posted, July 27th, 1858) leading in the Cormorant, and being followed by the Mitraille, Fusée, Avalanche, Dragonne, Nimrod, and Slaney, successively, and by the five small gunboats. The vessels were directed not to fire until specifically ordered to do so; and, while the Slaney, 2, Lieutenant Anthony Hiley Hoskins (Com., Feb. 26th, 1858), bearing the flags of both Admirals, placed herself where she could be of most service, and could best direct operations, the other craft, having on board, or towing, landing parties, British and French, which numbered in all 1178 officers and men, were told off as follows :-
|ATTACKING THE NORTH FORTS.|
|ATTACKING THE SOUTH FORTS.|
|Ships.||Commanders.||Commanding Landing Party.||Ships.||Commanders.||Commanding Landing Party.|
|Br. Cormorant, 4||Com. Thomas Saumarez||Capt. Sir F.W.E. Nicolson (Pique)
Capt. Sherard Osborn C.B. (Furious)
Com. S.G. Cresswell (Surprise)
Major Robert Boyle R.M.
Capt. Lévêque (Phlégéton)
|Fr. Avalanche, 4||Com. Lafond||Capt. W.K. Hall (Calcutta)|
Com. Chas. T. Leckie (Fury)
Com. Jas. G. Goodenough
Lieut E.G. M'Callum, R.M.
Capt. Reynard (Némésis)
|Fr. Mitraille, 4||Com. Béranger||Fr. Dragonne, 4||Com. Barry|
|Fr. Fusée, 4||Com. Gabrielli de Carpégua||Br. Nimrod, 6||Com. -|
|Br. Staunch, 2||Lieut. Leveson Wildman||Br. Opossum, 2||Lieut. -|
|Br. Bustard, 2||Lieut Fred'k. Wm. Hallowes||Br. Leven, 2||Lieut Jos. S. Hudson|
|Br. Firm, 2||Lieut. -|
The Cormorant led off at full speed; and the Chinese opened fire almost immediately. Although Saumarez was somewhat checked by warps which the enemy had thrown across the river, and which he broke, his French consorts did not keep pace with him, and, in consequence, suffered more than he did. The signal to engage was quickly made from the Slaney; and, ere the vessels had anchored in their assigned positions, the effect of the return fire was very apparent, the shells bursting well in the embrasures, and dispersing men, guns, and carriages. The smaller vessels passed beyond the forts, and landed their parties on both banks on the flanks of the Chinese positions, while the larger craft, opposite the forts, occupied their direct attention. On the south side, the first fort was entirely dismantled and abandoned, and the second one partially so; and on the north side, the Cormorant and her French consorts completely crushed opposition. At the end of an hour and a quarter, the Chinese fire almost ceased. The landing then took place, the Admirals themselves joining Captain Hall's party; and the enemy ran. Fifty yards of mud, two feet deep, had, however, to be floundered through ere the works could be reached. In a few minutes they were covered with flags, for half the French officers had tricolors in their pockets. Soon afterwards, the French sustained severe losses by the accidental explosion of a magazine. During the operations the enemy sent down numerous junks full of flaming straw; but the Bustard drove off the people who were trying to guide them by means of ropes from the shore; and the craft burnt themselves out innocuously.
After the action, Nicolson and Lévêque moved up against two other forts on the north side, the 33- and 16-gun forts described by Seymour; and, supported by the fire of the Bustard, Staunch, and Opossum, took them with but slight loss, and also destroyed some entrenched camps in their vicinity. Everything was over by 2 P.M. When the necessary arrangements had been made at the mouth of the river, the force advanced to the town of Taku, which was occupied by Captain King Hall, Flag-Lieutenant Michael Culme-Seymour, and a party. Eighteen field-pieces were found there; and opposite the place was a boom of junks filled with combustibles, which was burnt on the 21st. The British loss in the fighting of the 20th was only 4 killed, including the Carpenter of the Fury, and 16 wounded, including Second-Master Charles Prickett (Master, Sept. 17th, 1858), of the Opossum. The French, however, had 67 killed and wounded.
On May 23rd, Seymour, in the Coromandel, with two other British gunboats, and Rigault de Genouilly in the Avalanche, with the Fusée, moved slowly up the river, towing a number of manned boats, and burning all the stacks of straw and small timber which might have been used for loading incendiary vessels. Such junks as were met with were ordered out of the river; and those which did not promptly obey the order were destroyed, so that the enemy should not be left with vessels out of which he could improvise fireships. A few shells also were fired at bodies of troops; but otherwise no hostile acts were committed by the allies, who arrived on May 26th at Tientsin, where there was no resistance. (There was, nevertheless, some friction ere the negotiations were completed. Seymour was hooted while walking in the town, and on the following day Capt. Roderick Dew and Com. Saumarez were pelted with stones; whereupon the Com.-in-Chief ordered the Marines into the place. The Chinese endeavoured to keep them out by shutting the gates; but Capt. Sherard Osborn and Com. Saumarez scaled the walls with their boats' crews, and admitted the Marines, who marched through the town.) The Court of Pekin was at last seriously impressed, and sent down to the Admirals a note announcing that a high official, armed with full powers, would instantly appear to treat. Lord Elgin and Baron Gros reached Tientsin in the Slaney on May 30th, and were followed, at an interval of twenty-four hours, by the ministers of the United States and of Russia. In the meantime, reinforcements had been sent to the mouth of the Peiho; and 1000 British troops, together with 500 French, were forwarded to Tientsin, which they garrisoned. There was no further dallying; and peace was signed on June 27th.
The treaty of Tientsin contained no fewer than 56 articles, its most important provisions stipulating for: the confirmation of the treaty of Nankin; the appointment of a British minister to Pekin; his right of access to the Secretary of State at Pekin on a footing of equality; toleration of Christianity; the opening to travellers of all parts of China; the opening, as ports, of Chinkiang, and three other ports on the Yang-tse-kiang, besides Niuchang, Tungchow, Taiwan, Swatow, and Kiungchow; a revised tariff; the visiting by British ships of war of any port in the Empire; the concerting of measures for the repression of piracy; and the arrangement of an indemnity.
It looked as if all difficulties were settled, and as if all possible causes of future difficulty were removed. The forts on the river were destroyed and evacuated; and presently the allies withdrew from the Gulf of Pechili. But appearances were deceptive. The authority of Pekin did not suffice to coerce immediately the mandarins in all other parts of the Empire; and in many districts there was at the time open rebellion. Canton was besieged, and repeatedly assaulted; on July 3rd men from the Sanspareil had to be landed to reinforce the army of occupation; and on July 19th, a cutter belonging to the Amethyst, 26, Captain Sidney Grenfell, manned by eight seamen and a Marine, under Master Richard Cossantine Dyer, while in chase of a junk in the Canton river, was attacked by a mandarin row-galley, with seventeen men armed with gingals, rockets, and stinkpots, and defended by iron plates in the vessel's bow. Dyer made an excellent fight of it for half an hour, and killed 13 of his assailants, while no one in his boat was hurt. The British made every effort to disseminate the fact and terms of the treaty among the natives; but it was extremely dangerous to do so; and an outrage perpetrated on a party from the Starling, 2, Lieutenant Arthur Julian Villiers, and Nankin, involving the killing of one seaman, and the wounding of two more at Namtao, near Hong Kong, obliged Commodore the Hon. Keith Stewart, of the Nankin, 50, and General van Straubenzee to adopt severe punitive measures, and to occupy the town on August 11th. In this affair, in addition to the troops, the Samson, and five gunboats with a brigade from the Sanspareil, Cormorant, and Adventure, were engaged. Among those who distinguished themselves in the action were Captain Julian Foulston Slight (Sanspareil; Posted, Ap. 28th, 1858), Commander Thomas Saumarez (Cormorant), and acting-Commander Edward Madden (Sanspareil; Com. Aug. 11th, 1858.), the last of whom was severely wounded. Two brass guns, each weighing about 30 cwt., were brought off, and the place was pillaged and partially burnt.
Lord Elgin went on a diplomatic mission to Japan; and, on his return, started from Hong Kong on November 8th upon an expedition up the Yang-tse-kiang as far as Hankow, a city seven hundred miles from the sea. Nankin and its neighbourhood was in the hands of the Ti-ping rebels. The Ti-pings were perfectly prepared to be friendly; but, on November 20th, misunderstanding the objects of the gunboat Lee, 2, Lieutenant William Henry Jones, which had been sent ahead of the squadron to communicate if possible, their batteries opened fire on her; whereupon the other vessels of the escort, the Retribution, 28, paddle, Captain Charles Barker, Furious, 16, paddle, Captain Sherard Osborn, Cruiser, 17, screw, Commander John Bythesea, and Dove, 2, Lieutenant Charles James Bullock, attacked them, causing considerable loss (In the Retribution Mids. Geo. Anthony Wyrley Birch lost an arm, and a bluejacket a leg. There were no other casualties.). There were one or two other collisions with the Ti-pings during this expedition, notably on the following day, when the ships returned and re-engaged the Nankin forts, and on November 26th at Nganking; and, although it is now known that the rebels were acting under misapprehension, they were reported not only as having fired upon the British flag, but also as having violated a flag of truce, which it is clear they did not know to be one. These affairs, and the somewhat similar trouble with the Hermes in 1853, were largely responsible for the attitude taken later by Great Britain with regard to a movement which was one of the most extraordinary of the century, and which, if assisted instead of discouraged, might perhaps have effected the regeneration of China, and saved the powers of Europe from much subsequent perplexity.
In the interim various ships under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief had been active in repressing the piracy which had begun to flourish anew during the prolonged hostilities.
On August 4th, 1858, the gunboat Staunch, Lieutenant Leveson Wildman (Com., Oct. 15th, 1858), while on passage from Shanghai to Hong Kong, chased three pirate junks off Taon Pung, and endeavoured to lash herself alongside the largest of them, but was driven off by a shower of stinkpots, and lost a gallant seaman, Edward George, who had leapt on board the enemy in order to secure her to the Staunch. Wildman had only two 24-pr. howitzers on board; and they were quickly dismounted, owing to being fired rapidly; but he remounted them, renewed the engagement, boarded and captured another of the junks, and, leaving her in charge of Second-Master George Morice, chased the third in his gig, and took her also. The big junk got away.
On August 22nd, 1858, Commander Samuel Gurney Cresswell (Posted, Sept, 17th, 1858.), with his screw gunboat the Surprise, 4, her boats, and the boats of the Cambrian, 40, attacked a number of heavily-armed piratical junks under Lingting Island, near Hong Kong. The enemy opened fire at 1600 yards as the Surprise approached; but she did not return it until within 1000 yards; when she steadily poured in shot and shell, and gradually closed under a storm of round shot and rockets, canister and grape. In the meantime, the Cambrian's boom boats, under Lieutenant John Whitmarsh Webb (Com., Nov. 5th, 1858), went in-shore of the gunboat, and took the enemy in flank. The action began at 8 A.M. By 8.35 the pirates' fire had slackened; and, at about 9, two of their largest lorchas blew up. Firing then ceased; whereupon Cresswell pushed in with his own boats, joined the boats of the Cambrian, and landed near the junks, just after the crews of the latter had deserted their vessels and fled to the hills. Advancing to the top of a ridge, the British discovered some more piratical craft in a snug creek on the other side of it, and, from their commanding position, killed a number of the people with their rifles, and drove off the rest. The sun was so hot that Cresswell, determining to spare his men as much as possible, returned to the gunboat, which, with the boats in tow, he took round to the creek. Having fired a few shells, he sent in the boats. No serious resistance was offered, though there was a little sniping from the neighbouring hills; and the work of burning such junks as could not be moved, and of bringing out the remainder, was accomplished without difficulty. Of twenty-six piratical craft at the island, nineteen were destroyed, and seven were carried to Hong Kong.
A third operation of a similar kind was conducted by Captain Nicholas Vansittart, C.B., of the Magicienne, 16, paddle, who, with the Inflexible, 6, paddle, Commander George Augustus Cooke Brooker, Plover, 2, screw, Lieutenant Robert James Wynniatt, and Algerine, 2, Lieutenant William Arthur, between August 26th and September 3rd, 1858, destroyed Coulan, an old piratical headquarters, together with a 14-gun stockade, 26 armed junks, and 74 row-boats, mounting 236 guns ; and killed 372 pirates.
In April, 1859, Rear-Admiral Sir Michael Seymour returned to England, upon the expiration of his term of service, and his supersession by Rear-Admiral James Hope, C.B.; and on May 20th he was rewarded for his work in China with a G.C.B. Hope was soon confronted with difficulties, most of which arose out of the fact that the Chinese placed one construction upon the terms of the treaty of Tientsin, while the British and French placed another. Lord Elgin had also returned to England; and in his stead, as Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary, his brother, the Hon. Frederick W. A. Bruce, had been sent out to proceed to Pekin, with the new French envoy, M. de Bourboulon, who arrived in the corvette Duchayla, accompanied by the dispatch vessel Norzagaran.
SIR JAMES HOPE, G.C.B., ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET.
(By permission of Mr. T. McLean, from the engraving by T. Davey, after the painting by Sydney Hodges, at Greenwich.)
Hope, with a squadron (Chesapeake, 51, screw (flag), Magicienne, 16, padd., Highflyer, 21, screw, Cruiser, 17, screw, Fury, 6, padd., Assistance, screw store-ship, Hesper, screw store-ship, and the gun-vessels and gunboats named later in the text), and the French vessels, arrived off the island of Sha-lui-tien, in the gulf of Pechili, on June 17th, 1859; and, on the following day, proceeded to the mouth of the Peiho in order, as he explains, to intimate to the local authorities the intended appearance of the ministers, and to reconnoitre "the existing state of the defences of the river." These last seemed to consist principally of the reconstruction, in earth, and in an improved form, of the works destroyed in 1858, with additional ditches and abattis. There were, moreover, stronger and better booms across the channel. Few guns were seen; but numerous embrasures were masked with matting, obviously in order to conceal what was behind them (it was generally believed that the new defences were the work of Russian engineers).
The officer who was sent on shore to communicate was met by a guard, and assured that there were no officials nearer than Tientsin. He was prevented from landing; but, on telling the people that the Commander-in-Chief desired that the obstructions in the river should be removed to enable the envoys to go up to Tientsin, he was promised that the necessary work of clearing should be begun within the next forty-eight hours. On June 19th, the whole squadron was moved to the anchorage off the mouth of the river; and the smaller craft were sent inside the bar. On the 20th, Hope again examined the channel; and, finding that nothing had been done towards carrying out the promise of the 18th, he addressed a letter to the Taotai at Tientsin, repeating the announcement of the arrival of the envoys, and the request for free passage. To this letter an evasive answer was returned on the 22nd.
In the meantime, Bruce and de Bourboulon had formally desired Hope to take the matter into his own hands, and to adopt such measures as he might deem expedient for opening the way up. Hope, in consequence, informed the Taotai that, if the obstructions were not removed, he should remove them, using force if needful. This communication received no answer; and on June 24th, the whole of the rest of the squadron was taken inside the bar; and intimation was sent in to the effect that unless a satisfactory answer were received by 8 P.M., the Rear-Admiral would feel at liberty to take his own course.
There were three booms or obstructions. The first, or lowest, was of iron piles; the second was of heavy spars of wood, apparently moored head and stern, and cross-lashed with cables; the third consisted of large timber baulks, well cross-lashed together, tied with irons, and forming a mass about 120 feet wide and 3 feet deep. It was made in two overlapping pieces, as indicated in the plan; and the opening between these might have just admitted the passage of a gunboat, though the strength of the current would have rendered it difficult and even dangerous for such a craft to attempt to get through.
ADMIRAL SIR GEORGE OMMANNEY WILLES, G.C.B.
That night three boats, under Captain George Ommanney Willes, of the Chesapeake, passing through or circumventing the first boom, pulled up to the second, and cut one, and blew away with powder two, of the cables forming part of it. The boats he had with him were one from the Chesapeake, under Lieutenant John Crawford Wilson, one from the Magicienne, under acting-Mate Frederick Wilbraham Egerton, and one from the Cruiser, under Boatswain W. Hartland. Before the return of the party, Willes examined the third or inner boom; and, in consequence of his report on it, the Rear-Admiral concluded that he would not be able to pass the works and attack them from above, but must attack them, if at all, from the front, and, upon silencing them, endeavour to carry them by storm. By morning, the Chinese had repaired the damage done overnight to the second boom. Hope determined to try to carry out both plans, and to employ the following craft:-
|SHIPS (all screw).||GUNS.||COMMANDERS.|
|Opossum, g.-b.||2||(Capt. Geo. O. Willes) Lieut. Chas. Jno. Balfour.|
|Starling, g.-b.||2||Lieut. Arth. Julian Villiers.|
|Janus, g.-b.||2||Lieut. Herbert Price Knevitt.|
|Plover, g.-b.||2||(R.-Adm. James Hope, C.B.) Lieut. Wm Hector Rason.|
|Cormorant, g.-v.||4||Com. Armine Wodehouse.|
|Lee, g.-b.||2||Lieut. Wm. Hy. Jones.|
|Kestrel, g.-b.||2||Lieut. Geo. Dacres Bevan.|
|Banterer, g.-b||2||Lieut. John Jenkins.|
|Forester, g.-b.||2||Lieut. Arthur Jno. Innes.|
|Haughty, g.-b.||2||Lieut. Geo. Doherty Broad.|
|Nimrod, slp.||6||Lieut. Robt. Jas. Wynniatt (actg.-Com.).|
The above nine gunboats varied from about 235 to about 270 tons (B.M.) and seem to have carried each one 68-pr. of 95 cwt., and one 32-pr. of 56 cwt., besides, in some cases at least, two howitzers. Their proper complements were about forty, all told, but extra officers and men were in most of them. The remaining two vessels (Cormorant and Nimrod) were considerably more powerful.
The morning of June 25th was occupied in putting these vessels into position. The Starling, Janus, Plover, Cormorant, Lee, Kestrel, and Banterer were stationed on a line parallel with the works on the south side, or right bank, of the river; and the Nimrod was put in rear of that line, with her guns bearing on the more distant north fort. The Opossum was stationed in advance, close up to the boom of piles; and the Forester and Haughty were in reserve in rear of the line, the former having orders to move up to the Plover's post, should that vessel advance to the support of the Opossum.
The vessels on the right were under the direction of Captain Charles Frederick Alexander Shadwell of the Highflyer, and those on the left, under Captain Nicholas Vansittart, of the Magicienne. The strength of the tide, and the narrowness of the channel (about 200 yards) had rendered it a matter of extreme difficulty to take up the positions above described; and the Banterer and Starling, the vessels on the extreme right and left of the line, both took the ground, the former in a good position, but the latter in one which, unfortunately, prevented her from taking much share in the action.
At 2 P.M. the Opossum was ordered to open a passage through the first barrier. She made fast a hawser to one of the iron piles, and, by 2.30, had pulled it out; whereupon, supported by the Plover, and closely followed by the Lee and Haughty, she moved up to the second boom. As she reached it, the forts opened a simultaneous fire from between thirty and forty guns, ranging from 32-prs. to 8-in. pieces. Hope at once ordered the ships to engage.
It was a hot day, with a clear blue sky; and the Chinese had the range to a nicety. The Plover posted herself close to the barrier, with the Opossum, Lee, and Haughty, in succession, astern of her. By 3 P.M., the four craft inside the outer barrier had suffered severely, and were rapidly becoming disabled. The Plover had lost her gallant young commander, Rason, who was cut in two by a round shot, and whose place was temporarily taken by George Amelius Douglas, Hope's Flag-Lieutenant. In her also fell Captain T. M'Kenna, of the 1st Royals, who was attached to the Major-General commanding the forces in China; and among her wounded were the Rear-Admiral himself, and Second-Master John Phillips (acting). The four vessels were, consequently, dropped down into fresh positions below the first barrier, where, having received fresh men, they renewed the action (The Plover dropped down because her cables were cut by shot; and she drifted unmanageable until she grappled the Cormorant, and so brought herself up). The Plover was so badly mauled that Hope shifted his flag from her to the Cormorant; and at 4.20, finding himself too weak for the work, he was obliged to summon Captain Shadwell, and to entrust him with the more immediate command of the squadron.
STAFF-CAPT. JOHN PHILLIPS, R.N.
It should be mentioned here that the French dispatch vessel Norzagaray was not armed in such a manner as to enable her to share in the attack; and that the Duchayla drew too much water for the purpose. Although, therefore, the French were as much concerned as the British in asserting the right of free passage for their representative to Tientsin, they bore no part in this naval attack; at which, indeed, they were represented only by Commander Tricault, of the Duchayla, who attached himself to the Commander-in-Chief, and remained with him until the landing. The Americans and Russians, less intimately concerned, were not represented at all; and, in fact, were professedly neutral.
At 5.40 the Kestrel sank in her position; and the Lee had to be put upon the mud to save her from the like fate. At about that time, or a little before, there occurred an incident which has ever since most happily affected the relations between the two great English-speaking nations (it may have been as early as 4.40 P.M., accounts of those present vary as to the exact time).
The Cormorant, flying the Rear-Admiral's flag, lay with her port broadside facing, and engaging, the works on the right bank. Lashed on her starboard side was the almost disabled Plover, in such a manner that the latter's bow gun cleared the Cormorant's bows by a yard or so, and could be fired across them at the forts. The Banterer was aground on the Plover's starboard bow; the Haughty lay across the Cormorant's stern; and the Lee was aground on the Haughty's port quarter. The Plover's bow gun was almost silent, partly because many men had been killed or wounded while serving it, and partly because the survivors were almost worn out with fatigue.
The firing was still very hot on both sides, when up the river came a double-banked cutter, flying the Stars and Stripes in the stern. In her was Flag-Officer Josiah Tatnall, of the United States' navy, senior American officer in Chinese waters, who had pulled up from his flag-ship below the bar, in spite of the storm of shot. He had fought against the British in the war of 1812. His coxswain took him alongside the Plover's starboard gangway; and, even as the bow-man was getting out his boat-hook, the coxswain was hit by a Chinese projectile. Tatnall boarded the Plover, crossed her bloody deck, and went to visit Hope, who was lying wounded in the Cormorant's cabin. He expressed his sympathy; said that he trusted he might be of some use in removing and tending the numerous wounded; and remained for a short time with the British Commander-in-Chief. While he was in the Cormorant's cabin, his boat lay under the Plover's shelter; and her men watched the Plover's weary bluejackets working intermittently at the bow gun. At length, one of the Americans, and then others, climbed shyly on deck, and began to help, saying little or nothing, but gradually relieving the proper gun's crew, until the gun was wholly manned by Tatnall's men. They had fired it at least once when Tatnall reappeared.
"Hulloa there!" he cried, somewhat sharply, as he crossed the Plover's deck to the gangway; "don't you know that we are neutrals?"
"Beg pardon, sir," said one of the Americans, drawing off shamefacedly with his mates to the boat, "they were very short-handed at the bow-gun; and so we thought we'd lend them a hand for fellowship's sake."
By 6.30 the fire from the north forts had ceased altogether; and by 7, that from the south ones was also silent, save that a single gun in the outer, another in the centre bastion, and a third in the detached fort on the south continued to ply the ships with shot.
A landing force, chiefly made up of about 350 Marines and a few bluejackets, was brought from the vessels below the bar. There is strong evidence that Tatnall's steam boat, the Toey-whan, was allowed to assist in towing part of it up the river, though, no doubt, the nominal mission of the little craft was to fetch wounded from the gunboats below the barrier.
At 7.20 P.M. a landing was effected opposite the outer bastion of the south fort, the spot being selected because it seemed to have suffered most, and because an attack there could be best supported by the guns of the squadron. The force consisted of a detachment of Sappers and Miners, under Major Fisher, R.E., a brigade of Marines, under Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Lemon, a division of seamen under Captain Vansittart, assisted by Commanders John Edmund Commerell, V.C., and William Andrew James Heath, and a small body of French seamen under Commander Tricault; the whole being under the orders of Captain Shadwell.
The party was met by a heavy fire from guns, gingals, and rifles, and, in addition, had terrible obstacles to contend with in the shape of stakes planted in the shallows and mud, and two, if not three, ditches. In the advance, Shadwell, Vansittart, and Lemon, with many others, were disabled, and the command devolved upon Commerell. About 150 officers and men struggled as far as the second ditch, and about 50 even got close under the wall of the fort; but, although those positions might have been held for a time, further advance, or a storm, was impossible without reinforcements. Such was Commerell's unwilling conclusion after he had consulted with Fisher, Tricault, and Captain Richard Parke, R.M.; and he reported it to Shadwell, who ordered a retirement. This was effected in the darkness with the utmost deliberation and coolness, the force proceeding to the boats in detachments, and bringing off its wounded. It was accomplished by 1.30 A.M. on June 26th, the last to leave the shore being Commerell and Heath.
The Kestrel, Starling, and Banterer were raised or floated. The Lee became a total loss. After the action the Plover grounded within range of the forts, and, being necessarily abandoned, was also lost. The Cormorant went to her assistance, and grounded. She got off again on the night of the 27th, but piled up once more while endeavouring to move down, and on the 28th was swept by such a heavy fire that she presently sank.
This lamentable affair, therefore, cost the Navy three vessels. The expenditure of human life was even more serious. No fewer than 25 officers and men were killed; 39 others were badly wounded; and 54 more received slighter injuries, during the preliminary attack; and the subsequent landing, and attempted capture of the south forts added to the total 64 officers and men killed; 162 badly wounded; and 90 slightly wounded. The whole British casualties, therefore, amounted to the appalling number of 89 killed, and 345 wounded - a much heavier loss than that suffered by the entire British fleet at the famous battle of Cape St. Vincent, in 1797. In addition, the French had 4 killed, and 10 wounded.
Among the officers killed were: Lieuts. William Hector Rason (comdg. Plover), Alfred Graves (Assistance), and Charles Henry Clutterbuck (Chesapeake); Lieuts. (R.M.) Hamilton Wolrige, and Henry Langtou Tollemache Inglis; Capt. T. M'Kenna (1st Royals); and Mids. T. H. Herbert (Chesapeake).
Among the officers severely wounded were: Rear-Admiral James Hope, C.B.; Capts. Charles Frederick Alexander Shadwell, C.B. (Highflyer), and Nicholas Vansittart, C.B. (Magicienne; Capt. Vansittart succumbed to his injuries); actg.-Lieut. Claude Edward Buckle (Magicienne); Master Augustus John Burniston (Banterer); actg.-Mate Nathaniel Bowden Smith (Chesapeake); Midshipmen Armand Temple Powlett (Fury), and G. Armytage (Cruiser), Gunner W. Ryan (Plover), Lieut.-Col. Thomas Lemon, R.M.; Capt. William Godfrey Rayson Masters, R.M.; Lieut. John Chesterton Crawford, R.M.A.; Lieut. G. Longley, R.E.; and the Rev. H. Huleatt, Chaplain to the Forces.
Rear-Admiral Hope, in his dispatch, mentioned with commendation Capts. C. F. A. Shadwell, N. Vansittart, and George Ommanney Willes; Commanders John Edmund Commerell, William Andrew James Heath, and Armine Wodehouse; Lieuts. John Jenkins, Robert James Wynniatt, Arthur John Innes, George Dacres Bevan, William Henry Jones, Charles John Balfour, George Doherty Broad, Herbert Price Knevitt, George Parsons, and John Crawford Wilson; Master William Donaldson Strong; Mates Claude Edward Buckle, George Spotswood Peard, Frederick Edward Gould, and Visct. Kilcoursie; Mids. G. Armytage and Charles Lister Oxley; Paymaster and Secretary James William Murray Ashby; Asst.-Paymaster John St. John Wagstaffe ; Second-Master Oscar Samson; Staff-Surg. Walter Dickson (2) M.D.; Surg. John Little, M.B.; Asst.-Surg. William James Baird, M.D.; Lieut.-Col. Thomas Lemon, R.M., Capts. (R.M.) Richard Parke, W. G. R. Masters, and Ponsonby May Carew Croker; Lieuts. (R.M.) Langham Rokeby, John Frederick Hawkey, Harry Lewis Evans, and John Straghan; Sergt.-Maj. Woon, R.M., Q.M. Sergt. Hailing, R.M.; Major Fisher, R.E., and Lieuts. (R.E.) J. M. Maitland and G. Longley.
As this hotly contested action resulted in a defeat, those who participated in it were never directly rewarded by the issue of medals or clasps, the granting of honours, or promotion; yet it must be admitted that, as, indeed, the exceedingly heavy loss indicates, officers and men behaved in a manner which added distinctly to the glories of the Navy, and which could have been scarcely more creditable had victory rewarded their efforts. The attack failed, firstly, because the narrowness of the channel, and the artificial obstructions crippled the usefulness of the ships, and, secondly, because the assault, a frontal one, was made over most difficult ground against works which were supposed, but wrongly supposed, to have been silenced; and was attempted with insufficient force. It must also be admitted that, as usual, the British were very ignorant of the exact strength and dispositions of the enemy.
"After the retirement," writes a distinguished officer who was present, "the Coromandel received as many wounded as she could stow; and the rest were sent down by boats towed by the U.S. steamer Toey-whian, obligingly placed at our disposal by Flag-Officer Tatnall, in, as he put it, 'the cause of humanity.' This is when the expression, 'Blood is thicker than water,' was used by him to my chief, Sir James Hope. It was on the day after the action."
As the officer from whom I quote this was the Rear-Admiral's Secretary, there can be no doubt that Tatnall used the expression on the occasion referred to; but there is some evidence that he also used it on the day of the action; and also that his men used it when on board the Plover. I think, therefore, that, in all probability, it was an habitual expression with Tatnall at the time, and that it was imitated by his people.
Tatnall, it may be added, took the unfortunate side in the struggle which soon afterwards so nearly rent his country permanently in twain; and, in consequence of his action, he was obliged to withdraw to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he lived in something approaching poverty. His attitude to the British in China in 1859 was not, I am pleased to say, forgotten by those whom he had befriended. As soon as his misfortunes were known in the Navy, a number of officers who had served in China, and of others who remembered what had occurred there, subscribed a sum of money which, happily, saved the last days of Commodore Josiah Tatnall from absolute penury (letter to W.L.C. from the late Adm. Sir G.O. Willes.). His name can never be forgotten in the British service.
On July 3rd the British squadron repassed the Peiho bar, and proceeded to Shanghai, to allow the wounded opportunity to recover on shore, and to begin preparations for an attack on a more adequate scale, and so for repairing British prestige in China. Operations could not be resumed for twelve months. Both France and Great Britain decided to send out considerable bodies of troops from home, as well as large naval reinforcements; flat-bottomed boats, rafts, and stages for landing the armies had to be constructed; and not until June 25th, 1860, did the expedition begin to concentrate in Talienwan Bay, near Port Arthur, a spot which had been fixed upon for the purpose in consequence of representations made by Commander John Bythesea, of the Cruiser, who, in the interval, had thoroughly surveyed the Gulf of Pechili (other surveys, which were most useful as preparation for the operations of August, were made by Com. John Ward, of the Actaeon). The forces ultimately assembled included about 12,600 British and Indian troops, under Lieutenant-General Sir Hope Grant, and nearly 8000 French under General Cousin de Montauban. Rear-Admiral James Hope (With temp. rank as Vice-Adm) still commanded the British fleet on the station. Montauban left France with the title of "Commandant en Chef des Forces de Terre et de Mer" ; but the French government, preferring to imitate the arrangements of its ally, and to keep separate the naval and military commands, sent out after him Vice-Admiral Charner, who reached Shanghai on April 19th. Although, in the circumstances, such procedure was perhaps hardly necessary, war had been formally declared against China on April 8th, that power having previously refused reparation for its action in the Peiho in the summer of 1859.
One of the most troublesome questions to be settled by the admirals and generals was where best to disembark the army. It was necessary to find a spot or spots where the water should be deep enough to allow the transports to approach within reasonable distance of the shore, and spots, moreover, where the coast should be less muddy, and more healthy, than the major part of the coastline of the Gulf of Pechili. It was at length arranged that the French army should land at a point to the south of the mouth of the Peiho, and should then proceed to attack the defences on the right bank of that river; and that the British should disembark at Pehtang, about nine miles to the northward of the river's mouth, and should devote their attention to the defences on the left, or north bank: but the French soon found that they could not carry out their part of the agreement without some risk, and without exposing their troops to the probability of being cut off from communication with their fleet. The result was that both armies were ultimately taken to Pehtang. As had been the case at the time of the invasion of the Crimea, the French squadron was overcrowded with troops, while the British war-ships, the army being in hired transports, were fit for anything that might befall, and were free and unencumbered. Captain Chevalier expresses his strong sense of the advantages of this method, which, it may be hoped will be always followed when the British Navy and Army co-operate on any expedition of the kind.
The main part of the work done on this occasion was done by the allied armies; and may, therefore, be passed over briefly here.
Pehtang stands at the mouth of the small river of the same name, and on the south bank of it. To the south of the town is a considerable extent of hard ground; and from Pehtang, south-westward to Sin-ho, about five miles distant, ran a raised causeway, flanked on each side by a ditch. From Sin-ho south-eastward to Tong-ku, a distance of little more than two miles, ran a somewhat similar causeway; and from Tong-ku, when taken, the Peiho forts on the north side of the river could be approached and attacked from the rear.
The transports stood in towards the mouth of the Pehtang on August 1st, 1860. Some gunboats had previously entered the river, and passed beyond two forts which overiooked the estuary, it being intended that if these forts should assume a hostile attitude, they should be shelled from above, a point from which no Chinese river forts of that day were capable of withstanding attack by water. The forts were found to have been abandoned; but one at least of them had been ingeniously mined in such a manner that any incautious entry by the troops would have caused an explosion. The disembarkation began at once at a point below the tract of hard ground about half a mile south of the town; and the British, although by far the more numerous, completed the operation forty hours before the French, chiefly in consequence of the foresight which had provided plenty of small craft capable of crossing the bar, on which, even at high tide, there were only ten feet of water. A battalion of Royal Marines under Lieutenant-Colonel John Hawkins Gascoigne, and a battalion of French seamen joined the army, which, on August 12th, marched to, and occupied Sin-ho, driving back a considerable body of the enemy, and taking two entrenched positions; and, on the 14th, attacked and captured Tong-ku (a party from the Chesapeake being present), the Chinese then retiring into the northern forts, or across the river. On the right of the main force, during its advance, moved a smaller body under Brigadier-General Sir Robert Cornelius Napier (afterwards Lord Napier of Magdala). Grant advised Hope of his intention to attack the Taku northern forts on August 21st; and, in order to co-operate, Hope and Charner, on the previous day, sent the French and British gunboats, and the rocket-boats of the fleet into the Peiho.
When, at about daybreak on the 21st, the troops began to attack the inner fort on the north side, the vessels were prevented by the want of sufficient water from at once reaching the positions assigned to them; and, indeed, the gunboat Dove, Lieutenant Charles James Bullock, temporarily bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Lewis Tobias Jones, who was in immediate command of the operations in the river, grounded in six and a half feet; and Jones had to transfer his flag to the Clown, Lieutenant William Frederick Lee. By six o'clock, however, the gunboats were able to open; at 6.15 a shell blew up a magazine in the inner north fort; and at 6.25 there was a similar explosion in the outer one. The Chinese fought well; but at about 9 A.M. the inner north fort was stormed; and although there was firing until near 11, the enemy then prudently relinquished further efforts, and, having lost terribly, hoisted white flags on all the works that remained in his hands.
In the afternoon, the outer north fort was taken possession of; and in the evening, the south fort, which had been evacuated, was occupied, and the booms across the river were removed. The iron piles, however, which formed the outermost barrier, were fixed with so much firmness that a passage could not be opened through them until noon on the 22nd. The gunboats then passed through, and anchored off Tong-ku. In this affair the ships employed had no casualties; but the Marines who were with the army had 1 killed, and 29 wounded. On the 23rd, the Coromandel, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral James Hope, together with a number of British gunboats, and subsequently of French ones, passed up to Tientsin, which, being destitute of troops and pacifically inclined, was occupied.
Vessels employed in the Peiho, August 20th, and onwards: Coromandel, pad., temp, flag of V.-Ad. Hope, C.B.; Dove, scr., temp. flag of R.-Adm. Lewis Tobias Jones, C.B.; and (under Capt. Jas. Johnstone M'Cleverty, C.B.), Havock, scr., Staunch, scr., Opossum, scr., Forester, scr., and Algerine, scr.; with (under Capt. Lord John Hay, C.B.), Clown, scr., Drake, scr., Woodcock, scr., and Janus, scr. ; besides rocket-boats contributed apparently by the Chesapeake, Cambrian, Centaur, Encounter, Impérieuse, Magicienne, Odin, Pearl, Urgent, etc. Hope's disp. is very meagre.
Lieut.-Colonel Gascoigne, in describing the work done by his battalion of Royal Marines, reported with approval the conduct of Lieut.-Colonel Joseph Gates Travers, Captains Jermyn Charles Symonds, John Charles Downie Morrison, and John Basset Prynne; Lieutenant T. Herbert Alexander Brenan; Surgeon John Little, M.B.; Assistant-Surgeon Doyle Money Shaw; Sergeants Teacle, Knapp, and H. Trent; Corporal Kelly; and Privates Bray and Bowerman.
On August 31st a mandarin of high rank reached Tientsin; and Lord Elgin and Baron Gros entered into negotiations with him; but on September 7th he was nowhere to be found. It therefore became necessary for the allied armies to advance upon Pekin. The Chinese attempted to cause further delay; and two battles had to be fought ere they were finally induced to submit. Not until Pekin had been taken, and the palace burnt, did the enemy agree to the terms demanded; and the Treaty of Pekin was concluded only on October 24th. During the advance up the river, the boats of the fleet (especially those of the Chesapeake, Cambrian, Impérieuse, Scout, and Simoom) rendered immense assistance in transporting the siege train, and stores for the army. The treaty provided for the opening of Tientsin to commerce; the occupation of that town, and of the Peiho Forts pending the payment of a certain proportion of an indemnity; an apology from the Emperor; the cession of Kowloon to Great Britain; and the ratification of the previous treaty of Tientsin. In 1860, as at a later date, the Chinese distinguished themselves by their bad faith; and their barbarous treatment of Messrs. Parkes, Loch, de Normann, Bowlby, and other Europeans who fell into their hands, rendered them totally undeserving of the merciful light in which their long course of misconduct was viewed when the time came for the exaction of penalties. The evacuation of Pekin was concluded on November 9th.
In recognition of their services, Rear-Admiral Hope was at once made a K.C.B. (Nov. 9th, 1860), and a few officers were promoted, while a few others received honours at a somewhat later period (E.g., Rear-Adm. Lewis Tobias Jones, a K.C.B. June 28th, 1861; Col. Jno. Hawkins Gascoigne, and Lt.-Col. Joseph Gates Travers, C.B.'s, Feb. 28th, 1861; Capt. Geo. Ommanney Willes, a C.B., July 16th, 1861). The work done was not, however, very lavishly rewarded. A monument to those of Hope's flagship, the Chesapeake, who perished during the commission, 1857-61, has been erected on Clarence Esplanade, Southsea.