British involvement with the Taiping rebellion 1860 - 1862 
British involvement with the Taiping rebellion 1860 - 1862 

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W.L. Clowes on British involvement with the Taiping rebellion 1860 - 1862

The Taiping rebellionExternal link (1850-1864) was the most extensive of a series of internal conflicts which devastated China in the second half of the 19th century. It's instigator, Hóng Xiùquán (1814-1864), a religious visionary, believed that he was sent to found the Heavenly Kingdom of Peace on earth. His regime was theocratic, but introduced a programme of radical economic and social reforms. The rebellion cost between 20 and 30 million lives.

The history of the events which led up to Great Britain's active interference with the Ti-ping rebellion in China must be told at some little length. It affords an interesting study, and, I think, supplies examples rather of what to avoid than of what to emulate in dealing with great reform movements in Oriental lands.

After the collision with the Ti-ping rebels at Nankin, and elsewhere on the Yang-tse-kiang, in 1858, Great Britain, which had always recognised the Ti-pings as belligerents, re-adopted a professed policy, so far as they were concerned, of non-intervention. The rebels were, however, from time to time reminded that they must neither interfere with British trade nor imperil British interests. Thus, for example, a proclamation by the Hon. F.W.A. Bruce, dated Shanghai, May 26th, 1860, pointed out that, Shanghai being a port open to foreign trade, commerce would receive a severe blow, were the place to be attacked and to become the scene of civil war; and went on to declare that, without taking any part in the contest, or expressing any opinion as to the rights of the parties to it, the British might justifiably protect the city, and assist the Chinese authorities in preserving tranquillity within it (yet, writing to Lord John Russell from Shanghai on June 10th, 1860, Mr. Bruce had said: "I am inclined to doubt the policy of attempting to restore, by force of arms, the power of the Imperial government in cities and provinces occupied, or father overrun, by the insurgents." And, after deprecating intervention, went on, "... the Chinese, deprived of popular insurrection - their rude but efficacious remedy against local oppressors - would, with justice, throw on the foreigner the odium of excesses which his presence alone would render possible. ... No course could be so well calculated to lower our national reputation as to lend our material support to a government, the corruption of whose authorities is only checked by its weakness"). Mr. Bruce did not, unfortunately, wait for the rebels actually to attack Shanghai ere he began to make a distinction between them and the Imperial party, such as, apparently, he had no right to make so long as the Ti-pings were officially recognised as belligerents; for, a few months after his proclamation above alluded to, he refused to allow the consuls to hold any communication with certain insurgent authorities at Soo-chow, and ordered them to take no notice of a dispatch which had been received from one of the insurgent leaders. This attitude was inconsistent, and, as events proved, dangerous. Neutrality, such as Mr. Bruce professed, should not have allowed him to take more notice of Imperial than of Ti-ping dispatches; nor could he complain if, so long as he declined to notice communications from the Ti-pings, the Ti-pings paid little attention to communications from him. It was the anomalous and contradictory situation created by Mr. Bruce which, I believe, was originally responsible for the many bloody collisions which followed between the British forces and the rebels, who, it is notorious, were particularly anxious to gain European countenance, and most unwilling deliberately to provoke European hostility.

On August 18th, 1860, the rebel leader sent to the foreign ministers a notification of his intention to come to Shanghai (in response, he afterwards explained, to an invitation from the French. The Chung-wang to the Consuls, Aug. 21st.), and of his determination to respect foreign churches and property, upon yellow flags being hoisted over them. This was the dispatch which Mr. Bruce ordered his subordinates to take no notice of. Instead of acknowledging it, and directly stating in reply that the rebels must on no account approach, he issued a "notification," based ostensibly on "reports" which had reached him, to the effect that, armed forces being understood to be in the neighbourhood, he thereby made known that the city of Shanghai, and the foreign settlement, were militarily occupied by the British and French, and that any armed force approaching would be treated as hostile. He sent a copy of this, not to the chief who had addressed him, but to a place out of the line of the march of the Ti-pings; and, in consequence, it was not delivered. Had he communicated with the Chung-wang (Ti-ping general-in-chief.), who had written to him, what followed might have been avoided.

On August 18th, 1860, the Ti-ping army, or rather, part of it, arrived before Shanghai, and drove in the Tartar outposts, subsequently advancing to the walls. They were met with shot, shell, and musketry from the European garrison of the settlement, and especially from Royal Marines, and Indian troops, Lieutenant John William Waller O'Grady, R.M., being particularly active, and Captain Frederick Edward Budd, R.M., keeping up a very hot fire from another position. It is said that, during the whole time, the rebels did not reply. At any rate, about 300 of them fell, while there was not a single casualty on the part of the Europeans. When the Ti-pings had retired, parties were sent out to burn down such houses in the suburbs as might afford cover to the rebels. On Sunday, August 19th, the French burnt more houses, and, in the afternoon, the gunboats Kestrel, Lieutenant Henry Huxham, and Hongkong, together with Lieutenant O'Grady's Marines, re-opened fire on any rebels who could be seen. It is said that again the Ti-pings did not return a shot. It is certain, however, that, on the 20th they advanced in greater strength than before, determined, perhaps, to endeavour to avenge their comrades slaughtered, as they conceived it, in bad faith. Once more they were driven back; and during the following night, the Pioneer, 6, screw, Commander Hugh Arthur Reilly, added to their discomfiture by steaming up the river and dropping shells into their camp.

When, after the conclusion of peace with China, it became desirable that a British expedition should proceed up the Yang-tse-kiang to provide for the opening of the treaty ports there, it was necessary to make some preliminary agreement with the Ti-pings, who commanded many of the important points on the river. Sir James Hope, therefore, communicated with the Ti-ping authorities at Nankin, and once more pledged British neutrality. He was instructed by Lord Elgin to say that the British did not appear as enemies, nor with the intention of taking part in the civil war. Mr. Parkes, who accompanied the Vice-Admiral on the subsequent expedition up the river, was instructed by Lord Elgin to the same effect. But, when Hope, in the Coromandel, reached Nankin, he directed Commander Elphinstone d'Oyley d'Auvergne Aplin, of the Centaur, 6, paddle, to tell the Ti-ping authorities that the British and French governments had ordered that any attempt to enter Shanghai or Woosung would be repelled by force, and that therefore the Ti-pings would do well not to go within two days' march of those cities. If such orders had then been given, they were secret ones; but the Foreign Office approved of Hope's measures, and also of his having assured the Ti-pings that, if they obeyed him in this matter he would exert his influence to prevent any hostile expedition from leaving those places in order to attack Ti-ping troops. While expressing his approval, Lord John Russell added: "You will understand, however, that Her Majesty's government do not wish force to be used against the rebels in any case, except for the actual protection of the lives and property of British subjects."

The upshot was that the Ti-pings ultimately promised not to attack Shanghai or Woosung that year (1861); and requested that, on the other hand, the Imperial troops might not be allowed into those places. Mr. Parkes accepted and reported this request as a condition. It was also arranged that if the Ti-pings should attack other treaty ports and not molest British subjects in their persons and property, commanders of British vessels, in accordance with instructions to be given them, would not interfere in the hostilities, except for the purpose of protecting their countrymen, if necessary.

The Ti-pings adhered to their undertaking relative to the year 1861, and refrained from advancing within 100 li, or about 30 miles, of Shanghai or Woosung. They might easily have taken both places had they wished, and had they had only the Imperial forces to contend with, for, during that year, they were extraordinarily successful, and made themselves masters of nearly the whole of the two rich provinces of Chekiang and Kiangsu.

That friction, nevertheless, occurred almost immediately was but natural, looking to the forward policy which Sir James Hope thought fit to adopt throughout. Mr. Bruce, writing to Lord John Russell on January 3rd, 1861, said that he had directed the British consul at Ningpo not to undertake the defence of that city, and, should it be attacked, to confine his efforts to a mediation, "which may save the place from being the scene of pillage and massacre "; and, in a letter to Hope, Bruce declared that he did not consider himself authorized to protect Ningpo. In his instructions to Mr. Sinclair, the local consul, he wrote: "Your language should be that we take no part in this civil contest, but that we claim exemption from injury and annoyance at the hands of both parties." All this was approved by Lord John Russell in a dispatch of March 28th, 1861. Yet, on May 8th, Sir James Hope, at Nagasaki, ordered Captain Roderick Dew, of the Encounter, 14, screw, to put himself into communication with the rebel leaders, and to require them to desist from all hostile proceedings against the town of Ningpo. At the same time, Dew was directed to communicate also with the Imperial authorities at Ningpo, "for the purpose of ascertaining what their means of resistance are, and the probabilities of their proving successful; and, should you find them amenable to advice, you will point out to them such measures as circumstance may render expedient, and you will place every obstruction in the way of the capture of the town by the rebels."

This was not neutrality. Lord John Russell was being hurried on by Hope, but hurried on unwillingly; for, commenting on the "every obstruction" policy of the Vice-Admiral, Lord John, writing to Bruce, said :- "I have caused the Admiralty to be informed, in reply, that I am of opinion that Vice-Admiral Hope's measures should be approved. ... You will understand, however, that Her Majesty's government do not wish force to be used against the rebels in any case, except for the actual protection of the lives and property of British subjects."

Captain Dew, in pursuance of instructions, proceeded on May 24th in the gunboat Flamer, Lieutenant Henry Maynard Bingham, to convey Hope's ultimatum to the rebels in the vicinity of Ningpo. They were not to approach within two days' march of Ningpo upon penalty of coming into hostile contact with British forces. Dew, being unable to reach the rebel positions in the gunboat, put his little party into pulling boats. Upon reaching a town which was occupied by the Ti-pings, he noticed a discharge of gingals from the walls, though whether directed against him is doubtful; and he withdrew, after having left Hope's communication in a cleft bamboo stuck into the ground before the place. If there was any firing at the party, it was probably the work of some ignorant underling or the result of mistake; for when, on June 11th, with the Encounter and Flamer, Dew took another copy of the ultimatum to Chapoo, which had been occupied by the Ti-pings, and landed with it under a flag of truce, he was not fired at; and the local commandant went out and received the letter in person. The document, dated "Encounter, June llth," says nothing about any hostile act having been committed on May 24th; and therefore it may be assumed that whatever occurred on that day was officially regarded as not calling for an apology.

The Ti-pings, be it remembered, were under no undertaking not to occupy Ningpo. The British, however, were under an undertaking to be neutral. Yet almost while Lord John Russell, writing on August 8th to Mr. Bruce, said that the desire of the government was to remain neutral as before, and to "abstain from all interference in the civil war," Captain Dew was assisting the Imperialists with plans for the defence of Ningpo, and fitting twelve heavy guns with carriages to mount on the walls. It is not astonishing that Mr. Bruce thought that "Captain Dew had gone farther than he was strictly warranted in doing in his desire to save the city of Ningpo."

In June, moreover, Captain Dew appeared in the Flamer off the Ti-ping town of Loochee, some distance up the Wong-poo river, and demanded the restitution of some boats and silk which had been detained for non-payment of duty at a time when duty was being paid as a matter of course at the same station by many European traders. It could not be contended that the Ti-ping occupation had injured the silk trade, duty or no duty; for Mr. Bruce himself, in a dispatch to Lord John Russell said that the export from June, 1860, to June, 1861, had been 85,000 bales; and that was, with one exception, the largest annual export ever then known.

By November, the only places in the Chekiang and Kiangsu provinces south of the Yang-tse-kiang not held by the Ti-pings were the treaty ports of Shanghai, Chinkiang, and Ningpo. Those places were strongholds of the Imperialists; and the rebels were bound by all the principles of strategy either to complete their conquest of the provinces, or criminally to leave their cause in a position of great danger and peril. In spite, therefore, of Sir James Hope's communications, they approached Ningpo; whereupon the British and American Consuls, with Lieutenant Henry Huxham, commanding H.M.S. Kestrel, and a French naval officer, proceeded on November 28th to the Ti-ping headquarters, and verbally informed the leaders "That the undersigned take no part in this civil contest, but that they claim exemption from injury and annoyance at the hands of both parties." Hwang, the Ti-ping general, agreed with the principle thus laid down, assured the Consuls of his desire to keep well with foreigners, and promised to behead any of his followers who should offer them annoyance. On December 2nd the Consuls visited another Ti-ping general, Fang, who was advancing from a different direction. They endeavoured to dissuade him from capturing the place, chiefly on the ground of the difficulty of keeping order afterwards. Fang replied that he could not allow Ningpo to remain in the hands of the Imperialists; but, at the wish of the Consuls, he consented to postpone the attack for a week. At the expiration of that period, the Ti-pings, on December 9th, 1861, took Ningpo, after it had offered a feeble resistance for about an hour, the Imperialists then fleeing. Hope, in his account of the affair, admits that "everything had been done to assist the Imperialists in the defence of the town, except the use of force in their favour; and their Lordships will not fail to observe how utterly useless such measures proved, in consequence of the cowardice and imbecility of the mandarins. ... The behaviour of the rebels has been good hitherto; and they profess a strong desire to remain on good terms with foreigners."

The British Consul, writing to Lord John Russell, also said:- "Up to the present time there has been no slaughter, or massacre, or fires within the walls. ... With the exception of a few men killed, and a certain amount of destruction of property, the rebels have, so far, conducted themselves with wonderful moderation."

A few days afterwards, Sir James Hope proceeded to Nankin in order, if possible, to obtain from the Ti-ping leaders a renewal of their promise not to attack Shanghai for one year - that is, during the course of 1862. This they declined to give, partly because they considered that the British had not strictly interpreted their own promise to prevent the Imperialists from using Shanghai as a base for aggressive purposes; partly because Shanghai had become an Imperial arsenal and rallying place; and partly because they could not further forego their rights as recognised belligerents.

Upon that Sir James Hope, through Lieutenant Henry Maynard Bingham, of the Renard [should be Flamer?], on December 27th, 1861, put forward demands which, I think, can have been formulated only with an intention of finding a casus belli. He alleged that certain British subjects, by robberies committed in territories held by the Ti-pings, had suffered a loss amounting to 7563 taels, 1 mace, and 7 candareens, 4800 dollars, 20 bales of silk, and 2 muskets. The cash value of all this in British currency may have been as much as £63500. He further demanded that junks carrying British colours should be regarded as British vessels, no matter whether British or foreign built, and should be allowed to pass free on the river from examination or other molestation. He went on to declare that the Ti-ping promise that troops should not approach within 100 li of Shanghai and Woosung had not been faithfully observed; and he ended by requiring that no Ti-ping troops should go within 100 li of Kiukiang and Hankow, and that Silver Island, the residence of the British Consul at Chinkiang-foo, should not be molested. The general tenor of the reply of the Ti-ping leaders was to the effect that compliance with the demands, some of which were new and of a distinctly unfriendly nature, would fetter the Ti-ping cause, and could not, therefore, be granted. It was objected that no proofs had been advanced as to the alleged losses by British subjects, or that such losses had been caused by the Ti-pings; and that, if the losses had taken place, the British ought to have complained at once to the local officers, instead of waiting many months before complaining at all. It was also pointed out that, if the British flag were permitted to cover non-British vessels, the Ti-pings might see themselves deprived of nearly the whole of their customs revenue.

Bingham, by Hope's direction, at once answered with a threat to use force. It would occupy much more space than can be afforded here were I to follow out the arguments by which Sir James persuaded himself that it was his duty to prevent the Ti-pings from occupying Shanghai; but I cannot blind myself to the conclusion that, had not Hope desired hostilities, hostilities could very easily and honourably have been avoided. It was a case, and a case not altogether creditable, of the "prancing pro-consul" leading his countrymen into devious and dangerous paths ere they realised whither they were bound, or had time to inquire whether or not good reasons summoned them. There is a proverb that adversity makes us acquainted with strange bed-fellows. A forward policy did as much for Hope. Not many months earlier, Commander Nowell Salmon, in Central America, had seized the filibuster William Walker, and handed him over for execution to the authorities of Honduras. Sir James Hope now associated himself with William Townsend Ward, who had been one of Walkers lieutenants, and who, still a filibuster, happened to be, in 1862, engaged on behalf of the Chinese Imperialists.

On February 21st, 1862, Hope began operations against the rebels by landing a naval brigade of 350 men and a 6-pr. rocket-tube, which, with about 600 disciplined Chinese under Ward, and 160 French seamen under the French Rear-Admiral Protêt, drove the small and ill-armed Ti-ping garrison from the village of Kaokiau, killing more than 100 of them, and suffering a loss of only 1 French seaman killed. A similarly one-sided engagement took place on February 28th at Seadong; and on March 1st, having been reinforced from Shanghai, the allies attacked the fortified village of Hsiautang, near Minghong, about twenty miles from Shanghai. About 100 rebels were killed and 300 taken prisoners, the assailants not losing a man. On April 4th a stockaded camp at Wongkadzu, twelve miles from Shanghai, was shelled till the rebels quitted it. They were pursued, and about 600 of them were killed, while the allies, who had been again reinforced, had but 1 killed and 2 wounded. On April 5th 300 rebels were killed at the capture of Lukakong, the assailants once more having no casualties. They had, however, been repulsed on the previous day, and Hope himself had been slightly wounded. On April 17th, Chepoo, a village seven miles up a creek running into the Woosung river, twelve miles above Shanghai, was bombarded and rushed, the allies having but 1 killed and 2 wounded, but the Ti-pings suffering a loss estimated at 900. On May 1st, after four days' operations, the city of Kahding was taken, the European allies capturing 1000 prisoners and killing "some hundreds," while their Chinese colleague, General Lee, cut off the retreat of many others and "destroyed 2500 of the enemy" (Staveley's dispatch of May 3rd).

These operations cost the allies not more than five or six people wounded. On May 12th the walled city of Tsingpoo was escaladed. About 2500 Ti-pings were killed, and the whole of the rest of the garrison was taken prisoners. The allies here had but 2 killed and 10 wounded, though they also lost an artillery officer from exposure and over-exertion. The village of Najoor was taken on May 17th. This capture cost the life of the French Rear-Admiral Protêt and the wounding of 15 other British and French; but the Ti-pings had 500 killed. On May 20th the small town of Cholin, twenty-six miles S.S.W. of Shanghai and two miles from the sea, was bombarded and stormed. Here a most disgraceful and indiscriminate massacre took place, even women and children not being spared (Overland Trade Report, June 10th. See also North China Herald. The French, announcing that they were avenging Protêt, were the worst offenders). About 3000 Chinese perished. The allies had 1 killed and 4 wounded. Up to that time Sir James Hope and General Staveley, in the neighbourhood of Shanghai, had met only ill-armed Ti-pings. Upon receipt of intelligence that the Chung-wang, with a large and probably a more formidably-equipped army, had taken the field, and invested Kahding, and was threatening Tsingpoo, they returned to the treaty port. A half-hearted attempt to relieve Kahding was abandoned, owing to the immense numbers of rebels near it; but the only loss suffered by the British ere they retreated was 1 killed and 4 wounded. The Naval Brigade employed in these various affairs was drawn mainly from the Imperieuse, 51, screw (flag), Captain George Ommanney Willes, C.B.; Pearl, 21, screw, Captain John Borlase, C.B., who generally commanded; and Vulcan, 6, screw trooper, Commander Augustus Chetham Strode.

All this was done professedly in the interests of European commerce. It would hardly have been done had the merchants been first consulted. Messrs. Jardine, Matheson and Co., in their circular of February 27th, complained, not of what had been done by the Ti-pings, but of what was about to be done by the allies. They wrote:- "The policy the allied commanders are adopting will, it is feared, lead to disastrous consequences. ... Our interests call for a strict neutrality; but, so far from this course being pursued, our last advices report a combined expedition of English and French marines and sailors, in conjunction with a force of Imperialists, commanded in person by their respective admirals, against a body of some 6000 rebels which, of course, they defeated with great slaughter."

Nor, after he had begun hostilities, was Sir James Hope consistent. He grounded his action on the possibility that the advancing Ti-pings might destroy supplies. After describing his operations, he said :- "All these camps, which contained large quantities of rice collected from the surrounding country, were burnt, and the grain destroyed."

Moreover, only a few days before the attack on Wongkadzu, the Flamer destroyed a flotilla of 300 Ti-ping boats "deeply laden with rice and live stock."

In the meantime Ningpo had been taken by the rebels. Mr. Consul Harvey reported that it was held with "wonderful moderation." On April 22nd, during certain rejoicings there, some shots were fired wildly in the direction of the foreign settlement, and, it was alleged, killed two or three Chinese. The true facts were never established; but when Commander Robert George Craigie, of the Ringdove, 4, screw, wrote to the local authorities on the subject, he received a civil reply and a promise that the offenders, when discovered, should be severely punished. On April 29th Captain Roderick Dew, in the Encounter, arrived off Ningpo from Shanghai. On the 27th he wrote to the local authorities, expressing his satisfaction at the replies and promises, and added that, in consequence of their nature- "We shall not insist on the demolition of the battery at the point, but we still do that you remove the guns. ... We again inform you that it, is the earnest wish of our chiefs to remain neutral, and on good terms with you at Ningpo. ..."

But on the very day after he had written so condonatory an epistle, he addressed the local authorities with a demand for the pulling down of the battery alluded to, and for the removal of all guns opposite the foreign settlement. After professing his unwillingness to be obliged to resort to force, and his desire to be neutral as between the rebels and the Imperialists, he threatened to destroy the battery and capture Ningpo if his demands were not complied with within twenty-four hours. The rebel leaders protested that the battery was designed, not to injure foreigners but to defend the city, and that the guns had the same object; whereupon Captain Dew, who acted, no doubt in accordance with the private instructions of Sir James Hope, made further demands in a letter of May 2nd. The rebels, on the 3rd, referred to the explanations which had been already tendered and accepted as satisfactory, and, while once more pointing out that the offending guns were absolutely necessary for the defence of the position against the Imperialists, went so far as to offer to block up the embrasures of certain pieces.

Thus matters rested for a day or two. On the 5th Consul Harvey heard from the ex-governor of Ningpo that he was about to attack the city with a strong force, and that the support of the British and French admirals was solicited. Harvey communicated this to Captain Dew, who, going down the river, saw the ex-governor and the leader of the Imperial fleet which was to take part in the attack. A forward policy, as we have seen, had made Hope and Protêt the abettors of a filibuster. The same vicious system now made Dew the accomplice of a pirate; for the leader of the Imperial fleet was none other than Apak, a notorious freebooter, whom, like other criminals and scoundrels, the Chinese government did not hesitate to take into favour and to employ in its hour of need. Reporting on the 7th to Hope, Dew wrote:- "I told them that, in consequence of the rebels refusing certain demands we had made, I should have no objection to their passing up, but that they were not to open fire until well clear of our men-of-war."

In consequence of Dew's permission, Apak and his junks passed up; and on May 9th Consul Harvey reported to Mr. Bruce that the Chinese fleet-was "lying in front of our settlements," making preparations for an assault on Ningpo. Dew, on April 18th, had written to the Ti-ping chiefs that he would "not even allow the foreign settlement to harbour the Imperialists," provided that a battery (which on the 27th he had said might remain) were pulled down. He knew that the place could not be defended without the battery; and he knew that, if the Imperialists were allowed to place themselves opposite the foreign settlement, that settlement might be said to "harbour the Imperialists," since the Ti-pings could not then defend themselves at all without endangering the settlement, besides endangering the European men-of-war which were lying beyond it.

Early on May 10th the Imperialists, who had previously informed Captain Dew and Consul Harvey "in a private manner" of their intention, began to attack Ningpo, advancing from the direction of the foreign settlement, and then manoeuvring round and round the British and French vessels, and firing when in such positions as prevented the Ti-pings from replying without imperilling the Europeans. Dew never enforced his stipulation that the Imperialists should keep clear of his men-of-war; and, in his dispatch, he was so disingenuous as to say nothing of the methods whereby, at length, the Ti-pings were unwillingly induced to fire in a direction of the settlement and ships. He does not say, as is perfectly true, that for some time the Ti-pings did not reply at all; and that, when they did at length fire in self-defence, they began by firing muskets only, deeming that they had less control over the projectiles from their heavy guns. What he does say in his letter to Hope is :- "You are aware, Sir, that the rebel chiefs had been informed that if they again fired either on our ships or in the direction of the settlement, we should deem it a casus belli. This morning at 10 A.M., the Kestrel, and French vessels Etoile and Confucius were fired on by the point battery. I cleared for action in this ship, when a volley of musketry was fired on us from the bastion abreast. The undermentioned vessels, viz., Encounter, Ringdove (Com. Robert George Craigie), Kestrel (Lieut. Henry Huxham) and Hardy (Lieut. Archibald George Bogle.), with the Etoile and Confucius, French gunboats, now opened fire with shell on the walls and batteries, which was replied to with much spirit from guns and small-arms. ..."

It must be admitted that, on the 8th, in an ultimatum to the Ti-pings, he had written :- "We now inform you that we maintain a perfect neutrality; but if you fire the guns or muskets from the battery or walls opposite the settlement on the advancing Imperialists (thereby endangering the lives of our men and people in the foreign settlement), we shall then feel it our duty to return the fire and bombard the city."

It was equivalent to saying: "We are neutral, provided that you do not defend yourselves."

At 2 P.M., after a continuous bombardment, the city was stormed; and at 5, when all opposition had ceased, the ex-governor and his troops landed, and received charge of the city from Captain Dew, who re-embarked his brigade. The rebels, on evacuating the place, left behind them 100 killed. The British loss was 3 killed and 23 wounded.

The rebels had at least behaved with moderation during their occupation of Ningpo. According to the correspondence of the China Mail of May 22nd, the pirates who supplanted them committed the most revolting atrocities on the 10th, 11th, and 12th. The Hongkong Daily Press began its comments on the affair by saying: "There never was a falser, more unprovoked, or more unjustifiable act than the taking of Ningpo by the allies from the Taipings." The Overland Trade Report said: "So much mystery and double-dealing has been practised by the allies to wrest this port from the Taipings, and so little regard for veracity pervades the official dispatches regarding their doings, that the truth is most difficult to arrive at, and has certainly never yet been published. ... The mode of accomplishing this design reflects indelible disgrace on British prestige. ..."

It has been mentioned that, upon learning that the Chung-wang had collected a huge army for the recovery of his posts near Shanghai, Sir James Hope and General Staveley withdrew to that city. The only place of importance which they continued to hold beyond its immediate precincts was Soongkong, which they garrisoned in conjunction with some of Ward's disciplined Chinese. The rebels made a determined effort at daylight on May 30th, 1862, to carry Soongkong by storm, but were bloodily repulsed, mainly by the instrumentality of a detachment from the Centaur, 6, paddle, Commander John Eglinton Montgomerie. On June 2nd, however, the Ti-pings won a small success outside the town, driving a body of Imperialists from a stockade, and capturing a gig belonging to the Centaur, and a number of Chinese gunboats in a neighbouring creek. By means of a sortie, the gig and some of the gunboats, were retaken by the British and Ward's Chinese; and it is noteworthy that, in spite of what had happened at Ningpo and elsewhere, the gig's crew, and other Europeans who were taken in the gunboats, were not harmed during the time when they remained in Ti-ping hands. Other Europeans, including one Forrester, a filibuster friend of Ward, were liberated after the recapture of Tsingpoo by the Ti-pings on June 10th, although European advisers of the Chung-wang advocated the wisdom of retaining the prisoners as hostages.

Sir James Hope raised the siege of Soongkong by despatching thither reinforcements under Captain John Borlase, C.B.; whereupon the Chung-wang, with the bulk of his army, withdrew to Nankin.

At about that time the Imperial government at Pekin was warned from London that Great Britain would "not go on protecting Shanghai for ever", and was encouraged to procure foreign ships and foreign officers for the purpose. Captain Sherard Osborn, C.B., R.N., was induced to engage himself as admiral; and the British government, suspending the Foreign Enlistment Act, passed an Order in Council on August 30th, which authorised the fitting out and manning of vessels of war for the service of the Emperor of China. Vessels were accordingly fitted out in England; and they proceeded to China; but the entire arrangement, entered into by Prince Kung in an unofficial capacity, was disavowed by the Emperor and his advisers when the flotilla reached what was to have been the scene of its operations.

The vessels which went out from England to join this extraordinary force (others were procured, and armed and manned in China), and the officers of the Royal Navy who found employment in them, were as set forth below. Other officers were taken from the Indian Navy and from the mercantile marine:-

Keangsoo (flag), wooden, paddle, 1000 tons, 300 H.P. nom. (built at Southampton, 1862-63, for the Chinese service): Com. Charles Stuart Forbes (capt.); Sub-Lieut. Francis Charles Vincent (lieut.); Surg. John Elliott (surg.-in-chief)
Kwangtung, iron, paddle, 522 tons, 150 H.P. nom. (built by Messrs. Laird, 1862-63, for the Chinese service): Lieut. William Allen Young, R.N.R. (com.) ; Lieut. Charles Edward Burlton (lieut.)
Tientsin, iron, screw, 445 tons, 80 H.P. nom. (built by Messrs. Laird, 1862, for the Chinese service): ex-Com. Beville Granville Wyndham Nicolas (capt.).
Pekin (ex-H.M.S. Mohawk), screw sloop: Capt. Hugh Talbot Burgoyne, V.C. (capt.) ; Lieut, Henry Mortlock Ommanney (lieut.); Asst.-Surg. Frederick Piercy (surg.)
Amoy (ex-H.M.S. Jasper), screw gun-vessel: Lieut. Arthur Salwey (com.); Sec.-Master Alfred Frederick Pearce (sub-lieut.)
China (ex-H.M.S. Africa}, screw sloop: Lieut. Noel Osborn (com.) ; Lieut. George Morice (lieut.) ; Asst.-Surg. Henry Fegan (surg.).
Thule, purchased screw schooner; tender to Keangsoo. Ballarat, purchased steam store-ship: Master Stephen J. W. Moriarty (com.).

The Imperialists were willing even then to take over the flotilla, provided it should be placed under the control of the provincial authorities; but to such a course Captain Osborn refused to agree; and ultimately he returned to England, the vessels also returning, or being sold. During the brief stay of the flotilla in Chinese waters, some of the officers and men belonging to it behaved in such a fashion that there was a general sense of relief among the European residents upon its departure. The disappearance of the "Vampires," as they were called, probably saved some of them from having to meet charges of piracy; for they had no commission whatsoever.

In the meantime, Captain Dew (C.B., Aug. 26th, 1862), of the Encounter, being left a nearly free hand in the vicinity of Ningpo, associated himself with Ward, a Franco-Chinese force, and the Imperialists, and, aided by the British gunboat Hardy, and the French gunboat Confucius, conducted with varying fortunes a bloody campaign in the district comprising Tsekie, Yuyaou, Fungwha, and Shousing.

Shousing is more than a hundred miles from Ningpo - quite outside the radius, that is to say, of any operations ever contemplated by Hope and Bruce, when they determined to keep clear a certain region round the treaty ports; so that when, early in 1863, after the Imperialists, with their Anglo-Chinese and Franco-Chinese allies, had been badly defeated before that town, and Dew went to the spot with a 68-pr., in charge of Lieutenant Edward Charles Tinling, the Captain of the Encounter was at length checked by his superiors. The fact that Tinling, a young officer who had been promoted for his gallantry at Ningpo, was mortally wounded in the course of another vain attempt to storm the city, called attention to the loose and semi-piratical manner in which the war was being conducted; and Rear-Admiral Augustus Leopold Kuper, C.B. (Apptd. Feb. 8th, 1862), who, at the end of the previous October, had relieved Sir James Hope as Commander-in-Chief, was, perhaps, less tolerant of such excesses than his capable but too truculent predecessor had been. There was at once an outcry, in England as well as in China, in Parliament as well as in the street; and, by direction of the Admiralty, Captain Dew was at length informed officially that he had exceeded his instructions. It was high time. Not only in China had Great Britain been venturing upon paths which, with more honour, might have been avoided. The same newspapers which chronicled the doings of Dew, and the fitting out of the Anglo-Chinese flotilla under Captain Sherard Osborn, recorded the operations of the Confederate cruisers, which would have never harried the Federal trade at sea had Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, and Mr. Gladstone been thoroughly scrupulous in their interpretation of the word "neutrality."

The Navy was concerned in yet one more operation against the Ti-pings ere Sir James Hope handed over his command to Rear-Admiral Kuper. In October, 1862. the Imperialists informed General Staveley that if he would recapture Kahding for them, they would place a garrison in it. The town was accordingly bombarded for two hours on October 24th, and then taken by storm by a force made up of the disciplined Chinese, who, since Ward's death, were commanded by an American named Burgevine; some French troops, some more Chinese, under Lieutenant Kingsley, R.A., and Lieutenant Crane, R.A., and a Naval Brigade, composed of 570 officers and men from the Imperieuse, Euryalus, Pearl, Vulcan, Starling, and Havock, under Captain John Borlase, C.B. The brigade lost 11 men wounded, one mortally. General Staveley, in his dispatch, mentioned with approval the names of Commander Augustus Chetham Strode, of the Vulcan, and Lieutenant John Frederick George Grant, of the same ship; and among others who were employed on the occasion were Lieutenants Arthur Hart Gurney Richardson, Edward Hobart Seymour (who will be heard of again in connection with operations in China), Henry Holford Washington, Duncan George Davidson, Horace William Rochfort, John Hamilton Colt, James Edward Hunter, Robert Peel Dennistoun, John Gabriel Yarwood Holbrook, Herbert Price Knevitt, George Henry Barnard, and George Poole; together with Captains John Yate Holland, R.M., and Ebenezer Tristram Thomas Jones, R.M., and Lieutenant William Stewart, R.M.A. The rebels are said to have had 1500 killed and wounded, while the Imperialists and allies had but 34 casualties in all. The place was at once handed over to Burgevine, who stained his success by ordering many of the 700 prisoners who fell into his hands to be blown from guns. It may be mentioned here that Burgevine was soon afterwards deposed from his command by his Chinese superiors, in consequence not of this but of other offences, and his place given to Captain Holland, R.M., aforesaid. In his hands the disciplined Chinese force did not prosper; and, upon his resignation, it was taken charge of by Major Charles George Gordon, R.E., who, engaged in a less questionable cause, perished heroically at Khartoum in 1885.


From the time of Rear-Admiral Kuper's assumption of the command in Chinese waters, the active and systematic employment of the Navy on behalf of the corrupt and unworthy government at Pekin, and against rebels who, according to their lights, were struggling for reformation, came to an end.

During the operations against the Ti-pings, the hunting down of Chinese pirates continued, among the officers most active and successful in the work being Commander John Moresby, of the Snake, 4, screw, who captured or destroyed fourteen craft belonging to these freebooters. The Pearl, 21, screw, Captain John Borlase, C.B., was conspicuous in the same kind of service, especially in May and June, 1861. The Cockchafer, 2, screw, Lieutenant Henry Lowe Holder, also distinguished herself. The scene of operations was, for the most part, off the coast of the province of Kwangtung.

Source: Clowes, William Laird: "The Royal Navy: a history from the earliest times to the death of Queen Victoria", Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1903, volume 7, 138 - 150 (1903). 

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