Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE OFFICIAL NAME OF GORDON'S FORCE. 125

“The Ever - Victorious Army," must be understood. “Chang Sheng Chi’un,” however — the high-sounding title which this army received at a very early period of its existence, and by which it will be known, in Chinese history at least—turned out to be by no means extravagantly hyperbolic, seeing what was the work that it accomplished in the suppression of a most formidable movement, which afficted the Flowery Land for more than ten years, which at one time had threatened to subvert not only the ruling dynasty, but also the institutions of the empire, and which had caused a prodigious amount of devastation and slaughter.

It has been mentioned that in January 1863, General Staveley, now Sir Charles Staveley and second in command of the Abyssinian Expedition; but then chief of her Majesty's forces in China, being applied to by the Futai for advice and assistance, offered to place Captain Holland, the chief of his staff, in temporary command, and recommended Captain Gordon, R.E., to the permanent command, if his Government should approve of its being taken by a British officer. While under charge of Captain Holland, in February 1863, this disciplined force made an attack upon the town of Taitsan, but was defeated by the Tai-pings, with the loss of some guns and of many officers and men, though the commander made great exertions, and exposed himself throughout the engagement to a very heavy fire. Another expedition, under Major Brennan, was repulsed in an attempt to take Fushan; and these two failures, together with the insinuations of Imperialists, made the Futai very much dissatisfied and disgusted with this far from victorious

army. But on the very day of Captain Holland's defeat a despatch arrived from Sir Frederick Bruce, sanctioning

the placing of a British officer in command of this dis-
ciplined force; and on receiving this permission, General
Staveley decided on placing Captain and Brevet-Major
Gordon of the Royal Engineers in charge whenever that
officer had finished with the survey on which he was
engaged of the country within the thirty-mile radius
round Shanghai. Captain (now Lieutenant - Colonel)
Gordon, C.B., had served before Sebastopol in the
Crimean war, and been there wounded in the trenches.
After
peace

had been made, he was employed in surveying and settling the Turkish and Russian frontier in Asia, a work of no little danger and difficulty, owing to the wild character of the tribes of Armenia and Koordistan. Engaged in the expedition against Peking, he continued on service in China after our difficulties with the Imperial Government had been arranged ; and in the end of 1861 made a long journey from that capital to the Chotow and Kalgan Passes on the Great Wall, striking down from the latter place through Shensi, and passing Taiyuen, the capital of that province, a city before un visited by foreigners, unless by Catholic priests in disguise. In his new position as commander of the Ever-Victorious Army, Colonel Gordon did not fail to display the judgment and tireless energy which bad characterised his brief but not undistinguished career. Indeed, it very soon became apparent that the Tai-pings had to meet a more formidable opponent than any they had before encountered, and one who knew how to break their ranks, not less by his skill in the arts of war than by his personal prestige, and by the assurance which his character soon inspired, that those who gave up their arms to him would receive humane and honourable treatment.

Some curiosity may be felt in regard to the composition, arms, rates of pay, and so forth, of this disciplined

[ocr errors]

COLONEL GORDON'S PREVIOUS SERVICES.

127

Chinese force which Colonel Gordon now undertook to command; and, moreover, without such knowledge his operations and the state of affairs in China can hardly be understood. Its origin under Ward has already been noticed, and as further organised by Gordon it may now be described generally.

The commissioned officers were all Foreigners—Englishmen, Americans, Germans, Frenchmen, and Spaniards, but Americans were in the majority. Among them were to be found many seafaring men, and old soldiers of our infantry regiments who had purchased their discharge. As a rule they were brave, reckless, very quick in adapting themselves to circumstances, and reliable in action; but, on the other hand, they were troublesome when in garrison, very touchy as to precedence, and apt to work themselves about trifles into violent states of mind. Excited by Rebel sympathisers at Shanghai, and being of different nationalities, one half of them were usually in a violent state of quarrel with the other ; but this, of course, was often an advantage to the commander. The non-commissioned officers were all Chinese, selected from the ranks; but very few of these were advanced to the higher grade, as it was found that, on such promotion, the most zealous sergeants became lazy and useless.

Up to the capture of Quinsan in May 1863, the privates were principally natives of Kiangsoo and Chekiang, inferior to Cantonese and Northerners ; but after that date the force was largely recruited from the captured Rebels, who were from all parts of China, and who, having been accustomed to very hard work and no pay, found the new service an elysium, and when taken one day, never objected to going into action against their old comrades the next.

[ocr errors]

Per Mensem

42 0 0
30 0 0

The force varied in strength from 3000 to 5000 men, divided into from five to six infantry regiments, with four batteries siege, and two batteries field, artillery. Each infantry regiment consisted, when complete, of six companies, averaging 500 men in all, as follows:

Foreigners. 1 Colonel or Lieutenant-Colonel,

at £75 to £85 1 Major,

£60 to £70
1 Captain and Adjutant,

£50 0 0
6 Captains, each
6 Lieutenants, each.

Chinese
6 Colour-Sergeants, each
12 Sergeants, each
24 Corporals, each
480 Privates, each.

1 17 6 When in garrison, they had to find themselves out of their pay; but when in the field, each man received daily, in addition to his pay, 2 lb. rice, lb. salt pork or 2 lb. salt fish, besides vegetables and oil.

The artillery was commanded by one colonel at £70 to £75 per mensem. Each battery consisted usually of

4 0 0
3 0 0
2 10 0

[ocr errors]

9

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The whole of the men and officers were paid monthly by a Chinese official of high civil rank, Paymaster Kab, a good man of business, well educated, honest, pleasing in manner, and of venerable appearance. The payment

RATES OF PAY IN THE FORCE.

129

was made in Mexican dollars, in presence of the commander, Colonel Gordon, “whose aim," one of his officers --a commissioned officer in H.M. service-writes, “ever was to prevent, as far as possible, squeezing and the misappropriation of funds." The dollars required for these payments monthly varied from the value of £14,000 to £26,000, and at no time were the men ever kept more than ten days in arrears. In addition to this rate of pay, on the dissolution of the force in 1864, the officers received large douceurs, varying from £200 to £1600 each, and the men each from £2 to £3, those wounded receiving further donations, according to the nature of their wounds.

In General Ward's time it had been customary for the Ever-Victorious troops to receive from about £15,000 to £20,000 for each city they captured, the sum being agreed upon before the assault was made; but on the appointment of a British officer to command, this practice was discontinued, and it was agreed that the troops should be regularly paid so much per diem, and receive, for special feats, anything which the Futai might deem it advisable to give. The high rates of pay were not necessary latterly, for recruits offered themselves in abundance ; but no change in this respect could have been effected without causing delay in the operations, and perhaps danger. It would certainly have caused a revolt, as both officers and men would have been perfectly agreed on this subject; for if the pay of either the officers or of the men had been cut down first, the other section would naturally have expected their turn to come next, and would have acted accordingly. When the force was originated by Ward, high rates of pay were fixed, because the Chinese objected to being drilled and disciplined by Foreign Devils in a manner totally

« PreviousContinue »