Page images

the much higher position afterwards conferred upon him, is enough to confute Mr Lay's statement* that this officer never held an Imperial commission. The following are the terms in which the conferring of this grade was announced :

Despatch from Li, Governor of the Province of Kiangsoo,
to Major Gordon.

May 16th, 1863. The Governor has already communicated a copy of the Memorial to the Throne, despatched on the 12th April from his camp at Shanghai, in which he solicited the issue of a decree conferring temporary rank as a Chinese Tsung-Ping (BrigadierGeneral) upon the English officer Gordon, on his taking command of the Ever-Victorious Force. He is now in receipt of an express from the Board of War, returning his Memorial with the note that a separate Decree has been issued to the Prince of Kung and the Council of State ; and on the same day he received, through the Prince and Council, copy of the Decree issued to them on the 9th May in the following terms :

Gordon, on succeeding to the command of the EverVictorious Force, having displayed both valour and intelligence, and having now, with repeated energy, captured Fushan, We ordain that he at once receive rank and office as a Chinese Tsung-Ping, and We at the same time command Li to communicate to him the expression of OUR approval. Let Gordon be further enjoined to use stringent efforts for maintaining discipline in the Ever-Victorious Force, which has fallen into a state of disorganisation, and thus to guard against the recurrence of former evils. Respect this!"

The Governor has accordingly to forward a copy of the foregoing Decree, to which the officer in question will yield respectful obedience. Translated by

(Signed) WM. S. T. MAYERS,

Interpreter H. Mi's Consulate.

General Staveley having now resigned his command

* In Our Policy in China,' a pamphlet published in 1864.



from ill-health, Major-General Brown was in command of the British troops in China, and Burgevine reappeared on the stage, accompanied by an Imperial commissioner from Peking. As has been pointed out, there is no reason for supposing that the Prince of Kung had any wish to reinstate the American in his former position ; and Sir Frederick Bruce writes only of the commissioner as having been sent down “to settle the affair with the Governor”-namely, L1 ;* and he had previously expressed his opinion on the subject, and given his authority in the following passage in an official letter to Brigadier-General Staveley:t As respects Ward's corps, I regret that circumstances should have led to a misunderstanding between Mr Burgevine and the Governor, as the accounts I had received of the former led me to think that he was well fitted for the post. But as this breach has taken place, it appears to me that the great amount of foreign property at Shanghai renders it desirable that this force should be commanded and officered by men who are not adventurers, and who afford a guarantee, by the position they occupy in the military service of their own country, that they are both competent and to be relied upon; otherwise we should be constituting a force which would be as dangerous to us as the insurgents themselves.”

Governor Li, in a long letter on this subject, remarks that he does not wish at all to remove Colonel Gordon, who had worked night and day harmoniously with the other generals; who had already won conspicuous success; who had reorganised the force, and proved himself valiant, able, and honest. “As the people and place," he continues, “ are charmed with him, as he has already given me returns of the organisation of the force, the

* Blue-Book, China, No. 3 (1864), p. 80. + Ib., p. 68. 1 Tb., p. 82.

formation of each regiment, and the expenses, ordinary
and extraordinary, in the clearest manner, wishing to
drill our troops and save our money, it is evident that
he fully comprehends the state of affairs; and, in the
expedition he is preparing, bis men delightedly obey
him, and


order. I cannot, therefore, remove him without cause.” Something very much the opposite of this is said of poor Burgevine, whom, it is evident, Li, and not without some reason, would not have at any price.

In order to understand the operations which followed, it should be noted that the field of action was the large peninsula formed by the river Yangtsze and the Bay of Hangchow, an immense alluvial flat in Kiangnan,* having a superficial area of nearly 50,000 square miles. This district has been raised from the bed of the sea by the vast deposits of the great muddy river Yangtsze, and, though thickly peopled, it is for the most part only a few feet above the level of the ocean, and in

me places is even lower than that level. Here and there isolated hills rise to the height of a few hundred feet, but for the most part there is a dead level, rich with trees, growing various kinds of cereals in great abundance, thickly studded with villages and towns, and intersected in every direction by rivers, creeks, and canals. On looking across any portion of this great plain, boats, with their mat sails, appear to be moving in every direction over the land, and in some places the waters spread out into lakes of considerable size, such as the Taiho. Except on a few lines, there are no conveniences for transit by land but narrow footpaths,

Kiangnan signifies “ South of the river," and comprises great part of Chekiang, together with that portion of Kiangsoo which lies south of the Yangtsze.



where people can only go in Indian file; but the network of waters affords great facility for the movement of boats and of small steamers. In order to realise this district as it was from 1861 to 1864, we must conceive the Tai-pings coming down upon its peaceful villages and rich towns, moving flags, beating gongs, destroying images and temples, seizing valuables, occupying houses, dealing with all disobedience according to the exterminating decree of Heaven, and being a terror unto young women ; but still not at first destroying the crops or many of the houses, or slaying many of the males. Then we have the Allies driving them back, firing into their masses of men with long-range rifles, and pounding at their stockades with heavy guns and shells. On the retirement of these we have the Rebels again advancing to the neighbourhood of Shanghai, but this time in an infuriated demoniac state, burning and destroying everything in order that there may be a waste round the starving city, and murdering or driving before them all the villagers. Lastly, the Ever-Victorious Army appears on the scene, not by any means always victorious, but very frequently so, and bringing European drill and officers, with heavy artillery, to bear on a settlement of the question. Let this be embellished (as the scene appeared to me in 1860) with views of rich fertile plains, where the crops are trampled down or consumed, a few narrow bridges of the willow-plate pattern, a dilapidated pagoda or two, broken blackened walls of village houses, the deserted streets of towns, innumerable swollen, blackened corpses lying on the slimy banks of the muddy streams, or rotting underneath the graceful bamboos, red flames at night flashing up against the deep dark sky;-let us imagine, also, the Tai-pings throwing themselves into all sorts of postures impossible to the Euro

power of

pean, and uttering cries scarcely less painful or hideous than those from the ravished villages; and we may form some conception of the great Chinese tragedy which was enacted in Kiangnan.

The next movement of the Sungkiang force was against the large town of Quinsan; and in the approach to that place good service was done by the steamer Hyson, a species of amphibious boat, which possessed the moving upon land as well as upon water, for she could drive over the bed of a creek upon her wheels when there was not sufficient depth of water to keep her afloat. But at this time, the end of April, the force was diverted to Taitsan by certain events which it is of importance to notice, because they had no small share in afterwards causing what has been ridiculously called “ the massacre of Soochow.” It is to these events that we must chiefly look for an explanation and vindication of the execution by Governor Li of the Tai-ping kings who surrendered to him at Soochowman alleged breach of faith, which led Colonel Gordon temporarily to resign bis command, and which, misrepresented and misunderstood, gave rise to a considerable outcry both in China and in this country.

After Chanzu had yielded to the Imperialists, and Fushan was taken, the Tai-pings, at Taitsan made proposals of surrender to Governor Li, who sent up his brother with about 2000 troops to arrange the matter. Tsah, the Tai-ping chief, led the Imperialists to suppose that he was prepared to give up the place, and even accepted a large number of mandarin hats to be put on by his officers when the besiegers entered. Presents were interchanged, frequent meetings were held between the two leaders, everything seemed going on smoothly, and the 26th April was fixed for giving up the city;

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »