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BURGEVINE'S HISTORY AND FATE.
A THIRD MUTINY-SITUATION OF SOOCHOW-GORDON'S TROUBLES
-BURGEVINE'S PREVIOUS CAREER-HE JOINS THE TAI-PINGSALARM CAUSED IN SHANGHAI-GORDON'S PROVIDENTIAL ESCAPE -THE FOREIGN ALLIES DESERT THE REBELS— POLITE INTERCHANGES BETWEEN BURGEVINE AND JONES BURGEVINE ATTEMPTS AGAIN TO JOIN THE TAI-PINGS— HIS SEIZURE BY THE CHINESE AUTHORITIES - HIS REPORTED ACCIDENTAL DEATH THE DOUBT WHICH RESTS OVER HIS FATE.
No sooner was the fracas with General Ching settled than another and more serious danger began to manifest itself in alarming reports concerning the intentions of Burgevine, formerly commander of the disciplined Chinese. It was known that he was enlisting loose characters at Shanghai, and was also in close communication with Foreigners who had originally been in the force, but who had left it. Burgevine, however, wrote to Colonel Gordon, with whom he was on good terms, on the 21st July, in the following words :-“ You may hear a great many rumours concerning me, but do not believe
any of them. I shall come up and have a long talk with you. Until then adieu.” This was not very explicit or reassuring, but on the strength of it Gordon wrote to the Futai and became surety that Burgevine would not make any attempt in favour of the Tai-pings.
The rumours about their old commander bad an unsettling effect on the minds of the officers; and just before an expedition was about to start for Wokong, there was a mutiny of the artillery officers, who were annoyed at a change being made in their commander. On the 26th July they all joined in a round-robin, refusing to serve under the new commander, Major Tapp, or to accompany the expedition. In this case, though Colonel Gordon, as he afterwards told them, bad all the inclination to shoot one or two of the leaders, he had not the power, as all the officers of the force would bave resented such a proceeding; so the course he pursued was to exercise all bis personal influence in collecting any men who would offer to serve the guns, and in getting these latter started without the artillery officers. The guns were fortunately in the boats, and the common artillerymen were quite willing to go, so the expedition started without the officers. At dusk, however, a letter came from these now penitent gentlemen, begging that their conduct might be overlooked for that one time. Considering all the circumstances, this had to be done, the more especially as their place could not effectively be supplied. Though given to imaginary grievances, the officers of the force were gallant men, who evinced much ingenuity and quickness, and were wonderfully sharp in acquiring .a knowledge of the country. One cause of their uneasiness was a dread of their places being supplied by officers from the British army; but of this there was little likelihood at the time, owing to the General Order, which condemned officers so acting to half-pay. They would have had less suspicion of their commander had they known that at this very time he was being urged in influential quarters, and by well-wishers to China, to retire from his position and allow the Rebels
a chance of advance, in order to force the Chinese authorities to grant terms to the force such as would induce British officers to serve.*
In order to explain the expeditions which now followed, it must be borne in mind that at this period the great object of the Imperial Government was the reduction of Soochow, the capital of the province, situated on the Grand Canal. Looking at the nature of the country and its system of water-communication, Colonel Gordon deemed it best to approach it gradually from all sides and cut its communications, rather than advance to an immediate attack. Soochow is peculiarly situated with regard to water-communication, for it stands on the Grand Canal, and is pretty close to the Taho or Taiho Lake,t a sheet of shallow water fifty miles from north to south, and nearly as many in breadth. From the Grand Canal to this lake there are four entrances open to steamers. One of these is at Kahpoo, a place ten miles south of Soochow, and there the Rebels had two strong stone forts which it was of special importance to take, not only because they secured a good communication between the lake and the canal, but because they commanded the direct road from Soochow to the Tai-ping cities in the south. The city of Wokong, three miles south of Kahpoo, was also in possession of the Rebels, and it was thought best to attack it first.
The force employed consisted of about 2200 men, infantry and artillery, in boats, with the armed steamers Firefly and Cricket, who captured Kahpoo on the 27th July. The most exciting part of the affair occurred early on the 28th July, at a Rebel fort only a few.
* Private correspondence.
† As Tai means “Great” and Ho “ Lake” or “Water," to speak of the Tai-ho Lake reminds one of the Indian griffin's “ Boy, bring some ag low;" but the phrase has become too familiar to be changed in a work of this kind.
SITUATION OF SOOCHOW.
hundred yards from Wokong, which bad been left unoccupied. As soon as the Tai-pings, however, saw the advance of the Ever-Victorious Army, they rushed out to occupy this fort; aud Colonel Gordon pushed out the 4th and 6th Regiments to cut them off and endeavour to get in before them. An exciting race ensued, and the Tai-pings managed to get in first; but the 6th Regiment was so little behind that they had immediately to run out again, with some loss. Leaving this regiment in occupation, Gordon took other stockades which commanded the town, so that every exit from the city was closed by 10 A.M. After a vain attempt to force a passage, the garrison surrendered, and about 4000 prisoners were taken, among whom were many chiefs, including the second in command—the leader, Yang Wang, a relative of Chung Wang, having escaped the night before. Among those captured were a theatrical company who had just come up from Hangchow, and were sorely troubled at such a termination of their mimic fights. The Imperialist general Ching soon arrived, and was very anxious to get hold of the prisoners; but only 1500, including none of the chiefs, were given him, to be made soldiers, under a promise that they should receive good treatment, and these had the option of going with the disciplined force. However, Gordon soon heard that five of these prisoners had been beheaded by Cbing; and this, together with his determination to quit the command on account of the non-payment of claims which the force bad necessarily incurred, determined him to leave for Shanghai. . At this time the commander of the Ever-Victorious Army must have had what many people would think the most pressing inducements to give up the command, aud bis army, and its victories. The service he was on was not only one of incessant toil, but of more than ordinary exposure to danger, as he had often himself to lead assaults, and, seizing reluctant officers, to march them into the thick of the fire. Some of these officers were disaffected towards him, and he was even looked upon unfavourably by a portion of his own troops. The Imperialist authorities, especially the redoubtable Ching, were a constant source of trouble, and the Futai took no steps to discharge the pressing claims of creditors against the force. At the same time influential persons among his countrymen were urging him to resign. But when he arrived at Shanghai on the 8th August at 8 P.M., and learned that General Burgevine had left for Soochow with a large party of Foreigners in order to join the Tai-ping ranks, Gordon gave up his intention of resigning, and rode up to Quinsan that night in order to resume his command; because he did not think it creditable to leave the Imperialists when they were in so great a danger; because a change of command at such a crisis might have been most detrimental to the whole of the community at Shanghai ; and also because he felt he had pledged himself to the Futai that Burgevine would not join the Rebels.
As this is the turning-point in Henry Andrea Bur: gevine's eventful history, it may be well to say a word as to bis antecedents. Like Ward, he was one of those American adventurers, who, trained by the circumstances of their country to love fighting, could find no sufficient outlet for their restless energies before the great American war came to their relief. He was a Southerner by birth, and superior to Ward both in manners and education, though inferior in coolness and in the choice of means to an end. The latter filibuster had a nasty side-look, and a face which boded no good to any one in particular,