Page images

Shortly after, on the 10th November, another engagement occurred at Wanti, a place which was so well defended by massive mud-works that the shelling of all the artillery available scarcely made any impression upon it. When the place was surrounded by the disciplined Chinese, the Tai-pings inside rushed out and tried to escape, which led to much hand-to-hand fighting. The capture of Wanti nearly completed the investure of Soochow. The Taiho Lake was held by the steamers Hyson and Tsatlee, ou board of which a force of 200 Imperialists was placed, and which cruised off Moodow, cutting off the communication between the lake and the Siaou Mun, or small West Gate of Soochow. The next great water outlet was closed to the Rebels by 1000 Imperialist soldiers stationed at Wulungchiao, off the Pan Mun, or South Gate. The main water and road communication with the south was also closed by 1500 Imperialists stockaded on the Grand Canal at Patachiao. A small creek leading from the South-East Gate was stopped by a fleet of Imperialist gunboats. General Ching's force, of about 4000 men, was encamped on the road to Quinsan, about two miles outside of the Lob Mun, or East Gate of Soochow. At Leeku and Wanti Colonel Gordon himself was stationed with a portion of his force, guarding the canal to Chanzu. The remainder of his army, together with 2500 Imperialist troops under Ching, and 400 of the Franco-Chinese, were moved about, and employed as occasion required. Altogether, 13,500 men were employed in November 1863 in the investment of Soochow, being arranged as follows :

In stockades,

For the field or siege, . 2,500

10,000 In the neighbourhood, however, there were about

French Force

Gordon's Force.







25,000 additional Imperialists under the Futai's brother, whose centre was at Fushan. The Tai-pings had 40,000 men in Soochow and its suburbs; the city of Wusieh held some 20,000 more; and the Faithful King had 18,000 men stationed at Mahtanchiao, a place situated between Wusieh and Soochow, and from which he could assist either city, and also could attack on the flank any

advance made by the Imperialists on the Grand Canal, the only great water and road line of communication left to the Tai-pings

This able Tai-ping leader seems to have fully understood the perilous position of his cause, but was distracted between the danger to which Nanking was exposed, and the risk of losing Hangchow and Soochow. The following despatches from him, dated near Soochow, the 10th of November 1863, were intercepted by the Imperialists, and show how alive he was to the dangerous state of the Tai-ping cause at this period :

To the Chow Wang. The other day, on the return [from Nanking ?] of the President L, I wrote you particulars of all he had to say, but have received no answer, and feel very anxious on this account News arrived yesterday from Nanking that all the works in the neighbourhood of the Kao-chiao Gate and the Shang Fang Gate had been abandoned, and that the city is hard pressed in the extreme. I am disturbed beyond measure by this intelligence; and, in view of all the President L has said, I earnestly hope that you will act in unison with the brethren, and give speedy thought to the general cause. What is most earnestly to be wished is, that Nanking may be preserved from barm. Only so long as the capital is held are our lives our own.

I look to you to act with the brethren, and not again to allow suspicions to arise. If this is once cherished, the matter is at an end

To the Hu Wang, commanding at Chanchu fu. I write again, because on the 28th October I despatched two letters by express messenger, with orders to deliver them within a certain time, in which I requested that, with the exception of those at Chanchu, all the forces might with all speed be brought together for a combined attack, in order that we might derive the benefit of conjoint action ; but a length of time has elapsed, to my great anxiety, without the receipt of an answer. The news yesterday received from Nanking, to the effect that the works around the Kao-chiao Gate have been evacuated, has probably already reached you, as you are nearer to the spot. I was disturbed and grieved beyond measure by this intelligence, and at the same time I have no troops whom I can dispose. If you, together with the Wusieh troops, can come and make a combined effort, there will be reason to hope that the siege both of Nanking and of Soochow may be broken up. The beleaguerment of Nanking is, as you are doubtless fully aware, far different now from what it has been heretofore; and I am most anxious that you should consent to join with your forces, and also combine with the troops under She Wang. If all unite in sweeping away one division of the Imps., security will accrue on all sides; and the sooner we clear away this brood the sooner we shall be able to make a combined effort to relieve Nanking. If, however, Soochow and Hangchow are endangered, not only is it useless to talk of raising the siege of Nanking, but Chanchu and Wusieh will also be as good as lost, and it will be too late for repentance then. To yourself, who know this so well, it is not necessary that I should say more.

Gordon's aim now was to cut the Rebel line of communication, so that the Faithful King might be prevented from going to the aid of the Soochow garrison. The Imperialist officers co-operating with him were afraid of thus cutting the Rebels off from any possibility of retreat; but, with better knowledge of bis enemy, he calculated that when completely surrounded, the Taipings at Soochow would be likely to surrender. One great reason for this conclusion was information he had received about dissensions among the Rebel Princes in Soochow. Of these, the Moh Wang, the most energetic



and determined, had offended his companion Chiefs, though not much superior in rank to them, and the Imperialists had already begun to hold communication with some of the other Wangs. On bearing that the steamer Firefly had been captured near Shanghai by some European Tai-ping sympathisers, Colonel Gordon resolved to hurry the operations against Soochow, so as to cut the Grand Canal communication before the Rebels could make use of the steamer of which they had obtained possession.* This was done on the 19th November, at a village called Fusaikwan, where five stockades were captured without loss on the part of the assailants. After garrisoning this last post, which completed the investment of the doomed city, Gordon proceeded to the East Gate; and being now in possession of all the exterior defences, he determined to make a vigorous attack on the north-east angle of the wall which surrounds Soochow. In order to this, however, it was necessary to capture the inner line of the outside 'defences, which was very formidable. Accordingly, a night-attack was made on the 27th November, which resulted in the defeat of Gordon's force. The position to be attacked was a stockade situated on a mound about half a mile. distant from the East Gate. The mound was covered with earthen fortifications, and its slope was well staked with short bamboos; while round it were three ditches from eight to nine feet deep, with their banks also well staked with sharp bamboos and iron spikes. Beyond these ditches there was also a long line of stockades. Gordon's plan was to surprise this place by a night-attack, and white turbans were served out to his troops in order that they might distinguish each other in the dark. About one o'clock in the morning the commander himself, accompanied by Majors Howard and Williams and two companies of bis force, advanced to the outer stockade, leaving the remainder of his force already fallen in and under orders to advance at a given signal. Everything seemed quiet, and the Tai-ping guard gave no signs of being aware of this movement, so the remainder of the force received orders

* The Firefly was sent down to Shanghai under the charge of Captain Ludlam, who had strict orders to remain there only two hours, and to return then to Wanti. As General Brown, Commander of her Majesty's forces in China, wished to go up to see Colonel Gordon, the steamer was anchored at Shanghai for a night, during which Ludlam was detained at the General's quarters by wet weather, his place an bourd being taken by Captain Dolly, besides whom there were on board, of Europeans, Mr Martin, the mate, Mr Perry, the engineer, and Lieutenant Easton of the Artillery. At midnight the steamer was boarded by several Foreigners, headed by a man who calls himself “Lin Lce" (? Lindley), who were conducted on board by Captain Ludlam's Cantonese servant, and who, suddenly closing the hatches over Captain Dolly and his companions, took possession of the vessel. It was taken up to the Faithful King, who is said to have given £20,000 for it; and White, one of the men engaged in the capture, was condemned to two years' imprisonment for this, as an act of piracy, by the consular court of Shanghai, while bis chief accomplice made his escape to England. There was also some quarrel among the captors over their ill-gotten gains, which resulted in one of their number being shot by “Lin Lee” himself. The bodies of Dolly, Martin, Perry, and Easton were afterwards found at Wusieh in a burned and mutilated state. Their captor “ Lin Lee," after reaching England, published a book on the Tai-pings ; and my reasons for not noticing that work in the body of this history are given in Appendix V.

proceed, while the advanced - guard succeeded in climbing inside the breastwork. The Moh Wang, however, was quite on the alert and prepared for this nightattack, having either received information that it was to be made, or having guessed that such was to be the case. Scarcely were all the troops up to the front, and a portion of them engaged in crossing a stockade in order to support their commander, when the Tai-pings opened a tremendous fire of grape and musketry on the whole force. The whole line of stockades held by the Rebels seemed one line of fire, while the Quinsan artillery were throwing rockets and shell into the Rebel

« PreviousContinue »