Page images

ing in the neighbourhood. The second storming-party, however, was also repulsed, and Major Kirkham, who led it, was severely wounded. Colonel Gordon himself, who took part in the assault, was shot through the leg ; but silencing one of his body-guard, who cried out that the commander was hit, he stood giving orders until he fainted from loss of blood, and was carried back to his boat. This was the first and only time that Gordon was wounded during his fourteen months of fighting; and the wonder only is, exposed as he constantly was, that he escaped so lightly. The sergeant-major of the 1st Regiment, which had come up the day before, mounted the breach with his regimental flag, but this was wrested from him. Notwithstanding the losses which the stormers had sustained, Major Brown, Colonel Gordon's aide-de-camp, and brother of the General commanding her Majesty's forces in China, headed a third assault, and bore his commander's flag up the breach ; but the attack failed, and he too was wounded, and had to be carried back. On this Colonel Gordon, having no fresh regiments on hand with which to make a renewed effort, determined on withdrawing his force, which was effected without further loss, the troops resuming the positions they had occupied previous to the assault. During this unsuccessful affair not less than 100 of the rank-and-file of the assailants were killed and wounded ; 15 ufficers were . wounded, and 2 officers, Major Taite and Captain Banning, were killed.

During the night frequent attempts were made by the Rebels to set fire to the boats; they also came out and attacked sentries, and even crept up on their bellies and threw powder-bags, with slow matches attached, into the tents, which caused great confusion. The whole of the troops were glad when it became light enough to move



away, which was effected with order and without further loss, though the Tai-pings made several attempts at molestation.

On the 24th the whole force was again concentrated at Liyang, where Colonel Gordon received further disastrous intelligence, being apprised that the Faithful King was himself in possession of Fushan. Immediately on learning this, though unable to stand, owing to his wound, he left the greater portion of his force in garrison at Liyang, under General Lí Adong, and himself started for Wusieh, along with the Light Artillery, the 4th Regiment, which was only 400 strong, and 600 Liyang men, who a few days before had been Tai-pings. One scarcely knows here whether most to admire the pluck, or to wonder at the confidence, of the wounded commander. However, on reaching Wusieh on the morning of the 25th, he received despatches conveying the gratifying intelligence that the enemy had been driven back from that place, that though Fushan had been retaken, Chanzu continued to hold out, and that the Imperialists still held the stockades at Chanchu. Advancing the same day about ten miles to the south-west of Kongyin, he drove parties of Rebels before him, and cut off the retreat of the Chung Wang's son, who had suffered a repulse at Chanzu, and was attempting to return to Chanchu, by the way he had gone.

Colonel Gordon's wound and weakness seemed only to have increased his eagerness to be at the Rebels ; for on the 26th he pushed on, with only his Light Artillery and 400 of his Rifles, through a district where the houses had been burned and the people butchered in every direction by the Tai-pings. At dusk they drove a Rebel force away from three burning villages, and then halted for the night, which was spent in considerable anxiety, as


during nearly the whole of it the enemy were engaged in firing on the sentries, and trying to ride through the lines of the small disciplined force. The next morning Gordon, who had to direct operations reclining in his boat, drove the Rebels out of the village they held in front of his position, but had immediately to retire before a larger body of them which came down on his boats. Nearly 100 of these latter, however, were cut off from their companions, and bayoneted by the disciplined Chinese, while another body of them were forced over a bridge under fire of a howitzer.

These operations brought Gordon's troops up to the foot of a range of hills near Chowchang, over which the Rebels were driven towards Waisoo ; but finding that, if he continued to attack the Rebels in that direction, he would drive them into a new district of country which they had not visited, and on to Chanzu, he stopped to concentrate his troops, and determined to operate against the left of the Rebel line, so as to drive the enemy on Kongyin. In these rapid operations Gordon had a special object, which justified the risk he ran, and the exertions he demanded from his troops. The Tai-pings, who had issued out of Chanchu, had taken a bend towards the shore of the Yangtsze, with the bope of obtaining possession of Quinsan; and Gordon sought to compel them to abandon that design by attacking their line not at its extremities, but at its centre, so causing them to contract like a broken-backed snake. Finding their centre to be at Waisoo, he waited a day or two till reinforced by the Liyang men, and then advanced on Waisoo, being himself with the artillery in boats, whilst Colonels Howard and Rhode proceeded by land, being ordered to incline to the right before they reached the Rebel stockades, where they would join the boats.

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

Colonel Gordon and his artillery went on till they came close to the enemy's position, but there found neither the infantry nor any signs of their appearance. The consequence was that the boats were very nearly destroyed by the Tai-pings, who came out to the attack; for the banks of the creek were too high to allow of the guns being used, and it was with great difficulty that a retreat was effected to the encampment from which he had set out. Arriving there, everything was found in confusion ; boats were leaving, men were fleeing, and naked persons were swimming the creek in their anxiety to escape from danger.

It turned out that his infantry had been repulsed, and had met with a very severe loss indeed. When they went out in the morning Colonel Rhode pushed on his regiment to the village of Waisoo, where there was a Tai-ping camp, strongly intrenched and stockaded. Instead of carrying this place at the point of the bayonet, he injudiciously halted before it for an hour, while he and Colonel Howard distributed their men by companies in several directions. This was perceived by the Taipings who swarmed among the neighbouring hills, from whence they could see how small a force was opposed to them, and in the valleys of which they had a considerable force of cavalry concealed. By degrees the Rebels worked down between Rhode and Howard. Soon they came rushing on in thousands, and the cavalry issued out of their hiding-places and attacked on both flanks. On seeing themselves thus hemmed in, the 6th, or newlyraised Liyang Regiment, was seized with panic, broke through the Rebel ranks behind, and threw themselves upon Colonel Howard's regiment, which was thus thrown into confusion, and began to retire gradually. The Taipings pressed on in thousands from every side, and their


horsemen charged into the disciplined Chinese, armed with a sword in each hand, and cutting down their enemies right and left. The result was that the 4th, the best regiment in the Ever - Victorious Army, and the 600 Liyang men took to flight. All attempts to rally them were made in vain; it was a race for life over three miles up to Lukachow, where the pursuers were checked by the reserve at the camp. About 400 men were either killed or taken prisoners, and the officers suffered especially. Colonel Rhode, who was in front of the whole affair, was fortunate enough to catch a Rebel pony, otherwise he could hardly have managed to escape. Captains Gibbon, Chirikoff, and Hughes, with Lieutenants Polkson, Graves, Pratt, and Dowling, were either killed in the fight, or taken prisoners and then murdered. None of the bodies could be recovered at the time, and great anxiety was felt as to the fate of those who had been taken prisoners, but all their bodies were afterwards found, decapitated and otherwise mutilated. It was not to be expected that the Tai-pings would spare those taken in arms against them, when the country villages around were full of young women and children whose throats the Rebels had cut, and whose bodies they had split open. This was by far the most disastrous affair which had ever happened to Colonel Gordon, and he was much incensed at the surviving officers for not having kept proper reserves and looked better after their flanks—which culpable neglect was the main cause of their being surrounded and defeated by a mere rabble, armed for the most part only with spears and knives. The Liyang Regiment fought very bravely, and so did the 4th, for some time. If the men had been formed into square, which they knew well enough how to do, they might easily have repulsed their assailants,

« PreviousContinue »