13. EMBARKATION OF THE ARMY AT TIEN-TSIN
EMBARKATION OF THE ARMY AT TIEN-TSIN. REMARKS UPON THE EFFICIENCY OF OUR GUNBOATS. REVIEW OF THE OBJECTS OBTAINED BY THE WAR.
The army commenced embarking at Tien-tsin about the middle of November, and by the exertions of our staff, and the able co-operation of the naval authorities, all were on board ship by the end of the month. The gunboats had hard v^ork, both night and day : and as the weather was very severe, their endless joumeyings from Tien-tsin to the fleet and back again were no pleasing duties. Our cavalry marched to Takoo, and embarked there; no accident occurring to any one. Upon the 19th November there was a heavy fall of snow, and the frosts at night were most trying. By the 25th of the month the Peiho was frozen over completely near the city, upon which day several of us walked across the river upon the ice. PoUtical considerations had detained us at Pekin almost to the very last day that it would have been possible to remain there without compromising our subsequent embarkation. As it was, much difficulty was experienced in getting the native followers away. Upon such occasions it is quite wonderful how people hitherto unheard of spring up; amateurs, private servants, apothecaries, &c. &c., of whose presence [p. 319] none had previously known anything, come forward at the last moment requesting passages, so much so, that in calculating for all such operations, it is invariably necessary to leave a margin for the accommodation of the tag-rag and bob-tail always certain to be there. Towards the end of the month many portions of the river were so blocked up with ice that the gunboats were sometimes three and four days in getting over the distance between Takoo and Tien-tsin. The Hindostanees, whom no amount of teaching or past experience will make provident as regards their own health, suffered considerably from the cold and exposure incident upon these unavoidable delays on the river. They were all liberally supplied with warm clothing, yet so incomprehensible are those people in* their proceedings, that it required much care to see that they used the various articles given to them. In one instance, when a vessel carrying out a number of syces (grooms) from Takoo to the fleet stuck upon the bar at the mouth of the river and wa^ detained there for about forty-eight hours before it got off, some few of the natives died from the exposure. Inquiries were instituted into the circumstance, when it was found that the warm clothing which had been served out to these people was tied up in their bundles, which all had with them, instead of being worn upon their persons. Their apathy and indifference as to future consequences had thus really occasioned their deaths; for there is every just reason for supposing that had they put on the clothing provided for their use their Uves would have been spared. At Tien-tsin, on the very coldest mornings, when snow was on the [p. 320] ground, I have seen numbers of these Hindostanee followers going about the streets with bare legs, as their custom is in India, while at that very time they had warm drawers and trousers in their possession. Officers commanding native troops there were obliged to make a pimishable offence of their omitting to clothe themselves properly. The garrison left at Tien-tsin consisted of the 2nd battaUon, 60th Eifles, 67th Eegiment, and half of the 31st Eegiment, the other half being quartered in the Takoo forts. A battery of Eoyal Artillery, one company of Eoyal Engineers, Fane’s Horse, and a battalion of Mihtary Train, with a due proportion of medical and commissariat staff, — Brigadier Staveley, C.B., being in command. This force was complete in every equipment, and provided with every comfort which it was possible to supply them with. The finest building in the place was converted into a hospital, no pains or expense being spared in fitting it up with every convenience. Indeed, if the garrison of Tien-tsin has not been comfortable during the past year, it is fi^om no want of care on the part of the Commander-in-Chief or of the staff officers who acted under his orders. The city and its suburbs are badly drained, the ground upon which they stand being so Uttle above the level of the river. After heavy rain the streets become seas of mire. Before we left all the shops were open as usual, and driving a lively trade. The pastrycook’s establishment quickly earned a well-deserved celebrity for its sponge cakes and biscuits, which were quite as good as any in Gunter’s shop. The poUteness of the shopmen soon [p. 321] made the place one of general resort. Of curiosities there were not many worth purchasiog, except what the French soldiers had still amongst them for sale. The Chinese dealers in such articles bought up eagerly all silks, jade-stone ornaments, &c. &c., which our aUies wished to dispose of, giving large prices for the latter-named article. In one instance that I knew of, an officer had purchased a jade-stone necklace, at the Pekin prize sale, for 50 dollars (about 11/.), for which he was subsequently offered 1500 taels, or 500Z. sterling. Sir Hope Grant, having remained at Tien-tsin whilst the army was embarking, left that place himself at the end of November, and proceeded to Shanghai. Up to the last moment that navigation along the Peiho was possible, our gimboats were employed in bringing up suppUes of stores from the fleet. The officers commanding those httle vessels deserve every praise for the manner in which they did their work, being always ready to oblige every one to their utmost, and making hght of all those httle difficulties and annoyances which always attend such arduous duties. The gunboat service holds a position in the navy very similar to what our Irregular Service does in the Indian army, giving young officers opportimities of commanding and acting upon their own responsibility, inculcating self-reUance, which, to both soldiers and sailors, is of such importance. This has been the means of bringiag forward some of the best officers now in her Majesty’s service, who must have been, otherwise, still holding subordinate positions. There is, however, even yet, in some quarters, a strong feeling against the employment of young men in im- [p. 322] portant posts. Considerable power is still in the hands of very old men, who frequently pooh-pooh youth, and stand up for their own ” order,” that of antiquity. Youth is frequently as much a disqualification for employment as old age ought always to be. All our transports, when leaving the Gulf of Pechili, were ordered to stop at Hong-kong, for the purpose of refitting, &c. &c., before proceeding to their final destinations. Thus ended the China War of 1860, the shortest, most brilliant, and most successful of all that we have waged with that country. Let us hope that it may be the last, by procuring for our merchants a perpetual immunity from those acts of violence and oppression, which have led to all our disputes with the Pekin Government. May its prophylactical effects enable us to trade on freely at every port along the great seaboard of the empire, and so open out new channels for our conamercial enterprise. It has cost us a large sums of money, but unlike many of our expensive European wars, we may with justice look forward to a liberal return for what we have expended. To have refrained from a war with China in 1860, and at the same time have maintained our position at the several ports where we traded, would have been impossible. If we had pocketed our defeat of 1859, and contented ourselves with written demands for apology or reparation, we might, perhaps, have struggled on for some Uttle time without any very violent rupture with the Chinese authorities; but the day must soon [p. 323] have arrived when we should have been forced to decide whether we should fight or withdraw finally from the country. The one great object which we have ever had in view there has been fi-eedom of action for our merchants, and imrestricted permission to trade with all parts of the empire. To prevent this last mentioned object has ever been the aim of all Chinese politicians. They sought to confine foreign trade to a few ports, where they wished our mercantile community to exist merely upon sufferance, and exposed to insult and exactions, in order to demonstrate pubKcly its dependent position. By Sir Henry Pottinger’s treaty, access for British subjects at all times into Canton was stipulated for, but, most improperly, never enforced By the Tien-tsin treaty of 1858, it was agreed that we should have Uberty to travel through all parts of the country, and that the treaty itself should be ratified in presence of our Minister at Pekin. When endeavouring to push his way there for that purpose, Mr. Bruce was opposed by force of arms, and prevented from accomplishing his object. Not only was the clause in the treaty which declared the unrestricted Uberty of travelling through China thus proved to be null, but even our Minister’s right of way to the capital was at once denied. That right of visiting Pekin at pleasure, and carrying on direct and personal communications with the Government there, was the principal advantage which Lord Elgin’s mission in 1858 had obtained for us; but upon our first attempt to avail ourselves of the engagement it was forcibly denied. To have quietly allowed them to recede from their contracts, [p. 324] would have been indeed a bad precedent to have established. The best guarantee we have for the fulfillment of the treaty now ratified, is the very act of ratification itself, which was a public recognition of our equality with China as a nation, and a renunciation, on their part, of those conceited notions regarding universal superiority, which has ever been one of the great difficulties in all our dealings with them. Surely no one can accuse our Government of having unnecessarily plunged into this war, although many may with justice find fault with its having been postponed so long. The British nation is always slow to enffao^e in war. John Bull has certain received notions as to right and wrong, justice and injustice, &c. &c., which, although essentially applicable in all his relations with the civilised nations of the West, are as unsuited for Eastern poUtics as red brick would be for ancient Grecian architecture. His repugnance to spUl blood has sometimes the very opposite effect of causing it to flow in quantities, which a sUght effusion earUer in the affair would have prevented. He prefers, in all matters Ukely to entail war, to concede to the utmost Umits of concession. In disputes with Asiatics such is not the line of action to pursue. To renounce any demand previously made, or to fail in enforcing any stipulated agreement, is simply to incur a reputation of weakness or cowardice with them. Notwithstanding our century’s experience in India, the EngUsh people really know Kttle of the Asiatic mind. The advice and instruction frequently put forward in print upon the subject by our Indian administrators, is rejected by the people at home. They insist upon [p. 325] considering that all our public servants in India are imbued with bigoted notions from long residence in the East, and that what is applicable to England and its people must be equally so to the enslaved negroes of America and the ancient governments of Asia. But to these, on the contrary, new ideas regarding international pohcy never penetrate, and the same motives influence the ruler and the subject now which actuated those classes when our ancestors went naked and painted their bodies sky blue. If any European monarch of the twelfth century had pursued the system of international pohcy at present general in the Western world, he must have entailed upon himself the hatred of his own people and the scorn of aU others. Such a revolution in the minds of men cannot be effected in a day. We might as well expect to christianise the Eastern nations at once, by giving them the Bible, as expect to overthrow their secular faith in pohtical economy by simply enunciating that system which our superior wisdom teaches us. To engraft the enhghtened institutions of the nineteenth, upon the ignorance of the twelth century, and expect the tree to bear fruit immediately, is folly. Before the Asiatic world can be led to beUeve in the justice of our polity, or before it will be apphcable to Eastern nations, it wiU be necessary first to raise them up to our standard of knowledge, and enable them to reason in the same logical manner with ourselves. Time, bringing with it increased learning, alone can eradicate traditional errors. If it took many centuries to overcome in us the fear of witchcraft, and to enable us to discover how wrong it was to bum our fellow-creatures for differing with [p. 326] US upon religious matters, surely many generations must pass away before our essentially British mode of proceeding in the East is appreciated there in its true hght. Year after year the local authorities of Canton oppressed our merchants, and offered insults to our officials, but rather than plunge into hostilities we left those injuries vmredressed. Every individual slight that we submitted to was the sure precursor of another, until at last an impression was established that we would sooner bear with any indignity than draw the sword. If we had insisted from the first upon the right of entry within Canton, and had been sharp in avenging at once all serious attempts at violence upon the part of the local authorities there, we should have saved the milUons which we have since had to expend in war. Nothing, however, but the presence of an armed force effecting a chronic intimidation could have enabled us to accomphsh that end; and the British nation, taking but little interest in the matter, as long as trade somehow or other went on, preferred ignoring the difficulties encountered by our officials to incurring the yearly expense which the maintenance of such a force would have entailed. So strong was our disinclination to embroil ourselves, that Sir John Davis was disgraced for having insisted upon the right of entry into Canton, and severe strictures were made by many upon those who were responsible for the active measures taken in the Arrow affair. Before entering upon the war of 1860, an ultimatum was despatched to Pekin by orders of the Home Government, offering, the most liberal terms for reconciliation. These terms were so favourable to the Imperial Government, that [p. 327] all who were ignorant of the train of reasoning common to Asiatic minds were certain of their acxieptance, and believed om* warKke preparations imcalled for in consequence. The UberaUty of the proffered terms, however, only made war the more inevitable after all. They were supposed to be dictated by fear arising from our recent defeat. By placing ourselves gratuitously in the position of suppliants we gave his Celestial Majesty cause for imagining that he was really our superior in strength, and consequently entitled to dictate terms to us. His impertinently evasive answer was the result. By the residence of our Minister at Pekin, we can now apply directly to the authorities there for redress in all matters of local grievance, and the authorities at the various ports will henceforth hesitate before they embroil themselves witlj foreigners who have a minister at the Chinese seat of government, in direct personal conmnmication with their immediate superiors there. By this war we have practically opened out the trade of the Yang-tse-kiang, whence a vastly increased commerce is to be expected. We have inflicted such a severe blow upon the inflated pride of Hien-fung, that the whole face of Chinese politics, and our relations with that country, must change, before he will again dare to insult our flag or obstruct our commerce. It is to be hoped, also, that intercourse with such men as Mr. Bruce, and those now acting under him, may serve in a measure to open the eyes of Chinese politicians to a just appreciation of their own shortcomings and real interests. [p. 328] The commercial advantages which we have obtained are great, but we have gained others also. We have carried on a most successful war at a distance of seventeen thousand miles from England. Fighting side by side with the soi-disant most military nation in Europe, our organisation, staff, commissariat, &c. &c., has, at the very humblest estimation of our merits, proved at least equal to that of France. We have had a fine opportunity of testing the powers, and adaptibihty to service in the field, of our new Armstrong guns, proving them side by side with the artillery which gained SoHerino for Louis Napoleon. Their efficiency having thus received the only corroboration wanting, warrants confidence in their future manufacture. In the general administration of both army and navy, and their relative bearings one towards the other in such a species of warfare, we have gained much useful experience, which might now be of great practical benefit, whilst the formation of a regular transport service is under consideration. It is to be hoped that those upon whom such a duty devolves will avail themselves of the information which the military officers who had charge of the transport arrangements in China can afford. We have received a lesson against overestimating the effect which the substitution of rifles for the smooth-bored musket produces in action, proving that to close with an enemy is still as essential for victory as it was in the days of spears and crossbows. No amount of skirmishing at a distance will inflict any very decisive loss upon an enemy; and it is much to be feared that the possession of rifled weapons may tend towards inculcating the principle of engaging [p. 329] at long bowls and avoiding close combat, from which alone decisive events are to be obtained. As a nation we are prone to run away with such questions, and a few enthusiasts in shooting — not riflemen in the military acceptation of the term — have propounded the theory of utterly destroying an army by sharpshooters. They demonstrate by calculations upon paper and experiments upon the Hythe sands the certainty of doing so. Such gentlemen are mostly those who have never seen a shot fired in earnest, and the incorrectness of their views is vouched for by almost every oflicer of long-tried experience in the field. The smallness of the loss incurred the other day by the Federal army, which was engaged for hours at long ranges with their victorious opponents, proves still more of how httle damage is inflicted in action by infantry fire delivered at great distances. In the execution or results of the war there is nothing left to be wished for. [p. 330]
12. DESCRIPTION OF PEKIN
The word Pekin, or Pehchin, as the inhabitants pronounce it, carries with it so much that we in Europe have always been in the habit of associating with the wonderful, that it deserves a separate chapter to itself. Unfortunately our explorations about its neighbourhood were necessarily Umited, as it was not considered safe to wander alone very far from our outposts, and when our cavalry patrols went out, it was not deemed advisable to proceed far down along the west of the city, there being a number of Chinese camps there, all entrenched. As collision with their soldiers was to be avoided if possible, visits to their locahty were very few. It was always difficult to calculate upon the line of conduct which such semi-barbarous troops, ignorant of the usages of war, would adopt. Frequent reconnaissances were made, however, in all other directions by the officers of our Quartermaster-General’s department. During our halt at Pekin the country in the neighbourhood of Hai-teen was much disturbed by banditti, who had no doubt assembled there in hopes of sharing in the plunder of the Eoyal residences. Frequent encounters took place between them and the native mihtary authorities, who injflicted most summary  punishment upon those taken flagrante delicto. As many of the villagers near the summer palaces had carried off quantities of silks, &c., whilst they were being destroyed, the Mandarins were anxious to apprehend all such persons, their offence being unpardonable according to Chinese law. As I had frequent occasion to visit the neighbourhood of the summer palaces, after the departure of our allies from thence, I had fair opportunities of witnessing the disorder into which their neighbourhood had fallen. The large village known as Hai-teen, through which the road to Yuen-ming-yuen passes, was infested with robbers, who were apparently helping themselves to the property of those who had fled from their homes upon our approach. A few of the more stout-hearted proprietors had remained to guard their chattels, between whom and the plundering rabble there seemed to be a never-ending stand-up fight. Lynch law was the order of the day. I saw the remains of several murdered men in the streets; and upon one occasion, when turning round the angle of a house, having been attracted there by the noise, I found two or three men standing over one upon the ground, whom they were in the act of killing, by beating in his head with a hammer, from wliich fate my party had some difficulty in saving him. Every night the report of musketry and field guns was heard by our guards in camp, and upon the night of the 31st October to such an extent that our allies turned out tliinking that we had been attacked. I beheve that most of such firing was occasioned by the Chinese watchmen and police, who make a practice of firing at night, so as to show aU thieves that they are [p. 303] not only awake, but well armed and ready for them. To the south of the city none of our patrols had ever penetrated, as the distance was so great from our camp that it would have been impossible to reconnoitre there with a suitable force and return in the same day. Of the country in that direction we learnt from native sources that a very large inland lake lay due south of the city, in the numerous islands of which leopards, wild cats, and deer, are said to be very numerous. Operations had been prolonged to such a late period of the year, that when peace was at last signed there was no time for organising expeditions to explore that part of the country. In all other directions, however, the localities were closely examined, and maps made of them imder the superintendence of Colonel Mackenzie. All the information which could be obtained was collected, so that in the event of any fixture operations being required in those regions our work will be much simphfied. The land is everywhere most carefully cultivated, and yields two abundant crops yearly, millet, Indian com, beans, sweet potatoes, and a sort of cabbage being the principal produce. The total absence of pasture land strikes the eye of all who are accustomed to Enghsh farming as very pecuhar. In all parts of China Proper, milk, butter, or cheese, are unappreciated dainties; and the Tartar soldiers, when serving out of their own native provinces, feel the loss of such commodities greatly, as, in the wild plains of Thibet, milk, sour curds, and a sort of clotted cream constitute their principal diet. Between Pekin and the hills the country is thickly CHINESE VILLAGES. 305 dotted over with trees, which, with the numerous tombs and wide-spreading network of hollow roads, makes it difficult for the traveller to find his way about. There being few fences which a horse cannot get over, the best method to adopt in making a journey is to steer by a compass, straight over the fields, avoiding the hollow cart-tracks as much as possible, as fi^om them all view of the country is difficult. Although the ground over which we passed in our fight of the 21st September was, as I have described, closely intersected with banks and wide ditches, there are but very few north of the Yu-liang-ho. The small villages in the neighbourhood of Pekin are mostly surrounded by a wattle and daub fence. The numerous farmhouses were similarly enclosed, the straw-yards, corn-stacks, and threshingfloors being all ‘within the enclosures. Cattle-sheds, and good stabhng for mules or ponies, were invariably attached to even the most unpretending of cottages, in which the animals are housed during winter, and fed upon the millet straw, chopped small and steeped before use in warm water : upon this food they thrive well. As a rule, I think all in our army were disappointed with Pekin. For a considerable time previous to our arrival there every one had been drawing imaginary pictures in their minds as to what it was like. Those who had been for any number of years residing in ” the flowery land,” had been accustomed to hear Chinamen everlastingly referring to their capital in terms of the highest praise, describing it as little short of paradise, combining within its walls all that was lovely and magnificent. With the exception of some X 806 THE WAR WITH CHINA. Mandarins, few of those belonging to the southern provmces had ever visited the great northern capital; from earUest youth, however, every Chinaman is taught to beheve it the greatest of all cities. Its importance is as much a part of his faith, as the worship which all offer to their ancestors. The story told about the first appearance of one of our steamers at Canton gives a fair example of the extent to which this feehng is carried. An English merchant pointing out the steamer to a Chinaman, said, rather exultingly, ” Well, you have not got any vessels like that;” — to which answer was immediately made, “Ah, Canton no got, Pekin side plenty got, all same Kke.” I have no doubt he really believed such to be the case, considering Pekin to be so immeasurably superior to all other places, that it was impossible any nation could possess anything not known there. Before we had encamped close to the city our expectations were sustained by the reports brought in daily by our reconnoitring parties, who talked of having seen the roofs of lofty palaces and curiously-shaped pagodas rising high above the walls. When our army had taken up a position close to the place, the massiveness of its defences, well kept and regularly built, served to keep up the illusion regarding the wonders within. No vagary of fancy was ever more rudely dispelled than ours was when, upon the surrender of the An-ting gate, we gazed from thence over the streets and houses beneath. The dull monotony of colouring pervading all objects, and the sameness everywhere about, made all pronounce its appearance to be most unjustly praised. [p. 30] Leading from the gate in a due southerly direction, was the wide street along which our procession marched upon the 24th October. It was about a hundred feet in width, and was well paved for the first couple of hundred yards, after which it was simply earth. In this respect the streets of the capital differ from those of most other Chinese cities, where they are generally narrow, and paved over with granite blocks. In Pekin only the spaces near the gates were so paved. Coal cinders are used in quantities upon the streets, each householder emptying out the ashes of his stove upon the space immediately before his dwelling. Without some such arrangement the mud in wet weather would be ankle deep. As soon as our troops had taken up their position in the An-ting gate, the crowds of people that swarmed in from all quarters of the city to gaze at us exceeded anything that I had ever previously witnessed : a perfect sea of heads stretched away up the broad street as far as we could see. The moving to and fro of these people caused such clouds of dust to arise, that, in some directions, the city was so enveloped by it that nothing was to be seen. The Chinese guard, aided by a number of city pohce, had much difficulty in keeping back the dense masses which, swaying to and fro, kept pressing down towards the gate. Active httle French sentries kept jumping about, now here, now there, cursing, swearing, and laughing by tutns, in their endeavours to keep the space clear near their guard. A rope was stretched across the street beyond which none were allowed to pass. The whole of that day the street remained choked up by people eager to gaze upon their ” bar- [p. 307] barian ” conquerors. No ill-feeling was evinced by any, and all seemed to take the sharp blows from their own policemen’s whips, and the numerous pokes in the ribs from our sentries, in the very best humour. The streets are mostly laid out with mathematical exactness, all running due north and south, or east and west, as were also the city walls. Pekin is, in reality, two cities, only separated by the southern wall of the Tartar quarter. The southern one is the old Chinese town. It is four sided, the northern and southern faces being nearly five miles long, the eastern and western about two miles. The northern, or Tartar city, is nearly a square of four miles east and west, and three miles north and south. The north-western angle is, however, shghtly rounded off. The rampart walls average from thirty-five to forty feet high, above which the parapet wall rises seven feet everywhere around. Upon the inside they are mostly some five or six feet higher, owing, I imagine, to the ground excavated from the ditches having been thrown up, upon the outside, against the walls. Their average thickness, at top, is sixty feet, the masonry having a slope of about one in eight. The parapet walls (there being one upon both sides of the rampart) are three feet thick and castellated at top, the soles of the embrasures being four feet abovQ the terreplein of the rampart. In the centre of what would be with us the merlon, there is a small, square loophole, only about six inches above the foot of the parapet, from which the uncouth iron wall pieces, so common in all Chinese cities, are fired from carriages without any wheels, and unprovided with any means of depression or elevation. The terreplein of the ram- [p. 308] parts sloped gently inwards, so as to carry off the rain. It was neatly paved over its entire length with square tiles of considerable thickness; beneath them was a stratum of very hard concrete, three feet thick, — all below it, as far as we could ascertain, being wellrammed earth and rubble. With the very limited number of our guns and ammunition I do not believe we should have succeeded in making a practicable breach through the walls. No doubt we should have brought down a sufficient quantity of the outer revetment to have enabled oiumen to scramble up with ladders, but to have made a breach up which a body of men could march, with the hmited means at oiu* disposal, I think was very problematical. In the event of its being ever necessary hereafter to assault Pekin, I am sure that most of those who examined the walls will agree with me in thinking that mining is the best method of opening out a road through its ponderous defences. At each gateway and comer angle there is a high three-storeyed tower, thickly pierced with embrasures, but unprovided with guns. These towers are used as barracks, and, in order to keep out the cold air, the embrasures are closed up by wooden doors, upon the centre of each of which the representation of a cannon’s muzzle has been painted, giving the building an imposing aspect when seen at some little distance. These lofty towers, with their many embrasures, are well calculated to inspire all Chinamen with exaggerated ideas of their strength and importance. The reputation which Pekin had acquired throughout the empire for greatness and impregnability is, in a great [p. 309] measure, attributable to the imposing features of its fortifications. To a people ignorant of our modem appKances of war, such works would naturally appear capable of resisting for ever any efforts of a besieging force. They would have been similarly estimated by our ancestors of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. For hundreds of years the same weapons have been in use in China. Whilst western nations have been improving annually in all the appliances of offence and defence, the Chinese, carefully guarded in by an impenetrable barrier of self-conceit, have kept themselves aloof from all contact with other nations. To such a bigoted exclusiveness her downfal and humiliation is greatly attributable. In front of each gate there is a space of about a hundred yards square, enclosed by walls of similar dimensions to those of the enceinte. Through one of the side faces of it, the road is carried under a massive archway, so that every entrance to the city is protected by two lines of defence. Upon the inside a broad •road runs round the city at the foot of the rampart. The ditch has been a fine one in its day; but the arrangements for supplying it with water have been allowed to fall into decay, hke almost every other pubhc work in China, so that at present it is fordable at most points, and in some places is only a few inches deep. Within the Tartar city, and covering about a fourth of its entire space, is the ” Imperial ” or ” Inner City,” within which again is the palace, surrounded by a high and massive wall, with ditch, &c. &c. None of us were [p. 310] allowed to enter the innermost enclosure; but from all we could learn from the natives, I believe that his Majesty’s city residence is in a very faded condition, all the money available for such purposes having been for many years past expended upon the summer palace of Yuen-ming-yuen. The space between the palace walls and those around the ” Inner City,” is covered with the houses of those about the court, and with barracks. Scattered here and there were spots which had once been pleasure-grounds, or ponds of water, now completely neglected. An air of desolation was stamped upon everything, from the bell-shaped pagoda, which, standing upon a mound, marked the final resting-place of many sovereigns, to the smallest guard-room with its dilapidated chevaux-de-frise and arm-stands. There were numerous bridges, over what had once been wellkept canals, but which now were simply unsightly excavations, used as receptacles for filth and rubbish. In former times, when the pubhc works were well attended to, Pekin was plentifully supplied with water by means of these canals, which were fed from the lakes at Hai-teen. Numbers of temples, official residences belonging to the Princes, and pubhc buildings, are situated in difierent parts of the Tartar city. They are mostly upon a larger scale than those I have seen in the southern provinces, but possess no other local peculiarity. All have a faded, uncared-for appearance. The ordinary houses of the city are only one-storeyed, and built without any regard to uniformity. Those situated in the principal thoroughfares are of brick, with tiled roofs, whilst those in the remote quarters resemble the farmhouses of the surrounding country, [p. 311] having mud walk and thatched roofe, all well plastered over with a coating of mud and chopped straw. At some conspicuous places in the main streets, there were tumble-down looking archways, if such an Irishism is admissible in describing high-raised gateways, in whose design was no s^ment of a circle nor any curve, except what time had given to the widespanning beams wliich, in most instances, bend slightly downwards with their superincumbent weight of wood and stone. These had been originally constructed in memory of great men, or in commemoration of proud triumphs in days of Tartar renown. They seem to have changed with the times, serving now as emblems of national decay and public dishonour. One might almost fancy that they feel their altered destiny, and care no longer to rear erect the once straight and noble timbers of which they are constructed, but now lean in aU directions, scared and bent, as if in shame for the descendants of those who raised them. Barely two thirds of the space enclosed within the walls of the Chinese city is covered with houses, the remaining third being nearly all taken up by the gardens around the temples of ” Heaven,” and that in honour of the deities who preside over agriculture. The enclosed space around the former is a square mile in extent, which is tastefully laid out in gardens and shrubberies. Both of these buildings are situated close by the Yun-ting gate, which is the centre one of the three in the southern face. They stand upon either side of the wide roadway running north and south through the Chinese city, dividing it into two equal portions. [p. 312] Immediately within the southern face the ground has been but Kttle built upon, and there are several large pieces of water there. The victorious Tartars, in adding on their city to the old Chinese town, took care that theirs should domineer over the latter, as they built their walls some ten feet higher, thus giving it the character of a keep. The Yu-Kang-ho touches Pekin at the junction of the two cities, where it communicates with the ditch. From the point where it meets the city to the Che-ho gate, in the eastern face, a row of granaries extend underneath the walls between them and the ditch. In these the annual grain tribute was stored upon arrival by the canal. These buildings are now in a ruined state. A considerable exodus of the inhabitants had taken place diuing the first two or three days of our occupation of the An-ting gate, but almost aU had returned before our final departure, finding how strictly order was maintained amongst our troops. Before we retired from Pekin, all the shops which were at first closed, had reopened, and business was resumed in the usual manner. The numerous fiir and curio shops were daily crowded by our oflGicers, all anxious to obtain strange presents for their friends at home. The manner in which the Chinese tradesmen picked up words of ” pidgeon Enghsh” was quite astonishing. In a very few days, even the little boys in the street came up offering articles for sale, and asking ” how muchee.” The attempts to make ourselves understood by signs were most amusing. Those who could draw found their art most useful in illustrating upon paper what they required, as the shopmen were most apt at com [p. 313] prehending even the roughest dehneation of what was wanted. Upon entering a shop you had only to hold up your thumb with the other fingers closed, to indicate that you wished to see the first class things. All those with whom we had any dealings were civil and obhging, enjoying a joke, even when at their own expense, as well as any people I have ever met with. Of course, like all Easterns, they invariably asked for every article about twice as much as they were prepared to take for it. Of the female portion of the inhabitants we saw but few, none but the old and ugly showing themselves in the streets. Occasionally, however, during my rides through the city, I saw a woman’s head peering through a window, or over a wall, at the ” barbarian ” as he passed. In appearance they resembled those I had seen elsewhere in the northern districts of the empire. The Tartar women never cripple their feet like their Chinese sisters, and wear shoes like the men. They are very fond of painting their faces, and powdering their necks and foreheads over with some stufl* Uke flour. The people five almost exclusively upon vegetable diet, their usual food being flour ground firom millet or Indian com, sweet potatoes, and a coarse sort of cabbage. Tea is their ordinary beverage : but Chinamen very seldom drink water. There is also a large consumption of a fiery sort of spirit made fi^om millet; it is commonly known by the name of sam-shoo, and is sold for about threepence a pint. Pekin is much the cleanest Chinese city I have ever been in, and the air [p. 314] is not loaded with those sickening stenches so general in most other places. The streets being wide, there is ever a free circulation of air around the houses. The poUce seemed very numerous in the dty, but there were few of those street barriers which abound in Canton and most of the important towns. Of the military force within Pekin we saw but httle during our stay there, as all soldiers studiously avoided being seen in uniform. There were not many guns moimted upon the walls, and the few which were, were massed along the eastern face, upon which they had all along expected us to attack. Immediately opposite to where we had constructed our breaching batteries, they had lately mounted three very large guns. They were made of brass and were handsomely ornamented with carved mouldings. The fact of their having been placed in position opposite our point of attack, proves how very undecided the authorities must have been even up to the very day of their surrendering a gate to us. They had vacillated up to the last moment, between their dread of opposing us, and their fears of bringing down upon their heads the Imperial displeasure if they should surrender without making some show of resistance. These fine guns were mounted upon such rotten carriages, that a few rounds must have rendered them unserviceable, and one was so bad that the wheels had broken down in placing it in position upon the walls. From the walls of Pekin a good view is to be had over the surrounding countiy. It is a strange phenomenon that everywhere the people seem well to do and prosperous, the land [p. 315] being well tilled, and yet the ruling powers are always in financial difficulties. Camels are used in large numbers for the carriage of produce and merchandise. Most of the coal used in Pekin is brought there upon camels. All the coal I saw was of a hard, anthracite description, requiring a considerable draught to bum well. It is mostly brought from some mines at about thirty miles distance from the city. It is used in great quantities during the winter, and is sold at a cheap rate. When beaten into dust and mixed with clay, it is made up into small balls for use in the stoves, and gives out great heat. Charcoal is dear, and consequently only used by the richer classes. There are some very large bells in the city and temples near it, all well toned, and some beautifully ornamented. The largest is in a small joss-house, about half a mile from the north-west angle of the old ruined earthen entrenchment, lying to the north of the city, which I have already described. This beU is fifteen feet high, ten and a half feet in diameter, with a thickness of eight inches in the metal at its mouth. It is covered with inscriptions in the Chinese characters, and richly embossed at top, where it is fastened to the massive wooden stand made for it. Like all the very large bells elsewhere in China, it is sounded by means of a beam of wood, suspended horizontally by cords from the roof of the bidlding. This beam is swung against the beU after the manner of a battering ram, striking it upon the outside near its mouth. Its tone was excellent, making the buUding itself, and everything in it, tremble from the reverberation for several minutes after the bell had been struck. [p. 316] There is a striking contrast between the Chinese and Tartar portions of Pekin. The whole appearance of the latter indicates the presence of the dominant race, now devoid even of that courage and warlike prowess which characterised them in former times, whilst their lethargy, indolence, and dirty habits have increased, causing them to be still as distinct from the conquered Chinese as they were of yore. They still leave the commerce and trade of the country to the thrifty Chinamen, and have only just enough shops within their city as are sufficient for supplying their ordinary wants. The streets, although thronged with people, lacked the air of bustle and life for which Cliinese cities are famous. The very beggars and ragamuffins had a hstless appearance, and merely stood gaping at the passing foreigners. No dirty httle boys made rude and facetious remarks to us as we strolled through the streets. The manufacture of dirt pies seemed to be the summit of their genius. The nomadic disposition of the race was indicated by the nmnbers of tents pitched about in odd parts of the city; in some places along the wide streets, a space was left between them and the houses for foot passengers, and a roadway in the centre for carts and horses. Indeed, in all the principal thoroughfares there were rows of booths or tents along each side of the carriage-way, which was thus divided from the footpaths. But if such is the aspect of the city in which the rulers of the country dwell, far otherwise is the appearance presented on passing through any of the three gates which lead from the Tartar into the Chinese quarter. The principal streets through the latter are also wide, [p. 317] but leading off from them are narrow roadways, thickly lined with rich shops, and crowded with active, busy people, all intent upon business matters. The hum of voices bargaining and disputing about prices, the hissing, buzzing noise of lathes at work, and the din of liammers, indicate a Uvehness of trade and manufacture which at once stamps the place as essentially Chinese. [p. 318]
11. CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LORD ELGIN AND THE PRINCE OF KUNG
CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LORD ELGIN AND THE PRINCE OF KUNG — DESTRUCTION OF THE SUMMER PALACES BY THE BRITISH ARMY — DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY AROUND HAITEEN — INDEMNITY PAID BY THE CHINESE — RECONNAISSANCES IN THE VICINITY OF THE CITY — LORD ElGIN’S STATE ENTRY INTO PEKIN — HIS INTERVIEW WITH THE PRINCE OF KUNG — RATIFICATION OF THE TIEN-TSIN TREATY — PREPARATIONS FOR THE DEPARTURE OF THE ARMY FROM PEKIN — MARCH TO TIEN-TSIN
Upon the 17th October Lord Elgin wrote to the Prince of Kung, stating that when Sir Hope Grant had written to him upon the 10th of the month, demanding possession of the An-ting Gate, and naming the terms upon which he was willing to spare Pekin, he was then ignorant of the barbarous treatment which had been practised upon our countrymen, who had been treacherously taken prisoners by them; and that his letter had been written under a belief in their safety, to which his Highness had pledged himself in many of his despatches. Since the date of that letter we had ascertained that one half of the total number captured had been barbarously murdered under the most inhuman treatment.
This deceit, practised upon us by his Highness, amply justified us in setting aside the conditions named in the general’s letter, and under which the An-ting Gate had [p. 276] been surrendered; but from an anxiety for the safety of the people, and an unwillingness to visit their rulers’ offences upon them, Lord Elgin said that he was still ready to make peace, which, he begged to remind the Prince, had not been as yet concluded, and which he had in all communications with him, subsequent to the 18th September, declared to be impossible, until the British subjects, captured when under a flag of truce, had been sent back to us. The terms upon which his Lordship would make peace were, that the sum of 300,000 taels should be handed over to us by the 22nd October, to be distributed at her Majesty’s discretion amongst those who had suffered and the families of those who had been murdered. As a further expiation of the foul crime of which the Chinese Government had been guilty, it was intended, and at once, utterly to destroy all that remained of Yuen-ming-yuen, within the precincts of which several of the British captives had been “subjected to the grossest indignities.” This did not require his Highness’s assent, as those palaces were within our power. That before the 20th of that current month, the Prince should inform Lord Elgin, in writing, that he was willing to sign the convention, and exchange the ratification of the Tien-tsin treaty on the 23rd. As owing to the late date to which perations had been prolonged, it was necessary to provide for a portion of our army remaining at Tien-tsin, the Prince was informed that an addition was to be made to the convention, providing for such an arrangement, and entitling us to keep our army at that port, until the whole of the indemnity required by the convention should [p. 277] be paid to us. His Highness was reminded that all the customs’ revenue at Canton was collected by us, and paid over to the Imperial treasury; that Shanghai was alone prevented from falling into the possession of the rebels by the allied forces stationed there; and that the grain junks carrying rice to the north were allowed to pass through our fleets unmolested. This state of things would at once cease if his Highness should refuse the terms then finally offered for acceptance, and the allies would, in that case, indemnify themselves, through the above-mentioned sources, for the expenses they had been put to. Such were the terms upon which it was alone possible to avert the doom hanging over the reigning Mantchoo dynasty. This last allusion must have had powerful effect upon all who read it and were attached to the existing government of the empire; for, at that moment, the rebel forces were reported to be within a hundred miles of Pekin, for which place they were marching. Rumours of their progress and numerous victories were openly commented upon by the Pekin citizens, who naturally considered their approach, and our hostile presence, as parts of a preconcerted arrangement and plan of operations.
Upon the 18th October, the 1st division, under the command of Major-General Sir John Michel, marched from our camp near Pekin to Yuen-ming-yuen, and set fire to all the royal palaces which lay scattered about in that neighbourhood. Throughout the whole of that day and the day following a dense cloud of black and heavy smoke hung over those scenes of former magnificence. [p. 278]
A gentle wind, blowing from the north-west, carried the mass of smoke directly over our camp into the very capital itself, to which distance even large quantities of the burnt embers were wafted, falling about the streets in showers, as silent but unmistakeable evidences of the work of destruction and retribution going on in the palace of the Emperor. In passing between our camp and Yuen-ming-yuen, upon both of those days, the light was so subdued by the overhanging clouds of smoke, that it seemed as if the sun was undergoing a lengthened eclipse. The world around looked dark with shadow.
The destruction of the palaces appears to have struck the Pekin authorities with awe. It was the stamp which gave an unmistakeable reality to our work of vengeance, proving that Lord Elgin’s last letter was no idle threat, and warning them of what they might expect in the capital itself, unless they accepted our proffered terms. The Imperial palace within the city still remained untouched, and if they wished to save that last remaining palace for their master, it behoved them to lose no time I feel convinced that the burning of Yuen-ming-yuen considerably hastened the final settlement of affairs, and strengthened our ambassador’s position. Our allies, who had looted all and destroyed some of the buildings of that place, objected to our putting the coup de grace to their work. It was averred that the complete destruction of the palaces would be a Gothlike act of barbarism. It seems strange that this idea did not occur to the generally quick perceptions of our Gallic allies before they had shorn the place of all its beauty and ornament, [p. 279] by the removal or reckless destruction of everything that was valuable within its precincts, leaving us, indeed, little more than the bare shell of the buildings on which to wreak our vengeance for the cruelties practised therein upon our ill-fated countrymen.
By the evening of the 19th October, the summer palaces had ceased to exist, and in their immediate vicinity, the very face of nature seemed changed: some blackened gables and piles of burnt timbers alone indicating where the royal palaces had stood. In many places the inflammable pine trees near the buildings had been consumed with them, leaving nothing but their charred trunks to mark the site. When we first entered the gardens they reminded one of those magic grounds described in fairy tales; we marched from them upon the 19th October, leaving them a dreary waste of ruined nothings. The burning of the palaces was an act of vengeance pre-eminently calculated to fulfil all the purposes which circumstances required. The people themselves were at all times most friendly towards us, and have but little affection for the ruling dynasty. Their rulers alone were answerable for the murder of the prisoners which they had taken. To have required a very large sum of money as a reparation for that crime, would have been a punishment which must eventually have fallen principally upon the people, and their ability to pay any such largely increased demand was highly problematical. To have demanded that those who had actually caused the death of our murdered comrades should be delivered over to us for punishment, would have led only to some few petty and perhaps innocent officials being sent to us, whom [p. 280] it would have been as difficult to convict as it would have been unjust to punish.
Sang-ko-lin-sin was really of all others most responsible for the crime for which we sought reparation, but to have demanded his surrender to us for trial would have been asking for what every one knew the Chinese Government would not, and perhaps could not, grant. Lord Elgin’s knowledge of human nature, and of Chinese dispositions in particular, pointed out to him the only really substantial method then within his power of taking vengeance for the crime in question. The great vulnerable point in a Mandarin’s character lies in his pride, and the destruction of Yuen-ming-yuen was the most crushing of all blows which could be levelled at his Majesty’s inflated notions of universal supremacy. His property was deemed as sacred as his person, so much so, that when the French first approached the palace gates upon the 6th October, the few eunuchs who remained there as the sole guard of the place rushed out to meet our allies, calling out to them, “Don’t commit sacrilege, don’t come within the sacred precincts of his Majesty’s palace.” As such was the commonly received notion regarding everything belonging to the Emperor, the destruction of his favourite residence was the strongest proof of our superior strength; it served to undeceive all Chinamen in their absurd conviction of their monarch’s universal sovereignty.
In order that the greatest possible publicity might be given to our reasons for destroying Yuen-ming-yuen, proclamations in Chinese were prepared by our interpreters, and posted up in all public places to which we [p. 281] had access. This prevented the authorities from giving a false colouring to our actions, as they would no doubt have otherwise endeavoured to spread abroad the impression of our having destroyed that place simply for the sake of plunder.
Whilst the work of demolition was going on, we had ample opportunity of inspecting the country around the palaces and that lying between them and the hills, which, as offshoots from the high range of Tibet, abut upon the plains near Yuen-ming-yuen. A well-kept paved road extends from the principal palace to that known as the Golden Palace, a distance of about three miles. It passes for some distance along the bank of a dried-up canal, the sides of which were tastefully adorned with ornamental rockery, which forms such an essential feature in all Chinese landscape gardening. Upon each side of the canal there were high embankments of earth covered with cedar and pine trees, and here and there some little grotto of stonework. After leaving Yuen-ming-yuen, and when proceeding to the Golden Palace, our road at first wound through a series of small official residences standing within walled enclosures and small parks; and then, passing over several grotesquely-built stone bridges, it crossed a number of little canals, some completely dry, others filled only with stagnant water, and almost covered up with water lilies and rushes. The remains of what were once, no doubt, very pretty little cascades testify to the care taken in the embellishment of the place and to the poverty of the present government, which has allowed them to become what they are. Some fine joss-houses or temples lay scattered about, the rich colour- [p. 282] ing of which contrasted well with the dark green foliage of the cedars. At the distance of about a mile along this paved road stood one of the entrances to the Wanshow-yuen, a palace situated upon a hog’s-back-like hill overlooking a fine lake. This hill was enclosed by a high park wall, the space within being tastefully laid out with gardens, shrubberies and plantations, having tea-houses scattered about — some perched upon rocky knolls commanding good views of the surrounding country, others almost hidden by the dense foliage of the trees, with terraces and flights of steps leading down to the water’s edge. Crowning the highest point of the hill was the only building, of all the palaces, constructed exclusively of stone, and consequently the only one upon which the general conflagration took but little effect.
The view from this building was charming. Stretching away from it in the direction of Pekin there was a most substantial and well-finished embankment faced all over with slabs of cut granite. It was built for the purpose of damming up the waters of the streams which poured down from the hills, so as to form the various lakes and artificial ponds, constituting such an important feature in the landscape there. By this means the water was always at a much higher level than the ground upon which Pekin stood, so that a good water supply was at all seasons thus provided for the citizens of that city. Jutting out from this dam into the lake, at about half a mile’s distance from the Wan-show gardens, was a long bridge with seventeen arches of beautiful proportions, richly decorated with stone carvings and balustradings, and leading to a small island upon which [p. 283] stood a water-palace closely surrounded with trees, the picturesque gables and upturned roofs of which were faithfully reflected in the calm water beneath. Standing upon the dam at the end of the bridge was a wooden building supported upon pillars, with all the sides open and seemingly intended merely as a resting-place in which the wearied wanderer might find shelter from the sun during a temporary halt. Close by there was the representation, in bronze, of a cow in a recumbent position, so truly lifelike, that all who saw it mistook it for a veritable animal until they had actually approached it.
The edge of the lake beneath the Wan-show palaces was laid out in terraces, one rising above the other, the lowest one washed by the water, and having a balustrading of small stone pillars extending along its entire length. Handsome flights of stairs led down from it to the lake, at some of which were boat-houses for the protection of the imperial barges.
Upon leaving the Wan-show-yuen the road passes under a low stone archway, beyond which for about the next half mile it is lined on both sides with shops. They end upon the bank of an insignificant little river, over which the road crosses by an old masonry bridge, the parapet walls of which were sadly ruinous, but exhibited traces of considerable beauty and elaborate carving. This stream is one of the many feeders of the lakes, into the largest of which it discharges itself close by the bridge. Upon its opposite bank is the village of Tsung-lung-cheaou, called after the bridge itself, through which the paved road passes, and debouching from which it winds round between some undulating ground upon [p. 284] the right, and the low inundated fields upon the left, which extend to the margin of a series of small lakes in that direction. For the distance of a mile beyond the bridge the road is closely lined upon the right hand with farmhouses and enclosures, the country further back still in that direction being thickly studded with small villages and groups of Tartar barracks, which are very numerous. The paved road ends at the gates of the Golden Palace, which lies at the foot of a small hill, detached from all the others, and which is included within the park walls surrounding the palace itself. Standing upon the highest point of this hill is a tall white pagoda, which forms the great landmark of the locality, and from whence the finest view is to be had of the many palaces and gardens of Hai-teen, by which name the entire place is generally known. The pagoda resembles most others met with everywhere in the empire. It is ascended by a winding staircase, but has none of those projecting balconies common in such buildings generally. Looking out from it, the eye wanders over as fair and lovely a scene as can well be imagined. The thickly-wooded parks of the palaces are shown off to the best advantage by the intervening lakes and numerous ponds within them. The little islands, wooded to the water’s edge, send out their tremulous, wavy reflections along the glass-like lakes; here and there the oddly shaped spires and minarets of a summer-house peer above the variegated foliage, whilst the neglected temples from their half-ruinous condition add much to the scenic effect; and, lastly, may be seen buildings of all sizes, from joss-houses of the most stately proportions with their many courtyards and richly ornamented roofs, down to [p. 285] the tiniest of roadside sanctuaries, nestling here and there amidst clumps of trees, and resembling more closely a child’s baby-house than an edifice intended for the worship of some idol.
Beyond the precincts of the royal grounds the country looked richly cultivated, dotted over with farmhouses and Tartar villages, the homes of the several banners by whom the military duties of the place were performed, and the guards furnished for his Majesty’s protection during his residence at the Summer Palace. These villages were mostly built with all the regularity of barracks. To the north was a range of hills, bold in outline, upon which plantations and patches of cultivation seemed to contest possession with stony slopes and rugged cliffs. The commanding points of these hills were crowned with imposing looking buildings of castellated style and essentially un-Chinese in appearance. Far off to the north-east was a conically shaped hill, with a fortified military post upon it. To the west were the palaces of Tsain-tai extending up the sides of the Sian mountains, which stretch away south from the principal range. Between those palaces and the Yuen-ming-yuen a well-built aqueduct extended, by means of which the gardens of the Golden Palace were supplied with water. The massive gate towers of Pekin, and its several pagodas and cupolas, with (in some places) a small extent of the walls themselves, bounded the view to the south-east, completing the panorama. Taken as a whole, that is, including all the palaces and adjoining gardens, Hai-teen was certainly well suited for the residence of a monarch ruling over such a great nation. Chinamen may well have [p. 286] reckoned it the alpha and omega of all that was lovely on earth, leaving nothing to be wished for according to their notions of what is beautiful and magnificent.
Generation after generation of emperors had added to its works of art and artificial beauty. From thence mighty kings have issued their commands to the widest empire ever yet ruled by any one man; but the very gorgeousness of the scene has been one great promoting cause of the luxury and effeminacy which have served to debase the late rulers of China, causing the descendants of fierce warriors to degenerate into mere enervated debauchees, alike incapable of wielding the sword themselves or commanding in the field those who could. After a childhood passed in the seclusion of such palaces, the greatest exercise allowed being a daily stroll amidst the luxurious gardens around, it is scarcely to be wondered at that the royal heir should grow up into an indolent, dreamy, and unpractical manhood. After being assured from earliest childhood that he was immeasurably superior to all other human beings, and but little removed from Deity itself, it is no strange matter that such a monarch should believe his absolute power to be as much a part of himself as his hands or feet, or, in fact, as indisputable as his very existence. Sir Henry Pottinger’s treaty was the first historical fact which must have caused some suspicion to cross the Imperial mind as to the reality of his imiversal sovereignty, by proving that there was a Western nation able to dictate terms to the Chinese Government. Such knowledge, however, came too late. It fell upon insensible ears, which knew not how to profit by the [p. 287] lesson we had taught them. They persisted in resting upon the history of their former greatness, refusing to believe that they were far behind us in the art or appliances of war, and attributing their defeat to any but the true causes. Possessing within the confines of their vast empire every requisite essential for the formation of powerful armies, with great internal wealth and an overteeming population of brave, active, and intelligent people, they, par excellence the greatest of all copyists under heaven, were too obstinate or too stupid to adopt our arms or military organisation; and, indeed, as far as we know, even to appreciate the advantages of muskets over cross-bows, or of discipline over disorder.
Upon the evening of the 19th October the Prince of Kung’s answer to Lord Elgin’s ultimatum of the 17th of that month reached our camp. In it his Highness humbly declared himself willing to perform all we had demanded. In answer to a letter from Sir Hope Grant, requesting that Captain Brabazon might be accounted for, the Prince stated that he could not give any information about him or the Abbe de Luc, as he knew nothing whatever of them.
Between the 19th and 23rd October frequent meetings took place between the officers of our embassy and the Chinese authorities, during which all the points regarding the etiquette to be observed at the grand conference of the plenipotentiaries was agreed upon. The 300,000 taels of indemnity money was paid into our commissariat treasure chest upon the evening of the 22nd. It had been at first arranged that the convention, &c. &c., was to be signed the following [p. 288] day, but as there was a considerable amount of writing to be got through in preparing the treaties, both in Chinese and English, the meeting was postponed until the 24th October.
Rumours were afloat that a large army was assembling to the west of Pekin, and treacherous intentions were attributed to the Prince of Kung by general consent, the reports coming from Chinese sources. It was said that our ambassador was to be inveigled into the city, and then murdered, &c. &c. Every Chinaman is a newsmonger by nature; and, if we may judge from the number of stories current daily in Pekin during our stay in its vicinity, they prefer false intelligence to none at all. Eeconnoitring parties of our cavalry made daily explorations into the country around our camp, so that no large army could well be assembled near us without the circumstance coming to our knowledge. Owing to the rumour of a large camp being established to the west of Pekin, our cavalry patrolled in that direction upon the 22nd October, and during their march came suddenly upon an entrenched position, close to the city walls, near the point where the Tartar and Chinese cities unite. There was apparently a considerable force within the works, which turned out as our cavalry approached, not knowing what was our intention. A Mandarin came up to ask us what we wanted. Major Probyn, who commanded the party, brought him to our camp, for the purpose of gaining some information from him, as he appeared a sharp fellow. He stated that Mr. Parkes’s capture was an act of premeditated revenge for the seizure of the prefect at Tien-tsin by Sir Kobert Napier. The cir- [p. 289] cumstances under which that seizure was made are as follows : — Shortly after the main part of our force had left Tien-tsin, Sir Robert Napier foimd the Chinese authorities far from civil, and very averse to afford us any assistance in collecting carriage or supplies for our troops. The prefect of the city was the chief person there. He was ordered to present himself at the English general’s tent; but he failed to do so. He had, however, most thoroughly mistaken the man he had to deal with. Sir Robert Napier’s long experience in India, had taught him the only true method by which Asiatics can be managed; which is determination, backed by sufficient force to carry out all declared intentions. Acting upon this principle, a party was sent into Tien-tsin, with orders to bring out the refractory mandarin, who protested loudly against the proceeding, but was obhged to yield. He was treated with all possible courtesy, and lodged in a tent next the general’s; and our ability to enforce compliance with all demands which we might make upon him, and our evident determination to use force, if necessary, having been thus clearly impressed upon him and the other civic authorities of the place, he was released.
The Prince of Kung, who had been residing at some distance from Pekin, happened to be on his way into the city, when our cavalry made their appearance at the entrenched camp. Weak nerves and a guilty conscience caused him to couple their presence, between him and the capital, with some treacherous design upon his person. No doubt he thought that we were desirous of avenging our murdered countrymen, by punishing liim. He at once, therefore, took fright, and [p. 290] bolted back in the direction from which he had started, not deeming himself safe until he had placed about twenty miles between himself and us. He wrote to General Ignatieff that evening, asking what we were aiming at, and seemed evidently nervous about his personal safety.
At one o’clock, p.m., upon the 24th October, Lord Elgin started from our camp for Pekin, where it had been arranged that the meeting between him and the Prince of Kung was to take place. Every possible military precaution had been previously taken to guard against any treachery upon the part of the Chinese. An officer of the Quartermaster-General’s department had been sent into the city the preceding evening, for the purpose of examining the building in which the conference was to be held. It was very improbable that any treachery would be attempted; but as rumours were afloat that infernal machines had been prepared to blow up our ambassador and his party, it would have been highly culpable, after so many recent instances of Chinese ill-faith, to disregard any attainable precaution, or to fail in providing for all possible contingencies. Had any misfortune occurred to Lord Elgin, the blame of such would have fallen upon the Commander-in-Chief. It seemed to be a general impression amongst all who were acquainted with China but upon whom no responsibility would have rested in the event of any treachery being practised, that the display of a large force within Pekin might so frighten the timid Prince of Kung and his advisers, that they would all suspect us of similar motives, and fly from the place, or in other words, that our military precau- [p. 291] tions against treachery would be construed into intended treachery on our part by the suspicious Chinese.
The 2nd division was skillfully disposed by Sir R. Napier along the line of march to be taken by the procession through the city, so that all avenues of approach leading to it were commanded by our troops. An escort of 100 cavalry and 400 infantry, together with a numerous retinue of officers from all corps, accompanied Lord Elgin for his immediate protection. It was a fine day, bright and warm, there being no wind to drive the dust about, and the sun shining pleasantly, showing off the soldiers’ uniforms and appointments to the best advantage. His Lordship travelled in a sedan chair of large proportions, painted red, and hung about with long streaming tassels of many colours, after the most approved Chinese fashion. Eight Chinese coolies, decked out in gorgeous scarlet clothing, carried the chair.
A military procession is at all times an imposing sight; but it is seldom that so many circumstances combine to give it effect and importance, as upon that occasion. The representative of our sovereign, surrounded by a crowd of soldiers, so lately victorious in the field, marching into a great city which had just capitulated to us, for the purpose of obtaining a public admission of our national superiority and a concession of all those demands which we had made before the war commenced — was a circumstance truly gratifying to all who took part in it, and a very just source of pride to every British subject. The inhabitants of the place thronged in upon all sides to see the “barbarians” in their triumphal march; all were civil and respectful. [p. 292]
The presence of a large body of troops marching with confidence through the capital, with colours flying, bands playing, and every outward sign of victory, must have, indeed, impressed all with the reality of their own defeat. I believe that the military display then made will have far more important and beneficial influence in our future dealings with China than all the treaties now ratified or that may be hereafter concluded. The fame of it will be the best relative security, which our merchants residing at the ungarrisoned ports could have. It was an undeniable assertion of our victory, and will be a warning to Imperial officials in their intercourse with our authorities, causing them to hesitate before they again subject their far-famed seat of government to the presence of an armed force within its walls. Our ability to take vengeance for all breaches of faith, thus convincingly established, will, I have every reason to hope, be the means of stopping for ever those acts of arrogance, insolence and oppression to which our mercantile communities at Canton and elsewhere have been subjected, in the absence of any force to prevent them, and which have been the immediate cause of all the warlike operations carried on by foreigners in China since 1838.
The procession entered the city by the An-ting gate, where a strong reserve of troops was posted. In case of any treachery being attempted, three guns were to have been fired from thence as a signal for the 1st division to leave camp and march into the city. As the Hall of Audience, in which the Prince of Kung was to meet Lord Elgin, lay in the southern quarter of the Tartar city, our procession had to pass directly through [p. 293] its entire length, a distance of about three miles and a half. A straight street led direct from the An-ting gate south towards the Chinese city, along which our column proceeded, turning sharp towards the west as Ave approached the wall dividing the Chinese from the Tartar city. Following that direction for about half a mile, we entered the narrow street in which most of the public offices stood. They were all prettily built, very much alike, and with but little to distinguish them from any of the many temples or official buildings met with elsewhere. They were in a most dilapidated condition, some looking as if they might tumble down at any moment, and one had already done so — it was the Board of Finance; and the unsightly heap of ruins, into which it had sunk, might be taken as a fair indication of national financial prospects. As we entered the high wooden portals of the Hall of Audience, it was most amusing to watch the vigorous efforts made by the city police to keep back the inquisitive crowd that pressed in, with all the eagerness of London cockneys upon Lord Mayor’s day, to catch even a passing glimpse of the show. The Chinese police are certainly A1 at such work, and use their heavy thong-whips unmercifully upon the shoulders and backs of all who do not obey them quickly. Having passed through two courtyards, we found ourselves opposite a spacious hall, of which the side nearest to us as we approached was completely open. Lord Elgin’s guard of honour drew up on one side of the court, presenting arms as his Lordship passed on.
His sedan chair was put down at the edge of the carpet spread upon the hall, and, as he entered, the [p. 294] Prince advanced to meet him, making a stiff bow and shaking his own hands vigorously, after the ordinary manner of Chinese etiquette. Both of the national representatives then moved slowly towards the chairs which had been prepared for them, each seeming to eye the other narrowly, lest by some sudden movement he might get the least in advance. They appeared willing to treat each other as equals, but not as superiors.
Upon reaching their respective chairs, it was of great importance that both should sit down exactly at the same moment: a feat which was most satisfactorily accomplished.
The room in which the conference took place resembled exactly the principal apartment of a temple from which the hideous idols had been removed. A sort of thick red felting had been laid down instead of carpets. Lamps of all sizes and shapes were hung up around, with, in some places, insignificant attempts at decorations in the shape of drapery and long scrolls of ornamented paper.
The English officers were provided with seats upon the right of the hall as we entered; the Chinese officials upon the side opposite. In front of Lord Elgin, Sir Hope Grant, and a few others, there were small tables; the Prince of Kung and his principal officers being similarly accommodated.
The Prince was of middle stature, his face cleanly shaven, with a naturally high forehead, which looked still loftier from the manner in which he wore his tumed-up mandarin hat, far back upon his shaven crown. His features were good, being far more regular [p. 295] than is usual with Chinamen, but his eyes were small and on a level with his forehead, which is the great peculiarity of the race, who may almost be said to have no eyelids and very small apertures for their eyeballs to appear through. He looked round upon the assembled “barbarians” almost with a scowl; but this supercilious sneering expression may have partly resulted from his most strangely set eyes. He was dressed in mandarin robes, the only peculiarity in his clothes being that there were figures of the Imperial dragon embroidered upon his sleeves and shoulders, and that instead of a coral or other button upon the top of his hat, he wore only a small twisted knot, made of scarlet silk, very much like that upon the Emperor’s cap, found on his bed in the Summer Palace. It is most difficult to give an accurate estimate of his age from his face, as the absence of all hair upon it gave him a youthful ak, which, however, was contradicted, upon examining him more closely, by a worn-out expression indicative of debauchery, so very common with Asiatic potentates. He might have been, in fact, any age from twenty up to five and thirty, and I believe that his exact number of years was a mean between those two figures. He looked a boy, as well as a gentleman, amongst the crowd of bihous, bloated, small-pock-marked, and hideous-looking faces of the mandarins who surrounded him, and with whom he frequently took counsel during the course of the proceedings. A very young man, unless of royal buth, seldom holds any great office of importance in China; and as rank is to be had citlier by purchase or competitive examination, it is frequently enjoyed by the very com- [p. 296] monest of the people. On this account many of the mandarins are ill-bred in manners, and have none of that easy air or those fine features, the birthright of gentle blood, which in most countries generally characterise the governing classes. I do not remember having ever seen a less pleasing-looking collection of mortals assembled in one place than was grouped around the Prince of Kung upon that occasion.
At all such ceremonies of state, a banquet, after business is concluded, forms a part of the programme; but as the inspection of the Prince of Kung’s “power to treat,” and the signing of the convention and ratification of the old treaty had occupied a considerable time, Lord Elgin declined partaking of it. Tea of the usual hot-water-tasting properties was, however, handed round during the ceremony.
Everything being satisfactorily concluded, the meeting was broken up, the same formalities being gone through at leave-taking as had been observed at the opening of the conference, the Prince accompanying Lord Elgin from his seat to the edge of the carpet, where his Lordship’s chair stood ready for his reception.
It was late in the evening before we got back to camp, and although the “Board of Works” had taken some trouble in watering the streets, yet the dust was so deep upon them that the upper surface only was affected by it; consequently, the number of men and horses passing over it soon caused the dust to rise in dense masses, covering every one of our party.
Orders had been previously despatched to Shanghai for Mr. Bruce, the English minister there, who was to remain in China as our representative after Lord [p. 297] Elgin’s departure. He was directed to proceed to Pekin with all speed, so that, if possible, he might be introduced to the Prince of Kung before Lord Elgin left. By Article IX. of the Pekin Convention, it was agreed that the convention should receive the Imperial sanction by the publication of a decree, for which it was necessary to send to Jeho, where his Majesty had taken up his residence* As nine or ten days must have elapsed before an answer could be returned from that place, it was determined to keep the army at Pekin imtil the 8 th November, which was considered by the Commander-in-Chief as the latest date to which we could with safety remain there. The cold winter was setting in rapidly, and the roads in rear being unmetalled, no reliance could be placed upon them in bad weather. About the 10th October, the weather changed perceptibly, the nights being intensely cold, and biting winds rendering even the days far from pleasant for those under canvas. All native reports led us to beheve that the ice set in upon the river towards the beginning of November; and as we had to depend greatly upon it for transport purposes, to have remained beyond the 8th of that month at Pekin would have been a highly dangerous experiment. Upon the 22nd October our siege train was sent off to Tien-tsin, for which place Colonel Mackenzie, our Quartermaster General, started to get everything ready there for the reception of the garrison which it was intended to leave there for the winter, and for the embarkation of the remaining part of our army for home and India. All our sick and heavy stores were sent by carts to Tung-chow, where they were placed in boats and sent [p. 298] down the river to Tien-tsin, making the journey in three days.
Baron Gros having signed the French treaty upon the 25th October, General Montauban left Pekin upon the 1st November with his army, leaving one battalion behind for Baron Gros’s protection.
Upon the 27th October Lord Elgin moved from camp into the city, where the Prince of Y’s residence had been fitted up for his reception. Visits of ceremony were exchanged between him and the Prince of Kung, who improved upon acquaintance. He talked hopefully of the future, and seemed to consider that the direct communication henceforward to be maintained by our minister in China with the Pekin Government would conduce to a friendliness of intercourse, and prevent those bickerings and misunderstandings which had formerly taken place so frequently between the servants of the two nations. He even discussed the advisability of a Chinese ambassador being sent to England. The notification of the convention having received the Imperial sanction was made to Lord Elgin upon the 2nd November, and the treaty and it were immediately published in the Pekin Gazette.
Mr. Bruce reached Pekin upon the 7th November, and was introduced to the Prince of Kung.
It was arranged that, until a suitable residence could be prepared for the British embassy, Mr. Bruce should reside at Tien-tsin, where Baron Gros had directed M. de Bourboulon, the French minister, to reside for the winter. In order, however, to accustom the Chinese authorities to the presence of our officials within the capital, and to prevent them from imagining that we [p. 299] intended to concede the long disputed question of residence there, Mr. Adkins of the Consular Service was left in Pekin to superintend tlie arrangements necessary for the establishment of our diplomatic mission there in the spring following.
Before the departure of our army from Pekin, the winter had set in very severely. There were several days of heavy rain, with hard frost every night. Cold northerly winds rendered out-of-door lie very disagreeable, and our native Indian followers were suffering severely in consequence. A considerable supply of blankets and warm clothing had arrived in camp upon the 21st October, which was immediately distributed amongst the troops. No army in the field has ever been healthier or better cared for in every respect than our troops before Pekin; the men looked well and happy. The commissariat, under the superintendence of Mr. Turner, deserves every credit for the manner in which we were supplied with all that we could expect. French bread of the best quality was served out to us daily, and of beef and mutton there was abundance. Good markets had been established within the An-ting gate, where fruit and vegetables were procurable every day at a cheap rate. The most sickly regiment of our force was the 60th Rifles, which was composed chiefly of young soldiers. Its sick-hst, however, never exceeded five per cent. The medical arrangements had been aU through the campaign ably attended to by Dr. Muir, C.B., who, whilst most careful at all times for the comfort of those in his charge, was never carried away by unpractical ideas, which have become so  fashionable of late years with many of our medical officers.
Upon the 7th November the 2nd division under Sir Robert Napier left Pekin, the 1st division under Sir John Michel following the day after. The Commander-in-Chief accompanied the latter. A flotilla of boats kept pace upon the river with the army during its march, for the conveyance of any men falling sick, or in the event of any other casualties. 
10. NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE SURRENDER OF PEKIN
NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE SURRENDER OF PEKIN — RELEASE OF MESSRS. LOCH, PARKES, AND OTHER PRISONERS HADE BT THE CHINESE. NARRATIVE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES CONNECTED WITH THEIR CAPTURE. ARRIVAL OF THE FRENCH ARMY IN FRONT OF PEKIN. PREPARATIONS FOR ASSAULTING THE FORTIFICATIONS OF THAT CITY. SURRENDER OF THE AN-TING GATE AND ITS OCCUPATION BY THE ALLIED TROOPS. MILITARY FUNERAL OF THE BRITISH SUBJECTS WHO HAD BEEN MURDERED BY THE CHINESE.
Upon the 7th October a letter was received from the Prince of Kung, signed by Mr. Parkes. It was dated the day before, and should have reached us that same afternoon, but the bearer, whilst on the road to our camp, had met with our army when on the march, and taking fright, had turned back. The letter promised the return of all prisoners by the 8th October. There was a tone of nervous anxiety in it, which had not characterised any of his former communications. A verbal answer was sent back, intimating that Mr. Wade would meet a deputy without the city walls, at four o’clock in the afternoon.
The appointed interview took place, Hang-ki having been, according to his own statement, lowered from the top of the city walls in a basket, as all the gates were blockaded up. He informed Mr. Wade that the Prince of Kung had accompanied the army in its [p. 258] retreat the day before, taking most of the prisoners with him, but that most positively those still remaining in Pekin should be sent to our camp upon the following day.
Mr. Wade had previously drawn up a paper stating the conditions upon which we would spare Pekin. The immediate surrender of a gate was declared indispensable for the security of our ambassador, when he entered the capital; the treacherous capture of our people upon the 18th of September having rendered some such guarantee necessary as a precautionary measure. This request was most unpalatable, and for some time resisted by Hang-ki; but as Mr. Wade was unbending, Hang-ki at last acceded to it.
Upon the 8th October, Messrs. Loch, Parkes, a sowar of Probyn’s Horse, M. l’Escayrac de Lauture, and four French soldiers, were sent into our headquarters; upon the 12th October, one French soldier and eight sowars; and upon the 14th October two more sowars. Those were the only survivors of the twenty-six English and thirteen French subjects treacherously captured under the most flagrant disregard to all international law. There is truly no term in our language which so essentially describes the Chinese rulers as the word barbarian, which they use so universally as an opprobrious epithet when alluding to any people so happily fortunate as to be of any other nation than China. The gloomiest page of history does not disclose any more melancholy tale than that told by one and all of those who returned. The refinement of torture and unmeaning cruelty to which they had been subject, and the wanton disregard [p. 259] for all feelings of humanity evinced towards them, would almost cause one to doubt the humanism of their jailors, and to class them amongst some fearful species of ogre, which not only fed upon man, but loved to destroy him for mere destruction’s sake. The substance of their sad story is as follows:
Upon Captain Brabazon and Mr. Loch’s arrival at Tung-chow (for which place I have previously mentioned their having started from our army, some little time before the action of the 18th September commenced), they found that Mr. Parkes was engaged in a conference with the Prince of I, and that Messrs. Bowlby and De Norman were in the city searching for some building which would serve as a suitable residence for Lord Elgin during his stay in that place. The escort was at the Yamun, in which all had passed the previous night, and it was immediately ordered to saddle and prepare for leaving. Messengers were despatched into the city for those who were sight-seeing there; and when all were collected, they started at a brisk pace in the direction of our army. During the interview with the Prince of I, Mr. Parkes was struck with the altered demeanour of his Highness towards him, which was also evinced by the loud talking and unceremonious conduct of those about him. Mr. Parkes had entered his presence intending to carry everything, as usual, with a high hand; but upon demanding, “why, in direct violation of their previous agreement, a large army was in the field, almost surrounding our forces, and in possession of an entrenched position, where a number of guns had been lately mounted,” the Prince showed none of that eagerness to allay [p. 260] suspicions or remove unfavourable impressions which, upon all former occasions, had characterised his manner of speaking or writing.
The party reached Chang-kia-wan without any molestation, although there were large bodies of troops about. A party of Tartar horsemen were soon, however, discovered to be following them; and, as it was not thought advisable to appear running away from them, the pace of going was changed from a canter to a fast walk. The Tartars immediately assimilated their pace to theirs, and some of them were perceived blowing the matches of their matchlocks. Proceeding along the regular roadway, until they had reached an old watchtower which stood about half way between our army and Chang-kia-wan, they found their further progress arrested by a body of infantry, drawn up upon the road. The Chinese officer in charge was not particularly uncivil, but distinctly informed Mr. Parkes that he could not be allowed to pass until he had obtained the general’s permission. Upon learning that the general was close at hand, Mr. Parkes, accompanied by Mr. Loch and a sowar carrying a flag of truce, proceeded in the direction where the Chinese general was said to be. All this occurred just as the firing commenced upon Colonel Walker and his party.
The general, into whose presence they were conducted, proved to be Sang-ko-lin-sin, the well-known Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty’s forces. The white banner was no protection for them against that barbarian’s temper. They were dragged from their horses and forced by those who held them to kow-tow humbly before him, having their faces rubbed in the [p. 261] dust at his feet. Their names were demanded, and questions regarding our military force in the field put to Mr. Parkes, whom Sang-ko-lin-sin heartily abused as the cause of all the war. He said that he had been looking for him a long time, and now, at last, he was in his power. He requested Mr. Parkes to write to our general and stop the action; but Mr. Parkes told him such would be useless, as he had no military authority. ‘
His conduct was most praiseworthy, both then and upon all the many occasions during his subsequent imprisonment, when endeavours were made, by means of cruel treatment and threats of condign punishment, to work upon his fears, and so, from a regard for his own personal safety, to persuade him to intercede with our ambassador for them. Under the most trying circumstances his courage does not seem ever to have deserted him, and no amount of indignity or punishment induced him to seek for his own personal security by any efforts to obtain the smallest remission of our original demands.
Being unable to obtain any satisfaction from Mr. Parkes, Sang-ko-lin-sin or Sang-wan, by which name he is only known to the Chinese people generally, ordered Messrs. Parkes and Loch, together with the sowar who accompanied them, to be sent to the Prince of I, and the escort to be conducted back to Changkia-wan. The poor sowar who was with Mr. Parkes, was most unwillingly made prisoner, having, upon the first sign of violence by the Chinese soldiers, brought his lance down to the charge, and being only with difficulty restrained from showing fight. “Oh, Sahib,” as he afterwards told us when released, “if we had [p. 262] only charged, it would have been all right, and we should have escaped.” His devotion, evinced by his desire to defend the officers with him when surrounded by enemies, was only equalled by his unrepining courage during his subsequent cruel imprisonment. Major Probyn promoted him on the evening of his return to camp. When I last saw him, his hands were still crippled, from the effects of the tight manner in which his wrists had been bound; and the sores caused by the cords used for that purpose were still unhealed.
Whilst Mr. Parkes was thus engaged with Sangwan, who can describe what must have been the feelings of the officers remaining with the escort upon the road? As their position did not enable them to see what was going on between Mr. Parkes and the Tartar general, they waited on in ignorance of what was passing, whilst every moment added to their difficulties by increasing the number of enemies around them. Having no orders, and ignorant of what had become of Mr. Parkes, they feared to act lest by so doing they might compromise his safety. Indeed, if at any moment before they were led off towards Pekin, they had assumed the offensive, and cut their way through into our camp, numbers, who now bemoan their fate, would have seriously blamed them, had Messrs. Parkes and Loch been murdered. In that case we should never have had a correct account of what befell them, and many would have attributed their deaths to the fact of the escort having commenced an attack. Of all the horrible positions in which I can fancy an officer being placed, I think that of Messrs. Brabazon and Anderson must have been the [p. 263] worst. All their subsequent ill-treatment must have been insignificant, when compared with the moments of uncertainty which they passed whilst awaiting in vain for the return of Mr. Parkes. There cannot be much doubt that, if the escort had charged, most of them would have reached our army safely. The sowars were all picked men and well mounted, and none, who knew either of the two officers with the party, imagine, I am sure, that they were men who would have preferred taking the chances of imprisonment to that of a hand-to-hand encounter.
It is very easy now to say, “Oh, why did they not charge”; but I feel certain, that but few brave men would have done so under their peculiar circumstances; and their having refrained from fighting was a noble example of men refusing to seek personal safety at the risk of compromising others. It evinced a disregard of self and a solicitude for the lives of others, which are amongst the rarest and most admirable of the heroic virtues.
The accounts of what happened to the party, are far from lucid or satisfactory. One feels a sort of unquenchable thirst, an earnest longing, which nothing can satisfy, to learn all the details of their sad fate. It is not then to be wondered at that the narratives related by the illiterate sowars who survived to return, should fail to be as ample as all would desire. Messrs. Brabazon, De Norman and Bowlby could not speak Hindostani, and as none of the sowars understood English our information regarding those gentlemen is meagre. Private Phipps, of the King’s Dragoon Guards, had a partial knowledge of Hindostani; so of him we [p. 264] know somewhat more. Up to the day of his death he never lost heart, and, as we were told by one who had been confined with him, always endeavoured to cheer up those about him when any complained or bemoaned their cruel fate. Even to his last moment of consciousness he tried to encourage them with words of hope and comfort.
All honour be to his memory: he was brave, when hundreds of brave men would have lost heart. The glorious excitement of action will inspire the most cold-blooded man with daring, and sometimes enable even a physically timid man to act with bravery; but nothing except the very highest order of courage, both mental and bodily, will sustain a man through the miseries of such a barbarous imprisonment and cruel torture as that which Private Phipps underwent patiently, his resolute spirit having within him up to the very last moment of his existence.
The particulars of the story, as collated from the accounts of those who lived to return, are as follows:
When Messrs. Parkes and Loch left them upon the road for the purpose of having an interview with the Chinese general, lieutenant Anderson, commanding the escort, told the men, that, as the aforesaid gentlemen were acting under a flag of truce, there was not to be any fighting. Almost immediately after they had halted, crowds of Chinese soldiers gathered round them, until they became hemmed in upon all sides closely. They were then really prisoners and had to give up their arms, after which they were ordered to dismount, but had their horses subsequently given back to them. They were conducted to the rear, and lodged for the night in a [p. 265] joss-house near the paved road from Tung-chow to Pekin. The next morning they were ordered to mount again, and were taken to the capital. Whilst on the road Captain Brabazon and the Abbe de Luc left them, saying, they were going back to our camp to make arrangements for the release of all the party. That was the last ever seen of them by any of our people. All the information subsequently gleaned from Chinese sources tends to prove that both were beheaded the 21st September during the action fought upon that day.
A Chinese general had been badly wounded at the stone bridge during the attack upon it, and, in revenge, ordered Captain Brabazon and the Abbe, who were in his power, to be put to death. A Chinese Christian related this story to the French shortly before the allied armies retired from Pekin, averring that he had been present then, and bringing in some portion of the Abbe’s gown in support of his statement. To those who judge of these facts by the commonly accepted laws of evidence, they must be conclusive, although there will be always some few who will refuse to believe, and will hope on against all rational hope. When the others of the party were taken to Pekin, they were paraded in triumph through the streets, and then taken to the summer palace, where they were lodged in tents pitched in an enclosed courtyard, the Europeans and natives separately, six men in each tent.
About two hours after their arrival they were all taken out one by one under the pretence of letting them wash, when each was thrown upon his face, his hands being then tied behind his back, and his feet bound together. The Chinese appeared to have a fair [p. 266] appreciation of the relative strength of their prisoners, as they took out the English first, then the French, and lastly the sowars. They were placed in a kneeling position, their hands and feet fastened together, and then thrown upon their backs. If they attempted to roll over on their side, they were kicked, beaten, and forced back into their former position, which caused all the weight of their bodies to rest upon their hands, which, being tightly fastened together, had no circulation through them, and consequently became rapidly black and swollen. A Chinese sentry watched over each prisoner. They were kept thus in an open yard, exposed to the sun during the day and the bitter cold at night, without any covering. Their guardians frequently threw water on the cords with which they were bound, so as to tighten them, and when any asked for food or water, dirt was thrust into their mouths. They were kept thus for three days, with scarcely any food; and but little water even was given to them. Some were, however, handcuffed and chained, their cord fastenings being taken off. The only one of the party knowing anything of Chinese was Mr. de Norman, who had learned a little during his residence at Shanghai, where he had been attached to the British Consulate. He was examined several times by ofiicials, and once was able to induce his jailor to give them some food. On the second day of their incarceration at the summer palace, Lieutenant Anderson became delirious from want of food and exposure. Up to that time he had always encouraged the sowars when they called out for water or repined in any way at their condition. His hands were swollen to about twice their natural size, and were [p. 267] as black as ink from the effects of the cords tied round his wrists. Poor fellow! It was merciful that delirium prevented him from feeling his subsequent miseries, as mortification setting in most rapidly, his fingers and nails actually burst, and worms, the usual consequence of undressed wounds, were generated about his hands and wrists in myriads. Crowds of people went to look at them daily, feasting their eyes upon the miseries of the few prisoners in their power. On the afternoon of the fourth day they were all placed in carts, and divided into four parties, one consisting of Lieutenant Anderson, Mr. de Norman, one duffedar and four sowars; the second of three Frenchmen and five Sikhs; the third party of four Sikhs, Private Phipps, King’s Dragoon Guards, a French officer, and Mr. Bowlby; the fourth of three Frenchmen and four Sikhs. The first party travelled all night, the mules trotting most of the time. In the morning they reached a fort, where they were loaded with chains and confined in cages. There Lieutenant Anderson died on the ninth day of his imprisonment. Before death, the bones of his wrists were actually exposed, the fleshy parts being in a mortified state. Upon the evening of his death they took the cords off the other prisoners. Lieutenant Anderson’s body was left lying amongst them for three days, when it was at last removed. Five days after that a sowar died, and three days subsequently Mr. de Norman died. The remainder of the party survived and returned to our camp, a melancholy evidence of the inhuman treatment which they had experienced. Their wrists and ankles were one mass of sores, horrible to look at; their fingers were contracted and almost useless. The second [p. 268] party was taken away towards the hills, halting for the first night on the way. Travelling the two following days they reached a walled town, outside of which was a white fort, about two miles from it. The place was surrounded on three sides by hills; they were placed in a jail within the town. One Frenchman died on the road, and another the day after they were placed in jail, and a sowar a few days after that. They died from the effects of the tight bindings round their wrists, which caused mortification. During the latter ten days of their imprisonment, the others of their party who survived were treated better, the mandarin, in charge of the jail, having removed their irons, and having had their wounds washed. The third party travelled all the night of their removal. They received nothing to eat, and were beaten when they asked for food. On the following morning, at about ten a.m., they reached a fort, within which they were kept in the open air for three days, after which they were dragged into an old kitchen, where they were kept eight days, and for the first three or four of which they were not on any account permitted to stir. Mr. Bowlby died on the second day after their arrival at the fort. His body remained where he had died for three days, when it was fastened to a kind of cross-beam and thrown over the wall. The day after his death the French officer died; two days after that, a Sikh died; and four days afterwards Private Phipps, and another Sikh sometime subsequently. Of the fourth party we know nothing, as none of them survived to tell the tale of woe and cruelty to which they had been, no doubt, like the others, subjected. Messrs. Loch and Parkes were taken into Pekin upon [p. 269] the night of their capture, their hands tied behind their backs. Together with the Frenchmen who were taken in Tung-chow, they were lodged in the common malefactors’ prison of Pekin, heavily chained, and with scarcely food enough to support life. The cells in which they were kept were so crowded that they had barely sufficient space to be down upon. From their jailors they met with only cruelty and insult, whilst from all their fellow-prisoners they received every little attention which the poor fellows were able to bestow upon them. They were frequently examined by officials and the Board of Punishments, when invariably their inquisitors ordered Mr. Parkes to be cuffed about the head and have his ears pulled for speaking what they said was false. Similar punishments were inflicted upon Mr. Loch because he did not answer their questions, he being totally ignorant of the language. At such times they were always obliged to remain in a kneeling position, and made to kow-tow to every official. Upon the 29th September they were removed from the jail and lodged in the Kaomio temple, where they were well fed, and treated more as guests than prisoners. Hang-ki endeavoured to obliterate from their memory all recollection of the cruel treatment to which they had been subjected, by subsequently overwhelming them with attentions. From the first, endeavours were made to work upon Mr. Parkes’s fears, so as to induce him to mediate for the Chinese Government with our ambassador. Mr. Parkes upon all occasions upheld the dignity of the nation to which he belonged, never allowing himself to be intimidated or cajoled into promising anything for which he might subsequently be [p. 270] sorry. When Hang-ki informed him on the 28th September that he should be released upon the day following, Mr. Parkes declined to accept the favour unless it was also extended to Mr. Loch: this disinterested conduct was rewarded by the discharge of both from prison upon the 29th. They were liberally treated from that time up to the date of their return to our camp upon the 8th October.
Upon the 9th October the French marched from Yuen-ming-yuen, and encamped to our left facing Pekin. The An-ting Gate was opposite the centre of the allied forces. The day following a summons was forwarded to the Prince of Kung, signed by the allied Commanders-in-Chief, naming noon of the 13th October as the latest time up to which he might save his city from bombardment by the surrender of one of its gates, and adding that in case the An-ting gate was not handed over to our possession by that time our batteries would open fire upon the walls.
A reconnaissance was made by Sir Hope Grant and General Montauban of the northern face of the city defences, during which our officers rode up to the edge of the ditch without being fired upon, although the walls were manned by the enemy, who held up white flags. A position was then selected for our breaching batteries, at about six hundred yards to the east of the An-ting gate. The guns were to be placed within the high wall which surrounded the “Te-tsu” or “Temple of the Earth,” and to be disposed as follows. The four 8-inch guns to make a breach between the second and third square flanking towers east of the gate; two Armstrong guns (12-pounders) to play also upon the breach, [p. 271] whilst two others fired down the road leading to the gate; two more to be in reserve. A battery of 9-pounders to counter-batter. Our mortars to play upon the breach. Our guns were simply placed upon wooden platforms laid down behind the massive brick walls of the temple; small magazines were constructed with lean-to’s against the wall. The French had no regular breaching guns, but they hoped to make their heaviest field battery serve instead. They constructed their batteries to our left, and at about sixty yards’ distance from the walls; our guns being larger were to be 198 yards from them. Small trenches were dug in advance for infantry, from which a rifle fire was to be maintained upon the Chinese gunners and the breach. The small suburb in front of the gate, and only about a hundred yards distant from it, was loopholed for musketry, and all necessary arrangements were made for reassuming the offensive in the event of our proffered terms being refused. Our interpreters had several interviews with Hang-ki, upon the 10th, 11th, and 12th October, when he spoke confidently of everything being arranged amicably.
Upon the 12th October Lord Elgin received a letter from the Prince of Kung, in answer to the summons sent him in the names of the allied Commanders-in-Chief, with whom he said that he did not wish to commence a correspondence, having hitherto been in the habit of writing to the ambassador direct. He signified his willingness to accede to all that we had demanded, but shilly-shallied about giving up a gate, saying that as such was always in charge of high officers, their withdrawal from the post might lead to the [p. 272] introduction of ill-disposed and disorderly people within the city: he was consequently desirous of ascertaining the measures which Lord Elgin proposed as a precaution against such an occurrence. This was simply an effort to throw difficulties in the way of our taking a gate of the city. He wrote as if peace had been already concluded: an old trick in Chinese diplomacy. By Sir Hope Grant’s order, proclamations were posted tip in the suburbs and other places which we could reach with safety, warning the inhabitants of Pekin, that, unless their rulers made peace by noon upon the 13th October and the An-ting gate were handed over into our possession, we should open fire upon the walls, in the event of which the people were advised to clear out of the city. Upon the night of the 12th all our arrangements for opening fire upon the following day were completed, and our embrasures unmasked. Mr. Parkes with a suitable escort met Hang-ki at ten a.m. upon the following day. He tried hard to get off giving up the gate, or even to postpone doing so; but Mr. Parkes was inexorable. Noon drew near, and the gate was still held by the Chinese. The artillery officers in charge of our batteries commenced getting everything ready for opening fire; the guns were sponged out and run back for loading, with the gunners standing to their guns waiting for the orders to commence. A few minutes before twelve o’clock the An-ting-mun was thrown open, and its defences surrendered to Major-General Sir Robert Napier, whose division was on duty close by. Our troops took immediate possession, the French marching in after us. In a few minutes afterwards the Union Jack was floating from the walls of [p. 273] Pekin, the far-famed celestial capital, the pride of China, and hitherto esteemed impregnable by every soul in that empire. We took possession of the walls extending from the An-ting gate to the Tih-shing-mun, the French holding the space to the left from the An-ting-mun to the south-east comer of the city. Our engineers at once placed the post in a defensible state, to resist any attack from within the city, and field guns were mounted upon the walls so as to command the interior approaches to the gate.
By the evening of the 16th October the remains of all our ill-fated countrymen and comrades had been sent in to our camp, with the exception of Captain Brabazon’s, of whom, as of the Abbe de Luc, the Chinese authorities said they knew nothing. Sir Hope Grant determined upon giving them a military funeral, and lending to the ceremony every possible importance, so as to impress upon the inhabitants of the place, not only our sorrow for their loss, but the great estimation we put upon the lives of our compatriots. General Ignatieff, the Russian ambassador in China, called upon the Commander-in-Chief and most civilly offered us permission to bury our dead in the Russian cemetery, near the An-ting gate of the city, which was gladly accepted. The bodies reached our camp in rough coffins, upon which attempts had been made to render the name of each in Chinese characters. English names, however, for the most part defy any such Chinese translation; so that it was only with great difficulty that we could recognise them individually, as all were in a state of decomposition and their mouldering clothes were the only real clues we had to go by. Upon the [p. 274] morning of the 17th October the funeral took place. The procession consisted of a troop of the King’s Dragoon Guards, a troop of Fane’s Horse, an officer and twenty men of each infantry regiment, and the band of the 60th Rifles. All the officers of our army and a large proportion of French officers attended in full uniform. The attaches of the Russian embassy also joined the procession. The Commander-in-Chief and Lord Elgin were the chief mourners. The service was performed by the Eev. E. J. M’Ghee.
The funeral of the murdered Frenchmen took place some few days subsequently, in the Jesuit burial-ground, which is to the west of the city, Sir Hope Grant and a large number of our staff and other officers attending it. [p. 275]
9. PRECIS OF THE CHINESE OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS FOUND IN YUEN-MING-YUEN
Some of the documents collected by Mr. Morrison, of the Consular Service, were most interesting, and gave a fair insight into the secret purposes of Chinese poUcy, and the method in which their official business is carried on. From some of these it appeared, that Kweihang’s negotiations with us in September were only intended for gaining time, and never meant to arrange matters finally. In case we proved obstinate in our intentions of advancing beyond Tien-tsin, it had been all along arranged to try the chances of war again. In order to do so to the best advantage, negotiations were to be spun out, so that military operations might be, if possible, prolonged into the cold weather, upon the inclemency of which they placed as much reUance for their protection as the Czar Nicholas was reported to have done for the defence of Sebastopol. Some of the captured papers were very clever, and showed an extraordinary amount of diplomatic abihty. Having no regard whatever for truth, bound by no fine feeUngs of himianity, but ready at any moment to sacrifice their innocent agents to the expediency of the moment, their poUtical system is eminently calculated s 2 244 THE WAR WITH CHINA. for all the complex situations of diplomacy. The coldblooded rules for government enunciated in ” The Prince,” appear to be well understood in China. TTia Celestial Majesty can never do wrong; not because his actions are always guided by a council responsible to the people, but that in the event of any failure on the part of a pubhc servant deputed for any special duty, even though such may have arisen from a strict adherence to his orders, aU responsibiUty is cast upon the unsuccessful agent, who is pubhcly degraded, to impress the people with an idea that the whole conduct of the affair had been initiated by him. Gratitude for faithful services is never permitted to interfere with the exigencies of the moment. Expediency to its most extended hmit is the one great law regulating the official dealings of his Majesty, both with his own people and foreigners. So in one of these papers we find the draft of an Imperial decree directing Kweiliang to be degraded as soon as the mock negotiations, in which he was engaged at Tien-tsin, came to an end. It was no doubt expected that the pubhcation of that order would lead us to beheve that he alone was to blame for the non-arrangement of affairs, and incHne us to lend a more wiUing ear — as we subsequently did — to the proposals made by his successor. Success covers all errors in most governments; but in China we find one of the highest and most faithful pubhc servants deprived of rank and station for carrying out accurately the instructions he had received, in order to give to mock negotiations the semblance of reahty. A long paper, written with the vermihon pencil of royalty, upon the subject of our demands, gives a fair outline CHINESE MDaSTERIAL PAPEES. 245 of the various degrees of importance attached by Chinese poUticians to each of the specific concessions we had asked for. Of all others, they considered the march of troops into Pekin as the most highly objectionable, and the residence of an ambassador there as next in importance, both equally to be avoided. The paper went on to say, — “If conciliation is once negotiated, why do they want to bring soldiers to Pekin with their ambassadors? Their doing so would seem that they had some hidden purpose, which, when their troops were within Pekin, it would be as impossible to concede as it would then be to fight.” — ” Were we to assent, would there be any more word of that most important of aU places, the capital?” On the subject of war expenses, his Majesty said, ” Setting aside the impossibility of paying the two miUions of taels by the time named, it is utterly out of the question to pay at all.” — ” From of old, it has been held a disgrace to make treaties under your city waUs, and if one is again to tender gifts, whilst one’s face is ashamed, will Cluna be thought still to have a man ? ” This head was to be disposed of by applying to us for monied indemnification for the expenses which the war had entailed upon the Imperial Government. As to the admission of Mr. Parkes within Pekin, his Majesty considered that if once conceded, that gentleman, ” idly yelping and frantically barking, is certain to bring forward other conditions,” and might not be subsequently got rid of easily. The memorial of Sang-ko-Un-sin, dated the 26th August, two days after the fall of the Takoo forts, addressed to the Emperor, was one, which, from many S3 246 THE WAE WITH CHINA. Other papers found and translated by Mr. Wade, seems to have created great sensation amongst all the Imperial ministers, and to have been condemned most strongly by every official whom we know to have written to his Majesty regarding it. The subject of the memorial was advising Hien-fimg to start on a hunting tour; the reasons he urges for the necessity of such a move seem so inconclusive and so thoroughly untenable before the great weight of argument brought to bear against them, that the advice appears interested, and carries with it a certain amount of what might be intended treachery. So unanimous are all the civil ministers in their condemnation of such a proceeding, that it would almost seem that they suspected some ulterior motives on Sang-ko-lin-sin’s part. From all previously found documents emanating from his pen, and from his general reputation, there cannot be any doubt regarding h^p mental abihty and ordinarily sound views upon mihtary matters and pubUc business in general He made a great mistake certainly in not fortifying Pehtang as strongly as he had fortified Takoo, but this to a certain extent may have arisen from want of men and means; but in the paper which he drew up regarding the general defences of the coast-Une, and the chances of their being successfully attacked by the barbarians — to which I have previously referred — his views were most able, and the opinions therein set forth of the certainty of our complete overthrow and failure, were based most fairly upon mihtary grounds, and would have been given under similar circumstances by any man who was ignorant of our superiority in guns and discipline. SANG-KO-WN-Sm’S MIUTABT OPINIONS. 247 Kiiowing the great strength of his position, he was naturally confident of victory. He had a very large force of cavahy — an arm which he fancied it to be impossible we should be furnished with; he had numbers of guns in position, to which, in the general Chinese ignorance regarding field artillery, he thought we should be able to reply only with small arms. With such data before him, surely it is not surprising that he should be confident of success I Indeed, so powerful and ample must his resources have appeared to him, that it was no wonder he i^egarded our being able to effect a landing at Peh-tang as rather a matter of indifference, so sure and certain must our final annihilation have seemed to be. The man who could argue as clearly and with such soundness of logic, was not Hkely to be blind to the insurmountable objections to the proposal which, upon the fall of the forts, he urged so presaingly upon his Imperial master : for the Emperor to leave his capital at such a critical monient, and fly away across the frontier of China Proper, was as objectionable and faulty in a poHtical point of view, as, regarded in a military hght, it was untenable. It afforded the Chinese Commander-in-Chief no advantage whatever as to position, whilst, morally, it must have had a most prejudicial effect upon the minds of his Tartar soldiers. The arguments which he urges in favour of such a step were, that its adoption would facihtate measures being taken for attacking and destroying the barbarians; that it would place him at Hberty to choose his own time and place of attack, to advance or retire as events occurred; that, should any s 4 248 THE WAR WITH CHINA. fighting take place near Tung-chow, the minds of the people in Pekin would be greatly agitated, and that, in the event of a reverse, the numerous merchants there would take to flight. Amidst such a commotion, should the courage of the soldiers fail, the Emperor’s person would not be safe; and his Majesty’s presence in the capital at such a moment might not only impede the execution of the necessary defensive arrangements, but even fill with alarm the Celestial mind itself. Of his ultimate success he was still confident; he had made all the necessary dispositions of his troops along the road from Tien-tsin to Tung-chow; and he hoped, by sweeping from off the earth the vile brood, to redeem his previous shortcomings. The forts, he said, he had lost fi’om the imforeseen explosion of the powder magazines in them, not fi:dm any want of energy in their defence. In conclusion, he prays that his Majesty may order the princes of the Six Leagues to repair with their most efficient troops at once to Pekin. So peculiar did he evidently consider the advice he was tendering, that hg said ” he did not venture to forward his memorial by the regular express,” but sent it sealed by the hands of a special messenger, to be dehvered in person to his Majesty. Surely there is much in this letter which will strike even the most superficial reader as suspicious. The lameness of the arguments urged in favour of the hunting tour being only equalled by the cleverness with which he avails himself of the known weakness and cowardice of his master, to hint in such a marked manner at the personal danger to which his Majesty i SANG-KO-LTN-Sm’S ADVICE. 249 will be exposed, should he turn a deaf ear to the advice of ” his slave.” Unless such was the case, why not send it through the usual channel of communication? Why the secresy of sending it sealed by a confidential messenger, to be deUvered into the Emperor’s own hands ? No man appreciated more the importance attached by every one in China to the possession of Pekin, than Sang-ko-lin-sin himself He must have been aware that, if once we took it, all China would consider the war over, and hail us as victors; that, even at the last moment of our assaulting the place (so vast was its circumference, and so numerically weak were we), we could never block up all the exits from it, and thus prevent the Emperor’s escape; that nothing would serve to estabUsh pubhc confidence, or to strengthen the hearts of its defenders, more than the presence of the father of his people on the spot. His wished-for freedom of action was all a myth, as was proved by his subsequent conduct, when twice he gave us battle upon the road to Pekin. He was too able a general not to be aware that if he had fought us twenty times, instead of twice, it must each time have been on that line, or else at the capital itself Even granting that his knowledge of war pointed out to him the advantages which, in a military point of view, he might gain by forsaking the city and taking up a menacing position upon our line of communications, as Koutousof did at Moscow, still he must have felt that, poUtically, such a poUcy would be fatal to the cause. China and Eussia are totally difierent countries; nor was the ancient capital of the latter country, Uke 250 THE WAE WITH CHINA. Pekin, the seat of general government. The loss of Madrid or Paris has never been considered to involve the conquest of the country. The possession of European capitals by invaders has never been looked upon by the population of those countries as the outward emblem and unanswerable proof of complete conquest, whilst to every Chinaman the capture of Pekin by any foreigner would be the most convincing of aU other proofs that the Mantchoo dynasty had ceased to reign. Under such circumstances the grand struggle must always have taken place in or about Pekin; his wishedfor ” freedom of action ” was simply a military phrase meaning nothing. His insight into human nature was great, and he seemed to possess a clear idea of the working of Hien-fimg’s dastardly mind, when he appealed to his sense of personal risk. This latter consideration seems to have had far greater weight with him than aU the serious objections to his departure which were raised by every minister to whom at this distressing juncture he appealed for advice. Every argument which would have had weight with any ruler but the basest of cowards, was brought forward by the various ministers of state, who, also appreciating the power which fear had upon their sovereign’s mind, followed in the summing up of their memorials Sangko-lin-sin’s example, and urged in their turn the dangers to which his Majesty would be exposed personally by flying from his capital and seeking refuge in Jeho. No doubt they exaggerated those dangers in order to strike the greater terror into their pusillanimous ruler. They dilated upon the vast numbers of robbers, infesting not only the neighbourhood of Jeho but the PROPOSED FLIGHT TO JBHO. 251 road to it, where the police could not be expected to be perfect, when such turmoil was rife everywhere else. They urged that, owing to the faUing off in the yielding of the mines, the people had become so impoverished about Jeho, that they frequently banded together in very large numbers, and not only robbed traders and officials, but created great disturbances in the neighbouring districts; that beyond the Hoope-kow pass in the Great Wall, there were ” numbers of Eussian barbarians, some of whom have been for a long time pretending fo dehver communications at Pekin for the furtherance of some treacherous designs; ” that if the strong fortifications of Pekin were not considered sufficient security, surely much less could any be found in the open and unprotected hunting-grounds beyond the wall; if the barbarians have been able to reach Tien-tsin, what is to prevent them from penetrating to the Loan river at Jeho ? Having thus tried to impress upon the mind of ” the sacred Son of Heaven ” the dangers to be encountered at Jeho, they go on to point out the great inconvenience and discomfort to which the ” Governor and Tranquilliser of the Universe ” would be subject during his journey in the ” still hot weather of autumn.” As no such journey had been undertaken for forty years, all the Imperial palaces along the hne of route, having been so long unused, had fallen into disrepair, and were consequently uninhabitable. An escort of at least 10,000 persons would be required for the journey, for whom it would be impossible to provide supphes on the road, and consequently numbers of them would desert, and, falling in with the 252 THE WAE WITH CHINA. numerous banditti who prowl about those regions wherever they please, would lead to serious disturbances. Jeho was the constant resort “of the Mongol tribes, to whom it had always been customary upon the visit of former Emperors to bestow presents, amounting to tens of millions of taels, which the present financial difficulties would not admit of, and without doing which it might be difficult to soothe the discontent of those tributaries. In this manner they appealed to his Majesty’s sense of personal risk and inconvenience, whilst they put forward, in a startlingly straightforward manner, the pohtical objections to his journey, urging their arguments upon him with a force and plainness of speech which few European ministers could presume to use with their sovereigns, and in a manner the very opposite to all our preconceived notions of Chinese court etiquette or the style of address usual from the Mandarins to their despotic Emperor. The papers whicli fell into our hands were memorials from various ministers of state, all signed by several others who agreed in the substance of them. One was countersigned by as many as seventy-six ministers; that of the earUest date was from Kia-ching, and signed by twenty-five others, dated the 9th September. It was evidently written in answer to a communication from the Emperor, in which he had demanded an opinion upon Sang-ko-lin-sin’s advice, enclosing a copy at the same time of the memorial from that general. Eumours of the intended flight of his Majesty had been in circulation for some time previous at Pekin; and so when his Majesty declared that he intended TSUIEN-KING’S MEMOEIAL. 253 proceeding to Tung-chow and taking command of the army in person, the ministers appear to have seen through the artifice, and perceived that such was only an excuse for his departure, and that once on the move he would follow his general’s advice and make quickly for Jeho. In another paper from the minister Tsuien-king, dated four days later, the most sarcastic censure is poured forth upon a proposed plan which had emanated from the Celestial mind, which was that, assembling a large force, he should take up a position to the north of Pekin. ” They admired the awe-inspiring demeanour and the well-devised strategy thus displayed. But the common people are extremely slow of comprehension; they easily suspect and with difficulty are led to appreciate; they will say that as the barbarians are to the southeastward of the capital, Timg-chow should be the position from which to support Sang-ko-lin-sin; that a position to the north of Pekin would be without the general line of operations; that what was undertaken under the semblance of strategy would in reality be flight. If his Majesty was in such a critical time careless of the preservation of his empire and only regardful of his personal safety, where could such be more securely assured to him than within the tliick and lofty walls of Pekin ? ” One and all of these memorials denote with startKng plainness what shoiild be the Emperor’s line of conduct at such a critical conjuncture, and urge that at such times of pubhc danger, ” the man of heroic conduct is prepared to die at his post.” — “Your Majesty is well aware of the maxini, that the prince is bound to sacrifice him 254 THE WAK WITH CHmA. self for his country; but far be it from your ministers at such a time as this to desire to wound your Majesty’s feehngs by adverting to such thoughts.” — “In what hght does your Majesty regard your people, and the altars of your Gods ? WUl you cast away the ioheritance of your ancestors Hke a damaged shoe ? What would history say of your Majesty for a thousand future generations.” No sovereign hitherto has ever gone on a hunting tour in times of danger. Such a journey would then greatly endanger the whole state, and compromise the reigning dynasty; his departure would occasion the most serious disorders within the capital and lead to a revolution. All people, they said, throughout the empire then looked to the throne, as to the centre from which aU plans for safety must emanate; the minds of people, they added, will become disturbed, shaking the courage of the troops and inspiring the rebels with renewed energy; the capital ” is the honourable seat of majesty, and at such a moment especially the sovereign ought to remain within it; ” to l<3ave it would embolden the barbarians to make fresh enterprises, and should peace be negotiated, the great distance of Jeho from Pekin would cause considerable delay in communicating with his Majesty there. Although the barbarians’ vessels had reached Tien-tsin, yet that was a long distance from Pekin; their force was only 10,000, whilst the army under Sang-ko-lin-sin numbered 30,000, and men, women, and children were ready to fight for their tutelary gods. ” The danger was most threatening,” and ” a puff of breath is now sufficient to decide the balance in which hangs the loss or preservation of the succession of your ances ABGUMBNTS AGAINST THE TOUR TO JEHO. 255 tors and the repose of the deities,^’ The advice which they with one accord gi^e is that an Imperial decree should at once announce his Majesty’s determination of awaiting events at his capital, which it was requested might at once be placed in the highest state of defence. ” When Te-tsung of the Tang dynasty (a.d. 790) made a pubHc confession of error ” the mutineers returned at once to obedience, and if his present Majesty would but follow a similar plan, and publicly acknowledge his mistake in having intended to leave the capital, it would reassure the troubled minds of his subjects. As it had been talked of paying the barbarians 20,000,000 of taels, how much better it would be to devote the portion which had been demanded down in ready money to gaining over those treacherous Chinese mercenaries who constituted such a considerable portion of the barbarians’ army. To purchase peace by paying the invaders for retiring, would only occasion fresh demands for more money; no peace should under any circumstances be granted until the ” vile horde ” had been defeated in battle. His late Imperial Majesty, in his last will, spoke with shame of having concluded a peace with the English barbarians. For the better fulfilment of these plans his Majesty is over and over again besought to return to Pekin, and thus appease the popular anxiety, “maintain the dignity of the throne and pacify the spirits of your ancestors.” Since the establishment of the present dynasty, 200 years ago, providence had guarded the humane government. Should his Majesty now disregard the council of his ministers, it must surely hereafter produce in him ” bitter but unavailing regret.” [p. 255] All these memorials and the advice which they endeavom^ed to inculcate are closely interlarded with historical allusions to past times, some to events of many centmies back It will be seen from these papers, the pith of which I have dotted down above, that one and aU of the ministers viewed Sang-ko-lin-sin’s recommendation as the most pernicious step which could be taken, and express their opinions thereon so strongly as actually to border upon impertinence. Surely, when such was apparently the universal Ught in which all Chinese poUticians regarded the Jeho tour, Sang-ko hn-sin must have had some underhand and hidden object before him in recommending it. For a long time he had been steadily rising in power and influence, and his position was so influential after his grand defeat of the rebels, when they advanced upon Tien-tsin, that it aroused the jealousy of all the court, and caused his offer of leading down an army to Nankin, and retaking that important city, to be rejected, not from any doubts as to his ability to fulfil what he planned, but simply from a dread that such a victory would place the entire power of the empire in his hands and consequently open to him a rapid path to the throne. Usurpations of such a nature are not unfamihar to the Chinese people, and so great have been the reverses experienced since 1840 by the present dynasty, that it has long since ceased to carry with it any great respect, and consequently any strong attachment on the part of the Chinese people. Sang-ko-lin-sin’s name has been, since his victory over us in 1859, a proverb for might in war throughout the length and breadth of the country, and upon him all eyes were turned for salvation [p. 256] when the barbarians, having forced their way up to Tien-tsin, threatened the capital, and as was universally beUeved, the very Uberties of the empire. For him the throne was an easy goal. If once he could succeed in inducing the reigning king to forfeit for ever any little remaining respect which the people still entertained for the crown by being the first to fly before the invaders of his country, and if he could also defeat in open field the small body of barbarians, then, upon their march northward, the assumption of Imperial robes would be but the easiest part of his plan to accomplish. This to me is certainly the best solution of what otherwise appears the most incomprehensible advice which a sincere and loyal subject could under the circumstances have given to his sovereign. [p. 257]
8. ADVANCE OF THE ALLIED ARMIES FROM PA-LE-CHEAOU
ADVANCE OF THE ALLIED ARMIES FROM PA-LE-CHEAOU — ARRIVAL BEFORE PEKIN — DESCRIPTION OF THE LHAMA TEMPLES NEAR OUR CAMP THERE — PLUNDER OF THE SUMMER PALACE BY THE FRENCH ARMY — DESCRIPTION OF YUEN-MINGYUEN — DISTRIBUTION OF PRIZEMONEY TO THE BRITISH ARMY — PUBLIC AUCTION OF ALL ARTICLES TAKEN BY OFFICERS FROM THE PALACES.
Upon the morning of the 5th October we advanced in a line of contiguous columns, and halted at a strong position to the north-east of Pekin, which had been previously reconnoitred, and where plenty of water was procurable for our cavalry. The French moved to our left, but as on the previous day they had been encamped some distance to our rear, their march was much longer than ours. When, therefore, we had advanced between four and five miles, our allies would not go any further, and both armies halted for the night. As all our tents and baggage had been left behind, the men bivouacked. Each regiment had been allowed to take one small cart with it for the officers’ mess, and the men carried three days’ cooked rations with them. As with a small army acting against an enemy strong in cavalry, it is impossible to fight and at the same time protect a large amount of baggage in the open field, our impediments had been reduced to the very smallest quantity compatible [p. 215] with efficiency. There was plenty of the long millet straw stocked about in the fields; so, although the nights were sharply cold, the men easily made themselves comfortable. A cavalry reconnaissance was made in the evening, which beat up the Tartar camp without compromising our party. The country became much closer as we approached Pekin, and was greatly cut up by brick-fields, and by the large excavations belonging to them.
Enclosed tombs, hollow roads, and small gardens were dotted about everywhere, and clumps of trees bounded the view upon every side, so that no clear view of the country to any distance could be obtained. Close by the ground where we had halted for the night stood some very high brick-kilns, enclosed by substantial walls, protected without by deep ponds, which rendered the place very strong. A small guard was left behind there when we advanced upon the 6th, for the purpose of keeping open our communication with the depot in rear, and at the same time of taking charge of all the men’s knapsacks, which it was determined to leave behind there, so that our troops might be able to go through a long march upon the day following.
Upon the 6th October the armies were again in motion, advancing along the route which our cavalry had examined the previous evening. Upon reaching the furthest point that our reconnoitring party had thus far reached, and where the enemy’s cavalry had shown in great force, we found that they had retreated, leaving behind a few pickets. The advanced videttes of these pickets were to be seen dodging about now and then through the trees to our front and flanks. [p. 216] They however took good care that none of us should approach too near them, as they invariably galloped off when any one tried to do so.
We halted for breakfast, and the Commanders-in-Chief arranged their plans for moving forward. A good view of the surrounding country was obtained from some high brick-kilns close by, and we could see the north-east angle of the old line of earthen ramparts, which enclose so large a space immediately to the north of the Tartar city. Upon that space all our informants had told us that Sang-ko-lin-sin was encamped with his vast army, and we could discern small parties of soldiers watching our movements from the highest points of the old entrenchments. These ruined works were from forty to fifty feet high, having evidently had formerly a formidable ditch around them. It has now completely disappeared in some places, and is laid out in cabbage gardens at others, having gently sloping sides at all points. The country people about informed us that the large force of cavalry, seen upon the previous evening, had retreated as soon as our reconnoitring party had disappeared. Some said they had fallen back upon the main army encamped upon the Tartar parade-ground within the entrenchment, whilst others boldly asserted that all had marched direct for Tartary. From the high kilns, near which we breakfasted, we could see several of the gates of Pekin and the towers and minarets of the Imperial palaces. Breakfast over, we again advanced, the English moving on the right, and making a slight detour so as to attack the line of ruined earthen ramparts upon their northern face, whilst the French, moving direct to the left, [p. 217] entered them at the salient angle. Our cavalry at the same time moved away to the extreme right, with orders to make a wide sweep in that direction and take up a position upon the main road which led out from the Tehshin gate northwards towards Jeho, and along which the enemy would naturally endeavour to retreat, when driven from their position upon the parade-ground.
Having advanced about three miles without encountering any resistance, or seeing more than some few small parties of the enemy’s cavalry, who kept hovering about to watch our movements, our skirmishers, who had reached the earthen embankment, reported that no camp was visible from it. The country people about informed us that Sang-ko-lin-sin had retreated with all his force. The French were not then in sight, having become entangled in the difficult country which lay between them and their intended point of attack. A message was sent to General Montauban informing him that the enemy had retreated, and that Sir Hope Grant intended pushing on for Yuen-ming-yuen, to which place the Tartar army was said to have gone.
Almost immediately after the despatch of that message our advanced guard came upon what seemed to be a large force of the enemy’s cavalry, who seemed inclined to fight. The country was so very close that it was some time before we could bring our troops into line, and our advance was consequently slow. The enemy fell back before us, exchanging a few shots with our skirmishers. We soon found ourselves upon the main road, leading northwards from the An-ting gate, upon which we came in sight of a considerable cavalry force. Some skirmishing amongst the small villages dose to the [p. 218] road ensued, and a few of the enemy were killed; but from the dense nature of the country, it was necessary to move with caution, and it was for a long time uncertain whether we were in presence of an army or of a detachment only.
Our allies had disappeared altogether; and, as evening was approaching, Sir Hope Grant determined upon halting there for the night, and sending out patrols the next morning to ascertain the exact position of our cavalry and that of our allies. We bivouacked around a large Lhama temple, situated just within the old line of fortifications, which I have before mentioned, and close by the Tartar parade-ground, upon which Sang-ko-lin-sin’s army had been encamped. A small village afforded shelter for a large portion of our men, and the head-quarters took possession of one of the temples, of which there were several very large ones about. Some of them had monastic establishments attached to them, and in one there was a most beautifully executed monument of white marble, shaped liked a Burmese pagoda and nearly thirty feet high. Its top was highly gilt and its base richly carved. It stood in the centre of a courtyard, surrounded by temples and other monastic buildings, such as the refectories and dormitories of the priests belonging to the establishment. Numerous inscriptions were upon the monuments about, all in the Tibetan character, which bears so close a resemblance to Sanskrit, that upon first seeing it at Poo-too I thought it a badly executed imitation of that most ancient writing. Many letters in both languages are exactly similar, and in both the vowels are mostly represented by curved dajshes above the consonants which [p. 219] precede them. The architecture of these Lhama temples is exactly similar to that used in the construction of all public buildings in China, from which they are alone distinguishable by the difference of the character used in the inscriptions. The images of deities within these temples are, like all others in the country, made of clay, but in design they are few more revolting in appearance than those worshipped by ordinary Chinese Buddhists. Lust and sensuality is represented in its hideous nakedness and under its most disgusting aspect. The priests when exhibiting these beastly groups did so with the greatest apparent satisfaction, and seemed to gloat over the abominations before them, which to any one but those of the most bestial dispositions must have been loathsome in the extreme. Surely, it cannot be wondered at, that a people who thus deify lust, should be base and depraved, and incapable of any noble feelings or lofty aspirations after either the good or great. The Lhama priests in and about Pekin all come from Tartary; they dress in bright yellow garments and shave their heads. They and their establishments are under the immediate patronage of his Majesty, and almost all their temples near the capital have been erected at the imperial expense. The most important of them had been built as a residence for the Grand Lhama’s envoy during his annual visit to the Celestial court. It has always been the Mantchoo policy, more particularly since their general decline in power, to conciliate the wild tribes ruled over by the Lhamas, by showing partiality and favour to all the followers of that religion residing in China Proper. In reality his Majesty possesses but little actual power in those northern [p. 220] regions beyond the Great Wall, but by a judicious exercise of condescension and a certain undefined assumption of authority, he is able to maintain a nominal sovereignty over those countries, and succeeds in having his supremacy recognised by the annual visit of a deputy from the Grand Lhama bringing some trifling tribute. It was curious to watch these Lhama priests engaged at their devotion, repeating their prayers in a sing-song sort of voice, without in the least seeming to enter into the spirit of their meaning, and apparently believing that their efficacy mainly depended upon frequent repetition. In order to accomplish the rehearsal of the same prayer over and over again as quickly as possible and with the smallest amount of trouble to the suppliant, some indolent but ingenious devotee invented long ago a machine which is now generally used in all Lhama temples. It consists of a brazen cylinder made to revolve upon an iron axle fitted with a crank for giving it great rapidity of movement. Upon the outer surface of this cylinder the prayers are marked in raised characters, and every time that it makes one revolution the same effect is supposed to be attained, as if it had been repeated by word of mouth. Whilst the priest is engaged in turning it round and round, he repeats the prayer aloud, and keeps account of the revolutions made by the cylinder. Prayers with the lips only, and not proceeding from the mind, we are told, avail nothing; but what would all our pastors say to those done for us by machinery? In Europe we have instruments for all sorts of curious purposes, from sewing trousers up to calculating decimal fractions; but no one there has ever [p. 221] yet dreamt of carrying the substitution of machinery for mental or bodily labour to such an extent as to take out a patent for a praying machine. Let me recommend the idea to my Roman Catholic friends as a good one to get through any number of penitential “Aves” at a brisk pace, and with comparative ease to themselves.
In the temple occupied by our head-quarters there was a representation of a semi-human monster riding upon a tiger. In his mouth was the body of a man, which he was supposed to be in the act of crunching beneath his shark-like teeth. To a collar fastened round his neck strings of human heads were fastened, the bodies of which he was supposed to have previously devoured, keeping their skulls as trophies of his large appetite. This man-eating deity was highly esteemed, and was kept most carefully covered from the vulgar gaze by a painted drop curtain, upon which were depicted, apparently, the pickings and leavings of the cannibal god: legs, arms, and dissected trunks were represented upon it, with an intention of striking terror into the beholder. Scattered about in odd corners, and exhibited prominently upon incense tables, were bowls and cups made from human skulls; small drums were also constructed with them. There were also very curious gongs and large white shells, converted into trumpets by having mouth-pieces fitted to them. These and bronze vessels of all shapes and sizes covered the altars of the gods. Boxes containing books written in the Tibetan language, were piled up on either side of the principal building as you entered, each case being duly labelled with the names of its contents. These [p. 222] books were unbound, each leaf being separate, but kept in its place by two long boards, between which the detached leaves were pressed tightly together by strings passing round outside. They were all seemingly in manuscript, and executed in red, blue, black,and golden letters, with numerous illuminations, giving each sheet a peculiar and pretty effect. A large proportion of these books were done in white letters upon a black ground-work, every page containing a picture of the sitting Buddha. Unlike Chinese works, in which the paper is of the thinnest description, these books were made of paper like cardboard of the thickest sort. The various courtyards around these temples are nicely paved or flagged, with small spaces left here and there for trees, the branching foliage of which provides a cool shelter for the lazy priests, who pass much of their time in warm weather beneath their shade. The trees are mostly pine and cedars. Leading off from the principal courtyards there are always numerous little squares surrounded by houses, in which priests and others connected with the establishment reside. The houses were mostly very comfortable within, and well furnished, proving that the monks do not forget creature enjoyments in their sacred service.
Upon the 7th October, at daybreak, we fired twenty-one guns from the high earthen ramparts, near which we had halted the evening before, and upon which we had kept large fires burning during the night. These measures were adopted for the purpose of intimating to our cavalry and the French the position we had taken up. A cavalry patrol, under an officer of the Quarter-Master-General’s department, started, as soon as it [p. 223] became light, with orders to ascertain their position and communicate with the French, who were found to be at the Summer Palace, our cavalry being about two miles to their right. Sir Hope Grant, accompanied by Lord Elgin, rode thither in the course of the day for the purpose of seeing General Montauban, who said that as soon as he learnt Sir Hope Grant’s intention of marching upon Yuen-ming-yuen, he also made for that place, and fell in with our cavalry during his march, when both proceeded together until they reached the large village of Hai-teen, which is situated close by the palace. Our cavalry brigadier, naturally disliking the idea of getting his men entangled in a town of which he knew nothing, skirted it to the eastward, whilst the French proceeded direct through it and reached the palace gates. About twenty badly-armed eunuchs made some pretence at resistance, but were quickly disposed of, and the doors burst open, disclosing the sacred precincts of his Majesty’s residence, to what a Chinaman would call the sacrilegious gaze of the barbarians. A mine of wealth and of everything curious in the empire lay as a prey before our French allies. Rooms filled with articles of vertu both native and European, halls containing vases and jars of immense value, and houses stored with silks, satins, and embroidery, were open to them. Indiscriminate plunder and wanton destruction of all articles too heavy for removal commenced at once. Guards were placed about in various directions; but to no purpose. When looting is once commenced by an army it is no easy matter to stop it. At such times human nature breaks down the ordinary trammels which discipline imposes, and the consequences [p. 224] are most demoralising to the very best constituted army. Soldiers are nothing more than grown-up schoolboys. The wild moments of enjoyment passed in the pillage of a place live long in a soldier’s memory. Although, perhaps, they did not gain sixpence by it, still they talk of such for years afterwards with pleasure. Such a time forms so marked a contrast with the ordinary routine of existence passed under the tight hand of discipline, that it becomes a remarkable event in life and is remembered accordingly. I have often watched soldiers after the capture of a place, wandering in parties of threes or fours through old ranges of buildings, in which the most sanguine even could scarcely hope to find anything worth having; yet every one of them bore about them that air of enjoyment which is unmistakable. Watch them approach a closed door; it is too much trouble to try the latch or handle, so Jack kicks it open. They enter, some one turns over a table, out of which tumbles perhaps some curious manuscripts. To the soldier these are simply waste paper, so he lights his pipe with them. Another happens to look round and sees his face represented in a mirror, which he at once resents as an insult by shying a footstool at it, whilst Bill, fancying that the “old gentleman” in the fine picture-frame upon the wall is making faces at him, rips up the canvas with his bayonet. Some fine statue of Venus is at once adorned with a moustache, and then used as an “Aunt Sally.” Cock-shots are taken at all remarkable objects, which, whilst occupying their intended positions, seem somehow or other to offend the veteran’s eye, which dislikes the in statu quo of life, and studies the pic- [p. 225] turesque somewhat after the manner that Colonel Jebb recommends to all country gentlemen who are desirous of converting their mansions into defensible posts. The love of destruction is certainly inherent in man, and the more strictly men are prevented from indulging in it, so much the more keenly do they appear to relish it when an opportunity occurs. Such an explanation will alone satisfactorily account for the ruin and destruction of property, which follows so quickly after the capture of any place; tables and chairs hurled from the windows, clocks smashed upon the pavement, and everything not breakable so injured as to be valueless henceforth.
Soldiers of every nation under heaven have peculiarities common to all of the trade, and the amusements which I have just described are amongst them. The French most certainly are no exception to the rule. If the reader will imagine some three thousand men, imbued with such principles, let loose into a city composed only of Museums and Wardour Streets, he may have some faint idea of what Yuen-ming-yuen looked like after it had been about twenty hours in possession of the French. The far-famed palaces of a line of monarchs claiming a celestial relationship, and in which the ambassador of an English king had been insulted with impunity, were littered with the debris of all that was highly prized in China. Topsy-turvy is the only expression in our language which at all describes its state. The ground around the French camp was covered with silks and clothing of all kinds, whilst the men ran hither and thither in search of further plunder, most of them, according to the prac- [p. 226] tice usual with soldiers upon such occasions, being decked out in the most ridiculous-looking costumes they could find, of which there was no lack as the well-stocked wardrobes of his Imperial Majesty abounded in curious raiment. Some had dressed themselves in the richly-embroidered gowns of women, and almost all had substituted the turned-up Mandarin hat for their ordinary forage cap. Officers and men seemed to have been seized with a temporary insanity; in body and soul they were absorbed in one pursuit, which was plunder, plunder. I stood by whilst one of the regiments was supposed to be parading; but although their fall in was sounded over and over again, I do not believe there was an average of ten men a company present. Plundering in this way bears its most evil fruit in an army; for if, when it is once commenced an effort is made to stop it, the good men only obey; the bad soldiers continue to plunder, and become rich by their disobedience, whilst the good ones see that the immediate effect of their steadiness is to keep them poor. I do not believe that it is attended with such demoralising effects in a French army as it is in ours. The Frenchman is naturally a more thrifty being than the careless Britisher, who squanders his money in drinking, and “standing drink” to his comrades. Three days afterwards when the French moved into their position before Pekin, they seemed to have regained their discipline, and their men were as steady under arms as if nothing had occurred to disturb the ordinary routine of their lives.
A paved road runs from the north-west gate of Pekin to Hai-teen; and as his Majesty has frequent [p. 227] occasion to travel upon it, the “Board of Works” keep it in good order, the pavement being laid down with great regularity and nicety, whilst the chaussé between Tung-chow and the capital, along which the “Sun’s Brother” never passes, is allowed to fall into decay, so as to be quite useless as a carriage road. In going from our camp near the Tartar parade-ground to the Summer Palace, the route lay along an ordinary country road, which led out through the western face of the high earthen entrenchments by a deep cutting in them, where there had formerly been some defensive works protecting the entrance. These are now in ruins, and their original tracing scarcely perceptible. A picturesque-looking tablet tower still stands upon one side of the entrance, and is perched upon the highest point of the entrenchment, so that a good view is obtainable from it. Passing out through this opening, and proceeding nearly due west for about a mile, you reach a well-made road, constructed after the most approved method, being slightly raised in the centre and having good drains upon either side. Were it not that it is unmetalled, one might fancy it an English thoroughfare. It is the only one of the sort I have ever seen in China. It leads from the Sze-chi-mun to Hai-teen, where it strikes in upon the paved road. Continuing through that town and debouching from it towards the north, the road passes through the parks and gardens belonging to the many smaller houses which surround the Imperial residence. At the distance of about half a mile, the road passes over a small stream by a handsome bridge with richly-carved parapet walls, surmounted by grotesquely designed [p. 228] figures. Beyond it is the broad road, running parallel with the little river, which sweeps round the southern face of the park, within which stand the summer palaces of Yuen-ming-yuen. The park is of considerable extent, and is enclosed upon all sides by a high wall substantially built of granite, but not meant for defence. At about the distance of every quarter of a mile stands a good-sized guard-house, in which the faithful Tartar watchmen kept guard both day and night over the person and property of their Celestial master. Scattered about in all directions were the residences of Government officials and his Majesty’s relatives, each having walled-in enclosures around them. Immediately within every park wall there was a high earthen embankment, thickly planted with pine and cedar trees, which effectually screened the wall from view upon the inside, giving the place a secluded air.
There are two entrances to the Imperial residence; one eastward, the other westward of the bridge. The former was in every respect like the entrances to all Yamuns throughout the empire, but on a grander scale. There was the usual screen wall in front of the door, coloured deep red, with a coping of yellow tiles on top, adorned here and there with long-tailed dragons. In front was a large square, partially enclosed with chevaux-de-frise made for show only and much of the same fashion as those which one sees produced upon the stage in representations of fortified castles made of cardboard, which look so imposing to the theatre loving cockney. There are several pretty granite bridges over the little river, which trickled along its pebbly bed in front of the entrance. Altogether there [p. 229] was nothing striking about the place. If, however, you turned westward and made for the other entrance, the effect was very different. The road ran alongside the river, over which well-designed bridges led here and there to houses or gardens upon its opposite bank. Lofty trees, whose gracefully-drooping branches almost touched the water, stood along the edge, and were reflected in the running stream below them. On the right of the road was the high park wall of the palace, which, continuing for some distance in a straight line, turned then sharp to the right, disclosing an open expanse of water, through which the road was carried along a raised causeway, edged upon both sides by rows of trees. These ponds are of artificial construction, and supplied with water by the stream, which, coming from the hills, passes, as I have already described, along the southern face of the palace gardens. Quantities of water lilies and lotus flowers covered the edges of these pretty reservoirs. At the further end of the causeway stood a fine joss-house, well shaded from the sun by lofty trees, which towered high above the mandarin poles in front of the building. General the Baron Jamin had fixed his head-quarters there; the main body of the French army, and General Montauban’s camp, being upon the opposite side of the road in a fine grove of trees. The grand entrance to Yuen-ming-yuen lay immediately beyond, the paved road leading up to the gate, upon either side of which was the colossal representation of a lion mounted upon a granite pedestal. As they were of a bronze colour, no one took the trouble of ascertaining the nature of the metal of which they were com- [p. 230] posed, taking it for granted that they were of the ordinary alloy from which the bronze ornaments, so common in China, are usually cast. Some months afterwards, when at Shanghai, some Chinamen asked a friend of mine residing there, whether we had removed the golden lions from the gates of Yuen-ming-yuen; and upon being questioned regarding them, he described them accurately as being painted a bronze colour. Many other well-informed natives corroborated the statement, and said that the fact of their being gold was well known to all the nation. It is to be regretted that we did not find it out before leaving Pekin, as from their size I have no doubt but that their value would have gone far towards defraying the expenses of the war. The gateway was at one end of a courtyard, enclosed upon three sides with ranges of guard-houses, handsomely ornamented outside with curious carving, and roofed with variegated tiling. The eaves were studded with small representations of birds and beasts. There was a well-arranged combination of red, white, green, blue, and gilding about them, which gave a great richness of effect, without in any way palling upon the eye as heavy or gaudy. The gateway itself, like all those in the various public buildings of the country, was a curious combination of brick and woodwork, the former being used as sparingly as possible, with due regard to the stability of the building.
As in all the royal edifices scattered about in the neighbourhood of Hai-teen, the end of every beam or rafter visible from the outside was richly carved and painted. The doors were of massive woodwork [p. 231] coloured red and picked out with gilding. The entrance was not intended for wheeled conveyances, the gate sills being some two or three feet above the adjoining pavement, with gently-sloping ramps of granite upon either side. They were roughed over just sufficiently to admit of horses passing over safely. Within the gate as you entered there was a guard-room to the right and left, in which the French sentries had taken the place of the Tartar household brigade. As we passed through, I saw some of the eunuchs belonging to the palace, who had been taken prisoners by our allies the evening before; some had been badly wounded, and all were handcuffed. They looked the personification of misery, expecting death momentarily, and knowing that if they escaped it at the hands of the barbarians they should meet with it from their own authorities for failing in their defence of the palace. The gateway opened into a long, narrow courtyard, paved, or rather flagged over with the utmost exactness. Upon the far side was a lofty building resembling in shape and construction the better class of joss-house, but having a well-to-do-in-the-world air about it, which none that I had hitherto seen in China possessed. Its carving, gilding, and painting was fresh and clean; its tiling was in perfect order, and looked quite new; its doors swung easily upon their hinges, and altogether it had none of that tumble-down look of dilapidation, which is so universal with all public buildings in the “flowery land,” that it would almost appear as if such was a part and parcel of the original design. A neatly finished wire network was stretched along under the wood carvings of the roof eaves to [p. 232] prevent the birds from building nests or roosting there, by which means the elaborate tracery and painting was preserved, maintaining all the freshness of recent finish, although executed many years since. This was the Hall of Audience, at the upper end of which opposite the door, stood the Imperial throne, before which so many princes and ambassadors of haughty monarchs had humbly prostrated themselves, according to the slave-like obeisance customary at the Chinese court. Upon entering, the effect was good, without being grand or in any way realising the preconceived ideas one had formed of it. Everything upon which the eye could rest was pretty and well designed, each little object being a gem of its kind, but there was nothing imposing in the tout ensemble. Chinese architecture can never be so; to produce such an effect is seemingly never attempted by the architects of that country. Both in landscape gardening and building, the Chinaman loses sight of grand or imposing effects, in his endeavours to load everything with ornament; he forgets the fine in his search after the curious. In their thirst after decoration, and in their inherent love for minute embellishment, the artists and architects of China have failed to produce any great work capable of inspiring those sensations of awe or admiration which strike every one when first gazing upon the magnificent creations of European architects. The grotto at Cremome is a very fair specimen of what is esteemed in China as the acme of all that is beautiful; and as there are in the gardens at that place, crowded into a very small space, diminutive representations of mountains and rustic scenery, so in the pleasure grounds of Yuen-ming-yuen, and all other [p. 233] ornamental localities of the empire, there are seen, compressed into every little nook or comer, tiny canals, ponds, bridges, stunted trees and rockery, so that it resembles more the design of a child in front of her doll’s house than the work of grown-up men. Size, space, or grandeur, produce no sentiments of admiration in the Chinese mind, nor are there any ruins in the country that we know of which would lead us to think that the ancestors of the present generation differed from them in this matter. In this respect they are unlike all the other great nations of antiquity. The pyramids of Egypt, the colossal figures of Nineveh, the massive structures of Thebes and Memphis, and the huge stone portals of long-forgotten races in South America, testify to the importance attached by their builders to size and substantiality of material; whereas, in the very Audience Hall of Hienfung, there was no further attempt at effect than what could be obtained from gilding and high-colouring, tastefully distributed throughout the puzzle-like wooden roofing or unimposing-looking pillars of the same perishable material. The floor of this grand hall was of highly-polished marble, each piece cut into the form of some mathematical figure, and all joined so closely, that the divisions between each were marked only by the very thinnest hue. An immense painting covered the upper portion of the wall upon the left hand as we entered; it was a representation of the summer palaces and surrounding gardens done in isometrical projection, at which the Chinese are rather clever, considering the childish house-that-Jack-built-like attempts which they make at ordinary perspective in their landscape drawings. [p. 234] The Imperial throne was a beautiful piece of workmanship, made of rose-wood. It stood upon a platform, raised about eighteen inches above the other part of the hall, and was surrounded by an open-work balustrading, richly carved in representation of roses and other flowers. Upon each side of the throne stood a high pole screen decorated with blue enamel and peacocks’ feathers, upon which small rubies and emeralds were strung. Handsomely carved tables and sideboards were ranged along around the room, upon which were numbers of enamel vases, porcelain bowls, jars of crackled china and other curiosities for which the empire is famous. Several large, gilt French time-pieces were also in the hall. Piled up in one place were all the Imperial decrees published during the past year, and large quantities of the Chinese classics were arranged so as to be at hand, in case any immediate reference might be required to them. All these were beautifully printed, and many had autograph remarks upon the margin, made by the Emperor.
To leave the hall and get into the gardens, you passed out behind a screen at the back of the throne. You then found yourself in a labyrinth of neatly laid out walks, with high, grassy mounds bounding them upon either side, the tops of which were thickly studded with trees of all the various kinds to be found in the empire. Beneath their shade there were, at various intervals, some rustic-looking stone benches, or well arranged piles of rockery, from the interstices between the stones of which sprang lichens and ferns of various sorts. Quaint shrubs and dwarf trees, stunted after the most approved fashion of Chinese gardeners, [p. 235] grew upon all sides. Upon proceeding some short distance along these winding paths, crossing over rustic bridges, ascending and descending many rural-looking steps, the walk opened out upon a tolerably sized pond, on the further side of which were the private apartments of his Majesty, surrounded by the houses of his many wives, concubines, eunuchs, and servants. The suite of rooms from which Hien-fung had fled only some fourteen days before, were one and all a vast curiosity shop, combining, in addition to the finest specimens of native art and workmanship, the most curious ornaments of European manufacture. The French had placed a guard over those apartments, and none were at first admitted but their own officers, so that when we arrived most of the furniture, &c., still remained as it had been when Hien-fung had occupied them.
His small cap, decorated with the character of longevity embroidered upon it, lay upon his bed; his pipe and tobacco pouch was upon a small table close by. In all the adjoining rooms were immense wardrobes filled with silks, satins, and fur coats. Cloaks covered with the richest golden needlework, Mandarin dresses, edged with ermine and sable and marked with representations of the five-clawed dragons, showing they were intended for royalty, were stored in presses. The cushions upon the chairs and sofas were covered with the finest yellow satin embroidered over with figures of dragons and flowers. Yellow is the Imperial colour, and none but those of royal birth are permitted to wear clothes made of it. Jade stone is of all precious articles the most highly prized in China, some of it fetching immense prices. For centuries past [p. 236] the finest pieces have been purchased by the emperors and stored up in Yuen-ming-yuen. The description most highly prized is of a bright green colour, and is called in Chinese the feh-tsui. It is never found in any quantity, and even small pieces of it are very rare. Jade of a pure white, when quite clear, is highly esteemed, and of it there were vast quantities, all exquisitely carved. In some rooms large chests were found filled with cups, vases, plates, &c., made of jade stone. As you left these buildings and wandered through the maze of walks and winding paths, which led seemingly nowhere in particular, one soon became lost amidst the multiplicity of turnings, marble bridges, canals and fish-ponds met with everywhere, and literally covering the park. Upon some of these little sheets of water there were lilliputian junks armed with small brass cannon, with which a naval fight was sometimes represented for the amusement of his Majesty, who watched the show from a neighbouring tea-house.
Taking Yuen-ming-yuen all in all, it was a gem of its kind, and yet I do not suppose there was a single man who visited it without being disappointed. There was an absence of grandeur about it, for which no amount of careful gardening and pretty ornaments can compensate. Our allies were so busy in the collection of their plunder that they did not move upon Pekin until the 9th October. Numbers of our officers had consequently an opportunity of visiting the palaces and securing valuables; but our men were carefully prevented from leaving camp. Those officers who were fortunate enough to have carts and time for amusement, brought into camp large collections of valuables. It [p. 237] was naturally most riling to our soldiers to see their allies rolling in wealth, and even their own officers all more or less provided with curiosities whilst they themselves had got nothing. It would have been very easy for the Commander-in-Chief to have allowed our regiments to go out there one by one; but the state in which the French army was then in, and the recollection of what ours had been after the capture of Delhi were cogent reasons for avoiding such an arrangement. Subsequent to Sir Hope Grant’s visit to the palaces upon the 7th October, a room of treasure was discovered there, a small share of which was secured for our army by the active exertions of Major Anson, A.D.C., who had been appointed one of our prize agents. The treasure chiefly consisted of golden ingots, the portion falling to our lot amounting to about eight or nine thousand pounds sterling. To have permitted our officers to retain what they had personally taken from the palaces, whilst the private soldier received nothing, would have been very hard upon the latter. The Commander-in-Chief therefore issued an order directing all officers to send in everything they had taken to the prize agents, who had been nominated to receive all such property, for the purpose of having it sold by public auction upon the spot and the proceeds distributed immediately amongst the army.
The sale took place in front of the large joss-house at head-quarters, realising 123,000 dollars, which enabled the prize agents to issue seventeen dollars (nearly four pounds sterling) to every private belonging to our army. The officers were divided into three classes, and received in the same proportion. The Commander- [p. 238] in-Chief, whose share would have been considerable, renounced his claims; the Major-Generals, Sir John Michel, KC.B. and Sir Robert Napier, K.C.B., following his example. One third went to the officers, two thirds to the non-commissioned officers and men.
Prize money is a subject well understood but seldom received by our soldiers. So many times within the last half century has it been promised to them, and yet withheld for years afterwards, that it is now becoming quite a byword in the army, a sort of ignis fatuus which recedes and recedes as the promised time for distribution draws near. The procrastination and difficulties usually attendant upon the issue of all such money, depreciates its worth to a mere paper value in the eyes of soldiers; and I fear much that in our next wars, no promises about the establishment of a prize fund will carry much weight with them upon the capture of a place, or serve to deter many from helping themselves, even although the present generation in our army may have passed away before such an event.
The history of former wars and old standing grievances are handed down by old soldiers to young ones, and if they are slow to act they are most surely slow in forgetting. Years after some of our former campaigns, a larger sum of prize money has been given to each man who then survived, than was distributed to every man of the Pekin army; but I am sure that none had ever been so well received as that was. A man educated to military precision appreciates preciseness in all dealings with him, so that any reward or recognition of services is doubly prized if conferred upon the spot or at the time of their performance. [p. 239] Every officer in our army feels the truth of these facts; but us they carry little weight in the management of military matters, and as even the authority of our Horse Guards is rapidly fading away under the influence of civilian war ministers, years are allowed to pass over after a campaign before either prize money or even the very medals are distributed for it. All prizes made in war are the sovereign’s property, and far be it from any officer to wish it otherwise; but as it is usual to distribute such or a portion of it amongst the men, as a reward for their steadiness under arms, it will be very difficult, unless some better system is adopted than that lately practised, to restrain our men in future wars from leaving their ranks to plunder.
Let it be once clearly understood that all valuables taken will be sold for the benefit of the prize fund, which will be appropriated to whatever purposes her Majesty may decide upon, as soon as the campaign is over; and the discipline of our army will always be maintained. The temptation to enrich oneself at our enemy’s expense ii very great. Try and stop by forbidding it in orders, and punishing those caught flagrante delicto; and the consequence is, that as the good men only obey, remaining poor, whilst they see their disobedient comrades becoming rich, discontent follows as a natural consequence. Any who have ever been present at the assault of a town will, I am sure, agree with me in thinking that no price is too high which we can pay for the prevention of those dreadful scenes of riot and consequent insubordination which have upon several occasions followed such an event, Discipline once relaxed, as it must be when plunder is [p. 240] permitted, its entire fabric of regulations break down in one moment, which it takes many months of subsequent reorganisation to reassert. If Sir Hope Grant had contented himself with promising that the question of prize money should be referred to the Home Government, after their recent Indian experience, our men would have been very dissatisfied, seeing every French soldier going about with his pockets filled with dollars and Sycee silver. Indeed, I fear that the temptation would have been too great for many of our men, who knew that Yuen-ming-yuen was only a few miles off. The plan which he adopted, although novel, was thoroughly successful, and all were pleased with its results. I have enlarged upon this subject, but I trust that its seriousness may plead my excuse with the reader.
Our auction lasted two days, and was the source of much amusement to all attending it — men bidding against one another to ridiculously high prices, very often for such trash, that, had it been given to them for nothing, few would have considered it worth the trouble of taking away. Some few, to whose looting propensities the community was highly indebted for a large proportion of what was sold, were to be seen occasionally with woeful countenances listening to the bidding for some pet article upon which they had set their hearts, but for which they were not prepared to bid beyond the great price offered, having, in the first instance, obtained it for nothing. Fur coats in great abundance were sold, and reached good prices, as the weather was day by day becoming colder, and a report was going round our regiments that the ambassador was desirous of detaining a division at Pekin for the [p. 241] winter; so all articles of warm clothing were at a premium.
Amongst the curios found in the palace were the presents presented to the Emperor by Lord Macartney. Watches, in great numbers and of all shapes, sizes and ages, were found by the French soldiers, and sold by them individually to our officers. Some were most curious; others were of great value, being set roimd with brilliants, rubies, emeralds, &c. &c. Time-pieces and clocks of European manufacture were evidently favourite ornaments with his Majesty, for almost every room possessed some two or three. Lord Elgin’s treaty of 1858 was found lying about with other official papers in the Emperor’s private room. In one of the court-yards we found eleven horses and some saddles, which were recognised as having belonged to Mr. Parkes’s party. [p. 242]
7. REMARKS UPON OUR POSITION AFTER THE ENGAGEMENT
REMARKS UPON OUR POSITION AFTER THE ENGAGEMENT — HALT AT PALE-CHEAOU — ARRANGEMENTS FOR AN ADVANCE UPON PEKIN, AND ARRIVAL OF REINFORCEMENTS. DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY, AND THE SPECIES OF TRANSPORT PECULIAR TO IT — RENEWAL OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE PEKIN MINISTERS — THE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THEM AND LORD ELGIN.
Although we had in the space of three days gained two battles, our position at Pa-le-cheaou was far from satisfactory. Our force was very small, and unprovided with the material required for a siege. Our heavy guns were still on the river, and great difficulty was experienced in getting them over the shallows. To have marched direct upon Pekin the day after our fight of the 21st September, would have been a grand movement, had we have been in a position to enforce our threats of taking that city; but to have gone on idly swaggering about what we intended to do, unprovided with heavy guns for breaching purposes, would have placed us in a most false position, when under the very walls of the place. Non-combatants are at all times anxious to push on and make light of military precautions. After any successful operation, it is easy to speak of the facility with which it was accomplished, and, adducing the smallness of your losses in proof thereof, to remark, “Oh, you might have done it with half the [p. 192] number,” forgetting or ignoring the fact that the rapid success was very much to be attributed to the display of force, which ever carries with it great moral power in war, and that the precautions taken were the means of saving your soldiers’ lives.
I have no doubt there are some who would have liked us to have pushed on to the gates of Pekin upon the 22nd, on the chance of bullying the Chinese into surrendering the city to us; but suppose they had not done so, what a degrading position we should have obtained for ourselves, whilst remaining inactive under the very walls, awaiting the arrival of reinforcements and the heavy guns, &c. &c., required for assaulting the place? Before leaving Ho-se-woo, it was unfortunately believed that all fighting was over, and that the Chinese Government was anxious for peace. Had it been otherwise, and the whole affair merely a military operation, we should never have left that place until our heavy guns, and all our available troops had reached it. As it was, relying upon the negotiations then pending, we had advanced with a small force, unprepared for a siege; so that when our diplomacy failed, we found ourselves in a false position, unable to take advantage of the success with which our movements had been attended.
On the 29th September the siege guns reached us, and by the 2nd October, all available troops from the rear had joined us, with the exception of the 1st Royals, which marched into camp upon the evening following, when we had crossed the canal. Sir R. Napier had been sent for after the fight of the 18th at Chang-kiawan, and it was determined that no movement in ad- [p. 193] vance should be effected until the arrival of his division and the heavy siege guns. The regiments advanced by double marches from Tien-tsin, and the following preparations were made for pushing forward. A battalion of marines was posted at Tung-chow, between which and Tien-tsin, regular flotillas of country boats were established. By means of these large quantities of commissariat supplies were collected at the former place as a reserve store, whilst enough for ten days’ consumption was forwarded on from thence in carts and waggons to the front. A post of one hundred French infantry, and an officer and ten sowars was established at Chang-kia-wan for the protection of our mails and dispatches sent by means of mounted orderlies. This was at first most necessary, as our rear was for some time infested with armed banditti, who frequently attacked small parties and fired upon our messengers. In one instance, two sowars, carrying letters, reported they had been fired upon five times between Matow and Chang-kia-wan; and another party had to cut their way through a crowd of armed villagers in the former place. To stop these annoyances, orders were sent back to Colonel Urquahart, then at Matow, directing him to burn that village, which was done by a party of the 8th Punjaub Infantry, and produced the effect desired. Proclamations were at the same time posted up there and at the neighbouring villages, informing the people that it was owing to their own misconduct that that punishment had been inflicted, and warning others of what they might expect in case they acted similarly.
A bridge of boats was established over the canal [p. 194] opposite our camp, and a defensible position selected close by the paved road to Pekin, where it was determined to leave, under a strong guard, all our baggage, surplus ammunition, and siege material, whilst the allied armies advanced to attack Sang-ko-lin-sin’s army, which was reported to be in position to the north of the city, and close to it. His army having been well beaten and driven off from the neighbourhood, the heavy guns were to be brought up and placed in battery beneath the walls, and breach them in the event of the Chinese still holding out.
Reconnoitring parties went out daily towards Pekin during our halt at Pa-le-cheaou, by which means a good knowledge of the country was obtained. Our cavalry was, indeed, of the utmost use to us throughout the whole campaign. Our allies being unprovided with that arm, and engaged in the same work with us, gave us a fair opportunity of judging as to its value. Some people seem to consider that the military inventions of modern times have so changed the principles of war that cavalry can be of no further use, and, in fact, regard its existence now merely in the same light with many other relics of past ages maintained through that influence of conservativism, which has more or less hold over the minds of all. The China campaign has taught us differently. Our two regiments and a half of cavalry there rendered most valuable service. With even that small force we were enabled to scour the country all round our camps to a great distance; and in action against an enemy, whose mounted force was considerable, they gave us the power of following up by rapid charges the effect produced at long ranges [p. 195] by our Armstrong guns. In contending against an enemy similarly provided with a formidable artillery, its use would be all the more valuable, as by its rapidity in getting over the ground an onslaught might be effected upon the enemy’s batteries, which would so employ them and distract their attention, that the infantry might have time for an advance in hue without incurring that heavy loss inevitable if they themselves had commenced the attack. In our actions in the field, the Chinese suffered but very little from our infantry, our cavalry and artillery playing the principal parts, and inflicting almost all the loss which the enemy sustained.
During our halt at Pa-le-cheaou, reconnoitring parties went out almost daily, some of which advanced to within a few hundred yards of the Pekin walls, enabling the staff to acquire a knowledge of the surrounding country, and to glean much valuable information of Sang-ko-lin-sin’s movements from the inhabitants. The people which they met with were civil and obliging, so that in a few days good markets were established, where fowls, vegetables, and fruit were obtainable at cheap rates. Tung-chow, which was about three miles to our right, was completely in our power, as a battalion held one of its gates. The civic authorities there thought it was their best policy to save their city by aiding and supplying us with provisions, &c. &c., in return for which we prevented any of our men or followers from entering the place.
Our Chinese coolies were with difficulty kept under restraint, being most lawless and cruel. The country people had the greatest dread of them, and feared their [p. 196] approach ten times more than that of our soldiers. At night they frequently broke out of camp and prowled about into the neighbouring villages, plundering and frequently ill-using women. One of them, taken in the act, was tried and hanged before all the other coolies. One evening a party of them succeeded in entering Tung-chow, where they made a regular attack upon a pawnshop; but the citizens turned out and beat them off, killing four or five of them.
A fine road runs from Tung-chow to Pekin, passing along from the former place south of the canal as far as Pa-le-cheaou, where it crosses the canal by the fine stone bridge there, and runs along nearly parallel with it, until it reaches the capital at the Che-ho-mun. That road is paved with blocks of granite of about five feet long by eighteen inches wide and deep. At present its condition is very bad, many of the stones having sunk considerably, and those at the sides, where the road is raised, having fallen away. We found that our carts and waggons would not, in passing along it, stand the jar occasioned by its unevenness; so an unmetalled country road, which ran from Tung-chow to Pekin all the way along the north side of the canal, was chosen as our means ofcommunicationn. It was at first hoped that we should have been able to use the canal for transporting our supplies from the Peiho; but upon examination it was found that there were six or seven regular weirs between its two extremities, which would have entailed as many transhipments — the Chinese being ignorant of the use of locks, and that canal being unprovided with the long slips common upon the far [p. 197] famed Imperial Canal, up which the boats are hauled by manual labour. Upon our arrival at Pa-le-cheaou we found a considerable number of very large barges upon the canal, two of which were heavily laden with rice, which we seized for our own commissariat. This canal is called by the natives the lihang-ho (grain-bearing river); there is scarcely any current through it, and its water is consequently of a dark yellow colour, covered along its edge with slimy-looking weeds. It is fed by the mountain streams which pass through the grounds of Yuen-ming-yuen, sweeping in their course round Pekin, to which they form the ditches. In former times much care was paid to the waterworks of the capital, the reservoirs and weirs of which were well built, displaying considerable ingenuity of construction; for years past, however, they have had no attention paid to them, and consequently have fallen into a ruinous condition — the stone weirs having in some places disappeared altogether, and the supply of water being allowed to find its own way across the adjacent country. Since that time the Liliang-ho has been meagrely fed, and at the weirs, where there had evidently been, in days gone by a considerable overflow, there is now only a tiny trickling. The canal ends abruptly at Tung-chow, there being an intervening space of about a hundred and fifty yards between it and the Peiho. The surplus water from the canal flows into that river over a very fine weir, built of granite, fast falling into decay. The Peiho becomes two distinct rivers above Tung-chow, one branch passing close under its walls. It is there only twelve or fifteen yards in width; but below the [p. 197] junction of the two streams it widens out to from thirty to fifty yards.
At Pa-le-cheaou we procured a considerable number of carts and mules; and had we driven the country about, we might have obtained any reasonable amount of them, but all coercion was avoided as much as possible, and money paid for those we took. The conveyances of the country are two-wheeled waggons and wheel-barrows; the former are of two sorts, one being a small covered-in cart with shafts, drawn by a mule or pony, or sometimes by two in tandem. The other is a much larger and more substantially built waggon, also with shafts, drawn by four mules or ponies, one being in the shafts, the other three abreast in front, the traces from which are fastened to the axle-tree. The harness is all made of strong rope made up of twisted untanned thongs. The mules we obtained were fine animals, in good condition, and well suited for transport purposes. The Chinese drivers had most complete power over them and managed them well, talking to them whilst yoking them in and starting them off, which was no easy matter. As the three leading animals were in no way fastened to each other, it was a matter of difficulty to get them to pull all at one moment in starting, and if one turned rusty he prevented the others from going on. It was a curious sight watching our English soldiers yoking them in and endeavouring to start them. The animals, unaccustomed to the Britishers’ voice and mode of treatment, invariably hung back or dragged in different directions. To take a leader by the head was a sure signal for general action amongst [p. 199] the entire team, each animal kicking and biting furiously at his next neighbour. I have often pitied the soldier left behind upon baggage guard, in charge of some such cart without a Chinese driver, when I have seen him making attempt after attempt to get his team in motion. I cannot imagine anything more trying to the temper than such an operation; having, after much difficulty, perhaps, induced all the animals to face in one direction — always a matter of serious labour — and when inwardly congratulating himself upon his success, thinking that all was right and that they were upon the point of all pulling together, he sees one of the beasts put his leg over the loose trace. To rectify this entails a fresh disarrangement of the whole team, and a fresh series of kicks, &c., from the mules, and hearty curses from the warrior. That same team, in charge of a Chinese driver, who would talk and chirrup in some peculiar manner to his beasts, would have been a mile upon its road in the same time that the soldier took in getting it fairly started. Once off, the sturdy mules and ponies draw it at a brisk pace, and all goes well until some obstacle necessitates a halt, when the same tiring process gone through at first starting has to be gone through afresh. The wheel-barrows are similar to those used in the south of China, being a sort of outside Irish jaunting car, with one wheel upon a small scale. They are driven by one man generally; but when the load carried is heavy, a second man is yoked in as a leader, in rope traces, joined in front by a wooden bar which fits across his chest. The country about our camp maintained the same features as in the neighbourhood of Chang-kia-wan, [p. 200] being, however, more wooded, and dotted over more thickly with enclosed tombs of all sizes, some very large and imposing in appearance. Many were adorned with handsome marble monuments, and all those of any importance were surrounded by groves of trees, and neatly built brick walls. Pine trees, planted close together in long lines, enclosed those of the greatest pretensions, and formed an impassable fence for their protection. One of the largest and best kept burial-places was near the stone bridge, and close in rear of the French lines. The Tartar cavalry had encamped around it the evening before our fight of the 21st September, and a considerable number of them were killed there by the French artillery fire during the action. In front of it stood two high pillars of white marble, and a quaintly designed bridge over nothing, of the same material. These and the monuments in the enclosure were richly carved in a grotesque manner, and the entire space covered by the tombs was neatly laid out in paved walks and well-trimmed grass-plots. All the tombs of importance have dwelling-houses attached to them, in which those in charge of the place reside, and where the members of the deceased’s family find quarters, during their annual visits to the spot for the purpose of sacrificing to the manes of their departed relations.
About Canton no ground is ever devoted to purposes of interment which is capable of producing crops, the bleak sides of hills or other barren spots being used as graveyards. There the dead are congregated together, whilst in the neighbourhood of Pekin the tombs are scattered indiscriminately about through the richest [p. 201] farms, large spaces being given up to each, and in no instance is there any considerable number collected within any one enclosure. Every family has, seemingly, its own place of interment.
The weather continued very fine during our halt at Pa-le-cheaou. In August and the early part of September the heat at midday was very oppressive when exposed to the sun, but towards the latter end of September the temperature by day resembled that of an English summer, the nights being deliciously cool; towards October it was so cold at night that blankets and warm clothing were in great requisition. Whenever a northerly wind blew it was chilly even at noon, and in the early morning it was quite unpleasantly cold. We had one or two slight showers during our halt, which were most acceptable in laying the dust, which until then had been most disagreeable, covering everything, even within our tents, so that at any time during the day one could write his name upon the table. Penmanship under such circumstances was a matter of difficulty, the ink and pens becoming clogged with fine sand, which found its way into our very food, rendering one’s camp fare disagreeable irom the highly earthy flavour imparted to it.
The inhabitants, who fled from the surrounding villages during our action, returned gradually in small parties, as the few who had originally stood their ground had been well treated. Before we broke up our camp a considerable portion of the males had come back. They seemed puzzled to understand how it was that a nation, whom they had always been taught to [p. 202] consider as barbarous and fierce, should evince any care for their protection.
Whilst we were awaiting the arrival of our siege guns and reinforcements, almost daily communications passed between the allied ambassadors and the Imperial Government. The first letter received was upon the 22nd September, from the Prince of Kung, the Emperor’s brother, dated the day before, and written, I suppose, after the battle. It said, that as Tsai, Prince of I, and Muh, President of the Board of War, had failed in arranging matters with us satisfactorily, he, the Prince of Kung, had been appointed Imperial Commissioner with full powers to negotiate. As he was anxious to send in Hang-ki and Lou-wei-wan to our camp to discuss affairs, he requested the ambassadors to suspend hostilities temporarily, so that friendly relations might be established. Lord Elgin’s answer informed his Imperial Highness that no arrangements could be entered upon, nor any suspension of hostilities allowed, until the English and French subjects, then prisoners with the Chinese, were sent back; and further, that should any hindrance be made to their return, the consequences would be most serious to the Imperial Government. A good opportunity was also afforded to the newly-appointed Commissioners of disowning all complication in the capture of those who were missing, by an order which Lord Elgin forwarded to the Prince of Kung, with his answer, directing all her Britannic Majesty’s subjects then in Pekin, to return at once to our camp, and instructing them at the same time to warn any of the Chinese authorities, who might oppose their departure, of the danger which they incurred in doing so. [p. 203]
That our ambassador should refrain from violent language in declaiming against the treacherous capture of the prisoners, and appear inclined to overlook it, provided they were at once sent back, and to view it rather as an error committed by subordinates, was so essentially Chinese in its conception, that very probably, had all those captured upon the 18th instant been then in Pekin, or within the new Commissioner’s immediate jurisdiction, he would have availed himself of the opportunity of fixing the crime upon some military inferiors, by disclaiming any participation in it, and by returning the prisoners. Such a line of conduct would have been in accordance with their traditional policy. It is to be remarked that in the Prince of Kung’s letter, there was no mention of the prisoners made by the Tartar army, nor do I believe that he or other members of the Government attached much importance to them, or thought that we should do so either, until, of course, Lord Elgin’s answer reached Pekin.
On the 23rd September another flag of truce came in to our camp, with a letter from the Prince of Kung, in which with more ingenuity than success he attempted to prove that our people, then in Pekin, had been captured owing to their own want of temper, which brought them into collision with some Chinese troops; that they were then in good health, having received no serious bodily harm; but as peace was still unconcluded and the Takoo forts and Tien-tsin still in our possession, it could not be expected that our prisoners should be returned until we evacuated the country. “What occasion is there for alarm about a few British subjects [p. 204] who may be missing?” If we restored the positions which we had captured from the Chinese, they would be sent back upon the withdrawal of our troops from the country. A statement of the circumstances under which the prisoners had been made, as far as we knew them, was returned in answer by Lord Elgin, who stated that the Prince of Kung must have been deceived, if he had been otherwise informed. This gave his Imperial Highness another loophole to retreat through with Chinese respectability: he might have pretended that he had been misinformed, and behead half-a-dozen petty officials to sustain the untruth. The first application for the return of our prisoners having failed, a higher tone was adopted in the second, and the treachery of taking our people prisoners whilst under a flag of truce was denounced in strong terms. That several of our people should be prisoners in the hands of a nation celebrated for cruelty, was a regular millstone around the necks of the Commanders-in-Chief. All were eager to avenge their capture, yet wished to postpone the commencement of operations in hopes of obtaining their release, and fearing lest the assault of Pekin should be the signal for their massacre. As the prisoners had been taken when employed upon diplomatic duty, our ambassador was naturally all the more anxious for their safety; and yet a due regard to public duty prevented him from seeking their surrender by conceding one whit of the original demands made to Kweiliang at Tien-tsin. To have ignored them altogether, would have been not only inhuman, but have allowed an idea to spread abroad in China, that the lives of such a small party of our countrymen was a matter of little moment to [p. 205] us — an impression that might entail serious consequences hereafter at the various ports of the empire, where the moral influence of our nation is the main stay upon which individuals must ever principally depend for protection. To have conceded the most insignificant clause of our original demands, in exchange for the return of our prisoners, would have been a most dangerous precedent in any future war with China, by showing the Imperial rulers the advantages open to them at such times from the kidnapping of Englishmen. The course adopted was a wise one. Lord Elgin refused to recognise Mr. Parkes and his party as prisoners of war taken in battle; all through his subsequent negotiations he spoke of them as persons kidnapped under the most treacherous circumstances, in defiance of all international law and the customs of war. He made their surrender a sine qua non, before he would even suspend hostilities. The Prince of Kung, on the other hand, endeavoured to negotiate for their release, making it contingent upon the withdrawal of our army.
In Lord Elgin’s answer to the Prince of Kung’s letter of the 23rd September, he held out a threat of condign punishment in the event of any injury happening to the prisoners, or of his refusal to send them back. To do so in decided terms was no easy matter, as, from the general rumours we had heard, it was tolerably certain that the statement of their being all well was untrue, and common sense told us that if a melee had really occurred when the prisoners were taken (as stated in the Prince of Kung’s letter), that the officers and men of Mr. Parkes’s escort were not likely to be [p. 206] all taken alive. Therefore, if some had been killed, it would not do to declare finally that no peace would be made until all had been returned, lest such might drive the Imperial Government to despair, and induce them to fight to the last. To conclude peace as rapidly as possible was of great importance; and as but one more month of fine weather remained for military operations, a protracted struggle was of all things to be avoided. Such must have entailed upon us great additional expense, and perhaps loss of life, and could only end by the overthrow of the ruling dynasty, which was not our policy. Our object was, not to weaken the Imperial Government, but to show China how immeasurably stronger and greater in war we were. On the supposition that the Prince of Kung really considered the capture of Mr. Parkes and party as a minor matter, and did not deem them of sufficient importance to be treated for specifically, he would still be naturally disinclined to send back those who then survived until peace had been signed. He knew that all the prisoners had been barbarously used, and would consequently conclude that, if their tale of woe was known to us before peace had been signed, we should base farther demands in the way of indemnification or concessions upon that ground. All along, during the negotiations entered upon subsequent to our departure from Tien-tsin, the Imperial Government appears to have thought that we had some hitherto concealed demands, which we intended to bring forward at the last moment, and that we were only too anxious to have some plausible excuse for doing so. If in our ambassador’s letters to the Prince of Kung it was positively stated [p. 207] that, unless all the prisoners were returned, the reigning dynasty would be overthrown by us, the Imperial Commissioners might argue “that, as some have been already killed, we cannot by resisting to the last and trusting to the chance of war, suffer more than the barbarians have announced that they will impose upon us, if we fail to return all the prisoners, which is now out of our power.” We should consequently gain nothing by such a definite threat.
All these considerations had to be weighed carefully before an answer was returned to the Prince of Kung’s letter.
Lord Elgin’s letter was a masterpiece of its kind, commencing, as I have before stated, by a statement of facts in connection with Mr. Parkes’s capture, and winding up in the form of an ultimatum setting forth the terms upon which he would make peace. The terms were, that if, within three days from the date of writing, the British and French subjects detained in Pekin were sent back, and if the Prince of Kung would consent to sign the convention handed to Kweiliang at Tien-tsin, our army would not advance beyond Pa-le-cheaou. Should those conditions be rejected, the allied armies would advance upon Pekin, a movement which would probably cause the destruction of the Mantchoo dynasty. It was intimated that these conditions were final, and only made from the sincere desire for peace entertained by Lord Elgin, in order to give the Commissioners one further opportunity of averting the destruction of their capital.
The Prince of Kung replied to this dispatch on the 27th September, and evaded giving any positive [p. 208] answer. His policy seems to have been most vacillating. It must have been apparent to him, and to all who acted with him, that, in a military point of view, they were totally unable to contend against us. Much as they might boast of their vast Tartar armies and the Mongol hoards ready to pour down upon us from beyond the Great Wall under their forty-eight princes, yet, after their several defeats in battles fought by them under the most favourable circumstances, their inability to contend against us must have been well known to them.
An apathy seems to have seized upon the Chinese Government. The passive and mulish obstructiveness, for which it has long been celebrated, will not account for their want of decision at that most critical moment. No man seemed to have the determination requisite for saving his country, and by which alone the impending blow might be averted. All lacked the moral courage to confess their weakness before the world. Obstinate pride, or the dread of future punishment, had taken possession of them, and prevented them from acting.
The Prince of Kung’s answer was most curious. Like a true Asiatic he seemed to have acquired a gleam of hope from the fact of some time being given him for decision. Even that trifling concession was construed, by an Eastern train of thought, into an indication of weakness or want of confidence upon our parts; and he consequently considered himself entitled to talk somewhat bigger than he had done in any of his previous dispatches. He asserted that he had had nothing to do in any way with the capture of the Europeans. It was solely an act of the late Commis- [p. 209] sioners; and when the fact of their being bound and in prison came to his notice, he ordered them to be cared for and their wounds attended to. He could not, however, send them back or even appoint deputies for the arrangement of preliminiaries with us, until the allied armies had retreated to Chang-kia-wan. The proximity of our troops to Pekin had already considerably disturbed the people’s minds there; and in the event of any attack being made upon the city by us, he feared it would be difficult to ensure the safety of the prisoners; but he promised that when peace as signed and our armies withdrawn, he would send back Mr. Parkes and party with all honour.
Strange to say the Prince of Kung in his letter to Baron Gros, of the same date, was not so courteous, and wrote in a far more decided manner, intimating that if the French army advanced upon Pekin, all of that nation who might then be prisoners in the capital would be put to death.
As the time granted to the Imperial Commissioners for deciding upon their line of conduct drew to a close, they evidently became frightened at their own temerity, and wrote to Lord Elgin in the most apologetic strain, saying that our interpreters must have misunderstood the meaning of their letters; that they were ready and willing to sign the convention; that that, in the existing state of excitement amongst the Pekin people, it was impossible to send the prisoners back. A hint was also thrown out that Mr Parkes should be used as a negotiator between them. A letter from him, written in Chinese, was forwarded to Lord Elgin at the same time, stating that, at the request of the Chinese [p. 210] authorities, he begged to intimate their wish of opening negotiations, &c, &c. A private note asking for clothes for himself and Mr Loch, also accompanied it, upon the margin of which the latter gentleman had written in Hindostani that the letter was written “by order”; or, in other words, that all that they had written was to be taken cum grano. This was the firts intimation we had had of Messrs Loch and Parkes being together.
Upon some of the clothes sent to them, we had written around the name marked on them, “In three days we shall commence hostilities again,” and, “What is the name of the place in which you are confined?” These sentences were in Hindostani also, so that if noticed, they should be unintelligble to the Chinese, but would be understood by Mr Loch, who knew that language.
By the next letter received from from we learnt that they were lodged in the Kaou-meaou Temple, near the Teh-shun gate.
Before advancing upon Pekin from the Pa-le-cheaou, deputations from the merchants of the Chinese city, came into our camp, bringing presents of fruits and vegetables, and promising that we should be furnished with all the supplies we required, provided we spared that part of Pekin.
Upon the 3rd October, as no satisfactory answer had been returned to our ultimatum, and all the expected reinforcements and heavy guns had arrived, we broke up camp at Pa-le-cheaou, and crossed the canal by the bridge of boats which we had prepared for the purpose, and encamped a cheval upon the paved road [p. 211] leading to Pekin. Head-quarters were established in the Mahomedan village of Chang-chia-ying.
The house occupied by the Commander-in-Chief was a mosque, in which it was curious to see how the architecture peculiar to the Prophet’s religion was mingled with that used in Buddhistic structures. The inscriptions upon the walls and within the building were in Arabic, not Persian, characters. Although the latter is used by all Mussulmen in India, the followers of that religion in China know nothing of it. Close by that village was the large enclosed tomb which had been previously selected as the position for our depot, which, it had been arranged, should be established before we advanced finally upon the capital. It was well suited for the purpose required, being easily capable of defence, and, from its size, well suited for parking therein all our siege train, baggage, &c., which was to be left behind until Sang-ko-hn-sin’s army had been driven from the field. Commissariat supplies sufficient for all our troops up to the 20th October had been collected, and were stored at this depot.
It was arranged between the Commanders-in-Chief, that the allied force was to advance upon the 4th October; but as a large French convoy, which had been expected to arrive on the 3rd, did not make its appearance until the day after, the movement was postponed until the 5th October.
Up to the time of marching, begging letters kept coming in daily from the Prince of Kung, sometimes two in one day; all were concocted in a half-cunning, half-frightened tone. He evidently dreaded our advancing above all things. He felt his inability to pre- [p. 212] vent it, and yet lacked moral courage enough to adopt the only course by which he could avert such a national calamity.
The absolute necessity of conceding all our demands, must have been evident to the dullest of the Chinese Ministers. There was a shilly-shallying about all the later dispatches, for which, in any other country under similar circumstances, it would have been impossible to account. Not so, however, in China, with an absolute monarch, who had left his capital and retired to such a distance from the theatre of operations that all reference to him involved the loss of several days, and from whom it was impossible to obtain any more definite instructions than the vague order “to keep the barbarians at a distance.” His Majesty contented himself with announcing the object desired, but cunningly forbore from entering into any detail of the method by which such was to be effected. By such conduct he reserved to himself at all times the right of beheading his Ministers for the policy they had pursued, even though they had succeeded through it in attaining the object desired. Success does not always secure the Chinese statesman from censure. His Imperial Majesty is capable, at any moment, of sacrificing his faithful agents, in order to give a plausibility to some statement which he wished to be believed. Thus Kweihang was disgraced for not finally settling matters with us at Tien-tsin, although it was never intended by the Government that he should do so. It was deemed necessary to give those mock negotiations the semblance of intentional [p. 213] reality, and so an old and faithful public servant was degraded, apparently, without the least compunction.
With the dread of death or disgrace before a minister, in case of failure, or even of a success which does not exactly dovetail in with his master’s whims or pride, it is not surprising that all Chinese political officers should hesitate before they arrive at any decision in dealing with foreigners.
If the Chinese deputy concedes too little, negotiations will be broken off, and his degradation follow most certainly; whilst, if he concedes too much, his life will be in jeopardy for daring to “sacrifice national honour.”
The Prince of Kung found himself thus unfortunately situated, and his vacillation was the consequence. [p. 214]
6. DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS AT TIEN-TSIN, AND THEIR ABRUPT SUSPENSION
DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS AT TIEN-TSIN, AND THEIR ABRUPT SUSPENSION — DEPARTURE OF THE ARMY FROM TIEN-TSIN — MARCH TO CHANG KIA-WAN, AND BATTLE THERE — TREACHEROUS CAPTURE OF BRITISH AND FRENCH SUBJECTS BY THE CHINESE — DESCRIPTION OF CHANG KIA-WAN AND ENEMY’S POSITION — BATTLE OF THE 21ST SEPTEMBER NEAR PA-LE-CHEAOU.
At Tien-tsin Lord Elgin and the Commander-in-Chief occupied quarters in a very fine house, belonging to Tsung-han, the Salt Commissioner. It was in the suburb, which lies between the eastern face of the city and the river. The entrance to it was from the quay running along the Peiho, so that all steamers coming up from Takoo could lie just off the doorway and only a few yards from it. The house within was so commodious, that Lord Elgin invited Baron Gros to stop there also, so that with the two embassies and the English Commander-in-Chiefs staff, the place was fully occupied. General Montauban took up his quarters in the Joss-house, where Lord Elgin had stopped during his visit to Tien-tsin in 1858.
A few days after our arrival at Tien-tsin, it was intimated to the French and English ambassadors that Kweiliang, Hang-ki, and Hang-fu had been appointed by the Emperor to act as Commissioners for the arrangement of affairs with us. All were to be in Tien- [p. 161] tsin by the 31st August. Kweiliang, an old man who had frequently before been engaged in carrying on diplomatic business with foreigners, was the chief of the party, and pretended to be most anxious for a peaceable solution to all points at issue between us. Daily meetings took place between these Commissioners and Messrs. Wade and Parkes. Kweiliang, in announcing to Lord Elgin his nomination as Imperial Commissioner, had declared, in a very cunningly worded letter, that he had with him the “Kwan-fang,” or great seal [大篆, dàzhuàn] and that he had power to discuss and arrange all matters connected with the treaty of 1858, and those which were specified in the ultimatum of March 1860. Peace was talked of by all people belonging to the embassies as a certainty, so that in the army all were speculating as to their chances of getting home to England before Christmas. We were told that the only difficulty raised by Kweiliang was as to the strength of the escorts which should accompany the ambassadors to Pekin. Of all things they objected most strongly to any guns being sent along with the parties, alleging that such an arrangement would disturb the minds of all the country people, who were very timid, and dreaded the presence of foreigners. If peace was concluded, “why should we wish to take a large force with us?” Our doing so would be, they averred, an indication of our want of confidence in them. They also endeavoured to persuade Lord Elgin to go up by boat along the river to Tung-chow.
In this manner some eight days of most valuable time were frittered away in discussing preliminaries. It was at last settled, that an interview between the Imperial [p. 162] Commissioners and Lord Elgin should come off on the 7th September, and that the convention should be signed the day following. Messrs. Parkes and Wade had an audience with Kweihang upon the evening of the 6th, when they pressed him to produce his written powers to treat with us. In an interview with Hang-ki which they had had that same afternoon, suspicions seemed to have arisen in Mr. Parkes’s mind, that the Commissioners were not possessed of the requisite Imperial decree, which alone would enable them to sign the convention. These suspicions gave rise to the demand that Kweiliang’s written powers should be shown them. That Chinese dignitary endeavoured to avoid this straightforward request, feigning indisposition, shilly-shallying and beating round about the bush, and trying to gain time in the manner usual with diplomatists of his nation. His manner, however, clearly showed that there was something wrong; and the English gentlemen with whom he was dealing, were far too accustomed to such manoeuvres not to observe it at once. They left him, saying that it was useless to talk any more upon the subject of the convention with one improvided with the necessary powers from the Emperor to act in his name. Lord Elgin immediately informed Kweihang, that owing to the want of good faith shown by him and his colleagues, regarding the authority of which he had implied the possession, he had determined upon advancing directly to Tung-chow, and that until he arrived at that place he declined receiving their visits. The announcement of our failure fell like a shell amongst us. All those who were supposed to be in the diplomatic secrets had been up to the last moment so confident that all [p. 163] fighting was at an end, that the army generally accepted such assurances without questioning. This caused us to laugh all the more heartily when we learnt that negotiations were broken off. Sir John Michel’s division reached Tien-tsin on the 2nd September, the cavalry on the 26th August, the 1st Royals, 67th Regiment, and some guns the day before; Sir Robert Napier’s division on the 5th September. On the 3rd of that last-named month we were in a position to have moved on towards Pekin with the 1st division and cavalry, leaving the 1st and 67th Regiments behind at Tien-tsin as a garrison. As we subsequently discovered from official papers captured in the Emperor’s palace, it was never intended that Kweihang’s negotiations should be anything more than a sham to gain time and so, if possible, prolong operations into the cold season, which they considered too inclement for our constitutions to bear up against. It is to be regretted that our diplomatic agents did not prevent Kweihang and Company from succeeding, by opening their intercourse with him by a demand for the written powers authorising him to sign the convention in the Emperor’s name. Such a precaution was one which would have suggested itself to all ordinary people, and I can only account for its non-adoption, by supposing that long practice in the diplomatic science has the effect of raising our intellectual powers above the process of reasoning common to the uninitiated in its solemn mysteries.
In consequence of negotiations having been thus abruptly broken off, it was determined that our troops should at once commence their march towards Tungchow. Of the road between Tien-tsin and Pekin we [p. 164] knew but little and could obtain but little satisfactory information.
Our means of land transport were but limited, and the fifty carts required by the embassy were only collected in Tien-tsin with difficulty. It was generally believed that the river was only navigable as far as Ho-se-woo for the sort of boats calculated for the conveyance of troops and heavy stores. Of the amount of supplies procurable along the line of route, no positive information could be obtained. It was therefore arranged between the allied Commanders-in-Chief that the two armies should advance by detachments. Brigadier Reeves with 99th Regiment, 200 Marines, Barry’s and Stirling’s batteries, the King’s Dragoon Guards, and Fane’s Horse to start on the 8th September. The French (about 3000 men) on the 10th; Sir John Michel with the 2nd brigade, Desborough’s battery and Probyn’s Horse, on the 12th September. Sir Robert Napier with the 2nd division was to remain behind at Tien-tsin in command, but to be in readiness for advancing at any moment when called upon to do so. Upon Sunday the 9th September, Lord Elgin and Sir Hope Grant left Tien-tsin, and joined Brigadier Reeves’s force at Hookow, and advanced to Yang-tsun the day after. During the night all the native Chinese drivers who had been collected before leaving Tien-tsin decamped, taking with them all their mules and ponies. A violent thunder storm accompanied by heavy rain had enabled them to make their escape without being perceived.
The 11th September was fine, but, owing to the immobility of the embassy from their loss of transport, a [p. 165] march was impossible. Parties were sent out into the country to try and recover the animals or procure others, but without success. Several junks were, however, seized, into which were transferred all stores and baggage for which no other transport was available. This desertion of the drivers was evidently directed by the Chinese authorities, in order to retard our march, and was a very fair indication of their animus towards us.
Upon the 11th September a dispatch from Pekin reached Lord Elgin. It was from Tsai, the Prince of I, a Captain-General of the Imperial Guard, and Muh, a member of the Great Council and President of the Board of War. It said that as Kweihang and his colleagues had failed in bringing the negotiations lately entered into at Tien-tsin to a satisfactory conclusion, the Emperor had directed them to proceed to Tien-tsin to arrange matters with his Excellency the British Minister, and that, as they intended commencing their journey towards that place on the following day, they hoped Lord Elgin would alter his previously announced determination of advancing to Tung-chow, and await their arrival at Tien-tsin. Lord Elgin’s answer was to the effect that he would sign no treaty before reaching Tung-chow, of which decision he had already informed their Excellencies Kweiliang and Company. Two letters reached Lord Elgin on the 12th September from the same source; one of these communications arrived in camp in the morning, the other in the evening. The first expressed astonishment at our advance from Tien-tsin, and was evidently written with the intention of trying what effect a high tone and an affectation of [p. 166] injured innocence would have upon us. As no reply was vouchsafed to it by his Lordship, I suppose they inferred that it had failed in its object. The second letter received was humbler in its general tone and was accordingly answered by Lord Elgin. The whole drift of both these letters was, that our force should return to Tien-tsin, and that his Lordship should reopen negotiations there. A civil but positive refusal was returned.
On the 13th September the English reached Ho-se-woo [河西务, Héxīwù, find it here]. That town, like all those between it and Takoo, stands upon the river’s bank, there being but few wells and little other water-supply except the Peiho itself. It is the largest place between Tien-tsin and Tung-chow; Chang-kia-wan in its present ruined condition, although formerly a walled-in city, being of less importance. The country through which we had passed was one vast level plain covered, as far as the eye could range, with high standing crops of maize and millet. The road by which we had advanced was unmetalled, but hard and good in dry weather; after heavy rain it would be, however, impassable for all wheeled conveyance. The villages which we passed consisted of well-built houses, mostly enclosed by neatly kept gardens and orchards. The people as far as Nan-tsai-tsun were most friendly and obliging; none had flown from their houses, and all appeared anxious to help us, bringing in fruit, vegetables, &c., into our camp for sale. Between that place and Ho-se-woo there was a marked change visible in the disposition of the inhabitants towards us. Whenever we approached a village the people fled, and shunned all communication with us, [p. 167] Ho-se-woo we found almost entirely deserted, only a few of the worst characters remaining behind for the purpose of plundering the establishments of those who had left. There were two very large pawnbrokers’ shops there, containing great quantities of warm clothing and valuables of all sorts. We placed guards over them, but the Chinese thieves climbed over the walls and roof tops at night and succeeded in carrying off property without being perceived. When this was discovered, all the Chinese remaining in the town were ordered to quit forthwith, in order to save what remained. We procured delicious grapes and very good vegetables there, and the large quantities of yams and sweet potatoes growing in the surrounding fields enabled our army to feed well Ho-se-woo is closely surrounded by orchards of peach, apple, and pear trees, besides numerous clumps of willows. The river is not more than about a hundred yards wide at Ho-se-woo, dwindling away at some points to scarcely fifty, and at one or two places to about twenty yards. The water is clear and good, being above the tidal influence; but wells become numerous in the district north of it.
As it was very doubtful whether the Peiho was navigable at that time of year for large boats beyond Ho-se-woo, and as the supplies procurable from the country were very uncertain, Sir Hope Grant determined upon converting that town into a depot for stores, and establishing a large field hospital there. Admiral Hope had organised flotillas consisting of from sixty to eighty junks in each. An English sailor lived on board each vessel, and each flotilla was under the immediate charge of a commander, with a due propor- [p. 168] tion of naval officers under him. The siege train was floated up the river on pontoons, tracked by sailors or Chinese boatmen. Small detachments of troops accompanied each flotilla at first, marching along the banks for its protection, but latterly this precaution was found unnecessary, and was consequently discontinued. Ho-se-woo was the best half-way station which could be fixed upon between Tien-tsin and Pekin, being about forty miles from the former and the same distance from the latter. As the troops were marching up from Tientsin to Ho-se-woo in detachments, it was determined to collect them at that place, before making any advance towards the capital, so that a halt for a few days there became indispensable. Daily communication passed between the Imperial Commissioners and our embassy. Tsai, Prince of I, and his colleagues seemed so bent upon peace, and the difficulties of transport were so great, that orders were sent back to Sir Robert Napier, directing him to halt at Tien-tsin, as it was not expected that the services of his division would be required in advance of that city.
Upon the afternoon of the 13th September, the day on which we arrived at Ho-se-woo, Messrs. Wade and Parkes with an escort of twenty cavalry, went forward to meet the Imperial Commissioners at Matow, twelve miles from our camp. Upon reaching that village, they found that their “Excellencies” had fallen back upon Tung-chow, disliking evidently the proximity of our army. Our party consequently pushed on for that last-named town, which they entered upon the following day. They had a lengthened interview with the Imperial Commissioners, when, after the usual shilly [p. 169] shallying and childish endeavours to protract arrangements, it was finally settled that the allied forces were to advance to within five li (about a mile and a half) of Chang-kia-wan and halt there, Lord Elgin with an escort of 1,000 men proceeding on to Tung-chow, where he was to be furnished with suitable quarters. He was to meet the Imperial Commissioners there and sign the convention. That accomplished, he was to proceed with the same escort to the capital for the purpose of ratifying the old treaty.
Upon the 16th September Sir John Michel reached our camp at Ho-se-woo, bringing with him the 2nd Regiment, 15th Punjaub Infantry, Desborough’s, battery, and Probyn’s Horse. Upon the 17th the army and 1,000 French marched to Matow, leaving the 2nd Regiment with three guns and 25 cavalry behind at Ho-se-woo for the protection of the hospitals and stores there; 100 irregular cavalry were also left there as an escort for Lord Elgin who remained behind. A small detachment of cavalry was posted at Yang-tsun for the purpose of keeping open the communications, and conveying letters &c. &c. On the same day that we marched to Matow, Messrs. Loch and Parkes went on to Tung-chow to arrange for Lord Elgin’s reception there.
At five o’clock a.m. on the 18th September, our force advanced, having been joined upon the evening before by the 2nd Regiment, which, upon being relieved by the 60th Rifles at Ho-se-woo, had started for head-quarters. Lieut.-Colonel Walker, Assistant Quartermaster-General to the cavalry, together with Assistant Commissary-General Thompson, had accompanied Mr. Parkes’s party to Tung-chow upon the previous evening, the [p. 170] former to arrange with the Chinese authorities as to the site for our camp near Chang-kia-wan, the latter for the supplies required by our troops. It was arranged that Colonel Walker should meet us upon the march on the 18th, and conduct us to the ground indicated by the Chinese for our force to encamp upon.
Upon leaving Matow the road kept near the river for the first two miles, the country around, like all over which we had hitherto passed since we had left Tien-tsin, was highly cultivated, the crops still standing. A little further on the road struck off from the river. Far and near the millet and Indian corn had been cut, which struck many as being ominous, particularly when, upon advancing about a mile further, our advanced guard came suddenly upon a Tartar cavalry picket, which fled when we approached. This naturally put our men upon the qui vive. Military men are far less confiding than civilians in dealing with uncivilised nations. The little experience that I have had goes to prove that the latter are far more rash and less liable to take the precautions which ordinary military knowledge would indicate as necessary. How often have I known civilians, accompanying an army, scoff at the caution of general officers, forgetting altogether that any commander who fails to provide against every possible mistake or probable contingency is deeply culpable. By the strange contrariety of human nature, it is generally these irresponsible gentlemen who are first loudest in their abuse of officers who fail in anything through rashness or want of caution. Notwithstanding the confident assurances which we heard upon all sides from those connected with our embassy, that [p. 171] peace was almost a certainty, every soldier in our force thought that the aspect of affairs was very threatening, when, upon debouching from the village of Woo-tse-ying and approaching that of Le-urh-tsze, we found ourselves in presence of a very large army, covering a front of about five miles in extent. Sir Hope Grant immediately halted the force, and sent orders to the rear that all the baggage should be collected in the village through which we had just passed, upon which place the rearguard was to close for its protection. Large bodies of Tartar cavalry kept closing in towards our flanks, and infantry in force were to be seen pouring in to the position in our front, along which enormous batteries of guns were visible. Shortly after we had halted, Mr. Loch, accompanied by three sowars, galloped in from the Chinese army, bringing with him letters from Mr. Parkes, announcing that all points had been arranged satisfactorily with the Imperial Commissioners. Lord Elgin had previously determined upon sending, post haste to Shanghai for Mr. Bruce, our Minister there, if Mr. Parkes’s interview with the Commissioners upon the evening of the 17th instant should prove successful. In order to carry this out, it was arranged that Mr. Parkes should write from Tung-chow to Captain Jones of the Royal Navy, who accompanied the army for that purpose, telling him of the issue of his negotiations with the Prince of I, and if, as was confidently expected, all our requests were agreed to, Captain Jones was to start off at once for the fleet upon the receipt of Mr. Parkes’s letter, and sail for Shanghai.
Captain Jones received a letter from Mr. Parkes, just before the action commenced, saying that everything [p. 172] had been arranged with the Commissioners. Mr. Loch informed us that he, Colonel Walker, Commissary-General Thompson, Mr. Parkes, five men of the Kong’s Dragoon Guards, and four sowars had left Tung-chow at a little after five o’clock a.m. on that morning, leaving Lieutenant Anderson and the rest of the escort (17 sowars) behind in that place. Mr. Bowlby, the “Times'” correspondent, and Mr. de Norman, an attache to our Minister at Shanghai (with the Commander-in-Chiefs knowledge), had, it appeared, also accompanied the party into Tung-chow upon the day before, and remained behind with Lieutenant Anderson the next morning. This division into two parts of the original party as despatched by Sir Hope Grant’s orders, has never, that I am aware of, been properly accounted for. When it was determined that Mr. Parkes should proceed to Tung-chow, an escort of picked men was furnished for his personal protection.
With a nation so notoriously deceitful as the Chinese, no amount of peaceful declarations, or assurances, warranted the breaking up of that escort into two portions, and leaving one of them behind in a crowded city belonging to men who by no stretch of imagination could be termed friends until peace had been actually signed. To have done so was a disregard of all military precaution, which common sense might have pointed out as most dangerous. Prom Mr. Loch we learnt that when en route that morning for our army, they had passed considerable bodies of troops in and about Chang-kia-wan, and had seen many guns in battery where, on the previous day, no preparations had been made for them, and no troops [p. 173] were to be seen. Mr. Parkes expostulated with the officials on the spot, but they would not or could not give him any satisfactory explanation, merely referring him to their general, who, they said, was away at some distance. Affairs seemed threatening; so Mr. Parkes determined upon returning to Tung-chow, to request the Commissioners to explain why an army was in occupation of the ground where it had been decided we should encamp. He took with him only Private Phipps of the King’s Dragoon Guards. It was at the same time decided that Colonel Walker should remain upon the road with the escort for the purpose of examining the enemy’s position and watching their movements, whilst Mr. Loch should ride on to Sir Hope Grant to inform him how affairs stood. Only one construction could be put upon the matter. It was evident that the object was to entrap us when off our guard, getting us to encamp upon ground commanded by their artillery and completely surrounded by their troops. To surround an army on all sides is always a favourite theory with nations unskilled in war, and one which Sang-ko-hn-sin always endeavoured to effect in his engagements with us. He seemed to think that our forces, if once enclosed upon all sides by his Tartar cavalry, must fall an easy prey to his superior numbers.
The presence of Mr. Parkes and his party in Tungchow, and of Colonel Walker and his party within the enemy’s lines, was a great drag upon our movements, as the Commander-in-Chief naturally dreaded compromising their safety by an immediate attack. Mr. Loch volunteered to return to Tung-chow for the purpose of collecting the party of our people there and bringing [p. 174] them back with him. Captain Brabazon, Deputy Assistant-Quartermaster-General to the Royal Artillery, volunteered to accompany him, carrying an order from Sir Hope Grant, directing all our people then in Tungchow to return to our army at once. Two sowars carrying a flag of truce went with them. It was then about eight o’clock a.m. Our cavalry moved out towards our flanks, for the purpose of watching the enemy’s movements, but with orders to avoid coming into collision with them.
Close by the road along which we had advanced, were three small mounds, standing about four hundred yards from the enemy’s batteries in front of the village of Le-urh-tsze. From these mounds a good view of the surrounding country was to be had. We could see the red coats of our dragoons belonging to Colonel Walker’s party, which was moving about through the Chinese troops, whose grey uniforms made the scarlet of our men all the more plainly visible. Whilst halting there awaiting Mr. Loch’s return, Hang-ki, one of the Imperial Commissioners, came in under a flag of truce, requesting to see Lord Elgin; but upon learning that he was at Ho-se-woo in rear, he returned to his own army. A Chinese officer and three men also arrived, saying that they had come to conduct us to the ground arranged for our camp.
Between ten and eleven o’clock, whilst we were awaiting Mr. Parkes’s return, a commotion was visible amongst the Chinese troops, and immediately their batteries opened, and a long line of fire was delivered by their infantry. Colonel Walker and his party were discovered galloping through the enemy, and in a few [p. 175] minutes arrived amongst us. The account which he gave was, that whilst waiting in the Chinese lines for the return of Mr. Parkes and others from Tungchow, he kept moving about examining the enemy’s batteries, &c. &c., as far as he was allowed to do so. At first the Chinese officers were civil, but after some time he perceived their manner changing perceptibly, until they became rude, trying to prevent him from going about. He warned the escort he had with him to be particularly guarded in their conduct and avoid any collision if possible. At one time a number of soldiers pressed in around him, and one of them, from behind him, tilted his sword from its scabbard. A Chinese officer, who was by, however, had it returned to him. Shortly after this circumstance. Colonel Walker’s attention was drawn to a party of noisy Chinamen collected round a French officcer, who, having accompanied the original party to Tung-chow, was then on his way back to the army. Upon seeing Colonel Walker he called out for assistance. That officer at once made his way up to him, and found that he had received a severe sabre cut on his head, and some other wounds about the body. Colonel Walker took him by the hand, and was endeavouring to help him away, when a rush was suddenly made upon him by the Chinese soldiers. They succeeded in drawing his sword from its scabbard, and in endeavouring to prevent this Colonel Walker cut his hand, and was obliged to let go the French officer, who was immediately knocked down, whilst at the same time they tried to pull Colonel Walker off his horse. To remain any longer amongst them [p. 176] without fighting was impossible, and for a few men to contend against crowds would have been ridiculous. He called out therefore to his party to ride for their lives, and all started for our army at a gallop, cutting their way through with only two wounded and one horse shot, although all the enemy near fired at them, and their batteries, as I have already mentioned, let drive at them as they went. Colonel Walker had a most trying time of it, whilst waiting in the midst of the Chinese army for Mr. Parkes’s return, nor could many have conducted themselves with such good temper and composure as he displayed then. Several Chinese officers had invited him and urged him to dismount and go into a house which was near, for the purpose of waiting there; but with wise military precaution he would not allow himself to be separated from his party. Had he done so, it is reasonable to suppose that he would have shared the same miserable fate that Brabazon and Anderson met with.
The firing, once commenced, was kept up vigorously by the enemy. The French, numbering 1,000, with a battery of artillery, were upon our right, and General Montauban sent to Sir Hope Grant to say that he was about to advance direct upon the village and works in his front. As our allies had no cavalry, a squadron of Fane’s Horse was sent to act under the orders of General Montauban, who placed them upon his right flank, directing them and the few spahis composing his own personal escort, to sweep round the village whilst the infantry attacked it in front. This was brilliantly effected under the immediate command of Colonel Foley, C.B., the English Commissioner at [p. 177] French head-quarters, to whom General Montauban had entrusted that duty. As Messrs. Brabazon and Loch had then been away over two hours, it was concluded that they had been detained in Tung-chow. Sir Hope Grant then formed his troops for a movement in advance. There was some rising ground upon our right front, from which our 9-pomider battery made good practice, a squadron of the King’s Dragoon Guards supporting them. The 99th Regiment was deployed and ordered to advance up the road leading to the village in our front, supported by two 9-pounders. The 15th Punjaub Infantry, with the Armstrong guns, took ground to the left; the 2nd Regiment (Queen’s) with Stirling’s 6-pounders and the cavalry were ordered to make a great flank movement to our left.
In describing the Chinese position, I may say that its right rested upon the old walled-in town of Changkia-wan [张家湾, Zhangjiawan, located here], and its left upon the Peiho, a distance of between three and four miles. The Seaou-ho (little river), ran between these two points, and was fordable almost everywhere. Beyond it rose a succession of sand-hills, interspersed with trees and stunted bushes. The road to Tung-chow ran upon our side of it, passing, for a distance of more than a mile along a high embankment, which the enemy had scarped and turned into batteries, with but little labour. At about one thousand yards from the Peiho, was the long straggling village of Leurh-tsze, in front of which several batteries had been constructed with trees and earthwork; and further again to the left was another small village, sufficiently far in advance to enable the batteries thrown up around it to [p. 178] flank with their fire the centre of the line. At about a mile’s distance from the suburb of Chang-kia-wan, a watch-tower stood upon the road-side, in front of which a strong line of batteries had been erected, at right angles to the general direction of the front, and thus flanking from that extremity all the enemy’s position within range. Their position in this manner closely represented a front in modern fortification. Its one great error was having the little river close behind. I suppose it was a dislike to having their cavalry separated from their guns and infantry, as well as the existence of the embankment upon the south side, which induced them to prefer that bank of the stream. Our artillery soon produced a marked effect upon the enemy’s batteries and troops; and the allied armies advancing, soon drove the latter from their fieldworks. The firing of our Armstrong guns was admirable, each shot telling upon the large bodies of Tartar cavalry, which kept moving round towards our left flank and rear. Major Probyn charged with his usual dashing brilliancy, and cleared the ground to our immediate left. Sir John Michel, to whom the movement upon the enemy’s right was entrusted, found such large bodies of Tartars on his front and flank that he could not make the flank movement intended without losing his connection with our main body. The 15th Punjaub Infantry were therefore directed to advance upon the enemy’s flanking batteries, which raked our other troops. They accomplished this in a most creditable manner, capturing several guns. The Armstrong guns were then sent to Sir John Michel, who swept round to the south of Chang-kiawan, whilst the 15th Punjaub Infantry pushed through [p. 179] it. Our allies had in the mean time taken all the works in their immediate front. The squadron of Fane’s Horse, under General Montauban’s orders, had accomplished great things, they and the Arab spahis of his personal escort vying with each other in pursuing the flying enemy. Our pursuit lasted up to about two miles beyond Chang-kia-wan, when we halted and destroyed the numerous camps which were dotted about over the country. These camps were neatly arranged, and were composed of clean, well-made, cotton tents, pitched in squares, the centre space being uncovered, and evidently devoted to cooking and parade purposes. In front of each tent stood an arm rack, made roughly with boughs of trees. Each camp contained large cauldrons for cooking, and altogether their interior economy was highly creditable. There were considerable quantities of powder in almost every tent, so that when the tents were set on fire, the numerous explosions filled the air with volumes of smoke, which shot up in tall graceful columns every moment whilst the work of destruction was going on. Those in Pekin must have had early intelligence of their defeat from these explosions. How the hopes of the war party there must have sunk within them as each succeeding cloud of smoke went upwards, announcing the destruction of their camps, and the failure of all their deeply-laid schemes of treachery. How they must have cursed Sang-ko-lin-sin’s ill-luck, and wished they had never listened to his boasted confidence in victory.
As we afterwards discovered, from captured correspondence, he had written to the Emperor from Ho-se-woo, saying, that although we were advancing from [p. 180] Tien-tsin, our numbers were so very inconsiderable that the Celestial mind might remain perfectly at ease, as the position he had chosen in front of Chang-kia-wan was so very strong, and his numerous troops so well placed, that it would be an easy matter to annihilate the barbarians, if we should advance so far. Whilst he was writing thus to his Imperial master, the Prince of I and his colleagues were treating with our embassy. The French troops had marched over a considerable extent of ground in their advance, and were too tired to advance beyond Chang-kia-wan that evening, so they encamped without the town, which our troops, being in advance, occupied, the cavalry and artillery encamping in its neighbourhood. Our casualties had been only twenty, the French fifteen. The enemy suffered considerably, and left upwards of eighty guns in our hands. During the action, the Tartar cavalry, having circled round our left flank, advanced towards the village of Woo-tsze-ying, thinking, no doubt, that our baggage would fall an easy prey; but our Commander-in-Chief had forestalled them, by having it all collected into one spot just before the action, and leaving a strong rear-guard with it. The enemy’s force was estimated at about 20,000.
Although our action had been a brilliant one, and satisfactory in every way, as we had beaten such a large force with our insignificant numbers and taken or destroyed almost all their guns and material, yet a heavy gloom hung over most of us that evening, from the uncertainty connected with the fate of those in the enemy’s hands. All knew the Chinese to be as cruel as they are false and treacherous; and many feared that the fact of [p. 181] our victory that day would embitter them all the more strongly against their prisoners, and excite them, like truly ignoble barbarians, to seek for some consolation for their defeat, by torturing those who were helplessly in their hands. The missing party consisted of Captain Brabazon of the artillery, Lieutenant Anderson of Fane’s Horse, Messrs. Parkes, Loch, De Norman and Bowlby (the “Times'” correspondent), seventeen picked sowars of Fane’s Horse, one of Probyn’s Horse, and Private Phipps of the King’s Dragoon Guards.
Sir Hope Grant took up his quarters in Chang-kiawan, from which nearly all the inhabitants had fled. That night, either by design on the part of the Chinese or some accident by our followers, the houses near the head-quarters took fire, and it was only by the great exertions of the engineers, and other troops turned out to aid them, that the fire was kept from spreading to all the buildings around.
As a punishment for the treachery of our enemies, Chang-kia-wan was given over to loot. It was a strange sight, for the two following days, to see the crowds of poor people from the surrounding villages pouring in from daybreak until dark for the purpose of sharing in the plunder. To them, the clothes and furniture, which, in the pawn-shops particularly, were stored in quantities, were of great value, although to our men they were of no use, as none had the means of carrying them. I did not hear, upon good authority, of any valuables having been found; but in one warehouse there were about five million pounds of brick tea, called so from its being prepared like compressed vegetables, in blocks resembling bricks. This, as also our cap- [p. 182] tured guns, we were unable to remove from want of carriage.
Chang-kia-wan is a very old walled-in city, and was some two hundred years ago a place of great importance; but, judging from the ruinous condition of its walls, defences, and public buildings, its glory has long since departed. The greater portion of the inner space enclosed within the walls, is now laid out in vegetable gardens, or covered with the debris of streets which have ceased to exist except in name. To the east of the city there is a large suburb, consisting of well-built houses, and having a thriving air about it. This is the case with many Chinese cities that I have seen. The suburbs become of far more importance than the place itself, which dwindles away proportionally with the growth of its more modern rival. A branch from the Seaou-ho winds round the suburb, separating it from the city; a fine stone bridge, with quaintly carved mouldings and balustrades, spanning the river between. This “Little River” flows from the “Whenho,” which unites with the Peiho near Tien-tsin. The Chang-kia-wan branch was once navigable for boats of considerable size, and we were told that it was owing to the failing of the water, and its consequent unsuitableness for traffic, that the decline in the city was chiefly attributable. Around this faded city the country was highly cultivated, and thickly dotted over with well-built villages, and neatly-kept orchards and gardens. Groves of pine trees formed a remarkable feature in the landscape, and curious tombs of all sizes and grades in importance were scattered about in the most picturesque spots. There, as at Takoo and [p. 183] Tien-tsin, the position of every grave was marked by a mound of earth, shaped like an inverted cauldron, with, in most instances, a round ball of earth on top, giving it a finished look. Many of these mounds were neatly plastered over with cement, and some were faced with brickwork. In shape some of them resemble the Burmese pagodas on a small scale. Millet and maize, beans and sweet potatoes, were the principal products of the country. The roads leading towards Tung-chow and Pekin were deep, hollow ways, so much below the general level of the country around, that in many places cavalry might march along them unperceived by people in the fields close by. In rainy weather these roads become small streams, and form the drainage of the country. Each succeeding year of course serves to wear them deeper. To cavalry and artillery in action, or even moving rapidly straight across country in any military manoeuvre, they are a serious obstacle.
Within Chang-kia-wan, and several villages in its neighbourhood, were high marble tablets, covered with inscriptions, setting forth the virtues and amiable qualities of great men or virtuous wives. All these monuments rest upon colossal representations of the tortoise, which in China is the emblem of longevity, and is a favourite symbol with Chinamen. The most important of these marble tablets are protected by picturesquely constructed roofs raised above them, and supported by wooden pillars, generally coloured red. In some of these the yellow tiling denotes that they have either been erected by order of the Emperor, to commemorate the deeds of some public functionary [p. 184] or else to announce an Imperial mandate to be observed by the surrounding people.
Upon the 19th September, Mr. Wade went to Tungchow under a flag of truce, carrying with him orders from the Commanders-in-Chief, desiring that all English and French subjects then prisoners should be returned forthwith, and threatening that in the event of any impediment being shown to their doing so, Pekin would be attacked and taken.
Mr. Wade succeeded in seeing the prefect of Tungchow, who appeared upon the walls of that place. He said that Mr. Parkes had not returned to Tung-chow, after he had left it with the escort, and that he supposed he had gone to our army. The prefect seemed to dread an attack upon his city, but was assured, that if the inhabitants forbore from molesting us, that place would be spared.
Tung-chow was a large city; of its strength or capabillties of resistance we knew nothing. If it was strong and had a large garrison, we could not leave it untaken in our rear, and its assault would have delayed us materially. To procure its neutrality was of great moment to us, as it was there we intended establishing our depots of stores coming up the river. It was, in fact, the port of Pekin; and it was at first hoped that the canal which we knew existed between those two places, might serve us as a means of communication between them. It was subsequently arranged that Tung-chow should be spared, the authorities there aiding us in procuring supplles, &c. &c.
As Mr. Wade was unable to gather any reliable information regarding our prisoners from the Tung-chow [p. 185] prefect, he proceeded from thence in a westerly direction, and soon found himself in presence of the Chinese army, with which he in vain tried to communicate, as their outposts would not allow him to approach, and fired upon him several times when he endeavoured to do so. Lord Elgin joined our head-quarters on the afternoon of the 19th.
Upon the 20th September, a cavalry reconnaissance was made in the direction of the enemy’s camp, the bulk of which was found to be in the neighbourhood of the Pa-le-cheaou (eight-li bridge). An intelligent Chinese soldier was taken prisoner, who informed us that Sang-ko-lin-sin was commanding in person. He stated that several foreigners had been taken to Pekin in carts upon the 18th.
At daybreak upon the 21st, we moved out of Changkia-wan, and formed up facing the enemy at about two miles’ distance from the town. We were then joined by the French, whose strength had been increased to about 3,000 men, by the arrival of General Collineau’s brigade upon the previous evening. All our baggage was collected together and placed under a strong guard, in a village close by, our allies making the same arrangement for theirs. The plan of operations agreed upon by the Commanders-in-Chief was, that the French were to advance direct to the Pa-le-cheaou, which is a fine stone bridge over the canal running between Pekin and Tung-chow, whilst our force made for a wooden bridge about a mile nearer the capital Our cavalry were at the same time to make a wide sweep to the left, so as to drive in the right flank of the enemy upon their centre, whose only lines of retreat would then be [p. 186] over the canal by the Pa-le-cheaou and the wooden bridge near it, against which the allied forces of infantry and artillery were respectively advancing. They hoped thus to inflict considerable damage upon the enemy, whilst crowding across those two narrow bridges. As the French had been encamped in rear of Changkia-wan since the action of the 18th, we had to wait for some time for them; but upon their arrival the two armies advanced as had been previously arranged. When we had marched a mile, we found ourselves in presence of a large army, their cavalry stretching away to their right as far as we could see, and endeavouring to turn our left flank; their infantry strongly posted in the numerous clumps of trees and enclosures which lay between us and the canal. As soon as we came within range, they opened fire upon us from hundreds of jingalls and small field-pieces, to which our allies replied with their rifled cannon. Sir Hope Grant rode forward towards the French for the purpose of examining the position, and having advanced beyond our line of skirmishers, rode almost in amongst the Tartars, mistaking them for the moment for the French. Upon turning back to rejoin our troops, the Tartar cavalry, seeing him and his numerous staff cantering away from them, evidently thought it was some of our cavalry running away, and at once gave pursuit with loud yells. Stirling’s 6-pounders, however, opened heavily upon them when they were about two houdred and fifty yards from our line, saluting them well with canister, which sent them to the right about as briskly as they had advanced. An infantry battalion close by was ordered by its brigadier to form square, and in that formation fired [p. 187] volleys at the advancing enemy, without, I believe, killing a man of them. Our old soldiers, untrained in all the minutiae of position and judging-distance drill, and armed with the much-abused old Brown Bess, could not certainly have done less damage. Upon more than one occasion during the war, the absurdity of imagining that an enemy can be destroyed by an infantry fire delivered at long ranges, or directed at troops not crowded together in deep formations, was made apparent to all except, perhaps, a few unpractical men, whose judgment was biassed by theories, and from whom no amount of actual illustration in the field could drive the opinions which they had formed upon the sands at Hythe. Upon one occasion I remember seeing a man get up from behind some cover where he had been concealed, about twenty yards from a hue of our skirmishers, and get away safely over a smooth open field, although fired at by every man of ours near him, some having reloaded and fired a second time at him. The enemy’s cavalry, having retreated out of range, re-formed, and seemed in no way disheartened, but kept on moving towards our left, round which flank they appeared determined to get. Our cavalry, which had been moving slowly forwards in that direction, upon arriving within charging distance, went straight at them. Fane’s Horse and the King’s Dragoon Guards in the first llne, Probyn’s regiment in support behind. The Tartar cavalry had halted behind a deep wide ditch, upon seeing our troops advancing towards them, from which position they delivered a volley as our cavalry reached it. The horses of the irregulars are always ridden in short standing martingales, which [p. 188] effectually prevent their jumping well; so, when our line reached the ditch, but very few of the irregulars got over it at first, many of their horses, unable to pull up, tumbling in, one over the other. The King’s Dragoon Guards, however, got well in amongst the Tartars, riding over ponies and men, and knocking both down together like so many ninepins. The irregulars were soon after them, and in the short pursuit which then ensued, the wild Pathans of Fane’s Horse showed well fighting side by side with the powerful British dragoon. The result was most satisfactory. Riderless Tartar horses were to be seen galloping about in all directions, and the ground passed over in the charge was well strewn with the enemy. At no time subsequently during the day would they allow our cavalry to get sufficiently near for a second charge, and I have no doubt but that those who retreated in safety, carried back into the wilds of Tartary strange stories of our impetuosity in battle, and of the dreadful shock of British cavalry, before which they were unable to stand for an instant. Our artillery opened fire upon the retreating forces with good effect, firing slowly, every Armstrong shell bursting amongst them and bringing down the enemy in clumps.
Sir Hope Grant with the cavalry, three Armstrong guns, 99th Eegiment, and Royal Marines moved in pursuit to our left, in which direction we found several camps. The ground was difficult in some places for cavalry and artillery, particularly as we approached Pekin, the roads having steep banks on either side, and the fields enclosed by deep wide ditches, some of which might be claimed as fair hunting jumps. In one of the [p. 189] captured camps we found eighteen guns, and in all the tents were standing. Of course we burnt and destroyed all we took. When the country people perceived that we were doing so, numbers of them turned out for the purpose of plundering the tents of the army which had fled; and it was a strange thing to see peasants coming out from these camps, staggering under the weight of captured clothing, cooking-pots, &c. &c., with which they were hurrying home, evidently dreading lest the Tartar soldiers should return before they had reached their respective villages. As we approached each camp, we could see the enemy streaming out from it, and only in one instance did they attempt any resistance. Our cavalry having approached an encampment which was closely surrounded with trees and broken ground, where they were of course powerless against the enemy’s infantry, which opening a sharp fire, several of our men were wounded. When, however, our infantry and artillery came up, the enemy were quickly dislodged, and the 99th succeeded in bayonetting several. Our pursuit lasted to within about six miles of Pekin, horses and men being well tired and hungry. We halted there for an hour; and I shall never forget how truly acceptable some grapes were which we found in a village close by. The enemy having disappeared from our front and flank, we marched back, making for the wooden bridge over the canal where we rejoined the 2nd brigade. The French had advanced to the Pa-le-cheaou as agreed, taking all the camps which lay near that bridge, over which they drove the enemy, killing large numbers of them in its vicinity; a number were also drowned in their efforts to get across the [p. 190] canal at points where there was no bridge. Whilst Colonel Mackenzie, our Quartermaster-General, was marking out the position for our camp, a fire was suddenly opened by the enemy from the north bank of the canal, to the south of which it had been arranged that we should encamp.
A party of the 15th Punjaub Infantry under Lieutenant Harris, the second in command of that corps, was immediately pushed across the river, supported by a wing of the 2nd Queen’s. The Punjaubees advanced most dashingly, driving the enemy from a camp which stood near the canal and capturing the guns from which they had opened fire. The French encamped to our right, also upon the canal. Our baggage, which had been sent for when the pursuit ended, came up in the afternoon. I should imagine that almost every man in our army ate ducks for dinner that evening; for upon arriving at the canal it was crowded with fine large ducks, which so quickly disappeared, that the next morning, when going there to bathe, I could only see four remaining. These I have no doubt were captured before the day was over, and judging from the manner in which they were being hunted when I saw them, I should fancy they must have been tender indeed when placed upon the table.
Our loss in men during the day had been only two killed and twenty-nine wounded; our allies also, only suffered slightly. [p. 191]
5. ACCOUNT OF PAPERS FOUND AT SINHO
ACCOUNT OF PAPERS FOUND AT SINHO — PLANS FOR ASSAULT OF TUE TAKOO FORTS — REMARKS UPON THEM — STORMING AND CAPTURE OP THE NORTHERN FORTS — DESCRIPTION OF THEM, AND THEIR POSITION — MARCH FROM TAKOO TO TIEN-TSIN — DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY PASSED THROUGH — OF TIEN-TSIN AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD
Some very interesting papers were found in the Mandarin’s house at Sinho, containing the correspondence between Sang-ko-lin-sin and the Great Council of State, relative to our probable line of conduct, should we actually land in the neighbourhood of Takoo with hostile intentions. One of these documents was an exposition of Sang-ko-lin-sin’s views of the matter. In it he commenced by commenting upon the English parliamentary debates which had lately taken place upon the Chinese question. Of most of these he had evidently received translations. Referring to our having talked so much and so publicly of our proposed operations in China, he says, the very fact of our having done so was a clear proof that we never intended to carry them into execution, adding that, “those who make war, keep silent regarding their proposed movements; everything is talked over and done in secret, the drums are muffled and no flags are shown.” In short, he gives us credit for making war in a more systematic and a wiser manner than we English are ever able to do, owing to [p. 122] the extravagant freedom allowed to our press upon all subjects. He then goes on to remark, that, as regards the proposition made by a very wise British senator, that our fleet should proceed up the Yang-tse-kiang, and that Nankin should be occupied by our troops, for the purpose of cutting off the supplies of grain, supposed by that intelligent English gentleman to be continually flowing up from thence by the Grand Canal to Pekin, — “Why, as you know, that canal has been rendered useless since 1852. Should the barbarians persist in their avowed intention of invasion, they will, most likely, land at Peh-tang; to do so is very difficult, but as we cannot defend that place, they may succeed in doing so. There is only one egress from thence, to the east of which are large impassable salt-works; and should they present themselves in the open country, my numerous Tartar cavalry is so disposed that they must be annihilated. Should they, however, pass them, there is still the Takoo position, opposite the forts of which they were before so signally defeated, and which are now stronger than ever.” He estimated the entire strength of the allied forces at 30,000 men, and, strange to say, follows up the current events just as they occurred, the only difference being, that, instead of being annihilated, we chased from the field those who were detailed by him to carry out that highly unsatisfactory termination to our existence. A few days before the attack on the northern forts of Takoo, the French commandant of engineers with a few men crossed the Peiho at the point where it had been determined that we should throw our bridge across. He proceeded cautiously along the right bank, until at [p. 123] length he got under a fire from small guns, jingals, and musketry, before which he had to retire, but as the affair seemed to be becoming serious, General Montauban marched down most of his forces to support this small party, and, having sent across a couple of thousand men, made good his position amongst the gardens which surrounded the village. Within about a thousand yards of this point there was a small Tartar entrenchment, from whence the enemy retreated as our allies advanced. Beyond it, the road was so cut up in several places, that, until bridges were thrown across, nothing else could be done; and, in fact, until the boat bridge for the Peiho was ready, the position of our allies on its right bank, was, in every respect, a false one.
Sir Hope Grant objected to the line of action on that bank of the river, and from our post at Tang-koo we could see so much of the enemy’s position on both sides of the Peiho, as to enable us to form a correct estimate of the relative bearings of each fort with the others. It certainly seemed, even to the most inexperienced in war, a dangerous proceeding to leave the north forts untouched, whilst we operated by the right bank towards the defences on the south side. The forts there were evidently much the strongest, and their fire could not be brought to bear upon us whilst engaged in attacking the northern forts, with the exception of the small detached fort furthest up the river on that side, commanding the space between the two northern forts.
From Tang-koo to the nearest fort on the left bank, was somewhat under two miles, and the reconnaissance made by Captain Lumsden of the Quartermaster-General’s department proved, that by a little labour a good [p. 124] and safe road could be made to it, by making a detour so as to keep away from the river as much as possible, and thus avoid any cross fire from the southern banks that the enemy might bring to bear upon us. With this detached fort in our possession, we should be able to look into the similar one on the south bank, enfilade the whole length of the great southern one, and take all the sea defences of the large northern fort in reverse. It was doubtless the key of the whole position, and as such the English Commander-in-Chief considered it the true point of attack. Sir Robert Napier, one of the cleverest engineer officers in our service, was also of this opinion, and from his head-quarters being in Tang-koo, he had opportunities for several days of studying well the nature of the ground and position. Our allies, however, thought quite differently, and their plans, they said, in favour of the advance being made upon the south side, were so evidently in accordance with the rules and science of war, that to attack the northern forts could lead to no satisfactory result. They had never previously spoken out so freely upon any subject, as they then did upon this point; and even those who before were most guarded in their remarks upon our movements, gave free vent then to their opinion. Their arguments were based upon grounds which, no doubt, would have had great weight had we an army of 100,000 men; but with such a small force as ours, the breaking of it into two parts, which must necessarily have taken place, in order to keep up communication with Peh-tang and our fleet, the real basis of all our operations, and from whence our provisions and ammunition were drawn, was, to say the [p. 125] least of it, a very hazardous proposition. We all knew that the enemy had a very large force of cavalry in the field, and were able, even the day we advanced from Peh-tang, to manoeuvre round us, and get between us and that place; how much more easily then might they repeat this, when the bulk of our forces had been dispatched across the river? In fact, if they at all appreciated their own strength, or the false position we should have thrust ourselves unto, as soon as we had crossed the Peiho, the campaign might have easily been converted into one of victory for them.
From that moment we should have been an isolated force without any base of operations, without any means of communicating with our reserve stores, except by moving back a considerable number, and fighting an action to make our way into Peh-tang, which even a few days of bad weather might have at any time rendered almost inaccessible. We should have had to depend upon the uncertain resources of the country in and about Takoo, which we knew to be destitute of any cultivation, and to consist chiefly of mud and salt flats intersected by raised causeways which led to the forts, and along which, the information we had received led us to conclude, we should have had to advance in order to capture those strongholds. To leave the northern forts untaken would be to leave a large force on the left bank who could then operate upon our rear, and besides this, give them a point d’appui on that side, to which they might transport as much of their force as was available for service in the field. The construction of a bridge over the Peiho was no easy matter, and entailed a considerable delay, arising [p. 126] from the fact of its being a tidal stream, with soft, muddy banks; and although boats were procured in sufficient numbers, yet much labour had to be expended in constructing anchors, and collecting other material, and when finished it was not suited for heavy guns.
If we had operated by the southern bank of the Peiho, as our allies wished, and supposing that everything had turned out in the very happiest manner, we could not possibly have been by the 1st September as far advanced in the work of the campaign as we actually were upon the evening of the 21st August, when, in pursuance of Sir Hope Grant’s plan of attack, we had stormed and taken the northern forts. I need scarcely remark that time was everything to us. We had opened the campaign later than was expected at home, having been delayed a month at Talienwan, so that every day was of the greatest value to us. The cold weather was reported by all to commence towards the middle of October, and the climate in November was said to be most intolerable, the rivers being then frozen, and ice for some two or three miles out to sea along the coast.
For a private individual to criticise the acts of public men is generally both foolish and ridiculous; for a soldier to comment upon the deeds of his superior officer, and to presume to award either praise or blame to his chief, is a breach of discipline. Yet it may be allowable here to record the opinion of all in the China army, that no man had ever evinced a more praiseworthy determination, more self-reliance on his own opinions, or a greater fixedness of purpose in steadily carrying out what he believed to be the correct and [p. 127] true line of operations than Sir Hope Grant did upon that occasion. On the one hand were a number of civilians all murmuring at his tardiness, scoffing at his caution, daily and hourly repeating, “What nonsense it is bringing up heavy guns,” — “Why don’t we push on?” “I would take the forts to-night if I had a couple of hundred men!” — “The enemy are bolting and only waiting until we attack to bolt altogether” — such were the expressions in every one of these gentlemen’s mouths. On the other hand, our allies were obstinate in their own opinions as to the necessity of taking the southern forts first, and even at the last moment their general formally protested against the line of conduct proposed and subsequently adopted by the English Commander-in-Chief. Under such circumstances nine generals out of ten would have been driven to some rash act, and yielded either to the impetuosity of those upon whom no responsibility devolved, or to the objections of our allies, urged, as they were, so strongly.
Sir Hope Grant proved himself superior to all these circumstances, and could he have heard or known the manner in which he was lauded by every one in camp on the evening of the 21st August, he would have been well repaid for any annoyance which his determination may have cost him; i.e. if the praises of subordinates are ever dear to those in power, or the approbation of the “oi polloi” ever recompense public men for days of labour, sleepless nights, or the mental and bodily wear and tear experienced by all on whom rests great responsibility and the welfare of the many, not to mention the national honour or the glory of the British arms. [p. 128]
Sir Hope Grant had determined upon not making any onward movement until a depot of supplies, sufficient for the army for ten days, had been collected at Sinho, the heavy guns and engineers’ park brought to the front; and then, when all these were in readiness, he proposed to move out from Tang-koo and take the nearest of the northern forts.
By the night of the 20th August all was in train for this movement, and a road constructed over the great salt flat which extended to the north and west of the nearest northern fort, and which stretched round most of the fortifications of Tang-koo. Under the superintendence of Sir R. Napier, the road reconnoitred by Captain Lumsden was rapidly improved, advantage in the way of cover being taken of the embankments which formed the numerous canals intersecting the salt flat. Bridges or causeways had also been constructed over these canals. On the night of the 19th August pickets were thrown forward, towards the forts, in order to protect the working parties. During the night of the 20th the guns were taken down and placed in batteries which had been thrown up. We had sixteen guns and three mortars in action; the French had four guns, and all these opened fire at daybreak on the 21st instant, the enemy responding from their pieces which bore upon our position. The enemy’s guns in the elevated cavaliers, which before were pointed seaward, had been reversed, and now fired into us as rapidly as they could load and discharge them. Amongst their guns were two English 32-pounders, taken from the gunboats they had sunk last year. [p. 129]
It was greatly to be regretted that Admiral Hope had not sent up our fleet of gunboats two days previously to the mouth of the Peiho, and by keeping them there, make a show of attacking with them. Had such been done, it is reasonable to suppose that none of these guns would have been turned landwards, and we should have been spared much of the heavy fire brought to bear upon us, whilst no loss would have been thereby occasioned to the navy. Only two boats of ours and two belonging to the French took up a position sufficiently distant to be beyond the range of the Chinese ordnance, and yet, at the same time, able to annoy the occupants of the forts. These gunboats fired but very little, and, owing to their being so far off, could not so accurately estimate the effect of their own fire as to be able to ascertain whether the shot fell short, or went right over into the Peiho, behind the northern forts. At about six o’clock in the morning, when the fire waxed hotter and hotter, every one being intent upon the scene then before him, and all anxiously speculating as to when the signal for a general advance would be given, a tall black pillar, as if by magic, shot up from the midst of the nearest fort upon which almost all our fire was concentrated, and then bursting like a rocket after it had attained a great height, was soon lost in the vast shower of wood and earth into which it resolved itself, — a loud, bursting, booming sound, marking, as it were, the moment of its short existence. A magazine had blown up, and in a small enclosed work, such as the one then before us, an explosion of this kind in most defences would have put an end to the contest; but such was not the case in this [p. 130] instance. The fire from it certainly ceased for a minute or two, but before those who, in the interim, had pronounced the affair at an end could acknowledge their mistake, the garrison had reopened from their batteries. As long as a gun was left them they were determined to serve it, and most manftdly they did so, all the while exposed to a most crushing shell fire brought to bear upon them, and with but little, and in some instances, no protection whatever against it, I know of nothing more startling at any time than the explosion of a magazine, and certainly at such moments as these it is doubly impressive. To the soldier exposed to a heavy fire and all the uncertainty attending upon an impending assault, which he knows must soon end the contest one way or another, as also, it may be, his own life, such an event is a relief. It occupies the mind, and serves, by the excitement which it causes, to withdraw thought from those painful subjects which, no matter how one may act, rise up like visions, whether as memories of the past or doubts and surmises regarding the future, and pass in solemn array before the bravest, who, at such times, may have no active duty to perform, and who is then merely a passive spectator, — exposed, however, to all the disagreeable contingencies of bullets, &c., and waiting until, at a given signal, he is up and charging where glory points the way, cheering with all the mad enthusiasm which those only who have themselves fought in a breach can possibly realise and none can adequately describe. Half an hour afterwards a second explosion occurred, and this time in the larger northern fort: whether occasioned by the fire from our Armstrong [p. 131] guns or from that of our gunboats, was a debated point; the artillery affirming the former, and the navy giving the verdict in favour of the latter — with whom I am disposed to agree. By seven o’clock, all the large guns in the fort that we were attacking were completely silenced, most of them being knocked over by our shot. Our columns of assault were then ordered on, the French advancing by the right and approaching the angle of the work resting on the river’s bank, and our party, consisting of the 44th and 67th Regiments, moving straight to their front towards the gate of the fort.
It is very easy when an undertaking of this kind is over, to pick out faults in the arrangements made beforehand, and many are the wiseacres afterwards, who say, “Oh, why was not so and so done?” — “How very stupid to have done so and so!” These remarks particularly apply to hangers-on about the camp, travelling gentlemen, and that class commonly known as adventurers. Errors in judgment are frequently made in all warlike operations, and such wili ever be the case, as long as warfare presents such a vast variety of combinations. One of these mistakes was made in taking up a small pontoon bridge, instead of a number of ladders, or a small plank-bridge made like a fire-escape, to rest on wheels. As it happened, the pontoons were not only useless for the assault, but were really a very great impediment, as they blocked up the narrow causeway along which we had to advance, and exposed a large number of men for a considerable time as they carried them, and who had frequently to stop until a wounded man was removed from the party. A round [p. 132] shot passed through one of the pontoons as we advanced, and rendered it quite useless. A few ladders made of bamboo, and a small number of planks carried along with them would have enabled all to get across both ditches easily, whereas all the English storming-party, who actually captured the place, in conjunction with the French, struggled and clambered across the wet, muddy ditch, having water nearly up to their armpits; the pontoons did not prove of any use, and were the unfortunate cause of many wounds and of several lives being lost. It was the rear face of the fort we attacked, in the centre of which was the gate, having two wet ditches running along the face of the work. From the outside of one of these the wooden bridge had been removed, and the drawbridge of the inner one drawn up. The gate itself was blocked up with strong timbers, placed closely together in rows, and inserted in the ground at the bottom. Mud and earth had been banked up along the interior of this face, so as to strengthen it against our shot. The river face was partly oblique to the line of the bank, so that at its south-eastern comer it nearly touched the stream, whilst in rear, at the south-western angle, it was some twenty or thirty yards from it. Such being the case, the two ditches could not be carried completely round the river face, and so the outer one terminated half-way up the work. The French, who had approached the angle, quickly perceived this, and many men having run round, thus turned the first ditch, although most of the men first up had scrambled across on the ladders. The Canton coolies in the French service carried their ladders, and I have never [p. 133] seen men under fire behave with greater coolness, or perform their allotted work in a more matter-of-fact way. The space between the two ditches was only twenty feet, and this was planted as thickly as close stubble with sharp bamboo stakes, to cross which on foot was almost impossible; these were also placed along under the walls, between them and the inner ditches. The scramble over these two ditches and the staked places next to them was no easy matter, and all who crossed them deserve well of their country. Showers of missiles of all kinds, from pots filled with lime, to round shot thrown from the hand, were showered from the walls, and annoyed the gallant few who were fortunate enough to have reached the foot of the walls unhurt; whilst the poor fellows in rear who ran along the ditches, seeking for some favourable spots to cross at, or the more reckless ones who plunged into the ditch at the places they first came to, were exposed, not only to a rattling discharge of arrows, bolts from cross-bows, jingalls firing handfulls of slugs from the work itself, but also to a flanking fire of round shot, thrown with accuracy from the correspondingly placed fort on the south bank. It was during this period that almost the whole of our loss was incurred; and the narrow causeway, of about sixty yards in length, which led through the deep mud and water, extending along nearly the entire of the face attacked, was soon covered with the dead and dying. The obstacles to be overcome were so difficult, that an unpleasantly protracted time had elapsed before a sufficient number of men had assembled beneath the wall to attempt a scramble over it. The French had [p. 134] succeeded in getting over three or four ladders; but as quickly as they placed them against the walls, they were as quickly thrown down or pushed back by the Chinese within, who, notwithstanding our proximity, were as active in their defence as when some hours previously we had been playing at long bowls with them. Many could be seen jumping on the parapet, and from thence taking deliberate aim at those below; and, having fired, they jumped back again to reload. Colonel Mann, of the Royal Engineers, who was amongst the first over the two ditches, with Major Anson, A.D.C., had, after much hacking and cutting with their swords, succeeded in severing the ropes which held up the drawbridge. Down it came with a crash, but it was so shattered by shot that, at first, it seemed incapable of sustaining any weight. A single beam of the outer bridge had been left by the Chinese; it was quite loose and rolled about, yet it enabled many to cross over. The quaint joking of our men was most amusing whenever any unlucky fellow, whilst crossing, overbalanced himself and fell into the ditch, from whence he climbed up the muddy bank opposite, there perchance to meet his deathblow, ere the very smile at his own mishap had passed from his countenance; such is life, death, and war. Every minute added to the number of men who got across and under the walls, round which they prowled to discover a scaleable place. Our guns still battered away at the parapet, wherever the enemy showed themselves in numbers, or attempted to work the iron guns which were placed almost at every yard along the works. Our allies commenced to ascend the [p. 135] walls cautiously, the first and most daring being of course hurled back ladder and all; but, when men are determined, and their courage is sustained by constantly increasing numbers coming up from the rear (which has of course a proportionally disheartening effect upon the besieged), success under such circumstances is generally on the side of the assailants. Up, rung after rung of the ladder the French crept warily, until at length, with a bound, the first man jumped upon the parapet and waved the tricolor of his nation, whilst every one joined in his maddening cheer, amidst the wild clamour of which his spirit passed away from him to another, and let us hope, a better world. He fell, shot through the heart, in the proudest position in which a soldier can die — who could wish for a nobler death? Almost simultaneously with this event, young Chaplain, an ensign of the 67th Regiment, succeeded in reaching the top of the parapet, partly pushed and helped by the men along with him; he carried the Queen’s colour of his regiment, which he let float out proudly into the breeze; it was a splendid sight to see. A regimental colour has been seldom used upon such an occasion before; it is generally an ordinary Union Jack, made of bunting, that is carried to plant in a breach, the other being a too dearly prized military emblem to risk in such a place, where the explosion of a mine, or the momentary success attending a sortie, might occasion its loss for ever, or hand it over an easy prey to the enemy. It was an inspiriting moment for every one, and each felt that strange sensation which thrills through the frame in all actions, when the turning point has been past, and the clouds [p. 136] of uncertainty, which until then hung around the scene, are suddenly dispelled, revealing success.
Before our flag was displayed, some few had made their way within the gate, the first men of either army actually inside the work being an officer of the 44th Regiment, named Rodgers, and Lieutenant Burslem of the 67th Regiment; these were the small end of the wedge, which is ever quickly followed by the more substantial part. The Chinese stili fought within the works, and the bayonets of both French and English had to come into play ere all resistance ceased. Ensign Chaplain and a small party who followed the colours, rushed up the ramp leading to the high cavalier which formed the principal feature of the fort, and cleared it with the bayonet of all the Chinese there; in doing this that gallant young officer received more than one wound. One Chinese general had been killed during the bombardment, and a second, the chief man who commanded all the northern forts, was shot by an officer of marines after he had entered. This general was a red-buttoned mandarin of the highest military order, and, refusing to submit, fought to the last.
The scene within the works bespoke the manner in which our artillery had done its part, and the debris caused by the explosion of the magazine lay in heaps everywhere, intermingled with overturned cannon, broken gun-carriages, and the dead and wounded of the garrison. Never did the interior of any place testify more plainly to the noble manner in which it had been defended. The garrison had evidently resolved either to fall beneath its ruins, or had been to [p. 137] the last so confident of victory, from the strength of the place and our former defeat, that they never seemed to have even contemplated retreating. Two other circumstances also may have had much to do with the stoutness of the resistance shown us; one is, that the great general who commanded all the northern forts, and of whose death I have just spoken, had accidentally visited the place on an inspection, as the firing commenced, and remaining there, encouraged by his presence and example all who were inside. This is a rare thing in China, where it is proverbial that the officers are almost always the first to bolt, a misfortune to which the common soldiers ever attribute their defeat. The other circumstance is, that the peculiar nature of the defences rendered any exit from the forts almost as difficult for the Chinese as it was for us to get in. We attacked the weakest face; the front which looked down the river was the only place from which they could retreat, and was far more formidable than the rear, so much so, that it was only by letting themselves down by ropes to the foot of the walls, and then scrambling singly through the abattis and bamboo stakes that any could escape. This was a circumstance which also told greatly in our favour when reconnoitring the works, because a few men, availing themselves of any cover which the irregularities of the ground might present, could approach near any fort, knowing that they had only to protect themselves against the direct fire brought to bear on them, the obstacles around the fort serving to protect the reconnoitring party against any sortie quite as efficiently as they protected the garrison against a coup de main. [p. 138]
Thus fell the first Takoo fort, the key to the whole position. Preparations were immediately made for the attack on the large northern fort, which, once in our hands, would give us command over all the river defences.
Our heavy guns were advanced and unlimbered ready for action, to the left of the captured fort, whilst others were placed in position on the raised cavalier inside it. The two forts were exactly a thousand yards apart, having a raised causeway running between them, with wet ditches on either side. Between the causeway and the river the space was deep mud, and across this guns could not be taken; but north of it the ground was firm and well suited for the movement of all arms.
A small party, under the command of an officer of the Quartermaster-General’s department, was sent out to reconnoitre this ground before the troops or guns were put in motion for it, and advancing slowly towards the place in skirmishing order, they ascertained its fitness for the purposes required. During all this time the enemy still kept up a heavy fire, and seemed particularly jealous of the approach of the reconnoitring party. Suddenly a white fiag was hoisted on the large southern forts, and almost immediately afterwards numbers of other white standards floated from every work. Ali firing at once ceased. A man appeared coming from the direction of the large northern fort, carrying a flag of truce, who was met by Mr. Parkes, C.J.B., and a party who were sent out to ask him what was meant by this change. He could not give any satisfactory answer, and said that all he knew was, that a [p.139] white flag had been hoisted in Takoo, and that he had merely followed suit by doing similarly on the north bank. A boat was now seen to put off from the southern side bearing a flag of truce, and having a mandarin in it. He was taken to the fort in our possession, when it was found that he was merely the bearer of letters from Hung, the Governor-General, to Lord Elgin and Baron Gros, both of whom had just come up from the rear. These communications were evidently not considered satisfactory, because, I believe, no allusion was made in them to surrendering the other forts. Under these circumstances all our preparations for attack were still continued, and two fresh regiments were brought up. Although the white flags were still flying, the garrison would not allow any one to approach near the large fort, and were very rude in their gestures to those who accompanied the first flag of truce, who, availing themselves of the opportunity afforded them, went up to the first ditch. The soldiers apparently did not show any signs of succumbing. All this time boats were passing to and fro across the river, removing the wounded men, of whom there many, and some of whom could be seen in different directions crawling and dragging their wounded limbs over the slimy mud near the river’s bank.
A message was sent to the Governor-General Hung, informing him that he would be given two hours to surrender the forts, after which time, should he not do so, our guns would reopen fire. Towards the expiration of the allotted period the sky became heavy and lowering, and a dark mass of dense clouds appeared to [p. 140] windward, rising up in a threatening manner. Our troops began to advance. Still there was no sign of resistance on the part of the enemy; their guns did not open fire, and our men entered the great northern fort and quietly took possession of it. As we entered, we saw crowded together in one part about two thousand Chinese soldiers, who, having thrown away their arms and peculiar military caps, had assumed the guise of peaceable citizens. I have seldom seen men who could so easily transform themselves from one character to another. One moment they were impudent and sturdy soldiers, the next, as if by the slap of a harlequin’s wand, they mysteriously became all at once, not only apparently civilians, but also very meek and humble looking ones. Such were the miserable looking people collected before us, all expecting that at some given signal they should be slain en masse, or honoured by the favour of individual decapitation. When informed that they were perfectly at liberty to go where they pleased, they could not at first understand or credit our leniency, naturally thinking that they must be deceived.
Their traditional history could not furnish a parallel instance in which prisoners, taken in war, were allowed to return intact to the bosoms of their families, or wherever their inclinations might lead them. We afterwards heard that this circumstance was much talked of everywhere, and our clemency greatly applauded.
The storm which had been gathering to windward now came rapidly up, and the rain poured down in torrents, whilst thunder and lightning added to the commotion above. Heavy rain is dreary anywhere, [p. 141] even in the most picturesque countries; but let the reader picture to himself a heavy downpour, falling upon a flat muddy steppe, upon which there was not even a tree or patch of grass, and where distance was only in any way marked by the many ugly canals, with their accompanying high, earthen, unsightly banks. As we stood upon the lofty cavalier of the large northern fort, and looked down from thence upon this dreary expanse beneath, I do not believe human eye ever rested upon a more essentially hideous prospect. The rain increasing each moment, some spot which had been, comparatively speaking, dry before, gradually disappeared beneath the water, until at length it seemed as though another deluge was about to threaten mankind and his habitations. The road by which we advanced to the forts was for a considerable distance quite submerged, and the uncovered spots were so deep with mud that even the very lightest of our guns were only dragged through it by the united exertions of long teams of horses, aided by the tired gunners themselves, who kept spoking away at the wheels. No amount of horses, and of men attached to drag-ropes, could move our heavy guns or waggons; their wheels sank deeper and deeper every minute, until their naves touched the mud. It was fortunate for us that the enemy had surrendered the large northern fort, because under such a torrent we could not have done anything, even against the mildest resistance; no storming-party could have succeeded in crossing the deep mud in front of the works. Every one felt this as he struggled back to his wet tent, across the dreary waste, into the mire of which we sank knee-deep; many left their boots [p. 142] after them, being unable to drag them from the sticky mud to which they seemed as if glued. All of us had been up long before daylight that morning, and had not partaken of “any regular meal during the day. I need scarcely add, all were ravenously hungry. Fancy, under such circumstances, a long dreary ride back to camp, of five miles, over the worst of roads, which, when not fetlock deep, was so slippery that horses could only keep their footing with great difficulty; and then upon arrival to find that during your absence your camp had been completely flooded, and that the little bank you had constructed around your tent, hoping thereby to keep out the rain, had, after the water had either broken through or run over it, served quite an opposite purpose, so that then, when the water was subsiding everywhere else, as the rain ceased, your engineering arrangements had converted your canvas habitation into a pond, on the surface of which, the first thing which attracted your attention on entering, was your pet pair of boots floating about, whilst here and there the upper portions of some heavier article peeped up above the water, reminding you at a glance that most of your property was, unhappily, under it.
By the time we arrived in camp it had grown very dark — a circumstance which increased our discomfort, and prevented us from doing many things towards bettering our condition, which, with daylight to aid us, we could have done. No effort could avail to kindle a fire, and it was with great difficulty that we succeeded in lighting a candle. Our clothes were, of course, thoroughly drenched on us, and not having any “dry [p. 143] change,” all that remained for us was, to be down wet and cold as we were, and court slumber as best we could, after a frugal supper. Some ration biscuit, and a pot of stuff labelled “beef,” but which I feel convinced had no just claim to such a high-sounding title, with a little brandy and water, was the welcome that awaited us, when we reached our temporary residence near Sinho, on the evening of the memorable taking of the Takoo forts.
Before it became dark, more than one communication had passed between the Chinese authorities and the allied commanders, and before the French and English had taken possession of the great northern fort, Mr. Parkes, under a flag of truce, went over into Takoo to have an interview with the Governor-General Hung, whom, after much badgering, he induced to sign a capitulation, in which he surrendered all the country and strong positions up the river, as far as Tien-tsin, including that city itself.
This mandarin was much to be pitied. In the service of his government, want of success is certain disgrace; he alluded to this himself, saying that it was Tan’s misfortune in 1858 to be Governor-General and to be degraded then, and that now it was his own lot; every one had left him, even his private servants, like so many rats, which are said to forsake sinking ships. His officials, too, seemed quite to understand his fallen position, caring no longer to flatter and support a man on whom degradation’s darkest shadow already rested. He appeared to regard the event as a matter of course, or as a Mussulman would say, “of fate.”
The next morning the gunboats were hard at work [p. 144] removing the booms and stakes which blocked up the entrance to the river; they soon cleared away enough to open a passage for themselves, so that within a few hours several of those useful little craft were steaming up the muddy waters of the Peiho. The first grand move had been made: we had captured the forts spoken of throughout China as impregnable, and upon whose fortification every care had been bestowed, and no expenditure spared; every obstacle which the ingenious Chinese could think of had been employed, every trick of defence that their wit could suggest had been resorted to — in a word, the essence of all the military and engineering skill possessed by the vast empire of China, from the plains and steppes of Tibet to the sea-shores of Assam, was exerted to render them invulnerable, and such every man in China believed them to be. News spreads everywhere most rapidly throughout the flowery land, and we were told that, before a fortnight had elapsed, our triumph was announced in all quarters, and the people learned at Canton, that the flags of England and France floated over the waters of the subjugated Peiho.
Admiral Hope, with some French and English gunboats, pushed on to Tien-tsin on the 23rd, and on the 25th, Lord Elgin and the Commander-in-Chief followed, whilst the 1st Royals, the 67th Regiment, and a battery of artillery were conveyed there in gunboats; the cavalry, also, commenced their march on the 25th, and, moving up the left bank of the river, over great open plains of grass, reached Tien-tsin in two days; then the 1st division, moving along the right bank, whilst the French marched up the other, Sir Robert Napier following with the 2nd division, leaving the 3rd Regi- [p. 145] ment behind, in occupation, at the Takoo forts, and the Rifles at the Sinho bridge, for its protection.
Before starting for Tien-tsin, I spent a day inspecting the south forts, having previously examined those on the northern bank, and the more minutely one noted their relative bearings and the extent to which the defence of each depended upon that of the others, the more thoroughly was one convinced of the wisdom displayed by Sir Hope Grant in selecting the key of the whole position for an attack. The large south fort and the smaller one furthest out to sea could not actually bring a gun to bear upon the one we attacked, whilst from it, once we had taken it, we could enfilade the entire length of the largest south fort — to have attacked the position from the sea would have been a fatal delusion; and the more one studied the defences and the obstacles placed in front of them, the more easy it was to understand why our attack in 1859 failed so completely. The great strength of the Takoo forts consists in the locality where they are situated. They stand on the banks of a tidal river, where no part of the surrounding country is more than three or four feet above high-water mark, and most of it covered by the spring tides, while those places which are left dry are only kept so by being enclosed with high earthen banks. Towards the sea, in front of these formidable works, there extends a muddy flat so deep that single men, when unladen, can with difficulty struggle through it; for any storming party to do so under a heavy fire would be almost impossible. But if we suppose them capable of this, and of gaining the harder ground, still, just in front of the outer ditch, there was a stiff abbatis [p. 146] to get through, then two or three wet ditches to cross, having the spaces between them closely covered with pointed stakes; and last of all were the walls of the place, about fifteen feet in height and bristling with cannon and wall-pieces of all shapes and sizes. If anything like the opposition shown to us had been made against an attack from the sea, I do not believe that any troops in the world could have lived through such an assault. It is the custom of the world generally, and the British portion of it particularly, to abuse any one who is so unfortunate as to have met with a reverse or some unlooked-for check; but, whatever may have been said regarding Admiral Hope’s attack on those places in 1859, how much more censure should we have heard if that gallant sailor at the time — perceiving the difficulties to be overcome, and knowing his weakness in having no troops at his disposal — had announced to Mr. Bruce, that his force was inadequate to capture the forts? England would have howled from one end of it to the other, and there would have been no lack of those who would have attributed to the naval Commander-in-Chief other and more unfavourable motives than those arising from extreme caution. These same forts had been taken easily in 1858 by his predecessor, the same line of conduct being pursued then as that which failed in 1859, so that if any brave man will for a moment imagine himself circumstanced as Admiral Hope was upon the occasion referred to, I am sure he will say that he (the Admiral), acted exactly as he himself would have done. Now that we know the exact strength of these works and the formidable resistance which their garrisons are capable of [p. 147] showing, to attempt a landing in front of their embrasures, and with their artillery fire unsubdued, seems like the action of a madman; but, in the absence of such knowledge, and with the possession of this fact, that a year previously they had been captured in like manner, Admiral Hope’s attempt was merely the action of a brave, gallant, and determined seaman. The forts were all made of mud, timber being used for the facing of the embrasures and roofs of magazines. The peculiar feature of their construction was having their principal batteries placed on high-raised cavaliers, the terrepleins of which were elevated about twenty-five feet above the plane of sight. This, of course, gave them great command, and had the further advantage of diverting the principal fire of an enemy from the main body of the works, where, of course, the chief portion of the garrison would be — and brave, indeed, must have been the men who served the guns placed there for any length of time under a heavy fire! Casemates constructed with timber ran along the sea face of all the works, and numbers of guns were placed there, firing from embrasures made like portholes in a ship’s side. In these casemates a large portion of the garrison was quartered, the remainder occupying huts, built after exactly the same fashion as those in the Tartar camps which we took near Sinho, and were reed fascines, bent so as to form a semicircle, placed over a slight framework of wood, mud being plastered over the fascines, and then a coating of mud and chopped straw over all, which rendered the whole waterproof so long as this outer covering received no injury. Once tear a small piece of it away, and then the whole out- [p. 148] side plastering tumbles down after a few days’ heavy rain. The ends of these huts were made of planking, in which were the windows and doors: the hut in which Sang-ko-lin-sin resided was tastefully finished and fitted up with sofas and cushions. Amongst his papers we found maps and detailed plans of each of the forts: upon entering his quarters I was at once struck by seeing one of those little cane-bottomed chairs, generally to be seen in the cabins of gunboats and other vessels of war. It had been taken evidently from one of the sunken gunboats, and placed as a trophy in the great man’s room. Along the walls, immediately above his sleeping-place, there was a long description, illustrated with quaint-looking pictures, of a proposed plan for annihilating the barbarians, should they ever be so successful as to attempt a march upon Pekin. The plan consisted in placing large quantities of combustibles and explosive mixtures upon bulls, covering them over with a sort of umbrella like clothing: these were to be brought in front of our army, having crackers or other fireworks attached to their tails, under the terrifying influence of which the animals were supposed to rush in upon us, the combustibles then exploding, to the utter confusion and destruction of the assembled army. The fact of such a childish plan being, if not approved of, at least entertained by the General-in-Chief of the Chinese army, is of itself a sufficient indication of the national ignorance respecting the science and practice of war. Many people at first believed, that much relating to war and its weapons of defence, &c. &c., had been taught this people by the Russians, with respect to whose conduct in [p. 149] the East so little has ever been known, and consequently, so much suspected. The fact that this picture and its accompanying description found a space on the walls of Sang-ko-lin-sin’s sleeping-room, ought to be a sufficient proof for the most suspicious on this subject, that neither the haughty Chinaman nor his Tartar governors have learned anything from their Russian neighbours. Indeed, the papers found amongst the documents taken from the Mandarin’s house at Sinho showed in what a very suspicious light the celestial authorities looked upon the Russians residing in Pekin, ranking them only a little higher than spies and barbarians, anxious to render us every assistance. The departure also of the Russian ambassador from Pekin a few months before the actual commencement of hostilities proved clearly, that no very good understanding existed between him and the government of that place, and that he did not care to reside inside its walls whilst we were battering outside, should the tide of war ever take us up so far into the country.
There can be no doubt, however, that the Russians had endeavoured to ingratiate themselves into official favour with the Pekin Government, by supplying them with guns and munitions of war, as in one of the dispatches from Pekin to Sang-ko-lin-sin, that chief is warned against the attempts of the Russians “to approach the coast under their old pretence of affording aid and bringing guns,” &c.
Immediately in rear of the southern forts were the towns called Tung-koo and Se-koo; both of these, as also the adjoining position, being known under the title of Takoo, or the “Great Market” [大沽]. Between the [p. 150] forts and the town, which is about a mile, the space was one large salt-flat, intersected by numerous deep canals, which could only be passed by the regular causeways extending between the town and the forts. There was a regular line of entrenchments, with ditches, running round those towns. The amount of labour expended upon the construction of the works had been immense, and if it was regularly paid for, must have cost the Chinese Government a prodigious amount of money. Had a tithe of it been spent under the superintendence of a skilful engineer, the place might have resisted us for months, or, in other words, our expedition must have virtually been a failure, as we were not in a condition to undertake a siege; and even if such had been possible, a few days of bad weather during our attack would have postponed our future operations considerably. If the men who had garrisoned the captured fort had possessed skill and discipline commensurate with their courage and determination, with a fair proportion of really efficient small arms, they might have scorned our attempt to capture the place as we did by open assault. In spite of their present ignorance of war, its customs, weapons, and science, if their inflated self-importance could be brought to realise their deficiencies, and to see clearly how immeasurably superior the Western nations are in all such matters, a very short time only would be required to enable them to assume such an attitude, that no nation, or combination of allied powers, would dare to invade their country. In Europe there are restless adventurous spirits, many of whom have all the requisite energy, and some the military know- [p. 151] ledge, equal to that which on former occasions has enabled men, lost to all ties of home and country, to carve out with their own swords in distant lands that fame and fortune from which unfavourable circumstances, or their own heedlessness had debarred them in Europe; such men, with an equal sum of money and an amount of labour equal to that which was expended upon the Takoo forts at their command, might render that position impregnable in six months.
The road from Takoo to Tien-tsin passes close to the Peiho the whole distance, cutting off, however, the sinuosities for which that river is famous. For the first ten miles the road is simply a low mud embankment, running through numerous villages all close to one another, the intervening spaces being gardens and orchards very neatly arranged and evidently tended with the greatest care. Between the road and the river there was a mass of gardens, trees, and houses, whilst all to the west appeared one vast field of millet, or Indian corn, stretching away over the flat country as far as the eye could reach, with scarcely a house or village to be seen, and no trees. As you approach Tien-tsin, however, habitations and willows are sprinkled sparingly about to the westward. There are no wells, the Peiho supplying all wants of this kind; water is taken from it at the ebb tide, and although then of a dark yellow colour, it is soon rendered as clear as crystal by immersing a lump of alum in it, and merely waving it to and fro for about a minute. This has a remarkable effect, for when you have removed your hand, you may perceive the muddy matter sinking and settling at the bottom, just as if the momentary pre- [p. 152] sence of the alum had converted it into lead. In order to avoid any unpleasant taste resulting from the alum, it must be removed soon. The houses along the road, as well as those composing the villages, are well built and comfortable habitations, all fitted up with fireplaces. The sleeping apartments have the kangs or heating apparatuses which I have previously described. The poorer people build their houses of mud, with thatched roofs and a covering of mud over all. In addition to this, there is also a layer of fine mud and chopped straw plastered over the entire edifice, giving the whole a finished and pointed appearance, such as I have never seen earthen houses elsewhere possess. The angles are all neatly cut, and the walls are even and perpendicular. In the towns and villages there are large numbers of brick houses well tiled over, according to the peculiar fashion of China. The bricks and tiles used throughout all those places which I have visited in that country are of a dark neutral tint, which at a distance looks bluish and strange. Every little hamlet had its joss-house, containing in it the usual unsightly figures, some with many arms and legs, others with black, white, or red faces and limbs, all being as fantastic, hideous, and ungodlike in design, as they were uncouth in execution. I have never seen any people, if I except a few repulsive-looking priests, worshipping in such buildings; and the greater portion of those which I visited were badly cared for, everything within, including the gods themselves, being covered with dust and dirt. Were it not that I occasionally saw here and there a new temple in course of erection, I should have concluded that all respect had now-a-days departed from [p. 153] amongst the Chinese for the idols which their ancestors had venerated and worshipped.
What strikes any one accustomed to European roads as being very peculiar is, that along the highway to the Imperial capital, there is a total absence of stone. The road all the way is merely a good cart-track over hardened mud; after heavy rain it would be quite impassable for wheeled carriages of any sort; and I very much doubt if even cavalry in any number could get over it. So very flat is the surrounding country that the presumption is strongly in favour of its being flooded in wet weather. There is one great difficulty to be encountered in moving an army along this road, namely, the lack of open ground for encampments. We remedied this by moving up in detachments, the cavalry marching by the left bank. At the first halting-place, the guns had to remain on the road for the night, there being a deep ditch on one side and a marsh running along the other. The first march was through a very close country. The road passes through a succession of gardens and villages, with ditches on either side, for many miles. It is also narrow, and does not widen much until Ko-kow is passed, after which it runs over extensive plains, which, at the time of our march, were rich with an abundant harvest. Here and there a Tartar encampment was visible, presenting indications of recent occupation.
At Pei-tang-kow there were four forts and an entrenched camp, lately constructed, at the bend of the river, where it formed a right angle, so that their guns swept down the reach of the stream. This position was intended as a second line of defence, in case we forced a [p. 154] passage through the Takoo forts, the fortifications round Tien-tsin being the third; but the army, on whom devolved the duty of defending the first line, had learnt such a lesson, that no attempt was made to make a stand at either the second or third, and Admiral Hope’s rapid advance up the river, after, the capture of the Takoo forts, enabled him to land and occupy the Tien-tsin forts before the beaten army could be reorganised for another defence. As we approached Tien-tsin, the country became open and suitable for the movements of all arms to the westward of the road; but the tall Indian cor and millet, averaging from six to ten feet in height, prevented us from having a very extensive view. The land was level on all sides, without a mound larger than a grave; the corn was in the ear, but not yet ripe, the middle of September being harvest time. In many places along the road, and particularly near villages, I saw coffins placed at the edge of the cartway. Some were nicely thatched over, or covered with an arch of brickwork, whilst others, containing the remains of poorer people whose relations were unable to provide such an arrangement for their deceased friends as I have spoken of in the former instances, were left by the roadside, just as the undertaker had turned the coffin out of his shop. Every village, through which we passed, contained stores of wood, some of it being magnificent timber, and the rest indifferent stuff, used for firing. The good is reserved for coffins, upon whose construction every Chinaman bestows his “little all,” being anxious to provide a respectable receptacle for his bones. This is such a recognised custom, that a fond [p. 155] son not infrequently presents his father with as handsome a one as his means will admit of as a birthday present, and the gift is received by the parent as the most delicate attention his son can pay him.
At two miles down the river, from Tien-tsin, stand two newly-built forts, one on either bank, both beautifully finished. Their slopes and parapets were much neater and more highly finished than those at Takoo. From these, continued lines of entrenchments stretched round Tien-tsin, uniting again upon the river at about two thousand yards from Tien-tsin to the north of that city, their entire circuit being about fourteen miles. These lines, with a deep ditch in front, were well-made, and consisted of a substanfial rampart with parapet on top. We ascertained that the construction of this vast work cost the Government only at the rate of fifteen pence the running foot, which, if the account be true, would make the entire cost of them somewhat less than 5,000£.
Tien-tsin is a walled city, and in shape a right-angled parallelogram, the longer side being just a mile, the shorter one about a thousand yards; a large suburb stretches out from both the north and south. It is situated at the confluence of the Grand Canal with the Peiho, and is consequently, from its position, a town of great importance. The walls do not touch either of these streams, being some four hundred yards from them, but the intervening space is covered by a dense suburb, in which are situated the best streets and shops of the place. Vessels drawing eleven feet of water can go up as far as Tien-tsin; but above that city, when you pass beyond the tidal influence, boats of a lighter draught [p. 156] only can ascend to Ho-see-woo, from which place to Tung-chow the river can only be ascended by junks drawing not more than eighteen inches of water; and even such vessels experience much difficulty in passing the wide and shallow portions.
Much discussion, both public and private, has been spent on the task of ascertaining the real name of the river we call the Peiho, or rather, of determining which of the two streams flowing into the Gulf of Pechili at Peh-tang and Takoo respectively, should properly be called by that name. No satisfactory answer has as yet been given on these subjects. I took some trouble to collect information on this point, and found that the river marked in our maps as the Peiho, like every other small one in this, and I believe, other parts of China, has no universally recognised name whatever. Its appellations are invariably local, and change every ten or twenty miles. Thus, for instance, at its mouth it is known as the Nan-ho, or “south river,” whilst the river at Peh-tang is called the Peiho, or “north river; ” the two rivers, which are so close together, being thus distinguished from one another in the locality where they fall into the sea, by the geographical position which they relatively occupy.
At Tien-tsin the river is called the Hy-ho, or “ocean river,” because it runs from thence into the sea. Between Tien-tsin and Tung-chow (where it branches off into two distinct streams, both having different names), it is known generally as the Ta-ho, or “great river,” but in many places people call it the Peiho. Local circumstances greatly influence the names of rivers throughout China, so much so, that as far as I could [p. 157] learn, there is not one generally received and understood name for a single river in the empire. When you ask a Chinese the name of a river, he seems so much astonished that it would almost appear that the idea of rivers being distinguished by particular names had never previously occurred to him; and he generally replies, after a moment’s consideration, either the “Ta-ho” or ” Seaou-ho,” i.e. the great or little river. If there happen to be two rivers in his neighbourhood, he distinguishes them thus; but if only one, although it may be an insignificant stream, he calls it the “Ta-ho,” by which the Yang-tse-kiang and brooks no larger than those frequently crossed in the hunting-field are alike known in China.
Rivers flowing sluggishly through a flat country, turn and twist about to a great extent; but I have never seen any stream bend like the Peiho, insomuch that when sailing upon it we could look back and see boats, although bound for the same destination, apparently going in diametrically opposite directions as regards the points of the compass. The angles are in many places so very acute, that it is only with the aid of ropes, on both banks, that steamers of ordinary length can get round them. There is a bridge of boats maintained by the authorities over the Peiho at Tien-tsin, and two over the Grand CanaL Opposite the city on the left bank there is a considerable suburb, and always a vast quantity of salt stacked along the bank. This is brought up the river from Takoo and the surrounding country, where the salt is collected from the marshes and salt-works about the neighbourhood where the Peh-tang and Peiho flow into the sea. This salt is [p. 158] of great value and forms a very considerable article of traffic. It is sent up from Tien-tsin in smaller vessels to Tung-chow, by the Peiho, and from thence by the canal to Pekin, or else, it is forwarded inland to the westward along the Grand Canal. As in ali the Chinese cities I have seen, the suburbs touch the walls, and the ditch is merely a miry sewer that may be crossed anywhere with ease. In many places the walls are sadly out of repair; and although the outward revetment of brickwork stands perfect, yet the inner one, which should support the rampart, has fallen down in many places, causing such breaches in it that you cannot walk well along the top. There are but four gates, one in each side, having straight streets running from one to the other, and in this way dividing the town into four equal quarters. Where these four streets meet there is a high joss house-like building, under which the roadways pass through large gates. The space within the city walls is not nearly covered with houses, and at each comer there are large pools of water, in and about which there are numerous graves, and all appear more or less a receptacle for filth. There are no wells; the water of the Peiho is used for drinking, when cleared with alum in the manner I have mentioned. There are large ice-houses everywhere, which are filled yearly with ice from the river, towards the end of winter. Ice was regularly hawked about the streets daily, during my stay at Tien-tsin, and sold cheap. When dissolved, many people use it instead of the waters of the Peiho, particularly below Tien-tsin, where, owing to the tide flowing up with such force, the water is frequently [p. 159] brackish. In the forts at Takoo there were regular ice-houses, from whence the garrison derived its water for drinking. Grapes, apples, pears, and peaches, could also be procured in great abundance, and at a very reasonable rate; the grapes were very good indeed. The people were civil, and brought us water and tea whenever we halted along the road. Supplies of all sorts were sold to the troops at a moderate price, and there was also an abundance of grain for horses. Indeed, at this season of the year any force of cavalry might march along the Pekin route and find plenty of corn. The cattle eat millet greedily, whilst but few horses, unless very hungry, would touch the paddy. Upon reaching Tien-tsin the force encamped on a fine plain extending beyond the lines of works south of the city, and near the Yamun where Lord Elgin signed his treaty in 1858, and which temple we converted into our general hospital. The French, who had marched up the left bank, encamped close by the river on that side of it. [p. 160]