Primary sources: North China Campaign of 1860

Chapter 10


City of Chang-chia-wan — Wanton Destruction of Property — Deserted Chinese Women — Advance from Chang-chia-wan — Another Encounter with the Tartars — Dashing Charge of the Dragoon Guards — Various Conflicts with the Enemy — Yungleang Canal — Ruffianism of the Coolies — A Grandee’s Monument — Arrival of Reinforcements.


Chang-chia-wan, [, Zhāngjiāwān], is a city of the past. Its lofty walls are crumbling with decay, and moss-grown; and the little river that flanks it on the east, and forms the connecting link between the Peiho and the Great Marsh, or Tunghai, with its tributary, the Panchia-ho, flowing northwards to Tung-chow, were probably once important rivers, conducting the wealth of commerce to her gates, but now have dwindled to insignificant streams, to whose cooling ripple our horses lowered their lips as they waded, side-deep, into the shallow water, hot and thirsty after the long day’s gallop. A stone bridge spans the little river, crossing which you enter, through a gateway, the old [p. 243] city, and almost immediately find yourself in its chief street, lined on each side with shops, which, soon after the capture by our troops, presented a very forlorn appearance. No steps were taken to prevent looting, as the town was a capture in war, and hence lawful booty. Grain and other necessaries of life were handed over to the Commissariat, but everything else fell as plunder to the discoverer’s hands. An immense store of brick tea was found in one warehouse, estimated at about half a million pounds weight. Some of this was taken for the use of the troops; for, coarse as it was, it was much superior to the stuff provided for them from home; but the greater bulk of the commodity was left untouched. This was rather a pity, and caused much grumbling in the camp; for it might afterwards, when conveyances were plentiful, have been carried down to Tientsin, and there disposed of for the benefit of the army. As it was, one energetic young officer loaded several carts with the tea on his own account, and despatched them to Tien-tsin; but his little game soon reached the ears of the Commander-in-Chief, and as peace had been then declared, an order was issued that the tea should be returned to its rightful owner.


A great rush was made, as usual, by the Canton coolies and idlers to the pawnbrokers’ shops. One very wealthy one occurred, filled with articles of every [p. 244] description; large quantities of Sam-shoo (Chinese spirits), piles on piles of strings of copper cash (the currency of the country), and large quantities of old clothes done up in bundles. These dresses were soon scattered with other articles about the streets, and coolies and niggers vied with each other in gay and fantastic apparel. Some hairy old Sikh, attired in feminine costume, would stroke his heard and strut in long boots before the admiring eyes of his surrounding comrades. One cared not so much for the destruction of dirty, foul-smelling shops, but when it came to works of art and taste you could not help feeling annoyed. Thus a rare old house, with its exquisite carvings and hangings, and its rooms filled with curiosities too big to carry away, was completely ransacked and destroyed internally, the roof and walls merely being left. No one would grudge a man’s taking what he could carry away, but why ruthlessly destroy what had cost years of labour, and great outlay of money, to collect together? Our people were, in this case, the destroyers; but the greatest thieves were the natives from the surrounding villages, who crowded into the town all day long, and made off with whatever they could lay their hands on. In a walled enclosure several of the cavalry horses that had escaped from their riders during the engagement were found; and, curious enough, in a house hard by [p. 245] lay Colonel Walker s much-valued sword, which had been snatched from that gallant officer, as before related.


The house in which our department was quartered belonged to an old man, whom we found on entering still standing by his property. He could not at first understand what right we had to usurp possession of his domain, and seemed inclined to be uncivil, until I mildly answered him that if he conducted himself properly we would allow him to occupy one of his own outhouses; for that had his house been allotted to the troops, he would have found little mercy from them, and would in all probability have had all his furniture destroyed or carried away; whereas now, if he attended to our wants, and did as he was told, we had no intention of making him too great a sufferer. Upon this, he immediately killed some fowls, and set himself to work to prepare a dinner for us, and continued his attentions with right good will to the day of our departure. This old individual was not the only one that was found at home after the capture of the town. A few doors off was a large house, evidently containing valuables, from the number of coolies that clambered over the housetops to peep into its courtyards. My curiosity incited me to walk along the top of the wall, and learn the cause of the stealthy visits of the coolies. [p. 246] On looking down into the yard, I saw a stout native gentleman of a middle age and his two sons, all armed with spears, and prepared for the worst. They had barricaded their doors, and looked much excited. I at first thought that the fair sex was in question; and feeling somewhat inspired with a spirit of knight-errantry, spoke to them, and asked them what they had to fear, and why they were so armed. They, on the other hand, judging from the fact of my being on the wall, that I also had sinister intentions, replied defiantly that they were standing by their property, and would defend it to the last; and that if I ventured to jump down into their yard, they would despatch me with their spears. I complimented them on their show of pluck, and told them that I was led there chiefly by curiosity to see what was going on, and to offer my assistance if their ladies were in any danger of being insulted.


Poor men! their pluck was of usual Chinese consistence; for that evening, in spite of their spears, their house was entered over its walls, their boxes broken and scattered over the yard, and all the money and other valuables carried away. The following morning, Mr. McGhee, chaplain to the forces, came to procure my assistance in forming an asylum for the numbers of native women who had been left behind in the town deserted by their male relatives. We first went [p. 247] to the adjoining house to have an interview with my friends of the spears, whom we apprised of our intention to turn their house into an asylum for their unfortunate countrywomen, and we hoped that they would show them some attention for the present until the return of their husbands or relatives. Mr. McGhee had previously marked the spot where the forlorn damsels were to be found, and had provided a covered cart to convey them to the asylum. The cart stood at hand, and, jumping on one side of the shaft, he invited me to seat myself on the other side, and away we went through the town. The first house visited presented indeed a sickening spectacle. A group of females of all ages, from the grey-haired beldam of fifty to the lisping child of two, were huddled together, with small tin boxes of liquid opium by their sides; some leaned on their hands; others were prostrate on the floor in unbecoming attitude, their faces ghastly yellow, and their eyes rolling wildly in their sockets, while their hands and mouths, besmeared with opium-juice, told the shocking tale of their attempt at suicide. The more conscious among them started at our entry, and beating their breasts condemned the opium for its slow work, crying out, “Let us die; we do not wish to live!” They were at once conveyed to the asylum, and placed under charge of some of the regimental [p. 248] doctors, who kindly volunteered their assistance, and remedies wore at once applied to frustrate the effects of the poison. Water was sprinkled on the faces of the wretched patients, and they wore kept continually moving about, and before long the majority of them began to give signs of resuscitation. The old gentleman who owned the establishment was quite assiduous in his attentions on his self-poisoned countrywomen, and half induced us to change our ideas on the lack of generosity and charity in this heathen land. He rushed about for hot tea and water, and called in an excited manner on his sons to assist him. We left these half-dead wretches under care of their kind host, and sallied out after another batch. These were much more lively: three dames and some eight little girls all crying out most lustily when we entered their small apartments. The leader of the lamentations was a stout middle-aged lady, who asked us in a loud voice what we wanted, and told us in plain terms they did not want any of our company. I tried to quiet her fears by explaining to her that we meant well, and that we had come there to assist them to a house provided for them, where they would be attended to by their own country-people. She answered, “Go away! how can I believe you? Your heart is not good; your intentions are evil.” With that she set up a howl, and all the other voices, great [p. 250] and small, joined in concert. Again and again we tried to pacify them, but in vain. I then suggested to Mr. McGhee that we should take them by force to the asylum, where the sight of their fellow sufferers would help to quiet them. So, seizing the leading dame in our arms, we deposited her in the cart, and helped two or three of the little ones in after her. Thus laden, we drove off, notwithstanding the cries of the frightened women inside, who kept shouting all the while, “Great princes, forbear! Oh! save our lives! We are women in distress. Save us, great princes!” &c.


We hurried on through the crowds of troops that were attracted by feminine cries to gaze on female beauty until the cart drew up before the asylum door. Here I desired the women to get out, and went forward to assist them. On looking into the cart I discovered the elder woman with a string round one little girl’s neck, at the ends of which she was tugging with all her might, with the evident intention of strangling the poor little creature. We soon hurried the old brute out of the cart, and finding the child, who had been enduring the pain so patiently without muttering a cry, was not much hurt, set her down and commenced helping out the rest of the children. When all were out we turned to enter the house, and to our horror found the brutal [p. 250] mother was again in the act of strangling her child. We rushed to stop her, and led them all into the house, where the old man took charge of them. The rest of the females were brought to the asylum without much ado, and we soon had quite a collection of forlorn damsels under the charge of the master of the house and the kind-hearted medical attendants. Those suffering from the effects of opium were put into rooms by themselves, and constantly attended, while the others stowed themselves away as best they could in the numerous apartments of the house. Tea was served to those that could drink it, and ample food supplied by the generous-minded chaplain, who, true to his cloth, was ever foremost in the relief of suffering. In fact, everything was done for them that humanity at such a season could suggest, and yet the women’s fears were not to be allayed; some still wept and mourned their fate, and when the hours of darkness enabled them to slip out unobserved, several of them — the old beldam and child among the number — made their escape, and were observed wandering away along the banks of the river; but whether they committed suicide, or what was their ultimate fate, we never succeeded in learning. Thanks to the skill of our doctors, only one opium-poisoned patient succumbed; the rest all recovered. [p. 251]


The 21st was fixed for our next move; so on the 20th we rode back to Matow, and completed the survey of the road and river from that place to Chang-chia-wan, the whole distance along the road being nine miles and a half. The village near which Mr. Parkes and party were taken prisoners is marked by a low pillar, and called Kopo-chwang. It was close in rear of San-kolinsin’s works, and about two miles from Chang-chia-wan.


The two days’ halt had enabled the French to add to their strength by marching to the front 1,000 men and a field battery from their force left at Ho-see-woo; so orders were issued to strike camp on the 21st. At daybreak all were astir in the town, and soon an unbroken stream of men issued forth in a northwesterly direction. Major Probyn had been sent on a reconnaissance two days previous, and had, with the assistance of Mr. Dick, interpreter to the Commissariat, succeeded in securing three natives, who were versed in the whereabouts of San-kolinsin’s camp; these men were taken along as guides.


At the Kaowle village, some two miles from Changchia-wan, a halt was called, to enable the French to move up. I had been directed before starting to report myself to Sir Hope Grant, and accompany him as interpreter in place of Mr. Parkes, who had hitherto held that important position. The General was dis- [p. 252] mounted and conversing with several officers of his Staff in a wood, under the shade of which Probyn’s Sikhs were also taking it leisurely. Shortly after, Lord Elgin and Staff, with their escort of dragoons, arrived, accompanied by sundry amateurs, and amongst others Lord Robert Grosvenor. At last the French, who had been encamped in rear of Chang-chia-wan, and had in consequence been obstructed in their progress through the streets of the town by our baggage, moved to the front, and took the right hand of the advance. General Michel marched his division to the left, and the Cavalry Brigade, with the Marines and 2nd Queen’s, took the extreme left. All were ready for starting, and the advanced guns of the French had already opened fire, when Sir Hope Grant, followed by his Staff, rode towards the French lines to confer with General Montauban as to the order of the attack. A few words were exchanged, and the British General moved slowly forward in advance of the column, apparently engaged in thought, and without taking heed of a line of Tartar cavalry drawn up ahead on the farther side of a long mound. The mandarin in command was observed riding up and down in front of his men, and inspiriting them to the charge; and when we approached to within 200 yards, the Tartars gave a series of yells, and leaping the bank, charged [p. 253] furiously at us, discharging their matchlocks. The General and Staff at once galloped to the right and left, disclosing the Armstrongs, which wheeled round in hot haste and unlimbered, giving, however, to the Tartars the impression that all hands were panic-stricken and turning tail. They, therefore, galloped forward the more boldly, cheering and uttering their war cries, but before they had proceeded far the case shot poured in among them, and the rifles of the 2nd Queen’s saluted them with a shower of bullets. Their cheers soon yielded to yells of despair as they hastily withdrew to a more respectful distance. Sir Hope Grant led the cavalry yet farther to the left, and gave the First Division room to advance. The King’s Dragoon Guards chose their opportunity, and cantering up to a large body of Tartar horse suddenly charged. Both parties were withdrawn from view by the cloud of dust that enveloped them, and nought could be seen of the encounter save an occasional gleam of the uplifted sword, or puffs of gray smoke from the discharged carbine or pistol. In a minute, as it were, the cloud of dust was swept away, and the gallant dragoons appeared drawn up in line, as if nothing had happened.


We soon moved over the ground. One private lay dead of a matchlock-ball wound through the heart, and a captain of dragoons dropped to the rear with [p. 255] a bad cut on his arm: but the ground was strewn with dead and dying Tartars. I stopped with the Commander-in-Chiefs doctor to look at the dead private. As his face was turned upwards, one dragoon that stood near remarked to another “Why, Bill, if it ain’t old Charley! Poor fellow! he has gone to his long home!” Several riderless ponies were rushing about the place; these were caught, and taken along as trophies. Some of our people were rather given to examining the enemy’s dead, in search for curiosities, and it so happened that on one occasion rather a stout individual dismounted with this object in view, close to what he took to be a dead Tartar. He stooped down to turn over the body, when, to his horror and fright, the supposed corpse turned its head and peeped at him through the comer of its eye. The spoiler leapt back as if shot, jumped on his horse, and galloped away as hard as he was able. After this little adventure the individual in question was never again so eager to examine the bodies of the fallen foe. The fact was that many of the unhorsed Tartars, on finding that the enemy were upon them, and that they could not run away, feigned death to elude the chance of being taken prisoners. The Cavalry Brigade had now moved some way to the right, and had lost sight of the First Division; but we could hear constant [p. 255] cannonading from their direction, and could see the legions of mounted Tartars that fled from before them towards us. The enemy seemed innumerable, but they showed hesitation, and would not admit of nearer approach than 1,000 yards. At this distance the Armstrongs occasionally got a few shots at them, and emptied a few saddles. One shell was distinctly seen to burst in the midst of a group of the enemy’s horse, emptying three saddles, and cutting two horses almost asunder. Probyn’s Horse then took a circuit well to the left, and tried to get round the enemy. We at first lost sight of them. Presently a line of serried pendants appeared in the distance, with a peculiar quivering motion. They moved nearer and nearer, and soon we could make out that it was the gallant Major and his trusty sabres, 700, all told. They made for a large party of Tartars bustling about under some trees, and charged at them. The Tartars scuttled away in confusion until the Sikhs were halted, when they showed face again, and discharged matchlocks at them at long range. Brigadier Pattel then sent word that he had drawn up the Dragoons before an entrenched camp on our left, which he was unable to enter without the assistance of infantry. We soon reached the camp, and the 2nd Queen’s were ordered in to drive the enemy from it, a few of whom still remained near the tents, while [p. 256] others had fled for refuge to an adjoining village. The camp turned out to be the head-quarters of General Paou, commanding the Tartar cavalry. It was very beautifully arranged under a grove of handsome cedars; the tents of fine American drill, all well pegged down, and erected at equal distances apart, with the pavilion of the commander in the centre. This camp had every appearance of being deserted in a hurry: the clothes and bedding in the tents remained unrolled; a table stood in the General’s tent with a lamp upon it, and also his bowls of rice and chopsticks, showing in what hurry he must have taken the field. In rear of this small picturesque camp several fine mules were found browsing, and, together with some carts, were made booty of.


We then rode into the little village adjoining, in the houses of which some Tartars had ensconced themselves, and kept taking “pot” shots through crevices at our troops. Orders were at once given to fire the houses, and as the enemy attempted to escape over the walls of the burning buildings the troops retaliated by taking “flying” shots at them. The temple and enclosed houses were spared, but their rooms were searched for the lurking foe. Two priests, “all shaven and shorn,” were taken prisoners, who might or might not have been soldiers, for a Chinese soldier has a most convenient method of throwing off [p. 257] his numbered doublet and powder waist-belt, and assuming the meek look of an ordinary native, whom in other parts of his attire he much resembles. Some Sikhs were then sent to fire the camp. The village at which we found ourselves was called Tuchia-wei, distant south-east from Pekin about eight miles, and in the dim distance we could just see one of the gates of the City of the Emperors. A proclamation was posted up on the walls of the village in the name of General Paou, telling the villagers not to be alarmed at the presence of his camp, as his soldiers had been strictly warned against committing any acts of injustice on the natives of the place; and at the same time giving them to understand that all provisions supplied should be honestly paid for. General Michel and Brigadier Sutton here joined Sir Hope Grant, bringing the intelligence that the First Division was in possession of the bridge of boats and the toll-bridge, and all the country in their neighbourhood this side of the Yung-leang canal. The Commander-in-Chief, therefore, resolved on retiring from Yuchia-wei, and fixing the camp on the banks of the Yung-leang canal. I was then sent with an officer and a guard of Sikh troopers to bring up the baggage, which was halted at a village some way in the rear of the camping ground. We found the baggagers in great alarm, as they had mistaken us at a distance for [p. 258] a squadron of the enemy’s cavalry. They were soon, however, reassured, and eventually reached in safety the groves of trees that marked the picturesque spot on the banks of the canal where the camp was to be fixed.


We had no sooner arrived on the ground than the enemy opened fire with heavy guns from the cover of wood, on the opposite side of the canal. The 15th Punjauhees and two howitzers were ordered to cross the river and put a stop to the annoyance. They came upon a camp of troops robed in imperial yellow, with silk banners of the same colour. These soon decamped, and their camp was destroyed; but our troops soon afterwards came to close quarters with some Tartars in a village, and committed great havoc among them. One gallant Punjaub officer, forgetting the use of the sword that hung by his side, engaged a Tartar with closed fists, and had succeeded in flooring him, when a Punjaubee private thrust the man through with his bayonet. Meanwhile the French had had an exciting engagement with the enemy at the stone bridge, over which the paved way runs between Tung-chow and Pekin. This is the famed Pa-le-cheaou (or Eight Le bridge), so called because it marks the distance of eight le, or two miles and three quarters, along the paved road from Tungchow; and on the opposite side the enemy had planted some heavy guns. These the French carried in a [p. 259] most gallant manner at the point of the bayonet, and in the hand-to-hand skirmish that ensued General Paou was mortally wounded, and carried off the field by his own men. In the midst of his sufferings, it was afterwards reported, he had given orders for the decapitation of Captain Brabazon and the Abbe de Luc, two of the unfortunate gentlemen that the Chinese had so treacherously stopped while returning to the allied lines under a flag of truce. The loss of the Chinese at this bridge alone could not have been less than 300, and we set down their total loss at 500, though in all probability it was considerably more. The Tartars, on the whole, seemed less afraid of coming to close quarters with the French than they were with our troops; but this may be owing to the fact that the French had scarce any cavalry.

In one of the charges of the Sikh cavalry I was informed that a trooper lost the management of his horse, and was carried among the enemy, who first gouged his eyes out in a most barbarous manner, and then cut him to pieces, limb by limb. But the Sikhs themselves were by no means sympathetic towards the suffering foe; and it was a common practice among these gentlemen, when riding over the field after an engagement, to murder the wounded. As they rode past a prostrate wounded man, one would prick him with a spear’s point, and, if the [p. 260] unfortunate sufferer cried out or writhed under the pain inflicted, some of the party would dismount and deliberately saw his head off. The French encamped on both sides of the stone bridge and the British to their left on the east bank of the canal between the two bridges they had captured. Soon after erecting our tents, I observed a small boy in plain clothes, mounted on a pony, dragging a blue-buttoned mandarin along by the tail. I advanced to inquire who he was, and learnt that he was a naval officer’s steward, who, having lost sight of his master during the engagement, was quietly riding through a field in which millet stalks were stacked in separate heaps; out of one of these the prisoner had rushed and deliberately fired his matchlock at the boy, but fortunately missed him. The mandarin then drew a knife from his pocket, and attempted to cut his own throat, but the blade was too rusty to have the desired office. The boy at once ran at him, and, seizing him by the tail, brought him along prisoner. The mandarin said that he was a lieutenant of the cavalry under General Paou, and had got unhorsed during the engagement; but he positively denied having fired at the boy. He was soon after released, and told to go about his business.


The country here was very beautiful, tope after tope of lofty and magnificent trees occurring fre- [p. 261] quently, and in their neighbourhood several large though dilapidated temples. In one of these near our camp Lord Elgin and the Commander-in-Chief found quarters, while their staffs encamped under the shade of the adjoining trees. General Montauban occupied another near his camp. The villagers were for the most part wretched, and showed little signs of wealth. The camp of our department was pitched in the middle of a parched-up field close to Probyn’s cavalry, and the dust raised by the horses going backwards and forwards all day long was anything but agreeable.


On the 22nd the camp was alarmed by some shots fired by an outpost at a party of approaching Tartars, who thereupon halted, and an official came forward with a flag of truce and presented a letter addressed to Lord Elgin. This was from Prince Kung, brother to the Emperor, who informed his lordship that, in consequence of the mismanagement of affairs by Prince Tsai and Muh, he had been appointed imperial commissioner, to treat with “the ambassadors; and he proposed an armistice, with a view to the re-establishment of peace.” In reply, Lord Elgin referred him to the notification which had been already delivered to the chief mandarin of Tung-chow in the names of the Commanders-in-Chief, and informed them that, until the British subjects detained in [p. 262] Pekin were restored, no steps could be taken to stay military operations.


The Yung-leang canal, on the banks of which we were encamped, connected Tung-chow with Pekin. The waters were all but stagnant, and of a yellow hue, which no doubt was heightened by the taint of numerous Tartar corpses that floated about its surface. It was fringed along each bank with reeds and rushes, and averaged in breadth twenty-five yards, its depth varying from one to twenty feet, and its total length perhaps thirteen miles from town to town. The Peiho just below Tung-chow divides, the main stream keeping a little away to the north, and a branch skirting the foot of the town and trending somewhat north-easterly; two miles, however, above the city, these two branches are connected by a narrow tortuous canal. The Yung-leang canal reaches to within a few yards of the Tung-chow branch of the river, but does not flow into it; consequently goods intended for water carriage to Pekin are transshipped at Tung-chow into large flat-bottomed barges on the canal. These boats are pulled up to and under the stone bridge, or Pa-le-cheaou, and onwards a couple of miles farther, till they are drawn up before a stone pier or dam extending across the canal and bridged over. The portion of the canal above this pier is some ten feet higher level than the [p. 263] portion below, and the goods have, therefore, again to be transshipped, by means of a roller and pulleys erected on the bridge above, into other barges on the higher water. Close to this obstruction stands a toll-house, for the levy of toll on goods so transshipped. As soon as this stoppage is passed the goods may continue on without further obstacle to where the canal ends, under the walls of Pekin.


Before our arrival, traffic on this canal had apparently ceased, and the barges on the upper water had been moored side by side, and formed into a bridge of boats, which, together with the weir bridge, had fallen into the hands, as I before stated, of the First Division. This water communication afforded great convenience in supplying the camp with provisions and other necessaries during the delay that ensued until reinforcements, and heavy siege guns, arrived from Tien-tsin. Captain Dew, R.N., who superintended the water carriage, found no difficulty in moving up the commissariat and other boats from Ho-see-woo to Tungchow, and thence the numerous barges on the river brought up supplies right to the camp. The Governor of Tung-chow had been informed that if he made no hostile demonstrations against us, his city would be spared, and the people protected, and he accordingly showed his good will by instructing the townspeople to open a market on the stone bridge. [p. 264]


The small suburb just outside the north gate of Tung-chow was at once occupied by 400 marines and an equal number of French soldiers, but the citizens took good care to keep the gates that opened in our direction closed, and had the portals manned by city braves. This, however, was purely a precautionary measure, in order to keep straggling soldiers and followers of the camp from entering the town for plunder, as on all occasions when the Commanders-in-Chief demanded admission, the gates were at once thrown open to them. One class of plunderers, however, could with difficulty be kept out, and these were the Canton coolies. There were several complaints of the mischief these ruffians impudently committed, until at last the townspeople determined to retaliate on them, and on an occasion of a party of six coolies entering the town and setting to plunder a shop, the people rose, and, murdering two of them, handed the other four to the British authorities, who to show their disapproval of the wrong they had done, had them publicly flogged.


But, on the other hand, the citizens were scarcely justified in taking the law into their own hands, and dealing so harshly with the other two; the General, therefore, deemed it expedient to demand possession of one gate of the city, and ordered the marines to occupy the north gate. The few braves that guarded – [p. 265] the entrance were soon dislodged without a blow, and the marines in occupation. The coolies were in the frequent habit of slipping away from camp and prowling about the neighbouring villages, big sticks in hand, in search for plunder, and it was absurd to see the large brawny sons of the soil cowed down by these southern Celestials, so much inferior to them in size and physical strength. The natives of this neighbourhood, however, almost entirely deprived of implements of defence, and continually governed by the paternal rod of iron of the mandarins, were a more submissive and abject race than the half-independent tribes of South China, who league together in clans, and too often set the government at defiance.


While alluding to the loose acts of the Canton coolies, I may record a flagitious act committed by some of their number near the camp, and the punishment awarded. Some officers out for a stroll, hearing loud shrieks in an adjoining field, went to the spot to ascertain the cause, and caught three coolies in the act of taking rude liberties with an unfortunate woman. The officers laid hands on the miscreants and dragged them before the General. One was proved to be more criminally concerned than the others, and was condemned to be hanged, while his abettors in the crime were sentenced to 100 lashes each. At the time appointed for the execution [p. 266] of the sentence, all the coolies of the camp were assembled to witness it. The two first received their castigations under the cat of the provost-sergeant, in the presence of the third, who then suffered the extreme punishment of the law. The condemned man looked perfectly calm before his execution, and did not evince the slightest fear or trepidation, not even when the rope was being adjusted round his neck.


During the delay at this camp, our department had ample time to survey the country back to Chang-chia-wan, and I had frequent leisure to make notes and observations on the natural history of the place. I visited the Bureau Topographique of the French camp, and made the acquaintance of Colonel Dupin, who was fond of sporting and a first-rate shot; and with that officer and M. Zill, the French amateur naturalist, I had several very pleasant excursions.


About four miles from the camp, in the direction of Chang-chia-wan, occurred a very handsome marble monument to a governor-general of Paou-ting-foo. A small marble bridge, with pillars of the same material on each side, conducted you to a wall-enclosed greensward, in the centre of which stood a marble arch, handsomely carved, and written over with Chinese characters; passing under this, you entered a grove, girt all round with a dense line of small [p. 267] cypresses; and at the farther end of the grove were erected, side by side, three grass-covered mounds, the tumuli of the grandee, his wife, and his son. Adjoining the grove was a temple-like house, tenanted by the appointed guardians of these tombs. I was on a visit to this spot with a military surgeon, a friend of mine, and had left him outside while I entered the grove to note its peculiarities. Suddenly he shouted to me, in dire affright, “Come out, man! make haste, and bring your gun. We must fight for our lives. Here is a Tartar riding towards us full pelt.” I hastened out, and soon descried the object of alarm. The doctors short sight had led him to mistake a mounted Punjaubee officer, with a turbaned head, for a live specimen of our valiant foe.


On the day of the engagement, the Tartars had made somewhat of a stand at this tomb, and eight or nine carcases of their small ponies, with a few mangled corpses of the riders themselves, lay to the left,


Fiery steeds, with wounds transfixed,


Floating in gore, with their dead masters mixed.Near these corrupting masses, I was much surprised to find an emaciated native sitting, like a spectre among the dead. The unfortunate man was quite bereft of sense, no doubt through wounds and [p. 268] starvation, and was plucking up the grass by handfuls and eating it. I spoke to him, and tried to get him off the place; but, in reply, he returned me a vacant stare, and shrieked menacingly at me. For miles round indications still remained of sites of Tartar encampments: these seemed to have been legion, but, according to returns picked up in a tent, their force appears to have amounted to 80,000, chiefly mounted men.


On the 24th September, General Napier and Staff arrived, and through the energetic measures of Sir Hope Grant our army was reinforced by the following accessions: a battalion of the 60th Rifles, the 67th, the Royals, and wings of the 99th Queen’s and 8th Punjaubees; and the siege guns and several 8-inch mortars had reached Ho-see-woo by river, and would soon be at Tung-chow: so there was every prospect of a speedy advance, at which no one felt regret, as our camp life had some time past been rendered miserable by the fearful gales of wind from the north-west, that threatened incessantly for hours at a time to bring our tents down about our ears, and carried with them clouds of dust, that most provokingly covered everything, both inside and outside the canvas. A day or two’s rain then ensued, followed on the 1st October by sharp fresh weather; so that the thermometer, which ranged during noon, a [p. 269] few days previously at 90° to 100°, now suddenly lowered to 40° and 50°. The commissariat arrangements were all this while eminently successful, and the army consequently in excellent health and spirits. [p. 270]