Primary sources: North China Campaign of 1860

Chapter 6


Plan of Attack on the Takoo Forts — Difference of Opinion between the English and French Generals — Bridge of Boats — Approaches to the Forts — The Eve of the Assault — Advance on the Forts — Description of the Assault — Unconditional Surrender — Casualties — Tartar Courage — Description of the Forts — Chinese wounded — Variety of Races — The wounded Cake-seller.

The indulgent reader has so far accompanied us to the pleasant shores of Talien-wan, with the short though invigorating camp-life spent there; to the interminable mud-flats of Pehtang, with its scenes of misery and devastation; and thence through the two victorious skirmishes at Sinho and Tangkoo; but the greatest scene of all remains for this chapter to depict — the battle of Takoo, where Britain’s noble sons, supported by their gallant allies, subdued their insolent and overbearing enemy, so overwhelming in numbers, and bravely redeemed their country’s glory, [p. 120] which had been dimmed, but only for a while, by last year’s unhappy disaster.


Tangkoo fell to our hands on the 14th August, and Sir Robert Napier’s Division were housed within its walls for the purpose of making the necessary preparations for capturing the forts. Then came the question of the line of attack. Reconnaissances were made, Chinese prisoners were questioned as to the practicability of the roads, and the Commanders-in-Chief held consultation together. But behold! the allied camp was divided. Sir Hope Grant viewed the matter in one light, the French General in another. The question was, What object did we require to gain by the achievement in view? Did we wish merely to get possession of the forts and the right of entry into the river with as little loss as possible? or did we wish to surprise and capture San-kolinsin with all his Tartar hordes, and thus put an end to the possible recurrence of opposition from that quarter, regardless of life on our part, and by the stroke hold the Chinese Government helpless and submissive at our feet? Sir Hope Grant’s policy pointed to the former, General Montauban’s to the latter result. By crossing the river and attacking en masse the south fort, we should have cut off all possibility of retreat along the broad road leading to Tien-tsin. With the sea beyond and the river on the left flank, [p. 121] the Tartars must have succumbed or perished. Should they have crossed the river and attempted to escape on the north side, our cavalry would have taught them a lesson. This would indeed have humbled the arrogant and vain-glorious pride of Sankolinsin and his Chinese dependants; but the loss on our side would most assuredly have been severe. For the southern fort, with its case-mated batteries and three high cavaliers, was far more formidable than the other forts, and had the advantage of having its approach in rear through the long village of Takoo, which faced the river on the one length, and was girt with a long crenellated wall five miles long on the land side right up to the wall of the fort itself. The experienced military eye of our Commander-in-Chief saw at a glance that the upper north fort commanded all the others, and would hence afford a key to the reduction of the whole. Furthermore, it was within easy reach, and by no means so strong as most of the others; and its capture would entail not nearly so great a loss on our side as that under the French project. The chief object to be secured was the possession of the forts and the command of the river; and if San-kolinsin escaped with the greater part of his army, which he was almost sure to do, he would have learnt a lesson not easily forgotten, and would scarce have spirit enough to meet us again, especially [p. 122] in the open field. Our object was not to subdue the country, but merely to open a way for negotiations with its Government, and at the less cost of life this was achieved the better for our country. Such were the thoughts and expressions current at the time throughout the army. Sir Hope Grant saw his way clear, and resolved to act upon his original plan, to which General Montauban at last reluctantly lent his support; not, however, without a protest that ho would wash his hands of the responsibility, should the attack prove a failure. And during the heat of the fight on the day of the capture, when the incessant booming of cannon reverberated through the air and shook the earth for miles around, a French staff officer was met on a pleasure ride. He was asked why he was not in the thick of the fun? “Ah! monsieur,” he replied, “c’est aujourd’hui une bagatelle; domain vous verrez la grande chose.” But, as we shall see, that demain never came.


It was found necessary to have some means of crossing the river other than that of boats, which was a long and tedious process; and the only floating bridge that had existed between the two banks was at Yuchiapoo, and, as before mentioned, was destroyed on the day of the fall of Tangkoo. It was, therefore, necessary to span the river again by a similar means; so it was proposed that a point near Sinho should [p. 123] form the place of projection. Ropes, anchors, and other materials, were brought up from Pehtang, and Sinho and Tangkoo were searched for logs and planking. A number of large, flat, barge-like boats were found in the dammed up ditches of Tangkoo, and these came in handy. In passing these boats up the river, the sailors employed for the purpose were fired upon by the battery, now repaired and replanted with guns, which they had so successfully silenced on the morning of the 14th. A couple of Barry’s Armstrongs were, therefore, at once brought down to the corner of Tangkoo, and soon put an end to the obstruction. The boats were all passed up safely, and the bridge commenced. It was now incumbent to select a spot on the bank opposite for the termination of the bridge; and on the 18th, Colonel Levy, of the French Engineers, crossed with 300 men to the south side for that purpose. The river here was scarce more than 200 yards wide, and on the bank opposite were a few houses embosomed in orchards, with a good hedge-flanked road leading circuitously to the highway between Takoo and Tien-tsin. As the party advanced along this road they were fired upon by the Tartars ensconced in the orchards on either side. The French at once threw in skirmishers, and drove the enemy from their skulking-places. The party then advanced, until, opening the bushes, they came [p. 124] in view of a Tartar entrenchment, defended by some two to three hundred Tartars; this they at once carried in a most gallant manner, and finding that they had got into a hive of the enemy’s, and that mounted men were swarming from all directions, they sent to General Montauban for reinforcements, who speedily responded to their appeal by a supply of men and guns, and strengthened their force to about 1,400 men; and thus the French succeeded in establishing a position on the opposite side. The footing gained on the south bank before their English allies, may have been one reason which led the French to use such strenuous arguments in favour of the attack on Takoo from that side, as in such case they would have taken the initiative.


On the 19th, the French General also sent a flag of truce to visit the Governor at Takoo, but what transpired at the interview we did not hear.


The few days that had elapsed after the capture of Tangkoo had been occupied by General Napier, amongst other duties, in the planning of roads for the march on Takoo. Instead of using the already constructed causeway, which led on through the gate of our village fortress along the banks of the river to the next village, and so on, a more direct road was projected, farther away from the river, through a gap cut for the purpose in our crenellated mud-wall. [p. 125] The few ditches between our village and this wall were bridged over, and the mud strengthened with a layer of rushes; then the ditch that encircled the wall had also to be bridged over, and so on, towards the object of attack. On the 19th, the Royal Engineers and Madras Sappers pushed on with their work on the road, and towards evening General Napier asked me to accompany him out to the working party to gather information from the natives as to the best approach to the forts, where the fewest ditches occurred, depth of such ditches, and usual rise and fall of tide in them, &c. Three natives, with two fine mules, had already been captured in a hut not far from the forts. These men were connected with the saltpans in their neighbourhood, which they had continued to work, notwithstanding their propinquity to a hostile force. They were filthily clad, and bore the appearance of poverty and starvation. They were quaking with alarm, yet persisted in telling direct falsehoods. In answer to our questions, they stated that the ditches were intended exclusively for the supply of the saltpans, and had nothing to do with the defences of the fort; that they were poor men, belonging to Tangkoo village, who earned their livelihood by the manufacture of salt, and rarely left the precincts of their works, so that they could give no information as to [p. 126] the state of the ditches between us and the north fort; that the Tartars from that fort, previous to our capture of Tangkoo, used to issue out and traverse the country; but since that event, none had shown themselves outside the fort. The General desired me to threaten them with incarceration, if they would not speak out all they knew; but still we gained nothing satisfactory out of them. So they were quietly handed over to a guard to be marched away to our village. Fatigue parties of the 67th, under the direction of the Royal Engineers, worked all night; and as the remaining preparations could easily be made on the succeeding night, the morning of the 21st, at 6 A.M., was fixed on for the grand tamasha.


Betimes on the 20th, Major Graham, of the Royal Engineers, and Mr. Parkes, advanced towards the forts, with a guard of the 67th. The guard halted at about 1,000 yards from the north fort, while the two former went close up to its walls with a flag of truce, and asked to have a few words with the officer in command. That worthy showed his head through an embrasure, and demanded their business. They replied that they came to offer terms of capitulation; whereat the mandarin became insolent, and said that he would accept no such terms; that if the allied forces wanted the forts, they had better come and [p. 127] take them. During this short exchange of words, Major Graham had time to look about him and note the strength and form of the fortress. The party returned, and soon after the enemy opened fire from both the northern forts, on the working party. Milward’s battery of Armstrongs, which was stationed there in support, returned the salute, and after nearly an hour’s exchange of shot, the firing ceased, and the workers continued as before. The enemy’s shot had whizzed and plumped about disagreeably near, but no damage was done, save to some camp-kettles of the 67th.


At last the eve of the battle came, and we felt that the work would be done on the morrow, but not without a struggle; and that many a poor fellow who now laughed, and talked, and made light of the matter, would never see the sun of the 22nd. Every one looked excited, but you could see that there was an uneasiness in their minds. All tried to laugh the matter off, and to appear cheerful, lest they might betray their feelings, for, as Addison teaches us


Death, in approaching terrible, imparts

An anxious horror to the bravest hearts;

Yet do their beating breasts demand the strife,

And thirst of glory quells the love of life.

No vulgar fears can British minds control;

Heat of revenge and noble pride of soul [p. 128]

O’erlook the foe, advantaged by his post,

Lessen his numbers, and contract his host;

Though fens and floods possest the middle space,

That, unprovoked, they would have feared to pass.

Nor fens nor floods can stop Britannia’s bands.


The first part of the night was calm and undisturbed, save by an occasional hum of voices; but before midnight the booming of a gun at intervals would startle the restless slumberers of the camp and bring prematurely to their minds the struggle of the forthcoming day. But these guns bespoke a still greater uneasiness in the minds of the enemy, who instinctively felt, notwithstanding the darkness, that our fatigue parties were advancing with their work. They occasionally shot out a light-ball to discover our position, at which the men would lie down, and in the case of the young recruits of the 67th, were hard to stimulate to work again. It was indeed a night of endurance for the Engineer officers, but they kept up their own spirits remarkably well, and exerted their utmost to inspire confidence into the troops that assisted them. Their exertions were crowned with success; for ere the gray light on the eastern horizon betold the approaching day, their work was completed.


The artillery was disposed as follows: A French 24-pounder battery of six pieces, one English 8-inch gun, and two Armstrongs, were so planted as to play on the inner south fort, to keep down the fire they [p. 129] might otherwise pour oil our right flank. Two Armstrong guns and two 9-pounders were to fire from Tangkoo across the river at an entrenchment which flanked the French right; three 8-inch mortars were placed in the centre, at 600 yards range, and to the left rear an Armstrong battery, two 32-pounder guns, and two 8-inch howitzers, all of which had orders to play on the fort we were attacking. In addition to this, two 9-pounder guns, four 24-pounder howitzers, the remaining two Armstrong guns, and a rocket battery, were placed in the open ground about 800 yards in front of the fort. On the evening previous, the eight spirals of smoke blackening the seaward horizon intimated that the four English and four French gunboats were arriving at the bar ready to enter the river with the following morning’s tide, and shell the lower south fort. The British gunboats appointed to this work were the Janus, Drake, Clown, and Woodcock.


At daybreak on the morning of the 21st the British force detailed for the attack left their place of encampment, which was on the muddy flat about midway between Tangkoo and the north fort (the whole distance being rather short of four miles), and advanced towards the object of assault. The force mastered 2,500 fighting men, consisting of a wing of the 44th under Lieut.-Colonel McMahon, a wing [p. 130] of the 67th under Lieut.-Colonel Thomas, supported by the other wings of those two regiments; the Royal Marines, under Lieut.-Colonel Gascoigne; a detachment of the Royal Marines, under Lieut.-Colonel Travers, carrying a pontoon bridge for crossing the wet ditches; and Ensign Graham, with his company of Royal Engineers, to conduct the assault. The whole were commanded by Brigadier Reeves.


The French force were marched through Tangkoo some time after the British had started. It consisted of 1,000 infantry, and six 12-pounder rifled cannon, under the command of General Collineau.


As soon as the daylight admitted of the enemy’s observing the advance of the attacking column, they opened fire from all the different forts, and the storm commenced. At half-past six a magazine in the upper north fort blew up with a terrific roar and explosion, shaking the ground for miles around as by an earthquake, and giving to the idlers at Tangkoo the impression of a display of fireworks on a grand scale. Some few minutes afterwards a similar explosion in the lower north fort occurred, effected by a shell from the little cluster of gunboats at the river s mouth.


[Sir Hope Grant’s Report to the War Office:] The field guns were all advanced to within 500 yards of the forts, and redoubled their efforts. The fire of the forts having almost entirely ceased, a breach was commenced near the gate, and a portion [p. 131] of the storming party were advanced to within thirty yards to open a musketry fire; the French infantry being on the right, the English on the left.


The fire of our artillery being thus partially compelled to slacken, the enemy emerged from their cover and opened a heavy fire of musketry on our troops.


The French under General Collineau immediately pushed on to the salient next the river, crossed the wet ditches in the most gallant manner, and established themselves on the berme, whence they endeavoured to escalade the walls; this, however, they were unable to effect, from the vigorous resistance of the Chinese.


The efforts of the Sappers to lay down the pontoon bridge were unavailing; no less than fifteen of the men carrying it being knocked over in one instant, and one of the pontoons destroyed.


At this juncture Sir R. Napier caused the two howitzers of Captain Govan’s battery to be brought up to within fifty yards of the gate, in order more speedily to create a breach, and a space sufficient to admit one man had just been made when our storming party, now joined by the head-quarters wing of the 67th under Colonel Knox, who had partly crossed by the French bridge and partly swam over, forced their way in by single file in the most gallant manner; [p. 132] Lieutenant Rogers, 44th Regiment, and Lieutenant Burslem, 67th Regiment, being the first to enter, when they assisted in the regimental colours of the 67th, carried by Ensign Chaplain, who first planted them on the breach, assisted by Private Lane, 67th Regiment, and subsequently on the cavalier, which he was the first to mount. At the same moment the French effected their entrance, and the garrison was driven back step by step, and hurled pell-mell through the embrasures on the opposite side.


Here the same obstacles which had impeded our advance obstructed their retreat; in addition to two wet ditches and two belts of pointed bamboo stakes, there was swampy ground and a third ditch and bank.


The storming parties opened a destructive fire on them from the cavalier, and this was enhanced by the canister fire of Captain Govan’s guns, which had been moved to the left of the fort for this purpose.


The ground outside the fort was literally strewn with the enemy’s dead and wounded. Three of the Chinese were impaled on the stakes. A few fugitives reached the outer north fort, which opened fire to cover their retreat, and was answered by the Armstrong guns with good effect.The above is extracted from Sir Hope Grant’s Report to the War Office; but if our readers would [p. 133] like a more particular account of the individual gallantry displayed in the affair by Britain’s noble sons, I must refer them to the admirable account of the fight given by The Times’ special correspondent, and published in The Times of 3rd November, 1860.


A short time after the affray, the defiant flags on the walls of the southern forts were hauled down and white flags substituted. It was thought, therefore, that the enemy desired to sue for peace, and accordingly the English and French Generals sent each an officer with Mr. Parkes to inquire what terms they prayed for. The officers were met by the interpreter of English on San-kolinsin’s Staff (an impudent native of Shanghai, who had formerly acted as linguist in an American firm at that place). This man produced a letter in which it was written to the effect that, as the allied forces had taken possession of one fort, the Chinese would have the booms removed from the mouth of the river, and grant them the right of entrance up to Tien-tsin, there to make terms of peace. The letter was crumpled up and thrown in the bearer’s face, with a threat that if the remaining forts did not unconditionally surrender before 2 P.M., at that hour the advance would be sounded and the next fort stormed.


The sky, which had been clouded over the whole of the morning, now began to look murky and lower- [p. 134] ing, and before the appointed hour poured down a deluge of rain, converting the hard dried mud of the flat into a slushy swamp; yet, notwithstanding, the 3rd Buffs; and the 8th Punjaub Infantry had received orders to march from Tangkoo, and were advanced at 2 P.M. precisely against the lower northern fort. Two 8-inch guns were placed in position against it, but as the other siege guns could not be brought up, owing to the frightful state of the roads, the guns of the cavalier of the captured fort were manned and turned upon it.


The lower north fort had two cavaliers, and mounted many more guns than the upper. With eagerness the English and French troops marched towards it, prepared for the struggle all thought about to ensue; but what was our surprise when not a gun was fired, and the enemy of their own accord threw open the gates!


The garrison, upwards of 2,000 men, passively yielded, like so many sheep, and were sent across to the other side.


Again the southern forts lowered their flags of defiance and substituted the flags of truce, and again Mr. Parkes and others crossed over to the other side. Before evening the enemy were observed evacuating their position on the south side, and 300 English and French were crossed over to take possession of the southern forts. At dark Mr. Parkes returned with [p. 135] an unconditional surrender of the whole country on the banks of the Peiho as far as Tien-tsin; and thus ended the first stage of the North China War, resulting in the capture of the treacherous batteries at Takoo, and the cleansing of the foul stain that tarnished the glory of the allied arms in the far East.


During the heat of the action all the houses at Tangkoo had their roofs crowded with lookers on of the non-combatants, and the ridge of General Napier’s temple had the honour of bearing Lord Elgin and Staff, The Times correspondent, and many other distinguished personages. While all were engaged watching with their glasses and a variety of other optics, the play of the shot on the walls of the north fort, and the daring advance of the small band of heroes, the wretched battery at the bottom of the Tangkoo reach opened fire on our village, and the shots repeatedly whizzed and whirred over our heads. The two Armstrongs and the two 9-pounders planted at the gate of the crenellated wall at length succeeded in shutting them up, but not till the gunners had been well soused with mud by the plumping of the shot close by them. The enemy’s range was fortunately too high.


It was a sorrowful sight to pass the litters bringing back the wounded, each carried by two coolies. Every [p. 136] one felt anxious as they passed to know what friend or comrade was inside them. The medical department certainly deserves much credit for the expeditious manner in which the wounded were carried off the field, and especial praise is due to Staff Assistant-Surgeon Grey for the active part he took in this duty, constantly running up to the front with his assistants and coolies as soon as he spied a wounded man, and having him carefully conveyed at once to the rear. Our poor fellows, though often in great pain, were cheerful when they witnessed the prompt manner with which their comforts were attended to, and they all seemed to feel a secret joy in the result of the day’s proceedings, and to forget their pangs in the consciousness that every man had done the duty expected of him by his country. A large number of the casualties were among the officers, twenty-two of whom were more or less severely wounded. Of the men, seventeen were killed outright, and 161 wounded. The French had about 130 casualties, and some of their officers were killed. The loss of the enemy was large; their dead lay everywhere, both inside and outside of the fort. Their list of casualties could not have been less than 2,000, and probably more. Among the rest, they lost the general in command of the fort, who fell by the revolver of Captain Prynne, of the Royal Marines; and his cap [p. 137] decorated with red button and peacock’s feather, was secured by that gallant officer as a trophy. The second in command was also missing, and, it was rumoured among the Chinese, had committed suicide. The Tartars undoubtedly fought like brave men, hurling down all kind of uncouth missiles at the storming party; and when our troops had effected an entrance, every inch of the ground inside the fort was disputed. But I cannot help thinking that the bravery of the enemy was a good deal due to the peculiarity of their circumstances. By blocking us out, they had blocked themselves in, and so fell into a complete trap, from which there was no hope of escape. They therefore exerted their utmost to keep out their assailants; but when once in, they could hardly expect quarter from the excited state of the men’s blood. There was, therefore, no alternative but to fight hard for their lives. Thus, magnis componere parva, that domestic nuisance the house-rat, if allowed a chance of escape, is only too glad to avail itself of it; but if boxed up with a terrier in a pit, tries hard to bite the jaws that are about to inflict his death-wound.


The true native cowardice of the race evinced itself in the submissive conduct of the second north fort garrison and subsequent unconditional surrender of the southern forts, notwithstanding the strength [p. 138] of their position and the heavy armament they contained.


The fearless conduct, however, of the Cantonese coolies in our lines excited considerable admiration. They seemed to enjoy the fun, and shouted with glee at every good shot that carried a murderous mission, no matter whether it committed havoc among the enemy, or bowled over our unfortunate fellows; and those in French employ were conspicuous in the front assisting the troops and standing up to their necks in the ditches holding ladders over their heads to enable the men to cross. All this, it will be argued, shows no lack of pluck in the Chinese character when opportunity is given for its demonstration; but we must not forget that the people from whom these corps were taken were mostly thieves or pirates hardened to deeds of blood, and depending largely upon such acts for their maintenance. They witnessed on every occasion the superiority of our arms and the determined courage of our men, which tended somewhat to dispel their prior alarm, and they were full sure that on their good behaviour depended the earning of that “almighty” dollar for which every Chinaman’s soul yearns, and they felt further sure that a backwardness or want of alacrity would have led to their disgrace and perhaps death. Their case was also somewhat hope- [p. 139] less, and, like wise men, they did their utmost to win the good graces of their employers; and so far they succeeded, for the General rewarded each man employed in the front that day with an extra month’s wages. Many of the officers maintained that if the Chinese were drilled and led they would make excellent soldiers. This I do not attempt to gainsay, knowing, as all must know, how many of the Asiatics and instinctively-cowardly races, as the Bengalees and Turks, have turned out under such treatment. But I should he inclined to maintain that the habit, so characteristic of the Chinese, of sacrificing every principle of honour and justice to the accumulation of wealth in spite of the doctrines of Confucius, would be found an insuperable barrier to their ever being made good soldiers, unless a lively idea were always kept up in their minds of enriching themselves by the gutting of every captured town. The stupid indifference to death on the part of condemned Chinese culprits, too often produced by the starvation system practised in gaols, or by the individual himself having deadened his own senses by the excessive use of opium, can hardly be quoted as an argument in favour of their bravery. On the other hand, the fear of future retribution among a Christian people may too often tend to cow the bravest spirit; but to one who expects no future, the blank presented to the mind [p. 140] has almost invariably a worse effect. The majority of Chinese, however, have a belief that departed spirits exist independent of the body, and that these spirits enjoy no rest if the bodies meet a violent death or death by decapitation, as relatives are thus prevented from paying the proper attention to the interment of the corpse and its attendant ceremonies. A violent death, therefore, is just as much an object of dread to them as to us, and they have not the advantage we possess of believing in the justice of our cause or in the goodness of God. Moreover, they have not the inherent pluck and love of danger with which the European races are endowed.


Let us now take a glance at those Takoo fortresses which our allied commanders agreed in pronouncing impregnable from the sea, and which were almost unapproachable by land, except during dry weather. The forts were built in the alluvial mud deposit which flanks the river on each side for six or seven miles from its mouth upwards. The course of this stream is very tortuous. Flowing nearly due south from Tangkoo for about a mile, it tends along to the eastward for another mile, skirting the long village of Takoo, situated on the opposite bank; thence turning sharply to the north, it continues on the same course for a mile and a half farther, and finally bending towards the south-east, debouches into the [p. 141] sea. The lower north fort stands on the bank of this last reach, about a mile from the sea, and the upper north fort, which was carried by assault, about half a mile higher up on the same side. Nearly opposite to this fort, and almost in the current of the river, stands the uppermost south fort, commanding the whole reach; and somewhat lower on the south bank, is situated the largest and most formidable of them all — the great south fort — which witnessed last year the murder of so many of our gallant tars, opposed by Admiral Hope, at such fearful odds, against its gigantic resources. Below this again, and not far from the beach, lies the fifth and last fort. The forts were all built on the same principle, being strong redoubts with thick, heavily-armed ramparts on the sea front, containing case-mated batteries, with a mantlet in front of each gun. The upper north fort and the fifth fort had each one cavalier; the second north fort, two; and the large southern fort, three, mounting guns of a large calibre, many of which were taken from the gunboats that were sunk in the treacherous attack of 1859. All these guns were turned inland on the troops. The rear of the forts was protected by a crenellated wall, defended by guns and wall-pieces. The cavaliers were about thirty feet above the level of the ground, reached by a sloping ramp. The walls of the forts [p. 141] were built of thick logs of timber, cased in with a coating of mud and flax, or, sometimes, chopped straw. Besides the barracks afforded by this case-mating of the rampart batteries, semicircular-roofed huts of mud and straw, or logs of wood, were distributed about in somewhat neater order, but on much the same principle as in the fortresses of Pehtang, Sinho, and Tangkoo. Piles of shot, of various sizes, lay about near the guns, with baskets of powder and matchlock bullets. There was also a number of a species of shell, filled with powder and connected by a curiously contrived fuse. Gingalls, matchlocks, bows and arrows, self-loading crossbows, spears, and pikes, were also strewn about in endless confusion; and, amongst other hand-missiles, there were several wooden rollers, one foot in length and six inches in diameter, stuck all over with long spikes, and intended, no doubt, for hurling at the storming party. The approach to each fort was defended by from two to three encircling ditches and belts of wooden spikes, while the berme was scattered with iron crows-feet. These wooden spikes varied in thickness and in height from one to three feet, and each belt was about fifteen feet wide. Beyond the spikes and ditches, the whole was encircled by an abattis.


Soon after the forts were occupied, all the wounded [p. 143] Chinese were collected and put into a hut inside the south fort, whence they were afterwards removed to larger quarters at Tangkoo, soon after our own wounded had been carefully conveyed on board the hospital ships, where every comfort that skill and invention could supply was prepared for them. In this impromptu Chinese hospital we had a display of the various sub-divisions of the great Mongolian race well worthy the contemplation of an ethnologist, albeit the majority of its subjects were more or less contorted with pain. Here were men, on the one hand, giving vent to their feelings in the different dialects of China’s northern provinces; and here, again, others lamenting in the short guttural of the Mongolian, and in the more liquid Manchurian. On that stove-bed, lying side by side, are represented these three sub-races; there can be no doubt about it, for their speech betrayed them; but there all mark of difference ceases, and I would defy the most accomplished physiognomist to point out which was which.


There is a certain amount of variation in the faces of the Canton men, when compared with the Fuhkeenese or the natives of Shanghai. These variations are somewhat constant, and more characteristic than any marks of difference we could observe between the northern big-boned Chinese and [p. 144] the Tartars that San-kolinsin mustered against us from the wilds of Mongolia and Manchuria. All were alike ugly, with thick yellow skins; all alike dirty and odoriferous. One Chinese boy had nine bayonet pricks in his body. “Ah! sir,” said the hospital sergeant to me, “that must be a brave fellow to have got so many wounds before he would give in.” I thought to myself that the number and lightness of his wounds was rather a proof to the contrary; so, turning round to him, I asked him their cause. He thereupon told me that he was a cake-seller, who had gone into the fort on the night before our attack, to sell some cakes to the Tartars, and was not allowed to leave again; that on the 21st, as soon as the firing commenced, he went and hid himself under a mat in one of the huts inside the fort. Our troops entered the fort, and some of them, rushing into the hut, pricked him through the mat under which he was hidden. He did not, however, cry out, so they left him; but, soon after, others rushed in and repeated the operation so many times that the unfortunate cake-seller was obliged to betray his hiding-place, and was hauled out in a most unceremonious manner, trembling for his fate; but, to his utter astonishment, the devils showed him mercy, and, instead of killing him outright, took him under their friendly protection. [p. 145]


A few days after the capture of Takoo, General Napier reviewed his Division, and in an open-hearted frank manner thanked his officers for the assistance they had so cheerfully afforded him in carrying out his plans during the late attack, and complimented his men on the endurance and individual gallantry each had displayed; and, in conclusion, congratulated one and all on the successful issue of the struggle which had so gloriously vindicated the tarnished honour of our arms. [p. 146]