Primary sources: North China Campaign of 1860

Chapter 7

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Entrance to the Peiho — Arrival at Tien-tsin — Appointment of a Commission to inspect the Captured Forts — Head-quarters of San-kolinsin — A Ludicrous Scene — Denizens of a Chinese Swamp — Going to Market — A garrulous Chinaman — Chinese Vehicles — Advance of the Main Body — Camping Grounds — Chinese Villages.

 

After the capture of Takoo, the gunboats set to work to clear an entrance into the river. This was no easy task, as the obstacles that barred its mouth had been most cunningly contrived. They had first to remove a row of heavy sharp-pointed iron stakes, each several tons in weight, which had thin ends firmly embedded in the mud beneath. Then came a large boom, floated by earthen water-jars, and succeeded by iron stakes again; then a row of boats, filled with combustible materials, moored right across the stream; and, lastly, a second large boom. Two small hulls, dismantled of all their masts and gear, [p. 147] were pointed out in the low-tide mud as the wrecks of the Lee and Plover gunboats, which were destroyed in last year’s catastrophe; but of the third missing boat, the Cormorant, no trace was visible. As soon as passage-room was procured, the Admiral entered the river; and on the following day, taking Mr. Parkes on board, continued on his way to Tien-tsin in his steam-tender, the Coromandel, accompanied by five gunboats. The people in the villages on the banks of the river turned out to stare at the passing vessels, and showed no signs of hostility, but, on the contrary, did their utmost to assist their advance. The forts at the village of Shwang-cheang were passed and found to be deserted. In the evening, the squadron anchored about ten miles below Tien-tsin, and were visited by a deputation of respectable merchants from the city; from whom they learnt that the extensive defences lately thrown up by San-kolinsin for the protection of the city had been deserted, and that there was no intention to oppose the march of the victorious allies upon that place. They were further informed that on the evening of the 22nd, San-kolinsin had been observed riding past the city with a few dirt-stained followers, and had taken a circuitous route in order to avoid entering the town. Next morning, the gunboats pushed on, and, landing small parties of Marines at each [p. 148] of the forts below Tien-tsin, proceeded up and cast anchor before the city. The viceroy, Hang-fuh, upon invitation, came off to the Coromandel, bringing with him the two Commissioners, Hangke and Wantseuen, who had been delegated by the Emperor to escort Lord Elgin to Pekin. They were told that Tien-tsin must be considered in the possession of the allies, but that the local mandarins would be allowed to continue their functions and the people protected. Meanwhile, a party of Marines, who had been sent on shore to take possession of the eastern gate of the city, unfurled the English and French flags on the top of that portal, and posted up a proclamation in the archway, announcing to the people the change in their position. Mr. Parkes then made arrangements with the Committee of Supply, composed of certain well-to-do merchants of Tien-tsin, who had before been employed to cater for San-kolinsin’s forces, to bring together provisions for our people, who were shortly to be expected at the city.

 

The Cavalry Brigade soon received orders to march to Tien-tsin. They started from Sinho on the 25th, with Mr. Wade as interpreter, and, keeping along the north bank of the Peiho, arrived on the following day at Tien-tsin, to which they crossed by the bridge of boats which spans the river just above the junction of the canal from the Pehtang river. They reported [p. 149] the road moderately good and broad, the only village of importance passed being the Cheun-leang-ching, some six or eight miles above Sinho, and that the country, apart from the orchards that lined the bank of the river, presented one dreary aspect of bog and marsh, relieved alone by conical tumuli.

 

On the 25th, Lord Elgin also pushed up to Tien-tsin in the steam-sloop Granada, whence he shortly afterwards changed his quarters into a large princely establishment on shore, situated on the waterside, and owned by a wealthy Chinese family surnamed Han. His lordship was soon visited by the Governor-General of the Province, and informed by that worthy had he and Kweiliang (who had negotiated the treaty of 1858) had together been appointed by the imperial will to treat for peace at Tien-tsin.

 

I must now request my readers to leave diplomacy at work, and return with me again to camp. On the 23rd, a commission of English and French engineers were sent to inspect the captured fortifications, and note the number and size of the guns that had fallen into our hands at Takoo, with a view to dividing them between the Allies; two-thirds to the English and one-third to the French. Mr. Morgan and myself were desired to accompany the party as interpreters. We accordingly embarked in a gunboat at Tangkoo, and proceeded up the rivet to [p. 150] Taleangtsze, a village on the south bank, nearly opposite Sinho. On landing, we found the houses of the hamlet deserted, and the place in the bands of a few French troops, who took us through the orchards in which the village was ensconced, and showed us the few important guns; one of which, of rather larger calibre, wad quartered on a housetop, while others, of smaller size, pointed out of holes made through the old mud walls at the back of the hut, and thus formed an impromptu case-mated battery. On leaving this village, we walked across the partially-dried mud swamp, some three miles, to the crenellated wall that encircled in rear the long village of Takoo, and connected it with the large southern fort. A French colonel rode after us, and inquired if we had not better be accompanied by a regiment, in case any of the Chinese troops might still be lingering within this long wall. We thanked him, and said there was little fear of that, as we felt pretty sure that it was very un-Chinese for any paid soldier to linger long in a place which his general had abandoned. A ditch occurred between us and the crenellated wall, which we were some time bridging before we could cross over. We found the place deserted, as we had opined. A few villagers still remained, and these did their best to show a friendly feeling.

 

The task before us was a long and tedious one, [p. 151] and we found that the evening had set in before we had half done the work. The party had divided into two; the one taking the wall on the right, the other the defences along the river; and it had been agreed to meet at sundown, at a two-storied pagoda in the centre of the village, commonly known as Tan-ga’s Yamun, but to the Chinese as the Hai-shinmeao (or Temple of the Spirit of the Sea), where San-kolinsin had held his head-quarters. Not far from this place was a shot factory, and a forge, where the Prince’s cunning craftsmen had wrought the iron chains and spikes which were used for the barrier at the river’s mouth. On both sides of the temple were improvised huts for the accommodation of the generalissimo‘s Tartar guard and menials. At the back was a row of storehouses and offices, in the former of which we found, amongst various Chinese warlike implements, numbers of iron crows-feet, and some wooden dummies, carved and painted, and made to represent native soldiers, their arms and legs working on hinges, and each having a large wooden spike below, for the purpose of fixing it on the walls of their fortresses to scare away the poor ignorant barbarians. It was laughable to see these figures, some already set in defiant attitudes, and to hear the use for which they were intended. One room was marked “The Prince’s study,” but it contained little except [p. 152] a few old papers and documents, none of which were of much interest. On telling the villagers that we intended passing the night there, they soon supplied us with enough provisions for a supper, and we made ourselves very jolly. But our jollification did not last long, for soon the snorting of a gunboat off the village intimated to us that we were to return for the night to the camp. The General, in the plenitude of his heart, had got the mistaken notion that we did not know how to take care of ourselves. We were accordingly obliged to return; and next morning steamed down to the south fort, where we commenced our labours again. The examination of the forts occupied the whole day; and as we had got permission this time to pass the night at Takoo, we repaired, at near sundown, to the temple again.

 

The only green spot in this neighbourhood is within the sacred walls, where, in the courtyard garden round the pagoda, a few bier-trees flourished, with unripe berries hanging from their branches, and a few trellised vines formed leafy bowers, but presented no clustering offerings to the god of wine. The Chinese Tsao, called Bier by the Anglo-Indians, is a somewhat cylindrically shaped fruit, about an inch and a half long by three quarters in diameter. When arriving at maturity, it turns from a light green to a pale yellow, and then dries to a rich chestnut brown. [p. 153] It contained a long seed or kernel, pointed at both ends. When fresh, it is hard and slightly sweet; but boiled in sugar, and then dried, it forms an excellent conserve, called by the Chinese, Me– (Honey) Tsaou, and known to Europeans in China as the Shanghai date. The leaves of the tree on which the fruit grows are small and annual, and the flowers diminutive and of a pale yellow. Small as this patch of garden was, it was curious to note the number and variety of the birds that gathered there at roosting time: flycatchers of three species, warblers, yellow wrens, gold-crests, buntings, and sparrows, all busily engaged procuring their last mouthful, before the setting sun withdrew his farewell ray and bid them to their roosts. We took the hint ourselves, and setting some men to work with the culinary department, looked about for a suitable place to deposit our limbs during the hours of darkness. There was an upper floor in the two-storied pagoda, full of large ugly josses, which offered the advantage of planking instead of tiles to lie upon, and, procuring a few bundles of hay from San-kolinsin’s store-rooms, we soon made ourselves soft couches, not very inviting, it is true, to those who have been nursed in the lap of luxury, on account of the filth and insects below and the numerous mosquitoes above; but do such things trouble a weary man? The villagers [p. 154] brought us a sheep, and fowls, and some rice, and left us to make ourselves comfortable, with a promise to return next morning. Soon after dawn, as I was preparing to go down below, with as little noise as possible, for fear of disturbing my comrades, I met an old man on the stairs, with some fish he had brought for sale. He ascended, and raising his head above the floor on which the sleepers lay, cried out: “Great kings, arise! I have brought some fish!” It was a ludicrous scene, and one that would have tickled the most seriously disposed into fits of laughter; the old man’s head appearing above the boards on the one side, with an expression of fear and veneration, and the begrimed state and sleepful attitudes of the great kings on the other.

 

This morning’s search discovered to us a magazine containing large quantities of powder, shot, sulphur, and saltpetre, built on a small island encircled by a ditch. Several of these had been blown up on the night of the 20th, we were informed; and this accounts for sundry loud explosions we witnessed in the direction of Takoo, though many of the minor flickerings of light, which continued almost every minute during that portentous eve, can be attributable to no other than the electric effect of sheet lightning on the distant horizon. One of the sufferers from a magazine explosion was brought to us for [p. 155] medical aid. His skin was almost entirely burnt off him, and his face presented a confused mass of raw flesh, in which it was difficult to distinguish any of the features. Several wounded were still lying about in some of the houses, and many a rotting carcase polluted the atmosphere, unheeded by the stolid inhabitants of adjoining houses. Bad smells they were accustomed to, and as the deceased or wounded was no friend of theirs, what did it concern them? When our work was over we crossed the river to the other bank. Carcases innumerable floated up and down with every tide, bringing forcibly to one’s mind the frequent state of the Bengal Hooghly; but in the case of the Peiho there were no vultures to hasten the dissolution of the corrupting masses. We had noted in all between 500 and 600 guns, 50 or so of which were of brass, and many of a very large calibre.

 

The country between Tangkoo and Pehtang, consisting as it did of flat mud and alluvial ooze, occasionally subjected to inundations, and intersected with salt pools and ditches, afforded peculiar attractions to the large flights of wild fowl, which were at this time bent on their southerly migrations from the plains of Manchuria and other inhospitable regions of north-east Asia. Between these two villages, moreover, the sea formed a shallow estuary, [p. 156] bringing with its advancing and receding wave abundance of food for beach-loving birds, who found here a quiet retreat from the rude gales that raged along the more exposed face of the shore. Farther inland, the low reeds and tangle that covered the harder ground, harboured innumerable hares, which would frequently start from close under the wayfarer’s feet and bound away into the distance; while the rush-girt marshes and quaking bogs, which also occurred amongst the harder ground, invited the waders and scolopaceous birds. One ramble alone was sufficient to convince you how, at this season, this flat teemed with animal life, of which the evidence was also strong in the appearance of so many hawks and harriers, which were constantly seen sailing or hovering in the sky overhead. To a sportsman, equally as well as to a naturalist, the marsh held out amusement without end. The general reader, who probably believes that no water-birds exist except what are included by him under the heads snipe, woodcocks, ducks, and geese, and who would scarcely recognize even the plovers as “they scatter o’er the heath, and sing their wild notes to the listening waste” — such a reader will not benefit by a list of the birds observed on this swamp. I will, therefore, reserve my notes on this subject for a separate publication to edify the more studious lover of nature. [p. 157]

 

The 3rd Buffs were left to garrison the Takoo forts, and the rest of the army received orders to advance on the march to Tien-tsin, the First Division to start on the 29th, and the Second Division two days after. On the 28th I crossed over to the Takoo village again with another officer on Sir R. Napier’s Staff, for the purpose of surveying the roads in that neighbourhood, and for procuring carts for the General’s baggage. We examined a walled Tartar outpost between the village and the main Tien-tsin road. It contained no guns or warlike gear of any description, but abounded in dirt, filth, and insects. A few ragged villagers were now carrying away the dirty mats and logs of wood that remained. Along the highway we then continued to a mud-built roadside house, about two and a half miles from Takoo, which supplied teacakes and tobacco to passengers. On the roof of this hut my companion mounted, while I conversed with the people, and took note of what was passing on the road. Files of natives were winding their way to the south forts, each man with a pole across his shoulders, from either end of which was suspended a basket containing fruit and vegetables, or fowls and ducks, for the market already established at the gate of the fort. Rich water-melons, with green coatings and juicy yellow or pink pulp; pumpkins of various form, cabbages, onions, and garlic; [p. 158] apples with such rosy cheeks, but alas! boasting no taste; pears, peaches, and gigantic apricots, and such delicious grapes, the large luscious purple, the long cylindrical muscatelle, and the small sweet Saxony. All these lay temptingly disposed in the baskets as I watched the market-men jogging past in their half-trot pace. Men with empty baskets, and strings of copper cash thrown over their shoulders, were on their way back, chatting and chaffing one another at the good bargains they had made. The people evidently had confidence established amongst them again; and cartloads of ugly damsels were hurrying back to the village which they had but lately left in such dire alarm, satisfied with the change of affairs, and apparently preferring the dollar-abounding barbarian to the thieving, niggardly Tartar. I entered into conversation with a pursy old gentleman with a fat, good-natured face. “Ah!” said this worthy, “your honoured country has given those Tartars a good thrashing,” “Why,” replied I, “you appear as if you were pleased at the event,” “Pleaded I surely I am pleased,” said he; “was not the whole of this country groaning with the burden these Tartar rogues imposed on us? What need was there of squeezing the people to build forts for the purpose of driving you away? We felt sure that your object in coming here was for the purpose of trade, and [p. 159] surely that was a boon for both countries! But these Tartars, who acquired this country themselves by treachery, are naturally jealous of the advance of every other nation, because they are suspicious, and think that the main object of all other people is to wrest away from them by treachery what they won by the same base means.”

 

“You do not, then, identify yourself with the Tartars?” “I should say not; they are a wretched, filthy horde from the wilds of Mongolia, who love to oppress the people, and steal from them all they possess. We were truly alarmed to see the change affairs took last year, when your ships retired defeated, and we naturally feared that you would return and wreak your vengeance on the unfortunate villagers, who were forced against their will to subscribe to the erection of the batteries that occasioned your treacherous repulse, when we knew you were coming on a mission of peace.”

 

“But on the capture of the forts, you were agreeably disappointed at the treatment you met with at our hands?” ” We were indeed; and more astonished still at your magnanimity in releasing the prisoners you had taken at the forts, and in attending to the enemy’s wounded that fell into your hands. If reports are true, you treated the Tartar wounded better than they did themselves.” “Such is always [p. 160] the custom among Western nations.” “It is not so here. It is the custom with the Tartars to torture and kill all that fall into their hands. Most of us that remained at Takoo watched from our housetops the progress of the fight, and we were stricken with wonder to see the way that your troops advanced under fire.” There was no dropping to the rear, and halting at a distance, as with us. Your people always seemed to advance in spite of the ravages that the shot made in your lines, until the work was done. Surely such gallant troops must eventually conquer the world.” I tried to explain to him that this daring conduct was a good deal owing to discipline; hut he continued: “The Tartars were a good deal ashamed of this defeat, and said that it was chiefly owing to the accidental explosion of their magazines, which took place inside the forts, and destroyed so many of the garrison; that one of their big guns had killed 200 of your men, but that your numbers were so overwhelming that there was no standing against them.”

 

I told him that the whole of our casualties were scarce higher than that figure; and that we had comparatively few men killed, whereas the bodies of no less than 2,000 Tartars lay about the field of operations, marking the havoc that had been committed amongst them. He replied, that of course he could not question the veracity of either party, but that he [p. 161] could at least congratulate us on the successful issue of that day’s work, and felt sure that he spoke the sentiments of all the villagers, when he thanked us for our forbearance towards them, and only hoped that now we were masters of the field we would maintain our mastery, and hold possession of the country that we had so ably acquired.

 

The descent of my companion from the housetop here put an end to the Chinaman’s garrulity; and having secured one of the country carts that passed, we rode back to the village. I have made no excuse for introducing the above dialogue, as it gives a good idea of the feeling of the people in that neighbourhood towards the conquering allies, as expressed in numerous conversations that myself and others held with them. We asked our way to a baiting stable, and there found only three carts. Those we ordered to be got ready; and my companions having to go back at once to Tangkoo, I volunteered to accompany them round over the floating bridge to Sinho. While waiting about the stable, an old gentleman, who lived a few doors off, came round and begged me to honour his humble shed with my presence. I accepted the polite invitation, and discussed Chinese politics with him over pipes and tea. He asked me if the General would have any objection to their women returning to the village? I replied, certainly not; that as long as [p. 167] the people showed themselves peacefully disposed, our authorities would take care that no harm should befall them from any acts of violence on the part of the soldiers. He was so overwhelming with civilities; that I was not a little glad when the carts were ready to start. As our readers will feel a little interested in the vehicles used in this part of the country, from the fact of their having been the mode of conveyance by which the great American Minister was carried in state to the Chinese metropolis, it will be necessary here to make a few remarks on them.

 

Imagine, then, a narrow box with an arched roof, trellised over, and curtained in front, placed without springs on stout wheels, and flooded inside with boards, without raised seat or cushions of any description. A shaft running out on each side, between which the pony or mule is harnessed, with a second pony at end tandem fashion, but attached by a long trace fastened to the axle-pole; all the harness or horse-gear made of rough leather and bits of brass and iron rings; the driver running alongside,or perched on the right on the side of a box between the shafts, with a long stick in his hand, from the top of which is hung a thin piece of twisted cord; and you have a picture of the simple rustic cart of the country. The private turn-outs, however, are lined with course cloth outside and sometimes inside, with [p. 163] a blue awning projecting from the roof. It was first a question how to get in, as there were no steps; this the driver showed me was to be effected by a sprawling-out of my arms to the danger of upsetting the whole concern, while he pushed me up from behind. I had then to sit cross-legged within, and steady myself with a hand against each side; and off we started for the bridge of boats; but the roads were not of the smoothest, and before I was prepared for it down went one wheel into a rut, and bang went my head against the side of the box, from which I had hardly recovered when down went the other wheel into another rut, and thwack went my cranium on the other side. I felt annoyed, and tried to lean back, but the posture was uncomfortable. I then tried a recumbent posture, but the boarding was so horribly hard. I thought of poor Mr. Ward and staff, and groaned for the sufferings they must have endured. Fancy 160 miles from Pehtang to Pekin in such a conveyance! At last I got out, and dangled my legs from the shaft, as the driver was doing occasionally, having to jump out when a deep rut was encountered. This position was not so bad; yet it is not unusual in this country to see a couple of women and three children crammed inside one of these boxes, with a fat paterfamilias sitting in front, and the driver on the shaft. The tortures they must endure! To think that the [p. 164] Chinese who enjoy such a savage invention should look proudly from its discomforts, and have the face to brand all other nations as “barbarians!” I felt myself worked up into a mood, and would have felt much pleasure just then in being introduced to the veteran inventor of the article. But it was absurd to think of the possibility of such an event, as, if our sinologues were asked, they would possibly refer the date of his existence to some thousands of years B.C.; and this antiquated style of equipage would afford another of the numerous proofs that the Chinese had progressed to this length of civilization during the period that other nations ranged wild in the forests, and that their inventive genius came to a standstill just when the Europeans began to develop theirs.

 

But enough: such antiquarian discussions are too abstruse for these pages. We at last arrived at the pretty orchards and hedgerows of “Seaou-leang-tze,” a small village facing the floating bridge. It was slow work passing through the crowds of French and riflemen, who had already crossed the river. Just as we reached the bridge of boats, and commenced to cross over, the naval officer in charge desired me to halt the carts, as he was going to open the bridge to allow one English and one French gunboat to pass through on their way up to Tien-tsin. The English- [p. 165] man went through all right, but the clumsy little French Canoniere, with her forepart twice as high out of the water as her stem, answered badly to hep rudder in so strong a tide, and charged to the right of the opening, breaking and crushing the planking of the bridge, and sinking one of the large boats that floated it. Then such a scene ensued — the Britishers not knowing a word of French, and the Frenchman not a word of English, all hands vociferated and objurgated in their mother tongues without much effect on the understanding of either party. I retired from the scene, and got my carts stowed in a safe corner under a guard while I crossed in a boat to the other side to visit the camp of the First Division, near Sinho. I there heard that it would be midnight before the bridge could possibly be again passable, such mishaps having occurred no less than three times before, for the tide ran so strongly in that part of the river that it required great management to steer the most easily-handled boat through the opening. General Michel very kindly asked me to dine with himself and staff, so that it was past nine when I retumed to the bridge. The accident had been made good, but the artillery of the First Division had already begun to cross, so I should have to wait until they had all passed over. The horses were all unharnessed from the gun-carriages and [p. 166] waggons, and these were then run down the wooden declivity from the bank by a swarm of Canton coolies. The impetus thus given to the curricle was easily kept up until the acclivity on the other bank was reached. As the heavy waggons charged over the bridge; the planking, which was by far too thin and narrow, rose on either side like a troubled sea, and had to be rearranged to receive the passage of the next waggon. The small portion of the bridge on the north bank which had been put together by the French showed far better execution than that entrusted to our engineers and sailors; but then it must be remembeped that the materials our men had to work on were not of the best description. As soon as the waggons were across the river they had to be hauled up the acclivity, and this was no easy work, but had to be gradually effected by means of wedges and levers, accompanied by a great deal of screaming and cheering. It took about three hours getting the artillery of the First Division across, and then some French artillerymen, who had all this time been kept on the south side blaspheming at the lubberly slowness of the English, started their lighter waggons in drag of six horses at a trot across the bridge. They managed the transit very easily, but the first waggon as nearly as possible came to grief at the acclivity on the opposite side. My turn at last came; so [p. 167] hurrying my carters to harness in, I got across all safely, and rode briskly into Tangkoo by the moonlight at about two in the morning, much to the astonishment of the different sentries posted along the road.

 

The First Division broke up their camp on the 29th, and crossing the river commenced their march to Tien-tsin; and the Second Division received orders to march two days after, leaving the 3rd Buffs to garrison the forts. The inhahitants of Tangkoo, when they heard we were about to leave, mustered in large numbers at the gates of the village. They were anxious to he apprised of the exact hour of our departure, as they feared that mobs of thieves from the surrounding villages would rush in on our leaving and plunder the houses of what little they now contained. They particularly desired, as it was against our rules to admit the householders into the village while we held it, that we would also keep out the low gang of thieves whom they were continually meeting laden with sacks of millet or salt fish stolen from the village. It certainly was true that while the sentries had orders to prevent Chinese from entering at the gate, nothing was done to keep out the ragamuffins that entered from the river front or over the crenellated wall in rear. The respectable inhabitants then begged that each householder should be allowed [p. 168] to station a man at his own house to keep out these thieves, but they were told in reply that this could not be permitted, as the men they would station in the village would probably be as great thieves as the others, and avail themselves of the opportunity of stealing from our baggage; that theirs was the fortune of war, and that they must bide the chance.

 

General Napier, however, in the goodness of his heart desired me to promise them, as a trifling indemnity for their losses, all the refuse ponies belonging to the Military Train, which had been pronounced unfit for work; but when it was found that a very large percentage was in that state, and that the Military Train and Commissariat made some demur to the promise, its fulfilment was deferred until the return of the army from Pekin. Upwards of ninety of these poor beasts, which through bad treatment and starvation had become reduced beyond all hope of recovery, had been shot; 150 more remained which would certainly be unfit for work for the next two months to come; but forage was cheap, and it was more expedient to feed up the animals and give them a chance of recovering themselves, than to throw them away on the needy villagers. Thus thought the Military Train, and to their persuasion the General yielded; but I must say I felt rather foolish when, after promising the present to the villagers, and [p. 169] assembling a lot of their magnates together to receive it, I bad to tell them instead that the General thought better of bis promise, and preferred keeping the horses until the campaign was over.

 

On the 31st August our division evacuated Tangkoo at 4 P.M., and encamped under canvas near the bridge of boats, with the intention of crossing over the first thing next morning. The clouds were gathering dark overhead, and threatening rain; each one, therefore, set to work to entrench his tent in and make it waterproof. Next morning, at gray dawn, the bugle sounded, and we were up, tents and baggage packed and secured on the tops of our carts or ponies, and the whole division soon streaming across the rickety bridge to the orchards on the opposite bank, where we were ordered to halt and pitch our tents, beyond the few houses and gardens on the river’s bank was a large grassy plain, stretching out southward to the broad road that led from Takoo to Tien-tsin, and blending on the other side of that highway with the marshy ground. On this plain the greater part of the division encamped, while a favoured few were allowed to occupy the orchards. The best of these was, of course, selected for the lot of the head-quarters, and it was no small pleasure to be recumbent on the fresh grass strewn beneath us for a couch, and watch the overhanging [p. 170] branches of fruit-trees swayed playfully to and fro by the gentle breeze, or rambling, gun in hand, along the leafy mazes of the orchards, when released from work before sundown, to study the ever-varying face of nature in so novel a locality. But one interpreter to a large division has not much time to devote to sylvan studies. On arriving at a new encamping ground, he has to parley with the natives, to try and calm their fears, and induce them to establish a market for provisions. He has then to procure guard-houses for the sentries, who are required to be posted at the different villages; and after that he has constantly to be at hand to interpret in any disputes or rows, which too frequently arise between the soldiery and natives. On breaking up an encampment, his services are again required by the commissariat, and, like the members of that body, after a long day’s march, when the rest of the army are enabled to make all snug and take a quiet rest in gentle Morpheus’ lap, the interpreter’s work only then commences, and is accompanied throughout with much bustle and torment; and yet, at the outset of the campaign, the Commander-in-Chief ruthlessly refused to acknowledge them as mounted officers, and gave orders that they were not to be supplied with horses. On arriving at the encamping ground, I was at once despatched to the village of Seaou-leang-tsze, [p. 171] about three-quarters of a mile up the river’s bank. The people were already much alarmed by the appearance of some Punjaubees armed with big sticks, whom they described to me as devils in loose white garments. This hamlet consisted of a few dirty-looking mud-built houses, being hardly worthy the name of a village. The French had evidently taken the place under their protection, as most of the better houses had bits of red paper pasted over their doorways, with inscriptions scrawled in French, such as “Defense d’entrer“; and one inscription, evidently done by some wag, ran thus — “II y a ici du beau gras; mais helas, Francais! la place est signee, ne touchez pas.” The people were dirty and filthily clad, as usual, but in great fear, and anxious to do anything whereby they might win our good graces. They readily promised to do their utmost to bring fresh vegetables to a spot where I pointed out the market should be; but their supplies were short, owing to the frequent pillage of their gardens by the French who were encamped near. When I spoke of a guard to protect them from straggling soldiers, they were wondrous pleased at our consideration, and at once got ready a house to accommodate it. In the evening I took a walk along the river bank. The bed over which the river runs is formed of clay, but the downward stream brings with it large [p. 172] quantities of mud, which is partially deposited along its rush-lined hanks. The water is too muddy to drink when first drawn, but is speedily rectified by the application of a little alum, which soon deposits the mud at the bottom, and leaves the fluid above clear and colourless. The Chinese here were well acquainted with this peculiar property of alum, and a lump of this mineral was to he found in most houses. Mr. Abbot, chaplain to the Marines, who was attached pro tern, to the Second Division, used generally to supply himself with a pocketful of alum when going the rounds of the camp, and frequently won the hearts of the simple soldiery by purifying the filthy liquid they were drinking by the use of this juggle, as they termed it, the chemical properties of which were to them quite mysterious and inexplicable. On the river’s bank was a path used by barge towers; then came a ditch and a hedge, and then orchards, and gardens, and patches of corn; divided again by hedges and ditches, and interspersed with huts. Many of the winter birds of South China were here revelling in the congenial sunshine of a Peiho summer. As I wandered along I heard the loud uniform footfall as of a regiment marching over wooden boards, and, looking to the bridge of boats, observed the red coats of the 99th. They had come all the way from Pehtang that day in order to join our [p. 173] march. The men were much fagged and required a day’s rest after their long tramp; and as the General also wished the First Division to be well ahead of US before we started, a halt was ordered for the whole of next day. But a commissariat officer and myself were despatched in the afternoon to the next encamping ground, to gather together supplies, amd make provision for the reception of the force there on the following day. The General kindly provided me with a horse from Milward’s Battery; so starting at 3 P.M., with four orderlies, we soon rattled over the ground. We rode through the village of Seaouleang-tsze, and, deviating a little from the river’s bank, got into the main road from Takoo to Tientsin. Along this we continued, the country still maintaining its marshy character, and abounding in water-birds. Snipe flushed up with a cry as we passed; herons stalked about the reeds and gazed at us with indifference; while terns and black-capped gulls hung in mid air over our heads, making game of us, as if conscious that duty kept us from making game of them.

 

The first village passed was “Hwang-chia-cheuen,” consisting of a straggling series of mud houses of no great extent. The road then carried us through a larger and more thriving village of one long street, called “Sin-ching,” or the New City, in which the [p. 174] temples and a few of the better houses were of brick and tiled. Then came a small place, by name “Yang-hwey,” a few miles farther on; and, lastly, “Kih-koo,” our destination; the whole distance being about nine miles. The First Division had, probably, left word that we should shortly make our appearance, for a large crowd of respectably dressed villagers were awaiting our arrival; and, on our asking to see the head man, led us to a large temple, where accommodation was cheerfully supplied to our steeds. In the courtyard, and to ourselves in the numerous houses adjoining. The magnates of the village soon attended on us, and we informed them that we were the precursors of the division, and had come to make arrangements for the reception of the troops on the following morning. They accompanied us to a plain, about three-quarters of a mile beyond the village, and showed us the ground previously occupied by the First Division; and having pointed out where we wished the forage and fuel to be stored, and the market to be held, we returned to the temple. “Kih-koo” is a large and substantial village, with a cleaner-looking class of inhabitants than the majority. But its streets are narrow, tortuous, and dirty; the main road crossing, by means of a wooden bridge, a ditch from the river, on which the village stands. A dinner had been prepared for us at the temple, and [p. 175] a garrulous old man appointed to attend on us. This individual, by profession a cook, was short and stout, with a funny leer in his eye, and appeared before us naked down to the waist. On our giving any orders, he would turn round and repeat it, with a very loud noise, as if transmitting it to some other menial, who was invisibly waiting to carry it into execution; but as there were no others in the room at the time but the old man and ourselves, and as he went out at once to procure what we wanted, we discovered that it was a plausible attempt on the part of this grotesque individual to make us believe that we had no end of attendants awaiting our beck and call. We want some water to wash in, we would quietly say to the old man, who would at once turn round, and roar it through the hall, “The great kings want some water to wash in”; then out he would slip quietly and return with it. As soon as we had finished regaling ourselves, we were waited on by the heads of the village. These were as fine specimens of native opulence as you could find; and though rather noisy in conversation, did full justice to the many ceremonies of Chinese courtesy. But the society of Chinese is always repulsive to the European, owing to the frequent expectorations and other offensive habits which they too often indulge in: while they taint the air with the far from [p. 176] ambrosial fumes of their sickly-smelling pipes. We learned that our visitors were wealthy merchants engaged largely in the North China junk trade; and as there were no officials appointed by the government to control their large and flourishing village, they had formed themselves into a protective committee; and they were very desirous to provide us with all the necessaries our force required at a moderate cost, in order to enable us to pass quietly through without the risk of incurring our displeasure. The greater part of the evening was spent in arranging for the morrow’s commissariat, till at last, thoroughly done up, we laid ourselves supine on the stove-couch, as a quiet hint to our friends that the night was fast waning. They politely rose, and ordered servants to supply us with pillows and coverlets, and bade us “Chin-chin.”

 

Next morning at cockcrow we were on the encamping ground, superintending the stowage of supplies. In a few hours’ time, the Quartermaster-General of the Division, accompanied by the Quartermasters of the different regiments, arrived and measured off the ground to be occupied by each regiment; and soon after the band of the advancing column broke on our ear, and the red coats burst into view from the narrow opening of the village. Then came the usual work and bustle before alluded to. [p. 177] The ground selected for the camp was low and swampy. The General, therefore, wisely selected the raised road for himself and Staff, it being sufficiently broad to admit of carts passing, and the usual traffic going on, without interfering with the row of tents that lined the road. The road was flanked on each side by a wet ditch; on the left lay the camp, and on the right a series of corn-fields, with a few small mud huts under some stunted trees. Leaving his tent during the heat of the day. Sir R. Napier had a ladder placed across the ditch, and betook himself to the refreshing shade afforded in the huts. While indulging in the midday siesta after the fatigue of the march, he was favoured by a visit from the magnates of the village; and a native from Shanghai, who owned several junks lying in the river bound to that port, also paid his respects, praying the General to give him a letter to the Admiral that these boats might be allowed to pass out of the river. The General courteously received these visits, and, exchanging compliments with them, gave the Shanghai man the letter for which he entreated. A junk was then hired to carry some sick men down to Takoo, and some more boats to carry to Tien-tsin the packs of the foot-sore soldiers, as the men were found to suffer much during their short marches from carrying such heavy loads in addition to their other accouterments. [p. 178]

 

In the afternoon, Mr. Wingfield, the Commissary, and myself were despatched, as before, to the next encamping ground. The raised road continued in a westerly direction through a dreary tract of marsh and swamp on either side, until we arrived at the village of “Heen-shuy-koo” (or Salt-water Mart), so called from its being the highest point of the river where the tidal influx of salt water reaches. This village was also touched by the river, which on leaving Kih-koo deviates a long way to the right of the road before it re-bends towards this spot. Mud houses, again, and little appearance of wealth, though the village enjoys a large junk trade. We rode through Heen-shuy-koo, and emerged into more cultivated land: the farther we advanced the larger grew the waving fields of coarse millet {sorghum) and maize, until we arrived at the pretty grove of willows, with a terrace of clean-looking houses, that marks the entrance to “Peh-tang-kow.” We rode boldly into the village and asked for the head man. A neatly-dressed juvenile represented himself as the person we sought, and conducted us to a public hall, which was a small, neat, little room, with tiled floor, and decorated with old saws and fine sayings on red fancy paper that glittered from its walls. On our asking to be conducted to the ground where the First Division had encamped, he called a [p. 179] cart, and sprawling in, with one dandy-stockinged leg hanging out, rattled away before us, leaving us to follow on our animals after him. About a mile from the village, we arrived at five small forts, now dismantled, that formed the defence of the river at “Shwang-chiang,” which village was situated a little farther on, across a wooden bridge that spanned a creek from the river, “Shwang-chiang,” or Double River, earns its name from its position on the angle of the river, which trends to the right and left, and thus gives the appearance of a double river. The villagers at Peh-tang-kow showed much more alarm at our appearance than those at Kih-koo, and, as we traversed its streets, our friend in the stockings, who rode in advance, shouted out to the “ladies,” as they loitered, with true feminine curiosity, to have a peep at the “barbarian,” to run and hide themselves. I accused him afterwards of his want of courtesy in so doing; he replied that he had no intention of being discourteous, but, on the contrary, was afraid of hurting our delicacy by a rude display of the weaker sex in the public thoroughfares through which we were passing. Rain had fallen during the night, and the ground was, consequently, wet and slippery next morning when we appeared at the camping ground. After all arrangements had been made, and still no arrival, we grew impatient, and [p. 180] rode to meet the troops. Back to Heen-shuy-koo, and yet no sign of the advancing column. Here, leaving Wingfield to return to his commissariat preparations, I rode on, and, before reaching the camp, met a couple of Sikh troopers (orderlies to the General), who had a letter for me, inquiring after the state of the road. I galloped on, and found the camp still standing, the march being deferred till my answer should be received. Much more rain had fallen in the neighbourhood of Kih-koo, and the ground on which the tents stood was all but a complete swamp. The General was anxious, therefore, to proceed, and orders were soon circulated to strike tents. The Commissariat was, as usual, in difficulties in settling with the villagers for provisions supplied, and I found my return most opportune.

 

We were soon again on the march, and arrived before evening at the forts, the total distance being about eleven miles. The large fields of tall millet so encroached upon the open plat of ground in rear of the forts, that the troops had to be distributed in the forts as well. The next march would bring us to Tien-tsin, where all arrangements had already been made for the reception of our Division; and we were not, therefore, required to go in advance. [p. 181]

 

At 4 o’clock next morning, the bugle sounded the “reveille“; tents were struck, and in an hour we were on the march. Villages were more frequent, and cultivation general; the total distance being about ten miles. My services were not required in the front, so the horse I was favoured with was no longer lent, and I had to trudge the distance on foot.

 

We passed through Hwey-tsin, Chin-tang, and then Too-chlng. At this latter village a halt was called, while the advance officers rode on to headquarters to receive orders about the encamping ground. This occasioned a most tedious delay, of two hours’ duration, in the hot sun. Every one was nearly driven crazy. At last the advance bugle sounded, and on we went through Leang-chiayuon and Ma-chia-kow, and then deviating to the left, wended our way along lanes, through unceasing fields of towering maize and millet, till the large grassy plain in front of the walls of Tien-tsin opened to view, with the distant gathering of tents of the advance army. The bands of our Division struck up as in high glee, and we soon sought refuge from the sun’s burning glare, lying prostrate in our tents, sipping at intervals the cooling iced drink which our “cupid” served to us, and at intervals puffing the fragrant smoke from our weed, as we contemplated [p. 182] the numberless swallows playing with airy evolutions over our heads, and dealing destruction among the incessant plague of flies that blackened with their numbers the inside of our tents, and kept buzzing incessantly in our faces [p. 183]