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PIRATING OF THE FIREFLY. 189
and determined, had offended his companion Chiefs, though not much superior in rank to them, and the Imperialists had already begun to hold communication with some of the other Wangs. On hearing that the steamer Firefly had been captured near Shanghai by some European Tai-ping sympathisers, Colonel Gordon resolved to hurry the operations against Soochow, so as to cut the Grand Canal communication before the Rebels could make use of the steamer of which they had obtained possession.* This was done on the 19th November, at a village called Fusaikwan, where five stockades were captured without loss on the part of the assailants. After garrisoning this last post, which completed the investment of the doomed city, Gordon proceeded to the East Gate; and being now in possession of all the exterior defences, he determined to make a vigorous attack on the north-east angle of the wall which surrounds Soochow. In order to this, however, it was
* The Firefly was sent down to Shanghai under the charge of Captain Ludlam, who had strict orders to remain there only two hours, and to return then to Wanti. As General Brown, Commander of her Majesty's forces in China, wished to go up to see Colonel Gordon, the steamer was anchored at Shanghai for a night, during which Ludlam was detained at the General's quarters by wet weather, his place on board being taken by Captain Dolly, besides whom there were on board, of Europeans, Mr Martin, the mate, Mr Perry, the engineer, and Lieutenant Easton of the Artillery. At midnight the steamer was boarded by several Foreigners, headed by a man who calls himself “Lin Lee" (? Lindley), who were conducted on board by Captain Ludlam's Cantonese servant, and who, suddenly closing the hatches over Captain Dolly and his companions, took possession of the vessel. It was taken up to the Faithful King, who is said to have given £20,000 for it; and White, one of the men engaged in the capture, was condemned to two years' imprisonment for this, as an act of piracy, by the consular court of Shanghai, while his chief accomplice made his escape to England. There was also some quarrel among the captors over their ill-gotten gains, which resulted in one of their number being shot by “Lin Lee” himself. The bodies of Dolly, Martin, Perry, and Easton were afterwards found at Wusieh in a burned and mutilated state. Their captor “Lin Lee,” after reaching England, published a book on the Tai-pings; and my reasons for not noticing that work in the body of this history are given in Appendix V,
necessary to capture the inner line of the outside defences, which was very formidable. Accordingly, a night-attack was made on the 27th November, which resulted in the defeat of Gordon's force. The position to be attacked was a stockade situated on a mound about half a mile distant from the East Gate. The mound was covered with earthen fortifications, and its slope was well staked with short bamboos; while round it were three ditches from eight to nine feet deep, with their banks also well staked with sharp bamboos and iron spikes. Beyond these ditches there was also a long line of stockades. Gordon's plan was to surprise this place by a night-attack, and white turbans were served out to his troops in order that they might distinguish each other in the dark. About one o'clock in the morning the commander himself, accompanied by Majors Howard and Williams and two companies of his force, advanced to the outer stockade, leaving the remainder of his force already fallen in and under orders to advance at a given signal. Everything seemed quiet, and the Tai-ping guard gave no signs of being aware of this movement, so the remainder of the force received orders to proceed, while the advanced - guard succeeded in climbing inside the breastwork. The Moh Wang, however, was quite on the alert and prepared for this nightattack, having either received information that it was to be made, or having guessed that such was to be the case. Scarcely were all the troops up to the front, and a portion of them engaged in crossing a stockade in order to support their commander, when the Tai-pings opened a tremendous fire of grape and musketry on the whole force. The whole line of stockades held by the Rebels seemed one line of fire, while the Quinsan artillery were throwing rockets and shell into the Rebel
A DISASTRO US NIGHT-ATTACK. I9 I
works. The leading troops pushed gallantly on to the
was ordered, and the stockades were taken by assault. Ditches had to be swam across, breastworks had to be mounted, and the Faithful King himself was engaged in the defence, having arrived that morning, with his bodyguard of 400 men, by a small bridle-path which was still open from Wusieh. During this attack, Colonel Gordon, accompanied by only a few men, found himself cut off from his force by a large party of the Tai-pings; and being unable to fall back, he deemed it the safest course to press desperately onwards. Finding the stockades on his right almost vacated in the confusion, he pushed through them, and seized the nearest stone fort. Fortunately this movement was followed up by his force, who occupied the stockades which he had passed through. In this day's fighting also the loss was very heavy, and among the officers killed in both attacks were, Lieutenant Jones of the Artillery, Captains Maule and Wiley, and Lieutenant King of the 2d Regiment, Captains Christie and Agar of the 4th, Lieutenants Carrol, Williams, and Glanceford, of the 5th, and Privates Upchurch, Foley, and Miller, of the Commander's European body-guard. A great number were also wounded, among whom was the Adjutant-General, Major Kirkham, whose energetic services could ill be spared.”
* The following General Order was issued by Colonel Gordon at this
time — “Low Mux, Soochow, November 30, 1863.
“The commanding officer congratulates the officers and men of the force on their gallant conduct of yesterday. The tenacity of the enemy, and the great strength of their position, have unfortunately caused many casualties and the loss of many valuable officers and men. The enemy, however, has now felt our strength, and, although fully prepared and animated with the presence of their most popular chiefs, have been driven out of a position which surpasses in strength any yet taken from them. The loss of the whole of the stockades on the east side of the city, up to the walls, has already had its effect, and dissension is now rife in the garrison, who, hemmed in on all sides, are already in fact negotiating defection.
“The commanding officer feels most deeply for the heavy loss, but is
NEGOTIATIONS FOR SURRENDER. I93
As little more than 5500 men were available for attacking it, Soochow might have held out for some time longer, and its wall was surrounded by a ditch of appalling width, while to the north of the East Gate there were lines of stockades as far as the eye could reach ; but, as has been mentioned, the greater number of the Chiefs in Soochow were now anxious to surrender. Colonel Gordon and General Ching had an interview with three of them on the 1st December, and on the 2d the former officer had some conversation with the Na Wang. At these and other meetings the Na Wang stated his wish that Gordon would assault the city, in which case he and his troops, wearing white turbans, would not assist in its defence, on the condition that they should be protected on the entry of the Imperialists. On this Gordon replied, that if Soochow were taken by assault, it would be impossible to restrain an undisciplined force such as he commanded from plundering everywhere and every one. He added that, if the Wangs were sincere in their wish to surrender, they had better give over a gate as a guarantee of their good faith ; and if they could not do that, their best course would be to vacate the city, or to fight it out. Meanwhile he agreed to postpone any further attack, and left General Ching, who had been formerly a Tai-ping Chief, to arrange the terms of surrender.
The Moh Wang's suspicions were aroused by these negotiations, and he sent for the other Wangs to speak with them on the subject. After partaking of dinner, and offering up prayers, they arranged themselves in their robes and crowns, and adjourned into the recep
convinced that the same will not be experienced again. The possession of the position of yesterday renders the occupation of the city by the Rebels untenable, and thus victualling the city is lost to them.”