We left the Taepings supreme at Nankin, but maintaining themselves there with some difficulty against two imperial armies raised by the loyal efforts of the inhabitants of the central provinces. This was at the beginning of 1857; and there is no doubt that if the government had avoided a conflict with the Europeans, and concentrated its efforts and power on the contest with the Taeping rebels, they would have speedily annihilated the tottering fabric of Tien Wang's authority. But the respite of four years secured by the attention of the central government being monopolized by the foreign question enabled the Taepings to consolidate their position, augment their fighting forces, and present a more formidable front to the imperial authorities. When Prince Kung learned from Lord Elgin the full extent of the success of the Taepings on the Yangtse, of which the officials at Pekin seemed to possess a very imperfect and inaccurate knowledge, the Manchu authorities realized that it was a vital question for them to reassert their authority without further delay, but on beginning to put their new resolve into practice they soon experienced that the position of the Taepings in 1861 differed materially from what it was in 1857.
The course of events during that period must be briefly summarized. In 1858 the imperialists under Tseng Kwofan and Chang Kwoliang renewed the siege of Nankin, but as the city was well supplied with provisions, and as the imperialists were well known to have no intention of delivering an assault, the Taepings did not feel any apprehension. After the investment had continued for nearly a year, Chung Wang, who had now risen to the supreme place among the rebels, insisted on quitting the city before it was completely surrounded, with the object of beating up levies and generally relieving the pressure caused by the besiegers. In this endeavor he more than once experienced the unkindness of fortune, for when he had collected 5,000 good troops he was defeated in a vigorous attempt to cut his way through a far larger imperial force. Such, however, was his reputation that the imperial commanders before Nankin sent many of their men to assist the officers operating against him, and Chung Wang, seizing the opportunity, made his way by forced marches back to Nankin, overcoming such resistance as the enfeebled besiegers were able to offer. The whole of the year 1859 was passed in practical inaction, but at its close the Taepings only retained possession of four towns, besides Nankin, on the Yangtse. It again became necessary for Chung Wang to sally forth and assume the offensive in the rear and on the line of supplies of the beleaguering imperialists. His main difficulty was in obtaining the consent of Tien Wang, who was at this time given over to religious pursuits or private excesses, and Chung Wang states that he only consented when he found that he could not stop him. In January, 1860, Chung Wang began what proved to be a very remarkable campaign. He put his men in good humor by distributing a large sum of money among them, and he succeeded in eluding the imperial commanders and in misleading them as to his intentions. While they thought he had gone off to relieve Ganking, he had really hastened to attack the important city of Hangchow, where much spoil and material for carrying on the war might be secured by the victor. He captured the city with little or no loss, on March 19, 1860, but the Tartar city held out until relieved by Chang Kwoliang, who hastened from Nankin for the purpose. Once again the imperial commanders in their anxiety to crush Chung Wang had reduced their force in front of Nankin to an excessively low condition, and the Taeping leader, placed in a desperate position, seized the only chance of safety by hastening from Hangchow to Nankin at full speed, and attacking the imperial lines. This battle was fought early in the morning of a cold snowy day--May 3, 1860-- and resulted in the loss of 5,000 imperialists, and the compulsory raising of the siege. The Taeping cause might have been resuscitated by this signal victory if Tien Wang had only shown himself able to act up to the great part he assumed, but not merely was he incapable of playing the part of either a warrior or a statesman, but his petty jealousy prevented his making use of the undoubted ability of his lieutenant Chung Wang, who after the greatest of his successes was forbidden to re-enter Nankin.
The energy and spirit of Chung Wang impelled him to fresh enterprises, and seeing the hopelessness of Tien Wang, he determined to secure a base of operations for himself, which should enable him to hold his own in the warring strife of the realm, and perhaps to achieve the triumph of the cause with which he was associated. It says much for his military energy and skill that he was able to impart new vigor to the Taeping system, and to sustain on a new field his position single-handed against the main forces of the empire. He determined to obtain possession of the important city of Soochow, on the Grand Canal, and not very far distant from Shanghai. On his way to effect this object he gained a great victory over Chang Kwoliang, who was himself killed in the battle. As the ex-Triad chief possessed great energy, his loss was a considerable one for the government, but his troops continued to oppose the advance of the Taepings, and fought and lost three battles before Chung Wang reached Soochow. That place was too large to be successfully defended by a small force, and the imperialists hastily abandoned it. At this critical moment --May, 1860--Ho Kweitsin, the viceroy of the Two Kiang, implored the aid of the English and French, who were at this moment completing their arrangements for the march on Pekin, against these rebels, and the French were so far favorable to the suggestion that they offered to render the assistance provided the English would combine with them. Mr. Bruce, however, declined the adventure, which is not surprising, considering that we were then engaged in serious hostilities with the Chinese, but the incident remains unique of a country asking another for assistance during the progress of a bitter and doubtful war. The utmost that Mr. Bruce would do was to issue a notification that Shanghai would not be allowed to again fall into the hands of an insurgent force. The viceroy who solicited the aid was at least consistent. He memorialized the Throne, praying that the demands of the Europeans should be promptly granted, and that they should then be employed against the Taepings. His memorial was ill-timed. He was summoned to Pekin and executed for his very prudent advice. With the possession of Soochow, Chung Wang obtained fresh supplies of money, material, and men, and once more it was impossible to say to what height of success the Taepings might not attain. But Chung Wang was not satisfied with Soochow alone; he wished to gain possession of Shanghai.
Unfortunately for the realization of his project, the Europeans had determined to defend Shanghai at all hazards, but Chung Wang believed either that they would not, or that their army being absent in the north they had not the power to carry out this resolve. The necessity of capturing Shanghai was rendered the greater in the eyes of Chung Wang by its being the base of hostile measures against himself, and by a measure which threatened him with a new peril. The wealthy Chinese merchants of Shanghai had formed a kind of patriotic association, and provided the funds for raising a European contingent. Two Americans, Ward and Burgevine, were taken into their pay, and in July, 1860, they, having raised a force of 100 Europeans and 200 Manila men, began operations with an attack on Sunkiang, a large walled town about twenty miles from Shanghai. This first attack was repulsed with some loss, but Ward, afraid of losing the large reward he was promised for its capture, renewed the attack, and with better success, for he gained possession of a gate, and held it until the whole imperial army had come up and stormed the town. After this success Ward was requested to attack Tsingpu, which was a far stronger place than Sunkiang, and where the Taepings had the benefit of the advice and leading of several Englishmen who had joined them. Ward attacked Tsingpu on August 2, 1860, but he was repulsed with heavy loss. He returned to Shanghai for the purpose of raising another force and two larger guns, and then renewed the attack. It is impossible to say whether the place would have held out or not, but after seven days' bombardment Chung Wang suddenly appeared to the rescue, and, surprising Ward's force, drove it away in utter confusion, and with the loss of all its guns and stores. Encouraged by this success, Chung Wang then thought the time opportune for attacking Shanghai, and he accordingly marched against it, burning and plundering the villages along the road. The imperialists had established a camp or stockade outside the western gate, and Chung Wang carried this without any difficulty, but when he reached the walls of the town he found a very different opponent in his path. The walls were lined with English and French troops, and when the Taepings attempted to enter the city they were received with a warm fire, which quickly sent them to the right-about. Chung Wang renewed the attack at different points during the next four or five days, but he was then obliged to retreat. Before doing so, however, he sent a boasting message that he had come at the invitation of the French, who were traitors, and that he would have taken the city but for the foreigners, as "there was no city which his men could not storm." At this moment the attention of Chung Wang was called off to Nankin, which the imperialists were investing for a sixth time, under Tseng Kwofan, who had been elevated to the viceroyalty of the Two Kiang. Tien Wang, in despair, sent off an urgent summons to Chung Wang to come to his assistance, and although he went with reluctance he felt that he had no course but to obey.
Having done what he could to place Nankin in an efficient state of defense, Chung Wang hastened back to Soochow to resume active operations. It is unnecessary to describe these in detail; but although Chung Wang was twice defeated by a Manchu general named Paochiaou, he succeeded, by rapidity of movement, in holding his own against his more numerous adversaries. In the meantime an important change had taken place in the situation. The peace between China and the foreign powers compelled a revision of the position at Shanghai. Admiral Hope sailed up to Nankin, interviewed the Wangs, and exacted from them a pledge that Shanghai should not be attacked for twelve months, and that the Taeping forces should not advance within a radius of thirty miles of that place. In consequence of this arrangement Ward and Burgevine were compelled to desist from recruiting Europeans; but after a brief interval they were taken into the Chinese service for the purpose of drilling Chinese soldiers, a measure from which the most important consequences were to flow, for it proved to be the origin of the Ever-Victorious Army. These preparations were not far advanced when Chung Wang, elated by his capture of Ningpo and Hangchow, resolved to disregard Tien Wang's promise, and make a second attack on Shanghai, the possession of which he saw to be indispensable if his cause was to attain any brilliant triumph. He issued a proclamation that "the hour of the Manchus had come! Shanghai is a little place, and we have nothing to fear from it. We must take Shanghai to complete our dominions." The death of Hienfung seems to have encouraged Chung Wang to take what he hoped would prove a decisive step.
On January 14, 1862, the Taepings reached the immediate vicinity of the town and foreign settlement. The surrounding country was concealed by the smoke of the burning villages, which they had ruthlessly destroyed. The foreign settlement was crowded with thousands of fugitives, imploring the aid of the Europeans to save their houses and property. Their sufferings, which would at the best have been great, were aggravated by the exceptional severity of the winter. The English garrison of two native regiments and some artillery, even when supported by the volunteers, was far too weak to attempt more than the defense of the place; but this it was fortunately able to perform. The rebels, during the first week after their reappearance, plundered and burned in all directions, threatening even to make an attack on Woosung, the port at the mouth of the river, where they were repulsed by the French. Sir John Michel arrived at Shanghai with a small re-enforcement of English troops, and Ward, having succeeded in disciplining two Chinese regiments of about one thousand strong in all, sallied forth from Sunkiang for the purpose of operating on the rear of the Taeping forces. Ward's capture of Quanfuling, with several hundred rebel boats which were frozen up in the river, should have warned the Taepings that it was nearly time for them to retire. However, they did not act as prudence would have dictated, and during the whole of February their raids continued round Shanghai. The suburbs suffered from their attacks, the foreign factories and boats were not secure, and several outrages on the persons of foreigners remained unatoned for. It was impossible to tolerate any longer their enormities. The English and French commanders came to the determination to attack the rebels, to enforce the original agreement with Tien Wang, and to clear the country round Shanghai of the presence of the Taepings for the space of thirty miles.
On February 21, therefore, a joint force composed of 336 English sailors and marines, 160 French seamen, and 600 men from Ward's contingent, accompanied by their respective commanders, with Admiral Hope in chief charge, advanced upon the village of Kachiaou, where the Taepings had strengthened their position and placed guns on the walls. After a sharp engagement the place was stormed, Ward's men leading the attack with Burgevine at their head. The drilled Chinese behaved with great steadiness, but the Taepings were not to be dismayed by a single defeat. They even resumed their attacks on the Europeans. On one occasion Admiral Hope himself was compelled to retire before their superior numbers, and to summon fresh troops to his assistance. The re-enforcements consisted of 450 Europeans and 700 of Ward's force, besides seven howitzers. With these it was determined to attack Tseedong, a place of great strength, surrounded by stone walls and ditches seven feet deep. The Taepings stood to their guns with great spirit, receiving the advancing troops with a very heavy fire. When, however, Ward's contingent, making a detour, appeared in the rear of the place, they hastily evacuated their positions; but the English sailors had carried the walls, and, caught between two fires, they offered a stubborn but futile resistance. More than 700 were killed and 300 were taken prisoners. The favorable opinion formed of "the Ever-Victorious Army" by the action at Kachiaou was confirmed by the more serious affair at Tseedong; and Mr. Bruce at Pekin brought it under the favorable notice of Prince Kung and the Chinese government. Having taken these hostile steps against the rebels, it necessarily followed that no advantage would accrue from any further hesitation with regard to allowing Europeans to enter the imperial service for the purpose of opposing them. Ward was officially recognized, and allowed to purchase weapons and to engage officers. An Englishman contracted to convey 9,000 of the troops who had stormed Ganking from the Yangtse to Shanghai. These men were Honan braves, who had seen considerable service in the interior of China, and it was proposed that they should garrison the towns of Kiangsu accordingly as they were taken from the rebels. The arrival of General Staveley from Tientsin at the end of March, with portions of two English regiments (the 31st and 67th), put a new face on affairs, and showed that the time was at hand when it would be possible to carry out the threat of clearing the country round Shanghai for the space of thirty miles.
The first place to be attacked toward the realization of this plan was the village of Wongkadza, about twelve miles west of Shanghai. Here the Taepings offered only a brief resistance, retiring to some stronger stockades four miles further west. General Staveley, considering that his men had done enough work for that day, halted them, intending to renew the attack the next morning. Unfortunately Ward was carried away by his impetuosity, and attacked this inner position with some 500 of his own men. Admiral Hope accompanied him. The Taepings met them with a tremendous fire, and after several attempts to scale the works they were repulsed with heavy loss. Admiral Hope was wounded in the leg, seven officers were wounded, and seventy men killed and wounded. The attack was repeated in force on the following day, and after some fighting the Taepings evacuated their stockades. The next place attacked was the village of Tsipoo; and, notwithstanding their strong earthworks and three wide ditches, the rebels were driven out in a few hours. It was then determined to attack Kahding, Tsingpu, Nanjao, and Cholin, at which places the Taepings were known to have mustered in considerable strength.
The first place was taken with little resistance, and its capture was followed by preparations for the attack on Tsingpu, which were hastened rather than delayed by a desperate attempt to set fire to Shanghai. The plot was fortunately discovered in time, and the culprits captured and summarily executed to the number of two hundred. Early in May a strong force was assembled at Sunkiang, and proceeded by boat, on account of the difficulties of locomotion, to Tsingpu. The fire of the guns, in which the expedition was exceptionally strong, proved most destructive, and two breaches being pronounced practicable the place was carried by assault. The rebels fought well and up to the last, when they found flight impossible. The Chinese troops slew every man found in the place with arms in his hands. A few days later Nanjao was captured, but in the attack the French commander, Admiral Protet, a gallant officer who had been to the front during the whole of these operations, was shot dead. The rebels, disheartened by these successive defeats, rallied at Cholin, where they prepared to make a final stand. The allied force attacked Cholin on May 20, and an English detachment carried it almost at the point of the bayonet. With this achievement the operations of the English troops came for the moment to an end, for a disaster to the imperial arms in their rear necessitated their turning their attention to a different quarter.
The troops summoned from Ganking had at last arrived to the number of five or six thousand men; and the Futai Sieh, who was on the point of being superseded to make room for Li Hung Chang, thought to employ them before his departure on some enterprise which should redound to his credit and restore his sinking fortunes. The operation was as hazardous as it was ambitious. The resolution he came to was to attack the city and forts of Taitsan, a place northwest of Shanghai, and not very far distant from Chung Wang's headquarters at Soochow. The imperialist force reached Taitsan on May 12, but less than two days later Chung Wang arrived in person at the head of 10,000 chosen troops to relieve the garrison. A battle ensued on the day following, when, notwithstanding their great superiority in numbers, the Taepings failed to obtain any success. In this extremity Chung Wang resorted to a stratagem. Two thousand of his men shaved their heads and pretended to desert to the imperialists. When the battle was renewed at sunrise on the following morning this band threw aside their assumed character and turned upon the imperialists. A dreadful slaughter ensued. Of the 7,000 Honan braves and the Tartars from Shanghai, 5,000 fell on the field. The consequences of this disaster were to undo most of the good accomplished by General Staveley and his force. The imperialists were for the moment dismayed, and the Taepings correspondingly encouraged. General Staveley's communications were threatened, and he had to abandon his intended plan and retrace his steps to Shanghai.
Chung Wang then laid regular siege to Sunkiang, where Ward was in person, and he very nearly succeeded in carrying the place by escalade. The attempt was fortunately discovered by an English sailor just in time, and repulsed with A loss to the rebels of 100 men. The Taepings continued to show great daring and activity before both Sunkiang and Tsingpu; and although the latter place was bravely defended, it became clear that the wisest course would be to evacuate it. A body of troops was therefore sent from Shanghai to form a junction with Ward at Sunkiang, and to effect the safe retreat of the Tsingpu garrison. The earlier proceedings were satisfactorily arranged, but the last act of all was grossly mismanaged and resulted in a catastrophe. Ward caused the place to be set on fire, when the Taepings, realizing what was being done, hastened into the town, and assailed the retiring garrison. A scene of great confusion followed; many lives were lost, and the commandant who had held it so courageously was taken prisoner. Chung Wang could therefore appeal to some facts to support his contention that he had got the better of the Europeans and the imperialists in the province of Kiangsu.
From the scene of his successes Chung Wang was once more called away by the timidity or peril of Tien Wang, who was barely able to maintain his position at Nankin, but when he hastened off to assist the chief of the Taepings he found that he was out of favor, and that the jealousy or fear of his colleagues had brought about his temporary disgrace and loss of title. Shortly after Chung Wang's departure Ward was killed in action and Burgevine succeeded to the command, but it soon became apparent that his relations with the Chinese authorities would not be smooth. General Ching was jealous of the Ever-Victorious Army and wished to have all the credit for himself. Li Hung Chang, who had been appointed Futai or Governor of Kiangsu, entertained doubts of the loyalty of this adventurer. Burgevine was a man of high temper and strong passions, who met the wiles of the Futai with peremptory demands to recognize the claims of himself and his band. Nor was this all. Burgevine had designs of his own. Although the project had not taken definite form in his mind the inclination was strong within him to play the part of military dictator with the Chinese; or failing that, to found an independent authority on some convenient spot of Celestial territory. The Futai anticipated, perhaps, more than divined his wishes. In Burgevine he saw, very shortly after their coming into contact, not merely a man whom he disliked and distrusted, but one who, if allowed to pursue his plans unchecked, would in the end form a greater danger to the imperial authority than even the Taepings. It is not possible to deny Li's shrewdness in reading the character of the man with whom he had to deal.
The Futai Li, in order to test his obedience, proposed that Burgevine and his men should be sent round by sea to Nankin to take part in the siege of that city. The ships were actually prepared for their conveyance, and the Taotai Wou, who had first fitted out a fleet against the rebels, was in readiness to accompany Burgevine, when Li and his colleague, as suspicious of Burgevine's compliance as they would have been indignant at his refusal, changed their plans and countermanded the expedition. Instead of carrying out this project, therefore, they laid a number of formal complaints before General Staveley as to Burgevine's conduct, and requested the English government to remove him from his command, and to appoint an English officer in his place. The charges against Burgevine did not at this time amount to more than a certain laxness in regard to the expenditure of the force, a disregard for the wishes and prejudices of the Chinese government, and the want of tact, or of the desire to conciliate, in his personal relations with the Futai. If Burgevine had resigned, all would have been well, but he regarded the position from the standpoint of the adventurer who believes that his own interests form a supreme law and are the highest good. As commander of the Ever-Victorious Army he was a personage to be considered even by foreign governments. He would not voluntarily surrender the position which alone preserved him from obscurity. Having come to this decision it was clear that even the partial execution of his plans must draw him into many errors of judgment which could not but imbitter the conflict. The reply of the English commander was to the effect that personally he could not interfere, but that he would refer the matter to London as well as to Mr. Bruce at Pekin. In consequence of the delay thus caused the project of removing the force to Nankin was revived, and, the steamers having been chartered, Burgevine was requested to bring down his force from Sunkiang and to embark it at Shanghai. This he expressed his willingness to do on payment of his men, who were two months in arrear, and on the settlement of all outstanding claims, Burgevine was supported by his troops. Whatever his dislike to the proposed move, theirs was immeasurably greater. They refused to move without the payment of all arrears; and on January 2 they even went so far as to openly mutiny. Two days later Burgevine went to Shanghai and had an interview with Takee. The meeting was stormy. Burgevine used personal violence toward the Shanghai merchant, whose attitude was at first overbearing, and he returned to his exasperated troops with the money, which he carried off by force. The Futai Li, on hearing of the assault on Takee, hastened to General Staveley to complain of Burgevine's gross insubordination in striking a mandarin, which by the law of China was punishable with death. Burgevine was dismissed the Chinese service, and the notice of this removal was forwarded by the English general, with a recommendation to him to give up his command without disturbance. This Burgevine did, for the advice of the English general was equivalent to a command, and on January 6, 1863, Burgevine was back at Shanghai. Captain Holland was then placed in temporary command, while the answer of the home government was awaited to General Staveley's proposition to intrust the force to the care of a young captain of engineers, named Charles Gordon. Chung Wang returned at this moment to Soochow, and in Kiangsu the cause of the Taepings again revived through his energy. In February a detachment of Holland's force attacked Fushan, but met with a check, when the news of a serious defeat at Taitsan, where the former Futai Sieh had been defeated, compelled its speedy retreat to Sunkiang. Li had some reason to believe that Taitsan would surrender on the approach of the imperialists, and he accordingly sent a large army, including 2,500 of the contingent, to attack it. The affair was badly managed. The assaulting party was stopped by a wide ditch; neither boats nor ladders arrived. The Taepings fired furiously on the exposed party, several officers were killed, and the men broke into confusion. The heavy guns stuck in the soft ground and had to be abandoned; and despite the good conduct of the contingent the Taepings achieved a decisive success (February 13). Chung Wang was able to feel that his old luck had not deserted him, and the Taepings of Kiangsu recovered all their former confidence in themselves and their leader. This disaster inflicted a rude blow on the confidence of Li and his assistants; and it was resolved that nothing should be attempted until the English officer, at last appointed, had assumed the active command.
Such was the position of affairs when on March 24, 1863, Major Gordon took over the command of the Ever-Victorious Army. At that moment it was not merely discouraged by its recent reverses, but it was discontented with its position, and when Major Gordon assumed the command at Sunkiang there was some fear of an immediate mutiny. The new commander succeeded in allaying their discontent, and believing that active employment was the best cure for insubordination resolved to relieve Chanzu without delay. The Taepings were pressing the siege hard and would probably have captured the place before many days when Major Gordon attacked them in their stockades and drove them out with no inconsiderable loss. Having thus gained the confidence of his men and the approbation of the Chinese authorities Major Gordon returned to Sunkiang, where he employed himself in energetically restoring the discipline of his force, and in preparing for his next move, which at the request of Li Hung Chang was to be the capture of Quinsan. On April 24 the force left Sunkiang to attack Quinsan, but it had not proceeded far when its course had to be altered to Taitsan, where, through an act of treachery, a force of 1,500 imperialists had been annihilated. It became necessary to retrieve this disaster without delay, more especially as all hope of taking Quinsan had for the moment to be abandoned. Major Gordon at once altered the direction of his march, and joining _en route_ General Ching, who had, on the news, broken up his camp before Quinsan, hastened as rapidly as possible to Taitsan, where he arrived on April 29. Bad weather obliged the attack to be deferred until May 1, when two stockades on the west side were carried, and their defenders compelled to flee, not into the town as they would have wished, but away from it toward Chanzu. On the following day, the attack was resumed on the north side, while the armed boats proceeded to assault the place from the creek. The firing continued from nine in the morning until five in the evening, when a breach seemed to be practicable, and two regiments were ordered to the assault. The rebels showed great courage and fortitude, swarming in the breach and pouring a heavy and well-directed fire upon the troops. The attack was momentarily checked; but while the stormers remained under such cover as they could find, the shells of two howitzers were playing over their heads and causing frightful havoc among the Taepings in the breach. But for these guns, Major Gordon did not think that the place would have been carried at all; but after some minutes of this firing at such close quarters, the rebels began to show signs of wavering. A party of troops gained the wall, a fresh regiment advanced toward the breach, and the disappearance of the snake flag showed that the Taeping leaders had given up the fight. Taitsan was thus captured, and the three previous disasters before it retrieved.
On May 4 the victorious force appeared before Quinsan, a place of considerable strength and possessing a formidable artillery directed by a European. The town was evidently too strong to be carried by an immediate attack, and Major Gordon's movements were further hampered by the conduct of his own men, who, upon their arrival at Quinsan, hurried off in detachments to Sunkiang for the purpose of disposing of their spoil. Ammunition had also fallen short, and the commander was consequently obliged to return to refit and to rally his men. At Sunkiang worse confusion followed, for the men, or rather the officers, broke out into mutiny on the occasion of Major Gordon appointing an English officer with the rank of lieutenant-colonel to the control of the commissariat, which had been completely neglected. The men who had served with Ward and Burgevine objected to this, and openly refused to obey orders. Fortunately the stores and ammunition were collected, and Major Gordon announced that he would march on the following morning, with or without the mutineers. Those who did not answer to their names at the end of the first half-march would be dismissed, and he spoke with the authority of one in complete accord with the Chinese authorities themselves. The soldiers obeyed him as a Chinese official, because he had been made a tsungping or brigadier- general, and the officers feared to disobey him as they would have liked on account of his commanding the source whence they were paid. The mutineers fell in, and a force of nearly 3,000 men, well-equipped and anxious for the fray, returned to Quinsan, where General Ching had, in the meanwhile, kept the rebels closely watched from a strong position defended by several stockades and supported by the "Hyson" steamer. Immediately after his arrival, Major Gordon moved out his force to attack the stockades which the rebels had constructed on their right wing. These were strongly built; but as soon as the defenders perceived that the assailants had gained their flank they precipitately withdrew into Quinsan itself. General Ching wished the attack to be made on the eastern gate, opposite to which he had raised his own intrenchments, and by which he had announced his intention of forcing his way; but a brief inspection showed Major Gordon that that was the strongest point of the town, and that a direct attack upon it could only succeed, if at all, by a very considerable sacrifice of men. Like a prudent commander Major Gordon determined to reconnoiter; and, after much grumbling on the part of General Ching, he decided that the most hopeful plan was to carry some stockades situated seven miles west of the town, and thence assail Quinsan on the Soochow side, which was weaker than the others. These stockades were at a village called Chumze. On May 30 the force detailed for this work proceeded to carry it out. The "Hyson" and fifty imperial gunboats conveyed the land force, which consisted of one regiment, some guns, and a large body of imperialists. The rebels at Chumze offered hardly the least resistance; whether it was that they were dismayed at the sudden appearance of the enemy, or, as was stated at the time, because they considered themselves ill-treated by their comrades in Quinsan. The "Hyson" vigorously pursued those who fled toward Soochow, and completed the effect of this success by the capture of a very strong and well-built fort covering a bridge at Ta Edin. An imperialist garrison was installed there, and the "Hyson" continued the pursuit to within a mile of Soochow itself.
The defenders of Quinsan itself were terribly alarmed at the cutting off of their communications. They saw themselves on the point of being surrounded, and they yielded to the uncontrollable impulse of panic. During the night, after having suffered severely from the "Hyson" fire, the garrison evacuated the place, which might easily have held out; and General Ching had the personal satisfaction, on learning from some deserters of the flight of the garrison, of leading his men over the eastern walls which he had wished to assault. The importance of Quinsan was realized on its capture. Major Gordon pronounced it to be the key of Soochow, and at once resolved to establish his headquarters there, partly because of its natural advantages, but also and not less on account of its enabling him to gradually destroy the evil associations which the men had contracted at Sunkiang.
The change was not acceptable, however, to the force itself; and the artillery in particular refused to obey orders, and threatened to shoot their officers. Discipline was, however, promptly reasserted by the energy of the commander, who ordered the principal ringleader to be shot, and "the Ever-Victorious Army" became gradually reconciled to its new position at Quinsan. After the capture of Quinsan there was a cessation of active operations for nearly two months. It was the height of summer and the new troops had to be drilled. The difficulty with Ching, who took all the credit for the capture of Quinsan to himself, was arranged through the mediation of Dr. Macartney, who had just left the English army to become Li's right-hand man. Two other circumstances occurred to embarrass the young commander. There were rumors of some meditated movement on the part of Burgevine, who had returned from Pekin with letters exculpating him, and who endeavored to recover the command in spite of Li Hung Chang, and there was a further manifestation of insubordination in the force, which, as Gordon said, bore more resemblance to a rabble than the magnificent army it was popularly supposed to be. The artillery had been cowed by Major Gordon's vigor, but its efficiency remained more doubtful than could be satisfactory to the general responsible for its condition, and also relying upon it as the most potent arm of his force. He resolved to remove the old commander, and to appoint an English officer, Major Tapp, in his place. On carrying his determination into effect the officers sent in "a round robin," refusing to accept a new officer. This was on July 25, and the expedition which had been decided upon against Wokong had consequently to set out the following morning without a single artillery officer. In face of the inflexible resolve of the leader, however, the officers repented, and appeared in a body at the camp begging to be taken back, and expressing their willingness to accept "Major Tapp or any one else" as their colonel.
With these troops, part of whom had only just returned to a proper sense of discipline, Gordon proceeded to attack Kahpoo, on the Grand Canal south of Soochow, where the rebels held two strongly-built stone forts. The force had beep strengthened by the addition of another steamer, the "Firefly," a sister vessel to the "Hyson." Major Gordon arrived before Kahpoo on July 27; and the garrison, evidently taken by surprise, made scarcely the least resistance. The capture of Kahpoo placed Gordon's force between Soochow and Wokong, the next object of attack. At Wokong the rebels were equally unprepared. The garrison at Kahpoo, thinking only of its own safety, had fled to Soochow, leaving their comrades at Wokong unwarned and to their fate. So heedless were the Taepings at this place of all danger from the north, that they had even neglected to occupy a strong stone fort situated about 1,000 yards north of the walls. The Taepings attempted too late to repair their error, and the loss of this fort caused them that of all their other stockades. Wokong itself was too weak to offer any effectual resistance; and the garrison on the eve of the assault ordered for July 29 sent out a request for quarter, which was granted, and the place surrendered without further fighting. Meanwhile an event of far greater importance had happened than even the capture of these towns, although they formed the necessary preliminary to the investment of Soochow. Burgevine had come to the decision to join the Taepings.
Disappointed in his hope of receiving the command, Burgevine remained on at Shanghai, employing his time in watching the varying phases of a campaign in which he longed to take part, and of which he believed that it was only his due to have the direction, but still hesitating as to what decision it behooved him to take. His contempt for all Chinese officials became hatred of the bitterest kind of the Futai, by whom he had been not merely thwarted but overreached, and predisposed him to regard with no unfavorable eye the idea of joining his fortunes to those of the rebel Taepings. To him in this frame of mind came some of the dismissed officers and men of the Ward force, appealing to his vanity by declaring that his soldiers remembered him with affection, and that he had only to hoist his flag for most of his old followers to rally round him. There was little to marvel at if he also was not free from some feeling of jealousy at the success and growing fame of Major Gordon, for whom he simulated a warm friendship. The combination of motives proved altogether irresistible as soon as he found that several hundred European adventurers were ready to accompany him into the ranks of the Taepings, and to endeavor to do for them what they had failed to perform for the imperialists. On July 15, Dr. Macartney wrote to Major Gordon stating that he had positive information that Burgevine was enlisting men for some enterprise, that he had already collected about 300 Europeans, and that he had even gone so far as to choose a special flag, a white diamond on a red ground, and containing a black star in the center of the diamond. On the 21st of the same month Burgevine wrote to Major Gordon saying that there would be many rumors about him, but that he was not to believe any of them, and that he would come and see him shortly. This letter was written as a blind, and, unfortunately, Major Gordon attached greater value to Burgevine's word than he did to the precise information of Dr. Macartney. He was too much disposed to think that, as the officer who had to a certain extent superseded Burgevine in the command, he was bound to take the most favorable view of all his actions, and to trust implicitly in his good faith. Major Gordon, trusting to his word, made himself personally responsible to the Chinese authorities for his good faith, and thus Burgevine escaped arrest. Burgevine's plans had been deeply laid. He had been long in correspondence with the Taepings, and his terms had been accepted. He proclaimed his hostility to the government by seizing one of their new steamers.
At this very moment Major Gordon came to the decision to resign, and he hastened back to Shanghai in order to place his withdrawal from the force in the hands of the Futai. He arrived there on the very day that Burgevine seized the "Kajow" steamer at Sunkiang, and on hearing the news he at once withdrew his resignation, which had been made partly from irritation at the irregular payment of his men, and also on account of the cruelty of General Ching. Not merely did he withdraw his resignation, but he hastened back to Quinsan, into which he rode on the night of the very same day that had witnessed his departure. The immediate and most pressing danger was from the possible defection of the force to its old leader, when, with the large stores of artillery and ammunition at Quinsan in their possession, not even Shanghai, with its very weak foreign garrison, could be considered safe from attack. As a measure of precaution Major Gordon sent some of his heavy guns and stores back to Taitsan, where the English commander, General Brown, consented to guard them, while he hastened off to Kahpoo, now threatened both by the Soochow force and by the foreign adventurers acting under Burgevine. He arrived at a most critical moment. The garrison was hard pressed. General Ching had gone back to Shanghai, and only the presence of the "Hyson" prevented the rebels, who were well- armed and possessed an efficient artillery, from carrying the fort by a rush. The arrival of Major Gordon with 150 men on board his third steamer, the "Cricket," restored the confidence of the defenders, but there was no doubt that Burgevine had lost a most favorable opportunity, for if he had attacked this place instead of proceeding to Soochow it must have fallen.
General Ching, who was a man of almost extraordinary energy and restlessness, resolved to signalize his return to the field by some striking act while Major Gordon was completing his preparations at Quinsan for a fresh effort. His headquarters were at the strong fort of Ta Edin, on the creek leading from Quinsan to Soochow, and having the "Hyson" with him he determined to make a dash to some point nearer the great rebel stronghold. On August 30 he had seized the position of Waiquaidong, where, in three days, he threw up stockades, admirably constructed, and which could not have been carried save by a great effort on the part of the whole of the Soochow garrison. Toward the end of September, Major Gordon, fearing lest the rebels, who had now the supposed advantage of Burgevine's presence and advice, might make some attempt to cut off General Ching's lengthy communications, moved forward to Waiquaidong to support him; but when he arrived he found that the impatient mandarin, encouraged either by the news of his approach or at the inaction of the Taepings in Soochow, had made a still further advance of two miles, so that he was only 1,000 yards distant from the rebel stockades in front of the east gate. Major Gordon had at this time been re-enforced by the Franco Chinese corps, which had been well disciplined, under the command of Captain Bonnefoy, while the necessity of leaving any strong garrison at Quinsan had been obviated by the loan of 200 Belooches from General Brown's force. The rebel position having been carefully reconnoitered, both on the east and on the south, Major Gordon determined that the first step necessary for its proper beleaguerment was to seize and fortify the village of Patachiaou, about one mile south of the city wall. The village, although strongly stockaded, was evacuated by the garrison after a feeble resistance, and an attempt to recover it a few hours later by Mow Wang in person resulted in a rude repulse chiefly on account of the effective fire of the "Hyson." Burgevine, instead of fighting the battles of the failing cause he had adopted, was traveling about the country: at one moment in the capital interviewing Tien Wang and his ministers, at another going about in disguise even in the streets of Shanghai. But during the weeks when General Ching might have been taken at a disadvantage, and when it was quite possible to recover some of the places which had been lost, he was absent from the scene of military operations. After the capture of Patachiaou most of the troops and the steamers that had taken it were sent back to Waiquaidong, but Major Gordon remained there with a select body of his men and three howitzers. The rebels had not resigned themselves to the loss of Patachiaou, and on October 1 they made a regular attempt to recover it. They brought the "Kajow" into action, and, as it had found a daring commander in a man named Jones, its assistance proved very considerable. They had also a 32-pounder gun on board a junk, and this enabled them to overcome the fire of Gordon's howitzers and also of the "Hyson," which arrived from Waiquaidong during the engagement. But notwithstanding the superiority of their artillery, the rebels hesitated to come to close quarters, and when Major Gordon and Captain Bonnefoy led a sortie against them at the end of the day they retired precipitately.
At this stage Burgevine wrote to Major Gordon two letters--the first exalting the Taepings, and the second written two days later asking for an interview, whereupon he expressed his desire to surrender on the provision of personal safety. He assigned the state of his health as the cause of this change, but there was never the least doubt that the true reason of this altered view was dissatisfaction with his treatment by the Taeping leaders and a conviction of the impossibility of success. Inside Soochow, and at Nankin, it was possible to see with clearer eyes than at Shanghai that the Taeping cause was one that could not be resuscitated. But although Burgevine soon and very clearly saw the hopelessness of the Taeping movement, he had by no means made up his mind to go over to the imperialists. With a considerable number of European followers at his beck and call, and with a profound and ineradicable contempt for the whole Chinese official world, he was both to lose or surrender the position which gave him a certain importance. He vacillated between a number of suggestions, and the last he came to was the most remarkable, at the same time that it revealed more clearly than any other the vain and meretricious character of the man. In his second interview with Major Gordon he proposed that that officer should join him, and combining the whole force of the Europeans and the disciplined Chinese, seize Soochow, and establish an independent authority of their own. It was the old filibustering idea, revived under the most unfavorable circumstances, of fighting for their own hand, dragging the European name in the dirt, and founding an independent authority of some vague, undefinable and transitory character. Major Gordon listened to the unfolding of this scheme of miserable treachery, and only his strong sense of the utter impossibility, and indeed the ridiculousness of the project, prevented his contempt and indignation finding forcible expression. Burgevine, the traitor to the imperial cause, the man whose health would not allow him to do his duty to his new masters in Soochow, thus revealed his plan for defying all parties, and for deciding the fate of the Dragon Throne. The only reply he received was the cold one that it would be better and wiser to confine his attention to the question of whether he intended to yield or not, instead of discussing idle schemes of "vaulting ambition."
Meantime, Chung Wang had come down from Nankin to superintend the defense of Soochow; and in face of a more capable opponent he still did not despair of success, or at the least of making a good fight of it. He formed the plan of assuming the offensive against Chanzu while General Ching was employed in erecting his stockades step by step nearer to the eastern wall of Soochow. In order to prevent the realization of this project Major Gordon made several demonstrations on the western side of Soochow, which had the effect of inducing Chung Wang to defer his departure. At this conjuncture serious news arrived from the south. A large rebel force, assembled from Chekiang and the silk districts south of the Taho Lake, had moved up the Grand Canal and held the garrison of Wokong in close leaguer. On October 10 the imperialists stationed there made a sortie, but were driven back with the loss of several hundred men killed and wounded. Their provisions were almost exhausted, and it was evident that unless relieved they could not hold out many days longer. On October 12 Major Gordon therefore hastened to their succor. The rebels held a position south of Wokong, and, as they felt sure of a safe retreat, they fought with great determination. The battle lasted three hours; the guns had to be brought up to within fifty yards of the stockade, and the whole affair is described as one of the hardest fought actions of the war. On the return of the contingent to Patachiaou, about thirty Europeans deserted the rebels, but Burgevine and one or two others were not with them. Chung Wang had seized the opportunity of Gordon's departure for the relief of Wokong to carry out his scheme against Chanzu. Taking the "Kajow" with him, and a considerable number of the foreign adventurers, he reached Monding, where the imperialists were strongly intrenched at the junction of the main creek from Chanzu with the Canal. He attacked them, and a severely contested struggle ensued, in which at first the Taepings carried everything before them. But the fortune of the day soon veered round. The "Kajow" was sunk by a lucky shot, great havoc was wrought by the explosion of a powder-boat, and the imperialists remained masters of a hard fought field. The defection of the Europeans placed Burgevine in serious peril, and only Major Gordon's urgent representations and acts of courtesy to the Mow Wang saved his life. The Taeping leader, struck by the gallantry and fair dealing of the English officer, set Burgevine free, and the American consul thanked Major Gordon for his great kindness to that misguided officer. Burgevine came out of the whole complication with a reputation in every way tarnished. He had not even the most common courage which would have impelled him to stay in Soochow and take the chances of the party to which he had attached himself. Whatever his natural talents might have been, his vanity and weakness obscured them all. With the inclination to create an infinity of mischief, it must be considered fortunate that his ability was so small, for his opportunities were abundant.
The conclusion of the Burgevine incident removed a weight from Major Gordon's mind. Established on the east and south of Soochow, he determined to secure a similar position on its western side, when he would be able to intercept the communications still held by the garrison across the Taho Lake. In order to attain this object it was necessary, in the first place, to carry the stockades at Wuliungchow, a village two miles west of Patachiaou. The place was captured at the first attack and successfully held, notwithstanding a fierce attempt to recover it under the personal direction of Chung Wang, who returned for the express purpose. This success was followed by others. Another large body of rebels had come up from the south and assailed the garrison of Wokong. On October 26 one of Gordon's lieutenants, Major Kirkham, inflicted a severe defeat upon them, and vigorously pursued them for several miles. The next operation undertaken was the capture of the village of Leeku, three miles north of Soochow, as the preliminary to investing the city on the north. Here Major Gordon resorted to his usual flanking tactics, and with conspicuous success. The rebels fought well; one officer was killed at Gordon's side, and the men in the stockade were cut down with the exception of about forty, who were made prisoners. Soochow was then assailed on the northern as well as on the other sides, but Chung Wang's army still served to keep open communications by means of the Grand Canal. That army had its principal quarters at Wusieh, where it was kept in check by a large imperialist force under Santajin, Li's brother, who had advanced from Kongyin on the Yangtse. Major Gordon's main difficulty now arose from the insufficiency of his force to hold so wide an extent of country; and in order to procure a re-enforcement from Santajin, he agreed to assist that commander against his able opponent Chung Wang. With a view to accomplishing this the Taeping position at Wanti, two miles north of Leeku, was attacked and captured.
At this stage of the campaign there were 13,500 men round Soochow, and of these 8,500 were fully occupied in the defense of the stockades, leaving the very small number of 5,000 men available for active measures in the field. On the other hand, Santajin had not fewer than 20,000, and possibly as many as 30,000 men under his orders. But the Taepings still enjoyed the numerical superiority. They had 40,000 men in Soochow, 20,000 at Wusieh, and Chung Wang occupied a camp, half-way between these places, with 18,000 followers. The presence of Chung Wang was also estimated to be worth a corps of 5,000 soldiers. Had Gordon been free to act, his plan of campaign would have been simple and decisive. He would have effected a junction of his forces with Santajin, he would have overwhelmed Chung Wang's 18,000 with his combined army of double that strength, and he would have appeared at the head of his victorious troops before the bewildered garrison of Wusieh. It would probably have terminated the campaign at a stroke. Even the decisive defeat of Chung Wang alone might have entailed the collapse of the cause now tottering to its fall. But Major Gordon had to consider not merely the military quality of his allies, but also their jealousies and differences. General Ching hated Santajin on private grounds as well as on public. He desired a monopoly of the profit and honor of the campaign. His own reputation would be made by the capture of Soochow. It would be diminished and cast into the shade were another imperial commander to defeat Chung Wang and close the line of the Grand Canal. Were Gordon to detach himself from General Ching he could not feel sure what that jealous and impulsive commander would do. He would certainly not preserve the vigilant defensive before Soochow necessary to insure the safety of the army operating to the north. The commander of the Ever- Victorious Army had consequently to abandon the tempting idea of crushing Chung Wang and to have recourse to slower methods.
On November 19 Major Gordon collected the whole of his available force to attack Fusaiquan, a place on the Grand Canal six miles north of Soochow. Here the rebels had barred the Canal at three different points, while on the banks they occupied eight earthworks, which were fortunately in a very incomplete state. A desperate resistance was expected from the rebels at this advantageous spot, but they preferred their safety to their duty, and retreated to Wusieh with hardly any loss. In consequence of this reverse Chung Wang withdrew his forces from his camp in face of Santajin, and concentrated his men at Monding and Wusieh for the defense of the Grand Canal. The investment of Soochow being now as complete as the number of troops under the imperial standard would allow of, Major Gordon returned to General Ching's stockades in front of that place, with the view of resuming the attack on the eastern gate. General Ching and Captain Bonnefoy had met with a slight repulse there on October 14. The stockade in front of the east gate was known by the name of the Low Mun, and had been strengthened to the best knowledge of the Taeping engineers. Their position was exceedingly formidable, consisting of a line of breastworks defended at intervals with circular stockades. Major Gordon decided upon making a night attack and he arranged his plans from the information provided by the European and other deserters who had been inside. The Taepings were not without their spies and sympathizers also, and the intended attempt was revealed to them. The attack was made at two in the morning of November 27, but the rebels had mustered in force and received Major Gordon's men with tremendous volleys. Even then the disciplined troops would not give way, and encouraged by the example of their leader who seemed to be at the front and at every point at the same moment, fairly held their own on the edge of the enemy's position. Unfortunately the troops in support behaved badly, and got confused from the heavy fire of the Taepings, which never slackened. Some of them absolutely retired and others were landed at the wrong places. Major Gordon had to hasten to the rear to restore order, and during his absence the advanced guard were expelled from their position by a forward movement led by Mow Wang in person. The attack had failed, and there was nothing to do save to draw off the troops with as little further loss as possible. This was Major Gordon's first defeat, but it was so evidently due to the accidents inseparable from a night attempt, and to the fact that the surprise had been revealed, that it produced a less discouraging effect on officers and men than might have seemed probable. Up to this day Major Gordon had obtained thirteen distinct victories besides the advantage in many minor skirmishes.
Undismayed by this reverse Major Gordon collected all his troops and artillery from the other stockades, and resolved to attack the Low Mun position with his whole force. He also collected all his heavy guns and mortars and cannonaded the rebel stockade for some time; but on an advance being ordered the assailants were compelled to retire by the fire which the Taepings brought to bear on them from every available point. Chung Wang had hastened down from Wusieh to take part in the defense of what was rightly regarded as the key of the position at Soochow, and both he and Mow Wang superintended in person the defense of the Low Mun stockade. After a further cannonade the advance was again sounded, but this second attack would also have failed had not the officers and men boldly plunged into the moat or creek and swum across. The whole of the stockades and a stone fort were then carried, and the imperial forces firmly established at a point only 900 yards from the inner wall of Soochow. Six officers and fifty men were killed, and three officers, five Europeans, and 128 men were wounded in this successful attack. The capture of the Low Mun stockades meant practically the fall of Soochow. Chung Wang then left it to its fate, and all the other Wangs except Mow Wang were in favor of coming to terms with the imperialists. Even before this defeat Lar Wang had entered into communications with General Ching for coming over, and as he had the majority of the troops at Soochow under his orders Mow Wang was practically powerless, although resolute to defend the place to the last. Several interviews took place between the Wangs and General Ching and Li Hung Chang. Major Gordon also saw the former, and had one interview with Lar Wang in person. The English officer proposed as the most feasible plan his surrendering one of the gates. During all this period Major Gordon had impressed on both of his Chinese colleagues the imperative necessity there was, for reasons of both policy and prudence, to deal leniently and honorably by the rebel chiefs. All seemed to be going well. General Ching took an oath of brotherhood with Lar Wang, Li Hung Chang agreed with everything that fell from Gordon's lips. The only one exempted from this tacit understanding was Mow Wang, always in favor of fighting it out and defending the town; and his name was not mentioned for the simple reason that he had nothing to do with the negotiations. For Mow Wang Major Gordon had formed the esteem due to a gallant enemy, and he resolved to spare no effort to save his life. His benevolent intentions were thwarted by the events that had occurred within Soochow. Mow Wang had been murdered by the other Wangs, who feared that he might detect their plans and prevent their being carried out. The death of Mow Wang removed the only leader who was heartily opposed to the surrender of Soochow, and on the day after this chief's murder the imperialists received possession of one of the gates. The inside of the city had been the scene of the most dreadful confusion. Mow Wang's men had sought to avenge their leader's death, and on the other hand the followers of Lar Wang had shaved their heads in token of their adhesion to the imperialist cause. Some of the more prudent of the Wangs, not knowing what turn events might take amid the prevailing discord, secured their safety by a timely flight. Major Gordon kept his force well in hand, and refused to allow any of the men to enter the city, where they would certainly have exercised the privileges of a mercenary force in respect of pillage. Instead of this Major Gordon endeavored to obtain for them two months' pay from the Futai, which that official stated his inability to procure. Major Gordon thereupon resigned in disgust, and on succeeding in obtaining one month's pay for his men, he sent them back to Quinsan without a disturbance.
The departure of the Ever-Victorious Army for its headquarters was regarded by the Chinese officials with great satisfaction, and for several reasons. In the flush of the success at Soochow both that force and its commander seemed in the way of the Futai, and to diminish the extent of his triumph. Neither Li nor Ching also had the least wish for any of the ex-rebel chiefs, men of ability and accustomed to command, to be taken into the service of the government. Of men of that kind there were already enough. General Ching himself was a sufficiently formidable rival to the Futai, without any assistance and encouragement from Lar Wang and the others. Li had no wish to save them from the fate of rebels; and although he had promised, and General Ching had sworn to, their personal safety, he was bent on getting rid of them in one way or another. He feared Major Gordon, but he also thought that the time had arrived when he could dispense with him and the foreign-drilled legion in the same way as he had got rid of Sherard Osborn and his fleet. The departure of the Quinsan force left him free to follow his own inclination. The Wangs were invited to an entertainment at the Futai's boat, and Major Gordon saw them both in the city and subsequently when on their way to Li Hung Chang. The exact circumstances of their fate were never known; but nine headless bodies were discovered on the opposite side of the creek, and not far distant from the Futai's quarters. It then became evident that Lar Wang and his fellow Wangs had been brutally murdered. Major Gordon was disposed to take the office of their avenger into his own hands, but the opportunity of doing so fortunately did not present itself. He hastened back to Quinsan, where he refused to act any longer with such false and dishonorable colleagues. The matter was reported to Pekin. Both the mandarins sought to clear themselves by accusing the other; and a special decree came from Pekin conferring on the English officer a very high order and the sum of 10,000 taels. Major Gordon returned the money, and expressed his regret at being unable to accept any token of honor from the emperor in consequence of the Soochow affair.
A variety of reasons, all equally creditable to Major Gordon's judgment and single-mindedness, induced him after two months' retirement to abandon his inaction and to sink his difference with the Futai. He saw very clearly that the sluggishness of the imperial commanders would result in the prolongation of the struggle with all its attendant evils, whereas, if he took the field, he would be able to bring it to a conclusion within two months. Moreover, the Quinsan force, never very amenable to discipline, shook off all restraint when in quarters, and promised to become as dangerous to the government in whose pay it was as to the enemy against whom it was engaged to fight. Major Gordon, in view of these facts, came to the prompt decision that it was his duty, and the course most calculated to do good, for him to retake the field and strive as energetically as possible to expel the rebels from the small part of Kiangsu still remaining in their possession. On February 18, 1864, he accordingly left Quinsan at the head of his men, who showed great satisfaction at the return to active campaigning. Wusieh had been evacuated on the fall of Soochow, and Chung Wang's force retired to Changchow, while that chief himself returned to Nankin. A few weeks later General Ching had seized Pingwang, thus obtaining the command of another entrance into the Taho Lake. Santajin established his force in a camp not far distant from Changchow, and engaged the rebels in almost daily skirmishes. This was the position of affairs when Major Gordon took the field toward the end of February, and he at once resolved to carry the war into a new country by crossing the Taho Lake and attacking the town of Yesing on its western shores. By seizing this and the adjoining towns he hoped to cut the rebellion in two, and to be able to attack Changchow in the rear. The operations at Yesing occupied two days; but at last the rebel stockades were carried with tremendous loss not only to the defenders, but also to a relieving force sent from Liyang. Five thousand prisoners were also taken. Liyang itself was the next place to be attacked; but the intricacy of the country, which was intersected by creeks and canals, added to the fact that the whole region had been desolated by famine, and that the rebels had broken all the bridges, rendered this undertaking one of great difficulty and some risk. However, Major Gordon's fortitude vanquished all obstacles, and when he appeared before Liyang he found that the rebel leaders in possession of the town had come to the decision to surrender. At this place Major Gordon came into communication with the general Paochiaou, who was covering the siege operations against Nankin, which Tseng Kwofan was pressing with ever- increasing vigor. The surrender of Liyang proved the more important, as the fortifications were found to be admirably constructed, and as it contained a garrison of fifteen thousand men and a plentiful supply of provisions. From Liyang Major Gordon marched on Kintang, a town due north of Liyang, and about half-way between Changchow and Nankin. The capture of Kintang, by placing Gordon's force within striking distance of Changchow and its communications, would have compelled the rebels to suspend these operations and recall their forces. Unfortunately the attack on Kintang revealed unexpected difficulties. The garrison showed extraordinary determination; and although the wall was breached by the heavy fire, two attempts to assault were repulsed with heavy loss, the more serious inasmuch as Major Gordon was himself wounded below the knee, and compelled to retire to his boat. This was the second defeat Gordon had experienced.
In consequence of this reverse, which dashed the cup of success from Gordon's hands when he seemed on the point of bringing the campaign to a close in the most brilliant manner, the force had to retreat to Liyang, whence the commander hastened back with one thousand men to Wusieh. He reached Wusieh on the 25th of March, four days after the repulse at Kintang, and he there learned that Fushan had been taken and that Chanzu was being closely attacked. The imperialists had fared better in the south. General Ching had captured Kashingfoo, a strong place in Chekiang, and on the very same day as the repulse at Kintang, Tso Tsung Tang had recovered Hangchow. Major Gordon, although still incapacitated by his wound from taking his usual foremost place in the battle, directed all operations from his boat. He succeeded, after numerous skirmishes, in compelling the Taepings to quit their position before Chanzu; but they drew up in force at the village of Waisso, where they offered him battle. Most unfortunately, Major Gordon had to intrust the conduct of the attack to his lieutenants, Colonels Howard and Rhodes, while he superintended the advance of the gunboats up the creek. Finding the banks were too high to admit of these being usefully employed, and failing to establish communications with the infantry, he discreetly returned to his camp, where he found everything in the most dreadful confusion owing to a terrible disaster. The infantry, in fact, had been outmaneuvered and routed with tremendous loss. Seven officers and 265 men had been killed, and one officer and sixty-two men wounded. Such an overwhelming disaster would have crushed any ordinary commander, particularly when coming so soon after such a rude defeat as that at Kintang. It only roused Major Gordon to increased activity. He at once took energetic measures to retrieve this disaster. He sent his wounded to Quinsan, collected fresh troops, and, having allowed his own wound to recover by a week's rest, resumed in person the attack on Waisso. On April 10 Major Gordon pitched his camp within a mile of Waisso, and paid his men as the preliminary to the resumption of the offensive. The attack commenced on the following morning, and promised to prove of an arduous nature; but by a skillful flank movement Major Gordon carried two stockades in person, and rendered the whole place no longer tenable. The rebels evacuated their position and retreated, closely pursued by the imperialists. The villagers, who had suffered from their exactions, rose upon them, and very few rebels escaped. The pursuit was continued for a week, and the lately victorious army of Waisso was practically annihilated. The capture of Changchow was to be the next and crowning success of the campaign. For this enterprise the whole of the Ever-Victorious Army was concentrated, including the ex- rebel contingent of Liyang. On April 23 Major Gordon carried the stockades near the west gate. In their capture the Liyang men, although led only by Chinese, showed conspicuous gallantry, thus justifying Major Gordon's belief that the Chinese would fight as well under their own countrymen as when led by foreigners. Batteries were then constructed for the bombardment of the town itself. Before these were completed the imperialists assaulted, but were repulsed with loss. On the following day (April 27) the batteries opened fire, and two pontoon bridges were thrown across, when Major Gordon led his men to the assault. The first attack was repulsed, and a second one, made in conjunction with the imperialists, fared not less badly. The pontoons were lost, and the force suffered a greater loss than at any time during the war, with the exception of Waisso. The Taepings also lost heavily; and their valor could not alter the inevitable result. Changchow had consequently to be approached systematically by trenches, in the construction of which the Chinese showed themselves very skillful. The loss of the pontoons compelled the formation of a cask-bridge; and, during the extensive preparations for renewing the attack, several hundred of the garrison came over, reporting that it was only the Cantonese who wished to fight to the bitter end. On May 11, the fourth anniversary of its capture by Chung Wang, Li requested Major Gordon to act in concert with him for carrying the place by storm. The attack was made in the middle of the day, to the intense surprise of the garrison, who made only a feeble resistance, and the town was at last carried with little loss. The commandant, Hoo Wang, was made prisoner and executed. This proved to be the last action of the Ever-Victorious Army, which then returned to Quinsan, and was quietly disbanded by its commander before June 1. To sum up the closing incidents of the Taeping war. Tayan was evacuated two days after the fall of Changchow, leaving Nankin alone in their hands. Inside that city there were the greatest misery and suffering. Tien Wang had refused to take any of the steps pressed on him by Chung Wang, and when he heard the people were suffering from want, all he said was, "Let them eat the sweet dew." Tseng Kwofan drew up his lines on all sides of the city, and gradually drove the despairing rebels behind the walls. Chung Wang sent out the old women and children; and let it be recorded to the credit of Tseng Kwotsiuen that he did not drive them back, but charitably provided for their wants, and dispatched them to a place of shelter. In June Major Gordon visited Tseng's camp, and found his works covering twenty-four to thirty miles, and constructed in the most elaborate fashion. The imperialists numbered 80,000 men, but were badly armed. Although their pay was very much in arrear, they were well fed, and had great confidence in their leader, Tseng Kwofan. On June 30, Tien Wang, despairing of success, committed suicide by swallowing golden leaf. Thus died the Hungtsiuen who had erected the standard of revolt in Kwangsi thirteen years before. His son was proclaimed Tien Wang on his death becoming known, but his reign was brief. The last act of all had now arrived. On July 19 the imperialists had run a gallery under the wall of Nankin, and charged it with 40,000 pounds of powder. The explosion destroyed fifty yards of the walls, and the imperialists, attacking on all sides, poured in through the breach. Chung Wang made a desperate resistance in the interior, holding his own and the Tien Wang's palace to the last. He made a further stand with a thousand men at the southern gate, but his band was overwhelmed, and he and the young Tien Wang fled into the surrounding country. In this supreme moment of danger Chung Wang thought more of the safety of his young chief than of himself, and he gave him an exceptionally good pony to escape on, while he himself took a very inferior animal. As the consequence Tien Wang the Second escaped, while Chung Wang was captured in the hills a few days later. Chung Wang, who had certainly been the hero of the Taeping movement, was beheaded on August 7, and the young Tien Wang was eventually captured and executed also, by Shen Paochen. For this decisive victory, which extinguished the Taeping Rebellion, Tseng Kwofan, whom Gordon called "generous, fair, honest and patriotic," was made a Hou, or Marquis, and his brother Tseng Kwotsiuen an Earl.
It is impossible to exaggerate the impression made by Gordon's disinterestedness on the Chinese people, who elevated him for his courage and military prowess to the pedestal of a national god of war. The cane which he carried when leading his men to the charge became known as "Gordon's wand of victory"; and the troops whom he trained, and converted by success from a rabble into an army, formed the nucleus of China's modern army. The service he rendered his adopted country was, therefore, lasting as well as striking, and the gratitude of the Chinese has, to their credit, proved not less durable. The name of Gordon is still one to conjure with among the Chinese, and if ever China were placed in the same straits, she would be the more willing, from his example, to intrust her cause to an English officer. As to the military achievements of General Gordon in China nothing fresh can be said. They speak indeed for themselves, and they form the most solid portion of the reputation which he gained as a leader of men. In the history of the Manchu dynasty he will be known as "Chinese Gordon"; although for us his earlier sobriquet must needs give place, from his heroic and ever-regrettable death, to that of "Gordon of Khartoum."