The Project Gutenberg eBook of Narrative of the Voyages and Services of the Nemesis from 1840 to 1843

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Narrative of the Voyages and Services of the Nemesis from 1840 to 1843

Author: Sir W. H. Hall

W. D. Bernard

Release date: September 8, 2013 [eBook #43669]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Moti Ben-Ari and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)


Table of Contents (generated)


Tombs of the Kings, and sculptured Monsters


FROM 1840 TO 1843,

Colony of Hong-Kong









The design originally proposed, when the following work was undertaken, has been somewhat departed from during its progress towards completion. Not only did the interest awakened by the various subjects treated of greatly increase, as the Author proceeded in his attempt to describe the scenes in which the Nemesis bore so distinguished a part, but the introduction of much collateral matter seemed to be called for, in order to enable him fully to illustrate the current of passing events. Hence the narrative of the adventures of the Nemesis gradually expanded itself into a complete history of the origin, progress, and termination of all the recent interesting occurrences in China, including a full and accurate account of all the operations of the war, and of the complicated difficulties from which it originated, as well as of the peculiar features that marked its progress.

In addition, therefore, to her own interesting tale, the Nemesis supplied a valuable foundation upon which to build up a more enlarged history. The Author had long taken a deep interest in all that concerned our relations with China; and with a view to study personally the character of the people, and to obtain accurate information by observation on the spot, he paid a lengthened visit to that country in 1842. He there had the good fortune to fall in with the Nemesis, and through the kindness of Captain Hall, he subsequently proceeded in her to Calcutta in the beginning of 1843. He has thus been enabled to add to the history of the operations copious notices of the various places visited by the expedition; and has given a full description of the New Colony of Hong-Kong, with remarks upon its vast importance as a possession of the British empire upon the threshold of China.

Incidental observations have been introduced upon the character of the Chinese people, and the new prospects which have[iv] been opened to us, through the extraordinary changes which have taken place in our intercourse with them, in a social, moral, mercantile, and religious point of view. These will be met with according as they were suggested by particular occurrences, or prompted by localities described in the work. The Maps and Illustrations will also contribute to give interest to the Narrative.

The Author owes some apology to naval and military readers for the apparent presumption with which he has ventured to handle so many details of a professional character; nor indeed would he have undertaken the task without the able advice and correction of officers who were themselves actors in the scenes described. The valuable assistance and co-operation of Captain Hall, who was actively employed in China during the whole period of the war, and whose services in command of the Nemesis need no extraneous encomium, were indispensable to the completion of the work. The Author also gladly avails himself of this opportunity of acknowledging the kindness of Capt. Sir Thomas Herbert, R.N., K.C.B., who obligingly permitted him to have access to his plans and documents; and to numerous other naval and military officers the best thanks of Captain Hall and himself are due.

Those readers who are alive to the important progress of steam navigation cannot fail to take a deep interest in the history of the first iron steamer that ever doubled the Cape of Good Hope. In the narrative of her curious and protracted voyage will be found many notices of the places she visited, and in particular of some of the Portuguese slave settlements on the east coast of Africa, at Delagoa Bay at Mozambique, &c. The description given of the Comoro Islands will probably be quite new to most readers.

At the end of the work will be found an account of a visit to some of the harbours of the important island of Hainan, which must acquire greater importance through the progressive increase of our commercial intercourse with China; and in the Appendix have been added the new regulations concerning trade in China, and an abstract of the supplementary treaty recently concluded.

With much diffidence, but entertaining a hope that the numerous subjects touched upon in these volumes have not been hastily or crudely handled, the Author commits his Narrative to the kind indulgence of his readers.

W. D. B.

Oxford and Cambridge Club,
March, 1844.




The rapid sale of the first edition, and the unexpected favour which the work has met with, have induced the Author to put forth a second edition, in a somewhat condensed and cheaper form. While no passages have been omitted which appeared essential to the completeness of the narrative, and none curtailed which seemed calculated to keep alive the general interest in the current of events, it is hoped, that the condensation of the whole into one volume, will be considered advantageous to a numerous class of readers.

The woodcuts have been all retained, and an additional map of the east coast of China, comprising all the recent improvements, has been added. A few corrections in the detail of facts have been made, at the suggestion of officers engaged, and it is hoped that this edition will be found to possess some advantages over the first. The Author gladly takes this opportunity of thanking the naval and military officers concerned, for their indulgence, and also a considerate public for the friendly reception which has been accorded to the work.

The Author is willing to believe that he owes more to the interest of the subject itself, when simply handled, than to his own individual efforts, however conscientiously directed.




Tombs of the Kings, and sculptured MonstersFrontispiece.
The Nemesisto face p. 1
Battle of Woosung396
Portrait of the Chief Priest of the Porcelain Tower451
Plan of a Temporary Rudder14
Plan of Lee-Board16
New Method of strengthening Iron Steamers31
Plans of Repairs of Nemesis32, 33
Plan of Naval Operations before Canton, 18th of March198
Bridge of Boats at Ningpo332
Chinese Caricatures of the English367
Track Chart, England to China56
East Coast of China448
Canton River, and its branches, with Plan of Operations at Canton    end of the vol.

The Nemesis




The year 1839 will long be remembered by all those who have taken any interest in Eastern affairs. The harsh and unwarrantable measures of Commissioner Lin, the imprisonment of Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary and all other English subjects, and the wild but brief career of uncontrolled violence which marked his reign, called imperatively on our part for stronger measures than had yet been resorted to; and such measures were at once adopted by the Court of Directors of the East India Company, as well as by the government of the country, their direct object being to ensure the speedy departure of an adequate force for the protection of British subjects and British trade in China, and to demand proper reparation for the violence and insult offered to Her Majesty's representative.

It was scarcely to be expected that, under these circumstances, hostilities could be altogether avoided; and, as the principal scene of them, if they occurred, would be in rivers and along the coasts, attention was directed to the fitting out of armed vessels, which should be peculiarly adapted for that particular service. Iron, as a material for ship-building, had been already tried, and found to answer; and this was considered an extremely favourable opportunity for testing the advantages or otherwise of iron steam-vessels; and the numerous rivers along the coast of China, hitherto very imperfectly known, and almost totally unsurveyed, presented an admirable field for these experiments. If successful there, it might be readily inferred[2] that their utility in the fine rivers and along the shores of Hindostan, and other portions of the Company's territories, would be demonstrated, and by degrees a very powerful steam fleet would become an invaluable addition to the already vast resources of the Indian government.

Orders were therefore given for the immediate building of several stout iron steamers, to be constructed with peculiar reference to their employment in river navigation. They were all to be adequately armed and manned, and no reasonable expense was to be spared in fitting them out in a manner best adapted to the particular object sought to be attained by them. No iron steamer had ever yet doubled the Cape of Good Hope; their qualities, therefore, remained yet to be tested in the stormy seas about Southern Africa; and various questions respecting the errors of the compasses, the effects of lightning, &c., upon vessels of this description, remained still imperfectly solved, particularly in reference to those tropical regions, where the great phenomena of nature are exhibited in a more intense and dangerous degree. In fact, no experience had yet been gained of their capabilities for the performance of long and perilous voyages; and it was a bold conception which suggested that they should be sent round the Cape, to the eastward, in the very worst season of the year, when even the stoutest and largest wooden ships trust themselves as little as possible in that stormy region.

The equipment and destination of the Nemesis, however, was kept a profound secret, except to those who were personally concerned in it, and even they (with the exception of the authorities) had little notion of the precise service upon which she was to be employed.

The Nemesis was at length finished, and sent to sea as a private armed steamer. She was never commissioned under the articles of war, although commanded principally by officers belonging to the Royal Navy; neither was she classed among the ships of the regular navy of the East India Company. In short, the Nemesis was equipped under very peculiar circumstances, which, together with the novelty of her construction, caused her to become an object of very general interest. The "wooden walls" of England had, in fact, been so long identified with her proudest recollections, and had constituted for so many centuries her national "boast," that it seemed an almost unnational innovation to attempt to build them of iron. Indeed, it was rather looked upon as one of the dangerous experiments of modern days. Moreover, as the floating property of wood, without reference to its shape or fashion, rendered it the most natural material for the construction of ships, so did the sinking property of iron make it appear, at first sight, very ill adapted for a similar purpose. It was sometimes forgotten that even[3] wooden ships are composed of wood, iron, and copper together, and that the bulkiness of these necessary materials greatly diminishes the buoyancy of the wood.

A minute and scientific description of the structure of the Nemesis will be found in the United Service Journal for May, 1840, and it will therefore be sufficient, in this place, merely to notice one or two peculiarities, in which it differs from that of wooden ships in general. With the exception of the great paddle-beams, across the ship, and the planks of the deck and the cabin-fittings, together with one or two other parts, the names of which would be only intelligible to the scientific reader, the whole vessel was built of iron.

Credit is due to Mr. Laird, of the Birkenhead Iron Works, Liverpool, for the admirable manner in which she was constructed, and for the elegance of her form and model, which fully answered every purpose required of her.

Her burden was about 680 tons, and her engines of 120-horse power, constructed by Messrs. Forrester and Co., also of Liverpool; and with twelve days' supply of coals, together with water and provisions for four months, and stores of all sorts for two years, with duplicate machinery, &c., and all her armament complete, her mean load draught of water was only six feet. But commonly, in actual service, she drew little more than five feet. Her length over all was 184 feet, her breadth 29 feet, and her depth 11 feet. Her keel-plate was laid, and the vessel built and launched, in the short space of three months.

Strictly speaking, the Nemesis has no fixed keel, but the lower plate of iron, which connects the two sides of the ship together along its middle, is called the keel-plate. She is, therefore, almost perfectly flat-bottomed; and, in order to obviate, as much as possible, the disadvantages attendant upon this peculiar construction, there are two sliding or moveable keels, capable of being raised or lowered to the depth of five feet below the bottom of the vessel. Each of these keels is about seven feet in length, one being placed before and the other abaft the engine-room. They are each enclosed in a narrow case or tank, one foot wide, running from the bottom of the vessel up to the deck, and which, of course being open below, allows the water to rise in it, to the level of the sea on the outside of the vessel. In this, the keel, which is of wood, 4½ inches thick, works up and down by means of a small winch, and a strong chain which is attached to it. Thus it is evident, that either the foremost or the aftermost keel can be raised or lowered, independently of the other, if circumstances require it.

As it would, however, be impossible to steer with accuracy, a vessel of this construction, with a rudder merely of the ordinary description, and which, from its shallowness, would, in a heavy[4] sea, be in a great measure out of water, there is a contrivance by which a moveable or false rudder is attached to the lower part of the true or fixed rudder, and which descends to the same depth as the two false keels, and, like them, can be raised or lowered at pleasure.

The main or true rudder was composed of wood, but the lower or false rudder was made of iron, and was so constructed as to grasp the lower part of the upper or fixed one, firmly on either side, but was bolted through in such a way as to be moveable, as if it were fastened by a hinge, so that, by means of a chain run up to the taffrail from its outer edge, it could be hauled up to any height required.

The next striking peculiarity in the construction of the Nemesis was, that the entire vessel was divided into seven water-tight compartments, by means of iron bulkheads; so that, in fact, it somewhat resembled a number of iron tanks, cased over, so as to assume the external form of one connected vessel. By this means, the occurrence of any accident, such as striking on a rock, or shot-holes, &c., which might occasion a dangerous leak in one compartment, would have no effect upon any other part of the vessel.

The advantages of this arrangement were often tested, during her three years' hard service; and, indeed, within a few days after her first departure from Liverpool, as will be presently related, this contrivance sufficed to save her from the almost certain destruction which would otherwise have awaited her.

The last peculiarity which it seems necessary here to mention, was the provision of some kind of instrument for counteracting the effect of the local attraction of so large a mass of iron upon the compasses, and for correcting the errors occasioned thereby. This difficulty had been seriously felt by Colonel Chesney, on board the small iron steamers which he had under his orders, during his expedition to the Euphrates; although he was of opinion, that the placing of the compasses at a certain height above the vessel, so as to be further removed from the sphere of the local attraction of the iron, was sufficient to reduce their errors materially.

Without entering into the merits of Barlow's counteracting plates, or Professor Airy's interesting discoveries, it will be sufficient here to mention, that the Nemesis was fitted with correctors, very much according to the system of Professor Airy, but not under his own superintendence; that the experiments were conducted at Liverpool under every disadvantage, and that the result was never perfectly satisfactory. Indeed, the accident which shortly befel her, has been attributed, upon strong grounds, principally to the imperfection of her compasses. It is right, however, to mention, that other vessels, such as the Phlegethon and Pluto,[5] which have been fitted with Airy's correctors, tested according to the most approved principles, and after experiments conducted with great attention, have been totally relieved from this source of danger and anxiety, and have been navigated with perfect accuracy and confidence.

We may now come to the interesting moment of the departure of the Nemesis from Liverpool, where she was built. Everything seemed at first to prosper; the weather was favourable, and the machinery perfect in all its parts. She had cleared the narrowest part of the Irish Channel, had passed the coast of Wales, and crossed the entrance to the Bristol Channel; and the course she had been steering would have taken her well clear of the Land's End.

It was now the second day since her departure. About two o'clock in the morning, the weather being still hazy and the night dark, she struck heavily on a rock.

Of course the engines were instantly stopped, but the way she already had on her appeared sufficient to carry her over the reef; and, indeed, the actual rocks themselves could be seen outside of her, so that she had evidently passed between them and the land, and had merely struck the edge of the reef.

Finding that the vessel did not hang upon the reef, and was therefore still afloat, her head was turned to seaward, and the engines kept working slowly, while the dawn was anxiously expected. It was now discovered, that the rocks upon which she had struck were aptly enough called "The Stones," lying at the entrance to the bay of St. Ives, in Cornwall, and not very far distant from the Land's End. It was soon evident, also, that the accident had occasioned a very serious leak, in one of the foremost compartments of the vessel. It was with difficulty that the water could be kept lower in it than the level of the sea outside, with the hand-pump; and, in fact, if the vessel had not been divided into these water-tight compartments, it is difficult to imagine that the accident would not have been fatal to her.

However, she was carried, without much difficulty, round the Land's End, into Mount's Bay, where she anchored about three miles from Penzance, off St. Michael's Mount. The object here was to procure an additional pump, in the hope of being able, by that means, to empty the tank or compartment, so as to be able to stop the leak from the inside. Fortunately, one perfectly adapted for the purpose was obtained from a small coasting-vessel which was at anchor in the bay. It was an iron one, and has been preserved on board ever since, and, on many occasions, has been found of the greatest utility. Indeed, every vessel of this description should be provided with an extra pump of this kind, to be worked by hand, and at all times ready to be placed into any compartment, as an additional means of pumping it out, and[6] also as a security against fire, for the purpose of pumping water into the vessel in case of necessity.

With the assistance of this additional pump, the water in the compartment was completely emptied, and, then it was discovered that a hole had been cut completely through her bottom by the rock, but could now be easily stopped from the inside.

This being speedily effected, the vessel pursued her voyage without the least difficulty, and came to anchor on the following evening in Yarmouth Roads, inside the Isle of Wight.

It should here be mentioned, that every compartment of the vessel was provided with a small pipe and cock, by means of which, the water could be let out of one compartment into another, and so passed on, from one to the other, into the engine-room, where it could be pumped out by the machinery. But, as this appeared a rather clumsy mode of doing it, namely, by floating nearly half the ship unnecessarily, it was not resorted to. But, in vessels more recently constructed, a great improvement has been introduced in this respect. From each of the compartments, a pipe leads directly into the engine-room itself, without communicating with any other part; so that, by means of a cock, the water can at once be pumped out by the engine, or else can be confined to the compartment itself, and pumped out by hand, when it is not desirable to let it flow into the engine-room.

As little time as possible was lost in completing the necessary repairs, and in rendering her in all respects fit to undertake the long and unknown voyage she was about to perform. At length she was cleared out for the Russian port of Odessa, much to the astonishment of every one; but those who gave themselves time to reflect hardly believed it possible that such could be her real destination.

She was armed with two 32-pounder guns, mounted on pivot, or traversing carriages, for the purpose of throwing either shot or shell, one being placed forward and the other aft, as in all armed steamers.[1]

On leaving England she had on board about sixty men and officers; but, during the operations in China, she usually had about ninety men and officers.[2] Her daily consumption of fuel was about eleven tons.


She had no paddle-boats; but in other respects, she was well found in boats, while in China. She had two cutters, pinnace, gig, jolly-boat, dingy, and always a large Chinese boat. A large platform was also built between the paddle-boxes, instead of the small bridge which is usually constructed there. This platform covered the whole space between the paddle-boxes, and was found particularly convenient, when troops were on board, as it was always occupied by the officers, while the decks were crowded with the soldiers. There was also a 6-pounder brass pivot gun, mounted upon the bridge, which was very useful for trying the range. A rocket tube and a supply of rockets were always kept in readiness upon this platform, besides ammunition for the brass gun, &c. In hot weather an awning was spread over it, and it was always a most convenient place for watching and directing the operations of the steamer.

Besides the guns above-mentioned, the Nemesis carried four brass 6-pounders and one small howitzer.

Unusual interest was excited by the expected departure of this strange vessel, upon a voyage of which both the purpose and the destination were alike unknown. Even the Admiral himself was ignorant of the service which she was called upon to perform.

At length, on the 28th of March, 1840, she really had sailed. The Needle Rocks, the high cliffs at the back of the Isle of Wight, the shores of England herself, had gradually sunk below the horizon, and the excitement attending departure had at length settled down into the cold reality of a first night at sea.


On the third day, the 30th of March, at daylight, the last glimpse was taken of the land of our birth. The Lizard disappeared, and nothing was around but the wide expanse of the blue ocean. On the gallant vessel went gaily through the Bay of Biscay, at an average rate of seven to eight knots under steam, moving gracefully to the heavy swell which at all times prevails there.

On the 2nd of April, she was well in sight of Cape Finisterre, the dread of seamen, on the rock-bound coast of Portugal, and encountered a moderate gale of wind, but made head against it without difficulty.

On the 6th of April, the lovely island of Madeira came full in sight, the ninth day since she had left Portsmouth, and only the seventh from the Land's End.

At daylight, the little island of Porto Santo having been passed, the full prospect of the larger island of Madeira lay exposed.

Though sailors are seldom poets, there is something in the aspect of this lovely island which speaks poetry to the least poetical; and where nature looks so eloquent, and the fresh green of the loaded vineyard contrasts so beautifully with the wilder rocks above it, while the sun of its scarce-failing summer sheds its glow upon the varied woods around, even the iron Nemesis and her iron-hearted crew were cheered and gladdened, as she glided close along the shore.

The Nemesis was not long in coming to anchor within the bay, not very far from the town, and between it and the remarkable rock called the Loo Rock.

Time was precious, and the great object of her visit was to be accomplished as soon as possible—namely, in the stoker's language, "coaling"—an operation anything but pleasant. But they who would enjoy the steamer's "stately march upon the waters" must be content to purchase it at the price of this necessary evil.


[1] She subsequently, also, carried five long brass 6-pounders, two on each side, and one upon the bridge; and had also ten small iron swivels along the top of her bulwarks, besides boat guns and small arms.

[2] Nominal list of Officers who served on board the Nemesis during the period referred to in this work:—

William H. Hall, R.N., Commander—Promoted to Commander, 10th June, 1843;

Lieutenant William Pedder, R.N., First Officer—Made Harbour Master and Marine-magistrate at Hong-Kong, July, 1841;

Mr. Ed. L. Strangways, Mate, R.N., Second Officer—Left sick, 29th March, 1841; Lieutenant, 23rd Dec. 1842;

Mr. John Laird Galbraith, Third Officer—Made Second Officer, 29th March, 1841; and First Officer, 1st July, 1842; and paid off at Calcutta, March, 1843;

Mr. F. W. Whitehurst, Fourth Officer—Made Third Officer, 29th March, 1841; and Second Officer, 1st July, 1842; and paid off at Calcutta, March, 1843;

Mr. Peter Young, M.R.C.S., Surgeon—Left the vessel, 15th January, 1841, at Macao;

Mr. John Gaunt, Purser—Served during the whole period. N.B.—The above joined the Nemesis in England.

The following officers joined the Nemesis at different periods in China:—

Mr. John Turner, Surgeon—Joined 15th Jan. 1841, at Macao; made Assistant-Surgeon, Bombay Establishment, Oct. 1843;

Mr. A. T. Freese, Mate, R.N., First Officer—Joined 1st August, 1841, at Hong-Kong; left the vessel 30th June, 1842; Lieutenant, 23rd Dec. 1842;

Mr. Alfred Fryer, Fourth Officer—Joined 1st February, 1842, at Chusan; paid off and rejoined at Calcutta, 1843;

Mr. B. G. Dryden, Second Officer—Joined 1st July, 1842, at Woosung; ditto

Mr. Arthur Baker, Volunteer—Joined 24th August, 1842; Yangtze river; ditto

Engineers—Mr. Colin M'Lougal (killed), Mr. John Kinross, Mr. Henry L. Harley, Mr. William Lang, Mr. David Wilson, Robert Kelly.

N.B.—Mr. Crouch, Mate, R.N., served on board as gunnery-mate, from the Wellesley, by permission of Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer, at Chuenpee, at First Bar Action, and Inner Passage, &c. Promoted Lieutenant, 8th June, 1841; Commander, 25th October, 1843. Wounded at Chin-keang-foo.



On the evening of the 8th April, the steamer was again standing out of the Bay of Funchal, after being detained there only three days. It has been already stated that the vessel was not under the articles of war; this was well known to all the crew, although the majority of her officers belonged to Her Majesty's navy. Even in this early part of her career the difficulty had been seriously felt; and none but those who have been placed in similar circumstances, as commanding officers, can form any notion of the great forbearance, tact, and judgment which are daily required on their part, in the management of their men.

On the 11th, she passed quietly through the Canary Islands, between Palma and Teneriffe, the high peak of the latter, however, not being visible, owing to the hazy weather. The Nemesis was now entirely under canvass, and the steam was not got up for twelve or thirteen days after her departure from Madeira. The north-east trade-wind soon carried her smoothly along, as she passed about midway between the Cape de Verd Islands and the coast of Africa, and it was only in a calm, not far from Sierra Leone, that she had occasion to use her engines. She was found to sail remarkably well without steam, although so flat-bottomed.

Thus she proceeded quietly along the coast, until she reached the neighbourhood of Cape Formoso, towards which she was set by strong and unusual southerly winds and a lee-current. She was, however, not long in reaching Princes' Island, situated near the coast of Africa. This is a settlement belonging to the Portuguese, and the principal place of resort for our cruisers in that quarter, not very far from Fernando Po. She cast anchor in West Bay, Princes' Island, on the evening of the 14th May, forty-four days from England, principally under sail. Here she remained, undergoing a necessary refit, cutting wood for fuel, and preparing for sea, until the evening of the 23rd.

It is the practice here for every English man-of-war, of those stationed on the coast, which resort to the island, to leave a Krooman[3] in her pay, for the purpose of cutting wood for the ship, in readiness for her return. As there are generally several vessels on the coast, so are there also several Kroomen belonging to them, who join together, and go out to cut wood, lending each other mutual assistance. The wood is then brought down to the coast, and stacked in piles, one for each ship, the name of the particular ship being written on it.


As the Nemesis was furnished with a letter from the Admiralty, requiring all Her Majesty's ships to give her every assistance in their power, she was not long in taking on board the whole stock of wood already laid up for the little squadron. Captain Tucker, then commanding the Wolverine, was most active in lending his aid, and even gave up the supply of wood he already had on board. In this way about seventy tons of good hard wood were at last taken on board the Nemesis, and, as plenty of coal still remained, there could be little doubt that, with this reinforcement, she would be able to reach the Cape of Good Hope without difficulty. Water is easily procured in the immediate neighbourhood of the landing-place, of excellent quality; and thus two very important items for the recruiting of a ship are to be found in abundance in Princes' Island. Pigs, poultry, and goats are to be had in any quantity, as well as yams, Indian corn, coffee, bananas, pineapples, and limes. Above all, the anchorage at Princes' Island is good in all seasons, and of easy access, either by day or night. It is consequently a very valuable place of call for vessels going by the eastern passage to the Cape, which in some seasons is to be preferred to the western route, particularly for steamers.

On the side of the island opposite to West Bay, or the north-east, is the town and harbour of Port St. Antonio, where the governor of the island resides. It is tolerably secure, but confined, and by no means equal to West Bay for shipping. There is a respectable Portuguese merchant there, who is in the habit of supplying the ships at West Bay with various stores that they may require; and, with the view of furnishing all the information which could be procured, in case any other steamer should touch there, application was made to Mr. Carnaero, the reply to which was, that he would supply any quantity, at the rate of one Spanish dollar for every hundred logs;[4] but if they were required to be cut into smaller pieces it would cost more, as negroes would have to be hired for the purpose, at the rate of one dollar a day for every three men. Further, as regarded the time necessary, he thought it would require from thirty to forty days to provide five thousand logs. Coals were to be had at West Bay, of course imported from England, but only at the enormous rate of about £6 sterling per ton.


Princes' Island is being greatly benefited already by the demand for its wood. Land is, in consequence, being cleared and planted, and the coffee grown there is of good quality, and cheap. In fact, from its position and capabilities, it is likely to become a place of great resort, as steam communication, viâ the Cape of Good Hope, gradually becomes more extended.

It must be mentioned here, that ships sailing much along the coast are pretty sure to get their bottoms covered with large barnacles; and the Nemesis, so far from being exempt from this annoyance, being entirely of iron, was, perhaps, more troubled with them than a coppered ship would have been. The quantity, in fact, was enormous, and they adhered so firmly, that it was with some difficulty they were taken off, commonly bringing away the paint with them. Kroomen belonging to the men-of-war were employed to dive under the ship's bottom for the purpose, and a very curious and amusing scene it was. It is quite astonishing how long these men can remain at work under water, and no light work either. Great, muscular, black, curly-headed fellows, bobbing down under water, some with brooms, some with scrapers, and others with bits of iron bar; anything, in short, with which they could attack the tenacious visiters which clung so lovingly to the iron Nemesis. The Kroomen are an active, laborious, and faithful race, as all will testify who have occasion to employ them on the coast. They are received as seamen in our men-of-war upon the station; and, on her return to Calcutta, after long and arduous service, the Nemesis had still two of them remaining on board, out of three who accompanied her from the coast, the other having died in the service.

At length, on the 22nd of May, the steam was once more got up, boats hoisted in, anchor weighed, and the word "full speed" being passed below, away went the still mysterious Nemesis, as the sun had just dipped below the horizon. Her course would necessarily lead her towards the island of St Thomas's, another Portuguese settlement, lying as nearly as possible under the Line, and, therefore, scarcely a day's voyage from Princes' Island. She accordingly approached it on the following afternoon, and did not lose the opportunity of entering the Bay of Chaves, where lies the principal town, called St. Anne de Chaves.

Some parts of this small island are very pretty and picturesque, others are wild and thickly wooded. It produces large quantities of fruit and vegetables, but is principally valuable on account of the excellence of its coffee, which, however, is not cultivated in very large quantity. St Anne, the principal town, lies at the bottom of a lovely bay. The greater part of the inhabitants of St. Anne are negro slaves and Kroomen. The latter come over from the coast to the northward of the Line, and are tall, athletic men, very industrious, (in this respect different from most other[12] Africans,) intelligent, and, when well treated, faithful and honest. All the Kroomen are strongly attached to the English, and willingly serve on board our ships. They have great faith in an Englishman's word, and, to whatever part of the world they may be carried, they always feel confident of being sent back to their own country free of expense, whenever their services are no longer required. They are an independent people, and have never been connected with slave-dealers, whom, indeed, they seem to hold in great contempt. Nevertheless, they have the woolly hair and thick lips and nose of the true negro. Of all the Africans whom I have seen, they appear most to resemble the Abyssinians in their character and habits, though improved by more frequent contact with our countrymen.

The governor's house is the best in the place, and is distinguished from the more humble ones around it by the luxury of a green verandah. Across the entrance to the principal apartment, a large curtain or screen of drapery was hung, richly emblazoned with the arms of Portugal, and almost the only real token of her power.

It was naturally a matter of curiosity to visit his Excellency in state, and, accordingly, Captain Hall and his officers were ushered into the presence by a grand Master of the Ceremonies, who was also commandant of the island. This person was a huge black negro, "richly caparisoned" for the occasion, and, as he spoke a little English, he proceeded, immediately after the presentation, to expound to his Excellency the object of the visit. That object was, first, of course, to pay respect to so distinguished an officer, and next, to ascertain whether, in case a steamer should happen to touch there at any other time, a depôt for coal could be formed on the island, and whether wood could be procured for fuel, and a proper place provided for storing it until required. His Excellency condescended to be extremely polite, saying that both these matters could be accomplished, and that he should be happy to lend his assistance in any manner he could. He added that he perfectly well remembered that the Enterprise, a wooden steamer, had touched there on her way to India many years before, but that he had never till now heard of an iron one.

The interview was soon ended, and was so far perfectly satisfactory. But, as the party were on the way down to the ship again, the black master of the ceremonies, aide-de-camp, commandant, &c., made a particular request that no salute should be fired, for that they happened to be "very badly off for powder" themselves, and should find it inconvenient to be obliged to return it; probably a gentle hint that a little powder would be acceptable.

Little time could be devoted to the further examination of the[13] island, which would seem to be of very small value to its masters. There is reason, however, to believe, that to a certain degree, although unacknowledged and in secret, it is made use of as a sort of intermediate trading-place for slaves.

It was on this island that the distinguished Major Sabine conducted his scientific and interesting observations upon the swinging of the pendulum in 1822, as it lies as nearly as possible under the Line.

On the following morning, the 25th, the Nemesis crossed the Line, with the thermometer at 96°, which had been the average temperature for several days. Strong adverse winds prevailed, with a heavy swell for many days afterwards, against which she went ahead very steadily, at the rate of five to five and a half knots an hour; but, as it was desirable to save fuel as much as possible, it was at length determined to make a hitherto untried experiment—viz., to work the lee paddle-wheel only, while under sail, (the other wheel being disconnected, and allowed to revolve by the motion of the vessel,) and also to use only one boiler. She was steered about five and a half points from the wind, and in this position, with a rolling sea and steady breeze, she continued to make head at the rate of six and a half to seven knots an hour, the active or lee paddle-wheel making twelve to fifteen revolutions per minute. Thus the success of the trial was complete, particularly as it appeared to counteract the lee-way of the vessel. The helm did not seem to be materially affected by the unequal force applied to the two sides of the vessel.

Some pains have been taken to ascertain whether both engines could be worked to any good purpose with one boiler. In reply to this question, it appears that, except in the river Mersey, at Liverpool, with all circumstances particularly favourable, the Nemesis was never able to work both engines with one boiler with more than very inconsiderable effect. But it must be very evident that any vessel, having power enough to do so in case of emergency, must possess a great advantage; and there is little doubt that, with twenty or thirty horse power more, she would have been able to accomplish it in smooth water, particularly with sails set. It is therefore to be regretted that her power (only one hundred and twenty horse) was scarcely sufficient for her size and weight.

On the 2nd of June, the ship all at once seemed to be lost to the control of the helmsman, and, no other very good reason suggesting itself, the rudder was naturally examined with care. It was at once discovered that the drop or false rudder had been carried away, but by what means did not sufficiently appear, except that, on examination, there was reason to think it must have[14] been fairly worn through at the point of junction with the lower edge of the upper or true rudder—for at this part nearly the whole strain of its action operated.

No time was to be lost in attempting to repair this injury, as the vessel became almost unmanageable, the true rudder, at times, being nearly above water, in the heavy pitching of the ship. With the utmost exertion on the part of the officers and the intelligent carpenter of the ship, a temporary false rudder was constructed, and securely fixed before nightfall. It was, moreover, found to act even better than the original one, having more hold in the water, as well as a larger surface of attachment to the upper rudder. Subjoined is a plan of this contrivance, which will almost suffice to explain its ingenuity. It was made of planks of wood, instead of solid iron, and was secured by chains, in such a manner as to grasp the upper or true rudder firmly, while it could also be raised or lowered at pleasure.


A Main Rudder.
B Side view of temporary rudder, made double, (out of six spare float-boards,) so as to clasp the main rudder on each side.
C Pigs of ballast between the floats, resting on the heel-piece.
D Lower chain guys, which pass round the heel of the rudder, crossing it at the fore part, and leading up on each quarter, with a tackle attached to each side.
E Chain-head guys, passing through bolts in the main rudder, and set up over the stern.
F Strengthening pieces of iron.

The whole apparatus was found to answer remarkably well, and, during the remainder of the voyage to the Cape, (and that a[15] trying one,) it never got out of order, or required additional support. Indeed, it was remarked by every one, that the vessel was more easily steered than it had been before.

But the difficulties which the Nemesis had to encounter were not yet ended. Strong breezes from the southward still prevailed, without any prospect of a speedy change; her progress was slow, and there only remained on board thirty-two tons of coal, with a little wood; nor was there any place at hand to which she could run for fuel. It was therefore resolved to stand out to sea, trusting to her canvas only. Thus her remaining fuel would be reserved for any emergency, and would suffice to ensure her being able to get into port when within a reasonable distance. A reference to the map will shew her position at this time.

As much sail was set as she could carry, and her course was altered according to the wind. Away stood the fearless Nemesis, disdaining the land, and boldly venturing out to dare the stormy seas of those regions in the depth of winter. The heavy winds from the southward, which had so long prevailed, had baffled all the usual calculations.

On the first day of their standing away, it became more than ever apparent that, being very light, and in fact scarcely drawing five feet and a half of water, as she was really flat-bottomed, the vessel fell so much to leeward, that she made very little progress on a wind and in a heavy sea; and, in short, that her deep moveable keels were far from sufficient to counteract this tendency. It therefore became of the utmost importance to endeavour to invent some additional means of remedying this inconvenience.

Calling to mind his former experience on the coast of Holland, and remembering the great advantage which the flat-bottomed Dutch vessels derive from the use of their lee-boards, when sailing in light winds or close hauled, with a head sea, it occurred to the commander that something of a similar kind might be adopted on the present occasion. The officers concurred in this suggestion; and when all are animated with the same cordial and enterprising spirit, few things are found to be so difficult as they at first appear. It is the mutual reliance upon each other, in the moment of difficulty, which enables British seamen boldly and successfully to brave many perils which a moment's doubt or hesitation might render insurmountable.



1 Main piece, made of birch, 4 inches by 12.
2 Nine floats, 7 ft. 8 in. long, 11 in. broad, and 2½ thick.
3 Two-inch plank.
4 Iron braces, 1½ in. thick, to strengthen it.
5 Ring-bolt to get it in and out with.
6 Beam covered with iron, for lee-board to work on.
7 Iron clamp, extending two feet, ½ in. thick.
8 After-guy, for tricing up.
9 Fore ditto, to steady heel.
10 } Upper guys.
11 }
N.B. The chain guys were all set up with a rope and tackle.

The above diagram will sufficiently explain the nature of the contrivance adopted on this occasion, without the assistance of minute and tedious description. It is only necessary to remark, that in addition to the four chains which are seen in the plan, a fifth was found necessary, to keep the lee-board close to the side of the vessel. It was secured to the lower end of the lee-board at its centre, and, having then been carried across the vessel's bottom, was fastened to the opposite side by a rope and tackle.

Thus equipped, the Nemesis proceeded on her voyage, and was found to derive great assistance from this new contrivance. It was found that her lee-way was reduced fully one-half, as ascertained by careful observation.[5]

Gradually the breeze freshened on the subsequent days, until, at last, about the 18th, it amounted to a moderate gale, with[17] that high and heavy sea which all who have visited the Cape will long remember, threatening, every now and then, to break on board or poop the ship; but the steady little vessel rose to it like a swan, and never shipped one heavy or dangerous sea.

Confidence in all her qualities daily increased, and, with a strong breeze on the quarter, she was now sailing, under canvas only, at the rate of eight to nine and a half knots an hour. The lee-board was found at all times useful in making the ship stanch under sail, but as it was constructed in haste, and only with such materials as were at hand, it required to be repaired and strengthened several times.

At length, on the 29th, being still two hundred and thirty miles from the Cape, but well down to the southward, and it appearing that there was sufficient fuel left to carry her into port, the steam was for the last time got up. On the morning of the 1st July, the remarkable land of the Table Mountain, and the conical peak to the southward of it, were well in sight. The Nemesis had made a long and tiresome voyage in the most unfavourable season of the year, and the anxiety which had been shared by all on board may well be conceived. The dangers of the Cape, at that time of year, have not been exaggerated. On the 1st July, much to the astonishment of every one at Cape Town, she was descried, late in the evening, quietly steaming into Table Bay.


[3] A native African from the so-called Kroo country.

[4] About one thousand logs make up twenty-two tons and a half of fire-wood.

[5] Another remark, perhaps worthy of being attended to, suggested itself on this occasion, and it has been frequently confirmed since—namely, that no steamer constructed according to the model of the Nemesis should be sent to sea upon a long and uncertain voyage, without having a fixed keel running the whole way fore and aft, and bolted strongly through her bottom. This would be found of the greatest possible utility at sea, and it could easily be taken off, and the moveable keels put on, whenever the vessel were employed on a coast, or in river navigation.

It may further be questionable, in the event of a smaller steamer being intended to be sent out, whether it would not be both safer and less expensive to send it in pieces, and have it put together, by the mechanics and engineers belonging to it, at the place where it might be destined for use, than to send it ready equipped, to make its own way to its destination by steam and canvas, with all the necessary risk.


During the winter season, few vessels, and those only of light burden, venture into Table Bay, exposed as it is to the full fury of the north-west gales. But the Nemesis had little cause for fear; her light draught of water enabling her to anchor in a well-sheltered cove, near the stone jetty which has recently been constructed.

On the second day after her arrival, the governor of the colony paid a visit on board, and, as he appeared to take the greatest interest in all that related to her construction and equipment, the steam was got up, and the whole party were carried round the bay, apparently much to their satisfaction and enjoyment. The foremost gun was fired in every position, and with different charges of powder, to shew its power and range; and the interest awakened as to the future destination of the vessel was much increased by what they then witnessed.

Everything contributed to make the day remembered; and as the Nemesis, returning from her trip, approached the landing-place,[18] thousands came to greet her. To the astonishment of all, she ran in close to the side of the old jetty, where no vessel had ever been seen before. Nothing could exceed the wonder of the people at seeing so long and large a vessel floating alongside their old wooden pier, usually frequented only by boats. It created quite an excitement in quiet Cape Town, and the steady, sober-thinking Dutchmen could hardly bring themselves to believe that iron would float at all, and still less with such astonishing buoyancy.

Scarcely had the governor and his suite landed, when hundreds, one might almost say thousands, of curious people crowded on board. The report that an iron steamer was lying close to the town had spread so fast, and had excited so much curiosity, that even the sick made it an excuse for an airing; and such a motley crowd of people of every caste and colour as gathered round the vessel is rarely to be met with elsewhere. The negro, the Hottentot, the Caffir, and the Malay, with all the intermediate shades of colour, hastened down with idle curiosity; while the respectable Europeans and colonists, young and old, were admitted on board, and seemed delighted to gaze on something new.

As it was desirable that as much coal as possible should be taken on board before the vessel was compelled to haul off, owing to the falling of the tide, no time was lost in commencing the troublesome process. Even this did not at all deter the visiters, who continued to succeed each other in crowds, in spite of the inconvenience they suffered.

Several repairs were now to be made with all expedition. The drop, or false rudder, was first to be restored, and required to be much strengthened. This was a very essential matter; and a suggestion now occurred worth noticing, namely, that in the event of other vessels of the same description being sent to sea, they should be provided with some means of being able completely to choke the rudder temporarily, or prevent its action altogether, while at sea, in case of its being found requisite to repair the drop-rudder. The want of some means of keeping the rudder stationary while repairing it at sea was frequently felt, and something might easily be provided to effect this object. The whole delay at the Cape amounted to nine clear days.

On the 11th of July, all being completed, she once more stood out of Table Bay, with the cheers and hearty good wishes of all for her success, although they wondered what her mysterious destination could be.

It is evident that a steamer bound to Singapore, or to any place still further eastward, would have a choice of three routes; either she might make her passage from the Cape towards the Straits of Sunda, between the islands of Java and Sumatra,[19] trusting principally to her sails, the winds being generally strong in those latitudes, and thereby saving her fuel; or she might run from the Cape up to the Mauritius, to take in coal, which has been done by many steamers, and thence proceed by the Straits of Malacca; or, lastly, she might run through the Mozambique Channel, between the continent of Africa and the island of Madagascar, and, touching at Ceylon for coals, proceed likewise down the Straits of Malacca to her destination.

On the present occasion, the Nemesis had distinct orders to choose the latter route, the season of the year being considered the most favourable for it, and it being thought desirable that a visit should be paid to the island of Johanna, the most frequented of the group called the Comoro Islands, situated at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel. This island will be more particularly alluded to in its proper place. Thence she was to proceed direct to Ceylon for coals. But even this was only known to her commander; and all that either officers or men could learn about her destination, when they left the Cape, was, that they were at once to proceed through the Mozambique Channel, but with what object they knew not.

The Nemesis now approaches to one of the most eventful periods of her history. Six days had scarcely passed since her departure from the Cape, when a new and quite unforeseen danger awaited her, and threatened the most appalling consequences, without any port being at hand for refuge. It has very rarely happened that a ship has been so near destruction, and yet escaped at last. The first few days of her passage alternated between gales and calms, and the high sea which she encountered only gave her a further opportunity of proving the good qualities which she possessed as a sea-boat. Cape Francis, on the southern side of the coast of Africa, within the colony, near Algoa Bay, was in sight from the mast-head on the 14th. The barometer began to fall on the 15th, and at length, on the following day, had almost sunk to twenty-eight inches. Vivid flashes of lightning now ran along the sky to the westward; the wind, which had been strong and steady from the N.N.W., freshened to a heavy gale; every appearance threatened an increase rather than a diminution of the storm; and the sea became so high and heavy, that it threatened every moment to overwhelm the long, low Nemesis, for the sail that could be put upon her scarcely sufficed to keep her before the sea.

The float-boards had been taken off the wheels before the gale commenced, and she had continued under canvas ever since. Algoa Bay had been passed long before the weather had become so threatening; to return to it was now impossible; the gale went on increasing, the sea rose fearfully, and the ship's course was slightly altered, so as to carry her further away from[20] the land. Her danger even at this time was great, as she lay so low upon the sea, which heaved its convulsive waves high above her.

In the night, or rather about three o'clock in the morning of the 17th, a tremendous sea at length struck her upon the larboard quarter. Her whole frame quivered with the blow; and so violent was the shock, that the first impression of all on board was, that the ship had been actually riven asunder. The violence of the blow made her broach to the sea and wind; but, happily, she was got before it again as speedily as possible.

As daylight dawned, the injuries which the vessel had received were soon discovered. The starboard paddle-wheel had been seriously damaged; in fact, a considerable portion of it had been nearly carried away, and only hung by a very small attachment, by which it was then dragging through the water.

Scarcely had the necessary means been adopted to save this portion of the wheel, when another and more serious injury was found to have happened to the body of the ship itself. An immense perpendicular crack was discovered, on both sides of the vessel, just before the after paddle or sponson beam, extending almost entirely through the second iron plate from the top, and also through a small portion of the upper one. These had been broken asunder with such violence, that, at the worst point of the injury, the plate had bulged outwards in such a manner, that one portion of the broken surface projected to the extent of about two inches, leaving a most formidable opening in the ship's side. In reality, the vessel had begun to separate amidships, from one side to the other. There was every probability, too, that the crack, which at this time was nearly two feet and a half in length, would rapidly extend itself by the working of the ship, unless the weather moderated very speedily. There was every cause for alarm, and little prospect of being able, even temporarily, to repair so serious an injury in the then state of the weather.

It was evident that the broken paddle-wheel could not long hold together, and scarcely any one thought it possible to save the broken portion of it from being lost. But a little ingenuity, stimulated by the necessity of the moment, often suggests the most effectual contrivances, which are, after all, the most simple. The great object was to secure it temporarily in some way or other; so that, as soon as the rim became completely broken through, the mass might hang suspended by some other means from the ship's side. The vessel was rolling heavily, so that there was little chance of being able to pass a rope round it; but the ingenious thought quickly suggested itself, that one of the large boat-anchors would make a capital fish-hook for the purpose. With this, one of the arms was at last caught hold of, and supported, until the rim was completely torn through; and[21] then, by means of a tackle, the large broken portion of the wheel was, with some difficulty, hauled on board.

So far there had been good fortune in the midst of trouble, for, had this portion of the wheel been entirely lost, there is good reason to fear, as will presently be seen, that with only one wheel, which might also have easily become injured, the unfortunate Nemesis would very probably have been unable to outlive the still worse weather which she afterwards encountered, and would have scarcely reached a port, even in a sinking state.

And here we may make two observations. First, that the practice of taking off the float-boards under sail, which, in some steamers, is made a regular exercise for the men, at all times materially weakens the paddle-wheel, particularly in a heavy sea, and may endanger it altogether. Secondly, that an additional paddle-ring, running round the centre of the paddle-arms, and tying them together, contributes very much to the strength of the wheel; and further, that the paddle-centre should never be made of cast iron. It is the most important part of the whole wheel, and should have the utmost strength, which wrought iron alone can give it. It should here be mentioned, that even on this occasion eight only, out of the sixteen float-boards, had been removed, otherwise very probably still more serious damage would have happened. In order to provide against the recurrence of any similar accident, orders were subsequently given, to prepare several small bars of iron, which were to be screwed on in the place of every second float-board removed; so that, if eight float-boards were taken off, four small bars of iron would be put on in their places. Thus the wheel would not lose its proper support and connexion. But, from the experience which had now been gained, it was rarely afterwards thought expedient to take the float-boards off at all, and certainly only in smooth water, and with every appearance of settled weather. The portion of the paddle-wheel which had been torn away on this occasion comprised no less than two-fifths of the entire circumference of the wheel. This large mass of iron could not have weighed less than fifteen to sixteen cwt.

On the following day, the 18th, the weather moderated considerably, and the vessel proceeded, with the help of one wheel only, at the rate of about four knots an hour. In the meantime, every possible effort was used to get the broken wheel repaired; and, in the short space of three days after the accident, the broken portion was got over the vessel's side with extraordinary labour, and was ultimately secured by bolts in its original place.

On the 20th, she passed within forty miles of Port Natal, (become so famous as the place the eminent Dutch farmers, from the Cape Colony, have attempted to make independent.)[22] But there was little chance of being able to make the necessary repairs in such a place.

The dangerous condition of the vessel, after the iron plates on both sides had begun to open, could be concealed from none on board; but, as long as the weather was moderate, there appeared little doubt of her being able to reach Delagoa Bay without very great risk of foundering. On the following day, however, the 21st, the wind again began to freshen from the north-east, an unusual quarter at that time of the year. Again the mighty sea arose, and damped the reviving hopes of all, and the heavy cross swell could be looked on only with deep alarm.

Gradually, the opening in the ship's sides, which hitherto had been sufficiently limited to cause her to take in but little water, began to extend itself in an alarming manner. Indeed, it was impossible to guess where it would stop, or how any efficient means could be adopted to check it. Both sides were so bad that it was difficult to say which was worst. The vessel was evidently working amidships, as it is called; or, in other words, it had not only opened up and down, but was moving in and out from side to side. Moreover, the weather threatened to become rather worse than better; and, to add to the difficulty, the furnace of the larboard boiler was now found to be likewise injured, and, in fact, could scarcely be used at all. Thus it became more and more uncertain whether the engines could be kept working, so as to pump the water out of the hold; to say nothing of urging the vessel along.

Temporary expedients were at once to be resorted to; repairs were wanted at various parts at the same time, and every hand on board was now to be occupied day and night in contriving means to keep the vessel afloat. The heavy sea which, since the change of wind, had met the full current, and rolled heavily behind the vessel, threatened to break over her every instant. To provide as well as possible against this danger, four breadths of stout plank were secured, as strongly as possible, over the stern and along the quarters, in order to keep the sea out, or at all events to break its force. So heavy was the sea, that at this time the main rudder was sometimes completely out of water, and at the same moment the jib-boom was under it.

In the midst of this, with the hope of relieving the strain, by diminishing the top weight at the extremities, the aftermost or large stern gun was with great labour dismounted from its pivot-carriage, and safely deposited in one of the after coal-bunkers; and the bower anchors, which had already been brought inboard, were now dragged further amidships. This eased the ship a little. But gradually as the day advanced, the wind increased, and hourly the sea became more dangerous.

An attempt was, however, made on the 22nd to effect a[23] temporary repair to the ship's sides, which were straining very much. For this purpose, two or three rivets were cut out on each side of the crack in the plates, and a portion of a new iron plate was with difficulty fixed on the outside, upon the worst part, and bolted through into a piece of stout oak plank, placed across it on the inside. The openings had by this time extended downwards more than three feet and a half on both sides of the vessel.

They were, at this time, at no great distance from Cape Vidal; but a tremendous current was setting to the south-west, at the rate of more than fifty miles a day, and helped to throw up a very heavy, dangerous sea. At length the morning dawned once more, and, as the day advanced, the north-east gale had moderated; and gradually it declined, until, in the afternoon, the wind changed round towards the south-east. The repairs to the damaged wheel were by this time completed, and although the injury to the ship's sides was hourly increasing, the hopes of all on board redoubled as they saw the double power of both wheels once more at work. But Delagoa Bay, for which they struggled still so hard, was not less than two hundred miles distant. As night closed in again, the angry wind began to howl, and burst upon the fated bark in heavy gusts and squalls. And all around was dark and solemn, as the fate which seemed again to threaten misery and destruction.

The only sail she now carried was torn away in shreds, and the steam itself had little power to stand the fury of the winds and waves. At length it lulled: again she moved, and yet again the mighty storm increased, and with alternate hopes and fears the morning's dawn was looked for. She heaved and strained most fearfully, the leaks increased, the openings spread, and yet she floated. 'Twas hoped that, as the day advanced, the storm would yield; but hour after hour, as it passed, had brought no sign of change or promise of amendment. Their danger was at this time imminent; but it became so evident to all that the only chance of safety lay in using unremitting exertions, and labouring day and night with hearty good-will, that their very efforts produced confidence, which, in its turn, redoubled all their strength. Nevertheless, it seemed as if new dangers were constantly in store.

The leaks continued to increase, her sides strained and opened fearfully, and the apertures had by this time extended upwards completely to the deck, and downwards far below the water-line. As the vessel heaved and rolled from side to side, the broken edges of the iron plates sometimes opened to the extent of an inch, while their lateral motion, as the vessel worked, in the part that had bulged, was frequently not less than five inches. As the storm increased, it was found that in the short space of two[24] and a half hours, and in spite of every exertion to strengthen the part, the openings on both sides had further increased in length no less than eighteen inches.

The motion of the vessel, in such a pitching cross sea, was very quick; and every time the sides opened, the rush of wind and water through them was terrific. Luckily, the engines were still able to work, and continued to pump the water out very fast, although the openings were actually close to the engine-room itself. But the dangerous state of the vessel was appalling, not only from the fear of her separating amidships, but from the chance of the bilge-pumps becoming choked, or the fires being put out by the rush of water.

The struggle was evidently to be one for life or death. She groaned and worked tremendously, and reports were brought in quick succession from different parts of the vessel, that she was fast breaking up in pieces.

In this dilemma, it was still necessary to inspire the drooping spirits of the men with some new exertion. The captain tried to smile, and, by a cool, collected manner, sought to awaken hope which in secret he himself could scarcely feel. "You may smile, sir," said one of the sturdiest of the men, a hardy boiler-maker by trade, "but you don't know the nature of iron; how should you!" (as if in pity of his ignorance,) and then added, as if for comfort, "Ah, sir, when once it works and cracks, as our sides are doing now, it's sure to go on; nothing can stop it."

However, it was evident that talking about it would not mend the matter, and all that could be said was, "The greater our danger, the more must our exertions be increased to counteract it." And increased they were. Every officer and man set-to again in earnest, to try to keep the ship together. One party was employed to nail down thick planks and spars upon the deck, fore and aft, over the broken part of the ship; others were busy bolting the ends of them into the sponson-beams, between the paddle-boxes; while another party, engineers and firemen, were busy strengthening the ship's sides below.

To understand this latter part of the condition of affairs, it must be explained that, what in a wooden ship would be called the ribs, are, in an iron one, called the "angle-irons." They are, in fact, strong angular bars, extending up and down the ship's sides like ribs, having a flat surface, to which the plates of iron are bolted. These angle-irons, or ribs, are seventeen inches distant from each other, and at about the centre, between two of them, the crack had taken place in the plates of iron. The accident had occurred precisely in the weakest part of the vessel, amidships; and it would seem probable that, as there was a heavy cross sea in the Mozambique Channel when the misfortune happened, the head of the vessel was held firm in the[25] hollow of one sea at the moment the top of another sea struck her heavily on the quarter. It made her frame quiver; and her length and shallowness rendered her the more liable to suffer injury from a similar blow.[6]

As regards the temporary repairs, it was evident that two contrivances were necessary for holding the broken plate together in its proper position. In the first place, small blocks of wood were fixed across between the angle-irons from one to the other, in such a manner that they crossed each other like the letter X, and gave support against the working of the ship, and the tendency of the plates to overlap each other. Next, strong bolts or bars of iron were passed through the angle-irons from one to the other, and tightened by means of a nut and screw at their extremities. By these means, the angle-irons, being now strongly connected together, were made to hold the edges of the broken plates in contact between them, which, as long as the bolts held good, would be quite sufficient as a temporary repair. But all these contrivances were adopted with extreme difficulty, and during a gale of wind, when all attempts of the kind appeared desperate. Fortunately, towards morning of the next day, the 26th, the gale slightly moderated; and these repairs being now completed as well as circumstances would permit, rendered her in all respects stronger, so that she strained much less than before.

By this time the land was not far distant, and the hopes of those who had most despaired revived again. By degrees the haze began to clear; and now what new sensations crowded in the anxious mind! what thrills of joyous gratitude, as the straining eye first caught the doubtful land! The heavy sea had gradually diminished as the Nemesis approached the coast, and she at length ran into smooth water, near a bold cape. Never was the sound of the running out of a cable after an almost hopeless voyage heard with greater joy than on this occasion. She was now safe at last, and rescued from an almost desperate fate. Congratulations were mutual; and it may well be said that those who toil and share their fears and hopes together become more firmly bound in sympathy and friendship.


[6] The mode in which the permanent repairs were afterwards effected will be explained in the fifth chapter, together with the method by which the recurrence of a similar accident has been provided against in vessels more recently constructed.



The anchorage which the Nemesis had now so providentially reached was situated close to Cape Inyache, at the entrance of Delagoa Bay. This settlement, which still belongs to the Portuguese, was once famous in the annals of slavery, as one of the principal marts in which that revolting traffic was carried on. It is still far from being undeserving of the stigma which attaches to its name, although it has greatly fallen from its once thriving condition. It is situated on the eastern coast of Africa, (see map,) and at daylight, on the morning of the 27th July, 1840, the Nemesis steamed into the river which runs into the bay, and is known by the name of English River.

The Portuguese have a small fort near its entrance, from which the approach of the steamer was no sooner discovered than a mighty stir was made. Steamers had scarcely even been heard of, much less seen. The object of her visit none could guess; but all were conscious of partaking more or less in both the sins and the profits of the slave-trade; and, therefore, all regarded the approaching vessel as no friendly visiter. Guns were made to bear, ammunition was got into readiness, and everything would have looked very formidable had it not been fully known that a single shot from the stern gun of the Nemesis would have made the walls tremble, and the defenders hide themselves.

The Nemesis being uncertain whether her reception would be friendly or otherwise, slowly passed up beyond the fort, to explore the river, and great was the surprise of all the lookers-on, to see her move so easily through water so shallow, that they thought it could scarcely float one of their smallest slavers. They had little dreamed that so large a vessel could, if necessary, pursue even the boats of the slavers into their most secret haunts.

As she again descended and approached the fort, there was evidently some excitement, as if they doubted what would happen next.

An aide-de-camp soon came on board from the governor of the fort, to inquire whence the vessel came, and what her object might be in visiting such an unfrequented place; but neither he nor any one on board could make each other understood.

On the same day, the captain and some of the officers of the Nemesis went on shore, to pay their respects to his Excellency, who affected to be exceedingly glad to see them, and shewed them all possible civility and attention. This was, no doubt, politic[27] on his part, for he had every reason to believe that the Nemesis was a man-of-war, and he also well knew, that had she been so, it would have been a difficult matter for him to exculpate himself from the charge of openly aiding and abetting the slave-trade, which was at that very moment being carried on under his own eyes, and within reach of his own guns. It was, moreover, sanctioned by the very flag flying at the peak of the slavers. Yet the same flag was hoisted on the fort itself, under the stipulations of a treaty, by which its exertions were to be used to prevent the continuance of the horrid traffic in the river. A slaver was, in fact, lying in the river, not far from the fort, and, as the steamer was passing up, it was easily observed that the crew were deserting her, and trying to make good their escape, leaving their craft at the mercy of a single boat's crew. But the Nemesis was not a man-of-war, and had no right to capture her; and it was therefore more politic not to seem to notice, in the first instance, what was very apparent to all.

For some time, there was a difficulty in communicating with the governor at all, no one knowing the language; but, at length, a Parsee merchant was sent for, who could speak Hindostanee as well as Portuguese, and as there was also a man on board who could speak Hindostanee, a regular cross-fire conversation was thus maintained, in a roundabout manner. One would hardly have expected to find a Parsee merchant settled in such a remote and unhealthy spot as Delagoa Bay, under the Portuguese government. But where will not the "auri sacra fames" tempt mankind to court the smile of Fortune, even with the grin of Pestilence and Death before them?

As a settlement, Delagoa Bay is of very little use to the Portuguese, of whom very few reside there; and without the stain of slavery, it could scarcely linger on. There is, however, a limited trade in ivory and gold-dust, and the coast is frequented by whalers, particularly Americans, who come into the settlement for supplies. The narrative of Captain Owen's survey on the coast gives a melancholy picture of the deadly nature of the climate, which very few, either of his officers or his men, were fortunate enough to survive.

The fact of a slaver lying under the guns of the fort, and other little evidences that the governor was very backward in carrying out the instructions he had received respecting the slave-trade, went hard with him afterwards. This case was mentioned to the governor of Mozambique, under whose jurisdiction Delagoa Bay is placed, and by whom the deputy-governor is appointed. It will hereafter be seen, that he was, at all events, sincere and energetic in his efforts to stop the trade. He became excessively angry when the circumstances were stated to him, and declared that it was in violation of his most strict and positive orders, and[28] instantly directed that the deputy-governor should be removed from his post.

The slaver, which was a fine Portuguese brig, was subsequently visited by some of the officers of the Nemesis, and found to be regularly fitted out for the trade, the planks for the slave-deck being all ready, with boilers for their food, and shackles, &c. Her masts and spars were large, and of excellent stuff, and advantage was soon taken of this circumstance, to procure some necessary materials for the repairs.

It appeared that there were some excellent timbers lying on the beach, which had probably belonged to some large ship wrecked in the neighbourhood. They were precisely such as would best suit the wants of our vessel; and, as it was stated that they belonged to a Portuguese merchant in the town, inquiry was at once made about the purchase of them. Various excuses, however, were made, and unnecessary difficulty suggested. It was evident that there was a "screw loose" somewhere or other, or else that they wished to impose an exorbitant price for them. A message was therefore immediately sent, declaring that if the timbers were not given up at a fair valuation, within twenty minutes, the captain of the Nemesis "would go on board the slaver with his men, and take the masts and spars out of her, and as they appeared to be exceedingly good ones, they would answer her purpose rather better."

No talisman could have acted more instantaneously than this well-timed threat, which, moreover, would certainly have been put in execution. The whole community, from the governor downwards, were more or less interested in the affair; the report rapidly reached the master of the slaver; his alarm was natural enough, and his reasons for urging the immediate surrender of the timbers sufficiently evident. "Pray give them anything in the world they want," said he; "let me rather pay for it a dozen times over, than keep that strange-looking ship here. She will ruin us altogether; we must get rid of her in any way we can; give her, by all means, everything she wants, and let her be off, for mercy's sake."

Long before the twenty minutes had expired, the timbers were given up. The governor himself, on the following day, the 29th of July, sent a present of some vegetables and ivory on board, and afterwards came in person to look at the ship, and was, to all appearance, so pleased with his reception, and doubtless, so well impressed with the appearance of the vessel, that he stayed to dinner, and did his best to shew himself a good fellow.

It may here be observed, that the so-called "English River," which empties itself into the sea at Delagoa Bay, is, in reality, the estuary of three rivers, called the Temby, the Dundas, and the Mattoll. But they are none of them of much importance,[29] considered separately, having their sources at scarcely more than a good day's journey from the entrance, and forming rather the drains of a rich, alluvial country, than the outlets of the super-abundant waters of distant tiers of mountains. They run into the English River at the distance of little more than five miles above the fort. Their shores are generally bordered by an extensive muddy flat, gradually rising towards higher land, covered with large bushes, but which can hardly be said to be crowned with luxuriant woods. Nothing can be imagined more calculated, under a tropical sun, to produce the most deadly pestilence. No wonder that those who have endeavoured to trace up these rivers, for even a short distance, have so commonly fallen victims to their enthusiasm.

The entrance to English River, from its breadth and general appearance, leads you to imagine it of greater importance than it really is. Yet it is not without something of a picturesque character; the sand hills covered with calabash trees, and the aspect of the village and Portuguese Fort, tottering though it be, all present a refreshing picture, when first viewed, after a long and dangerous voyage.

The neighbouring country is divided among different tribes, who are frequently at war with each other, and over whom the Portuguese have very little control. Their own factory, or fort, is situated on the north side of the river, in the country of Mafoomo. But the most warlike and troublesome of all the tribes are the so-called Hollontontes, living some distance to the southward, and resembling, or indeed probably a branch of, the Zooloo Caffirs, of whom we have lately heard so much in connexion with the unfortunate Dutch emigrant-farmers at Port Natal. These Hollontontes (probably a corruption from Hottentots) have, on more than one occasion, made themselves formidable, even to the Portuguese themselves.

On the 31st, the Nemesis was hauled on shore on the fine sandy beach near the fort, and, in fact, within range of its guns.

It was on this day that a remarkable phenomenon occurred, which is here worth mentioning; the more particularly as it was followed at night and during the subsequent day by a very heavy gale of wind, whose approach it might, in a manner, be said to have indicated. This was, in fact, the seventh[7] great plague of Egypt, the plague of locusts, which filled the atmosphere in myriads, as far as the eye could reach on every side; and indeed much further, for, during the time it lasted, the very sky was darkened, and the whole air was filled with a sound as of "a mighty rushing wind," by the flapping of their wings. You could scarcely open either your eyes or your mouth, without fear of being blinded or choked by them.


Fortunately, the visitation did not last long enough to commit extensive destruction, but it was nevertheless a source of great alarm and inconvenience. In some parts of China, also, the swarms of locusts occasionally produce a great deal of mischief, and are very naturally dreaded, both by the people and the government. But those visitations are not so severe as this was, during the short time it lasted.[8]

Large quantities of locusts were collected by the natives for food; and it was a very curious sight, for two or three days afterwards, to watch the different groups of black men, as nearly naked as possible, crowding round their fires, with all the eagerness of hunger, and all the longing of an epicure, to enjoy a feast of locusts. They stripped off the wings and legs, and having slightly roasted or grilled them, appeared to find them a capital luxury, even not unworthy of the dance and song with which they accompanied their repast.


[7] It will be remembered that the plagues were frogs; dust turned to lice; swarms of flies; the murrain of beasts; the plague of boils and blanes; the plague of hail, of locusts, and of darkness.

[8] In the account given of the Egyptian plague, it is stated "that the locusts were brought by an east wind," and were carried away "by a mighty strong west wind." I was curious to ascertain whether there was anything worth noting in relation to the state of the wind at Delagoa Bay when the locusts appeared, and when they were carried away again. On referring to the ship's log, I find that the day preceding the appearance of the locusts was one of perfect calm; but the morning of the day on which they came was ushered in by a north-east wind, which lasted until the evening, when it changed round to precisely the opposite quarter—namely, to the south-west, and increased on the following day to a strong gale from the same quarter, which carried away all the locusts. Subsequently, it again veered round to the north-east, and continued so for several days, but brought no more locusts.


No time was now lost in commencing the repairs of which the steamer stood so much in need. It will be remembered, that the structure of the ship's side has been elsewhere described, and that the angle-irons are, in fact, the ship's ribs. The split amidships had taken place in the middle of the iron plate, between the two angle-irons immediately before the after sponson-beam. It extended downwards full seven feet from the deck on either side the vessel; and, as the distance from the deck to the water-line, with a moderate draught of water, is only from three feet four inches to three feet six inches, it must have extended under water for about the same distance as it did above. But the whole semi-circumference of the vessel's hull is only about twenty-three feet and a half. Therefore, as the crack was full seven feet in length on each side of the ship, there only remained sixteen feet on each side of the ship's hull, or about two-thirds in all, not separated in two.


In other iron vessels more recently constructed by the same builder, Mr. Laird, of Birkenhead, it is satisfactory to know that full provision has been made against the recurrence of any similar accidents. The Phlegethon, which was afterwards built upon the same model, has been constructed in such a manner, by the addition of bulkheads, &c., that not only could there be no apprehension of the accident, but an almost impossibility of its recurrence. The accompanying woodcut will explain the improvement.


Shewing the method of giving additional strength by originally building-in the coal-box bulkheads as part of the vessel.

A Keel.
B Floorings.
C Keelsons.
D Deck beams (iron).
E Deck.
F Covering-board, 18ft. by 4in.
G Longitudinal iron bulkheads, built into the vessel, forming the sides of the coal-boxes.
H Angle-iron stay-beam between.
I Side frame and coal-box bulkhead.

N.B.—These bulkheads appear to have remedied the weakness complained of in the Nemesis, as the Phlegethon is reported, after nearly three years' hard service (including the passage round the Cape, when she experienced very bad weather), in as good order as when she left England, never having required any alteration or strengthening.

The first thing now to be done was evidently to remove the broken iron plates, and to rivet in new ones in their place. In order to provide for additional strengthening of the vessel inside, the large timbers which had been purchased were made use of, as being exactly adapted for the purpose. Three of these were placed across the angle-irons against the side of the vessel, the longest and stoutest, which was twenty-three feet in length, one foot broad, and six inches thick, being placed highest up, about two to three feet below the deck. This was secured in its[32] place by bolts, each a foot long, which were run through the ship's side, one at the centre of the space between each of the angle-irons. As there would, however, be a space left between the face of the beam and the side of the vessel, except at those points where it rested upon the angle-irons, this interval was filled up with well-seasoned red pine, which added very much to the solidity of the contrivance. To "make assurance doubly sure," two other beams, of the same depth and thickness, but not of the same length, and secured in a similar manner, were also employed. By this means, it is very evident that the ship was made a vast deal stronger than she ever was before, though not stronger than was proper for her size and shape. The whole length of the new plates put in the ship's sides was eight feet two inches; and so effectually was the work done that the whole of it remained perfect, stringers and all, at the end of two years and a half of severe and uninterrupted service.

These contrivances added very little to the weight of the vessel, and gave it very great support in the weakest part, and just where it was most required, to enable her to carry coals on deck, &c.


A The old plate cut away between the angle-iron frames.
B Part of the old plate left remaining inside the new.
C Stringers, 1ft. by 6in.; the space under them between the angle-irons made solid with wood.
D Knee.
E Deck angle-iron.
F Angle-iron side-frames.
G Coal-box bulkhead angle-iron.
H Paddle-beam, of wood, 21 in. by 15.
N Diagonal bracing of wood between the stringers.

N.B.—Stringers secured by seven-eighths in.; bolts driven through all between each two angle-irons.



I Deck beam of iron.
K Flat of deck.
L Covering board, 12 in. by 4 in.
M Waist stanchion.
C Ends of the stringers.

During her detention of twelve days, the Nemesis had been an object of great curiosity to the native Africans, as well as to the Portuguese settlers. The chiefs of some of the tribes were occasionally allowed to look at the vessel, and expressed the greatest possible astonishment at what they saw. It happened to be just the time of year when the king of one of the tribes most friendly to the Portuguese (probably, as it appeared, because they have large dealings together in slaves) usually came down from his own country, about thirty miles distant, to pay his annual visit to the Portuguese governor. On these occasions, there is a vast attempt on both sides to appear very friendly to each other, with precisely that degree of sincerity which, as a minimum, is indispensable to the advantageous barter of slaves and ivory for iron and spirits, or occasionally gold-dust for various trifling articles, which in the eyes of a savage possess inestimable value.

There appears, in general, to be very little good feeling existing between the native tribes and the Portuguese. The former look upon the latter with some degree of dread, arising from the injuries which they have at various times received at their hands; and the latter regard the former merely as degraded savages, fit for little else than the speculations of the slave trade. On both sides there is a degree of mistrust, arising from the debasing tendency which such a traffic necessarily exercises upon all concerned in it. In Captain Owens narrative, an instance is related of the most savage cruelty, exercised by Portuguese Christians upon a few unarmed and oppressed natives who fell into their hands, which it is impossible to read without shuddering.


On the present occasion, the native chief who came to do honour to the governor was a decrepit old man, nearly seventy years of age, attended by about seven hundred or eight hundred of his most doughty warriors, partially clothed in skins, and ornamented with ostrich-feathers stuck in their heads. He himself, as being a very great man, was clothed in a loose sort of dressing-gown, with a red nightcap on his head, a present from the governor himself. Every man had three spears of different sizes, probably to be thrown at different distances, together with a stout club and shield; and in the use of these weapons they exhibited great dexterity.

The governor had invited Captain Hall and his officers to witness the performance of their war-dance, which was, in reality, as savage an exhibition as it was possible to conceive.

As evening advanced, the attendants of the old chief were called upon to drink the governor's health, out of a large tub-full of rum; and, in order to ensure fair play, a corporal stood by with a stout cane in his hand, with which he most courageously belaboured all those who shewed an uncivilized disposition for helping themselves to more than their share. But the passions of the savage are not so easily to be subdued; and, if the mere sight and smell of the liquor had warmed them up into something like a quarrelsome mood, what was to be expected from the actual taste and fire of it? Words ran high, and all the threatening gestures of the excited savage promised even bloodshed; until, at length, the corporal's stick being insufficient to allay the disturbance, he very quietly upset the whole remaining contents of the tub, and soon dispersed the mighty men-of-war, in apparent reconciliation.

The negro tribes of these parts adopt the practice of tattooing their faces, but not in that peculiarly neat and regular manner for which the New Zealanders are distinguished. It is here more like a rude system of notching the skin, as if done rather to shew how manfully they can endure pain, than as a mere ornamental art.

A more sensible practice among some of the tribes about Delagoa Bay, is that of shaving a large portion of the thick wool off their heads, tending greatly to cleanliness in a tropical country. Occasionally it is trimmed into some fanciful shape, like the old yew-trees in some of our English villages, which stand forth as curious specimens of nature improved; while, again, the natives on some parts of the Madagascar coast, generally stout, athletic men, divide their hair into little tufts all over the head, each of which is frequently tied round the roots, and thus made to stand out on all sides in little knobs, giving a very singular appearance to the head, more particularly when they are seen working side[35] by side, as I have often witnessed at the Mauritius, with close-shaved Indian or Chinese labourers.

As the king above-mentioned and his followers had come from a considerable distance, and were reported to possess great influence among their neighbours, it was thought a good opportunity both to impress them with a knowledge of our power, and to conciliate them by a show of our good-nature. There was the more reason for this, in consequence of pretty certain evidence having been obtained that the crew of an American trading-vessel, which had been wrecked on the coast not long before, had been most barbarously treated by the tribe into whose hands they fell. As such a misfortune might again happen, it was thought a good opportunity to make an impression upon the native tribes, which was sure to be communicated from one to the other, by means of the old king and his adherents. Accordingly, the old man (who was called Appelli by the Portuguese) was one day invited to go on board the Nemesis, with one or two of his attendants. The vessel had by this time been got nearly ready for sea, and on this occasion, in order to produce greater effect upon all the lookers-on, was dressed out with her flags, and, being newly-painted, presented a very gay appearance. A Portuguese merchant accompanied the veteran chief to the ship as interpreter, and, rather unexpectedly, several women also came off with him, dressed in showy colours, and impelled, perhaps, as much by the flattering thought that they would quite astonish the white man, as by the mere feeling of curiosity.

The moment the king put his foot upon the deck, the single fife and drum which was on board set up "God save the king!" and the old man appeared well pleased both with the tune and the attention. After this, a particularly ugly, repulsive-looking fellow, who turned out to be the king's fool, though as old as the king himself, set up a most discordant note of admiration upon three reeds which he held in his hand, something after the manner of pan-pipes. At intervals he treated you to a sort of explanatory text of his own, in the shape of a few uncouth words, yelled out in a manner particularly edifying to all except those in whose honour it is supposed they were especially poured forth. His appearance was rendered more uncouth by a large bag tied under his chin, for what purpose was not very evident, but probably to contain either his charms or his tobacco.

The queen herself had also accompanied her lord upon this occasion, and exhibited no fear, and certainly no beauty. Picture to yourself a young sable queen, a capital caricature of one of the Egyptian statues in black marble, plump and shiny as her prototype, only less expressive. Then invest her in your imagination with sundry huge scars about her cheek and nose; not those[36] delicate lines and graceful curves which decorate the upper lip of royalty among New Zealand tribes, but regular lumps, squeezed up and dried, as it were into large warts, particularly about the nose, as if a race of gigantic musquitoes had held a feast there!

However, to do justice to the lady's rank, if not to her looks, Captain Hall thought proper to shew her due attention, and, accordingly, a glass of wine was offered to her, as well as to her lord. The old man, though at first suspicious, like all half-savages, very gladly swallowed it, as soon as one of the officers had tasted it first. But for the queen wine was not good enough; rum was the nectar for her—that was the soul-stirring influence which could bend her pride, and warm her heart to gentleness.

Having by these means warmed the royal pair to good humour, the next thing was to bewilder them with astonishment. This was not difficult. They were requested to examine the ship's side, and to assure themselves that she was made entirely of iron. A loud Heugh! was their exclamation. To them it seemed a boundless mine of wealth, that mass of precious stuff, to purchase which was all their ambition. They were calculating in their own minds how many thousands and tens of thousands of slaves they would have to procure, before they could be able to obtain so much of the valued metal. But, when the engine was shewn to them, with all its polished bars, and massive parts, and its uses partly explained through the interpreter, their astonishment knew no bounds.

Before the chief's departure, great care was taken to explain to him the barbarous cruelties which had been committed upon the shipwrecked seamen by some of the tribes on the coast. He declared that he had never heard of the occurrence, and affected to be very much horrified at it. He was made to understand that he was to communicate to all the people of his tribe, as well as to all others whom he might fall in with, that, if ever any injury were done to any white men when driven upon any part of the coast, an iron vessel, even more terrible than the one he was then in, would be sent to punish the people. On the contrary, if he conducted himself peaceably, and treated white men well on all occasions, he would be considered the friend of the English, and of all other white men. He was also to make it publicly known wherever he went, that white men were always to be treated kindly when in distress. This he promised to do, with every appearance of sincerity, and upon the whole shewed more intelligence than might have been expected.

In consideration of the king's promises, and in order the more fully to gain his influence, a present was made to him, the most valuable he could have received—namely, a musket and bayonet, with its accoutrements. His surprise and delight were beyond all bounds; he almost seemed to get young again with pleasure[37] as he grasped the precious weapon in his hands. On leaving the vessel, he insisted on shaking hands with almost every one on board.

On the following day, he returned again to the ship in high glee, bringing with him his own spear and shield, with other implements of war and of the chase, which he laid at the captain's feet, as the most valuable presents he could offer to a "faithful ally."


The circumstances relating to the distressed seamen on the coast, alluded to in the foregoing chapter, were first stated by one of the unfortunate sufferers himself, who accosted, in very good English, some of the officers of the Nemesis, as they were returning to their ship, and soon proved himself to have belonged to an American vessel, but stated that he was a native of Hanover. His name was Samuel Reid, or something very much like it. His right eye and lower jaw appeared to have been dreadfully wounded, and gave a practical introduction to the following tale, every part of which there is too much reason to believe is strictly true.

It appears that an American schooner, called the Colonel Crockett, of one hundred and forty tons, belonging to Newburgh, U. S., sailed from New York in the summer of 1839, bound on a voyage to the West Coast of Africa, to procure bullocks for salting, principally for the St. Helena market. She subsequently, also, proceeded to Madagascar, and touched at Delagoa Bay, on her way to Inhampura River, high up on the east coast, to trade for ivory. There she remained three weeks, without being able to accomplish her object. In working out of it again, in May, 1840, she missed stays, and went on shore on the sand at the river's mouth. They tried in vain to get the vessel off on the following day, there not being enough men fit for work, as all, except three out of eleven, were sick with fever. There she lay, nearly high and dry. It seems they had only one boat remaining, which was too small to contain all the people, and, therefore, it was agreed that the captain and second mate, (Samuel Reid,) with two men, should start off in her, and try to reach Delagoa Bay, which was only about seventy miles distant, where they were to procure a larger boat and other assistance, and then return to bring away the remainder of the crew, and whatever could be saved from the wreck.

Unfortunately, they found the surf beating over the bar at the mouth of the Inhampura so heavily, that they could not succeed[38] in getting the boat out. In this predicament, the captain and second mate volunteered to set out together, to try to reach Delagoa Bay by land—a most hazardous experiment under any circumstances, with the dangers of the fatal fevers, and the treachery of the savage native tribes, staring them in the face. The attempt was, in fact, almost hopeless. Nevertheless, on the morning of the 9th of May, 1840, they landed from the vessel, totally unarmed, thinking, probably, that it would be both useless and laborious for two men to carry arms which they could scarcely use for more than one or two discharges, owing to the difficulty of carrying ammunition.

They proceeded for about twenty to twenty-five miles on that day, without molestation, but were at length joined by three natives, one of whom left them, under the pretence of going to procure water, while the other two lighted a fire, and began to roast some corn, of which they all partook equally. In the meantime, the native who had been absent returned, bringing with him seven others.

The captain, being anxious to make the most of his time, determined to proceed, although the day was fast declining. But, in order to relieve themselves from the weight of their bags of clothes which they had each brought with them, they entrusted them to the care of the natives who followed. On arriving at the bottom of a steep hill, where there was a picturesque valley, they all halted for the night, and soon made a capital fire. As might have been expected, the curiosity of the natives, to say nothing of their treacherous disposition, could not withstand the temptation of looking into the bags they had carried, to examine their contents. This was resisted by the captain, who was rather a hasty man; a scuffle ensued, and thus the opportunity the natives sought for was at once afforded them.

Their intentions might have been foreseen the moment the man left the party, ostensibly to look for water, but in reality to look for assistance. And although a natural dread of the white man had hitherto prevented them from openly commencing their attack—waiting, probably, for a more favourable opportunity at nightfall—a quarrel having once arisen, however trifling, their savage blood was roused, and all their bad feelings awakened. They immediately rose in a body, and made a general discharge of their spears at the two unhappy white men. The captain faced them boldly, and soon received several severe wounds in front, and at last tried to save himself by flight. But, wounded as he was, they soon overtook him, and struck him down, it is to be hoped, quite dead, although even that does not appear certain.

The mate, on the other hand, who stood sideways to receive the discharge of spears, presenting a narrower surface than in front, was wounded with two spears in the right arm, and one in[39] the neighbourhood of the right eye, and, having picked up one of them, made a furious charge at those who were nearest to him, and killed two of the savages on the spot. Numbers, however, necessarily prevailed over the most desperate courage, and he was at last struck down by a heavy blow of a club over the head, and, being senseless, was considered dead. They now dragged him towards the fire, as he afterwards found, and must have struck him several heavy blows upon different parts of the body. On coming to himself again, he found that he was stripped of all his clothes, lying naked upon the sand, and so exhausted that he could neither speak nor move. Gradually, however, becoming sensible of his helpless situation, he looked around him, from time to time, unobserved; and, at length, to his great horror, discovered the body of his unfortunate captain lying by the side of the fire, and several natives standing around it, some of whom were busy cutting off slices from the fleshy parts of the body, while others roasted them in the fire, with all the appearance of anxious longing for the feast!

Can any situation be conceived more horrible at this moment than that of the unfortunate wounded man? If he betrayed symptoms of life, he was sure to be beaten with heavy clubs to death; if he lay quiet, to all appearance lifeless, it was far from improbable that, when they should have become satiated with the flesh of his companion, they might be ready to commence their butchery upon himself. Who can picture to himself without horror the dreadful moments which lingered as they passed, and seemed endless in the anxiety of suspense! There the poor fellow lay, in speechless agony, the fated witness of barbarity the most revolting.

At length, having gorged themselves with that horrible repast in the peculiar manner which those who have ever seen the hungry savage at his meal can never forget, they fell asleep round the fire, under the full oppression of repletion. The poor mate, perceiving this, made a desperate effort to rouse himself from his death-like dreaminess, and try to fly from his impending fate, he knew not how or whither. He could not stand, he could not walk, and almost feinted with the effort; yet he crawled on hands and knees towards the neighbouring bush or thicket, and there contrived to hide himself.

He lay concealed, in helplessness, until the following day, when he was discovered by the restless eye of the suspicious savage. He asked, by signs, for water; but not only was that refused to him, but he was given to understand, without difficulty, that they looked forward to the pleasure of eating him for their evening meal with particular satisfaction; and a sort of rude table was pointed out to him, upon which they intended to cut him up for their repast, according to their most approved[40] fashion. After this, they left him alone in his misery. It should be mentioned, that when they refused him drink, they did give him a little food, which they forced him to eat, and—horrible to think of!—it was not improbably a part of his murdered companion, upon which they had regaled themselves the evening before.

As night approached, the man, finding himself somewhat recovered from the shock of his wounds, made another desperate effort to escape. He could now walk; and slowly and cautiously he pursued his way, tracing back his course with the almost unerring instinct which the resolution of despair awakens. The darkness of the night favoured him; and, by sometimes diving into the wood for concealment, sometimes resting in the darkest part of the thicket to collect his failing strength, and then again boldly urging on his course along the more open beach by the sea-side, he at length eluded all his pursuers. They had followed him, for some distance, in vain; and he safely reached, on the following day, the schooner he had left, completely exhausted and helpless.

Here he found that, even during his short absence, death had done its work among his messmates on board. Finding that there was no hope of procuring relief on shore, another attempt was made to get the boat over the bar—and with success. In this the chief mate, with two other men, embarked, in the hope of being able to make their passage along the coast of Delagoa Bay. The attempt fortunately succeeded; and, at the end of five days, a large boat was descried approaching the wreck, which had been hired by their comrades from the Portuguese authorities for two hundred dollars, for the purpose of bringing them off. But their troubles were not yet destined to end. A heavy sea still continued to beat upon the bar, creating such a surf that they were compelled to wait at least fourteen days more before they could leave the schooner. Happily, they were at length able to embark; and, carrying with them the most portable articles of value they could stow away, they ultimately succeeded in reaching Delagoa Bay.

It has more than once been suspected that some of the tribes on the eastern coast of Africa were cannibals, under certain circumstances: but others again, and Captain Owen among the number, have declared that, "on inquiry, even their greatest enemies acquitted them of the suspicion." There does not, however, appear to be any well-grounded reason for calling in question the truth of the statement made by this unfortunate man, Reid. His tale was told to Captain Hall with every appearance of truth; and, although it might be suggested that the man was not unlikely to have been in a state of dreamy delirium, after the wounds and blows he had received upon the head, and[41] might have been led by fear to imagine what he pictured to himself to be true, still this is a very unsatisfactory answer to a simple tale of facts, artlessly told, and without any object to be gained by inventing a case of horror. Besides which, he could hardly have found his way back to the schooner without assistance, had he not perfectly recovered his senses before he started.

Two of the unfortunate men entered as able seamen on board the Nemesis, with liberty to be discharged when they pleased, and continued on board until she arrived at Singapore; but the second mate preferred waiting for any American vessel that might touch at the settlement.

It may seem that I have dwelt long upon the subjects of interest connected with the stay of the Nemesis at Delagoa Bay; but, in reality, it is a part of the coast of Africa little known to the general reader, and as the vessel was detained there for a considerable time, many objects of interest were noticed and remembered. I have before mentioned that the Portuguese have been very far from advancing the civilization of the natives. There is certainly no love for each other between them; and the debasing influences of the slave-trade seem universally to poison the heart, and destroy all the sympathies of our nature.

One poor native woman was discovered who spoke English tolerably well, and was found to have been extremely useful as interpreter to all the English and American vessels, whalers, and others, which touched there for supplies. For what particular reason does not appear, but this woman had been strictly forbidden by the governor to go on board the Nemesis, under pain of the severest punishment; indeed, she had been kept in close confinement nearly ever since the arrival of the vessel. But, at length, when an American whaler came into the bay, she was allowed to visit that ship as usual. There was something peculiarly artless and good-natured about the poor woman's manner, and she expressed a particular wish to be allowed to see some person from the English ship. Word was accordingly brought from the American captain to that effect.

Her tale was a remarkable one, and told with considerable intelligence. She expressed her attachment to the English in strong terms, enumerated the various kindnesses she had received from them, inquired after particular ships and individuals, and seemed to remember almost every trifling incident that had occurred. She was greatly afraid of being punished by the governor for having dared to talk to the English, but could assign no particular grounds for the harsh treatment she received. It was, however, shrewdly suspected that it arose from fear that she might furnish information about the slave-trade, and that, in fact, her remarks might already have been very useful to the English cruisers, and, consequently, injurious to[42] the Portuguese dealers. It has been before stated that the governor himself was not free from the suspicion of countenancing the traffic; and, taking all the circumstances together, it became pretty evident that this poor woman's treatment was only one of the links in the chain of turpitude forged out of the iron rod of slavery.

For the first time since the arrival of the Nemesis, some of her officers were now able to leave the ship for a day, and make an interesting excursion up the river. They started early in the morning, accompanied by a Portuguese merchant and his servant. It being now the least unhealthy season of the year, there was little or no danger to be apprehended from sickness, particularly as it was not their intention to remain out at night.

It has already been noticed that the English River, is, in fact, formed by the united waters of three rivers, at the distance of only five or six miles from the fort, the largest being the Temby, to the southward, and the smallest the Dundas, to the westward, while the Mattoll runs up towards the northward. The Dundas was the one chosen on the present excursion, as there was good expectation of finding large herds of hippopotami upon its banks, and perhaps other wild animals, which would furnish a capital day's sport. The banks of the river were low, and the stream sluggish, and on all sides abundance of mangrove shrubs and bushes, sufficient of themselves to indicate that the country must frequently be flooded. Birds of various kinds, particularly such as feed upon small fish and worms, were seen in great numbers, curlews and crows, and occasionally a pelican, with wild geese and pigeons, and now and then birds of more beautiful plumage.

As the boat ascended, four wild buffaloes were seen at a distance, and a beautiful zebra was descried, galloping away from the river-side. But the most striking objects were the numerous hippopotami, in the midst of whose favourite haunts they now found themselves. A more curious or exciting scene can scarcely be imagined; and when it was resolved to continue the ascent, in the hope of having some fine sport, the Portuguese merchant was so alarmed, that he very humbly requested that he might be left behind. The strange animals opened their huge mouths, and bellowed forth a sound something like the roar of an ox in concert with the grunt of a wild boar, with a little accompaniment of the braying of an ass. They did not at first seem frightened, but shewed their formidable-looking teeth, as if they had some right to frighten others. Hundreds of them started up at different times, some rising from the shallow mud in which they had been lying, and hastening off with a quick, heavy tread; others, again, just raising their heads up from the deeper parts of the river, and diving again like porpoises.[43] Several of them were fired at and wounded, upon which they dived instantly out of sight, without rising again. Indeed, they are hardly ever killed in such a way as to be taken on the spot at once; but, dying under water, the carcase of course rises to the surface after two or three days, and is then taken possession of by the natives. Their flesh is eaten with great avidity in times of scarcity; but, generally speaking, they are more valued for the beautiful ivory of their teeth, which are collected and bartered for various articles of European manufacture.

Several natives were seen paddling about the river in their little canoes, apparently without any fear of the hippopotami, and one party of them was spoken to, and appeared harmless and contented; but their invitation to land and look at the country was not accepted, as there was little time to spare, and their treacherous character was sufficiently known to make it imprudent to divide a small party into still smaller ones. They, however, explained very intelligibly the mode in which they contrived to kill the hippopotami—viz., sometimes by making a regular charge at some of them, singled out on purpose, with their spears. To effect this, they go in large numbers together, but the expedition is attended with considerable danger, and rarely resorted to, except in times of dearth. A more common method is to lay traps of various kinds for them, either upon the banks of the river itself, or among the neighbouring trees, a party being constantly at hand, in concealment, to despatch them at the last moment.

The whole distance ascended, from the junction of the Dundas with the English River was about seven or eight miles, when the water became so shallow that the boats could scarcely proceed. Towards evening, therefore, they again descended with the ebb-tide, having the full light of the moon to guide them down to their ship, after a laborious but very agreeable day, which fully repaid them by the interesting objects which presented themselves to their notice.

Their last day had now arrived; and, with a view to shew them every possible attention, as well as to conciliate their good offices, the governor invited Captain Hall and his officers to a grand entertainment, on which occasion all the delicacies of the African coast had been sought out to do honour to the guests, and nothing was omitted which could contribute to the novelty and perfection of the entertainment.

The exterior of the governor's residence was something like a good-sized English cottage, consisting of only one floor, as is commonly the case in hot countries, and having two white pillars in front, which supported a portion of the roof, serving at the same time for a verandah. It was ornamented with green branches for the occasion, affording a very necessary protection[44] from the glare of the sun, which was still high and powerful. There were several other smaller cottages disposed around it, something in the form of a square, but not a single tree or other relieving object to soften the burning reflection from the deep sand which formed the site of the fort and of the governor's residence.

The dinner went off with great éclat, and no little amusement at the original attempts of the black waiters (of course slaves) to vie with European refinement. Towards evening, when tea had at length been handed round, the entertainment was concluded with, "for the last time of performance," a dance of the native women belonging to the neighbouring village. The whole affair lasted for about an hour, when, glad to escape the heat and noise, the officers returned to their ship.

Little further remains to be said of Delagoa Bay, though many interesting facts might have been elicited in relation to the slave-trade, had the Nemesis remained there longer. It appears very evident that formerly the trade was carried on with greater atrocity than at present, but enough is still known respecting it to make us look upon the natives themselves as the worst abettors of the traffic. The passions of the savage chiefs seem only to be withheld for a moment, not suppressed, by the difficulty of procuring slaves; and when they can neither find enemies to seize, nor culprits to condemn, they sometimes send a sort of marauding expedition to seize by treachery their own people, and sell them into slavery. It is stated by Captain Owen, that, within even a few years, under a former commandant, some of the chiefs had been persuaded to sell their harmless subjects for so trifling a sum as a dollar and a half each, or about seven shillings, to be paid, not in money, but in merchandize of trifling value, and that several cargoes had been obtained in this way for the Brazilian market.

If we look for the most thriving mart for slaves upon the east coast of Africa at the present time, we shall find it at the river Quillimane, a little more than five hundred miles to the north of Delagoa Bay. It lies about midway between that settlement and Mozambique. There the slaves are purchased for coarse cloth, gunpowder, beads, cutlery, &c.; and the "arrival of one of the little traders, with his pedler-kind of stock, among one of the native tribes in the interior, becomes the signal for general warfare, in which the weak become the victims of the strong." A few years ago, no less than five thousand slaves were annually exported, from this mart alone, to Rio Janeiro.

It is indeed astonishing that a place so unhealthy in itself as Quillimane should be able to keep up its constant supply of human export. The soil and the very air are no less pestilential than the traffic which debases it; but the effects of the demand[45] are felt far and wide, and, hundreds of miles in the interior, the slave hunt, as it may be called, is carried on; and the ramifications of this odious traffic spread themselves like the branches of the upas-tree, not merely poisoning all within its shade, but becoming more and more infectious as it branches out further from the root.


All preparations being at length completed, on the morning of the 17th of August, just twenty days after having so providentially succeeded in reaching her port of refuge, the Nemesis was once more ready to continue her voyage.

On the 22nd August, she passed near the group of Rocky Islands, called Bassa da India, which are situated nearly in the middle of the channel, and pursued her voyage under sail. Of course, her progress was slow against an adverse wind, and no little anxiety was felt by her captain, on account of the uncertainty of the compasses, and their discrepancy with each other. She arrived, however, safely at Mozambique on the afternoon of the 31st, without having had occasion to use her engines, except just to carry her into the anchorage.

As she passed through the outer roads, she communicated with H.M. brig Acorn, Captain Adams, which was on the look-out for two slavers daily expected to arrive for cargoes; and, the better to entrap them, she had hoisted a sort of decoy-flag at her main, which she had already taken from one of the same description. While a short visit was being paid on board, a pilot had come off from the shore, to conduct the Nemesis into the inner harbour, where she was soon brought to within a quarter of a mile of the town. Little time, however, could be spared for the visit, but there was still some necessary work to be done on board, which could not be completed until the following day.

As the errors of the compasses have been alluded to above, and seem to have occasioned very great anxiety upon this passage, it may be well to make some remarks about them again in this place. It will be remembered, that before leaving Liverpool a long series of experiments had been made, which were intended to provide means of counteracting the local action of the iron of the ship's hull upon the compasses. But no worse place can be imagined than a crowded dock for the purpose of carrying on experiments of such nicety. Disturbing causes were continually operating, and the accident she met with on her way to Portsmouth[46] proved that the correctness of the compasses was very far from being satisfactory. The experiments which were afterwards made at Portsmouth were also very doubtful in their result, in all probability owing, as before explained, to the absence of the boxes of chain or broken iron, which are always used by Professor Airy. It may readily be imagined that the utmost anxiety was always felt on board the vessel on this account, particularly when near the land; and many a long and anxious night has been spent on deck, with frequently a leadsman upon each of the paddle-boxes, to take soundings, and one in the bowsprit besides.

The large magnets, as originally placed in their positions, have never been moved, neither has the compass been changed in the slightest degree. But although they have greatly modified the errors, they have by no means sufficed to correct them. It has been always found the safest course not to put faith in the compasses at all; or rather, in this instance, observation showed that a compass, suspended in a box from a cross spar, at the height of ten or twelve feet above the head of the man at the helm, acted with much more accuracy than any other, and it was always the most relied on whenever it could be used.

It is scarcely to be doubted that the vessel has often made a longer passage than she would have done had the compasses been correct; for, in bad weather, when observations of the celestial bodies could not be taken, she could scarcely have avoided making many errors in her course. But nowhere were these difficulties felt more anxiously than in this passage through the Mozambique Channel, where land could never be very far distant. The necessity for a constant good look-out, and for two or even three men in the chains, produced anxiety and fatigue in itself; while it was also necessary for the officers to have the advantage of taking the altitudes of the stars, whenever the night was clear enough, not only once, but many times during the night. The compasses not only differed from the true points, but differed also from each other; and particularly in the Mozambique Channel, it was observed that they differed more than elsewhere, without being influenced however by the rapid atmospheric changes which prevailed. The more the ship's course was directed towards the true pole, the less was the error of the compass; but gradually, as her course was changed towards the east or west, so did the errors and discrepancies of the compasses increase.

It is satisfactory to know that the same degree of difficulty was not experienced on board the other iron steamers which were sent out afterwards; and as the Nemesis was the first of her class that ever made the voyage, it is right here to record the difficulties she encountered under this head. Many an[47] anxious watch has been spent on deck, trying to catch the altitude of particular stars as they emerged, for a moment, from the dense clouds or haze; and much of this kind of labour, so frequently repeated, would have been saved had her compasses been trustworthy.[9]

It is now time to return to the anchorage at Mozambique, where we left the Nemesis. Of course as she passed the principal Portuguese fort, she fired a salute, which was returned, and immediately became the signal to the whole town that something uncommon was to be expected. The arrival of a large steamer was soon made known in every direction, and not only became a source of curiosity to all, but an object of great alarm to many. The first impression was that she was sent purposely to put an end to the slave-trade at that place, and the consternation became general; for the governor, of whom more will presently be said, at once encouraged this opinion, which he felt would strengthen his power, as it did his determination, which was proved to be perfectly sincere, to do his utmost to stop the trade. Those most interested in the traffic had already begun openly to defy his power, and had not hesitated to declare to him that they would still carry it on in some of the shallow rivers, where vessels of war could not approach them. But the sight of a large steamer, running along close in shore, almost as if she were a small boat, drawing at the same time only five feet and a half of water, at once damped their ardour. They never could have dreamed that a large heavily-armed vessel could move wherever she pleased through their smallest streams; and their alarm was proportioned to their surprise.


Shortly before this, there had been so strong a disposition to resist the governor's power, that it had amounted almost to a rebellion; and his Excellency, though a bold man, and the first governor of the Portuguese possessions on that coast, who had come with the honest determination to stop the trade at all hazards, felt himself in a very awkward position. He, however, felt himself strong enough to take extreme measures, the moment he saw the steamer so close to the town. He afterwards admitted that her arrival was most opportune, and so pleased was he, at the same time, that he turned at once upon the slave-dealers; even that very day he seized two large slavers, condemned them at once, and publicly sold them by auction before the day was over. Such vigorous measures had been quite unknown under any former governor, and at once proved, both to the Portuguese and to the world, that his professions were real, and that he meant to keep his word. He had before this taken strong measures against the dealers in slaves, but this bold step was the finishing stroke of his policy, and at once filled all parties with dismay. In fact, trade of all kinds was stagnant for the moment, in consequence of the measures adopted; and large heaps of valuable ivory were lying there useless, in consequence of the impossibility, or, at all events, extreme hazard, of sending the usual slave-ships to sea, which would convey it to a market.

The governor is a brigadier-general in the Portuguese service, by name Joachim Pereira Morinho, and had formerly served under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula. He had not been long on the coast; but, as he had come with a full determination to destroy the slave-trade, or, at all events, to do his utmost towards it, he had already been long enough there to gain the ill-will of all the Portuguese residents. Indeed, he did not live altogether in security from violence, arising from the vindictive feelings of those interested in the traffic; and he had, therefore, requested Captain Adams, in the Acorn, to remain there as long as he could, to afford him protection; and had also detained a small brig-of-war, belonging to his own country, named the Villa Flora, to overawe the sea-faring part of the population.

The governor seemed to entertain the best feelings towards the English generally, with whom he had associated a good deal, and particularly inquired what assistance he could give to the Nemesis. As fuel and vegetables were, of course, most in request, they were mentioned. He appeared quite pleased to have it in his power to furnish something that would be of use to her; and, to the gratification of every one, a large boat came off to the ship early in the morning, bringing a fat ox, four sheep, a large pig, and some vegetables and fruit; besides which, there was also a large country boat, full of wood, containing eight thousand pieces. In addition to these very handsome presents, he also proposed to fill up the ship's water free of expense. This was accompanied by a note, in Portuguese, from the secretary-general of the province, Don Antonio Julio di Castro Pinto, of high degree and higher-sounding name, who was charged by his Excellency to offer the good things above-mentioned, "as a mark of his good-will, and of his sense of the service which the visit of the Nemesis would render to the cause[49] of anti-slavery, and, at the same time, as a trifling present to a brother in arms from an old soldier, grown grey in the service of his country, both at home and abroad."

Nothing could have been more acceptable, and, through the active assistance which the Nemesis received, she was enabled to proceed on her voyage, after little more than a day's delay. As an acknowledgment of his Excellency's attention, a trifling present of some capital hollands, preserved salmon, and English pickles, were sent to him, which were very great luxuries in that part of the world, and appeared to be duly appreciated. His Excellency had never before seen a steamer in those parts; and, the better to acknowledge his good-nature, and increase the sensation her arrival had produced on shore, he was invited by Captain Hall, to come on board to look at the ship, and to partake of such refreshment as she had to offer. This was, accordingly, a grand day for all parties, and the 1st of September, 1840, will, on many accounts, be long remembered at Mozambique.

His Excellency came on board in his state-barge, attended by all his suite, in full uniform, under a salute from the batteries and the Portuguese brig-of-war, while crowds of spectators stood upon every point on shore, whence a good view could be obtained. The deck of the Nemesis, though rather crowded with visitors, presented a gay appearance, from the variety of uniforms and foreign orders, which all those who were entitled to them, not few in number, displayed upon the occasion.

Sufficient time having been spent in viewing the ship and inspecting the machinery, which few of them had ever seen before, the whole party sat down to a grand déjeûner à la fourchette. Now, it may seem that a trifling incident of this sort could have no possible connexion with the suppression of the slave-trade; and, moreover, this latter question has been more frequently discussed at tea-drinking parties among benevolent ladies, than at champagne luncheons among the redoubtable sons of Mars. Yet the impression which a thing makes is often of more consequence than might otherwise be anticipated from the trifling nature of the thing itself.

The healths of the Queens of England and of Portugal were drank with three times three, followed immediately by a salute of twenty-one guns, both from the steamer and the Portuguese brig. The effect of this upon the inhabitants was by no means unimportant; it impressed them more than ever with the conviction, that the governments of the two countries were perfectly united in their determination to suppress the slave-trade; and the sound of the royal salutes ringing in their ears, completely put an end, for the moment certainly, to all their inclinations to resist the governor's authority.

In proof of his determination to do his utmost to suppress the[50] slave-trade, General Morinho had already ordered one of the deputy-governors to be brought up to Mozambique, to be tried by court-martial for disobedience of orders, in permitting the trade under his own eyes; and, it has already been mentioned, that, from the information which was given by the Nemesis, of the slave-brig at Delagoa Bay, lying under the very guns of the fort, the governor of that settlement was also to be sent for.

That no attention might be omitted, after the great kindness his Excellency had shown to all on board, he and his party were steamed some way up the river, to show them the capabilities of the vessel; thousands of boats crowded round her in all directions, while the house-tops, the fort, the beach, and all the ships in port, were covered with people anxious to see the greatest novelty the place had ever been witness to—the first steamer, moving with rapidity about their fine harbour, and in whatever direction she pleased.

A few words may not be out of place concerning the position of Mozambique, and its eligibility as a place of call for fuel, should steamers be sent more frequently by that route to India. The following description of the harbour, taken from Captain Owen's narrative of his surveys on that coast, will be found perfectly correct. "It is formed by a deep inlet of the sea, five and a half miles broad and six long, receiving the waters of three inconsiderable rivers at its head. At the entrance are three small islands, which, together with reefs and shoals, render the anchorage perfectly safe in the worst weather. Of these islands, that of Mozambique, on which stands the city, is completely formed of coral, very low and narrow, and scarcely one mile and a half in length. It is situated nearly in the centre of the inlet, and just within the line of the two points that form its extremities. The other two islands, called St. George and St. Jago, lie about three miles outside of Mozambique, but close to each other. They are uninhabited, although covered with rich verdure and trees, but upon a coral foundation."

Mozambique was taken from the Arabs by the Portuguese, at the very commencement of the sixteenth century; and the extent of the fort of St. Sebastian, built there by them, and which, even now, might be rendered a very strong fortification, capable of mounting nearly a hundred guns, if in proper repair, will be sufficient to show the great importance which they attributed to it, even in that early period of its settlement. It still contains large barracks and extensive quarters and storehouses, but only a very small and feeble garrison, of scarcely more than a couple of hundred men, either black or creole sepoys. There are likewise two other smaller forts upon the island, which may therefore be considered strongly fortified, although more indebted to the past[51] than to the present, for the importance, which, at first view, it appears to possess.

The public buildings of Mozambique all bespeak the value of the settlement to its possessors, in the days of Portuguese maritime distinction. The governor's palace must have been, in its best days, a residence worthy of an influential ruler. It is built of stone, is of considerable extent, and has some fine rooms in it; in fact, it speaks much for the importance attached by the Portuguese, in former times, to their eastern possessions. The large stone wharf, built on handsome arches, with the fine Custom House, in a sort of square at the extremity of it, clearly point out the ancient commercial value of the settlement; withered at last, perhaps, more by the paralysing effects of the slave-trade, than by any natural decrease in the commercial capabilities of the east coast of Africa.

In short, the city has retrograded into comparative insignificance; the number of resident Portuguese has become very inconsiderable, with the exception of some Canareens or creole Portuguese, born in other Portuguese possessions in India, and, though commonly called white, only so "by courtesy," being often quite as black as the true Indians. Bad government and moral deterioration have added not a little to the other causes of its downfall; and it will scarcely be credited, that a distinct law has been passed, that those who were married should be compelled to remain there, or, at least, not return to their own country. The effect of so extraordinary a measure, has been, that nobody is disposed to get married at all; and, so low a tone of moral feeling has come to prevail, that the sexes live together openly, without any matrimonial or moral ties, and with little feeling of shame at the absence of them.

I have dwelt a little upon these particulars concerning Mozambique, because it is the principal of all the Portuguese settlements on that coast; and if, as such, it has fallen so far from its former state, we may judge how the others must now be lingering on between life and death. The fatal influence of the slave-trade appears to paralyse the whole commercial traffic of the country; the natives, being reduced to mutual distrust of each other, and continually living in fear and poverty, are unable to purchase the comforts of foreign manufactures. The selling of slaves is almost the only profit of the chiefs, unfitting them for every other enterprise, and deadening within them every feeling of honour and every hope of improvement. A universal stagnation seems to hang over the mind of man, as well as over the productions of the earth. Were it not for the industry of the Arab population in the neighbourhood, a periodical famine would inevitably occur. At the present moment, the whole of[52] the Portuguese possessions, along the Rios da Senna, do not supply even enough grain for their own consumption. Yet the country is a remarkably fine one, capable of producing luxuriantly all the fruits of the earth, and, were it cleared and cultivated, would become habitable even for Europeans, through the improvement of its climate; yet, there is much land now neglected and barren, which was once highly cultivated.

The slave-trade is, in fact, a worse pestilence to the country than even the fever itself; and Mozambique, Quillimane, Delagoa Bay, Sofala, and Inhamban, are all fallen to the lowest grade of civilization. If you ask the simple tale of history, what has been the effect of Portuguese rule upon that coast, you will hear neither of savages reclaimed, soil improved, commerce extended, justice and mercy practised, nor Christianity taught. The blight of slavery has poisoned everything on which it rested.

Nevertheless, as a place of call for refreshment, for ships passing through the Channel, Mozambique has some claims to attention. Abundance of vegetables and fruit are to be obtained there; pigs and goats are readily to be purchased, as well as poultry, and, were the demand for bullocks larger, they would soon be brought to market in numbers. At present, however, they are very dear.

But the great treasure of the place remains yet to be developed; at all events, the subject is well open to investigation. The existence of good coal in that neighbourhood is now, I believe for the first time, made public. There is reason to expect that it will be found in large quantity, and of good quality, although as yet the search for it has not been carried on to any great extent. The all-engrossing subject of the slave-trade seems to darken every other object of attention in that quarter, and the Portuguese are probably afraid that the discovery of coal in their settlements would occasion the continual visits of so many steamers and other vessels, that even greater difficulty would be thrown in the way of the traffic.

Just as the Nemesis was leaving the harbour, the captain of an English merchant ship, the only one there at the time, brought off a large piece of excellent coal for inspection. It had all the appearance of coal perfectly adapted for steaming purposes; it was stated to be found at Quillimane, (the settlement before alluded to) about three hundred miles to the southward of Mozambique, and that there is every reason to believe it might be procured in large quantities, and worked without difficulty. This specimen was sent to England for examination, by Captain Hall; but it has since been ascertained that it did not reach its destination. This is on all accounts to be regretted. It was sent down to the Cape of Good Hope from Mozambique,[53] in a box, with directions that it should be forwarded to the India House, but was probably lost, or set aside at the Cape.

If further investigation should prove what is here stated to be correct, there can be no reason for not searching for coal upon other parts of the coast; and under any circumstances, as Quillimane is so short a distance from Mozambique, the coal might easily be brought up to the latter at little expense; and, if it were to become a more frequented route to India, it would be desirable to moor a large coal-hulk off the town, in which a constant supply of coal could be kept ready, and which could be taken in rapidly, and at little expense, by a steamer running up alongside of her.

But the Portuguese, unfortunately, seem quite blind, even to their own interests; and they cannot perceive, that if they could work coal-mines, they would employ a large population, circulate wealth throughout their territory, and attract a considerable and improving commerce to their port. But then their slave-trade would be ruined: and they are not even wise enough in their own generation to perceive, that out of its very ashes would gradually spring up the healthy and vigorous plant of commerce, upon an extensive scale, not only with foreign parts, but with the native tribes of Africa. These, however, are now continually desolated by the scourge of war and slavery. But they would soon learn to value peace and peaceful arts, and the taste for new articles of manufacture would grow gradually into wants, and wants in course of time give birth to the wish for luxuries. Far above all the profits of the traffic in human beings, would then become the fruits of wholesome trade; the country would advance, instead of being driven back; and the welfare of the community and of the government be simultaneously promoted.

New regulations respecting trade would in the first instance be indispensable, as at the present time the commandants or little governors of all the minor Portuguese settlements are themselves allowed to trade, and often are the principal, or in a manner the only, merchants in the place. This alone must destroy all healthy competition, the soul of commerce. But, were trade placed upon a proper footing, and coal likely to become an article of demand, it would easily be exported to the Cape, Mauritius, and up to Aden for the Bombay steamers, and to numerous other parts, in which the demand for coal is yearly increasing, and likely to become almost unlimited.

I have here rather assumed that coal will be found in large quantity than proved it; but sufficient has been said to point out the great probability of its existence upon that coast in more places than one, and the question involves such important consequences that it deserves the fullest investigation.


It was at one time thought that coal would be found in some one of the Comoro islands before alluded to, at the northern extremity of the Mozambique Channel; and the Nemesis was directed, at all events, to touch there on her way, for the purpose of inquiring into its eligibility as a depôt, and place of refreshment for steamers.

The distance of the nearest of the Comoro islands, Mohilla, from Mozambique, is scarcely two hundred and fifty miles; and from thence to Johanna, which is the principal one, and the place of residence of the sultan or ruler of the islands, is about thirty miles. Johanna lies as near as possible in the middle of the Channel, between Madagascar and the mainland of Africa, just where it widens into the open sea.

The Nemesis took her departure from Mozambique on the evening of the 1st of September, but did not reach Johanna until the afternoon of the 4th, having made nearly the whole distance under sail only, against a very strong south-westerly current.

The island of Mohilla is, of course, the first seen, and strikes you by its lofty, wooded summit, and the numerous small islets which surround it to the southward. The Channel between Mohilla and Johanna is picturesque, and the high inland mountains every where present a rich and refreshing appearance, being covered with luxuriant wood, and broken occasionally into deep glens, marked by the usual rich tropical verdure. Johanna is the most frequented of all the islands, and affords the best anchorage. But it was quite dark before the Nemesis approached the bay, and an occasional blue light and a rocket were let off, to give notice of her approach, in order that a pilot might come off, or else a signal be made to direct her to the best anchorage.

A large fire was soon lighted on shore for this purpose; and, no sooner did she come within a moderate distance, than numerous boats came alongside; the natives jumped on board, in apparent delight at seeing her come in, not unmixed with extreme surprise at her appearance, and the mode in which she moved through the water. Several of them spoke broken English, and although they were naturally delighted at the prospect of earning a little money, they were even more so at the sight of her armament, and at once concluded that she was sent purposely to assist the sultan and the people of the island, who were at that time in great danger and trouble.

Johanna is occasionally frequented by English ships, for provisions, which are there abundant and reasonable, and the people have become favourably known in England, in consequence of their kind treatment of numerous poor English seamen, who have from time to time been wrecked on those islands, or on the[55] neighbouring coasts. The great bay, which is on the northern side of the island, is not, however, a very suitable anchorage, except, perhaps, during the S.W. monsoon. At all times, there is a very heavy surf rolling in shore; and, during the N.E. monsoon, which sets directly into it, the heavy swell renders the anchorage unsafe. It cannot, therefore, be considered at all eligible as a coal depôt for steamers, particularly when Mozambique, which has greater claims to attention, is within such a moderate distance. Still, it is a very useful place of refuge for our whaling ships in that part of the world; and, as the inhabitants, as well as the authorities, have always shewn great kindness to the English, and, in fact, consider themselves almost in the light of allies of England, it would seem politic to keep alive the good feeling they evince toward us.

The inhabitants of these islands are principally of Moorish origin, nearly all Mohammedans, and they wear the turban and loose dress which belong to no part of the neighbouring coast; and a dagger or pistols in their girdle are by no means uncommon. They have a genuine old English or Arab mode of shaking hands, with a gaiety of manner that is very pleasing. Their features are regular, and well formed, and their complexion, though dark, is very different from that of the inhabitants, either of the neighbouring continent, or of the island of Madagascar. In short, it is evident, that they were originally emigrants from some distant part, probably Arab traders, although their appearance has become modified in the course of successive generations.

These islanders appear to be rather favourites of the different men-of-war and merchant ships which touch there; though they have acquired a character for duplicity and cunning, and, consequently, for telling falsehoods, which at the same time they smooth over with the most artful flattery. But high testimony has been often borne to their kindness and hospitality towards Englishmen in distress; and, when the Exmouth grounded there several years ago, with a great number of passengers, on her way home, the Sultan Abdallah, the father of his present highness, particularly distinguished himself, by even attending in person to direct the efforts of his men, who came to assist in getting the vessel off. He paid the utmost attention to all the passengers, particularly to the women and children, taking care that they should be provided with every thing he could furnish for their comfort, until they could pursue their voyage further. Nor is this by any means a solitary instance of the kind services which they have rendered to our countrymen.


[9] With respect to the effects of lightning upon an iron ship, and the danger which was to be apprehended from the attraction, both of the vessel as a body, and of its particular parts as points for the electrical fluid to touch upon in its passage between the clouds and the earth, no inconvenience whatever seems to have been felt. Much had been said about it in England before her departure for a tropical region. The timid, and those less acquainted with the subject, openly expressed their apprehensions; the learned smiled with more of curiosity than fear; but the officers of the vessel itself were too busy about other matters to give themselves time to think much about the question. During their voyage to the southward, when many dangers were encountered, certainly that from lightning was amongst the least thought of; and now, as they were passing through the Mozambique Channel, a part of the world particularly famous for its heavy storms of thunder and lightning, not the slightest effect from it was observed upon the iron vessel. The funnel has a perfectly smooth top, without any ornamental points, such as are sometimes seen; and the main rigging and funnel stays were made of chain at the top, and rope throughout the rest.



The present ruler, or sultan, of the Comoro Islands, by name Alloué, is the son of the late sultan Abdallah, before alluded to as having been particularly kind to distressed Englishmen. He is a young man under thirty, of moderate height, agreeable countenance, and easy, pleasant manners. But his character is not distinguished for energy, and the difficulties with which he has had to contend appear to have been rather beyond his powers. His father, Abdallah, had made a treaty with Colonel Farquhar, when governor of the Mauritius, by which he undertook to suppress, by every means in his power, the extensive trade in slaves which was at that time carried on at the islands which were under his dominion; and he particularly distinguished himself by the zeal and perfect good faith with which he carried out its provisions. Indeed, to this cause, much of the subsequent difficulties of his family, and the impoverishment of his people, seem to have been attributed.

In the latter days of Abdallah's life, he appears to have met with sad reverses; and, judging from the documents which I have been able to examine, it would seem that his determined resistance to the continuance of the slave-trade raised up enemies against him, not only in his own islands, but in the more powerful one of Madagascar, and on the coast of Africa itself. It is certain, also, that he was at all times favourably regarded by the government of Bombay, for his services to the Company's ships, and, as an acknowledgment of his assistance, a present was sent to him every three years, of a small supply of arms and ammunition. Abdallah's death was, however, at length brought about, after suffering numerous hardships, by the treacherous and cruel treatment of an emissary from Madagascar, or one of the more than half-savage chiefs of that island, into whose hands he at length fell.

This is not the place to enter at large into the subject of Madagascar history; it will be sufficient to remark that the present queen of that country is a most cruel and tyrannical sovereign; that she sets little value upon the lives or blood of her subjects, and that she is supposed to have poisoned her predecessor, the late King Radaman; further, that she did not succeed in winning the throne without sacrificing most of the chiefs who were opposed to her, and that she has since contrived to bring under her subjection many who were formerly independent governors, or chiefs, of the territory they severally occupied. Those who take an interest in missionary enterprises will also have heard of the dreadful cruelties she has exercised upon those unhappy men within her territories, most of whom were barbarously put to death, some in her presence, and partly, it is said, by her own hand. Only one or two of them escaped from the island.

Shewing the
Published by H. Colburn 13 Grt. Marlborough Street, 1845.
Isaac Purdy Sculpt.


It was not unnatural, under these circumstances, that one or more of the chiefs of the island should have taken refuge in the neighbouring islands of Johanna and Mohilla. Accordingly, so long ago as 1828, a chief, called Raymanytek, who had been governor of an important province in Madagascar under the old king, and was said by some to be his brother, came over to Johanna with about one hundred followers, and represented to Sultan Abdallah, that he had made his escape from his own country, through fear of the queen, who sought his life, (probably he had tried to get possession of the chief authority himself,) and that, as he understood the inhabitants of the Comoro Islands were allies of the English, as well as himself, he came there to beg for an asylum. There was something very suspicious in his story; but, nevertheless, Abdallah received him in a very friendly manner, placing a house and lands at his disposal, and shewing him other civilities.

Probably, however, entertaining some mistrust of his new visitor, Abdallah sent an envoy to Bombay to make known the particulars of his arrival, and to ask whether the government would feel satisfied with his residence upon the islands under his dominion. He suspected, no doubt, that the new chief might soon become a troublesome visitor, and was anxious to endeavour to secure some further assistance from Bombay, should he stand in need of it. It is likely, also, that he wished to obtain some information respecting the character of Raymanytek.

From Bombay, reference was made to the government of the Mauritius upon the subject, as being better acquainted with the political state of Madagascar. In the meantime, the chief, not content with a residence in the neighbourhood of Sultan Abdallah, went to the opposite or southern side of the island, where he purchased a small native vessel, for the evident purpose of trading in slaves. The little craft made several voyages across to the coast of Africa; and, at length, Abdallah remonstrated with him upon the subject, and informed him that if this clandestine trade were not discontinued, he should make him leave the island altogether. To this no reply was made; and still the vessel went across to the coast, bringing back, on one occasion, nearly two hundred slaves. Many of these were probably re-exported to other parts.

Abdallah hereupon ordered his disobedient visitor immediately to quit the island, upon the ground that the slave-trade could not be permitted within his territory, the more particularly as he was bound by treaty with the English to prevent it in every way he could.


To this summons Raymanytek made no other reply than to bring all his followers together armed, and, by means of bribery and fair promises, to enlist in his cause some of the poorer inhabitants in his neighbourhood, and also to arm as many of his negro slaves as he could prevail upon, and who appeared trustworthy. Money seemed at all times to be at his command, and he is said to have brought a well-filled purse with him when he landed from Madagascar. With the force he had now collected, he made an unexpected descent upon the capital of the island, which, being unprepared, was, of course, unable to resist him. The consternation was general, in addition to which, his money is believed to have influenced some of the people to remain quiet.

Almost immediately the old Sultan Abdallah was deposed, and his brother Ali took the chief power into his hands. Abdallah, with all the rest of his family, left the island, with the hope of being able to find an opportunity of reaching some English port, where he might represent his case, and ask for assistance. He reached the island of Comoro in safety; but what became of him afterwards, until he was ultimately put to death with extreme barbarity, as before stated, I have hitherto not been able to ascertain.

During this short interval, Raymanytek had been able to get possession of the arms belonging to Abdallah, and which I have stated were supplied every two or three years by the government of Bombay, as a recompence for his friendly assistance when needed; and, having burnt and ruined the greater part of the town, and completely destroyed the crops and plantations in the neighbourhood, he embarked on board his little vessel, and, taking with him all that he could conveniently carry away of any value, he withdrew to the island of Mohilla, and established himself there in a position easy of defence; all the subsequent efforts of the rightful authorities to turn him out were of no avail.

This man must have been supplied, by some means or other, with abundance of ammunition; and it is not unlikely that his speculations in the slave-trade, by means of his own vessel, may have supplied him not only with money, but also with warlike weapons and ammunition. It is well surmised, too, that he received assistance direct from Madagascar at various times; and it must not be forgotten that the nine or ten years which elapsed between the commencement of these occurrences and the visit of the Nemesis was a period particularly fraught with difficulties in relation to the traffic in slaves, and that it appears primâ facie, highly probable that this marauding rebel may have been strongly encouraged, and even aided, in his attempts, by distant parties interested in the traffic. Indeed, unless some assistance of this[59] kind had been furnished to him, it is difficult to see how he could so long have found means to maintain himself.

The sultan applied for assistance on several occasions to the government of the Mauritius, of the Cape, and of Bombay. The letter of the young sultan Alloué, after the death of his father, in 1836, addressed to the governor of the Cape of Good Hope, and to the admiral of the station, asking for assistance, was a really pathetic appeal to their good feelings. It detailed the horrors of poor old Abdallah's death, and the violent acts of the invader; it related the defenceless state in which he found himself on taking the reins into his hands; and then appealed to British generosity, in return for the faithful adhesion of his family to Great Britain, and the hospitality of his people towards all British subjects.

The answer on that occasion was prompt, and worthy of the cause—namely, "that in consequence of the difficulties in which the sultan of Johanna was placed, and in consideration of the fidelity with which the late Sultan Abdallah had fulfilled his engagements for the suppression of the slave-trade, and the hospitality which he had on all occasions shewn to British vessels touching at Johanna, the governor and admiral readily yield to the earnest desire of the Sultan Alloué for the aid of arms and ammunition, and send an ample supply thereof to Johanna in one of his majesty's sloops of war," &c.

With this assistance, Alloué was once more able to make head for the time against his enemy. But the country still continued in a very unsettled state; and, as the assistance was only temporary, he again fell into extreme difficulty, and addressed himself to the governor of the Mauritius upon the subject. Sir William Nicolai, who was governor and commander-in-chief of that island at that time, referred the application to the consideration of the home government. But it would seem that some little intrigues had sprung up among the sultan's own family, which it is not very easy, and so far very unimportant, to fathom.

The Sultan Alloué's uncle, Seyd Abbas, had about the same time sent two young men, either his sons or nephews, to the Mauritius, to report the unhappy state of the island, and to request assistance in support of the actual Sultan Alloué. Not long afterwards two or three other young men arrived at the Mauritius, also bearing letters from Seyd Abbas to the same purport. As this man was thought to be well disposed towards the English, and had been favourably spoken of by all those who had visited the island, and as, moreover, his object seemed to be the laudable one of trying to support the young sultan's authority, even though without his highness's acknowledged sanction, it was judged proper to maintain all these young[60] men at the public expense, until an opportunity should offer for sending them back again. After the lapse of some months, a vessel was hired on purpose to carry them back; and it was at the same time distinctly intimated that, "however praiseworthy the intentions of Seyd Abbas may have been in sending his own relations from home as political messengers, and however high he may stand personally in the respect of Englishmen, it would in future be impossible for British authorities to maintain political correspondence with him or with any other person in Johanna than his highness the sultan of the island." The sultan was further recommended henceforth to give Seyd Abbas a share of his confidence in his councils, in consequence of his age and experience, and the apparent sincerity with which he espoused his interest; and, at the same time, the young men were recommended to his notice as very sensible and well-informed persons. The friendly interest and intentions of the government towards the sultan and people of Johanna were then in general terms expressed; and thus, with kind words and kinder hopes for better days for his subjects, the young sultan was left for the present to take care of himself.

It was only a few months before the arrival of the Nemesis that some of the events which have been recorded had occurred. The Sultan Alloué was still in extreme danger; and another letter was addressed by him to the governor of the Mauritius, only about five months previously. It appears to have been remarkably well written, and contains some ingenious observations which, as being written by a young Moorish prince, the ruler of an island in a remote corner of the globe, under circumstances of great difficulty, it may be worth while to dwell upon it for a moment.

He thanks his excellency the governor of the Mauritius for the kindness he had shewn to the young men, whom he admits to be distantly related to him; but shrewdly remarks that their "clandestine departure from Johanna, contrary to his express orders, and during the night, had given him reason to suppose that they were not quite so friendly disposed towards him as they wished his excellency to believe: and that he feared the object of their journey had been a pecuniary speculation upon the governor's goodness and British hospitality." He proceeds to express his thanks for being apprised that persons had entertained political correspondence with English authorities without his knowledge or consent; and adds, that, although he fully concurs in his excellency's opinion with regard to the age and experience of his uncle, Seyd Abbas, still there are many others in Johanna who possess the same qualities, and whose attachment and loyalty he had never had occasion to doubt.

The suspicion here betrayed is self-evident, and sufficiently[61] delicately expressed. The picture he then draws of the state of his country is a pitiable one for a prince himself to be obliged to depict—"The town burnt; the country ravaged; all our cattle killed by the chief, Raymanytek, aided by natives of Mohilla, under his orders." He distinctly intimates that the rebel chief was receiving "assistance from the French;" and, although he does not state reasonable grounds for the assertion, the statement is not altogether an improbable one, considering that the abolition of slavery in the Mauritius had roused the feeling of the French population against us and our allies: and, moreover, slavery was still in existence in the neighbouring island of Bourbon, where strong feelings against the English had been undisguisedly avowed; while, at the same time, the difficulty of procuring fresh slaves had greatly raised their price.

Intrigues were thought to have been carried on by the French traders in Madagascar itself, where they have long attempted to obtain a footing, but with little success, owing to the deadly nature of the climate. It is, however, perfectly well-known that they are still anxious to strain every nerve to establish themselves in some place eastward of the Cape, in addition to the island of Bourbon, where there is no harbour whatever, but merely an open roadstead. They are, moreover, anxious to get some point d'appui whence they may injure British trade, in case of war, in that quarter; and, at the same time, by establishing a little colony of their own, find some means of augmenting their mercantile marine.

One of their latest attempts has been at the Isle Madame; and it is perfectly well known that several other efforts have been made, and still more talked about.

If, however, Raymanytek really did receive any foreign assistance, it is not probable that it was with the knowledge or connivance of the government of Bourbon, but rather from the restless enterprise of private individuals interested in the slave trade. However that may be, there seems to be very good grounds for our hoping that the Sultan Alloué may be permitted to remain in the peaceable possession of his own rightful territories. It is our evident interest to prevent those fine islands from falling into any other hands, more especially now that the intercourse between the West and East, through the Mozambique channel, is likely to be more extensive than formerly; and that the opening for legitimate commerce, within the channel itself, cannot but attract the attention of British merchants. The trade in slaves will become yearly more difficult, and, indeed, nothing would tend more to cause its total downfall than the gradual extension, under proper government protection, of the legitimate trade in British manufactures along that coast.

The young Sultan Alloué further went on to declare in his[62] letter that numbers of his people had been captured and taken to Mozambique and Zanzibar, where they were sold into slavery; and that several such cargoes had already been sent over. He begged earnestly that assistance might speedily be sent to him, in arms and ammunition, and that he particularly stood in need of lead and flints, and a couple of small field-pieces. At the same time, he entreated that some small vessel of war might be sent to his aid; for that such were his difficulties, that, unless speedy assistance should arrive, he feared that he should be driven to abandon the town, and seek personally an asylum in British India. He then appealed to the magnanimity of the British government, in the hope that he and his people might not be compelled to abandon their homes for want of timely assistance.[10]

Such, then, was the unhappy situation of the beautiful little island of Johanna, as described by its own prince, only a few months before the unexpected visit of the Nemesis. Little change had taken place; the town still held out, but it does not appear that any assistance had been sent to it. The very sight of the steamer gladdened the young sultan's heart, and encouraged the people, who stood greatly in need of it; the rebel chief being then at only a short distance from the town.

Late as it was, the captain and Lieut. Pedder landed in uniform to wait upon the sultan at once, as their time was so limited. One of his uncles and his prime minister received them, and accompanied them through a few narrow streets, built in the Moorish style, to the sultan's palace. At the entrance were stationed four half-clad soldiers, with muskets, as a personal guard; and, on reaching the reception room, the sultan was discovered sitting on a high-backed chair, at the further end of the apartment. He immediately rose and advanced towards them in a very friendly manner, welcoming them to Johanna with a good, hearty shake by the hand. Two chairs were placed on his left, for his guests, while, on his right, sat the governor of the town, and several other of the principal people, all on the tip-toe of expectation for the news from England, the more particularly as they were in some hope that the strange-looking "devil-ship," as they called her, might have brought a letter from the English government, in answer to his application for assistance.


They were doomed, however, to be again disappointed; but the sultan made many inquiries about the Queen and Prince Albert, and whether an heir to the throne had yet been born, and seemed not a little curious to know if the Thames Tunnel was finished. In short, he appeared to be a very well-bred and courteous young man. He alluded painfully to the distressed state of the island, and to his being surrounded by his enemies under Raymanytek, and begged hard for at least a little powder and shot, with which to endeavour to hold out until better assistance could reach him.

As it was already quite late, the interview did not last long, but promises were made to renew it on the subsequent day, and a party was arranged for an excursion outside the town on the following morning. Accordingly, at daylight, the party were again met by the king's uncle on the beach, who appointed three soldiers to act both as guides and guards. These men appeared quite pleased with the duty assigned to them, and throughout the whole trip did everything in their power to amuse the party, and to point out to them the objects best worth notice; one man went in search of shells upon the beach, another to procure fruit, and scarcely a wish was expressed that was not immediately gratified.

Having ascended the hills on the eastern side of the valley, they were gratified by a delightful prospect in every direction. The valley below was rich and capable of high cultivation, but only partially cleared of wood, and in other parts covered with long grass and low shrubs, varied by the numerous wild flowers which were then in blossom. In the rear were high and thickly-wooded mountains, picturesque in themselves, but shutting out the view of the opposite side of the island, while, in the other direction, the eye could trace the long line of picturesque coast, giving altogether a very favourable impression of the character of the island, the more particular as some of the timber is very fine, and calculated for repairing ships.

The town itself could only be viewed from the top of a higher hill behind it, which was now ascended, and its character well made out. Its little white flat-topped houses and turreted walls, with very narrow streets, pointed out its Moorish origin. But there was nothing to render it otherwise striking.

The whole population appeared to be abroad, each struggling which should gratify his curiosity the quickest, in running down to the beach to catch a glimpse of the strange vessel, the like of which none had ever seen before. Boats were seen crowding round her on all sides, and, as she lay there, decked out with all her flags, the scene was both animated and picturesque.

On descending the hill, the party were again met by the sultan's uncle, who invited them to breakfast with his highness,[64] and accompanied them, first to his own house, where they met the sultan himself, and thence to the palace, which was close at hand. But it was still rather an early hour for a reception, and on entering the palace, it was very evident that the preparations had not yet been completed for their arrival. His highness's ladies, the sultana and her companions, had only just time to make their escape, leaving everything in disorder, and, in short, breakfast was not quite ready.

His highness was very condescending, but it was clear that his attentions were being divided between two or more objects at the same time, one of which was readily guessed to be the ladies fair, who had so suddenly decamped. But this was not the only one, and, in the little intervals between his exits and his entrances, an opportunity was taken to ask his uncle, who was present, what it was all about. The mystery was solved. His highness was condescending to superintend the preparation of the breakfast for his guests, that it might be worthy of them. The kitchen was on this occasion converted into the council-chamber, and quite as weighty matters there discussed, and certainly with equal warmth, and probably, too, with the full "ore rotundo" of hungry eloquence, as are often treated of with greater solemnity in higher conclaves.

The result, indeed, was worthy of the cause. The breakfast was pronounced capital, and ample justice done, after the morning's walk, to the wisdom of his highness's deliberations. He himself seemed quite delighted, and his uncle declared to Captain Hall, in his absence, that the young man's greatest pleasure was to contrive some new means of gratifying the English who came in his way, and that there was nothing he would not condescend to do for them, in his enthusiastic admiration of the nation. A little of this might be said and done for effect, but there has always been good reason to believe that he was on all occasions a sincere, and, in some respects, useful ally.

The same day, a grand entertainment was to be given by some relation of the Sultan's, in his uncle's house, in honour of the performance of the first Mohammedan rite upon the young infant, his son and heir, upon the eighth day after its birth. The sultan himself, with his chief minister, accompanied them to see the festivities. On this occasion, the ladies of the court were all found to be in the apartment adjoining the reception room, and only separated from it by a large screen or curtain before the door. Now, according to all the prescribed rules of civilized life, it may reasonably be supposed that the fair damsels, secluded as they usually were, had just as much curiosity to see the lions of the day, the English officers in uniform, as the latter had to catch a glimpse of eastern beauty, the more sought the more forbidden. Every now and then you could see the curtain[65] moved gently on one side, and a young lady's head peep out; and then another would steal a quiet look on the other side; then again, by pressing against each other, more of them would be seen than they intended, but quite enough to make you wish to see more still. In the meantime his highness had retired, or perhaps they might not have been so bold.

As the gallantry of the sons of Neptune has at all times been famous, so in this instance it innocently got the better of their discretion, and, with an apparently accidental, though well-premeditated charge at the curtain, which was most gallantly pushed on one side, a full view of all the fair ladies was obtained, much more to the apparent horror of the old uncle, who was a spectator of the achievement, than to that of the fair damsels themselves, who, nevertheless, quietly retreated in some trepidation. The ladies were all very handsomely and gaudily dressed, it being a gala-day, but they were not altogether the most Venus-like of beauties.

But a more curious scene was brought to view on being conducted to another apartment, where a large and merry party of ladies of less distinguished rank were amusing themselves with dancing and singing, but certainly without much grace in the one or melody in the other. There was only one good-looking female among the whole assembly, and she appeared to be the queen of beauty, or mistress of the feast, for she was treated with the utmost attention and deference by all the rest.

On returning again to the presence of the sultan, refreshments were handed round, and, as the weather was hot, a whole train of the female servants of the house were ushered into the room, each with a fan, or sort of portable punka, in her hand. They were all very neatly and cleanly dressed, and immediately set their fans most dexterously to work, taking their stations behind each person of the party.

In the midst of this scene the sultan disappeared, followed by his uncle, and, after a few minutes' consultation, the attendance of Captain Hall was requested in his highness's private apartment. Something important was evidently about to happen, but, before there was much time to conjecture what it might be, he found himself alone with the sultan. His highness frankly confessed the alarm which the strength of the chief named Raymanytek had excited in his mind, that he was even then not far from the town, and that he himself was determined at once to march out against the rebels, if he could get a sufficient supply of powder and shot. At the same time he begged that, if necessary, he might have the assistance of the steamer to protect his town.

Only one reply could be given, namely, that the visit of the steamer was a mere casual thing, with a view to ascertain the[66] nature of the harbour; that the service she was engaged on would admit of no delay, but that, as long as she was there, which could not be many hours more, she should give protection to himself and his family, as well as to the town, if in danger, and that a small supply of ammunition should be given to him to enable him to defend himself. He appeared quite satisfied, and pleased with the reply. At the same time, as the danger was imminent, and much blood might otherwise be shed, he requested that, since the orders by which the steamer was obliged to abide would necessitate her immediate departure, the British flag might be hoisted upon his citadel before she started, and receive the proper salute, in order to intimidate the rebel chief; and further, that a letter might be written to the latter, stating that the sultan of Johanna was an old ally of Great Britain, and that the taking up arms against him could no longer be permitted; in short, that he had, therefore, better take himself off as quickly as possible, and return to obedience.

This was a request which demanded very serious consideration. It was evident that Captain Hall had no authority whatever to interfere in the matter. And such, consequently would have been the only reply of many officers, perhaps most, under the same circumstances. But, there was now something of humanity called into play, something of pity, and something, perhaps, of pride. It was impossible not to feel a deep interest in the unhappy position of the young sultan, more particularly as he and all his family had on so many occasions behaved with kindness and humanity towards Englishmen in distress. He had, moreover, stated his positive wish to become not only the ally, but even the subject of Great Britain, and that he would rather give up the island altogether to the English, and, if necessary, retire from it elsewhere, than see it in its then state of misery from the incursions of Raymanytek.

There was, in fact, something in Alloué's appeal, which was altogether irresistible; and after much reflection, and well knowing the responsibility incurred, it was agreed that the British flag should be hoisted upon the citadel, under a salute of twenty-one guns. This was accordingly done, and for the first time, the flag, which so many millions look upon with pride, waved over the citadel and walls of Johanna. The sultan smiled, and appeared to take far greater pride in that unstained ensign, than in his own independent flag, or his own precarious authority.

Great were the rejoicings of the whole people of the town; in fact, the day had been one of continued excitement to all parties. To crown the whole, a letter was written to the rebel chief, according to the tenour of what has been stated above, and which, it was hoped, would induce Raymanytek to retire peaceably for the present, and to defer to an opportunity less favourable for[67] himself, if not altogether to forego, his treasonable designs, which had evidently been to depose the sultan, and probably put him to death, and banish all his family, assuming the whole authority himself in his place.

This had been a long and eventful day for the Nemesis, and while we have been relating what was passing on shore, those on board had been busy taking in water and wood for the immediate continuance of the voyage. One thing, however, yet remained; the sultan was to visit the ship, and see what to him were wonders. He came on board in the afternoon, with several attendants, in full Moorish dress, and, of course, evinced the utmost astonishment at the arrangement of the ship, the machinery, &c. To him and his followers all was new. As they steamed round the bay, their wonderment increased more and more at the ease and rapidity with which she moved; and having partaken of a little fruit and bread, and taken a most friendly and, to all appearance, grateful leave of Captain Hall, and all on board, he was landed in the ship's boat, with his own flag flying upon it.

On landing, he seemed quite overwhelmed with thankfulness for the timely assistance rendered to him, and unaffectedly sorry at parting with friends, he had so recently made.

On the afternoon of the 5th September, 1840, the interesting little island of Johanna was left behind, with many good wishes for the success of the sultan's arms, and for the speedy restoration of peace and plenty to his harassed subjects. It is feared, however, that these hopes have scarcely yet been realized.[11]


[10] The sultan very recently went up to Calcutta, to apply to the Governor-general, in the hope that the Company might be induced to take possession of the islands, which he felt he could no longer hold without assistance. He merely asked for himself a small annual stipend out of the revenues. What answer he may have received is not known; but probably his application was rejected, upon the ground of our territory in the East being already quite large enough. But, in reality, the Comoro Islands, or at least a part of them, must be viewed in a political light, as they may be said to command the navigation of the straits, and are generally thought to be an object aimed at by the French.

[11] The following letter concerning the fate of the Comoro Islands, and the violent proceedings of the French in that quarter, appeared in The Times of January 30th, 1844. The facts stated in it have every appearance of exaggeration, but the interference of the British government would seem to be called for.

"The French have, within the last month, obtained, by fraud, possession of the islands of Johanna, Mohilla, and Peonaro; they had already, by the same means, obtained the islands of Mayotte and Nos Beh. There are at present out here eleven ships of war—the largest a 60-gun frigate; more are expected out, in preparation for the conquest of all Madagascar; and also, it is said, of the coast of Africa, from latitude 10 S. to 2 S.; this portion includes the dominions of the Imaum of Muscat. At this place (Nos Beh) a system of slavery is carried on that you are not aware of. Persons residing here, send over to places on the mainland of Africa, as Mozambique, Angoza, &c., money for the purchase of the slaves; they are bought there for about ten dollars each, and are sold here again for fifteen dollars; here again they are resold to French merchant vessels from Bourbon and St. Mary's for about twenty-five to thirty dollars each. Captains of vessels purchasing these use the precaution of making two or three of the youngest free, and then have them apprenticed to them for a certain term of years, (those on shore,) fourteen and twenty one years. These papers of freedom will answer for many. It is a known fact, that numbers have been taken to Bourbon, and sold for two hundred and three hundred dollars each. Those who have had their freedom granted at this place, (Nos Beh,) as well as others, are chiefly of the Macaw tribe. The Indian, of Havre, a French bark, took several from this place on the 20th of September last; she was bound for the west coast of Madagascar, St. Mary's, and Bourbon. L'Hesione, a 32-gun frigate, has just arrived from Johanna, having compelled one of the chiefs to sign a paper, giving the island up to the French. On their first application, the king and chiefs of Johanna said, that the island belonged to the English. The French then said, that if it was not given up, they would destroy the place; they, after this, obtained the signature of one of the chiefs to a paper giving up the island to the French.

"I remain, Sir, &c., &c.,
"Henry C. Arc Angelo.
"Supercargo of the late Ghuznee of Bombay.

"Nos Beh, Madagascar,
"Oct. 6th, 1843."

The account given in the above letter is partly borne out by the following announcement, which appeared in the Moniteur, the French official newspaper, in March, 1844; the substance of it is here copied from The Times of the 14th March, and there can be little doubt concerning the object of the French in taking the active step alluded to. We must hope, therefore, that our interests in that quarter will be properly watched, particularly when we remember what serious injury would be inflicted upon the whole of our Eastern trade, in case of war, by the establishment of the French in good harbours to the eastward of the Cape. The announcement is as follows:—"Captain Des Fossés has been appointed Commander of the station at Madagascar, and Bourbon, which was hitherto placed under the orders of the Governor of Bourbon. This station now acquires a greater degree of importance. Captain Des Fossés having under his orders five or six ships of war, will exhibit our flag along the whole coast of Africa, and in the Arabian Seas. He will endeavour to extend our relations with Abyssinia, and our influence in Madagascar."



The next place towards which the Nemesis was destined to shape her course was the island of Ceylon, where at length was to be made known to her the ultimate service upon which she was to be employed. It was not until the 10th that she lost sight of Comoro island, the northernmost of the group of that name, and, if measured in a direct line, considerably less than one hundred miles from Johanna.

Horsburgh particularly notices the light, baffling winds, and the strong, south-west and southerly currents, which prevail during the months of October and November among the Comoro Islands. But it was found upon this voyage that these difficulties presented themselves sometimes much earlier than stated by him. It was now only the beginning of September, and the southerly current was found setting down at the rate of even sixty miles a day. Indeed, both the winds and currents in the Mozambique Channel had been found very different from what had been expected. It was the season of the south-west monsoon when she entered it in the month of August; and as it is usually stated that this wind continues to blow until early in November, the Nemesis ought to have had favourable winds to carry her quite through, even later in the season. On the contrary, she met with a strong head-wind, and a much stronger southerly current than she had reason to expect.

The opinion of Horsburgh seems to be fully confirmed, that[69] late in the season it is better for ships to avoid the Mozambique Channel, and rather to proceed to the eastward of Madagascar, and then pass between Diego Garcia and the Seychelle Islands. Steamers, however, would have less need of this were coal to be had at Mozambique.

From the equator, the current was always easterly; but nothing particular occurred worth noticing, except that, as she approached the Maldive Islands, she encountered very heavy squalls, accompanied with rain.

On the following day, the 1st October, the Maldives were in sight; and, in order to carry her through them rapidly, steam was got up for a few hours, until she came to, in the afternoon, within a quarter of a mile of the shore, under one of the easternmost of the islands, named Feawar, having shaped her course straight across the middle of the long, and until lately, much dreaded group of the Maldive Archipelago.

This extensive chain or archipelago of islands lies in the very centre of the Indian Ocean, and, being placed in the direct track of ships coming from the south-west towards Ceylon, and the southern parts of Hindostan, it was long dreaded by mariners, and shunned by them as an almost impenetrable and certainly dangerous barrier. It is stated by Horsburgh, that the early traders from Europe to India were much better acquainted with these islands than modern navigators, and that they were often passed through in these days without any apprehension of danger. The knowledge of their navigable channels must therefore have been, in a great measure, lost; and, although the utmost credit is due to the indefatigable Horsburgh for his arduous efforts to restore some of the lost information, it is to the liberality of the Indian government, and particularly to the scientific labours and distinguished services of Captain Moresby and Commander Powell, of the Indian navy, that we are indebted for the minute and beautiful surveys of all these intricate channels which have been given to the world since 1835.

This archipelago is divided into numerous groups of islands, called by the natives Atolls, each comprising a considerable number of islands, some of which are inhabited, and abound in cocoa-nut trees, while the smaller ones are often mere barren rocks or sandy islets. The number of these islands, large and small, amounts to several hundred; and the groups, or Atolls, into which they are divided, are numerous. They are laid down with wonderful accuracy and minuteness by Captains Moresby and Powell; so that, with the aid of their charts, the intricate channels between them can be read with almost the same facility as the type of a book. Thus one of the greatest boons has been conferred upon navigators of all nations. They are disposed in nearly a meridian line from latitude 7° 6' N. to latitude 0° 47' S.,[70] and consequently extend over the hottest portion of the tropics, for the distance of more than three hundred and seventy miles.

As the Nemesis passed through these islands, she found that all the former difficulties had now vanished. So accurate were the soundings, and given on so large a scale, that it was more like reading a European road-book than guiding a vessel through an intricate labyrinth of islands.

The very sight of a steamer completely frightened the inhabitants of the little island of Feawar; who, although they at length came alongside without much fear, could never be persuaded to come on board the vessel. However, they had no objection to act as guides, for the purpose of shewing what was to be seen upon their island; and, while a little necessary work was being done to the vessel, Captain Hall and two or three of the officers landed, and were soon surrounded by a crowd of natives upon the beach, quite unarmed.

A stroll along the shore, covered with pieces of coral, soon brought them to a mosque and burial-ground, which was remarkable for the neatness with which it was disposed. The little ornamented head-stones, with inscriptions, and flowers in many places planted round them, probably refreshed by the sacred water of a well close at hand, proved, at all events, the great respect paid to their dead, which is common among all Mohammedans. Indeed, the inhabitants of all these numerous islands are mostly of that persuasion, and consider themselves to be under the protection of England, the common wish of almost all the little independent tribes of the East.

The village itself appeared to be at least half deserted, the poor people, particularly the women, having hastily run away, leaving their spinning-wheels at their doors. They appear to carry their produce, consisting of oil, fish, rope, mats, &c., to Ceylon and other parts of India, in large boats of their own construction, bringing back in return rice and English manufactured goods. Indeed, an extensive traffic is carried on between all the northernmost of this extensive chain of islands, or submarine mountains, and the nearer parts of the coast of India.

On the same evening, the Nemesis continued her voyage, and, on the afternoon of the 5th October, reached the harbour of Pointe de Galle, in Ceylon. She came in under steam, with about eight tons of coal remaining, having been exactly one month from Johanna.

The mystery attending the Nemesis was now to end. Scarcely had she fairly reached her moorings, when a despatch was delivered to the captain from the government of India, containing orders from the Governor-general in council, to complete the necessary repairs, and take in coal and provisions, with all possible expedition, and then to proceed to join the fleet off the[71] mouth of the Canton River, placing himself under the orders of the naval commander-in-chief.

Great was now the rejoicing of both officers and men. Her captain had already been made acquainted with his destination, as far as Ceylon, before leaving England, but no one on board, until now, had any certain information as to what particular service they were to undertake afterwards. The road to distinction was now made known to them; they were at once to be engaged in active operations, in conjunction with her majesty's forces.

Notwithstanding, however, the unremitted exertions of all on board, the Nemesis could not be got ready to proceed on her voyage in less than eight clear days from the time of her arrival at Pointe de Galle. Added to this, the whole of the stores and supplies had to be sent by land from Columbo, a distance of seventy-two miles, as it was not then so well known that all these things could be readily obtained at Singapore, and that therefore a smaller quantity would have sufficed. Indeed, from the more frequent communication with Ceylon, through vessels touching at Pointe de Galle for supplies, which has since taken place, every provision has now been made at that port, without the necessity of sending for stores to so great a distance as Columbo.

Under all circumstances, no time was to be lost; and the anxiety to proceed on the voyage as quickly as possible was so great, that Captain Hall determined to start off for Columbo the same evening, in order to wait upon his Excellency the Governor, and expedite the sending on of the requisite stores. A highly respectable merchant, Mr. Gibb, who was going over, kindly offered him a seat in his gig, and, after considerable exertion and fatigue, they arrived at Columbo late on the following evening.

On the following morning, the country presented itself in all the rich tropical aspect of these regions. The whole road to Columbo pointed out a fertile and luxuriant country, and was in itself admirably adapted for travelling.

For my own part, the more I have seen of tropical countries, the more I have everywhere been fascinated by their luxuriance, and enjoyed the brilliancy of their skies. There is much to compensate for the occasional oppression of the heat, which, after all, is less troublesome or injurious than the chilling blasts of northern climes; and, generally speaking, with proper precaution, it has been hardly a question with myself whether the average degree of health and buoyancy of spirits is not far greater than in less favoured though more hardy regions. Every day that passes is one in which you feel that you really live, for every thing around you lives and thrives so beautifully. Nevertheless, it must not[72] be forgotten that, after a few years spent in so relaxing a climate the constitution becomes enfeebled, and is only to be restored by a visit to more bracing regions.

Governor Mackenzie seemed to take much interest in the steamer, and in her probable capabilities for the peculiar service likely to be required of her in China; he had evidently made the subject his study, and upon this, as upon other questions, evinced great intelligence.

Little need here be said about the island of Ceylon, which has been recently so well described and treated of by able and well-informed writers. The fine fortifications of Columbo, (the capital of the island,) the governor's palace, the barracks and public offices, are all worth seeing; indeed, it is to be regretted that arrangements have not yet been made, by which the steamers from Calcutta to the Red Sea, touching at Point de Galle, might allow some of their passengers, instead of wasting the valuable time necessary for taking in fuel at Point de Galle, to cross over to Columbo. The steamers might then, with a very trifling additional expense, touch at Columbo to pick them up, together with other passengers likely to be found there, now that the overland route is daily becoming more frequented.

The most curious sight at Columbo is the little fleet of fishing-boats, in the shape of long, narrow canoes, each made out of the single trunk of a tree, with upper works rigged on to them, falling in in such a way, that there is just sufficient room for a man's body to turn round. They start off with the land-wind in the morning, and run out a long distance to fish, returning again with the sea-breeze in the afternoon. Both ends are made exactly alike, so that, instead of going about, they have only to shift the large lug-sail, the mast being in the middle, and it is quite indifferent which end of the boat goes foremost. To counteract the natural tendency of so narrow a body to upset, two slight long spars are run out at the side, connected at the outer ends by a long and stout piece of wood, tapering at either extremity, not unlike a narrow canoe; this acts as a lever to keep the boat upright, and is generally rigged out upon the windward side. If the breeze freshens, it is easy to send a man or two out upon it, as an additional counterpoise by their weight, and there they sit, without any apparent apprehension.

The healthiness of Ceylon is within the last few years greatly improved, principally owing to the extensive clearing of land which has taken place. The plantations of coffee having been found at one time, as indeed they are still, to yield a very large profit, induced a great number of persons to enter into the speculation. Land was readily purchased from government as quickly as it could be obtained, at the rate of five shillings an acre; and[73] the result has been a considerable increase in the exports of the island, as well as an amelioration of its condition.

Coals, provisions, and stores of all kinds, were sent on board the Nemesis with the utmost expedition, and, on the afternoon of the 14th October, she was once more ready for sea. The public interest in the events gradually growing up out of the negotiations which were then being carried on with the Chinese had gradually been raised to a high pitch, and a passage to China, to join the force as a volunteer, was readily provided for the governor's son, Lieutenant Mackenzie. Crowds of people gathered upon the shore in all directions to witness her departure, and the discharge of a few signal-rockets as soon as it was dark added a little additional novelty to the event.

Ten days sufficed to carry the Nemesis to the island of Penang, or Prince of Wales's island. Her passage had been longer than might have been expected, owing in a great measure to the badness of the coal, which caked and clogged up the furnaces in such a way that, instead of requiring to be cleaned out only once in about twenty-four hours, as would have been the case with good coal, it was necessary to perform this process no less than four times within the same period; added to which, the enormous quantity of barnacles which adhered to her bottom (a frequent source of annoyance before) greatly retarded her progress.

The island of Penang, which lies close upon the coast of the peninsula of Malacca, from which it is separated by a channel scarcely more than two miles broad, would seem to be a place particularly adapted for steamers to touch at. Indeed, it has become a question of late whether it should not be provided with a sort of government dockyard, for the repair of the increased number of ships of war and transports, both belonging to the service of government and the East India Company, which will necessarily have to pass through the straits of Malacca, now that our intercourse with China is so rapidly increasing. The harbour is perfectly safe, the water at all times smooth; coals can easily be stored there, and good wood can be obtained on the spot; moreover, it lies directly in the track of ships, or very little out of it, as they generally prefer passing on the Malacca side of the straits, particularly during the south-west monsoon. The heavy squalls which prevail on the opposite coast are so severe, that they have at length taken its very name, and are called Sumatras. They are accompanied with terrific lightning, which often does great mischief, and they are justly looked upon with great dread.

Penang is very properly considered one of the loveliest spots in the eastern world, considering its limited extent; and, from[74] the abundance and excellence of its spice productions, which come to greater perfection in the straits than in any other part in which they have been tried, (except, perhaps, in the island of Java,) this little island has proved to be an extremely valuable possession. It abounds in picturesque scenery, heightened by the lovely views of the opposite coast of Malacca, called Province Wellesley, which also belongs to the East India Company. The numerous and excellent roads, the hospitality of the inhabitants, and the richness of the plain, or belt, which lies between the high, wooded mountains in the rear, and the town and harbour are, perhaps, unequalled. This plain, together with the sides of some of the adjoining mountains, is covered with luxuriant plantations of nutmegs, cocoa-nut-trees, and spice-trees of all kinds; and altogether Penang is one of the most attractive, as it is also one of the healthiest spots in the East. It has by some been even called the "Gem of the Eastern seas." There is a fort not far from the fine, covered jetty, or landing-place, of considerable strength; and, with very moderate trouble and expense, there is little doubt that Penang could be made a valuable naval depôt.

The short passage down the straits of Malacca, towards Singapore, was easily performed in three days. But here again some detention was inevitable. The north-east monsoon had already fairly set in, and as vessels proceeding up the China Sea, at this season, would have the wind directly against them, it was necessary that the steamer should take in the greatest possible quantity of fuel she could carry, before she could venture to leave Singapore. On this occasion, every spare corner that could be found was filled with coal, and even the decks were almost covered with coal-bags. By this means, she was enabled to carry enough fuel for full fifteen days' consumption, or about one hundred and seventy-five tons.

The small island of Singapore being situated just off the southern extremity of the peninsula of Malacca, from which it is separated only by a very narrow strait, must necessarily lie almost directly in the track of all vessels passing up or down the straits of Malacca, either to or from China, or any of the intermediate places. Being easy of access to all the numerous half-civilized tribes and nations which inhabit the islands of those seas, and within the influence of the periodical winds or monsoons which, at certain seasons, embolden even the Chinese, Siamese, and other nations to venture upon the distant voyage, it is not surprising that in the space of a few years it should have risen to a very high degree of importance as a commercial emporium.

The wisdom of the policy of Sir Stamford Raffles, in establishing a free port in such an advantageous position, has been proved beyond all previous anticipation. The perfect freedom of commercial[75] intercourse, without any restriction or charges of any kind, has given birth to a yearly increasing commercial spirit among all the surrounding nations. It is impossible to see the immense number of curious junks and trading-vessels which arrive from all parts during the proper season, without admiring the enterprising commercial spirit of all those different tribes, and acknowledging the immense value to England of similar distant outports, for the security and extension of her commerce.

The intercourse with Singapore has been rapidly increasing every year, but especially since the commencement of the war in China. Of course, all our ships of war and transports touch at so convenient a place, where supplies of every description can easily be obtained, and where every attention and kindness are shewn to strangers, both by the authorities and by the resident merchants. Much credit is due to the late governor, Mr. Bonham, for the intelligence and activity which he exhibited, in everything that could in any way forward the objects of the expedition, and for the readiness with which he endeavoured to meet all the wishes of those who were concerned in it. His hospitality and personal attention was acknowledged by all.

In some respects, Singapore forms a good introduction to a first visit to China. It has a very large Chinese population, (not less than 20,000,) to which yearly additions are made, on the arrival of the large trading junks, in which they come down voluntarily to seek employment. Hundreds of them arrive in the greatest destitution, without even the means of paying the boat-hire to enable them to reach the shore, until they are hired by some masters. They are the principal mechanics and labourers of the town, and also act as household servants, while many of them are employed in the cultivation of spices and of sugar, or in clearing land. There is no kind of labour or employment which a Chinaman will not readily undertake; and they appear to succeed equally well in all, with the exception of tending sheep or cattle, which is an occupation they are little fond of.

The town has something of a Chinese aspect, from the number of Chinamen who are employed in every capacity; and the fruits and vegetables are principally cultivated and brought to market by people of that nation. In Java, Penang, and elsewhere, they are also to be met with in great numbers; which is quite sufficient to prove (were proof wanting) how much they are naturally disposed to become a colonizing people. There is hardly any part of the world to which a Chinaman would refuse to go, if led and managed by some of his own countrymen. But, wherever they go, they carry the vice of opium-smoking with them, and it is needless to say that it thrives at Singapore to its[76] fullest extent, and that a large revenue is annually derived from the monopoly of the sale of the drug.

The climate of Singapore is healthy, although the soil is wet, owing to the constant rains; and the heat is, perhaps, never excessive, although the place is situated only about seventy miles from the equator.

It might be expected that the recent opening of the new Chinese ports, from some of which large trading junks have annually come down to seek their cargoes at Singapore, would prove injurious to the future trade of the latter, since it would no longer be necessary for the Chinese to go abroad to seek for that which will now be brought to them at their own doors. This apprehension, however, seems to be little entertained on the spot, because there can be little doubt, that whatever tends to augment the general foreign trade with China must benefit Singapore, which lies on the highroad to it, to a greater or less extent. Singapore has nothing to fear as regards its future commercial prosperity, which is likely rather to increase than to diminish, in consequence of the general increase of trade with China and the neighbouring islands.

On the 4th of November, the Nemesis resumed her voyage, and passed the little rocky island of Pedra Branca early on the following morning. This dangerous and sometimes half-covered rock lies nearly in the direct track for vessels proceeding up the China Sea; and on its southern side are two dangerous ledges or reefs, running out from it to the distance of more than a mile, which, at high water, can scarcely be traced above the surface. On the opposite, or northern side, there is deep water in not less than sixteen or seventeen fathoms, close in to the rock; and, moreover, the tides in its neighbourhood are very irregular, not only in point of time, but also in direction and velocity. Nor are these the only dangers to be met with in this locality. Hence it will readily appear that a lighthouse placed upon Pedra Branca would be of essential utility to all navigators who have occasion to pass up or down the China Sea. A ship leaving Singapore for Hong-Kong, for instance, might then start at such an hour in the evening as would enable her to make the light on Pedra Branca before morning; by which means, her true position being ascertained, she might stand on without fear of any danger. The expense of erecting the lighthouse would not be great, as the elevation would only be moderate, and the expense of maintaining it might be defrayed by levying a small light-duty at Singapore upon all vessels passing up or down the China Sea.

It has been often suggested that this would be a most advantageous site for the proposed monument to the memory of the distinguished Horsburgh, to whom too much honour cannot be[77] paid for his inestimable works, so much relied on by all navigators who frequent the eastern seas. It would be difficult to find a more advantageous or appropriate position, for the best of all monuments to his fame, than this little, dangerous island of Pedra Branca, situated as it is in the very centre of some of his most valued researches; while the recent opening of the new ports in China, and the possession of Hong-Kong, give an increased importance to subjects connected with the navigation of those seas. There is not a single vessel, either British or foreign, which traverses those regions, which is not indebted to Horsburgh for the instructions which render her voyage secure; and a lighthouse upon Pedra Branca would do no less service to navigators than it would honour to the memory of Horsburgh.

The Nemesis had now passed this rocky little island, and at once found the full strength of the north-east monsoon blowing steadily against her, so that "full steam" was necessary to enable her to proceed. On the afternoon of the 16th, the high land of the Spanish possessions of Luconia (better known by the name of the capital town, Manilla) came in sight; and, on the following morning, the Nemesis passed very near the port, but without venturing to enter it, on account of the delay which it would cause, although fuel was already much wanted.

The appearance of the island was very striking. Bold, picturesque mountains, fine woods, with here and there a few sugar plantations extending along the valleys, and rich, green, cocoa-nut groves, to vary the prospect—all these combined, or alternating with each other, made the aspect of the island very attractive.

Unfortunately, no time could be spared to visit the interior of the country, as the voyage had already been much protracted, and the north-east monsoon was blowing directly against the vessel. Her progress was therefore slow, and the want of fuel began to be much felt.

On the 24th, the Lieu-chew Islands came in sight; but these are not the same islands which were visited by Capt. Basil Hall, whose descriptions excited so much attention.[12]


At daylight on the following morning, the 25th of November, the Nemesis steamed through the Typa anchorage, which lies opposite Macao, and ran close in to the town, where the water is so shallow that none but trading-boats can venture so far. The sudden appearance of so large and mysterious-looking a vessel naturally excited the greatest astonishment among all classes, both of the Portuguese and Chinese residents. The saluting of the Portuguese flag, as she passed, sufficed to announce that something unusual had happened; and crowds of people came down to the Praya Grande, or Esplanade, to look at the first iron steamer which had ever anchored in their quiet little bay. Her very light draught of water seemed to them quite incompatible with her size; and even the Portuguese governor was so much taken by surprise, that he sent off a messenger expressly to the vessel, to warn her captain of the supposed danger which he ran by venturing so close in shore. It is probable, however, that his excellency was not quite satisfied with the near approach of an armed steamer, within a short range of his own palace; and, moreover, the firing of a salute, almost close under his windows, had speedily frightened away the fair ladies who had been observed crowding at all the windows with eager curiosity.

As soon as the first excitement had passed, Captain Hall waited upon the governor, to assure him that he had come with the most peaceable intentions, and to thank his excellency for the friendly warning he had given, with respect to the safety of the vessel. At the same time, he begged to inform his excellency, that he was already thoroughly acquainted with the harbour and anchorage of Macao, from early recollection of all those localities, as he had served as midshipman on board the Lyra, during Lord Amherst's embassy to China, in 1816.

It was now ascertained that the English admiral, the Hon. George Elliot, was at anchor with his fleet in Tongkoo roads, below the Bogue forts; and, accordingly, the Nemesis proceeded to join the squadron, after the delay of only a few hours. Her arrival was announced by the salute to the admiral's flag, which was immediately returned by the Melville, precisely as if the Nemesis had been a regular man-of-war.

The Nemesis now found herself in company with the three line-of-battle ships, Wellesley, Melville, and Blenheim, together with H.M.S. Druid, Herald, Modeste, Hyacinth, and the Jupiter troop-ship. Thus, then, after all her toil and hardships, the gallant Nemesis had at length reached the proud post towards which she had so long been struggling. Her voyage from England had, indeed, been a long one, very nearly eight months having elapsed since she bade adieu to Portsmouth. But her trials had been many during that period. She had started in the worst season of the year, and had encountered, throughout nearly the whole voyage, unusual weather and unforeseen difficulties. She had happily survived them all, and the efforts which had been already made to enable her to earn for herself a name gave happy promise of her future destiny.

The excitement on board was general, now that she at length found her iron frame swinging, side by side, with the famed "wooden walls" of England's glory; and the prospect of immediate service, in active operations against the enemy, stimulated[79] the exertions of every individual. For some days, however, she was compelled to content herself with the unwelcome operation of "coaling" in Tongkoo Bay. In the meantime, the ships of war had sailed, leaving her to follow them as soon as she could be got ready; and now, while this black and tedious process is going on, we cannot be better employed than in taking a short survey of the events which had immediately preceded her arrival, and of the more important occurrences which led to such momentous consequences.


[12] Captain Hall of the Nemesis was at that time serving as midshipman under Capt. Basil Hall.


The abolition of the privileges of the East India Company in China, and the difficulties which soon resulted therefrom, concerning the mode of conducting our negotiations with the Chinese, will be remembered by most readers; and, whatever part the questions arising out of the trade in opium, may have afterwards borne in the complication of difficulties, there is little doubt that the first germ of them all was developed at the moment when the general trade with China became free. This freedom of trade, too, was forced upon the government and the company in a great degree, by the competition of the American interests; and by the fact, that British trade came to be carried on partly under the American flag, and through American agency, because it was prevented from being brought into fair competition in the market, under the free protection of its own flag.

The unhappy death of the lamented Lord Napier, principally occasioned by the ill treatment of the Chinese, and the mental vexation of having been compelled to submit to the daily insults of the Chinese authorities, in his attempts to carry out the orders of his government, will be remembered with deep regret. With the nature of those orders we have here nothing to do. No one can question Lord Napier's talent, energy, and devotedness to the object of his mission.

The attempts of Captain Elliot, when he afterwards took upon himself the duties of chief superintendent, to carry out the same instructions, were scarcely less unfortunate. And finding, as he publicly stated, that "the governor had declined to accede to the conditions involved in the instructions which he had received from her majesty's government, concerning the manner of his intercourse with his Excellency," the British flag was struck at the factories at Canton, on the 2nd of December, 1837, and her majesty's principal superintendent retired to Macao.

During the year 1838, very serious and determined measures[80] began to be adopted by the Chinese authorities, directed generally against the trade in opium; and imperial edicts threatened death as the punishment, for both the dealers in, and the smokers of the drug. Several unfortunate Chinese were executed in consequence. Attempts were now made to execute the criminals in front of the foreign factories along the river side, contrary to all former usage and public right. A remonstrance followed, addressed to the governor, who, in reply, gave them a sort of moral lecture, instead of a political lesson, and, then, condescendingly admitted, that "foreigners, though born and brought up beyond the pale of civilization, must yet have human hearts."

Nevertheless, in the following December, 1838, the insulting attempt was again repeated, close under the American flag-staff, which was not then placed, as it has since been, in an enclosure, surrounded with a brick wall, and high paling. The flag was immediately hauled down by the consul, in consequence of the preparations which were going on, for the erection of the cross upon which the criminal was to be strangled.

At first, a few foreigners interfered, and, without violence, induced the officers to desist from their proceedings. But, gradually, the crowd increased, and, a Chinese mob, when excited, is fully as unruly as an English one; and, thus, each imprudent act, as usual, led to another. No Chinese authorities were at hand to control the disturbance; stones began to fly in all directions; and the foreigners, who, by this time, had come forward, to the aid of their brethren, were at length, through the increasing numbers of the mob, fairly driven to take refuge in the neighbouring factories. Here they were obliged to barricade the doors and windows, many of which, were, nevertheless, destroyed, and the buildings endangered, before a sufficient force of Chinese soldiers had arrived to disperse the mob. In the evening, however, quiet was perfectly restored.

In the meantime, the alarm had spread to Whampoa, whence Captain Elliot set out, accompanied by about one hundred and twenty armed men, for Canton, and arrived at the British factory late in the evening. Both parties were now clearly placed in a false position, yet one which it would have been very difficult to have avoided. During many preceding months, the unfortunate Hong merchants had been in constant collision with their own government on the one hand, and with the foreign merchants, on the other. There was scarcely any species of indignity, to which they were not exposed, and they were even threatened with death itself. The Chinese government had daily become more overbearing towards all foreigners; and its habitual cold and haughty tone had grown into undisguised contempt and unqualified contumely. Their treatment of Lord Napier had been considered on their part as a victory; and their successful repulse[81] of all Captain Elliot's advances, was viewed by them as an evidence of their own power, and of Great Britain's weakness.

It has been already stated in the first chapter, that Sir Frederick Maitland, who had a short time previously paid a visit to China, in a line of battle ship, had left those seas altogether, just before the collision took place; and, in proportion as the foreigners were left unprotected, so did the Chinese become more overbearing.

At the same time, it cannot be denied, that their determination to put a stop, as far as possible, to the opium-trade, was for the time sincere; though their measures might have been hasty and unwarrantable. A few days after the preceding disturbance, Captain Elliot distinctly ordered, that "all British owned schooners, or other vessels, habitually, or occasionally engaged in the illicit opium traffic, within the Bocca Tigris, should remove before the expiration of three days, and not again return within the Bocca Tigris, being so engaged." And they were, at the same time, distinctly warned, that if "any British subjects were feloniously to cause the death of any Chinaman, in consequence of persisting in the trade within the Bocca Tigris, he would be liable to capital punishment; that no owners of such vessels, so engaged, would receive any assistance or interposition from the British government, in case the Chinese government should seize any of them; and, that all British subjects, employed in these vessels, would be held responsible for any consequences which might arise from forcible resistance offered to the Chinese government, in the same manner as if such resistance were offered to their own or any other government, in their own or in any foreign country."

So far Captain Elliot evinced considerable energy and determination; but he, probably, had scarcely foreseen that the shrewd and wily government of China would very soon put the question to him, "if you can order the discontinuance of the traffic within the Bocca Tigris, why can you not also put an end to it in the outer waters beyond the Bogue?"

As it seems scarcely possible to avoid all direct allusion to the difficult question of the traffic in opium, I shall take this opportunity of saying a few words upon this important subject. A detailed account of its remarkable history, and of the vicissitudes which attended it, both within and without the Chinese empire, would afford matter of the greatest interest, but could hardly find a place in this work.

In former times, as is well known, opium was admitted into China as a drug, upon payment of duty; and, even the prohibition which was ultimately laid upon it, was regarded by the Chinese themselves as a mere dead letter. Indeed, precisely in proportion to the difficulty of obtaining the drug, did the longing for it increase.


The great events which sprang out of this appetite of a whole nation for "forbidden fruit," on the one hand, and of the temptations held out to foreigners to furnish it to them, on the other, may be considered as one of those momentous crises in a nation's history, which seem almost pre-ordained, as stages or epochs to mark the world's progress.

It is curious enough, that, at the very time when a mercantile crisis was growing up at Canton, a political intrigue, or, as it might be called, a cabinet crisis, was breaking out at Pekin. In fact, strange as it may appear, it is believed in China, upon tolerably good authority, that there was actually a reform party struggling to shew its head at Pekin, and, that the question of more extended intercourse with foreigners, was quite as warmly discussed as that of the prohibition of the import of opium, or of the export of silver.

Memorials were presented to the emperor on both sides of the question; and his Majesty Taou-kwang, being old, and personally of feeble character, halted for a time "between two opinions," alternately yielding both to the one and to the other, until he at length settled down into his old bigotry against change, and felt all the native prejudices of a true son of Han, revive more strongly than ever within his bosom.

But the question of the Opium-trade, or Opium laws, which for some time had been almost a party matter, like the corn laws in our own country, became at length a question of interest and importance to the whole nation, and was magnified in its relations by the very discussion of the points which it involved.

It is said that the head of the reform party (if it can so be called) in China was a Tartar lady, belonging to the emperor's court, remarkable for her abilities no less than her personal attractions, and possessed of certain very strong points of character, which made her as much feared by some as she was loved by others. She was soon raised even to the throne itself, as the emperor's wife, but lived only a few years to enjoy her power. Her influence soon came to be felt throughout the whole of that vast empire; it was the means of rewarding talent, and of detecting inability. She seemed to possess, in a marked degree, that intuitive discernment which sometimes bursts upon the female mind as if by inspiration. The tone and energy of her character were in advance of her age and of her country. She had many grateful friends, but she had raised up for herself many bitter enemies; party feeling ran high, and became at length too powerful even for an empress.

Gradually her influence diminished, the favour of the emperor declined, her opponent again got the upper hand, and at length she pined away under the effects of disappointment, and perhaps[83] injustice, and died. But her influence, so long as it lasted, was unbounded, and was felt through every province.

Her principal adherents and dependents naturally lost their power when that of their mistress was gone. The question of more extended trade with foreigners was now again set aside; the old feelings of bigotry and national pride resumed even more than their former vigour. Opium at once became the instrument, but ostensibly PATRIOTISM became the groundwork of their measures. The old national feeling against foreigners throughout the empire was revived; and in the midst of it all, as if ordained to hasten on the momentous crisis which waited for its fulfilment, the son of the emperor himself died in his very palace, from the effects of the excessive use of opium.

Even before this unfortunate event, strong measures had began to be adopted in some parts of the empire against the preparers and smokers of the drug. As is usually the case when one party has become victorious over another after a severe struggle, the course which they advocate is followed up with even more than their former vigour. When once the advocates of a severe compulsion for stopping the use of opium, and with it the export of silver, had gained the upper hand in the cabinet, measures of a very stringent kind were immediately adopted, as if with the full determination of giving them a fair trial.

The evil had certainly reached a very high pitch; and from having been formerly confined to the wealthier and more indolent classes, it spread its deadly grasp among the lower grades, so that even the lowest at length came to be confirmed debauchees. Not that their fair earnings could generally enable them to procure enough of so costly an article, but because they were led to deprive themselves and their families of other comforts, and even necessaries, in order to obtain the means of gratifying their irresistible longing for the poison. Not unfrequently was even crime itself committed in order to obtain the means; and the opium shops, particularly in the maritime towns and villages, became the last resort of all the thieves, vagabonds, gamblers, and bad characters throughout the district.

The demand for opium, and consequently its price, increased remarkably, and the numerous statements which have been published under this head have not been by any means exaggerated. It penetrated the most secret haunts, in proportion as the danger of using it more publicly increased; and the more numerous were the edicts which were issued against it, the greater did the craving for the forbidden luxury, amounting almost to a national MANIA, go on increasing day by day. The moral lectures of the emperor, which appeared in the Pekin Gazette, were very pretty to read, but very futile in their effects. And if the great despotic[84] ruler over hundreds of millions of people, whose very word was law, still found himself totally unable to exclude the drug (even under the severest prohibitions) from his own palace, is it to be wondered at that all his strongest measures should have totally failed in withdrawing the mass of the nation from the temptation?

The enormous profits derived from the clandestine sale of opium induced many of the Chinese to embark in it as a speculation, who neither used it themselves, nor were habituated to any other commercial traffic. Official men both smoked and sold it; hundreds of people gained a livelihood by the manufacture or sale of opium-pipes, and other apparatus connected with its use; and even the armed soldier often carried an opium-pipe in his girdle, with the same unconcern as he did the fan-case which is very commonly a part of his costume.

All this was going on throughout a great portion of the empire during the time that the question of its legalization or of its sterner prohibition was being so warmly debated at court, and discussed throughout the country. But the general impression was, that the importation of the drug would be legalized, and there was little apprehension of the violent persecution which soon commenced.

Instead of the foreigners imposing upon them the barter of opium as a condition of trade, it was the Chinese themselves who begged and prayed that it might be supplied to them; who sought out the opium-selling vessels at long distances, and were even then only permitted to receive it by paying hard cash for it. So determined were the Chinese to possess it at any cost, that they frequently were willing to purchase it for its own weight in silver, balanced fairly the one against the other in the scales. Boats belonging to the Custom House engaged in the traffic. The governor of Canton himself, Tang by name, was known to have employed his own boat to fetch it; and so publicly and undisguisedly was the traffic carried on, that a stipulated sum was paid to the officers for every chest landed, precisely as if it had been a bale of cotton or a box of glass.

It cannot be doubted, however, that after the death of the emperor's son, public attention throughout the empire became more strongly than ever directed to the increasing evils of the use and abuse of opium. Many instances of its pernicious effects now rose to the recollection of individuals who would otherwise have scarcely dwelt upon them. The agitation of the question had indeed led to party feeling upon the subject. The thunders of the emperor against foreigners began to take effect; measures of a severer kind now began to be adopted; and the reaction throughout the empire was almost universal. The shock had not been expected, and it came upon them like an earthquake.


Yet the justice of it appeared evident to many, for the evils had been concealed from none. It seemed as if all on a sudden the highroad to official favour and distinction could be found solely through the degree of energy shewn in ferreting out the lowest opium-smokers, and in publicly giving up the very pipes which were used; indeed it has been said that this enthusiasm was carried so far, that pipes were actually purchased for the purpose of giving them up to the officers, as if it indicated a voluntary surrender of a vicious habit. These were all displayed as emblems of victory, and the most zealous were the best rewarded, while the government itself became astonished at its own apparent success. It now thought itself irresistible, and despised the foreigners more than ever.

A grand crisis was produced by these proceedings in the interior of the country. All traffic of an extensive kind became nearly stopped; the prisons were filled with delinquents; and a great parade was made of the "stern severity" of the government, on the one hand, and of the obedient submission of the people, on the other. Yet, in spite of all this public display, that traffic itself was in reality as flourishing as ever, although perhaps it might have changed hands. Opium was more eagerly sought after than before; the price of it rose in proportion; and, precisely as had been predicted by the free trade or reform party in Pekin, it was found impossible to prevent its introduction into the country by the people themselves, even by the threat of death itself. Fishermen carried with them a single ball, and made a large profit by its sale; in short, the temptations and the profits were so large and irresistible, that hundreds of modes were discovered for conveying it from place to place, in spite of the penalties which awaited detection. The beheading of a few men, and the imprisonment of others, did not deter the mass; the delicious intoxication of the precious drug proved far too attractive to be controlled by the horrors of death or torture.

The truth is, however specious the edicts and writings of the Chinese may appear on paper, they are perfectly futile in reality, when the will of the people and the absence of any early prejudice is opposed to their accomplishment.

Without further pursuing a subject which, though deeply interesting, has been already so much a matter of discussion, we may at once come to the conclusion, that the passion of the Chinese for the pernicious intoxication of opium, was the first link in the chain which was destined to connect them at some future day with all the other families of mankind. The abolition of the privileges of the East India Company first opened the door for the general trade of all foreign nations upon an extended scale; but the trade in opium, which the Chinese were determined to carry on, in spite of all opposition of their own[86] government, and with a full knowledge of the pernicious consequences which resulted from it, was the instrument by means of which the haughty tone and the inapproachable reserve of their government were to be at length overcome.

We now come to the period of the famous Commissioner Lin's appointment to Canton. This was indeed the climax of all the perplexities. Lin himself was the Robespierre, the terrorist, the reckless despot, who represented a certain party in the empire, who conscientiously believed that they could terrify not only their own countrymen, but even foreign nations, into patient submission to their will.

This singular man seems to have been composed of good and bad qualities in equal proportions, but always of a violent kind. In any other country than China, he would have been either distinguished as a demagogue or branded as a tyrant, precisely as circumstances chanced to lead him into a particular channel. He was reckless of consequences, so long as he could carry out his will without control. He was violent, yet not selfish; changeable, yet always clinging to his original views; severe, and even cruel and inexorable, in the measures by which he sought to gain his ends; yet, in reality, he is believed to have meant well for his country, and to have had the interests and the wishes of the emperor, his master, always at heart. He certainly believed that he could control both the people under his own government, and the foreigners who came into contact with them, by force; and his very errors seem to have arisen from excess of zeal in the cause which he adopted. His talent was unquestionable.

Lin became intoxicated with his own success (for the time, at all events) in whatever he undertook; and expected all his orders to be executed with the same energy and facility with which he gave them utterance. It is said, moreover, that he procured a copy of a remarkable work called a "Digest of Foreign Customs, Practices, Manners," &c., in which bad deeds rather than good ones, and even the names of individual merchants, were brought forward; and that he studied this book with constant pleasure.

On the 10th of March, 1839, this redoubtable commissioner reached Canton, having travelled with extraordinary speed from Pekin, whither he had been called to receive his appointment at the hands of the emperor himself; who is said to have even shed tears, as he parted with him.

He lost not a moment, upon his arrival at Canton, in setting all the powerful energies of his mind to work, to devise means of accomplishing his ends. He determined to endeavour to put a complete stop to the traffic in opium, both on the part of his own people and on that of foreigners; and his great aim[87] was to "control, curb, and humble," the foreign community generally.

From this time forth, it became very evident, that great and complicated events must be looked for upon the political horizon. Even Captain Elliot himself could hardly hope that his little star of diplomacy could light the road to a solution of the difficulties, without an ultimate resort to arms.

It is true, that for a brief interval previous to Lin's arrival, the prospect seemed to brighten considerably. Captain Elliot had partially succeeded in establishing direct official intercourse with the governor of Canton; for it had been at length agreed, that all sealed communications coming from the chief superintendent, should be delivered into the hands of the governor, and the seal broken by him only. This was a great point gained; and Elliot seems to have managed it with considerable tact. Nevertheless, the correspondence could not be said even now, to be carried on upon terms of "perfect equality;" and even this concession was quite as much a matter of necessity to the governor, as it was to Captain Elliot; for the cessation of intercourse had been a source of equal embarrassment to them both.

This Governor Tang was a crafty, cringing, self-interested man; he derived immense sums from opium, and his own son was said to be employed in the clandestine traffic, against which, the father was uttering severe denunciations, followed by severer persecutions.

Lin afterwards suspected, and, perhaps, even discovered his delinquencies; and Tang became a willing and submissive instrument, if not a cringing sycophant. But his day of punishment came at last.


It is worthy of notice that, just previous to the arrival of Commissioner Lin at Canton, the opium-trade had received such a check, that it might be said to have been for the time almost entirely suspended. We have seen the strong measures taken by Captain Elliot against it, which proved that he looked upon it with no favouring eye; and, in short, at that time the opium vessels had left the river altogether. But Lin was not a man to do things by halves. He had formerly, when governor of a province, earned the character of the people's friend; and he seemed now more determined still to win the appellation of the foreigner's enemy. He had belonged to the party opposed to[88] the empress's influence, and, had she survived and continued in power, he would never have been sent on so dangerous a mission. But, when once the liberal party, and the advocates for the legalization of the opium trade, upon the grounds of the impossibility of excluding it by prohibition, had been defeated, it became almost a point of honour, certainly of pride with Lin, to shew how successfully he could carry out the views of the high Chinese, or exclusive party.

From the very moment of Lin's arrival, clothed with unlimited power, his restless energy, and his quick penetrating eye, made every officer of his government cower down before him. Indeed, there was hardly an officer of the province, from the governor downwards, who did not feel conscious of guilt, corruption, and peculation. From high to low, from rich to poor, Lin determined that a reign of terror should commence. He had lists prepared, containing observations upon the characters of all the public officers, of the Hong merchants, and even of the foreigners. He seemed determined to wage war with everybody. And, as a proof that his intentions against the foreign community were anything but conciliatory, within a few days after his arrival he sent round the Hong merchants to the different factories, to ascertain, by intrigue and persuasion, what weapons the foreigners were in possession of, and what means they had at hand for their own immediate defence.

Having privately arranged all his plans, and, believing that the foreigners were sleeping, Lin now ordered that all the opium in the inner waters, and also in the store ships in the "outer waters," should be given up to the officers of his government; and that a bond should be drawn up in "Chinese and foreign character, stating clearly that the ships afterwards to arrive there shall never, to all eternity, dare to bring any opium; or, if they did so, that their whole cargo should be confiscated, and all their people put to death, [by Chinese officers,] and, moreover, that they would willingly undergo it as the penalty of their crime."

This proclamation certainly caused a little panic in Canton, and it was precisely what the commissioner desired; and, the more the foreign merchants seemed disposed to meet his excellency's views, as far as lay in their power, so much the more did the demands of the commissioner rise. Every concession on the part of Captain Elliot, or the merchants, was to him a victory gained, and the forerunner of greater ones. Threats thundered forth against the heads of the Hong merchants rebounded in threats of all sorts, and alarming statements from them to the foreigners.

There seems to be some reason for supposing that, in the commencement of the business, it was intended by Lin that a certain compensation should be granted to foreigners for the[89] value of the opium surrendered. Gradually, however, as he thought himself getting stronger, this intention was quite lost sight of; and almost at the same time an edict came out, forbidding all foreigners to apply for permission to go down to Macao—in fact, preventing them from leaving Canton or Whampoa.

At this period, not ten days had elapsed since Lin's arrival at Canton, and there had not been sufficient time even to reply to his proclamation, only issued the preceding day, respecting the opium and the bond. Lin's impatience hurried on one event upon another, in his headlong career; he issued orders, without waiting to see whether his previous ones had been attended to. Whatever unfortunate results may have ultimately sprung from his policy, it can never be questioned that for the time his darling object was, not only to "humble the foreigners," but to carry out, to the letter, the express directions of his Emperor, which were delivered to him in these words:—"to scrub and wash away the filth, and to cut up the opium-evil by the roots, and to remove calamities from the people."

Within a few days after his arrival, we have seen that Lin was embroiled with the whole foreign community; and, in the short space of twenty-four hours, edicts appeared, as has been stated, commanding the surrender of all the opium, whether strictly in the Chinese waters or not; and placing under arrest every foreigner, both at Canton and Whampoa, without alleging any grounds for the proceeding.

The drama was now fast spreading out into its different acts and scenes. An agreement that one thousand chests should be delivered up, only led to the demand for more, and four thousand chests were then required.

Next, Mr. Dent, one of the principal merchants, was to be brought before the commissioner within the city; and, in order to save, as he believed, the heads of some of the Hong merchants, he agreed that he would go, provided that he should receive beforehand a safe-conduct from the imperial commissioner himself, guaranteeing his safe return; but upon any other condition he refused to put himself voluntarily in his power. The reply to this was, "that, if he did not come of his own free will, he should be dragged out of his house by force;" and the threat was added, that, in that case, the high commissioner would assuredly kill him.

A circular from Captain Elliot now required that "all ships belonging to her Majesty's subjects at the outer anchorages should proceed at once to Hong-Kong, since her Majesty's subjects were then detained at Canton against their will." It will scarcely be credited, that at this time the only British man-of-war in the Chinese waters was the small sloop, the Larne. This was perfectly well known to the Chinese, who, consequently,[90] conceived themselves strong enough to proceed to the highest degree of violence and indignity. And, when the Larne afterwards went up to the Bogue, and demanded certain explanations of the Admiral Kwan, (who, we have before seen, was on friendly terms with Sir Frederick Maitland, on a previous occasion, when he visited the Bogue in a line-of-battle ship,) the only answer that Kwan condescended to give to the little Larne was, "that she (or rather her captain) ought to know her own weakness, and be reverentially obedient, as Maitland had been before."

At the critical juncture I have above described, Captain Elliot resolved to come up to the British factory in person, in a small open boat, and, for a moment, our flag was again hoisted, when all were virtually prisoners, whom the flag could not protect. He now declared his intention of demanding passports for all her Majesty's subjects within ten days—(should he not have demanded them at once?) but, having no armed force that he could call to his aid, all he could do was to say, "that, if they were refused for the period of three days after his application, he should be forced into the conclusion that British subjects were all to be violently detained as hostages, in order that they might be intimidated into unworthy concessions."

Lin now had Elliot completely in his power, and was doubtless much surprised himself at the success of all his schemes. At that moment, neither the flag nor the guns of England could protect her people: they were prisoners in their own halls; and it is a positive fact that, for some time, the only chance of relief or protection which they had to look to, was the expected arrival of two American ships of war, which were known to be on their way out, having been applied for by the consul of that country, upon the first appearance of the difficulties.

This was a grand opportunity for pushing their fortunes in that quarter, which the Americans knew well how to profit by. In reality, the whole foreign trade was for a time in jeopardy; but the Americans profited precisely in proportion to the increase of our difficulties, and their trade increased exactly as ours declined. The moment was an advantageous one for proving to the Chinese that Americans were not Englishmen; although they cleverly made them understand that they had been so once, but at last had conquered for themselves a name, a flag, and a nation.

It has been said that, at a later period, an American merchant had more than one interview with Lin, in which various suggestions were made as to the measures to be adopted; but, whether they were of a favourable or unfavourable nature to English interests, it is impossible to say with confidence. The results of the conference were kept very secret.

Having secured all the foreigners within his grasp, Lin's next[91] step was to withdraw all the native servants from the factories, and to forbid the sale of provisions to foreigners in any shape. Armed men were posted on every side, to prevent any one from attempting to escape, while the river was blockaded, and all the foreign boats which could be found were drawn up high and dry on shore, or else destroyed. In the meantime, however, no provisions were supplied by Lin himself; consequently, the foreign prisoners were in a worse plight, in that respect, than the actual malefactors in the cells of the public prisons of the town; and his object was evidently to starve them into compliance with his wishes, if, indeed, he knew himself what the full extent of his wishes really was.

Captain Elliot was now called upon to deliver up all the opium, wherever it might be found. And yet it was clear enough that Captain Elliot could not possibly know where all the opium was, or how much it might be; and, having already agreed to the demand for, first, one thousand, and then four thousand chests, it would clearly be necessary to stipulate some quantity as a satisfactory equivalent for all.

Even in their present dilemma a more decided show of firmness, and a threat of the retribution which would fall upon him hereafter for his violent proceedings, might, possibly, have restored to the commissioner some little portion of his reasonableness, if not his reason. Nevertheless, as the whole community of foreigners (not the English only) were now under a course of starvation and imprisonment, and were in a degraded position in the eyes of all Chinamen, it is difficult to say if any other course could have been adopted than the one chosen by Captain Elliot. A bond was signed, under the influence and by the compulsion of existing circumstances, by all the parties, that they would not deal any more in opium; but they did not accede to the penalty of death, &c. &c., which Lin had originally attempted to impose. And, at the requisition of Captain Elliot, they agreed to deliver up all the opium then in their possession, "for the service of her Majesty's government."

The quantity of opium to be delivered was not stipulated at the time. But, after returns had been very honourably and equitably sent to Captain Elliot, it appeared that he could command the enormous quantity of 20,283 chests; and he accordingly agreed that that immense number should be delivered up to officers deputed by Lin to receive it. It was also stipulated that, as soon as one-fourth should be given up, the servants should be restored; that, after one-half had been delivered, the passage-boats should run as usual down to Macao; that trade should be opened as soon as three-fourths had been given up; and that, when the whole of it had been surrendered, "things should go on as usual."


As yet scarcely three weeks had elapsed since Commissioner Lin had come down, with this enormous power upon his shoulders; and yet it had sufficed to enable him to effect this vast change in the relations which existed between the Chinese and the foreign community, and to astonish even his own countrymen by the energy and rashness of his measures.

The commissioner was perfectly surprised at his own success, and equally so at the enormous quantity of opium which Elliot declared himself able to procure. But, in point of fact, there were not so many as 20,000 chests of opium in the "Chinese waters" at that time, although that amount was at last procured, for vessels were sent to a distance even to seek for it, and to purchase it for Captain Elliot. Some of it was lying at Manilla, whence it was brought over for the purpose.

The next step in Lin's political delinquency was, that he broke the very agreement he had just made; and, instead of allowing the passage-boats to pass down to Macao, as usual, as soon as one-half of the stipulated number of chests had been surrendered, as agreed, he selected the names of sixteen gentlemen out of the whole community, and issued the strictest orders against their departure; and directed that every one of the passage-boats should be examined, to see if any of these gentlemen were on board, and to prevent their escape.

Nevertheless, at this time the commissioner would seem to have had some misgivings about the posture of affairs, and became at one time inclined to recommend the "obedient" foreigners to the notice of the Emperor, for the purpose of having some mark of favour conferred upon them. This was thought to point at some kind of compensation for the value of the opium surrendered, but nothing further was heard of it.

On the 21st of May, 1839, the last portion of the stipulated quantity of 20,283 chests of opium was delivered up at the Bogue, where the rest of it was stored, awaiting the Imperial pleasure. Many questions arose as to how it was to be disposed of, but at last Lin himself hit upon the clever expedient of destroying it by lime and oil, in pits dug for the purpose, and then pouring the fluid compound into the sea. Double guards were placed to prevent any of the drug from being stolen, and death was to be the punishment of every delinquent. There were checks and spies in all directions, and the process of destruction was carried on with great parade. Nevertheless, it is believed that some of it was purloined, both on shore and on its way from the ships to the landing-place, where mandarin-boats and war-junks were collected in great number.

As soon as possible after he had regained his liberty, Captain Elliot sent intelligence of all these occurrences to Bombay, (for the overland mail,) by a fast sailing vessel, hired expressly for[93] the purpose, called the Ariel; and, at the same time, H.M. sloop Larne was despatched to Calcutta, to report them to the governor-general of India. Consequently, there was then not a single British ship of war of any description in the Chinese waters, for the protection of British life and property. Luckily, the arrival soon afterwards of the American ships of war, the Columbia and the John Adams, served to reassure the drooping spirits of the whole foreign community.

Other acts of atrocity and bad faith had also been committed by the Chinese authorities; but it is remarkable that Captain Elliot, whose personal courage and natural ability have never been questioned, seems to have entered no public protest, nor addressed any strong remonstrance to the commissioner, either upon this subject, or upon that of his own imprisonment, or rather confinement, at Canton. The probability is, that he thought it useless to do so, unless he were prepared to back his remonstrance by a demonstration of force. Nevertheless, after the foreigners were released, he issued a notice that all trade on the part of his countrymen with the Chinese should be stopped. And this notice was repeated in still stronger terms after the departure of the Larne; for he declared that "he saw no prospect of such an arrangement of existing difficulties as to admit of British ships proceeding within the Bocca Tigris, under the sanction of his authority, until the opinion of her Majesty's government could be made known to him." And at a later period, he thought it necessary to warn all the merchants, (dated the 29th of July,) "that he had moved her Majesty's and the Indian governments to forbid the admission of tea and other produce from China into Great Britain and India, during the existence of the preceding prohibition in Canton, unless their manifests were signed in his presence."

The stoppage of the trade by Captain Elliot irritated Lin excessively. It was turning the tables against himself, defeating him with his own weapons; it savoured of presumption in his sight; and, moreover, it materially diminished his revenue. It proved that, however bombastic and ridiculous their professions of indifference to the trade of foreigners might be, they really stood very much in need of it themselves, and, in fact, they felt the stoppage of it on our part quite as much as we ever did on theirs. It made Lin actually spiteful; he tried every art to induce the English to act contrary to Elliot's orders; and, subsequently, when he went down to Macao to see with his own eyes what the Portuguese were about, he went so far as to make it a matter of accusation against Elliot, that "he had prevented the merchant ships of his country from entering the port of Canton."

Such gross inconsistency, probably, was never before presented[94] to view in so short a period of time by any public man. Lin was, in fact, completely at bay, and he, moreover, had probably heard by this time that more than one British man-of war was expected. Nevertheless, he by no means relaxed in his feelings of bitter hostility; he listened to everything that was said or written against the English and against opium; he so alarmed the Portuguese, as to make them expel all the English, out of the town, (or, what is the same thing, he threatened to attack the town if the English remained in it;) and he made them prohibit the importation of opium, which had formerly been permitted upon payment of duty; though, to this day, the traffic is continued by them in full vigour at the outer anchorages, and in the Typa near Macao, although it is prohibited to be landed at the town, under the eye of the authorities. Nevertheless, a sufficient quantity of it is brought into the town for local consumption.

Lin now appeared to have reached the pinnacle of his power. He flattered himself that his schemes had been all successful; his power appeared irresistible, because no effectual opposition to it had yet been offered. The more concessions were made to him, the more exacting he became; and having got the English out of Macao, and made the Portuguese submissive to his will, he then assumed a very bland and condescending tone.

In the interim, it was very evident that a storm of a new kind was brewing, which was likely soon to burst upon his head. Moreover, all the attempts he had made to control his own people failed; his executions, his denunciations, and his moral lectures, were alike unavailing. He gave the people a year, within which they were to break off the habit by degrees, and to reform their manners; and, at the end of that time, he vowed he would execute every man amongst them that persisted in it. In the meantime, he hit upon the last and darling expedient of every Chinese statesman and philosopher, that of making men mutually responsible for each other. Thus the whole people were to be divided into tens, as they were elsewhere in the days of Alfred the Great, and each one of the party was to be made personally responsible for the good behaviour of all the rest with whom he was associated.

Notwithstanding all these strong measures, urged with all the sincerity of an enthusiast, they both failed at the time, and have failed ever since to eradicate the evil. The demand for the drug increased with the difficulty of procuring it; the indulgence became dearer owing to the danger which attended it; and, after all that was said and done, opium continued to be sought and enormously paid for. It was more generally used than ever; and even attention became directed to the cultivation of the[95] poppy on Chinese soil, when the difficulty of procuring it from abroad became more urgent.

Lin rose into high favour, for a time, with the Imperial court, as might naturally be expected, and he was appointed governor of the second province in the empire. But long before the time came for him to remove to his new post, his star began to wane, his difficulties increased, and ultimately his fall was as great as his rise had been rapid.

For several months, as I have before stated, no British ship of war was present in the Chinese waters. It was in this interval—namely, in the month of July, 1839—that the great difficulty arose which excited so much attention at the time, and has done so since, arising out of the death of a Chinaman, by name Lin Wiehe, at Hong-Kong, during an affray with some British merchant seamen. This event was eagerly taken advantage of by the commissioner to attempt to enforce certain claims against the foreigners. Without entering into tedious details, many of which are already well known, it will suffice to mention that the man's death was really occasioned by a drunken row at a village near Hong-Kong; that the commissioner, in accordance with what had formerly been done on a similar occasion at Canton, demanded the surrender of the murderer to be tried by Chinese judges, and that Captain Elliot denied the jurisdiction altogether; but, at the same time, he himself preferred an indictment for murder against a seaman before a British grand-jury at Hong-Kong, who ignored the bill. But several men were ultimately found guilty of an assault only, and it appeared that one party was just as much to blame as the other.

The commissioner then grew more angry than ever: he caused the few English who still remained at Macao to be still further persecuted, and it was only through the friendly assistance of individual Portuguese families that they were enabled to obtain their daily food. The result was, that the whole British community left the place, together with Captain Elliot, and went to live on board the different merchant ships in harbour.

Things could not remain long in such a state of embarrassment; and, fortunately, on the 11th of September—that is, about three months and a half after the Larne had left those seas—the Volage, under Captain Smith, arrived. That gallant officer immediately perceived that active steps of some kind must be taken, and he accordingly issued a notice of blockade of the port of Canton, upon the ground "that the regular supplies of food had been prohibited to her Majesty's subjects; that the Chinese people had been ordered to fire upon and seize them wherever they went; and that certain of her Majesty's subjects had been actually cut off."


The immediate effect of this notice was to bring the Chinese, in some measure, to their senses; their proclamations against Englishmen were withdrawn—provisions were no longer prohibited; and, consequently, Captain Smith very properly withdrew his notice of blockade. Negotiations were entered into, and it was at length agreed that trade should be resumed outside the port of Canton.

Yet, all on a sudden, even this arrangement was violated by the Chinese; and, on the 26th October, notice was issued that they now required that ships should enter within the port of Canton—that is, within the Bocca Tigris. They repeated the demand for the murderer of Lin Wiehe to be given up, and that a bond should be signed by all, agreeing to be tried by Chinese officers for offences declared by them, before trial, to be capital. If this mandate were not obeyed, the whole of the foreign ships were to depart within three days, under a threat of immediate destruction.

The whole fleet, therefore, was now recommended to anchor in Tongkoo Bay, or Urmston's Harbour, which afterwards became the rendezvous of all the ships of war.

It is not necessary here to enter into minute details; it will be sufficient for the full understanding of the future operations to state that difficulties continued to increase on both sides, without much prospect of any solution. The Hyacinth having now arrived and joined the Volage on the 29th October, these two vessels proceeded with Captain Elliot to Chuenpee, some distance below the Bogue, to endeavour to obtain from the commissioner some explicit declaration of his intentions. On the 3rd of November they were attacked by the Chinese admiral with twenty-nine sail of war-junks, which, of course, they soon beat off: and thus occurred the first direct hostile encounter between the armed forces of the two nations. War now became more than ever inevitable. Yet, at the end of the following month, these two ships of war were again compelled to proceed to the Bogue, in consequence of the seizure of a British subject by the Chinese (not engaged in selling opium) at the anchorage of Tongkoo Bay.

The blockade of the river and port of Canton was therefore renewed by Captain Smith on the 15th January, 1840; but the gentleman who had been seized, Mr. Gribble, was at once restored, and the blockade was consequently raised.

Scarcely had this taken place, when down came to Macao a new Chinese governor of that district, and issued a positive edict for the immediate expulsion of all the English. Captain Smith, with becoming spirit, instantly ordered the Hyacinth, Captain Warren, to proceed into the inner harbour for the protection of his countrymen, which measure seemed to give great[97] umbrage to the Portuguese governor, Da Silveira Pinto; and, in consequence of his representations, she was withdrawn on the following morning.

Occasion was taken to make as much as possible out of this occurrence, as if the Portuguese really possessed some authority in the place beyond that over their own countrymen, and very futile appeals were made to treaties with the Chinese government. After all, the utmost that could be said of it was, that if it was a little deficient in courtesy towards the Portuguese governor, the latter should have rather volunteered his consent to it. Nevertheless, the energetic spirit which it evinced undoubtedly tended to check the presumption of the Chinese authorities, and thus far to give some little security to British subjects. Captain Smith very properly put it upon the ground of its strengthening the Portuguese governor's hands, which in reality it did, and which that functionary stood greatly in need of. At the same time, Captain Smith very laudably expressed a hope that the language in which his Excellency would "demand the immediate removal of the Chinese forces, declaredly sent here to seize or destroy my countrymen, (to the deep insult of the Portuguese crown,) will be not less stringent, and as successful in its operation, as that in which your Excellency has been pleased to order the withdrawal of the Hyacinth."

During the whole of this time, preparations were being made by the Chinese for future operations in the Canton River; fireships were prepared, guns collected, and troops exercised.

On the 24th March, 1840, the fine frigate the Druid, commanded by Lord John Churchill, arrived off Macao, and thence proceeded to Tongkoo Roads, a most welcome reinforcement. About this time, also, the Chinese purchased the English merchant ship the Cambridge, intending to turn her into a man-of-war, and built some strange-looking little schooners upon a European model, with the view of employing them in some novel way or other against the British ships.

It is said that, at one time, Commissioner Lin got up a sort of sham fight at the Bogue, and dressed some of the assailants in red clothes, in order to habituate the defenders to the sight of the colour of the enemy's costume. Of course the red gentlemen were thoroughly beaten. Matters had now proceeded so far, that it was impossible that any solution of the enigma could be arrived at without speedy employment of force. The success of their first measures, and the helpless condition in which foreigners then found themselves, had emboldened the Chinese beyond reason, and had fed their presumption even till it burst with its own self-applause.

Lord John Churchill, who was now, of course, senior officer, unhappily died, after a few weeks' illness, on the 3rd of June.[98] Few days had elapsed before the Chinese sent a number of fireships to endeavour to destroy the English merchant-ships collected at the anchorage of Capsingmoon, but they proved a complete failure.

The British naval force now rapidly gained accession to its strength. The tidings of the events at Canton had spread to all parts of the world. Preparations had been immediately commenced in England and elsewhere for the coming contest. The Alligator, from New South Wales, under Sir Gordon Bremer, arrived about this time, as also did the Honourable Company's steamer, Madagascar, and likewise the Wellesley, 74, in which Sir Gordon Bremer hoisted his broad pendant; and, on the 28th of June, 1840, Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer established a blockade of the port and river of Canton and all its entrances, by command of her Majesty's government. Ships of war now continued to arrive as fast as possible; the force in the Chinese waters was considerable; and, within two or three days after the commencement of the blockade, the chief command was assumed by Rear-Admiral the Honourable George Elliot, who had just arrived in the Melville, 74.


It will be generally admitted by all who have seen the Canton river, or, as the Chinese call it, Choo-keang, that, in point of size, depth, and picturesque character, it is one of the finest navigable rivers in the world. Merchant ships of the largest size, perhaps the proudest which float, have navigated it for nearly two hundred years, to within a distance of nine or ten miles from Canton, with little difficulty, and very inconsiderable danger. No foreign commerce with any one port has been so valuable, so extensive, or carried on with so much facility. The difficulties of our intercourse, which have arisen within the last few years, have formed an epoch in the world's history, and stand forth as a leading beacon in the stream of time, pointing towards greater eras yet to come.

An archipelago of numerous islands, most of them rocky, and only partially productive, warns you of the approach to this celebrated river. Strictly speaking, only that portion of it above the Bocca Tigris has been called the river; while all below that point, even from beyond Macao upwards, (the latter lying at the distance of from forty to fifty miles from the Bogue forts,) has been called the outer waters; nevertheless, it ought properly to be included within the precincts of the river itself.


Since the questions connected with the opium-trade have been brought so prominently forward, it has been maintained by some, that the "outer waters" ought not properly to be considered within Chinese jurisdiction. But this position would hardly seem to be tenable; and there can be no sound reason for maintaining that these waters should not be considered as much, and even more, within their jurisdiction as the sea-coast or river islands of any part of Europe are within the jurisdiction of the country to which they belong, to the distance of a certain number of miles from the land itself. In reality, the little peninsula of Macao on the west, and the island of Lintao (not to be confounded with Lintin) on the east, may be considered as the proper boundaries of the entrance to the Canton River.

These points are about fifteen to twenty miles apart, while between them lie several small islands, through which are the two principal navigable passages (the western and the Lintao passages) into the river itself. But the island of Lintao, called Tyho by the Chinese, is a long, narrow, mountainous piece of land, broken up into numerous bays and projecting points, stretching from south-west to north-east, separated at the latter extremity from the mainland only about the distance of a mile. The passage and anchorage between them is called Capsingmoon, and is made use of occasionally even by large vessels, which pass towards the river or across from Macao towards the island of Hong-Kong, which lies off the mainland at about five or six miles to the eastward of Lintao.[13]

The anchorage of Tongkoo Bay, towards which the Nemesis was to proceed to rejoin the fleet, and which is also known by the name of Urmston's Harbour, from having been recommended by Sir James Urmston, formerly President of the Company's factory at Canton, is situated about six miles due north from Lintao, between the little islands called Tongkoo and Sowchow, near the mainland, as you proceed upwards within the outer waters of the Canton River, along its eastern shores. It was here that the fleet anchored in 1823, in consequence of some discussions with the Chinese, arising out of the affair of the Topaze frigate, which occurred in the preceding year.[14]


About five miles distant from Tongkoo Bay, more towards the centre of the river, and a little to the northward, is the small island of Lintin, terminating in a very remarkable, high, conical peak, which is a guide to all vessels passing up or down. It has become famous as a place of rendezvous for the opium vessels, particularly within the last few years; and a merchant brig, bearing its name, has been recently sold to the Chinese as a man-of-war, though old and not very serviceable. This island must not be confounded with that of Lintao, before alluded to, and from which it is about eight or nine miles distant.

Having now got fairly into Tongkoo Bay with the fleet, and feeling something of the interest and excitement which were awakened in the breasts of all who were brought together in such a place and at such a time, we will next proceed to recount a few of the remarkable events of the year 1840, reserving the description of the other parts of the river for those portions of the narrative with which they are connected.

Towards the end of July, 1840, the British force assembled in China had become considerable: comprising no less than three line-of-battle ships, with a Rear-Admiral and a Commodore; thirteen other ships of war, of different kinds, and a large troop-ship; together with four armed steamers, belonging to the East India Company. To these must be added twenty-seven transports, having on board the 18th, 26th, and 49th regiments, a body of Bengal volunteers, and a corps of Madras sappers and miners. The marines and seamen were of course prepared to co-operate on shore. This was undoubtedly a formidable force, especially when we reflect that little more than a year had elapsed since there was no armed force whatever in the Chinese waters, and the flag of England had ceased to wave even upon the Factories.

The measures adopted by the Governor-general of India, when once the crisis had arrived, were sufficiently energetic and decisive. The consequences of the rupture were now easily foreseen; and the interest which the state of our relations with China had begun to awaken, both in England and in India, was daily becoming more general.

On the first arrival of the large force mentioned below,[15] it did not appear to alarm Commissioner Lin, and his obsequious satellite, Governor Tang, nearly so much as might have been expected. On the contrary, Lin continued to organize means of defence, to enlist soldiers, and to arm his forts. It was, moreover, at this moment that he hit upon his notable expedient of offering immense rewards for the destruction, in any manner whatever, of British ships, either men-of-war or merchant vessels, and also for the capture or slaughter of British officers. But the reward for taking them alive was to be greater than for killing them. There was also a reward for taking soldiers or merchants, but only one-fifth of the sum if they were killed. A reward was also to be given for the capture of coloured people, soldiers, or servants, although its amount was not mentioned.


All this followed after the declaration of blockade by Sir Gordon Bremer, and after a public complaint had been made by Captain Elliot against Lin and Tang, for various treacherous acts, such as attacking our vessels at night (merchant vessels), poisoning the water, and preventing supplies of food from being brought to the factories, &c.

It was now very evident, that although no formal declaration of war had been made on our part, it had become impossible to avoid warlike operations on an extended scale, and at no distant time.

Rear-Admiral Elliot had now been associated with Captain Elliot in his diplomatic functions, and they were nominated Joint-Plenipotentiaries for settling the matters in dispute with the Emperor. That object appeared little likely to be attained by wasting time in negotiations with irresponsible and overbearing public officers at Canton; it was, therefore, wisely resolved to take advantage of the best season of the year while it still lasted, and to proceed northward with the bulk of the force, in order to bring the emperor and his ministers to their senses, by exciting alarm as near as possible to the imperial capital. The Peiho river, therefore, which commands one of the great channels of intercourse with the metropolis, and is connected with the Grand Canal, through which all the wealth of China flows to Pekin, was now avowedly the chief point to which the expedition was to be directed.

This movement was by no means a mere demonstration for the purpose of giving éclat to the conduct of the negotiations, but was in reality a hostile operation; at all events, it became so as it proceeded, and the results of it may, in reality, be called the First Campaign in China. It was commonly called the first "China Expedition;" but the appellation was afterwards changed to the "Eastern Expeditionary force," which was also applied to the second expedition, as will be afterwards seen.

A small force being left at the Bogue to maintain the blockade,[102] the bulk of the expedition, together with the two plenipotentiaries, sailed to the northward at the end of June; part of the force above mentioned did not arrive until after the rest had sailed, but it soon followed the rest.

The first encounter with the Chinese took place at Amoy, in the beginning of July, 1840. The Blonde, forty-four, Captain Bourchier, was sent into the harbour of Amoy, to endeavour to hand over a letter from the English naval commander-in-chief, addressed to the "Admiral of the Chinese nation." This high officer was not there, and the local mandarins refused to receive it, and fired upon a boat which was sent to the beach bearing a flag of truce at the bow, and conveying Mr. Thom, as interpreter, for the purpose of delivering the letter to the mandarins, for transmission to the Chinese admiral. The officers and crew of the boat had a narrow escape, for, besides being received with every possible indignity, the boat was fired at and struck, while preparations were evidently being made for an attack upon the frigate itself. Indeed, nothing could possibly be more hostile and insulting than the conduct of the Chinese officers, who met Mr. Thom at the landing-place. They shewed some inclination even to seize the boat in which he came, and declared they neither feared him nor the ship either.

The result of their hostile bearing and of the attack on the boat was, that the guns of the Blonde were directed with terrific effect upon the Chinese batteries and the war-junks, immediately the boat reached the frigate. By this fire great damage was done, and the Chinese troops, who had assembled on the beach, were dispersed in all directions. Having inflicted this merited chastisement, as an example to the Chinese, the Blonde again set sail to join the main body of the force, in order to report the circumstances to the admiral.

On the 5th of July, the town of Tinghai, the capital of the island of Chusan, the principal of the group of islands bearing that name, fell to her Majesty's arms after a very slight resistance. But as this and other operations to the northward, during this brief season, have been well described by Lord Jocelyn, it will be sufficient merely to allude to them in a cursory way, particularly as they were of minor importance compared with subsequent events.

The failure of the attempt to deliver a letter from Lord Palmerston to some of the authorities at Ningpo, to be transmitted to the cabinet at Pekin, became a matter of serious importance, after what had taken place at Amoy, and, in consequence, a blockade of the coast was established from Ningpo to the mouth of the Yangtze River, the most frequented and most commercial part of the whole sea-board of China.

Nothing was more likely to make a deep impression upon the[103] Chinese government than the stoppage of this valuable trade, upon which the daily sustenance of a large part of the population of the interior actually depended. The ultimate conclusion of peace, which was brought about by the more active prosecution of these very measures, will be sufficient to prove their wisdom at that time; and it is due to Captain Elliot to mention, that the blockade of the Yangtze River was at all times one of his most favourite projects.

About the middle of August, the bulk of the squadron arrived off the mouth of the Peiho, below Tientsin, having been preceded two or three days by Captain Elliot, on board the Madagascar steamer.[16] Lord Palmerston's communication was there at length received, by an officer deputed for that purpose by Keshen, the governor of the province, and was forwarded to the emperor. Subsequently, a conference was held on shore between Keshen and Captain Elliot; and, whatever the results may otherwise have been, it is well known that the plenipotentiaries were persuaded, by the ingenuity of Keshen, that the future negotiations could be conducted with more satisfaction at Canton (provided a new commissioner were sent down from Pekin for that express purpose) than within a hundred miles of the emperor's palace.

In the meantime, however, while an answer was expected from the emperor to the communication addressed to his ministers by Lord Palmerston, the principal part of the squadron, which had come up to the Peiho, sailed further northward, up the gulf of Petchelee, to the great wall of China, which has so long been classed among the wonders of the world. The effect of the emperor's answer, and of the negotiations with Keshen was, that this squadron withdrew from the neighbourhood of the capital; and Keshen himself was appointed Imperial Commissioner, to proceed at once to Canton, to open negotiations with the plenipotentiaries. He was to supersede Lin, whose course seemed almost run, and who was ordered to Pekin in haste, to answer for his conduct. Nevertheless, he was subsequently allowed to remain as viceroy, or governor, at Canton, but never succeeded in obtaining the higher government which had been previously promised to him elsewhere, in the heyday of his favour.

By the end of September, the squadron had returned to Chusan from the Peiho. A truce was about this time announced and published at Chusan; and a common impression prevailed that a general armistice had been concluded at Tientsin with Keshen, pending the result of the negotiations to be carried on at Canton. This, however, was soon found to be erroneous; for, in a letter addressed to the merchants by Admiral Elliot, in Tongkoo Bay, on the 26th of November, (the very day after the Nemesis had reported her arrival to the admiral,) it was publicly declared that "the truce had been only entered into with Elepoo, the governor-general of that province [Che-keang], and did not extend further." It must, however, have included the port of Ningpo, and other parts of the coast of the mainland, within the limits of the governor's authority.


The plenipotentiaries, Captain Elliot and the Honourable George Elliot, returned to Macao on the 20th of November. It was on the following day that The Queen steamer was fired at and hit, as she passed the Chuenpee fort with a flag of truce. She had orders to proceed up to the Bogue, to deliver a letter which had been entrusted to her captain from "Elepoo," (probably concerning the truce he had concluded,) addressed to the Imperial Commissioner Keshen at Canton. In return for this attack, she threw a few shells and heavy shot into the fort, and went back to Tongkoo Bay re infectâ. This was the second time a flag of truce had been fired at, although the Chinese perfectly understood the peaceful purpose which it denoted. The despatch, however, was forwarded the same evening to Keshen at Canton, through the sub-prefect of Macao, into whose hands it was delivered by Captain Elliot. It was also reported that the commandant at Chuenpee sent up some of The Queen's heavy shot, which had lodged in the fort, as a present to the authorities at Canton, probably to shew how brave he had been to withstand such weighty missiles. He did not lose the opportunity to claim a victory for having driven her off!

A heavy force was by this time collected at the mouth of the Canton River, reinforced as it had been by the arrival of the Calliope and Samarang, and also of the Nemesis, and by the addition of a fresh regiment, the 37th Madras native infantry.

Keshen arrived at Canton on the 29th of November, and sent an official notification to that effect to the plenipotentiaries; and it is remarkable that, almost at the same moment, Admiral Elliot was compelled to resign the command of the fleet, and also his duties as joint-plenipotentiary, through sudden and severe illness. A few days afterwards he embarked for England in the Volage, leaving Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer as commander-in-chief, and Captain Elliot for the time as again the sole plenipotentiary.

In order to render complete the general sketch of passing events to the close of 1840, I must not omit to mention the gallant affair at Macao under Captain Smith, commanding the Druid, which happened in the month of August, at the period when the main body of the expedition was engaged in the operations to the northward, already alluded to. It will be remembered that Captain Smith had once before thought it necessary to sail into the Inner Harbour, for the protection of British[105] subjects, but had retired upon a representation being made to him by the Portuguese government.

In the month of August, however, strange rumours of a rather threatening character began to prevail, but not of a very definite kind. One of the principal Chinese officers of Macao had been absent for some time at Canton, and, on his return, accompanied, or rather followed, by a body of troops, it became very evident that some hostile measure was in contemplation. A number of war-junks were likewise collected in the Inner Harbour, having troops on board. A considerable body of men were also encamped upon the narrow neck of land which separates Macao from the mainland, and across which there is a so-called Barrier, which forms the line of demarcation, beyond which the Portuguese have no jurisdiction.

This Barrier is composed of a wall, with parapets and a ditch running across the isthmus, and having a gateway, with a guard-house over it, in the centre. Beyond the Barrier the Chinese had very recently thrown up a flanking field-work, mounting about twelve guns, with a view of protecting the rear of the Barrier from the attack of an enemy attempting to land in boats. The war-junks were also placed so close in shore, in the Inner Harbour, as to be able to protect the Barrier on that side.

These movements were quite sufficient to prove that some attack was actually contemplated upon Macao itself, and the result of it, if successful, cannot be thought of without horror. But the promptitude and energy of Captain Smith anticipated the designs of the Chinese, and, by a most decisive and admirably combined movement, he soon scattered the whole Chinese forces like chaff before the wind. Taking with him the Larne and Hyacinth, with the Enterprise steamer and the Louisa cutter, he sailed boldly up towards the Barrier, and ran in as close as the shallowness of the water would permit. He then opened a spirited fire upon the whole of the Chinese works and barracks, which the Chinese returned. Their soldiers were seen mustering from different points, for the defence of the position.

In the course of an hour, the firing of the Chinese was almost silenced, and then a single gun was landed upon the beach, which raked the Chinese position, while a small body of marines, under Lieutenant Maxwell, with some small-arm men from the Druid, under Lieutenant Goldsmith, and about two companies of Bengal volunteers, under Captain Mee, altogether about three hundred and eighty men, landed, and drove the Chinese, with considerable loss, from every one of their positions. On the British side, four men only were wounded. The Chinese guns were spiked, but none were carried away, and the whole of their troops were dispersed, nor did they afterwards approach the Barrier, except to carry off the spiked guns. The barracks and[106] other buildings were burned; and all our men having re-embarked late in the evening, the vessels returned to their former anchorage in Macao roads.

Seldom has a more signal service been rendered in so short a space of time, than this well-timed and energetic measure adopted by Captain Smith.

There still remain one or two points worth noticing, in order to complete the series of events which happened in the year 1840. Among these, one of the most important was the issuing of an Order in Council, for the establishment of courts of admiralty in China, for the adjudication of prizes, &c. It was to the effect that, "in consideration of the late injurious proceedings of certain officers of the Emperor of China towards certain of our officers and subjects, and, whereas, orders had been given that satisfaction and reparation for the same should be demanded from the Chinese government, it was necessary, for the purpose of enforcing those orders, that all vessels and goods belonging to the Emperor of China or his subjects should be detained and brought into port; and that, in the event of reparation and satisfaction being refused by the Chinese government, a court of admiralty should be formed for the purpose of adjudging and condemning them as prizes."

This order in council was not acted upon, except on a very limited scale, and for a very brief period. It was afterwards considered more equitable that the burden of the war should be made to fall as much as possible upon the government of China, and as little as possible upon the people; and this highly judicious and humane determination was carried out as much as possible, and with the best results, during all the latter part of the war, much to the credit of all concerned.

During the year 1840, very little progress was made in our endeavours to gain over the Chinese people to our interests, or to conciliate their forbearance, in any of the places in which we were brought into contact with them. At Chusan, in particular, they evinced the most hostile spirit towards us, and lost no opportunity of exhibiting their hatred of the foreigner. It was not without great difficulty even that provisions could be obtained for our men; there was evidently some secret influence which operated to prevent the people from meeting us amicably, and made them, for some time, resist even the temptation of gain, so difficult for a Chinaman to withstand. Nothing tended to exhibit their hostile spirit so much as their persevering attempts to carry off our men by stealth, whenever they could find an opportunity; and indeed the kidnapping system was followed up with many circumstances of barbarity, to the very close of the war.


This embittered our men very much against the Chinese, and we may almost wonder that their prisoners, when they fell into our hands, received such lenient treatment in return. The story is well known of Captain Anstruther's capture at Chusan, at the distance of only two or three miles from the town, his being tied up in a sack, and subsequently carried over in a boat to Ningpo on the mainland, and the curious history of his confinement in a bamboo cage, three feet long by two feet broad; and other instances of a similar kind, in which the prisoners were treated with the utmost barbarity, have been so often recounted, that a passing allusion to them will here be sufficient. Captain Anstruther, however, would seem to have been more leniently treated than many of the other prisoners: and I have heard him declare that, with respect to the better class of mandarins at Ningpo, he had little cause of complaint to urge against them, considering that he was a prisoner in an enemy's hands. His talent for drawing, however, enabled him to conciliate their good will, and to earn for himself some indulgences which others were not fortunate enough to procure. He sold his drawings and particularly his portraits, for a tolerable price. Many of the other prisoners, however, were treated with frightful barbarity, and, in some instances, they were put to death.

A much more formidable enemy to us than the Chinese was soon discovered, in the terrible sickness which broke out among our troops at Chusan, and carried off many a brave man prematurely to his grave. The low, swampy rice-grounds surrounding the town, the want of proper drainage, the exposure to the hot sun, and the use of the deleterious spirit which the Chinese call samshoo, made from rice, (of which a vast quantity was manufactured on the island for exportation,) all these causes combined sufficed to produce fever, dysentery, and various complaints, which committed great havoc among the men. The island was subsequently, however, rendered less unhealthy by better arrangements, and by enforcing greater cleanliness.

At Amoy, after the affair of the Blonde, a strict blockade was maintained by the Alligator and other vessels, which interrupted the whole trade of that important commercial city. But none of our ships astonished and alarmed the Chinese so much as the steamers; they were particularly alluded to in the official reports to the emperor, and were described as "having wheels at their sides, which, revolving, propelled them like the wind, enabling them to pass to and fro with great rapidity, acting as leaders;" and it is not surprising that the Chinese should soon have christened them the "Demon Ships."

The effect of our operations to the northward had already been to excite great alarm in the mind of the emperor and of his[108] ministers; indeed the panic created by the first approach of a hostile force was so great, that a very small body of men might have marched almost from one end of China to the other, so little were the Chinese prepared for resistance. But gradually they recovered their energy, improved their means of defence, adopted better weapons, and cast heavier guns. As far as personal bravery could aid them, they were by no means an enemy to be despised. The spear and the bayonet frequently crossed each other; perhaps more frequently than the bayonets of Europeans do; and, in not a few instances, the long spear was more than a match for the shorter bayonet. Hand to hand encounters with the Tartar troops were not uncommon towards the close of the war; and, indeed, many of our men learnt, to their cost, that they had held the Chinese far too cheap. Instances occurred in which the powerful Tartar soldier rushed within the bayonet-guard of his opponent, and grappled with him for life or death.

We may now revert to the period of the arrival of the new Imperial Commissioner Keshen at Canton, with a view to treat with the plenipotentiaries, according to the terms agreed upon at the Pehio, as before mentioned. His predecessor, Lin, whose fall had now commenced, could not resist giving a parting warning to the people, against the continuance of their pernicious habits; and he even assured them that, if they still persisted, "they would assuredly, one and all of them, be strangled."

In the beginning of December the greater part of our naval forces had again assembled below the Bogue, although a squadron was still left to the northward. Notwithstanding that Keshen had arrived for the ostensible purpose of inquiring into and settling all matters in dispute, it was evident that the Chinese were making hostile preparations, with a view to a very different mode of settlement of the question. A feeling of uncertainty and apprehension prevailed, such as generally precedes some great movement. The Chinese, on their side, were collecting troops, and raising new works; while, on our side, every precaution was taken, in case a resumption of hostilities should be called for.

On the 13th, the Nemesis, which had been for some days at anchor with the fleet, a few miles below Chuenpee, conveyed Captain Elliot down to Macao, while the rest of the fleet moved nearer up towards the Bogue, as if with the object of supporting the "negotiations" by a firm display of power. Captain Elliot's stay at Macao was very short, and from the increased activity of our preparations at the Bogue, it became evident that the "negotiations" were not going on satisfactorily.

Numerous communications were passing between Macao and our fleet at the Bogue; Captain Elliot himself went backwards and forwards several times in the Nemesis, and the moment[109] seemed fast approaching when some very decided blow was to be struck.

The following description of the scene of operations will therefore be found interesting. About twenty-two to twenty-five miles above the island of Lintin, before described, and consequently about the same distance above Tongkoo Bay, on the same side of the river, is a projecting headland, about a mile and a quarter wide, distinguished at a considerable distance by the high peak in which its summit terminates. On either side of it there is a fine sandy beach, off which there is a good anchorage. This is Chuenpee.

The hill, which is its principal feature, stands rather towards the northern side of the promontory, and is divided into two conical eminences, upon one of which there was a high building, resembling a watch tower, which was now fortified, and formed a conspicuous object as you ascend the river. At the bottom of the hill there were a considerable stone battery and other works. The whole of these had been very recently strengthened and extended. A line of entrenchment, with mud batteries, had also been carried round the rear. Behind the hill also, in an opening looking towards the north, or into Anson's Bay, another small battery had been erected, with an enclosed space or square for barracks, surrounded by a parapet wall.

The extent of these works was not properly known, until the attack upon the place had commenced. It was generally believed that the promontory and hill of Chuenpee were connected with the mainland, and it was not until some time after the place was taken that the discovery was made, as will presently be described, that Chuenpee was, in reality, an island.[17]

On the opposite or western side of the river, which is here about three miles wide, is another smaller promontory, called Tycocktow, with a line of strong batteries close along the shore, faced with granite: This was also subsequently found to be an island. The whole of the country which borders the river is mountainous and picturesque.

Returning again to the east side, about four to five miles above Chuenpee, we come to the high hill and fortifications of Anunghoy, the most important of the works at the Bogue. Between Chuenpee and Anunghoy lies the beautiful bay called Anson's Bay, about two miles deep; on one side of which it was at one time proposed to found an English town. Anunghoy, like Chuenpee, was discovered to be also an island; and that circumstance, as will be afterwards seen, was a source of great anxiety to Keshen, who saw the consequent weakness of the position of Anunghoy, and reported it to the emperor. In fact, our light squadron might have probably gone up the river by the passage at the back of Anunghoy, without passing through the Bogue at all. But these facts were not then known.


The works at Anunghoy consisted of two very strong, heavy batteries, built of excellent granite, and partly of the composition called chunam. The masses of stone were afterwards found to be of immense size, so much so, that it was no easy task to blow the works to pieces, even after they were taken. The two principal batteries were connected together by temporary works of recent construction; and according to the usual Chinese practice, a semicircular wall was carried round the rear of each fort along the side of the hill.

The breadth of the river from Anunghoy to the opposite side is from two to three miles, being somewhat less than it is lower down between Chuenpee and Tycocktow. But in the very middle of the river in this part are two rocky islands, called North and South Wantung, of moderate elevation, and also a smaller rock, scarcely visible at high water. Hence there are two channels up the river, one on either side of these islands, but that on the east side towards Anunghoy is the one which had always been frequented by foreign ships, and was considered to be the Bocca Tigris, or Bogue.

The passage on the western side of Wantung was not only not frequented by Europeans, but not even known to be navigable, until our preparations were made for the capture of the Bogue forts, when some of our ships passed up on that side to the attack of North Wantung. The true Bogue, or eastern passage, is only about three quarters of a mile wide; the current, or rather the tide, is very rapid, on which account ships generally prefer keeping rather near to the Anunghoy side. Of the two islands called Wantung, the northern is the highest and largest, lying quite opposite Anunghoy, and was very strongly fortified. South Wantung, the smaller island, was not fortified by the Chinese, being not considered by them of sufficient importance to require it. It lies some distance lower down the river, and looking at their relative positions, you would hardly suppose they were within effectual gun-shot distance from each other. Such, however, was the case; and the Chinese forts on North Wantung were shelled from South Wantung by a small battery, constructed by a detachment of our troops in a single night, being covered during their work principally by the Nemesis, which ran close in shore for that purpose, being herself sheltered by the island.

Further to obstruct the passage up the Bogue, the Chinese had carried an immense chain, or rather a double chain, across it, supported by large rafts from one side to the other, one end of it being secured at Anunghoy, and the other end being fastened into a rock near South Wantung, which was nearly[111] covered at high water. To complete the account of these famous defences, it only remains to mention another fort on the western side of the river, nearly opposite Wantung, which was called Little Tycocktow, and was not of recent construction. By the Chinese themselves, these extensive works were considered impregnable, for they had not yet experienced the tremendous effect of the concentrated fire of line-of-battle-ships.

Tiger Island can scarcely be said to form part of the Bocca Tigris; it lies nearly two miles above Wantung; and, although there was a considerable stone battery on its eastern side, it was not likely to be of any service, and the Chinese wisely abandoned it, and removed the guns. This island, however, is a remarkable feature in the general aspect of the river, being in reality a high rocky mountain, cleft in two at the top, and presenting to view several deep chasms on both sides, yet clothed with verdure in some parts, while it is rudely broken up in others. It is altogether a very peculiar object, although it cannot be said to bear much resemblance to a tiger's head, from which it takes its name.


[13] See map.

[14] Some of the sailors of the Topaze were attacked and wounded on shore by the Chinese; and, in the scuffle, two Chinamen were killed. Remonstrances followed on both sides; and at length the Chinese demanded that two Englishmen should be delivered up to them for punishment. This was refused, as might be expected; upon which the Chinese authorities stopped the trade, and the fleet of merchant ships withdrew from Whampoa, and came to anchor in Tongkoo roads, henceforth called Urmston's Bay or Harbour.



Melville, 74, flag-ship, Rear-Admiral the Hon. George Elliot, C.B.; Captain the Hon. R. S. Dundas.
Wellesley, 74, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Sir J. J. Gordon Bremer, C.B.; Captain Thomas Maitland.
Blenheim, 74, Sir H. S. Fleming Senhouse, K.C.B.
Druid, 44, Capt. Smith.
Blonde, 44, Capt. F. Bourchier.
Volage, 28, Capt. G. Elliot.
Conway, 28, Capt. C. D. Bethune.
Alligator, 28, Capt. H. Kuper.
Larne, 20, Capt. J. P. Blake.
Hyacinth, 20, Capt. W. Warren.
Modeste, 20, Capt. H. Eyres.
Pylades, 20, Capt. T. V. Anson.
Nimrod, 20, Capt. C. A. Barlow.
Cruiser, 18, Capt. H. W. Giffard.
Columbine, 18, Capt. T. J. Clarke.
Algerine, 10, Capt. T. S. Mason.
Rattlesnake, troop-ship, Brodie.

Hon. Company's armed Steamers.
Queen, Mr. Warden.
Madagascar, Mr. Dicey.
Atalanta, Commander Rogers.
Enterprise, Mr. West.

[16] She was afterwards accidentally destroyed by fire.

[17] See map.


The Imperial Commissioner Keshen now wisely resolved to gain as much time as he could by negotiation; and seemed in the first instance to have almost equalled his predecessor Lin, in his desire "to control the foreigners, and to reduce them to submission." His conferences with that functionary, who now remained at Canton as viceroy, were numerous and confidential; but, instead of precipitating the crisis by mad violence, he professed to trust rather to the "employment of truth and the utmost reason" to attain his ends.

Keshen's cautiousness was at once shewn by the instructions which he issued respecting the nature of the white flag, and by his enjoining that for the future the troops were "not rashly to open their artillery, without first ascertaining what was the purpose of the approach of any boat bearing such a flag." And, moreover, that "they were not to provoke hostilities, by being the first to fire on the foreign ships, nor in their desire for honours to endeavour to create trouble." On his side, likewise, Captain Elliot was quite as anxious to avoid a collision as Keshen himself; and thus affairs went on until the close of the year, without any approach whatever to a solution of the difficulties. Keshen exhibited a vast deal of tact and

"—— cunning, which in fools supplies,
And amply, too, the place of being wise."


Great as our force already was even at that period, it does not at all seem to have intimidated Keshen, who appeared to gain courage as he gained time. Indeed, it could hardly be expected that the ancient barrier of Chinese pride and self-sufficiency would crumble down before a single blow, however strong; and even the chief actor in the scene himself hesitated long to strike, when he knew that it would make an empire tremble.

But the great, the haughty, the mysterious China was at length destined to open her portals to the resistless "barbarian." Among the important personages who contributed indirectly to bring about this wonderful result, perhaps not the least remarkable was the Empress herself, to whom some allusion has already been made. Very little was heard concerning her at the time, in remote parts of the world, and therefore a few additional notices must be interesting. She must, indeed, have been a person of no ordinary character, who could have raised herself, by her talents and her fascinations, to a seat upon the throne of the Emperor of China. Her early history is little recorded, but her influence was secretly known and felt in almost every part of the empire, even before she obtained the short-lived honours of an empress.

It is difficult to imagine how any woman, brought up in the subordinate position which is alone allotted to the sex in China, with the imperfect education which is there attainable, and with all the prejudices of her early life, and the proud assumption of superiority of the other sex to contend against, could have had imparted to her the peculiar tone of character which she possessed. In her attempts to reform and to improve, she never ceased to be Chinese; indeed, she seems to have thought that to restore what was fallen to decay was the best kind of reform. She sought the removal of abuse, the purification of public offices, and the improvement of the details of administration throughout the country. Her influence became paramount; and those who could not be gained by her arguments are said to have been led by her fascinations.

The words of the Emperor's public eulogy of the Empress, after her death, will in a measure point out this feature in her character. He declared that "she was overflowing of kindness to all, lovely and winning." She held control over the hearts of those about her, not by dint of authority, but by gentleness and forbearance. "Her intercourse," he added, "lightened for me the burden of government, and the charms she spread around conciliated all hearts. And now I am alone and sad."

In her choice of persons for high employment, the Empress possessed the most valuable of all talents to those who are called upon to exercise their power of selection—that of distinguishing not merely abstract merit, but of discerning those less conspicuous[113] qualities of the mind which constitute fitness for office and aptitude for public distinction.

The greatest influence of the Empress seems to have been exercised about the years 1835 and 1836, and it was just at that period that the question was so keenly debated, at court and elsewhere, whether opium should be permitted, under certain modified regulations, or whether it were possible to put an end to the traffic by force, and to drive the nation from its use by fear. This was evidently the commencement of a new era in that country, for whatever might be the result of the debate upon this important question in the Chinese cabinet, the effect of it was to occasion the agitation of the subject throughout the empire. Agitation in China!

But a spirit of change had now begun to tincture even the minds of true Chinamen, and the amiable Empress herself became affected by, and even in a measure encouraged, that movement. The vice-president of the sacrificial board, by name Heu Naetze, and others, amongst whom was reckoned also Keshen, belonged to the immediate favourites of the Empress, and but for that high protection it is probable that Heu Naetze would hardly have ventured to present his famous memorial in favour of the legalization of the opium-trade.

His chief and most important argument was, not that it would be a good thing in itself, but that it would be perfectly impossible to prevent it by any means the government could adopt; and also that foreign trade generally was of importance to China, from the revenue which it produced, and the employment which it gave to the people. He shewed how totally ineffectual every increase of punishment, even to death itself, had proved, for the prevention of the practice, which, on the contrary, had increased tenfold; and he then went on to make it evident that "when opium was purchased secretly, it could only be exchanged with silver; but that, if it were permitted to be bought openly, it would be paid for in the productions of the country." And he cleverly adds: "the dread of the laws is not so great among the people as the love of gain, which unites them to all manner of crafty devices, so that sometimes the law is rendered wholly ineffective." But he would still prohibit all public officers, scholars, and soldiers, from using it, under pain of instant dismissal from the public service.

It is known that the Empress received this recommendation with particular favour, but the Emperor referred it for the consideration of the crafty old Tang, the Governor of Canton, who was at the very time deriving a large revenue from winking at the clandestine sale of the drug. The answer of Tang and his colleagues was decidedly favourable to the project. They declared that "the circumstances of the times rendered a change in the[114] regulations necessary." They openly admitted that the payment of distinct duties would be far less onerous than the payment of bribes; that the laws could then be administered, and would be respected; and that the precious metals which were now oozing out of the empire would then be retained in it. They even went so far as to say that the dignity of the government would by no means be lowered by it; and they farther declared that the prohibition of the luxury made it more eagerly sought for.

Here, then, was clearly another triumph on the Empress's side; and those who were opposed to her principles feared it as such, and redoubled their efforts to produce her fall. But the recommendation did not even stop at that point; for it went so far as even to encourage the cultivation and preparation of the poppy within the empire, in order to exclude a portion of the foreign article from the market.

One might have supposed that the influences which were now at work to produce a better state of foreign trade, backed by the countenance of the Empress, and supported by the apparent neutrality of the Emperor, would have sufficed to occasion some modification in the existing laws.

Keshen himself, who had what is called a long head, though in good favour with the Empress, and influential in the country, seems to have remained at that time neutral upon the question in agitation. Others, however, shewed a bitter hostility to every change, but bitterest of all to the whole race of foreigners. When they could no longer argue with success against the principles of what might be called the free-trade party, they raked up all the smouldering ashes of deadly hostility to foreigners, because they were not Chinese, (however estimable they might otherwise be,) and they appealed to an old saying of the Emperor Kanghe, the grandfather of his present Majesty—namely, "that there is cause for apprehension, lest, in centuries to come, China may be endangered by collision with the various nations of the West, who come hither from beyond the seas." Indeed, it is well known that there prevailed in China a tradition to that effect; and also another, "that China would be conquered by a woman, in time to come." And so generally were these two predictions or traditions remembered during the war, that the impression came to prevail among many of the people that it would be useless to resist us, because we were a people from the far west, and were ruled by a queen.

The two principal memorials on the opposite side of the question have been pretty generally circulated; one being by Choo Tsun, a member of council and of the Board of Rites, the other by Heu Kew, a censor of the military department. They argued for the dignity of the empire, and the danger "of instability in maintaining the laws." They called for increased[115] severity of the law itself, not only to prevent the exportation of silver, but to arrest the enervation and destruction of the people, and they openly declared their belief that the purpose of the English was to weaken the people and to ruin the central land; and they further appealed to all the "luminous admonitions" of the emperors and others of olden days against the influence of foreigners. Memorials also came in from many of the provinces, particularly those along the coast, shewing that even the army had become contaminated by opium, and that soldiers sent against the rebels in recent seditions were found to have very little strength left, though their numbers were large. In short, the whole of the memorialists on the anti-importation side argued to the effect that increased severity could stop the use of opium, and therefore that it ought to be stopped, because it tended to enervate the people, and make them an easy prey to the foreigner, while the quantity of silver exported enriched the latter in proportion as it impoverished the former. Thus the hatred of opium and detestation of the foreigner became very nearly synonymous.

At length, when the Emperor's beloved son died from the effects of opium in the imperial palace, then the grief of the Emperor, and the conviction of the misery produced by the drug, worked upon his feelings fully as much as upon his judgment. An attempt was made to place the question upon moral grounds; and the Emperor affected on a sudden to weep for the misfortunes of the nation, and to lament the depravity of his "dear children;" and his paternal heart, in the exuberance of its benignity, determined to cut off all their heads, if they would not mend their ways. Thus, by degrees, the reformation of morals became the subject of agitation quite as much as the principles of trade had been before. By this time, the influence of the Empress had quite declined. She forgot that in making many friends she had made many influential enemies. Neither her beauty nor her talents could save her, and she fell rapidly from her pinnacle of power. She only lived to share the Emperor's throne for about five or six years; a very short but remarkable reign. She could not survive the loss of her power; and when her opponents so completely recovered theirs, her proud spirit sunk under the weight which pressed upon her.

Nothing could be more touching than the expressions of the Emperor, published in the Pekin Gazette. He calls her a perfect pattern of "filial piety;" and therefore bestows upon her the posthumous title of the "perfectibility of filial obedience." It should be here remarked, that what they call "filial piety" is the highest moral attribute in the Chinese system of ethics.

The Empress died in the beginning of 1840, and was buried with great pomp; the whole nation was ordered to go into[116] mourning for a month, and the public officers were not to shave their heads for one hundred days, as a mark of their sorrow. Her death left the Emperor Taou-kwang surrounded by troubles and dangers in his old age, with few about him whom he could trust, and none to comfort him in his difficulties. She left two or three young children. But he had six children by his former wife, of whom nearly all, or, it is believed, more than half have died.

The Emperor was born on the 20th September, 1782, and is therefore upwards of sixty-two years old. He ascended the throne in 1820. The troubles and continual disturbances which have marked his reign, the frequent rebellions and disorders which have long been the constant theme of his animadversions in the Pekin Gazette, may perhaps be considered less as the result of his own measures than as the marking features of the present era in Chinese history. He ascended the throne when disorders were almost at their height, and when a conspiracy had already broken out in his father's palace. Indeed, he was expressly selected by his father to be his successor, (although not the eldest, but the second son,) because he had on a former occasion distinguished himself by his energy and success in crushing a traitorous attempt within the palace.

The Emperor appears to be an amiable but weak man, well intentioned towards his people, sensible of the difficulties of his country, but, at the same time, blinded and misinformed by the favourites about him, and retaining too many early prejudices to be able thoroughly to cope with all the difficulties which have from time to time beset him.

The next most important character who figured at the period which has been already alluded to was Commissioner Lin, of whom so much has been said. The principal features of his character have been already delineated. He is described as having been stout in person, with a vivacious but not unpleasant manner, unless highly excited; with a keen, dark, penetrating eye, which seemed to indicate that he could assume two opposite characters, according as it might suit his interest or his ambition. He had a clear, distinct voice, and is said to have rarely smiled. His countenance indicated a mind habituated to care. In the course of his proceedings at Canton, he seems never to have permitted himself to adopt the character of a "negotiator," but invariably to have assumed that of a "dictator," which was more natural to him. His word was law. He was not dismayed by sudden difficulties, and appears to have been quite sincere in all his wishes to arrest the progress of the evils he complained of, and to reform the morals of the people. With this object, he closed all the gaming-houses at Canton, which were as numerous as the opium-shops, or more so, and were generally maintained in conjunction with the latter; so much do vices court each other's company.


In reality, Lin feared the foreigners as much as he hated them. But the intercourse he now had with them led him to value their knowledge more highly, and probably he knew full well that knowledge is power. He had portions of English works translated for his own use, such as Thelwall's pamphlet against opium, Murray's geography, (parts,) &c.; and he had in his employ three or four young Chinamen, who knew something of English, and of English habits, having visited the straits' settlements, and one of them the United States.

Lin was by no means wanting in energy to meet the great crisis which he had contributed so much to produce. In addition to the enlisting of troops, the preparation of defences, the casting of guns, building of fire-vessels and gun-boats, &c., he directed that many passages of the river should be blocked up with stones, and others staked across with piles.

In short, Lin was a bold, uncompromising, and specious man. He tried to console the Emperor, by assuring him that he was quite certain that, along the northern coast, sickness and cold would carry off all the barbarian forces, even if the want of food, and the exhaustion of their powder and shot, did not reduce them to extremities; but he never once alluded to any probability of being able to beat off the barbarians in fair fight.

With regard to his successor, Keshen, his character will be better developed as we proceed. But it is worth while here to remark, that Keshen appears to have been one of the few about the court who began to apprehend serious consequences from Lin's measures. He had always been cautious in committing himself, and though no friend of the foreigners, he had feared their power, and felt the weakness of his own country, as well as the necessity of trying some other measures than those means hitherto employed, to put a stop to the perpetual disturbances which took place in several parts of the empire, and threatened rebellion even within the capital.

Keshen was an astute courtier, a polished and well-mannered man, and all those who were present at either of his two interviews with Captain Elliot were struck with his courteous and gentlemanlike manner. Although he made every preparation for resistance, he seems to have thought he could gain more by diplomacy, and he resolved to take advantage of the disposition for negotiation rather than dictation on Captain Elliot's part, to play his cards with tact and cunning, in the hope of gaining time. But he saw his weakness, and the impossibility of contending with success against our forces, and, having distinctly reported thereon to the Emperor, he was, of course, set down as a coward, and, consequently, as a traitor. He had the boldness to tell the Emperor the actual weakness of his strongest points of defence; whereas, Lin only stated how much stronger they[118] would have been, had the government made it a rule to have devoted ten per cent. of the whole customs' revenue of Canton to the improvement of their means of defence, the building of ships, and the casting of cannon.

In one thing, however, Lin and Keshen were both of a mind—namely, as to the importance of the foreign trade of Canton to the imperial revenue. They ventured to correct the Emperor's notion that the customs' duties of Canton were "unimportant, and not worth a thought," by telling him that they "already" produced upwards of thirty millions of taels, or ten millions sterling, and that, as the revenue of Canton far exceeded that of any other province, a portion of this considerable sum, which was obtained from foreigners, should have been applied to defending themselves against foreigners.[18]

Much has at various times been said about Keshen's treachery and bad faith. But it will be seen, as we proceed, that he was driven into these acts by the distinct orders of the Emperor, and that keeping faith with us was to be viewed as treachery to his master. Indeed, the severity of Keshen's punishment at the Emperor's hands proves not so much how ill he served his master, as how unfortunate he was in having a much more profound head than Lin, in being able to see farther into futurity, and to catch the shadows of coming events; in short, how much too far in advance of his countrymen he was, in being able to appreciate their position in the face of the foreigner, and how unfortunate in presuming to attempt to ward off the dreaded blow by timely concession.

Without anticipating further the remarkable points in Keshen's career, which will be better developed as we proceed, we may now turn our attention to the interesting events of the year 1841.

We have already seen that there was little probability, at the close of 1840, of any satisfactory arrangement being made between Keshen and Captain Elliot without a resort to arms. Accordingly, all preparations were completed; and, the first week in January having passed without any nearer prospect of a settlement, although repeated opportunities had been given to Keshen to arrange matters amicably, as had been proposed at the conference at Tientsin, orders were at length issued for the immediate resumption of hostilities. The morning of the 7th of January, 1841, was the period fixed on for the attack upon the forts at Chuenpee and Tycocktow, being the lowest, or, in other words, the first, you approach in ascending the river. The object was to reduce the whole of the famous defences of the Bogue one after the other, and, if necessary, to destroy them.

The plan of attack upon Chuenpee, and the forts on the opposite side of the river at Tycocktow, was as follows, under the direction of Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer, who, it will be remembered, had become commander-in-chief upon the retirement of Rear-Admiral the Honourable George Elliot, in consequence of severe illness. The troops, comprising detachments of the 26th and 49th regiments, (the greater part of which were with their head-quarters at Chusan,) under Major Johnstone, of the 26th, together with the whole of the 37th Madras Native Infantry, under Captain Duff, of that regiment, and a detachment of the Bengal Volunteers, under Captain Bolton, were to embark on board the Enterprise and Madagascar steamers by eight o'clock in the morning, to be conveyed to the point of debarkation, which was selected about two miles and a half below Chuenpee, to the southward, where they were to be landed in boats. The Nemesis took on board a large portion of the 37th. A battalion of royal marines, upwards of five hundred strong, under Captain Ellis, were to be landed in the boats of their respective ships; while a body of seamen, under Lieutenant Wilson, of the Blenheim, were also to join the landing force. A small detachment of the royal artillery was to be under the command of Captain Knowles, R.A., having under him the Honourable C. Spencer; and one twenty-four pounder howitzer, with two six-pounder guns, one from the Wellesley, and one from the Melville, were to be landed, together with thirty seamen, to be attached to them for the purpose of placing them in position; also fifteen men from the Blenheim were to be employed in the rocket and ammunition service.


In front of the Chinese entrenchments there was a ridge, by which, in a manner they were commanded, and upon the crest of this the guns were to be placed. While this was being done, strong covering parties were to be pushed in advance, and to act according to circumstances, waiting for the effect of the fire from the guns, as well as from the ships, which were to be placed in the best positions for silencing the batteries.

The whole of the force on shore was under the command of Major Pratt, of the Cameronians, and comprised altogether about one thousand five hundred men.[19]


As regards the naval force engaged, it was ordered, that the Queen and Nemesis steamers should proceed to take up a position within good shelling distance, according as the depth of water would permit; and at once to commence firing into the fort upon the summit of the hill. Having rendered this post untenable, and having watched the advance of the troops, which might be selected to take possession of it, they were then immediately to attack the lower fort, along the shore near the northern point, if it should not have been already abandoned or carried. Meanwhile, the fire from the fort above, by this time expected to be in possession of a portion of our troops, was also to be turned in the same direction; and, when the enemy should be driven out, they were to be "dealt with" by the remaining part of the troops.

The Madagascar and Enterprise steamers, as soon as they had landed their troops, were to join the division under Captain (now Sir Thomas) Herbert, in the Calliope, having with him, the Larne, Captain Blake, and the Hyacinth, Captain Warren. They were directed to proceed to attack the batteries, towards the northern extremity, as well as in front, and to be prepared to proceed to capture some of the numerous war-junks, which were seen at anchor at the bottom of Anson's Bay. The two steamers above-mentioned, were also to hold themselves in readiness to go alongside any ship that might chance to require their services.

Captain Belcher, of the Sulphur surveying vessel, was to take upon himself the general charge of the steamers, in the first instance, so far as concerned "the placing them in a position already ascertained by him;" which, probably, referred to the position to be taken up for shelling the upper fort, as well as to the point of debarkation for the troops.

Such, then, was the plan of attack upon Chuenpee; that of Tycocktow will follow better when the account of the Chuenpee action is completed.

The landing and re-embarkation of the forces was under the direction of Lieutenant Symons, of the Wellesley, and the whole of it was conducted with great regularity. The landing of any considerable body of troops is always an exciting scene; but, now, for the first time in the history of China, if we except the trifling affair at the barrier at Macao, European troops were about to meet in battle the sons of the "flowery nation," upon the very soil of the "Celestial Empire." Nor did the Chinese shrink from the contest in the first instance, for they had yet to learn the irresistible power of European warfare, and the destructive efficacy of European weapons.

The leading troops were the royal marines and the royal artillery, the guns being dragged along by the blue jackets. The road lay through a winding valley for nearly the distance of a[121] couple of miles, until it led to a transverse ridge, from which, the whole of the Chinese works could be viewed, consisting of a strong, entrenched camp, flanked by small field-batteries of recent and hasty construction, and connected with the Hill Fort above, by a high breastwork continued up the hill towards it.

The object of the Chinese was evidently to protect the rear of the fort, which was plainly the key of the position. In the rear of their field-batteries were deep trenches for giving shelter to their men from our shot, and the Chinese could be seen lining the works, and waving their flags in defiance.

The guns of the royal artillery were soon in position upon the ridge, and began firing with great precision into the entrenched camp; while an advanced party of the royal marines, crossing the shoulder of the hill to the right, drove the Chinese speedily from it; and, then, descending into the valley beyond, came upon a second encampment, with a small field-battery, which was soon cleared. A detachment of the 37th M.N. Infantry had also been sent further round to the right of the advance, where they encountered the Chinese in some force.

While all these operations were going on, The Queen and the Nemesis steamers (the latter having first rapidly disembarked her portion of the 37th, with the main body of the force) took up a position within good shelling distance of the Hill Fort. The Nemesis, from her light draught of water, was enabled to take up her station inside The Queen, and both vessels commenced throwing shell with great precision into the fort, much to the astonishment of the Chinese, who were unacquainted with this engine of destruction.

Captain Hall had on this occasion, as on several subsequent ones, the able assistance, as a gunnery officer, of Mr. Crouch, one of the mates of the Wellesley, who was permitted to serve for a time on board the Nemesis.[20]

The Chinese could not long withstand the fire of the sixty-eight pounder of The Queen, and the two thirty-two pounder pivot-guns of the Nemesis, the shells from which could be seen bursting within the walls of the fort.

At the same time, on the land-side, the principal entrenched camp had by this time, been carried by the main body of the troops, and, twenty-five minutes after the shelling of the fort had commenced, the British flag was seen waving upon its top, and the firing ceased. Major Pratt himself, with only two marines, had been the first to run up the hill and reach the fort; upon which, the Chinese, seeing that they were pressed behind as well as before, abandoned the fort in great confusion, leaving Major Pratt and his followers in possession of this most important position, upon which the British flag was hoisted by a royal marine.


The Nemesis, as soon as this was perceived, hastened on to join the ships of war, (the Calliope, Larne, and Hyacinth,) which had taken up their positions, nearly within musket-shot of the lower batteries, and were doing great execution. The works were however, constructed of strong material, comprising large blocks of the composition called chunam, very much resembling stone but less fragile. The Nemesis came up just in time to pour in several discharges of grape and canister from both the pivot-guns, and had then to witness one of the most dreadful spectacles of war. The Chinese in the battery had already been assailed by our troops from the fort above; and now, a party of the royal marines, and the 37th M.N.I., which had previously cleared the second camp in the valley behind, were seen coming round the hill, ready to pounce upon them as they attempted to escape out of the fort. The unfortunate men were thus hemmed in on all sides; and, being unacquainted with the humane practice of modern warfare, of giving and receiving quarter, they abandoned themselves to the most frantic despair.

Now were to be seen some of those horrors of war which, when the excitement of the moment is over, and the interest as well as danger of strategic manœuvres are at an end, none can remember without regret and pain. The Chinese, not accepting quarter, though attempting to escape, were cut up by the fire of our advancing troops; others, in the faint hope of escaping what to them appeared certain death at the hands of their victors, precipitated themselves recklessly from the top of the battlements; numbers of them were now swimming in the river, and not a few vainly trying to swim, and sinking in the effort; some few, however, perhaps a hundred, surrendered themselves to our troops, and were soon afterwards released. Many of the poor fellows were unavoidably shot by our troops, who were not only warmed with the previous fighting, but exasperated because the Chinese had fired off their matchlocks at them first, and then threw them away, as if to ask for quarter; under these circumstances, it could not be wondered at that they suffered. Some again barricaded themselves within the houses of the fort, a last and desperate effort; and, as several of our soldiers were wounded by their spears, death and destruction were the consequence.

The slaughter was great; nor could it be easily controlled when the men were irritated by the protracted and useless attacks which were made upon them from behind walls and hiding-places, even after the British flag was hoisted. It is wonderful that the casualties among the men were not more numerous.


The commandant of the fort was killed at the head of his men; and it is related that his son, as soon as he found that his father was dead, resolving not to survive him, and being unable to avenge his death, jumped into the sea, in spite of all remonstrance, and was drowned.

Those who have witnessed the individual bravery, be it courage or be it despair, frequently exhibited by the Chinese during the war, in almost every encounter, will be slow to stamp them as a cowardly people, however inefficient they may be as fighting men in armed bodies, against European discipline and modern weapons.

The most painful of all the scenes on this occasion was that of the bodies of men burnt perhaps to death when wounded.

It is well known that the bow and arrow is the favourite weapon of the Tartar troops, upon the dexterous use of which they set the highest claim to military distinction. The spear also, of various forms and fashions, is a favourite weapon both of Tartars and Chinese; but the matchlock, which in all respects very nearly resembles some of the old European weapons of the same name, except that the bore is generally somewhat smaller, is of much more modern introduction, and by no means so much in favour with the Chinese; this is occasioned principally by the danger arising from the use of the powder, in the careless way in which they carry it. They have a pouch in front, fastened round the body, and the powder is contained loose in a certain number of little tubes inside the pouch, not rolled up like our cartridges.

Of course, every soldier has to carry a match or port-fire to ignite the powder in the matchlock when loaded. Hence, when a poor fellow is wounded and falls, the powder, which is very apt to run out of his pouch over his clothes, is very likely to be ignited by his own match, and in this way he may either be blown up at once, or else his clothes may be ignited; indeed, it is not impossible that the match itself may be sufficient to produce this effect. At Chuenpee, many bodies were found after the action not only scorched, but completely burnt, evidently from the ignition of the powder.

In one of the latest encounters during the war, at Chapoo, where a few of the Tartars defended themselves so desperately in a house in which they had taken refuge, they were seen stripping themselves altogether, in order to escape the effect of the fire upon their combustible clothes when the building was in flames; and many other instances of a similar kind were noticed during the war.

With respect to the attack upon the fort at Tycocktow, on the opposite side of the river, the Nemesis was not concerned in that part of the operations of the 7th January. The force employed[124] on that service was placed under the orders of Captain Scott, of the Samarang, 26; and consisted, in addition to that vessel, of the Druid, 44, Captain Smith; the Modeste, 18, Commander Eyres; and Columbine, 16, Commander Clarke. Captain Scott was directed to proceed to attack the forts upon Tycocktow, and to dismantle them, spiking the guns, and destroying the forts as much as possible; after which, he was to take up a convenient position in reference to the expected operations against the proper Bogue forts higher up.

Captain Scott led the way gallantly in the Samarang, without returning the fire of the Chinese, until he dropped anchor within cable's length of the middle of the fort. The Modeste, Druid, and Columbine came up almost directly after, and then commenced the terrific thunder of artillery, which soon sufficed to shatter the walls, and to make a breach, through which the seamen and marines, which were landed from the ships, soon carried the fort by storm. The Chinese fled in all directions up the hill, but not without witnessing, to their cost, the deadly effect of our musketry upon their confused bodies; nor did they yield without shewing some instances of bold personal courage.

The attack was led by Lieutenant Bowers, first lieutenant of the Samarang, who received a sabre cut across the knee; which shews that the Chinese did not run away without first coming to close quarters; their loss, however, was considerable. The guns in the fort were all spiked, and then thrown into the sea; the magazines and other buildings were set on fire, (the wounded having been first removed;) but it was not thought necessary to pursue the Chinese further.

As soon as these operations had been completed, the whole of the party which had landed, comprising the boats' crews of all the ships engaged, returned on board. Part of them had proceeded to attack the northern end of the fort, namely, those of the Druid and Columbine, and were commanded by Lieutenant Goldsmith, (since promoted,) and great praise was given to all the officers and men concerned, for their gallantry and good conduct. The number of guns destroyed was twenty-five; those which were captured at Chuenpee amounted altogether to sixty-six pieces, of various calibre, including those in the entrenchments, as well as those upon the upper and lower forts. Many of the guns, however, were not mounted, shewing that the preparations for defence had not been completed; some were only 6-pounders, but a great portion of the remainder were about equal to our own 12-pounder guns. Of course, they were all rendered unserviceable.

The operations of this day have not yet, however, been all described. So far as relates to Chuenpee and Tycocktow, little remains to be added, except that the killed and wounded, on the part of the land force, on our side, amounted to thirty; and on[125] that of the naval force, to eight men and officers. But the destruction of the war-junks in Anson's Bay also formed part of the feats of this day; and, as it more particularly relates to the Nemesis, it shall be reserved for a separate chapter.


[18] The imperial revenues scarcely formed a third of what was actually paid in various ways!


 Non-com. officers
 and privates.
Royal artillery, under command of Captain Knowles, Royal artillery33
Seamen, under lieutenant Wilson, of H.M.S. Blenheim137
Detachments of the 26th and 49th regiments, under Major Johnstone,    
  of the 20th regiment104
Royal marine battalion, under Captain Ellis, of the Wellesley504
37th Madras Native Infantry, under Captain Duff, 37th N. I.607
Detachment of Bengal Volunteers, under Captain Bolton76
Together with thirty seamen attached to the guns.

[20] In the official report of Captain Belcher, and on a subsequent occasion, it is stated, by mistake, that Mr. Crouch was serving on board The Queen. This active young officer well deserved the promotion which he soon obtained. He was wounded at the close of the war, at Chin-Keang-Foo.


The total destruction of the Chinese squadron of war-junks, on the day of the action of Chuenpee, (7th January,) under the orders of Admiral Kwan, completed the discomfiture of the Chinese by sea and by land. The engagement took place in Anson's Bay, which has already been described as lying between Chuenpee and Anunghoy. The Nemesis here took a most distinguished part; and some of the boats of the Calliope, Hyacinth, Larne, Sulphur, and Starling, co-operated with her in the action, in which Lieutenants Watson and Harrison, and other officers of the Calliope and Larne, deservedly won their laurels.

At the bottom of Anson's Bay was the entrance of a small river, unknown until now, having a small island at its mouth, somewhat on the Chuenpee side. Within this, and in a measure protected by a sand-bar which ran out from it, lay the Chinese fleet of about fifteen war-junks, moored in a good position in shallow water, so as to prevent the near approach of our ships. Directions had been given to Captain Herbert, of the Calliope, to make arrangements for the attack of these war-junks, as soon as the defences on Chuenpee should have fallen. The moment, therefore, that it was perceived on board the Nemesis, as she ran up towards the lower battery, and poured in her grape and canister, that the upper fort had fallen, and that the lower one could not longer hold out, she hastened, without a moment's delay, to the attack of the enemy's squadron. Full steam was set on, without waiting to see what other measures might be taken elsewhere to effect the object.

In her anxiety to secure the post of honour, the Nemesis rounded the point of Chuenpee a little too close, and struck rather heavily upon a rocky reef running out some distance from it, but upon which it was thought that there was still water enough to enable her to float safely. She did indeed pass over it, but not without striking; but her iron frame did not hang upon it as a wooden one would probably have done, and she proceeded, without even stopping her engines. That the force of the blow however was considerable, and would probably have seriously damaged a wooden vessel, is shewn by the fact of her having the outer paddle-ring of one of the wheels broken, together[126] with two of the long arms attached to it. It is evident that a blow which would cause such injury to iron would have done much more serious damage to wood.

About this time, Captain Belcher, of the Sulphur, joined her, with two of his ship's boats, anxious to partake of the honour of the affair. A few of the Sulphur's seamen also came on board. As she pushed along, she was also reinforced by Lieutenant Kellett, of the Starling, who brought his gig, or whale-boat, and subsequently did good service.

As they approached the position in which the Chinese junks were drawn up, it was easily perceived that it had been well chosen, with scarcely more than five feet water round the vessels, and that, in fact, they could not be attacked in front, except by boats. However, the Nemesis, having the great advantage of drawing less than six feet water, was able to approach near enough to bring her two 32-pounder pivot-guns to bear within good range. Just at this moment also a large boat, or pinnace, of the Larne, was observed, making its way round the outside of the little island, with a view to cut off the junks in the rear.

The boldness of this manœuvre, under the command of Lieutenant Harrison, was much admired; and, indeed, the dashing way in which many similar attacks were made on other occasions during the war took the Chinese by surprise, and struck them with a wholesome terror, even before they came to close quarters.

One of the most formidable engines of destruction which any vessel, particularly a steamer, can make use of is the Congreve rocket, a most terrible weapon when judiciously applied, especially where there are combustible materials to act upon. The very first rocket fired from the Nemesis[21] was seen to enter the large junk against which it was directed, near that of the admiral, and almost the instant afterwards it blew up with a terrific explosion, launching into eternity every soul on board, and pouring forth its blaze like the mighty rush of fire from a volcano. The instantaneous destruction of the huge body seemed appalling to both sides engaged. The smoke, and flame, and thunder of the explosion, with the broken fragments falling round, and even portions of dissevered bodies scattering as they fell, were enough to strike with awe, if not with fear, the stoutest heart that looked upon it.


It is related that, at the battle of the Nile, when the French admiral's ship, L'Orient, blew up, both of the fiercely-fighting foes paused in horror at the dreadful catastrophe, and neither side renewed the fight for at least ten minutes afterwards. So here also, although the explosion was far less violent, and the contending parties comparatively trifling in number, and far less excited by the contest, there was a momentary pause; the very suddenness of the catastrophe added something to the awe and rejoicing, combined, which it excited. The rocket had penetrated into the magazine of the junk, or had ignited some of the loose powder too often scattered carelessly about the decks by the Chinese gunners. They naturally felt that the same fate might readily befall any of the other junks; and, after some discharges of round shot had been thrown into the nearest junks, (four of them were afterwards found lodged in the admiral's junk,) their crews were observed endeavouring to escape on shore, some upon the little island, and others upon Chuenpee; while, at the same time, the junks were all cut away by those remaining on board, in order that they might drift on shore, and enable the rest to escape.

The Chinese hauled down their colours on board their junks at about half-past eleven, but continued firing afterwards. At about twelve o'clock, the boats of the Nemesis, in company with the others which were present, put off to board the junks. Only two of the smaller ones succeeded in getting away up a small branch of the river, while two more escaped for the moment up another principal branch to a large town, but were subsequently captured.

Some of the junks drifted on shore; and, as there could be no utility in saving them, they were all successively set on fire, by order of Captain Belcher, and ultimately blew up. In some of the junks which were not yet quite abandoned by their crews, the poor Chinamen, as the English sailors boarded them on one side, rushed wildly over on the opposite one, or let themselves down by the stern chains, clinging to the ship's rudder. Others, as the fire gained upon their junk, retreated before it, and continued hanging to the yet untouched portions of it, until the flames advancing upon them rapidly, they were obliged to throw water over their own bodies to enable them to bear the intense heat, still desperately clinging to their fate, more from fear of ill-treatment, if they should be taken prisoners, than from any rational hope of being saved. In many instances they would not be saved; in others, they could not, and were destroyed as their junk blew up.

On the following day, the principal part of the guns were recovered, altogether upwards of eighty in number, of which eight or ten were handsome brass Portuguese guns, 6, 9, and 12-pounders.

Altogether, eleven junks were destroyed on the spot. Scarcely had this duty been completed by the different boats engaged, when the Nemesis hastened on up the river, and at the distance of about three miles, came upon a large town, where she found two war-junks moored close to the shore, but abandoned by[128] their crews. The consternation of the people was extreme; they were seen running away from the town in all directions; the surrounding hills were crowded with the anxious and astonished gazers, wondering what was going to happen next; never, of course, having either seen or heard of a "devil ship" before, and well knowing that her visit could only be a hostile one. It was enough that they had already heard of the total destruction of their fleet at the river's mouth. The place was not at all fortified, not a shot being fired on either side.

The tide was now beginning to fall, and as the water was not deep, and the bar would soon become impassable, and the day was already far advanced, it was thought better to return without exploring the river higher up. Accordingly, taking in tow the two junks, the Nemesis again descended the river; but one of the junks getting aground on the bar at the entrance, was obliged to be left behind, while the other was taken safely down, and soon after five p.m., the Nemesis joined the squadron off Chuenpee, and received the thanks of the commodore for the services she had rendered during the day. She had received no important damage, the paddle-box only having been injured by a well-directed shot from one of the junks.

It must have been a fine sight for the troops who were in possession of Chuenpee, to witness from the top of the hill the encounter with, and total destruction of, this fleet; the numerous burning masses, and the loud explosions as they blew up; with the boats pulling about among them, lighted by the glare of the fires. All this, added to the excitement which always attends the being a looker-on while others are actors in deeds of danger, must have formed a most animating spectacle. The scenery about Anson's Bay is moreover bold and picturesque, and the limited space in which the affair took place, must have added something to the interest it awakened.

To the Chinese this had been, in all respects, a most disastrous day. Their stone walls and their wooden walls had been alike destroyed; and, although they might before have dreaded us by sea, they had never until now had an opportunity of testing the power of Europeans on land.

On this day, the 7th of January, 1841, the native Indian troops and the Royal Marines constituted considerably more than two-thirds of the whole force employed on shore.

The loss of many hundred killed and wounded on the Chinese side, with something less than forty wounded and none killed on our side, shews rather that the Chinese were deficient in proper weapons to match their foes, than wanting in personal bravery to meet them in the fight; and, as they were not yet acquainted with the European mode of sparing an unresisting enemy, they suffered great loss from unsupported and useless resistance, when[129] timely submission would have saved many lives. They exasperated our troops without a chance of benefiting themselves.

The Chinese admiral, the fine old Kwan, lost the red ball or button of his cap, the emblem of his rank, during the encounter with the junks. It was reported that he wished to meet his death at the hands of his foe, and was with some difficulty borne off by his attendants; but this fate was reserved for him on a future occasion, and he shewed himself a chivalrous and brave man. The loss of his ball or button, which has certain marks upon it which probably indicate that it is conferred by imperial favour as an emblem of rank, seemed naturally to occasion him the greatest possible anxiety and trouble. He, in fact, made application for it to be returned to him, if it chanced to have been found; and it is gratifying to know that, through the intervention of Captain Elliot, her majesty's plenipotentiary, it was recovered and generously restored to him.

The total number of guns taken or rendered unserviceable during the operations of this day, ashore and afloat, amounted to one hundred and seventy-three pieces, including eighty-two in the junks, of which a few were brass, but mostly of small calibre.

The junks with which the Nemesis was engaged in Anson's Bay were provided with quite a new sort of boarding-nettings, if they can be so called. Probably old Admiral Kwan, whose reputation as a seaman was not very great, had heard that English ships of war were sometimes provided with nets when going into action; and, therefore, without knowing very well what might be the purpose of them, he determined to have them likewise. But he made a sad mistake concerning the object for which they were intended. He very naturally thought, that, in the position which he had taken up in shallow water, only the boats of the squadron could come close to him, and he hit upon the bright notion of trying to catch them with his nets, just as a poacher catches his sleeping game by throwing a net over them. A number of strong fishing-nets were fastened all round the sides of the junks, not extended so as to impede any one trying to get on board, but triced up outside over each of the guns, in such a way, that, when our boats should come alongside, the nets were to be thrown over them, men and all; and thus our jolly tars were to be caught like hares in their form, and handed over to the tender mercies of the emperor.

No sooner, however, did the guns of the Nemesis open fire, than the nets were all forgotten in their fear of the shot and the rockets; and, long before the boats could get alongside, the defenders and men-catchers were glad to be off, to avoid being themselves caught.

A more unwieldy-looking machine, or one less calculated for[130] efficient service at sea, than the old-fashioned junks, can scarcely be conceived. Although, since the commencement of the war, they have gradually improved them very much in the fashion of the hull, the masts and sails, and all that appertains to the rigging of a vessel, are very little different from what they have hitherto been.

It should be noticed, that the boats and smaller rigged vessels of the Chinese are generally very much superior to their large junks in form and convenience of arrangement, and often sail very well. The family to whom the boat belongs lives entirely on board, and, for the combined purposes for which their boats are generally used, perhaps no arrangement could be better adapted for making the most of a limited space; and they are, moreover, kept remarkably clean.

The war-junks are of different sizes, and have guns varying in number from four to fourteen, and even more, mounted upon them, of various calibre, some of foreign make, but principally Chinese. The smaller junks are also adapted for oars or sweeps, of which they sometimes can work as many as twenty on either side. The crew are further provided with a great number of spears, swords, matchlocks, and frequently large jingals, not unlike our musquetoons, fitted with a rest upon the bulwarks of the vessel, so as to give the power of taking a steady aim. There are generally a large number of round shields on board, made in a saucer-like fashion, and about two and a half to three feet in diameter. They are composed of ratans, or canes, strongly twisted or woven in together, and are so elastic, that it would be very difficult to cut through them with a sword; and even a musket-ball fired from a long distance, and hitting them at all in a slanting direction, would be turned off. They are usually hung all round the bulwarks, resting upon the top and outside of them, giving a very striking appearance.

A large junk puts one very much in mind of one of the old Roman galleys, only it is less efficiently constructed for venturing away from land, and is not unfrequently gaudily ornamented with green and yellow colours.

Several improvements have been adopted by the Chinese since the commencement of the war. They had constructed a number of gun-boats for the defence of the river higher up, upon European models; and, towards the close of the war, they built one or two large junks, which they called frigates, with great improvements in shape and general arrangement, and regular port-holes for the guns on the deck below, and with heavy guns, too, mounted in them. One of these we saw near the Bogue, after the peace, mounting thirty-six guns, all of foreign manufacture, many of them 9 and 12-pounder iron guns, made by Fawcett, of Liverpool, and purchased either at Macao or at[131] Singapore. The junk was very clean, and in good order, painted green, and coppered; and, with the exception of the masts and sails, which were in the old style, she looked very well. This vessel was said to have been constructed by order of Tinqua, one of the Hong merchants, who has distinguished himself by his zeal in defence of his country; and it was by him presented to the emperor, together with a European barque, and a brig, rather the worse for wear in the merchant service, which he purchased at considerable cost.

But the most remarkable improvement of all, and which shewed the rapid stride towards a great change which they were daily making, as well as the ingenuity of the Chinese character, was the construction of several large wheeled vessels, which were afterwards brought forward against us with great confidence, at the engagement at Woosung, the last naval affair of the war, and were each commanded by a mandarin of rank, shewing the importance they attached to their new vessels. This, too, was so far north as the Yangtze Keang, where we had never traded with them; so that the idea must have been suggested to them by the reports they received concerning the wonderful power of our steamers or wheeled vessels.

To anticipate a little, it may here be mentioned, that the vessels had wooden wheels, very like an undershot mill-wheel, which were moved by machinery inside the vessel, worked by a sort of capstan by manual labour, the crew walking it round and round, just like walking up an anchor on board a man-of-war; the horizontal revolution was turned into the upright one by strong wooden cog-wheels, upon regular mechanical principles.

When once the spirit of change and improvement has taken hold of the Chinese, it is impossible to say where it will stop among so ingenious and indefatigable a people. Even the emperor himself has ordered still greater changes to be made since the peace, and has directed that "the best materials for building ships shall be procured from all parts of the world; and that, as only ships built on European principles can contend with European ships, they must gradually learn to adopt European models themselves. But, as this can only be effected by time, and the ships are required now to suppress the pirates which infest his coast, they are at once to purchase foreign ships and learn to exercise their crews."

To return from this short digression, we may now ask what sort of a report was made by Admiral Kwan to his mighty master, upon the subject of these first actions below the Bogue—the first great collision between the power and science of the west and the self-confidence of the remote east. Keshen, clear-sighted as he certainly was, could not fail to perceive the many troubles and humiliations to which his country must become[132] subjected if hostilities were pushed to extremes. He was fully alive to the serious defeat he had sustained, yet dreaded to break the truth too suddenly to his haughty master; wise, therefore, in his generation, he declared there had been a "drawn battle." He informed his master that the contest had been maintained from eight A.M. until two P.M., and that "then, the tide ebbing, the foreign vessels ceased firing, and anchored in the middle of the stream, each side maintaining its ground."

He then details the measures he had adopted for reinforcing the position, and apologizes for the absence of more detailed information, upon the ground of his anxiety to communicate the earliest possible intelligence.

The emperor, or rather his ministers, were not so easily to be duped. Keshen was at once declared to be "incompetent;" and it was ordered that his conduct "should be subjected to the severest consideration;" while poor old Kwan was accused of being "at all times devoid of talent to direct, and, on the approach of a crisis to be alarmed, perturbed, and without resources."

From the earliest times to the most modern, success has been vulgarly considered in all countries to be the grand criterion of merit; and the "Felix" of the ancients, the successful, the favoured of the gods, stands nearly as paramount in the estimation of the world now, as it did even in days of old. Kwan was accordingly at once deprived of his rank and insignia of office, but was ordered henceforth to labour to attain merit, bearing his punishment in the meantime.

Various plans were suggested for future proceedings against the English; it was admitted that the junks could not cope with our ships on the open sea, and it was therefore recommended "that our vessels should be enticed into the inner waters, and that there should be employed expert divers to go down at night, and bore holes in their bottoms," while other parties were to come "stealthily upon them at night and board them unawares, and massacre the whole of their crews." Above all, a grand preparation of fireships was to be made, filled with various combustibles, which, with a favourable wind, were to be let loose upon them, and, in the confusion resulting from this attack, their war-vessels were to follow and complete what the fire-vessels had commenced. Great rewards were again offered for the taking or destruction of any of our ships, and 50,000 dollars was to be the recompence for a line-of-battle ship.

We must now return to the current of events which took place immediately after the capture of Chuenpee. The evening after the engagement was spent in making preparations on both sides for renewing the contest on the morrow. Every one on board our ships was excited with the occurrences of the[133] day, and anxiously longing for the dawn of morning, when the thunder of our artillery should make even the walls of Anunghoy and the famed Bogue forts tremble and fall. At length the sun rose, bright and full of promise, on the morning of the 8th. The boats of H.M.S. Sulphur were sent out to take soundings higher up towards the Bogue. The Nemesis was first under weigh, and was directed to proceed at once up to Anunghoy with a couple of rocket-boats.

The morning was calm: the line-of-battle ships were slowly moving up to the positions assigned to them in front of the principal forts; already had the Nemesis taken up a position within capital range of the southern battery of Anunghoy, in such a manner that only three or four guns could be brought to bear on her from it. Already had she thrown in several shells and shot, when the signal, for her recal was observed flying most provokingly from the mast-head of the Wellesley, and being enforced by more than one signal gun, the firing ceased. Just as the exciting moment had arrived, and every man was calculating in his own mind how soon the forts would be reduced, the stillness, not of breathless anxiety, but of bitter disappointment, prevailed in every man's bosom.

It soon appeared that old Admiral Kwan preferred to try his skill in cunning and diplomacy rather than in war, and had sent off a small boat to the flag-ship, under a flag of truce, with a note addressed to the plenipotentiary. The fact has excited some amusement, that a little boat, with an old woman and a man in it, was sent off to bear proposals for the cessation of hostilities at the very moment of their commencement; and that this humble paper, sent in this extraordinary way, was received, and became the groundwork of an armistice, which was concluded in the course of the day.

Soon after four o'clock in the afternoon, the Nemesis was sent to convey Lieutenant Maitland, of the Wellesley, to Anunghoy, as bearer of a chop or official document, relating to the truce, and to a projected treaty of peace, the precise terms of which did not transpire.

Many animadversions were made upon this proceeding; but Captain Elliot was placed in very peculiar circumstances. He was, undoubtedly, desirous to avoid open rupture with the Chinese, if possible, and to use his best tact and judgment in negotiation, which would, of course, be of little avail unless backed by a strong force, ready to support his claims, and, therefore, necessarily assuming a threatening attitude. Above all, the value of the revenue to be derived from tea was so great, and its importance as an article of consumption so much thought of, that Elliot believed himself to be best serving his country when he best followed out, according to his judgment, these two principal[134] objects. That Captain Elliot may have been influenced by occasional errors of judgment is far from improbable, but that he was wanting in natural talent or principle, or a wish to serve faithfully his queen, his government, and his country, his most unscrupulous detractors have scarcely ventured to maintain. It is fortunate, at all events, that it can still be said that measures of uncompromising hostility were not urged until every other method of persuasion, and every less powerful, however ingenious, argument had been tried and found wanting.

Negotiations continued at the Bogue, but the Chinese, in spite of the truce, were observed to be increasing their defences, and notice was accordingly given to them to desist. The communications were frequent, and, on the 17th, just a week after the commencement of the truce, Captain Elliot went down in the Nemesis to Macao. There seemed, however, to prevail an impression that the affair was so far from being settled, that another collision could scarcely be avoided, and therefore no measure of precaution was omitted on our side.

On the 20th of January, a circular was issued by Captain Elliot, dated at Macao, announcing that preliminary arrangements had been concluded, but reserving the details for future negotiation. Hong-Kong was to be ceded to us; an indemnity of six million dollars was to be paid by the Chinese in six equal annual instalments, one million being paid down at once, and the last in 1846; direct official intercourse was to be maintained upon terms of perfect equality, and trade was to be resumed within the port of Canton, within ten days. But it would also appear that an intimation had been made of an intention to remove the greater portion of the trade to Hong-Kong, for it was provided that it should only continue "to be carried on at Whampoa until further arrangements were practicable at the new settlement."

Nothing could at first appear more satisfactory than this arrangement; but, as will presently be seen, it gave ample time to the Chinese to make further preparations for defence, and abundant loopholes for the exercise of their crafty ingenuity. At the same time, Captain Elliot urged upon the consideration of his countrymen "the necessity of adopting a conciliatory treatment towards the people, and a becoming deference for the country upon the threshold of which we were about to be established."

Nothing further need here be said upon this subject, except that on the following day, the 21st January, the Nemesis was sent to convey two mandarins to Chuenpee, who were to receive back the forts from Captain Scott, of the Samarang, who had been appointed pro tempore governor of this fortress. The British colours were hauled down, and the Chinese dragon was hoisted[135] in their place, under a salute from the flag-ship; it was very evident that no salute had ever sounded so welcome to Chinese ears before. As soon as a few guns could be got ready for the purpose, the salute was returned by the Chinese.

We had certainly shewn rather a chivalrous leniency to their government, in thus so suddenly restoring to them one of their principal strongholds. Indeed, everything looked extremely peaceable upon paper, and the Chinese contrived to create a temporary belief in the sincerity of their intentions.[22]

It will be remembered that Sir Gordon Bremer had not yet been named joint plenipotentiary, which did not take place until after his return from Calcutta in The Queen steamer, in the month of June following. He had proceeded to India in that vessel, at the end of March, after the arrival of Lieutenant-Gen. Sir Hugh Gough, probably in order to confer in person with the governor-general.

Thus ended what may be called the second act, (the first having been the taking of Chusan, and the expedition to the Peiho) of the great drama of the Chinese war. In his report to the emperor, respecting these several occurrences, Keshen declared that "he had only made conditional concessions to the English; merely promising that he would earnestly implore the emperor's favour in their behalf."

Immediately after the restoration of the forts on the 21st to the Chinese, the commodore went down to Macao in the Nemesis, leaving the Wellesley in the Lintao passage, the main body of the fleet having proceeded to Hong-Kong. It was feared, however, that things could not long remain in statu quo; and on the 26th, Captain Elliot himself left Macao in the Nemesis, and went up the Canton river to hold a conference, which it had been arranged should take place with Keshen in person, in order to settle those points which, it has been stated, were reserved for future consideration.


[21] This rocket was fired by Captain Belcher, of the Sulphur.


 Rank and file
18th Regiment, Royal Irish, Lieutenant-Colonel Adam487
26th Regiment, Cameronians, Lieutenant-Colonel James291
49th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Bartley326
Bengal Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Lloyd402
Madras Artillery, Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomerie, C.B.185
Madras Sappers and Miners, Captain Cotton227



The famous conference which took place between Keshen and Captain Elliot, some miles above the Bogue, close to a pagoda on the banks of the river, at what is called its Second Bar, has attracted very great and deserved attention. Although its results were, in a political point of view, really of little moment, there is reason to think that Keshen, as well as Elliot, was anxious to adjust the pending difficulties without further resort to arms. The advantage, however, which delay of any kind would afford to Keshen, and the ultimate interruption of the negotiations, followed, as it was, immediately by the capture of the Bogue forts, have led many to conclude that Keshen had all along no other object than that of putting us off our guard, in order that he might complete his still imperfect arrangements for defence, and then throw down the gauntlet to us in defiance.

This view of the matter appears to have been a good deal exaggerated; and we shall perceive, as we follow this narrative, that Keshen was thoroughly sensible of his own weakness, and really did desire to avert the storm, but was fairly driven into extreme measures, and the suspension of all amicable intercourse, by positive orders from Pekin. Indeed, he was afterwards accused of treason, bribery, and incapacity, because he even condescended to confer at all with Captain Elliot, instead of advancing boldly upon him, and driving him and all his troops and ships away from the coast. Keshen saw the imbecility of such conduct, and although he knew the hopelessness of an attempt to defend the river, he had no other alternative but to obey; he had already been deprived of some of his decorations for having listened to terms at Chuenpee, and his only hope of saving himself from ignominy, and even death itself, was by striving hard to exhibit greater zeal in the defence of the Bogue, which, nevertheless, he scarcely hoped to be able to maintain.

Let us now, however, accompany the Nemesis up the river, in order to see what sort of an affair the grand conference at the Second Bar really was, and how the interview between the plenipotentiary of England and the high-commissioner of China actually came off. It was naturally expected that it would be an affair of great ceremony, and as it was the first time that any intercourse had been permitted upon terms of perfect equality with any of the high Canton authorities, and as it was to happen in accordance with the stipulations of the new treaty, it excited great interest, and kept the curiosity of every one alive.

Adequate preparations were made on both sides, becoming the[137] high rank of the respective parties, and doubtless each of them was calculating the most likely mode of making a good impression upon the other. One hundred marines, picked men from the Wellesley, Druid, and Calliope, were embarked on board the Madagascar steamer, to be carried up as a guard of honour for Captain Elliot, at the meeting; they were commanded by Captain, now Lieutenant-Colonel, Ellis, C.B., having with him Lieutenants Stransham and Maxwell. The excellent bands of the Wellesley and Calliope were also in attendance, and it was expected that the Chinese would be astonished and properly "impressed" by the appearance and manœuvres of the men, while they would be gratified and put into a good humour by the enlivening tones of the music.

On the 26th of January the Nemesis started from Macao, with Captain Elliot and several officers on board, and proceeded directly up the Bogue. She was subsequently joined by the Madagascar, which was to accompany her up to the place of meeting. Captain Herbert, the Honourable Captain Dundas, and Captain Maitland, attended the plenipotentiary. And now, for the first time, two steamers were to enter the true Canton river, and as the Nemesis was the leading vessel through the Bogue, she had, consequently, the honour of being the first steam vessel, whether of wood or iron, which ever navigated the "inner waters" of the Celestial Empire.

It was just at this time that the French corvette, Danaide, arrived in the China waters, having been sent out purposely to watch our movements in that quarter. This, indeed, could have been her only object, for, as regards protection of trade, the French have never had any trade with China worthy of the name, nor indeed had the French flag floated over the walls of the foreign factories at Canton for many years, until after the accession of Louis Philippe to the throne. Since that time it has always been exhibited rather in hope of the future than for the protection of present interests, for, except the French consul and his attendants, there has been, until recently, scarcely a French ship in China.

As the declaration of blockade was still in force against the port of Canton, the Danaide was not permitted to proceed higher up than Chuenpee, but her commander, Captain Rosamel, was politely invited by Captain Elliot to accompany him on board the Nemesis, that he might be a witness of the coming interview; an act of courtesy which was handsomely acknowledged.

As the two steamers passed through the Bogue, each with a flag of truce at the fore, they were saluted with three guns (the greatest number ever given in China,) by the forts on both sides. The Chinese also manned the works, and hoisted numerous gay silken flags; and the effect of their curious costumes, and the[138] general appearance of the forts of Anunghoy and Wantung when their battlements were crowded with the eager spectators, were very imposing. Certainly, the passage of two steamers between them, the first they had ever seen, must have been an exciting novelty. The bold, rocky steeps behind the batteries of Anunghoy, frowning, as it were, and really commanding the batteries below, grinning defiance with their whitened battlements, and the opposite island of Wantung, with its numerous works, the more distant shore of the mainland on the other side, and the remarkable Tiger Island ahead; all these formed a very interesting and remarkable spectacle.

Just at the foot of Tiger Island, about two miles above the Bogue, could be distinguished a long stone battery, which, on a nearer approach, appeared deserving of closer inspection, although, from its position, it was not likely to be of much use for the defence of the river. The Nemesis, accordingly, little fearing shallow water at any time, ran up towards it, and came so close to the battlements as to touch them with her yards; in which position, had her intentions been hostile, it was very evident that she could batter the walls with her guns with perfect impunity, for the guns of the fort could not be depressed sufficiently to point at her hull in that position.

This manœuvre thoroughly confounded the Chinese, who looked on in evident wonder. And they so far profited by the hint afterwards, that they abandoned the fort altogether as useless and untenable, and carried away the guns to add to the strength of the Bogue forts lower down.

Beyond the Bogue and Tiger Island the river begins to expand again, and for some miles presents to view a flat, rich, alluvial country, in which are an immense number of canals and water-courses, serving to irrigate the paddy or rice fields, and to afford innumerable lines of internal communication, which in that country mostly take the place of roads and bridges.[23]

It was precisely at the pagoda at the Second Bar, as it is called, that the conference was now to be held; and there, at about six o'clock in the evening, the Nemesis and Madagascar came to anchor. A couple of mandarins, or officers of inferior grade, (for let it not be supposed that a mandarin is necessarily a great man) came on board, deputed by Keshen, to welcome the arrival of the plenipo.


A list of the names and rank of those officers who were to be present at the interview on the following morning, was sent in to Keshen, in English and Chinese, so that he might be quite prepared, when each gentleman should be presented to him by Captain Elliot, to receive him courteously.

Early in the morning the guard of marines were landed, together with the bands of the Wellesley and Calliope. A finer body of men is rarely seen. Soon after nine o'clock, the whole of the officers were ready to go on shore, which was accomplished partly in the boats of the two steamers, partly in very clean and convenient Chinese boats provided by Keshen. They had to pull some little distance up one of the numerous creeks which open into all the Chinese rivers, and the scene as they approached was very novel and interesting. On either side were several very gaudily ornamented boats belonging to Keshen, very similar to the boats of the Hong merchants at Canton, who had also arrived under the guidance of old Howqua.[24] They could scarcely hope to enjoy the honour of a place at the conference, and were, therefore, probably ordered by Keshen to attend upon him. They were not admitted even into the same tents with Captain Elliot and his suite.

The guard of marines drawn up on either side highly astonished the Chinese, but the people were kept from pressing too close by a long line of railing put up for the occasion. The road from the immediate landing-place to the grand tent was spread over with various coloured cotton coverings, and decorated with branches of trees.

At nine A.M., Captain Elliot, accompanied by Captain Herbert, and the Honourable Captain Dundas, landed, and went up in state, preceded by the bands, to the principal tent, which was very like a large long booth, ornamented inside with yellow hangings, in token of its belonging to the representative of the emperor. At the further extremity of it was another tent or apartment, reserved more especially for Keshen's private use, and into this only Captain Elliot and one or two officers in personal attendance on him were admitted.


The whole party were presented to Keshen in the outer tent including Captain Rosamel of the Danaide; the list sent in the previous evening being referred to, as each gentleman of the party made his bow to the Imperial Commissioner.

The first private audience in the inner tent between Captain Elliot and Keshen was merely one of ceremony, and lasted only a few minutes; the medium of communication being through Mr. Morrison, the interpreter, the gifted son of the late Dr. Morrison, so celebrated as a Chinese scholar and philologist.

After the first introduction was over, it was announced that a grand déjeûner à la fourchette was prepared in the outer tent for the whole of the party, upwards of twenty in number. Interminable was the succession of dishes of the rarest and most expensive kind, according to the best Chinese principles of gastronomy. The luxury of the shark's-fin and the bird's-nest soup was here tasted for the first time, and, without going deeply into the mysteries of the Chinese "cuisine," it will be sufficient to say that a Chinese feast is a very sumptuous and tedious, but, withal not unpalatable affair. It necessarily occupied considerable time, and it was not until two o'clock that those officers not in personal attendance upon Captain Elliot were able to return on board the steamers.

In the interim, Keshen could not resist the wish to gratify his curiosity concerning our fine-looking fellows the marines, and three of the tallest and finest men were selected for his personal examination. He did not conceal his surprise, and even requested that they might be made to go through some of their evolutions. Keshen also examined their arms and accoutrements minutely.

He had himself a small body-guard of Chinese soldiers, tolerably well dressed, but otherwise of poor appearance, compared with our own picked men, and they seemed quite at a loss to comprehend the purpose of the movements they witnessed.

There were a good many small tents pitched round about the principal reception-tent, and, as each of these was ornamented with a gay flag, and other decorations, the coup-d'œil of the whole scene was sufficiently imposing.

Keshen's manner throughout is described as having been particularly kind, gentlemanlike, and perfectly dignified. He might, indeed, be called a courtier-like gentleman in any country.

What may have passed between Keshen and Captain Elliot, during their private conference in the afternoon, it would be useless to surmise. They met and parted upon terms of equality and apparent good understanding. There seems reason, however, to think that very little was definitely settled; and, after the lapse of two or three days, Captain Elliot merely announced in a circular that "negotiations were still proceeding satisfactorily,"[141] but at the same time "he warned her majesty's subjects against proceeding to Canton for the present, as it would be acting contrary to what he conceived right for the public interest." At the same time, however, Hong-Kong was proclaimed a British possession, and all its Chinese inhabitants declared to be British subjects. Provision was also made for the government of the island.

Whatever terms Keshen may have agreed to at the conference, it is well known that he was soon forbidden by the emperor to carry them into execution. They are therefore of little moment.

Captain Elliot returned on board the Nemesis in the afternoon, apparently satisfied; and in the evening a display of rockets and fireworks took place from the vessel, for the amusement of the imperial commissioner on shore.

In the meantime the Madagascar returned down the river with the marines. On the following day, the 28th, two superior mandarins came on board to pay their respects, and were saluted with three guns; and, later in the day, the whole body of the Hong merchants likewise came to pay their respects to his excellency; but, it is worthy of remark, that Keshen himself did not come in person to make a return-visit of ceremony.

Whatever may have been the reason of this omission, it was unfortunate that Captain Elliot did not take some notice of it. It might be said that Keshen was afraid of compromising himself with his imperial master, if he condescended so far as to pay a visit to a foreigner on board his own vessel. But it is possible that another reason also may have weighed not a little in his mind. He got the Kwang-Chow-Foo, or prefect of Canton, who was there, to ask Captain Elliot to dine with him on board his barge, or large covered boat, and his invitation was accepted. Keshen looked upon this as far below the supposed dignity belonging to the rank which Elliot held. After this act of condescension on Captain Elliot's part, Keshen not improbably regarded it as far beneath his own dignity personally to visit Captain Elliot. Nor is it at all surprising, when we consider that the court of China is, without exception, the most ceremonious in the world. Indeed, at Pekin there is a regular "Court of Ceremonies" to arrange all the complicated details.

Thus ended the whole business of this famous conference. It should also be mentioned that, before they parted, Keshen made a few presents to Captain Elliot, but not of any very great value, and others to Captain Herbert, which were divided among some of the officers. Soon after three o'clock the steam was once more got up, and giving and receiving a parting salute of three guns, the Nemesis turned her head again down the river, having the Louisa cutter in tow. The forts at the Bogue again saluted her as she passed; and, late in the evening, she came to anchor in[142] the Tong Koo Roads, until daylight enabled her to proceed to join the commodore, who was then in Hong-Kong harbour.

As yet the treaty, in virtue of which we took possession of Hong-Kong, had not received the emperor's assent; and our own precipitate restoration of Chusan, which had been ordered by Captain Elliot, was likely rather to impede than to promote the object it was intended to effect. The mere word of Keshen was the only authority which we had to rely upon, the ratification of which was at least doubtful. However, both the commodore and Captain Elliot seemed already to regard the island of Hong-Kong as a positive acquisition, and took the present opportunity of steaming all round it on board the Nemesis.

Little good appears to have resulted from this first interview. Indeed, shortly after his report of it to the emperor, Keshen received a severe reprimand from the emperor for what he had already even pretended to promise. He was told that "a mere glance at his memorials had filled the emperor with indignation."

Yih-shan, a Tartar general of great repute, and who will be found to figure afterwards on several occasions, was now sent down to Canton, invested with the office of "general pacificator of the rebellious;" and two assistant functionaries, called Lung-Wan and Yang-Fang, were also ordered to repair thither, "to co-operate in the work of extermination." Additional troops were also despatched.

These orders of the emperor were issued on the 30th of January, but did not reach Keshen until the 10th or 11th of February. On our side nothing important took place for several days; arrangements connected with the establishment of Hong-Kong were continued; and there was a constant passing to and fro of officers between that place and Macao, for which purpose the Nemesis was always employed.

The 2nd of February was the day on which it had been agreed with Keshen that the trade of the port of Canton should be opened—namely, ten days after the Chinese new year. No proclamation to that effect, however, was issued by the commissioner. Various rumours were already afloat concerning the measures in progress up the river for obstructing its navigation; and, at length, finding that the "satisfactory manner" in which it had been proclaimed on the 30th of January, that the negotiations which were proceeding had already, in the following week, assumed an "unsatisfactory tone," and that, in fact, everything appeared very delusive, Captain Elliot determined to go up to the Bocca Tigris in person, and demand a distinct explanation from Keshen of what were really his intentions. It was known that Keshen had reached the Bogue; and Captain Herbert had even sent an officer to compliment him upon his arrival on the[143] 29th of January, and a salute of three guns was fired in honour of the occasion. On the 10th of February, Captain Elliot embarked on board the Nemesis, accompanied by Captain Smith and Captain Knowles, of the artillery, together with Major Pratt, of the Cameronians, and Mr. Morrison as interpreter, and was conveyed up the river, anchoring for the night in Anson's Bay.

On the following morning they once more passed through the Bogue, the battlements of which were manned by the Chinese, as the steamer passed; and a salute of three guns was fired from each of the batteries, which was of course returned by the Nemesis. So far everything looked pacific and complimentary enough. Having passed completely through the Bogue, she came to anchor, about ten o'clock, above the forts, a little to the north of Anunghoy, and close to the boats of the imperial commissioner, who was already there. This was on the 11th of February; and it is a curious coincidence, that it was on this day that Keshen received the imperial commands to resume vigorous measures against Captain Elliot and all the foreigners.

The interview on this occasion was comparatively one of little ceremony; indeed, Keshen had made no preparation for it on shore, and received Captain Elliot in his own covered barge, unattended by any mandarins of rank, and without any display or attempt at effect.

Captain Elliot, on his part, having merely introduced the officers who came up with him from Macao, in order that they might make their bow of respect to the emperor's representative, immediately proceeded to business without loss of time, in the most private manner possible. During the few minutes that his suite were present, however, it did not escape their notice that some mighty change had already come over the spirit of the great commissioner. There was an appearance of constraint about him, as if his mind was downcast, and his heart burdened and heavily laden. He never indeed for a moment lost his self-possession, or that dignified courtesy of manner which no people can better assume than the Chinese of rank; but there was still something undefinable in his bearing, which impressed upon all present the conviction that something untoward had happened. Some of the party even guessed that he had been degraded from his high rank, which was, in fact, the case. Enough, at all events, was visible upon the surface, to awaken Captain Elliot to the necessity of extreme tact and caution, before he placed any reliance upon Keshen's power, whatever may have been his will, to act up to his promises.

What may have passed at this second interview between these two high representatives it is not the place here to discuss; suffice it to say, that the conference on this day lasted no less than[144] six hours, and was renewed on the following morning for about three hours more. This will be enough to shew that many points of great importance and some minuteness must have been closely debated.

Keshen, meantime, was doubtless fully aware, that not one single iota of what he might promise would ever be acceded to by his haughty master; and, therefore, his only object in protracting the discussion and entering into the "troublesome minutiæ of commerce" must have been to leave something still open to discussion, and some points remaining to investigate "upon principles of the purest reason."

How great must have been his rejoicing when he at length succeeded in winning from Captain Elliot a further delay of ten days, for the fair preparation of a definitive treaty for his signature! What a heavy weight must have been removed from his oppressed spirit, when he at length beheld the dreaded steamer depart peaceably from the Bogue! The certain reprieve of ten days, in which he might, perhaps, complete the preparations already commenced, and even far advanced for the defence of his strongest positions, was indeed a piece of unlooked-for good fortune.

The formal drawing out of the definitive treaty was hastened on, in order that every excuse for further delay on the part of Keshen might be removed. Indeed, ten days had only been fixed as the longest period, within which, if the treaty were not executed, hostilities would be renewed.

Perhaps, after all, it redounded to our credit that extreme measures were only at length adopted, when every other means of effecting a settlement had been tried in vain. Forbearance towards a feeble enemy, as long as there was the faintest hope of bringing him to reason by simpler means, will redound more to our honour in the pages of future history, than a precipitate display of our energy and our power. At all events the treaty which was ultimately concluded was much more advantageous to commerce and civilization in general than it would probably have been had an earlier settlement taken place. The Chinese were brought to yield by degrees, and, therefore, the compact is much more likely to be durable than if it had been wrung from them by an earlier and more sudden emergency.

Nevertheless, before even the draught of the proposed treaty had been fully drawn up at Macao, rumours were continually brought concerning the extensive preparations for defence which were still going on up the river. Some naval and military officers were accordingly sent up to the Bogue, to ascertain how far these rumours might be well founded; and it was now discovered "that military works upon a great scale were in progress, that troops were collected upon the heights, that entrenched[145] camps were being formed on both sides of the river, and that the island of North Wantung was bristling with cannon."

These preparations certainly looked very unlike the preliminaries to the signature of a treaty of peace; "and from this moment," says Sir Gordon Bremer, "I must confess that my faith in the sincerity of the Chinese commissioner was completely destroyed." It was in fact to be no longer doubted that hostilities would be speedily resumed. And although the orders of the emperor to Keshen to cancel the treaty agreed on, and to provide means for the immediate extermination of the foreigners had not then been made public, enough was already known to make it evident that the intentions of the government were very far from being of a peaceful nature.

On his side, Captain Elliot had done his utmost to impress the Chinese with a confidence in his "good faith;" and so anxious was he to hasten the evacuation of Chusan, that he had not only sent up a vessel of war to convey the necessary orders, but had also forwarded an overland despatch, by the hands of a Chinese special messenger, to the same purport.

Scarcely a month, however, had elapsed when Captain Elliot began to doubt whether the Chinese really meant to act up to their promises with equal good faith. On the 20th of January, he had declared, in a public proclamation, that he had no reason to call in question the "scrupulous sincerity and enlarged opinions of the very eminent person with whom negotiations had been pending;" and it was just a month afterwards, on the 20th of February, that he declared that the "imperial minister and high commissioner had failed to conclude the treaty which had been sent up to the Bogue ready prepared for signature." This document was carried up by the Nemesis. But, as the commissioner had already left the Bogue and gone to Canton, it was transmitted to him by the hands of a confidential person in the employment of Keshen, who had been distinctly named to Captain Elliot for the purpose. Four days were allowed for the return of the messenger, and the Nemesis was directed to wait at the Bogue for the answer, until the expiration of that period, when she was to return to Macao, either with or without the treaty.

As the time agreed on approached its expiration, reports became more numerous than ever, concerning the hostile preparations in progress. The edict of the emperor addressed to Keshen, before spoken of, was now made public, and a proclamation was pasted on the walls of Canton, (but whether by the orders of the viceroy or not does not appear certain,) by which a reward of 50,000 dollars each was offered for the heads of Captain Elliot and Sir Gordon Bremer!

The four days of the stay of the Nemesis at the Bogue were not spent unprofitably. Advantage was taken of this opportunity[146] by Captain Hall to examine the new works of the Chinese, many of which were still in progress, (during a truce and while a treaty of peace had been agreed on!) Numerous sand-bag batteries had been erected, and others were in course of completion, halfway up the hill of Anunghoy. Troops were crowding upon the hills on the opposite side, while upon the Island of North Wantung equal activity was displayed.

But the observations were not limited entirely to the works at the Bogue. Captain Hall set out with a single boat's crew upon an adventurous and interesting excursion up Anson's Bay, to the mouth of the river in which the junks had been destroyed on the day of the Chuenpee. Just within the entrance, several large mandarin boats were now observed collected together, and surrounded by a vast number of labouring men. This excited some surprise, as there wore no works visible upon which they could be employed; but the object of this bustle was unexpectedly discovered afterwards. The mandarin boats and a great part of the people, thinking probably that the single boat of the Nemesis was only the advanced one of many others similar to those which had destroyed their war-junks, made off as fast as they could, leaving her to pursue her course unmolested.

Having, in the former ascent of the river in the Nemesis, observed that a branch of it turned off to the right towards Chuenpee, Captain Hall, determined to explore it now. It branched off about one and a half to two miles from the entrance, and soon led to a very considerable village on the right or Chuenpee side, (in ascending,) while, nearly opposite to it, a large sand-battery, recently erected, was discovered, mounting eight guns, and further on, was a strong stone battery. Neither of these fired at the boat, although the gunners ran down to their guns, as if apprehensive of an attack.

To the astonishment of all in the boat, it was now found that this branch of the river, or creek, or whatever it might be called, instead of leading further up the country, inland, gradually turned round and encircled the whole of Chuenpee, communicating with the "outer waters" to the southward of that promontory. Thus it was evident that Chuenpee was an island.

Having passed quite through the passage, so as to reach the point of junction with the "outer waters," Captain Hall landed on Chuenpee in company with Mr. Turner, the surgeon of the vessel, and Mr. Gray, a midshipman of H.M.S. Herald, and, sending the boat round the promontory to the opposite side, walked across without any molestation. Nothing particular worth noticing was observed in this excursion, except the large farm-houses, which were passed, together with several extensive sugar-works, in full operation.

A visit made to the Tycocktow side of the river was less promising,[147] although equally successful. It was thought desirable, on the following day, to reconnoitre the defences in that direction; and accordingly Captain Hall, accompanied by Mr. Compton, proceeded in the ship's cutter across the river for that purpose. A large number of troops were collected upon the heights, upon which were numerous tents; and several large transport junks, not less than twenty sail, were hastily landing troops, guns, and ammunition. It was also noticed that boats were passing round at the back of the hill and works, through a large canal or creek; so that, although it was not possible to explore the lines of communication from one part to the other, it became very evident that the neighbourhood of the river, although apparently mountainous and rugged, was accessible to boats on all sides, and was in fact composed of distinct islands.

The question of the intentions of the Chinese was soon decided; for the fort on Wantung, as the boat passed between it and the mainland, on that side, fired at it with round shot. There was no mistaking the tone of defiance which this indicated; but Captain Hall was sufficiently acquainted with the Chinese character to be reluctant to turn back at this threat, because the affair would have been reported as a great victory, with their usual exaggeration. The little bow-gun of the boat was therefore instantly fired at the troops who were looking over the battlements of the fort; and no further molestation being attempted by the Chinese, she again pursued her way, content with this token of defiance.

These little reconnoitring excursions sufficed to shew, were anything still wanting to bring conviction to the most unbelieving, that the Chinese were fully aware that no treaty of peace was likely to be signed, and that they looked forward to the resumption of hostilities, not only without much apprehension, but with tolerable confidence in the probability of their own success.

On the evening of the 18th, the four days agreed on for the return of the messenger from Canton having fully expired, the Nemesis was moved up from Chuenpee to the Bogue, where she remained one hour, waiting for an answer from the imperial commissioner. None, however, was brought; and as everything now so plainly indicated that cannon-balls alone were to be expected as a reply, Captain Hall resolved to return to Macao, and report all that had been seen and done to the plenipotentiary and the commander-in-chief. Not a moment was lost in communicating the results of the reconnoitring excursions, the firing of a shot from North Wantung, and the non-appearance of the messenger at the appointed time.

The most incredulous now no longer doubted; the film was raised even from before the eyes of Captain Elliot himself, and orders were given that all the officers should join their respective[148] ships. The light division, which was then in the roads of Macao, or at the mouth of the river, was placed under the orders of Captain Herbert (since made K.C.B.) of the Calliope, and was directed to proceed immediately to the Bogue. It consisted of the Calliope, Samarang, Herald, Alligator, Sulphur, and the Nemesis; and the object was "to prevent, as much as possible, any further defensive preparations on the part of the enemy, but not to run any unnecessary hazard until the main body of the force came up." At the same time, the commodore hastened over to Hong-Kong, in the Madagascar steamer, for the purpose of taking up the ships of the line, consisting of the Wellesley, Blenheim, and Melville, seventy-fours, and the steamers, Queen and Madagascar; leaving the Druid, with the Jupiter troop-ship, and the transports, Sophia, Minerva, Thetis, and Eagle, to follow.

These active measures were briefly announced by Captain Elliot, in a circular issued on the same day to the following effect, simply stating that "circumstances had induced the commander-in-chief to announce to H.M. plenipotentiary his intention to move the forces towards the Bocca Tigris,"—from which it would seem that the responsibility of this inevitable measure was rather assumed by Sir Gordon Bremer than by the plenipotentiary; but Captain Elliot had also written to Captain Herbert, stating that he left him at liberty, and moved to prevent the continuance of defensive preparations at the Bogue.

It was on the day following this movement (the 20th) that Keshen's notification of his unwillingness to continue negotiations became known at Macao; and shortly afterwards, the emperor's edict (before alluded to) was also promulgated, in which every proposed measure of conciliation towards the foreigners was recalled, and orders given, on the other hand, that "they should be rooted out entirely."

On the morning of the 21st, a reconnoitring party landed, unperceived, upon the island of Wantung, consisting of Captains Elliot, Herbert, and Belcher, and Lieutenant Stransham, and they were able to count seventeen more guns, newly-mounted, in addition to those which had been observed on the former occasion.

The truce had already fully expired, but hostilities did not commence immediately, as might have been expected. On the 22nd, a Chinese boat happened to be stopped, in which was found a messenger, who was recognised by Lieutenant Watson as an active agent of the Chinese authorities. It was naturally suspected that he was the bearer of orders of some kind or other to the local officers, and such was found to be the case. They were addressed to Admiral Kwan, desiring him to hurry on the stopping-up of the channel which runs at the back of Anunghoy,[149] by which the latter becomes an island. The means employed were stones and stakes, and sunken junks, which had been collected in large quantities at a place called Sanmannkow, which must have been the large town known to lie in the rear of Anunghoy. Thus all our observations respecting the intentions of the authorities were fully confirmed, and it could now no longer be doubted, on our part, that a heavy blow must at once be struck.


[23] In no part of China are there found within the same distance so many large pagodas or religions monuments as upon the banks of this fine river. This is not the place to describe them minutely, or to discuss their purpose. They are found in most of the large towns, and sometimes on the banks of rivers, and form a part of the religious buildings of the Budhist superstition, and together with it, seem to have been originally introduced from the west. The shape of them is familiar to most readers. The finest and most celebrated one of the kind is the famous Porcelain Tower of Nankin; which is in reality a pagoda, larger and more ornamented than the rest, and distinguished by being principally constructed of Porcelain brick glazed, and of various shades of colour. These towers, or pagodas, are of great use in the navigation of the Canton river, as, from their height, they are conspicuous objects at a distance, and are generally placed in advantageous positions.

[24] The Hong merchants' boats are both large and convenient, somewhat resembling a small room or van, placed upon a very sharp-pointed but broad boat, as they are only used for pulling about the smooth waters of the river. Nothing can be better adapted to comfort, affording shelter both from the sun and rain, with plenty of room for at least half-a-dozen people to sit down and converse. The outside of these boats is showily painted, and commonly decorated with handsome wood-work. The inside is generally elegantly fitted up. They are usually pulled by four men forward, who use a short broad-bladed oar or paddle, with great dexterity and effect; and they are also assisted as well as steered by a large heavy scull-oar behind.


Keshen, who had spent all his life either in large provincial capitals or in the imperial city itself, could have had little opportunity of learning anything either relating to foreign trade or foreign ships, still less was he acquainted with the "outer waters" along the coast of the empire.

After describing them to his imperial master, he boldly ventures his opinion, that the reputation of the fortifications of the Bocca Tigris, as a place of defence, have been much overrated, and he goes on to say—"It is, then, clear that we have no defences worthy to be called such. It is, in truth, the local character of the country, that there is no important point of defence by which the whole may be maintained."

No wonder that such a declaration from a man who was also the third member of the imperial cabinet, taken, as it was, from personal observation, should have sounded unpalatable and even traitorous to the emperor's ear. But this was not all. Indeed, one might almost imagine that some European must have pointed out to him defects which his own unpractised and unaided eye could never have detected.

Lin, on the other hand, had never dared to report to his master the full extent of the information which was given to him, though he was fully prepared to adopt every advice which tended to obstruct the commerce of England, and impede an amicable settlement of the difficulties.

Such truths are always hard to bear, and harder to believe, and were consequently not believed, because they were true. But Keshen did his best to improve his weapons; he sent for a founder of cannon, who gave him a new model, and undertook to make some experimental pieces. Yet it did not escape Keshen that, even if he succeeded in casting good cannon, he could only do so as a preparation for the future. "They could not be ready," says he, "for the business we have now in hand. These are the proofs," he adds, "of the inefficiency of our[150] military armament, which is such that no reliance can be placed upon it."

He proceeded to say that it would be necessary to employ a naval as well as a land force to defend the Bogue, but then threw out a suspicion that the seamen were not to be depended on, for that "he had heard a report that, after the battle of Chuenpee, these men all went to their commander, or Tetuh, and demanded money of him, threatening that they would otherwise disperse; and he had, therefore, personally made inquiry into the matter, and found that the report was perfectly true, and, moreover, that the Tetuh, having no other remedy, (evidently the pay was in arrear,) was obliged to pawn his own clothes and other things, by which means he was enabled to give each of them a bonus of two dollars, and thus only could he get them to remain for a time at their posts."[25]

Moreover, he added, "our ships of war are not large and strong, and it is difficult to mount heavy guns upon them. Hence it is evident that our force here, (he was writing at the Bogue,) as a guard and defence against the foreigners, is insufficient."

Keshen next remarked upon the character of the people of the province. "Your slave has found them ungrateful and avaricious. Of those who are actual traitors it is unnecessary to say anything. But the rest are accustomed to see the foreigners day by day, and intimacy has grown up between them." And he proceeds to contrast them very unfavourably with the people of Chusan, "who felt at once that the foreigners were of another race."[26]

Keshen then appealed to the history of the past, and made particular allusion to the difficulty which had formerly been experienced, in overcoming even the pirates upon the coast, who were at length only reduced to submission by a promise of security upon condition of laying down their arms.[27] Finally he expressed great fear, that if he gave battle, he would be unable to command a victory, and, in that case, the dignity of the empire would be sullied, and the lives of the people sacrificed.

To understand the full importance of these remarks, it is necessary to bear in mind that they were written before the action of the Bogue took place, and as a ground for asking for the emperor's consent to the terms proposed by Captain Elliot. Others, however, were called to aid in his councils at this time, and, among the high officers of Canton, Lin himself was consulted. They appeared to concur with Keshen; at all events, they knew that upon his head would rest all the responsibility.


The memorial containing Captain Elliot's demands was sent up to Pekin, together with this report, which was founded upon personal observation; and Keshen implored the emperor to look with pity upon "his black-haired flock, the people, and that he would be graciously pleased to accede to the requests made by the foreigners, and to grant them favours beyond measure. Thus," he added, "shall we lay the foundation for victory hereafter, by binding and curbing the foreigners now, while we prepare the means of cutting them off at some future period."

Keshen was a true Chinaman of the new school, (for there are new schools even in antique China,) and, in most respects, the very opposite of Lin. Sensible of the weakness of his country when matched with England, conscious of his inability to fight his enemy with success, he nevertheless hazarded the chance, when the commands of the emperor compelled him to aim the blow. He, however, did his utmost to gain time, and even endeavoured to impose upon Captain Elliot, and to hope against hope itself. After all that Keshen had said, the defence of the Bogue was conducted, as we shall now perceive, with more energy than might have been expected, and, indeed, with considerable spirit.

On the following morning, at dawn, the Nemesis took Captain Elliot once more up to the Bogue, where he remained about an hour, as if in anxious expectation of some communication from the shore. But this last lingering hope was again deceived. Captain Elliot, being now fully satisfied that no peaceable communication from the Chinese was any longer to be expected, finally left the Bogue, and finding H.M.S. Herald at anchor off Lankeet, just below Chuenpee, he went on board that vessel, leaving the Nemesis to pursue her way down to Hong-Kong.

On the 22nd, Captain Herbert, with the light squadron, took up his position at the anchorage off South Wantung, where Captain Elliot announced to him that Keshen had failed to conclude the treaty, and that he was therefore to consider himself moved, to prevent the continuance of the defensive preparations. The Nemesis having joined him from Hong-Kong on the 23rd, Captain Herbert embarked on board that vessel, and, taking with him the pinnaces of the Calliope, Samarang, Herald, and Alligator, commanded by Lieutenants Watson, Bower, Dewes, and Woolcomb, proceeded up Anson's Bay to explore the river before described as opening at the bottom of it.

It was reported that the Chinese were staking it across; and, from the bustle which had been previously observed there,[152] when the boat of the Nemesis ventured into it, there was reason to believe that hostile preparations were being made. Moreover, it was thought advisable, if possible, to examine the channel which had been found to lead round in the rear of Anunghoy; for upon this fortress, as the most extensive of the defences of the Bogue, it was thought the principal attack of the squadron would be made. Suspicion was also excited by the contents of the intercepted despatch of Keshen to Admiral Kwan.

On entering the river, it was no longer to be doubted that preparations for defence had been commenced. A great number of boats were observed busily employed in driving stakes or piles into the bed of the river, across which others were trying to moor a strong raft. No sooner was the steamer discovered approaching, than the boats all pulled away, and the Chinese were seen scampering off as fast as possible. However, when it came to the point of pulling up the stakes, in order to make a passage between them for the boats which were in tow, all on a sudden a heavy discharge from a masked battery, close abreast of the spot, was poured upon them, and at once betrayed the cause of the secret preparations before observed.

The steamer immediately poured in a volley of grape and canister from her bow and stern guns, while the boats pulled away towards the shore, to carry the works by storm, opening their fire from their bow-guns as they advanced. The Chinese fled, after some resistance; and the battery, which was of very recent construction, was at once taken possession of by the crews of the boats, the colours being taken by Lieutenant Bowers. It was found to mount twenty guns of various calibre, which were immediately destroyed. There were also lying on the ground a vast number of guns dismounted, probably not less than sixty, which appeared to have been landed out of their junks, or recovered after the destruction of their fleet in the bay. These were all rendered useless, with the exception of a few brass ones, which were carried away as trophies. Their magazines and buildings were also totally destroyed. The number of killed among the Chinese were about thirty, but no wounded were found, as they had probably been carried off by their companions in arms. On our side no casualties happened.

Content, for the present, with this successful feat, Captain Herbert returned in the Nemesis, and rejoined the squadron, at its anchorage, a little to the southward of South Wantung. On the following morning they all returned to the scene of the previous exploit, and set about pulling up the piles, to clear a passage. This time, likewise, they were fired at, but from a different quarter. The Chinese troops, posted on the hills above, commenced firing at the working party, but it was soon returned from the thirty-two-pounders, by which they were speedily dispersed.[153] A passage having at length been cleared, the Nemesis steamed up the river for some distance, until she had nearly reached the large town at the back of Anunghoy; but, as there appeared to be no further hostile preparations going on, Captain Herbert thought it better to return and complete the destruction of the fort, raft, &c., which had been only partially done the day before; after which they returned to the squadron, which the commodore himself had now joined, with the three line-of-battle ships and the Druid.

The next day, the 25th of February, was the great day of preparation for the combined and resolute attack of all the Bogue forts. The batteries which were to be reduced were as follows:—The geographical positions of the Bogue have already been described. Beginning from the south end of the promontory of Anunghoy, which of course you approach first, there were several strong works along the shore, the ridges on the hill's side above being also armed with guns wherever they could be conveniently placed; and upon the top, which was pretty steep, an entrenched camp had been formed, calculated for about twelve hundred men. On this side were two considerable sand-batteries, not long erected, mounting, as was afterwards found, thirty guns of small calibre.

Proceeding on along the front was the old battery of Anunghoy, which, in a manner, seemed to have given place to a new and extremely well built one, partly of granite and partly of chunam, and reaching down almost to high-water mark. The rear of this battery, running up the steep hill-side, was enclosed by a high wall, on which were steps or platforms for firing musketry.

Continuing our survey of the walls parallel with the passage through the Bogue, and passing out of the southern fort by its northern gate, you found a line of steep rocky beach, about two to three hundred yards long, and unprotected, which led to the northern Anunghoy fort. Upon this beach was erected a sort of platform, made of wood, serving merely as a line of communication between the forts, for the passage of troops. Having traversed this causeway, you arrive at the northern fort. This was a less formidable one than its fellow lower down, but still it presented an extensive line of works. The whole together completely defended the river front of the promontory of Anunghoy. The number of guns mounted upon all these works was afterwards found to be very great, and the long line of embrasures certainly looked very formidable.

The island of North Wantung, which is opposite to these forts, was thickly studded with cannon all over. Its eastern side presented a formidable line of guns, and was considered by the Chinese to be its most important side of defence, for it fronted[154] Anunghoy, commanding the passage between them; here they had planted some of their largest guns. An object upon which they had placed great reliance was the large chain cable which they had carried across the passage from Anunghoy to a rock close to Wantung, and which they had secured into the solid rock on either side, something after the manner of the chains of a suspension bridge. The rafts which supported it were strongly moored, and the Chinese had adopted a curious contrivance for raising or lowering the chain, for the purpose of letting their own junks pass through, by means of a kind of windlass.

A passage was not forced through this chain and rafts until after the forts were taken; and the Chinese appeared to forget that there was another channel round the west side of Wantung, and that even had that been impassable, we could have sent our light steamers, rocket-boats, and gun-boats, round the back of Anunghoy itself. They, moreover, made little calculation of the great power of the rising and falling of the tide, the weight and strength of a line-of-battle ship, or the terrific power of her broadside.

The little island of South Wantung had been unaccountably left unoccupied by the Chinese; but, in reality, it was within range, and well commanded by the strong batteries and Hill Fort upon North Wantung. The oversight rendered their positions much less tenable, and soon decided the plan of attack which was adopted by Sir Gordon Bremer. It was as follows: a battery of two 8-inch iron and one 24-pounder brass howitzers was to be erected during the night, in a hollow, upon the top of this little island of South Wantung, which was very favourably situated for the object required. This battery would not only greatly annoy the Chinese in the northern island, and probably shell them out, but also distract their attention from the attack upon Anunghoy.

The commodore reserved to himself (with the Wellesley, 74, and Druid, 42) the attack on the south-west batteries of Wantung, that is, on the side not fronting Anunghoy; while Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, in the Blenheim, 74, with the Melville, 74, and The Queen Steamer, together with the rocket-boats of the two ships, was to attack the batteries of Anunghoy, using his own discretion as to the best mode for placing them for that purpose. The light division under Capt. Herbert, consisting of the Calliope, Samarang, Herald, Alligator, Sulphur, and Modeste, were to direct their attention to the batteries on the northern and north-western side of Wantung, and also those facing Anunghoy, and either to anchor or keep under weigh, according as it might appear most likely to ensure the object in view. The Madagascar and Nemesis steamers were to land the troops, but the latter was more particularly employed to cover the working party, who[155] were to raise the battery on South Wantung, and also the troops on shore.

It was not likely that the land forces would have much to do; but it was directed that detachments of the 26th and 49th regiments, with the 37th M.N.I. and Bengal volunteers, under the command of Major Pratt, of the 26th, should be placed on board the steamers and the transport-boats, together with a few Chinese boats collected for the purpose, and they were to remain off the southern end of South Wantung, protected from the fire of the enemy's guns, until the Chinese should be driven out of the batteries, when their subsequent movements were to be directed by signal. The royal marines also, under Capt. Ellis, were to be held in readiness to land with the troops, and were to be accompanied by the two 6-pounder field-pieces of the Wellesley and Druid, with seamen to work and drag them; scaling-ladders were also to be carried with the force.

Soon after mid-day, on the 25th, the Nemesis took on board a detachment of one hundred and thirty of the Madras Native Infantry, for the purpose of assisting the royal artillery, under Capt. Knowles and Lieut. Spencer, in the erection of the mortar battery upon the top of South Wantung; and they were accompanied by Lieut. Johnson and Lieut. Rundall, of the Madras Engineers, with the same object. On her way across, the guns of the large Anunghoy Fort opened upon her, and were fired with tolerable precision, many of them passing quite near her, but fortunately without doing any damage. On arriving at the southern end of South Wantung, it was found that Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, had already arrived in his own boat, together with a detachment of the Royal and Madras Artillery. The Anunghoy Battery continued firing, but without effect, and it was not returned for some time, by the orders of the commodore. However, as soon as the detachments were landed, Sir Le Fleming Senhouse himself gave Capt. Hall permission to return the fire. No time was lost in landing ammunition and warlike implements upon the island, and parties were busily employed filling sand-bags preparatory to the erection of the battery above, the whole working party being perfectly protected from the fire of the Chinese.

In the meantime, the batteries on North Wantung began to open on the Nemesis; and, in order that she might get completely under cover of the island of South Wantung, she was run full in upon the shore, which was somewhat steep in that part; and thus she lay literally with her head out of water, and her stern deep in it, without receiving any injury; her light draught of water enabled her to approach closer than any other vessel could have done. In this manner, all the shot of the batteries passed over her, without doing any mischief. The fire was not returned,[156] both owing to the position in which she was, and because it could only have served to point out, in the darkness of the night, the situation of the working parties upon the island.

At daylight the battery was quite completed, and the Nemesis was ordered to withdraw; not long after which, the new battery opened fire in beautiful style, against North Wantung, under the direction of Capt. Knowles. The rockets were thrown into it with great effect, and, together with the shells, could be seen to fall directly within the forts; this was shortly followed by a blaze of fire, from the burning of the Custom House and other buildings; soon after which, the outworks and sand-batteries were abandoned, and the Chinese took refuge principally in the upper fort. Their loss must have been considerable at all points; and the panic created by the bursting of the shells and rockets, which were quite new to them, evidently threw them into great disorder. It was reported, and there is reason to believe with truth, that the Chinese officers abandoned the place at the first commencement of the firing, and ran down to their boats, having locked the gates behind them, to prevent their own troops from following their example.

The grand combined attack was to have commenced early in the morning, and the troops were ordered to be in readiness at seven o'clock. The morning, however, was perfectly calm; the sun shone brilliantly, and lighted up the scene of impending destruction and slaughter, as if it were to be a scene of rejoicing. Until ten o'clock there was not a breath of air; when, a light breeze springing up, the Melville and Blenheim, accompanied by the Queen steamer, got under weigh, attended by three rocket-boats, the Blenheim being the leading ship. They stood in for the southern Anunghoy fort, running along towards the Anson's Bay side of it, in order to be out of range of its guns in front, so that they could throw in shot and shell upon its flank, without any risk of receiving injury themselves. The hill of Anunghoy was crowned with Chinese troops, their numerous silken banners floating gaily to the now reviving breeze. Some of their guns were discharged at a great distance; but the fire was kept up with spirit, though frequently out of range.

Not so, however, our own majestic ships, which slowly glided up to their positions without wasting a single shot, until, having anchored with springs on their cables, they could bring their broadsides to bear. The Blenheim, although the leading ship, was either carried by the tide, or else slightly touched the ground, and was soon overtaken by the Melville, which succeeded in taking up a more advantageous position in very gallant style. In the meantime, the Queen had commenced throwing shell into the sand-batteries and other works upon the hill's side; and, at the same time, the terrific broadsides of the Melville and[157] the Blenheim opened upon the great battery; the rocket-boats also did their full share in the work of destruction. The Chinese could not long withstand these simultaneous attacks.[28]

At about the same time with the attack on Anunghoy, began also that upon the batteries on the western and north-western side of Wantung, partly under the commodore in person, and partly under Capt. Herbert. The ships[29] waited to receive the fire of the forts pretty close, and then at once poured in their iron shower upon the devoted batteries, with destructive effect. It would have been impossible for any troops to have long defended the island of Wantung, bristling though it then was with cannon, against the powerful force arrayed against it. Our battery of howitzers had been playing upon it for several hours; and now six or seven men-of-war, including one line-of-battle ship, the Wellesley, were battering it at the same time. But the defenders could not run away, being shut in on every side by the river; and it was perhaps fortunate for them that the Nemesis, which had already been engaged with the different batteries, was sent down to fetch the troop-boats from the southern island, under which they had been sheltered.

The land force was under the command of Major Pratt, of the Cameronians, who was already well known to the Chinese at Chuenpee. The detachments of the 26th and 49th were under Major Johnson, the marines under Capt. Ellis, the 37th M.N.I, under Capt. Duff, and the Bengal Volunteers under Capt. Mee.

The scene on all sides at this moment was extremely imposing. The light breeze, which had barely served to bring the ships into position, had quite died away when the thunder of artillery commenced, as if it were unwilling to take them back again until their work was fully done. The heavy, curling smoke, scarcely broken by an occasional flash, hung gloomily on every side, as if to veil from sight the scene of destruction which was going on. For a time the firing ceased, in order to allow the smoke to rise; and, just at that moment, the troops were hastening towards Wantung, to take possession of the works, the firing of which had also ceased. At the same time, Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, with the marines and a party of blue-jackets, landed, to the attack of Anunghoy.


At half-past one the troops were landed on Wantung by the Nemesis and Madagascar, assisted by boats. The object was of course to reach the hill fort as quickly as possible, and had the Chinese been better acquainted with the rules of European warfare, they would probably have at once surrendered themselves, seeing the utter hopelessness of resistance. Probably the fear of being put to death as prisoners prevented this timely sparing of blood. Our gallant troops and seamen pushed rapidly up the ascent over the ruined outworks, and might have suffered severe loss before they could have taken possession of the upper fort, had not the Chinese been almost panic-struck, or had they possessed weapons better calculated for the purpose of defence. But, instead of surrendering or accepting quarter, they again ran out of the fort and down the hill, and many of the poor fellows were shot in their vain attempts to fly, without any possible means of escape. The greater part of these took refuge in the lower Custom House fort, where many of them were killed and wounded before the rest surrendered, which, however, they at length did, to the number of about one thousand. The prisoners were soon afterwards taken to the mainland, and set at liberty, equally astonished as they were rejoiced at our leniency.

The Nemesis, in the meantime, had gone over to Anunghoy, to render assistance, if required, and there observed the marines and seamen of the Blenheim and Melville, under Sir Le F. Senhouse, in the act of taking possession of the forts. It appears that they landed without much opposition, though they were only three hundred in number; and not only passed through the southern fort, driving the Chinese up the hill above, but also proceeded along the beach towards the northern fort, of which they also made themselves masters, the Chinese having fled.

Whatever doubts Keshen himself had entertained concerning the defensibility of the Bogue, he had too much discretion to communicate them either to his officers or troops. They had little anticipation of the total defeat which they were soon to sustain, for they had made rude sketches delineating the entire destruction of our ships by the terrible fire of their artillery.

The British flag had by this time supplanted that of China upon all the defences of the Bogue. It was little past two o'clock, and ample time yet remained to turn the victory to the greatest possible advantage before the close of the day. The Nemesis once more crossed over to Wantung, and as she drew so little water, was enabled to run close in, and make fast to the lower fort itself. Nothing, however, of a hostile character remained to be done in this quarter, but there was yet ample room to perform the more humane duty of assisting the unfortunate Chinese. Many of these poor fellows were floating about in the water, clinging in despair to any small piece of wood or bamboo they[159] might have the good fortune to find. Many were drowned, as had before been the case at Chuenpee, but many yet remained to be saved. Boats were sent out for this purpose, but the Chinese notions of warfare were of such a barbarous nature, that they seemed to think the only object of any attempt to save them was to reserve them for slow torture, mutilation, or death.[30] The poor fellows dived their heads under water as the boats approached them, attempting to drown themselves, and thus escape falling into our hands. Many were, nevertheless, dragged out, and carried on board the steamer, where they appeared bewildered by astonishment more than by fear, when they found that they were kindly treated. All of them were soon afterwards liberated without any conditions, and they then appeared thankful for their escape.

The day was now far advanced, but there still remained a fort and encampment to be taken possession of on the opposite side of the river, usually called Little Tycocktow, facing the western side of Wantung. There was every probability that these would be carried without resistance, for the Wellesley had already seriously damaged the fort, by her beautiful firing of shells, in the morning, and the Modeste had also contributed to silence it. A party of the Wellesley's marines were embarked in her own boats, about four o'clock, under Lieut. Maitland, and proceeded across, in company with the Nemesis, in order to complete the day's work. A few shots were fired by her as she approached the fort, but, finding they were not returned, the boats pushed off to land, including the boats of the Nemesis, with Capt. Hall and Lieut Pedder. The fort was found abandoned; and having taken possession of it, they advanced up the hill in the rear with all speed, as they observed a body of Chinese in disorder, close to an encampment upon the top of it. However, on the approach of the little party, they fled into the interior, abandoning their lines, magazines, &c. These were all set fire to and destroyed, and the effect of the blaze, which lasted for a considerable time, becoming more vivid as the night closed in, spread far and wide, among the distant inhabitants of the country, the general panic which had already seized their troops. The conflagration extended itself on all sides, much beyond the original site of the encampment, and threw its lurid glare over the scene of slaughter and confusion of the day. Having spiked the guns in the fort, the boats returned with their crews to their respective ships.


Thus closed the eventful day of the capture of the famous Bogue forts, and the total dispersion of their unfortunate defenders. Had the Chinese been better armed, and more experienced in the important science of gunnery, the capture of the forts would have cost us a much greater sacrifice of human life. On this occasion, so trifling was the latter, that at 3 P.M., when Captain Elliot issued his circular announcing the fall of the batteries of the Bocca Tigris, to her Majesty's forces, he added, that "no loss on our side had been reported up to that hour." Sir Gordon Bremer had only subsequently to report, that "five men were slightly wounded, throughout the whole force." Much surprise, however, was created by this announcement, for the firing was for some time kept up with spirit from the forts. It was also recorded with the utmost minuteness, "that the main-topmast and fore-yard of the Blenheim were shot through, one gun was rendered unserviceable, and there were several shots in the hull; that the Melville had also a shot in one of her top-masts; that the Calliope was struck; and that other ships had just a rope cut here and there." No one could dispute the triumphant declaration of the commander-in-chief, that he was "convinced that almost any number of men the Chinese could collect, would not be able to stand against the animated gallantry of his men for an instant."

It is to be regretted that the loss on the side of the Chinese, in killed and wounded, should have been so considerable. Thirteen hundred prisoners were taken, but were set at liberty soon afterwards; and, altogether, upwards of five hundred were killed and wounded during the day. Many of the Chinese officers boldly and nobly met their death, some even courted it; they dreaded their master's wrath and their own degradation more than the loss of life at the hands of their country's foe. Among these, the most distinguished and most lamented, was poor old Admiral Kwan, whose death excited much sympathy throughout the force; he fell by a bayonet wound in his breast, as he was meeting his enemy at the gate of Anunghoy, yielding up his brave spirit willingly to a soldier's death, when his life could only be preserved with the certainty of degradation. He was altogether a fine specimen of a gallant soldier, unwilling to yield when summoned to surrender, because to yield would imply treason.

Kwan's body was claimed and recognised by his own family the following day, and was of course readily given up to them. A salute of minute-guns was fired to his honour from the Blenheim, as a brave but fallen enemy. It will be remembered that he was the same distinguished personage who lost his red button or ball during the engagement with the war-junks in Anson's Bay, and obtained it back again, at his own request, through Capt. Elliot's intercession.

The resistance which the Chinese might have offered to our[161] forces will be seen from the following account of the ordnance captured during the day. On the southern Anunghoy fort, were 107 guns, of various calibre; one being a 68-pounder, one a 42, and a good many of 32, 24, and 18. Four of them were very large brass guns, made by the Portuguese, in 1627, two of these being upwards of eleven feet long, and ten inches and three-quarters in diameter of the bore; three of the iron ones were of English manufacture, and the remainder were heavy Chinese guns. On the northern Anunghoy fort were 40 guns, about half of them varying from 18 to 42-pounders. All of these were Chinese. At the two sand-bag batteries, erected to the eastward of the southern fort, were about 30 guns of small calibre; so that there were altogether on that side of the river one hundred and seventy-seven guns. Again, upon the little fortified island of North Wantung, were planted upwards of one hundred and sixty guns, of which, however, one third were very small, and of little service; and another third of them varied only from six to twelve pounders. The remainder were mostly very good, and some very heavy guns; one being a 68, and another a 42-pounder. Several of these bore a curious inscription, similar to some others subsequently taken on Lord Napier's fort, near Canton.

On the fort and works, on the mainland, on the western side of the river, facing Wantung, were also mounted about forty guns. Thus, the whole number captured in this day's operations amounted to three hundred and eighty pieces of cannon; to which, if we add eighty pieces more, captured on the preceding day by the Nemesis and boats, under Capt. Herbert, at the masked battery and stockades in the river, at the bottom of Anson's Bay, we shall find the whole number taken and destroyed in these two days alone, at the first resumption of hostilities, to have amounted to four hundred and sixty pieces.

Immediately after the British flag was planted triumphantly upon the forts of the Bogue, or at any rate before the close of the day, a notice was issued by Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer, by which the blockade of the river of Canton was raised. British and foreign merchant-ships were now permitted to proceed as far as the Bogue, and were to be allowed to go further up the river, as soon as the obstructions to the navigation could be removed.



[25] This was, on more than one occasion, the case during the war. Soldiers were often found among the killed and wounded each having two dollars on their persons, and, on one occasion, even six dollars.

[26] This, probably, alludes to the maxim of the Chinese moral code, which says that it should be remembered that a "foreigner, though he be a good man, and on terms of intimacy with you, is still of a different race."

[27] This alludes to the famous pirate Kochinga, who was bought off and made an admiral.

[28] During the heat of the action against the batteries of Anunghoy, a very dashing thing was done by Commander Sullivan, who was serving as a supernumerary commander on board the Melville. One of the boats got adrift, owing to some accident, and was being carried by the tide close in under the batteries. The instant this was perceived by Commander Sullivan, he jumped into his gig, and pulled off to recover the boat, in doing which he was of course exposed to the close fire of the batteries, but he fortunately escaped unhurt, and brought the boat safely back. This little spirited incident was not taken public notice of.

[29] Consisting of the Wellesley and Druid, with the Calliope, Samarang, Herald, Alligator, Modeste, and Sulphur.

[30] The Chinese rarely make any effort to save even their own countrymen from being drowned. Indeed, should a common boatman tumble overboard accidentally, his own companions in the boat will often give him no assistance, particularly if he is really in danger of being drowned without it.


The great event which has now been described, the capture of the Bogue forts, though purchased at a very small sacrifice on the part of the victors, derived an immense importance from the greatness of the sacrifice in reference to the Chinese. Although the cautious discernment of a few men like Keshen might have appreciated the strength of their enemy, and the comparative weakness of their own defences, the fact of the fall of the Bogue forts, which were considered by the Chinese throughout the empire, as well as by the government, to be impregnable, created a degree of alarm in the public mind without parallel since the Tartar conquest. Whatever reliance the authorities on the spot, and the overweening arrogance of a population accustomed only to the "submission" of foreigners, may have placed in the efficiency of other recent preparations of a different description higher up the river, these could never inspire confidence in the mass of the nation, or even in the government, to whom the nature of them could be little known.

The fall of the Bocca Tigris at once destroyed the charm of its supposed strength, and the loss of a feudal tower of old could hardly have spread more consternation among a host of vassals, than did the fall of the Bogue forts among the Chinese nation. Totally inexperienced in the horrors of war, they retained a sort of hereditary pride in the Bogue, as their great bulwark against the inroads of the foreigner. The whole nation was at that time unprepared for war, and the government without any organized system of defence. Hence it is not difficult to perceive, that advantage might have been taken of their momentary state of alarm, to have urged them at once to the conclusion of some kind of peaceable settlement. The whole difficulty, however, at that time, seems to have turned upon the question of the supply of tea. The Chinese saw clearly the anxiety which we shewed to obtain the year's crop, and they quickly boasted that "their tea and their rhubarb were as necessary to the foreigner as air itself." However, it was resolved at length, that we should dictate the terms of peace at Canton, rather than at the Bogue, and, accordingly, the fleet prepared to proceed immediately up the river.

It will be remembered that a large chain cable had been thrown across the river, supported by rafts, between Anunghoy and a little islet close to South Wantung. It served them no good purpose whatever; and after the ports were taken possession of, nothing was easier than to remove this impediment to the navigation.[163] The forts were next blown up, or damaged as much as they could be, though not without great labour and difficulty, arising from the heavy masses of stone and chunam of which they were constructed. Chinese powder was, moreover, used for the purpose, which, being less strong, though made as nearly as possible with the same proportions and of the same materials as our own, but with less care, added somewhat to the difficulty of the task. Several days were occupied by the engineers, sappers, and miners, assisted by seamen, in this laborious operation. It was, however, effectually done at last, scarcely one stone being left standing upon another.

On the morning following the action, the light squadron under Captain Herbert was ordered to proceed without delay up the river, in order to follow up the advantages already gained by the panic created by the capture of the Bogue. It consisted of the Calliope, Alligator, Herald, Sulphur, and Modeste, with the Nemesis and Madagascar steamers. The principal objects and the general aspect of the river, as far as the second bar, (which is below the first one,) have been already described, in connexion with the account of the grand conference between Keshen and Captain Elliot.[31]

The whole of the neighbouring country on both sides is almost one continued tract of swampy rice-ground, an additional proof of the endless water-communications. Above the first bar, the river becomes more intricate in its navigation, having its channel broken and divided by several islands, and ceasing to be navigable for vessels even of moderate size beyond Whampoa, at least by any channel which had been at that time discovered. But it will be presently seen that another passage was soon afterwards found. The anchorage at Whampoa had heretofore been the resort of all the foreign trading ships, and the surrounding country at all times presents a very picturesque and refreshing appearance. The Canton river would seem at various times to have been subject to a great rise in its waters, and thus, overflowing the country through which it passes, to have formed for itself new passages and lines of communication, which in some parts give it the appearance of dividing itself into numerous distinct rivers, at other times merely separating its waters for a very short distance, leaving a few picturesque islands between its branches, and speedily re-uniting its numerous streamlets again.


Whampoa is, perhaps, the largest of several islands, which lie in the main course of the river. It is about four miles in length, and has a rather shallow channel on either side, navigable only for vessels of very small draught of water. On its north-eastern side, quite towards its lower end, lies the much smaller island called Junk Island, a long narrow strip of land, which with its shoals greatly impedes the navigation on that side. The channel between it and Whampoa is generally known by the name of Junk River.

Nearly all our merchant-ships used to anchor towards the bottom of Whampoa Island, in what has been called Whampoa Reach; but smaller ones could proceed up as far as the village of that name, beyond which the channel has become known by the name of Fiddler's Reach. Some, however, of our largest ships were formerly accustomed to take in their outward cargoes as low down as the "Second Bar," which occasioned an additional charge for lighters or cargo boats, and other inconveniences; but these now anchor in what has lately been called the Blenheim Reach, to the southward of Danes' Island. (See map and plan of Canton.)

It is not a little remarkable, that the Chinese authorities should have been able to keep foreigners so long in complete ignorance of some of the most important branches of their magnificent river, which for two centuries had witnessed the yearly increase of foreign commerce. This no doubt was effected by the jealous orders which were issued to their pilots, who dared not follow any other than the old prescribed track. Yet it is also remarkable that, among so many ships which have annually visited the river, none should have been found whose commanders were led by curiosity, or stimulated by the tiresome sameness of an everyday life during the dull season, to explore in open boats some of those large and tempting passages, the openings of which could be seen. Had not the war stimulated our exertions, or awakened our curiosity, we should, without doubt, have remained as ignorant as ever of the capabilities of the river, the extent of which was scarcely even surmised.[32]


No wonder that smuggling in every form has been long carried on to such a notorious extent by the Chinese at Whampoa, and in other parts of the river. The communications by water from one point to another, and with the interior of the country, are so numerous, and so interwoven with each other, that it would be impossible for any system of fiscal regulations which the Chinese could adopt to act efficiently against the complicated machinery of evasion which could so easily be put in operation. This, among other reasons, may have contributed (always secondary, however, to their jealousy of foreigners) to the strictness of their orders respecting the anchorage for our ships.

The light squadron proceeded up the river early on the morning of the 27th of February. It was not yet perfectly ascertained what obstacles were to be met with, although it was well known that the Chinese had been making extensive preparations to impede the advance of our forces. The wind was light throughout the day, and the Sulphur, which was to have been the leading vessel, fell behind; the Nemesis, therefore, now took the lead, and proceeded with caution, giving the soundings by signal to the squadron, by means of flags fastened to the ends of long bamboos; by which contrivance the signals could be made with the greatest rapidity.[33]

No new defences or hostile preparations on the part of the enemy were discovered, until the squadron had passed up a considerable distance beyond the second bar shoals. The Nemesis being still ahead, it could now be made out distinctly with the telescope that a large ship, probably the Cambridge, (a late British ship, purchased by the Chinese,) was at anchor near the first bar. This was immediately signalized to the squadron, which came to anchor about three miles from the position indicated; but the Nemesis, having previously taken the plenipotentiary and Captain Herbert on board, proceeded to reconnoitre, and to ascertain if a clear passage existed for the ships, as the channel was supposed to have been partially obstructed by sunken junks.


On arriving sufficiently near to observe accurately the dispositions of the enemy, it was discovered that a considerable mud battery had been constructed on the left bank of the river (the right in ascending) above the first bar, near the Brunswick rock, below Whampoa; and that in order to obstruct the advance of the squadron beyond it, a very strong and broad raft, formed by large masses of timber secured well together, had been carried quite across the river, from one side to the other, precisely opposite the battery. Behind the raft lay the ship Cambridge, (previously known as the Chesapeake,) with an admiral's flag at the main, moored head and stern in such a way that only her bow guns could be brought to bear for the defence of the raft. A number of war-junks were also under weigh not far from her. It was evident that the Chinese were quite prepared for resistance; and, had the Cambridge been anchored with springs on her cable, so as to enable them to bring her broadsides to bear alternately upon the raft, she might have fired with very great effect upon any of our ships as they approached. But the Chinese are not sufficiently acquainted with naval tactics to be able to make the best use even of the resources at their command.

The war-junks looked much more formidable in the distance than when more nearly viewed, and there was much more probability of their making their escape after the first shots were fired, than that they would offer any serious opposition. The fort itself consisted of a strong line of mud batteries along the river front, and was afterwards found to mount no less than forty-seven guns, which were principally intended to protect the raft. On the left flank of the battery were also mounted several guns, which bore directly upon the ships as they advanced up the river; and beyond this, further on the flank, was a small battery or field-work, mounting four or five guns, and connected with the former by an embankment, with a small ditch before it, upon which were planted a great number of ginjals, or wall-pieces. These latter, from being more easily managed, and more accurately pointed, were often calculated to do more injury than the great guns.

Within the fort, or line of field-works, was a double Chinese encampment, containing about two thousand men. The rear of the position was protected by a deep creek twenty-five yards wide, and by paddy-fields, which were partially flooded. These impediments proved very injurious to the Chinese themselves, when they were driven out of the fort, and attempted to escape in the rear; and they suffered great loss there in consequence. It must not be forgotten that the Cambridge was heavily armed, although she proved of no service whatever to her new masters.

It was determined that no time should be lost in commencing the attack on this formidable line of defence, without even waiting for the arrival of the other ships of the squadron. However, Captain Herbert immediately went down in his own gig, to bring up the rest of the force under his orders. Captain Elliot remained on board the Nemesis, and on this and all other occasions[167] exposed himself with a true sailor's courage, during the hottest part of the engagement.

An excellent position was taken up by this vessel, not more than seven hundred yards from the lower angle of the fort, and having anchored with springs on her cable, she commenced throwing shot, shell, and rockets single-handed into the fort and camp, and also at the Cambridge behind the raft. The guns were plied with great precision, principally under the direction of Mr. Crouch and Mr. Strangways, mates, R.N.

It was now little more than half-past one, and at two o'clock the Madagascar took up a position a little outside of the Nemesis, and commenced firing at the Cambridge with her 24-pounders. The Chinese kept up their fire from as many guns as they could bring to bear, and from numerous large ginjals, with considerable spirit. The Nemesis was struck several times, but fortunately only one man was wounded. One of the large shot passed completely through the outer casing of the steam-chest, from one side to the other, and was very near penetrating the steam-chest itself, which would have been one of the most serious accidents which could possibly befal her. The fire of the Chinese was so well sustained for some time, that repeated persuasion was tried, but in vain, to induce Capt. Elliot (who was standing as a spectator during the whole time upon the bridge between the paddle-boxes) to retire from such an exposed situation.

The Nemesis, having afterwards changed her position, got aground by running too close in shore, in order to get as near as possible to the battery, and became so much exposed, that besides receiving several shot in her hull, she had her spars and rigging a good deal cut up.

At three o'clock the remainder of the squadron had arrived, the Sulphur being the first vessel which anchored and commenced firing; the other ships, however, came up in close succession, and fired their broadsides with great effect upon the batteries, the Cambridge, and the war-junks. The vessels engaged were the Calliope, Alligator, Herald, Modeste, and Sulphur, with the Nemesis and Madagascar steamers.

The Chinese, who had been already staggered by the smart fire of the steamers, were now completely bewildered by the additional attack of the other vessels. Their fire speedily slackened; and at about half-past three the boats of the squadron, with the marines under Lieut. Stransham, and a party of seamen under their respective officers, put off to land and storm the works, the whole under the able direction of Capt. Herbert. Those of the Nemesis being nearest in shore, had the advantage in landing first. All the best men on board, including some of[168] her engineers, had volunteered for the occasion, and the whole force now formed together, and immediately dashed on to the gate leading into the fort close upon the shore. The Chinese attempted to defend it, but it was forced, although several of the Chinese officers fought with determined bravery, but little science. Their troops retreated in disorder, and the British flag was planted upon the fort by Capt. Hall himself, who as usual headed his own party.

On this occasion one of the Chinese officers, with cool determination and a steady aim, deliberately discharged four arrows from his bow at Capt. Hall, fortunately without effect. Had they been musket-balls, however, he could scarcely have escaped. A marine instantly raised his musket at the less fortunate Chinese officer: the aim was unerring, and he fell. An attempt was first made to save him for his coolness and courage; but in the heat of an engagement it is impossible to control every man, nor is it probable that the officer would have allowed himself to be taken prisoner.

About four o'clock the fort was completely in our possession, the Chinese having in vain attempted to stand against the hot fire of our musketry. They scrambled out at the rear of the fort in the best way they could, and there suffered severe loss. In fact they were caught as it were in a trap; for the deep creek and flooded paddy-fields in a great measure prevented their flight, so that about a hundred of them were killed or drowned at that spot, although every effort was made to save them. Some of them tried to escape across the river, jumping into the water merely with pieces of wood or small logs in their hands, which they picked up as chance threw them in their way, in the hope that these would be sufficient to support them in the water.

While the principal part of our force was thus driving out the Chinese on one side of the fort, another and smaller party, consisting of volunteers from the Nemesis and Calliope, were hastening on towards the gate at the opposite end, at the extremity of the river-front of the fort, the Chinese retreating before them. Close by the gate stood a house, in which many of them took refuge; but finding that there was no hope of escape, and that resistance would be useless, they immediately surrendered.

The great object now to be attained was to board the Cambridge, which was lying abreast of the fort. Unfortunately no Chinese boat was to be found along the shore, and it was quite tantalizing for the moment to see a prize so near without the means of reaching her.

At this juncture Lieut. Watson, first-lieutenant of the Calliope, gallantly succeeded in dragging one of his boats across the rafts, and launched her on the other side. He then took on board some of the little party on shore, who seeing a body of Chinese[169] crowding upon the deck of the Cambridge, had continued firing upon them. The boat instantly pulled off to the Cambridge, under the command of Lieut. Watson, having with him Mr. Browne, the master of the Calliope, Capt. Hall, and Mr. Galbraith, of the Nemesis, together with Mr. St. Leger, and about nine or ten men.

The Chinese were so alarmed at the sudden attack upon all their defences at once, and at the capture of the fort, as well as at the loss they had already sustained on board, that they offered little or no resistance; most of them jumped overboard on the starboard side as the boarding party climbed up on the port side.

Many of the Chinese must have been drowned in attempting to swim on shore, as there were no boats at hand to pick them up, and their own redoubtable war-junks had already made the best of their way up the river, for fear of meeting the same fate as the Cambridge. A number of dead and wounded were found upon the decks, strong evidence of the well-directed shot of our ships. She mounted altogether thirty-four guns of English manufacture; and it was rather surprising to see how well the Chinese had prepared for action, the guns being in perfect order, fire-buckets distributed about the decks, and everything very clean and well-arranged.

It now became a question whether she was to be blown up or retained as a prize; but it was decided by Captain Herbert, that she should be set on fire and destroyed, principally with a view to strike terror into the Chinese, far and wide, by the explosion; and partly, also, because she was an old and useless ship. Preparations, therefore, were at once made by Lieutenant Watson, with this object. The wounded were all carried on shore, and every part of the ship was searched with great care, to ascertain that there were not any Chinamen remaining concealed. The few stores found on board were of very little value, and at five o'clock she was set on fire.

Slowly the flames spread throughout the ship, gradually bursting out of every port; little more than an hour sufficed for the fire to reach the magazine, and then she suddenly blew up, rending the atmosphere, and making every object around her tremble with the explosion. The sparks of fire and burning timbers were thrown far and wide in every direction; and, as it was by this time dark, they served to spread the alarming intelligence even among those who were scarcely near enough to hear the explosion. Several houses took fire at a considerable distance from the spot, by the falling of the burning fragments which were carried through the air. The lower part of the hull of the Cambridge went down in deep water.

Thus ended the tragedy of the day; and, following as it did[170] only twenty-four hours after the capture of the Bogue, and at the distance of only a few miles from Canton, we can easily imagine how completely it must have paralysed for the moment all the little remaining spirit and energy of the Chinese. The city of Canton would probably have fallen an easy prey, had our successes been followed up by a bold dash at it. But the different approaches by which our forces could advance were then very imperfectly known, otherwise the smallness of our numbers would in any case have been amply compensated by the panic of the moment.

Throughout the operations of the day, Captain Elliot had distinguished himself by his personal courage, and landed with the party from the Nemesis to storm the fort. The loss of the Chinese is believed to have amounted to about three hundred killed and wounded. On our own side there were eight or nine men wounded and one killed. The magazine of the fort, and the guns, about sixty in number, were destroyed or rendered useless. Those of the Cambridge were blown up with the vessel.

The great raft across the river was not less than five hundred and fifty yards long, and is said to have cost the Chinese an immense sum of money, which was exacted from the Hong merchants. It was constructed with great strength and solidity, for upon it they had rested their most confident hopes of successful resistance. It was cleared away, not without a good deal of labour, on the following day, and thus the passage was now opened for the advanced squadron to proceed up to Whampoa.

The Madagascar was sent down to the Bogue, to inform Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer of what had taken place, while the boats of the squadron, together with the Sulphur and Nemesis, pushed on to explore the river higher up—a reconnoissance being necessary before the ships could advance, owing to the uncertainty as to what impediments the Chinese might have formed to obstruct the navigation.

During the day, the Nemesis and boats got far enough up the branch on the eastern side of Whampoa, called Junk River, to catch a view of a little fort at the upper end of Whampoa, called Howqua's Folly.[34] It was further ascertained that a large body of Chinese were collecting in that direction, principally on the shore opposite the island, and that a double line of stakes, interlaced with bamboos, were driven across the upper part of the Junk River passage, where also several large junks appeared to have been sunk.


It turned out afterwards that, had the Nemesis proceeded only a hundred yards further on, she would have been lucky enough to discover a masked battery, which it was reserved for the boats of the Wellesley, in company with the Sulphur, to find out on the following day, and to have the honour of capturing.

In the meantime, Sir Gordon Bremer, in consequence of the important intelligence conveyed to him by the Madagascar, hastened up from the Bogue the same day, bringing with him the marines of the Wellesley, together with a hundred seamen, under Captain Maitland. The marines of the Blenheim, Melville, and Druid, likewise followed, together with a number of boats well armed and manned. The Queen steamer also came up, bringing with her the Eagle transport, and another, the Sophia, being towed up by the Madagascar.

In the evening, Sir Gordon Bremer, with these seasonable reinforcements, joined the advanced squadron just as they had got up to Whampoa Reach. In consequence of the report made to the commodore of the reconnoissance which had been made during the day, he was induced to send up the Sulphur on the following morning, together with three of the boats of the Wellesley, to pursue the examination further. The boats of the Wellesley were commanded by Lieutenant Symonds, the first lieutenant of that ship. It is distinctly stated, in Sir Gordon Bremer's official despatch, that the Sulphur was towed (going up) by the boats, and that, as soon as they had got within range of the masked battery, which had been suspected but not discovered the day before, the latter opened upon them; upon which, Lieutenant Symonds, with great decision and gallantry, instantly cut the tow-rope, and dashed off to storm the fort.

Such is the account published at the time. But in Captain Belcher's account of the affair, (vol. ii. p. 158,) it is stated that this was a mistake, and that the Sulphur was not towed at all by the boats; it is left to be inferred, also, that Lieutenant Symonds did not cut the tow-rope, or else that, if he had done so, he would have been guilty of a breach of discipline.

I have no means of judging between these two accounts; but it was generally understood that Lieutenant Symonds' gallantry and energy were highly approved of by the commodore, whether in obedience of orders or otherwise. Captain Belcher further states that he himself "jumped into his gig to recal the boats, or to prevent them doing too much, and that it was by Captain Elliot's wish, who was left in charge during his absence." Still it appears that the battery was carried by Lieutenant Symonds and his men, who soon drove the Chinese out of it, killing several. The official account further states that the Sulphur[172] immediately anchored, and sent a few shot in amongst the thick underwood, in which the Chinese took shelter.

The battery was found to mount about twenty-three guns, which, together with the magazine, and all the matériel, were destroyed. The boats were repeatedly struck by grape-shot as they dashed on shore, but only one man was wounded mortally.

The Nemesis came up the Reach during the day, and managed to get within long gun-shot of Howqua's Folly, about two miles higher up. In the evening, the Alligator, Modeste, and Herald, joined her, with two transports. The distance from Canton was now so short, that they must have been within sight of the city, although there was too little water by the direct passage to enable them to get up further. The channels by which they afterwards reached Canton had not as yet been discovered.

Howqua's Fort, or folly, was built of stone, at the mouth of a little creek, at the extremity of Whampoa Island, and was surrounded by low paddy-fields, which occasioned its foundation to be so insecure that it afterwards fell down. It mounted nearly thirty guns of various calibre. The commandant seems to have had no particular taste for fighting, and thought a timely retreat would save him a vast deal of trouble. The fort was accordingly soon abandoned. A detachment of the 26th Cameronians occupied it, while a party of marines, under Captain Ellis, took possession of a large joss-house, or temple, opposite to it, on the other side of Junk River, where a strong body of the enemy had already been seen. They strengthened this position against any sudden attack.

Just above these two points, and consequently between Howqua's and Napier's Folly, which latter was situated upon the extremity of a low alluvial island, a little above Whampoa, a strong line of stakes or piles had been driven into the bed of the river. The next step, therefore, was to clear a passage through them, which was not to be very easily effected, owing to the rapidity of the stream, and the stiffness of the soil forming the river's bed.

Just at this juncture, the prefect of Canton or Kwang-Chow-Foo came alongside the Nemesis in his barge, attended by a linguist, and inquired for Captain Elliot, who happened not to be on board. Upon this the prefect affected to be in a great hurry to go away, saying that he could not wait for his return. Captain Hall told him that if he couldn't wait, he had better be off at once. But he continued, for some time, sitting in his boat, which was hanging on astern, evidently with forced composure, for he declined coming on board the steamer.

As soon as Captain Elliot returned, they went down to Whampoa Reach together, where a conference was held in due[173] form. Captain Elliot certainly wished that hostilities should not be pushed further, if it could be avoided; and, accordingly, although it was perfectly well known and admitted that Keshen had been degraded from his office of commissioner, and that his successor had not yet arrived, a truce was agreed upon for three days with the Kwang-Chow-Foo. This was a humane and conciliating piece of leniency on the part of Captain Elliot, for, at that moment, there was really no responsible public officer who could undertake on the part of the Chinese to treat for or accept any terms whatever. At the same time, it was not denied that a general panic prevailed at Canton, and that vast numbers of people were leaving the city.

A lull now ensued, the probable result of which it was idle to guess, although it was generally expected that hostilities would be resumed, and that no settlement whatever could be attempted, until Canton itself was completely at our mercy. This happened precisely at the moment of the arrival of Major-General Sir Hugh Gough, from Madras, in H.M.S. Cruizer, to assume the command in chief of all the land-forces, by the orders of the governor-general of India. This important event happened on the 2nd March, 1841; and the arrival of a general of acknowledged bravery and distinction was a subject of much congratulation, and was looked upon as likely to lead to energetic and decisive steps.

It was also just about this time that the force which had been ordered down from Chusan arrived in the Canton River—namely, the Pylades, Blonde, Conway, and Nimrod, together with the transports, conveying the troops. Our forces were, therefore, now concentrated; and, whatever may be the opinion generally entertained concerning the policy of so suddenly giving up Chusan long before the answer could have arrived from Pekin respecting Keshen's treaty, it happened, nevertheless, very much to our advantage, that the whole of a still small force was now united at one point, for the more effective prosecution of any enterprise which it might be advisable to undertake. Thus it occurred on many occasions during the war, that what appeared at first sight unfortunate, or, at all events, little likely to be attended with good results, turned out, in the end, to be most advantageous. The addition of these reinforcements from Chusan enabled us now to dictate terms to the Chinese authorities, which, without them, it would not have been so easy to exact.

Advantage was taken of the interval of the three days' truce (which was to expire on the 5th) to explore in the Nemesis, by the orders of Captain Herbert, one of those broad passages which were known to turn off to the westward, from Whampoa Reach. It was thought likely to lead, indirectly, even to Canton, and might therefore greatly facilitate the advance of our forces[174] upon the city. It has already been stated, that these channels had never been properly explored by foreigners; though a passage of some sort or other was well known to exist on either side of French and Dane's Islands.

Captain Elliot himself was very anxious upon this subject, and offered a reward of one hundred dollars to any active fisherman or pilot who would point out the best channel. It was thought probable, also, that there were several channels, some, perhaps, large enough for our sloops, of which we were hitherto perfectly ignorant.

A pilot soon offered his services, in consideration of the handsome reward; although there appeared little doubt of the Nemesis being able to find a passage for herself (drawing so little water) without any pilot at all.

Soon after nine o'clock, the Nemesis got under weigh, under the direction of Captain Herbert, having Captain Elliot and other officers on board. The object was not to make any minute survey of the passage; but merely to ascertain, by a cursory examination, the nature of the channel, and in what direction it was likely to terminate. Leaving Dane's and French Islands to the southward, they proceeded very cautiously to thread their way through the shoals or mud-banks which were found in the passage. The country on both sides was low and swampy, but the channel was not found blocked up by sunken junks or stones, as it had been in other parts; probably because the Chinese hardly expected that any attempt would be made to pass through it, and partly because the river into which it led (the Broadway or Macao passage) had been already sufficiently fortified and obstructed. They passed a deserted battery and one or two small villages.

In the course of a couple of hours, during which time they had advanced slowly, with a depth of water from two to three fathoms, they came in sight of a circular stone fort, with a tower or pagoda upon it, apparently between two and three miles distant.

As the truce had not yet expired, it was not thought right to proceed further for the present; but they had already reached the point of junction with the Macao passage or Broadway River, in the middle of which the fort (which was afterwards called the Macao Fort) was situated. Enough had been ascertained to serve as a guide for future operations; and the Nemesis, passing round a small island at the head of the passage, returned the same way she had come, and rejoined the squadron at Whampoa. It was through this passage that some of our vessels proceeded, a few days afterwards, to the attack of the fort, which has been noticed above.


On the following day, the 6th, the truce expired. But there was anything but a peaceable disposition shewn on the part of the Chinese authorities. They issued strict orders that none of the natives should supply provisions to our ships. The boats which had hitherto come fearlessly alongside our vessels all on a sudden disappeared; and it was known at Canton that the native merchants were compelled to remove all the tea and silk out of the town.

In consequence of these proceedings, a proclamation was addressed by Captain Elliot to the people of Canton, telling them that they were quite at our mercy, and that the city was only spared "in order to shew how tenderly the good and peaceable inhabitants were considered" (by the English). But it was added, that, "if the authorities should continue to prevent the native merchants from buying and selling with the foreign merchants, then the whole trade of Canton was to be immediately stopped, and the city strictly blockaded." It then wound up by throwing "the whole responsibility of the present state of things upon the bad advisers of the emperor."

Preparations were now made for an immediate advance upon the city; and it was a favourite notion of Captain Elliot that he could blockade all the approaches to Canton, and thus, by cutting off its immense internal commerce, upon which thousands depend for their living, and nearly the whole population for its supplies of food, constrain the authorities to come to some reasonable terms, without any further necessity for a resort to arms.


[31] It should be remembered that by the first and second bar are merely meant sand-banks or flats, which impede the navigation of the river, of course contracting, to a certain extent, the channel for large ships. The second bar is a large shoal on the left side of the river, ascending (or geographically on its right bank) upwards of ten miles above Tiger Island. The pagoda, near which the conference was held, stands near its upper extremity, on the same bank of the river. The first bar, however, lies about seven miles higher up on the opposite side of the river, and is not so extensive a flat as the lower one. It seems to have been formed by a deposit from the waters of one of the larger of those numerous rivers, or their branches, which empty themselves not only into the Canton River, but into all the principal rivers of China. Indeed so numerous are these water communications in every direction, that Keshen was perfectly correct in his observation that small vessels could proceed wherever they pleased, even up to Canton itself, without passing through the main river. Of course the channel becomes both narrower and more intricate in the neighbourhood of the bar; and therefore the Chinese shewed considerable judgment in attempting to defend this position, which was in fact the most tenable one between the Bogue and Whampoa; from which latter place it was distant about four miles.

[32] The newly-explored passages will be described in the order of their discovery. The Blenheim Reach, Browne's Passage, and the communications with the Broadway River, by which our light squadron afterwards reached the city of Canton, were as yet quite unknown to us.

[33] It is worthy of notice, that not a single ship of the squadron touched the ground on their passage up, although there was no native pilot on board any of the vessels. The great advantage of steamers drawing little water in leading a fleet up a river is undeniable; the certainty and perfect control of their movements, with the facility of changing their position, or of backing off, should they touch the ground, give them an immense advantage over every other description of vessel for exploring the passage of a river.

[34] Why some of the forts should be called "Follies" does not appear evident. Such were the Dutch Folly, French Folly, Napier's Folly, and Howqua's Folly. The most foolish of them all was certainly the last, which ultimately fell down, owing to the foundation being weakened by the washing of the river.


Captain Elliot now addressed a request to the naval and military commanders-in-chief, that they would make no further movements towards the city until the disposition of the provincial officers could be put to the test. All the private information which could be gathered, however, tended to shew that further delay was likely to be useless, and even prejudicial. As soon, therefore, as the day for the expiration of the truce had arrived, the Nemesis was ordered to convey Captain Elliot, with the commodore and the major-general, together with their respective suites, up to Howqua's Fort, having the broad pendant flying; there several other ships of the advanced squadron were already at anchor. The flag of truce was then lowered, and[176] immediate dispositions were made for the capture of Napier's Fort, which was a little distance higher up.[35]

A little below the fort a strong double line of piles had been driven into the bed of the river, completely across from one bank to the other. These were strengthened by sunken junks, and the passage was further blocked up by large stones thrown into the river, and other impediments. There were flanking batteries also on either side, recently built of mud, and not quite finished; they were intended to mount thirty-five and forty-four guns.

These positions were capable of being stoutly defended, had they been fully armed and manned. Such, however, was not the case; and, as the commandant of the fort was inclined to exhibit the same compliant disposition as his gallant companion in arms had shewn at Howqua's Fort below, no resistance was offered; in fact, the garrison all ran away as soon as they had fired off their guns, having previously intimated their intention, and succeeded in making good their escape.

The Sulphur, accompanied by some of the boats of the squadron, managed to get up first, and took possession, followed by the Nemesis, with the commodore on board, and other vessels. A detachment of troops had been sent round by the general, with a view to take the flanking-batteries in the rear; but, as it now appeared that they were undefended, and as the march over swampy paddy-fields, and across numerous water-courses, was anything but agreeable, and not likely now to be useful, they returned to the joss-house below.

In the afternoon, the Nemesis proceeded with the commodore and Captain Elliot down to Whampoa, passing along the western side of that island, by the channel which was known by the name of Fiddler's Reach; she had therefore gone completely round Whampoa Island in the course of the day, for she went up by the eastern or Junk river side, and came down by the western or Fiddler's Reach passage, proving the practicability of both channels for vessels of small draught of water.

It may be well here to notice that, at a subsequent period, after the fall of Canton, and when the Chinese were prevented by us from renewing or extending any of the defences of the river below Whampoa,[36] they set about strengthening the positions above that island with all the resources they could employ. Before the close of the war, they not only rebuilt Napier's Fort in a much more substantial manner, but fortified all that line of the river upon a plan much superior to any they had hitherto attempted.


Three other large stone forts have been built, with a view to command the navigation of this part of the river; namely, one on each bank of the river opposite Napier's Fort, and one about half a mile lower down, at the point where the river is strongly staked across. Viewed from the river, all these new forts look extremely formidable, being built entirely of stone, of considerable height, and calculated to mount little less than two hundred guns. The structure of all these new works is of a superior kind to any before seen in China; and it is generally supposed that they have been built at the suggestion or with the assistance of some European engineer. But, as usual in China, the rear of the forts is almost entirely unprotected, except by a stone wall; and, were it not that the advance of an enemy on that side would be greatly impeded by ditches and paddy-fields, which would oppose difficulties to the bringing up of artillery, they could be captured without any extraordinary effort.

The short pause in our operations, which now again took place at the request of Captain Elliot, was precisely in accordance with the liberal assurances of the most pacific intentions on the part of the Chinese. Their acts, however, by no means agreed with their words. It was perfectly ascertained that a large number of fire-vessels were being prepared a few miles above Canton; that new defences were being constructed around the city, particularly upon the heights in its rear; and that people were removing their property from the town, and no valuable produce was allowed to be brought into it. Sir Gordon Bremer distinctly expressed his conviction that the measure of attacking Canton itself must speedily be resorted to; although he deplored the excesses to which it might give rise, owing to the abandonment of the city by the authorities, and the absence of control over the rabble of a community proverbially bad. The major-general now went down the river, and remained at Wantung with the commodore, where plans for the future operations were devised.

About this time, Keshen, whose functions had already ceased, left Canton for Pekin in disgrace, in order to be put upon his trial for traitorous conduct, as his unfortunate defeats were now termed. The result was, that he was utterly degraded; all his property, which was enormously valuable, was confiscated, and he himself banished to the cold regions of Tartary.

On the 10th, despatches were sent up by the Nemesis from Captain Elliot (who in the meantime had gone to Macao) to the[178] commodore at the Bogue, in consequence of the Chinese authorities having issued chops or passports for all ships, except British, to proceed up the river to trade, as far as Whampoa. This act of open defiance could not be overlooked, and Captain Elliot himself seems to have been struck with the hostile temper which this proceeding evinced. A notice was, in consequence, issued to the effect, "that, as the port of Canton, from its entrance to its extremity, was in the military occupation of her Majesty's arms, no ships whatever would be permitted to enter the river, except under the authority of the commander-in-chief; and, moreover, that a close embargo would be laid on the city and trade of Canton, until the whole of their foreign trade should be placed upon a perfectly equal footing, without any exception whatever."

In point of fact, our previous forbearance had not been understood, and was certainly looked upon rather as an evidence of conscious weakness on our part, than as what it actually was—an instance of forbearance, resulting from conscious strength.

It was, probably, the necessity which he now felt of striking some blow calculated to make an immediate impression upon the Chinese, which induced Captain Elliot to direct his attention to one of the most boldly-conceived and successfully-executed exploits which have to be recorded during this campaign. It appears to have struck him almost on a sudden; and, finding that Captain Scott, of the Samarang, who was then senior officer at Macao, and also Captain Hall, of the Nemesis, entirely concurred with him in his views, it was resolved that not a moment should be lost. Above all, it was kept perfectly secret; so that no rumour of any new project could reach any of the inhabitants of Macao, either Portuguese or Chinese. The undertaking to which I allude, became afterwards generally known as the forcing of the Broadway, or Inner, or Macao Passage, (for it has obtained all these names,) by the Nemesis, accompanied by three boats—viz., two belonging to the Samarang, and one to the Atalanta steamer. This passage leads direct from Macao to Canton, but had been hitherto frequented only by native boats; indeed, no others were permitted to pass through it. This was one of those numerous opportunities in which the Nemesis so clearly demonstrated the great advantage to be derived from the employment of shallow iron steamers in hostile operations along the course of unexplored rivers.

It must here be remarked that this intricate passage was one never before traversed by any European vessel or boat, and believed by the Chinese themselves to be inaccessible to foreigners, both owing to the shallowness and intricacy of its channels, and to the number and strength of the artificial defences erected on[179] its banks. It can, perhaps, be scarcely called a distinct river, but may be rather considered as in reality one of those almost innumerable channels which present themselves to view on every side, along the whole sea-board of China; dividing and then re-uniting, sometimes receiving large branches, sometimes throwing them off, here communicating with other rivers, and there even traversing across them. It is difficult to ascertain, with regard to many of them, whether they are distinct rivers or branches, or mere water-courses, leading from one to the other. In short, with respect more particularly to the country about Canton, the whole of it appears to be subdivided, again and again, by these ever-multiplying channels, which form a sort of fluid network, embracing the soil it nourishes and reproduces. Many of these are only known, among the Chinese themselves, by those who depend on them for subsistence; and who, rarely quitting them, make their boat their floating home.

On leaving the roads of Macao, and proceeding nearly due west, after passing the town and the entrance to the Inner Harbour beyond it, you come into a straight but rather shallow channel, which continues in the same direction along the southern shore of the island called Twee-Lien-Shan.[37] Having reached its western extremity, which is about four miles from Macao, you very shortly enter the mouth of a river, which is broad but shallow, and becomes narrower as you proceed up towards the north-west, by the gradual contraction of its shores. This is the entrance to the Broadway, or Inner Passage. Several openings were soon perceived on both sides, probably the mouths of smaller rivers or creeks, entering the larger channel. The proper opening of the Inner Passage begins about six miles from the western point of Twee-Lien-Shan Island, but the narrow part of it is about four miles further on.

Let us now imagine ourselves just embarked on board the Nemesis in Macao roads, at three o'clock in the morning on the 13th of March, all the arrangements having been completed the day before. Already, Captain Elliot and suite are on board; and Captain Scott, of the Samarang, who commands the force, is standing on the quarter deck with the other officers, impatient to start, while the boats of the Samarang, and that of the Atalanta, are being made fast astern. And we must also not omit to record that Mr. Johnston, the deputy superintendent of trade, and also Mr. Morrison and Mr. Thom, the indefatigable interpreters and secretaries,[38] the value of whose services throughout the war it is impossible too highly to appreciate, were also on board during this expedition.


Having quitted the town of Macao with the utmost quietness, leaving all the world asleep, and unconscious of any movement, they soon fell in with a large junk at anchor, which was fortunately able to furnish a pilot, one of her crew being taken out, not without reluctance, for that purpose. At first the poor fellow was very much frightened, but, finding that he was well treated, well fed, and good pay promised, he soon became reconciled to his position, and behaved well throughout. During the day he seemed very little concerned about the firing either of the steamer or of his own countrymen, and piloted the vessel, as far as his knowledge extended, up the river very accurately.

The progress was at first slow, owing to the shallowness of the water, which often did not much exceed five feet, for a vessel of more than six hundred tons burden! Indeed the pilot himself maintained that it would be impossible for the vessel to proceed; and it may be noticed that the soundings at the entrance were not found so deep as laid down in Horsburgh's chart, in which they are partially given. However, on she went, nothing daunted either by mud, sand, or water, or even by the shallowness of the river.

Day had now long dawned; and at eight o'clock she came in sight of a fort on the starboard hand, which proved to be situated on a small promontory on the left bank of the river. It is called Motow, and is situated some distance below a point where the main channel separates into two branches. Half an hour afterwards, the Nemesis was near enough to take up a position to the southward of the fort, so that she could fire directly into it without any of the enemy's guns being able to bear upon her; in fact, she enfiladed the position. Upon this the fort was abandoned by the Chinese, whose flight was accelerated by their seeing that the boats were putting off to attack them. The place was immediately taken possession of, the buildings of every description set on fire, and the guns, thirteen in number, rendered unserviceable. The boat's crews were again on board the Nemesis in about an hour, and she pursued her course without loss of time.

About four miles further on, just above where the river becomes more contracted by its division, a second fort was discovered, also situated on the left bank. The position was well[181] chosen, upon a rising ground, at some distance from the river side, but commanding the whole bend or reach of the river in front of it. It was built of mud, but protected nearly all round by flooded paddy-grounds.

On this occasion the Chinese were the first to open their fire upon the Nemesis as she rounded an intervening point of land, and entered the reach above mentioned. They kept up their fire at first very smartly, having probably trained all their guns to bear upon one particular point. It was most effectually returned by the steamer with shot, shell, and rockets, which were thrown (as officially reported by Captain Scott himself) with remarkable accuracy. The boats again put off to land, under cover of the rising bank on the river side, with the intention of taking the position in flank; but the Chinese at once abandoned their works; though, if they had resisted the advance, they might have inflicted severe loss, as the party could only approach the fort along a narrow causeway, in single file. The works were immediately taken possession of, and were found to mount twelve or fourteen guns, which were of course destroyed, as were also the sheds and buildings within the fort, which, however, were of very recent construction, and of a temporary nature.

Before returning to the steamer, the boats pulled across to the opposite side of the river, where a large chop-house and military depôt were likewise destroyed. The name of the fort, or field-work, above described, was Tei-yat-kok.[39] At this point several other Chinamen were taken on board as pilots, for the better navigation of the channel through which they had now to proceed.

They had ascended a very little way further up the river, when to the joy of every one, they espied nine war-junks under weigh, a considerable distance ahead, and chase was given at full speed, in spite of all obstacles of the navigation. The interest and excitement momentarily increased, as every mile they advanced served to lead them to the conclusion that the Chinese were better prepared for defence than had been at all expected. Indeed, it was not a little remarkable that a passage never before explored by foreigners should have been found in a state of preparation against attack, by forts of old standing and solid construction, as well as by works of recent and temporary formation.


On entering the bend of the river in which the junks had been first caught sight of, a considerable stone-built fort was discovered, called Houchung, or Ha-chap, close to the river's side, upon its right bank, (on the left hand ascending,) in front of which, and perfectly commanded by it, piles had been driven across the river, so as to obstruct the navigation. But the work had apparently not been quite finished, and a narrow opening was still left in the centre, through which the junks had already passed, in order to take up a more secure position, as they thought, on the other side. The fort mounted fourteen or fifteen guns. But there was also another and smaller fort close to it, built of earth, and not yet finished, being without guns, but having ten embrasures.

Here again the Chinese were the first to begin firing, both from the fort and junks; but it was returned with precision and rapidity by the Nemesis, under cover of which the boats pushed off to storm the fort. This was effected without much difficulty. The fall of the fort of course left the passage through the stakes quite unprotected, except by the junks; but the Chinese sailors were so panic-struck by the rapidity with which the fort had been taken, and by the approach of the boats, which were now making their way through the stakes to attack them, that seven out of the nine were run ashore by their crews,—when they immediately jumped overboard and escaped, leaving their vessels entirely at our mercy.

Just as the boats came up to take possession, a field-work on the left bank, within little more than a hundred yards of the headmost junk, opened fire on them unexpectedly with grape-shot. As the junks were already abandoned, a strong party at once landed, under Lieut. Bower, and carried the field-work, by passing round to its rear, which, as usual with the Chinese, was left almost unprotected. This place, which was called Fie-shu-kok, was set on fire and destroyed, together with the seven guns which were mounted on it. The war-junks were likewise set on fire, and blew up very shortly after. But the two which had not been run ashore contrived to make good their escape.

During the time that these operations were being effected, Capt. Hall had dexterously succeeded in getting his steamer through the stakes by the same opening through which the junks had passed, and which barely afforded room for her paddle-boxes. The flood-tide was now running up with great rapidity, and she was therefore dropped through the passage, being steadied by kedges and hawsers, two of which they cut away, and left behind.


She now joined the boats opposite Fie-shu-kok; and as soon as the destruction of the junks and works had been completed, it was resolved to push on further up the river, in the hope of overtaking the two junks which had got away. Altogether twenty-one guns had been destroyed in these forts, and twenty-eight more in the junks. But the impression made through all the neighbouring country by these active measures, was far more important than the mere destruction of a certain number of guns.

At half-past three they arrived at the large trading town of Heong-Shan, about five or six miles further up. The river flows straight through the middle of it, so that they found themselves unexpectedly in the centre of an important inland town, in which, if it had been their object, it was easily within their power to inflict severe injury upon a dense and apparently harmless population. But it has been mentioned before that much suffering was spared by the assistance of Mr. Morrison and Mr. Thom. Capt. Elliot also exerted himself very much to prevent the peasantry or mere lookers-on from being implicated; and he sometimes allowed even the armed soldiers to escape, rather than run the risk of injuring the innocent. The object was to confine hostilities as much as possible to the servants and property of the Chinese government, leaving the people uninjured.

The good effect of this policy was soon very evident. The inhabitants of this populous town appeared to regard with very little apprehension the approach of the steamer, and seemed more moved by curiosity and astonishment at her structure and locomotive power, than alarmed by any dread of her hostile intentions. The people crowded upon the banks of the river; the house-tops and the surrounding hills were covered with curious gazers, wondering what strange event would happen next. Hundreds of trading junks and boats of various kinds, most of them the sole home of their owners, were crowded together on both sides of the river throughout the town, and even above and below it. The river was narrow, and so densely were the boats packed, that the only passage left was directly in the centre of the stream, where, as if by mutual consent, a clear way had been left, only just broad enough to allow the steamer to pass, and requiring some dexterity to avoid running foul of the junks on either side.

It is very curious that so large a body of people should have looked on with so little apparent fear, particularly as they could well perceive that the steamer was in chase of two war-junks, which had preceded her, followed by several mandarin-boats, in which the mandarins or authorities of the town were endeavouring to make their escape, in the greatest consternation. One of the[184] war-junks, finding that it was impossible to keep ahead of the steamer, which was rapidly gaining on her, was run ashore, some distance above the town, by her crew, who immediately jumped overboard, and had only just time to escape before the steamer came up. She was at once boarded, and then set fire to and blown up. She carried four guns. It was now observed that Chinese soldiers were gathering thickly upon the neighbouring hills, as if meditating a descent; but a shot or two thrown in amongst them served to put them to flight.

Just at this moment a masked battery, concealed by some trees, not more than a couple of hundred yards ahead, imprudently betrayed itself by opening its fire on the steamer; nor was this the only instance in which small forts or field-works would have been passed unseen and uninjured, had they not expended useless powder in making a smoke, which at once betrayed them. The fire was instantly returned, and served to cover the boats, which put off with the marines of the Samarang to storm the works. Eight guns were found in it, which, together with the buildings and magazine, were of course destroyed. This place was called Sheongchap, and was situated just below a point where the river divides, or rather where two branches unite.

It being now past six, P.M., it was thought proper to anchor for the night, after a very severe day's work for all hands since three in the morning. The Nemesis, having proceeded a little distance above Sheongchap, found herself getting into very shallow water, and therefore anchored for the night. The channel was so narrow that it was impossible to turn the vessel round, scarcely even by forcing her bows hard aground over the banks. She was anchored head and stern, and guard-boats were placed round her all night, for fear of any attempt at surprise.

On the following morning, the 14th, the Nemesis again pursued her course up what appeared to be the principal branch, but which became so shallow that it was doubtful how far she would be able to proceed; she had seldom more than six feet water, and in many places only five, so that she was frequently forced through the mud itself. There was not room to turn her fairly round, and the only mode in which she could be managed was by sometimes driving her bows as far as possible into the river's bank, sometimes her stern; while at other times it was hard to say whether she was proceeding over a flooded paddy-field, or in the channel of a water-course. This gave occasion to a facetious remark, in which sailors sometimes delight, that this "would be a new way of going overland to England."

After proceeding only three or four miles, a village came in sight, with a fort adjoining, and rather above it. This was afterwards found to be named Kong-How. Nearly opposite the fort[185] the river was again found to be staked across, much more strongly than it was at Houchong; and it was in a similar manner commanded by the guns of the fort. The Nemesis, as soon as she came within good range, opened her fire warmly upon the fort, which the Chinese returned. The boats pushed off as usual; but the moment the marines and a party of seamen began to land, the Chinese abandoned the fort in confusion.

On the upper side of the fort, sand-bags were found recently piled up against the walls, as if the Chinese had expected the attack to be made on that side; which shews that they anticipated that an attempt would be made to explore these passages, but that they rather looked for it from the side of Tycocktow than from Macao. The works, with their nine guns and magazine, were afterwards all blown up at once.

The principal obstacle now remaining to be got rid of was one more troublesome than all the forts together, or any impediment yet met with. The line of piles which had been driven in across the river was not less than twenty feet wide, or rather it was a double line, filled up between the two with large sunken junks laden with stones. Great labour and perseverance were required to get up sufficient of these piles to clear a passage broad enough for the steamer to pass. This was only accomplished after four hours hard work, in which, oddly enough, the Chinese peasantry bore an active part, voluntarily coming forward to assist, and even venturing to come on board the steamer itself. This was, undoubtedly, one of the good results of not having inflicted any injury upon the country people or inhabitants of the villages through which the little expedition had passed.[40]


A little above this obstruction a large chop-house or mandarin-station came into view, with a mandarin-barge lying just off it. A shot fired into the principal building soon drove out all the soldiers who had taken refuge in it—probably the mandarin's guard. The boats were now sent ashore, and soon destroyed the whole of the buildings, together with the mandarin-boat, with a gun and two ginjals. It was not possible for the steamer to tow any of the boats or junks away with her, because she was continually touching the ground, and frequently forcing herself through the mud, so that it would have been impossible to have got on at all if she had been impeded by any other encumbrance; they were therefore all destroyed.

As soon as the boats had all returned from their service on shore, the steamer pushed on again, and the water began to deepen; so that at half-past six she was able to come to anchor for the night in five fathoms water. From this point the high rock of Lankeet, in the Canton river, could be easily recognised, bearing about due east, and not very far distant.

On the morning of the 15th, having proceeded about three miles further on, a large village, called Tamchow, came into view, on the left bank of the river. Here a party of matchlockmen were observed crouching along the banks of the river, endeavouring to pass unnoticed. A few rounds of musketry at once dispersed them.

Again the steamer pursued her course, without finding anything particularly worthy of notice for a couple of hours, when she came to a large town on the left bank of the river, (it is remarkable that nearly all their towns and villages were on that side,) which was called Tsenei, just above a place called Kwam, close to which two or three dismantled and abandoned forts had been passed. Here the chop or custom-house, which was also a sort of military station, by the water-side, was set on fire and[187] destroyed. A large war-junk, also, (probably the one which had before escaped,) which mounted seven guns, was captured and blown up, the crew having abandoned it on the approach of the "devil-ship."

Above this point the channel again became very narrow and shallow. The Chinese pilots now declared that it would be impossible for the steamer to proceed much higher up, as the passage was only deep enough for boats. Having nearly reached a small place, called Weichung, the Nemesis was at length compelled to desist from the attempt to pursue her course further in that direction, particularly as it was now ebb-tide. Several other channels could be seen on both sides, and one in particular appeared to lead to the eastward, towards the main branch of the Canton river, below Whampoa. Accordingly, it was resolved to follow this latter branch, with a view to join the advanced squadron, if possible.

In this short passage a considerable walled town was passed, at the distance of less than half a mile, with which the communication was kept up by means of a canal, which could be seen to enter the town under a large arch, or bridge. Upon this a great number of people were collected, to watch the progress of the steamer. The country around it was extremely well cultivated, and the peasants were busy at their agricultural operations, without any apparent fear. Shortly afterwards the Nemesis found herself entering the main river, at a very short distance below the pagoda at the Second Bar, and proceeded without delay to join the light squadron which was at anchor in Whampoa Reach, and received the congratulations of all parties. Captain Elliot and suite then left the Nemesis, and proceeded on board Captain Herbert's ship, the Calliope.

Thus ended this singular and highly successful expedition of three days up the Broadway passage, during which so much had been done towards disabling and annoying the enemy by the steamer, assisted by the boats before mentioned, and the marines of the Samarang, all under the direction of Captain Scott. This exploit would have gratified most men, even as the work of a single vessel, for a whole campaign. It need hardly be added, that Captain Scott was the first to acknowledge and to bring to public notice the value of the services of the Nemesis on this occasion; and Captain Elliot, who was an eye-witness of all these operations, bore similar testimony to their importance. They were also mentioned in flattering terms by the commodore in his public despatch. It must not be omitted that all the officers of the vessel nobly and energetically bore their share in the labours and dangers of the undertaking; and those who belonged to the[188] boats of the Samarang and the Atalanta were equally conspicuous, and had opportunities of distinguishing themselves on shore.[41]

The result of this expedition was highly beneficial, and afforded more insight into the nature of the country, and gave a more correct estimate of the resources of the Chinese, than could have been expected within so short a distance from Macao. Indeed, considering how long that place had been the resort of Europeans, it was astonishing how little was known of its neighbourhood. The country on both sides of the passage was found to be fertile and highly cultivated; while, in the neighbourhood of the villages, the banks of the river were laid out in neatly cultivated gardens. Everywhere there prevailed an air of comfort and of thriving industry.

The peaceable, and, one may almost say, the apathetic, bearing of the people generally, and their refraining from all hostile demonstrations, are worthy of notice; particularly when we remember that they must not only have heard of, but even perhaps been witnesses to, the engagements at the Bogue, at Chuenpee, at the First Bar, and elsewhere. Much, perhaps, may be attributed to the valuable presence of Mr. Morrison and Mr. Thom, who, from their accurate knowledge of the character of the people, knew well how to allay their fears, and conciliate even their good offices.

The whole loss on our side, during this adventurous trip, was only three men wounded. Altogether, one hundred and fifteen guns were destroyed, together with nine war-junks; and several armed mandarin-boats, six batteries, and three government chop-houses or military stations, together with barracks and magazines, were also taken and set on fire.

One simple, but very natural question will now suggest itself. We have seen that, even in channels unfrequented by Europeans, and only partially known to exist, the Chinese were found to be well provided with means of defence, not of recent construction only, but many of them evidently of long standing. But the Chinese government had not been at war with neighbouring nations, nor could they have erected these internal defences against any possible future outbreak of the foreigners who traded with Canton. The latter had usually been very "respectfully obedient;" and, even if they had been disposed at an earlier period to come to blows with the Chinese, their measures would have been directed almost exclusively against the Bogue forts, which protected the main channel of the Canton river, leading to Whampoa. This Inner or Broadway Passage was, at all events, too shallow and intricate to admit of the passage of large ships; and, indeed, we have seen that even the Nemesis had failed in making her way through the upper portion of it.


Against whom, then, we may ask, or for what purpose, were the numerous forts erected? The government might have thought proper to occupy the principal strong positions, with a view to strengthen themselves against any outbreak or insubordination of their own people; and disturbances of this kind have not been unfrequent, even in despotic and obedient China. But it is far more probable that these defences of their "inner waters" were designed to keep in check the dangerous incursions of pirates, or "Water Braves," who have always infested the coast of China, and have been great enemies to its commerce, and a source of uneasiness to its government. In a country in which so large a portion of the population make their permanent home upon the waters, some upon the innumerable canals and rivers which intersect it in all directions, others along the extensive sea-coast and among its numerous islands, it is not surprising that pirates, or, as the Portuguese call them, Ladrones, should at all times abound.

The means of subsistence being frequently precarious among so populous a nation, and at no time to be acquired without careful industry, and, at the same time, the real weakness of the government, in spite of its bombastic edicts, have combined to make the temptation to piracy almost irresistible. In not a few instances the government have been compelled even to conciliate or buy over the depredators; and, in spite of all their efforts to suppress them, the ladrones have never ceased to infest the coast to a greater or less extent. The temptations are always numerous, and the desperate characters who gain their living by smuggling are, at all times, as likely to gain it by robbing, whenever the opportunity may appear more favourable. Hence, we can scarcely wonder that the pirates had long become bold, enterprising, well-organized, and successful in their efforts, directed, however, almost exclusively against their own countrymen, along the whole coast.

Such as were the banditti of Italy and Spain not long ago, or the klephts of Greece, or the robbers of Hounslow Heath in times past—such have been for centuries the pirates or ladrones of China. They are, in fact, the highwaymen of the "Celestial Empire;" for their rivers and water-communications are essentially their highways.

Under these circumstances, we are led to the conclusion, that nearly all these defences in the Broadway Passage had been constructed more with a view to the defence of the river against the Chinese themselves, than under any apprehension that the[190] foreigners would ever force their way into it. This supposition is further borne out by the fact that, even during the short expedition of the Nemesis, bands of robbers, and boats filled with men of a very suspicious character, were distinctly seen at a distance, trying to take advantage of every opportunity of plundering their countrymen while the panic lasted. Indeed, it may with much truth be said, that on this, as on many other occasions, the Chinese suffered a great deal more from the excesses and misdeeds of their own people, than they did from any hardships they encountered at the hands of their foreign enemies during the war. Many ludicrous, no less than unfortunate, scenes have been witnessed, of Chinese plundering parties falling in each other's way accidentally, and then fighting for each other's booty, while, just at the critical moment, a third party would perhaps step in, and carry off the greater part of what the others had been already fighting about; and perhaps even these would, in their turn, be stripped by another fresh party, before they could get fairly off with their prize.

In reality, the war itself served to disorganize the Chinese police, and to diminish the authority of the local officers. Smuggling, robbery, and multiplied outrages, were never more prevalent throughout all the maritime districts than during the continuance of hostilities.

In the neighbourhood of the Canton River, these violent proceedings arrived at length at such a height, that the fishermen, in many instances, combined together for mutual defence, and provided themselves with arms. But even these men, although, doubtless, most of them started with the good intention of capturing the pirates, or, at all events, of protecting their own property, were tempted at last to become, in many instances, almost as fraudulent as the regular ladrones. Some were bold enough even to attack the foreigners, urged thereto perhaps by the promised rewards of their own government. Others, having now found out their own comparative strength, became salt-smugglers and opium-smugglers; while others traded, smuggled, robbed, or aided others to escape detection, just as it might best suit their purpose for the moment.

Secret societies were at length formed; a sort of freemasonry of crime was established; and, before the close of the war, they had acquired such an organization as to make it dangerous to move about in the neighbourhood of Hong-Kong or Macao. They even sold passes to the trading-boats, which were intended to exempt them from plunder, for a regular payment of so many dollars a month; yet even these were not always respected.

Hong-Kong itself was in danger of daily attacks from these daring bandits; and, as it became at length evident that the co-operation[191] of both governments, the English and the Chinese, could alone effectually put an end to such gross outrages, Sir Henry Pottinger made proposals to that effect to the Chinese authorities. Our own cruisers alone were scarcely sufficient to effect the object, because the fact of their European shape and rig rendered them easily distinguished at a distance, and thus the pirates had plenty of time to escape. It was proposed, therefore, to have a number of fast-sailing boats, built and rigged very much after the Chinese fashion, with mat-sails, &c., to be well armed, and to be manned principally by our own men. They would thus be able to come unsuspected upon the pirates. Various other suggestions were made for the mutual co-operation of the two governments in the good work; but, owing probably to fear and jealousy, and perhaps a mixture of pride, these offers were courteously and respectfully declined by the Chinese government, who declared that it would be able, now that the war was ended, to take effectual steps to put an end to this heavy source of annoyance at the mouth of the Canton river.


[35] A little more than half a mile above the upper end of Whampoa lies another small, low, alluvial island, which divides the river into two branches; and upon the lower extremity of it stood a semicircular fort, designed to command the passage on either side. This was called Napier's Fort, from having been built expressly to commemorate the discomfiture and ultimate death of that lamented nobleman. It mounted thirty-five guns.

[36] The scenery about Whampoa, and between that island and Canton, throughout all the channels, is very picturesque. The fine pagoda upon Whampoa, rising up, as it were, out of a little mount of wood, and another similar one on the mainland higher up, surrounded by rich fields and numerous winding streams, are striking objects. A few scattered farm-houses, with their large, curved, angular roofs, together with the village of Whampoa, and the numerous boats of all shapes and sizes plying upon the river, present a peculiar and thoroughly Chinese prospect.

[37] See map.

[38] Not only on this, but on many other occasions, these gentlemen were personally exposed to the fire of the enemy, little less than either soldiers or sailors. They showed the utmost coolness and personal courage; and it is but justice to them to remark that their presence was always of the greatest value in every operation, even though unarmed, and, as non-belligerents, unnoticed. Their knowledge of the language and their good judgment frequently enlisted in our favour the people of the country, who might have offered great annoyance, and they were often able to mitigate the hardships even of war itself.

[39] See the map of the Canton River, in which the chart of the Broadway, or Macao Passage, is reduced from a very large Chinese manuscript, kindly lent by Captain Scott, who states that he found it approximatively correct. Indeed, it was the best guide to the Nemesis (except the lead) as she proceeded, for the native pilots were not found to be of much use. The distances from place to place, however, cannot be depended on as exact; but in the original manuscript every fort and military station was marked in its proper position. The names given in Captain Scott's despatch are spelt somewhat differently from what they appear on the original chart, but upon the whole they are sufficiently correct.

[40] Inquiry has often been made what method was adopted in order to open a passage through obstacles such as I have described above. It may, therefore, be here remarked, that several modes were at different times resorted to, according to circumstances. Where the stakes were not driven in very firmly, it was easy, by fastening a hawser round the top of them, and making it fast to the steamer, to back her out, and pull them one by one away; but as this was a tedious process, a hawser was sometimes fastened round ten or a dozen of them in a line across the river, and carried from one to the other, but fastened to each of them in such a way as to leave about a few fathoms of slack rope between each pair. The end of the hawser was made fast to the steamer with a tolerable length of line out, and she was then backed at full speed. The momentum thus acquired was soon sufficient to drag the first pile away with a jerk; and this one being fastened already to the next, as before described, with a fathom or two of slack line between them, the force of the steamer, which still continued to back astern, was sufficient to jerk that one away also; and thus proceeding at full speed backwards, the steamer pulled them all away, one after the other, still remaining fastened together by the hawser; but the power of the jerk was only applied to one at a time.

In cases where the stakes were driven in to some depth, or where the bed of the river was tenacious, it was necessary to pull them fairly out perpendicularly, by luff-tackle led up to the mast-head. The piles were gradually loosened a little by being pulled to and fro; for which purpose chain-slings were passed round the head of the pile, and a hawser being then made fast, was led aft along the deck; thus by being pulled in various directions, sometimes one way and sometimes another, the pile was at length drawn fairly out, something like drawing a tooth. The bows of the steamer were run nearly close up to the piles during this operation, and she was steadied by a hawser run out from the quarter to the banks of the river.

A great point seems to lie in the management of the steamer itself, so as to be able to apply the power in the proper direction, and at the right moment. This is the more important, as the stream is generally pouring through or over the stakes with the greater impetuosity, owing to the obstruction it meets with from the obstacles in its way. This also constitutes the difficulty of getting through the opening, even after it is once made. It is often necessary to lay out a kedge on each bow to steady the vessel, as she works her way through, and to prevent her from falling broadside on to the stream.

Generally on these occasions the water was shallow, so that it was necessary to raise both keels of the vessel, and also the drop-rudder, and therefore it was sometimes extremely difficult to steer her under those circumstances, and the use of the kedges became the more necessary. In the present instance a space of twenty-two feet was opened, and the steamer was got through with considerable care and some difficulty.

[41] It should be here mentioned, that Capt. Larkins, who formerly commanded one of the East India Company's vessels, and had been long acquainted with the Chinese character, volunteered his valuable services upon the occasion.


During the time the Nemesis, with the boats and marines of the Samarang, and the boat of the Atalanta, were occupied in destroying the works of the Chinese in the Broadway River, a division of the light squadron, under the command of Captain Herbert, had captured another fort in the upper part of the same river, at the distance of only about two miles from Canton. The vessels employed upon this occasion were the Modeste and Starling, with the Madagascar steamer, and boats from most of the ships of the advanced squadron, commanded by Captain Bethune, viz., the Blonde, Conway, Calliope, Herald, Alligator, Hyacinth, Nimrod, Pylades, and Cruiser.

On the 18th (March), they pushed through the upper channel leading from Whampoa, which had been explored on a previous occasion by the Nemesis, under the orders of Captain Herbert; and late in the afternoon they entered the Broadway River without any accident, although the passage was found very intricate, owing to the number of shoals. The Modeste was only got through with considerable difficulty, piloted by Captain Collinson, and assisted by the Madagascar steamer. Captain Belcher endeavoured to bring the Sulphur through, but failed, as she grounded about four miles from the point of attack. The Queen[192] steamer was found to draw too much water, and could not be employed to tow her up.

The fort which they were about to attack was the same which had before been seen at a distance by Captain Herbert in the Nemesis, and was found to be of a circular form, strongly built of stone, with a tower in the centre, and situated upon a small alluvial islet in the middle of the river, which it completely commanded. It was afterwards called the Macao fort, and was found to mount twenty-two guns. The Chinese had made attempts to strengthen this important post, as an outwork to impede the advance of our forces upon Canton in that direction. With this view they had constructed rafts across the river on both sides of the fort, strengthened by a few piles and sunken junks, and flanked by a sand battery, mounting eight small guns.

As soon as our vessels and boats approached, the Chinese opened a well-sustained fire from the fort, which was returned with good effect by the Modeste, which had been admirably placed by Captain Eyres, within six hundred yards, assisted by the Starling and Madagascar.

In about half an hour the whole of the works were carried, but the Chinese maintained their fire until the rest of the force were under the walls, when they fled out of it in all directions, leaving several dead in the fort. On our side only three men were wounded. Captain Kuper, and Commanders Barlow, Giffard, Anson, and Clarke, volunteered their services on this occasion, and the marines were commanded by Lieut. Stransham. A large mandarin-boat was captured before the Chinese could carry it away; and a small garrison was immediately placed in the fort, the Modeste remaining at anchor some way below it.

Thus another of the important defences of the Chinese in advance of Canton had fallen; and the passage for our light squadron up to the provincial capital lay almost completely open. Our advanced ships had now been brought much nearer the city than the Chinese, or perhaps even our own officers, had previously thought possible. All the important operations which have been described in the Broadway River, commencing from Macao upwards, to within two miles of Canton, had been effected in the short space of three days—viz., on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of March, 1841.

On the 16th, Captains Herbert, Bourchier, Bethune, and other officers, came on board the Nemesis at Whampoa, and proceeded along the upper channel towards the Macao passage. In the afternoon, the Nemesis joined the Modeste, which was still at anchor below the fort. A passage was soon cleared through[193] the rafts, and she pursued her course, with the object of taking up a chop or despatch from Captain Elliot, addressed to the imperial commissioner, and at the same time to explore the nature of the passage above the fort. But, scarcely had she passed the stakes, when she struck heavily upon a sunken rock. This obstacle, however, was not situated in the broadest and most frequented channel, which leads past the fort on its eastern side, but in the narrower passage on the western side of the fort. The concussion made the vessel tremble; and, had she been built of wood instead of iron, she could hardly have escaped some severe injury.

After considerable delay and exertion she was got off again. Before she advanced further towards Canton, it was thought proper to hoist a flag of truce; but, knowing at the same time how little the Chinese respect for it could be depended on, a division of armed boats was taken in tow, in case of meeting with any sudden attack from the enemy.

Upwards of a mile further on, a newly-constructed field-work was discovered upon a rising ground, surrounded and partially concealed by trees. It was situated upon the left bank of the river, and was called the Birdsnest Fort. In front of it, the passage of the river was obstructed by a strong raft, reaching quite across it, and well moored; while, further on, just at the point of junction with the Canton river, a number of war-junks and armed boats were drawn up for its defence, nearly opposite Shameen, which is about half a mile above the factories.

The steamer was now stopped; and it was resolved to send a boat, with a flag of truce flying, in order to attempt to carry up Captain Elliot's letter. The flag of truce was also flying upon the Nemesis and all the other boats. Captain Bethune, having undertaken this charge, had just pushed off from the steamer, when a shower of grape-shot was discharged from the Birdsnest Fort. Fortunately no injury was done, as the shot passed over the boats; but the flags of truce were immediately lowered, and the guns of the Nemesis, and also those of the boats, opened fire upon the fort, in retaliation of the hostile act of the Chinese. At the same time, the junks ahead, and also the battery at Shameen, commenced a distant straggling fire, much beyond effective range. A rocket thrown from the Nemesis fell into the middle of the fort, and partially set fire to the buildings, and it would have been very easy to have carried the works by assault; but orders to the contrary were given by Captain Herbert, who was not desirous of carrying hostilities further, without the sanction of Captain Elliot. He immediately returned to Whampoa,[194] in order to bring up some of the light squadron, with a view to advance, if necessary, upon Canton itself.

There were good reasons for not wasting time at the fort that evening; but, unfortunately, it is the practice of the Chinese always to claim a victory, and to report upon it accordingly to the Emperor, on every occasion on which any portion of our forces withdrew from before any of their defences, without having first occupied them. In the present instance, it was reported, that even a devil-ship had been driven away by the imperial troops from the Birdsnest Fort, and the high distinction of a peacock's father was conferred upon the commandant of it, as a reward for his courage!

Upon reaching Whampoa again the same evening in the Nemesis, Captain Herbert received a communication from Captain Elliot, respecting the measures to be adopted in consequence of the insult which had been offered to the flag of truce. Captain Elliot pointed out to him that the "Chinese knew perfectly well the value of the white flag, for they had often taken advantage of it to communicate with our forces:" and he then dwelt upon the "necessity of resisting this aggression with all the promptitude which might be compatible with considerations of a military nature." At the same time, he requested Captain Herbert to "confine his operations to the fort from which the shot was actually fired." It would seem, however, that Captain Herbert took upon himself the responsibility of the operations against Canton, which are shortly to be described; for he expressed himself in one of his despatches to the effect, that he had "found himself forced to make his arrangements without any instructions from his superior officer, Sir Gordon Bremer; but that he felt that he had no alternative but to resent with all promptitude the insult offered to the flag of truce." Arrangements were accordingly made, without loss of time, for proceeding to active operations.

The want of interpreters was at this time very much felt by Captain Herbert. He repeatedly applied for some one to be sent up to him in that capacity; and he wrote to the commodore, "that there was not a single person in the advanced squadron who understood a word of the language." The difficulty of procuring supplies was consequently very much increased, particularly as the authorities at Canton had forbidden the people to carry provisions to the squadron. The difficulty of obtaining accurate information of any kind was very great; but it had been already positively ascertained that the authorities of Canton had prevented a single chest of tea, or any other article of export, from leaving Canton, long before even the attack upon the Macao[195] Fort; and it was also known that a considerable body of Tartar troops had already reached the city. In short, all the information which could be obtained fully confirmed the impression conveyed by the insult to the flag of truce, that the Chinese were making active preparations for the resumption of hostilities, and that the sooner we had recourse to active measures the better.

On the morning of the 17th, Captain Elliot and suite, together with Captains Herbert, Bourchier, and other officers, proceeded in the Nemesis towards the Macao passage, or Broadway river, where she rejoined the vessels at anchor below the Macao Fort. It was a favourite scheme of Captain Elliot, at this time, to endeavour to command all the lines of water-communication to the westward of Canton, so as to cut off the supplies from the city, and stop the local trade.

The rivers or creeks, and their branches in this neighbourhood, are extremely numerous. Some little distance below the Macao Fort a considerable branch turns off to the westward, and leads, at the distance of several miles, up to Tatshan. About a mile and a half within this passage another channel leads off to the northward, in the direction of the Canton river, which it enters a little above Shameen, on the opposite side. This channel was narrow, and not navigable, except for boats. The Hyacinth had, on the previous day, been pushed into the Tatshan passage, nearly as far as the point where the smaller channel turns off to Canton, but there she stuck, owing to the shoalness of the water.

The Nemesis, therefore, having in tow a division of boats, was now moved up the Tatshan passage, and shortly communicated with the Hyacinth, which was at anchor there. She then turned up the northern branch, which was afterwards called the Fatee creek, in the hope of being able to push up to the Canton river in that direction, and so cut off all the Chinese boats which might attempt to escape up the river. After proceeding some distance, the water was found too shallow and the passage very narrow, and she was compelled to return, having captured on her way a very handsome mandarin-boat. In the evening she rejoined the squadron in the Macao passage, where the Commodore, Sir Gordon Bremer, had just arrived in the Madagascar steamer, which had been sent for him. The dispositions had already been made by Captain Herbert, for the capture of all the remaining defences in advance of Canton, on the following day; and Sir Gordon Bremer was therefore unwilling to disturb the arrangements.

The 18th March, 1841, will ever be remembered as the great day upon which the city of Canton was first humbled; and the[196] whole of the works which had been erected for its defence, along its river front, were captured by H.M. naval forces.[42]

Mention has already been made of the almost innumerable boats which crowd most of the rivers of China, and perhaps none more so than that of Canton, upon which it is stated that there is a floating population, permanently living on the water, of no less than forty thousand souls. They are the small traders, hucksters, fishermen, and public carriers of the country; and always appear an industrious and contented portion of the people. Of course, the numerous body of smugglers belong to this class.

It was said that one of the most influential smugglers, whose avocations had long been winked at by the authorities, who were themselves participators in the gains, had been suddenly arrested, and threatened with the confiscation of all his property, and even death; but that a free pardon was offered to him if he would contrive to collect together all the best boats, and furnish the men with arms; putting them under the orders of the mandarins, to co-operate for the defence of the city. Accordingly, a vast number of these boats were seen at a distance, drawn up in a curved line across the river, at the mouth of the Macao passage.

Besides these, it was known that some gun-boats, completely formed after European models, and thoroughly coppered, had been equipped by the government. Our flotilla of men-of-war-boats was therefore to be employed in pursuing and destroying this legion of the enemy.

At half-past eleven, the Nemesis commenced the attack upon the little battery, called by us the Birdsnest Fort, which she had engaged two days before, She opened her fire of guns and rockets with effect, and the Chinese returned the fire with spirit for some time; but the Modeste and Madagascar joined in the attack, and it is not surprising that the fort was silenced in a very short space of time. Some of the boats immediately pushed off to make themselves masters of the place, and the Chinese were chased out of it in great confusion.


Another field-work, almost close to it, was also captured at the same time. They were found to mount upwards of thirty guns, which, together with the magazine, were destroyed.

In the meantime, the Starling and Algerine had contrived to force a passage through the raft, and had scarcely got to the other side, when a small sand-bag battery and several war-junks opened their fire upon them, very near the point of junction with the Canton river. The Hebe and Louisa took part in this affair; and the Nemesis came up as soon as the lower forts had been silenced; part of the flotilla of boats, under Captain Bourchier, also arrived, and the sand-battery was soon carried, while the war-junks and the flotilla of Chinese armed boats already began to disperse.

A strong fort, opposite the city, mounting twenty guns, called the Rouge Fort, was next silenced, but was not taken possession of immediately. Later in the day, however, a boat from the Nemesis, under Lieut. Pedder, was sent to hoist our flag upon it; and another party from the Sulphur landed nearly at the same time under Captain Belcher.

The large Chinese flotilla before described, was pursued up the river by the Nemesis and the boats, and was soon in a state of indescribable confusion.

At this moment, the division of boats under Captain Belcher and Captain Warren succeeded in getting through the Fatee creek, and, coming suddenly down upon the Chinese boats, which were already so closely pursued, destroyed an immense number of them. Some were driven ashore, some were sunk, and a few escaped up the creeks in the rear of the town.

The Nemesis, in the meantime, had opened her fire upon the Shameen Fort, in the western suburbs of the city; and, under cover of her guns, Captain Bethune put off from her; and a division of boats, with Captains Belcher and Warren at their head, also landed and took the fort, after some resistance. It mounted ten guns.

While these operations were going on in the upper part of the river, the Madagascar had gone down and taken up a position not far from the Dutch Folly, which was a circular fort, in the middle of the river, directly opposite the city, mounting twenty-five guns. In front of it a number of junks laden with stones had been sunk. A small sand-battery of three guns, close to the naval arsenal, which is on the south side of the river, was at the same time carried by another division of boats. Four of the new Chinese gun-boats were also captured.


On the 18th March, 1841,

a   Birdsnest Fort22
b    "          "9
c    "          "9
dShameen Fort10
eRouge Fort20
gDutch Folly25
 In the War Junks15
Together with 6 Gun Boats and 6 Mandarin Boats.


A little before one o'clock, about an hour after the first shot of the day had been fired, and after all the detached forts and batteries, except the so-called Dutch Folly, had been taken, Captain Elliot came on board the Nemesis, and desired that he might be conveyed to the British factory, with a flag of truce hoisted, it being clearly his intention to endeavour to treat at once, without further employment of force. However, scarcely had she got down opposite the European factories, and only within distant range of the Dutch Folly, when the latter opened fire on her, in spite of the flag of truce. Instantly it was hauled down, the fire was returned by other vessels, and the result was that the fort was soon silenced.

The Nemesis then proceeded some little way down the river, towards the Dutch Folly, in company with several boats of the squadron. This circular fort was taken possession of by a party of marines and seamen; and, not far from it, four new gun-boats, built according to European models, were boarded and taken, their crews having abandoned them. The Chinese naval forces offered, in fact, little or no resistance throughout the day; and even their forts, which fired with considerable spirit at a distance, were soon abandoned by their garrisons, when there was any certainty of their coming to close quarters with our men.

At half-past one, Captain Elliot being still on board the Nemesis, she was ordered to return close to the factories, where Captain Hall landed, accompanied by Mr. Morrison, and hastened at once to the British factory, both being equally eager to take possession of it again. In a few moments the British flag was displayed in triumph, with three cheers, which were returned by the steamer and boats. At the same time, Captain Belcher also hastened up towards the factory with a party of men, and was preparing to hoist the colours upon the flag-staff in front of the Factory, when, at that very moment, they were waved from the window of the Factory, by Captain Hall himself.

As all the defences had now been taken, and Canton lay completely at our mercy, one would hardly have expected that any further resistance would have been made. But the Chinese have a fancy of their own for renewing a combat in detached parties, long after all possibility of doing good by it has ceased. On many occasions during the war, they suffered severely and justly for thus uselessly harassing our men after the day was over, and when our troops were in possession of all the enemy's positions.

On this occasion, as Captain Hall and his party were returning[200] to their boat, a body of soldiers rushed out upon them, but were driven back to a narrow street called Hog Lane, beyond the British factory, and were even pursued for some distance up that narrow passage. Many of them were killed while retreating although they crouched down behind their large ratan shields for shelter at each discharge. It was thought imprudent to pursue them far, as in so narrow a space, with low houses on one side, and a dead wall on the other, the retreat of the pursuers might have been cut off. Captain Belcher and his party were also attacked at the same time, and gallantly put the enemy to flight with some loss, pursuing them as far as was prudent.

The Chinese shewed no further disposition to come to close quarters, and our men returned to their boats without further molestation. One man belonging to the Nemesis was wounded during the affray.

Little now remained to be done but to take possession of and destroy some of the boats and junks which had been overlooked in the hurry of more important matters. Late in the evening, the Nemesis anchored in company with the squadron, off the western suburbs of the city, nearly a mile above the factory. The flags of truce were still flying, and it must be admitted that greater forbearance towards the Chinese, or more unwillingness to proceed to the infliction of suffering upon the people or city of Canton, could not possibly have been exhibited than on this memorable day of the first capture of Canton.

It must not be omitted to state that Commodore Sir Gordon Bremer, got up, towards the close of the action, in the Hyacinth's gig, just in time to see the British flag displayed from the Factory. The Herald also arrived as a reinforcement, in the latter part of the day.

One officer and six or seven men wounded were the only casualties on our side, throughout all the operations of the 18th of March.

It was said that several desultory outbreaks of the mob occurred during the evening of this day, which were with some difficulty suppressed by the police. They were in most instances the outbursts of the evil passions of the demoralized mob of Canton, the worst of all the subjects of China, attracted to the centre of foreign commerce, by the hope of profit, or the opportunity of exercising their bad ingenuity. In no part of China has the feeling of hostility to the foreigner prevailed more strongly against us than at Canton. In many other districts, the English force was even welcomed, or, at all events, received without insult or violence.

It is worthy of remark that, during the whole of the following day, the 19th, nothing of importance was done, either as to the[201] further progress of hostilities, or as to the demanding any specified terms from the Chinese. It is easy to guess what interpretation was put upon our inactivity by the authorities and the people. The motive on our part seems to have been principally one of pure compassion, and an unwillingness to take the initiative of proposing terms to the Chinese, which it was their part, as the conquered, to solicit.

After the lapse of one entire day, Captain Elliot and suite were carried down to the Factory in the Nemesis, on the morning of the 20th, where they landed soon after mid-day. There could be little doubt that something important would now be settled. Captain Elliot was bent upon getting the trade opened, and no less so upon bringing about a cessation of hostilities. He was not altogether wrong, perhaps, even in the slowness of his proceedings, considering the extraordinary circumstances in which he was placed. He seems to have merely miscalculated the importance, or perhaps the exigency, of the political crisis in which he found himself placed. He probably viewed the whole matter almost exclusively as a commercial question.

The first public notification was by a circular dated at the hall of the British Factory, by which it was announced that a suspension of hostilities had been agreed upon between the imperial commissioner, Yang-Fang and Captain Elliot. It was further agreed that the trade of the port of Canton should at once be opened. With regard to the opium trade, it was settled that no bond, such as had formerly been demanded by Lin, should now be required, but that the same liabilities should be incurred by any British subject detected in the act of introducing any unlawful goods, as would follow the same offences in England. Captain Elliot also distinctly intimated that, "pending the final settlement of affairs between the two countries, the usual port charges and other dues should continue to be paid as heretofore."

All those who had watched the course of events, and had studied in the slightest degree the Chinese character, could only look upon this temporary arrangement as the mere preliminary of the resumption of hostilities, not as the settlement of peace. In itself, this insignificant demand was almost equivalent to an acknowledgment of failure. That it was so viewed by Sir Gordon Bremer is evident, from the notice which he issued on the next day, the 21st, dated at the Bogue, in which he declared that all vessels proceeding to Whampoa, under this agreement, must do so at the risk of the possible resumption of hostilities.

On the side of the Chinese, a proclamation was issued by Yang, as joint commissioner, (the other two had not yet arrived,) to the effect that, "as Elliot had represented that all he wanted was peace and permission to trade as formerly, and as all trade[202] depended upon the cherishing goodness of the celestial court, that therefore it was right now to permit the English to trade as well as other people, in order to shew a compassionate regard." It was further added, that henceforth the people were carefully to look to and well treat the merchant vessels at Whampoa, as well as the merchants at Canton.

Such, then, were the slender grounds upon which it was agreed that our force should be withdrawn from before Canton, after all the treasure, and labour, and some loss of life, which had been expended in bringing it there.


[42] The vessels engaged were the

Modeste, Commander Eyres;
Algerine, Lieut. Mason;
Starling, Lieut. Kellett;
Herald, Capt. Nias (later in the day;)
Hebe and Louisa Tenders, Mr. Quin and Mr. Carmichael;

Together with the steamers

Nemesis, W. H. Hall, R.N.; and
Madagascar, Mr. Dicey.

A large flotilla of boats, from the squadron generally, was placed under the command of Captain Bourchier assisted by Captain Bethune, and was formed in four divisions, three of which were under the orders of Commanders Barlow and Clarke, and Lieut. Coulson, and the fourth commanded by Captain Belcher and Captain Warren. The whole together must have amounted to little less than forty in number. Upwards of fifty naval officers took part in the operations of this large flotilla alone; the services of which were likely to be of the greatest importance in capturing and destroying the immense flotilla of Chinese boats, of all forms and sizes, which had been pressed into the service of the government for the defence of Canton.


The agreement for the suspension of hostilities, made at Canton by Captain Elliot, on the 20th March, 1841, was only entered into with one of the three newly-appointed imperial commissioners, Yang-Fang being, in fact, the only one who had then arrived. Lung-Wan, the principal joint-commissioner, and Yih-Shan, the Tartar-general associated with him, did not arrive until about three weeks afterwards, when they brought with them a large body of troops, imperfectly armed and little organized. The news of what had already happened must have astonished them beyond all conception.

In the meantime trade went on with great activity, but much caution, at Canton. It was generally believed, nevertheless, that the temporary calm upon the surface would be of short duration, and the growing storm upon the horizon, gave a warning to all who were interested in passing events, to set their house in order.

Rumours were abroad of extensive preparations being actively in progress by the Chinese, somewhere or other above Canton; but the precise situation of them was not discovered until the second attack was made upon the city, in the month of May. It was said that numerous fire-rafts were being constructed, war-junks equipped, and troops collected; and it was little doubted that, as soon as the principal mercantile transactions (which were as important to the Chinese as they were to the foreigners) should be completed, a renewal of hostilities would take place.

In the meantime it was satisfactory to the European residents to know that, as the greater part of our ships of war were at Whampoa, or in that neighbourhood, many of them could be speedily brought up to Canton; and, moreover, the Modeste,[203] Algerine, Hyacinth, and Herald, were still at anchor, much nearer the city. They had only withdrawn to the Macao passage, at the distance of a couple of miles from Canton, after the commencement of the truce.

The Nemesis, meantime, had gone down to Macao, whither she conveyed Captain Elliot and his suite, and took the opportunity of the temporary pause to complete her necessary repairs. Sir Gordon Bremer, at this time, thought it right to go up in person to Calcutta, to represent the state of affairs to the Governor-General, and to request reinforcements. He sailed on or about the 31st March, in the H.C. steamer, Queen; leaving Captain Sir Le Fleming Senhouse in command of the naval forces during his absence.

For some time after the commencement of the truce, the native inhabitants and traders of the city, some of whom, however, had retired from it altogether, continued to pursue their ordinary avocations with some appearance of returning confidence. A proclamation was issued by the governor, tending to allay any remaining apprehensions they might have, and similar pacific assurances were addressed by the authorities, repeatedly, both to the native and foreign residents, even till the very day when their scarcely concealed projects of vengeance were to be attempted.

On the 5th April, Captain Elliot again returned to the factory at Canton, and, during his short residence there, of ten or twelve days, the authorities and the new commissioners succeeded in so far blinding the plenipotentiary to all their hostile purposes, that he himself publicly declared that he was perfectly satisfied with all their "assurances of good faith, and their disposition to fulfil their engagements." The day before he left Canton again—namely, on the 16th April—he expressed himself decidedly to the same purport, in a public proclamation, addressed, however, rather to the Chinese people than to his own countrymen, but calculated likewise to reassure the latter, should they be unable to form any judgment for themselves. And he moreover assured Sir Le Fleming Senhouse that "he entertained no uneasiness for life and property at Canton."

Captain Elliot left the Factory on the following day, and returned to Macao; not, however, without first urging upon Sir Le Fleming Senhouse the propriety of removing our ships further off from the city. He requested that the vessels which were before Shameen should be moved down to the Macao fort, in order to shew our peaceful disposition; and he recommended that proper respect should be manifested to the government, and that the officers in command should do all in their power to uphold its character in the sight of the people, "compatible with[204] the paramount necessity of keeping awake a lively sense that renewed ill faith would be responded to by an immediate blow."

All this had very little effect in rendering the foreign community less apprehensive of a resumption of hostilities.

For a very brief space appearances were favourable, but fresh troops soon began pouring into the town; and some of the natives have since admitted that they even knew that, in secret, fresh cannon were being cast, and extensive preparations, of every description, urged on in the quietest possible manner, evidently with a view to some sudden and unwarned explosion.

Immediately before leaving Canton, on the 17th April, Captain Elliot seemed resolved to take some steps against the continuance of the trade in opium within the river. He applied to Sir Le Fleming Senhouse to prevent any small vessels from passing into the river within the Bogue, unless provided with a passport signed by the plenipotentiary. These passes were to be issued to those alone who could afford him assurance, to his own satisfaction, that the boats or small craft should only be employed in the conveyance of passengers, letters, or supplies. They were to be obtained by foreigners through their own consuls, who would apply to him for them. But he reserved to himself the right of cancelling them whenever he should see cause to determine that such a course "should be necessary in discharge of his engagements;" and, moreover, every ship or vessel was to be forcibly expelled from the river, if it were proved to his satisfaction that she was engaged in "dangerous pursuits" calculated to disturb the truce and interrupt the general trade.

This could, of course, only allude to the trade in opium, and the whole proceeding seems expressly to have been arranged between Captain Elliot and the Chinese authorities, for he actually obtained from the Kwang-chow-foo, or prefect, licences, bearing his official seal, which he could himself distribute to those vessels to which he issued his passports, and which were to have the effect of exempting them from all visit or examination by the Chinese officers, whether connected with the customs or any other department.

One cannot help remarking that this measure, which, however, was only partially carried into effect, gave an immense advantage to the Chinese authorities, while, on our sides, we totally lost sight of the main question at issue. The point gained by the Chinese was, that they at once threw into the back-ground every other question but that of trade, and, above all, that of trade in opium, which, therefore, they ingeniously tried to make appear the "fons et origo" of the whole dispute; and having got Elliot to lend assistance to them in one point, it gave them the advantage of appearing to justify themselves in the eyes of their countrymen,[205] and, indeed, in the opinion of foreigners at a distance, and who were in ignorance of the real state of things, for the greater part of their preposterous and violent proceedings. On our part, it tended to put on one side, as if of minor consideration, the "demand for reparation and redress for injuries inflicted," as her Majesty declared in her speech from the throne, "upon some of her subjects by the imperial officers, and for the indignities offered to an agent of her crown;" this agent being no other than Captain Elliot himself! It put out of sight the indignities offered to Lord Napier, and all who had been concerned in any way in the conduct of our communications with China since the abolition of the exclusive privileges of the East India Company. It overlooked the proper spirit of indignation, which could hardly fail to animate every man who had been imprisoned, insulted, and starved into concessions, which he could have otherwise had no right or authority to yield.

That at this stage of the proceedings endless difficulties appeared to beset the questions at issue, may very justly be urged. But we have at all times to consider the character of the people with whom a question is at issue, in an almost equal degree with the question itself. And it will scarcely be questioned that the character of the Chinese, and especially of the officers of their government, was at that time imperfectly understood. In reality, the proceedings on both sides, between the first conquest of Canton on the 18th of March, and its second surrender under the agreement of ransom upon the 26th of May (which remains yet to be described) were evidently temporary expedients on both sides; on that of the Chinese, to gain time for the preparation of more efficient means of resistance, and for relief from immediate "pressure;" on that of their opponents for the completion of the commercial transactions of the season.

For some time after the commencement of the truce, a guard of marines was stationed in the Factories; but, as soon as Captain Elliot's "assurance proclamation" was issued, they were withdrawn. Up to that time there had been, as is usually the case, a division in the councils to a certain extent; but now the "war and extermination" party got completely the upper hand, and their hopes of success were much encouraged by a report which reached them, that the main body of our force was about to proceed to the northward, to operate on the coast. This was, in fact, really intended, as will be seen presently, although it was subsequently deferred, owing to reports of the preparations at Canton, and the expectation of a speedy outbreak.

The Emperor's proclamations to all the maritime districts continued to breathe a spirit of uncompromising war; and the governor of the province of Che-keang, (under whom are the Chusan[206] Islands,) the venerable Elepoo, was severely reproved for having permitted the barbarians to retire from Chusan under Keshen's treaty, instead of having advanced to drive them out by force, and to effect their destruction.

Thus, at the commencement of May, the speedy resumption of hostilities seemed inevitable; and the report brought from the northward by the Columbine, Captain Clarke, of the preparations which were being carried on by the Chinese, and of the refusal of the authorities of Che-keang to receive from that officer a despatch which he had been ordered and sent expressly to deliver, tended to confirm every previous impression.[43] Nor was this all. Information was brought from Canton that, on the 30th April, no less than forty boats had passed in front of the Factories, having on board at least two thousand troops; that they proceeded a little lower down, and landed at a short distance from the Dutch Folly, and thence marched into the city.

An explanation of this circumstance was demanded, and an evasive reply was sent by the Kwang-chow-foo, or prefect, to Captain Elliot. A few days afterwards, it was distinctly reported that the English at Canton were to be suddenly attacked, and all their property destroyed. And, on the 8th May, no less than seventy more boats passed before the Factories, bringing down full three thousand troops to the city, and these were said to be the advanced guard of a large army. It was known, also, that a vast number of fire-rafts were being prepared, and several hundred divers were said to be in training, who were to go down and bore holes in our ships at night; or even, as the Chinese privately reported, to carry down with them some combustible material which would burn under water and destroy our vessels.

The Nemesis was, during all this time, incessantly employed in carrying letters and despatches, as well as officers, from one place to another. Constant communications were kept up; Sir Le Fleming Senhouse and Captain Elliot were continually passing and repassing to and from different points within the river—frequently up to Whampoa, or even to the neighbourhood of the very Factories at Canton.


At the same period, arrangements for the complete settlement and government of Hong-Kong were being continued without intermission. Officers were appointed, a magistrates court formed, proclamations issued, and establishments of various kinds commenced. In short, it seemed very evident that we had no intention of restoring the island to the Chinese, whatever might be the reply of the Emperor to Keshen's treaty.

Preparations had already been commenced at Hong-Kong for the advance of our force upon Amoy, under Sir Hugh Gough, with a view to carry on hostilities further to the northward; but they were now temporarily suspended, in order to meet the approaching crisis at Canton.

If anything had been wanting to confirm the rumour, not only of the extensive preparations of the Chinese government to recommence the attack, but also to indicate the disposition of the people of Canton towards us, it was to be found in a curious address, or chop, publicly circulated in the city, and even posted upon its walls. It purported to express the sentiments of the people themselves, or to be an address from that portion which claimed to be most patriotic to the other portion which might possibly be less so. It was intended to inflame the public mind against us, but it was not sealed or apparently sanctioned by the government.

All this was designed, of course, to frighten the barbarians; and although it professed to be a mere ebullition of the spirit of the people, there is little doubt that the government were cognizant of it. This is rendered more probable by the circumstance that, only a few days afterwards, the prefect of the city issued distinct orders to the elders of the people, that they should cause them to remove their wives and children, with all their moveable property, from the neighbourhood of the river.

At length, even Captain Elliot himself began to catch a glimmering of the truth, which seemed to steal but slowly upon his unwilling eyes. On the 10th of May he resolved to go in person to Canton in the Nemesis, and, in order the better to impress the Chinese with the opinion which he retained of their good faith, he even took up Mrs. Elliot with him—probably the first time an English female had set foot in Canton.

The next morning the Nemesis was moved down to the Macao, or Broadway Passage, about three quarters of a mile from the Factories. Captain Elliot, as soon as he landed at the Factory, sought an interview with the Kwang-chow-foo, or prefect, and demanded certain explanations from him, which evidently embarrassed him not a little. The answers were evasive and unsatisfactory; previously-lurking suspicions were more than confirmed, and Captain Elliot left the Factory that same evening, preferring to sleep on board the Nemesis.

No time was now to be lost in seeking a conference with the[208] naval and military commanders-in-chief, who were then at Hong-Kong; and, accordingly, on the following morning, the 12th, the Nemesis was ordered to convey him, with all speed, down the river to that place, a communication being made, on his way down, to Captain Herbert, commanding the advanced squadron at Whampoa, who was already prepared for an approaching crisis. The result of the conference held at Hong-Kong the same day was, that the expedition to Amoy was to be positively postponed, and the whole disposable force moved once more towards Canton.

Hong-Kong was now the scene of general bustle and activity, a new disposition of the forces was made, and every measure adopted for their speedy junction as near as possible to Canton. By the judicious exertions of Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, and the hearty co-operation of all his officers, eager once more for active employment, the whole fleet of men-of-war and transports, with all the troops on board, were ready to sail in five days. Every man that could be spared, except the invalids and convalescents, was embarked; and every ship of war, except the Druid, which was left for the protection of the harbour, was under orders for the Canton river.

On the 18th and 19th, having been a little delayed by calms, they all got away in admirable order, full of high hope and promise that now, at length, they were to become masters of the great southern emporium of foreign commerce.

Captain Elliot now once more proceeded to Canton, as usual, in the Nemesis, which took him up there in a very few hours. He returned to his quarters in the Factory; but, so incontrovertible were the evidences of the hostile intentions of the Chinese, and so strong the apprehension of the momentary bursting forth of some treacherous plot, that the Nemesis, which was the only vessel at hand, was kept cleared for action, with the guns loaded, steam up, and the cable in readiness to slip, although no immediate danger was visible.

Captain Elliot now very properly advised the merchants, by public proclamation, to make their arrangements, so as to be prepared to leave Canton at a moment's notice. On the following day, the 20th, the Nemesis was moved close up to the Factories, or a little above them, for the protection of the whole foreign community. It was already discovered that the western battery above the city at Shameen had been repaired and armed at least ten days before; that a large encampment had been formed to the eastward of the town, for some of the newly-arrived troops; while new works had also been erected on the river-side in the same direction—that is, below the town, in the rear of the French Folly. Tartar troops were still pouring into[209] the city in great numbers, while the citizens themselves were hastening out of it with precipitation. Goods and chattels of all kinds were being carried away; confusion was evident where everything is usually so orderly; and it is said that soldiers were even seen moving about with matchlocks, and their slow matches ready lighted in their hands.

Our own forces were by this time on the way up, the troops from Hong-Kong had already passed the Bogue, and the light squadron had begun to move from Whampoa. Still Captain Elliot was in the Factory, and still a great portion of the merchants remained at their posts, ready to decamp at a moment's notice, yet anxiously devoting every doubtful moment of delay to the purpose of arranging, as well as they could, their complicated affairs.

The Chinese, finding that their plans were now fairly discovered, were placed in the predicament of being obliged to hurry on the execution of them more rapidly than they had intended. But still the authorities resolved once more to try the effect of a proclamation, to lull suspicion. Having found themselves, on several occasions, so successful in their art of duplicity, they hoped still to catch the unwary foreigners in their net; and there is some reason to believe they intended to take the whole foreign community by surprise, and seize them in their Factories, something after the fashion adopted by Commissioner Lin.

Nevertheless, fearful of being prematurely driven into the exposure of their designs, the prefect thought proper to issue on the 20th (only the day before the attack actually commenced) a proclamation to the following effect, under his official seal. He stated that "he issued this edict in order to calm the feelings of the merchants, and to tranquillize commercial business." That "it was to be feared that the merchants, seeing the gathering of the military hosts, would tremble with alarm, not knowing where these things would end." That, "instead of being frightened out of their wits, so as to abandon their goods, and secretly go away, they ought to be assured that the imperial commissioner and general pacificator of the rebels, with the other higher officers, would manage things with due consideration, so that the obedient shall be protected from all injury, and their goods preserved in safety." He concluded by saying, "that the foreign merchants ought also to remain quiet in their lawful pursuits, continuing their trade as usual, without alarm or suspicion."

All this in the face of incessant preparations, carried on day and night, for the resumption of hostilities, and for the treacherous annihilation of everything belonging to foreigners within their grasp! and the very day before the explosion.


It was of course known to the authorities that our forces were already moving up the river; their own plans, therefore, were necessarily hastened, in the hope that by a simultaneous attack by fire-rafts on our shipping at different points, as well as on the Factories, they might get completely the upper hand of us before our forces could be concentrated upon the city. Early in the morning, therefore, Capt. Elliot recommended in strong terms, that all foreigners should leave Canton before sunset.

During this whole day, the consternation among the Chinese in the neighbourhood of the Factories, increased every hour; shops were closed, goods removed, and several of our officers who went on shore to see what was going on, were prevented by guards of Chinese soldiers, from passing through any of the usually frequented streets beyond the immediate proximity of the Factories.

The crisis was now at its height. Many of the merchants had withdrawn to Whampoa several days before, and in the course of this day, all the rest (except two American gentlemen) got away in boats. The small party of marines which were with Capt. Elliot, in the British Factory, were withdrawn by orders of Capt. Herbert, who had come up from Whampoa as commander of the advanced squadron, and before sunset Capt. Elliot himself, with his suite, once more abandoned the Factory, and came on board the Nemesis. Capt. Herbert, however, removed on board the Modeste. And now, the flag of England was finally lowered at Canton, where it was never again hoisted until long after the conclusion of peace.

In the meantime, the Pylades and Modeste, together with the Algerine, had been moved closer up to the town, for mutual protection. The Nemesis still remained a little above the Factories, together with the Louisa, Capt. Elliot's own cutter, and Mr. Dent's schooner, the Aurora. A dull and ominous suspense reigned on every side; a general stagnation of ordinary intercourse; and that noble river, usually so busy with the hum of men, and, as it were, alive with the innumerable boats of every shape and fashion which ply upon its surface, and that active, busy, almost countless population, which make their home upon its friendly waters, and seem happy in their thrifty industry, all now were dull, and almost still with a portentous dreariness.

The sun at length set gloomily. The darkness of the night was remarkable; and one better adapted for surprising an enemy could hardly have been chosen. But, although the precise nature of their plans, or mode of attack was not known, yet enough had been clearly ascertained to render every possible precaution necessary. The Modeste lay somewhat higher up the river than the Nemesis, and was likely to be the first to discover the approach[211] of an enemy in that quarter, whatever might be their design.

On board the Nemesis no precaution was omitted; double sentries were placed; the men below were all ordered to lie down ready equipped for instant service; even the fires were laid and lighted in the furnaces, so that steam could be got up in a few minutes if requisite. All who could be spared retired to rest, but not to sleep. The feeling of excitement was too general to permit repose. Capt. Elliot laid himself down in his cloak upon the quarter-deck, while Capt. Hall, ever on the alert, stretched himself upon the bridge between the paddle-boxes, ready at a second's warning to give the necessary orders. Capt. Herbert, also, who was at that time on board the Modeste, had fully impressed every one with the necessity of omitting no precaution against the impending danger.

Equal activity and similar precautions were adopted on board all the other ships, and already the Herald and Calliope had been moved up the river, to within a short distance of Canton.


[43] The despatch was believed to relate principally to the supposed death of Captain Stead, of the Pestonjee Bomanjee transport, who had been attacked, and was supposed to have been murdered, near Keeto Point, on one of the islands near Chusan, after the restoration of that island to the Chinese. He landed, to make inquiries, being in ignorance of what had happened, and surprised to see Chusan harbour in possession of the Chinese.


The intense anxiety which took possession of every one's mind at Canton, on the evening of the expected attack upon our vessels by the Chinese, as described at the close of the last chapter, has not by any means been exaggerated. The very uncertainty of the plans of the Chinese served to increase the interest felt, and the extreme darkness of the night gave the greatest cause for apprehension of treachery.

During the early part of the evening complete stillness prevailed; nothing whatever betokened an immediate attack. It was about eleven o'clock when the alarm was given. One of the sentries of the Modeste, which was a little in advance of the other vessels,[44] first discovered several large, dark-looking masses dropping down with the stream. Being hailed by the sentry, the Chinese who had charge of them immediately set fire to the combustible materials which they contained. The flames, bursting forth suddenly, spread the alarm, and pointed out the danger to the other vessels, while it was still remote. There was a general beat to quarters; steam was rapidly got up on board the Nemesis, the fires having been lighted early in the evening; the anchor was weighed, and, in the short space of NINE MINUTES from the time the alarm was given, the Nemesis was under weigh, and under command of the helm.


The premature discovery of the design, before it was actually commenced, disconcerted the plans of the Chinese, and caused them to set fire to the rafts sooner than had been intended. The derangement of a grand scheme at its outset embarrasses all the subsequent details, and is apt to discourage all those who are employed to carry them into execution. The moment they cease to act in concert, the failure of every part of the scheme is certain. Thus, on the present occasion, in consequence of some of the fire-rafts being ignited too soon, the greater part of the rest were not ignited at all; so that, out of the immense number, about a hundred, which had been prepared, not above ten or a dozen were set on fire or sent down against our vessels at Canton. Some, however, were sent adrift against the Alligator, at anchor near Howqua's Fort.

These fire-rafts were ingeniously constructed to effect their object, being composed of boats chained together in twos and threes, so that, drifting down with the stream, they might hang across the bows of a ship, so as not to be easily got clear. They were filled with all kinds of combustible materials. Numerous junks and smaller boats were barely seen in the distance higher up the river, said to have a large body of troops on board, for the purpose of trying to board our ships during the confusion which it was expected would take place. But the moment they found that they were likely to meet with a warm reception, they did their best to get away again as fast as they could.

The Nemesis ran up at full speed towards the fire-rafts, in order to assist the boats of the squadron in towing them away.[45] Many of them, however, drifted fairly on shore, and set fire to the suburbs of the town, causing much greater alarm to the Chinese than they did to those whom they were designed to annihilate. It was a grand spectacle, in the sullen darkness of the night, to see these floating masses of fire drifting about the river, and shewing, by their own reflected light, the panic-stricken parties of Chinese who had charge of them, trying to escape towards the shore, which few of them were destined to reach. Some threw themselves overboard, were carried down the stream, and their struggles were soon ended; others were shot at random by our musketry, the moment they were discovered by our men, betrayed by the light of the fires they had themselves kindled.


So far the Chinese scheme proved a total failure. Nor was the attempt more successful upon the Alligator, off Howqua's Fort. The attack was to have been simultaneously made upon all our ships in different parts of the river, both at Whampoa and at the Bogue; but, owing to some error, or more probably, the premature explosion of their plan at Canton, the attack on the Wellesley, at the Bogue, did not take place until nearly midnight of the 24th, three days afterwards. It was, however, well concerted, and very formidable, as it comprised a flotilla of little less than twenty vessels, chained in twos and threes; many of these had gunpowder as well as other combustibles on board. It was not without great exertion of Commander Fletcher and the few officers and men remaining on board (most of them being absent on service under Capt. Maitland, with the advanced squadron) that they were towed clear of the ship, by the only three boats she had left. In no instance was any damage done to our ships.

But the plan of the Chinese was not limited to their exploits with fire-rafts. The new batteries before spoken of, as having been erected by Yih-shan, just above Canton, towards the river side, opened a heavy fire upon our ships, just when it was imagined they would have been embarrassed by the fire-vessels. The artillery now began to roar on both sides, although, owing to the midnight darkness, it was solely directed by the flashing of each others guns.

The Nemesis had now run so close in shore, that she was able clearly to distinguish, by the light of the batteries and the reflection of the fire in the suburbs, the different Tartar officers rallying and encouraging their men to fight the guns. The two small vessels which lay off the Factories (the Louisa and Aurora) were at one time in imminent danger, as the Chinese had actually brought down to the river side a very large gun, and planted it within good range, to blow them out of the water. They could not be moved until the tide turned; but, by alternately veering out cable and shortening it in again, so as to alter the range and balk the Chinese gunners during the darkness, they managed to escape with trifling damage. In the morning they were moved out of danger with the turn of tide. At intervals, the firing was kept up until daylight.

At length, the sun rose brightly upon the scene of midnight encounter; and now, the wrecks of the still burning fire-vessels, the crumbling batteries on shore, the suburbs of the town in flames, the deserted river, and some trifling damages on board one or two of our own vessels, bore witness to what had happened.

The attack upon the Shameen battery was now renewed, and it was soon silenced by the fire of the vessels. A few shot and shell were thrown into the adjoining suburbs, where the fire had broken out; but some of the Chinese soldiers, who had already[214] abandoned their guns, when they found that our men did not land immediately to take possession of the works, actually returned and fired another round or two from the Shameen battery. They were soon, however, driven out, and eight fine large brass guns were captured.

It was during these operations at Canton, that Capt. Elliot and Capt. Herbert narrowly escaped a very dangerous accident, which might have proved fatal to many, had it not been fortunately averted by the personal coolness and resolution of the captain of the Nemesis. A Congreve rocket, which had been placed in the proper tube from which it is fired, and had been already ignited, accidentally hung within it, instead of being projected, as intended. In another second it would have burst in the tube itself, and must have killed or wounded all those who were standing near it upon the bridge between the paddle-boxes. With instant coolness and presence of mind, Capt. Hall put his arm into the tube and forcibly pushed it out from behind, although the rush of fire which came out of it burnt his hand severely and caused intense pain. Indeed, it was not done without great personal risk. It is difficult to calculate what disastrous results might not have followed, had the rocket burst in the tube, on board ship.

Just when all opposition at the Shameen battery had been overcome, an unlooked-for opportunity occurred of rendering signal service, by the discovery of the principal rendezvous of all the fire-rafts and men-of-war junks, whose place of retreat had hitherto been concealed. Every fresh report had confirmed the previous information that preparations of an extensive kind had been made by the Chinese higher up the river, but it was supposed to be at some place much more distant than was now found to be the case. The first thing which led to the discovery was the suspicious appearance of a large war-junk, which suddenly came out from behind a point of land some way above the fort. Having fired one or two distant shots, she again withdrew out of sight.

The Nemesis instantly proceeded in search of the expected prize, under the orders of Captain Herbert, who was on board. The junk again stole out from her hiding-place, but, the moment she observed the steamer coming towards her, she made off in all haste up a large creek, which turned round to the northward. About a mile or less within this passage, the whole Chinese fleet of war-junks, fire-rafts, boats, &c., was suddenly descried, to the number, probably, of more than a hundred.

This was an exciting moment. The Chinese were thrown into the utmost consternation by the sudden approach of the steamer; and the more numerous were the junks and craft of all kinds, the greater was the confusion into which they were thrown.[215] Every shot now told upon the confused mass. The Chinese ran most of their boats ashore, in order to make their own escape; others tried to make their way up the creek, each one striving to pass the other. Suddenly a small masked battery opened fire upon the steamer; but a few round shot, followed by grape, drove the Chinese from their guns, and served to disperse a small body of troops, who were drawn up in the rear. The water soon became too shallow for the steamer to proceed further, and she, therefore, came to anchor.

Some boats from the Calliope and Herald and other vessels now joined, and, together with the boats of the Nemesis, continued the pursuit, and destroyed or run ashore an immense number of junks, fire-rafts, and fishing-boats of every kind.

About fifty boats were found filled with combustibles, and were joined eight or nine together, having been destined to drift down with the tide upon our vessels. Many of the junks had troops on board, from distant parts of the empire, intended for the relief of the city.

The scene was extremely animating; numbers of the Chinese were scrambling ashore, or clinging to fragments of their boats or spars, as they floated about in the water. Some of the junks were burnt, and others blown up, but the precaution was taken to examine carefully every one of them before it was set on fire, in order to rescue any of the panic-stricken Chinese who might be trying to find concealment in it. But, in spite of this precaution, the structure of the junks afforded so many little hiding places for the terrified Chinese, that, as the fires gradually burnt more briskly, and took more certain effect upon the vessels, several poor fellows were observed to rush up from below, and then, unable to support the heat upon deck, to jump desperately overboard. Some of these swam easily on shore; others, who could not swim, remained clinging to the outside of the junk, or to the rudder, until the heat became insupportable, or the vessel itself blew up. In this way, some few necessarily perished, for it was not possible to save them all, owing to the small number of boats employed on our side, and the large number of those destroyed on theirs; besides which, the heat and danger were often too great to be able to approach near enough to render timely assistance.

Thus, in the short space of three hours, forty-three war-junks were blown up, and thirty-two fire-rafts destroyed, besides smaller boats. Some which had been run ashore were left untouched.

This important encounter produced one very valuable result, as it led to the discovery of the most desirable landing-place for our troops, in the projected attack on the heights of Canton. This spot was distinctly seen and remarked upon by the different[216] officers on board the Nemesis, and was particularly noticed by Captain Herbert, in his report of this affair to Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, written on the very same day. This is not a matter of slight moment, because all allusion to this circumstance was omitted in the public despatch of Sir Le Fleming Senhouse. In Captain Herbert's report, dated on the 22nd of May, on board the Nemesis, that officer, after having described the destruction of the numerous boats and fire-rafts, distinctly said:—"Their wrecks are lining both banks of the river nearly close up to Tsingpoo, the landing-place, from which a good approach appears to lead direct to the north gate of the city wall, not more than four miles distant, with dry footing the whole way." He also intimated that artillery might probably be brought there. Moreover, while Captain Hall was lying in bed with pain and fever from his disabled hand, the general himself and other officers subsequently came down into his cabin, purposely to make inquiry concerning the landing-place and the country about it, such as it had been seen from the Nemesis.

On the following day, the 23rd, the Sulphur, under Captain Belcher, having with him the Druid's launch, and several other boats, proceeded into the same creek in which Captain Herbert had found the landing-place the day before, and destroyed one or two junks and rafts which had been left the previous day, and some others which had returned after their first escape. Five junks and thirteen small boats were destroyed. The practicable landing-place at Tsingpoo was also reported on by that officer, and he added that he got himself hoisted up to the mast-head of a junk, sextant in hand, to get a look at the country, and observed the enemy encamped on the verge of a hill, but that he "had not the slightest doubt that they would have fled, had he advanced towards the hill." As it was, however, he was content with landing at the temple at Tsingpoo, and, throwing into the river the five guns of the little masked battery which had opened on the Nemesis the day before, and had been silenced by her fire, but which Captain Herbert had not thought it worth his while to destroy, as the war-junks and fire-rafts claimed his more immediate attention.

Captain Belcher hastened down to the Blenheim the same evening, and reported what he had done to Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, "who," he says, (see Voyage of the Sulphur, p. 184 to 187,) "had been sitting up for him, and seemed delighted beyond measure at what he heard."

To return to the Nemesis, as she came back towards the Factories, from the scene of her exploits at Tsingpoo on the previous day. The remarks of a gentleman who was at Canton at the time are curious enough. Speaking of what occurred, he says:—"From[217] time to time loud explosions were heard in that direction [Tsingpoo]; dense volumes of smoke rose up continually, both black and white, and announced some terrible work of destruction. After some time a general cheer burst forth from all those who were near me, as the Nemesis came in sight, just rounding the corner on her return, towing several boats after her towards the Macao passage. It was an interesting and even ludicrous sight, as she approached, to observe the boats, as well as the vessel itself, decked out with Chinese flags, the men exhibiting their trophies with evident pride, some rigged out in every variety of Chinese dress, from mandarins downwards; some with Chinese caps, and others with Chinese tails, with which a whole boat's crew were decorated. It appears that, when they took prisoners, they merely cut off their tails, (a mark of deep disgrace to a Chinaman,) and let them go again about their business."

But the day was by no means ended yet; and, indeed, the business had commenced so early, (at dawn,) that even at this time it was little more than eight o'clock. And now comes a scene of a very different kind. I have before stated, that the guard of marines had been withdrawn from the Factory, and the flag struck on the previous day. A vast quantity of property had already been removed, but much still remained, of considerable value, and much more was supposed to be left behind of still greater importance. All this became an object of longing to the mob, to say nothing of any natural feeling of hostility, which was ready to vent itself upon something or other. Pillage now became the order of the day. It is said even that a party of Chinese soldiers were first sent down expressly to search for arms. Of these they found none; but there were still enough of other things to tempt their avarice. They had certainly the first choice of the booty, although the general mob speedily joined in the general ransack. Several of the officers, or low mandarins, were seen to be quite as busy as the rest of the people, some even carrying away plunder upon their horses, and others who had none sending for them on purpose.

Readers who can picture to themselves the long, gloomy labyrinths of passages, and alleys, and staircases, which are comprised within the piles of buildings called the Factories, can well imagine the terrible scene of riot, destruction, and pillage, which was going on; yet, probably, not worse than would have been committed by an English mob under similar circumstances; as Bristol, Birmingham, and other places can testify. There was a reckless destruction of property which could not be removed, even after every article of furniture as well as merchandise had been carried away. Doors and windows were soon disposed of,[218] and the very staircases and stone floorings were broken up and destroyed.

In the Old Company's or British Factory, the confusion was most terrible, because in it there remained a greater number of valuable objects to destroy. The beautiful chandeliers and fine looking-glasses were soon annihilated and carried off piecemeal; and the noble large marble statue which stood in the great hall served as an object of especial vengeance, as if it contained within itself the very germs or symbols of all the barbarian nations of the earth, and could communicate to them a portion of the insults now heaped upon it as it lay prostrate in the hall.

During the whole day, the same mad scene of destruction was continued; and whatever still defied the hands of the infuriate mob was at length made to yield to the consuming power of fire. Not all the thirteen Hongs, however, were visited with this terrible pillage; many of them escaped altogether, which is somewhat remarkable; but all those situated between the limits of Hog Lane and a small creek which runs into the river at the other end, were entirely destroyed, except the bare walls. Within this space were included the British, together with the Dutch and the Creek Factories, a very fine and extensive range of handsome buildings.

Towards the close of the day, when the work of destruction was nearly completed, down came, at length, the prefect of the city in person, attended by a large party of police. He now succeeded in driving away the main body of the mob, and then gave charge of the Factories to the Hong merchants, to whom all the buildings belonged, and who took possession of the little that remained, with the assistance of a number of their own hired labourers, armed for the occasion.

The account given of this day's proceedings by a highly respectable American merchant, who imprudently remained behind the night before, is extremely valuable. Without going into minute details, it will suffice to mention, that Mr. Coolidge was taken prisoner, after being in great danger of being cut down, and was, with many insults, carried into the heart of the city. As he was marched along, he passed several bodies of soldiers and coolies, or day-labourers, hurrying down towards the Factories, and dragging guns along with them. As soon as he came near the head-quarters of the Tartar general, the crowd and movement increased; officers of every grade, grooms and messengers on horseback, hurrying to and fro, executioners and city-guards, together with strange troops from distant provinces, in every variety of costume—these were all huddled together, and jostled in the greatest bustle and confusion.

After some delay, he was carried, with every possible insult,[219] before the criminal judge, and there, to his horror, he discovered several of his countrymen, who had been wounded and captured as they were trying to escape in a boat down the river. The sufferings and indignities they now underwent were extreme; nor did their assertion, that they were Americans, prove of much service to them, for they were told that, in that case, they "ought to speak a different language, and wear a different dress."

It is very certain, however, that the Chinese generally at Canton know perfectly well the difference between an American and an Englishman, politically. But, on the other hand, when an Englishman gets into trouble there, he most commonly declares himself to be an American; and how could the Chinese prove that he is not so? But the national distinction is perfectly well defined, even in their own language, as is commonly known; the Americans being called the "people of the flowery flag," from the number of stars on it, while the English were known as the "red people," or "red-haired people," an appellation originally applied to the Dutch traders.

The American prisoners remained in the condition I have described, exposed to every possible suffering in the common prison, for nearly two days, when they were at length turned out, and carried in chairs to the ruined Factories, where they were planted among the ruins, just as if they had been portions of the marble statue which had been destroyed.

It was just at this time that our troops landed—namely, the Cameronians, under Major Pratt, (as will be presently seen,)—and, of course, every attention was paid to the unhappy sufferers; and, as Mr. Coolidge observes, "I cannot tell you with what feelings of good-will we looked upon every one of those redcoats."

Soon after mid-day, while the work of destruction was going on at the Factories, Captain Elliot and Captain Herbert proceeded with all speed down to Whampoa, in order to make arrangements for the hasty advance of the whole force, which was nearly all there assembled, not far from Whampoa. Captain Elliot, however, could not forego the pleasure of giving a parting proclamation to the Chinese, even then. He told the people of Canton, "that their city had twice been spared, but that his agreement with the three commissioners had now been violated by them, by the arming of their forts, and by their secret preparations to attack the English, who were the real protectors of the city." He called upon them "to remember the hour of battle, and to consider whether the troops of the other provinces now among them were not the real scourges of the inhabitants;" and, after a little more in the same compassionate strain, he wound up by calling upon them "to turn out the commissioners[220] and their troops from the city within twelve hours, otherwise that the English would be obliged to withdraw their protection from the city, and take military possession of it, confiscating all the property to the Queen of England."

This must have sounded highly gratifying to the Chinese; quite in the Oriental style; and it was exceedingly probable that the mob of Canton would have the power, even had they the will, to turn out about twenty thousand troops, together with the high authorities, all in the twinkling of an eye, by a sort of talismanic "Open sesame!"

The storm was now gathering thicker and thicker every hour; our forces were all by this time concentrated within a few short miles of the city; delay was no longer possible; and the moment appeared inevitably come, though long delayed, when the Chinese authorities must yield to force, where "reason" and negotiation had been tried in vain, and written instruments had failed.


[44] Namely, the Pylades, Algerine, Nemesis, and Louisa cutter.

[45] Boats of the Calliope, Herald, Modeste, Pylades, and Algerine.


A few remarks upon the city and neighbourhood of Canton, before which our troops are now for the first time about to appear, (the previous operations of the 18th March having been entirely limited to the naval forces,) will contribute to the interest of the subsequent narrative. The city of Canton, or Kwantung, is situated upon the northern bank of the river usually known by the same name, though sometimes called by Europeans the Pearl river, from its Chinese name, Choo-keang. Its distance from the Bogue is about forty miles.

The scenery around the city is extremely diversified. On the northern and north-eastern sides it is commanded by hills, the possession of which by an enemy must, of necessity, place the city at his mercy. In other directions it presents the aspect of a low and abundantly-watered plain, cut up by canals and little rivers, which serve both for irrigation and for communication with the interior. So numerous are they, that in some parts nearly a third part of the whole surface is occupied by water. The appearance of the country is rich, and at most seasons beautifully green, being divided into rice-fields and little gardens, with here and there a clump of trees or a small village, or the country residences of some of the wealthier inhabitants of the city, to diversify the prospect.

About three or four miles to the westward of the city, and[221] curving round at the foot of the hills which command it, runs the creek or river in which the war-junks and fire-rafts had been destroyed by the Nemesis and boats. The excellent landing-place at Tsingpoo, which had been discovered on that occasion, was very conveniently situated for the debarkation of troops destined to attack the heights above the city, which are in fact the key to its occupation.

The city and its suburbs occupy the whole space between the hills and the river; the suburbs, however, being little less extensive than the city itself. The latter is surrounded by a high wall, which has twelve entrances, and it may be about six or seven miles in circumference. On the south, or river side, a portion of the suburbs extends down to the water-side; and in the western corner of these are situated the foreign factories, and the principal packhouses of the Hong merchants, which are partly built on piles on the river's bank. On the northern side, the wall rests directly upon the brow of the hills; and, indeed, there is a hill of moderate elevation actually within the walls, the possession of which would, in fact, give the command of the entire city, and which could have been held by a small force against any troops the Chinese could bring against it. Another wall divides the city into two unequal parts, running from east to west, and called the Old and the New City, the latter being much more modern than the former, but differing from it very little in appearance. The residences of all the high officers, the Viceroy, Lieutenant-Governor, Tartar General, and others, together with a public arsenal, are situated in the Old City; but the moment we got possession of the two forts, called the Dutch and French Follies, we could command the whole of these places, without in any degree endangering the Factories, which are at a considerable distance to the westward, in the suburbs.

The heights above the city were crowned with four strong forts, built principally of brick at the upper part, but of stone below. They mounted altogether forty-two guns of various calibre, together with a great number of ginjals and wall-pieces. Between them and the city walls, the distance of which varied from one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty paces, there was an irregular, and in some parts deep and broken ravine. The hill before described as within the circuit of the walls was also within range of the heights; and so important was this position afterwards considered by Sir Hugh Gough, that he distinctly declared that, with "this in his possession, he would have been responsible that the city should have been spared, and that not a soldier should have entered the town farther than this fortified height."

With these few preliminary observations, we may now return[222] to the point at which our combined naval and military forces were all concentrated, below Whampoa, on the 22nd and 23rd of March, having sailed from Hong-Kong on the 18th and 19th of that month.

An important general order was now issued by Sir Hugh Gough, preparatory to the advance of our troops upon Canton. It betokened the true feeling which animated the expedition; and, while it goes far to refute the belief that wanton cruelty was inflicted upon the Chinese, it does honour to the expedition, as primâ facie evidence of the forbearance with which our power was exercised. After first alluding to the novelty of the Chinese system of warfare to the British soldier, as one making up in cunning and artifice what it lacks in discipline, and, after recommending extreme caution against surprise and stratagem, and, above all, the observance of the strictest discipline, Sir Hugh Gough proceeds to remind his soldiers that "Great Britain had gained as much fame by her clemency and forbearance as by the gallantry of her troops. An enemy in arms is always a legitimate foe; but the unarmed, or the supplicant for mercy, of whatever country or whatever colour, a true British soldier will always spare." Such was in reality the feeling which animated the whole expedition, although the desultory attacks of the Chinese, and the refusal of many of them to surrender when all further resistance was useless, sometimes occasioned a loss of life which was to be deplored, but which could not be prevented.

The channel through which our forces were now about to advance upon Canton was one which had been not long before examined for the first time, one may even say discovered, by Mr. Browne, the master of the Calliope; Lieut. Kellett, of the Starling; Mr. Johnson, the master of the Conway, and other officers. It came to be called Browne's Passage, although Mr. Browne himself called it the "main branch of the Canton river." It runs to the southward of French Island, towards the Macao passage, and is a much more important branch of the river than that which runs along the northern side of that island, which was first explored in the Nemesis by Captain Herbert and Captain Elliot, and along which our vessels had proceeded to the attack of the Macao Fort, as before described.[46]

In Captain Herbert's report to Sir Gordon Bremer, in the middle of March, referring to some of these passages, he stated that "boats from the Calliope, Herald, Hyacinth, Sulphur, and Starling, had, on several occasions, explored the channels in the south branch of the river, from Danes' Island upwards, and that they had found a safe and deep passage for vessels drawing sixteen feet water up to the city of Canton, except two bars, which it required high water to pass." Mr. Browne and Lieut. Kellett, with the boats, had proceeded along the channel between Danes' and French Islands, and then entered the passage, which runs along the southern side of the latter.


The Chinese had commenced preparations for the defence of these channels at several points; there was a battery of ten guns, another of fourteen, and one of four guns, in the passage between the two islands, or French River, which was too small for ships to pass through it. Other batteries were also found in the so-called Browne's Passage, one of which was calculated to mount thirty-seven guns. Indeed, in all the branches of the river, batteries were found, some partially, some completely, finished. At one of these, a little above the last mentioned, there were not less than forty guns ready for mounting, newly cast, and with quite new carriages. But the Chinese offered no resistance; and, on one occasion, Lieutenant Kellett invited the mandarin in charge of one of these forts to come and breakfast with him, presuming that he had more appetite for food than for fighting.

Mr. Browne and Mr. Johnson made a good rough survey of the whole of this important channel, in which there was found to be depth of water sufficient for our largest transports, to the distance of about ten miles. Even a line-of-battle ship, the Blenheim, was carried up nearly as far as the transports; and hence the beginning of the passage along the southern bank of Danes' Island obtained the name of the Blenheim Reach. It is here that our largest merchant ships have since usually anchored.

The 23rd of May was occupied in completing the necessary preparations for the conveyance of our troops, marines, small-arm men, and camp-followers, up to the city of Canton; but it was not until noon of the 24th that our forces could commence their advance. In the meantime, Captain Belcher had been directed to collect as many Chinese boats as possible higher up the river, and to send them down with the tide. Gradually they had been dropping down from the direction of the city, until, at length, there were enough collected for the conveyance of two thousand men, besides camp-followers, stores, and matériel of all kinds. At the same time, with a view to embarrass the Chinese as much as possible, orders had been given that all the native trading-boats should be detained, and that all the salt-junks should be stopped. In the course of a few days, no less than one hundred and forty-one trading-junks, of every description, were brought-to, and detained in the neighbourhood of Napier's Fort, and at the Naval Arsenal below the city; they comprised little less than ten thousand tons of shipping, manned by about one thousand one hundred Chinese sailors. The sudden stoppage[224] of this considerable trade could not fail to make a deep impression upon the whole people of Canton. No injury, however, was done to any of the trading-vessels, which were all suffered to depart without further molestation, the moment the authorities of the city had agreed to Captain Elliot's terms.

Before our troops finally advanced upon Canton, Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Le Fleming Senhouse went up in person, to make a careful reconnoissance, and particularly with a view to assure themselves of the practicability of the landing-place at Tsingpoo.

At length, soon after noon on the 24th, every preparation for the advance was completed.

The troops were all embarked in two columns, of which the right was destined to hold the Factories, and was taken up in the Atalanta steamer. It merely consisted of the 26th Cameronians, less than three hundred strong, together with an officer and twenty men of the Madras Artillery, with one six-pounder gun, and one five and a half-inch mortar. Thirty sappers, with an officer of engineers, were also attached to it; it was under the command of Major Pratt, of the 26th regiment. The left column comprised the main body of the force, which was destined to carry the heights above the city, being divided into four brigades. An account of these will be given in its proper place.

To the Nemesis was entrusted the charge and the honour of carrying or towing up the whole of this column, together with the camp-followers and attendants of every description, (in this instance reduced to the smallest possible number,) which always accompany our troops in the East. The enormous flotilla of boats, including, of course, those belonging to the men-of-war, necessarily retarded the progress of the steamer very much, particularly in the more intricate parts of the river. As she advanced, numerous boats from our ships were picked up, until their number could not have been less than from seventy to eighty; hanging on behind each other, and following in the wake of the long, low steamer. It was altogether a very animating scene. The numerous flags, the motley appearance of the boats, the glitter of the arms and accoutrements, and the various uniforms of the men, produced a very exciting spectacle.

On board the Nemesis were the 49th regiment; together with Major-General Sir Hugh Gough and his staff, Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, and Captain Elliot, accompanied by Mr. Morrison. Captain Bourchier, who was to command the naval brigade, and several other officers, were also on board. The decks of the steamer were crowded. Slowly and steadily she advanced, dragging after her the long tail of boats, a more numerous flotilla than any steamer had yet towed.


The Chinese must have been perfectly well informed of the approach of the force; and, had they not been already panic-struck by the lessons they had so recently received, they might have occasioned great annoyance, and perhaps loss, to our troops, exposed as they were in boats, by firing on them from the banks of the river, in places were they would have been themselves under cover. No opposition of any kind, however, was offered.

In the meantime, the Atalanta reached her destination at the factories more expeditiously, and the right column was landed before five o'clock, without opposition; when Major Pratt immediately set about strengthening his post, and making the necessary dispositions, either for defensive or offensive operations, as circumstances might require.

It was now that the unfortunate Americans were discovered, in the wretched plight before described, in the midst of the ruins of the factories, in which they had been turned loose, as it were, like beasts, after the indignities they had suffered.

It was just dusk when the left column, towed by the Nemesis, reached the destined point of debarkation at Tsingpoo, where the Sulphur was already at anchor. By this time it was too late in the day to do more than land the 49th regiment. This was easily effected, as they could walk on shore directly out of the steamer, without the necessity of using boats, or causing any delay whatever. Here, again, as in so many other instances, the advantage of this description of steamer was clearly shewn.

During the rest of the evening of the 24th, and in the night, the guns, ammunition, and stores were also landed, but the remainder of the force did not disembark until the following morning. As soon as the 49th were landed, they took possession of a large temple, or so called joss-house, near the landing-place. The general lost no time in making an extended reconnoissance as soon as he had landed, under an escort of the 49th.

From a rising ground at no great distance, a general view of the enemy's positions could be gained. It was now evident that they had already taken the alarm, and they threw up some of their small harmless rockets by way of signal, to shew that they were on the alert, but made no movement in advance. Sir Hugh Gough was in reality at this time perfectly unacquainted with the nature of the country he would have to pass over on the following day, as well as of the difficulties he might have to encounter; but, with the utmost confidence in the steadiness and perfect discipline of the little force under his command, he felt assured that no difficulties could check them. Neither could the amount of the enemy's force be at all ascertained, respecting which there were various conjectures, probably in most instances exaggerated.


The Chinese system of warfare had not yet been experienced and it was, in fact, the first time that European troops were about to undertake operations in China, beyond the cover of our ships. The Chinese had been known to declare that, if they could get us away from our ships, they had full confidence that they would be able to beat us in fair fight ashore. They were now soon to have an opportunity of putting their prowess to the test. This was the first occasion on which a British general officer had commanded in China; and it was the first opportunity which that general had ever had of witnessing the gallantry of British seamen and marines in service on shore, and of bearing testimony to their steadiness and discipline, and to the value of their co-operation. He afterwards expressed himself in general orders, in reference to the naval brigade under Captain Bourchier, to the effect "that it would always be a matter of proud recollection to him that he had had them under his orders."

While our troops had thus advanced upon Canton on the 24th, Captain Herbert, who was stationed at Whampoa with the Calliope, Conway, Herald, and Alligator, was directed to push up the river with the flood-tide, with such vessels as could proceed, or with the boats of the ships, by the direct, or Whampoa passage, and endeavour to secure the naval arsenal opposite the city. It was left to his own judgment to attack the French fort below the city, or not, according to circumstances.

At the same time, another part of our force, consisting of the Hyacinth, Modeste, Cruiser, and Columbine, had taken up a position near the factories, under Captain Warren, who had been directed to secure the Dutch fort, and to use his own judgment as to an attack upon any other of the defences which were known to have been recently constructed. The possession of the Dutch and French forts would give us complete command of the river front of the city, and of the palaces of the high authorities.

Captain Herbert lost no time in pushing up the river, with the boats and marines of the ships before mentioned; while Captain Warren, having ordered the Nimrod and Pylades to attack the Shameen Fort, (which had been re-armed by the Chinese) proceeded to place the Hyacinth, under his own command, abreast of the factories, in order to cover the landing of the 26th regiment from the Atalanta.

In the meantime, the Modeste, Cruiser, and Columbine, took up a position to attack the Dutch Folly if necessary; but it was found to be unarmed.

As soon as the 26th regiment had landed at the factory, the Atalanta and Algerine (which had now joined the squadron) were ordered to move down the river as far as possible. The[227] Atalanta unfortunately took the ground, where she remained for several days, and was got off with difficulty. The Algerine, drawing but little water, was able to go over the reef, which is abreast of the Dutch fort, with a strong ebb-tide. She then took up her berth between the Dutch and French Follies, and only one hundred and fifty yards distant from a heavy sand battery, which she engaged single-handed, none of the other vessels being able to come up to her support. The battery mounted eleven very heavy guns, and the Algerine was frequently hit. The pinnaces of the Hyacinth and Modeste were sent to help to shift her berth, but this was impossible, owing to the strength of the tide. Lieutenant Mason, who commanded the brig, with instant determination now pushed off in his gig, and, accompanied by the two pinnaces, dashed ashore and carried the battery with great gallantry, but not without meeting with strong resistance, in which Mr. Fitzgerald, of the Modeste, fell mortally wounded, together with one seaman killed, and fourteen seamen and marines wounded. Some of the Chinese guns were ten and a half inch.

Captain Herbert and Captain Bethune endeavoured to push up from Howqua's Folly at sunset, but were stopped by a shot from the French Folly, which went through Captain Herbert's boat, and the heaviness of the fire compelled the boats to take shelter under a point of land for some hours, so that they were not able to reach the brig until two o'clock, A.M. During the night several fire-rafts were sent adrift, but were towed clear without doing any mischief. Thus ended the 24th of May, and our forces, both naval and military, might already be said to hold Canton at their mercy.

A few words more will suffice to complete the description of all the naval operations before Canton, before we turn to the military part of them.

No time was lost on the following morning in securing the arsenal, in which were found nearly a dozen large war-junks upon the stocks, and a great many row boats. There were also twelve large war-junks just finished, lying at anchor off the arsenal.

Having, made a reconnoissance of the French fort, and the other defences on that side, Captain Herbert resolved to carry it without loss of time. The Modeste was the only vessel except the Algerine which could be got across the bar at the Dutch Folly, and that not without great difficulty, having been warped over the reef at high water. The Atalanta was still aground; and the guns of the Algerine not being sufficiently heavy, Captain Herbert ordered shell-guns to be fitted in three of the captured war-junks, to assist in the attack upon the French Folly.


The gun-junks were placed under the direction of Lieutenants Haskell and Hay, and, together with the Modeste and Algerine, opened upon the French fort and the long line of works connected with it on the morning of the 26th. The Chinese soon began to give way, and Captain Bethune immediately landed with the storming party, and gallantly carried the works. There were altogether sixty-four guns, some of large calibre, four being ten and a half inch. Thus the whole of the river defences of Canton were at length in our possession, at the same time that the heights above the city had been carried by our troops under Sir Hugh Gough, as will be next described.[47]


[46] See the accompanying map of the Canton river.

[47] The following concise description is taken from the personal remarks of several who were present, and from public documents.


It will be remembered that the twenty-sixth regiment, together with a few of the Madras artillery, and sappers and miners were posted at the Factories, and, therefore, took no part in the engagements on the heights on the 25th, although they joined the head-quarters afterwards. The whole force actually engaged on that day, under Sir Hugh Gough, including the marines and the naval brigade, amounted to very nearly two thousand four hundred men. But the actual number of bayonets in the field was only about one thousand five hundred. The artillery comprised a body of four hundred men, with four 12-pounder howitzers, four 9-pounder field-guns, and two 6-pounder guns; also three five and a half inch mortars, and one hundred and fifty-two 32-pounder rockets.

The naval brigade, commanded by Captain Bourchier, comprised four hundred and three small-arm men; so that, when added to the marines, it is evident that full one-third of the force employed on the heights was supplied by the different ships of the squadron—viz., eight hundred and eleven men. In proportion as these were withdrawn from their respective ships, the duty to be performed by those who remained on board became the more severe.


Sir Le Fleming Senhouse entrusted the command of the naval brigade to Captain Bourchier, as it was the express wish of Sir Hugh Gough that the senior naval officer should join his staff, and remain at his side throughout the day, instead of leading the brigade in person. It was divided into two battalions, one led by Captain Maitland of the Wellesley, and the other by Commander Barlow of the Nimrod. The whole force was divided into four brigades, and was directed to move left in front. The details given below will render further comment unnecessary.[48]

At daylight, on the morning of the 25th, the whole of the troops were landed. The Nemesis, Sulphur, and Starling, remained at anchor close to Tsingpoo; and small detachments of the 18th and 49th regiments, and of the 37th M.N.I., amounting altogether to between seventy and eighty men, were left posted at the temple before described, in order to secure the landing, and prevent any attempt at surprise on the part of the Chinese. This precaution afterwards proved to have been very judicious.


From a hill a little above the landing-place, a good view of the enemy's positions could be obtained; and, a little beyond that, a line of hills led directly up towards the rear of the forts above the city, at the distance of between three and four miles. The ground was irregular, and much broken by hollows, partially cultivated and laid out in rice-grounds. The labour of dragging the guns was, therefore, very great; and, indeed, two of the twelve-pounder howitzers, and two of the nine-pounder guns, were not got into position upon the heights until the following day. The other two, however, and also the six-pounders, together with the rocket-battery, were brought up with the troops.

Of the four forts, two were situated not far from each other, near the north-western angle of the city walls, on which side is the hill which is enclosed within the walls, and which, in the event of the capture of the city itself, it was the intention of Sir Hugh Gough to occupy strongly, as being the key to the possession of the whole city. The other two forts, which might be called the eastern forts, were situated upon the heights, at some distance to the eastward of the other forts, nearly facing the centre of the city wall. One of these was some way in advance of the other.

The weather was extremely sultry during the whole of the 25th, which much fatigued the men before the close of the day, and laid the foundation for sickness, to which many afterwards fell victims. The troops were directed to advance along the brow of the hills in echelon of columns; and, as soon as the artillery could be got up, the guns opened upon the two western forts which were nearest, and from which the Chinese had already commenced a spirited fire. They also threatened an attack upon the right, by large columns, which appeared to debouch from the western suburbs.

Our attack upon the two western forts was entrusted entirely to the naval brigade, under cover of the guns and rockets; and, at the same time, the left brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel Morris, was to advance and carry the nearest of the two eastern forts (which was also the rearmost in relation to the town); while the first brigade, under Major-General Burrell, having carried a hill in their front, upon which a body of Chinese were posted, and which flanked the advance of the left brigade, was to push on and carry the principal eastern fort, cutting off the communication between the two, at the same moment when the 49th made their attack upon the nearest fort.

As the two brigades advanced together, there was some little rivalry (the strictest discipline being preserved) between[231] the 49th and 18th regiments, as to which should have the honour of commencing the attack upon the two forts. The 49th, having the advantage of a shorter and perhaps rather better road, got the lead, which they maintained, so that the left brigade carried BOTH the eastern forts before the 18th came up, and with little loss.

The two western forts were at the same time gallantly carried by the brigade of seamen, who were exposed to a heavy fire of ginjals, wall-pieces, and matchlocks, from the city walls, by which they suffered some loss.

Thus, in the space of little more than half an hour from the time the advance was sounded, the heights which overlooked the city were in our possession, and the British flag waved in triumph upon all the forts which commanded the city. The Chinese seemed little inclined to come to close quarters as our troops advanced, and they were soon driven out of the forts, making the best of their way down the hills in confusion.

While our troops were thus engaged upon the heights, the Chinese threatened an attack upon the landing-place at Tsingpoo. Their object might have been either to endeavour to cut off the retreat of our troops from the heights, or else to get possession of the stores, &c., which had been left behind. A considerable body of the Chinese sallied out of the western gate of the city, from which a narrow, irregular causeway, led down to the landing-place at Tsingpoo.

This movement being immediately observed from the heights, orders were sent down by Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, at the suggestion of Sir Hugh Gough, for some of the officers of the vessels at anchor there to land with their men, and assist in the defence of the place. These orders were delivered to Captain Hall by an officer of the Blenheim, sent on purpose. Preparations had already been made on board with this object, and Captain Hall lost no time in landing with half his crew, the other half remaining at quarters on board, under Lieutenant Pedder. There were twenty-eight men and two officers (besides Captain Hall) from the Nemesis; about fourteen men and two officers from the Sulphur; and eighteen men and two officers from the Blonde; altogether sixty men and seven officers.[49]


Having landed and formed, they immediately joined the small body of troops which had been stationed at the joss-house to protect the guns, stores, &c., which had been left behind. They were commanded by Lieutenant Grant, of the 49th, and consisted of thirty men of that regiment, thirty of the 18th, under Lieutenant Cockburn, and fourteen of the 37th M.N.I., under Ensign Anquitelle. Lieutenant Grant had got his men under arms the moment the alarm was given, and, perceiving a body of about two hundred and fifty Chinese skirmishers advancing in extended order, he moved out to meet them; when within about fifty yards, he poured in a smart fire, by which many of them were killed, and drove them back upon their main body, who were drawn up in close column, about four hundred strong, (regular troops,) behind a bridge some distance off, upon which they had planted three field-pieces. The blue jackets having joined, Captain Hall instantly led the way, at the head of his own men, directly down the causeway, towards the bridge; and, under cover of an excellent fire from the Nemesis and Starling, the whole column attacked the Chinese in front, and were received with an ill-directed fire of grape and curious rocket arrows, by which two men were slightly hit.

The Chinese were driven from their guns, and endeavoured to rally behind some houses in their rear, but they soon made a hasty retreat towards the town, closely pursued, for some distance, by our men. But it was not thought prudent to follow them within range of the ginjals upon the city walls, as no good purpose could be effected by it, and some loss might have been suffered. About thirty of the enemy were supposed to have been killed and wounded. The three field-pieces were spiked: and the houses near the bridge, in which a quantity of military stores were found, were set on fire.

It is worthy of notice that this little spirited affair, although officially reported to Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, was never specially mentioned in any of the public despatches—an omission which at that time created some surprise.

To return to our movements upon the heights. During the greater part of the day, a spirited fire was kept up from the city walls by guns, ginjals, and matchlocks; which made it necessary to keep the men under cover as much as possible.

In the rear, and a little to the eastward of the forts occupied by the 18th and 49th, was a high hill which, in fact, was the key to the whole position, but it was not fortified. There was, however, a large joss-house upon the top of it, which was occupied by a detachment of the 49th regiment. Upon the low ground to the eastward of this hill, and between it and a large entrenched camp, situated upon rising ground close to the suburbs, was a village occupied by Chinese troops. Frequent communications were passing between it and the[233] entrenched camp, in which there appeared to be not less than three or four thousand men. The enemy were soon dislodged from the village by the 49th, and dispositions were made by Sir Hugh Gough to carry the entrenched camp by assault. Several high officers had been observed to pass out of the city on their way to this camp, and it was evident that some fresh attack was projected. The 18th were therefore ordered down from the heights to reinforce the detachment of the 49th, together with a few marines, and Major-General Burrell was directed to carry the encampment, the only approach to which was along a narrow causeway. A heavy fire was opened upon them from guns and ginjals upon the north-eastern face of the city walls, to which the men were unavoidably exposed as they advanced. The Chinese seemed to have got the precise range of the causeway, and some loss was suffered in consequence. But the enemy were soon driven gallantly out of the camp, and fled in disorder across the country. The buildings were then destroyed, together with several magazines, and the force then returned to the heights.

The day was now far advanced, and the men were much fatigued with the oppressive heat. The steep and broken nature of the approach to the heights had made it impossible to get up the heavy guns and ammunition until the following day. The assault of the city was therefore deferred; but Sir Hugh Gough, having made a careful reconnoissance of the walls and gates, determined to carry them on the following day, while the panic of the Chinese was still at its height.

On the morning of the 26th, all was apparently quiet within the city, except that numbers of people were issuing out of the gates, which were removed from the scene of action, hastening to carry away with them all the valuable property which could be easily transported. Our troops were early under arms, but no further operations against the city could be undertaken until the ammunition and the heavy guns could be brought up.

The weather in the morning did not look auspicious, and before the day was half over, rain began to fall in torrents. Few Chinese appeared upon the walls of the city; and at length, soon after ten o'clock, a flag of truce was displayed from the walls. It is remarkable how perfectly well the value of the white flag was remembered (as before noticed by Capt. Elliot) whenever the Chinese wished to negotiate, or to induce us to suspend our operations; although they thought proper to slight it whenever it suited their purpose. Shortly afterwards the general deputed Mr. Thom, who was attached to him as interpreter, to advance and ascertain what the[234] Chinese desired. A mandarin, distinguished by a red button, now stated that they wished to propose terms of peace, with a view to spare the city, and that in the meantime there should be a suspension of hostilities. It was replied, that the general could treat with no other officer than the Chinese commander-in-chief, his equal in rank; that the British forces had come before Canton much against the wishes of the English nation, but were compelled to do so owing to the insults offered to the British subjects, and the bad faith of the Chinese high officers; that they might, therefore, address their requests to Capt. Elliot, who was with the advanced squadron in the river before the city; and that two or three hours would be allowed for them to communicate with that officer, and also to arrange an interview between the English and the Tartar general; but that if within that period no satisfactory communication should be received, the white flag would be struck.

These overtures, on the part of the Chinese, led to no immediate result. Sir Hugh Gough waited more than four hours before the white flag was struck, and even then the Chinese did not lower theirs.

During the remainder of the day, and in the course of the night, by the unwearied exertions of the Royal and Madras Artillery, assisted by the Sappers and Miners, all the guns and ammunition were got up, except one 12-pounder howitzer, the carriage of which had been disabled. During the whole of this time, the rain fell heavily, which much increased the necessary labour, and added to the privations of the men, who either bivouacked or were partially sheltered, as best they could.

The truce, if it could be so called, was of some use to us, as it gave time for the completion of all the preparations for the assault, which was to have taken place at eight o'clock on the following morning. Our batteries were to have opened at seven o'clock, and it was expected that the parapet of the walls, which was high, would have been reduced by the concentrated fire of our guns. The walls were not less than twenty-eight to thirty feet high, and were separated from the heights, from which they were in some parts less than two hundred paces distant, by an intervening glen.

The broken nature of the ground was peculiarly favourable for the several attacks which were designed; and as soon as a lodgment had been made upon the walls, the different columns of attack were to unite, and make a rush at the fortified hill, which, as before described, was situated within the walls, and commanded the interior of the city. The attack[235] was to have been made in four columns, of which the right, consisting of the royal marines, under Capt. Ellis, was to blow open the north gate with powder bags; but if that attempt failed, they were to escalade a circular work thrown up as a defence to that gate. The second column, composed of the blue jackets, under Capt. Bourchier, were to escalade the wall a little beyond the circular work, where its height was not so great, under cover of musketry. At the same time, the 18th Royal Irish, under Lieut.-Colonel Adams, were to escalade the wall close to the seven-storied pagoda, under cover of our batteries on the heights above. The assault was also to be covered by the Bengal volunteers, and part of the Madras 87th N.I. Further to the left, the 49th, under Lieut.-Col. Morris, were directed to carry a sort of bastion in front, and within range of the largest and nearest of the forts upon the heights, of which we had got possession the day before. Sir Hugh Gough's principal object would then have been to occupy the fortified hill within the walls, upon which a heavy fire of shells and rockets was to have been kept up during the assault of the walls.

Every arrangement was thus made which could ensure the certain and speedy capture of the city, with little loss on our side. What then must have been the chagrin and disappointment of the general and all his officers, when, soon after six o'clock, just as the final orders were given, and the batteries were about to open, a letter from Capt. Elliot was put into the general's hands, which announced to him that a truce had been agreed to, and that further operations must therefore be suspended. It barely arrived in time to stop the assault of the city, which was on the point of being commenced. Under these circumstances, as Sir Hugh Gough observed, "whatever might be my sentiments or feelings, it was my duty to acquiesce, and therefore the attack was countermanded, and the feelings of the Chinese were spared." To this he added that he had no means of judging of the policy of the measure.

If any further doubt upon the subject remained, it was finally set at rest by the arrival of Capt. Elliot in person at the camp, about noon. From that moment all idea of further hostile operations against the city was abandoned.

Shortly before Capt. Elliot's arrival, Sir Hugh Gough had held a short conference, accompanied by Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, with the Tartar General in person, outside the walls, in a tent pitched for the purpose. The result was of little importance, as it was already known that terms had been negotiated by Capt. Elliot.

It could not be doubted that both Sir Hugh Gough and[236] Sir Le Fleming Senhouse were exceedingly averse to granting any terms to the Chinese until our troops should have got possession of the city, and established themselves upon the fortified hill within the walls, which would have secured our troops against any possible surprise or treachery, and would have exercised a salutary moral effect upon the government, without causing any wanton damage to the town or annoyance to the people. In fact, it could not have failed to humble the pride of the Chinese, when they knew that a large garrison of foreign soldiers had made themselves masters of one of the principal cities in the empire, supposed to contain nearly a million of inhabitants.

Various stories were current concerning the mode in which the ransom of the city was first proposed. One of the most credited accounts was that the Hong merchants were ordered by the authorities to go and make terms for the ransom of the town, in some way or other, under pain of severe displeasure or punishment. It was said that they were authorized to go as far as ten millions of dollars, if a less sum would not suffice; but on no account to return without effecting the object. They must have known that they would themselves have to pay the greater part of the amount, and naturally wished to make the best bargain they could.

It is said that in the first instance they pulled along side one of our men-of-war, and offered three millions for the ransom of the city. As they evidently appeared to be in a hurry to make a bargain of some sort or other, they were told that a much larger sum would be required. Four millions were then proposed, and then five millions; and at length, in great trepidation, and with many protestations of poverty, they raised the offer to six millions. In the first instance they were scarcely thought to be in earnest, but as the thing now really looked serious, they were directed to go and confer with Capt. Elliot. It was not difficult to persuade him to grant a truce until twelve o'clock the following day, the 27th; and, in the intervening time, terms were definitively agreed upon.

The twenty-four hours' truce, in the first instance, was quite unknown to Sir Hugh Gough, to whom an officer of the navy had been sent in the afternoon to convey the information; but having missed his way, and wandered all night, he only reached the head quarters, as before stated, within half an hour of the time the batteries were to open. The fact of the truce having been granted was now sufficient to account for the Chinese having continued to display the white flag from[237] the walls the preceding day, after it had been lowered by Sir Hugh Gough upon the heights.

As it had been stipulated that the Tartar troops should leave the city and retire to a distance of sixty miles from it, a conference was held on the 28th between Sir Hugh Gough and the prefect of the city, in order to make arrangements for the evacuation of Canton. It was now ascertained that the force amounted to no less than forty-five thousand men from distant provinces, besides those troops which belonged to the province itself.

The Tartar soldiers were allowed to march out with their arms and baggage, but without displaying their banners, and without music.

So far then the authorities appeared to have perfect control over the people of the city, and over the troops belonging to other provinces which formed the garrison. But beyond the city it was not so easy for them to exercise the same degree of authority, particularly as regarded the armed peasants. For some time the peasantry of the province, particularly in the neighbourhood of the city, had been encouraged to form themselves into societies, or patriotic bands, as they were called, for mutual defence against the foreigners. They constituted a sort of rude military; but having inexperienced leaders and no discipline, they were calculated, if once their passions were roused, to become much more troublesome to the province itself than they were formidable to the enemy. They were imperfectly armed, every man according to his own taste, with spears, swords, a few matchlocks, and shields. With perfect ignorance of military affairs, and without any knowledge of the resources of the enemy they were to encounter, they believed that, by mere force of numbers, and a show of courage at a distance, they could effect that which even their regular Tartars had been totally unable to accomplish. Yet they were held up to the nation at large by the government as models of patriotism and self-devotion; and so impressed were they with the high value of their proffered services, that they really believed the high officers had betrayed their trust in acceding to Captain Elliot's terms for the ransom of the city; and that the anxiety of the inhabitants to save their own property had induced them to make unreasonable concessions, at the very moment when they (the patriots) were advancing to exterminate their enemies by falling upon their rear.

It is, therefore, not surprising that, two days after the city had been ransomed—namely, on the 29th, a considerable[238] body of these men began to collect upon the heights, about three or four miles in the rear of our positions. Their numbers continued to increase throughout the day, and Sir Hugh Gough, being fully prepared to expect some act of treachery or bad faith under cover of a flag of truce, directed Major-General Burrell to take charge of our positions, and to hold every man in readiness to repel any attack from the city, while he himself advanced in person to meet and disperse the enemy, who now shewed themselves.

The 26th regiment, under Major Pratt, which had occupied the factories until the 27th, had been brought up to Tsingpoo by the Nemesis on that day, and had joined Sir Hugh Gough upon the heights. The force which the general now took with him comprised that regiment, the 49th, except one company left at the joss-house on the heights, the 37th, M.N.I., and the company of Bengal Volunteers, supported by the Royal Marines. These two latter were to be held in reserve, so as to be in readiness to return towards the heights, and act upon the flank, should any attack be made from the town during the absence of so large a portion of our force.

The Chinese had descended from the heights in the rear upon which they had first appeared, and had taken up rather a strong position behind an embankment along the bed of a stream; they appeared to number about four thousand men. The 26th regiment, which had not yet been engaged, supported by the 37th M.N.I., were ordered to advance and drive them from this position, which they effected without any loss. Like most irregular troops, the Chinese patriots could not act together in a body, but took to flight, throwing away their spears as soon as a well directed fire was opened upon them. They attempted to rally for a moment at a sort of military post in their rear, but they did not make a stand. The buildings were immediately destroyed, together with a magazine, which was unexpectedly found in the adjoining village. The Chinese retreated to the heights upon which they had first appeared.

Sir Hugh Gough, having then directed the 49th and Bengal Volunteers to fall back upon our original position upon the heights, remained to watch in person the movements of the Chinese, with the 26th and the 37th M.N.I., amounting together to between five hundred and six hundred men.

The heat of the sun this day was excessive; it was so sultry that both officers and men suffered great exhaustion, and Major Beecher, the deputy quartermaster-general, whose exertions had been unremitting throughout the previous days, fell down and almost immediately expired; several other[239] officers also fell sick. Within two or three hours after the first repulse of the Chinese, they again collected upon the heights in greater numbers than before, fresh bodies of them having now come up with banners, &c., amounting to from seven thousand to eight thousand men.

Captain Knowles of the artillery, who had been ordered to bring up some rockets, now threw them with great precision among the Chinese, but without being able to disperse them; indeed, they appeared determined to shew a bold front; and the general, therefore, directed Major Pratt, with the 26th, to attack a large body of them who had descended from the heights to some rice-fields on his left. Captain Duff, with the 37th M.N.I., supported by the Bengal Volunteers, was also directed to advance and disperse a large body in his front, who had attempted to reoccupy the military post which had been already burnt; they were then to push forward towards the hills, and clear them of the enemy.

These manœuvres were executed with complete success, the Chinese being dispersed at all points. The 37th M.N.I., however, pushed on rather further than had been intended, and got separated from the Bengal Volunteers. Captain Duff had, however, detached a company to open his communication with the 26th, who were at some distance on his left. But the day was now far advanced, and the thunder-storm, the approach of which had been surely indicated by the extreme sultriness and oppressive heat of the morning, now burst upon them with inconceivable fury. The rain also descended in such torrents that the firelocks got wet and scarcely a single musket would go off. The 26th were, in consequence, frequently compelled to charge with the bayonet, for the Chinese, who hovered about them, seeing that they could not use their firelocks, came boldly up to attack them with their long spears, which are formidable from their length. After several repulses, the Chinese at length withdrew, and our troops were directed to return to their positions.

It was on this occasion, and in the midst of this terrific storm, in the dusk of evening, that the gallant conduct and steadiness of the company of the 37th M.N.I., which, as before stated, had been detached to open a communication with the 26th, on their left, saved them from total destruction, and won for them the praise of all military men. The story has been so often told, and with so little variation in its details, that it is scarcely necessary to repeat it; a few words will do justice to their gallantry. The detached company having missed the road during the storm, did not succeed in joining the 26th, who, in the meantime, had, in fact, retired.[240] Their muskets were found completely useless, owing to the wet, which emboldened the Chinese to attack their rear with their long spears, as they had done the 26th. They were soon surrounded; and one or two of the men were pulled over with a long crooked spear, something in the shape of a small reaping-hook, fixed upon a long pole. The musket of one of the men who had fallen was picked up by the Chinese, the powder being so damp in the pan that it would not go off with the flint and steel. The Chinese soldier, however, deliberately placed the musket to his shoulder, and, taking steady aim at one of the officers, Mr. Berkeley, applied his match to the damp powder, which ignited, and the musket went off, and unfortunately wounded Mr. Berkeley in the arm.

The gallant little company of Sepoys were now moved to some rising ground, where they could better defend themselves. For a moment, the rain ceased; and then with the utmost difficulty they were enabled to get a few muskets off, with unerring effect upon the dense mass of Chinese who surrounded them. But fortune was determined to prolong their trial still. The rain again descended in torrents, just as they had begun their retreat; and the Chinese, taking fresh courage, resumed their attacks. Nothing now remained but to form a square, and stand true to each other, until the morning dawned, and enabled them to fight their way through the enemy.

The absence of this company, when all the rest of the force was concentrated, caused great anxiety concerning their fate. It was rightly attributed to the severity of the storm, but it was feared that they might possibly have been cut off by the Chinese.

Without loss of time, Sir Hugh Gough ordered up two companies of marines, who were comparatively fresh, and armed with percussion muskets, to return with Captain Duff in search of the missing company. As they advanced they fired an occasional shot, as a signal to their comrades of their approach, and to animate their spirits. At length, an occasional shot was heard ahead of them, and they soon afterwards came up with the missing company, drawn up in a square, surrounded by thousands of Chinese. A couple of volleys sent into the midst of the confused crowd, by the unerring percussion-muskets[50] of the marines, accompanied by a loud "hurra," dispersed them with great loss, and they fled in confusion.


The generals own words will best do justice to this little incident:—"The Sepoys," says he, "in this critical situation, nobly upheld the high character of the native army, by unshrinking discipline, and cheerful obedience, and I feel that the expression of my best thanks is due to Lieutenants Hadfield and Devereux, and Ensign Berkeley, who zealously supported them during this trying scene."

They did not, however, escape without some loss, as one private was killed, and one officer and fourteen men were severely wounded.

This open hostility of the Chinese, during the operation of a truce, could not be permitted to continue; and, moreover, it was evident that no good purpose could be attained by merely dispersing these irregular bodies of the Chinese. Accordingly, on the following morning, the 31st, the general sent to inform the Kwang-chow-foo, or prefect, that if these hostile demonstrations were continued, he should be under the necessity of at once hauling down the flag of truce, and of recommencing hostilities against the city. In the course of the day, before any further arrangements had been made with the prefect, who promised to come and meet the general and Captain Elliot under the walls, the Chinese again collected upon the hills, displaying their banners, &c., and firing off their guns. Detached parties were also thrown in advance, as if they had some design of communicating with the Tartar troops, who, to the number of 7000, had already marched out of the city, and were still moving.

In the afternoon, the number of Chinese had still further increased, upon the same hills upon which they had appeared the day before. At length, the prefect arrived, and assured the general that the movements of these peasants were quite without the knowledge or sanction of the authorities, and that he would immediately send off an officer of rank to order them to disperse to their homes. It was agreed that one of our own officers should also accompany him, to endeavour to effect this object by their joint efforts; and Captain Moore, of the 34th Bengal N.I., volunteered to undertake this hazardous and responsible duty. Some treachery might possibly have been intended, although, as there was reason to believe, without the sanction of the prefect, who was personally, at that time, completely in our power. These irregular bodies were at length induced to disperse, and no further collision took place.[51]


During all the operations upon the heights, the greater part of the wounded were brought down and put on board the Nemesis, where they received every attention from the surgeon of the vessel, and particularly from Mr. Peter Young, who was then on board merely as a volunteer. The Nemesis was employed to convey them daily to their respective ships and transports. The total number of casualties amounted to fifteen killed, and one hundred and twelve wounded; among the latter were no less than fifteen officers.[52] The Chinese must have suffered very severely, as almost every shot told upon their heavy masses.

Upon the heights of Canton forty-nine guns were captured, besides a great number of ginjals. But if we reckon all the guns taken and destroyed in the Canton river and its numerous branches, from Chuenpee to Canton, they will be found to amount to not less than twelve hundred pieces, besides ginjals, &c.

The resources of the Chinese seemed endless, and the rapidity with which they erected batteries and field-works was not a little remarkable. It cannot be said that they yielded without first making the most strenuous efforts to defend all the approaches to Canton; and they were rather wanting in skill, and the knowledge of the best mode of applying their abundant resources, than in courage or determination to resist. The Chinese are capable of becoming a formidable enemy, and we cannot forget that, like the Russians, who were once so easily conquered, they may soon learn the art of war from their conquerors, and become formidable from the experience which their first disasters taught them.

On the 31st of May, nearly 18,000 Tartars had marched out of Canton, according to the terms agreed on. Five million dollars had also been paid, and security given for the other million which was still to be paid. Preparations were therefore made, at the request of Captain Elliot, for the re-embarkation of our forces, and their withdrawal from before Canton. With the assistance of eight hundred Chinese labourers, who were furnished for the purpose by the prefect, the guns, ammunition, and stores were brought down to Tsingpoo on the morning of the 1st of June, under a strong escort; and the British flag having been lowered in the forts upon the heights, the whole of our force was re-embarked in the afternoon, under the superintendence of Captain Bourchier and Captain Maitland.


Sir Hugh Gough particularly noticed the absence of excess of every kind which distinguished the men during the eight days they were on shore. Although placed in situations where temptation was abundant, only two instances of drunkenness occurred during the whole period.

The treaty, or perhaps rather the truce, which had been made, by no means implied the conclusion of peace between the two nations; it had reference solely to the city and river of Canton, the whole of the forts and defences of which were to be restored to the Chinese as soon as the ransom had been paid; it was, however, stipulated that they were not to be re-armed "until affairs between the two countries should be finally settled." Accordingly, as soon as our forces, both military and naval, had been again concentrated at Hong-Kong, preparations were immediately recommenced for the resumption of the projected expedition against Amoy.



25TH OF MAY, 1841.
  OfficersAll other
Left Brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel Morris.
H.M. 49th Regiment, commanded by Major Stephens 28273
37th Madras Native Infantry, Captain Duff{European 11}15215
 {Native 4}
Company of Bengal Volunteers, Captain Mee{European 2}4112
 {Native 2}
Third, or Artillery Brigade, under Captain Knowles, R.A.
Royal Artillery, commanded by Lieutenant Spencer 233
Madras Artillery, commanded by Captain Anstruther 10231
Sappers and Miners, commanded by Captain Cotton 4137
Second, or Naval Brigade, under Captain Bourchier.
1st Battalion, Captain Maitland11}27172}   403
2nd Battalion, Commander Barlow16} 231}        
First (right) Brigade, under Major-General Burrell.
18th Royal Irish, Lieut.-Colonel Adams 25495
Royal Marines, Captain Ellis 9372
Total, Officers 124
——, Other ranks  2271
Grand total 2395

N.B.—It is to be remarked that the company of Bengal Volunteers, comprising one hundred and twelve men, had only two European officers.

[49] Names of officers:—Captain Hall, Mr. Whitehurst, and Mr. Gaunt, Nemesis; Mr. Goss and Mr. Hooper, H.M.S. Sulphur; Mr. Holland and Mr. Lambert, H.M.S. Blonde.

[50] Only two of the percussion-muskets of the marines missed fire, although they had been loaded two or three days before, without having been discharged since. The men belonged principally to the Blenheim, under Lieutenant Whiting.

[51] It is impossible for us to know exactly what communication was made by the Chinese officer, to the heads of these patriotic bands, but it was thought that the people did not withdraw altogether owing to the conviction that their efforts would be useless against us, but because they were bound to obey the orders of the prefect. At the same time, they really believed that they had been betrayed by their own authorities, and were ready to unite again whenever occasion offered with some confidence of success.

[52] Lieut. C. Fox, R.N., and Mr. Kendall had each a leg shot off; the former died.


In the first week in June, all our ships of war and transports had left the Canton River, and were again assembled at Hong-Kong. All the forts from Chuenpee upwards had been restored to the Chinese, without any other stipulation except that all those below Whampoa should be suffered to remain in statu quo.

The emperor seems to have been much displeased with the latter part of this agreement; and, in reply to the memorial of Yih-shan upon the subject, his majesty directed that "secret means of defence should be prepared as soon as the foreign ships had withdrawn from the river, and that they were then to build new and strong forts, and repair the old ones." On our side, however, nothing of this kind was permitted below Whampoa; so that, until the ratifications of the treaty of peace had been actually exchanged, the whole of the defences of the Bogue remained in the same dilapidated state in which they were left when our squadron quitted the river in June, 1841.

Sickness had already begun to prevail among our troops before they had reached Hong-Kong. The eight days' exposure which they had endured upon the heights of Canton sowed the seeds of ague and dysentery, which proved far more formidable energies to us than any troops the Chinese could[244] bring against us. After the lapse of a few days, and when the excitement of active operations on shore, and the cheering influence of hope and novelty had subsided, the sickness spread among the men with alarming rapidity, so that, at length, out of our small force, no less than eleven hundred men were upon the sick-list at Hong-Kong. Part of this alarming state of things must be attributed certainly to the pernicious influence of the atmosphere of Hong-Kong itself at that season of the year. But every allowance must be made for the exposure which the men had undergone at Canton, and for the susceptibility of constitution produced by long confinement on board ship. The germs of disease were planted in their bodies before the men returned to the harbour of Hong-Kong; and, therefore, an undue stress was laid at the time upon the unhealthiness of Hong-Kong itself. It is worth while here to mention, that the three imperial commissioners laid particular stress upon the known unhealthiness of the neighbourhood of Canton at that season, as a ground for the impossibility of keeping any large body of troops long together; and it happened, remarkably enough, that two of the high officers died as nearly as possible at the same time—one on the part of the Chinese, and one on our side. Lung-Wan, one of the imperial commissioners, died of fever at Canton about the middle of June; and Sir Le Fleming Senhouse, the senior naval officer, also died of fever at Hong-Kong on the 13th of that month.

Sir Le Fleming Senhouse had partaken of all the privations of the troops on shore, and exposed himself on every occasion in which his zeal and example could serve the cause. He was, moreover, undoubtedly chagrined at the unlooked-for termination of his labours by a truce, the provisions of which, right or wrong, scarcely accorded with his own views of the exigencies of the moment. All these causes combined, acting upon a not over-strong constitution, sufficed to hurry him by sickness to his grave. On the 17th, his remains were removed to Macao, according to a wish which he had expressed before his death, as if he retained a lurking doubt whether Hong-Kong would not some day or other be restored to the Chinese. The Nemesis was employed upon this melancholy occasion, to carry over his remains. At Macao, the body of the gallant veteran was buried, with all the honours due to his rank, in the English burial-ground.

The loss of Sir Le Fleming Senhouse and other officers, as well as a good many men, and the prevailing sickness on board all the vessels of war and transports, at length threw a gloom over the whole expedition, which was hardly to be relieved[245] until the expected movement upon Amoy should take place: this was accordingly looked forward to with great anxiety.

The island of Hong-Kong, which was originally ceded to us by the terms of our treaty with Keshen, but, in consequence of the disallowance of that treaty by the emperor, was afterwards only held by us by right of occupancy during the progress of hostilities, was at length confirmed as a possession of the crown of Great Britain by the ratification of the treaty of Nankin. It was proclaimed as a part of the British empire, and, together with its dependencies, erected into a separate colony, on the 26th of June, 1843, under the designation of the "Colony of Hong-Kong."

It is difficult to ascertain what are the actual dependencies of Hong-Kong. They, probably, include all the small islands immediately adjacent to it, particularly on its southern side; but whether Lamma Island is comprised in them or not, we have little means of judging. In the proclamation, dated at its capital town, Victoria, and published by the authority of Sir Henry Pottinger, the colony is said to be situated between twenty-two degrees, nine minutes, and twenty-two degrees, twenty-one minutes, north latitude, which would give it an extent of twelve miles from north to south; so that Lamma Island, as well as the smaller adjacent islands, would appear to be included in the dependencies. The extent of the colony from east to west is not distinctly laid down, as only one meridian of longitude is given-namely, 114° 18' east longitude from Greenwich.

The position assigned to the island of Hong-Kong in the maps is, probably, incorrect, as it does not coincide with that laid down by Sir Henry Pottinger in the proclamation. The greatest length of the island itself is from east to west—namely, eight miles; but the breadth is extremely irregular, varying from six miles to about two miles only.[53]

The present capital, Victoria, extends for a considerable distance along its northern shore, and, from the nature of the ground, has of necessity been, built in a very extended, straggling manner. The distance across to the mainland of China, if it can be so called, (for part of the opposite coast is probably an island,) varies considerably. The breadth of the Lyemoon Passage to the eastward is little more than a quarter of a mile, but from the town to the nearest point opposite to it is about a mile and a quarter, while the greatest breadth is upwards of four miles.


The roads of Hong-Kong and the Bay of Victoria form an excellent anchorage, having deep water very near the shore, and only one small shoal having sixteen feet water upon it. There are, however, two disadvantages under which it labours: it is exposed to the full fury of the typhoons whenever they occur; and the high mountains of Hong-Kong intercept the genial breezes of the south-west monsoon during the hot season, when a movement in the atmosphere is most necessary, not only to moderate the sultry summer heat of a tropical climate, but to dissipate the unhealthy vapours which are generated after the heavy rains which occur, particularly during the night, at that season.

In other respects, the lake-like appearance of the harbour is beautiful; it forms a sort of basin, lying between the mountains of Hong-Kong and the mountains of the mainland opposite. For this reason, however, the rains which fall are sometimes excessively heavy: the dark, threatening clouds seem banded across from one side to the other, pouring down their waters in torrents upon the basin between them. The mountain sides of Hong-Kong, steep though they are, occasionally appear almost covered with a sheet of moving water, so torrent-like do the streams pour down their declivities. To this succeeds the burning, tropical sun of July, with a sort of death-like stillness in the atmosphere, which, little influenced as it is on that side of the island by the south-west monsoon, cannot fail, if it last long without any change, to produce fever and sickness.

Almost all tropical countries are occasionally subject to these visitations; but, as a proof that Hong-Kong is not always exposed to them, I may be permitted to mention that a gentleman who was once at anchor there, in company with a fleet of full fifty sail of merchant ships during a period of nine months, including the whole summer season, declared that he observed no prevailing fever or sickness of any kind.

The extremely barren appearance of nearly all the islands at the mouth of the Canton River, the deep and rugged furrows which seem to plough up their mountain sides, the exposed, rocky surface of their summits, and the absence of soil, except in sheltered spots or hollows, seem at once to point out that they are situated within the influence of hurricanes and tropical rains. In this respect, the contrast between this part of China and the Chusan Islands to the northward, is very remarkable. The latter look as rich and inviting, both near and at a distance, as the former appear inhospitable and barren. In the one case, there is an industrious and thriving population, who contrive to cultivate the surface of the mountains, frequently to their very summits, with the greatest care and nicety; in the other case, there is a hardy and adventurous population of fishermen, smugglers, and pirates; the unwilling soil is only cultivated in scattered patches, and the villages are few, and comparatively of mean appearance.



1 West Point Barracks
2 West Point Battery
3 Chinese Bazaars—and Market
4 Chief Magistrate, and Police Office
5 Harbour Master
6 Governor's Residence
7 Barracks
8 Bazaars
9 Artillery Barracks
10 East Battery
11 Hospital—Military
12 Cemetery
13 Seamen's Hospital
14 Morrison Education Society
15 Tower and Guard
16 }
17 } Military Stations
18 }


The southern side of the island of Hong-Kong was visited by Capt. Hall, in the squadron which conveyed Lord Amherst's embassy to China in 1816; and it is, therefore, worth while to repeat here the observations of Dr. Clarke Abel Smith upon that occasion. The bay in which the vessels anchored was near the village of Shekpywan, and was then called Hong-Kong Sound. It was described as "being formed by several small islands, by which it is land-locked on every side, and of which Hong-Kong is the principal." "As seen from the deck," says Dr. Smith, "this island was chiefly remarkable for its high, conical mountains rising in the centre, and for a beautiful cascade, which rolled over a fine blue rock into the sea."

This was in the beginning of July. The rocks on that side of the island were found approaching to basalt in compactness of structure. In ascending the principal mountain which was near, he followed the course of a delightful stream, which rises near its summit; and was much struck with the extreme barrenness of the surface of the mountain, and, indeed, of every part of the island which he was able to visit. "Yet, at a distance," says he, "it appears fertile, from the abundance of fern, which I believe to be the polypodium trichotomum, [of Kæmpfer,] which supplies the place of other plants."

By the side of the stream, however, he found several interesting plants. Among them the Beckia chinensis; myrtus tomentosus in abundance, and in full flower; melastoma quinquenervia; and several orchideous plants, of which he could not determine the varieties. There were a great number of ferns, but not a single moss of any description. He adds that he was unable to reach the summit of the mountain, in consequence of the excessive heat, which, at eight a.m., raised the thermometer to 83° in the shade, while the sun's rays, to which he was necessarily exposed, darted through an unclouded atmosphere with an almost intolerable effect, and raised the mercury to 120°.

On his way down from the mountain, he followed a path which led over a small hill, or rather mound, differing in structure from the rocks in its neighbourhood, being composed of very friable stone, of reddish white colour, much resembling disintegrated felspar. He describes the scenery of the island as composed of barren rocks, deep ravines, and mountain torrents, with few characters of a picturesque kind. The only[248] inhabitants he saw were some poor weather-beaten fishermen spreading their nets, and drying the produce of their toils, on the rocks which supported their miserable huts. Its cultivation corresponded with the apparent state and number of its population. Patches of rice, small plantations of yams, and a little buck-wheat, were all their visible means of vegetable support.

As regards the anchorage itself, at what he calls Hong-Kong Sound, naval men described it as affording admirable shelter for ships of any burden.

Such, then, is all the information acquired at that time concerning a portion of the southern side of Hong-Kong. Little was it then thought, that this very island would, in a few years, become a part of the British empire.

The description given above of the general aspect of Hong-Kong, may be considered as tolerably correct, but, by the increase of its population since that period, and more particularly, after it became a place of resort for our ships, even before the close of the war, the general appearance of the island gradually improved, and the population became augmented. At the time we took possession of the island, there was little to tempt us to make a settlement there, except the excellent anchorage on its northern side, having a passage in and out at either end, its proximity to the mouth of the Canton river, and the difficulty of finding any more suitable place for our purpose.

At the eastern end of Hong-Kong there are capital stone-quarries, which are worked with skill and facility by Chinese labourers, so that building is much facilitated; water is also abundant and generally good. A long range of mountains stretches from one end of the island to the other, of which, the highest point, called Victoria Peak, is about two thousand feet above the level of the sea; and, at the foot of the very mountain, part of the town of Victoria (and it would seem also its most unhealthy part,) is built. Now, as this range of rugged mountains extends from east to west, the harbour, and consequently the principal part of the town and places of business lying upon its northern side, it is self-evident that the influence of the south-west monsoon, which prevails during the summer months, and is then most required to dissipate the vapours generated out of the earth by a tropical sun, can scarcely ever be felt on the northern side of the mountains. It has even been remarked, that in all parts of China, places so situated as to be sheltered from the influence of the south winds during the summer season, are sure to be unhealthy.

The mere temperature of a place, as shewn by the thermometer,[249] is neither an index to its unhealthiness or otherwise, nor to the actual sensations produced by it upon the human body. For instance, at Singapore, which is situated only about seventy miles from the equator, the heat is not felt to be excessive, nor is sickness prevalent during any season of the year. Yet rain falls constantly during the night, the grass looks beautifully green even in the hottest season, and when pineapples are to be seen growing wild in the hedges, and coming to perfection. But Singapore is entirely open to the southward, and its atmosphere is agitated and its vapours dissipated, by the refreshing sea-breezes which constantly pass over it.

The mean temperature of the month of July last, (1843,) at Hong-Kong, was 88°, the lowest was 84°, and the highest 92°. Hence it appears, that the difference of temperature between day and night, is much less than might be expected; in fact, the lowest temperature was only four degrees below the average temperature of the whole month. On one occasion only, it rose to 92° during the middle of the day, and once only, fell to 84° during the night.

But, if the town of Victoria is deprived of the advantage of the south-west breezes during the hot season, it is fully exposed to the influence of the north-east monsoon during the winter months. The sudden change which takes place sometimes in a few hours, in the months of October and November, is severely felt. In the beginning of December, I have felt the cold breezes from the northward far more piercing than the hardest frost in the still atmosphere of northern regions, because the change is sudden. Hence, the practice among the Chinese, of putting on a succession of warm coats, or wadded pelisses, or taking them off one by one, according as the temperature changes, is the only safe course for Europeans to adopt. In fact, all those who visit Hong-Kong, or take up a lengthened residence there, must be provided with clothing adapted to the extremes of temperature, and be cautious not to defer the changes of costume too long; they should rather err on the side of too much than too little clothing.

Now I am upon the subject of the unhealthiness of Hong-Kong generally, (to which subject, however, I shall again revert,) I cannot omit to mention that the sickness has by no means been limited to those who resided on shore, but has to a very great extent afflicted those also who remained on board ship. Nor did it diminish so rapidly as had been expected, (during the past year, 1843,) as the season advanced and the temperature diminished. On the contrary, after being in a[250] great measure arrested at the commencement of November, it seemed to acquire fresh virulence towards the latter end of that month. A private letter, dated November 3rd, says, "The men-of-war are reducing their sick lists. The Cornwallis has now only one hundred and four; the other day she had one hundred and sixty under the doctor's hands." Another letter, dated the 28th of the same month, says, "The sickness is again as bad as ever. Each ship loses a man daily. Among the troops on shore how many are lost! Many gentlemen who have been sick, and are now recovering, are starting off for England, for health's sake."

Health committees have, however, been established, and it is hoped that some good may result from their investigations. All parts even of the northern side of the island are not equally unhealthy; and it must be remembered that a place may be very unhealthy one year, and be comparatively free from sickness the following year.[54] It is also remarked that the occurrence of a typhoon (though in other respects much to be dreaded) tends materially to improve the healthiness of an otherwise sickly place, by the violent phenomena, barometrical and electrical, which it produces, and by which all nature is affected.

Hitherto the western and eastern extremities of Victoria Bay seem to have proved most unhealthy to Europeans, the centre being less so. The left wing of the 55th, quartered at West Point barracks, lost one hundred men between June and the middle of August last; and at length the place was abandoned, and the rest of the men sent on board ship. At the recommendation of a health committee, the ground in the neighbourhood was ordered to be levelled and well drained. This essential measure will doubtless be resorted to in other situations; indeed, it would be a matter of the highest importance, if possible, to prohibit the cultivation of rice by the Chinese upon any part of the island. Wherever rice is grown, particularly within or verging upon the tropics, there must be more or less unhealthiness. If compensation were thought requisite, to reimburse the Chinese proprietors for the loss of their crops, the amount would be small in comparison with the advantage gained. But, in reality, where the rice-grounds (which, after all, are very limited) had been properly drained, they might be adapted to the cultivation of other productions equally necessary for a population numbering so many Europeans, and less likely to be prejudicial to the health of the community.[55]


At the eastern extremity of Victoria Bay is a considerable valley, shut up by mountains on every side, except towards the sea. It is laid out almost entirely in rice-grounds, and the waters of a natural stream, descending from the mountains at the end of the valley, had been diverted from their natural channel, and conducted by innumerable streamlets to every part of the valley, for the irrigation of the rice-grounds. Several houses have been built upon the declivity of the hills around it, in the expectation that this would be the ultimate site of a second town, as soon as the very limited space between the mountains and the harbour, along the front of Victoria Bay, should be completely occupied, which it bids fair soon to become. The draining of this valley would essentially improve the condition of that important portion of the island.

A good road has already been nearly completed across that valley, and over the mountains to the other side of the island, leading down to Tytam Bay, and the important village of Chek-Chu. Beyond this valley to the eastward, on the other side of Matheson's point, are fine bold rocks, running down to the water's edge, being also more open to the draught of air along the Lyemoon passage, this position would probably be a healthy one.

Having thus spoken so much concerning the northern side of the island in particular, it may be asked what is the state of the southern side, as regards its healthiness. Undoubtedly, the southern side, being open to the south-west monsoon, is comparatively healthy, but there is no harbour fit for mercantile purposes on that side, nor was any land appropriated there for building purposes in the first instance, because the unhealthiness of Victoria Bay was not fully ascertained, and because, where a man's treasure or his business is, there will his heart and his occupation be also. Doubtless, in a very short time many of the Europeans will reside on the southern side of the island, and cross over the mountains daily to transact their business.

The principal Chinese village, which numbered a population of about two thousand, even when we took possession of the island, is prettily situated on the southern side, in a sheltered bay, well open, however, to the south-west wind. It is called[252] Chek-Chu, and, at the suggestion of Major Aldrich, cantonments have been formed for a detachment of troops there, so as to separate them from the Chinese population. A detachment of the 98th regiment, which was quartered there during the last season, remained almost entirely healthy; and there is little doubt that in a short time many Europeans will take up their residence in that neighbourhood.

It is extremely difficult to form any tolerable estimate of the Chinese population on the island. It varies continually, a great part of the people being migratory. When we first took the island there were probably about five thousand Chinese upon it, exclusive of the boat-people, casual labourers from the opposite coast, and others of a migratory description. They were distributed into fourteen or fifteen villages or hamlets, of which the principal, as before stated, was Chek-chu, on the southern side, situated in a bay partly formed by the long irregular headland which runs out and takes the name of Tytam Head. This bay, together with Tytam Bay, will doubtless soon become a favourite spot for the retired residences of Europeans.

Since we have held possession of the island, the Chinese have naturally been attracted to it in great numbers. The tradesmen, mechanics, servants to English residents, labourers, boatmen, and market people, are all Chinese. Add to these also, a small body of Chinese police, and we shall find that the population must be considerable. In all the warehouses of the merchants a vast number of porters and attendants are employed; all the houses are built by Chinese workmen, and a vast number are also employed by government upon the public roads and works. The number of migratory, or trading people, who come down from Canton, Macao, and other parts, is also large; so that upon the whole the high estimate of 30,000 which has been given, may not be much overrated. But this number probably includes the Europeans, the number of whom, exclusive of the military, cannot be large, perhaps a very few hundreds.

The reputed unhealthiness of the town of Victoria has deterred many from coming over from Macao for the present, who otherwise contemplated establishing themselves on the island. The uncertainty which has prevailed respecting the liberty to store opium, has also tended to give a check to the originally rapid progress of the settlement.

In the meantime, the Portuguese, becoming fully sensible of the deterioration of the value of property at Macao, owing to the sudden rise of a rival European settlement in their neighbourhood, began to take into consideration the propriety[253] of rendering Macao a free port, similar to Hong-Kong, and probably without any restrictions as to opium. Great efforts have been made to effect this object, and the Portuguese governor had gone up to Canton, attended by his suite, with a view to confer with the authorities, in the hope of procuring from the government the recognition of greater privileges than they had hitherto enjoyed. This circumstance, together with the momentary pause at Hong-Kong, had tended to reassure the European inhabitants of Macao, and to raise the value of houses (which had previously fallen) from ten to fifteen per cent.

If means should be found (of which strong hopes are entertained) of improving the condition of Hong-Kong, as regards its healthiness, no attempted rivalry of Macao could affect the new settlement to any extent. It has neither a harbour for ships to anchor in sufficiently near the town, nor ground upon which warehouses could be built, nor can the Portuguese officers ever possess more than a very restricted, and perhaps precarious authority.

The wonderful progress of our settlement at Hong-Kong, in the first instance, affords perhaps one of the most striking instances that has ever been recorded of the astonishing energy and enterprise of the British character. Great as were the early strides made even by some of the Australian colonies, situated too at the opposite end of the globe, their progress, compared with that of Hong-Kong, was slow and difficult. When our forces were assembled in the harbour of Hong-Kong, on their return from Canton, in June, 1841, there was not a single regularly built house fit for the habitation of Europeans upon the island; for the Chinese villages can hardly be taken into account. When the expedition set sail for Amoy, about two months afterwards, a few mat-sheds and temporary huts were all that indicated the future site of the town of Victoria, or pointed out what was soon to become the centre of British commerce in that part of the world, and the seat of British power upon the threshold of the most populous empire the world ever saw.

The first sale by auction of land, or rather of the annual quit-rents only, was held in June. On the 7th of that month, Hong-Kong was declared to be a free port, and on the 22nd, Mr. A. R. Johnston, the deputy-superintendent of trade, was appointed acting governor of the island.

The portion of land put up for sale, in the first instance, consisted of only thirty-four lots, each of which was to have a sea-frontage of about one hundred feet; but the depth of each lot, of course, varied considerably, according to the nature of[254] the ground. The sale of the annual quit-rents only, payable in advance, produced no less a sum than £3165. 10s. yearly, at this first sale. Equally high prices also were obtained on subsequent occasions. Moreover, one of the conditions of sale was, that each purchaser should be required to incur an outlay upon each lot, within the first six months, either in building or otherwise, of not less than one thousand dollars, or upwards of two hundred and twenty-two pounds sterling, and a deposit of five hundred dollars was to be paid into the hands of the treasurer within one week, but was to be repayable as soon as an equal amount had been expended.

Accordingly, within six months from the time above named, wonderful improvements had taken place, although much preliminary work was necessary before any solid building could be erected. In fact, the first regular house built for Europeans was not completed until September or October following; and, as it was constructed entirely by Chinese mechanics, it assumed very much the form of a Chinese house.

The government now began to form an excellent road, called the Queens Road, along the front of the harbour, and to encourage improvements in every possible way. The elements of a regular establishment were soon formed, and the nucleus of a powerful European community was soon planted upon the borders of haughty China. Its progress from this moment was wonderful, and no stronger argument than this can be adduced to point out the necessity of such an emporium as Hong-Kong, and the impossibility of continuing the former state of things.

Within one year from the completion of the first house, not only were regular streets and bazaars for the Chinese erected, but numerous large substantial warehouses were built mostly of stone, some already finished, and others in progress. Wharfs and jetties were constructed of the most substantial kind; the sound of the stone-mason's hammer was heard in every direction, and a good road was in progress, and an admirable market was established in English style, under covered sheds, and well-regulated by the police. The Chinese willingly resorted to it, and brought abundant supplies of every description, readily submitting themselves to all the regulations. Large commissariat stores and other public buildings, including barracks at either end of the town, were finished. The road, which was carried along the foot of the hills, extended already to a distance of nearly four miles, and a cut was being made through a high sand-hill, in order to continue it further; and at intervals, along the whole of the distance, substantial and even elegant buildings were already[255] erected. The numerous conical hills which distinguish this part of the island were nearly all levelled at the top, in readiness to commence building new houses; stone bridges were in progress, and the road was being rapidly continued over the hills at the eastern end of Victoria Bay, leading down to Tytam Bay, and the picturesque village of Chek-chu.

The Chinese inhabitants seemed to fall readily into our ways and habits; their labourers and mechanics worked well and willingly for moderate pay, and came over in crowds from the opposite coast to seek work; tradesmen crowded in to occupy the little shops in the bazaars; two European hotels and billiard-rooms were completed; and, in short, every necessary, and most luxuries, could be obtained with facility at Hong-Kong, within the first year of its permanent settlement. Even the Portuguese missionaries came over and built a sort of convent and a chapel; the Morrison Education Society and the Missionary Hospital Society commenced their buildings; more than one missionary society made it their head-quarters, and the Anglo-Chinese College, at Malacca, was about to be removed to this more favourable spot. A small Roman-catholic chapel was nearly finished, and a neat little American Baptist chapel had been opened for divine service, being the first Protestant place of public worship ever established in that part of the world—of course, with the exception of the old company's chapel, in the factory at Canton. There was, however, no church of England service performed at that time on the island—a deficiency which happily has since been remedied.

Foreign merchants had also commenced building, and it was a curious sight to see the hundreds of Chinese labourers working upon the construction of our houses and roads, and flocking from all quarters to furnish us with supplies, and seeking their living by serving us in every way, at the very time when we were at war with their government, and carrying on hostile operations against their countrymen to the northward. At the same time, also, Chinese tailors and shoemakers were busy in their little shops making clothes for us, and Chinese stewards superintended our establishments, while Chinese servants (in their native costume, tails and all) were cheerfully waiting upon us at table: and all this within little more than one year after the first land-sale at Hong-Kong, and while we were still at war.

There appears to have been some little mistake in the original site of the town, the principal part of which, or, at least, the part most inhabited by the Chinese, is situated, in a great measure, upon the declivity of the highest of the[256] mountains which shut in the harbour. The space for building is very limited, and, indeed, this is the case along the whole shore. Gradually people have spread themselves eastward along the front of the harbour, and, probably, at no very distant time, a second town will spring up at the eastern end of the harbour; indeed, the buildings already erected by Messrs. Jardine and Matheson are so extensive, as to form almost a town of themselves. But the great distance from one end of Hong-Kong, or rather of Victoria to the other, is already a source of great inconvenience, particularly in a hot country. In a short time, the establishment of an exchange in some central part will probably be undertaken, and will go far to remedy the inconvenience.

It is unfortunate that the space between the foot of the mountains and the edge of the sea is so very limited. It would have been a great advantage to have been able to form a quay or esplanade along the front of the harbour, with warehouses and dwelling-houses in the rear. But this was not practicable; and, consequently, the back of the warehouses in most instances faces the water, which in some measure detracts from the appearance of the town, as seen from the harbour. Nevertheless, it is impossible for the stranger not to be struck with the first view of it as he approaches. He could scarcely be prepared to see so many large, handsome buildings occupying a great extent of frontage in a settlement so recently acquired.

There are few things more striking of the kind than the view of the Bay of Victoria and the roads of Hong-Kong, from any one of the hills at its eastern end towards Matheson's Point. The number of European vessels, Chinese junks, boats of all kinds, and the long line of handsome buildings skirting the bay, and lighted up by a brilliant sun piercing a cloudless atmosphere, present a picturesque and interesting scene, which is scarcely detracted from even by the barren mountains in the rear.

As regards the defences of Hong-Kong, it is evident that our main reliance must always be placed upon our ships of war. The two small batteries already erected could be of little service against an enemy. A plan was submitted by Major Aldrich, the commanding engineer, for forming a large fort somewhere about the centre of the bay. But this plan did not meet the concurrence of Sir Henry Pottinger, although he referred it for the consideration of the government at home.

The question of the tenure of land for the future at Hong-Kong, or rather the terms upon which it can be obtained from the government is one of the highest importance. It is[257] understood that it is not the intention of government to permit any land to be alienated from the crown. Future sales of land will probably be effected in the same way as the earlier ones; that is, merely the annual rental of the different lots of land will be put up to auction. No regulations upon this subject have yet been issued; and, most likely, the new governor, Mr. Davis, will have some discretionary power in fixing the precise terms upon which the right of occupation of land will be disposed of. The system of annual rentals to government in a colony circumstanced as Hong-Kong is,—a free port, a soil mostly barren, and an island of very limited extent,—must appear to every one the most judicious plan to adopt. A permanent annual fund will thus be created for the purposes of government, and one which must increase every year rather than diminish.

Hong-Kong will always possess the immense advantage of abundant labour at a reasonable rate. Any number of Chinamen which could possibly be required will always be readily obtained from the mainland.

I must not omit to mention, among the strong characteristics of English colonization, the establishment of a free press at Hong-Kong. A newspaper is usually one of the first undertakings in an English settlement. It has been said, in respect to colonization, that the first thing the French undertake is to build a fort, the Spaniards a church, and the English a factory or a warehouse; but, perhaps, it is more characteristic still, that one of the first things the English establish is a press. The Englishman carries with him his birthright of free discussion; and the power of having a good hearty grumble in print compensates him for many early inconveniences of a new settlement. There are four English newspapers published in China; the Hong-Kong Gazette, the Eastern Globe, the Hong-Kong Register, and the Canton Press; of which the last is published at Macao, and the other three at Hong-Kong. In the first-named, all the government notices are inserted by authority.

According to the latest accounts, the Morrison Institution had been opened for some time, and the youths who were being educated were making good progress. The Seaman's Hospital for the merchant service, recently opened, was calculated to afford accommodation to fifty men and officers. This institution is in a measure a self-supporting one, a certain sum being paid daily for the maintenance of each person admitted.


[53] A glance at the accompanying map will sufficiently indicate the peculiar form of the island.

[54] Since the commencement of the present year, 1844, the sickness has nearly disappeared.

[55] The northernmost point in Europe where rice is cultivated, is, I believe, the neighborhood of Milan. But, even there, none is permitted to be grown within a circuit of several miles of the city, owing to the unhealthiness which it would produce.



It is intended that Hong-Kong shall be governed upon the same principles by which other crown colonies are regulated—namely, that there shall be a legislative and an executive council, to aid the governor with their advice and assistance.

The importance of Hong-Kong, not only with regard to the commerce of all nations with China, but more especially with reference to our relations with the Chinese government, cannot be estimated too highly. However scrupulous we may be in the first instance to limit our intercourse, as much as possible, to the mere commercial questions which may arise, it is impossible not to foresee that other complications may result from it, the issue of which it would be presumptuous to predict. A new era has at length opened upon China, a sudden and almost incredible change in all her relations with foreigners; and the ease and apparent readiness with which she has acceded to all the proposed arrangements respecting trade, is perhaps not less remarkable than the pertinacious obstinacy with which she had so long and so haughtily refused to make any change whatever in the established order of things.

Providence has at length ordained that a vast empire, which comprises nearly a third of the human race, shall no longer remain totally excluded from the great family society of nations; and we cannot but believe that the period has at length arrived when that wonderful nation is, by a slow but steady progress, to be brought under the influence of Christianity. But, while we are impressed with this feeling, let us not be too hasty in precipitating a crisis which may convulse a mighty empire from one end to the other. This, then, leads us to the momentous question of the ultimate disorganization or breaking up of the Chinese empire. This is the great event which we have to dread; for who can contemplate the fearful results of such a crisis without alarm, and without a desire to prevent a catastrophe of so vast a nature?

In this point of view, the possession of Hong-Kong, the state of our relations with the Chinese government, and the difficult questions which may possibly, at no distant period, require our most anxious attention, (it must not be forgotten that the present Emperor of China is already in the decline of life) involve a degree of responsibility which cannot be too deeply felt, and can scarcely be approached without misgivings.[259] Every member of the government of Hong-Kong must, therefore, be keenly alive to the responsibility of his position, and must watch with profound anxiety every one of the widely spreading circles into which the acts of our administration may ultimately extend themselves. We must stand up before the Chinese government, not only in the relation of a friend, but of an ally; and, instead of weakening its authority, we ought rather to support its influence in the eyes of its own people. Our intercourse with that remarkable nation ought to be recorded in the pages of history as a blessing, and not, what it might readily become, without great caution and prudence—a curse.

Impressed with the truth of these observations, the first great and difficult question which awakens our anxiety, is that of the future relations of the opium-trade, and the course which is to be pursued with respect to it at Hong-Kong. Great anxiety has been felt as to the regulations which may be applied to it, in our own settlement, which is understood to be in all respects a free port. It would seem, therefore, that the storage of opium at Hong-Kong could hardly be prohibited; and yet it is difficult to discover how it would be possible, in that case, to avoid the dilemma of appearing in the eyes of the Chinese government to sanction, and even encourage, a description of trade especially prohibited by the Emperor. The simplest and indeed the only effectual mode by which all the difficulties of the question could be surmounted would be, inducing the Chinese government to legalize the trade, and to consent to the introduction of the drug, upon payment of a certain duty.

No stronger arguments could be advanced in favour of this step than those already employed by Chinese writers themselves, in the various memorials presented to government on the subject. Although the opium-trade is not even alluded to in either of our recent treaties, it is well known that Sir Henry Pottinger has used his best efforts to induce the Chinese government to consent to the legalization of the trade, and to introduce the article into the tariff. It is possible that this object may be ultimately effected, but at present we have no reason to believe that any material progress has been made towards bringing this question to a satisfactory conclusion.

In the meantime, the opium-trade has never been more thriving than during the past year, and bitter complaints have appeared in the Pekin gazettes, of the introduction of the drug even into the imperial palace. The emperor appears to be as hostile to the opium-mania as ever, and yet all his measures[260] against it are quite as ineffectual as they have ever been. In fact, the people are determined to enjoy the forbidden luxury at all hazards, and no means hitherto attempted have deterred even the public officers of government from conniving at the clandestine trade, nor is it likely that they will ever be proof against the temptation of heavy bribes, which the large profits derived from the traffic enable those concerned in it to offer.

Should the trade in opium become ultimately legalized, it cannot be doubted that it would greatly tend to the advantage of Hong-Kong, and would induce many Chinese merchants to come over and seek it there, who would at the same time be tempted to make other purchases as well. The drug would then in some measure be paid for in the produce of the country, and not, as it is at present, in silver exclusively, and, in fact, all the commercial relations of the country would at once be placed upon a much more satisfactory footing.

There is, however, another point out of which difficulties may arise, besides the one above mentioned—namely, the attempts of foreigners to enter China at other places besides the five ports, or even, at these latter, to push themselves beyond the limits indicated by the Chinese authorities. According to our present understanding, certain boundaries are to be laid down, beyond which no foreigners are to pass. But there will be many difficulties in the way of preventing the violation of these regulations. Already something of this kind has occurred, and the interference of Sir Henry Pottinger had been called for. A little pamphlet has even been published at Macao, called a "Narrative of a recent visit to the Chief City of the department of Changchow, in the Province of Fokien." In this case the aggressors were not Englishmen, but Americans, and they forced their way into the country, in opposition to the wishes and orders of the local authorities, who pointed out to them that their doing so was contrary to the provisions of the treaty. It is evident that they passed themselves off for Englishmen, and were thought to be so by the authorities.

Sir Henry Pottinger thought it incumbent on him to advise the viceroy and lieutenant-governor of Canton, that these individuals were not Englishmen, and to express his hope that in future the local mandarins would seize and confine all those who might commit the smallest infraction of the treaty, (if British subjects) and send them to the nearest English consular officer, to be dealt with as might be found necessary, in order to enforce implicit obedience.

The last point to which I think it necessary to allude is the mutual surrender of criminals, so that English offenders who[261] may take refuge in China may be given up to our consular officers by the Chinese authorities, and Chinese offenders who may take refuge at Hong-Kong, or on board our ships, may be given up to the Chinese officers. This stipulation has already been acted upon at Hong-Kong, where a party of pirates who were chased ashore by the Chinese government cruisers were instantly seized by the police, and handed over to the proper Chinese officers.

In fact, the more we reflect upon the position in which we now stand in presence of the Chinese government, and in the actual possession of an island upon its frontiers, the more we must become impressed with the vast responsibility which attaches to all our proceedings, and the great necessity which exists for the utmost caution, prudence, judgment, and firmness on the part of every public officer employed in our service in that country.

I have reserved all mention of the terrific storms to which Hong-Kong is occasionally exposed during the summer season. Our squadron, after its return from Canton, was exposed to the full fury of one of these hurricanes, while it lay in the harbour previously to our advance upon Amoy. The Chinese, although ignorant of the use of the barometer, acquire from experience a tolerably accurate knowledge of the indications which determine the approach of these dreaded typhoons.

Unfortunately, Victoria Bay, although completely land-locked, lies fully exposed to the whole fury of the tempest from its beginning to its end; there is no shelter whatever on that side of the island. It is a curious and novel sight to watch the preparations which the Chinese make for the approaching storm; the mixture of superstitious observance and prudent precaution which they adopt, either in the hope of averting the threatening tempest, or of securing themselves against its immediate effects. The sultry, oppressive feeling of the atmosphere, the deep black clouds, and other indications, warn them to be prepared; and, from the noise and excitement which soon take place among the Chinese, one would rather imagine they were celebrating some festival of rejoicing than deprecating the fury of the gods. Many of their houses, on these occasions, are decorated with lanterns stuck upon long poles twenty or thirty feet high, huge grotesque-looking figures, and various devices. The beating of gongs, the firing of crackers, and explosion of little bamboo petards, from one end of the town to the other, and in all the boats along the shore, create such a din and confusion, that a stranger cannot help feeling that there must be danger at hand, of some kind or other, besides that of a storm.


It is also a curious sight to watch the hundreds of boats and junks getting under weigh at the same moment, all eager to get across to the opposite shore, under shelter of the mainland, as fast as possible, knowing full well that they would be certainly stranded if they remained on the Hong-Kong side. In the high stern of every junk stands a man, who perseveringly beats a large suspended gong with his utmost strength, while the rest of the crew appear quite as intent upon firing off crackers as upon the management of their boat. By this means they hope to awaken their tutelary god, and to induce him to listen to their prayers for succour. The greater part of them take refuge in a bay directly opposite Victoria, from which it is about four miles distant, under the lee of the mountains on that side.

Frequently all the threatening appearances which call forth these preparations pass off without producing a typhoon. The flashes of lightning are fearfully quick and brilliant; the peals of thunder are almost deafening; the huge black clouds hang gloomily over the mountains, or are banded across from one side to the other, pouring their waters in torrents upon the basin between them. In this way the storm at length subsides, and the horrors of a typhoon are averted.

The actual typhoon is of a very different description; in fact, it differs in no respect from the worst hurricanes which visit the Mauritius or the West Indies. Hong-Kong was visited in this way on the 21st and 26th of July, 1841, and a more severe typhoon than that which took place on the first of those days is, perhaps, never experienced. The theory of these circular storms has been well laid down by Colonel Reid and others; so that in the present day a vessel caught in them at sea would be much less exposed to danger than formerly, provided her captain had made himself master of the well-confirmed theories which have been propounded upon the subject. The sphere of their operation is very limited, neither do they occur every year, but seldom oftener than every three or four years.

At Hong-Kong, various ominous appearances were the forerunner of the storm on the occasion alluded to. For some days previously, large black masses of clouds appeared to settle upon the hills on either side: the atmosphere was extremely sultry and oppressive; the most vivid lightning shot incessantly along the dense, threatening clouds, and looked the more brilliant because the phenomena were always most remarkable at night, while during the day the threatening appearances were moderated considerably, and sometimes almost entirely disappeared. The vibrations of the mercury[263] in the barometer were constant and rapid; and, although it occasionally rose, still the improvement was only temporary, and upon the average it continued to fall. A typhoon was, therefore, confidently predicted, and the more so because none had occurred for several years.

The Chinese, on this occasion, made every preparation in their power; but that comprised very little except the everlasting firing of crackers and beating of gongs, although they endeavoured also to get shelter for their boats in the best way they could. Our own ships prepared for the coming danger as well as circumstances permitted, everything being made as snug as possible. But the whole harbour was at this time crowded with transports, store-ships, and merchant-ships, in addition to our men-of-war and steamers; indeed, so close were they anchored together, that in many cases there was not even room to veer cable. It was evident to all, that if the expected typhoon should burst upon them, the most serious disasters would inevitably take place.

It was not without many misgivings and forebodings that, in the midst of all the preparations for the storm, and when there was every indication of its immediate outbreak, a small schooner was observed to get under weigh, and stand out of the harbour towards Macao; she had treasure on board, and one or two passengers. She was never afterwards heard of; not a vestige of her was ever discovered; she must have foundered at sea at the very commencement of the storm.

During the night of the 20th, the weather was tolerably calm, but ominously sultry; towards daylight on the 21st, it became squally, with heavy rain, and a good deal of swell was now getting up in the harbour. The barometer continued gradually to fall, and the squalls became heavier. The typhoon could no longer be doubted; and, as it was desirable to move the Nemesis as much to windward of the other ships as possible, steam was got up quickly, and with some difficulty she was moved to a good berth on the opposite side, under shelter of the high land above Cowloon. Topmasts were lowered, and everything made snug, and she was brought up with both bowers, open hawse, to the N.E., and veered to a whole cable on each.

Between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, the wind was blowing very hard from the northward, or directly upon the shore of Hong-Kong, and continued to increase in heavy squalls hour after hour. Ships were already beginning to drive, and the work of destruction had commenced on every side; the Chinese junks and boats were blown about in all directions, and one of them was seen to founder with all hands[264] on board. The fine basin of Hong-Kong was gradually covered with scattered wrecks of the war of elements; planks, spars, broken boats, and human beings, clinging hopelessly for succour to every treacherous log, were tossed about on every side; the wind howled and tore everything away before it, literally sweeping the face of the waters.

On shore, the hospital was one of the first buildings blown down upon the heads of the unfortunate inmates, wounding many, and aggravating the sufferings of all; yet only one man, a helpless idiot, was killed. The buildings being merely of temporary construction, most of them partly built of bamboo, barracks and all came tumbling down like children's card-houses.

From half-past ten until two the hurricane was at its highest, the barometer at this time having descended to nearly 28.50 according to some, but on board the Nemesis it was never lower than 28.89. The air was filled with spray and salt, so that it was impossible to see anything that was not almost close at hand. Ships were now drifting foul of each other in all directions; masts were being cut away; and, from the strength of the wind forcing the sea high upon the shore, several ships were driven high and dry.

The native Chinese were all distracted, imploring their gods in vain for help. Such an awful scene of destruction and ruin is rarely witnessed; hundreds of Chinese were drowned, and occasionally a whole family, children and all, floated past the ships, clinging, in apparent apathy, (perhaps under the influence of opium,) to the last remnants of their shattered boats, which soon tumbled to pieces, and left them to their fate.

During the height of the typhoon, the engines of the Nemesis were kept going at half speed, and she rode through it very easy, without suffering any damage. But even those few vessels which did not drive were in constant danger of being run foul of by others which did; in fact, crowded as the bay was with shipping, it was a matter of wonder that even more serious damage was not done than actually did occur. The heaviest part of the typhoon appears certainly to have passed directly over Hong-Kong, for even at Macao, which is only thirty-five miles distant, it was much less severely felt, and, moreover, there was a difference of nearly four hours in the time of its occurrence; nevertheless, beyond Hong-Kong the typhoon was also very severely felt, and several ships were in the greatest danger.

It is a remarkable fact, that both our plenipotentiaries, Captain Elliot and Sir Gordon Bremer, (who has recently[265] returned,) were wrecked on this occasion, and were only saved, as it were, by a miracle. They were on their way to Hong-Kong, in Captain Elliot's cutter, the Louisa, when the typhoon, already commencing, compelled them to anchor in not a very favourable berth, under one of the numerous islands at the mouth of the Canton river. Every measure was resorted to which good seamanship could suggest, to give any chance of safety to the little vessel, but all in vain. She soon drove—her spars and masts were carried away—a heavy, tumbling sea broke over her, washing everything overboard—the destruction of the vessel, and the loss of every one on board, seemed to be inevitable. Fragments of the numerous wrecks along the coast were floating past them every moment. Having been driven from the island under which they first took shelter, they were carried before the wind for the distance of from two to three miles, expecting every moment to be swallowed up; the commander had been already washed overboard. At length they caught sight of land right ahead, with a heavy surf breaking on it, apparently almost close to them. The suspense at this moment was intense and awful. If the vessel touched the surf, they would be launched into eternity in a moment. But, providentially, the little cutter cleared the breakers, almost within reach of their spray. The anchor was now let go, but could not hold the little craft, so heavily did the sea break over her; and at length she was driven full upon the shore, where she instantly bilged and filled. Some people now jumped overboard, others crawled on to the nearest rocks, but at length all hands got safely on shore, with the assistance of a rope, which one of the boys who had succeeded in swimming ashore made fast to one of the rocks.

Besides the plenipotentiaries, Lord Amelius Beauclerk and one or two other gentlemen were partakers of these disasters. There is little doubt that they all owed their preservation, under Providence, to the admirable seamanship and cool presence of mind of Captain Elliot himself, who took command of the little vessel during the most trying period, and whose accurate knowledge of the coast was of essential service.

Their troubles, however, were not yet at an end. They managed to save very little provisions or clothing from the wreck; and the only place they could discover, in which they could shelter themselves for the night, was a large fissure in the side of a precipice, open at the top, with a small mountain-stream running through the centre of it. There they anxiously awaited the dawn of morning, in a sitting posture, (for they could not lie down,) and drenched to the skin. Soon[266] after daylight they discovered two Chinamen, who came down to pillage the wreck; and several dead bodies of Chinamen were found cast up upon the shore. After some hesitation and difficulty, a bargain was at length made to convey Captain Elliot, for one thousand dollars, to Macao, in a fishing-boat; but, shortly afterwards, another party of Chinese fishermen, coming up from a neighbouring village, commenced robbing all the shipwrecked people, stripping them of their clothes, and, among other things, getting possession of a star of the Hanoverian Guelphic Order. In a short time, the demand for conveying Captain Elliot to Macao, as soon as the weather would permit, was raised to two thousand dollars, which was agreed to.

Yet difficulties seemed to multiply hourly; for, at this juncture, some of the Chinese, having found two or three bodies of their countrymen lashed to spars, and dreadfully lacerated by being dashed against the rocks until they were lifeless, took it for granted that this had been done purposely by Captain Elliot and his party, and for some time their threatening gestures and angry looks of retaliation seemed to portend bloodshed. This was, however, at length averted; and, ultimately, after agreeing to pay upwards of three thousand dollars, Captain Elliot, Sir Gordon Bremer, and two other persons, were laid upon their backs, in the bottom of a boat, and carefully covered over with mats. Scarcely, however, had they fairly got away from the island, when another misfortune threatened to consign them to the most bitter fate. An armed mandarin-boat passed close by them, and hailed the Chinese boatmen, asking for news about the wrecks. What a prize was at this moment within their grasp! No less than twenty thousand dollars had been already offered as a reward for the capture either of Captain Elliot or Sir Gordon Bremer. Had the boatmen been treacherous enough to betray their charge, (and Captain Elliot was personally known to them,) what a grand display her Majesty's two plenipotentiaries would have made in Pekin, carried about in bamboo cages, like wild beasts! What proclamations and boastings! What promotions and rewards! But, happily, this was not to be; and, in a few hours, the party landed safely in the inner harbour of Macao; Captain Elliot having for his costume a jacket, without any shirt; the commodore, a blue worsted frock; and each of them a pair of striped trousers. To crown all, in this unhappy plight, the moment the two high functionaries were recognised by the Portuguese officer of the guard, the latter were ordered to "turn out," as a mark of respect; but were soon induced to defer it until a more fitting opportunity.


Boats were now sent off, without delay, together with an interpreter, in order to rescue the other sufferers; and at last they all arrived safely in Macao, on the 25th of July.

But it is time to return from this digression to the harbour of Hong-Kong, just at the time when the height of the typhoon had passed over. Towards noon the wind veered round a little to the southward of east; at two P.M., it began to moderate; and at three P.M., its severity had past. Before sunset, the haze began to clear off a little, and gradually the scene of devastation became more and more visible, and presented such a frightful spectacle, that you could hardly believe that it was the same harbour of Hong-Kong, which had been recently so gay and tranquil, with crowds of shipping upon the smooth surface of its waters. The shore was covered with wrecks and stranded boats, and the temporary buildings on shore had disappeared altogether.

Many of our ships were now found to be missing, having been driven out to sea during the fury of the gale. Among the latter was H.M. schooner, Starling, about which great apprehensions were entertained. It was feared that she might have foundered, with all hands on board.

On the following morning, at daylight, the Nemesis was ordered to go out and render assistance to any vessels in distress, and to bring off people from the wrecks; and particularly to look out for the Starling, in case she should have gone on shore upon any of the neighbouring islands. In every direction immediate assistance was required, and many poor fellows were rescued by the Nemesis from a watery grave.

It was curious to remark how completely every vessel that had gone on shore was torn to pieces, and in so short a space of time; every part of them was broken up, and the fragments were floating about the harbour and lining the shores on every side, above high-water mark. A number of artillerymen and sappers were taken off the wreck of one of our prize war-junks which had gone on shore; and the whole crew of the Prince George merchant ship were likewise saved from one of the neighbouring islands upon which they had been wrecked; but the captain of the vessel refused to leave the island, where he vainly persisted in seeking for the body of his unfortunate wife, who was drowned when first the vessel struck.

Not being able to gain any tidings of the Starling, the Nemesis proceeded on through the Capsingmoon passage, towards Lintin, in the hope that she might have taken refuge under that island. Fortunately, she was now descried beating up gallantly through the passage towards Hong-Kong, and, as soon as the steamer ran alongside, there was a general[268] cheer of congratulation. The tale was very soon told. During the height of the typhoon, the Starling had parted a cable, and, as she was now drifting fast, Captain Kellett at once slipped the other, in the hope of being able to run through the Capsingmoon passage, as his only chance of safety. With very great exertion and good seamanship, he fortunately succeeded in the attempt, even in the midst of the typhoon, and had even managed to lie-to and pick up some unfortunate Chinamen, who were floating past him upon the wreck of their shattered junk. At length, he succeeded in getting under the lee of the island of Lintin, where he brought up with a common boat's anchor, having a couple of guns fastened to the cable. By the aid of this contrivance, he rode out the gale, until it moderated sufficiently for him to get under weigh, and attempt to return to Hong-Kong. The Nemesis, however, now took the Starling in tow, and great was the surprise and joy of every one at Hong-Kong, when the two vessels were seen standing in together in safety.

In this typhoon, H.M.S. Sulphur, Algerine, Royalist, and the schooner Hebe, were dismasted; and at least twenty merchant vessels and transports were either driven ashore or were dismasted, and suffered other injuries.

Five days afterwards, on the 26th, there was a recurrence of the typhoon, which the Nemesis rode out very easily in the Typa anchorage at Macao; but it was not so severe as the first one, and comparatively little injury was caused by it. There is reason to believe also, that, had all the ships at Hong-Kong been moored in proper berths, and early precautions taken, before the commencement of the first typhoon, the danger and the damage inflicted would have been much less severe.

No time was lost in refitting the ships, and preparations were now hastened for the advance of our forces upon Amoy, and for pushing on our operations further northward, while the favourable season lasted. Sir Gordon Bremer had returned from Calcutta, in the Queen steamer, on the 18th of June, having been invested with the functions of joint-plenipotentiary, in conjunction with Captain Elliot. This high honour was, however, of short duration; for, on the 9th of August, Sir Henry Pottinger arrived from England, via Bombay, having been appointed sole plenipotentiary and chief-superintendent of trade in China: he was accompanied by Vice-Admiral Sir William Parker, by whom all the subsequent naval operations were conducted.



At the end of July, the H.C. steamer Phlegethon, Lieut. M'Cleverty, nearly the exact counterpart of the Nemesis, arrived at Hong-Kong, bringing the intelligence that Captain Elliot's treaty of Chuenpee had been disapproved of by the home government, and that Sir Henry Pottinger had been appointed to succeed him, as sole plenipotentiary. Shortly before this, also, her Majesty's 55th regiment had arrived from Calcutta, and everything indicated that a movement upon Amoy would take place as soon as possible, after the expected arrival of Sir Henry Pottinger as plenipotentiary, and Sir William Parker as admiral. The season for active operations was already advanced, and even for the sake of the health of the troops, it was the anxious wish of all the officers that a change of some sort or other might speedily take place.

In the afternoon of the 10th of August, the arrival of the H.C. steamer Sesostris, from Bombay, in the Macao roads, was announced, and great was the joy of every one when it was made known that both Sir Henry Pottinger and Sir William Parker were on board. They had come from London in the wonderfully short period of sixty-seven days, ten of which had been spent in Bombay.

At daylight next morning, the Nemesis went out to convey these high functionaries from the Sesostris, in the roads, to the town of Macao, where they were received with every demonstration of respect, under a salute from the Portuguese forts. A conference was held in the course of the morning, between Captain Elliot and Sir Henry Pottinger, together with the Admiral and Sir Hugh Gough. Energetic measures appeared to be at once resolved on. Sir William Parker went over to visit the fleet at Hong-Kong, and as soon as visits of ceremony had been exchanged between the new plenipotentiary and the Portuguese authorities, Sir Henry Pottinger lost no time in publishing the notification of his appointment, as minister extraordinary and sole plenipotentiary, and also as chief superintendent of trade in China.

In order to communicate officially to the Chinese authorities the fact of his arrival, and the nature of his powers, Sir Henry now despatched his secretary, Major Malcolm, to Canton, as the bearer of letters to the provincial government. The Nemesis was, as usual, employed to carry the officers up the river. No little sensation was created among the Chinese[270] officials by the announcement which was now made to them. They therefore resolved to welcome the plenipotentiary with all ceremony; and probably, also, in the hope of being able to form some estimate of his character, they despatched the prefect of the city, or kwang-chow-foo, on the 18th, to Macao, with a numerous retinue. He landed at Macao, upon the Praya Grande, near the governor's palace, attended by a great number of followers, and proceeded in state to the residence of the plenipotentiary, thinking, no doubt, that he was conferring a great honour upon his Excellency, and that he would accordingly be received with every mark of distinction. Alas, how are the mighty fallen! The ceremonious prefect was not even received. He, who had hitherto been courted as an officer of distinction, and had been the medium of communication, and in some sort the ambassador, between the high Chinese authorities and Captain Elliot, was now absolutely rejected. Sir Henry Pottinger, acting with an intimate knowledge of the Oriental character, and fully impressed with the high duties he was called upon to perform, and the high station he had to maintain as her Majesty's representative, declined to receive or hold any direct intercourse with an officer inferior to himself in rank and responsibility, and still less with one of comparatively inferior grade, such as the Prefect of Canton.

Major Malcolm, the secretary of legation, was, however, deputed to receive the prefect; and, after a short interview, the would-be great man withdrew, and returned in some dismay to Canton, to report the circumstances to his superiors. The sensation created by this little characteristic incident was very remarkable. It became the subject of conversation in every quarter, and tended to awaken much greater respect for the dignity of the new plenipotentiary. The same cautious and dignified bearing was maintained with the greatest advantage throughout the whole of our subsequent proceedings.

At Hong-Kong, the most active preparations were now being made for the immediate departure of the expedition. Excellent arrangements were introduced by Sir William Parker for the proper guidance of the fleet, and especially for the distribution and management of the numerous transports and store-ships. The advantage of this systematic regularity soon became evident; and it is deserving of notice that, from this period to the close of the war, the transport service was conducted with the utmost regularity and efficiency, in spite of the endless difficulties arising out of our imperfect knowledge of the coast of China, and the inaccuracy of most of the charts. Add to this, that owing to sickness and other causes, the[271] transports were often under-manned, and had frequently the most arduous duties to perform.

By a general order of the 19th of August, issued only nine days after the arrival of the admiral, the fleet was directed to be ready to put to sea at daylight on the 21st. It was to be formed in three divisions: the centre commanded by Captain Herbert, in the Blenheim, assisted by Commander Clarke, of the Columbine; the starboard division, under Captain Bourchier, in the Blonde, assisted by Commander Gifford, in the Cruiser; while the second, or port division, was placed under Captain Smith, of the Druid, assisted by Commander Anson, of the Pylades.

The whole fleet consisted of thirty-six sail, including transports—namely, two line-of-battle ships, the Wellesley and the Blenheim; seven other ships of war—namely, the Modeste, Druid, Columbine, Blonde, Pylades, Cruiser, and Algerine; the Rattlesnake troop-ship, and the Bentinck surveying vessel; four steamers belonging to the East India Company—namely, the Queen, Phlegethon, Nemesis, and Sesostris; and twenty-one hired transports and store-ships, most of them of large size, several of not less than a thousand tons burden. The force stationed in the neighbourhood of the Canton river comprised five or six vessels of war, including the Herald and Alligator, and was under the command of Captain Nias, senior officer.

Early on the morning of the 21st, the fleet got under weigh. Sir Henry Pottinger came over from Macao, in The Queen, on that day, just as the fleet had sailed; and, as he stopped some time at Hong-Hong to inspect the place, and examine the various arrangements which had already been made, he did not join the admiral until the following day. The general rendezvous, in case of separation, was to be Chapel Island, not far from Amoy. The weather was extremely favourable during the whole passage up, and, on the 25th, the whole squadron reached the outer harbour of Amoy, having preserved the order of sailing remarkably well throughout.

The late plenipotentiaries, Captain Elliot and Sir Gordon Bremer, sailed from Hong-Kong, and finally took leave of China, three days after the departure of the expedition, on board the Atalanta steamer, which had become completely knocked up by her work in the Canton river. Their intention was to proceed as quickly as possible to England, by way of Bombay.

The distance of Amoy from Hong-Kong is scarcely three hundred miles, and there were many good grounds for[272] making it the first point of attack, as the expedition proceeded northward. It could not be doubted that the capture of this flourishing commercial city would be seriously felt by the Chinese government. The authorities had, within the last twelve months, spent enormous sums of money and incredible labour in the construction of batteries, which they deemed impregnable, and which were certainly capable of being stoutly defended.

The harbour of Amoy is situated in the south-western corner of an island of the same name, which, together with another called Quemoy, occupies a considerable portion of a large bay, in which, however, there are also numerous smaller islands. Of these, the most interesting, in connexion with our present subject, is that of Kolingsoo, which is separated from Amoy by a narrow passage, leading directly up to the harbour. In fact, the possession of this island, which we still retain, gives us the complete command of Amoy itself, or rather of its town and suburbs.

The scenery within the bay and about the town of Amoy is exceedingly picturesque, the appearance of the country being very mountainous and striking. Several considerable rivers pour their waters into the bay, and facilitate the communications with the interior of the country. The superiority of the harbour much exceeded the expectations of the officers.

The town of Amoy, although possessed of great commercial importance, and very wealthy, is by no means a first-class city—it ranks, indeed, only as a principal third-class town—but its inhabitants are exceedingly enterprising and intelligent, and are remarkable for a certain disposition for emigration and colonization, as well as for their love of commerce. They were the principal colonizers of the flourishing island of Formosa, which lies opposite Amoy, extending itself along the coast for a distance of little less than two hundred miles; and they are to be found in great numbers in more remote islands, subject even to foreign dominion, such as Java, Singapore, Manilla, &c.

The city and suburbs of Amoy can hardly be less than eight or ten miles in circumference, and they are in a great degree commanded by a fortified hill or citadel in the rear, which, however, is again commanded (as is very commonly the case in China) by unfortified heights beyond it to the eastward. The suburbs, or outer town, are separated from the principal or inner town by a line of steep, rocky hills, which run transversely down to the beach; but a paved road or narrow causeway leads into the city, through a pass which is protected by a covered gateway at its summit. As there is, therefore, what[273] may be called a double town, so is there also a sort of double harbour—the outer one running along the face of the outer town, and the inner one extending along the front of the principal town, and joining a large estuary, which runs deep into the island across its centre, and skirts the northern side of the city. In this manner, nearly two-thirds of the city of Amoy are washed by the sea. In fact, it stands upon a corner or tongue of land, having a line of bold mountains in its rear and on its flank. The walls are castellated at top, and vary in height, according to the nature of the ground, from twenty to thirty feet. There are also, as in other places, four principal gates, having each an outwork or outer wall, with a court or open space between them, and a second gate leading from this, and placed at right angles to the inner one, so that the approach to it from the outside is commanded by the principal wall of the town.

The citadel of Amoy was afterwards found to contain a large supply of military accoutrements—ginjals, matchlocks, swords, shields, and spears of all kinds; there was also an immense quantity of gunpowder, and materials for making it; in short, there was every reason to believe that Amoy had been made use of as the great military depôt of the province.

It is impossible to form even a tolerable estimate of the number of troops collected for the defence of the place, but the different accounts which were received varied from six thousand to eight or ten thousand men. It was also known that the high officers of the province had come down to Amoy purposely to encourage the defence, and to witness, as they hoped, the utter discomfiture of the barbarians. It was, however, upon their newly-constructed works that they placed their great reliance.

Numerous forts and field-works had been erected upon nearly all the smaller islands which stretch across the mouth of the great bay; and upon the island of Amoy itself a succession of batteries and field-works had been built to command the approach to the town. The principal of these was a long stone battery, well built of granite, faced with earth, extending along the shore nearly up to the suburbs of the city, and designed to command the passage to the harbour. It presented a line of guns a full mile in length, the embrasures being covered with large slabs of stone protected by earth heaped upon them, and mounting no less than ninety-six guns. In the rear of this battery there was a range of steep, rocky heights, up the side of which the Chinese had carried a strong castellated wall to serve as a flanking defence to the battery.


Still further to defend the approaches to the city, they had also strongly fortified the little island of Kolingsoo, between which and Amoy the passage is not more than six hundred yards across; this island is, in fact, the key of Amoy, and was retained in our possession when the city and the island of Amoy were restored to the Chinese. At that time the Chinese had already mounted upon the works, either completed or in progress, no less than seventy-six guns. Indeed they had spared no labour to endeavour to render Amoy capable of easy defence; although, from want of skill and discipline, the resistance which they offered was comparatively trifling. If the number of guns alone could indicate the strength of a place, the Chinese might have had some grounds for confidence; for, as Sir Hugh Gough remarked, "every island, every projecting headland whence guns could be made to bear, was occupied and strongly armed." In fact, there were altogether not less than five hundred guns captured at Amoy and the adjacent islands.

Early on the morning of the 26th of August, everything was in readiness for the projected attack. The captains and commanders repaired on board the flag-ship for orders; the steamers were all smoking and blowing off their spare steam, and the officers were all anxiously looking for the expected signal to stand in and engage the batteries. Before active operations commenced, however, it was thought right to make a reconnoissance of the defences which were to be attacked. With this view Sir Hugh Gough, Sir William Parker, and the plenipotentiary, stood in on board the Phlegethon, and were able to approach sufficiently close to the works to observe all that was necessary, without having a single shot fired at them.

In the meantime a messenger, supposed to be a Chinese merchant, came off from the town, under a flag of truce, requesting to know the object of the visit of so large and formidable a squadron. The answer to this question was simple enough, and was sent in the name of the plenipotentiary, the general, and the admiral, to the effect that "they required that the demands made last year at Tientsin, (near Pekin,) by Captain Elliot, should be complied with; and that hostile measures would, if necessary, be adopted to enforce them. Nevertheless, that as the plenipotentiary and the commanders-in-chief were moved by compassionate feelings, and were unwilling to cause the death of so many officers and soldiers as must perish, they were willing to allow all the officers and troops in the town to retire with their personal arms and baggage, in order to save the people from being hurt, upon condition that the town[275] and fortifications of Amoy should be at once delivered into the hands of the British forces, to be held for the present by them." A white flag was to be exhibited from the fortifications, if these terms were acceded to; otherwise, hostilities would commence. As might be expected, the white flag was not displayed.

The morning was very hot and sultry; but about one o'clock a steady, favourable breeze set in, and the squadron got under weigh. The plan was, to make a simultaneous attack upon all the batteries at once, both against those upon Amoy and those upon Kolingsoo. The troops were also to be landed, with the object of taking the batteries in the rear; and the Nemesis and Phlegethon steamers were to be employed to convey them to the appointed place of debarkation.

The ships were likely to bear the chief brunt of the engagement; but Sir Hugh Gough made every disposition for the employment of the land forces, and his general order, issued just before the attack was to take place, deserves especial notice. He directed his remarks very strongly to the question of plundering; and observed, that "as Amoy was a large commercial port, and there had once been an English factory there, it was highly important that no act should be committed which could tend to embarrass our future friendly intercourse. The government and the military were to be overcome, and public property taken possession of, under certain instructions, but private property was to be held inviolable; and that which in England," observed the general, "obtains the name of robbery, deserves no better name in China." The camp followers were made liable to be put to death for plundering; and orders were issued to punish on the spot any man straggling from his corps.

This alone will suffice to point out that the expedition was very far from possessing that buccaneering character which some persons, particularly foreigners, attempted to cast upon it. Indeed, it may safely be asserted, that war was never carried on with so little infliction of suffering upon the people generally as in China. Generally speaking, the people soon learned to appreciate our motives; and unless prevented by their own officers, they commonly shewed a friendly, or at all events a neutral feeling towards us. Besides the English, the privilege of trading at Amoy was formerly held by the Spanish also; and, at no very remote period, a regular intercourse was kept up between Amoy and the Spanish colony of Manilla.

It was probable that the nature of the country round Amoy would render brigade movements inadmissible; but the troops[276] were to be prepared to form in three brigades, if necessary. The men were to land in jackets, caps, and coats folded; and were to carry, each man, one day's cooked provisions. The artillery were to be in readiness to land their light, mountain guns.

About half-past one, the attack commenced on our side; but the Chinese had already begun the engagement, by firing occasional shots at our ships, as they proceeded with a steady and favourable breeze to their respective stations. The Sesostris and Queen steamers led in; the former commencing the action, but receiving a heavy fire before she returned it. The line-of-battle ships, Wellesley and Blenheim, under Captains Maitland and Herbert, proceeded to the extremity of the long stone battery, nearest the suburbs, where they anchored by the stern, about half-past two P.M., within four hundred yards of the works, and at once opened a heavy fire upon the principal battery.

The next in order along the front of these works, from the suburbs towards the outer extremity, were the Pylades, Columbine, Cruiser, and Algerine. Simultaneously with this attack upon Amoy, the Blonde, Druid, and Modeste, reached their allotted stations, against the works of Kolingsoo; but, owing to the shallowness of the water, they were boldly carried on, in little more than their own draught.

The roar of the artillery on every side, echoed by the mountains around, was now terrific; and in one hour and twenty minutes the three principal batteries on Kolingsoo were silenced, and the marines under Captain Ellis, about one hundred and seventy in number, were landed on that island, and took possession of the heights in the rear, without any loss. Three companies of the 26th regiment had also been appointed to this service, but the distance of the transports only permitted a small detachment of them, under Major Johnstone, to land in time to assist in clearing the batteries. The small detachment of the Royal Artillery, under Lieut. the Hon. R. E. Spencer, were actively employed on board the Blonde, during the attack.

While these operations were being carried on against the batteries on Kolingsoo, and against the long battery on Amoy, the Phlegethon and Nemesis were speedily brought up with the troops ready to land. The Nemesis had taken on board the general and his staff, together with the 18th Royal Irish, under Colonel Adams; and had also to tow up a number of boats, with the sappers and miners, followers, &c. Considerable delay was therefore occasioned by having to run up to the different transports to embark detachments, and also to pick[277] up the boats; and it was not until half-past three that the Nemesis could get into action. She then opened fire at the long battery with her heavy guns and rockets, as she approached the lower angle of the fort for the purpose of landing the troops.

It was just about this time, that as the Phlegethon was also running up towards the battery, a boat was despatched by Lieut. M'Cleverty, in which Lieut. Crawford volunteered his services to capture a small outwork upon a hill, very near the beach; and it was here that the British flag was first displayed upon the enemy's works, on that day, with three cheers from the steamers.

About a quarter before four, the general landed upon the beach, near the flank of the great battery, with the 18th and 49th regiments, which were carried in by the Nemesis and Phlegethon steamers. The disembarkation was conducted by Commander Giffard, of the Cruiser. The 18th was directed to escalade the castellated wall which flanked the battery; and, as already described, ran up the hill-side from the beach, nearly at right angles to it. At the same time, the 49th were to move along the beach towards the lower angle of the battery, and either get over it at its sea-face, or force their way through the embrasures.

A smart fire was kept up from the Nemesis, to cover the landing and advance of the troops; and Capt. Hall himself, anxious to take an active part in every operation, pushed off from the steamer, in the pinnace manned and armed, accompanied by the unfortunate Mr. Gully, who, as an old and brave friend, volunteered to go with him. This was the same gentleman who afterwards fell a victim to the rapacity and cruelty of the Chinese authorities on the island of Formosa, upon which he had the misfortune to be wrecked, and, after seven months' imprisonment and cruel treatment, was at length executed, together with nearly all his companions.

As soon as Capt. Hall and his friend had landed with the pinnace's crew, they joined the advanced guard of the 18th, under Major Tomlinson and Lieut. Murray, who were advancing towards the lower end of the castellated wall. The Chinese opened a smart fire of ginjals and matchlocks as they approached, which was returned by the advancing party, who took advantage of the numerous little hillocks and tombs which lay in their way, to shelter themselves while they reloaded.

The Chinese, finding their enemy pressing up towards the wall, and being already bewildered by the admirable firing of the ships, now began to slacken their fire. The 18th rushed[278] for the lower end of the wall, while the party from the Nemesis made a dash at its flank, some way higher up, near a gateway, where the wall appeared less elevated and more accessible. They had, however, brought no scaling-ladders, and, in order to get over the wall, the men were obliged to be lifted up on each other's backs. In this way Captain Hall managed to get first upon the top of the wall, and instantly waved the British flag (which on such occasions he always carried with him in his pocket) in token of triumph. Others soon followed; and the Chinese, the moment they saw their enemies upon the walls, fired two or three random shots, and fled. At this time also the 18th got over the wall lower down, while the 49th forced their way through the embrasures, just at the angle of the sea-face of the great battery. The fire of the ships had not yet ceased, when the party from the Nemesis got down into the body of the fort, and several of our large shot fell close around them.

A very short distance in advance they now observed that two Chinese officers of high rank, mounted on horseback, were endeavouring to make their escape, surrounded by a numerous body-guard, or retinue. The opportunity for trying to take an important prisoner was a tempting one; and Captain Hall, little thinking how few of his own men were near him, and carried away by the impulse of the moment, rushed headlong upon the Chinese soldiers in front of him, firing off his pistols at the two principal officers. Only two of his own men were near him at the moment; so that one of the inferior Chinese officers, seeing the disparity, rallied a few of his men, and suddenly faced about, with a view to cut them off. A personal encounter now took place with the Chinese officer, who was a remarkably fine young man, bearing the white button. The long sword, however, soon had the advantage over the Chinese short one, even putting aside personal prowess, and the mandarin fell severely wounded in the arm. He was immediately disarmed, and his cap and button, together with his sword, were taken from him as trophies. Several other soldiers now came up, to endeavour to rescue their officer, who got up and tried to escape, but another wound in the leg soon brought him down again, and made the other Chinamen halt.

By this time, Captain Hall and his two men were nearly surrounded, and were compelled to fight their way back again towards their comrades, who were coming up to their aid. One of the two seamen received a severe wound in the groin from the thrust of a spear, but the others got off without any[279] injury. The young wounded mandarin was at last safely carried off by his comrades.

The Chinese were now in full flight in every direction, followed by the 18th, 49th, and a party of small-arm men, who were landed from the Wellesley and Blenheim, some way up the sea-face of the fort, under Commander Fletcher and other officers of those ships. The fort was soon completely in our possession. During all the operations of this day, Sir Henry Pottinger and suite were with the admiral on board the Wellesley.

On examining the sea-face of the battery, it was impossible not to be struck with the amazing solidity of the wall. It was composed of hewn granite, faced outside with earth, and of such strength, that the heavy firing of two line-of-battle ships against it, at the distance of only four hundred yards, had made very little impression; indeed, it might be said to be shot-proof. The embrasures were something like low port-holes, covered with stone and earth, and in the space between them were sheds, or a sort of temporary watch-boxes, in which was found a quantity of arms of every kind, clothes, half-cooked food, and also opium, with the common pipes used for smoking it. A horse also was found. The guns were many of them very ill-mounted, and in general the carriages were badly contrived, and often defective. In some places you saw bags of sand placed upon the top of the guns, to prevent them from jumping out of the carriages altogether. The fort had evidently been armed hastily.

Several high Chinese officers fell during this day; some probably by their own hands. One of them very quietly rushed into the water and drowned himself, although, in the report of the affair to the emperor, it was afterwards stated that he "rushed on to drive back the assailants as they landed, and fell into the water and died." This officer was the Chinese commodore, who commanded in the absence of the admiral. This officer had left the port just before our arrival, (boasting that he was going to meet the barbarians,) and, having sailed northward, could not get back again, owing to the contrary wind.

Before five o'clock, the whole of the outer defences of Amoy were in our possession. The Blonde and Modeste, as soon as they had silenced the batteries on Kolingsoo, with the assistance of the Druid, had pushed on into the inner harbour, and captured twenty-six war-junks, mounting not less than one hundred and twenty-eight guns; they were nearly ready for sea, but were deserted by their crews. A large building-yard was discovered, with an immense quantity of timber collected[280] in it; and there was a good-sized frigate-junk, of about three hundred tons, in course of building, in a regular dry dock, something after the European model; they had evidently made a great step in advance in the art of ship-building; indeed, the longer the war lasted, the more the Chinese found themselves led on, by the "impulse of necessity," to attempt great changes, and, in many respects, improvements, not only in their vessels, but in their warlike weapons, and other matters relating to the art of defence.

The Nemesis, in running along the shore to avoid the swell which was setting in, unexpectedly found herself within a circular patch of coral rock, which was not visible above the surface. Several fruitless attempts were made to extricate her from this curious position, but the entrance by which she had got into it could not again be found; but her draught of water being very small, it was thought likely she would be able to force her way over the reef without suffering much damage to her iron hull, and she dashed at it at half speed. The blow, however, was more severe than was expected; the vessel bounded completely over the reef; but the sharp coral rock cut completely through her bottom, making a considerable leak in the engine-room. This was fortunately stopped from the inside without much difficulty, and no further notice was taken of it until some time afterwards, when she arrived at Chusan, where the damage was substantially repaired.

In the meantime, Sir Hugh Gough pushed on without delay, to occupy a chain of steep, rocky hills, which, running transversely down to the beach, lay between the great fort and the town, so as to intercept the view of the latter. A strong body of the Chinese seemed disposed to defend this position, which was naturally of great strength, and completely commanded the approach to the city. Immediate advantage was to be taken of the prevailing panic; and the 18th and 49th regiments being directed to advance partly up a steep gorge, and partly by a more circuitous road leading round the hills, soon made themselves masters of the heights overlooking the city. The Chinese retreated before them as soon as they had fired off their guns and matchlocks. Our troops bivouacked for the night upon the positions they occupied; but they might have been a good deal harassed by the Chinese, if the latter had taken advantage of the rocky, broken character of the ground, to dispute their further advance. The night was bitterly cold upon the heights.

At daylight a reconnoissance was made, and it was soon discovered that little resistance was to be expected. Great confusion and bustle were apparent in all directions; hundreds of[281] the inhabitants were hurrying out of the northern gate, carrying with them their most valuable property; in fact, there was evidently a general panic. Without loss of time, therefore, the 18th, supported by the 49th, were ordered to march down towards the city in the direction of the eastern gate, which was the nearest, while Captain Cotton, the commanding engineer, was directed to examine carefully the approaches to the gate itself.

The advanced party of the 18th, on arriving at the gate, found that there was no preparation for resistance, and soon scaled the walls by means of some ladders which were very opportunely found not far from the gate. Heaps of rubbish, and sacks full of earth and sand, were found piled up inside against the gate, so that some time was required to get it open. It was now discovered that the authorities and all the soldiers had abandoned the town, leaving everything in the utmost disorder, so that the only protection which the more respectable and peaceably-inclined inhabitants had to look for, from the violence and plundering of their own rabble, was from the presence of our own troops, and the military government of the city by the victorious captors. Already the mob had begun to ransack some of the public establishments before we found out where they were situated; and it was afterwards discovered that a good deal of treasure must have been carried away by the thieves and vagabonds of the town. A number of men were found carrying out of the gates something having the appearance of common logs of wood; and it was not suspected, until too late, that these logs were hollowed out, and filled with Sycee silver, a very ingenious contrivance to escape detection. A small quantity of treasure was found in one of the large buildings, supposed to be the office of the commandant, which was occupied by the sappers and miners.

Most of the public offices were large and roomy buildings, affording good accommodation for a whole regiment of soldiers. The pile of buildings belonging to the admiral's department was assigned to the 18th and the staff, being within the walled town; while the 49th were quartered in the outer town, in a large building belonging to the office of the Intendant of Circuit. The 55th occupied an extensive range of buildings belonging to the Prefect of Amoy; the artillery retaining possession of a commanding position overlooking both the city and the outer town.

Late in the day, and also on the following morning, Sir Henry Pottinger and Sir William Parker landed, to take a view of the town; but, after visiting the principal buildings, they returned on board ship.


Numerous patrols were found necessary, by day and night, in order to preserve quiet in the public streets, and to check the boldness and rapacity of the swarms of Chinese thieves and rogues, who hovered about like a raging pestilence in every part of the city, and crowded in from the country the moment the respectable inhabitants left the town. The inhabitants themselves were, in many instances, afraid even to defend their own property, or to aid our troops in restoring order and regularity; they dreaded the probable imputation of having traitorously aided the foreigners, and the fear of extortion and punishment from their own authorities, at some future period, served to disorganize the whole community. In vain did Sir Hugh Gough appeal to the more respectable merchants and householders to aid him in protecting property; all that he could get from them was empty promises, of which they were very liberal, but from which no good result followed. Even within the citadel, or walled town, it was with the utmost difficulty that the daring thieves and vagabonds could be kept in check; and hardly could even a single Chinaman be induced to point out to the guards at the gate the real bonâ fide owners of houses or property, in order that they might be allowed free egress and ingress.

The injury which the inhabitants of many Chinese towns suffered during our operations must not be estimated by the actual damage (generally trifling) done by our fire, or by the presence of our troops. In most instances, even before hostilities commenced, the presence of the Chinese troops, who were marched in probably from several distant provinces, became almost a scourge to the inhabitants; and afterwards, when a town was taken, and the local government disorganized, much greater damage was done to the property of the people by the low mob of plunderers, than would, under any circumstances, have been allowed by our own victorious soldiers; indeed, some instances occurred in which the former were shot by our guards, rather than desist from their evil doings.

Our men often resisted temptations of no ordinary kind; houses were found abandoned, property left unprotected, shops open, and goods strewed about; and even the abominable spirit, samshu, (distilled from rice,) was sometimes almost purposely placed in their way. The instances of misconduct were few, even under these peculiar circumstances.

Among other discoveries was one calculated to corroborate at first sight the notion of the prevalence of infanticide among the Chinese. In a large tank near a public building, by some supposed to have been an hospital, were found the dead[283] bodies of several young infants which had been drowned, having been thrown in, sewn up in pieces of mat. But there was nothing to determine whether the horrid deed was done out of fear that violence might be offered to the women and children, or whether it was really an instance of the practice of infanticide, which has been said to prevail in China to a much greater extent than it really does. The former explanation may possibly in this instance, as in some later ones, be the true one.

The interior of the island of Amoy was not occupied, or even examined, for it was feared by the general that the presence of our troops would so much alarm the respectable and influential inhabitants, that the whole place would be given up to the rapacity and lawlessness of the innumerable miscreants who watched for every opportunity of letting loose all their bad propensities; but the Nemesis, accompanied by the Algerine, and having in tow the launch and pinnace of the Blonde, was ordered to steam round the island, and search for war-junks. None, however, were found.

The island of Kolingsoo appeared so completely to command the harbour and approach to Amoy, that the occupation of that position only was calculated to answer every good purpose, without the necessity for the retention of Amoy.

It was the opinion of Sir Henry Pottinger, in which the general and the admiral perfectly coincided, that no measures should be taken for the permanent occupation of the city, and that a small garrison only should be left at Kolingsoo, while the remainder of the expedition should move further northward with the least possible delay. It was necessary, however, to wait a day or two for favourable winds, and measures were taken for the destruction of the numerous works which had been constructed upon the outer islands.

The Nemesis was employed on this important service on the 30th and 31st. Having been joined by two launches and other boats, with a party of seamen and marines from the Wellesley, Blenheim, and Druid, under Commander Fletcher, she proceeded to destroy some forts and guns, principally on the south-west side of the bay, all of which had been abandoned by the Chinese. On this occasion, five forts or field-works and forty-two guns were taken possession of and destroyed, and on the following day several others of the same description were also disabled. A body of Chinese soldiers, who shewed themselves near a small fort on the island of Quemoy, at the eastern entrance of the bay, were dispersed, and several guns, matchlocks, ginjals, &c., together with a quantity of gunpowder, were destroyed. Altogether seventy-seven[284] guns and four forts were destroyed in this day's work, and the admiral publicly spoke of the "very commendable zeal" which had been displayed.

At Amoy, for the first time, the so-called tiger soldiers shewed themselves—that is, men dressed up in yellow-coloured clothes, with black spots or stripes upon them, and a covering for the head, intended to be a rude representation of a tiger's head, supposed to look very fierce, and to strike terror into the minds of the enemy.

The island of Kolingsoo, which had been retained in our possession ever since its capture, deserves a few remarks. It is about a mile and a half in length, and about three quarters of a mile broad, but is very irregular in its shape. It principally consists of rocky broken ground, the greater part of which is barren, but interspersed with unwholesome rice-grounds, which have contributed to render the place extremely unhealthy; indeed at one period the mortality among the troops stationed there was dreadful, scarcely even a single officer having escaped sickness, which proved fatal to many. The Chinese, however, seemed to have suffered little from it, for there were several neat and even elegant country-houses upon the island, ornamented with handsome carved wood-work, &c. It seemed to have been used as a place of retirement for some of the wealthier citizens of Amoy, and our retention of a place so conveniently situated for giving us the command of the harbour and trade of the city was a source of great annoyance, both to the authorities and to the inhabitants.

For a considerable time, very little communication was kept up with the town, and it was scarcely safe to venture into it; but since the peace, every disposition has been shewn to receive us in a friendly manner, and the knowledge which many of the Chinese merchants have acquired of our character and habits, by trading with Singapore, will tend materially to facilitate our future commercial intercourse.

Several American missionaries have resided at Kolingsoo, and without doubt will, at no distant period, succeed in winning the attention and good-will of many of the inhabitants of Amoy. A boundless field has at length been opened for missionary enterprise in the benighted empire of China; for, although it cannot be said that the country has been made completely accessible to the foreigner, still the hostility of the government has been materially modified.

It rests with the Christian nations to profit as Christians, by the opportunities which cannot fail to offer. Among a[285] people so fond of reading and thinking, and so given to study and inquiry as the Chinese generally are, the best possible results are to be expected from the judicious teaching of Christianity, and, above all, of Christian practices. If China is really to be opened, it is to be effected by missionary enterprise cautiously and judiciously, and, above all, not too hastily applied.

The most valuable of all aids to these undertakings, is that of medical knowledge, which may be considered as almost indispensable to the proper character of a missionary in China. The relief of bodily suffering (above all, in a country where the medical art is so low as it is in China) softens the feelings of our nature, and paves the way for kinder influences over the mind itself. It will open the family mansion of the most secluded and prejudiced Chinese, when words or doctrines first propounded would meet an unwilling or perhaps a hostile listener. Religious teaching and the practice of the healing art, the comfort of the suffering mind, and the solace of the tortured body, must go hand in hand in effecting the good work of "opening" China.

Why is it that the Americans have taken precedence of the English in this great and glorious work, since the commencement of the war in particular? For many years, a talented medical missionary, Dr. Parker, has dispensed his double blessing upon the Chinese at Canton, and can testify the gratitude of the people, from the highest to the lowest, and the readiness with which they have accepted his counsel and his teaching in both capacities. At Macao, Hong-Kong, Kolingsoo, and Chusan, the Americans have alike preceded us.

There is, however, one great and fatal error to be avoided; and that is, the rivalry of religious sects among each other, and the attempt to gain followers at the expense of each other's tenets. It was this want of unanimity which in some measure produced the decline of the influence of Roman-catholic missionaries in China.

The garrison which was left by Sir Hugh Gough upon the island of Kolingsoo consisted of three companies of the 26th regiment, with a wing of the 18th, and a small detachment of artillery, comprising altogether about five hundred and fifty men; the whole under the command of Major Johnstone, of the 26th; and the Druid, with the Pylades and Algerine, were also to remain there, under the command of Captain Smith, C.B., as a further support, to ensure the complete command of the harbour of Amoy.


The number of troops employed during the operations against Amoy was as follows:—

Artillery, European and Native, Captain Knowles9240
18th Regiment Royal Irish, Lieutenant Colonel Adams    30648
26th Regiment (Cameronians), Major Johnstone8153
49th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Morris24460
55th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Craigie26731
Madras Sappers and Miners6184
Total103    2416

Four native officers, and serjeants and drummers, are included in the second column.[56]

In the afternoon of the 4th of September, the weather having become calm and fine, the preconcerted signal for the embarkation of the troops from the town and island of Amoy was made on board the flag-ship. Upon this sudden order, the troops were paraded in perfect regularity, without a single instance of drunkenness or misconduct, after eight days of harassing duty on shore, amid temptations of every kind. Under the direction of Commander Giffard, of the Cruiser, the whole force was embarked without any accident, by half-past six o'clock, on board the Nemesis and other steamers, which conveyed them out to their respective transports, in readiness to sail on the following day. Not even a camp-follower was left behind (and they are generally a very troublesome class); but, in order to make sure that there was no straggler, the Nemesis was afterwards sent in again to the town to bring off any one that might accidentally have been left. But the only straggler which was found, happened to be a fine fat bullock, which was soon put on board the Nemesis and carried off.

Every preparation was now completed for the departure of our forces on the following morning, the 5th of September.


[56] List of H.M. ships and vessels, and of the Honourable Company's steam-vessels, in action at Amoy, 26th of August, 1841.

Wellesley (flag)72  Captain T. Maitland.
Blenheim72  Captain T. Herbert.
Blonde44  Captain T. Bourchier.
Druid44  Captain H. Smith.
Modeste18  Captain H. Eyres.
Cruiser16  Commander Giffard.
Pylades18  Commander Anson.
Columbine16  Commander Clarke.
Bentinck10  Lieutenant R. Collinson.
Algerine10  Lieutenant T. Mason.
Sesostris steamer4  Commander Ormsby, I.N.
Phlegethon steamer4  Lieutenant M'Cleverty, R.N.
Nemesis steamer4  Mr. W. H. Hall, R.N.
Queen steamer4  Mr. W. Warden, R.N.



All those persons who have visited Amoy, either out of curiosity or on matters of business, appear to agree with each other in regarding it as a place peculiarly adapted for the extension of European trade. The mercantile spirit and enterprise of its inhabitants, and their anxious desire to trade with foreigners, when not held back by the arbitrary orders of the mandarins, have been long known and recorded by several travellers, before there was any prospect whatever of the trade being opened. Mr. Gutzlaff observed respecting it, in the account of his voyage along the coast—"Its excellent harbour has made it from time immemorial one of the greatest emporiums of the empire, and one of the most important markets of Asia. Vessels can sail close up to the houses, load and unload with the greatest facility, have shelter from all winds, and in entering or leaving the port, experience no danger of getting ashore. The whole adjacent country being sterile, the inhabitants were forced to seek some means of subsistence elsewhere. Endowed with an enterprising spirit, and unwearied in the pursuit of gain, they visited all parts of the Chinese empire, gradually became bold sailors, and settled as merchants all along the coast. Thus they colonized Formosa, which, from that period to this, has been their granary, and visited and settled in the Indian archipelago, Cochin China, and Siam. A population constantly overflowing, demanded constant resources for their subsistence, and this they found in colonization; and thus they spread themselves all along the coast of China, up to Mantchou Tartary. As soon as the colonists amass sufficient money, they return home, which they leave again when all is spent." Elsewhere he says, "Many of these merchants, settled in the northern parts of China, return annually with their profits. It is not surprising, therefore, that a large amount of Chinese shipping belongs to Amoy merchants, and that the greater part of the capital employed in the coasting trade is their property. Hence, even this barren tract is become one of the richest in China, from the enterprise of its inhabitants. Wherever the people go they are rarely found in a state of abject poverty; on the contrary, they are often wealthy, and command the trade of whole islands and provinces, as well by their capital as by their superior enterprise and industry."

The English, who had formerly a factory at Amoy, were compelled to relinquish the trade by the severe extortions to[288] which they were subject. The Dutch continued it for a longer time, but neglected it when their influence at Formosa ceased. The natives of Amoy have always shewn themselves ready to cultivate the friendship of foreigners, wherever they have been, and in their dealings they have a character for honesty beyond all other Chinese. They are more ambitious of successful mercantile enterprise than of literary distinction or advancement, which is generally so dear to a Chinaman.

The shops of Amoy are generally well supplied with the necessaries and luxuries of life, the merchants are civil, and although the town is neither handsome nor very cleanly, and the population in some parts of it are densely crowded together, still there are many fine houses, which indicate the possession of wealth and consequence.

An immense trade is carried on between Amoy and the island of Formosa, to which a great number of emigrants are even still attracted from the province of Fokien. Before the occupation of Hong-Kong was thought of, several proposals were made for forming a British settlement upon Formosa, as being conveniently situated for extending our trade with the inhabitants, not only of the adjacent district of Fokien, but of the whole coast of China. This suggestion was partly encouraged by the recollection of the settlement which the Dutch once possessed upon the island; but it seemed to be forgotten that the Dutch were at length forcibly expelled, and that the population having greatly increased since that period, it is not likely that we should be suffered to retain possession of any part of the island without being constantly harassed and provoked to bloodshed; moreover, the privilege of trading with Amoy does away with all probability of advantage to be derived by direct trade with Formosa.

Among other proposals, that of a settlement upon the Bonin islands (which are said already to belong to Great Britain) was suggested, with a view to commercial enterprise with China; and Mr. Tradescant Lay warmly supported this notion. These islands were taken possession of by Captain Beechey, of H.M.S. Blossom, in 1827, and they extend from latitude 27°, 44', to 26°, 30' N., being about five days' sail from the Lew-Chew islands, and three from Japan. In the course of a few years, it is not improbable that Port St. George, the principal harbour, may be resorted to, with the object of pushing our trade even into Japan itself. At the present moment, indeed, several Englishmen and other Europeans are settled there, and are principally concerned in the whale fishery. There are also a good many natives of the Sandwich Islands[289] at Port St. George. The islands are volcanic, but are rendered productive with moderate cultivation.

It is worth while here to mention that the Bonin Islands and the Sandwich Islands lie directly in the line of future intercourse between China and the west coast of America, and that it has been thought not improbable that a new route to China may some day be opened, by way of California and the islands above-named.

To return from this digression to the island of Formosa, which has claimed our particular interest since the massacre of so many of our shipwrecked countrymen by the authorities, shortly before the termination of the late war. In this horrible tragedy no less than two hundred and eighty-three human beings were put to death in cold blood, without any other crime than that of helplessness, and without any other object than that of obtaining rewards by fabricated statements, and honours by false pretences. Formosa was the last conquest of the present Tartar dynasty, and even since it has been brought under Chinese dominion, the rebellions and disturbances of its unruly inhabitants have been a frequent source of alarm to the government. The imperial troops have been frequently defeated with great slaughter, and peace is said to have been purchased by bribes more frequently than it has been won by conquest. The aboriginal inhabitants are still numerous in the mountain districts, and along some parts of the eastern shores, but they, are said to be much oppressed by the Chinese colonists, and also by the authorities.

When the Tartars first began the conquest of China, great numbers of discontented spirits went over to Formosa from the neighbouring provinces, and it has been recorded that one hundred thousand people took refuge there. The island belongs to the province of Fokien, along which it is situated at a distance varying from seventy to one hundred and twenty miles, the passage between it and the mainland being called the Formosa Channel. The length of this island is about two hundred and twenty miles, but the breadth of it is extremely irregular. The Chinese population is at present supposed to amount to about two millions, and is constantly on the increase, by the accession of an influx of emigrants from the mainland adjoining. They are attracted thither by the fertility of the soil, and the great facilities for cultivating sugar and rice, which are there grown to an extent sufficient to supply a vast quantity of these necessary articles to the inhabitants of the mainland, and to employ several hundred trading junks in the traffic.


It is worthy of remark, that the Dutch contrived to establish themselves upon the island of Formosa, and ultimately to form a factory there, before the Tartar conquest, and before it was regularly colonized by the Chinese. The Japanese also partly contributed, though in small numbers, to colonize the island. The Dutch had a small garrison at a place called Tanshuy, or Tamsui, at the northern extremity of the island, and another at Kelung, not very for from it. Their object was to make use of their settlement as a depôt, or centre of trade, from which their operations could be extended along the coast of China and Japan. Their influence was, however, of very short continuance, as they were ultimately completely driven out of the island, after some few struggles, by the famous pirate, Coxinga, in 1662, about thirty or forty years after they had fairly established themselves on it.

The present capital of the island is built upon the site of the principal Dutch factory of former times, and is called Ty-wan-foo; it is upon the west coast, some distance down towards its southern end. The harbour has, however, become almost inaccessible, except to vessels of very light draught of water, owing to the accumulation of sand, which is thought to frequently change its place. Indeed, the sea has gradually continued to retire from many parts of the coast, and harbours which were once frequented are at present inaccessible.

From the time of the expulsion of the Dutch, to the period of our operations upon the coast of China, little seems to have been known or heard of Formosa; and, owing to the jealousy of the Chinese, and other causes, no attempt seems to have been made to explore the island. The colonists are described as being generally very turbulent and given to violence, as it has become a place of refuge for all the bad characters who can manage to escape from the mainland; but it is also the home of many respectable and enterprising settlers; although, being removed from the control of the superior officers of the province, they live with less restraint, and therefore readily become bold and lawless. For the same reason, the local mandarins are cruel, rapacious, and ignorant; and their behaviour towards our unfortunate countrymen will suffice to stamp them with the character of treachery and thorough baseness. But the cultivation and prosperity of the island have increased in a rapid and remarkable manner; and it is evident that British manufactures will soon be spread among its numerous population, through their intimate connexion with Amoy.

Besides furnishing immense supplies of rice, Formosa also produces great quantities of sugar, camphor, and tobacco,[291] which are exported to Amoy. A great part of the camphor is already carried down to Singapore in the trading junks from Amoy, but probably our own trading vessels will henceforth procure supplies of it on the spot, in exchange for cotton and other manufactured articles.

Unruly as the people of Formosa are, the island is, nevertheless, somewhat famous for its schools, which are said to be in a flourishing condition. Mr. Gutzlaff states, that the rich men of Fokien frequently send their sons over to obtain literary degrees at Formosa; and the Dutch, at an early period, took pains to spread Christianity among the inhabitants, who, at that time, were comparatively few in number. A few books on Christianity were translated by them into the Formosan language, and they were very successful in making converts. Since they abandoned the island, however, nearly all traces of their early labours have disappeared.

The close connexion of Formosa with Amoy will probably be the means of reviving amongst the inhabitants some of the lost spirit of Christianity; for we cannot doubt that, in all parts of China, the increase of missionary labour will keep pace with the increase of commercial intercourse.

The wreck of the Nerbudda transport, on her way up to join the expedition with camp-followers, in the month of September, 1841, soon after our forces left Amoy, and the loss of the brig Ann, a trading vessel, on her way down to Macao, from Chusan, in the month of March following, upon the shores of Formosa, served to attract unusual attention towards that island, and to put us in possession of some little information respecting the interior.

The history and ultimate fate of our shipwrecked countrymen is calculated to awaken the most painful interest. On board the Nerbudda there were altogether two hundred and seventy-four people; of whom, twenty-nine were Europeans, two natives of Manilla, and two hundred and forty-three natives of India. The captain and the rest of the Europeans, with the two Manilla men, and only three Indians, got away in the ship's boats immediately after she struck, and were providentially picked up some days afterwards by a trading schooner, called the Black Swan, on her way down to Hong-Kong. The unfortunate Indians, to the number of two hundred and forty, who were left upon the wreck, after remaining by her for five days, managed to construct rafts, upon which they attempted to reach the shore. Many of them, however, perished in the surf, and others are supposed to have been murdered by the Chinese plunderers. The exact number, therefore, who fell into the hands of the Chinese authorities, and were imprisoned[292] and subjected to the greatest privations, cannot be ascertained; but they were thought to amount, according to the best information which could be obtained, to more than a hundred and fifty.

On board the brig Ann there were in all fifty-seven souls; of whom, fourteen were natives of Europe or America, four Portuguese, five Chinamen, and thirty-four natives of India. Out of all those who were taken prisoners, belonging to both vessels, only nine ultimately escaped an untimely fate, and were restored at the end of the war, according to the terms of the treaty.

The following account of what befel the unfortunate sufferers on board the Ann will apply, with little variation, to those who were wrecked before them, in the Nerbudda. It is extracted and condensed from a curious journal, kept by one of the sufferers, a fine young man, who was a passenger on board. It was found concealed in his cell, after his unfortunate fate, and cannot but awaken feelings of deep commiseration for all his companions in distress.[57] It was written upon common Chinese paper, with a piece of bamboo, and the account was continued to within five or six days of the time when the final tragedy is supposed to have taken place. It was written day by day, as the various little occurrences took place, and some of the observations casually made upon the appearance of the island will be read with great interest; but I have thought proper to omit the minutiæ and repetition of abrupt and hasty notes, which would have been tedious and of little benefit.

It will here be proper to mention, that prompt redress and "condign" punishment upon the heads of those high officers, whose false and pitiless misrepresentations occasioned the final catastrophe, has since been demanded, in firm and dignified terms, by her Majesty's plenipotentiary; and one of the conditions insisted on was, "that the property of the high authorities of the island, who were perfidiously concerned in the affair, should be confiscated, and the amount paid over to the officers of the British government, to be applied to the relief and support of the families of the innocent men who suffered."

By the orders of the Emperor, a strict investigation has been made into all the circumstances connected with the dreadful event; and a report has been sent up to Pekin, by the Viceroy of Fokien, condemnatory of the misrepresentation and duplicity of the authorities of Formosa.


The whole of the fifty-seven individuals who were on board the Ann quitted the wreck at daylight; and, having marched along the shore about two miles, they fell in with two junks, lying wind-bound in a small river or creek. They hoped to be able to put to sea, and stretch across to Amoy; but the gale continued so violent that it prevented them from getting out of the creek. They were not ill-treated by the Chinese junkmen, but, as they were without food of any kind, and exposed to a cold, cutting wind, it was soon evident that they must surrender themselves to the Chinese authorities. Soldiers soon gathered round them in crowds; and, as they had very little ammunition, any attempt to defend themselves, which might have caused the death of some of the soldiers, or of the mob, would certainly have been followed by the massacre of the whole party. In the afternoon, they all gave themselves up, without having fired a single shot, and without attempting to make any kind of resistance. They were immediately stripped and marched away, exposed to the most cutting wind and sleet, without any covering, their feet cut by the sharp shells with which the beach was covered, and with very little allowance of food. It is not surprising, therefore, that two men soon died from fatigue and exposure, and several others fell from sheer exhaustion, and were obliged to be carried along in baskets; others were afterwards carried in sedans, more for sake of security than from any feeling of compassion for them. It was remarked, that during the whole journey of thirteen or fourteen days, to the capital of the island, the lascars or Indian sailors shewed a great deal of bad and selfish behaviour towards each other. Each man of the party had a ticket fastened round his neck, stating what he was, and whence he was brought; being treated in this respect like public criminals. For a great length of time their food was only salt fish and greens, with sometimes rice. They suffered all sorts of abuse and indignities in every town and village through which they passed; but it is remarked, "that the women (who did not appear to be at all secluded) did not join in this, although they exhibited the usual curiosity of the sex." They were observed throughout the whole journey to be very plain, but they had a pretty fashion of dressing their hair, by weaving natural flowers amongst it.[58]


After the first two or three days, they came to a considerable walled town, where they were placed for the night in two cells, about eight feet by seven feet, in which twenty-five unfortunate beings were stowed, with nothing to lie upon, the weather being intensely cold. Three guards were placed over them. The rest of the party were taken by a different route, but they all ultimately reached the capital. One large town they came to was enclosed, as were some others, by a high, red brick wall. It was situated in a large paddy swamp or valley, interspersed here and there with small hamlets, around which the bamboo plantations were growing in great beauty and luxuriance, and of extraordinary height, many of them measuring upwards of sixty feet. In some of the smaller towns and villages, the so-called gates (for they all had them) were constructed of bamboo. The country appeared well cultivated in many parts, and wheat and sugar-cane were met with; but other parts of the country were very barren, and covered with large stones, such as are called "boulders," in some parts of England. Generally, the men were made to wear handcuffs, but they were not of great strength, for some of the party managed to break them off; and they were then carried along in chairs, under a strong guard of soldiers, but were occasionally allowed to walk. Wherever they went, the crowd and annoyance of the hosts of curious gazers, who frequently insulted them, was so great that it was a relief to get lodged in the common gaol, which was divided into several cells, each cell having cages in it, made of wooden bars, just like the dens of wild beasts. The cells were also provided with a regular pair of stocks, in order to afford greater security, if required. One of the cells was filled with Chinese prisoners.

The great object of the mandarins now appeared to be, to get some of the party to admit that the Ann was a man-of-war, sent to look after the crew of the Nerbudda, who were known to be still upon the island. With this view, two of the men were mercilessly beaten, but without the desired effect. So common and so public a practice did opium-smoking appear to be, that even the soldiers who acted as an escort carried their opium-pipes in their girdles. For the first twelve days, the prisoners were never allowed to wash even their faces, and at length they could only do it in a dirty pool by the road side. For the last four days before they reached the capital, called Ty-wan-foo, they were compelled to wear leg-irons as well as handcuffs. Generally, they were allowed to purchase their own food during the journey; for which purpose a little money was given to them, at the rate of one[295] mace, or about fivepence, a day. But this was only after the first few days.

It was remarked that wheel-carts were in common use in the island, and tracks of them were seen in all directions. On the mainland of China these are unknown, except in the neighbourhood of Pekin; but, in the island of Hainan, to the southward of Canton, they are very common, and similar in construction to those in use upon Formosa. They are, however, very clumsy and inconvenient; the wheels, which are small, being composed of two semicircular pieces of solid wood, joined together, with the axle fixed into the wheel itself, so as to revolve with it, and not within it, but made to turn round under the body of the cart. The roads or causeways are generally broader than upon the mainland, and were in many places shaded with bamboos on each side. Several rivers were crossed near the capital, and the country was somewhat improved in appearance.

About twenty miles from Ty-wan-foo they passed a night in a large town, with walls built of chunam; at the entrance of which were placed several very long guns, not mounted on carriages, but fixed upon the ground, rather to indicate their good intentions than their ability to perform them. Here again they were lodged in the common gaol; and, on the following morning, the Chinese servant who had been taken prisoner with them had a chain put round his neck, in addition to his leg-irons and handcuffs. The next night (the last before they entered the capital) was spent at an inn by the road-side, which was so crowded with travellers that scarcely any food could be procured. The Chinese had regular fights and scrambles for the little which was to be had, and their appetites appeared by no means delicate; but, whether their hunger was appeased or not, they were all prepared in the evening to enjoy in good earnest the luxury of the opium-pipe, soldiers and travellers all alike; nor did the two mandarins who were present interfere in any manner to point out its impropriety.

On the 24th March, (fourteenth day since the wreck,) they were destined to make their wretched entrance into the capital. At the distance of six or seven miles from it, they were met by an officer and a few soldiers, by whom their names and their numbers were called over, according to a list which the officer held in his hand, and they were then separated into smaller parties, and led by different routes into the city. As they approached the gate, they, for the first time, caught a glimpse of the sea, with a few junks at anchor at a distance,[296] towards which they hopelessly strained their longing eyes. The walls of the city appeared to be in a state of dilapidation, except near the gateway, where they had been recently repaired and whitewashed. The prisoners were now fairly within the capital of Formosa, and were conducted to an open space, planted thickly with trees, but broken up by rough watercourses, over which there were several bridges of stone. Thence they were led through back lanes, avoiding the principal streets, to the house of a high mandarin, in front of which they halted for a short time; and such was the pressure of the crowd and the curiosity of the people, that the chairs in which they had been brought were nearly pulled to pieces before they were ordered to get out and enter the outer gateway of the mandarin's house.

Here they were drawn up in line, to have the tickets round their necks copied; but before the process could be half finished, the pressure of the crowd became so great that the mandarins were obliged to discontinue the task. A ludicrous scene followed, which, for the moment, afforded amusement even to the prisoners themselves. The enraged mandarins charged the mob in great fury, and whipped them with their long tails, which, having silk woven on to the ends, gave some tolerable cuts to the people's faces. For a few minutes our hapless prisoners were put for refuge into a small temple which was close at hand; but even here the mob pressed so hard upon them that the door was nearly smashed in; and, as a last resource, they were marched off, with heavy irons on their legs, which bruised them at every step, to a prison in the courtyard of a superior mandarin's house, about one hundred yards distant. Here their treatment was very bad; for several successive days they were brought up before the mandarin to answer an infinity of questions, many of them very puerile, about the names, ages, and duties of every one on board the Ann; also about geography and the possessions of Great Britain, and where the poppy was grown; how money was raised, &c. &c. The Chinese carpenter of the vessel acted as interpreter; and, on one occasion, both he and the other Chinaman were severely flogged with bamboos.

After some time, those who could draw were allowed to sketch ships, carriages, and other things, which exceedingly amused the Chinese, who were glad to purchase them; so that by these means they were able to procure food and tobacco, and thus to diminish in some degree their chances of being carried off by starvation or sickness.

After the lapse of a week or two, fever broke out, and they were then separated into smaller parties, and put into[297] different cells or prisons, some faring better, some worse, according to the temper or caprice, or even roguery, of the particular jailer who chanced to have charge of them. One of these wretches seems to have been a perfect fiend of his class; he kept one party of ten miserable human beings in a den so small that not one of them could lie down at night. It will scarcely be believed that they were made to exist for two whole months in this horrid black hole, only eleven feet six inches long, by seven feet six inches wide; grudging each other every little inch of room, and longing even for the little bit of space which the single insensible bucket, which was the only piece of furniture, occupied in their den. Here were ten human beings stowed away together, some sick, some sore, and all in pain and misery. For some time they were not permitted to come out of the den at all, but at last they were let out once a day, and were allowed a very little water to wash themselves; only two or three, however, could wash themselves on the same day, so that the whole of them could only be able to wash themselves once in three days. Of course, they were dreadfully infected with vermin of every kind, and, as the author of the journal expresses it, "A few weeks have sufficed to bring me down from a strong hale man, to a wretched helpless being, disgusted with myself."

Many attempts were made to get a note sent across to Amoy, to give information of their situation; and the promise of one hundred dollars on its safe delivery, and one hundred more on bringing an answer back, (to be paid at Amoy,) sufficed to induce a tolerable trusty Chinaman to undertake the task. We shall see presently how far it succeeded. It has before been stated that the several parties fared differently, according to the humanity or rapacity of the particular jailer. Something also depended upon the particular mandarin under whose supervision they were placed, but it is noticed that the highest, or red-button mandarin, was the best of all, and frequently ordered some of the hardships they complained of to be remedied, particularly as regarded the quality of the food.

On the other hand, it is stated, that one of the jailers, who was humane enough to allow his party of prisoners to be shaved, was taken before a mandarin and punished with fifty strokes of the bamboo; after which, no visitors were allowed to see them at all, and the jailer became very sulky, except when he was drunk, which he generally was, by the use of opium, every evening. Sometimes they were taken out of prison in order to draw for the mandarins, at others, to undergo repeated examinations for their amusement. In the first instance, however, the object invariably was, to betray them[298] into an admission, however remote, that the vessel was really a man-of-war. But it was quite evident that they knew perfectly well that she was not so, and at length the red-button mandarin put an end to this part of the business. From this time, their questions were more of a general nature, but many of them were exceedingly absurd. The mention of Sir Henry Pottinger's name (for they appeared already to have heard of him) invariably made them angry, and on one occasion they inquired whether he was a white or a black man. They also inquired a good deal about the Queen, her court, and ministers, mode of life, &c., and how many husbands she was allowed to have; expressing great astonishment when they learned that in Europe kings and queens, as well as private individuals, had only one wife or husband; and then they proceeded to enumerate the virtues of their own emperor, and to plume themselves upon their own cleverness.

On one occasion, they asked whether America had not, some time or other, been situated in England? whether a man could now walk from London to America in a week? how large London was, and how many outside (foreign) nations are subject or tributary to England? Endless were their curious questions, and on one occasion they exhibited an officer's jacket, and a corporal's coat with the 55th button on it, and particularly inquired the use of an epaulette, which they held up, fancying it was intended to be worn on the head.

During the first half of the month of May, it rained incessantly, and they were very imperfectly protected from its effects. In fact, the rain always beat through their roof, and when it was heavy, or long continued, it flooded their den: the least bit of dry plank, or a partially sheltered corner, was matter of envy and contention; and, as may be supposed, they not only suffered from bad food, confinement, vermin, and ill-health, but were incessantly tormented with the most venomous mosquitoes, producing inflammation and sores. In this condition they were kept in the most harassing state of suspense; one day being assured that they would be sent away in a month; another, that they had no chance of liberty for six months; and the very next, perhaps, that their heads would soon be taken off.

Fortunately, the talent for drawing possessed by Mr. Gully and Captain Denham, served to gain for them friends and pacify enemies.

In this way, month after month continued to drag its slow length along. At the end of about three months' close confinement, a slight change for the better took place; they were[299] moved into rather better quarters, where they were only three together, so that they had more room to breathe; they were also allowed water to wash themselves, and a little money was given to them. It was thought that this arose in consequence of information received by the authorities that there was some chance of an attack being made upon this island, by our forces at Amoy, with a view to liberate the prisoners. It was now ascertained, also, that the fisherman who had promised to carry over the letter to Amoy, two months before, had succeeded in his attempt, and an answer had been brought back by him, which held out the prospect of speedy release. Another letter was also sent off to Amoy; so that now at length their hopes again revived. But sickness had already begun its work, and their minds were so depressed that even the boldest, who tried to bear up bravely to the last, recorded his feelings that "One miserable day passed after another, with nothing to help them to break in upon the wretchedness of their existence; no exercise being permitted, and nothing, in fact, to relieve the dreadful monotony of such prison life." And what was the little improvement in their lot, which resulted from their removal into other cells? "We now, (three of us,") said he, "have five planks with a mat upon them to sleep on, and glad we are to get into this new place, which is the Executioners Den, and which, until we had ourselves cleaned it, could never have been cleaned since it was built." On other occasions it is noted, "we scalded our clothes this morning, to kill the vermin."

It was thought that the day they were removed into this new berth must have been the Emperor's birthday, or some day of rejoicing, for they had at the same time a dinner of roast pork, with sweet cakes, and each man received one mace, or fivepence in money. But this was too good to last—a mere freak of fortune! Generally speaking, their food was so bad, that a great part of it was thrown away, and it was only by quarrelling with the jailers, and threatening to complain to the high mandarin, that they could succeed in procuring any eatable food at all.

In the month of June, several shocks of an earthquake were felt, followed by terrific storms of thunder and lightning. It is due to the better class of mandarins to remark, that when complaints were made to them, they procured some temporary improvement for the prisoners.

On the 4th of July, it was made known that honours and rewards had been largely conferred upon the mandarins, for having contrived to make so many prisoners. This was in answer to their false accounts of the business to the Emperor,[300] in which they said that they had attacked and destroyed two English men-of-war which came prying into the coast, and had taken all the people prisoners, enumerating the number of black, and red, and white barbarians, and the quantity of barbarian guns.

On the 10th of July, Mr. Gully, who had necessarily been ailing for some time, became seriously ill with dysentery, brought on in a great measure by eating large quantities of mangoes. The Chinese recommended him two cures for it; one was, to eat the skins of the mangoes alone; the other, to eat opium. The former he found to have a good effect, at least so far that his complaint improved under the treatment; the latter he was able to purchase at a moderate price from the visitors, who brought it on purpose for him; it was different from the extract which is used for smoking, and apparently much less powerful.

The same mandarin who had given them a treat upon the Emperor's birthday all along shewed more interest in their condition than any of the others; and one day, in the hope of inducing him to give them some kind of indulgence, they told him that it was the birthday of the Queen of England's eldest child, and that they all entertained so strong a feeling of "filial obedience" and affection towards their queen, that they wished to celebrate the event. To their great surprise and delight, the mandarin's heart was moved by this appeal, and he gave each of them money; to some five mace, to others three, (equal to about two shillings,) and then sent them a good dinner, and made himself quite agreeable; and, of course, all the inferior officers, including the jailers, took their tone for the day from their superior. On another occasion, the lascars were all brought up before the chief mandarin, having had new clothes first given to them, and he himself then presented each of them with a fan!

All these circumstances naturally tended to revive their hopes, and little did they dream of the horrible catastrophe which was soon to take place. Towards the end of July they were informed, that in the course of half a moon more an answer would be received from Pekin, containing the Emperor's commands as to what was to be done with the prisoners; and they were warned that, if his majesty ordered that they should be decapitated, it would immediately be carried into effect. From this it would seem that the authorities fully anticipated that the representations which they had made would induce the Emperor to issue such a cruel command; but the prisoners themselves still retained sufficient hope to induce them to disbelieve the probability of such a tragedy. With the exception[301] of Captain Denham (whose life was saved) and the Chinese carpenter, it does not appear that any of them were tortured; but the dreadful cries of some of the Chinese prisoners could be distinctly heard; and two poor fellows were seen passing by with their hands blackened, having been condemned to have them chopped off.

One remark is worth recording—namely, that the mandarins, from the highest to the lowest, as well as all their servants and attendants, were in the constant habit of smoking opium. Tobacco was also in general use, as elsewhere in China, and was extensively cultivated on the island. There was also noticed (what should have been mentioned before) a curious vine-like plant, grown upon trellis-work, and frequently observed to be carefully covered up with mats; what it was no one knew, but more care and attention seemed to be bestowed upon it than upon anything else which was seen upon the island.

The final tragedy is believed to have taken place upon the 12th or 13th of August, and is too horrible to dwell upon. They were beheaded with the sword.

It is difficult to account for their having reserved nine individuals from the general massacre. Of these, six were Europeans or Americans, and three natives of India. It is supposed that they were retained in order to be sent to Pekin, to be there cut in pieces. Fortunately, the treaty of peace saved their lives, and they were at length conveyed to Amoy, and there met with all the attention they so much needed from their own countrymen.


[57] The information in the text was extracted from the manuscript, more than a year ago, in China. But the journals of Mr. Gully and Captain Denham have been recently published in full, in this country.

[58] Probably the women at Formosa are much less numerous, compared with the men, than in most other places. The men come over from the mainland, but do not bring their women. It is believed that infanticide of female children is very prevalent at Amoy. The men are driven by poverty to emigrate, and have no means of providing for female children, who are therefore frequently smothered or drowned.


On leaving the bay of Amoy, on the 5th of September, the appointed places for the rendezvous of the fleet of men-of-war and transports, in case of separation, were successively the so-called Buffalo's Nose, at the entrance of the Chusan group; Keeto Point, a promontory running out from the mainland towards Chusan; and, lastly, the bay or harbour of Tinghai, the capital of Chusan. The progress of the squadron was slow for some days, owing to light winds and a heavy swell; and the Nemesis, being very light in the water, and having, moreover, a leak in her bottom, (after the accident at Amoy,) was kept pretty close in shore, to avoid the swell outside, but[302] seldom entirely lost sight of the fleet. A considerable quantity of floating wood was picked up alongshore, which was very acceptable for fuel, of which she had only a very small supply remaining on board.

On the 13th, eight days after leaving Amoy, the north-east monsoon set in rather suddenly, and somewhat earlier than usual, with heavy squalls and a thick fog, which caused the unavoidable separation of the squadron. At the commencement of this change of weather, the Nemesis lost her fore-top-mast and top-gallant-mast, but continued her course leisurely alongshore until the following day, when she came to anchor under a small island at the mouth of the river Taitchou, about thirty-five miles from Sheipoo, and between fifty and sixty from the Buffalo's Nose.

On the 16th, Capt. Hall landed upon the island above mentioned, under which he had taken shelter, with a party of men, to look for wood, which was much needed for fuel, and also for refreshments for the crew, and then took the opportunity of ascending a high hill, to take a survey of the neighbouring country. The haze cleared off sufficiently to enable him to discover the entrance to an extensive harbour, which proved to be that of Sheipoo, where there is a considerable trading town. He thought that he could also make out something like the appearance of batteries or field-works at the entrance.

The Nemesis now stood in for the entrance of the harbour, which was very narrow, but fortunately, she soon fell in with a fishing-boat, in which were several fishermen busy about their nets, one of whom was made to come on board and pilot the vessel into the harbour; and he was promised ten dollars for his services if he took her in without any accident; but, if she touched ground, he was threatened to be immediately run up to the yard-arm. The poor fellow had never even seen a steamer or devil-ship before, and was not a little alarmed. But he perfectly understood the conditions, and gradually recovered his self-possession.

The tide swept so rapidly into the narrow entrance of the harbour, that the Nemesis was fairly carried through the passage before the two small field-works, which were intended to protect it, could bring a single gun to bear upon the vessel; but the Chinese were seen running down from their little encampment above, to man the guns.

At the bottom of the harbour or basin, the town now came into full view, with a large number of trading-junks of every kind, moored in lines close to each other on one side of the town; while on the other, or the left, as you looked towards it,[303] there was a small fort, which appeared to have been recently repaired and strengthened, but, like most other Chinese forts, was left almost unprotected in the rear.

Upon a rising ground behind the fort, a small body of troops, about five or six hundred in number, were drawn up, so that the Chinese were evidently prepared for defence. The Nemesis immediately ran in towards the fort, and took up a flanking position, anchoring by the stern between it and the town, so as to bring her guns to bear with the greatest advantage, without exposing herself to the direct fire of the fort. Shot, shell, and canister, were now poured in, and the fort was soon silenced. But the troops could now be seen descending from the hill behind, and bringing heavy ginjals with them, mounted on triangular stands, as if they intended to oppose a landing. However, a few discharges of grape-shot threw them into great disorder, killing many of them; Capt. Hall then landed, at the head of all the men who could be spared from the ship, accompanied by Mr. Gully, and took possession of the fort, the Chinese flying before them; four guns, two brass and two iron ones, were destroyed in the fort, the temporary sheds and buildings were set on fire, and water was poured into the magazine to destroy the powder.

The whole party having now returned on board, boats were sent out, manned and armed, to search for fuel, and also to attempt to capture three large war-junks, which had been seen on the way up the harbour. All the trading-junks were left unmolested; but wood for fuel was so much needed on board, that several of the wood-junks were soon picked out, well filled with the necessary article. The opportunity was extremely fortunate, and in a short time, no less than seven boat-loads of excellent wood were obtained, amounting in all to about seventy tons. Much labour was required to bring off so large a quantity, and to stow it away expeditiously; nevertheless, during this operation, one of the war-junks was captured, (the crew having deserted her,) and, as soon as she was towed clear of the town and shipping, so as not to cause any unnecessary damage, she was set on fire in the middle of the harbour, and shortly blew up. Two guns, together with a quantity of ginjals, matchlocks, swords, &c., were destroyed in her.

But the day's work was not finished yet. About two o'clock the cutters were sent away, manned and armed, under Mr. Galbraith, to destroy the other two war-junks which had been seen in the morning. One of them blew up close in shore, but the other was towed out into the middle of the harbour, before she was set on fire. One was found to mount fourteen[304] guns, and contained a large quantity of powder, with numerous warlike implements of various kinds.

The whole of this day's work was exceedingly interesting. The hills which surrounded the harbour were covered with people, who crowded out of the town, and from all the neighbouring villages, to witness the exploits of the "devil-ship," the rapidity of whose movements, the precision of her fire, and the volumes of smoke and steam which issued from her, seemed to awaken feelings of awe and mute astonishment, even more than fear. There they stood for hours, apparently unconcerned spectators of passing events; and as they saw the destruction of the war-junks, while the merchant-junks remained uninjured, they appeared satisfied that no mischief was threatened against the unarmed inhabitants so long as they did not interfere. The neighbourhood of the town along the shore was laid out in very neatly cultivated gardens, and everything bore indications of a thriving and well-ordered community.

The day was now far advanced, and it only remained to capture the two forts or field-works upon the island, just within the mouth of the harbour. A shot or two had previously been fired at them in the course of the morning, but it was now determined to take possession of them, and destroy the works. On nearing them, a few shells and rockets were discharged into them, and the boats then put off, manned and armed, under Capt. Hall. The Chinese had only just abandoned them. The two field-works were very near each other, and were found to mount nine guns, which were spiked, their carriages destroyed, and the tents of the soldiers were set on fire.

The poor Chinese fisherman who had acted as pilot was of course liberated as soon as the harbour was cleared, and he appeared no less astonished than overjoyed when the promised ten dollars were counted out into his hands.

On the following day, the 18th, the Nemesis reached the appointed rendezvous at Buffalo's Nose, and found the Sesostris was the only vessel which had preceded her, the rest of the fleet having been kept back by contrary winds and hazy weather. When we remember what a large number of hired transports and store-ships passed up and down along the coast of China from this time to the close of the war, many of which had frequently a great part of their crew sick, we cannot but be surprised[59] that so few accidents happened. The inaccuracy of the surveys of the coast which had been then made; the wrong position on the charts of most of the numerous islands which stand out as bulwarks at very uncertain distances from the shore; the strength and unknown irregularities of the currents, and the heavy squalls which frequently burst suddenly over that part of China, rendered the navigation precarious, and frequently caused the utmost anxiety. Occasionally the captains found themselves inside of islands when they believed that they were some distance outside; and I well remember, on one occasion, making the voyage up to Chusan in a fast-sailing brig-of-war, which just weathered a long rocky island, called the Alligator, and at noon discovered it to have been laid down upon the chart full twenty miles wrong in its latitude—an error which can scarcely be accounted for.


The strength of the currents among the Chusan islands, and the continued boisterous weather, made it difficult to collect all the transports at the appointed rendezvous. The admiral did not get up until the 21st; and the general being on board a large transport which had been carried far down to leeward, did not join until the evening of the 25th.

In the meantime, the Nemesis had gone to join the Phlegethon at Keeto Point, where the sad tale was learned of one of the officers of the Lyra, (an opium vessel,) Mr. Wainwright, and one of the crew having been enticed on shore, under the pretence of selling them stock, and of their having been then overpowered and cruelly murdered. This event occurred very near the village where Captain Stead had been murdered some months before. Lieutenant M'Cleverty soon afterwards landed with his crew, accompanied by Lieutenant Crawford and the commanders of the Lyra and Ann, and soon put to flight a party of Chinese soldiers, burnt their barracks, and then destroyed a great part of the village.

As soon as the Nemesis arrived, no time was lost in landing to examine the adjacent country, which was very picturesque and beautifully cultivated. But the recollection of the cruel fate of the poor fellows who had been so recently captured, and, as was believed, barbarously put to death there, with the sight of the very spots where the sad occurrences took place, awakened feelings of bitterness, and a wish for retaliation which it was impossible to suppress. In a very short time, everything that remained undestroyed was set on fire, including various buildings, stacks of rice and grass, &c.; and as darkness set in, the whole valley appeared lighted up with the blaze of the spreading fires.

At length all the transports were assembled, according to a[306] preconcerted arrangement, just off the little island called "Just in the Way;" as it was the original plan laid down by the general and the admiral to occupy Ningpo, after having first captured the heights of Chinhae, which command the entrance of the Tahea river, which leads up to Ningpo. Chusan was to have been retaken afterwards. The boisterous state of the weather, however, prevented the ships from approaching near enough to Chinhae to carry out this part of the plan; and it was therefore determined to make an immediate reconnoissance of the harbour and defences of Chusan, or rather of its capital town, Tinghai; this was accordingly carried into execution on the following day, the 26th of September.

The admiral and general, together with the plenipotentiary and suite, embarked early in the morning on board the Phlegethon, the Nemesis being ordered to accompany them. As they approached Chusan, the alarm was given by the Chinese from numerous watch-towers, or rather signal stations erected upon the hills, or upon the tops of the several islands which lie in the immediate neighbourhood. Great changes had evidently taken place since our forces left Chusan, a few months before; and preparations of an extensive kind had been rapidly made for the defence of the place. As the steamers entered the principal harbour by its western side, between the so-called Tea Island and Guard Island, the Chinese opened a few guns at them, but at too great a distance to do any damage; and as there was no wish to attack them in a desultory manner, the steamers were ordered to keep at a good distance, but to direct their movements so as to get a complete view of all the Chinese positions.

The rapidity of the tides, in the different channels leading into the harbour, is so great that large vessels sometimes become perfectly unmanageable; and even powerful steamers found it difficult to stem the current.

Nothing can be more striking or picturesque than the views on every side, as you approach Chusan; you are here particularly struck with the garden-like aspect of every spot of ground you see. The country is hilly on all sides, but every hill is cultivated with extreme care, up to its very summit. It is divided into small ridges, or beds, in which various productions are raised, side by side, giving the greatest possible variety to the aspect of the country, and pointing out the vast labour and perseverance with which the tillage must be conducted. It is entirely spade husbandry, and ought rather to be called horticulture.

In the low valleys, and little sheltered nooks, you trace villages and farm-houses of neat appearance; and every bend[307] of the coast, every little bit of low, swampy ground, is embanked and recovered from the sea by long, thick, stone walls, which are maintained with the utmost care. Behind these, the ground is laid out in rice-fields, irrigated with much ingenuity, and there is a general appearance of well-being and industry, which indicates a thriving and contented population. Generally speaking, the island of Chusan, with some of the smaller ones adjacent to it, may be considered as among the most picturesque and fertile spots in the north of China, as far as it was visited by the expedition, and the loss of this possession was deeply felt by the Emperor, of which, as he said, "he read the account with fast falling tears."[60]

The great and rapidly completed preparations which were found to have been made for the protection of the island prove the importance with which it was regarded.

The city of Tinghai, the capital of Chusan, is a walled town, of the third class, about two miles in circumference, having four entrances, with double-arched gateways, situated at right angles to each other, according to the usual Chinese practice. The greater part of the town is surrounded by a wet ditch or canal, which adds very much to the natural unhealthiness caused by imperfect drainage, (owing to the lowness of its situation,) and by the swampy rice-grounds, which occupy the whole valley. Indeed, were it not protected by a raised bank running along the face of the harbour, from which the city is three-quarters of a mile distant, the whole of the valley in which the town is situated would frequently be flooded. It was upon this raised bank that the great line of sea battery, presently to be described, had been recently erected. A narrow causeway and a shallow canal connect the city with a village, at which is the principal landing-place of the harbour, situated at the foot of a steep, conical hill, which stands about the centre of the whole sea-face of the valley or plain, which may be about three miles broad. The latter is bounded by steep hills on either side, which stretch down close to the city, and command the western face of the walls.


The hill at the landing-place, which came to be known by the name of Pagoda Hill, is a very striking object from every point of the harbour. The appearance of a temple upon it, and several small detached buildings, which had been recently built as prisons for the English, whom the Chinese intended to capture, and the steepness of its summit, gave it an appearance of strength which it did not possess.

Directly opposite Pagoda Hill are two small islands, called Trumball and Macclesfield Islands, which bound the harbour on the eastern side, and upon the nearest of these a mortar-battery was afterwards erected, for the purpose of shelling Pagoda Hill.

To the southward the harbour is shut in by the highly cultivated and considerable island called Tea Island; while on its western side, at the extremity of the long sea-battery, lies the small island called Guard Island, only separated by a very narrow passage called the Devil's Gates, from the hills which overlook the valley.

As the two steamers now entered the inner harbour by the western passage, leaving Guard Island on the left, they immediately came in sight of a long line of continuous works, constructed of mud, along the top of the whole line of embankment before described. It is strange that such a mode of defence should have been adopted; for the flank of the battery was completely commanded by the range of steep hills running up to the very city itself. Upon the nearest hills, however, at the end of the battery, the Chinese had formed a fortified encampment, in which there appeared to be a large body of troops; and in a hollow at the foot of it there was an unfinished stone fort, intended to mount eight guns. But they had placed their principal reliance upon the line of mud-batteries fronting the harbour, and had run piles and stakes along the water's edge, to prevent our troops from landing from the boats, as if they imagined that a battery could only be attacked in front, and partly perhaps to prevent the washing away of the soil.

The works had been hastily and unscientifically constructed, and consisted principally of heaps of mud, of a conical shape, raised upon the embankment, with embrasures between them for the guns. These intervals were so large, measuring generally from ten to fifteen feet wide, that it would be impossible for the men to stand to their guns, although the mounds of earth between them were about twenty to twenty-five feet broad. The line of battery extended far beyond the Pagoda[309] or Joss House Hill to the eastward, but was not completed at that end. There were altogether nearly two hundred and seventy embrasures, but only about eighty guns mounted, exclusive of those in a newly-built redoubt upon Pagoda Hill, amounting to twelve or fifteen. Of these twenty-five were afterwards found to be of brass and copper, and tolerably well cast. Several improvements had been made by the Chinese for the strengthening of Pagoda Hill, since our evacuation of the place. They had retained the wall which we had formerly carried round the top of it, with an arched gateway of stone on the side looking inland towards the town. Other improvements were in progress; so that, if the attack had been delayed for some weeks longer, the Chinese would have completed their defences, as well as their want of science would permit. As it was, the authorities claimed for themselves the honour of "having fought with heavy toil for six days and nights," reckoning the commencement of their so-called fighting from the day on which the steamers first approached to reconnoitre. Our forbearance was magnified into a great victory by them, for the moment at all events.

On the return of the steamers to the anchorage at Just in the Way, with the rest of the fleet, orders were given for the Nemesis to proceed on the following morning across to the Ningpo river, to reconnoitre Chinhae, &c. &c., but the weather proved so hazy and unsettled, that this purpose was deferred for the present. On the following day, the 28th, the weather still continued very squally, which prevented the fleet from moving; and the admiral, therefore, gave orders that the Nemesis should proceed again to Chusan, in company with the Modeste and Columbine, (the whole under the command of Captain Eyres, of the Modeste,) and they were directed to destroy the unfinished battery already mentioned, at the foot of the hills at the western extremity of the long line of works, and if possible set fire to the encampment on the hill above, or, at all events, disperse the Chinese troops. The object was evidently to prepare for the landing of our force at that point, in order to take the line of Chinese battery in reverse, and then march upon the town by the hills. The increasing severity of the weather obliged them all to come to anchor before they reached Chusan.

At daylight next morning, the Nemesis was sent in alone to reconnoitre, having Captain Eyres and Captain Clarke on board, and she soon discovered that the entrenched camp on the hill was stronger than had been supposed, and that the troops were collected in great strength at that point. As the steamer ran pretty close in shore, a smart but ineffective fire[310] from large ginjals was opened on her from the entrenched camp; but the small stone fort below was quite silent, and, indeed, appeared to be unarmed. Having fired a few shot into the camp on the hill, in order to warn the Chinese of what they had to expect, the Nemesis speedily returned, to bring up the other two vessels; and these, as soon as they had come to anchor as close in shore as their draught of water would permit, immediately opened fire upon the entrenched camp above, and also at the fort below, in order to ascertain if it was occupied. As the Nemesis, however, could stand in much closer than the other vessels, Captain Eyres and Captain Clarke went on board her, and she was then carried within excellent range by Captain Hall, and immediately poured in shot, shell, rockets, and carcases, with such remarkable precision, as to have been made the subject of special mention in the admiral's despatch.

In a short time, the temporary buildings were demolished, and a breach was made in the wall of the fortified encampment. The proper moment for landing was now come; but as the orders were positive not to come to close quarters with the enemy, but merely to reconnoitre their position, and prevent them from adding to their works of defence, no attempt was made to carry the encampment. A small party of men were landed, but merely with a view to ascertain, beyond a doubt, that the small stone fort below was unarmed, and to make a hasty reconnoissance of the line of sea-battery, nearly a mile long, which connected this point with Pagoda Hill. A large body of Chinese troops were now seen forming under the brow of the hill in the rear, in order to make an attack upon the reconnoitring party; but a few well-directed shot from the steamer's guns immediately dispersed them.

The object of this little affair having been now fully accomplished, the Nemesis hastened to rejoin the admiral, with despatches from Captain Eyres. Sir William Parker was, however, already on his way over to Chusan in the Wellesley, and now, without loss of time, came on board the Nemesis, accompanied by the general, and ordered her to carry them once more across the harbour of Chusan. The Chinese again opened a distant and useless fire upon her as she passed, both in going and returning, as they had done on the former occasion.

In the course of the afternoon, several of the ships of war, and some of the transports, reached the outer harbour of Chusan, while the Blonde, Modeste, and Queen steamer, proceeded to take up a position under the two islands which lie opposite Pagoda Hill, and which were called Macclesfield (or[311] Melville) and Trumball Islands. They were directed to cover and assist a party of the Royal Artillery, under Captain Knowles, in erecting a battery of one 68-pounder gun, and two 24-pounder howitzers, upon the top of the ridge of the former island, with a view to shell Pagoda Hill and its defences, which were within range, but rather distant. The Chinese continued firing very ineffectually during the whole time, in the direction of these islands, but their shot always fell short.

The battery was finished on the following day, with great labour and skill. Every preparation for the attack being completed on the 30th, the dawn of the 1st of October was looked for with intense interest. At daylight, the Nemesis again crossed and recrossed the inner harbour, for the purpose of embarking some troops which were on board the Jupiter, close to Trumball Island; they consisted of a portion of the Madras Rifles and a number of camp-followers. The Nemesis then proceeded to the transports in the outer harbour, to take on board part of the 49th regiment, together with a detachment of sappers and miners.

The Howitzer Battery, upon Melville Island, opened fire just as she was crossing from the inner harbour; and it was an interesting sight to watch the shells falling upon Pagoda Hill. The first shell was thrown merely to try the range, and fell rather short, but the second fell exactly within the fort, close to the gate, and it therefore became evident that the Chinese could not long hold out.

About the same time, the Queen steamer endeavoured to tow the Blonde frigate into a good position against Pagoda Hill and the adjacent defences, to aid the mortar battery; but so great was the strength of the tide, which runs like a millrace in that part of the harbour, that it was impossible to move the Blonde into a good position, in spite of the utmost exertions used. But shortly afterwards the Modeste and Queen, drawing less water, were able to take up excellent stations; the battery on Pagoda Hill was soon silenced, and the troops were driven from their post.

While this was being effected at the eastern extremity of the inner harbour, the original design of driving the Chinese out of the long sea-battery, by turning their right flank at its western extremity, and by taking possession of the hills above them, upon which their encampment had been formed, was gallantly and effectually carried into execution. The Chinese troops at this time occupied the heights in force, although they had been dispersed two days before; and kept up a continued fire of ginjals and matchlocks, apparently more in defiance[312] than for any useful purpose, for they frequently advanced to the brow of the hill, waving their flags, and daring their enemy to attack them.

The Wellesley had been moved as close as possible to the intended point of debarkation, just outside Guard Island; and the Cruiser and Columbine had been placed within two hundred yards of the beach, there being plenty of water almost close in shore. By the fire of these vessels and of the Sesostris steamer, the Chinese were so completely kept in check, that they could not attempt any opposition to the landing of the troops. The Phlegethon now came up with the 55th regiment on board. The first division, with the gallant general at their head, consisting of the Madras Artillery, with eight guns, under Captain Anstruther, together with a party of sappers and the 18th and 55th regiments, with the Madras Rifles, were now landed, but not without some delay and difficulty, owing to the astonishing strength of the currents. The Nemesis was also coming up to land the troops she had on board, when she unfortunately grounded on a sand-bank, and was obliged to cast off the numerous boats she had in tow, before she could work herself off again, which caused considerable delay. The 49th were therefore not landed so soon as had been expected.

The firing of the steamers which covered the landing was kept up with so much precision, that more than one of the Chinese standard-bearers, who boldly advanced alone to the crest of the hill, waving their flags, were cut in two by a 32-pounder shot, just as if they had been aimed at with a rifle.

The two flank and the third companies of the 55th being first on shore, received a smart fire from the Chinese, who, up to this time, had kept themselves pretty well sheltered; and, as the remainder of the regiment followed close after the leading companies, and the 18th was not far behind, the advance was instantly sounded, and the 55th pushed up the hill, under the gallant Major Fawcett. The Chinese waved to them to come on, and opened a smart fire as they struggled up the steep hill, and knocked down several of the men. It was an exciting spectacle to watch them ascending the hill, while the ships continued firing until they reached the summit; and even then the Chinese shewed no want of courage; the spear and the bayonet frequently crossed each other.

At length the Chinese were routed; and the hill, being now in our possession, gave us the command of all the enemy's positions, which, by this means, were fairly turned. In this[313] encounter, the first Chinese colours were taken by Lieutenant Butler, of the 55th.

In the meantime, the 18th and the artillery being landed, and some of the light guns having been placed so as to enfilade the long battery, the 18th pushed on gallantly, under Lieutenant-Colonel Adams, to clear the line of sea-defences. The facility with which the flank of the Chinese positions had been turned did not seem, by any means, to discourage the Chinese, who fought, as they retreated, with great individual courage, several of the mandarins boldly advancing, sword in hand, to the attack. The loss on their side, as they were driven back along so narrow a line, (for there was a deep paddy-field in the rear of the embankment upon which the battery was constructed,) was necessarily great. The Chinese commander-in-chief and several Tartar officers were here killed. They were at length compelled to evacuate the whole line of sea-battery, the grenadier company of the 18th leading the way, in a spirited manner, under Captain Wigston.

Having cleared the whole of the works, the 18th soon made their way up the Pagoda Hill without opposition, the Chinese having been already compelled to evacuate it by the admirable fire of the Royal Artillery, and of the Modeste and Queen on that side. The 49th, who could not be landed until the hottest part of the work was over, followed the 18th along the battery, but on reaching a causeway or path about two-thirds of the way across, which appeared to lead from the battery towards the city, they turned off at that point, and hurried on towards the south gate of the city, to which it led.

In the meantime, the 55th pushed on along the hills, covered by the Rifles, which had now joined, to the heights overlooking the city on the north-west; and Captain Anstruther, with Captain Balfour and Lieutenant Foulis, with great exertion, brought up the light field-guns of the Madras Artillery to the summit of the heights, and opened their fire upon the walls, on which several guns were mounted on that side. The Madras Sappers had also brought scaling-ladders along the rugged hills, and the Rifles were skilfully disposed along the edge of a deep ravine between the hills and the city walls, sheltered by the broken ground and by tombs, (for it was the burial place of the city,) with the object of cutting off the retreat of the Chinese by the northern gate.

While these operations were going on, the admiral, accompanied by Sir Henry Pottinger, Captain Herbert, Captain Maitland, and Mr. Morrison, the interpreter, went on board the Nemesis, (which, after landing her troops, had come round the point of Guard Island into the inner harbour,) and[314] were carried towards the Pagoda Hill, just as the 18th entered the works at the top of it. The admiral and the rest of the officers immediately landed, and ascended the hill, from the top of which there is a splendid prospect of the whole plain beyond, and of the city, and from which a good view could be obtained of the operations against the latter.

The Nemesis was anchored as close in shore as possible; and Captain Hall, having got up to the mast-head, was able distinctly to see everything that was going on, and to direct the fire of the steamer, so as to throw a few shells into the city, about three-quarters of a mile distant. The other steamers very shortly afterwards also joined her in the inner harbour. The 55th could be seen climbing over the walls, the Chinese firing, and retreating before them; and the British flag at last proudly floated over the fallen city. Three British cheers were given at this moment by soldiers and sailors together.

The capital of Chusan, with all its new and extensive defences, was now for the second time in our possession. The Chinese troops fled into the interior of the island, principally by the eastern gate; and if a detachment of our soldiers had been sent along the banks of the canal which runs up into the plain on that side, probably a great number of the Chinese would have been cut off.

The loss of the Chinese was considerable, both in the battery and on the hills. On our side, one officer (Ensign Duell) and one rank and file of the 55th were killed, and nineteen rank and file of the same regiment wounded, many of them severely. Of the other troops engaged, eight rank and file were wounded, of whom half dangerously or severely. Besides the guns already enumerated, together with large ginjals, a vast number of matchlocks were found in the city, with upwards of five hundred tubs of powder, some bamboo rockets, and about one hundred cases of leaden balls.

The day after the capture, measures were adopted by the general to endeavour to prevent the escape of the Chinese troops from the island, by the numerous little harbours or creeks from which they could get away in boats to the mainland. Three different detachments of our soldiers were sent out by separate routes to scour the island, while the Nemesis and other vessels were sent round to convey provisions, and to blockade the landing-places or villages on the coast. But not a soldier was seen in any direction; the facility of disguise and concealment, and also of escape to the mainland, being very great.

It may be doubted whether these movements, instead of[315] tending to bring the native Chinese population into submission, did not rather serve to keep alive or to increase their natural feeling of dislike to the foreigner. In fact, the inhabitants of the Chusan Islands are generally a hardy and independent race of people, and up to the close of the war, it never could be said that we really had possession of more than the actual city within the walls of Tinghai and its suburbs on the sea-shore. No one could move even to a distance of two or three miles from the walls, without having a strong escort with him, or running the risk of being kidnapped by the people. Many private soldiers and camp-followers were in this manner cut off; and at length orders were issued that none but the Chinese should be permitted to pass through the northern gate at all.


[59] To shew how sickly the coast of China is, in some seasons, it may be mentioned, that on board the Lion, which conveyed Lord Macartney's embassy to China in 1792, no less than ninety-three men were put upon the sick list in less than a week after she came to anchor on the upper part of the east coast.

[60] In some of the most barren parts of Tartary, where the people with difficulty obtain the means of subsistence, remarkable care is bestowed upon the cultivation of patches of ground, only a few yards square, upon the side of the most rugged mountains. Æneas Anderson says, "Upon a very high mountain in Tartary, (on the road to the imperial residence,) I discovered patches of cultivated ground in such a position as to appear altogether inaccessible. Presently I observed one of the poor husbandmen employed in digging a small spot near the top of a hill, where, at first sight, it appeared impossible for him to stand, much less to till the ground. I soon noticed that he had a rope fastened round his middle, by which he let himself down from the top, to any part of the precipice where a few square yards of ground gave him encouragement to plant his vegetables. Situated as these spots are, at considerable distances from each other, and considering the daily fatigue and danger of this man's life, it affords an interesting example of Chinese industry, stimulated by necessity."—See Anderson's Embassy of Lord Macartney.


A few days after the occupation of the capital of Chusan, a regular military government was established by Sir Henry Pottinger, protection being promised to the well-behaved inhabitants, who were moreover informed that "several years would probably elapse before the island would be restored to the authority of the Emperor." Thus it was evidently contemplated, even at that time, that the island should not be restored to the Chinese, until long after the conclusion of peace.

The principal alterations which had taken place at Tinghai, since it was given up by the English seven months before, were found to be merely the addition of the defensive works already described, and, to a certain degree, increased cleanliness within the city. The suburbs at the landing-place had been in part pulled down, or altered to make way for the batteries, while other parts had been abandoned, and were afterwards pulled down by our own orders during the ensuing winter, to give a better circulation of air, and more room for the detachment quartered there. In other respects, the so-called horrors of war fell extremely lightly upon the inhabitants; indeed, they were in most instances benefited by our presence, and by the circulation of money which we spent among them.

It must not be imagined that the capital of Chusan is at all a fine town, or in any way to be compared with others upon the mainland which we afterwards captured or visited. Even the walls, though of small extent, enclose a larger space than[316] is actually occupied by the town itself; and, indeed, with few exceptions, this appears to be generally the case in China. The streets are extremely narrow, being mere lanes; the shops are very poor, and comparatively insignificant; and the houses are all low, but some of them, including the courts within, occupy a large space of ground.

There is one building, however, which attracts universal attention, as being one of the finest specimens of its kind. It is the principal temple of the city, dedicated to the worship of Foo, or Budha. In many respects it is superior to the temple at Hainan, opposite Canton, and is scarcely second to the principal of the numerous temples which adorn the sacred island of Pooto, about twenty miles from Chusan, which is famous for the number and elegance of its places of superstitious worship, and for the hosts of priests, or rather, monks, which are attached to them. There is belonging to this beautiful temple of Tinghai, standing in a detached half-ruined building, and apparently never used, one of the most beautiful bells met with in China. It is quite equal to the one which was afterwards taken at Ningpo, and was subsequently sent to Calcutta. It is of very large size, but somewhat different in shape from our own, and is covered on the outside with Chinese characters, beautifully formed. Its tone is clear and deep; indeed, the Chinese appear to excel in the art of making bell-metal. It was worthy of being removed and carried to this country; not so much as a trophy, for such it could not be called, but as an interesting specimen of Chinese workmanship, and of the advanced state of some of their oldest arts and inventions.

Some interest attaches to the island of Chusan, from the fact of its having once been the site of an English factory. It is about fifty miles in circumference, of an oblong shape, being about twenty miles in length by ten in breadth. The principal harbour of Tinghai is difficult of approach, owing to the astonishing rapidity of the currents or tides, the rise and fall of which varies from six to twelve feet; the passages are in some parts narrow, with deep water.

Chusan and all the neighbouring islands are extremely mountainous, but between the ridges of the hills are rich and beautiful valleys, which are highly productive, being well supplied with water. The industry and care with which the Chinese embank the opening of every valley towards the sea are remarkable; not a foot of ground is wasted; and every little nook or bay which can be reclaimed from the sea is cultivated with the most assiduous care. The beautiful cultivation of the hill-sides has already been alluded to, so that it[317] is not surprising that the island is capable of exporting a large quantity of produce to the mainland. For general commercial purposes, however, little advantage could have been derived from the permanent retention of Chusan; the population of the island is not large; and, with the port of Ningpo within a few hours' sail, and open to our vessels, there could have been no compensating benefit to make up for the expense of a permanent settlement upon an island in its neighbourhood.

The East India Company's factory was built in 1700, not far from the present landing-place in the suburbs of Tinghai, but the exactions of the Chinese officers, the expense of the establishment, and the little prospect of carrying on a successful trade, compelled them to abandon it three or four years afterwards. In short, the internal trade of the island must always be insignificant; and vessels which frequent the harbour depend almost entirely upon the visits of Chinese merchants, who come over from the mainland to seek merchandize, which they would much more gladly purchase when brought to their own doors at Ningpo, by which means they would save expense and trouble.

The importance of the temporary possession of Chusan is certainly great, particularly as long as the arrangements for the opening of the new ports are not entirely completed. But its value, as a political measure, is much enhanced by the moral effect it has had upon the government and the people of China, who look upon the Chusan islands as among their most valuable possessions, the loss of which was peculiarly felt by the Emperor.

In the commencement, the principal inhabitants of the interior shewed a great disinclination to have any dealings with us, and the common people frequently proved themselves decidedly hostile to us. The kidnapping of our soldiers will be alluded to hereafter; but that was more frequently attempted by men sent expressly over for the purpose, from the mainland, than by the peasantry of the island itself. Gradually, however, all classes improved in their tone and bearing; and, during an excursion which I myself made, in company with a missionary, at the close of the war, we found the people commonly civil and obliging, and rarely disinclined to hold intercourse with us. In several instances, we were invited into the houses of respectable individuals, who invariably turned the conversation upon mercantile matters.

It must not be supposed that there can be an unlimited production of tea in China; its cultivation is limited to almost two districts, and it requires peculiar conditions of soil and of climate to enable it to be cultivated to advantage. A great[318] sudden increase in the demand for tea would lead to an enormous increase in the adulteration of the article by all kinds of spurious leaves; and nothing is more easy than to fabricate a mixture which will resemble in all its external appearances any description of tea which may be most in demand; and this fabricated mixture can be added to the real tea, in greater or lesser quantity, so as not easily to be detected, except by very experienced persons. The tea-plant requires three years' growth before it will produce leaves fit to be plucked for tea. At Chusan, the plant appeared to grow wild, or nearly so, upon some of the mountains, but of inferior quality, and only fit for native use.

As the season for active measures, before the complete setting in of winter, was already far advanced, little time was to be lost in carrying into execution the proposed movement upon Chinhae and Ningpo. The latter city, from its size and situation, would afford excellent winter quarters for the main body of our troops; and the moral effect upon the Chinese government and people, of the continued occupation of so important a place, and the interruption of their valuable trade, could not fail to make an impression calculated to facilitate our future negotiations.

In the meantime, the expected reinforcements would have arrived, both from England and from India, and the next campaign would be opened with vigour, and would suffice, it was hoped, to conclude the war. Ningpo, which is a city of the first class, and therefore called Foo, (Ningpo-Foo,) is the chief city of a department, and the second city in the province of Che-keang, of which the capital is Hang-Chow-Foo. The population of the province, according to Chinese documents, numbers upwards of 26,000,000 souls, or very nearly as much as the whole of Great Britain and Ireland together.

The town of Ningpo is situated twelve miles up the Tahea, or Ningpo river, at the mouth of which is the small town of Chinhae, at the base of a high hill, which commands the entrance of the river. The possession of Chinhae, therefore, and its citadel, would give us complete command of the approach to Ningpo; just as the capture of Chapoo (which was effected in the subsequent campaign) would lay open the road to Hang-Chow-Foo, the capital; and that of Woosung, which was soon afterwards taken, would give us free access to the valuable trading city of Shang-hae. It could not be doubted that the interruption of trade, and the stoppage of imperial revenues derived from it, would make far deeper impression upon the cabinet of Pekin, than sweeping off thousands and tens of thousands of the people, whose lives[319] are so quaintly said to be "very tenderly cherished in the paternal bosom of the Emperor."

A small garrison only was to be left in possession of Chusan, but the embarkation of the rest of our force was delayed for some days, by the continuance of contrary winds. The exposed situation of Chinhae also made it hazardous to approach it with a fleet, until the weather should assume a more settled appearance. At length, on the 8th of October, the greater part of the transports were moved to the anchorage at "Just in the Way," nearly half way across to the mouth of the Ningpo river. At the same time, the General and the Admiral, accompanied by Sir Henry Pottinger, who was never absent when active operations were going on, proceeded in the Nemesis and Phlegethon steamers to reconnoitre the Chinese positions, and to form their plans for the intended attack. Everything was now extremely favourable for this purpose, considering the advanced season; and the Chinese allowed the steamers to approach quite close, within short range, without firing a shot.

The city of Chinhae lies at the foot of a hill, upon a tongue of land, on the left bank of the river, or upon the northern side of its entrance; and its castellated walls are not much less than three miles in circumference, connected with a substantial stone embankment which runs up the coast for a distance of full three miles, for the protection of the land from the encroachments of the sea. The chief strength of the position, however, lies in the precipitous, rocky height, which, rising abruptly from the sea, at the extremity of the peninsula, and throwing out a rugged spur, completely commands the entrance of the river. Upon its summit, which may be about two hundred and fifty feet high, a sort of citadel had been formed, having a large temple for its commanding point, connected by loop-holed walls with various other buildings, which had been put in a state of preparation for defence.

The outer wall had two iron-plated gates; but the only direct communication between the citadel and the city was on the west, or land side, where a steep but tolerably regular causeway led to a barrier gate at the bottom of the hill, whence it was continued by a wooden bridge over a gorge to the gates of the city itself. In front of the other, or eastern gate of the citadel, there was a newly-constructed battery, formed partly of sand-bags, and partly of masonry, mounting, altogether, twenty-one guns.

Adjoining the suburbs of the city, on the river side, there were also two flanking batteries for the protection of the river, mounting, respectively, twenty-two and nineteen guns; while,[320] on the opposite side of the isthmus, lying between the hill and the city walls, there was a small battery of five guns pointing towards the sea, with a row of piles driven into the beach in front of it, in order to impede the landing of an enemy. For further protection on that side, a number of guns and a large quantity of ginjals were mounted upon the city walls, principally fronting the sea. The information obtained led the General to suppose that there were about three thousand soldiers in the city and upon the works outside of it, while about seven hundred garrisoned the citadel; but the Chinese official returns were afterwards found, in which the details were minutely given. The actual number was about five hundred less than supposed. The Chinese had by no means limited their defences to the northern side of the river only. On the contrary, there was good reason to believe that the great body of their troops and their strongest positions were upon the other or southern side of the river, where there was a range of steep hills, overlooking the citadel hill and the city itself.

On this side there were several strong batteries facing the entrance to the river, mounting altogether thirty-one guns, while the line of heights above was strongly fortified, having a chain of entrenched camps along the points most difficult of approach, with several field redoubts, armed with guns and ginjals; in short, neither expense nor labour had been spared to defend, as far as Chinese ingenuity and art could avail, the approach to the important city of Ningpo.

The river itself was strongly staked across just within the entrance, the obstruction being commanded by the batteries. A little lower down to the southward below the river, in a small bay, there was a creek, with a good landing-place at the foot of the hills, and the entrance to it was staked across in a similar manner. The importance which the Chinese appeared to attach to the defence of these positions rendered it the more necessary that they should be reduced, in order to convince them, by the hard lesson of experience, that the utmost efforts of their skill and perseverance were unavailing against the science and the courage of Europeans.

On the following day, the 9th of October, the squadron and the transports (the best-sailing ones having been selected for the purpose) were able to anchor off Chinhae, in the most convenient positions for the intended operations, which were to be carried into effect early on the following morning.

From the description above given, it will at once become evident that our operations against the main body of the Chinese troops, on the southern side of the river, would be[321] undertaken by the land forces, under Sir Hugh Gough in person, while those against the citadel and town of Chinhae, and the works on the northern side of the river, would be entrusted principally to the naval branch of the expedition, under Sir William Parker. It was arranged that a body of men should be ready to land on that side, composed of the Seamen's Battalion and the Royal Marines, with a detachment of the Royal and Madras Artillery, the whole under the command of Captain Herbert, of the Blenheim.

The Wellesley, Blenheim, Blonde, and Modeste, were to take up positions as close as possible in shore on that side, but avoiding, if possible, the chance of taking the ground at low water, with the object of shelling the Chinese out of the citadel, and of preventing reinforcements from being sent up to it, and also to open a landing-place for the seamen and marines. They were also to drive the Chinese from the walls of the city on that side, and cover the landing. The Cruiser, Columbine, and Bentinck, were to be employed on the southern side of the entrance of the river, taking up their positions so as to cover the landing of the troops at the mouth of the creek already mentioned. The Queen and Sesostris steamers were to throw shells into the citadel, and into the batteries along the river, or, according to circumstances, into the Chinese encampments on the hills on the south side; while the two iron steamers, Nemesis and Phlegethon, were to land the troops, and then render assistance wherever their services might be most useful.

The movements of the troops will be best understood as we proceed. At daylight, on the morning of the 10th of October, the Nemesis took on board the whole of the centre column, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Morris, consisting of the 49th regiment, with a few of the Royal and Madras Artillery, and some Madras Sappers, amounting altogether to about four hundred and forty men, with forty shot-bearers, &c. There were also two 12-pounder howitzers, with two 9-pounder field-guns. The Nemesis then took in tow the Cruiser, sixteen guns, under Commander Giffard, who was to superintend and to cover the landing, and immediately proceeded to the point of debarkation, near the creek, on the flank of the Chinese positions. The post of honour was this day given to the 49th, in order that they might have an opportunity of making up for their disappointment at Chusan, where they were landed too late to take the active part in the day's work which had been assigned to them. At the same time, the left column, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Craigie, of the 55th regiment (accompanied by the General himself and staff), was carried in by the Phlegethon to a rocky point[322] a little farther to the southward. There was a low flat and a canal, with two bridges over it, on their right, whence they could move round the hills to the rear of the position occupied by the Chinese. This column was the strongest, and comprised a wing of the 18th Royal Irish, five Companies of the 55th regiment, the Madras Rifle Company, with one company of the Madras Artillery and some sappers; altogether 1040 men, with four light mountain howitzers, and two five and a half-inch mortars, with upwards of one hundred shot-carriers and followers.

The distance of the point of landing from the enemy's position was not less than a couple of miles; and thence they skirted along the hills, until they reached a commanding point, from which a full view was obtained of the whole of the positions. By this time, the centre column had formed without opposition; but a small body of Chinese troops, who had probably been placed in ambush, under cover of a low hill, were now discovered, and instantly dispersed by a few shot from the Nemesis.

The 49th now received orders to advance up the hill, which they did in gallant style; and, after clearing several field-works, their colours were soon displayed upon the principal redoubt overlooking the batteries on the river side. In this attack, Captain Reynolds and Lieutenant Browne, of the 49th, particularly distinguished themselves.

No sooner had that regiment got into close action than the 18th and the Rifles, on their left, having with great difficulty got across a narrow and obstructed bridge, over the lower part of the canal (which might have been easily defended), and the 55th having crossed another bridge higher up, suddenly pressed round upon the Chinese right, and threw them into the utmost consternation. Many acts of individual bravery were witnessed on their part; some the result of real courage, others of sheer desperation. But the poor Chinese were fairly hemmed in by the 49th in front, and by the 55th and 18th, with the Rifles, on their right and in their rear. This manœuvre, as may be supposed, threw them into the utmost confusion. Their river batteries, being also by these movements taken in flank, were at once abandoned by their defenders, and a few of the guns were actually turned against the flying enemy the moment we took possession.

The havoc among the Chinese was inevitably great, for very few of them could be induced to lay down their arms, in spite of the exertions of the officers, aided by Mr. Thom, the interpreter, to make them understand that their lives would be spared. Hundreds of them, as a last resource, rushed madly into the river, and, of course, a great many were[323] drowned; it is even said that their own batteries on the opposite side of the river killed a great many of them, either purposely for running away, or by aiming at our soldiers, who were driving the fugitives before them. Many committed suicide, including several high officers; but some of them escaped, after throwing away their arms and military clothing. About five hundred men surrendered themselves prisoners; and a few others, who had taken shelter among the rocks along the river side, were subsequently picked up by the boats of the Queen steamer.

While these important successes were being obtained on the southern side of the river, no less active and effectual operations were being carried on upon the opposite or northern side, against the citadel and town of Chinhae. As soon as the Nemesis had landed the centre column, she ran up towards the flag-ship, the Wellesley, which had been towed into an excellent position by the Sesostris, to shell the citadel, but she settled quietly in the mud as the tide fell. The Blenheim had likewise been towed into a good position by the Sesostris, but the Blonde and Modeste were enabled to go in under sail with a light breeze. The terrific fire of these powerful ships was immediately opened upon the hill-fort with irresistible effect. Their precision in throwing shells was particularly remarked, and nothing could long resist their sustained fire.

On the Chinese side, the river batteries opened upon the Nemesis and Phlegethon as they passed the river's mouth, and upon every vessel upon which they could bear, as they occasionally came within range—namely, the Queen, Cruiser, &c. The Nemesis, having passed beyond the flag-ship, ran in as close as possible to the town, and dispersed a body of Chinese, who were drawn up with their banners, &c., on that side, and also opened upon a small fort at the landing-place, between the Citadel-hill and the town; but she was then directed by the Admiral to proceed with orders to the Sesostris and the Queen.

Just at this moment, (past eleven o'clock,) the boats were ordered to land the right column, under Captain Herbert; and it was about this time, also, that the 49th, on the south side of the river, were seen to crown the hill, and carry the Chinese entrenchment in that direction.[61]


So severe and well-directed had been the fire of the ships, that the Chinese had been driven out of the temple upon the top of the Citadel-hill, and could be seen rushing down towards the city. The seamen and marines, having disembarked upon the rugged rocks at the mouth of the river, advanced to the assault with great rapidity up the hill, and entered the citadel, the gate of which had been left open by the Chinese, as they fled.

The Chinese still manned the walls of the city below, which were about twenty feet high, and also the two batteries upon the river side, before described. The marine and seamen battalion, therefore, pushed on to attack the city, and escaladed the walls in two places on the east side—the enemy making their escape through the western gate which led into the open country.

By this time, the batteries on the south side of the river were also in possession of our troops, who now turned the guns upon the batteries on the city side of the river, near the water's edge. Captain Herbert's column was accompanied by the admiral in person, who was one of the foremost to mount the walls.

Three explosions took place during the attack—two near the top of the Citadel-hill, and one at a mandarin station near the river-side. They were supposed to be mines, and two of them were fired by our rockets. Several Chinese suffered by the explosions.

The city of Chinhae, and the whole of the defences on both sides of the river, so much relied on by the Chinese, were in our possession by two o'clock; the Chinese troops were completely dispersed and panic-struck, many of the high officers being killed, and the whole people in the utmost consternation.

Captain Herbert retained possession of the town, with the marines, during the remainder of the day; and in the evening, Sir Hugh Gough crossed over from the opposite side with a few of his troops, and joined Captain Herbert. The rest of our men bivouacked for the night upon the hills they had so bravely taken. The total number of guns which were found in the different works were no less than one hundred and fifty-seven pieces, of which sixty-seven were brass, many being very well cast, and of great weight. In the city was also discovered a cannon foundry, with every preparation for the casting of a great number of guns, including a large quantity of metal. There was likewise some copper ore found in the town, and a tolerable addition to the prize fund was thus secured.

The loss on our side was inconsiderable, amounting to three men killed and sixteen wounded, including one officer, Lieu[325]tenant Montgomerie, of the 49th regiment, which bore the principal brunt of the day. The loss of the Chinese is very difficult to estimate. But it amounted to several hundred killed and wounded, in the operations on both sides of the river.

Soon after the works were all in our possession, the Nemesis was sent some way up the river to explore the navigation, having cleared for herself a passage through the stakes; and, on her return to the Wellesley, late in the day, the admiral, accompanied by Sir Henry Pottinger, proceeded in her to examine the river again.

If we may judge from the various memorials presented to the Emperor, after the fall of Chinhae, and his Majesty's replies to some of them, we must at once perceive how great a sensation the loss of this important place had made upon the people throughout the entire province. They were now alarmed for the safety even of Hang-chow-foo, the capital city. Nevertheless, the emperor, far from shewing any inclination to yield, continued to urge on more strenuously than ever the most extensive preparations for the defence of the province.

Before the fighting at Chinhae commenced, Yu-keen delivered his seals of office to a faithful officer, to be carried back to the provincial capital; and when, at length, he saw the day was lost, he coolly walked down to the river's bank, and there, having performed the ceremony of the Kotow, looking towards the imperial city, he threw himself into the water. It was afterwards ascertained that about fourteen more Chinese officers were either killed, or destroyed themselves.

The death of the imperial commissioner, Yu-keen, seems to have awakened a feeling of compassion in the imperial bosom. His Majesty called to mind the death of the commissioner's grandfather, in the same manner, during the reign of Kien-lung, and directed that his departed servant, "who gave his life for his country," should receive funeral honours of a high class, in the same temple of "faithful ministers" in which his ancestor had already found a place. The local officers were to pay every honour to his remains, in all the towns through which his body might pass on its way to Pekin.

It is an error to suppose that the Chinese are altogether averse to change any of their established practices, however opposed the government may be, as a matter of policy, to every kind of innovation in the usages of the people. In the strictly mechanical arts, no people are more ready to adopt, or more expert in applying any new methods which they can comprehend, and which appear better adapted than their own, to attain the desired object; but their imitations of things are[326] notoriously ludicrous. At Chinhae, four newly-cast guns were found, precisely after the model of some carronades which had been recovered from the wreck of the Kite, and they were not by any means bad specimens.

In the construction of their new gun-carriages, several striking improvements had been copied from ours, and, in this and other instances, it was thought that they must have employed people to take sketches for them. The most remarkable innovation, however, and one which points out their extreme ingenuity, was the discovery of some machinery intended to be applied to the propulsion of their junks, resembling paddle-wheels. This curious invention has been alluded to in the early part of the work, but the actual machinery used for the purpose was now first discovered. There were two long shafts, to which were to be attached the paddle-wheels, made of hard wood, about twelve feet in diameter; there were also some strong, wooden cog-wheels nearly finished, which were intended to be worked by manual labour inside the vessel. They were not yet fitted to the vessels; but the ingenuity of this first attempt of the Chinese, so far north as Chinhae, where they could only have seen our steamers during their occasional visits to Chusan, when that island was before occupied by us, cannot but be admired.

A walk round the ramparts of Chinhae, was sufficient to give a good idea of Chinese towns in general, and of the construction of their walls, which, in some parts, could not be less than forty feet thick. Beyond the town, the long sea-wall was a remarkably fine specimen of masonry, composed entirely of large blocks of hewn granite, sloping upwards. The whole of China, in fact, appears to present to view astonishing instances of mixed civilization and barbarism, of advancement and of stagnation, in all the relations of life. Civilization appears to float upon the surface; you observe so much of social order and sobriety, and hear so much of paternal care and filial obedience, that you are half inclined to think they must be a very moral, humane, and happy people. Again, you witness such proofs of ingenuity, such striking results of industry and of combination of labour, in their public works and buildings, canals, embankments, &c., that you are inclined to believe their institutions must have something good in them at bottom.

But, when you look a little deeper below the surface, you are astonished at the many evidences of barbarism and cruelty which militate against your first impressions. The use of torture in the hands of government officers is less striking, not only because it has been in use in Christian Europe within[327] the last half century, but also because the obligation of an oath being unknown in China, as well as a future state of reward or punishment, there is in some cases, no other mode of extracting evidence, than this cruel, unjust, and much-abused instrument of violence. It is more difficult, however, to perceive why they should have exerted their ingenuity to produce revolting cruelty in their modes of inflicting death.

The manner in which the unfortunate Capt. Stead and Mr. Wainwright were put to death at Chinhae, as it was afterwards discovered, (for they were only wounded and captured at Keeto Point,) affords strong evidence of their cruel love for human suffering. The burial-place of these persons was pointed out outside the city wall, beyond a little moat which skirted them. It seemed to be the common burial-place for criminals after execution, and there was an archery-ground, with a target near at hand, for the practice of their favourite weapon. The bodies of our countrymen were found rolled up in stout mats, such as are commonly used for covering their floors. It was difficult to obtain from the Chinese, anything like correct information as to the precise mode in which the unfortunate sufferers were put to death; for, although both of them were at last beheaded, there is too much reason to believe that they were first of all most barbarously tortured.

The infliction of the punishment of death in China, by any mode which shall cause the mutilation of the body, is considered much more severe and degrading, than death by strangulation, or without the shedding of blood; and the more the body is mutilated, the greater is the punishment considered. The putting to death by "cutting in pieces," in which horrible operation, decapitation is the climax, is, perhaps, never at present carried into effect. It is reserved, I believe, exclusively for rebellion and high treason. But the Chinese seem to take pleasure in inventing various cruel modes by which death may be inflicted, although, probably, they are not now used, if, indeed, they ever were. The most original and disgusting of all these methods, (of which, however, there was no evidence of its being used,) was illustrated by the discovery, either at Chinhae or at Ningpo, of the model of a machine for pounding women to death. The original model was found in a temple, together with various others of a very extraordinary kind. It was very small, and represented a large, oblong, stone vase, in which the woman was to be placed, with the back of her head resting upon one extremity, (the long hair hanging over the side, and fastened to it,) while her legs were to be secured to the other extremity. The horrible pounding process was to be effected by means of a huge stone[328] pestle, large at the base and conical at the apex, similar to those which they use for pounding rice. The pestle, or cone, was fixed to the extremity of a long pole, the pole itself being fastened by a pin in the centre to an upright support, something in the manner of a pump-handle. The extremity of the handle being depressed by a man's weight, of course raised the cone, and, the pressure being removed, the heavy cone or pestle descended by its own weight, which was quite sufficient to pound one to pieces.

It was stated that at Chusan a stone tablet was found, upon which were carved the Emperor's orders, that every barbarian who fell into the hands of the authorities, should be executed by a slow and ignominious death. We know, however, that, except in the case of the prisoners upon the island of Formosa, this horrible threat was, in only rare instances, carried into execution. On the contrary, the English prisoners were sometimes tolerably well treated. This undoubtedly arose from the forbearance which was shewn on our part towards the Chinese themselves, and the humanity and kindness which their wounded and their prisoners invariably received from our officers and men, and which it was invariably the object of Sir Hugh Gough to promote and encourage.


[61] The right columns consisted of—

Seamen Battalion, under Captain Bourchier400
Royal Marines, Major Ellis276
Royal Artillery, with two five and a half inch mortars, and some 9 and }  23
  12-pounder rockets, Lieutenant the Honourable — Spencer            }
Madras Sappers, Captain Cotton and Lieutenant Johnstone, M.E.30


The scenery at the mouth of the Ningpo river is very striking. High conical-shaped hills stand on either side; and, as the river makes a bend a short distance up, the fine mountains beyond come into full view, and add to the picturesque beauty of the spot.

On the 12th of October, (the second day after the capture of Chinhae,) the admiral proceeded up the river in the Nemesis, in order to reconnoitre the city of Ningpo, and to ascertain the practicability of taking the larger steamers and the sloops up the river. In all respects, the river much exceeded the expectations formed of it. It was found to be wide and easily navigable up to the city, with not less than fourteen feet water close under the city walls. It was also ascertained that no preparations had been made for defence, as the positions which the Chinese had taken up at the entrance of the river had been considered by them as quite strong enough to prevent the approach of an enemy. The people were seen[329] harrying out of the city gates, in every direction, in the greatest consternation. The authorities had all fled, and the city appeared to be in complete disorder.

No time was to be lost. With the exception of the necessary garrison left at Chinhae, consisting of the 55th regiment, (excepting the light company,) with one hundred Royal Marines, and a detachment of artillery and sappers, the whole under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Craigie, the rest of the force was embarked principally on board the Nemesis and Phlegethon on the following morning, the 13th, and proceeded up the river, in company with the Queen and Sesostris steamers, together with the Modeste, Cruiser, Columbine, and Bentinck. The Blonde was left for the protection of Chinhae, as a support to the garrison.

In consequence of unavoidable delays, the force did not reach the city of Ningpo until past two, P.M.; but, fortunately, there was no difficulty in landing the troops with the utmost expedition. Across the river, just abreast of the town, there was a well-constructed bridge of boats, which served to connect the city, at the entrance of one of its gates, with the suburbs which were on the opposite side. There was quite water enough for the steamers to run close up to it; and, as the Chinese shewed no intention of opposing the landing, the bridge was immediately taken possession of, while thousands of the inhabitants thronged the banks of the river, as mere spectators, moved by curiosity rather than by fear. Indeed, the Chinese themselves voluntarily assisted to remove the obstructions which were piled up behind the city gates; and about three o'clock the whole of the little force, amounting to no more than seven hundred and fifty bayonets, besides the artillery and sappers, were drawn up along the ramparts of the important and wealthy city of Ningpo; and the stirring sound of our national "God save the Queen" was played by the band of the 18th Royal Irish.

The utmost quiet was preserved, and the Chinese were made to understand that, deserted by their own authorities, and left without means of protecting themselves, they might be assured of protection through the generosity of British soldiers. Never indeed was there a more peaceable victory.

The capture of Chinhae and Ningpo, so soon after the loss of Chusan, seems to have inflicted so severe a blow upon the Chinese, as to have alarmed the whole province, and spread consternation even as far as the capital itself. Reports were soon brought from every quarter that the inhabitants even of Hang-chow-foo, famed for its luxury and refinement throughout China, were moving away from it in large numbers, and that[330] places nearer to the scene of action were already almost abandoned. In fact, it was admitted that a panic prevailed on every side; and it was feared that "treacherous natives would seize the opportunity to rob and plunder, and would form themselves into organized bands for the purpose of creating internal disorders." There was also great apprehension that our forces might proceed to capture Chapoo, one of their most valuable ports, having the exclusive right of trade with Japan, and situated in the vicinity of Hang-chow-foo.

It could not be doubted, therefore, that had the General possessed a sufficient force to have been able to leave a garrison at Ningpo, and at once to take possession of Chapoo, which is, in fact, the seaport of Hang-chow-foo, and only twenty miles distant from it, he might have marched to the provincial capital while the Chinese were unprepared to offer any serious opposition; and it is not improbable that the war might have been brought to a termination in that campaign. With the very small force, however, which Sir Hugh Gough had at his disposal, such a movement was manifestly impossible. The whole force which he could muster at Ningpo amounted to no more than seven hundred and fifty bayonets; and, as the city was not less than five miles in circumference, containing a dense population, it evidently required a considerable garrison to occupy the place, and to afford security to the peaceable and well-disposed inhabitants. It was therefore resolved to make Ningpo the head-quarters for the winter, and to wait for reinforcements from England and from India before opening the next campaign.

The province of Che-keang, which was now the seat of our operation, is intersected by large rivers, and is traversed by the great Imperial Canal, which, taking its commencement from the city of Hang-chow-foo, and passing through the most fertile and densely-populated provinces, crossing in its course the two great rivers, the Yangtze Keang and the Yellow River, runs northward nearly as far as the imperial capital, which is dependent upon it not only for its wealth, but even for its means of daily subsistence. A blow inflicted upon its immense traffic at one extremity must necessarily vibrate along its whole course, and be painfully felt at the other end; and the great internal trade of China, through all its endless ramifications, upon which perhaps the bulk of the population depend for their subsistence, must suffer a universal and dangerous derangement. What was of quite as much importance, also, the imperial revenues would, in a great measure, cease to flow into the imperial treasury.

The city of Ningpo, therefore, the largest in the province[331] next to Hang-chow-foo, wealthy from its great trade, easily accessible by water, and formerly the site of an English factory, was admirably adapted for winter quarters. The troops were placed, in the first instance, in two large public buildings, and the greatest forbearance was exercised towards the persons and property of the inhabitants. Proclamations were likewise issued, calling upon the people to return to their ordinary avocations without fear of molestation; and some of the principal inhabitants were requested to assemble, in order that it might be explained to them that it was the wish of our high officers to afford them all possible protection, and to restore order to the city; that the hostility of the English was to be directed against the government, and not against the people.

All this sounded well at first, and was received with great thankfulness by the Chinese, who seemed very well disposed to be taken under British protection. But the announcement which was afterwards made to them, that they were to pay a heavy sum as ransom for the city, and as an equivalent for the value of our "protection," was received with very great disfavour and reluctance. Very little of the sum demanded was ever forthcoming; and the substitution of a tax, or contribution, of ten per cent upon the estimated value of the property, was the cause of much subsequent ill-will, and some injustice. In fact, notwithstanding the promises and hopes which were held out, a very small portion of it was ever collected, and it was at all times a subject of much bitterness to the people.

A tax of ten per cent upon the value of the cargoes of all vessels passing up the river, which was afterwards enforced, was much more successful; in fact, it was little else than the collection of the imperial revenues, which the Chinese were always liable to pay. It was, however, in a great degree evaded, by an increase of smuggling along the coast, which the disorganized state of the local government of the province greatly favoured.

Generally speaking, the collecting of any considerable body of troops together in any particular province or locality in China, so far from strengthening the hands of the authorities, is more likely to occasion disturbance among the inhabitants. Their raw, ill-disciplined levies are under little restraint, and repeated complaints are always made against the lawlessness of the troops. Little confidence being placed in their regular soldiers, who had been so recently defeated, the people were now called upon by the authorities to collect their brave men from all the villages and hamlets along the coast, and to organize them into bands, for mutual "defence against the proud rebels;" but, in most instances, these bodies of uncontrolled[332] patriots became a scourge to their own neighbourhood, and perfectly useless for any purpose of defence against the enemy.

Ningpo is situated upon the extremity of a tongue of land at the point of junction of two rivers, or two branches of the same river, which unite just below the town, and form the Tahea, or Ningpo river. Both of these branches are extremely tortuous, and have numerous villages along their banks, which are in some parts picturesque and well cultivated. One of them leads up, in a north-easterly direction, to the district town of Yuyow, whence there is a canal, supposed to lead to Hang-Chow-foo: the distance is about forty miles; and nearly halfway up this branch, situated about four miles from the river's bank, is the town of Tsekee. Both of these towns shortly became, as we shall see, the scene of our operations, our object being to disperse the Chinese forces, which were being collected at various points for a threatened attack upon us at Ningpo. The other, or south-western branch of the Ningpo river, leads up, at the distance of about thirty miles, to the town of Fungway, which we also designed to attack, if necessary.

At Ningpo itself, one of the most interesting objects is the bridge of boats, connecting the town with the suburbs. It is apparently well contrived to answer the purpose for which it is intended. The boats are all connected together by two chains running across, and resting upon them, extending from one side of the river to the other. This serves to keep the boats in their places, without their being moored, and a regular bridge of planks is carried from one to the other, but only destined for foot-passengers, as carts for draught are unknown.



A few days after the place was taken, the Nemesis and Phlegethon proceeded up the north-western branch towards Yuyow, the Admiral and suite being on board the former, and Sir Henry Pottinger and suite on board the latter. They also took in tow the Wellesley's launch and pinnace, manned and armed. The object was simply to explore that branch of the river, and to ascertain whether any Chinese were being collected in that direction. Nothing could be more picturesque than the scenery the whole way up, the tortuous bendings of the river bringing a constant succession of new objects into view, relieved by fine mountain scenery in the rear. Numerous villages lay scattered upon its banks, but there was no appearance of any preparations for defence. The inhabitants generally, so far from running away with fear, crowded the banks with looks of the utmost astonishment. The scenery continued to increase in interest as they ascended, and particularly at a place called Poonpoo, where there was a cluster of extremely pretty country houses, or villas, said to belong to several of the high officers of government. On every side the country appeared to be in the highest state of cultivation.

About two-thirds of the way up, the river became considerably narrower, and the turnings were sometimes so sharp and sudden, that it was not without some difficulty the long, sharp Nemesis could be guided round them. At length, about five o'clock, they reached the city of Yuyow, and came to anchor close under its walls, in about three fathoms water.

The Admiral, accompanied by the numerous officers who had attended him, including Captains Maitland, Herbert, Blake, and others, now got into the boats from the Nemesis, as did also Sir Henry Pottinger, and his suite from the Phlegethon, and proceeded up the river above the town, to reconnoitre. They passed under a well-constructed stone bridge of three arches, the centre one being about thirty feet high; but the day was already far advanced, and the rain began to fall heavily. Nothing of a hostile character was observed in the neighbourhood, and they all very gladly returned without landing, but did not reach the steamers until they were completely drenched.

Sir William Parker did not escape suffering from the exposure he had undergone, and was laid up almost immediately afterwards with an attack of rheumatism; indeed, it was often a matter of surprise that he escaped with so little illness during his anxious and indefatigable services, in which he never spared himself on any occasion, or shrunk from any exposure.

In the city of Ningpo, things gradually began to settle down into their regular course; the Chinese soon opened their shops,[334] and were very glad to sell their wares at an exorbitant price. Provisions, also, were brought in plentifully, and there was every probability that the winter would be passed in tolerable tranquillity. Some of the principal people are said to have come forward, and expressed their willingness to be taken permanently under British rule, under a guarantee of protection, but their professions were little relied on.

Some of the temples at Ningpo are very handsome, and one of them in particular is well worth seeing. They fortunately escaped the plundering of the Chinese thieves. Not so, however, the private houses, particularly in the suburbs, which were less under our control, and were almost as extensive as the town. In these, one whole street was discovered entirely at the mercy of the mob, who had carried off nearly everything that could be moved, in almost every house. Several of these rogues were caught in the act, and were handed over to the tender mercies of the people themselves. Several of them, also, were well flogged, and others had their tails cut off, by the general's orders.

One of the buildings which attracted most interest was the town prison, in which Captain Anstruther and others of our unfortunate countrymen had been so long confined. The identical cages in which they had been shut up were found still there, and others of a similar kind, ready for the reception of any of the barbarians who might fall into their hands. The way in which Captain Anstruther managed to find out his old prison was rather curious. He is said to have had himself blindfolded, and then carefully numbered the steps he had formerly taken, and the different turnings he had made; and by these means contrived, within a few yards, to hit the very spot.

A party arrived there in time to get possession of some Sycee silver which had not yet been removed from the offices; but it is supposed that much more had already been carried away by plunderers. A very large quantity of the base coin called cash, the only coined money of China, was found in another part of the town; and the enormous stores of grain, belonging to government, were also taken possession of, and afterwards sold to the people at a cheap rate. This produced a considerable addition to the prize fund, but the policy of selling it at so low a rate was somewhat questioned. Every man was allowed to go into the stores, at which a strong guard was placed, and fill as large a sack as he could carry out of it for one dollar, its actual value being about four. But only a small portion of this was actually obtained by the poor people; for it was asserted, at least by the Chinese, that[335] the farmers themselves managed to get a considerable share of it by means of their servants, so that they might be able to continue to keep up the price by a species of monopoly. It was also feared that, in case of a failure of the crops, a serious famine might happen to the people, owing to the want of the accustomed stores which are usually laid up by the government, in the paternal spirit of providing the poor with food at a moderate price, in the event of such a contingency. The sum added to the prize-fund by the sale of these stores of grain, of which there was said to be two years' supply, was considerable. There were also large stores of sugar discovered in the town.

Amongst other unexpected prizes, not the least interesting was that of a stud of Chinese horses, or ponies, small, but hardy little things, used exclusively for saddle, and generally employed only by the higher mandarins. Upwards of forty of these ponies were selected, and trained for the artillery, and amusing enough it was to see the commencement of their apprenticeship. One of the great disadvantages the General laboured under, on many occasions, was the want of horses for his staff; the necessity of carrying his orders on foot not only caused delay, but rendered the duty very harassing, particularly during some of the hot, sultry days in the earlier part of this campaign.

The Chinese horses are extremely small, literally ponies, but strong, and of good bone and tolerable figure; but they are not numerous, being considered rather as a valuable indication of rank or wealth than as the common slave of man, either for labour or amusement. The Chinese take no pains to improve the breed, and very little care of them, as to their food, grooming, &c. In reality, a Chinaman is the most awkward-looking horseman imaginable, and the walk or the jog-trot is the only pace that either his inclination, his dignity, or the slippery nature of his causeways, permit him to adopt. Population in China is so dense, and consequently labour so abundant, that they stand in very little need of the help of the lower animals to assist the hand of man, and rather grudge the food which is necessary for their maintenance.

The best way to obtain a good view of Ningpo and the surrounding country is to ascend the pagoda, which forms one of its most striking objects. It is one hundred and fifty-five feet high, of an octagonal form, having windows all the way up, with a lantern in each; so that, if lighted up, the effect would be very striking. The lower part of it is built of stone, but the upper part of brick. In other respects it differs but little from other structures of the same description. It appears to[336] be connected with a public burial-ground, as numerous graves and monuments lie scattered round it. From the top of it you get quite a panoramic view of the city and the river, with its two tributaries or branches, the mountains in the distance, and the fine, rich, alluvial, well-watered, and highly-cultivated plain which extends down towards the sea-coast.

The town itself differs little in appearance from that of Canton and most other towns in China, but it is considerably smaller than the former; it has the same narrow streets, crossed here and there by the heavy stone arches, or rather tablets, which are frequently erected to do honour to some great or popular man, the same curious, long, ornamented sign-boards, on each side of the shops, and the same crowded clusters of houses, of curious shape, and mostly of one story.

Many of the houses of the better class of people, not deserted entirely by their owners, were visited by our officers, who generally met with a very courteous reception. Indeed, the Chinese well know how to make a virtue of necessity, and to conciliate your good graces by the offer of tea, cakes, tobacco, or flowers, rather than run the chance of exciting your ill-will, or your less friendly visits, by an affectation of independence or rude indifference. The Chinese of the respectable classes are capable of being extremely courteous, are well-bred, and even elegant in their manners; and the proper mode of treating them is to insist on this kind of demeanour as if it were due to you, and to accept it as your right. But there are no people who can be more rude, overbearing, and uncourteous than the Chinese, when they think that they can withhold from you with impunity, or without notice, the courtesies which are habitual among themselves.

Considering how much the property of the inhabitants of Ningpo was at our mercy, it is creditable that so little injury was done to it during the many months in which the city was in our possession. But it is also deserving of remark that, during the whole period of the war with the Chinese, no considerable collection of Chinese curiosities or works of art, many of which are extremely interesting and novel to us, was made for public purposes. With the exception of a few specimens of Chinese weapons and clothing, which were sent to different public institutions by private individuals, no attempt was made to form a sort of Chinese Museum.

It is also to be regretted that some one or more scientific gentlemen were not attached to the expedition, who, with the assistance of an interpreter, might have made us acquainted with many interesting subjects of natural history, and of the productions of the country. Where, for instance, is the[337] immense quantity of Sycee silver, which is annually exported from China, obtained? Where are their copper-mines, and how are they worked? Coal mines also exist in several parts of China; at Ningpo, coal was sold in small quantities, and at Nankin immense supplies of excellent coal were found laid up for the coming winter, and our steamers found it answer very well. The mineral productions of China, of which there are probably many, are almost entirely unknown to us.

The taste for European manufactures had reached Ningpo long before we got possession of it. There were one or two shops for the sale of what were called Canton wares, that is, English goods brought up from Canton, and, of course, sold enormously dear. In one of them was a quantity of English glass of various kinds. English gilt buttons were found, and were in demand for the dresses of the higher classes, particularly of the women, who seemed to prefer those which had the East India Company's crest, the lion, upon them. A large quantity of cloth was also found imported from Russia, and called Russian cloth; but, in reality, there is little doubt that the cloth was manufactured in England, for Russian merchants, expressly for their overland trade with China. It is a known fact, that orders of this description, for cloth made expressly of a particular kind, have long been executed in England. This, then, ought now to become a direct trade in our own hands.

The Chinese appear to excel in the art of wood-carving, some very fine specimens of which were found in their houses. One house in particular at Ningpo was distinguished by the tasteful carving of its furniture, particularly of that which belonged to the bed-rooms. Some of their wardrobes and bedsteads were elegantly ornamented with carved work, inlaid with various kinds of wood, and representing landscapes, figures, &c. Some of their specimens of fretwork, with silk at the back, and of embroidered silk furniture, were extremely elegant. Above all things, they excel in the art of varnishing plain or carved wood, and they have also some method of giving a fine gloss to painted work, which very much increases its durability, although it is different from varnish.

One of their greatest deficiencies appears to be in the mode of lighting their houses. Glass is so little used, and the manufacture of it so imperfectly known among them, that almost the only mode which they adopt of letting in the light, and of excluding the air at the same time, is by lattice-work windows, sometimes neatly carved, and lined inside with very thin transparent paper. Occasionally, however, a single pane of glass is found in the centre of the window, while in other[338] instances the whole of it is covered with the thin transparent lining of oyster-shells, which admit a very imperfect light. The artificial lighting of the best houses is often very well effected by coloured lamps, several of which are suspended from the ceiling, and painted with various designs, landscapes, &c. But the painting is on, not in the glass; the latter art appears to be quite unknown to the Chinese.

Generally speaking, it was not safe to wander far from the gates of the town, except when a large party went together upon a shooting excursion. Pheasants, and a sort of pigeon, with woodcocks and teal, were generally found without difficulty; but the Chinese seemed mightily astonished that any one should take the trouble to walk over the country, mile after mile, merely for the trouble of shooting birds. It is curious that, expert and indefatigable as they are in catching fish, they should be so indifferent to the art of catching or killing birds, which are to be found in almost every part of the country in great abundance; but they seem to be deterred by the trouble of seeking for them, and have very little knowledge of the relative value of the different species as articles of diet. The lower class of people will gladly devour any kind of bird you shoot for them. I have seen them glad to get birds of prey even, and yet they take no pains to secure the thousands of wild-fowl which are to be found upon the banks of the same rivers in which they catch their fish.

That it was not safe to go out alone, even well armed, soon became evident, for they made more than one attempt to carry off a sentry on duty, and would have succeeded in their object, had not the guard instantly come up on the alarm being given. On these occasions, as may be supposed, a Chinaman or two stood a chance of being shot. But the boldest of them all were the professed thieves, who continued to commit depredations upon their countrymen in the most barefaced manner, in spite of the severe examples which were sometimes made.

On one occasion, when a small foraging party was out looking for poultry and bullocks, some Chinamen pointed out a spot where they said a quantity of Sycee silver had been concealed. This was too great a temptation for the soldiers to resist; but the moment they had loaded themselves with the silver the Chinese surrounded them, and they were obliged to let fall the Sycee in order to defend themselves, and then beat a retreat. A quarrel then arose of course among the Chinese about the division of the spoil, of which they had not robbed their countrymen, but had only captured it from the barbarians.


So many attempts were made to entrap our soldiers and sailors, and to carry them off, both at Ningpo and Chinhae, that great caution was necessary, and, in spite of the many warnings, some of their attempts were successful. They had less inclination to molest the officers; not that they loved them better, or desired them less as prisoners, but that they had greater respect for the double-barrelled pistols which many of the officers carried in their pockets, and which all were supposed to be provided with.

An attempt was made more than once by the Chinese to rob our commissariat stores, but it was frustrated by our vigilance. But the Chinese are uncommonly expert house-breakers, as many people in Hong-Kong can testify, where houses and stores of the most substantial kind were broken into in a very ingenious manner, generally by removing some of the stones or bricks near the foundation.

The attempt to establish a Chinese police at Ningpo, and also at Chusan, was tolerably successful; at least it was not difficult to find men who were willing enough to receive the pay, and wear the badge of a policeman; but it is not quite so certain that they were equally ready to detect thieves, or to protect the property of individuals. Sometimes, by way of appearing to do something, they gave false information, which served to create a stir for the moment. Upon the whole, they were certainly of some use; but the want of knowledge of the language, and the small number of interpreters, since Mr. Gutzlaff had almost the sole management of them, rendered their services less available than could have been wished. They were occasionally useful as spies, and obtained information of reports among their countrymen, concerning the plans and intentions of the mandarins.

But, besides these, we had also regular spies in our pay, one of whom, a Chinese who spoke English, and came to be known by the name of Blundell, was sent up to Hang-chow-foo, but was afraid to deliver the paper which was entrusted to him, and returned without having accomplished his object. He was supposed to be employed as a spy by both parties, the Chinese as well as ourselves. Generally, pretty correct information was obtained of the proposed movements of the Chinese, the assembling of their troops, and the orders of the imperial cabinet.

At Ningpo, and in its neighbourhood, there were no indications of hostile preparations for some time after the place was in our possession. It was not until quite the end of November that reports, upon which reliance could be placed, reached the general, that troops were collecting in some of the[340] neighbouring towns, particularly at Yuyow, the town which had already been visited, and rumours were afloat of some projected attack, on the part of the Chinese, upon Ningpo itself. Plans now began to be laid for dispersing these different bodies of troops, and for the purpose of instilling a wholesome terror into the minds of the people; but active measures did not take place until two or three weeks afterwards.

In the meantime, the Nemesis was sent over to Chusan, stopping a day or two at Chinhae on the way, to procure fuel, and to overhaul a number of large junks which were at anchor a few miles from the mouth of the river. They were found to be laden principally with peas, rice, oil, walnuts, liquorice-root, &c.; and had they been met with a few months later, they would all have been detained, as were hundreds of a similar kind at Woosung; but at this time they were not molested. Opium was found in them all, in small quantities only, for the use of the people on board, but apparently not for sale.

The weather was now clear and bracing, and the sickness which had partially attacked our troops, on first taking possession of the town, had almost entirely disappeared.

On the occasion of a visit to the opposite side of the river, a singular circumstance occurred. Two Chinamen were seen at some little distance, hastening along with a large round basket carried between them, carefully covered up, but which at first attracted little notice. Some of the party had the curiosity to raise up the covering a little, when, to their great surprise and amusement, a very young and pretty-looking Chinese lady was found stowed in it, hoping, probably, by this device to escape detection. The poor thing was almost frightened to death; but she remained perfectly quiet until she was covered up again, when the men were allowed to trot away with her as fast as they could.

Shortly afterwards, a gay-looking sedan chair was seen passing near a village, probably belonging to some of the mandarins; but no sooner did the party run up to examine it, than its occupier jumped out and ran away for his life.

But the most singular thing of this kind was finding a Chinese lady stowed away in the locker of a boat, as if she were dead. Orders had been issued by the admiral to examine all junks leaving the city, in order to prevent them from carrying away plunder. One of these had just been examined, without finding anything of value on board, when it occurred that something might still be concealed in the after-locker, a sort of cupboard of moderate size. On opening this sanctum,[341] it appeared to contain what looked like the dead body of a female, recently put into it, well dressed, and, judging from her handsome shoes and small feet, a person of some importance. This looked a very strange affair; but as no one could speak a word of the language, it was impossible to inquire into it. However, as it appeared to be a capital opportunity to examine the nature of a Chinese lady's foot, the men were ordered by Capt. Hall to lift the body out; and this appeared likely to be no easy matter, so closely did it seem to be jammed in. But the moment the Jacks laid hold of the shoulders, a tremendous scream issued forth, as if a ghost had suddenly been endowed with some unearthly voice. The poor thing had only shammed being dead, in order, as she thought, to escape detection. She was now very gently lifted out, and not without some difficulty, being literally half dead with the fright and confinement. In the bottom of the locker beneath her was found a bag of money, with which she had evidently attempted to escape. She was, of course, allowed to go away without further molestation, boat and all.

The question of infanticide has been already alluded to in a previous chapter. According to Barrow, it was considered part of the duty of the police at Pekin to collect every morning, in a cart sent round for the purpose, the dead bodies of infants which were thrown into the streets during the night. Sometimes they were found still alive, and these were commonly rescued by the Roman-catholic missionaries, who attended for the purpose, and subsequently brought them up in the Roman-catholic faith. Mr. Gutzlaff also alludes to this horrible practice, as being far from uncommon, and as being perpetrated without any feelings of remorse, but almost exclusively upon females. Among the immense population which live in boats, and upon the rivers of China, it is impossible to calculate how many are disposed of by being drowned. But, in Pekin, Barrow gives the average number destroyed, at twenty-four every day. Some allowance must, however, be made for those which die of disease during the earliest period of life in a country where medical science is at so low an ebb.

With the exception of some of the Tartar towns, such as Chapoo and Chin-keang-foo, where wholesale murder was committed by the men upon their wives and children immediately the places were captured, little evidence was obtained of the existence of the revolting practice of infanticide. We have seen that at Amoy the bodies of several infants were found sewed up in sacks; and it was also said that a cave was found at Chinhae, in which were a number of bodies of female infants, also tied up in bags. But it was an extremely[342] rare thing to find an infant abandoned in the streets alive or dead. An instance, however, occurred at Ningpo one evening, when Captain Hall and a party from the Nemesis were returning towards their boats. They were just passing a joss-house, or temple, when something attracted attention lying upon the steps leading to the entrance. On examination, it proved to be a female infant (always females) recently abandoned, and though extremely cold, still living. The little thing was carried down to the boat by a marine, who was the orderly. Every attempt was made as soon as it was brought on board to revive it, but without success.

Infanticide undoubtedly does exist in China, but it may be suspected that the statements of its prevalence have been exaggerated, and certainly it is confined to the lower classes, among whom the means of subsistence press very heavily. The Chinese are generally remarkably fond of their children. A Chinaman's three great wishes and most cherished hopes are—length of days, plenty of male offspring, and literary honours. To be the patriarch of a long line of descendants is generally the aim of his proudest ambition.

After a delay of two or three days at Chinhae, the Nemesis was sent over to Chusan at the end of November, whither the admiral, and Sir Henry Pottinger, had already preceded her. Great changes and improvements were found to have taken place, even in this short space of time. The shops were now all open, and the streets filled with people, who were pursuing their ordinary avocations without any appearance of alarm or fear of interruption. In fact, they were settling down very quietly under our rule, much more so than on the former occasion when the town was in our occupation.


The eventful year of 1841 was now drawing fast to a close. The troops at Ningpo had been moved into more convenient quarters for the winter, the close of which was anxiously looked for in the hope that sufficient reinforcements would arrive to be able to commence the next campaign with vigour. The weather set in intensely cold, in the middle of December. On the 14th of that month, the hills were all covered with snow, which soon began to fall heavily in the town as well, and proved that although the summers are very warm in[343] China, the winters are intensely cold and trying. The health of the troops continued good, supplies were tolerably abundant, and the officers managed to beguile the time by shooting-parties in the neighbourhood, where plenty of game, woodcocks, snipes, pheasants, &c., were to be found.

For some time, as was before stated, reports had been brought in of the assembling of large bodies of Chinese troops in some of the neighbouring towns, with the object, it was supposed, of preventing the people from holding friendly communications with us, and perhaps also to threaten us with an attempt to recover the city. The continuance of frosty weather, which rendered their soft paddy-fields firm and fit for operations, determined the general to make a military expedition as far as Yuyow, in order to ascertain how far these reports were correct, and to dislodge the Chinese troops if any of them should be found collected there.

On the 27th of December, the three steamers, Nemesis, Sesostris, and Phlegethon, having a number of boats in tow, and carrying altogether about seven hundred men, including the marines and seamen, proceeded up the north-western branch of the river. The Nemesis conveyed Sir Hugh Gough, Sir William Parker, and a detachment of the 18th Royal Irish, together with a small detachment of artillery. The Sesostris, owing to her greater draught of water, was compelled to bring up below the intended point of debarkation. A few miles below the town a party of Chinese soldiers were dispersed who had evidently been employed to stake the river across, which they had already commenced.

In the evening, the Nemesis and Phlegethon anchored close off the town of Yuyow, when crowds of Chinese were observed running down to their boats and trying to make their escape up the river. The troops were disembarked without delay, and took possession of a small undefended battery of four guns recently erected, and then marched up the hill overlooking the city, without opposition, and took up their quarters for the night in the joss-house, or temple, upon the top of it, from which a good view of the country had been obtained on a former occasion.

The city was said to be occupied by upwards of a thousand troops, and preparations were made for escalading the walls on the following morning, when the seamen and marines were landed with that object, under the admiral in person.

Just at the critical moment, some of the respectable inhabitants came out, and stated that the garrison had withdrawn during the night, and that the gates were open for us. It was little expected that treachery was intended, and the troops[344] with the marines and seamen, entered the town in two divisions; and having got upon the ramparts, they followed them in opposite directions, in order to go round the town and meet at the opposite side. At the same time, the Nemesis weighed and moved a little higher up the river; and from the mast-head it was distinctly seen that a body of Chinese troops were drawn up outside the town, close to a bridge leading over a canal. The boats were, therefore, sent further up the river, manned and armed, in case the Chinese should attempt to escape in that direction.

Just at this time, the Chinese opened a fire of ginjals and matchlocks upon the naval division, as they were advancing along the wall of the town; but our troops, after some little delay, having found their way out of the town by the northern gate, closely pursued the enemy, who had already taken flight. The Nemesis, and subsequently the Phlegethon, opened fire on them the moment they were perceived.

The pursuit was a toilsome one, owing to the peculiar character of the frozen paddy-fields, covered with snow, which the Chinese could scramble over faster than our own men; but some of the Chinese were killed, and some were taken prisoners. Most of them threw off their thick wadded jackets, and flung away their arms, and having a good knowledge of the country, and of the direction of the causeways, which were completely covered with snow, were able to make good their escape. The pursuit was discontinued, after following them seven or eight miles; but a military station, which was passed in the way, was set fire to and destroyed.

In the mean time, the boats of the Nemesis, under Captain Hall, having pushed on some way up the river, had overtaken two mandarin boats, which were trying to escape. A quantity of official papers were found in them, together with some Sycee silver, which was handed over to the prize-agents; some valuable fur cloaks were also taken, and the boats were then burned, the people belonging to them being first sent ashore. Several farm-houses on shore were then searched for troops, but none were found. At some distance, however, some men were seen carrying a handsome mandarin chair in great haste across the country. Chase was given, and it was soon overtaken; but, instead of a mandarin, it was found to contain a very good-looking young mandarin's lady, with an infant in her arms, and a quantity of trinket-boxes. The poor thing was much frightened, but was allowed to be carried on without molestation. On returning to the boats, they were pushed up further, in the direction in which our troop had followed the enemy.


At Yuyow, an extensive depôt was discovered outside the town, containing ammunition, arms, and clothing, and was totally destroyed. Four guns, which were discovered concealed near the landing-place, were embarked on board the steamer. It was now evident that the reports which had been brought to us concerning the preparations of the Chinese were perfectly correct.

In the town itself there was nothing particularly worthy of attention; and on the 30th, our force was re-embarked, and the steamers returned down the river, and came to anchor for the night, as near as they could to the town of Tszekee, which lies, as before stated, about four miles from its banks. On marching up to it the following day, it was found unoccupied; and even the authorities of the town, alarmed by the intelligence from Yuyow, had fled from the place. The inhabitants appeared peaceably inclined; and, in order the better to conciliate them, and to shew that our measures were solely directed against their government, the large public stores of rice were distributed to the poor people of the place. The same evening, our force returned to Ningpo, having, during these five days, succeeded in spreading the alarm throughout all the adjacent country, and in destroying all the reliance of the people in the power of their own troops to protect them.

The year 1841 had now closed, and it had been the most eventful one since the commencement of our difficulties with the Chinese. Our measures had assumed a new character of vigour, while treaties had been made and unmade by the Chinese with almost equal facility. But deep and lasting humiliation had been inflicted upon them; the honour of the English flag had been vindicated, and the strength of her arms had been tried, and proved to be irresistible to the Chinese.

It was soon discovered that the effect of our descent upon Yuyow, and our visit to Tszekee, had been to spread the utmost consternation through all the district, and to alarm even the high officers at the provincial capital, Hang-chow-foo. The imperial commissioner and many of the wealthy inhabitants now fled out of that city, and sought refuge in Soo-chow-foo, nearly one hundred miles further to the northward. In fact, there was a general dread of our immediate advance upon the former city; and there is little doubt that the general would have gladly undertaken the expedition, had he possessed sufficient force to do so without giving up Ningpo.

Some encouragement was given to this flattering expectation, by the fact of the Phlegethon steamer and the Bentinck[346] surveying vessel being sent, early in January, to examine the great bay of Hang-chow-foo, and the port of Chapoo, which, as it were, commands the approach to the city, and is the centre of its commerce. This hoped-for movement in advance, however, never took place. But, with a view to keep up in the minds of the Chinese the impression which had been produced by our movement upon Yuyow by the north-western branch of the river, a similar attack was projected upon Fungwah, which lies nearly at the same distance up the south-western branch. No authorized expedition had yet been made to explore this branch; but, on two occasions, Captain Hall and some of his officers and men had proceeded a considerable way up, partly moved by curiosity, and partly with a view to examine the river. On one occasion, they must have nearly reached the city of Fungwah itself.

In both these excursions, the Chinese seemed very much astonished and alarmed at the boldness of the attempt. The first excursion was merely a walking and shooting party, but enough was seen of the country to distinguish it as a rich, well-cultivated, and picturesque tract. The small cotton-plant was cultivated in great abundance, and the women (at least the elder ones) sat quietly at their doors, busy at the spinning wheel, without appearing to be much alarmed. Several canals were observed close to the river side, but not flowing into or communicating directly with it. They were separated from it by rather a steep inclined plane, made of stone-work, intended as a substitute for locks, with strong windlasses for the purpose of hauling the boats up on one side, and letting them down on the other; certainly an original and curious contrivance.

The second excursion was much more extensive, and was made in one of the steamers' cutters up the river. On passing through the first village, four shots were heard, but it was difficult to say whether they were fired at the boat, as the shots were not seen to fall. The river was found to be remarkably tortuous, so as to appear sometimes, when viewed from a distance, as if it ran in contrary directions. Numerous pretty-looking villages were passed without any appearance of hostility; and, at the distance of about eighteen miles, the river was found to divide into two branches, one of which continued in a westerly direction, and the other ran about south-east. Following the latter a short distance farther, a well-built stone bridge was discovered, with five arches, the centre one about twenty feet above the water, which was here from five to six fathoms deep; the span of the principal arch was thirty-five[347] feet, and upon the top of the bridge was a sort of sentry-box, or small look-out place, secured with a padlock.

Near at hand, upon the left bank of the river, was a very pretty village, in which there was one large house, distinguished from the others by having Chinese characters carved upon it, the meaning of which, of course, could not be ascertained. About a quarter of a mile above the bridge, the banks of the river were studded with well-built houses, surrounded by groves of trees, among which the tallow-tree was the most striking, by the peculiar reddish tint of its foliage at that time of year. The course of the river was now about south-east, and it was still nearly one hundred yards broad, with three fathoms water.

Three miles above the first bridge a second one was discovered, and the river now turned due south. A little beyond this point the party landed, as it was now getting late, and ascended a hill upon the left bank of the river, from which there was a beautiful view of the surrounding country and the hills in the distance. A high pagoda could be distinguished some way off to the westward, and a round, white watch-tower, or look-out house, upon a hill to the eastward, covered with fir-trees, about a mile distant. At first the villagers seemed terribly frightened, but, soon perceiving that no mischief was intended, they approached with the utmost eager curiosity, anxious to examine everything, particularly the boat and the men's clothes. Their manner was respectful and orderly, which is generally the case with the Chinese, if properly treated.

It was now time to descend the river, although the flood-tide was still making. On approaching the principal stone bridge, it was found crowded with people, so that it was necessary to arrange some plan of defence, in case their purpose should prove to be one of hostility rather than of curiosity. If necessary, Captain Hall resolved that all the party should hastily land at the extremity of the bridge, except two men, who were as quickly as possible to push the boat through the nearest arch, and then pull it across to the opposite side; while those who had landed were to force their way across the bridge, and re-embark in the confusion on the opposite side. On coming up to the bridge, however, no opposition was offered, and indeed it was noticed that there were a number of women among the lookers-on, and that many others were hobbling out of their houses, led by irresistible curiosity to get a first look at the strangers. Abundance of wild fowl were seen along the banks of the river, several of which were[348] shot; and, late in the evening, the party again reached their vessel at Ningpo, well rewarded for the day's excursion. The small walled town of Fungwah is situated less than thirty miles up this same branch of the river.

On the 10th of January, the General started from Ningpo, with the object of making a descent upon Fungwah, in the expectation that some military stores, and probably a small body of Chinese soldiers, would be discovered. The Nemesis and Phlegethon were both employed on this service; the former vessel carrying detachments of the 49th, 18th, and 55th regiments, with artillery, sappers and miners, and followers, and having also on board Sir Hugh Gough and Sir William Parker, with their suites. Several boats were also taken in tow. As the steamers could not pass beyond the first bridge, the troops were all landed at that point, with Sir Hugh Gough at their head, intending to march direct upon Fungwah, while the Admiral continued to advance up the river, with the boats carrying the seamen and marines. No opposition was met with, and both divisions arrived simultaneously at the city walls. It was found that the Chinese soldiers had abandoned the place, and the authorities had also fled. The inhabitants and the neighbouring peasantry all seemed peaceably inclined, though apparently overcome with astonishment and curiosity. The prospect from the hills at the back of Fungwah was very striking, and abundance of rice and other grain crops appeared to be cultivated.

On the following morning, nothing remained to be done but to destroy the government buildings, and to distribute the contents of the public granaries to the people, as had been the case in other places. In the afternoon, the whole force rejoined the steamers, and next day returned to Ningpo.

The effect of these various movements must be viewed, not as involving matters of military skill or courage, but as calculated to have the most salutary effect upon the people and upon the government, not only by the alarm which they created, but by the good feelings and forbearance which was uniformly shewn towards the inhabitants, when in our power, and abandoned by their own authorities.

The result of the examination, by the Phlegethon and the Bentinck, of the character of Hang-chow-foo Bay, appears at this time to have rather discouraged the idea of advancing upon the capital by the river which leads up to it. The tides were found to be so strong at the mouth of the river, that it was impossible to attempt to push even a steamer up, with any degree of safety. The Phlegethon made the attempt to enter the river's mouth, but became perfectly unmanageable,[349] and was very nearly carried upon a sand-bank, where she would probably have been lost. She was, however, got out of danger with some difficulty when the tide slackened, which it does very suddenly in that part. But no power of steam and sails combined was sufficient to stem the current, which seemed to hold the vessel completely at its mercy for some minutes.

A reconnoissance of the position of Chapoo, however, sufficed to shew that it was accessible to our ships, and could be reduced without much difficulty; in which case, the road to Hang-chow-foo, by the hills, would be open to us, with a good causeway the whole distance of about fifty miles to the capital.

We may judge of the size and volume of water in most of the Chinese rivers, by the fact, that, even at Hang-chow-foo, the river is not less than four miles broad, opposite the city, at high water; while the rapidity of the current may be judged of by the fact of its diminishing to about two miles in breadth, at low water, leaving a fine level strand as far down as the eye can reach towards the sea. This was noticed during the short visit paid to it by Lord Macartney's embassy.

Rumours now continued to be brought, of the arrival of reinforcements at Hang-chow-foo, and other parts of the province; and, before the end of February, Sir Hugh Gough also received reinforcements, by the arrival of part of the 26th regiment, in the Jupiter troop-ship. The Cornwallis arrived at Chusan in January, for the flag of Sir William Parker, having succeeded in beating up the whole way from Hong-Kong, against the north-east monsoon, contrary to the anticipations of many, who doubted whether so heavy a ship would be able to accomplish it. The movement upon Hang-chow-foo, however, if at any time seriously thought of, seems now to have been quite abandoned; and, as we shall presently see, Chapoo was destined to be the grand point of attack for opening the next campaign.

In January, Sir Henry Pottinger and Sir William Parker went over to spend some time at Chusan, in the Nemesis, which vessel now required considerable repairs, and was ordered to undergo a thorough refit. It is astonishing how easily an iron vessel can be repaired. At Amoy, a large hole had been knocked in her bottom; and from being so continually employed in exploring rivers, running along coasts, and landing troops, it is not surprising that some repair was required; but it is worthy of remark, that she had been able to do her duty so long and so well without it.

In the evening of the 5th of March, the arrival of the Clio, Captain Troubridge, was announced, (fourteen days only from Hong-Kong,) bringing the mails, and the joyful news of the[350] promotions in the service, consequent upon the taking of Canton, and the exploits in the Canton River.

On the 7th of March the Nemesis was sent to reconnoitre Chusan, having Captain Collinson also on board, for the purpose of making surveying observations during the trip. They passed round the western and northern sides of the island, and having reached Tai-shan, which is about six or seven miles distant from it, they steamed all round that island, looking into the different bays, and spying into the villages, to see if they could discover a camp, or any signs of the presence of any troops. The navigation round the island is dangerous, for there are several rocks, at different points, barely covered with water.

At length they anchored off a small town in a bay on the south-eastern side of the island, where several junks were seen at anchor. To the north-east of the town stood a remarkable hill, from which it was expected that a view of the whole island could be obtained. Here the officers landed, with Captain Collinson's boat's crew, and part of that of the steamer, together with eight artillery men. There was no appearance of hostility, and they all marched on to a second village, in which, as well as in the first one, it was asserted by the people that there were no soldiers left in the island, as they had all gone away to another island in the neighbourhood. The party then returned on board, and the steamer moved up towards a creek, at which the water was too shallow for her to enter.

In the evening Captain Collinson again landed in his gig, with a view to ascend to the top of the hill; and so confident was he that there were no armed men upon the island, that he declined taking an escort with him, and was with some difficulty persuaded to allow two armed artillerymen to follow him, and was himself quite unarmed. Lieutenant Bates accompanied him. Scarcely had they reached the top of the hill, and were beginning to take their observations, when a large body of armed Chinese were observed, emerging from their hiding-places in the creek in which they had landed, which was at a point about two and a half miles from the steamer. Evidently their intention was to cut off their retreat, and make them prisoners. Flight was therefore the only resource, and had it not been for the assistance of the two artillerymen, they would have stood little chance of effecting their retreat to the boat. These two men, however, by coolly retreating alternately, the one firing, while the other reloaded as he withdrew towards the landing-place, managed to keep the Chinese in check, so that Captain Collinson reached the boat in safety.


It was now a question what steps were best to be taken on the following day; for there could be little doubt that if the steamer left the island without landing a body of men to attack the Chinese soldiers, who evidently were in force, a report would be sent to the Emperor of a great victory having been gained, in which the barbarians were, of course, driven into the sea, and their vessels sent away from the coast. It was therefore resolved to make an impression upon them; and accordingly at five o'clock in the morning, the four boats of the steamer, manned and armed, under Captain Collinson and Captain Hall, with Lieutenant Bates, Mr. Freeze, and other officers of the ship, pushed off from the vessel, and proceeded up the creek. They had also eight artillerymen with them; and the two engineers likewise volunteered their services. The party numbered altogether sixty-six, including officers.

About two miles and a half up the creek they discovered a number of transport junks, crowded with Chinese soldiers, with their banners flying. A little distance from the banks of the creek, which gradually sloped up towards some detached houses above, were posted another body of the enemy; altogether, there were probably five or six hundred men.

Gradually, as the boats advanced, the soldiers who had not before landed joined the other body on shore, and commenced a distant fire of ginjals and matchlocks, without doing any mischief. It was, however, returned by the boats as they neared them, and their crews were just about to land, when a thick smoke was observed to issue from one of the nearest troop boats. It immediately occurred that this might arise from a train having been laid to blow up the boats if they should be taken possession of. It was therefore thought prudent to land a little lower down.

The moment the boats began to descend, the Chinese, thinking they were retreating, set up a loud shout, and advanced upon them, brandishing their spears in defiance, thinking that the victory was already won. In this they were soon to be undeceived. Our men all landed as quickly as possible, and were formed into two columns; the right, or advanced one, led by Captain Hall himself, and the left by Mr. Freeze (mate R.N.), the chief officer of the Nemesis. Immediately they were ordered to advance, the Chinese began to waver at their bold front, and the first volley poured into them, within pistol-shot, completely put them to flight. They were now so closely pursued that their military chest was captured, in charge of a mandarin and two soldiers, who were killed. The prize was found to consist of only two thousand dollars, but even that was a pleasant addition to the[352] prize fund. The Chinese were pursued for some distance, about fifty of them being left upon the field, and eight taken prisoners. The houses on the rising ground above, in which some of the soldiers had been quartered, and also several of the transport junks in the creek, were immediately set on fire.

After collecting some of the