The War in China — the Capture of the Taku forts.
campaign lasted from the days when the Peiho
forts were taken.
First, the entrenched camp of the Tartars at Ling-ho was captured, in which the Tartar
troops behaved gallantly, but stood no chance against the improved fire-arms of the Allies.
Next, the fortified town of Tong-Kee was captured, and finally the Taku forts were taken.
This last engagement is described as follows:
The plan of attack for the 21st, I believe, was that the 1st division of English
, with the rest of the French
, should cross the river and threaten the southern forts, while the 2d division should assault the nearest of the northern forts.
Accordingly, on the evening of the 20th, the 2d division moved out and took up a position in front of the said fort, but just out of range, while working parties were thrown out to erect batteries for the siege train, and reconnoitering parties examined the intervening ground as closely as possible, in order to select the most favorable points for attack.
evidently had some inkling of what was going on, for they threw out showers of fireballs from the walls of the fort, in order to discover where our men were and what they were about; but whether it was that they either could not make them out, or did not consider the work they were engaged in as affecting them at all seriously, they only fired one or two guns during the night.
At daybreak next morning, the division then advanced, some four or five of our batteries having got into position, and pouring in a tremendous fire upon the fort with precision; while the infantry — that is to say, one wing of the Forty-fourth, Royal Marines, and Sixty-seventh, and One Hundred and Second regiment of French
--advanced; the Buffs, the other wing of the Forty-fourth, and a Punjab regiment remaining in reserve, the Chinese replying with great spirit, but little apparent skill, almost all their shells bursting short, and their round shot falling every where but in the right places.
On arriving at a long, low embankment, about 1,500 yards from the fort, the infantry were halted and made to lie down, while the batteries were all advanced to ranges varying from 500 to 1,000 yards, and opened a still more telling fire, exploding two immense magazines inside the fort, and in about an hour nearly silencing the enemy's big guns.--The infantry then advanced again, half of the French
regiment and the wing of the 44th being thrown out as sharpshooters, while one wing of the Royal
Marines advanced with scaling ladders and pontoons, and the other wing, with the rest of the Sixty-seventh, followed in support.
As the storming party got close, the fire poured into the fort from our batteries became absolutely terrific.
Five or six shot or shell went flying into it every minute, and the enemy could not show themselves above the parapet at all. Through the loopholes, however, they kept up a heavy fire of gun galls, which was briskly responded to by our sharpshooters.
Occasionally, too, a big gun from the south side sent a round shot plump in amongst the storming party, but the tremendous explosions that had taken place inside the fort, and the terrific fire they had been subjected to, had probably paralyzed them to a great extent, and their shots were, consequently, few and far between.
This fort, like the wall at Tonghu, I must tell you, was also fronted by two wet ditches, both eighteen feet in width, and about eight or ten feet deep, the first one defended, moreover, by a strong abates, the second by sharp stakes on both sides.
On arriving at the first ditch, great difficulty was, of course, experienced in laying the pontoons, the men being knocked over here by the dozen.
The Engineers, under Col. Mans
, and the Royal
Marines, under Col. Travers
, stuck to their work, however, and at last got the pontoons over the first ditch, and they shortly after made a bridge over the second.
I believe, with the strongest of the scaling ladders.
The lighter ladders were then planted against the wall, and over they went, some of the French
and some of the Sixty-seventh getting in first, I believe, closely followed, however, by some Marines, and these by the rest of the storming party.
adopted a novel mode of getting in. They got up some of their Chinese
coolies, and made them stand in the ditch holding scaling ladders up over their heads against the wall, and so at once crossed the second ditch and got to the top of the wall.
The Tartars fought bravely even after our men got in, using spears and swords, as well as matchlocks, and were shot and bayonetted in numbers.--They finally fled, however, through the embrasures on the southern side of the fort, and endeavored to make their escape to the next fort, about half mile off, few with success, however, the greater number being shot in the attempt.
Our loss in killed and wounded amounted to 201, 10 men being left dead on the field; 21 officers and 161 men wounded.
Of these, 6 officers and 65 men belonged to the 44th, 5 officers and 25 men to the Royal
Marines, 7 officers and about 90 men to the 67th, and the rest to the Royal
Engineers and Artillery.
left about 30 dead on the field.
I believe, and had upwards of 100 wounded. The Tartars must have lost, I should think, at least 3,000.
Their dead bodies were tying three deep in some parts of the fort, and where they attempted to escape the ground was covered with their bodies.
One "pink-buttoned" or No. 1 Mandarin was shot by Capt. Prynne
, of the Royal
Marines, who was one of the first officers into the fort.
I have since heard that it was the mandarin "second in command," a certain "Lieutenant General
I," or some such name.
Among the officers who particularly distinguished themselves, I may mention Capt. Gregory
and Lieut Rogers
of the 44th, Lieuts. Burslem
of the 67th, and Lieut. Kempson
of the 99th, who is Aidde Camp to Brigadier Reeves
, of the Fourth Brigade.
Some of these officers, I believe, have been recommended for the Victoria Cross
, and certainly deserve it well.
The gallant old Brigadier Reeves
was wounded in four places, I hear, but refused to be removed to the rear, and still remains with his brigade.
, of the Royal
Marines, Col. Mann
and Major Graham
it is superfluous to mention, as the dispatches will doubtless do them all justice.
Young Lt. Pritchard
, of the Royal
Engineers, also behaved with conspicuous bravery.
To Sir Robert Napier
and his staff we are chiefly, however, of course, indebted for the success of the day. They were always where they were wanted, and conducted the operations with an amount of coolness and intrepidity that called forth the admiration of all who saw them.
Sir Robert Napier
had his spyglass struck out of his hand at one shot, and the heel of his boot cut away by another.
, his aide-de-camp, was shot through the thigh, and all must have had numerous hairbreadth escapes, for they were greatly exposed.
I must not forget to mention, too, the conduct of the Chinese Coolie Corps
A few of them were attached to each regiment to carry stretchers and dhoolies for the wounded.
They kept close to their respective regiments throughout the whole day, and never flinched even when they were close under the fort, and subjected to a very heavy fire.
I have only to add that, within a quarter of an hour after the English
flags were planted in the forts, flags of truce were put up in all the other forts, and a parley was help, which ended, as I have already told you, in their unconditional surrender, and not a moment too soon either, as a terrific thunder storm shortly after came on, which drenched every one to the skin, covered the plain in a perfect swamp again, and would have rendered any further operations that day exceedingly unpleasant to say the least.
A wing of the Third buffs, the Punjab regiment and some artillery, were, therefore, left in possession of the fort, and the rest of the division were marched back to Taku
for the night.
And such a march.
Through mud again ankle deep, and water in many places over the knee.
However, it is all over now, and in a few days more nearly every one will be comfortably housed either on board ship or in Tien-Tein.
The natives are already quite at ease with us, and are bringing in fowls, eggs, fruit, &c., in abundance.