Dec 5, 2022
Last time we spoke Hong Xiuquan attempted four times to pass the imperial examination, but was met each time with failure. The stress put upon him was too much, causing him to have multiple mental breakdowns and to see visions leading him to realize he was the brother of Jesus Christ. God and the elder brother Jesus taught Hong Xiuquan had to fight demons and gave him a magical sword to rid the world of them. Hong Xiuquan knew the Manchu were demons and it was he who could usher in a heavenly kingdom on earth. He began to preach to the masses gathering those he called god worshippers and this began to raise concerns with the Qing officials who sought to stamp out what looked like the White Lotus Rebellion 2.0. Now the Qing forces led by Xiang Rong were trying to surround the god worshippers to end the menace before it became an even larger problem.
#25 This episode is The Taiping Rebellion part 2: The March to Nanjing
Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.
The Taiping had taken Jintai, but were being pursued constantly by multiple Qing armies always seeking to encircle and quell the rebellion. By this point the Taiping numbered around 60,000 men and they sought to seize the first major town, that of Yong’an, present day Mengshan town. Now before I get to this I just want to describe a bit the forces at play. The Taiping like I said were around 60,000 strong and were as you can imagine more of a peasantry type of group. They did not have much in the way of firearms, most were armed with spears ranging from 8-18feet long halberds, knives or swords such as the Liuyidao. There were those with bows and arrows, but archery in this time period was more specialized in northern china than southern china. For example the eight banner army had manchu and mongols who were extremely proficient in archery, but in the south it was simply not as great. There were some firearms, consisting of the usual suspects, firelock muskets and the every hilarious jingalls. Women took part in the initial battles, such as at Jintian, but there is pretty much no evidence of Taiping women fighting battles after 1853, it seems it was a necessity in the beginning but later on it was not employed. Later on in 1858 there would be an official women garrison under the Taiping, but they seem to be a ceremonial group.
Now the Qing military is quite complex at this point and although I have described it a bit in the past I would like to refresh memories here because the Qing military will evolve during this conflict. In the 1850’s, the Qing military was roughly 3.4 million strong, quelling the Taiping rebellion while simultaneously fighting the Europeans during the second opium war. The eight banner army consisted of Manchu’s, Mongolians and Han Chinese, roughly 250,000 men strong. They were much more of an imperial guard and stationed around Beijing. Then there was the Green Standard army consisted pretty much exclusively of Han Chinese. They were around 600,000 strong and were the real military might of the empire. Their creation was mostly because of the lack of efficiency within the eight banner army and ironically another type of military force would be created later on in this story because of the Green Standard armies lack of efficiency. There would also be varying groups of Europeans involved in this conflict, but that all comes later.
Now the last time we spoke, the Taiping were fleeing their stronghold in the Thistle Mountains, and sought to attack Yong’an. With their large force of 60,000 they took Yong’an easily on September 24th of 1851. A large reason Yong’an fell so easily was because there was an extreme lack of coordination on the part of the Qing forces. Meanwhile the Taiping had their 5 king system, the north,south,west,east and flank kings who were coordinating their military efforts quite well to fend off encirclement efforts by the Qing. It was at Yong’an that Hong Xiuquan enacted a lot of reforms. One of them was to replace the classic lunar calendar with a solar calendar. The lunar calendar is based on the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases while the solar calendar’s dates are based on the position of the sun, ie; seasons. Hong Xiuquan also began to develop many social reforms that we will talk about later.
Now by 1852 the Taiping were gradually driven out of Yong’an by the Qing military who was encircling them and this led to them losing 20% of their forces. Now while this was a large loss, do remember anyone the Taiping go, they are increasing in number, because they are targeting the countryside, the peasants, all those who are dissatisfied with the Qing dynasty. Hong Xiuquan led the god worshipers out of the encirclement at Yong’an and then marched into Guangxi province. Now in the earliest days of the rebellion, while Hong Xiuquan was the leader, it was actually Feng Yunshan, the south king who was the military mastermind. It was also Feng Yunshan who was the first leader of the god worshippers who called for an open revolt. He was the chief military strategist and administrator amongst them. He was the man who came up with the military configuration, a formidable mind. Now on May 24th the Taiping marched near Quanzhou in Guangxi province, but they had no intention of invading the city. It seems Feng Yunshan made an egregious mistake as his sedan chair was close enough to the city whereupon a Qing gunner, or I guess better said sharpshooter fatally wounded him. Hong Xiuquan was outraged one of his closest comrades was hurt and he quickly rallied the Taiping forces to surround Quanzhou and within just 2 days they breached its walls and butchered all its citizens who did not flee or join the cause. The south king Feng Yunshan became the first high ranking leader of the Taiping to die when he succumbed to his wounds in June of 1852.
Now in June the main bulk of the Taiping began to head north in Hunan province where they captured Jeonju and began traveling along the Xiang river planning to attack the hinterlands of Hunan by land and river. The idea behind this was to find paths that were quick, because at all times multiple Qing armies were trying to encircle them. While they traversed the Xiang River they came to the Suoyi ford where they were finally ambushed by a Qing army. The Qing army repelled their northern march and in the process killed approximately 10,000 taiping. After this large setback, the Taiping turned their attention to lesser targets seizing Daozhou, Yongming, Jianghua, Jiahe, Guiyang and Chenzhou. The Taiping faced another Qing encirclement by Qing forces led by Xiang rong in Guangxi but managed to thwart him and escape. At this point the Taiping were operating on a very large scale threatening Hunan, absolutely terrifying the Qing court who hastile mobilized a large army to gather in the area of Hengyang and Chenzhou. The Qing sought to block the march of the Taiping in Hunan. Xiang rong led the Qing the 2 Qing forces to make a northern and southern strike upon the Taiping completely annihilating a Taiping force in the Shonan region.
The Taiping leaders were frustrated again and again by encirclement maneuvers by the Qing military. They were unable to break through the Qing blockades, but then they began to notice the Qing had distributed the majority of their forces in the Shonan region, leaving the hinterland of Hunan fairly open. The West king, Xiao Chaogui detached from the bulk of the Taiping forces and bypassed the Qing army holding the city of Chenzhou and made a direct march upon Changsha. When they reached Changsha, Xiao Chaogui ordered a siege of the city. The Taiping began to dig siege tunnels in order to blow up parts of its defensive walls using mines. Meanwhile the Taiping fanned out capturing the surrounding area to make sure the city could receive no provisions via land or river. The former governor of Hunan, Luo Bingzhang was about to leave that said post to receive a new appointment in Beijing when the situation erupted. He spoke to the deputy in charge of military affairs, Luo Huodian who was placed in charge of the city's defense. At this time the new governor of Hunan, Zhang Liangji had yet to arrive, thus Changsha was in quite a predicament, there was really no one to command its defenses since it was surrounded. Within the city were 8000 defenders, while Xiao Chaogui held 3000 light cavalry and a few thousand other infantry, some of whom were garrisoning at Yongxing.
When Xiao Chaoguis forces arrived to Changsha on September 11th, they found a force of Green Standard army and militia forces led by Liuyang. The Taiping fought them out in the field exacting 900 Qing casualties and publicly beheaded the general Fu Cheng and the deputy general Yin Peili. This led the garrison commander Zhu Han to flee and abandon a ton of military equipment. From September 12th to the 18th, Xiao Chaogui continuously mounted attacks upon the city while the defenders inside desperately hurled burning oil, arrows and rocks at them. Now Xiao Chaogui only had roughly 4000 men with him, more were enroute but came in piecemeals. With only 4000 men he was unable to mount a powerful enough attack to breach the walls of the city. For example if he took all his men to the south of Changsha, the defenders would simply concentrate their 7000 or so men south.
It seems in an effort to bolster morale, Xiao Chaogui decided to personally hoist some Taiping banners while wearing royal robes on the battlefield. Well he was easily spotted by a Qing sharpshooter or artillery shell shot him dead. Alongside this the Qing militia force led by Deng Shaoliang attacked the Taipings rear by surprise and this effectively stopped the siege, forcing the Taiping to withdraw further away from the city walls. Meanwhile the Qing court was freaking out over the reports Changsha, a significant city was under siege and they dispatched a force of up to 50,000 men to concentrate in the area. Upon hearing the news of the incoming Qing forces and the death of the west King, Hong Xiuquan and Yang Xiuqing led the bulk of the Taiping forces out of Chenzhou overnight, rushing over to Changsha by October 5th. The next day the Taiping made a large offensive out in the field near the tomb of Cai Gong against a Qing force led by Ren Dagui. The Taiping won the battle, killed General Ren Dagui and wounded his deputy general De’an. On October 11th Hong Xiuquan launched an assault on Changsha hitting 3 sides of its walls, but the Qing defenders managed to hold on. Then on October 15th a Qing army coming from the direction of Chenzhou managed to reinforce Changsha, fighting skirmishes with the Taiping along the way.
Despite their numbers the Taiping were failing to make progress against the city and as time went by more and more of the dispatched Qing forces were arriving to its aid. In order to break the stalemate, the Taiping leaders decided to cross the Xiang River and open up an attack upon Changsha’s western portion. On October 17th, Shi Dakai the flank king led thousands of Taiping to cross the river and attack Zhu Zhangdu, Nanjinggang, Hexi and the line of Monkey stone catching the Qing off guard. The infuriated General Xiang Rong who was commanding some of the Qing forces and at this point had become something of a rival to the Taiping launched an attack against Hexi, but was ambushed. This led the Qing to send more forces to retake Hexi, but Shi Dakai’s men dug in and repelled them. Xiang Rong was humiliated and this led him on October 30th to personally lead 3000 Qing infantry and cavalry to attack the Taiping at Hexi with the intent of cutting them off from the rest of the Taiping army. Xiang Rong was ambushed yet again, suffered heavy casualties and was forced to flee.
While the battle over Hexi was raging, the battle on the south of Changsha with the bulk of the Taiping continued. Throughout October and November large scale siege assaults were made. The Taiping tried to detonate mines in tunnels to breach the walls, but counter tunneling by the defenders thwarted their best efforts. At one point a breach was made in the wall, but the Qing commander Zuo Zongtang proclaimed to the defenders of the city that he would pay an enormous sum of money to anyone who helped hurl large stone and rock to close any gaps made by the Taiping and this proved to be highly effective. The citizens and defenders quickly hurled everything they could at the Taiping and the gap quickly closing the breach. Zuo Zongtang won quite a lot of fame for this, and would become an important player later on. If you did not know, Zuo Zongtang is quite famous for something else in our world, something I certainly am grateful for as I cook it now and then, General Tso Chicken. Haha I can’t really get into the bizarre and long history of this one, but the American-Chinese dish introduced in the 1970’s in New York city was inspired by another dish called Peng Chuang-kuei, by a Taiwanese chef who specialized in Hunanese cuisine. Peng named the dish in honour of Zuo Zongtang. Honestly people who know more about this history know what I just said is just one of many many stories as to how the dish came to be, its quite a rabbit hole.
The Taiping’s efforts were not working fast enough and soon the Qing reinforcements were arriving en masse, yet again threatening to encircle them. In view of the deteriorating situation, Hong Xiuquan and Yang Xiuqing both agreed the battle for Changsha was meaningless and that they should withdraw and take a much more important city. So the Taiping left in the middle of a rainstorm at night after fighting a bitter 3 month campaign over Changsha and its surrounding area. Despite the failure at Changsha, the Taiping were still in a great position and confident. The Qing had thrown countless armies at them, but they always managed to escape encirclements and were able to pick and choose when they fought. The Qing were slow to react and it was difficult to pinpoint where the Taiping would concentrate their forces. Hong Xiuquan and Yang Xiuqing chose the formidable city of Wuchang as the next target.
The Qing it seems did believe the Taiping would march upon Wuchang, because they left the path to it quite empty. The Taiping took very deceptive maneuvers to try and hide their march on Wuchang. They went along the Xiang river only to abandon their boats and march over land to another unsuspecting rivertown where they stole boats and continued. They would destroy bridges as the moved and recruit countless boatmen to hinder Qing riverine units. Countless times they would cross rivers using pontoon bridges, leave them on the other side and simply find more boats to go down river. Its sort of like the old ploy of making multiple tracks in the snow when you are evading someone. The bitter Taiping rival Xiang Rong was leading many of the Qing forces pursing the Taiping and it seems he nor other Qing commanders figuring out what was going on nor where the Taiping ultimately were heading. After 600 miles of twists, turns and tricks the Taiping army ended up at Wuchang, and Xiang Rong was still in Yuezhou chasing a Taiping feint army.
The Taipings last great deception had come at Dongting lake in December. The Taiping had captured Yueyang with little resistance and seized over 5000 boats. They took them to the banks of the Yangtze river were they moved east downstream, but instead of heading straight at Wuchang, they maneuvered to the north shore and seized the commercial towns of Hanyang and Hankou. After capturing these towns the Taiping constructed two enormous floating bridges by linking all the boats together across the Yangtze so they could attack Wuchang on its weaker northern face. The first attack came in the middle of the night when suddenly shouting could be heard waking the defenders of Wuchang from their sleep. Chang Dachun, the newly appointed inspector of Shanxi was in the city at the time taking refuge. The Taiping used cannons to try and breach the wall, but were unable to and by dawn they withdrew. The surprise attack shocked the city and Chang Dachun quickly ordered its gates closed. Before doing so he also sent word to Xiang Rongjun about the plight of Wuchang hoping he could rally the Qing forces to their aid in time. Meanwhile the Taiping began tunnel sieging prompting Chang Dachun to order counter measures. Basically this meant counter tunneling on the other side of the walls with the intent to cave in the attackers before they could properly detonate mines near the walls. Defenders would create sunken listening posts to try and pinpoint where the Taiping were digging. Chang Dachun also ordered the garrison to burn all the homes outside Wuchang’s walls to provide clearer fields of fire pissing off the citizens. But he forsaw this ordeal and promised cash rewards to anyone who captured a Taiping soldier, 20 ounces of silver for any male with long enough hair indicating they were a veteran and 10 ounces for shorter hair men.
Xiang Rong reached Wuchang and attacked a Taiping force in the eastern suburbs on the 7th of December, but Chang Dachun failed to get his forces outside the walls to help, apparently because he was too afraid to meet the enemy. Xiang Rong’s forces were repelled and the Taiping continued their siege of Wuchang relatively unmolested. By January the 12th the Taiping tunnelers filled powder kegs of gunpowder in one tunnel under the Wenchang Gate and detonated it. Turns out despite the financial incentives, the citizens of Wuchang were really angry their homes were burnt and basically were doing nothing and some were literally aiding the Taiping siege. The Wenchang gate collapsed and the Taiping swarmed into the capital city catching Chang Dachun asleep. When Chang Dachun woke up to the reports the city was being captured he committed suicide. After 20 days of being besieged, Wuchang was in the hands of the Taiping on January 12th of 1853.
At this point the Taiping had bolstered their ranks to a whopping 500,000 strong. It was after Wuchang where Hong Xiuquan and his fellow Taiping leaders made a serious strategic error. Instead of marching north to hit Beijing, which they could have taken, they decided instead to head down the Yangtze to Nanjing. This would have been their greatest chance at toppling the Manchu rule, but apparently the Taiping leaders were being given reports that the capital was protected by a large force, which was not the case. The Taiping burned their floatings bridges behind themselves to delay the Qing forces pursuing them. Parts of the army would march by land while the majority utilized over 20,000 stolen boats to traverse the riverways. En route to Nanjing they captured Jiujiang in western Jiangxi province and Anqing the capital of Anhui province. They plundered the storehouses and kept marching towards the second largest city in China. At this point the city had swelled to a population of over 750,000, and by the time the Taiping would reach the city their numbers would be around the same.
When the Taiping began to take major cities, the Qing courts panicked and Emperor Xianfeng issued orders for civil officials to start mustering local militia forces to protect their respective jurisdictions. This was a similar situation that occurred during the White Lotus Rebellion. These militias were made up of hastily recruited soldiers who usually had little experience in combat and weapons were hard to come by. In the beginning they were worse than ineffective, because their leaders had their own interests at hand. When thes militia groups engaged the Taiping, which was rare, they often plundered where they went. In early January of 1853, the Qing statesman and general Zeng Guofan was ordered by the emperor to take charge of the haphazard militia units in Hunan province to try and use them and take charge of restoring order. Basically the Green standard army and Eight banner army were proving to be completely useless against the Taiping. The Qing were desperate and looking for strong men to pull things together. Zeng Guofan in a very unprecedented manner was granted power to take up broadbased military affairs in his region. Emperor Xianfang knew him to be loyal and Zeng Guofan was an effective military leader. As his teacher described him to the Qing court “he is good at recognizing talents and is capable of synthesizing people’s good points. If he is willing to use the wisdom of others as his own…he might make a fine leader”.
Zeng Guofan did not want to be a leader to such a thing, he has henceforth been called “the reluctant general”. Shepherding of the militias struck him as an impossible task, he even began writing a draft refusing the appointment which was a big deal, you did not say no to the emperor. But then came news on January 12th of 1853, the Taiping had taken Wuchang, the capital of Hubei province, just north of Hunan. The Taiping now held control over the middle reaches of the Yangtze river, the crisis was becoming larger than anyone ever thought possible. Zeng Guofan’s brothers and father pleaded with him to take up the appointment so he could help save their province from destruction. In the end he tore up the draft and accepted the appointment.
Now the Eight banner army made up mostly of Manchu and Mongols operated mostly in the north. These were the imperial guardsmen, they concentrated wherever the emperor was and around Manchuria. They did garrison a few cities scattered around the empire, but for the most part the south was protected by the Green standards. There were roughly 130,000 eight bannermen in the region around Beijing. The Green Standard army stood at around 600,000 in the early 1850s, but those numbers were illusionary as I mentioned corrupt commanders inflated them to pocket money. On Top of pocketing money for fake troops, there was wide scale embezzlement of materials and a huge lack of training. To be brutally honest, most men had not received proper military training since the White Lotus Rebellion over 50 years prior. To make matters even worse, the eight banner army commanded the lion share of the Qing military budget, leaving the Green Standards widely underfunded. By tradition, individual soldiers were responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own melee weapons. The state provided firearms, matchlocks mostly, useful in China but extremely outdated compared to that of the west. There was actually an edit made in 1816 decreeing weapons should not be replaced until they had been used for at least 30-40 years. Its not a joke to say, many of the guns were more than a century old. The Qing military was suffering from a fatal combination of too much peace time and economic collapse because of the opium wars.
When the Taiping rebellion broke out the Green Standards were functioning more or less as a constabulary or police force, not a real military. They usually kept order protecting grain shipments and performed mundane tasks like transporting prisoners. Commands were purposely fragmented and distributed among local civil and military officials in jealous competition with another to thwart any potential mutinies against the Qing. This also meant there was a huge absence of any clear chain of command making it nearly impossible to mobilize against a large enemy like that of the Taiping. Now Zeng Guofan was well aware of all the problems with the Green Standard army. As early as 1851 he had advocated for reducing the number of Green Standard troops because they were bloated and doing nothing, a man after my own Ron Swanson libertarian heart. Many men got bored and they simply took up with bandit groups to make more money. This was also at the time countless were addicted to opium and it was literally breaking CHinese society down.
As for the effectiveness of the Green standard troops against the Taiping, Guofan reported ““As soon as they spy the enemy, they run away,and when the enemy departs, they come back and murder the locals [to dress them up as rebels] and claim victory.”To a friend, he wrote that “even if Confucius himself came back to life, he could spend three years and still not manage to correct their evil ways.” After taking the appointment Zeng Guofan’s criticisms of the Green standard army increased. He said they “just kept chasing the rebels tail, but never even attempted attacking head on. They used cannons and muskets to attack from a distance but he’d never heard of them fighting in close quarters with small arms”. The men lacked proper training, courage and martial skills.
From the beginning he proposed starting from scratch with a new kind of force. His model was based on the Ming dynasty who had formed militia’s to fight Japanese pirates along the eastern coast. It would be a smaller force, but efficient, carefully trained and the soldiers had to be courageous. The force began to form in 1853 built upon the Neo-Confucian sense of moral order, the same thing Zeng Guofan learned to discipline himself. Emperor Xianfeng worried he would not be able to do anything in time or have great numbers, but Zeng replied “we aim for excellence, not sheer numbers, and we want it to be truly effective, not just available quickly”. The recruits were to be young men from rural not urban backgrounds, as he put it “those who want a strong army use soldiers from the mountain villages, and they avoid the men of the cities and waterways.Those who live their lives in the mountains and rural areas are tough, while the ones from the river villages are slippery. The cities are full of lazy and carefree wanderers, while the rural villages have men who are simple and sincere.””. The recruits were to be selected only by a close cabal of his most trusted friends, family members and scholars. That process of keeping recruiters a close knit group would be passed down the ranks, providing a network of close connected people.
Zeng encouraged loyalty by paying his men very well, a foot soldier under Zeng could earn over 4 taels of silver per month, triple that of the Green Standard. In addition the men could earn 10 taels for killing a bandit, 15 for capturing one alive and 20 for a Taiping with longhair. He indoctrinated the men to have a feeling they served the country and their emperor. He stressed it was kill or be killed, he often warned the men “If you do not hone your skills every morning, then when you encounter the bandits you will not be able to kill them, and they will kill you.” If soldiers ran from battle and were caught they were beheaded, if soldiers gave false reports they would not just lose their heads, they would have placards set alongside them as a warning to others.
The structure of the military was as such, the Army of Zenf Guofan was the Ying “battalion” formed as 505 men including officers. Each battalion was made up of 4 shao “regular companies” designated as fore, aft, right and left of 108 men each plus a personal bodyguard of 72 men for the battalion commander making up 505 men. Each company was broken into 8 dui “squads”, 2 jingall squads, 2 matchlock muskets, 4 sword and spear. A normal squad had 10 soldiers, plus a squad officer and a cook. Since jingalls were so unwieldy, those squads received 2 extra men. Then there were porters, 180 support personnel for each battalion to carry supplies. Zeng also commissioned riverine navies to fight on lakes and riverways, which was novel to most in Hunan.
And thus the Xiang Army was created, also referred to as the Hunan or Chu Army. This type of army was also known as “Yung-Ying” the “brave battalion” and Zeng Guofang was not alone, in Anhui there was the Huai army and another in Szechuan. These militia army groups as you may have guessed, were the building blocks to warlord armies. Now these armies have just begun to form and some of their units even took part in battles, but its not until 1853 where they make a real presence. Yet we will leave this for now to get back to the situation in Nanjing.
Upon hearing reports the Taiping were marching towards Nanjing, the governor of Liangjiang, Lu Jianying grabbed over 300,000 taels of silver out of the city and fled to Nanjing where he planned to pretend to be mounting defenses. In truth the governor was trying to secure his pockets, if he lost at Liangjiang, Emperor Xianfeng would most certainly force him to settle up with the lost money. Thus the mess of actually mounting a defense fell onto the governor of Jiangsu, Yang Wending and the General Xiangzhou of Jiangning. Well Yang Wending was even more corrupt than Lu Jianying it seems because he simply fled to Zhenjiang and abandoned Lu Jianying and General Xiangzhou. This sort of gives you an idea why the Taiping were largely successful, the Qing were rampant with corruption. Nanjing’s regular forces were 1200 green standards and 4000 eight banner, with 15,000 recruited militiamen. When the battle of Nanjing occurred it was defended by roughly 20,000 eight bannermen and possibly upto 40,000 Green standards.
The Taiping arrived before Nanjing on march 6th of 1853. The next day Taiping General Li Kaifang was leading a vanguard of 1200 troops where he arrived at Yuhuatai south of Nanjing. The Qing General Cheng Lisan who had a force of 3000 soldiers there promptly fled to Nanjing, thus handing over Yuhuatai completely intact. Li Kaifang was unaware of how poorly defended Nanjing was so he stationed his men at Yuhuatai and awaited other Taiping forces. The next day, Lin Fengxiang leading a division showed up and both men directed their forces to attack Nanjing together. Li Kaifang sent 300 soldiers to prod the city finding none of the Qing defenders were willing to come fight out in the field. Instead the Qing fired wildly at the small group wasting a lot of valuable ammunition. While the Qing regulars dared not go out into the field to fight, a hastily improvise group of 1000 porters went out to face the Taiping. The porter group fought bravely and screamed to the city wall defenders to throw them guns and spears to help them win the battle. Lu Jianying however thought this might be a ploy and might I add he had good reason to believe so. Many cities that fell to the Taiping were aided heavily by the local populace. Lu Jianying instead ordered artillery to open fire, and while the more battle hardened Taiping saw the cannons and began to crawl away the poor ignorant porters were standing tall still as the artillery smashed them allegedly killing 500 people.
On the 9th, Lin Fengxiang held a conference with the other commanders. It was decided Li Kaifang, Huang Yiyuan would attack Jubaomen from Yuhuatai while Lin Fengxiang would commence the main siege effort. It was to be the classic “cave siege” seen countless times before, dig a tunnel blow up a mine to breach the city walls. Alongside the sapper work with the tunnels, the Taiping also began a propaganda campaign. Lin Fengxiang had his men shoot written letters into the city with bows and arrows calling on the soldiers and civilians in Nanjing to rise up against the Qing demons. Lin Fengxiang announced to the people they would not disturb them as long as they wrote the words Shang, King, Heaven or Lord on the doors of their homes when the Taiping took the city. He vowed the army would not enter their homes and everyone could live. Lin Fengxiang also announced the general offensive would begin on the 19th, something the Qing did not believe.
Well on March the 19th the Taiping brought hundreds of horses carrying effigies of soldiers bearing torches before the west wall of Nanjing. The Qing saw this expecting an attack and they all rushed to the west well and it was too late when they realized it was a ruse to draw them closer in as the Taiping exploded mines in the tunnels. The explosions within 2 tunnels breached the wall causing a gap almost 40 meters wide, unfortunately the 3rd tunnel explosion went off far too early killing quite a few Taiping as well. Now the Taiping had access to the city.
Upon learning the Taiping were flooding into Nanjing, countless Qing high officials fled the city or commited suicide. General Xiangzhou allowed over 4000 eight bannermen and 4000 other manchu to retreat into Mancheng, that is the inner city where Manchu and no Han reside, but he refused Lu Jianying from entering. Lu Jianying it seems was abandoned by the manchu and as a result was hacked to pieces by Taiping soldiers who found him. Within Mancheng, General Xiangzhou and governor Huo Longwu chose to continue the resistance mobilizing women and children if its to be believed to assist in the defense. They fought a bloody battle and never surrendered, as was expected of Manchu. Despite the heroic pride of the manchu being at play, it should not be forgotten, the Taiping literally were telling the entire population of Nanjing they sought to kill all the Manchu.
During the afternoon of the 19th, Yang Xiuqing personally commanded the front with Lin Fengxiang, Li Kaifang, Ji Wenyuan, Zhu Xikun and other Taiping generals to storm Mancheng from the west and south. It was a fierce fight with General Xiangzhou directing his men to fire artillery, guns and arrows while the women and children tossed bricks. The Taiping were forced to fight in 6 waves paying the price of 3000 men, yet they still could not breach Mancheng. To this end Yang Xiuqing decided to change strategy, he issued an order: those who surrendered, would not be killed. Many of the Manchu pleaded with General Xianzhou to surrender to save them, but Xiangzhou was unwilling. Yang Xiuqing was livid and had 8000 pounds of artillery brought up to blow Mancheng to pieces. As the walls were battered, the Taiping flooded the inner city and began to hack the Qing defenders to pieces. Upon seeing this General Xiangzhou drew his sword and killed himself, governor Huo Longwu was shot in the battle. As for those who fought, surrenders or tried to flee, Yang Xiuqing ordered military and civilians alike to be killed with a reward of 5 taels of silver each. Its said 4000 Taiping received payment. It is estimated 30,000 manchu family members were butchered upon the taking of the city.
From March 7th to the 20th the Taiping carried the siege of Nanjing were they killed countless high officials and over 4000 eight bannermen. The ancient capital of 6 former dynasties, the land of dragons and tigers was taken in just 14 days, showcasing to the Qing they were on the verge of extinction.
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Hong Xiuquan and the God Worshippers began as just a small rabble of peasants and rose to be multiple armies strong and seized all the major cities along their march to the secondary capital of China, Nanjing. With Nanjing under their thumb what would the Taiping do next?