Oct 3, 2022
Last time we spoke, Lin Zexu’s efforts against opium were not going well enough and he was losing favor with Emperor Daoguang and it seems his aggressive actions had brought war upon the Qing dynasty. The British warships proved too formidable, their cannons superior and the Qing were losing territory such as Chusan Island. Even the mighty Dagu forts were no match for the British warships who sailed through Chinese waters uncontested. Qishan began talks with the British, telling them Lin Zexu might be fired at any moment and that he would most likely be his replacement. Elliot faced a hostage crisis yet again with the captives from the Kite being held in Ningbo and had to negotiate a ceasefire in the meantime, but now Britain's most powerful weapon had just arrived in China, the Nemesis.
This episode is the First Opium War Part 2: The Nemesis Terror
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 emergence of Steam power in the 19th century is somewhat comparable to the emergence of nuclear power in the 20th century. Its power would make its worldwide debut during the First Opium War. The 660 ton steam warship Nemesis was launched in 1839 and arrived in China at the height of the Ningbo prisoner crisis. Nemesis had an iron hull giving it outstanding armor for its time. The coal consumption for the Nemesis was an absolute nightmare and this made it journey from Britain to China quite a slow process as it had to make numerous coal stops. Nemesis arrived to Macao on November 25 of 1840 and soon crossed the Gulf of Canton to sent anchor in Danggu, awaiting the arrival of the man of war Melville. Nemesis arrived at the perfect time to intimidate the Qing as Qishan and the 2 Elliots negotiated. The 3 men would meet aboard the Melville outside Canton harbor on November 29th and Qishan offered some promising news. Governor General Lin Zexu had finally been fired by Emperor Daoguang as a result of not fully eradicating the Opium trade. The Emperor had said to Lin Zexu “Externally you wanted to stop the trade, but it has not been stopped. Internally you wanted to wipe out the outlaws, but they are not cleared away. This has caused the waves of confusion to arise and a thousand interminable disorders. In fact you have been as if your arms were tied, without knowing what to do. It appears that you are no better than a wooden image” ouch. Lin Zexu tried to make his case to the Emperor stating the barbarians were being ruined by dysentery and malaria and predicted they would be unable to maintain the troops so far from their home and soon have to depart. Lin Zexu begged Emperor Daoguang not to give into the barbarians. They would best deploy the military rather than diplomacy. “The more they get the more they demand, and if we do not overcome them by force of arms there will be no end to our troubles. Moreover there is every probability that if the English are not dealt with, other foreigners will soon begin to copy and even outdo them”. Emperor Daoguang angrily replied to this “if anyone is copying, it is you, who are trying to frighten me, just as the English try to frighten you!”.
And so, Lin Zexu left Canton in disgrace, but while enroute to Beijing he was given orders to return to Canton to assist Qishan in negotiations with the barbarians. The 2 Elliots when hearing about Lin Zexu’s dismissal were quite relieved, they assumed this meant the Emperor was planning to make peace. Charles Elliots at this time would also lose the help of his cousin George Elliot as George had developed heart problems and had to sail back to England. For the negotiations at Canton, Elliot wanted to bring some more intimidation so he gathered some warships and more troops at Canton. Qishan began negotiations on December 4th, by apologizing for the cannon attack on the British by the Bogue forts and as I said previously handed over poor old Stanton. Elliot began negotiations by demanding 4 ports be opened to trade, Shanghai, Ningbo, Fuzhou and Amoy. He also demanded the surrender of an unspecified island, reimbursement for the confiscated opium chest and of course reparations for the war itself, quite a large pill to swallow. Elliot was also hoping such demands would be met quickly, because the British began to fear both France and Russia would begin joining into the war and plying for their own share in its spoils. Qishan agreed to pay 5 million over the course of 12 years, Elliot however wanted 7 million in 6 years and the surrender of at least Amoy and Chusan. The men eventually agreed to 6 million, but Qishan refused any territorial demands. Elliot resorted to threats “there are large forces collected here, and delays must breed amongst them a very great impatience”. Soon Elliot began ordering his troops to go ashore and perform military drills and target practice.
At the beginning of 1841 negotiations were still stagnant. Then a rumor spread that the Emperor had chosen war and Elliot decided to prepare. On January 5th of 1841, Elliot informed Qishan that if an agreement was not reached within 2 days he would recommence war at 8am on July the 7th. Well no agreement came and Elliot made do with his threat.
On the morning of July 7th, a force of 1500, soldiers, marines and sailors aboard Madagascar, Enterprize and Nemesis landed at the mouth of the Canton River. Their escort force 4 sailing and 4 steam warships began to bombard the Chuanbi Fort and the walls of Tyocoktow Fort across from Chuanbi. When the 8000 Chinese defenders in the forts saw the British ships they initially screamed at them and waved flags in defiance while they opened fire from their batteries. However the Chinese cannons were all tied down and could not be properly aimed at the invaders and thus after 20 minutes of firing at the barbarians they stopped. When they stopped firing the British took advantage of the cease fire and 2 companies of marines scaled over the walls of the Chuanbi earthen walls at 9:30am. The muddy flats in front of the fort made dragging the artillery pieces a nightmare as the men looked up at the forts to see Qing soldiers screaming and waving flags at them. Yet the British bombardment was targeting the Chinese cannons and soon they were getting knocked out one by one. Many of the Qing soldiers were told the British killed all their prisoners and thus many resisted to the bitter end. A British officer said of the carnage “a frightful scene of slaughter ensued, despite the efforts of the British officers to restrain their men”. By 11am, the Qing banner was lowered by the British whom raised the Union Jack in its place. The British reported they had killed 600 Qing soldiers and took another 100 prisoner. The British reported 30 casualties of their own, but as they put it, not because of any Chinese defender, no only because of accidental explosions from their own overheated artillery pieces. Many Qing defenders fled the city, but Major Pratt of the 26th regiment flanked their retreat forcing many back into the forts. The British warships continued to shell the city killing numerous defenders. Once it looked like Chuanbi was simmering down, the British ships began to fire upon 11 Chinese war junks anchored at the mouth of the river using Congreve rockets. One British officer who witnessed this stated “The very first rocket fired from the Nemesis was seen to enter the large junk ... 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 fear, the stoutest heart that looked upon it”. Both the Chinese artillery on top of the forts as well as the Chinese war junks did not return fire. Instead the defenders were fleeing or jumping overboard to get away from the naval bombardments. The British fired muskets at them as they did so killing many. Inside one of the forts many Qing defenders were becoming burned and horribly disfigured because they antiquated matchlocks gunpowder would often explode on them. The British gunfire only added to their misery. A staff officer who took part in the battle wrote later in life “The slaughter of fugitives is unpleasant, but we are such a handful in the face of so wide a country and so large a force that we should be swept away if we did not deal our enemy a sharp lesson whenever we came in contact.”. As the British warships bombarded the Chinese War junks the Chinese captains fell into a rout scattering into Anson’s Bay just east of Chuanbi. There, the nightmare ship, Nemesis went forward by itself attacking over 15 Chinese war junks. An extremely lucky congreve rocket fired from Nemesis hit one of the war junks powder magazines exploding it to pieces. The 14 other war junks witnessing this continued to scatter and many of their crew jumped overboard to escape. Nemesis did not pursue them any longer and instead steamed up river torching a few war junks as it went along and seizing others before rejoining the armada.
3 more fort remained operation near Chuanbi and next day the British began to prepare their ships to bombard them, but a white flag was lifted over them and a messenger arrived telling the British Admiral Guan was requesting a 3 day ceasefire so he could speak with Qishan. Charles Elliot was quite mortified by the massacre of Chuanbi and accepted the 3 day cease fire. Elliots soldiers however were livid with this decision and wanted to simply march on Canton. To alleviate the men, Elliot ordered them to demolish the walls of Chuanbi and the Tycocktow forts. Qishan then met with Elliot to negotiate at the Lotus Flower Wall due south of Canton city. Elliot brought with him a show of force, 56 royal marine, a 15 member fife and drum band and Captain Rosamel commander of a French corvette named Danaide. Inviting the French captain was a diplomatic courtesy and a method of keeping an eye on the French whom the British like I said feared might take a shot at the spoils of war. Qishan performed the customary wining and dining of Elliot and his entourage and eventually they began their diplomacy again. By January 20th they agreed to what has become known as the Chuanbi Convention. The British agreed to purchase Hong Kong island for 6 million and the Chinese would pay 6 million for the war reparations, sort of a swap in other words. Both nations would exchange ambassadors and now contact between the nations would be direct and official, no more tributary status. Above all else trade would resume and the British would hand over all the forts and places they had captured, including Chusan island. Qishan presumed Emperor Daoguang and his Qing court would agree to these terms and even made plans to exhort the 6 million in reparations directly from the Hong merchants to sweeten the deal. Elliot had to assume Britain would be pleased, because messages took a long time to get back home, but in fact Palmerston and others in Parliament were quite livid Elliot did not get the 20,000 opium chest amount and the war reparation amount they had demanded. The British foreign minister said of the Chaunbi settlement “after all, our naval power is so strong that we can tell the Emperor what we mean to hold, rather than that he should say what we would cede”.Emperor Daoguang was so pised off when he found out about the Hong Kong cession he recalled Qishan immediately to Beijing and ordered the execution of Charles Elliot. Elliot would eventually received word from Parliament about the Chuanbi convention and the it turned out the British government refused to ratify the agreement, uh oh.
On the same day the Chuanbi convention was signed, January 20th of 1841, Emperor Daoguang ordered Qishan to stop negotiations with the barbarians, because he was sending reinforcements to Canton from the interior. Thousands of Qing troops were enroute under the command of a 70 year old general named Yang Fang. Yang Fang was so old, it was alleged he was deaf and had to give his men orders in writing. The Emperor also sent with him his cousin Yishan as a new diplomat. Charles Elliot was completely aloof at the looming conflict, nor the Emperor's rejection of the Chuanbi agreement. On January 26th Lt Colonel George Burell occupied Hong Kong island in accordance with the Chuanbi agreement. Similar to the Chusan island situation, Elliot allowed opium to be stored on Hong Kong island. In a letter at the time from Matheson to Jardine he mentioned “Elliot says that he sees no objection to our storing opium there, and as soon as the Chinese New Year holidays are over I shall set about building”. Soon Matheson began building an enormous stone fortress in Hong Kong and moved the companies HQ there.
Hong Kong became a brilliant new jewel in the crown of her Majesty. It held a deep harbor and a very small population that would not give too much trouble. The British were overjoyed to leave the malaria dysentery filled nightmare of Chusan for Hong Kong. By February 1st, Charles Elliot proclaimed Hong Kong island an official British territory and its residents subjects under the crown, something the Chuanbi convention never stipulated.
Elliot met Qishan again, this time at a place called Second Bar, a small island 20 miles southeast of Canton to put the imperial seal upon the Convention of Chuanbi. Qishan informed Elliot that he had been fired and that the Emperor was pissed off like hell much to the shock of Elliot. Qing soldiers began to mass around the Bogue and as noted by Commodore James Bremmer in his military dispatch “I must confess that from this moment my faith in the sincerity of the Chinese Commissioner was completely destroyed, my doubts were also strengthened by the reports of the Officers I sent up to the place of meeting, who stated that military works on a great scale were in progress, troops collected on the heights, and camps protected by entrenchments, arising on both sides of the river, and that the island of North Wangtong had become a mass of cannon”
Elliot decided yet again to take up arms. On february 26, the Modeste, Druid, Wellesley, Queen and Melville began to bombard the forts on Wangtong and Anunghoi island on the Bogue. There were 3 forts on Anunghoi island holding 42, 60 and 40 cannons atop them each. The warship Blenheim alongside Melville, Queen, and four rocket boats approached the southernmost fort, dropped anchor 600 yards away, and fired their broadsides. The Melville approached five minutes later and within 400 yards of the fort, and fired broadsides in quick succession. A British officer who witnessed the scene said "The firing of these ships was most splendid: nothing could withstand their deadly aim ... One or two shot were sufficient for the 'dragon-hearted' defenders of the north fort, who, 'letting' off their guns, fled up the hills." The 3 forts cannons were stationary guns set at such a high elevation that when they return fired they were only able to hit the topsails of the British ships. The Chinese return fire lasted only 15 minutes, by 1:20 pm the forts stopped returning fire and 300 Royal Marines stormed the forts. By 1:30 pm, the 3 forts were captured 250 killed or wounded in Anunghoy.
Over on Wangtong island there was 40 gun fort on its western side called Yong’an Fort. Between this fort and the forts on Anunghoi was a large boom chain cable to stop warships and passage could not be made until all the forts were taken. Commodore Bremer aboard his flagship Wellesley alongside 7 other warships began to bombard the fort and its batteries and in less than an hour the Chinese stopped firing back. By 1:30pm Major Thomas Simson Pratt commanded 1037 troops to storm the beach of the island. In the words of British officer Edward Belcher “Opposition there was none. The unfortunate Chinese literally crammed the trenches, begging or mercy. I wish I could add that it was granted”. Belcher also alleges some Indian soldiers would begin executing prisoners when he personally tried to stop them “two were shot down whilst holding my shirt, and my gig’s crew, perceiving, my danger, dragged me away exclaiming ‘they will shoot you next sir!”. There were around 2000 Qing defenders on the island and it is estimated 250 were killed and or wounded. The British claim to have only 5 casualties. When the British and Indian force entered the forts they found that the defenders had most likely fled the moment the battle began. Within 2 hours, the forts on Anunghoi and Wangtong were seized with minimal effort. Charles Elliot stated he had almost died in the battle from a Chinese cannonball that nearly hit him as he sat reclined in a hammock on the deck of his ship. You can’t make that stuff up…or perhaps you really can if you are the British during the 19th century trying to show off. Honestly folks, when I give reports from this war, a lot of it comes from British primary sources and I can assure you they are embellishing the shit out of it. A thousand Chinese were taken prisoner. Admiral Guan’s body lay among the defenders, a bayonet in his chest. The British gave the old warrior a cannon salute from the warship Blenheim when his family retrieved the body and sailed off with it. With the fall of the Bogue forts, the mouth of the Canton River and the gateway to Canton belonged to the British. Lin Zexu wrote of the event "I got home at the Hour of the Monkey [that is 3 p.m.] ... and when night came heard that the Bogue forts and those on Wangtong Island were being invested, preparatory to attack, by the English rebels. I at once went with Deng to Qishan's office and at the Hour of the Rat [that is 11 p.m.] we heard that the Wangtong, Yung-an and Kung-ku forts have fallen. All night I could not sleep."
On February 27, Elliot made his way up the Canton River aboard Nemesis when they came across the warship Cambridge which was in trouble. Cambridge had been captured and surrounded by Chinese War junks. When Nemesis alongside some other British steamers approached, the Chinese war junks opened fired on them. When the British ships managed to maneuver into a position where they could fire broadsides they sent a tremendous volley. Added to the shells were congreve rockets which set fires to many of the war junks. The Cambridge was also opening fire upon the British as Chinese crews were operating her. The British bombardment after an hour soon sent the ships scattering about and many of their crews jumped overboard. On the sides of the river were some earthworks defense with batteries and British troops began to land and stormed their positions. Captain Thomas Herbert of warship Calliope said of the event “I landed with the seamen and marines and stormed the works, driving before us upwards of 2 thousand of their best troops, and killing nearly 300”. Lt John Elliot Bingham of the Modeste wrote “As the enemy fled before Lt Stranshams party, they attempted to cross a deep branch of the river in which numbers of them perished and many were shot”. Thus the British claimed to have killed 300 Chinese during this battle near the First Bar Island on the Pearl River at the cost of losing 1 man with a couple wounded. The day after the battle Lin Zexu wrote "I hear that yesterday the English rebels broke resistance at Wu-yung. The regulars from Hunan were stationed there, and had heavy losses, their Commander Hsiang-fu being also among the killed."
After the battle was over the British realized they could not tow the Cambridge, so Elliot ordered the ship scuttled. During the firing upon the Chinese war junks, a British sailor died when his musket exploded in his hands. Elliot awaited some other ships and men before continuing to sail towards Canton.
On March the 2nd, Commodore Bremer dispatched a force to prod Whampoa Island which held a battery of around 25 cannons and had around 250 Qing troops defending it. The smaller naval force of 3 British warships bombarded the island destroying the cannons and defensive structures with ease. The marines who stormed the island reported around 20 dead defenders and lost a man to grapeshot. Lin Zexu wrote in his diary on the day of the battle “I hear that the English rebel ships have already forced their way to the fort at Lieh-te. Early in the morning I went to talk things over at the General office in the Monastery of the Giant Buddha”.
As the armada made its approach to the city the 10,000 civilians fled, including Lin Zexu’s family. An American merchant in Canton wrote of the scene “Canton never looked so desolate. The hatred of those who had not fled registered in their faces. They scowl upon every one of us in a way indicative of a greater dislike than I have ever before observed”. Cantons harbor was too shallow for the Nemesis to dock, so Elliot took her completely alone up the Canton river and back down destroying apparently a few forts and 9 Chinese war junks. If that is to be believed, Nemesis truly lived up to its name wow.
Poor Qishan was again recalled to Beijing to be punished. He was not only recalled, but arrested and cast into chains. He made it to Beijing by March 12th and his entire fortune of 425,000 acres of land, 135,000 ounces of gold and 10 million in cash was taken from him by Emperor Daoguang. Luckily for Qishan his death sentence was reversed by the Emperor to just hard labor at a military encampment near China’s northernmost border with Russia. Lin Zexu did not receive blame for the military blunders and instead remained in power at Canton. The reason as to why this came to be might be because Lin Zexu was as guilty as every other Qing official in sending the Emperor very embellished stories about the war. “Our regular troops sank 2 of their dinghies and shattered the mainmast of one of their warhips after which they retired”. Like the other officials playing broken telephone, Lin Zexu also feared the Emperors wrath and for good reason. By March 13, the rest of the British armada arrived outside Canton and began to blow all the Chinese ships to pieces within the harbor. The armada also bombarded the city's walls knocking out its cannons. On march 19, British marines and sailors landed near the foreign factories district forcing Chinese defenders there to pull back giving no resistance. The next day the British occupied their old English factory and planted the Union Jack back upon its roof.
Our old friend Houqua came to Elliot at the English factory begging for a truce on behalf of General Fang. Elliot greeted Houque kindly and agreed, he also told everyone in Canton that trade was to be restored. The months of the opium smugglers were watering at this, but Elliot then dictated that all the opium found on any British ship was to be confiscated. Elliot was trying to make it known they were here for the tea trade and to show Britain was going to be on its best behavior. Unbeknownst to Elliot, the truce was a feint. For the next few days, the British watched Chinese ships full of Qing soldiers sail past the factories vantage point.
Despite Elliots talk of confiscating all opium, the smugglers were more bold than ever. With the British armada as armed guards, the smuggler ships came in some carrying more than 1000 chests each! Elliot was furious and tried to stop the opium vessels from unloading their cargo in Canton, but the merchants simply ignored him. Elliot feared getting chewed up by members at parliament if he molested the dealers anymore, knowing full well parliament had a ton of opium lobbyists working full time. Its actually scarily like current governments today. Some, albeit I bet a few politicians in the congress/senates/parliaments of large nations today actually want to put a stop to the worlds most horrible troubles, but lobbyists are a powerful force and when your political job is at stack…well like Mr. Elliot, how much do you put your neck out on the line? Also Elliot had greater issues to worry about, when the British took back the factory the Qing officials set a price upon the heads of any British citizen and a king's ransom of 50,000 for Elliot's head.
Ever since the first battle at the Bogue, Qishan and Lin were both sending reports to Emperor Daoguang about how the war was going. Lin Zexu was sending amazing tales of Qing victories, all fabrications. Qishan was sending report, of how corrupt the Qing military had become and how it had fallen to such lengths it could not hope to match the barbarians. Qishan counseled strategic surrender and hinted towards resuming the opium trade. Well we all know what happened to Qishan for his more honest words on military matters. General Yang Fang also urged the Emperor to allow the opium trade to continue arguing that if the British occupied themselves with making money, they would have little time or any desire for war. The Emperor replied to General Fang “If trade were the solution to the problem, why would it be necessary to transfer and dispatch generals and troops?”. Emperor Daoguang ordered General Fang and his colleagues Ishand and Longwen to take back Hong Kong island. By late March, Elliot had decided the next target was to be Amoy, around 400 miles northeast of Canton. Elliot thought it would be a good time to attack Amoy in May, but in the meantime he fell quite ill while in Macao. In the meantime he was receiving intelligence reports from Canton that the city was being surrounded by more and more Qing troops. It seemed General Fang was amassing forces trying to bring the British back to the peace table. Elliot headed the show of military might by putting off the Amoy plans and concentrating on arming Canton.
On May 11th, Elliot took Nemesis over to Canton and quickly saw the Chinese were building fortifications outfitted with new cannons. He also saw the Chinese navy was increasing its presence in the area. To that end he sent a letter to the governor asking they cease military preparations but received no word back. On May 21st, Elliot ordered the British and even urged the Americans to leave the factory quarter. All of the British quickly left, just a few Americans stayed and in less than 24 hours the factory quarter was shelled by the Chinese military from the opposite side of the river. The Chinese then began sending fireboats from the river at the nearby British warships. Elliot had Nemesis begin bombarding the Chinese war junks nearby which were using the fireships as cover. The fireships failed to hit any of the British vessels and instead ran into shorelines setting parts of Canton ablaze. Nemesis began firing on fortifications and Chinese artillery positions and by the morning the battle over the sea dissipated.
On May 25th, Nemesis escorting 70 other vessels full of thousands of troops made its way to Tsingpu, 2 miles northwest of Canton proper. Tsingpu had a natural harbor from which the British formed a beach head to assemble its forces and equipment. The military strategy involved multiple ships bombarding differing parts of Cantons defenses and 2 invasion forces. The first force which I will call right force was led by the warship Atalanta consisting of 330 men of the 26th Cameronians, Madras Artillery and some Engineers. They were going to bombard the south walls of Canton while they landed troops at the factory quarter to occupy it. The other force was that of Nemesis which landed at Tsingpu, designated as left force consisting of 6000 men with various troops such as the 49th foot, 27th Madras infantry, some Bengal Volunteers and 380 Royal marines.
Leading left force was Major General Hugh Gough whom performed a reconnaissance of the area and said “the heights to the north of Canton were crowned by 4 strong forts and the city walls, which run over the southern extremity of these heights, appeared to be about 3 miles and a half distant”. Basically if you had a map, which can be found of this battle the left force has landed northwest of Canton. To its east lies various hills and forts that protect the approach to the large wall defense of Canton city. There were 4 large forts each holding various cannons and troops.
Gough’s force at 3am was being fired upon by the 2 most western forts of the 4. Then the British managed to place their artillery, 12 pounder howitzers, 9 pounder artillery pieces, half a pound mortars and a ton of Congreve rockets. The British began to fire back upon the 2 western first and cover of fire, Lt Colonel Morris of the 49th advanced up a hill towards the nearest fort, while Major General Burrell led the 18th royal Irish to support his flank. While this was occurring, the Qing sent a large force to hit the right flank, but General Gough saw this coming and ordered some royal marines to close the flank up. With their land based artillery and warships bombarding, the left force was able to capture all 4 forts taking light casualties and when they occupied the forts they held a vantage point looking into Canton city.
On may the 25th Goughs force began setting up around these 4 forts, they saw an incoming force coming from the northeast of around 4000 Qing soldiers. They were advancing through an open paddy field and attacked the British 49th at 3pm. The 49th were putting up a good fight, but then General Yang Fang showed up to the scene rallying the troops trying to overwhelm the 49th. Gough quickly ordered the 18th division with some royal marines to reinforce the 49th position and placed Major General Burrell in charge of repelling the enemy. The fighting was intense, but the British force managed to rout the enemy and in turn burnt down their military encampments.
By the early morning of may 26th, Gough had prepared his men for an invasion of Canton’s city walls, but at 10:00am a white flag appeared overhead. Gough sent the British interpreter Thoms to find out what the Qing wanted. The Qing envoy begged for hostilities to end, Gough agreed to a ceasefire, but said through Thoms that he would only negotiate with the commander of the Qing forces in Canton. “"I had it explained that, as General commanding the British, I would treat with none but the General commanding the Chinese troops, that we came before Canton much against the wishes of the British nation, but that repeated insults and breaches of faith had compelled us to make the present movement, and that I would cease from hostilities for two hours to enable their General to meet me and Sir Le Fleming Senhouse.". No Qing commander came forward, so Gough resumed preparations to attack Cantons walls. Then 7am the next morning, just as the British artillery was getting ready to fire, another white flag was raised and some Qing soldiers were shouting the name of Charles Elliot. It turned out the reason they were shouting this was because Elliot had been negotiating with the Qing during the course of the battle.
Now since may the 26 Major General Gough was in a standstill position. His forces were occupying those 4 forts north of Canton city’s walls and his transport ships were over at the beach head some 5 miles west of him. So there was Gough with 6000 soldiers just loitering about in the blazing hot sun, basically in the middle of some paddy fields north of Canton. You wont hear from this from my main source which I will add seems to be quite skewed to the British side, but a minor incident occurred. A local villager named Wei Shaoguang accused a British soldier had raped his wife. The local village populace became enraged and soon a crowd of over 10,000 began swarming around the British position. They were armed with pikes, swords and all the common village weapons you can think of. To make matters worse for some of the British, many of their muskets were sodden because of the marshy paddy field geography and were failing to fire when villagers attacked. A 2 hour long siege occurred and the British had to withdraw to one of the western forts which was soon surrounded. Gough sent word to the governor of Canton Yu Baochun telling him if the villagers did not stop the siege his force would commence an attack upon Canton city. Yu tried to stop the villagers, only to be labeled a traitor to the people of Canton. It sounds like a lackluster event, but it actually is the beginning of a larger issue. The villagers had taken matters into their own hands to deal with the foreign invaders because they saw their Qing government appeasing them. This feeling that the Qing were weak or not doing enough would feed into multiple movements that would later break the Qing dynasty.
Then on May 29th, General Fang broke the ceasefire and ordered his men to suddenly attack, shouting “exterminate the rebels!”. Fire rafts were launched at the nearby British warships docked at Whampoa, but failed to do any damage. Stinkpots were tossed at British warships and some war junks tried using grappling hooks to board them. Some of Fang’s forces broke into the factory quarter and began to pillage it. The British in response sent ships up the Pearl River to bombard the walls of Canton, but no soldiers were sent in to invade the city. The secret reason as to why was because at this point the British troops were being decimated by dysentery. In reality the British had some 2500 able fighting men to face off against a possible Qing force of 20,000 within Canton city. Luckily for the British their warships bombardments were enough to draw out a truce agreement.
Now the Qing agreed to pay 6 million in the course of 7 days if the British promised not to sack Canton. The Qing military would pull back at least 60 miles from Canton and the British would pull back to the Bogue and occupy the forts there. There still remained major issues, the status of the opium trade and that of Hong Kong island, trade was still not resumed and the compensation for the 20,000 opium chests confiscated. The British knew the situation was tense and ignored these issues for now to allow Canton to normalize again. The British also made sure to avoid mentions of a military victory over the Chinese as they wanted the Emperor to save face and thus be more likely to accept their deal.
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The British attacked Chaunbi, Bogue, the First Bar island, Whampoa Island and now Canton in their war to bring the Qing government to meet their demands. It seemed by taking Canton a treaty might be formed at long last and perhaps peace could be restored.