CHAPTER XX. THE TAEPING REBELLION
The energy and spirit of Chung Wang impelled him to fresh enterprises, and seeing the hopelessness of Tien Wang, he determined to secure a base of operations for himself, which should enable him to hold his own in the warring strife of the realm, and perhaps to achieve the triumph of the cause with which he was associated. It says much for his military energy and skill that he was able to impart new vigor to the Taeping system, and to sustain on a new field his position single-handed against the main forces of the empire. He determined to obtain possession of the important city of Soochow, on the Grand Canal, and not very far distant from Shanghai. On his way to effect this object he gained a great victory over Chang Kwoliang, who was himself killed in the battle. As the ex-Triad chief possessed great energy, his loss was a considerable one for the government, but his troops continued to oppose the advance of the Taepings, and fought and lost three battles before Chung Wang reached Soochow. That place was too large to be successfully defended by a small force, and the imperialists hastily abandoned it. At this critical moment - May, 1860 - Ho Kweitsin, the viceroy of the Two Kiang, implored the aid of the English and French, who were at this moment completing their arrangements for the march on Pekin, against these rebels, and the French were so far favorable to the suggestion that they offered to render the assistance provided the English would combine with them. Mr. Bruce, however, declined the adventure, which is not surprising, considering that we were then engaged in serious hostilities with the Chinese, but the incident remains unique of a country asking another for assistance during the progress of a bitter and doubtful war. The utmost that Mr. Bruce would do was to issue a notification that Shanghai would not be allowed to again fall into the hands of an insurgent force. The viceroy who solicited the aid was at least consistent. He memorialized the Throne, praying that the demands of the Europeans should be promptly granted, and that they should then be employed against the Taepings. His memorial was ill-timed. He was summoned to Pekin and executed for his very prudent advice. With the possession of Soochow, Chung Wang obtained fresh supplies of money, material, and men, and once more it was impossible to say to what height of success the Taepings might not attain. But Chung Wang was not satisfied with Soochow alone; he wished to gain possession of Shanghai.
Unfortunately for the realization of his project, the Europeans had determined to defend Shanghai at all hazards, but Chung Wang believed either that they would not, or that their army being absent in the north they had not the power to carry out this resolve. The necessity of capturing Shanghai was rendered the greater in the eyes of Chung Wang by its being the base of hostile measures against himself, and by a measure which threatened him with a new peril. The wealthy Chinese merchants of Shanghai had formed a kind of patriotic association, and provided the funds for raising a European contingent. Two Americans, Ward and Burgevine, were taken into their pay, and in July, 1860, they, having raised a force of 100 Europeans and 200 Manila men, began operations with an attack on Sunkiang, a large walled town about twenty miles from Shanghai. This first attack was repulsed with some loss, but Ward, afraid of losing the large reward he was promised for its capture, renewed the attack, and with better success, for he gained possession of a gate, and held it until the whole imperial army had come up and stormed the town. After this success Ward was requested to attack Tsingpu, which was a far stronger place than Sunkiang, and where the Taepings had the benefit of the advice and leading of several Englishmen who had joined them. Ward attacked Tsingpu on August 2, 1860, but he was repulsed with heavy loss. He returned to Shanghai for the purpose of raising another force and two larger guns, and then renewed the attack. It is impossible to say whether the place would have held out or not, but after seven days' bombardment Chung Wang suddenly appeared to the rescue, and, surprising Ward's force, drove it away in utter confusion, and with the loss of all its guns and stores. Encouraged by this success, Chung Wang then thought the time opportune for attacking Shanghai, and he accordingly marched against it, burning and plundering the villages along the road. The imperialists had established a camp or stockade outside the western gate, and Chung Wang carried this without any difficulty, but when he reached the walls of the town he found a very different opponent in his path. The walls were lined with English and French troops, and when the Taepings attempted to enter the city they were received with a warm fire, which quickly sent them to the right-about. Chung Wang renewed the attack at different points during the next four or five days, but he was then obliged to retreat. Before doing so, however, he sent a boasting message that he had come at the invitation of the French, who were traitors, and that he would have taken the city but for the foreigners, as "there was no city which his men could not storm." At this moment the attention of Chung Wang was called off to Nankin, which the imperialists were investing for a sixth time, under Tseng Kwofan, who had been elevated to the viceroyalty of the Two Kiang. Tien Wang, in despair, sent off an urgent summons to Chung Wang to come to his assistance, and although he went with reluctance he felt that he had no course but to obey.