CHAPTER XX. THE TAEPING REBELLION
Such was the position of affairs when on March 24, 1863, Major Gordon took over the command of the Ever-Victorious Army. At that moment it was not merely discouraged by its recent reverses, but it was discontented with its position, and when Major Gordon assumed the command at Sunkiang there was some fear of an immediate mutiny. The new commander succeeded in allaying their discontent, and believing that active employment was the best cure for insubordination resolved to relieve Chanzu without delay. The Taepings were pressing the siege hard and would probably have captured the place before many days when Major Gordon attacked them in their stockades and drove them out with no inconsiderable loss. Having thus gained the confidence of his men and the approbation of the Chinese authorities Major Gordon returned to Sunkiang, where he employed himself in energetically restoring the discipline of his force, and in preparing for his next move, which at the request of Li Hung Chang was to be the capture of Quinsan. On April 24 the force left Sunkiang to attack Quinsan, but it had not proceeded far when its course had to be altered to Taitsan, where, through an act of treachery, a force of 1,500 imperialists had been annihilated. It became necessary to retrieve this disaster without delay, more especially as all hope of taking Quinsan had for the moment to be abandoned. Major Gordon at once altered the direction of his march, and joining en route General Ching, who had, on the news, broken up his camp before Quinsan, hastened as rapidly as possible to Taitsan, where he arrived on April 29. Bad weather obliged the attack to be deferred until May 1, when two stockades on the west side were carried, and their defenders compelled to flee, not into the town as they would have wished, but away from it toward Chanzu. On the following day, the attack was resumed on the north side, while the armed boats proceeded to assault the place from the creek. The firing continued from nine in the morning until five in the evening, when a breach seemed to be practicable, and two regiments were ordered to the assault. The rebels showed great courage and fortitude, swarming in the breach and pouring a heavy and well-directed fire upon the troops. The attack was momentarily checked; but while the stormers remained under such cover as they could find, the shells of two howitzers were playing over their heads and causing frightful havoc among the Taepings in the breach. But for these guns, Major Gordon did not think that the place would have been carried at all; but after some minutes of this firing at such close quarters, the rebels began to show signs of wavering. A party of troops gained the wall, a fresh regiment advanced toward the breach, and the disappearance of the snake flag showed that the Taeping leaders had given up the fight. Taitsan was thus captured, and the three previous disasters before it retrieved.