CHAPTER XXI. THE REGENCY
Tu Wensiu, having established the security of his communications with Burmah, whence he obtained supplies of arms and munitions of war, devoted his efforts to the capture of Yunnanfoo, which he completely invested. The garrison was reduced to the lowest straits before Tsen Yuying resolved to come to the aid of his distressed colleague. The loss of the prefectural town would not merely entail serious consequences to the imperialist cause, but he felt it would personally compromise him as the Futai at Pekin. In the early part of 1869, therefore, he threw himself into the town with three thousand men, and the forces of Tu Wensiu found themselves obliged to withdraw from the eastern side of the city. A long period of inaction followed, but during this time the most important events happened with regard to the ultimate result. Ma Julung employed all his artifice and arguments to show the rebel chiefs the utter hopelessness of their succeeding against the whole power of the Chinese empire, which, from the suppression of the Taeping Rebellion, would soon be able to be employed against them. They felt the force of his representations, and they were also oppressed by a sense of the slow progress they had made toward the capture of Yunnanfoo. Some months after Tsen Yuying's arrival, those of the rebels who were encamped to the north of the city hoisted the red flag and gave in their adhesion to the government. Then Ma Julung resumed active operations against the other rebels, and obtained several small successes. A wound received during one of the skirmishes put an end to his activity, and the campaign resumed its desultory character. But Ma Julung's illness had other unfortunate consequences; for during it Tsen Yuying broke faith with those of the rebel leaders who had come over, and put them all to a cruel death. The natural consequence of this foolish and ferocious act was that the Mohammedans again reverted to their desperate resolve to stand firmly by the side of Tu Wensiu. The war again passed into a more active phase. Ma Julung had recovered from his wounds. A new viceroy, and a man of some energy, was sent from Pekin. Lin Yuchow had attracted the notice of Tseng Kwofan among those of his native province who had responded to his appeal to defend Hoonan against the Taepings sixteen years before; and shortly before the death of the last viceroy of Yunnan, he had been made Governor of Kweichow. To the same patron at Pekin he now owed his elevation to the viceroyalty. It is said that he had lost the energy which once characterized him; but he brought with him several thousand Hoonan braves, whose courage and military experience made them invaluable auxiliaries to the embarrassed authorities in Yunnan. In the course of the year 1870 most of the towns in the south and the north of Yunnan were recovered, and communications were reopened with Szchuen. As soon as the inhabitants perceived that the government had recovered its strength, they hastened to express their joy at the change by repudiating the white flag which Tu Wensiu had compelled them to adopt. The imperialists even to the last increased the difficulty of their work of pacification by exhibiting a relentless cruelty; and while the inhabitants thought to secure their safety by a speedy surrender, the Mussulmans were rendered more desperate in their resolve to resist. The chances of a Mohammedan success were steadily diminishing when Yang Yuko, a mandarin of some military capacity, who had begun his career in the most approved manner as a rebel, succeeded in capturing the whole of the salt-producing district which had been the main source of their strength. In the year 1872 all the preliminary arrangements were made for attacking Talifoo itself. A supply of rifles had been received from Canton or Shanghai, and a few pieces of artillery had also arrived. With these improved weapons the troops of Ma Julung and Tsen Yuying enjoyed a distinct advantage over the rebels of Talifoo. The horrors of war were at this point increased by those of pestilence, for the plague broke out at Puerh on the southern frontier, and, before it disappeared, devastated the whole of the province, completing the effect of the civil war, and ruining the few districts which had escaped from its ravages. The direct command of the siege operations at Talifoo was intrusted to Yang Yuko, a hunchback general, who had obtained a reputation for invincibility; and when Tsen Yuying had completed his own operations he also proceeded to the camp before the Mohammedan capital for the purpose of taking part in the crowning operation of the war.