CHAPTER XXII. THE REIGN OF KWANGSU
When Kwangsu ascended the throne the preparations for the campaign against Kashgaria were far advanced toward completion, and Kinshun had struck the first of those blows which were to insure the overthrow of the Tungani and of Yakoob Beg. The fall of Souchow had distinguished the closing weeks of the year 1873, and in 1874 Kinshun had begun, under the direction of Tso Tsung Tang, who was described by a French writer as "very intelligent, of a bravery beyond all question, and an admirable organizer," his march across the desert to the west. He followed a circuitous line of march, with a view of avoiding the strongly placed and garrisoned town of Hami. The exact route is not certain, but he seems to have gone as far north as Uliassutai, where he was able to recruit some of the most faithful and warlike of the Mongol tribes. But early in 1875 he arrived before the walls of Barkul, a town lying to the northwest of Hami. No resistance was offered, and a few weeks later Hami was also occupied. The Tungani retreated on the approach of the Chinese, and assembled their main force for the defense of the two towns of Urumtsi and Manas, which are situated on the northern side of the eastern spurs of the Tian Shan. Once Barkul and Hami were in the possession of the Chinese, it became necessary to reopen direct communications with Souchow. This task occupied the whole of the next twelve months, and was only successfully accomplished after many difficulties had been overcome, and when halting-stations had been established across Gobi. There is nothing improbable in the statement that during this period the Chinese planted and reaped the seed which enabled them, or those who followed in their train, to march in the following season. With the year 1876 the really arduous portion of the campaign commenced. The natural difficulties to the commencement of the war from distance and desert had been all overcome. An army of about twenty-five thousand effective troops, besides a considerable number of Mongol and other tribal levies, had been placed in the field and within striking distance of the rebels. The enemies were face to face. The Tungani could retreat no further. Neither from Russia nor from Yakoob Beg could they expect a place of refuge. The Athalik Ghazi might help them to hold their own; he certainly would not welcome them within the limits of the six cities. The Tungani had, therefore, no alternative left save to make as resolute a stand as they could against the Chinese who had returned to revenge their fellow-countrymen who had been slaughtered in their thousands twelve years before. The town of Urumtsi, situated within a loop of the mountains, lies at a distance by road of more than 300 miles from Barkul. Kinshun, who had now been joined by Liu Kintang, the taotai of the Sining district and a man of proved energy and capacity, resolved to concentrate all his efforts on its capture. He moved forward his army to Guchen, 200 miles west of Barkul, where he established a fortified camp and a powder factory, and took steps te ascertain the strength and intentions of the enemy. Toward the end of July the Chinese army resumed its march. The difficulties of the country were so great that the advanced guards of the opposing armies did not come into contact until August 10. The Chinese general seems to have attempted on that date a night surprise; but although he gained some success in the encounter which ensued, the result must have been doubtful, seeing that he felt obliged to call off his men from the attack. It was only, however, to collect his forces for the delivery of a decisive blow. On August 13 a second battle was fought with a result favorable to the Chinese. Two days later the enemy, who held a fortified camp at Gumti, were bombarded out of it by the heavy artillery brought from the coasts of China for the purposes of the war, and after twenty-four hours' firing three breaches were declared to be practicable. The place was carried by storm at the close of four hours' fighting and slaughter, during which 6,000 men were stated to have been killed. Kinshun followed up his victory by a rapid march on Urumtsi. That town surrendered without a blow, and many hundred fugitives were cut down by the unsparing Manchu cavalry, which pursued them along the road to Manas, their last place of shelter. As soon as the necessary measures had been taken for the military protection of Urumtsi, the Chinese army proceeded against Manas. Their activity, which was facilitated by the favorable season of the year, was also increased by the rumored approach of Yakoob Beg with a large army to the assistance of the Tungani. At Manas the survivors of the Tungan movement proper had collected for final resistance, and all that desperation could suggest for holding the place had been done. Kinshun appeared before Manas on September 2. On the 7th his batteries were completed, and he began a heavy fire upon the northeast angle of the wall. A breach of fourteen feet having been made, the order to assault was given, but the stormers were repulsed with the loss of 100 killed. The operations of the siege were renewed with great spirit on both sides. Several assaults were subsequently delivered; but although the Chinese always gained some advantage at the beginning they never succeeded in retaining it. In one of these later attacks they admitted a loss of 200 killed alone. The imperial army enjoyed the undisputed superiority in artillery, and the gaps in its ranks were more than filled by the constant flow of re-enforcements from the rear. The siege gradually assumed a less active character. The Chinese dug trenches and erected earthworks. They approached the walls by means of galleries in readiness to deliver the attack on any symptom of discouragement among the besieged.