First War with China, and efforts to suppress the Slave-Trade - A.D. 1840.
The Wellesley, with a part of the squadron, then appeared off Chusan. Commodore Bremer was in hopes that his overwhelming force would induce the Chinese to yield, but their fleet was commanded by a tough old admiral, who, ignorant of the power of the English, had no intention of doing so without a fight. During the night the Chinese were seen by the light of thousands of painted lanterns throwing up embankments, and placing fresh guns in position, while numberless merchant-junks, loaded with goods, women, and children, were observed making their way down the river to escape. After giving the Chinese several opportunities of negotiating for peace, the Wellesley opened her fire. It was answered by the whole of the Chinese line of defence. The rest of the fleet than began bombarding the place, and in seven or eight minutes it was reduced to ruins. On the smoke clearing away, the principal battery was seen to be knocked to pieces, as were four war-junks, a few wounded men only being visible, among whom was the brave old admiral, who had lost his leg from a round-shot. On the troops being landed, possession was taken of the abandoned fortifications, and the British flag floated on the first military position in the Chinese Empire captured by her majesty’s forces. An inner fortress was, however, discovered, from which the Chinese soldiers which crowded it, opened their fire, beating their tom-toms and gongs, waving banners, and beckoning the English to attack. A few shells having been thrown into it, the Chinese evacuated the place during the night, and with many of the inhabitants fled into the country. Several persons were found to have been killed, and the governor of the town drowned himself in despair. Chusan was held for some months, at the cost of the lives of many of the soldiers, who suffered from the poisonous exhalations from the paddy-fields, having nothing to do to employ their minds; while the seamen of the Melville, which had been hove down for repairs, kept their health during the six weeks they were employed on her. The squadron got as far north as the great wall of China. On the passage the Pyladescorvette, Captain Anson, fell in with three junks. As his boats ranged up alongside of them, upwards of 100 men, who had been concealed, started up and commenced firing and hurling spears and stink-pots on the crews. On this the British shoved off to a short distance, and pouring in some well-directed volleys, killed half the pirates, the remainder jumping overboard and making for the shore—though many were drowned. The other two junks escaped.