First War with China, and efforts to suppress the Slave-Trade - A.D. 1840.
One of the favourite exploits of the Chinese was to kidnap the English. A Madras officer of artillery, Captain Anstruther, had been carried off while taking a survey near Chusan. The crew of a merchant-vessel, the Kite, wrecked on the coast, and Mrs Noble, the captain’s wife, were also captured. Near Macao a Mr Staunton had been been carried away, on which Captain Smith, then the senior officer on the station, sent to demand his release. It being refused, and the Chinese being observed strengthening the barrier which runs across the isthmus, joining Macao to the mainland, he considered it probable that the enemy would attack the city. Taking, therefore, the Larne and Hyacinth, with the Enterprise steamer and Louisa cutter, he ran up close to the barrier and opened so warm a cannonade on the Chinese works and barracks, that the enemy’s fire was silenced in about an hour. Some blue-jacket small-arm men and soldiers being then disembarked, they drove the Chinese from every one of their positions, spiked the guns, and burnt the barracks and other buildings. This was the last hostile proceeding of the British in the year 1840. The Chinese, wishing to gain time, induced Admiral Elliott to agree to a truce, shortly after which he resigned command from ill-health, and returned to England, leaving Sir Gordon Bremer as commander-in-chief. At the commencement of 1841 the squadron was further increased by the arrival of the Nemesis steamer, commanded by Mr W.H. Hall, then a master in the navy, and the Sulphur, Commander Belcher. The Nemesis, though not commissioned under the articles of war, most of her officers were in the Royal Navy; but she belonged to the East India Company. She was built by Mr Laird at Birkenhead, and although of about 630 tons burden, with engines of 120 horse-power, with all her armament complete, she drew only 6 feet of water. Her extreme length was 184 feet, her breadth 29 feet, and her depth 11 feet. She had no fixed keel, and was almost perfectly flat-bottomed. She had, however, two sliding or movable keels, made of wood, each about 7 feet in length, one being placed before and the other abaft the engine-room, and, being enclosed in narrow cases reaching to the deck, they could be raised or lowered at will by means of a winch. With the exception of the great paddle-beams across the ship, the planks of the deck, and the cabin fittings, with a few other portions, she was built entirely of iron. As, from her form, she could not have been steered by an ordinary rudder, a movable rudder was attached to the lower part of the true or fixed rudder, descending to the same depth as the two false keels, and, like them, could be raised or lowered at pleasure. Another striking peculiarity of her construction was that she was divided into seven water-tight compartments by means of iron bulkheads, so that, in fact, she resembled a number of iron tanks cased over, a contrivance which saved her from the almost certain destruction which would otherwise have been her lot. By some cleverly-contrived lee-boards her leeway, under sail, was reduced fully one-half. It was found, however, that the want of a fixed keel was a great detriment to her seaworthy qualities.
After a voyage, during which she encountered many dangers, she arrived safely in China, the first iron steamer which had ever performed so long a voyage. From her shallow draft of water she was enabled to play a conspicuous part in most of the operations in the Chinese seas.