First War with China, and efforts to suppress the Slave-Trade - A.D. 1840.
The next day Admiral Kwang sent off a boat with a flag of truce, in which were an old man and woman, bearing proposals for the cessation of hostilities. They came to request Captain Elliott to meet Commissioner Keshen, who finally agreed that the island of Hong-Kong should be ceded to the British, on condition that the Bogue Forts should be given up, and that, on the English captives being set at liberty, Chusan should be evacuated. To these terms Captain Elliott, the superintendent of trade, agreed, and Hong-Kong was taken possession of on the 26th of January. These terms having been rejected by the emperor, the fleet proceeded, on the 26th of February, to the attack of the remainder of the Bogue Forts. Their defenders were either put to flight or yielded themselves prisoners, and in a short time the British colours were flying on the whole chain of those celebrated works. The next day, the 27th, the light squadron, consisting of the Calliope and Herald, and the Alligator, Sulphur, Modeste, Madagascar, and Nemesis steamers, under Captain Herbert, were sent up to destroy any fortifications they might meet with. On reaching Whampoa Roads, a large armed fort, mounting 47 guns, was seen on the left bank, and extending across the river was a line of rafts secured to sunken junks, on the other side of which were forty large junks and the Cambridge, carrying the admiral’s flag. The steamer pushing on, opened a heavy fire on the Chinese fleet, as well as on the batteries. For about an hour the Chinese held out, and when their fire was nearly silenced, the marines and small-arm men being landed, stormed the works, driving before them upwards of 2000 Chinese troops, and killing nearly 300. The Cambridge and some of the junks still held out, when Lieutenant Watson, first of the Calliope, having gallantly succeeded in dragging one of the boats across the raft, launched her on the other side. As soon as she was in the water, Mr Brown, master of the Calliope, Mr Hall and Mr Galbraith, of the Nemesis, and Mr Saint Leger, got into her with nine or ten men, and pulled away for the Cambridge. So confused were the Chinese that, as the boarding party climbed up on the port side, they jumped overboard on the other, and many were drowned in attempting to swim on shore. A number of dead and wounded were found on her decks. As she was an old ship, she was doomed to destruction, and the wounded being removed, she was set on fire, and soon afterwards blew up with a terrific explosion, the sound of which must have reached Canton. Numerous other forts were destroyed in succession, as were also a considerable number of junks. The steamers had many difficulties to encounter, as thick stockades had been placed across the channel, through which they had to force their way. At length the squadron came to an anchor off Whampoa, when the Nemesis was despatched with a letter to the Chinese authorities. Captain Bethune having undertaken to deliver it, pushed off in a boat with a white flag, when a shower of grape and shot was discharged on her from a fort. In consequence of this the ships pushed on to Canton, and opened a hot fire on the batteries which protect the city. After the bombardment had continued about an hour, the marines were landed, immediately stormed, and completed the capture of the enemy’s works, notwithstanding a determined resistance on the part of the Tartars. Captain Bourchier, in command of the blue-jackets on shore, prevented any outbreak of the population, and he observing a number of burning junks drifting down on the suburbs, to which they would inevitably have set fire, by the most energetic exertions of his officers and men towed them away from the spot. The Herald getting up later in the day, by her imposing appearance contributed to bring the Chinese to reason, and in a short time the British colours were hoisted on the flagstaff of the factory by Commander Belcher. Thus one of the most important cities of China fell into the hands of the British, with a loss of only seven men wounded.