War with China - 1856.

The seizure of the Arrow, sailing under British colours, by the Chinese, and their haughty refusal to make any reparation, compelled the British minister at Canton to apply to Sir Michael Seymour, commander-in-chief on the China station, to try the efficacy of his guns in inducing the commissioner, Yeh, to yield to his demands. The admiral’s flag was flying on board the Calcutta, 84; he had under him the Winchester, of 50 guns, the Sybil and Pique, of 40, and the Hornet and Encounter, screw-steamers, the first of 17 and the other of 15 guns, and three paddle-wheel steamers and three sloops of war. He was in a short time reinforced by the Sanspareil, of 70 guns, the Nankin, of 50, the Amethyst, of 26, several screw-steamers, and a considerable number of gunboats, well suited for navigating the Chinese rivers. The English admiral first sailed up to Canton, and took possession of all its outer defences, one of which, the Macao fort, situated in the middle of the river, he garrisoned with a force of marines. The Barrier Forts, armed with 150 guns, were stormed and captured, the guns spiked, and the buildings destroyed. These proceedings, however, had no effect on Yeh, and he still held out. Accordingly, bringing up other vessels, the admiral ordered an attack on Canton itself. The ships soon made a breach in the walls, when a body of seamen and marines under Captains Elliott and Stuart and Commanders Holland and Bate stormed the place, and in a short time the gallant Bate having scaled the walls at the head of one detachment, waved the British ensign on the top of the breach; the gate of the city was blown open, and in less than an hour Canton was in possession of the British. The blue-jackets and marines abstained from all acts of plunder, and treated the inhabitants so well that they came fearlessly alongside the vessels, bringing fresh provisions of all kinds. The admiral, not considering it advisable to retain the city, withdrew his men, leaving only a force sufficient for the protection of the factory. This place the Chinese attempted to burn, and made every effort to destroy the fleet with fire-rafts and enormous explosive machines, some of which, it is said, contained 3000 pounds of gunpowder. They were invariably, however, towed clear of the ships. Yeh then one night sent a fleet of 23 war-junks in the hopes of surprising the fleet. Getting news of the intended attack, the admiral despatched theBarracouta with a fleet of boats under Captain Wilson of the Winchester, the admiral himself afterwards joining, and in half-an-hour the whole of the fleet was destroyed, with the exception of the admiral’s vessel, carrying 60 guns, which was brought off.

Still Yeh refused to yield, and Sir Michael therefore attacked the Bogue Forts, which now mounted upwards of 200 guns, and the whole were captured with trifling loss the mandarins having run away and deserted their men, who began in their terror to throw themselves into the sea, till they were persuaded by Captain Hall that they would not be injured.

Meantime, the Chinese were beginning to repair the Barrier Forts, which, as they commanded the river, the admiral resolved to destroy. Two of them, the French Folly and Dutch Folly, were successively attacked. Captains Wilson and Cochrane landing at the head of 850 seamen and marines, stormed the latter, and blew up it and the 30 guns with which it was armed. The Dutch Folly was garrisoned by 140 seamen, under the command of Commodore Elliott, while, to protect the squadron, two strong booms were thrown across the river, one above and the other below it. This terminated the year 1856.