The tent of Taiping Gen Li Xiucheng in Suzhou
Around this time, Hong Rengan began to advance the idea of marching to Shanghai to buy steamships and western arms.Hong gives Li Xiucheng the job to take Shanghai .Li is to make a dash to take Hangzhou, drawing off Qing troops from the siege of Nanjing. Then he is to quickly march back and smash the remaining Qing troops at Nanjing, then push on and take Suzhou .After that, Shanghai is to be taken. The Taipings expect to be welcomed by their Christian brothers. Li takes Suzhou on June 2, 1860 without firing a shot and raises the siege of Nanjing .
Foreign Involvement and Changing Foreign Views on the Taipings
Major Charles Gordon leading the 'Ever Victorious Army'
The early optimistic view of the Taipings had evaporated by 1860 and were seen as a threat to foreign trade, especially the lucrative opium trade, which the Taipings had banned and the religion blasphemous. Foreign newspapers in China , such as the North China Herald report on Taiping atrocities and help raise the general panic over the Taiping advance toward Shanghai .The foreign teacher of Hong, Rev Roberts arrives in Nanjing on Oct 16,1860and leaves Jan 20, 1862, , reporting that Hong Xiuquan is insane .
Inaccurate depiction of the death of Ward. Ward, disdainful of Taiping gunfire accuracy frequently exposed himself and was hit by a Taiping musket ball at Cixi, Zhejiang in 1862.
Gen Li Xiucheng was shocked to find his British and French Christians brothers' firing at his troops when they marched on Shanghai in late August 1860. The Taiping troops were under orders not to fire on the foreigners, and were mowed down while not returning fire .Ironically, this was done at the same time British and French forces were bombarding the Taku forts in the north .The Foreigners were growing more alarmed at the Taipings advance upon the coast, taking Ningpo on Dec 6, 1861 and Hangzhou on Dec 29, 1861 .In Jan 1862, Gen Li Xiucheng launched an attack on Shanghai and occupied the river approaches to the city .The British and French forbid the sale of munitions to the Taipings, leading to the loss of the important Anhui port town of Anqing and 16,000 troops in Sept 1861.
In Shanghai, a rich merchant was named Wu Hsu and banker Yang Fang began to fiance a small force of foreign mercenaries to fight the advancing Taipings .Wu, enlisted the services of Frederick Townsend Ward (1831-62) a former filibuster with William Walker in Mexico.Ward, with a force of European, American and Filipino troops captured Sung-Chiang in July 1860. By 1861 he began training Chinese troops in western methods and giving them western uniforms .The were armed with Sharp repeating rifles and had grown to a force of 3,000 by 1862 .After victories in the Shanghai area it was given the Chinese style name of the Ever Victorious Army and won many victories in Jiangsu against the Taipings .On Feb 25 Ward was awarded the fourth military rank and a peacock feather. The Jiangsu Gov, Xue huan, hoped to enlist the direct aid of foreign troops .When the Taiping encroached upon the 30 miles radius free zone agreed to in 1861, the British did send a force of 350, with 40 French and some of Ward's troops to clear the area .in Jan 1862 .European intervention kept the Taipings from invading till the army of Li Hongzhang arrived in May of 1862 .at this time the Taipings mounted a major attack of Shanghai with 50,000 troops .These were defeated by Li in a series of battles culminating in the battle of Hung Qiao on June17, 1862 .The Taiping Gen Li Xiucheng, retreated to Suzhou and planned an expedition to relieve Nanjing, now threatened by forces of Zeng Guofan .
The Taiping capital was now encircled by the army of Zeng Guofan , with Li Hongzhang clearing the costal area and Zuo Zongtang clearing Zhejiang .Li was able to use taxes in the rich Shanghai area to support his forces.He was also able to purchase many modern western rifles and artillery, which the conservative Zeng was reluctant to do .He also built modern munitions factories .
Ward, to solidify his role in the Chinese military system, took Chinese citizenship and married the daughter of Yang Fang, such interracial marriages were almost unheard of at the time. The first husband of Yang's daughter died, making her unmarriable to the superstitious Chinese . When Ward died of wounds at the battle of Cix in Sept 1862, his wife died shortly afterward of grief .
After his death, command passed briefly to the temperament American Henry Burgevine and then to the British Major Charles Gordon .Burgevine struck a Chinese banker to get funds to pay his troops, and incurred the anger of Li , who had him dismissed . Burgevine was not easy to get along with, and heavy drinking and drugs to relived the pain of a war wound did not help matters .Henry Burgevine then switched sides and fought for the Taipings,taking about 150 soldiers from the EVA and 'rowdies' in Shanghai. Unhappy with life with the Taipings, he returned to Qing held area, and died in mysterious circumstances, officially in a ferry accident, but was probably executed by the Qing .
The EVA now accompanied Li Hongzhang forces on their campaign westward .The fall of Suzhou was a major defeat to the Taipings .Gordon did not go into combat armed, only carrying a cane to direct troopd. Since he was often in the thick of the fighting, but always came out unwounded, it came to be regarded by the Chinese as a msgic wand .The heavy artillery now used by the EVA meant no walled city was safe .Suzhou was taken with the aid of the defection of Taiping commanders and promises of safe conduct by Gordon. After the city fell and Li Hongzhang had the officers executed, Gordon flew into a rage and threatened to shot Li Hongzhang. Li left the area, eventually Gordon and Li made amends .The ever Victorious Army was disbanded by Li who was suspicious of Ward and Gordon. It was not to play a part in the final battle of Nanjing . While foreign involvement was important in securing Shanghai, it's small size meant it was not a decisive factor in defeating the Taipings .