TaipingRebellion.com 太平天囯 Tai Ping Tian Guo








 The Taiping Eastern Campaign of 1860 




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. Throughout the rebellion, the Taipings had naturally been anxious to obtain possession of some seaport at which they would be enabled to trade with foreigners, and obtain supplies of arms and munitions of war, as the Qing did at the treaty ports. 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 .


After Suzhou had been occupied about three months, the Taipings, relying on the pledges that had been given, marched upon Shanghai to take possession of it, the Qing power being completely crushed after the Jiangnan battle of 1860.


Depending upon the British guarantees and good faith, the Chung-wang—leaving the bulk of his forces to garrison different places, and march against the remaining Manchoos in the field—advanced upon Shanghai himself to treat with the foreign representatives; and expecting no opposition, instead of throwing his large and victorious army rapidly upon the city, simply brought with him a portion of his own body-guard, and some 3,000 irregular troops, more as an escort than for any offensive purpose. On approaching the city, the Li Xiucheng  addressed and forwarded to the Foreign Ministers the following communication


Li Xiucheng message to the foreign envoys in Shanghai


Le, the Loyal King of the Heavenly Dynasty, &c., to the Honourable Envoys, &c.


 "Previous to moving my army from Soo-chow I wrote to you, acquainting you that it would soon reach Shanghai, and that if the residences of your honorable nations and the mercantile establishments would hoist yellow flags as distinguishing marks, I would give immediate orders to my officers and soldiers prohibiting them from entering or disturbing them in any way. As you would consequently have received and perused my letter, I supposed you would act according to the tenor of it. I was not aware, however, until yesterday, that the people of your honourable nations had erected churches in other places in the prefecture of Sung-keang in which they taught the Gospels, when my army, being at the town of Sze-king, fell in with a body of imps (Imperialists), who resisted its progress, when my soldiers attacked and destroyed a number of them. Among these imps there were four foreigners, one of whom my soldiers killed, as they did not know to what country he belonged. However, in order to maintain my good faith to treat foreigners well, I caused the soldier who had killed the foreigner to be at once executed, thus keeping my word. "


Afterwards, seeing that there was a church at Sze-king, I then knew for the first time that the people of your honorable nations came there to teach the Gospel, and that although they had not hoisted a yellow flag, they had not been assisting the imps.


 "But though the past is done with, precautions can be taken for the future. My army is now about to proceed directly to Shanghai, and in the towns or villages through which it will pass, should there be churches, I earnestly hope that you will give orders to the people of them to stand at the doors to give information that they are churches, so that there may be no mistakes in future.


"My forces have already arrived at Tseih-paen, and they will soon reach Shanghai. I therefore earnestly hope that you the honorable envoys will call the people of your nations before you, direct them to close their doors, remain inside, and hoist yellow flags at their houses, when they need have no fear of my soldiers, as I have already given orders to them that they must not, in that case, molest or injure any one. "As soon as I myself arrive, I purpose discussing with you all other business. In the meantime I send this hasty communication, and take the opportunity to inquire after your health.

 "Tai-ping, Tien-kwo, 10th year, 7th moon, 9th day (August 18th, 1860)."


The British superintendent of trade, Frederick Wright-Bruce ( 1814 1867 ) issued following proclamation in response


"The undersigned issues this special proclamation, &c.


"Shanghai is a port open to foreign trade, and the native dealers residing therein have large transactions with the foreigners who resort to the place to carry on their business. Were it to become the scene of attack and civil war, commerce would receive a severe blow, and the interests of those, whether foreign or native, who wish to pursue their peaceful avocations in quiet, would suffer great loss.


"The undersigned will therefore call upon the commanders of Her Majesty's naval and military authorities to take proper measures to prevent the inhabitants of Shanghai from being exposed to massacre and pillage, and to lend their assistance to put down any insurrectionary movements among the ill-disposed, and to protect the city against any attack.


(Signed) "Fredk. W. A. Bruce.


"Shanghai, May 26, 1860."


When the Li Xiucheng had arrived within a short distance of Shanghai, Mr. Bruce, forwarded the following despatch:



"Reports having reached us of an armed force having been collected in the neighborhood of Shanghai, we, the commanders of the military and naval forces of her Britannic Majesty at Shanghai, hereby give notice that the city of Shanghai and foreign settlement are militarily occupied by the forces of her Britannic Majesty and her ally the Emperor of the French; and they warn all persons that, if armed bodies of men attack or approach the positions held by them, they will be considered as commencing hostilities against the allied forces, and will be dealt with accordingly. "


Shanghai, August 16, 1860."


The Taipings did not receive this latest dispatch . Unprepared for foreign hostility, the Ti-pings, upon the 18th of August, appeared before Shanghai, and driving in the Qing outposts advanced with a run to the walls, perfectly unacquainted with the fact that they were manned by English and French soldiers. Instead of the friendly reception always given by the Taipings to foreigners, and which they expected would now be returned, they were met with a storm of shot, shell, and musketry. The Taipings were ordered not to return fire . Although several hundred of their comrades were mowed down by the savages on the walls, never retaliated with a single shot, but even permitted two guns to be placed in a commanding position from which they were subsequently used against them with fatal effect. An estimated 300 Taipings were killed in this action .


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 16,1860 and 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.


English troops fight the Taipings in the Shanghai area


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 .


Li Xiucheng's palace in Suzhou in the Garden of the Humble

 Administrator built in the late 16th century by a Ming Dynasty official . The best-preserved structure left from the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom .

It was added to UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage list in the 1990s .

There was some fear it would be demolished to make room for a new I.M.Pei designed Suzhou museum .


Death of Ward, Burgevine's dismissal and defection,

Gordon takes over EVA, Fall of Suzhou 


Gordon at Suzhou 1864


The Taiping capital was now encircled by the army of Zeng Guofan , with Li Hongzhang clearing the coastal 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 .


Not all foreigners fought for the Qing in the Taiping Rebellion.

 some also fought for the Taipings. Augustus F Lindley ( 1840 - 1873 ), an

ex-Royal Navy officer stationed in Hong Kong joined the Taipings rising

to the rank of colonel in their ranks . He took part in the battle of

Jiufuzhao 九洑洲決戰 in 1863 under Li Xiucheng . His wife Marie

was a sniper for the Taipings who was killed in action . The image

above shows the battle of Jiufuzhao which Lindley participated in,

commanding a fleet of Taiping gunboats . He latter wrote

Ti Ping Tien Kwoh: or the History of the Taiping Revolution,

which is where this image comes from . Click image for larger view .


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 Cixi in Sept 1862, his wife died shortly afterward of grief .


Gordon's bodyguard from the Ever Victorious Army


After his death, command passed briefly to the temperamental American Henry Burgevine ( 1836 - 1865 ) 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 .


Henry Burgevine photographed

 by Thomas Bradley Harris


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 troops. 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 magic 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.






 Major Defeat of the Qing

Jiangnan Army



 Fall of Nanjing,

The Death of Hong Xiuquan