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  Major Defeat of the Qing Jiangnan Army 1860

May 3, 1860 at Jiangnan (Outside Nanjing )


"Defeat of the Tartar Calvary"

From : Ti-Ping Tien-Kwoh The History of

 the Ti-Ping Revolution

Augustus F. Lindley  1866




Map of the Battle of Jiangnan, click to enlarge .


Gloomy, indeed were the prospects of the Taipings at the opening of the year 1860. The garrison of Nanjing, reduced to less than 20,000 men by the continual reinforcements sent to the Northern expedition and Jiangxi where Shi Daikai was fighting  and Li Xiucheng in Anhui. The large Qing army of Jiangnan 江南 ( also spelled Kiangnan) force of 200,000, the Green Standard Army, had been besieging Nanjing since 1858 . Nanjing was cut off from all communication with its armies in the field by a series of works constructed by the Qing . Large fleets of Imperialist war-junks blockaded the river communication of the city from below, while, far as the eye could reach, over hill and valley, the many-bannered hosts of the besieging army occupied the whole surrounding country. It seemed but a question of a few weeks more whether the Imperialists would attack in force or starvation would exterminate the Taipings in Nanjing . At no time in their history, had their cause been threatened by so imminent a danger, and at no time had their movements been so skillfully conducted, as during the three months preceding the relief of Nanjing. The tactics first adopted were those of distracting the attention of the besiegers, and obliging them to detach portions of their force.


Scene of an earlier Qing siege of Nanjing in 1856 .

Painting done on silk . Click image to see full size .

From the Library of Congress .

The armies of Shi Dakai and Li Xiucheng were recalled by forded marches which placed them behind the besieging forces and threatened to cut off their communication and supply from the north .  Detaching a strong column to threaten the cities of Suzhou and Zhangzhou, the principal depots of the enemy, he hurried his main body by forced marches to the Zhejiang province capital Hangzhou, and, after heavy fighting, upon the 19th of March mined the walls, and obtained possession of the outer city. The Qing garrison, after holding out in the inner Tartar city for six days, were succoured by a considerable force from Jiangsu, which joining them, recovered the city. The Taipings retired , after inflicting severe losses . 


Meanwhile, Shidakai, concentrating his forces upon the Jiangxi frontier, also invaded Zhejiang province, but from a point more to the south. descending the Qiantang River river to Hangzhou, he suddenly turned north, and joined with the army of  Li Xiucheng . This strategy, however, did not have the anticipated effect, and the Qing army, besieging Nanjing, continued to direct their main efforts to the recapture of that city. The Taiping garrison there , in consequence, became reduced to the greatest straits . Xiuyuan taught them to call upon God in hymns as the sure means of deliverance from their pressing danger.


At last, finding it impossible to effect the relief of the capital by distant operations, it became imperative to assemble an army of relief without delay. Arrangements were made for a simultaneous attack by the armies in the field, and a sortie in force by the garrison. The combined forces of the Shi Dakai and Li Xiucheng marched directly upon the rear of the besieging army, and on the 3rd of May, the garrison sallying forth from each gate of the city, according to preconcerted signal, the advanced guard of the approaching army burst through the Qing lines, and effected a junction with them. The day  was bitterly cold, and, taking advantage of a thick snowstorm, the  army of relief  had, by a successful raid of 20,000 horses, been mounted for the occasion — made their charge with complete success.This is one of the few times the Taipings used cavalry .


The entire force turned upon the Imperialist army. The right and left wing of the besiegers, considerably distant from the center through which the Taiping cavalry had charged, and, moreover, unable to perceive the movements taking place, through the snow-storm and gray light of the morning, and being informed only of the sortie, moved forward upon the city, confident in their numbers, and expecting to easily drive back the weakened garrison, and enter the city with them.


Meanwhile, leaving a detachment with the troops from the city to hold their ground, the Taiping cavalry charged straight back upon the enemy's center, and falling upon them while they were still reforming and in confusion, drove them off the field with tremendous slaughter. Then, forming into two bodies, they attacked each wing of the Qing army, which, having discovered the arrival of reinforcements to the garrison, was now retreating . It was at this critical moment the Taiping cavalry, after literally riding over the reserves in rear of the lines, came down upon them. Pressed by the attack of the garrison in their rear, and unable to cross the creeks and ditches in face of the cavalry in any order, the carnage became fearful. All the trenches, dug by their own hands, were choked by the bodies of the Qing soldiers — scarcely a man  escaped. When the work of slaughter could be safely entrusted to the garrison alone, the cavalry followed in pursuit of the retreating enemy. The whole Taiping army having now arrived upon the field, the rout of the Qing became total - arms, flags, ammunition, and provisions, everything ,were abandoned . In the wildest panic its Qing remnants fled for refuge to the district city of Danyang .It is estimated that they an estimated 40,00 - 60,000 men during the action and pursuit. The country for many miles was covered with their bodies, which also filled the creeks .Vigorously following up their successes, town after town, including that of Danyang, fell into the hands of the Taipings. Several Qing armies marched from Suzhou and other cities to oppose them, but in each case were totally defeated .


Zhang Guoliang


Commanding Qing Field Marshal Zhang Guoliang ( 1810 - 1860 ) 張國樑 , is said to have committed suicide outside Danyang .


The large Qing Jiangnan ( also spelled Kiangnan) force of 200,000, the Green Standard Army, had been besieging Nanjing since 1858. There were only an estimated 20,000 Taiping soldiers inside the city, and it seemed certain that by 1860 Nanjing would be taken. On May 2, the armies of Li Xiucheng and Shi Dakai came upon the rear of the Qing force and routed the Qing, who lost an estimated 60,000 men and many of their top Manchu commanders . This is one of the few times the Taipings used cavalry, having captured about 20,000 horses prior to the battle .  


Cixi Appoints reformer Zeng Guofan commander 


Zeng Guofan


This shocking major defeat when they were expecting victory caused the Qing leadership led Cixi, the defacto leader of China, as the emperor was a child, to appoint the top military leader based on merit. Zen Goufan, was appointed the Gov of the Liangkiang area and supreme military commander . Unlike most previous supreme Qing military leaders, he was not a Manchu but Han Chinese. He had scored one of the few Qing victories against the Taipings with an army he raised in defense of Hunan and came to the notice of the court . Once Zeng was in power, he raised like minded reformist to high command, such as Li-Hongzhang of Anhui and Zuo Zongtang of Hunan.


Zeng Guofan and the Hunan Army 


Xiang Army


The eventual suppression of the rebellion was largely due to Zeng Guofan  曾國藩(1811-72) . A Han Chinese native of Hunan, passed the highest level of civil exams. When the Taipings invaded Hunan, here started his own armed force to fight them. After early reverses, retook Changsha, and destroyed the rebel fleet and made war commissioner and viceroy Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Anhui .  When the Taipings advanced into Hunan, took command of a military force to battle the Taipings. Zeng recognized the weaknesses of the Manchu banner armies, particularly the need for personal relationships between Officers and their soldiers, discipline and training. The Manchus moved their officers about to keep them from building up a power base . He created the Hunan army called the  Xiang Army  湘軍, the model for later provincial armies, which were not part of the Manchu banner system 八旗  . His Hunan army stressed officer-soldier relationships and  Confucian  values . As to not raise the suspicion of Manchu officials, he placed a Manchu in a major command position .The Hunan Army grew to a size of about 130,000.The Hunan Army faced a serious defeat at San-ho-chen or San He in Anhui, in 1858, but went on to win many victories later.






 The Northern


Shi Daikai

into Jiangxi  


 The Taiping The

Eastern Campaign of