Second Battle of Chuenpee
The Second Battle of Chuenpee[nb 1] was fought between British and Chinese forces at the Bocca Tigris, China, on 7 January 1841 during the First Opium War. The British captured the forts on the islands of Chuenpee and Tycocktow. The battle led to negotiations between British Plenipotentiary Charles Elliot and Chinese Imperial Commissioner Qishan in the Convention of Chuenpee. Elliot declared, among other arrangements, the cession of Hong Kong Island to the British Empire.
In October 1840, the Daoguang Emperor fired Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu and replaced him with Qishan. British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston instructed Plenipotentiary Charles Elliot to have the ports of Canton, Amoy, Fuzhou, Ningpo, and Shanghai be opened for trade, to acquire the cession of an island or islands (or if the Chinese refused, the establishment of a secure English enclave on the mainland), and to be paid money for confiscated opium and military costs in China. On 1 December 1840, Elliot wrote to Palmerston that these demands would be secured in ten days. Three days after the deadline, Elliot wrote to Governor-General of India Lord Auckland that he failed to get the concessions, but still predicted success. He then conceded to Auckland that any success would be "far short of the demands of the government."
In negotiations with Qishan, Elliot wanted $7 million in six years and the surrender of Amoy and Chusan as permanent British possessions. Qishan offered $5 million over twelve years, so they agreed to $6 million. However, Qishan refused Elliot's territorial demands. Elliot offered to abandon Chusan (which the British captured in July 1840) for another port to be chosen later. After Qishan rejected the offer, Elliot told him, "There are very large forces collected here, and delays must breed amongst them a very great impatience." The year passed with no final settlements. An opium ship that sailed to Canton delivered a rumour that the emperor decided to wage war. On 5 January 1841, Elliot prepared for an attack on Canton. He informed Qishan that an attack would commence in two days if agreements could not be reached. He allowed Commodore James Bremer, commander-in-chief of the British forces, to make offensive operations.
British operations began at 8:00 am on 7 January from Sampanchow Island, 3 miles (4.8 km) below the first forts. By 9:00 am, 504 Royal Marines, 33 Royal Artillery, 104 troops of the 26th and 49th regiments, 607 troops of the 37th Madras Native Infantry, 76 Bengal volunteers, and 137 seamen from the Wellesley, Blenheim, and Melville landed 2 miles (3.2 km) below the Chuenpee batteries unopposed. An additional 30 seamen operated a 24 pound (11 kg) howitzer and two 6 pound (2.7 kg) field guns. Major Thomas Simson Pratt of the 26th regiment commanded the land force of about 1,500 men. About 2,000 Chinese men defended Chuenpee.
After advancing 1.5 miles (2.4 km), the British spotted the upper fort and an entrenchment, with a deep ditch outside and a breastwork around it. Upon spotting the British, the Chinese cheered, waved their flags in defiance, and opened fire from the batteries. The British cannons, which were placed on the crest of the hill, commenced firing. The Chinese returned fire for about 20 minutes. The Queen and Nemesis steamers (under Captain Edward Belcher) fired shells into the upper fort while the Calliope, Hyacinth, and Larne ships (under Captain Thomas Herbert) attacked the lower fort. In less than an hour, the Chinese batteries were silenced. By 10:00 am, the upper fort was captured, and the lower fort was surrounded and stormed by royal marines. After the capture, Nemesis attacked a fleet of about 15 junks under Admiral Kuan T'ien-p'ei in Anson's Bay.[nb 2] The ship fired a Congreve rocket that struck a junk near the admiral. A British officer gave his account of the incident:
The very first rocket fired from the Nemesis was seen to enter the large junk ... and almost the instant afterwards it blew up with a terrific explosion, launching into eternity every soul on board, and pouring forth its blaze like the mighty rush of fire from a volcano. The instantaneous destruction of the huge body seemed appalling to both sides engaged. The smoke, and flame, and thunder of the explosion, with the broken fragments falling round, and even portions of dissevered bodies scattering as they fell, were enough to strike with awe, if not fear, the stoutest heart that looked upon it.
At about 11:30 am, the Chinese hauled down their flags on board the junks. Captain James Scott of the Samarang commanded the attack on Tycocktow Island (west of Chuenpee). The forts began firing at the British vessels at 10:20 am. The Samarang returned fire ten minutes later after anchoring 200 yards (180 m) away. The Modeste, Druid, and Columbine later anchored in succession. Scott reported that "in a few minutes, so destructive and well directed was the fire of our ships, that that of the enemy was silenced, with the exception of an occasional gun or two." At 11:20 am, the ships proceeded to land and storm the forts. The Chinese remained in them until it was stormed by the British boat crews. The Chinese could not withstand the British muskets during hand-to-hand combat. After capturing the forts, the Chinese guns were spiked and thrown into the river.
In total, 38 British were wounded. British sources put Chinese casualties and losses from 500 to 600 killed, 200 to 300 wounded, 11 junks destroyed, and 191 ordnances captured. 100 prisoners who laid down their arms were released the next day. According to Qing scholar Wei Yuan, Kuan sent Rear-Admiral Li T'ing-Yü to Canton to request more troops, which the "whole official body" supported except Qishan, who spent the night writing peace proposals.
Elliot sent a Chinese prisoner to Kuan, with a letter explaining "the usages of civilized warfare" and that if the forts did not hoist their colours the next day, they would not be attacked. At 11:30 am on 8 January, British ships led by the Blenheim sailed up the Bocca Tigris. As they approached Anunghoy Island (north of Chuenpee), a boat, which was rowed by an old woman, displayed a white flag. A man from the ship was taken on board a British vessel to deliver a request from Kuan that hostilities be suspended for three days to contact Qishan. The attack was annulled and Lieutenant John Ouchterlony wrote that it "certainly created a feeling of great disappointment throughout the fleet." Elliot addressed the meeting in a circular aboard the Wellesley: "A communication has been received from the Chinese commander-in-chief, which has led to an armistice, with the purpose to afford the high commissioner time to consider certain conditions now offered for his acceptance."
On 20 January, after the Convention of Chuenpee, Elliot announced "the conclusion of preliminary arrangements" between Qishan and himself. They involved the cession of Hong Kong Island to the United Kingdom, a $6 million indemnity to the British government, direct and equal ties between the countries, and the trade in Canton to be opened within ten days after the Chinese new year. They also agreed to the restoration of Chuenpee and Tycocktow to the Chinese, and the evacuation of Chusan. On 26 January, the Union Flag was raised on Hong Kong, and Bremer took formal possession of the island, under a feu de joie from the marines and a royal salute from the men-of-war ships. On 29 January, Elliot proclaimed that Chinese natives "shall be governed according to the laws and customs of China, every description of torture excepted" and that "all British subjects and foreigners residing, or resorting to the island of Hongkong, shall enjoy full security and protection, according to the principles and practice of British law".
When the news reached the emperor, he ordered Qishan to be "degraded from his office" and to stand trial at the Board of Punishments. Qishan faced several charges including giving "the barbarians Hongkong as a dwelling place". In his response, he claimed, "I pretended to do so from the mere force of circumstances, and to put them off for a time, but had no such serious intention." The court denounced him as a traitor and sentenced him to death. He was imprisoned for several months, but by the end of 1841, he was allowed, without authority or rank, to deal with the British. On 21 April 1841, Lord Palmerston wrote a letter of reprimand to Elliot and recalled him for not securing the earlier demands. Palmerston dismissed Hong Kong as "a barren island with hardly a house upon it." Henry Pottinger was appointed to replace Elliot as plenipotentiary in May 1841.
The Chinese business vexes us much, and Palmerston is deeply mortified at it. All we wanted might have been got, if it had not been for the unaccountably strange conduct of Charles Elliot ... who completely disobeyed his instructions and tried to get the lowest terms he could. [...] The attack and storming of the [Chuenpee] Forts on the 7th of January was very gallantly done by the Marines, and immense destruction of the Chinese took place. The accounts of the cruelty of the Chinese to one another are horrible. Albert is so much amused at my having got the Island of Hong Kong, and we think Victoria ought to be called Princess of Hong Kong in addition to Princess Royal.
- Hanes & Sanello 2004, p. 116
- Hanes & Sanello 2004, p. 117
- Le Pichon 2006, p. 39
- Hanes & Sanello 2004, p. 118
- Mackenzie 1842, p. 14
- The Chinese Repository vol. 10, p. 37
- The Annual Register 1842, p. 470
- Hall & Bernard 1844, p. 119
- Haussmann 1853, p. 424
- The Annual Register 1842, p. 468
- Hall & Bernard 1844, p. 126
- Hall & Bernard 1844, p. 127
- The Annual Register 1842, p. 472
- The Chinese Repository vol. 10, p. 41
- MacPherson 1843, p. 267
- The Annual Register 1842, p. 469
- The Chinese Repository vol. 9, p. 648
- Belcher 1843, p. 144
- The Asiatic Journal vol. 35, p. 153
- Parker 1888, p. 25
- Bingham 1843, p. 30
- Mackenzie 1842, p. 25
- Ouchterlony 1844, pp. 100–101
- Mackenzie 1842, pp. 25–26
- MacPherson 1843, p. 72
- The Chinese Repository vol. 11, p. 578
- The Chinese Repository vol. 10, p. 63
- The Annual Register 1842, p. 473
- Belcher 1843, p. 148
- The Chinese Repository vol. 10, p. 64
- Martin 1847, p. 66
- Davis 1852, p. 50
- Davis 1852, pp. 51–52
- Le Pichon 2006, p. 40
- Benson & Esher 1907, p. 329
- Hoe & Roebuck 1999, p. xviii
- Hall & Bernard 1844, p. 125
- The Annual Register, or a View of the History, and Politics, of the Year 1841 (1842). J. G. F. & J. Rivington.
- The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China, and Australasia (1841). Volume 35. Wm. H. Allen and Co.
- Belcher, Edward (1843). Narrative of a Voyage Round the World. Volume 2. Henry Colburn.
- Benson, Arthur Christopher; Esher, Viscount (1907). The Letters of Queen Victoria. Volume 1. Longmans, Green, and Co.
- Bingham, John Elliot (1843). Narrative of the Expedition to China, from the Commencement of the War to Its Termination in 1842 (2nd ed.). Volume 2. Henry Colburn.
- The Chinese Repository (1840). Volume 9.
- The Chinese Repository (1841). Volume 10.
- The Chinese Repository (1842). Volume 11.
- Davis, John Francis (1852). China, During the War and Since the Peace. Volume 1. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
- Hall, William Hutcheon; Bernard, William Dallas (1844). Narrative of the Voyages and Services of the Nemesis from 1840 to 1843 (2nd ed.). Henry Colburn.
- Hanes, William Travis; Sanello, Frank (2004). The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another. Sourcebooks. ISBN 1-4022-0149-4.
- Haussmann, Auguste (1853). "A French Account of the War in China". Colburn's United Service Magazine, and Naval and Military Journal (1853, Part 1). Colburn & Co.
- Hoe, Susanna; Roebuck, Derek (1999). The Taking of Hong Kong: Charles and Clara Elliot in China Waters. Curzon Press. ISBN 0-7007-1145-7.
- Le Pichon, Alain (2006). China Trade and Empire. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-726337-2.
- Mackenzie, Keith Stewart (1842). Narrative of the Second Campaign in China. Richard Bentley.
- MacPherson, Duncan (1843). Two Years in China (2nd ed.). Saunders and Otley.
- Martin, Robert Montgomery (1847). China: Political, Commercial, and Social; In an Official Report to Her Majesty's Government. Volume 2. James Madden
- Ouchterlony, John (1844). The Chinese War. Saunders and Otley.
- Parker, Edward Harper (1888). Chinese Account of the Opium War. Kelly & Walsh.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Second Battle of Chuenpee.|