Battle of Shanghai (1861)

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Battle of Shanghai (1861)
Part of Taiping Rebellion
Date July 1861–November 1862
Location Shanghai western, southern and Pudong
Result Decisive Qing Dynasty victory
Southeast China
Qing dynasty Qing Dynasty
France French Empire
 United Kingdom
 United States
Taiping Heavenly Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Qing dynasty Li Hongzhang
Qing dynasty Cheng Xueqi
Qing dynasty Huang Yisheng (黃翼昇)
Qing dynasty Pan Dingxin (潘鼎新)
Qing dynasty Guo Songlin (郭松林)
Qing dynasty Liu Mingchuan
France Auguste Léopold Protet  
United Kingdom James Hope
United States Frederick Townsend Ward
United States Edward Forrester
Li Xiucheng
Tan Shaoguang
Li Rongfa
Ji Qingyuan (吉慶元)
Chen Kunshu
Chen Bingwen (陳炳文)
Gao Yongkuan (郜永寬)
40,000 Green Standard Army
20,000 Huai Army
3,000 Ever Victorious Army
France 4,000
United Kingdom 3,000
Casualties and losses
10,000 deaths 25,000 deaths

The Battle of Shanghai (太平軍二攻上海) was a major engagement of the Taiping Rebellion that occurred from June 1861 to July 1862. British and French troops used modern artillery on a large scale for the first time in China. Cannon fire inflicted heavy casualties on the Taiping forces, whose commander Li Xiucheng was wounded in the left leg by a shot fired from a cannon.


Shanghai had been occupied by the initial wave of the Taiping Rebellion in 1851 but was recovered by the Qing in February 1853.[1]

In June 1860 a Taiping army of 20,000 led by Lai Wenguang had attacked Shanghai and reoccupied it[citation needed] for five months before withdrawing. In early 1861 Li Xiucheng was in control of Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, commanding over 600,000 Taiping troops. He aimed to capture the large but isolated city, one of the most important cities under the Qing government and home to an international port. At Li Xiucheng's request the UK and France had promised to maintain neutrality.

By 11 June 1861 the Taiping Army was able to muster five armies, commanded by Tan Shaoguang, Li Rongfa, Ji Qingyuan, Chen Kunshu, and Chen Bingwen, organized under two fronts, and other units.

The commander of the Imperial Green Standard Army was Huang Yisheng, under the direction of Shanghai's taotai Wu Xu (吳煦). The Huai Army militia were led by Li Hongzhang.

First stage[edit]

Taiping's Lt. Gen. Li Rongfa began the battle[when?] with an invasion of Pudong by 20,000 men, transported in thousands of boats. Upon his occupation of the whole district the city requested help from the British and French. In October (according to the Chinese calendar), the American Frederick Townsend Ward brought 2,000 Filipino and Chinese soldiers, whom he had trained, against the Taiping forces.

Following a 15-day Christmas ceasefire called by Li Rongfa, the government of Shanghai asked Beijing for assistance in December. In response the Huai Army with its 20,000 soldiers was sent to reinforce Shanghai immediately.

Middle stage[edit]

On 10 April 1862 (according to the Chinese calendar), Li Hongzhang was promoted to governor of Jiangsu province, of which Shanghai was a part. Five days later, the Huai Army began their counterattack on Shanghai.

At the same time, the mayor of Jinshan commanded 5,000 men of the Green Standard Army to surround and attack the city of Taicang, which was then occupied by Taiping forces. Li Xiucheng sent 100,000 men to relieve Taicang on 19 April. Despite orders from Li Hongzhang to withdraw, the mayor refused to do so, resulting in the loss of his entire force.

On 29 April, Major General Chen Bingwen occupied Jiading, whose Qing garrison withdrew to Shanghai proper. The Taiping Army then prepared to attack Songjiang and northwestern Shanghai from Jiading. Li Hongzhang ordered Major General Cheng Xueqi, vice-commander of the Huai Army, to counterattack against Chen Bingwen.

On 1 May, Li Rongfa's force surrendered to the Huai Army in Nanhui. Li Hongzhang delegated Brigadier Liu Mingchuan to accept their surrender, provoking Li Rongfa to order Lieutenant General Ji Qingyuan to make a series of attacks against Liu Mingchuan in the district. The failure of these attacks forced Li Rongfa to withdraw from Pudong on 10 May, ending nine months of occupation. The Qing government thus regained control of eastern and southern Shanghai.

On 8 May, Cheng Xueqi launched an assault on the Taiping forces occupying Songjiang, and expelled them after thirteen days of combat.

Last stage[edit]

In September 1862 a Taiping army of 80,000 under the command of Tan Shaoguang mounted a second attack on Shanghai, which was defended by Maj. Gen. Guo Songlin (郭松林) of the Huai Army. The initial assault, led by Chen Bingwen (陳炳文), faltered when Cheng Xueqi destroyed all 20 Taiping camps (one of which accommodated 500 soldiers); Chen Binwen retreated to Sijiangkou (四江口), where he joined Tan Shaoguang.

On 12 September the consolidated Taiping forces, numbering 70,000, struck the Qing again from Taicang and Kunshan. Moving very rapidly, they reached Qingpu, only 5 km from the city, and surrounded 20,000 imperial troops. The Qing fleet commander Huang Esen counterattacked from the river, gaining some ground, but even after reinforcement by the Ever Victorious Army he was unable to make much progress. The Taiping forces used this time to build many floating bridges.

Li Hongzhang arrived to oversee the combat in person, ordering his generals (Cheng, Guo, and Liu) to defeat Tan and relieve the Imperial units surrounded by the Taiping on the northern coast before it was too late. On 21 September Cheng Xueqi, commanding only 6,000 combined Huai Army and Qing naval forces, in eight successive attacks made between 8:00 and 14:00 was finally able to cut off the Taiping Army's retreat. The Huai Army broke out of the enclave on the northern coast, killing over 30,000 Taiping troops. Cheng himself received a serious gunshot wound to the chest, but was rewarded with a promotion to Lieutenant General.

Gen. Tan, accompanied by Brig. Gau Yongkuan (郜永寬), retreated to Suzhou to prepare its defenses. The Taiping forces launched four more unsuccessful attacks against the defenders, after which Hong Xiuquan ordered the offensive to be halted and the forces to withdraw, ending the battle. The combined forces of the Qing government, the British and the French were victorious, and Taiping permanently abandoned its designs on Shanghai.


Hong Rengan was very opposed to this battle, Hong thought Shanghai was not a military problem.


  • Teng Yuan-chung. Americans and the Taiping Rebellion. 1982. OCLC 10559213
  • Tiān Guó Zhi(天國志)


  1. ^ Williams, S. Wells. The Middle Kingdom: A Survey of the Geography, Government, Literature, Social Life, Arts, and History of the Chinese Empire and its Inhabitants, Vol. 1, p. 107. Scribner (New York), 1904.