Battle of the Bogue

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For the 1856 battle, see Battle of the Bogue (1856).
Battle of the Bogue
Part of the First Opium War
Nemesis Attacking a Masked Battery.jpg
The Nemesis attacking a masked battery and war junks behind Anunghoy Island on 23 February
Date 23–26 February 1841
Location Humen, Guangdong, China
Coordinates: 22°47′55″N 113°37′15″E / 22.79861°N 113.62083°E / 22.79861; 113.62083
Result British victory
Belligerents

 United Kingdom

Qing China
Commanders and leaders
James Bremer Guan Tianpei (KIA)
Strength
12 ships
1,037 troops1
30 junks
2,000 troops1
Casualties and losses
5 wounded 500+ killed or wounded
419 guns captured
1 In North Wangtong only.

The Battle of the Bogue was fought between British and Chinese forces in the Pearl River Delta, Guangdong province, China, on 23–26 February 1841 during the First Opium War. The British launched an amphibious attack at the Humen strait (Bogue), capturing the forts on the islands of Anunghoy and North Wangtong. This allowed the fleet to proceed further up the Pearl River towards the city of Canton (Guangzhou), which they captured the following month.

Background[edit]

After the Second Battle of Chuenpi on 7 January 1841, British Plenipotentiary Charles Elliot and Chinese Imperial Commissioner Qishan negotiated the Convention of Chuenpi on 20 January;[1] a condition of which was that the port of Canton (Guangzhou) was to be opened for trade on 2 February. However, no proclamation for the opening of the port appeared. On 11–12 February, Elliot and Qishan met again at the Bogue. Elliot acceded to a further delay (not to exceed ten days) for the treaty to be fairly prepared.[2][3] Commodore James Bremer, commander-in-chief of British forces, wrote in his dispatch:

I must confess that from this moment my faith in the sincerity of the Chinese Commissioner was completely destroyed, my doubts were also strengthened by the reports of the Officers I sent up to the place of meeting, who stated that military works on a great scale were in progress, troops collected on the heights, and camps protected by entrenchments, arising on both sides of the river, and that the island of North Wangtong had become a mass of cannon.[3]

Suspecting warlike intentions on the part of the Chinese, Bremer sailed to the Macao Roads on 13 February to confer with Elliot. He found that the Nemesis was en route to Canton to demand ratification of the convention and had orders to wait until the night of 18 February for an answer. On the morning of 19 February, the Nemesis returned without a reply, and all doubt regarding the hostile intentions of the Chinese ended when the ship came under fire from North Wangtong.[3] Later that evening, Qishan and Elliot's intermediary Paoupang arrived in Macao in a chop-boat, announcing Qishan's refusal to sign the treaty and demanding ten more days to consider it. However, Elliot replied that fair means have been exhausted.[4] Bremer detached the Calliope, Samarang, Herald, Alligator, Modeste, and Sulphur under Captain Thomas Herbert to prevent further defensive preparations.[3] In response, a proclamation from the Lieutenant-Governor of Canton, Eleang, announced a $30,000 reward for the heads of Bremer or Elliot, and $50,000 for anyone who could seize them alive, among other rewards.[3][5]

Battle[edit]

On 23 February, Capt. Thomas Herbert, accompanied by Charles Elliot, sailed to the rear passage of Anunghoy Island aboard the Nemesis, with the Calliope, Samarang, Herald, and Alligator in flotilla. They unexpectedly encountered a masked battery, which immediately opened fire on the British ships. Herbert reported that 30 small Chinese junks and boats were "making off in the greatest confusion; our return fire was rapid and so energetically followed up by landing and pushing on to the attack, that the fort ... was immediately in our possession."[6] The Chinese fled after a slight resistance, whereupon their magazines, a few junks, and some boats were burned. The British captured 60 unmounted guns and 20 mounted guns, which they disabled by breaking the trunnions.[6] There were no British casualties.[7] Herbert reported 20 to 30 Chinese dead.[8] On the same day, former Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu wrote in his diary, "I hear that two small steamers belonging to the rebel English, with several small boats, sailed straight up to T'ai-p'ing-hsü [behind Anson's Bay] in the Bogue, opened fire and set alight a number of peasants' houses, and also the Customs House."[9]

Map of the battle, showing Anunghoy and the Wangtong Islands

Since South Wangtong Island was unfortified by the Chinese, the British set up a battery there to target the forts on North Wangtong Island, which would also distract attention away from the upcoming attack on Anunghoy. Shortly after midday on 25 February, the Nemesis embarked 130 troops of the 37th Madras Native Infantry (MNI) to assist in erecting a mortar battery on the island.[10] In the evening, Capt. W. J. Birdwood of the Madras Sappers and fellow engineer officers, with a working party of Royal and Madras Artillery, covered by the 37th MNI, erected a sand bag battery on a saddle in the middle of the island.[11][12] Two 8-inch iron and one 24-pounder brass howitzer were put in position. During construction, the North Wangtong batteries fired during much of the night but their shots passed mostly above the site and slackened towards 2:00 am.[13]

Chinese drawing of the Anunghoy forts, found in the house of Guan, representing the expected attack of the British

At daylight on 26 February, the three howitzers fired shells and rockets into North Wangtong and occasionally into Anunghoy.[13] British troops were ordered to be ready at 7:00 am,[14] but due to calm weather, the operation was delayed until 11:00 am, when the breeze was strong enough to sail.[15] The fleet began moving into position against the forts on Anunghoy and North Wangtong. In the attack on Anunghoy, Capt. Humphrey Fleming Senhouse of the Blenheim, aided by the Melville, Queen steamer, and four rocket boats,[13] approached the southern fort, dropped its anchor 600 yards (550 m) away, and fired broadsides from its starboard guns. The Melville approached five minutes later off the portside of the Blenheim, sailed within 400 yards (370 m) of the fort, and fired broadsides in quick succession.[16][17] A British officer wrote, "The firing of these ships was most splendid: nothing could withstand their deadly aim ... One or two shot were sufficient for the 'dragon-hearted' defenders of the north fort, who, 'letting' off their guns, fled up the hills."[17] After bombarding and silencing the Anunghoy batteries, Senhouse landed on the southern battery with about 300 marines and men carrying small arms to clear out the few remaining defenders. Within two hours, the Anunghoy forts were seized.[13][18] Chinese Adm. Guan Tianpei was among the estimated 250 killed or wounded in Anunghoy. After his family identified his body the next day, the Blenheim fired a minute-gun salute in his honour as his body was taken away.[19]

In the attack on North Wangtong, the Wellesley, Calliope, Samarang, Druid, Herald, Alligator, and Modeste targeted the batteries on the south, southwest and northwest of the island,[20] which was occupied by 2,000 Chinese defenders.[21] In less than an hour, the Wangtong batteries were silenced and under the command of Maj. Thomas Simson Pratt, 1,037 troops from the 26th and 49th regiments, 37th MNI, Bengal Volunteers, and Royal Marines landed on Wangtong.[20][22] Within minutes, the British captured the island and 1,300 Chinese surrendered.[20] An estimated 250 Chinese were killed or wounded in Wangtong.[19] 339 artillery pieces were captured from both islands on the day.[23] In total, five British were wounded.[13][24] Lin wrote in his records, "I got home at the Hour of the Monkey [3 p.m.] ... and when night came heard that the Bogue forts and those on Wantung Island were being invested, preparatory to attack, by the English rebels. I at once went with Deng to Qishan's office and at the Hour of the Rat [11 p.m.] we heard that the Wantung, Yung-an and Kung-ku forts have fallen. All night I could not sleep."[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 327
  2. ^ Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 328
  3. ^ a b c d e Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, pp. 329–330
  4. ^ Bingham 1843, p. 47
  5. ^ The Chinese Repository, vol. 10, p. 175
  6. ^ a b Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 331
  7. ^ Bernard & Hall 1847, p. 113
  8. ^ Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 332
  9. ^ a b Waley 1958, pp. 138–139
  10. ^ Bernard & Hall 1847, pp. 114–115
  11. ^ Vibart 1883, p. 141
  12. ^ Ouchterlony 1844, p. 112
  13. ^ a b c d e Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, pp. 274–275
  14. ^ Bernard & Hall 1847, p. 116
  15. ^ Ouchterlony 1844, p. 113
  16. ^ Bingham 1843, p. 58
  17. ^ a b Bingham 1843, p. 59
  18. ^ The United Service Journal 1841, pp. 523–524
  19. ^ a b Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 276
  20. ^ a b c Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 334
  21. ^ Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 338
  22. ^ Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 339
  23. ^ Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 342
  24. ^ Bulletins of State Intelligence 1841, p. 340

References[edit]