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Connection between ACW and Taiping CW

The connection between the American Civil War and the Chinese Taiping Civil War

The connection between the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Chinese Taiping Civil War (1850-1864)
Researched and compiled and written by Gordon Kwok

1. Introduction
2. The Victor of the American Civil War met the Victor of the Chinese Tai Ping Civil War
3. Don't fire at the U.S. flag!
4. Andrew Foote defended his ship
5. Commander of the Ever Victorious Army
6. China attempted to purchase gun-boats made in America
7. The so-called Confederate "Chinese flotilla" ?


Contemporaneous to the American Civil War (ACW) {1861-1865}, half the world away, there fought the Chinese Taiping Civil War {1850-1864}. In the ACW, about 620,000 people died, but in the Taiping rebellion, about twenty million or more people lost their lives. When the Confederates in the ACW surrendered, they went home to resume living. No punishment fell on them (except one, the warden of Andersonville prison camp). When the Taiping rebels surrendered, they lost their heads and lives. There was no forgiveness for the rebels in China. Their full name, Tai Ping Tin Kwok could be translated as the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace. In the ACW, the South seceded. The South had their military advantage first, but later lost the war to the North. In the Taiping rebellion, the rebels also started from the South, Kwang Sai (Guangxi) Province, in 1850, when famine were widespread, and they quickly marched through the southern half of the country, occupying Nanking in 1853. And their movement stalled. The rebels did send an army attempting to march to Peking, but were stopped at Tianjin (Tin Juen), and the rebels had to turn back. The Taiping had not put all of their effort to defeat the Ching Government, that occupied the remaining half of the country in the North. The rebels' foreign ideology alienated the conservative Confucius intellectual class. The rebel leader, Hung Sau-Chuen (Hong Xiu-Quan), claimed that he is the younger brother of Jesus, and son of God. Hung also started to keep a harem, enjoying songs, dances, wine, banquets and jewelry. They crowned themselves kings ("wong"). Hung Sau Chuen gave up most the control of the administration of his movement. Instead of acting as a "Chief Executive Officer", Hung, more or less, acted as a "Chairman of the Board", leaving the detail to his underlings and diminished his direct involvement. The rebels controlled the cities, and did not consolidate their holding in the countryside. Hung also gave a chance to the Ching Government to re-group, re-organized and fought back, and eventually, the Government successfully suppressed the rebellion. If the Taiping rebels had learned from history, and followed the same military strategy of the Ming driving out the Mongols, they would have been successful. But they virtually stopped overthrowing the Ching Dynasty, and started to enjoy luxury lives, and turned to power struggle among themselves. The internal conflict (civil wars among the Civil War) sapped their strength and weakened their resolution. Instead of concentrating their effort to fight the Ching regime, they fought among themselves in internal power struggle and backstabbing. Their unity vanished. Eventually the Taiping rebels were crushed piece by piece.

{General reference: Jonathan D. Spence, God's Chinese Son, The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong XiuQuan, W.W. Norton & Company, New York}

A Chinese proverb says, "Zing Jug Wai Wong; Bui Jug Wai Kau", which could be loosely tranlated as, [if] successful, [one] would become [an] Emperor; [if] defeated, [one] would become [a] bandit. So Chu Yuen-Cheong became the founding Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, respected and honored by many; while Hung Sau-Chuen ended up to be a bandit, losing his life.

In the study of the American Civil War and the Chinese Taiping Civil War, the webmaster discovered there were some very interesting connection between the two wars, even though they were half the world apart and apparently not related. But the webmaster found out there were some threads connecting the two Wars, and the webmaster would like to compile those episodes and shared them with the readers.

The Victor of the American Civil War met the Victor of the Chinese Taiping Civil War

After General Ulysses S. Grant defeated the Confederates, he went on to serve a two-term Presidency in the United States. After that, Grant decided to take a trip around the world {1877-1879}. Grant and his family visited Europe, Asia Minor, India and the Far East, including South-East Asia, China and Japan. Grant visited China in May, 1879. In Tientsin, General Grant met the famous viceroy Li Hung-chang, probably the most eminent man in China.

The General who suppressed the Tai Ping rebels was Tsang Kwok-Faun, and his lieutenant was Li Hung-chang (Lee Hung-Cheong). By the time when Grant visited China, Tsang Kwok-Faun had passed away. And so the living commander of the Ching Army was General Li Hung-chang, who also suppressed another subsequent rebellion of the White Lotus sect. Viceroy Li represented China to receive foreign diplomats. As the result of his contribution to suppress the Tai Ping Rebellion, General Li became a "nobleman with the rank of earl, grand secretary of state, guardian of the heir-apparent, head of the War Office and of the Chinese Armies, and director of the coast defenses. Finally, he was in command of the province which guarded the road to Peking, the most honarable viceroyalty in the empire."

Viceroy Li admired General Grant, who also expressed the mutual feeling. They met several times more and discussed the possible development of China. Grant also met Prince Kung, Prince Regent of the Empire.

General Ulysses S. Grant commented on his impression of the Chinese,"My own visit has ........ been under the most favorable circumstances for seeing the people and studying their institution. My impression is a very favorable one. The Chinese are enduring, patient to the last degree, industrious, and have brought living down to a minimum. By their shrewdness and economy they have monopolized nearly all the carrying trade, coastwise, of the East, and are driving out all the other merchants. Through India, Malacca, Siam, and the islands from the shores of Africa to Japan, they are the mechanics, market gardeners, stevedores, small traders, servants, and in all callings that contribute to material progress. The Chinese are not a military power......... But they have the elements of a strong, great, and independent empire, and may, before many years roll around, assert their power. The leading men thoroughly appreciate their weakness, but understand the history of Turkey, Egypt, and other powers that have made rapid strides toward the new civilization on borrowed capital and under foreign management and control. They know what the result of all that interference has been so far as national independence is concerned. The idea of those leading men of China with whom I have conversed ---- and I have seen most of those in the government of the empire ---- is to gradually educate a sufficient number of their own people to fill all places in the development of railroads, manufactories, telegraphs, and all those elements of civilization so new to them but common and even old with us. Then the Chinese, with their own people to do the work, and with their own capital, will commence a serious advance ................"

{Reference: Ulysses S. Grant 3rd, Ulysses S. Grant, Warrior and Stateman, William Morrow & Company, New York, 1969}

Don't fire at the U.S. flag!

A footnote in History ---- Future American Civil War (1861-1865) veteran was linked to the Chinese Tai Ping Civil War (1850-1864) conflict

In 1854, USS Susquehanna visited Shanghai, China. (USS Susquehanna was part of the fleet commanded by Commodore Perry visiting Japan.) (This is the same battleship that Hong Neok Woo took passage to the United States.) Its captain was Frank Buchanan who corresponded with the Tai Ping (rebels) force in Nanking (Nanjing), along the Yangtze river. The Tai Ping occupying troops were not familiar with the flags of foreign vessels, and constantly suspicious that the Ching (Qing) Government forces might be traveling in their wake or under their protection, fire warning shots as USS Susquehanna approached Nanking, along the Yangtze.

That prompted the upset commanding officer of USS Susquehanna to write a communication to the Chinese Rebels.
"Sir, ------
I will tomorrow morning send a boat on shore at 11 a.m. for the answer to my communication delivered to you today by an officer of this ship, and I have to insist that this answer shall contain a full and satisfactory apology for the heedless and insulting demonstration, of your battery, on shore this morning. If the fullest and the most satisfactory apology is not made by you in response to my demand, I shall not hesitate on my return from Nanking, to resist the insult offered to the Flag of the U.S.

At one o'clock tomorrow I shall weigh anchor and proceed to Nanking, and then represent to your Ruler Taiping-Wan the insolenceof those at Chin-Kiang-Fu, who have been so insensible to the properties and obligations of friendly natural intercourse, and the respect which the Flag of the U.S. must always command, more especially from those whom we have fully informed of the friendly and neutral character of that Flag, as you were by me, in my communication of this morning.

I send you here enclosing a drawing of the Flag of the U.S., that you may never mistake it thereafter.

Very respectfully
Your obdt. Servt.
Frank L. Buchanan (1854)"

{Source: Caleb Carr, The Devil Soldier: The story of Frederick Townsend Ward, Random House, New York}

Time passed, and eight years later........

This time, America was involved in her own Civil War.

In 1862, down in Hampton Roads (a sea lane), another Naval History was made. The same Frank Buchanan (Franklin Buchanan) commanded the Rebel ironclad CSS Virgina (former USS Merrimack), ramming the U.S. frigate Cumberland with U.S. Flag flying, and firing and burning the U.S. frigate Congress with U.S. Flag flying. And on the next day, he dual with the Union ironclad USS Monitor.

How ironic! He who scold someone firing at the U.S. Flag, and who himself, fired at the U.S. Flag eight years later.

Again, two years later, in August 1864, Franklin Buchanan, in defending Rebel territory Mobile Bay, fired at the Star and Stripes, the Union attacking fleet, commanded by Flag Officer David Farragut. How ironic!

Andrew Foote defended his ship

In 1856, while commanding at Canton, China, Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote led a small naval force which captured the four barrier forts in reprisal for acts against the American flag.

{Source: re/Andrew Hull Foote, Pre-CW service ----- Columbia Encyclopedia, researched by Joseph Geden, member of the Olde Colony Civil War Round Table.}

Commanding Officer (Andrew Hull Foote) of USS Portsmouth, in Canton, China, 1856-58, led 327 marines and sailors against several thousand Chinese after Chinese nationals fired on ships flying American flag.

{Source: H.T. Encyclopedia--CW, researched by Joseph Geden, member of the Olde Colony Civil War Round Table.}

{Webmaster's notes on the background of the story:} When the Tai Ping rebellion began in China, the foreigners at first took the neutral attitude. But when the rebels marched close to the Treaty Ports, to Shanghai, they had to made a decision. And the foreigners decided to protect their immediate interest, and sided with the Ching Government, and against the rebels. British and French gun-boats patrolled the Yangtze river, protecting their interest. Therefore, the Tai Ping army learned that whenever they saw gun-boats flying foreign flags, they would assume that those would be hostile force against them. Even though United States was a neutral country and had no quarrel with either the Ching Government or the Tai Ping rebels, the Tai Ping would not care to find out the fine distinction which country the flag represented, and fired at all foreign-looking flags and ships. That was why the rebels fired at the American flag, a neutral country at that time. The rebels occupied the southern half of China, including Canton, state capital of Kwangtung Province.

During the American Civil War, Union Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote commanded the "Western Flotilla" (Later it was known as the Mississippi Squadron) and captured Fort Henry with his men, before the arrival of General Ulysses S. Grant and his troops in 1862. Foote sailed his fleet to Fort Donelson, but was repulsed by the Confederate artillery, firing from the Fort. Foote was injured by the artillery fire and he was later relieved from his command.

Commander of the Ever Victorious Army

During the conflict between the Chinese Tai Ping rebels and the Ching Government, some foreigners from Shanghai joined the Ching Government against the rebels. The most famous foreigner led army was the Ever Victorious Army (Cheong Zing Kwun), organized and led by an American from Salem, Massachusetts, Frederick Townsend Ward. His lieutenant was Henry Andrea Burgevine of North Carolina. Burgevine once served in the Confederate army for a short time, and his sentiment was for the Confederacy. After Frederick Townsend Ward was mortally wounded in a battle and died, Henry Andrea Burgevine took over the command of the Ever Victorious Army. Later, the command of the Ever Victorious Army went to the British Colonel Charles George Gordon ("Chinese" Gordon). Afterward, General Gordon gained his fame in the desperate and steadfast defense of Khartoum in Sudan. He and his command perished when the city fell.

{Source: Caleb Carr, The Devil Soldier: The story of Frederick Townsend Ward, Random House, New York}

Conflict and struggle for power also occurred in the Ever Victorious Army. After Commander Ward died from his wound from a battle, Ward's lieutenant, Henry Andrea Burgevine, succeed the the command of the Ever Victorious Army. Complicated power struggle involved, and Burgevine and his soldiers had not received their salary for quite a long time. The angry Henry Andrea Burgevine, along with a few trusted Ever Victorious Army lieutenants, went to Yeung Fong's residence, and seized his gold bars and silver bars to pay the owed salary to his Ever Victorious Army's soldiers. (Yeung Fong was the leader / representative of the Shanghai financial class which supported and financed the Ever Victorious Army. Yeung was also the father-in-law of Ward.)

The Ching Government and Burgevine's superior, Li Hung-Chang were furious on Burgevine's action. The Ching Government revoked Burgevine's Chinese Citizenship. Li Hung-Chang relieved Burgevine's command of the Ever Victorious Army. Burgevine appealed his case to Prince Kung who was brief by Li on the facts. Prince Kung denied Burgevine's appeal. The furious Burgevine, changed side, and joined the Taiping rebels to fight against the Ching.

Well, Burgevine knew many of the strength and weakness of the Ever Victorious Army. He also knew all its commanding officiers. This was a big coup for the Taiping rebels. But it wasn't meant to be. The Taiping movement was collapsing. Their army were defeated in the field. The Taiping forces were routed in 1864.

In 1865, Henry Andrea Burgevine and some of the Taiping rebels went on board on the ship General Sherman and tried to escaped to Tai Wan.

The Ching Naval force caught up with them. The Ching handled Burgevine this way. The Ching Government announced that Henry Andrea Burgevine was "accidentally drown."

So it was the way that the Ching handled this Taiping Rebel who had changed side.

Source: a Chinese website; html+henry+andrea+burgevine&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=6&ie=UTF-8.
(Extracted, summarized, and translated by the webmaster).

China attempted to purchase gun-boats made in America

The Chinese Ching Government in the 19 century knew her weakness, lacking modern scientific knowledge, experience, resource to build a modern Navy. If she were going to have a contemporary Navy, she had to rely on foreign assistance. Around 1860s, she proceeded to purchase gun boats through two tracks: one track through the American; another track through the British. Foreigners living in Treaty Ports like, Shanghai, were eager to do business with the Chinese and hoping to reap huge profit.

On the American track, Henry Gamaliel Ward, the brother of Frederick Townsend Ward who was the commander of the Ever Victorious Army, proceeded to purchase gun-boats for the Chinese, through his company, Ward & Co, in 1862. Frederick Townsend Ward's superior, General Li Hung-chang, trusted the brothers, since Frederick had done so much to support the Ching government and whole-heartedly fought the Tai Ping rebels. The Ward brothers had taken up the responsability to procure weapons, artillery, ammunition and supplies abroad for the Ever Victorious Army. Their father, the elder Ward, was their U.S. business representative. The Ward brothers made friends with some very influential Chinese: Yeung Fong (1803-1865) the Buyer; Ng Chiu (1809-1873) of the Interior Minister of Kiang Soo Province; and Sit Woun (1815-1880) Inspector General and Commerce Minister of Kiang Soo province. Frederick Townsend Ward also married the daughter of Yeung Fong.

In early Spring 1862, the military momentum ahd changed, when the Tai Ping army captured Ning Po, whose harbor could be used to launch gun-boats. It was not only a military question, but also involved political question, command authority, commercial interest, and control consideration by all sides: the conflict of control by the Ching Government, Kiang Soo province's interest, British interest, American interest, French interest and Custom control. Under these circumstances, it was a logical step for them to purchase a private, small gun-boats Navy for the Kiang Soo Province. With the endorsement of Anson Burlingame 1820-1870, U.S. representative in China; James Hope 1808-1881, British Admiral stationed in China; and Auguste-Leopold Protet 1808-1862, French Admiral atationed in China, the deal was agreed upon, on a low-ball estimate by Henry Gamaliel Ward, to purchase 3 gun-boats with 400,000 taels (leung, Chinese unit of weight; 1 tael = 1.2 oz. = 37.4 g) of gold from America, including artillery and the first batch of ammunition, and transportation cost.

In March 1862, Henry Gamaliel Ward took the lump sum to America, passing through Hong Kong, Europe and spent some of the money on his way. In 9/21/1862, Frederick Townsend Ward was mortally wounded in a battle against the Tai ping rebels, and died the next day. Henry Gamaliel Ward's support and connection to the Chinese Authority suddenly disappeared. The U.S. Civil War had reached its zenith, and the American, fully occupied, could not spare any energy to pursue her controlling interest with England in China. It was agreed upon and arranged that England wound continue the training of the Chinese Army and Navy. Shortly, the gun-boats were re-sold to the Union Navy: Dai Ching, Chi Kiang and Kiang Soo. That was why U.S. owned gun-boats with Chinese name.

{For more information on "U.S. Civil War Navy ship with Chinese name", please go to my website shown below.}

Shortly, Henry Gamaliel Ward got married in U.S. and didn't bother to return to China. It was estimated Henry reaped about 1,000,000 taels of gold.

At that time, both the Suez Canal and Panama Canal hadn't been built yet. In order to deliver the gun-boats to China from New York as agreed upon, the medium size boats had to pass either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. We don't think these mid-size boat could withstand the rough weather at either Cape, and at such a long distance. We believe Henry Gamaliel Ward had promised more than he could deliver. The real cost was much higher, when profit was added on top of the cost. It ended up U.S. needed those boats more than the Chinese. The deal was off. China ended up to be the loser in the deal.

{Navy Academic Monthly, Volume 39, Issue number 6, Republic of China. Written in Chinese language, paraphased, extracted, translated and re-written by the webmaster.}

The so-called Confederate "Chinese flotilla" ?

On the British track, it involved several British V.I.P. prime movers to start the selling process. The British inspector-general of Customs, Horatio Nelson Lay, suggested to the Chinese to upgrade their Naval force in the mid-1850s. Lay wanted to inserted an article in the Treaty of Tianjin (Tin Juen) stipulating "joint action for the repression of priacy" so that Lay could induce the Chinese to buy vessels from England. The resident British minister, Sir Frederick Bruce, had spoken to Prince Kung, Regent and brother of the Emperor, who held full authority from the Ching Dynasty to negotiate foreign affair and treaties with the foreigners. And Robert Hart, in case Lay was absent, would fill the role of acting inspector-general of Maritime Customs, and negotiated on Lay's behalf. After the ships were built in England, British Captain Sherard Osborn would command the fleet and sail them to China. Thus, the fleet was sometimes in short, called "Lay-Osborn flotilla."

The story of the Lay-Osborn flotilla reflected the different interpretation of the British Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819. This statute played a crucial role to define the scope and limitation of rules governing the Neutrality law, applicable to any country having a Civil War. You see, England wanted to continue to do business with a country fighting a Civil War. So England would say, she would remain neutral, and won't take side of either faction of a country, and won't sell any weapon to either side, so that England could continue do business with both warring sides.

But professing neutrality was one thing, practice another.
Why would England actively seek out the Chinese Ching Government and sell them the flotilla, while actively stopping the American Confederate from buying the British ships?
I believe it all boiled down to one word: "money."

England did a lot of business with the United States, and of course, England did'nt want to jeopardized this lucrative trade. Therefore, England actively enforced her Foreign Enlistment Act and Neutrality law. Whereas in China, England had no fondness on the rebels, and didn't care much doing business with them, but she was eager to continue to do business with the Ching Government. Therefore, England went so far as to request to suspend the Foreign Enlistment Act and Neutrality law in preparation to sell a fleet to the Chinese Ching Government. The U.S. had a strong Navy and had the power to interfere with the British shipping commerce. The Chinese had no such Naval power, and therefore England could safely break her own law and would suffer no consequences. That is why England could selectively enforce her law. Those action had the full blessing of the British highest political authority, British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, and British Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell.

On dealing with the Confederate's intention to buy British-made battleships, England put all stops to the Confederate effort. As the Confederate had very little heavy industry in South, and so the confederate Navy secretary, Stephen Mallory, sent James Bulloch to England to procure war ships to defend the South. This episode is a story by itself, and read like a detective novel. Bulloch's agents were followed by the agents of Charles Adams, grandson of the second American President and American Ambassador in England. Adams worked closely with the British intelligence, and investigated any possible Confederate business deals. James Bulloch was a intelligent and discreet person. He consulted with the top notch attorny for advice and studied the law in detail. He plotted ways to get around the law and achieved his goal. He knew he could not openly buy a British gun-ship, but it would be perfectly legal to purchase a new, fast and unarmed ship. Then, moved it out of England, and installed artillery and ammunition in a pre-determined location. Secretly transported a Captain who disguised as a sailor; recruiting a crew without telling them the true nature of their motive or destination, and then broke sail and revealed itself as a Confederate cruiser. Planning and doing all these steps secretly and in disguise until everything jelled, and bingo, Bulloch got his Confederate cruiser. In this way, Bulloch got CSS Florida, CSS Atlanta, CSS Alabama, and CSS Shenandoah.

While Bulloch executed his plan secretly, Lay executed his plan openly. On April 4, 1863 the first unit of the Chinese fleet left England. At the same time, the same British law officers who devised the China plan, advised Lord Russell to take action against an unarmed ship suspected of having Confederate connections. It seems strange that one fleet sailed to China with Royal approval, while Her Majesty's government instituted legal proceedings designed to halt the departure of similar ships for the Confederacy.

Osborn sailed the fleet which composed of 8 fully equipped gun-ships, to Shanghai, in Kiang Soo Province, China.

But surprise!

Robert Hart, the acting inspector-general of Maritime Customs, had not bother to ascertain whether his Chinese contact possessed adequate authority to close the deal. Russell and Lay never probed Hart for the contract. Did Hart see the right Chinese people with deal-making authority? Perhaps Hart only dealed with the underlings but not the decision-maker. Conflict of chain of command, authority and communication probably doomed the deal.

"Lay arranged that Osborn would command all foreign-built ships purchased by China, and that this imperial steam fleet would be subject only to the orders of the emperor, saved that Lay alone would transmit the imperial orders, if he held them to be reasonable." The Chinese rejected the notion that Lay could veto the emperor's orders. When the fleet arrived in China, and when the Chinese learned about Lay's veto power, naturally the Chinese refused to accept such an insult. There would be no deal. No meeting of the minds, no contract. The Chinese had a heavy investment on the ships, and when the Chinese refused to accept their fleet, the obvious solution is a public sale of the flotilla in open market in China.

"Eight fully armed and equipped ships were about be put in the open market in late 1863, just as Her Majesty's Government was attempting to confront the problems posed by the Confederate Laird (of Liverpool) rams and Union complaints about them."

The situation created a big problem of finance, politics, diplomacy and international law for the British. England feared the Confederate would buy the whole fleet using a neutral party as her agent and fooled everybody. Given the talent and resoucefulness of James Bulloch, it is foreseeable and likely that Bulloch could pull such a stunt off secretly. The fleet could beome "the Confederate cruisers".

To make a long story short, England ordered to hold on the control of the ships, and moved them to Bombay, India, then, British colony, with great expense. England took a very active role to prevent the "Chinese flotilla" to fall into the wrong hands, and withdrew their sale in open market. The British retained the dominion and control of the "Chinese flotilla".

Meanwhile, Union secret service agents, through ambassador Charles Adams, expressed fear that the plot of the sale of the "Chinese flotilla" to the Confederates were likely to happen. The commander of the Ever Victorious Army, Henry Andrea Burgevine of North Carolina, was a Confederate man. And when one of the ships, Kwantung, observed CSS Alabama attacking a Union ship, on the Strait of Malacca, they were even more worry that Confederate Captain Semmes might make contact and would acquire the whole fleet. These were high level international plot on spying. They feared.

But the British did a good job in preventing the sale of the "Chinese flotilla". None of the ship fell into the Confederate's hand.

So this is the story of the so-called Confederate "Chinese flotilla".

{Source: Frank J. Merli, Edited by David M. Fahey, The Alabama, British Neutrality and the American Civil War, Indiana University Press, 2004. (Researched by Joseph Geden, member of the Olde Colony Civil War Round Table)}


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March 2, 2006
Revised and uploaded on January 31, 2009