|Second Opium War|
|Part of the Opium Wars|
Palikao's bridge, on the evening of the battle of Palikao, by Émile Bayard
|Commanders and leaders|
| 200,000[ citation needed ]|
(Eight Banners and Green Standard Army)
|Casualties and losses|
|1 The U.S. was officially neutral, but later aided the British in the Battle of the Barrier Forts (1856) and the Battle of Taku Forts (1859).|
The Second Opium War (Chinese :第二次鴉片戰爭; pinyin :Dì'èrcì Yāpiàn Zhànzhēng), also known as the Second Anglo-Sino War, the Second China War, the Arrow War, or the Anglo-French expedition to China, [ full citation needed ] was a colonial war lasting from 1856 to 1860, which pitted the British Empire and the French Empire against the Qing dynasty of China.
It was the second major conflict in the Opium Wars, which were fought over the right to import opium to China, and resulted in a second defeat for the Qing dynasty and the forced legalisation of the opium trade. It caused many Chinese officials to believe that conflicts with the Western powers were no longer traditional wars, but part of a looming national crisis.
In 1860, British and French troops landed near Beijing and fought their way into the city. Peace negotiations quickly broke down and the British High Commissioner to China ordered the foreign troops to loot and destroy the Imperial Summer Palace, a complex of palaces and gardens at which Qing Dynasty emperors handled affairs of state.
During and after the Second Opium War, the Qing government was also forced to sign treaties with Russia, such as the Treaty of Aigun and the Convention of Peking. As a result, China ceded more than 1.5 million square kilometers of territory to Russia in its north-east and north-west. With the conclusion of the war, the Qing government was able to concentrate on countering the Taiping Rebellion and maintaining its rule.Among other things, the Convention of Peking ceded the Kowloon Peninsula to the British as part of Hong Kong.
The terms "Second War" and "Arrow War" are both used in literature. "Second Opium War" refers to one of Britain's strategic objectives, the legalizing the opium trade. China's defeat also opened up all of China to British merchants, and exempted foreign imports from internal transit duties. "Arrow War" refers to the name of the vessel which became the starting point of the conflict.[ citation needed ]
The war followed on from the First Opium War. In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking granted an indemnity and extraterritoriality to Britain, the opening of five treaty ports, and the cession of Hong Kong Island. The failure of the treaty to satisfy British goals of improved trade and diplomatic relations led to the Second Opium War (1856–1860). [ citation needed ]In China, the First Opium War is considered to have been the beginning of modern Chinese history.
Between the two wars, repeated acts of aggression against British subjects led in 1847 to the Expedition to Canton which assaulted and took, by a coup de main , the forts of the Bocca Tigris resulting in the spiking of 879 guns. : 501
The 1850s saw the rapid growth of Western imperialism. Some of the shared goals of the Western powers were the expansion of their overseas markets and the establishment of new ports of call. The French Treaty of Huangpu, and the American Wangxia Treaty, both contained clauses allowing renegotiation of the treaties after 12 years of being in effect. In an effort to expand its privileges in China, Britain demanded that the Qing authorities renegotiate the Treaty of Nanjing (signed in 1842), citing its most favoured nation status. The British demands included opening all of China to British merchant companies, the legalising of the opium trade, the exemption of foreign imports from internal transit duties, the suppression of piracy, the regulation of the coolie trade, permission for a British ambassador to reside in Beijing, and that the English-language version of all treaties takes precedence over the Chinese language one. [ dead link ]
To give Chinese merchant vessels operating around treaty ports the same privileges accorded to British ships by the Treaty of Nanjing, British authorities granted the vessels British registration in Hong Kong. In October 1856, Chinese marines in Canton seized a cargo ship called the Arrow on suspicion of piracy, arresting twelve of its fourteen Chinese crew members. The Arrow, which had previously been used by pirates, was captured by the Chinese government and subsequently resold. It was then registered as a British ship and still flew the British flag at the time of its detention, though its registration had expired. Its captain, Thomas Kennedy, who was aboard a nearby vessel at the time, reported seeing Chinese marines pull the British flag down from the ship. [ citation needed ]The British consul in Canton, Harry Parkes, contacted Ye Mingchen, imperial commissioner and Viceroy of Liangguang, to demand the immediate release of the crew, and an apology for the alleged insult to the flag. Ye released nine of the crew members but refused to release the other three.
On 23 October, the British destroyed four barrier forts. On 25 October, a demand was made that the British be allowed to enter the Canton. The next day, the British began to bombard the city, firing one shot every 10 minutes. Ye Mingchen issued a bounty on every British head taken. On 29 October, the Royal Navy blasted a hole in the poorly defended and inadequate city walls. [ page needed ] Losses were three killed and 12 wounded. Negotiations failed and the city was bombarded. On 6 November, 23 war junks attacked and were destroyed. [ better source needed ] There were pauses for talks, with the British bombarding at intervals, causing fires. On 5 January 1857, the British returned to Hong Kong. [ page needed ]The troops entered Canton, with the flag of the United States being planted on the walls and residence of Ye Mingchen by James Keenan, the U.S. Consul.
On 3 March 1857, the British government lost a Parliamentary vote regarding the Arrow incident and what had taken place at Canton to the end of the previous year. This defeat led to a general election in April 1857 which increased the government's majority. [ page needed ]
In April, the British government asked the United States of America and Russia if they were interested in alliances, but both parties rejected the offer. [ page needed ] In May 1857, the Indian Mutiny became serious, British troops destined for China were diverted to India. [ page needed ] which was considered the priority issue.[ citation needed ]
France joined the British action against China, prompted by complaints from their envoy, Baron Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros, over the execution of a French missionary, Auguste Chapdelaine,by Chinese local authorities in Guangxi province, which at that time was not open to foreigners.
The British and the French joined forces under Admiral Sir Michael Seymour. In late 1857, the British army, which was led by Lord Elgin, and the French army, which was led by Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros, jointly attacked and occupied Canton (today Guangzhou). A joint committee of the Alliance was formed. The Allies left the city governor at his post in order to maintain order on behalf of the victors. The British-French alliance maintained control of Canton for nearly four years.[ citation needed ]
The coalition then cruised north to briefly capture the Taku Forts near Tientsin (Tianjin) in May 1858.[ citation needed ]
The United States and Russia sent envoys to Hong Kong to offer military help to the British and French, though in the end Russia sent no military aid.
The U.S. was involved in a minor concurrent conflict during the war, though it ignored the UK's offer of alliance and did not coordinate with the Anglo-French forces. In 1856, the Chinese garrison at Canton shelled a United States Navy steamer, [ better source needed ] and the U.S. Navy retaliated in the Battle of the Pearl River Forts. The ships bombarded then attacked the river forts near Canton, taking them. Diplomatic efforts were renewed afterwards, and the American and Chinese governments signed an agreement for U.S. neutrality in the Second Opium War.[ citation needed ]
Despite the U.S. government's promise of neutrality, the USS San Jacinto aided the Anglo-French alliance in the bombardment of the Taku Forts in 1859.[ citation needed ]
Throughout 1857, British forces began to assemble in Hong Kong, joined by a French force. In December 1857 they had sufficient ships and men to raise the issue of the non-fulfilment of the treaty obligations by which the right of entry into Canton had been accorded. : 502 [ better source needed ] Parkes delivered an ultimatum, supported by Hong Kong governor Sir John Bowring and Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, threatening on 14 December to bombard Canton if the men were not released within 24 hours. [ page needed ]
The remaining crew of the Arrow were then released, with no apology from Viceroy Ye Mingchen who also refused to honour the treaty terms. Seymour, Major General van Straubenzee and Admiral de Genouilly agreed the plan to attack Canton as ordered. : 503 This event came to be known as the Arrow Incident and provided the alternative name of the ensuing conflict. [ page needed ]
though the British were delayed by the Indian Rebellion of 1857, they followed up the Arrow Incident in 1856 and attacked Guangzhou from the Pearl River. Viceroy Ye Mingchen ordered all Chinese soldiers manning the forts not to resist the British incursion. After taking the fort near Canton with little effort, the British Army attacked Canton.[ citation needed ]
The capture of Canton, on 1 January 1858, [ page needed ] a city with a population of over 1,000,000 [ page needed ] by less than 6,000 troops, resulted in the British and French forces suffering 15 killed and 113 wounded. 200–650 of the defenders and inhabitants became casualties.[ citation needed ] Ye Mingchen was captured and exiled to Calcutta, India, where he starved himself to death.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, there was a possible attempt to poison John Bowring and his family in January, known as the Esing Bakery incident. However, if it was deliberate, the baker who had been charged with lacing bread with arsenic bungled the attempt by putting an excess of the poison into the dough, such that his victims vomited sufficient quantities of the poison that they had only a non-lethal dose left in their system. Criers were sent out with an alert, preventing further injury.
When known in Britain, the Arrow incident (and the British military response) became the subject of controversy. The British House of Commons on 3 March passed a resolution by 263 to 249 against the Government saying:
That this House has heard with the concern of the conflicts which have occurred between the British and Chinese authorities on the Canton River; and, without expressing an opinion as to the extent to which the Government of China may have afforded this country cause of complaint respecting the non-fulfilment of the Treaty of 1842, this House considers that the papers which have been laid on the table fail to establish satisfactory grounds for the violent measures resorted to at Canton in the late affair of the Arrow, and that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of our commercial relations with China. [ page needed ]
In response, the Whig Prime Minister Lord Palmerston attacked the patriotism of the Whigs who sponsored the resolution, and Parliament was dissolved, causing the British general election of March 1857.[ citation needed ]
The Chinese issue figured prominently in the election, at which Palmerston won an increased majority, silencing the voices within the Whig faction who supported China. The new parliament decided to seek redress from China based on the report about the Arrow Incident submitted by Harry Parkes. The French Empire, the United States, and the Russian Empire received requests from Britain to form an alliance.[ citation needed ]
In June 1858, the first part of the war ended with the four Treaties of Tientsin, to which Britain, France, Russia, and the U.S. were parties. These treaties opened 11 more ports to Western trade. The Chinese initially refused to ratify the treaties.
The major points of the treaty were:
On 28 May 1858, the separate Treaty of Aigun was signed with Russia to revise the Chinese and Russian border as determined by the Nerchinsk Treaty in 1689. Russia gained the left bank of the Amur River, pushing the border south from the Stanovoy mountains. A later treaty, the Convention of Peking in 1860, gave Russia control over a non-freezing area on the Pacific coast, where Russia founded the city of Vladivostok in 1860.[ citation needed ]
On 20 May, the British were successful at the First Battle of Taku Forts, but the peace treaty returned the forts to the Qing army.[ citation needed ]
In June 1858, shortly after the Qing imperial court agreed to the disadvantageous treaties, hawkish ministers prevailed upon the Xianfeng Emperor to resist Western encroachment. On 2 June 1858, the Xianfeng Emperor ordered the Mongol general Sengge Rinchen to guard the Taku Forts (also romanized as Ta-ku Forts and also called Daku Forts) near Tianjin. Sengge Rinchen reinforced the forts with additional artillery pieces. He also brought 4,000 Mongol cavalry from Chahar and Suiyuan.[ citation needed ]
The Second Battle of Taku Forts took place in June 1859. A British naval force with 2,200 troops and 21 ships, under the command of Admiral Sir James Hope, sailed north from Shanghai to Tianjin with newly appointed Anglo-French envoys for the embassies in Beijing. They sailed to the mouth of the Hai River guarded by the Taku Forts near Tianjin and demanded to continue inland to Beijing. Sengge Rinchen replied that the Anglo-French envoys might land up the coast at Beitang and proceed to Beijing but he refused to allow armed troops to accompany them to the Chinese capital. The Anglo-French forces insisted on landing at Taku instead of Beitang and escorting the diplomats to Beijing. On the night of 24 June 1859, a small group of British forces blew up the iron obstacles that the Chinese had placed in the Baihe River. The next day, the British forces sought to forcibly sail into the river, and shelled the Taku Forts. Low tide and soft mud prevented their landing, however, and accurate fire from Sengge Rinchen's cannons sank four gunboats and severely damaged two others. American Commodore Josiah Tattnall III, though under orders to maintain neutrality, declared "blood is thicker than water", and provided covering fire to protect the British convoy's retreat. The failure to take the Taku Forts was a blow to British prestige, and anti-foreign resistance reached a crescendo within the Qing imperial court.
Once the Indian Mutiny was finally quelled, Sir Colin Campbell, commander-in-chief in India, was free to amass troops and supplies for another offensive in China. A 'soldiers' general', Campbell's experience of casualties from disease in the First Opium War led him to provide the British forces with more than enough materiel and supplies, and casualties were light.
The Third Battle of Taku Forts took place in the summer of 1860. London once more dispatched Lord Elgin with an Anglo-French force of 11,000 British troops under General James Hope Grant and 6,700 French troops under General Cousin-Montauban. They pushed north with 173 ships from Hong Kong and captured the port cities of Yantai and Dalian to seal the Bohai Gulf. On 3 August they carried out a landing near Beitang (also romanized as "Pei-t'ang"), some 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the Taku Forts, which they captured after three weeks on 21 August.[ citation needed ]
Southern Chinese laborers served with the French and British forces. One observer reported that the "Chinese coolies", as he called them, "renegades though they were, served the British faithfully and cheerfully... At the assault of the Peiho Forts in 1860 they carried the French ladders to the ditch, and, standing in the water up to their necks, supported them with their hands to enable the storming party to cross. It was not usual to take them into action; they, however, bore the dangers of a distant fire with great composure, evincing a strong desire to close with their compatriots, and engage them in mortal combat with their bamboos." [ better source needed ]
After taking Tianjin on 23 August 1860, the imperial emissary and word arrived that the British had kidnapped the prefect of Tianjin. Parkes was arrested in retaliation on 18 September. [ page needed ]Also captured were a number of British and French officers, Sikh soldiers, and a journalist from The Times. Parkes and the others were imprisoned, tortured, and interrogated.
The prisoners had been tortured by having their limbs bound with rope until their flesh was lacerated and became infected with maggots, and by having dung and dirt forced into their throats. Several were executed by beheading, their corpses fed to animals. Captured coolies who had worked for the allies were buried up to their necks and left to dogs. [ page needed ]
The Anglo-French forces clashed with Sengge Rinchen's Mongol cavalry on 18 September at the battle of Zhangjiawan before proceeding toward the outskirts of Beijing for a decisive battle in Tongzhou (also romanized as Tungchow). : 276On 21 September, at Baliqiao (Eight Mile Bridge), Sengge Rinchen's 10,000 troops, including the elite Mongol cavalry, were annihilated after doomed frontal charges against concentrated firepower of the Anglo-French forces. The French army arrived at the Summer Palace outside Beijing on 6 October, followed by the British a day later.
With the Qing army devastated, the Xianfeng Emperor fled the capital and left behind his brother, Prince Gong, to take charge of peace negotiations. Xianfeng first fled to the Chengde Summer Palace and then to Rehe Province.Anglo-French troops began looting the Summer Palace (Yiheyuan) and Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) immediately (as they were full of valuable artwork).
After the release of Parkes and the surviving prisoners on 8 October, the extent of their mistreatment became apparent. The destruction of the Forbidden City was discussed, as proposed by Lord Elgin, to discourage the Qing Empire from using kidnapping as a bargaining tool, and to exact revenge on the mistreatment of their prisoners. [ page needed ] However, an attack on Beijing was ruled out, as this had already been presented as threat for other terms. Elgin decided on burning the Summer Palace. In a letter, he explained that the burning of the palace was the punishment "which would fall, not on the people, who may be comparatively innocent, but exclusively on the Emperor, whose direct personal responsibility for the crime committed is established"
On 18 October, British soldiers burnt the Summer Palace, the French refusing to assist. The razing of the buildings took two days, with imperial property in the vicinity also destroyed. : 282
Both Britain (Second China War Medal) and France (Commemorative medal of the 1860 China Expedition) issued campaign medals. The British medal had the following clasps: China 1842, Fatshan 1857, Canton 1857, Taku Forts 1858, Taku Forts 1860, Peking 1860.
On 24 October, the emperor's brother, Prince Gong, conceded to the allied demands, the emperor having fled to Chengde on 22 September. British and French troops entered Beijing, where the Treaty of Tientsin was ratified by the Convention of Peking. : 283–284
At the time, [ page range too broad ] The British, French and—thanks to the schemes of Ignatiev—the Russians were all granted a permanent diplomatic presence in Beijing (something the Qing Empire resisted to the very end as it suggested equality between China and the European powers). The Chinese had to pay 8 million taels to Britain and France. Kowloon was ceded to the British owned Hong Kong. The opium trade was legalized and Christians were granted full civil rights, including the right to own property, and the right to evangelize.[ citation needed ]the largest encyclopedia ever compiled in world history was the 1408 Ming Dynasty Yongle Encyclopedia, most of which was looted or destroyed by foreign soldiers during the sack of Beijing, leaving only 3.5 percent surviving volumes today.
The content of the Convention of Beijing included:
Two weeks later, Ignatiev forced the Qing government to sign a "Supplementary Treaty of Peking", which ceded the Maritime Provinces east of the Ussuri River (forming part of Outer Manchuria) to the Russians, who went on to found the port of Vladivostok between 1860 and 1861.[ citation needed ] The Anglo-French victory was heralded in the British press as a triumph for British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, which made his popularity rise to new heights. British merchants were delighted at the prospects of the expansion of trade in the Far East. Other foreign powers were pleased with the outcome too, since they hoped to take advantage of the opening-up of China.[ citation needed ]
The defeat of the Qing army by a relatively small Anglo-French military force (outnumbered at least 10 to 1 by the Qing army) coupled with the flight (and subsequent death) of the Xianfeng Emperor, and the burning of the Summer Palace, was a shocking blow to the once powerful Qing Empire. "Beyond a doubt, by 1860 the ancient civilization that was China had been thoroughly defeated and humiliated by the West." [ citation needed ]After the war, a major modernization movement, known as the Self-Strengthening Movement, began in China, and several institutional reforms were initiated.
The opium trade incurred intense opposition from the later British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.As a member of Parliament, Gladstone called it "most infamous and atrocious", referring to the opium trade between China and British India in particular. Gladstone was fiercely against both of the Opium Wars, was ardently opposed to the British trade in opium to China, and denounced British violence against Chinese. Gladstone lambasted it as "Palmerston's Opium War" and said that he felt "in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China" in May 1840. Gladstone made a famous speech in Parliament against the First Opium War, criticising it as "a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace". His hostility to opium stemmed from the effects of the drug upon his sister Helen. Due to his disgust at the First Opium War, brought on by Palmerston, Gladstone was initially reluctant to join the government of Robert Peel, but did so in 1841.
Seven awards were made of the Victoria Cross, all for gallantry shown on 21 August 1860 by soldiers of the 44th Regiment of Foot and the 67th Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Taku Forts (1860) (see List of Victoria Cross recipients by campaign)
The following regiments fought in the campaign:
The Treaty of Nanjing was the peace treaty which ended the First Opium War (1839–1842) between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China on 29 August 1842. It was the first of what the Chinese later termed the Unequal Treaties.
The First Opium War, also known as the Opium War or the Anglo-Sino War was a series of military engagements fought between Britain and the Qing dynasty of China between 1839 and 1842. The immediate issue was the Chinese enforcement of their ban on the opium trade by seizing private opium stocks from merchants at Canton and threatening to impose the death penalty for future offenders. Despite the opium ban, the British government supported the merchants' demand for compensation for seized goods, and insisted on the principles of free trade and equal diplomatic recognition with China. Opium was Britain's single most profitable commodity trade of the 19th century. After months of tensions between the two nations, the British navy launched an expedition in June 1840, which ultimately defeated the Chinese using technologically superior ships and weapons by August 1842. The British then imposed the Treaty of Nanking which forced China to increase foreign trade, give compensation, and cede Hong Kong to the British. Consequently the opium trade continued in China. Twentieth century nationalists consider 1839 the start of a century of humiliation, and many historians consider it the beginning of modern Chinese history.
The Opium Wars were two conflicts waged between China and Western powers during the mid-19th century. The First Opium War was fought from 1839 to 1842 between China and the United Kingdom, and was initiated by the British government after the Chinese government's campaign to enforce its prohibition against opium trafficking by British merchants. The Second Opium War was waged by Britain and France against China from 1856 to 1860. In each war, the superior military advantages enjoyed by European forces led to several easy victories over the Chinese military, with the consequence that China was compelled to sign unequal treaties to grant favourable tariffs, trade concessions, reparations and territory to Western powers.
The Convention of Peking or First Convention of Peking is an agreement comprising three distinct treaties concluded between the Qing dynasty of China and Great Britain, France, and the Russian Empire in 1860. In China, they are regarded as among the unequal treaties.
James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin and 12th Earl of Kincardine, was a British colonial administrator and diplomat. He served as Governor of Jamaica (1842–1846), Governor General of the Province of Canada (1847–1854), and Viceroy of India (1862–1863). In 1857, he was appointed High Commissioner and Plenipotentiary in China and the Far East to assist in the process of opening up China and Japan to Western trade. In 1860, during the Second Opium War in China, he ordered the destruction of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, an architectural wonder with immeasurable collections of artworks and historic antiques, inflicting incalculable loss of cultural heritage. Subsequently, he compelled the Qing dynasty to sign the Convention of Peking, adding Kowloon Peninsula to the British crown colony of Hong Kong.
Sir Harry Smith Parkes was a British diplomat who served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary and Consul General of the United Kingdom to the Empire of Japan from 1865 to 1883 and the Chinese Qing Empire from 1883 to 1885, and Minister to Korea in 1884. Parkes Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong is named after him.
Auguste Chapdelaine, Chinese name Mǎ Lài was a French Christian missionary of the Paris Foreign Missions Society. France used his death–– Chapdelaine was executed by Chinese officials–– as a casus belli for its participation in the Second Opium War.
The Taku Forts or Dagu Forts, also called the Peiho Forts are forts located by the Hai River estuary in the Binhai New Area, Tianjin, in northeastern China. They are located 60 km (37 mi) southeast of the Tianjin urban center.
Private John Moyse was a British soldier of the 3rd Regiment who according to popular legend was captured by Chinese soldiers during the Second Opium War and later was executed for refusing to prostrate himself before the Chinese general. This alleged act of defiance was later immortalised in The Private of the Buffs, a poem by Sir Francis Hastings Doyle.
Ye Mingchen was a high-ranking Chinese official during the Qing dynasty, known for his resistance to British influence in Canton (Guangzhou) in the aftermath of the First Opium War and his role in the beginning of the Second Opium War.
The Battle of Palikao was fought at the bridge of Palikao by Anglo-French forces against the Qing Empire during the Second Opium War on the morning of 21 September 1860. It allowed Western forces to take the capital Beijing and eventually defeat the Qing Empire.
The First Battle of Taku Forts was the first attack of the Anglo-French alliance against the Taku Forts along the Hai River in Tianjin, China, on 20 May 1858, during the Second Opium War.
The Third Battle of Taku Forts was an engagement of the Second Opium War, part of the British and French 1860 expedition to China. It took place at the Taku Forts near Tanggu District, approximately 60 kilometers (36 mi.) southeast of the city of Tianjin (Tientsin).
The Amur Annexation was the annexation of the southeast corner of Siberia by the Russian Empire in 1858–1860 through a series of unequal treaties forced upon the Qing dynasty of China. The two areas involved are Priamurye between the Amur River and the Stanovoy Range to the north, and Primorye which runs down the coast from the Amur mouth to the Korean border, including the island of Sakhalin. The territory now known as Outer Manchuria, part of the wider region called Manchuria, was formerly under the sovereignty of Qing China.
Hong Kong was a colony and subsequently a dependent territory of the British Empire from 1841 to 1997, apart from a period of occupation under the Japanese Empire from 1941 to 1945 during the Pacific War. The colonial period began with the British occupation of Hong Kong Island in 1841, during the First Opium War between the British and the Qing dynasty. The Qing had wanted to enforce its prohibition of opium importation within the dynasty that was being exported mostly from British India, as it was causing widespread addiction among its populace.
The Commander-in-Chief, East Indies and China was a formation of the Royal Navy from 1831 to 1865. Its naval area of responsibility was the Indian Ocean and the coasts of China and its navigable rivers.
The Battle of Canton was fought by British and French forces against Qing China on 28–31 December 1857 during the Second Opium War. The British High Commissioner, Lord Elgin, was keen to take the city of Canton (Guangzhou) as a demonstration of power and to capture Chinese official Ye Mingchen who had resisted British attempts to implement the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. Elgin ordered an Anglo-French force to take the town and an assault began on 28 December. Allied forces took control of the city walls on 29 December but delayed entry into the city itself until 5 January. They subsequently captured Ye and some reports state they burnt down much of the town. The ease with which the allies won the battle was one of the reasons for the signing of the Treaty of Tientsin in 1858.
The history of opium in China began with the use of opium for medicinal purposes during the 7th century. In the 17th century the practice of mixing opium with tobacco for smoking spread from Southeast Asia, creating a far greater demand.
Events from the year 1860 in China.
The Canton Coolie Corps was a British Army logistics unit raised in 1860 for service in the latter part of the Second Opium War. The unit was recruited from Chinese men, typically from members of the Hakka people, who would serve as coolies, manual labourers who carry goods. Recruitment was slowed due to false rumours that the British intended to use the coolies as human shields in battle but around 3,000 out of a targeted 4,000 were mustered. The unit served in the march on Peking (Beijing) and were well regarded. It was disbanded at the end of the war.