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Blood is thicker than water
Blood is thicker than water
In October 1856, during the reign of Emperor Xian Feng of the Qing
Dynasty, China fought a war with Britain over the unceremonious hauling
down of the British flag. This war was called the Arrow War, named after a
lorcha, a hybird vessel which was owned by a Chinese resident of Hong Kong.
China was easily defeated by the British.
A treaty called the Treaty of Tientsin was signed between China and the
British on June 26, 1858 subject to ratification by the Emperor of China a
year from the date of signing.
On 18 June 1859 the British arrived at Taku at the mouth of Peiho (Hai
River). The British mission was accompanied by a battleship, two frigates
and thirteen gunboats. Their intention was to sail up the Peiho to Peking
and demand ratification by the Emperor of the Treaty signed previously.
Opposite Taku were the Taku Forts. The entrance to the river was blocked
by sunken hulks, chains, spikes and bamboo booms. Admiral Sir James Hope,
the British naval commander, demanded the removal of the obstacles. He was
told by the Chinese that they were placed there by members of the local
militia as a defence against the Taiping rebels and, therefore, could not be
The British gave the Chinese an ultimatum that unless the passage was
cleared they would force their way up to Peking through Peiho.
An American frigate was anchored near Peiho. The Americans were ordered
by their government to stay out of trouble and to strictly remain neutral
if any untoward events should happen between the Chinese and British.
An hour before the British ultimatum was due to expire the Viceroy of
Chihli, Heng Fu, invited the British to sail to Peking through Pehtang Ho
which was only about ten nautical miles north of Taku. The British refused
and insisted on sailing up the Peiho in imposing style. They had no
intention of entering Peking by the back door.
The British attacked the Taku forts after the ultimatum had expired. They
were so confident of an early victory that they did not bother to devise a
plan of operations.
The British ships reached the outer barrier of iron stakes without mishap.
The Taku Forts were silent. But when the British ships passed the barrier
there were sudden barrages of Chinese gunfire from the forts. Shots rained
down on the British ships with surprising accuracy. The British ships could
not sail any further and quickly retreated. There were many casualties.
A few British gunboats were damaged.
Despite the damage done to them by the Chinese the British regrouped and
wanted to press on and capture Taku Forts before the day was over. Leading
parties scrambled ashore and crossed the mudflats leading to the walls of
Taku Forts. They suffered heavy losses from the guns fired by the Chinese
The American naval commander, Commodore Josiah Tatnall, was watching
the battle from his flag ship. He saw his British cousins being mercilessly
butchered by the Chinese. He could not stand idly and do nothing. He decided
to ignore the neutrality of his country and issued an order codenamed
"Blood Is Thicker Than Water".
He ordered the American guns to open fire on Taku Forts. He also ordered
his men to help the British to evacuate from the carnage. The American
action, however, did not alter the outcome of the battle.
Early next morning when the survivors of the leading parties had
retreated across the mud to the water's edge, the British had over
400 casualties. The Chinese, had inflicted a serious humiliating defeat on
Qing Shi (history of Qing dynasty).