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An American Mandarin


"An illustrious man from beyond the seas, he came 6000 li to accomplish greet deeds and acquire immortal fame by shedding his noble blood. Because of him Sungkiang shall be a happy land for a thousand autumns."

CHINA'S Tai-ping revolt, or "war of the Long-haired Rebels" broke out in 1850. Its leader, Hungts'üan, self styled Tien-teh (Celestial Virtue) and Tien-wang (Heavenly King) announced himself a heaven-sent reformer. He sought to dethrone the Manchu dynasty and to found, in his own person, that of Tai-ping or Universal Peace. During fifteen years of sanguinary insurrection, the Tai-pings all but wrecked the weak Manchu dynasty. They captured various important cities including Nanking. By 1860 the insurrection reached formidable proportions. The rebels sought to obtain the rich coastal provinces about Shanghai, openly threatening to occupy the treaty ports. The rebellion was finally crushed by troops of various nationalities under General Ward and Colonel Gordon. The story of "Chinese" Gordon is well known since he later achieved fame in the Sudan. The story of Ward is less widely known.

Frederick Townsend Ward was born November 29, 1831, at Salem, Mass. His natural capacity for leadership became apparent early. As a boy he showed daring in handling small boats. He spent two years at Norwich University, acquiring some knowledge of military science and tactics. His father was a shipmaster, and upon leaving Norwich, young Ward went to sea as did most men from new England coast towns in the 1840's. For a dozen years he roamed far and wide. On the Isthmus of Tehuantepec he first put into practice his military training. Later he campaigned in Nicaragua under William Walker, most renowned of all American Soldiers of Fortune. In the Crimean War, Ward served as lieutenant in the French army. In 1859 he appeared in Shanghai, taking a job on a Yangtze River steamer.

In 1860 the crisis of the Tai-ping rebellion was reached. Anglo-French resistance protected Shanghai itself, but the outlying districts were at the mercy of the Tai-pings. Ward became acquainted with an influential merchant named Takee, and through him, proposed that for $200,000 he would recapture and garrison the city of Sungkiang, held by 10,000 rebels. Obtaining a commission from the Imperial Government and some financial support from the merchants, Ward set about to organize an army. He gathered a band of about 100 adventurous spirits of various nationalities—sailors, beach combers, remnants of various expeditions, anyone who knew anything at all of arms. These he made officers and they, in turn, drilled his native recruits. Ward made good his offer to take Sungkiang, and receiving his monetary reward was made a mandarin of the fourth class.

Encouraged by success at Sungkiang, Ward attacked Tsingpu, but as that city was strongly defended, Ward was unable to effect immediate capture and he himself was wounded. He rested his handful of troops at Sungkiang while he set about raising a larger army. Ward received official support but encountered opposition from the foreign consuls, particularly the British, who arrested him. Escaping from a warship where he was confined he went ahead with his organizing. In due time he had a well-trained and disciplined army of three regiments, about 4,000 men. With this force he began a successful campaign. A series of victories followed including Tsingpu, where Ward, then brevet brigadier-general, was cited for gallantry in action. With the capture of Ningpo, the French and British military authorities ceased regarding Ward as an outlaw adventurer, recognized his great military genius, and welcomed his aid. With his co-operation Shanghai was saved from capture and a 30-mile radius around the city cleared of rebels. His legion inspired such fear in the Tai-pings that the title of "Ever Victorious Army" was bestowed upon it. Ward was made admiral-general and mandarin of the first class. Not only was he a natural leader—tradition has it that he was loved by his soldiers while Gordon was merely respected—but absolutely fearless. In battle Ward invariably went unarmed though he always carried a riding-whip or cane. This custom followed by Gordon has since become universal in the British service.

In an assault upon Tziki, Ward was mortally wounded. He died the following day, September 21, 1862, at Ningpo, At his own request he was buried at Sungkiang near the temple of Confucius, and close to the drill-field where he had trained the "Ever Victorious Army." A magnificent state funeral was accorded him and later a memorial temple was erected in his honor. Here grateful Chinese offered sacrifices to his spirit. Ward left a young widow, Chang Mei, daughter of Takee.

Upon Ward's death, command of the legion fell to Captain Burgevine who was soon dismissed in favor of Captain Holland. Holland, following defeat at Tai-Tsan, went the way of Burgevine. Li Hung Chang, governor-general of Kiangsu, applied to the British for a commander and Charles George Gordon was loaned. Gordon, at the head of Ward's old army, was successful almost at once. In July, 1864, Nanking was taken. The rebellion was completely stamped out the following year. While Gordon probably deserved all the honors he received, it should be remembered that he succeeded to an already efficient fighting machine, with the task of suppressing the rebellion well advanced.

Ward's daring enterprise justified itself in the teeth of foreign opposition and Chinese jealousy. Other Chinese armies resented the superior attitude of Ward's native soldiers. Officials worried over costs of maintenance. Widespread gossip credited Ward with untoward ambitions though his actions revealed none.

Although he had become a Chinese and adopted Chinese customs, Ward, shortly before his death, offered his services to the United States. He gave 10,000 taels to the Union cause, and had the Trent affair resulted in war with Great Britain, Ward had planned to seize the British warships and merchant vessels in Chinese waters. Just as the execution at Trujillo of his old chief William Walker, deprived the Confederacy of a great general, so was Ward's untimely death at Ningpo a great loss to the Union army.