2009年3月1日星期日

中法戰爭 Sino-French War 1884

This is a map of the battle at Danshui during the Sino-French war in 1884.

The map was probably based on one of several sold by Danshui harbor pilot, a Brit by the name of Carozzi, to the French in Hongkong, for which he received a blood money of 50,000 francs (as an annual stipend, not a lump sum payment).

The map was entitled: Entry to the port of Tamsui, Combat (Battle) of Oct 8, 1884. Let us now take you through the battle:

At the bottom of the map, you can see the River of Tamsui and immediately there is a “Barrage (i.e., dam)” line, this was where the old ships were sunk on purpose, and later reinforced by filling this location in with stones. To the right, there is the “FORT BLANC (白砲臺)” and further inland, the red markers are FORT ROGUE (紅毛城), the British Consulate, residences of Europeans, and other buildings. Then the town of Tamsui or Hobe (滬尾) itself. Near the town, the Cookshaefer was a British gun ship trapped inside the harbor. Also trapped was a Chinese transport ship 萬年清艦 (not depicted). Notice the depths are in meters, the deepest point was 7.3 m at high tide. Sandy sediments are clearly seen on the south shore.

The captions in French are quite straightforward. The names of the seven French warships need no translation. Rear Admiral Lespes, the fleet commander, was onboard flagship La Galissonniere. On active patrol was the gunship Vipere, shown in two positions; it prevented other foreign ships from entering Tamsui River. In the early morning of Oct 1, 1884, the warships moved into position, and Lespes, through flag signals, warned European residents in Danshui of the impending canon bombardment. On Oct 2, the bombardment started that destroyed three major Chinese artillery encampments. The Chinese artillery returned fire. In the thick fog, the French suffered some losses and ceased action. This was one day before 中秋節. So under the moonlight, French engineers probed the defense at the mouth of Danshui river when a mine was set off by the Chinese defense force. The French then beat a quick retreat. The battle finally started on Oct 8, first with heavy bombardments from French warships. Local commander 提督孫開華 was in charge with eight battalions of defense forces plus 100 artillery men. At 10AM, five companies of French marines (indicated by 5 small rectangles on the map) landed on the beach (see Point de debarquement – disembarking point - on the map). Captain Dehorter of the 2nd Company was hit in the chest by Chinese sniper fire and wounded (who was evacuated to Viet Nam and died there from the wounds). The French advanced through thick forests and bushes to the red line indicated on the map (line of French fire) facing the black line (the line of Chinese fire) – the Chinese positions are shown as Camp Retranche. To the north, there is another line of Chinese fire. In other words, the French forces were trapped. Chinese forces then advanced and attacked. All French companies moved to the left flank. And near a house at the converging point of the two Chinese firing lines, Lieutenant Fontaine’s company (the 1st Company) began to retreat. Others followed - shown in a zigzag line (the ligne de retraile – the line of retreat) retreating back to the beach. By that time, it was high tide, so the French must wade in seawater neck deep to re-board the landing vessels. A severely wounded Lieutenant Fontaine of La Galissonnière was escorted by two other marines and the group was lagging behind. All three were captured on the beach by Chinese soldiers and were beheaded on the spot. In all, 17 French marines were killed and 49 wounded in hand-to-hand combats. The loss on the Chinese side was 80 dead and around 200 wounded. The latter were tended to at Dr George Leslie Mackay’s Clinic (because of the hostility shown by some Taiwanese towards anything foreign, Dr Mackay's family and later himself were force to retreat to Hongkong). It was a hard-won victory and Danshui, to this day, is still grateful for the sacrifice of the Chinese soldiers.

The French then changed strategy by blockading all ports of Taiwan.

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