CHINA – SECOND OPIUM WAR "Private Journal H.M.S. Calcutta Kept by H.H. Rawson/ Cap.t J. Hall Flag Capt. Ad.l Sir Michael Seymour", being the journal of the future Admiral Sir Harry Rawson kept prior to his promotion to the rank of midshipman,   Hong Kong and  Gulf of Pecheli, 1858-1859

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Lot 18
CHINA – SECOND OPIUM WAR
"Private Journal H.M.S. Calcutta Kept by H.H. Rawson/ Cap.t J. Hall Flag Capt. Ad.l Sir Michael Seymour", being the journal of the future Admiral Sir Harry Rawson kept prior to his promotion to the rank of midshipman, Hong Kong and Gulf of Pecheli, 1858-1859
Sold for £ 5,625 (US$ 7,337) inc. premium

Lot Details
CHINA – SECOND OPIUM WAR
"Private Journal H.M.S. Calcutta Kept by H.H. Rawson/ Cap.t J. Hall Flag Capt. Ad.l Sir Michael Seymour", being the journal of the future Admiral Sir Harry Rawson kept prior to his promotion to the rank of midshipman, comprising what appear to be contemporary family transcripts (although some possibly autograph) of both his journal and his letters home, providing a remarkably vivid record of service on board the flagship of Admiral Sir Michael Seymour during his operations in the Gulf of Pecheli (Beizhili) and capture of the forts at the mouth of the Peiho (Beihe) on 20 May, and the forced passage up the river as far as Tientsin (Tianjin), where on 26 June the treaty of Tientsin was signed (in which the Chinese government conceded the demands of the British minister); as well as service at other times, beginning on Monday, 15 February (misdated January) 1858 and continuing, not always chronologically, until April 1859; with other entries, including a set of songs sung in the fleet reversed at the end, some 400 pages, in a notebook with its spine stamped ʻJournal No. 1/ H.H.R.', half calf marbled boards, brass clasp, some wear especially to spine but overall in good sound condition, 8vo, Hong Kong and Gulf of Pecheli, 1858-1859

Footnotes

  • ʻBEFORE THEY BEGAN TO FIRE IT WAS BEASTLY AS YOU HAD ALL KINDS OF THOUGHTS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND' – A FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD'S EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE OPIUM WARS.

    The author – the future Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson (1843-1910) – was fourteen-and-a-half when he took part in the attack on the forts at the mouth of the Peiho (Beihe) on 20 May 1858. His account has all the raw immediacy that adult accounts so often filter out especially when, as here, they are written for a domestic audience: "I loaded my revolver at least the service one that I got as I had not taken mine with me as it was broken then went on board the Firm and stayed there till ½ past nine when we were sent into our boats I forgot to say at 8.0 the Admiral sent in to say he would give them 2 hours grace when if they did not leave the forts he would be obliged to take them so we waited for 10 to come... 10.0 had hardly struck when the signal to weigh was given that was the French and English flag hoisted on board the Slaney were both Admirals were the Cormorant was to lead the way... The Cormorant being under weigh as she had got her anchor up a few minutes before steamed ahead full speed as she had to cut through two Immense bamboo hausers that were laid across the river to stop us going up she and the two French Gun Boats were to silence the Forts on the North side while we silenced the forts and took them on the South No boat was to fire until a yellow flag was hoisted at the main of the Slaney... Before they began to fire it was beastly as you had all kinds of thoughts going through your mind and could not shut them up no how. The shot were falling about the Cormorant when the yellow flag was hoisted and she opened fire... the flag was just up when a puff of smoke was seen to come from her 68pd and a shell burst in the centre of a crowd of chinamen and then she sent another and a few rockets just before she began firing she came into contact with the hausers which at the rate she was going made her shiver from head to stern but still she cut them right in two... the Nimrod began heavy fire on the battery nearest her and then the Gunboats with all the ships boats in tow passed all in line each firing into the forts and also receiving their fire as they went by to land the men past the forts for we had to run the gamlett between the forts 2 on one side and 3 on the other... It was a beautiful sight to see the Gunboats with crowds of boats all round them filing into the river being fired at by the Forts which were covered with all kinds of coloured flags and firing back again whenever they got a chance... the shot flew over us but now and then struck near us 2 hit us one hit the Gun Boat... the men behaved shamefully 2 when the shot came through the boat jumped overboard and were very nearly drowned It would have served them right... for some reason or other the Commander said that I was to stay by the boats... I waited till half the men had jumped in when seeing a crowd in the bows I jumped from the stern and came up passed [i.e. past] my seat of honor in mud and water but after wading for about 5 minutes I came to the end awfully blown... I then drew my sword and looked at my revolver to see if it was all right & found it all wet but still as these service pistols are perfectly good... I ran on Well I soon came up with the foremost and the Captain Commander and their Aid de Camps and myself went ahead of the Men to see if we could make them fall into line... Till the Captain said it is no use let them go so we all rushed on in a heap French and English as we were going on I saw two or three of the [???] sneaking along behind a Hut so I whipped out my revolver and let fly at them by this time the whole of them were running away as they only let us get into pistol shot and then ran like riggers... a Frenchman called out and turning round I saw a frenchman aiming at him and as they are not such over good shots I thought it best to sheer off a bit the Frenchman was about 20 yards off well this time he hit the Chinaman just being on the top of an embankment he fell down the other side into the ditch which we had to pass well in crossing over the man had into the water all the Frenchmen used him as a stepping stone and each one that stood on him he groaned as he was only wounded... I had to run on with the others well when we came to the last ditch we had cease firing sounded and also the halt well while was collecting the 3rd Division I saw the most blackguard thing done by a frenchman there were two wounded chinamen trying to crawl away and these two Frenchmen saw them and ran up to them one dashed the mans brains out with his clubbed musket while the [other] stabbed the other with his bayonet each time so far in that he had to put his foot on the mans body to press it away while he hauled the bayonet out two or three of our officers looked in an awfull rage at this for my part I felt as if I could shoot them with my revolver that I had in my holster... so we marched off I was at the head... I suppose about 11.30 I was sent down with 4 stretcher men to get the grog up I had got down about half way when passing about 100 yards from the North fort I saw a Magazine go up blowing fort men and all up there being about 40 frenchmen blown up they were sent flying about 20 yards a great many into a ditch where they lay throwing the water over themselves... they were as naked as when they were born and all their skin was hanging down in lumps as if it was a shirt... in fact they were perfectly skinned...".
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