Page:Tseng Kuo Fan and the Taiping Rebellion.djvu/63

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45
ORGANISATION OF GOD-WORSHIPPERS

erals followed their instructions and made their attack in unison. They managed to secure the two mountain outposts, however, thus making it necessary for the rebels to retreat to the tea districts beyond.

General Hsiang wished to press his advantage and move quickly against the Taipings before they could consolidate their positions, but Pach'ingteh demurred, thus causing a fatal delay of five days, during which the rebels prepared themselves. Other delays followed, preventing the attack from being again made until August 28, when, at Hungmen, the well-fortified insurgents actually repulsed the whole imperial army. Later on, when the attack was renewed Wulant'ai's forces lost their way among the hills and Hsiang Yung was impeded by rains, thus enabling the rebel army to extricate itself from the impending danger and escape to Tungan, which they captured on the twenty-fifth of September, advancing against it by land and river.[1] They now numbered about 37,000 people, with an effective army of about 5,000 men.[2]

The Taiping cause had almost perished in the tea district when the imperial army surrounded it. There was danger both from within and without, and at least three descents of God and Jesus were necessary on the day of particular danger, August 17, to bring them back to their duty. This fact argues that they were far nearer defeat at that time than they have admitted anywhere else. The disaffection seems to have been directed chiefly against the leader Hung Siu-ch'üan and his able general,

  1. The Peking Gazettes, published separately, give the date as Aug. 27 (first of the eighth moon). Both P'ing-ting Yueh-fei Chi-lueh (p. 106) and Yueh Fen Chi Ssu give the date as the intercalary eighth moon. The former says it was taken on the first (Sept. 25), while the latter places the capture on the second (Sept. 26). Since the fighting was taking place at the time given in the Gazettes for the capture of the place I assume an error there, and accept the first of the intercalary moon.
  2. Taiping T'ien Kuo Yeh-shi, III, 53 f.