The Conflict Due to the isolation of the Chinese and the degradement of the Navy, the Chinese Junks were wimpy and useless against the powerful ironclad vessels that the British used. In comparison, the Chinese hunting rifles were useless against the powerful pistols that the British owned. The unsuspecting Chinese let their army degrade over the years. They had never expected any foreign attack. see Appendix A) On November 3rd, 1839, two British Frigates opened fire on the Chinese.
The HMS Volage and the HMS Hyacinth attacked 29 unsuspecting Junks blockading a harbor near Chuanbi.(see Appendix B) There was many Chinese casualties, but only one uncareful British sailor was wounded. Lin zexu heard of this attack and was worried. Afraid that he would lose his position due to this humiliation, Lin twisted the report he would not be punished.
After this report, the north part of China started to believe this battle was a victory. The Emperor was convinced that the Chinese would crush the British. This marked the beginning of the First Opium War. The war truly began when the British branch of government in India wrote a formal declaration of war. The first phase of the war began when Captain George Elliott of the British Navy moved his troops, along with the HMS Nemesis( an ironclad paddlewheel boat) to Macau. Then the British confronted the nearby locas and officials in the area demanding them to bring their demands to the Emperor.
The British message was to the Daoguang emperor was to agree with their terms or else suffer a humiliating defeat. The british war strategy was to cut off the north from the thriving, rich south. They demanded that the Emperor compensate for the seized opium, the removement of the strict trade laws and for China to cede one of their many islands to the British.
The Chinese officials did not want the Emperor to know about this so they claimed that they were representing the Emperor. The Chinese locals and officials met with the British diplomats on board the HMS Wellesley outside of Chusan.(see Appendix C) The Chinese officials did not agree to the British terms so on the following day, the British attacked Chusan.
The british tried to offer the terms to the Chinese officials again but they rejected the terms once more. The result of this rejection was the blockade of Ningpo. The British then marched to Tientsin. The British Diplomats were then sent to find and give their demands to the Emperor. Meanwhile, the Chinese commissioner had recruited an army to retake Macau. The British diplomats finally reached Peking and conveyed the British terms of surrender. The emperor soon heard about this and was enraged.
The news of the war had finally reached the north. Angry, the Daoguang emperor held Lin Zexu responsible for this and stripped him of his title. The new imperial commissioner was no better.
He fell faster than Zexu did. Lin Zexu warned the emperor and advised him not to accept the demands.In the meantime, the new Imperial Commissioner, Qishan took a more cowardly approach to this growing problem. He approached the diplomats and General Elliot and convinced them that the Chinese officials in Canton are prepared to negotiate. Upon hearing this, the British troops withdrew to Macau. When the British reached Canton, they not only found that the Chinese officials were not even prepared to negotiate but found that some did not even know about this. For the second time, the British bombarded Chuanbi.
This became known as the famous Second Battle of Chuanbi. Qishan, upset that he might be discharged from his position, signed a treaty called the Convention of Chuanbi. In the Convention of Chuanbi, Qishan basically agreed to cede Hong Kong. This news soon traveled to the North and the Daoguang emperor was enraged. He imprisoned Qishan and had him killed for treason.Charles Elliot, the British diplomat was also punished for agreeing to such low terms. The British government insisted that the specific terms were the compensation of lost opium (which Qishan did not agree to), the cession of an island to the British, and the removal of the strict Canton Trade System (which Qishan also did not agree to).
Both diplomats were punished. Captain Elliot then led a series of quick skirmishes around Canton compromising the city’s safety. The HMS Nemesis and some other British warships were now in position to lay siege to Canton which they did in May.
(see Appendix D) After this battle, the British marched north recapturing Amoy, Tinghai, and Ningpo. There was mainly very little resistance towards the north.On March of 1842, a group of Chinese soldiers stationed in Ningpo resisted against the British occupation. The resisting soldiers were easily taken down by the british. Next in the May of 1842, the British took over the city of Chapu in a bloody battle. A British lieutenant was instantly killed by a shot in his neck.
The British were surprised by this because casualties were often low for the British. Finally, the British captured Shanghai and reached the capital Nanking. The war was over.