9 DECEMBER

THOUSANDS MURDERED AFTER BRITISH LED IMPERIAL ARMY TAKES SUZHOU

[ 9 December 1863 ]

On this day in 1863, thousands of men and women in the Chinese rebel city of Suzhou were massacred,  four days after the town was seized by British and imperial Chinese forces. Colonel Charles Gordon (later to become legendary as General Gordon of Khartoum) had guaranteed the safety of the garrison, but the surprise was only the extent of the killing. As August Lindley wrote in his account of the Taiping Rebellion, Gordon’s military successes were always followed by “the wholesale massacre of the vanquished.”[1]

A report in London’s Standard was unusually frank in its description of the massacre, noting that “on the fourth day after the Imperialists got possession of the city the greater part of it was completely gutted by the Chinese troops and peasantry…. Great pools of blood and ghastly heads lying scattered about, marked the extensive massacre which had been carried on.”[2] The killings appear to have started soon after imperial troops entered the city on 5 December, but by 9 December it was clear that an appalling massacre had taken place, with historians estimating the number of those slaughtered as high as thirty thousand.[3]

FOOTNOTES

  1. Augustus Lindley, Tai-Ping Tien-Kwoh: The History of the Ti-Ping Revolution, Day and Son, London 1866, p759
  2. “The Capture of Soochow,” The Standard, 4 February 1864, p5
  3. John Newsinger, The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire, Bookmarks Publications 2013 London, p71

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