Friday, 21 September 2012

The 'Ever-Victorious Army'

Living where I do (near to the old Royal Military Academy, Woolwich) I have a historical interest in the 'old boys' of the Academy, and especially Charles George Gordon, who was born less than half a mile away from my home.

Although Gordon saw action in the Crimean War as an officer of the Royal Engineers, he made his name as a military leader in China when he was placed in command of what was known as the 'Ever-Victorious Army'. This was a force of Chinese soldiers that had been raised by the Imperial Chinese Government to help put down the Taiping Rebellion, and who were trained and led by European and American officers. The 'Army' regularly defeated forces of rebels that were much larger than it, and played a major part in bringing the rebellion to an end. After his service with the 'Ever-Victorious Army', Gordon was always known by the sobriquet of 'Chinese' Gordon.

I was given my copy of THE 'EVER-VICTORIOUS ARMY' (written by Andrew Wilson and first published by William Blackwood and Sons in 1868; republished in 1991 by Greenhill Books [ISBN 1 85367 089 8]) by Trebian in exchange for some books about the Spanish Civil War.


The author, Andrew Wilson, was an authority on Chinese matters, and besides having written ENGLAND'S POLICY IN CHINA he had served as editor of the 'China Mail' newspaper. As is typical of the period when it was written, this book is extremely detailed, and I doubt if many modern authors would give such an in-depth explanation of the culture of China and its effect upon the ways in which the Chinese interacted with foreigners.

This is not a book for someone who just wants to wargame the battles of the Taiping Rebellion; it is far too detailed for that. If, however, a reader wants to understand how and why the rebellion broke out and how it was finally defeated, this book will certainly meet their needs.

12 comments:

  1. Glad you seem to be enjoying it. You will have noted that as soon as I gave the book to you I got interested in China (no, - I don't want it back).

    Chinese Gordo is a fascinating character to say the least, - but Fred Ward the founder of the EVA probably matches him for interest.

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  2. Though what I have read about that war that is more current (and less eurocentric) shows that it was locally raised Chinese forces (raised by local leaders) that did them in (that plus some really bad mistakes on the part of the Taiping leadership

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  3. I also recommend, for light reading, 'Flashman and the Dragon'. Fred Ward features in that novel, as do several of the Taiping leaders.

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  4. I have that book and found it interesting, but heavy going.

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  5. I remember one of the Wargames Magazines doing a series of articles on this subject many many years ago. Foundry did a range of figure I seem to recall.

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  6. Chris Peers wrote a rule set with that name I believe.

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  7. Trebian,

    Isn't that the way of things? You think 'I won't need that again' ... and two weeks later you do!

    As you say, Ward is a very interesting personality but I have yet to read a biography of him.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Bill Pixley,

    I suspect that you are right, and that the Imperialist forces would have prevailed without European 'help'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Archduke Piccolo (Ion),

    I have all the 'Flashman' novels and they are excellent light (and infomrative) reading because their author did serious historical research before writing the books.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  10. Kaptain Kobold,

    I agree. It is a book that is best digested in small chunks. It is no 'page turner', but it is well worth reading.

    All the ebst.

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  11. Redtroop,

    All of that is news to me ... but now I will try to find out more.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  12. Conrad Kinch,

    I believe that you are correct ... and that I owned a set at one time.

    All the best,

    Bob

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