Military Review

Vietnamese whim of France. Part of 2

French Foreign Minister Jules Ferry hoped that the war with China would be quick and triumphant. He unleashed it, ignoring parliament, because he feared that he would not be allowed to conduct military operations. Therefore, officially France did not declare war on China. But events unfolded contrary to the expectations of Ferry. The Qing Empire, having suffered a crushing defeat in the first battle, did not surrender. The Chinese decided on a full-fledged war with the European state.

Fighting in North Vietnam

Defeats in naval battles, though cost China dearly in every sense, but the government did not make any particular tragedy. The emperor and his commanders understood that on the water they could not bear with the French. Therefore, the Asians did their main focus on land operations in North Vietnam.

In the provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan, located in close proximity to the territory of Vietnam, two armies were formed. The first (in Guangxi) was headed by Pan Dingxin. He was required to invade Tonkin from the northeast. Yunnan army took Tang Jingsong. He was supposed to attack the enemy from the northwest.

According to the plan, after the offensive, both armies were to meet in the delta of the Red River and, united, inflict a crushing defeat on the French. In total, Pan and Tang were commanded by more than forty thousand people (according to other sources - about fifty thousand). Their soldiers got good modern weapon (for example, Mauser rifles), but the combat capability left much to be desired. In addition, a significant drawback was the almost complete absence of light field artillery. Therefore, the commanders quite logical feared to converge head-on with the French. And the Chinese offensive operation was reduced to a permanent and monotonous construction of fortifications, because both Pan and Tan were waiting for a meeting with the Europeans for a minute. Because of their fears about the full advancement deep into the territory of North Vietnam there could be no question.

The interesting thing is this: at first, the Chinese appeared in Tonkine, the local population gave them full support, because the Vietnamese saw them as defenders from European atrocities. But the Chinese authorities took it in their own way and, as they say, have become impudent. Soldiers were engaged in robberies, demonstrating their strength not to the French, but to defenseless Vietnamese.

Naturally, such a policy did not lead to anything good. And soon the population of Tonkin turned away from the Chinese, having begun to offer them organized resistance.

The French did not even dream of a better deal. They did absolutely nothing to quarrel the Chinese with the Vietnamese, the Qing Empire did everything for them with their own hands. At the time of the confrontation, the Europeans had an army of fifteen thousand men, led by Louis Brier de Lille, who replaced Millau at a military post. And the main advantage of de Lily was the presence of a river flotilla. Therefore, unlike the Chinese, who, like ants, literally every two or three steps erected defenses, the French were much more mobile and faster. De Lille could freely transfer his forces to where he saw fit. But without the minuses, of course, it could not do without. Army de Lily consisted of motley parts. Under his leadership were the French and Algerians, as well as representatives of North Vietnam (in fact, the Tonkins) along with the Annam (South Vietnamese) detachments. And as the main ally of the Chinese, who waged an uncompromising war with the soldiers of de Lily, all kinds of tropical diseases appeared.

General Francois-Oscar de Negrier on the cover of "Le Petit Journal"

News that the Chinese fleet was defeated at Fuzhou, the warlords took it casually. Therefore, this fact did not affect the speed of their movement. The Guangxi Army advanced slowly along the Mandarin Road, starting at Lang Son. And in October 1884, she "unexpectedly" met with the French. The Europeans easily dealt with the advanced troops and managed to capture strategically important strong points. Asian tactics did not work. The enemy was corny stronger in everything. But, surprisingly, the French showed maximum cruelty to the prisoners. Massacres were not an isolated incident. The behavior of the soldiers became public thanks to the media. Europe was seething, discussing and condemning the actions of "civilized" French.

As for the Yunnan Army, then things were getting better at the beginning. Commander Tang Jinsong managed to get to Tuenkuang Fortress, which was controlled by the French. The Chinese, whose total number was about twenty-one thousand people, believed that they would quickly force the commander of the garrison, Major Mark Edmont Domina, to capitulate. Tan had a good reason for this, because Domina had less than a thousand people at his disposal. Six thousand Chinese laid siege to the fortress, the rest were collected to the south, in case reinforcements tried to break through to Tuenkuang. But quick victory did not happen. The French desperately resisted, and the siege was delayed for several months. As a result, Tang not only drove himself into a trap, but also framed the Guangxi Army. The fact is that the Europeans, taking this opportunity, decided to strike at it. The development of the script is quite logical, but the Chinese for some reason did not take this into account.

De Lille, who had gathered about seven and a half thousand soldiers under his command, was thoroughly prepared for the decisive battle with Pan Dinsin. He drew significant forces in the form of artillery, and also paid close attention to food supply and military equipment. The rest of his soldiers Louis Brier left as defenders of the fortresses. The commander of the French corps decided that the main role in the coming confrontation would be played by the artillery, and not the quantity of “cannon fodder”.

And in early February 1885, the Europeans launched an offensive. Their battle campaign on Langshun lasted ten days. Naturally, it was not without skirmishes with the Guangxi army. But the Chinese could not oppose the French. Despite fierce resistance, the Chinese over and over again turned out to be losers. They did not succeed in repulsing the enemy under the walls of Lang Son himself. And on February 13, the Europeans celebrated an important victory. The success so much turned the head of Lilles that he, in fact, lost touch with reality. The commander was one hundred percent sure that the Guangxi Army was over. They say that it is broken to pieces and no longer represents any danger. Guided by such thoughts, de Lille made the main mistake of the whole campaign, perhaps. He did not finish the army of Dinsin in one powerful and crushing blow. Instead, the Frenchman, standing at the head of the five-thousandth army, went along the Mandarinovaya road to Hanoi. And then, transferring to the ships, the soldiers moved along the Red River. Meanwhile, the French garrison Tuenkuanga kept on the last moral-volitional. During the siege, the soldiers repelled several assaults organized by the enemy army. And, of course, the French forces came to an end. They urgently needed help. The Chinese understood that the enemy would not last long, so they tried to seize the fort as soon as possible. But still did not have time. At the very beginning of March, de Lille approached from the south. He managed to defeat Jinsong and free Tuenkuang from a painful siege.

Another quick and easy enough success only strengthened de Lille's opinion that the Chinese are a weak opponent. And he finally stopped taking them seriously. And the first victim of such a disrespectful attitude towards the enemy from the side of de Lille was General Francois de Negrier. He, being at the head of a modest army of two and a half thousand people, received an order from the commander to pursue the troops of Dingxing. The French bravely persecuted the defeated enemy right up to the border of China. And even for some time they crossed it, blowing up the customs building, which was called the “Chinese Gate”. After this event, de Negrieu, like his immediate commander, was convinced that the work was done. He considered that the troops of Dinsin were finally defeated and would not come to the scene of the theater of military operations. However, both de Lille and de Negrie were greatly mistaken about this. Pan Dingxing did not think to give up. Once on the territory of China, his army rested for a while. After that, the Guangxi Army was significantly strengthened. And soon her number increased to thirty thousand people.

Numerical superiority was completely on the side of the Chinese, because de Negrie had not even thought of any reinforcement. And by the time of the next skirmish on the border, there were about two and a half thousand people at his disposal. And with these forces, de Negrieu had to not only defeat the Chinese, but also force them to accept the unfavorable terms of a peace treaty. In general, the task of the general was almost impossible. Only a miracle could help him and his soldiers. But it did not happen.

On March 23, 1885, near Banbo, the French launched an offensive. After all, as you know, the best defense is an attack. But the plan de Negrieu did not work, the large number of the enemy affected. Despite the courage and determination of the Europeans, the Chinese managed to stop their attack, and then completely discard it. When de Negrieu received the news that about three hundred of his dead soldiers remained on the battlefield, he ordered the retreat to Langshosh. The general hoped that there he would receive much-needed reinforcements and be able to take up over the Chinese. But this did not happen. The fact is that the Guangxi Army was not going to repeat the mistakes of its opponents and wait for them to gain strength. Therefore, a new battle took place on the twenty-eighth of March near Lang Son himself. The French fought bravely. And for some time they even managed to seize the initiative - de Negrier’s actions affected. The general managed to crush the enemy’s left flank, thereby inspiring hope for victory for his soldiers. But ... soon de Negrieu was seriously wounded (but managed to survive anyway). And among the French there was no person able to replace him on the battlefield. Colonel Erbinye, who took command, failed completely. The Chinese won an important battle.

* * *

The failure of the French troops in Vietnam hit the government hard. In addition, the crisis has clearly begun. Ferry was in a difficult position and tried to get out of all means. But it turned out badly, since he simply had nothing to cover with numerous accusations. The main claim - the conduct of war without the approval of Parliament. To this the minister replied that there was no war, France was conducting a repressive action in Vietnam. And for this you do not need anyone's permission. Naturally, nobody believed in the “action”.

The position of the Ferry every day was becoming increasingly precarious. And when it became known about the painful defeats at Banbo and Langshona, the minister and his whole office capitulated. He was replaced by a new government - the government of Brisson. But Brisson himself was not going to immediately stop military operations. He, like his predecessor, believed that China must be defeated, "in order to preserve the honor of France." Therefore, it was decided to transfer new troops to Tonkin. But ... in April, the Chinese government unexpectedly for Brisson agreed to peace talks.

Jules Ferry

True, there was nothing unexpected in the behavior of the Chinese government. The fact is that the rice blockade that Admiral Courbet had established played a role. And it complemented its upcoming conflict with the Japanese over Korea. China was simply unable to fight on two fronts, while experiencing serious problems with provisions. In addition, he lost his main shadow ally - the UK. It was through the mediation of representatives of foggy Albion that all negotiations between China and France were going on. And London, on which, in fact, Beijing’s foreign policy depended, initially spoke of the division of North Vietnam. The British tried to knock out the provinces of Lao Cay and Lang Son from the French. Naturally, these British politicians pursued their own interests, since rivalry with France had already spread to Upper Burma and Thailand. Therefore, the British tried to "drown" the French in the wilds of Indo-China. But in 1885, the threat of a collision with Russia in Central Asia unexpectedly arose. Understanding that the struggle on two fronts would be disastrous for the country, the British quickly called themselves "pereobulsya" and turned their attention to the northern provinces of China, where the frightening Russian shadow appeared. And they simply “merged” the Chinese, forcing them to fully accept the conditions of the French.

At the beginning of April 1885, France and China signed a preliminary armistice agreement. It stated that the French fleet had completely lifted the trade blockade, while the Europeans were allowed to continue blocking the Chinese military squadron in Zhenhai, and the soldiers could be in Taiwan and Pescadores. As for the Chinese, they began to withdraw their troops from Vietnam.

The final peace treaty was signed on June 9, 1885. According to him, China acknowledged that all of Vietnam is under French control and withdrawn its troops. The French also removed their army and fleet from both Taiwan and the Pescador Islands. In this case, the Europeans refused to make contributions. At this military conflict was exhausted.
Articles from this series:
Vietnamese whim of France. Part of 1

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  1. Olgovich
    Olgovich 16 March 2019 06: 58
    Two predators fought among themselves for alien lands for them .....

    A little over a hundred years have passed and the French are retreating already in France itself ....
    1. Semurg
      Semurg 16 March 2019 14: 11
      Quote: Olgovich
      Two predators fought among themselves for alien lands for them .....

      A little over a hundred years have passed and the French are retreating already in France itself ....

      Three, or rather five
    2. The comment was deleted.
  2. Adjutant
    Adjutant 16 March 2019 16: 00
    Little-known events, and from that even more interesting
  3. cat Rusich
    cat Rusich 16 March 2019 23: 03
    Before this article, he represented the Chinese army of that time at the level of the Middle Ages. China had an army with modern weapons, and the command was court officials negative rather than commanders. There was no political will (the emperor of China), as the false ally (Britain) said - they did stop . Advise to fight to the last, today is easy to reason. We need to learn from historical examples - to whom am I saying this? ...