Ca. 1860-1862. 40x29 cm. With three original albumen photos from ca. 13x18,5 cm to ca. 5,5x8,5 cm, one pencil drawing ca. 11,5x28,5 cm, and two watercolour plans, ca. 24,5x38 cm and ca. 21x23 cm, mounted on period album leaves. All items but the last plan with period ink captions on the mounts, the last plan with the detailed descriptive key and the artist’s initials and date on the image (“Hy. Wm. B. 18.3/62”). Later maroon half morocco with cloth boards and gilt tooled title on the spine. The smallest photo slightly faded, but overall a very good album.
Historically significant collection illustrating the Third Battle of the Taku Forts during the final stage of the Second Opium War, compiled by and portraying British military officers - the direct participants of the events. Three original albumen photos are the group portraits of the officers of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) infantry regiment of the British Army which served in China in 1860-62 and together with the Anglo-French expeditionary force sailed from Hong Kong to the mouth of the Hai River in summer 1860. The force landed at Pehtang/Beitang on August 2, ten days later captured the Taku Forts protecting the way upstream to Beijing, and captured Tientsin on August 30. The expeditionary force moved further and occupied Beijing on October 6, thus bringing the active phase of the war to an end. The 31st regiment remained in Tientsin for another two years, forming a part of a British garrison there, and took part in suppressing the Taiping Rebellion in 1862.
The photos show the officers – members of the “31st Regimental [Masonic] Lodge,” “The Officers 31st Reg. with the adjutant’s dog ‘Judy’ taken after the China War of 1860 at Tien Tsien,” and officers posing in “The 31st Regimental mess boat in a creek during the Taeping Rebellion, 1862.” The pencil drawing depicts a scene with British naval ships “Steaming in to the attack of «Pehtang» with troop boats North China 1860. Drawn by Captain Hamilton 31st Regt.» There is also a large watercolour “Plan of Taku Forts and Tien-Tsin,” outlining the positions of the Royal Artillery, the 31st regiment, the Commissariat, the military store and the hospital. On the last leaf is a well-executed watercolour plan of “Tientsin with the position of the British Forces during the winter of 1861-62,” marking 24 objects, including the barracks of different regiments, hospitals, powder magazine, the police station, the church, commanders’ quarters etc. The plan is signed by “Hy. Wm. B.” and dated “18.3/62.” It became possible to identify the officers mentioned in the captions, as well as the author of the plan. The “Adjutant” whose dog Judy was shown on the officer’s group portrait was William Hill James who joined the 31st Regiment in 1855 and was rewarded with a medal with a clasp for the Battle of the Taku Forts. “Captain Hamilton” who drew a pencil scene with British ships proceeding to Pehtang was George John Hamilton, who fought with the regiment during the Crimean War and was also awarded for the capture of the Taku Forts; later he took part in the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion and in the Abyssinian Campaign of 1868 with the 26th Regiment. Finally, the plan of Tientsin was drawn by a young ensign Henry William Bateman who joined the 31st regiment in February 1861, and was attached to the Royal Artillery during the Taiping Rebellion. All names were found in: Hart, H.G. The New Army List, and Militia List; Exhibiting the Rank, Standing, and Various Services of Every Regimental Officer in the Army… No. XCVII. London, 1863, pp. 186-187. Overall a very interesting collection of original sources on the history of the last stage of the Second Opium War.