"A Brief but Furious Campaign": The Battle of the Pearl River Forts

The November 1856 battle of the barrier forts, while a testimony to the prowess of the US Navy and Marine Corps, is perhaps one of the most obscure applications of US military force in history.
This is original content based on research by The History Guy. Images in the Public Domain are carefully selected and provide illustration. As very few images of the actual event are available in the Public Domain, images of similar objects and events are used for illustration.
You can purchase the bow tie worn in this episode at The Tie Bar:
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All events are portrayed in historical context and for educational purposes. No images or content are primarily intended to shock and disgust. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Non censuram.
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Script by THG
#history #thehistoryguy #China

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  • 10:48 - I think you meant to say fusillade. Thanks for another great episode!

    Jack ZimmerJack Zimmer9 өдрийн өмнө
  • Is there a link to the 1966 movie 'The Sand Pebbles' ?

    Umberto AmanteUmberto Amante10 өдрийн өмнө
  • Wow I wish I had learned from you back when I was in High school

    Terry NagleTerry Nagle14 өдрийн өмнө
  • Fascinating piece of forgotten history. But I wonder what those guys would think of the disrespect our flag receives these days

    FUBAR Model YardFUBAR Model Yard15 өдрийн өмнө
  • The irony is that China hates unequal treaties and uses them in their history classes and propaganda but now their whole trade policy and Belt and Road initiative are all designed to unequally benefit china at the expense of poorer nations in central asia and in africa

    Arthas MenethilArthas Menethil16 өдрийн өмнө
  • I had read of this years ago. But not in the detail you have brought to the story via your video. Thank you.

    Causeless RebelCauseless Rebel16 өдрийн өмнө
  • Ho boy, another great story! That's an incredible feat for such a small force!

    Mad MattMad Matt16 өдрийн өмнө
  • 8:28; yep, lol, a long and storied history of the Chinese not apologizing for anything, regardless of anything. Ahh yes, such is life. And we move on down the road....

    nozrepnozrep17 өдрийн өмнө
  • Thank you for a wonderful piece of mid-century US history that does not include the ACW.

    Frank GullaFrank Gulla18 өдрийн өмнө
  • I hope modern day ZhungGuo remembers this encounter......

    FMHammyJFMHammyJ19 өдрийн өмнө
    • To both the PROC and ROC.

      peekaboo peekaboopeekaboo peekaboo10 өдрийн өмнө
  • This was absolutely about whites forcing China to allow them to sell drugs in China

    Brandon MorelandBrandon Moreland19 өдрийн өмнө
  • New glasses! And they fit!

    John PombrioJohn Pombrio19 өдрийн өмнө
  • You are wrong about one thing: the Chinese have NEVER forgotten any of this. In my travels in China I found official plaques at the site of every assault, attack, murder, rape, theft, extortion and humiliation that the Chinese suffered at the hands of of the British, Americans, Germans, Russians and Japanese during the “century of shame.” This very battle, which the Chinese lost so dramatically, colors their attitude toward America today. Look at the history of the Korean War where barefoot Chinese soldiers marched through the Korean mountains to destroy the American army and think about the 70 years of intense military preparation that has been carried out since. China will not be defeated again.

    Yo mismo soy el regaloYo mismo soy el regalo19 өдрийн өмнө
  • The trade was OPIUM. The British demanded unrestricted opium importation import into China. The were drug dealers.

    Yo mismo soy el regaloYo mismo soy el regalo19 өдрийн өмнө
  • Watch "The Sand Pebbles" not 1850s but pre WWI.

    Paul HerzogPaul Herzog20 өдрийн өмнө
  • I consider myself a knowledgeable history buff, but you keep surprising me with heretofore unknown episodes of fascinating events.

    Craig DeedsCraig Deeds20 өдрийн өмнө
  • I wonder if those cannons are still in the river?

    Jesse LambertJesse Lambert20 өдрийн өмнө
  • More dead folks in Chinese wars because when you have a Chinese war, and you're hungry for another one just an hour later.

    Robert GilesRobert Giles21 өдрийн өмнө
  • So much of the history of The United States of America between 1800 and 1860 has been overshadowed by the U.S. Civil War that most of that history is all but forgotten. Thank you for remembering that history THG!

    John CashwellJohn Cashwell21 өдрийн өмнө
  • George MacDonald Frasier's Flashman seems to have missed out on this action, perhaps one of the very few he managed to avoid, but his (mis)adventures in the Second Opium War are chronicled in Flashman and the Dragon, in which he meets a very young but already murderous Ci Xi, later the notorious Dowager Empress. There's a wonderful reminiscence at the end of the novel of their last meeting after the disastrous Boxer Rebellion of 1900 when they were both ancients. Anyway, if you haven't discovered GMF's works, he was a writer of historical fiction who was both entertaining and meticulous about the historical details. He also wrote at least two non-fiction books, one on Hollywood vs. History, and one about the now-obscure centuries of feuds and cattle-raids by families living on both sides of the Scottish-English border titled "The Steel Bonnets". Like the Hatfields and the McCoys, they both murdered and married each other.

    Thomas SewellThomas Sewell21 өдрийн өмнө
  • Just as HG says, this is a forgotten blip on American radar. In the broader context, China has not forgotten it. "Never forget National humiliation" is part of Xi Jinping's platform. Unrelated, I guess; those Marines and Commander Foote had some big brass ones.

    Redmenace96Redmenace9621 өдрийн өмнө
  • Great video as always. So sad that so much of history’s greatest events center around men killing men, though....

    kenn Millerkenn Miller22 өдрийн өмнө
  • I sit here amazed at how this episode, without that direct intention, has revived perspectives not noted since boyhood. The mighty Mississippi, providing trade to the world and the interior of the United States regained and held for the Union by an Officer in this action, musing as I am about when last, from the widow's walk of the mansion upon the far bluff, a steam boat was seen plying the Mississippi and wondering if that officer had tread within that house. And the forlorn steam chest left by my great great uncle to my grandmother, a relic not appreciated and now gone. What tales...

    Lynn WoodLynn Wood22 өдрийн өмнө
  • The United States didn't want to get involved in a foreign war.... Those were the days 🎶

    Ghost FarmerGhost Farmer22 өдрийн өмнө
  • Who does your research? You also have a place in history with your outstanding work.

    Don ShelleyDon Shelley22 өдрийн өмнө
  • 70 million Chinese killed in a 14 year war... That works out to an average of 13,698 people killed daily. Think of the amount of work just to dispose of that many bodies, on a daily basis. Yall take care and be safe, John

    John DoeJohn Doe22 өдрийн өмнө
  • Dear History Guy, The OPIUM WAR was not about trade. It was about opium. The British forced the Chinese Government to allow British commercial interests to sell opium in China, but they did not allow opium to be sold in Britain. If the issue were ' trade ', then why weren't Chinese merchants allowed to sell opium in Britain? The reason the Chinese restricted trade to just a few ports was because of the predatory trade practices of European mercantile powers who were delighted to create millions of drug addicts in China while Britain and other European powers prevented that happening to their own citizens. ;-)

    JOHN LEPANTJOHN LEPANT23 өдрийн өмнө
  • Were the US warships invited by Chinese authorities to enter the harbor of Canton? If not then this was an act of aggression and the Chinese authorities were justified in defending their country.

    Robijn BruinsmaRobijn Bruinsma23 өдрийн өмнө
  • Must have been amazing being a US sailor or marine on these ships seeing old China and Chinese for the first time. Harbors with Chinese pirate junks anchored all around, the scents, the people, the food? It would be like being on another planet.

    Mr.NaughtyPantsMr.NaughtyPants23 өдрийн өмнө
  • "doesn't every good story involve pirates?" .....wait a minute......you're right....that's not hyperbole it's just fact!

    Sean PooreSean Poore23 өдрийн өмнө
  • 10:45 fyoo·suh·laad

    Lopez AlehandroLopez Alehandro23 өдрийн өмнө
  • A kill ratio of roughly 100:1. We'll take it, baby. 'Murica!

    RonaldReaganRocks1RonaldReaganRocks123 өдрийн өмнө
  • If you have not done it yet, the 1871 Battle of Ganghwa is a similarly forgotten engagement. You could also include the French 1866 expedition and/or the Japanese engagement in 1875.

    Hessan's CountyHessan's County23 өдрийн өмнө
  • Outstanding !. The World's Finest US Marines Semper Fi

    steven romerosteven romero23 өдрийн өмнө
  • America's 1st war on drugs. Good thing we stopped it then. Can you imagine if we had lost?

    Alex inBurlesonTxAlex inBurlesonTx24 өдрийн өмнө
  • A video on Sgt Roy Benavidez would be great. He was a complete badass and his story is incredible. He deserves to be remembered.

    Steven CSteven C24 өдрийн өмнө
  • probably not the best tasting yellow curry.

    Fisty the ClownFisty the Clown24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Moral: don't mess with the Marines.

    David SigalowDavid Sigalow24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Have you done an episode on 'The Trent Affair'?

    Ian BrannanIan Brannan24 өдрийн өмнө
  • The San Jacinto would become considerably more famous when she stopped the British mail steamer Trent in 1861, and removed the Confederate envoys Mason and Slidell. This nearly caused the British Empire to go to war with the Union -- which would almost certainly have given victory to the Confederacy.

    Kenneth KelloggKenneth Kellogg24 өдрийн өмнө
  • hey history guy. the battle at the end of the movie THE SAND PEBBLES. did that really happen?

    Tommy SandsTommy Sands24 өдрийн өмнө
  • This ain’t no high school history course..!! What intensity.. Chinese revolution causing the death of millions of Chinese.. Pretty horrifying !! All the fighting business by the Brits and Americans..

    Charles AustinCharles Austin24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Fascinating! Thank you for bringing obscure history to life... Right here in my living room.

    Bob SmootBob Smoot24 өдрийн өмнө
  • So once again. "The Marines have landed and the situation is well in hand." Along with. "Insult to the flag revenge'd." The traditional way to end the actions reports of the period.

    caper2xcaper2x24 өдрийн өмнө
  • San "wah-sin-toe", no "ja-sin-toe". Jacinto. I may have spelled that wrong.

    Dennis MasonDennis Mason24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Can you talk about oliver hassard perry and 1912

    Buddy GBuddy G24 өдрийн өмнө
  • New glasses? New haircut? New something? Why do you look different?

    woodencoins808woodencoins80824 өдрийн өмнө
  • "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeated" Perhaps we should elect our governmental and military leaders based upon their history classroom standings, particularly presidents and prime ministers.

    Mack FisherMack Fisher24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Can you please do Anatoli Bugorski? Yes, that one. If you already have, please point me towards it. Thanks so much for what you do!

    antidulvian666antidulvian66624 өдрийн өмнө
  • Rest assured that the CCP has not forgotten this episode. The Unequal Treaties are one of the sources of why China seeks to reclaim what they believe the lost in the era-- national pride. It is brought up frequently in official documents.

    M BergquistM Bergquist24 өдрийн өмнө
  • mnthe.info/bill/video/pMOb2q6co5ycpp4 Add to that the fact that tea, which the Brits had acquired a jones for, could only be purchased with silver; Britain was going broke. For a decent historical take on this, along with pirates, romance and the introduction of Jesuits bark into commerce read James Clavel's TAIPAN.

    Phil GiglioPhil Giglio24 өдрийн өмнө
  • At the rate this country is going with outsourcing. They will be our overlords soon

    BryceLovesTechBryceLovesTech24 өдрийн өмнө
  • This was a movie! - How dumb? How smart? How everyone goes a wrong direction. The organization violence commands. The ordering of our minds that generates peace

    Kristopher JenneweinKristopher Jennewein24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Another great episode. Bunga Bunga!

    TaunTaun24 өдрийн өмнө
  • IIRC the British were miffed because China wanted to stop their shipments of opium into China, much in the same way that Pablo Escobar was miffed at DEA efforts to close down the cocaine trade with the US.

    John EJohn E24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Is there anything Marines cant do ?

    strmclouds strmcloudsstrmclouds strmclouds24 өдрийн өмнө
  • China not meeting up to terms of the treaty - I'm shocked -

    ralph deblasioralph deblasio24 өдрийн өмнө
  • I finally learned how Pearl River, NY got it's name. Who knew. lol. Cool! Thanks.

    70SS70SS24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Never heard of that one; excellent!

    Dusty RiverDusty River24 өдрийн өмнө
  • The breadth, depth and scope of History is breathtaking. The number of stories and the volume of forgotten history is mind-boggling.

    Billy SargentBilly Sargent24 өдрийн өмнө
  • The Qing military was extremely poorly trained and disciplined. One problem with their naval artillery is that there was no standard for black powder, making it impossible to adjust cannon fire effectively. The Qing strategy wasn't to adjust to improved artillery methods but to simply create more cannon installations.

    annarboriterannarboriter24 өдрийн өмнө
  • The Battle of Pearl River Forts sounds like a round of Battlefield where I'd wanna screenshot the scoreboard after

    yeahitskimmelyeahitskimmel24 өдрийн өмнө
  • I have no doubt that the Chinese will keep trying.

    Working GuyWorking Guy24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Nice forts you have there. Pity if someone were to........ systematically demolish them.

    Kurtis BoyerKurtis Boyer24 өдрийн өмнө
  • The Opium War is still a very tender and sore point in history between the UK & China.

    LazyLife IFreakLazyLife IFreak24 өдрийн өмнө
  • China Marines, the originals....

    deltavee2deltavee225 өдрийн өмнө
  • Great video on an episode that truly is forgotten history!

    Rob BabcockRob Babcock25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Please do a episode on the "line crossing of the biesbosch " in the Netherlands winter of 1944/1945. brave men and women a couple dozen captered German soldiers. No pirates do.

    Diane FransenDiane Fransen25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Semper Fi!!!

    Jovan WeismillerJovan Weismiller25 өдрийн өмнө
  • I'm not surprised that the Americans were there, but I am rather disappointed.

    TheHylianBatmanTheHylianBatman25 өдрийн өмнө
  • The Chinese version of events of this time are of course different. I suggest a story about how the British were smuggling cheap opium into China from their colonies in India regardless of the Chinese ban on opium. Another story would be why the Brits were subverting Chinese law to conserve British silver. Drugs rather than cash shall we say. So many more stories will come of these. Thank you History Guy for making history interesting and available to the masses.

    Norm CameronNorm Cameron25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Thankyou. Could you please do a story from the New Zealand wars?

    KeaKea25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Do the Whiskey Rebellion. I'm interested on what you find and tell verses what I've been taught and heard.

    Christopher WedemeyerChristopher Wedemeyer25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Please have more history other than war and battles. Thanks

    FulanodetalFulanodetal25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Okay, so the topic of the federal squadron on the western rivers during the American Civil War would be a good topic to cover. James Eads' gunboats, Grants ascent of the Tennessee, and lots more that you know more about than do I.

    Not BugarevNot Bugarev25 өдрийн өмнө
  • USA, BABY!

    RonaldReaganRocks1RonaldReaganRocks125 өдрийн өмнө
  • We had no business to support the British in China

    Anthony CavaliereAnthony Cavaliere25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Dear Mr. Guy, I only just recently learned about the Zheltuga Republic, have you heard of it? I'd like to see your presentation of that history. History, and a presentation, that deserve to be remembered.

    danbelldanbell25 өдрийн өмнө
  • 10:48 Should be "fusillade".

    Eric StrombergEric Stromberg25 өдрийн өмнө
  • I love this! Great to hear of my Foote ancestors.

    Natashasuzanne1Natashasuzanne125 өдрийн өмнө
  • How is this channel not at 1 million subs yet? Great stuff.

    ted kaczynskited kaczynski25 өдрийн өмнө
  • I'll bet you Hunter Biden would love the opiate Wars.🔥💨💨💨💨💨💨💨💨💨💨💨

    T CAPOT CAPO25 өдрийн өмнө
  • It is always 8 O'clock on your show .

    T CAPOT CAPO25 өдрийн өмнө
  • And the ccp is striving to beat pass dictatorship score's. By all rights they have gone well passed the amount noted from the 1800s ..

    M. T. ElectricM. T. Electric25 өдрийн өмнө
    • @LizJ unfortunately yes that's what I mean.

      M. T. ElectricM. T. Electric25 өдрийн өмнө
    • @Lensflare Deviant I think he means body count.

      LizJLizJ25 өдрийн өмнө
    • What do you mean?

      Lensflare DeviantLensflare Deviant25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Every Marine is a rifle man.

    WarDaddy IndustriesWarDaddy Industries25 өдрийн өмнө
  • If somebody shoots at me I'm shooting back. To hell with protocol. "If somebody tries to kill you, well, you just try and kill em right back." ~Malcolm Reynolds

    CrazyBear65CrazyBear6525 өдрийн өмнө
  • What role if any did the Marines play in American Civil War?

    william Thomaswilliam Thomas25 өдрийн өмнө
    • Not much, the Marines were on ships and the navel war was much more limited than the land war when it came down to small arms kinda fighting.

      Lensflare DeviantLensflare Deviant25 өдрийн өмнө
  • The Battle of the Pearl River Forts became but a Footenote in US Navy and Marine history.

    Colonel KColonel K25 өдрийн өмнө
  • I consider myself quite a historian especially military but I have not heard of this engagement until now. Thank you for another wonderful episode

    Dru BallardDru Ballard25 өдрийн өмнө
  • For those interested, I'd suggest checking out Mark Felton's videos on the Opium Wars. He provides a much more thorough, balanced, and in depth explanation of the economic causes behind it.

    Axterix13Axterix1325 өдрийн өмнө
  • A few good men.

    01sapphireGTS01sapphireGTS25 өдрийн өмнө
  • I have to say I wouldn't exactly be thrilled about foreign armies occupying my country.

    SomeBigFatGuySomeBigFatGuy25 өдрийн өмнө
  • A man who won and engagement with the Chinese fought on the Mississippi tells you much about how the USA had changed since the war of 1812. ( Canadians quiet)

    gmanbogmanbo25 өдрийн өмнө
  • This was unknown to me until very recently, I looked into the opium wars online and stumbled across this obscure us intervention, I never heard of it before... I saw mark Felton had a series on the opium wars where he mentioned it... there's some other obscure 19thC us actions besides the barbary wars like in Korea and Sumatra also, and THG recent video about samoa

    Steven ThompsonSteven Thompson25 өдрийн өмнө
  • The capture of the forts was widely hailed in England and France whose news papers called it a most valiant and well executed campaign etc. etc. But it is now considered an example of imperialist countries bullying and extorting a less developed country. China wanted to stop the importation of opium by the British to protect it's people, which today would be considered an international crime. Can anyone imagine Britain attacking an American military base in order to get America to buy more crack?

    BullettubeBullettube25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Mark Felton covered this as well....But the THG did it as good to....Thanks

    steve shoemakersteve shoemaker25 өдрийн өмнө
  • I have actually been in one of the pearl river forts in Guangzhou. Looking at the area it is obvious that the forts were quite strategically placed to defend the web of rivers that make the delta. Interesting history. Isn't it refreshing to reflect on a time when the flag was universally respected as opposed to today...sad commentary on the current state of the nation. Thank you for sharing.

    Jim DJim D25 өдрийн өмнө
  • they put the second boat out there to draw fire.

    Buil DinitBuil Dinit25 өдрийн өмнө
  • Dear THG, could this battle be considered part of The Boxer Rebellion?

    Planet EarthPlanet Earth25 өдрийн өмнө
    • @Planet Earth You're welcome.

      LizJLizJ25 өдрийн өмнө
    • @LizJ Thanks for answering that. I knew a bit about the Boxer rebellion, but not enough to know if the two were connected.

      Planet EarthPlanet Earth25 өдрийн өмнө
    • The Boxer Rebellion was a good 50 years later and was led by peasants, not the Chinese government, so really a separate conflict (although with some of the same roots, such as opium, but particularly xenophobia).

      LizJLizJ25 өдрийн өмнө
  • You have to feel sorry for the people of China because whether it was foreign intervention or just some home grown warlord, it has always been the peasants who went, "Ah sh*t, here we go again!"

    korbellkorbell25 өдрийн өмнө