He put his men in good humor by distributing a large sum of money among them, and he succeeded in eluding the imperial commanders and in misleading them as to his intentions. While they thought he had gone off to relieve Ganking, he had really hastened to attack the important city of Hangchow, where much spoil and material for carrying on the war might be secured by the victor.
The Taepings resumed active operations with the capture of Kiukiang and Ganking, and in March, 1853, they sat down before Nankin. The siege continued for a fortnight, but notwithstanding that there was a large Manchu force in the Tartar city, which might easily have been defended against an enemy without artillery, the resistance offered was singularly and unexpectedly faint-hearted.
Nor could he save Ganking, which, after being besieged for three years, surrendered to Tseng Kwotsiuen, and thus all hope of succour from the west, or of retreat there, in the last resort, was removed from the hard-beset garrison of Nanking. As some set-off to this reverse, Chung Wang captured the ports of Ningpo and Hangchow, after a gallant defence by a small Manchu garrison.
He relieved the town of Ganking when closely pressed by Tseng Kwofan, and although he could not prevent a fresh beleaguerment of Nanking, it caused him no apprehension because the Emperor's generals were well known to have no intention of attacking. Notwithstanding this, it was clearly foreseen that in time Nanking must fall by starvation.
An Englishman contracted to convey 9,000 of the troops who had stormed Ganking from the Yangtse to Shanghai. These men were Honan braves, who had seen considerable service in the interior of China, and it was proposed that they should garrison the towns of Kiangsu accordingly as they were taken from the rebels.
But he unfortunately rested content with his laurels, while the Taepings swept like an irresistible wave or torrent down the valley of the Yangtsekiang. The capture of Kiukiang, a town situated on the river near the northern extremity of the lake Poyang, and of Ganking followed in quick succession, and on 8th March the Taepings sat down before Nanking, the old capital of the Mings.
The troops summoned from Ganking had at last arrived to the number of five or six thousand men; and the Futai Sieh, who was on the point of being superseded to make room for Li Hung Chang, thought to employ them before his departure on some enterprise which should redound to his credit and restore his sinking fortunes. The operation was as hazardous as it was ambitious.