Battle of First Bar, 1841

Lithograph of the attack on First Bar. Published in Narrative of a Voyage Round the World, by Edward Belcher, 1843.

Location First Bar Island, Pearl River, China

On 27 February, 1841, during the First Opium War, a Royal Navy squadron attacked the Chinese positions on First Bar Island, in the Pearl River. First Bar controlled access to Canton, and it was fortified with shore batteries and supported by warships. The seven ships of the British squadron approached, and came within gun range about noon. The Chinese opened fire first, but their cannons were poorly handled. The guns of the Royal Navy, on the other hand, were handled with their typical competence, and within the hour most of the Chinese guns were silenced. Half an hour later, landing parties had secured the forts. The British also captured, or, rather, recaptured, a merchant ship that had been built in India in 1799, changed hands several times, and finally been turned into a warship by the Chinese. She was burned, and can be seen exploding on the far left of the illustration. The Chinese lost 300 troops killed, ninety-eight guns captured, and the one ship destroyed. The British gained control of the island, at the cost of eight wounded, and one sailor killed by an accidental discharge of his own musket.