Capture of Mỹ Tho


Capture of Mỹ Tho

The Capture of Mỹ Tho (12 April 1861) was an important French victory in the Cochinchina campaign (1858–62). This campaign, fought between the French and the Spanish on the one side and the Vietnamese on the other, began as a limited punitive expedition and ended as a French war of conquest. The war concluded with the establishment of the French colony of Cochinchina, a development that inaugurated nearly a century of French colonial dominance in Vietnam.

Background

After early French victories at Tourane and Saigon, the Cochinchina campaign reached a point of equilibrium with the French and their Spanish allies besieged in Saigon, which had been captured by a Franco-Spanish expedition under the command of Admiral Charles Rigault de Genouilly on 17 February 1859. The arrival of massive reinforcements from the French expeditionary corps in China in 1860 allowed the French to regain the initiative. In early 1861 Admiral Léonard Charner broke the Siege of Saigon by defeating the Vietnamese besieging army at the Battle of Kỳ Hòa (25 February 1861). This victory gave Charner the opportunity to take the offensive against the Vietnamese, and he decided to strike first at My Tho and next at Bien Hoa.

The My Tho expedition

The expedition against My Tho was initially led by "capitaine de frégate" Bourdais, captain of the aviso "Monge". The warships at his disposal included "Monge", the first-class gunboats "Alarme" and "Mitraille", and the small gunboats Nos. 18 and 31. Bourdais was ordered to advance on My Tho from the north, along the Bao Dinh Ha creek.

On 1 and 2 April Bourdais bombarded and captured two forts at the entrance to the creek, and went on to destroy a series of stockades erected by the Vietnamese to bar access. On 4 April the expedition received important reinforcements from Saigon: 200 chasseurs, 100 sailors, two companies of marine infantry, two 40-millimetre mountain guns and two mortars. These reinforcements arrived aboard the aviso "Echo". Command of the expedition was now given to "capitaine de vaisseau" Le Couriault du Quilio. Further reinforcements arrived on 6 April, under the command of "capitaine de frégate" Desvaux.

Between 6 and 11 April Le Couriault du Quilio's expedition fought its way along the Bao Dinh Ha creek, against Vietnamese resistance of varying intensity. On 11 April the expedition approached My Tho, and prepared to assault the town on the following day. In the event, the assault was not necessary. A flotilla of warships under the command of Admiral François Page, who had been sent by Charner to attack My Tho by sea, presented itself before the town on 12 April. My Tho was occupied by the French on the same day without a shot being fired. [Thomazi, "Histoire militaire de l'Indochine française", 32–3]

Notes

References

* Taboulet, G., "La geste française en Indochine" (Paris, 1956)
* Thomazi, A., "La conquête de l'Indochine" (Paris, 1934)
* Thomazi, A., "Histoire militaire de l'Indochine française" (Hanoi, 1931)


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