Command of Tonkin Expeditionary Corps
In October 1883 Courbet was placed in command of the Tonkin Expeditionary Corps. In December 1883 he struck at Son Tay. The Son Tay Campaign was the fiercest campaign the French had yet fought in Tonkin. Although the Chinese and Vietnamese contingents at Son Tay played little part in the defence, Liu Yongfu's Black Flags fought ferociously to hold the city. On 14 December the French assaulted the outer defences of Son Tay at Phu Sa, but were thrown back with heavy casualties. Hoping to exploit this reverse, Liu Yongfu attacked the French lines the same night, but the Black Flag attack also failed disastrously. After resting his troops on 15 December, Courbet again assaulted the defences of Son Tay on the afternoon of 16 December. This time the attack was thoroughly prepared by artillery, and delivered only after the defenders had been worn down. At 5 p.m. a Foreign Legion battalion and a battalion of marine fusiliers captured the western gate of Son Tay and fought their way into the town. Liu Yongfu's garrison withdrew to the citadel, and evacuated Son Tay under cover of darkness several hours later. Courbet had achieved his objective, but at considerable cost. French casualties at Son Tay were 83 dead and 320 wounded. The fighting at Son Tay also took a terrible toll of the Black Flags, and in the opinion of some observers broke them once and for all as a serious fighting force.
Read more about this topic: Amédée Courbet
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