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Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p.

(Working manuscript) EXCHANGING FAVORS:

The Fossil Hunter and the Yangtze Patrol, March, 1923

by Vincent L. Morgan


Copyright 2010 (Working Manuscript) by Vincent L. Morgan


Rare is the recorded encounter between an American paleontologist and an American gunboat on the
Yangtze River. Equally rare is a paleontologist’s eyewitness account of a warlord confrontation. Both
these events were documented during March 1923 by Walter Granger, chief paleontologist and second
in command of the Central Asiatic Expeditions (1921-1930). Granger was removing his party from a
warlord battle for Wanhsien. For several days, Granger and his expedition party were trapped on the
outskirts on the south side of the River while his wife Anna was sheltered at a Christian mission in the
city. Now all were joined aboard a rented junk loaded with expedition gear and prized fossils that was
making ready to head downriver to Ichang. The skipper of the American gunboat USS Palos (II), George
W. Sampson, has just offered Granger gunboat escort as far as Pan T’o, 25 miles below Wanhsien
before entry into the first of the Three Gorges. But Sampson has a favor to ask in return. The Palos
commander had been hoping to accomplish a vital mission in Ichang. But the ongoing military situation
at Wanhsien required the Palos to remain on duty there. Time was of the essence regarding the
Captain’s delayed mission at Ichang, however. He asked Granger to assist him.

I. Midday, March 24, 1923 westerners regarded the Yangtze basin as a very
Tiffin time drew to a close aboard a rented Chinese remote part of the world. Patrol of the Yangtze by
junk as it headed down the Yangtze River to Ichang. western gunboats remains a little known history
American paleontologist Walter Granger tried to today.
relax with his wife Anna and the other members of
his expedition party while, on their second day of Wanhsien derived a rich income from its taxation of
travel, the junk slipped into the Wu (or Witches) industry, river traffic, shops and farms. Its thriving
Gorge. nature and excellent location made it highly desirable
strategically. Refining wood oil from the nuts of a
Wu Gorge was the middle of the Three Gorges below tree that flourished in the district was the city’s main
the river city of Wanhsien. Wanhsien lay 173 miles commerce. One of the main uses of the oil was in the
upriver from Ichang and was the first major upper base for making varnish. Craftwork was another local
river city in eastern Szechwan province. Its canyon industry and many well-made items could be bought
walls were so sheer and magnificent that it was hard rather cheaply.
to believe they could harbor danger. But Granger had
been warned that bandit ambushes were likely to The riverbank upon which Wanhsien sat was so steep
occur within this captive space. To this fossil hunter, that wheeled traffic of any kind was still unknown to
it was another obstacle recently placed in front of the city in 1923. Upper-class Chinese and westerners
him. Just days before, Granger and his men had been usually resorted to carrying chairs to access the city
caught in military maneuvering for Wanhsien. They from the river, a ride that often seemed precarious.
were on the south side of the River. Granger’s wife
Anna was trapped in the city on the other side. The small foreign community living in Wanhsien
included a few British missionaries, a French
Wanhsien was a prize to be captured. The Myriad postmaster and his wife, British customs staff, and
City, it was a picturesque nugget of historical interest the employees of the American Standard Oil
and robust commerce. Charon, the shadowy author of company installation located a mile below the city.
the tiny but informative book Excelsior, identified
Wanhsien as “one of the outstanding ‘showplaces’ of This was an unsettled time politically. In 1913,
the Upper River.” Charon was a British gunboat Szechwan Province declared itself independent of the
crewmember during this little known naval era when national government seated in Peking. Three years
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 2

later, other provinces to the south were following A rather peaceful meal in the absence of
Szechwan’s lead and joined to defend Szechwan anything to drink––and the Magistrate
against an offensive by Peking’s Northern army. It went to sleep in the drawing room
had been agreed that those who helped defend afterward, much to the amusement of
Szechwan would be paid, but they never were. Some the "newest wife" who is a good-
of them now occupied sections of the province. Since looking woman in her teens (one baby)
the Northern Army remained a threat to the province, and came decked out in gorgeous
as well, the situation was fluid politically and costume and loaded with jewelry [].
General Chang had a history of being locked in a
It was still understood in 1923 that westerners held struggle with General Yang Sheng of the
immunity during riots and revolutions. But recently, independent-provincial Southern (Second)) Army for
isolated ‘small outrages’ against some had begun to control of Wanhsien and the surrounding district.
occur. Granger carried quasi-diplomatic status with a Chang Chung had ousted Yang Sheng from the city
passport loaded with western and Chinese credentials not long ago and then repelled Yang Sheng’s attempt
and always a huchao, or official pass, from the local to retake the city.
military ruler to go along with it. Nevertheless,
Szechwan was in a state of open rebellion against In 1923, however, Yang Sheng approached with the
Peking and the embryonic South China Republic backing of a major Chinese warlord named Wu P'ei-
equal in open contest for recognition. Granger’s fu. Rumors of Sheng’s plan to attack were known to
willing entry into that state of affairs on a scientific U.S. gunboat intelligence in the area by late
mission was impressive. September 1922. On September 30, 1922 the USS
Monocacy reported that Wu Pei Fu planned to attack
General Chang Chung of the Northern (First) Army and replace Yang Seng Yao-nan [NatArch.-tape
was now in charge of Wanhsien. Granger had met transcription]. Granger was in the area by then and
with him several times during his second expedition apparently had wind of the brewing conflict.
to the Yangtze in 1922. The General appeared to be
not over thirty-five, Granger noted, and seemed Chang Chung fretted over Yang Sheng’s advance this
intelligent. He had had some military training in time. His wife was sent from the city to safety in the
Japan. He also took an interest in Granger’s fossil north, ‘conclusive proof’ according to the locals,
hunting. wrote Granger, that Chang Chung did not expect
things to go well.
During the course of their meeting with the "usual
bad champagne [and] chocolate as layout," the The two generals initially clashed at Chang’s
General issued the requisite huchao to Granger "to Northern army perimeter in the hills just above
use in our work." This granted him safe passage Granger’s expedition camp at Yenchingkou (Salt
throughout the Wanhsien district. At Granger’s Well Valley). This was a remote mountain hamlet
request, the General also agreed to provide a notice located ten miles up the Yangtze from Wanhsien and
for the local druggist Chang to post on his shop wall another ten miles inland up a steep incline from the
ordering the General’s soldiers not to use his shop as river’s south bank. The village sat 1,000 feet above
a barracks. Granger’s plan was to store fossils there the river. It nestled at the foot of a limestone uplift
and did not want them disturbed. that rose another 1,700 feet and extended on a
parallel to the river for 50 miles. Surprisingly to
At the General’s invitation, Granger attended an Granger, fossils were to be found in that ridge.
‘official’ dinner a few days later. Granger described
the affair as follows: Yenchingkou and the entire region were accessible
only by footpath: travel and commerce were by foot
Dinner [at] the General's at 7 o'clock. or chair. A main trail from the Yangtze to
Present besides the Mission people and Yenchingkou came up from a landing at the mouth of
Anna & I[:] Wanhsien Magistrate[,] Pei Shui Chih (White Water Creek). That entered the
General Chang's Secretary, [General river on the south bank just below a set of rapids
Chang’s] Newest wife, Capt. Nielson of named Fu Tan. Pei Shui Chih came down from above
the "[USS] Monocacy," [and] Mr. Yenchingkou past the village and parallel to the trail
Annette [Customs]. all the way to the river. Granger set up his base camp
in a temple on the trail in the Upper Village. The
Lower Village was about 200 yards back down. The
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 3

trail continued past Granger’s front door and up in to Oviraptor. Over wintertime interludes between his
the limestone ridge and beyond to link up with a summertime explorations of Mongolia, Granger and a
network of trails. Granger later made a crude map of small band of Chinese assistants hunted for fossils in
the key trails he used on a small sheet of paper taken the Yangtze highlands around Yenchingkou. These
from his field book. fossils from the Pliocene and Pleistocene were known
to the Chinese as ‘lung ku’ (dragon bones) and ‘lung
ya’ (dragon teeth). Local farmers mined these fossils
from earthen deposits left in eroded pits, vertical
cave-like shafts found along the top of the Paleozoic
limestone ridge above Yenchingkou. The fossils were
sold wholesale to druggists who had them crushed
into powder for retail as a medicinal cure.

Fig. 1. – Walter Granger’s CAE headquarters at end of ten-mile

climb from Yangtze River below. The paddies drained into White
Water Creek.

Fig. 3. – One of the fossil pit operations located in the limestone

ridges above Granger’s base camp at Yenchingkou.

This practice was generations old. Fifth century

Chinese philosopher Lei Hiao once advised that if
one washed a dragon bone twice in hot water, then
reduced it to powder and placed it in a thin bag with
two young eviscerated swallows for one night, and
afterward mixed it in with a medicinal preparation, it
would provide a divine effect.

Granger later wrote,

Fig 2. – Granger’s diagram of his temple headquarters from [F]or generations vertebrate fossils,
approximately the same angle as in Fig. 1. The front door is at left.
known to the Chinese as Dragon Bones
and Dragon Teeth (Lung Ku and Lung
Granger’s temple base camp was an ancestral hall Ya), have been articles of the Chinese
that belonged the T’an family who were prominent in pharmacopia. They are prescribed by
Yenchingkou region. The rent was $1.50 (U.S.) a Chinese physicians of the old school for
month, the family also retained daily use of the altar all sorts of complaints, ranging from
for morning and evening religious ceremonies and headache to Bright’s disease, and are
occasional family meetings. Granger found that to be usually taken in powdered form,
an interesting mix of activities with his. although sometimes the fossils are
soaked in alcohol and then the alcohol
2. Walter Granger is drunk, or fried in grease and the
Walter Willis Granger was the chief paleontologist grease is eaten, it presumably having
and second-in-command of the American Museum of absorbed the virtue of the dragon’s bone
Natural History’s famed Central Asiatic Expeditions [].
to China and the Mongolias from 1921 to 1930
(CAE). These were the expeditions that would The lung ku and lung ya trade in the region of
discover in Outer Mongolia the first whole dinosaur Yenchingkou was just a few generations old. It had
eggs and nests as well as dinosaurs new to science begun with the accidental finding of fossils in a pit by
such as the Protoceratops, Velociraptor and
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 4

one of the local farmers. Since farming was a had no information] about the source of
summertime activity, this accidental discovery gave these fossils themselves, but from bits
the farmers something to do over the winter. of matrix still adhering to some of the
fossils themselves, [Schlosser] was able
The Pleistocene fossils came from a period of time to classify the specimens in a fairly
known as an Epoch that began 1.8 million years ago satisfactory way and to draw the first
and ended 10,000 years ago. That Epoch was adequate picture of the mammalian life
characterized by the alternate appearance and of the region during late Cenozoic time
recession of northern glaciers. It was during this time [].
that the appearance and spread of hominids ensued,
as did the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna that Granger’s explorations also hoped for evidence of
basically was any animal greater than 100 pounds hominids, the early members of the human family.
such as the mammoth, mastodon, saber-toothed tiger
and giant panda. The Paleozoic limestone in which No trained fossil expert had ever ventured into
the Pleistocene fossils were found was formed at a Szechwan Province, now considered too unsafe for
much older period of 540 to 250 million years ago. scientific exploration. Granger became the first
But by the Pleistocene, eroded fissures and pits had professional, along with a colleague, herpetologist
formed in the limestone that became catchalls for Clifford H. Pope who operated in nearby provinces.
animal remains. Beginning in 1921, they pioneered the "China
Branch" of the Central Asiatic Expeditions and over
But until 1921, no one outside of the villagers of several winters developed a significant assemblage of
Yenchingkou and the one or two wholesale druggists fossil vertebrates, modern birds, recent mammals,
they supplied knew about the existence of these pits. fish, reptiles and archeological artifacts. CAE
Chinese and western scientists only became aware archaeologist Nels C. Nelson started assisting them
when a British consul named J. Langford Smith beginning in 1925. (The scientific results are treated
stationed in Ichang, and an amateur fossil collector in works listed in Note 3 below.)
himself, passed along a report that some of the
druggists’ fossils were coming from the mountains of 3. The Szechwan Expeditions
Yenchingkou in the Wanhsien region. By the winter of 1922-1923, Granger was in his
second consecutive winter season of fossil hunting in
That fossils existed in Szechwan Province, however, Szechwan Province. He typically traveled up the
was not totally unknown to science. In 1915, in a Yangtze by steamship and down by rented junk. A
paper entitled “On some fossil mammals from Sze- junk was needed to transport his sizeable collections
chuan, China,” Japanese paleontologist Hikoshichiró of fossils, recent mammals and birds as well as his
Matsumoto summarized the history as follows: expedition party and equipment. He was by now
fairly well acquainted with life on the Lower and
Fossil mammals from China are Upper Yangtze River and their rather different facets.
recorded by Waterhouse (1853), Busk He regarded the river not only for its natural beauty
(1868), Owen (1870), Gaudry (1871), and multiple uses, but also for its awesome and
Koken (1885), Lydekker (1885, 1886 & unforgiving power. Upper River travel from Ichang
1891), V. Lóczy (1898), Suess (1899), up often was difficult, usually stressful and
Schlosser (1903), &c. Among these sometimes outright dangerous.
authors’ works, Owen’s, Gaudry’s,
Koken’s, Lydekker’s and, especially, As if the natural perils were not enough––Granger
Schlosser’s are most important []. had already negotiated all of the treacherous rapids
and confining gorges between Wanhsien and Ichang
Matsumoto had studied at the American Museum of several times––bullets occasionally flew by as well.
Natural History and Columbia University earlier in His 1921-1922 trip had begun with a front row seat at
his career. As for the work of the German professor the battle for Ichang that lasted two days before
Max Schlosser, Granger later observed that: Granger’s steamer finally could shove off and make
way for Wanhsien. Granger could find at least one
It is interesting to note that the first real bullet hole in almost every Yangtze River vessel he
information paleontologists had of the ever stepped stepped aboard. Provincial warlord
fossil mammalian faunas of China was battles along with indiscriminate rogue militia and
from a large collection of fossils bandit assaults on riverboats, Granger knew, were
purchased by a German doctor [who
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 5

two of the reasons why western gunboats were deeply silted in. Sometimes it was necessary to cut
patrolling the Yangtze River. the wire and leave the anchor at the bottom.

Granger maintained regular contact with western As the Widgeon came in, it got too close to shore as it
gunboat commanders, particularly those aboard the tried to make landing. An indrift had caught and
American boats Monocacy (II) and Palos (II) and the pulled it in and, before it regained headway, it
British boats Widgeon and Teal. These craft patrolled scraped along rocks at the bank until it collided with
the upper section of the Yangtze and Wanhsien a large, moored sampan crushing its matted canopy.
harbor was a duty station. Officers often socialized No damage was done to the gunboat, which could
with the westerners ashore, including Granger. have been a nasty mess, noted Granger, since
Exchanges of information during these gatherings gunboats were not supposed to pick up civilians off a
helped with monitoring and assessing this Chinese junk and sampan landing to go duck
increasingly turbulent area. hunting!

Occasionally, British and American and British Corlett was heading upriver, anyway, and was also
gunboat officers visited Granger's camp, mainly to offering to take Granger to Chungchow to visit one of
hunt, but also just to escape the river. It was a four to his field assistants, Kan Chuen Pao. Nicknamed
six hour climb from the Yangtze. Granger’s base “Buckshot,” Kan had suffered a severe abscess and
camp was isolated from western contact and was now in a hospital run by Dr. Williams at
protection. Despite having a few native assistants and Chungchow. Corlett had been taken him there earlier
being well-armed, visits by naval officers helped that winter at Granger’s request and upon the
remind him of western military presence as well as recommendation of the Widgeon’s surgeon.
refresh his socializing.
They stopped to hunt along the way. Arriving at a
good location seven or eight miles below Chungchow
later that afternoon, they spar-moored near a big bend
in the river. Spar mooring meant bringing the boat
close to shore at a spot in quiet water where the bank
dropped off fairly abruptly to a depth that provided
sufficient hull clearance. Both the bow and stern were
then secured to the shore by wire. The boat was held
against the anchoring by two spars, one forward and
one aft, which were set between the deck and bank. A
small sampan set at right angle to the boat made a
Fig. 4. – A down river junk at the far shore taking rapids in the
Yangtze. A tracker village sits on the shore in the background. bridge between it and shore.
Trackers stand on the near shore in the foreground.
Commander Corlett and Dr. John Pace, the ship’s
4. Close Call surgeon, were the only officers on board, he noted
One respite from expedition routine and gunboat further. The remaining crew consisted of some 22
patrolling came just before Christmas in 1921 when white ratings and a dozen or so Chinese who served
Commander Geoffrey Corlett of the HMS Widgeon as the ship’s sampan boatmen, stokers, cooks and
invited Granger for a duck hunt along the river. helpers. The gunboat, Granger also observed, carried
Corlett was the British Navy’s senior naval officer on two six-pounders and an assortment of rapid-fire
the Upper Yangtze. Granger agreed. The plan was for guns.
the Widgeon to come up from Wanhsien and pick
him up at the river landing early in the morning. Corlett and Granger disembarked at 9:00 a.m. on a
Granger had walked down the night before to stay at warm and beautiful day. They hunted until dark. The
an inn there in order to be ready first thing. captain shot one mallard and Granger shot two. They
saw several hundred ducks that day, but they were
Hours passed as he waited at the landing the next very wild and difficult to approach. They also seemed
morning before the Widgeon finally hove into view. always to fly high, Granger observed. Most
It had trouble raising one of its anchors out of the interesting of all, was the ruddy Sheldrake that
muck in Wanhsien harbor. Weighing anchor often looked and acted much like a goose. Its note was a
gave trouble to boats on the Yangtze since, because decided ‘honk’ instead of a duck-like ‘quack.’
of the current, it took little time for them to become
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 6

5. Running the Rapids the writer was ‘stuck’ in a rapid called

The Widgeon left its spar mooring at 7:00 a.m. to the Hsin T’an for 19 1/2 minutes with
steam upriver to Chungchow and arrive an hour later. the engines going ‘all out’ and the ship
Granger was put ashore and the Widgeon continued being swept from side to side of the
upriver. Granger went directly to Dr. William's rapids and missing the rocks, literally,
hospital located at the extreme upper end of this by inches at each plunge [].
small walled city.
Sometimes, a gunboat could only heave a rapid by
The hospital was a part of the Canadian Methodist making fast a wire from the ship’s capstan to a rock
Mission compound that also held a school, reading above the head of the rapid. Like a pendulum, the
room and public library. Granger found Buckshot ship then swung itself back and forth against the
still weak, but well enough to return to camp. Dr. wire, arcing in and out of the rapid while heaving in
Williams confirmed that only the surgically cutting the wire furiously at the end of each swing, winching
and draining of the abscess could have relieved the up the slack and gaining a few yards each time.
Boats traveling down a rapid, as the Shu Tung soon
Following tea and arranging to stay overnight, would, always took great caution. On the other hand,
Granger gave Dr. and Mrs. Williams one of the two watching them from shore was something of a sport.
mallards he had shot. That would be that night’s Granger recounted one experience when a wind
dinner. Departure the next day was aboard the little sprang up so strongly that it was thought best to wait
steamer Shu Tung that had come down from before taking the Hsin T'an. The steamer Shu Kiang
Chungking the night before on its way to Ichang. The was being hauled up over the rapid while Granger’s
stretch of river that lay ahead formed the lower half junk stood at a mooring at the head of it on the
of the Upper River and contained the highest density opposite shore.
of rapids.
An hour or so later, the pilot said he was ready to
Negotiating rapids was a way of life for boaters on proceed. Carrying coolies loaded with bedding and
the Upper River. The nature of each rapid altered baggage followed the Grangers as they walked
with each change in the level of the river. Proceeding around the rapid while watching their boat head into
upriver through a rapid could be more complicated the rapid. It passed through them safely. However, “a
than traveling down one, although both held river inspector then came down in his Kua tzu,”
considerable danger and required great skill. Granger wrote, “but did not come through in as good
style as ours did.”
Charon described navigating up the Hsin T’an as one
of the most unpleasant experiences in rapids at low
river level:

In a low powered steamer at low level

the ascent of this rapid is nerve-
wracking, for one creeps up the left
bank until abreast of the village and
then one makes a wild plunge across the
river to the right bank so as to wriggle
between a line of rocks to starboard and
the rock-strewn foreshore to port [].
Fig. 5. – Walter with Anna on the temple’s stage at the upper front
Commercial traffic accommodated changing river of his CAE headquarters in the T’an family ancestral hall. A pair
of ‘XX’s at bottom left mark empty T’an family coffins stored
conditions by adjusting their schedules. Gunboats, beneath the gallery along the right side of the hall. The Granger’s
however, could not do that: they were on call at all field boots hang from a column.
times. Charon recounts a consequence of that in one
of the smaller, slower gunboats typical of Granger’s 6. Back at Yenchingkou
time. It was the kind of event Granger himself had Anna Granger, Walter’s wife, ventured with him to
experienced. Charon captured it vividly: Szechwan Province over the winter of 1922-1923.
She based herself at the China Inland Mission in
[M]any a grim battle was fought out–– Wanhsien and visited Granger's camp occasionally.
steam v. nature. In the autumn of 1927
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 7

He also made short trips into Wanhsien to store dandies possessed cotton puttees and
accumulated collections and to re-supply. cloth shoes [].

By March 6, 1923, General Yang Sheng's Southern

Army was at the south perimeter of Wanhsien district
not far from Yenchingkou. There they began to test
the resolve of Chang Chung's Northern troops. After
a short battle at Tsa Mao Lin in the hills above
Granger’s base camp, the defenders retreated. They
routed through a valley of rice paddies and then
broke a dike to flood it. This delayed the Southern
Army by eight hours. They had been forced to pile
into a few small boats in small numbers to cross the
flooded area. The process must have seemed endless.

The Southern Army resumed full pursuit as the Fig. 6. – Regular soldiers of General Yang Sheng’s army per
Northern Army entered the Upper Village of Granger’s description in March 1923.
Yenchingkou on the Pei Shui Chih trail. It was
headed down to the Yangtze River where junks Troops in uniform could be deceptive, Granger knew.
would be commandeered to take the army to On January 16, 1922, a man in classic changshan
Wanhsien. This escape route had placed the matter (‘long shirt’) passed by with the escort of a lieutenant
squarely in the village, and right in front of Granger's and his small squad all in uniform. Oddly, however,
door. two members of the squad carried dummy wooden
rifles. The civilian said they were on their way to
Granger and his men took up constant vigil. Granger escort a concubine from a neighboring province back
and his men planned on only a few hours sleep while to Wanhsien to become the wife of the general. It was
remaining fully clothed, armed and ready. They were quickly suspected by the townsfolk, however, that
vastly outnumbered in a rather desperate situation this also was a dangerous, possibly renegade group
where hostility could break out at any time. He had responsible for a recent spate of muggings and
his U.S. and Peking credentials along with Chung’s robberies in the region. Regardless, they nonetheless
huchao that hopefully would serve as protection from calmly posed for three photographs by Granger.
the Northern Army. It was Sheng’s Southern Army
that held the greater unknown. 7. Coolies
Chang’s fleeing army carried simple equipment
The situation turned surreal as day after day the fit, borne mostly by elderly coolies recently drafted.
the wounded and the exhausted marched by. There They struggled with their loads under threat of
were many wounded, Granger noted, and that led him bayonet––younger men who might have been drafted
to conclude that the fighting had been unusually in their stead had already run off. These elderly men
severe. This impressed him given his understanding “had been pressed into service because the younger
of the poorly equipped Chinese soldier’s willingness men had gone into hiding, and the army must have
to fight. transportation.”

Provincial armies such as these, Granger recalled, Granger noticed “bundles of dirty bedding, mostly
were “really the personal armies of the numerous cotton quilts, a small amount of uniforms, cooking
Warlords and lesser Generals.” The common soldier utensils, including great iron bowls, tiers of rice
wore bowls and bundles of chopsticks, a small amount of
uncooked rice and green vegetables, probably stolen
a fairly uniform type of clothing, varied on the way, heavy boxes of ammunition and bags of
to suit the region they live in. Cotton empty cartridge cases, one small field piece and four
trousers and a tunic of the same or five machine guns.” A field piece had been
material, with a few plain brass buttons dismantled and was being carried in pieces by
on it, both garments a dirty dish-rag twenty-five coolies. The barrel required “six men
gray in color, a gray cap with the five- walking tandem, necessarily, because of the narrow
colored star of the Chinese Republic on pathway.”
the front, and a pair of rice straw
sandals comprised the uniform. A few
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 8

Granger’s predicament over several unnerving days

now ebbed as the flow of troops slowed to an
occasional straggler or so a day. He decided it was
time to break camp and head down to the river
landing. There he would rent a junk, load his party,
collection and equipment aboard and make for

8. At Wanhsien
In the meantime, Yang Sheng's rout of Chang Chung
was so effortless that he had to find a way to get the
rest of his army into the city quickly enough to secure
it properly. It was decided to construct a bridge
across the Yangtze. His engineers spanned the river
with a pontoon bridge assembled from 66 junks tied
together and secured by five, stout, span-length
bamboo cables tied to every second junk. Those
junks would also have their anchors down. Planking
would be laid across the junks to create a roadway. A
telegraph wire was also strung across. The bamboo
cables were continued out from both corners of each
end of the bridge and anchored to shore by wrapping
them around huge boulders. Longer lines were
Fig. 7. – A coolie at rest with a remarkable load, and smile. stretched to anchoring points upriver.

Granger later was told that ten of Chang’s coolies lay Sheng quickly moved another 10,000 troops into
dead along the trail below his camp. He calculated Wanhsien over the next several days. In the
that as one dead man for each mile between his meantime, all river traffic remained completely
location and the river landing. After collapsing, they blocked. Boat captains were furious and protested
were simply tossed off the trail and left to die. Some vigorously. Sheng countered that his need was more
were bayoneted where they lay. urgent and his bridge only temporary attempting to
fend off complaints that he was blocking the river in
General Yang Sheng’s army was more impressive to violation of international treaty rights. The boaters
Granger. The officers and men seemed more polished then asked to have the bridge opened for a part of
and disciplined. Unlike Chang’s men, they did not each day. But the bridge's engineer argued that not
steal, paying instead for what they took. That army even a section could be opened without endangering
also possessed several field artillery pieces and many the bridge's overall structural integrity.
machine guns and had a superiority of heavier guns.
It was that advantage, Granger later learned, “that The bridge was so well built that not even a powerful,
had defeated General Chang’s army.” screw-driven gunboat could breach it, as the French
commander of the Doudart de la Grée discovered on
Word spread early in the morning of March 7, that March 13th when he attempted to break through by
General Yang Sheng was approaching the village. steaming over the cables at a low point between
Granger recorded the event later in the day: junks. He made several unsuccessful assaults before
withdrawing. River traffic was to remain blocked.
All quiet during the night. About
daybreak the first group of the The standoff eased on March 16th when, Anna
advancing 2nd Army passed through the recorded, "the bridge of boats is now open every day
valley and another group arrived shortly from 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. Walter should have no trouble
afterward and stopped for rest and to in bringing his junk down from Pei Shui Chih,"
cook rice. General Yang, in a [four Granger took another three days before transporting
man] chair, came through about 6 his party and equipment to Wanhsien. Although both
o'clock and I went down to greet him as armies had essentially cleared his vicinity by March
he passed. He returned the greeting 12th, Granger could not to leave Yenchingkou while
most cordially []. the river was still blocked. Only when he learned in a
note from Anna on March 19 that the bridge at
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 9

Wanhsien would be opened to river traffic for five constructed along with its twin sister Monocacy (II)
hours each day, did he break camp the next day, at the United States naval yard on Mare Island in
make for the river landing, pile his men, collections California’s San Francisco Bay in 1912. Both craft
and equipment aboard a junk and head downriver. were then disassembled for transport to Shanghai,
China, for reassembly.
Inexplicably, the bridge closed an hour ahead of
schedule that day, forcing Granger to moor his junk
above it and make his way into Wanhsien on foot.
His Chinese assistants remained aboard the junk with
their weapons to guard it overnight. Such
unpredictability only enhanced Granger’s desire to
vacate the region as soon as possible. Once the junk
was brought through and into the harbor the next day,
the party made ready to depart Wanhsien the next Fig. 8. – Sister gunboats USS Palos (II) and USS Monocacy (II)
morning, March 21. Equipment and fossils were rafted at Shanghai in 1928.
taken ashore for repacking and were then reloaded.
Palos (II) was launched in Shanghai on April 23,
1914. It was the US Navy’s second gunboat named
As he awaited final preparations for departure,
Palos. The first was a decommissioned tug converted
Granger accepted an invitation to lunch at the
in 1870. As such, it was the first American navy ship
Standard Oil facility. His friend Lieutenant
to pass through the Suez Canal. Palos (II) and
Commander George W. Sampson of the American
Monocacy (II), also a second naming, were the only
gunboat Palos was also there. The Palos was now
American gunboats sufficiently shallow-drafted to
stationed at Wanhsien harbor to monitor events
operate on the Upper River of the Yangtze, the run
between Chang Chung and Yang Sheng.
between Ichang and Chungking. Nevertheless, and
despite their emulation of the Widgeon, both the
Military tension in Wanhsien proper had eased
Palos and Monocacy were found to be underpowered
somewhat, but Granger knew nevertheless that he
for some of the swifter rapids in the Upper River.
would need to keep vigilant nearly all the way to
Ichang. Travel was always perilous along the river
10. Patrolling the Yangtze
for a variety of reasons. In addition to the obvious
The Palos was a member of the United States Navy’s
natural dangers posed by rapids and ship traffic,
gunboat fleet called the Yangtze Patrol. Lucrative
armed thieves, renegade militiamen and army
concessionary rights acquired by treaty years ago,
deserters lurked along the shores and banks and to
combined with increasingly turbulent times, left the
prey upon boaters.
U.S. and other western nations along with Japan and
China itself finding it desirable to maintain an active,
After learning of Granger’s plans to vacate the next
armed presence on the Yangtze. A number of
day, Sampson offered to escort the junk to Pan T’o,
diplomats, businessmen, missionaries and other
20 or so miles downriver. This section of the river
civilians in the area benefited from this presence. The
was considered one of the most susceptible to
Sand Pebbles by Richard McKenna nicely captures
ambush. Sampson advised Granger that Anna could
the flavor and difficulties during this period.
travel aboard the Palos (II). But he had a favor to ask
in return. The gunboat had an important delivery to
Nicknamed ‘YangPat,’ the American gunboats
make downriver at Ichang. Ongoing military events,
operated under the U.S. Navy’s Asiatic Fleet and
however, required it to remain at its duty station in
based in Shanghai. YangPat’s officially stated
Wanhsien. Sampson needed Granger’s assistance.
purpose was to protect American citizens and
The scientist agreed.
interests. It also was an intelligence-gathering
operation, however, and it was not unusual for
9. Anatomy of a Gunboat
gunboat members to venture ashore for extended
The Palos (II) was a 165.5 foot long, 24.5 foot wide,
periods of time solely for that purpose.
2.5 feet deep shallow-drafted, iron-hulled, steam
powered, screw-driven vessel, displacing 204 tons
Post-Qing, post WWI China was now plagued by
and carrying an average crew of about fifty men. She
factionalism. No central national authority existed to
was modeled after the British gunboat Widgeon. She
govern it peacefully. Foreign citizens and commercial
had a top speed of 13.25 knots. Armament was two
interests in the Yangtze River valley were
6-pounders and six .30 caliber machine-guns. Named
increasingly becoming targets for animosity and
after the port of Palos de la Frontera in Spain, it was
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 10

more and more were counting on the various hole or crack that developed. While the bags
gunboats to guard them and their property. The stemmed the leak, the water hardened the cement to
gunboats, on the other hand, were pressed to stay patch the hull.
alert in a very fluid political and military situation.
Anchorage was often a problem, as well. After
setting out upriver from Ichang, it was advisable to
be absolutely sure of an anchorage for the night since
many stretches of the riverbed would not hold the
flukes of an anchor. There were miles for which no
other mooring capability was available. Since, in the
minds of many, nighttime navigation was akin to
madness, the spar mooring method Granger described
earlier was the only choice when anchoring was
Fig. 9. – Monocacy (II), portside. The structure overhanging at the
stern housed the showers and toilets.
11. Setting Off
With Captain Sampson’s invitation in hand, Granger
Some Chinese wanted the foreigners out of the area made his final preparations for the trip down river. In
completely, and some foreigners were ready to leave. a letter to a colleague written just days before,
But pockets of official China accepted foreign Granger confided:
presence, especially in the area of commerce as the
concessionary treaties enabled. Economic growth It looks like another junk trip down
was now seen as China’s new salvation, even if the through the Gorge for me this spring,
original concession treaties and post-WWI which I don't relish but don't really
settlements had not favored China. Recently western- worry about unless the fighting comes
educated Chinese hoped to work matters back to in to the river. I can't seem to dodge
China’s favor. these provincial wars, although nothing
serious has happened yet. Last year I
In addition to the U.S., other nations such as Britain, ran directly into the Ichang battle and
Japan and China, Italy and France also patrolled the this season into the Honan bandits and
Yangtze. American residents and travelers on the there is promise of lively times
river counted upon seven or so American gunboats hereabouts in the next few weeks. [J.
including the Elcano, Monocacy, Palos, Quiros, and G.] Andersson was kept out of this
Villalobos. Some of these ships were prizes from the locality for several years, after he
Spanish-American War. Among Britain’s twelve or learned about it, by the political
so gunboats were the Cockshafer, Gnat, Scarab, Teal conditions and if we waited for things to
and Widgeon. The French had as many as six be perfectly peaceful on the Upper
gunboats including the Balny and Doudart de la Yangtze, we would never be here
Gree. Italy also had six including the Ermanno ourselves. But the missionaries and the
Carolotto, one of the smallest ships in the foreign government officials and
fleet. representatives of business concerns
live here and travel up and down the
Most of these western gunboats were lightly armed river and nothing much seems to
and carried crews of seventy-five men or less. happen to them. There is, however, a
Ironically, stokers and cooks on these gunboats were growing dislike of and contempt for
often Chinese nationals. foreigners in this section. I find it more
noticeable than last winter. It is not so
Only a few of gunboats were sufficiently marked out in the country districts but
maneuverable and powerful to handle the upper in the city and larger market places one
Yangtze’s strong current and dangerous rapids. A is sneered at a good deal. If our
gunboat navigating any of the roughly 72 roiling gunboats are withdrawn, as I have heard
rapids between Ichang and Chungking was in it proposed, then all foreigners will
constant danger of striking rocks and holing the hull. withdraw too [].
Such circumstances gave the crew little time to effect
repair. So an instant remedy was devised. Bags of Sampson’s reason for offering coverage to Granger
cement were carried aboard to be stuffed into any as far as Pan To addressed the favor he needed in
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 11

return. There were no commercial steamers running with us (he had a message to deliver to an army
at the moment either. Granger’s junk trip presented officer in Ichang)….” [“Winter Over,” Nat. Hist.,
an option. Though well armed, Granger and his party p. 379].
might like some extra protection for the entire
journey. Sampson had a solution. Since Anna would transfer to the Palos for the trip
from Wanhsien to Pan To, her inclusion of herself in
12. March 22, 1923 this account suggests that the Chinese soldier-
The Grangers took breakfast aboard the Palos at 7:00 messenger must have boarded Granger’s junk while it
a.m. on March 22, 1923. They then made ready to was still moored at Wanhsien and she was still
push off at 9:00. Anna remained aboard the Palos as aboard. It is not said whom the soldier represented.
the two boats proceeded down the river to Pan To Granger himself makes no mention of this incident in
together without incident. One can imagine the his diary, but it clearly was now an unusual
experience Anna must have had riding aboard a circumstance.
Yangtze Patrol gunboat, and she likely was one of
very few women to do so. Granger later wrote [Chin. Arm., Ex. Cl. last p. ]
that he was considerably more disposed to the
The Palos steamed past the junk in late midmorning victorious General Yang Sheng than to the defeated
to go into anchor and provide security for an General Chang Chung. So it is possible that he
overnight stop. At noon, Anna and Sampson left the agreed to assist Yang Sheng in getting word to allies
Palos to walk along the bank to a point where they in Ichang. Sheng had based himself in Ichang after
could watch for Granger’s junk. It came into sight at losing Wanhsien to Chang a few years earlier.
1:00 p.m. A sampan from the Palos then picked up Possibly he was trying to reach Wu Pei Fu himself.
Anna and the captain to return them to the Palos.
Walter came aboard and they all sat down to “a This then resulted in a rather remarkable situation as
delicious tiffin. The ship's doctor ([Leslie] Stone) and the junk departed on the morning of March 23rd
[second-in-command] Lieutenant (j.g.) [James flying an American flag. There were now 25 people
Monroe] Connally joined in entertaining us,” noted aboard, including the laodah (foreman) and crew, one
Anna. of whom was a uniformed Chinese soldier-messenger
on a military mission, two of whom were American
After lunch, Sampson played baseball with the crew sailors undergoing discharge from the military and
on a sandy beach nearby while the Grangers set off the rest of whom were members of the American
with Lieutenant Connally to visit a temple on the Museum’s Central Asiatic Expeditions fleeing a war
opposite shore. Granger, a longtime Brooklyn zone, all the while facing another possible gauntlet.
Dodgers fan, watched the game after returning from
the temple. Once they re-boarded the gunboat, both Anna later described the set-up aboard the junk:
men took a shower. It was “a luxury Walter had not
enjoyed for many a long day,” Anna wrote. A sort of boudoir was devised for me by
partitioning off, by means of a large piece
The dinner party aboard the Palos that evening of canvas, a third of the space in the cabin
included Granger’s chief assistant James Wong. All which occupied the center of the boat. Mr.
sat out on the forward deck beforehand to watch the Granger and Mr. Wong had their cots on
evening fade. The river had the appearance of a lake the other side of this improvised wall, but
hemmed in on all sides by mountains, Anna thought. by folding up one of the beds in the day
time, their erstwhile dormitory was
A card game of "hearts" finished up the day, and then restored to its proper use as a passageway
the Grangers returned to their junk. The gunboat's from bow to stern, except indeed when we
No. 1 Chinese assistant later went over to present blocked it again while gathered there for
them with a parting gift of silk bands to wear in their our meals. The two sailors and our
hats. Chinese assistants slept on the floor just
beyond the cabin. [Wintering Over, Nat.
13. Departure Hist, p. 379]
At 7:00 a.m., March 23, two crewmen from the Palos
boarded Granger's junk, which then cast off and She did not mention where the Chinese soldier-
headed down river. “En route between Wan Hsien messenger slept, as she continued:
and Pan T’ou,” Anna later wrote, Granger had picked
up a Chinese soldier “who had begged us to take him
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 12

All of the forward part of the junk was The next morning broke sunny and almost too hot for
needed by the crew… The laodah...had a comfort, Granger wrote. They were off at daybreak
bunk high up in the extreme stern, but the and some minor rapids were shot between the Kuei fu
rest of the men lay down at night on and the next gorge, Wu. They reached the entrance to
almost the identical spots where they had the latter at a little after 10:00 a.m. The sun was now
stood to their labors during the day. quite hot. All were out on deck to see the entrance to
[Wintering Over, Nat. Hist, p. 379] this second gorge known as Witches Gorge. The
cliffs were lovely in the morning mist, Anna wrote. A
14. Into the Gorges huge isolated rock guarded the entrance and was a
After leaving Pan To at 7:00 a.m. following a small roosting place for cormorants. At this point one could
breakfast aboard the Palos, the junk party navigated see where a chain had at one time been stretched
the first of the Three Gorges, the five mile long Ch’u- across the river. A little way beyond the party saw the
t’ang. Of the three, this gorge was considered by the holes cut in the steep cliff rock face by means of
locals to feature the sheerest cliffs, the most which an army once made escape. It looked to Anna
narrowing (down to 350 feet at one point) and the to be wholly impassable.
fastest current.
This gorge was much longer, 25 miles, and known
Anna wrote: primarily for its dramatic peaks and dangerous
whirlpools. The cliffs, though not as sheer as Ch’u-
The Hsing Lung Tan had first to be t’ang’s, were steep-walled nevertheless and also
negotiated. We waited until the junk had tended to block the sun, providing suitable hiding
passed the rapid before having our real places for bandits. Granger had been so warned.
breakfast. All hands except the cook got
out and walked. The junk made the There was a slight upriver breeze until noon when it
passage finely… Saw many soldiers of the changed to a following wind. The Tze Sui, a steamer
Northern Army coming up river along the from Chung King, passed them by at about 11:00
tracking path in a good many places a.m., they noted
throughout the day.*
As the party finished tiffin near Huang La Pei at 1:00
*At Yun Yeng on the north side of the p.m., Granger decided to scan the escarpments with
river we saw a wonderfully fine temple his field glasses. It was a precaution. The junk was
Chang Fei Mio, on the opposite bank. Has now within the shaded and steep confines of Wu
lantern perpetually lighted. Chang Fei = Gorge. He rose from his seat with his glasses and
name of a famous army leader said to be stepped into the open space behind the junk's main
advisor of the general who got his men cabin where the man at the tiller stood. Granger
out of the Kuei Fu gorge on cuts in the trained his glasses on the cliffs and started to scan.
rock []. Just seconds later, he saw a glint and then one
individual gesturing to another. Granger sensed that a
The Granger party passed through without incident rifleman was making ready to fire and yelled a
and arrived at the town of Kuei Fu (Kueifu) at 4:00 warning out to party and crew. His men grabbed their
p.m. Chow served tea, bread, cheese and jam, and weapons while Anna scurried into the junk's cabin
then all hands went ashore. Walter and Anna paid a and hastily packed bedding and pillows up against
call at the English Mission to see a Mr. and Mrs. the cabin walls.
Bromley. When they got back to the junk, they found
that the laodah had begun loading the junk with sugar Not a minute passed when a bullet whacked the water
cane and coal. It took considerable discussion before near the hull. The shot was intended to disable or kill
Wong convinced him that he was violating his a steersman putting the junk out of control and
agreement with Granger that no extra cargo would be perhaps forcing it ashore. The junk’s party returned
taken on during the transit. After the matter was fire as Anna dove down onto the floor of the main
settled, the party supped on the two ducks that cabin. One of Granger’s unarmed Chinese assistants,
crewmembers of the Palos had shot and presented to Chow, hurled himself through the entryway into the
them upon their departure the day before. All were in very same spot nearly crushing Anna. As the firing
bed by 9:30. continued, they together crawled deeper into the
junk's hold. After taking off his uniform, the Chinese
15. March 24, Redux. soldier-messenger also sought refuge in the main
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 13

States and discharge from the Navy was difficult to

The steersman directed the junk toward the opposite come by. Matters at Wanhsien were so fluid that the
shore. As US Navy Seaman 2nd class P.N. Palos needed to remain at its station there. With river
McRoberts and Fireman 3rd class Burt Crabtree traffic now interrupted by the bridge of boats, there
helped return fire, one of them, an expert marksman, were no foreseeable means for transporting the men
took over Wong’s .25-caliber Savage rifle to fire at out via another gunboat or commercial steamer.
what appeared to be the ambushers’ thatched
concealment. That rifle was the only weapon aboard It was when Granger indicated that he was departing
that had a long-range capability. The rest were of Wanhsien, that Sampson saw his opportunity and
limited effect: two 12-gauge shotguns, a .22/410- asked to effect transfer of McRoberts and Crabtree to
gauge over-under, and four automatic pistols, his junk. Granger essentially was to take
including the two issued to the Palos crewmen. responsibility for delivering the men to the
Nonetheless, their response was effective. Altogether, commanding officer of the USS Quiros in Ichang.
43 rounds were sent into the cliff from the men They then would be taken on to Shanghai for
aboard the junk. Two more shots came from the transport back to the States. It is clear, then, that
ambushers, who now appeared to be five in number Granger was providing an unusual service for the US
with possibly more lurking elsewhere. They aimed Navy. He was accepting transfer of McRoberts and
for the oarsmen, but their shots missed again. Crabtree into his custody to assist Captain Sampson.
These two men were no longer regular sailors. They
The snipers inflicted no damage. Whether any of were provisionally armed detainees.
them were hit was never known. One thing James
Wong was sure of was that all aboard were lucky: the So far as it is known, and this research is by no
ambushers, he later told Anna, had sported “high- means exhaustive, this is the only event of its kind in
power modern army rifles.” [Wintering Over, Nat. the history of YangPat, as well as of the CAE and
Hist., p. 380.] perhaps of any other fossil hunting expedition. There
were instances of assigning YangPat sailors to protect
16. An Unusual Mission. commercial steamers. There also had been occasions
McRoberts and Crabtree had not simply been when YangPat sailors were assigned to guard
assigned to protect a civilian craft, as was sometimes Chinese vessels rented for commercial purposes and
done on the Yangtze. There was more to it. The carrying an American flag. This latter practice,
ship’s log entry for the Palos on March 23, 1923, however, became deeply frowned upon by successive
noted that while the Palos was at YangPat commanders, Admirals Wood and Strauss,
beginning in 1920-21. Admiral Wood forbade the
Pan To. Moored as before. At 6:00 practice and Admiral Strauss was ‘furious’ over the
McRoberts, P. N. S2c and Crabtree, thought of placing armed guards on Chinese junks
Burt F3c were transferred to the junk of flying the American flag.
Dr. Granger for transfer to the United
States Ship Quiros for further transfer to Granger’s rented Chinese junk did carry an American
the United States and to act as flag, but two distinctions can be drawn. First, it was
protection for the passengers and Junk being used for scientific expedition purposes, not for
in accordance with Commanding a commercial purpose. Second, Granger had not
Officer's orders []. requested American protection. Those two
distinctions drawn, the two Palos sailors were not
Even this statement is not precisely correct. The two really assigned to protect the junk, but ordered to
sailors were actually awaiting transfer after bad vacate the area and board it. In light of the dangers
conduct charges were found against them at a court- present, they were permitted handguns to protect
martial aboard the Palos. The nature of the charges is themselves. Granger and his assistants were already
unimportant; their names are revealed here to honor carrying sufficient long- and short-range firepower to
their performance throughout this incident. Their new protect themselves.
status –– awaiting dishonorable discharge –– had
created a tricky situation under the heightened
combat circumstances in which the Palos found itself
at Wanhsien. For purposes of morale and leadership,
Sampson was anxious to see the two sentenced men
off his boat as soon as possible. However, for the
moment, downriver transfer for remand to the United
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 14

them to stop. They did so, although they were

“hurrying to get to Pa Jung before dark. As soon as
the officer had inspected our papers, we went on our
way.” A half an hour after passing the town of
Wuhan, they saw the water level marked at 195 feet
on the face of a cliff. It had been posted there by the
Yangtze river inspectors to indicate the height of the
summer flood rise.

They reached Pa Jung at 7:15 p.m. with barely

enough light to see to tie up to the bank. Wong paid a
visit to the yamen (government administrative office)
to report on the bandit attack. All hands turned in
early. It rained during the night

17. March 25th.

At 4:00 a.m. sharp, they awakened by a soldier
Fig. 11. – One of the sailors from the Palos at left with Granger’s begging to be permitted aboard. Wong refused,
interpreter and assistant James V. Wong in white shirt at right. saying the crew was armed and prepared to repel any
Granger, Wong and the two sailors carried automatic pistols. boarding attempt. The soldier backed off.
Wong also carried a .25 caliber Savage rifle. The party also carried
two 12-gauge shotguns and a Marble’s .22/410 gauge game getter
gun. The junk started off at 6:00 a.m. amidst intervals of
rain. The hills were white with blossoming plum trees
Nevertheless, Captain Sampson issued a sidearm and an occasional peach tree, the flowers of which
each to the two men as "added protection" for were large and showy. It added a charming bit of
Granger, meaning that they were required to assist color to the scenery, Anna describing it in her diary.
him as needed. Once in Ichang, they were to hand They saw little traffic on the river. What craft they
their weapons back to Granger who would deliver did see were filled with soldiers of the Northern
them along with the two sailors to the commanding Army. A strong breeze upstream made progress slow.
officer of the Quiros. The weapons would then be ‘Red-boats’ coming up river had their sails set;
sent back to the Palos "by the most convenient striped, dark blue and white alternating in vertically
method after steamer traffic opened." placed sections. These were rescue boats stationed
along this final gorge to assist with accidents. For
here, in this stretch of the Yangtze, they were most

They reached Lao Kuei Cho at 4:45 p.m. and moored

for the night. All hands went ashore to stretch their
legs. The village had just one street that ran higher up
on the bank parallel to the shoreline. As they walked,
Wong in American soldier's trench clothes, the
Chinese soldier back in uniform, the American
Fig. 12. – Granger’s junk at a landing following the ambush. In the
right foreground with backs turned are (l.-r.) Wong in white shirt sailors, and Walter and Anna in riding attire must
with band, Anna in hat with band and the Chinese soldier- have been a quite sight to the villagers who came out
messenger looking up shoreline. The man in the white shirt aboard to watch them. There seemed to be no apparent
the junk is one of the Palos sailors. The other Palo sailor is behind aversion to the foreigners, Anna wrote, as had been
him in the dark shirt at the entryway to the cabin. Whey, the
expedition cook, remains seated at his station in the foredeck. so noticeable to them at Wanhsien.
There appear to be eight or so of the junk’s crew, although one of
them may be ‘Buckshot.’ 18. March 26th.
It was cloudy and hazy at daybreak when the party
The junk was now in a state of siege as it went got started. Through the mistiness, the sun began
downriver with bedding and duffel bags left banked shining early enough to make the final gorge, which
up against the insides of the main cabin and they was entered directly after getting under way at 6:00
party at the ready in case of another attack. They a.m. Anna found the scene to be “very beautiful.”
reached town of Kuan-tu-kou at 5:45 p.m. where a The last of the Three Gorges, the His-ling, was 30
soldier from the barracks confronted them requiring miles long and held the most dangerous rapids and
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 15

shoals of the three. This series began with the New a few days before we started from
Rapids followed by the Head, First and Second Wanhsien. Scenery through the "ox-lung"
Rapids. Other than the Hsinlung Tan of the first and "horse liver" gorges very fine. At the
gorge, Anna knew that the Hsin Tan in this third lower end of these, another bad place in
gorge was thought to be the most dangerous to the river obliged us to take on two pilots.
navigate in springtime. For these, the Granger party One held the rudder and the other the
disembarked and walked along the shore with their sweep. A steamer, the Ta Fu, foundered at
personal belongings as their junk was brought safely this place a few days ago, and is tied up at
through each set of rapids. Finally, they reached more the town of Miao-ho [Miaoho], and
open water, but the upstream wind grew so strong bailing out water as we passed. Wind
that Granger’s junk could not continue against it. began to blow against, instead of with, us
They went into shore and tied up for a time. As the at 10 o'clock. Sun also became overcast.
breeze abated, they set off. At one o'clock, wind died and the sun
came out making the afternoon quite
A band of robbers was spotted before the party oppressive with the heat. The Ta Tung
reached the Hsin Tan at about 8:00 a.m. They posed Tan [Tatungtan] looked villanous enough,
no trouble. A steamer, the SS Sha Kiang was being but gave our men no serious trouble. We
hauled up the rapid as the junk went into mooring at stopped at a little town at the head of
the opposite shore. A pilot was sought to take the Ichang gorge to take off some tracking
junk through the rapids. Yet another robber band was ropes that the laodah wanted to have
spotted, but it moved on. At 8:30 a.m. a pilot came on mended in this place, it being one of the
board and said he was ready to proceed. Carrying centres for making bamboo hawsers.
coolies unloaded bedding and baggage as all Started again at 3:45 with the wind
passengers prepared to walk around the rapid. upstream. At four o'clock, one of the oars
broke and had to be replaced by a new
First we watched our boat take the rough blade. The sun was setting when we had
water, then we sauntered along the gotten fairly well into the gorge.
tracking path, watching a native scooping Fortunately the wind went down and the
fish out of the river in a dip net and moon came up, making the last three
emptying the catch into a basket just as hours of the journey to Ping Shau Pa []
fast as he could turn from one to the other. delightful. We docked in front of the
The fish were about the size & shape of custom's pontoon and then had supper at
smelts. We saw many of the same spread 8:30. Before going to bed, everybody left
on boards to dry in the sun. Another kind the boat to wander about on the big stretch
of fish brought in was three feet long. of sand deposited by the river at this point
Walter took photographs of the rapid, the [].
fishers and an interesting rock, showing
how continual use of the bamboo tracking 19. March 27, 1923.
ropes can wear deep grooves in hard It was a clear night and the mat coverings for the
limestone. Our boat lay at anchor in a bay main cabin roof could be left open. The next dawn
below the fishing village a long time was bright with a cool breeze coming up river. All
before we got there. Walter took a were up at sunrise and made ready to cast off at 8:00
photograph of the laodah, our camp men, a.m. Wanhsien time, Granger noting also that it was
and some of the crew assembled on the 9:00 a.m. Ping Shau Pa time.
beach in front of it. Peanuts and pomelos
were added to our larder here and off we Compared to the gorges of Wushan and Kuei Fu,
pushed again at 9:30 a.m. In one of the Anna later wrote, the Ichang gorge seemed very tame
provision stores in the village, I saw that day.
bundles of green shoots from some trees
tied up in small bunches. Our men say One does not feel so strongly what an
they are boiled one minute and eaten. Mr. awful convulsion of nature took place to
Rob, river inspector, came down in his make all this river scenery the wonderful
Kua tzu just after our boat took the rapid. thing it is. The cliffs are neither very high
His craft did not come through in as good or precipitous, and are mostly covered
style as ours did. This man is the one who with grass & shrubs giving them a lady-
was attacked by bandits at Pau tou [Panto] like appearance. The highest water level
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 16

mark that we saw was 60 ft. The bases of their automatics and McRoberts tried a
the cliffs do not show the ravages of a few shots with our rifle. We could not
mighty current []. be sure if we hit anybody, but they kept
pretty well concealed after the first few
Open country of lower lying land was reached at shots.... We might have pulled out of
10:00 a.m. The party sailed into Ichang harbor at the mess by ourselves, but I was mighty
11:30 a.m. Walter immediately boarded the Quiros to glad to have your two men along.... I
hand over the two sailors and explain the expenditure feel that the [Central] Asiatic
of some of their cartridges. Captain Mclaren then Expedition is much indebted to the
invited the Grangers to lunch, although he and his Commanders of the Upper River
fellow officers had just finished theirs. The Grangers Gunboats....[]
accepted, being rather glad to change from the
cramped quarters of the junk. They met Lieutenant Granger's letter was found in U.S. National Archives
(j.g.) Buckhalter, who formerly served on the records declassified in the 1990s. No previous
Monocacy, as well as Dr. Hubbard and Lt. Buehler. account of the Central Asiatic Expeditions or of the
After tiffin, the captain and Walter went ashore to do Yangtze Patrol had connected the two enterprises, as
errands while Lieutenant Buckhalter and Anna does Granger’s letter here.
“visited two places where grass linen table covers
and runners decorated with cross-stitching in blue are As mentioned, as an adjunct member of the CAE,
sold.” Anna would later publish an article mentioning this
incident entitled “Wintering Over by Fire Basket in
At 5:00 p.m. Walter, Anna, the captain and the Szechuan” in the American Museum’s Natural
lieutenant all turned up at the Windhams for tea. Mr. History magazine [May-June, 1924, v. XXIV, n. 3,
P.C. Windham was Ichang manager of the Robert pp. 366-380]. Her account, however, is oblique on
Dollar Steamship Co. the true status of the two sailors from the Palos. In
terms of danger, incidentally, Anna’s experiences
Their house is on the Bund. It was nice with Granger and his small band of Chinese
having the "eats" in true American assistants during his Yangtze basin expeditions
fashion. 7:30 p.m. dinner on board the greatly exceeded any of those encountered by any
Quiros. A hard thundershower at nine CAE party or individual CAE member in Mongolia
o'clock cooled off the air. Heat had been except the motor man Mackenzie (“Mac”) Young.
most oppressive all day. Back to our Herpetologist Clifford Pope and his small band of
quarters on board the Tung Ting at 10 Chinese assistants working in south China also
o'clock (Butterfield & Swire line). We encountered a significantly higher risk of danger than
expect to leave for Hankow tomorrow or did the Mongolia ventures.
next day [].
In his 1993 book Riding Shotgun on the Yangtze,
21. Postscript. David Grover did allude to this incident as follows:
Granger later reported to Commander Sampson as
follows: On rare occasions, guards were
assigned to private boathouses, as in the
Arrived safely at noon on the 27th after case of a guard on one such vessel
an unusually pleasant trip. Stages as transporting missionaries upriver; in
follows: Kwei Fu, Pating, Old Kwei another instance the Palos assigned two
Chou, Ping Shan Pa, and Ichang. Five men as guards on a private houseboat
and a half days from Wanhsien. In the while they awaited transportation
Wushan Gorge, at noon on the 24th, we downriver on another gunboat after they
were fired upon by a small band of had been given bad conduct discharges
robbers on the side of a cliff some two by a court martial [].
hundred feet above the river, and a
couple of hundred yards away. The shot That reference, of course, is to this incident which
fell near the junk, which they apparently occurred on a rented Chinese junk, not a houseboat.
were trying to hit. We opened up with And it was that junk that transported the Palos sailors
everything we had and got in forty odd downriver, as we now know.
rounds before the party broke up. Your
men fired about ten rounds each with
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 17

Gunboats of the various international Yangtze patrols USS Palos, Report of Operations for Week Ending 18
played a role in enabling the Granger’s CAE work in November 1922 (20 November 1922)(National
Yangtze basin from 1921 to 1925. In turn, Granger Archives).
was able to assist the YangPat, as this story captures.
Sampson and Granger’s exchange of favors neatly USS Palos, Report of Operations for Week Ending 17
accomplished the requirements of all parties. It March 1923 (19 March 1923) for references to the
provided much-needed transport for McRoberts and pontoon bridge (US National Archives).
Crabtree and enabled the Palos to remain on station
at Wanhsien. Whether he needed it or not, it boosted USS Palos, Ship's Log - 23 March 1923 (US National
Granger’s firepower all the way to Ichang, While this Archives).
arrangement solved a tricky crew morale problem for
Sampson, it obviously added unknowns for Granger USS Palos, Report of Operations for Week Ending 24
as custodian. One can only speculate on the dynamics March 1923 (26 March 1923) for references to
and interactions among this highly diverse escorting Granger's junk (US National Archives).
complement of passengers and crew aboard
Granger’s junk as it made its way from Pan To to USS Palos, Report of Operations for Week Ending 14
Ichang. April 1923 (16 April 1923) for correspondence from
W. Granger (US National Archives).
Finally, for the reader this account provides a
previously unknown dimension to the activities of the FIGURES
Central Asiatic Expeditions and the Yangtze Patrol
during the turbulent 1920s in China. And archived All photographs belong to The Granger Papers
records for the multinational Yangtze patrols during Project.
this time surely hold many other interesting, yet
untold stories. NOTES

On June 3, 1937, USS Palos was decommissioned 1. Spellings of Chinese terms and locations are as
and sold for use on the Yangtze as a wood oil barge. employed at the time.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 2. Cites for excerpts are: Fossil mammals from China
[Matsumoto]; It is interesting to note W. Granger[ ];
Charon. 1934. ‘Exclesior’ (North-China Daily News [F]or generations vertebrate fossils W. Granger [ ];
& Herald Ltd). In a low-powered steamer Charon, “Excelsior”, p.
19; [M]any a grim battle Charon, “Excelsior”, p. 7;
Ch'i, Hsi-Sheng. 1976. Warlord Politics in China, a fairly uniform type of clothing W. Granger,
1916-1928 (Stanford University Press). Explorers Club Tales, p. 143-144; bundles of dirty
bedding W. Granger, Explorers Club Tales, p. 147;
Directory of American Naval Fighting Ships (US had been pressed into service W. Granger, Explorers
Naval Institute). Club Tales, p. 146; that had defeated W. Granger,
Granger, Anna. 1924. “Wintering Over by Fire Explorers Club Tales, p. 148; All quiet during the
Basket in Szechuan,” Natural History (May-June), v. night W. Granger, diary, March 7, 1923 (The
XXIV, n. 3, pp. 366-380. Granger Papers Project); It looks like another junk
trip W. Granger in letter to W. D. Matthew dated
Granger, Walter. 1936. “Chinese Armies on the February 15, 1923 (The Granger Papers Project);
March,” in: Explorers Club Tales (Dodd, Mead & Pan To. Moored as before USS Palos, Ship’s Log,
Company), pp. 137-149. March 23, 1923 (US National Archives); Arrived
safely at noon USS Palos, Report of Operations for
Grover, David H., ed. 1993. Riding Shotgun on the Week Ending 14 April 1923 (16 April 1923)(US
Yangtze (Western Maritime Press). National Archives); On rare occasions, guards D.
Grover, Riding Shotgun on the Yangtze, p. 9.
Howell, Glenn F. 2002. Gunboat on the Yangtze: the
diary of Captain Glenn F. Howell of the USS Palos, 3. For a description of Walter Granger's fossil
1920-1921 (ed., Dennis, L. Noble)(McFarland & collections at Yenchingkou (Yanjinggou, Sichuan
Company, Inc.). Province) and region, see Granger, W. [ ], Volume I,
Chapter XLVIII; in Andrews, R. C., 1932, Natural
History of Central Asia, The New Conquest of
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 18

Central Asia, New York, American Museum of APPENDIX B

Natural History; and Colbert, E. H., Hooijer, D. A. Junks and Trackers
[and Granger, W.], "Pleistocene Mammals from the
Limestone Fissures of Szechwan, China", Bull. The junk.
AMNH (1953), v. 102:1-134. Granger also collected The word ‘junk’ describing the waterborne craft dates
a large number of recent mammals and birds. For a back to the thirteenth century and referred to ‘the
description of Clifford H. Pope's work, see Pope, C. common type of sailing vessel in the China seas.’
H. 1935. Volume X, The Reptiles of China; in Development of the flat-bottomed river junk by early
Andrews, R. C., et al., [193 ], Natural History of river settlers likely preceded that of the seagoing
Central Asia, The New Conquest of Central Asia, junk. The design of a Yangtze River junk depended
New York, American Museum of Natural History. both on its use and on which section of the river it
plied. This was true of sampans, which Granger often
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS used as well. River junks and river sampans were
similar in design and function. The dividing line
The author thanks [Joan Piper, Pete Reser] for their between them was whether the craft could carry a
reviews. This account is based on a presentation water buffalo crosswise thwart to thwart. If it could,
made at the 2007 Naval History Symposium, US it was a junk. Fig. 21 shows Anna in a river sampan
Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, on September 21. at the landing below Yenchingkou.
Cite as: Morgan, V. L., 2007, “Exchanging Favors––
Encounters between American Gunboat Patrols and Granger’s junk was known as an Upper Yangtze
Scientists Studying the Natural History of China in junk. These junks varied greatly in design and size,
the 1920s,” The Granger Papers Project, Paper No. 1. but all shared one common criterion: the capacity to
navigate and survive nearly impassable rapids,
whirlpools, and shoals. From a photograph,
APPENDIX A Grangers’ junk appears to have been 60 to 70 feet
The Gold Sifters long and of the ma-yang-tzu design. It was propelled
and controlled by 12 rowers with sweeping oars and
The duck hunting occurred while the river was at its two steersmen. There also was the crew’s cook and
seasonal low water level. This left exposed a great the junk’s laodah, or captain. “We marveled at the
stretch of horizontal sand and rock with an irregular contentedness and even joyousness of these men who
surface pocked in places with small potholes. Large worked at the oars and sang to the strokes, fed only
lagoons could also be found. They were made during on meager rations of rice and green vegetables with
the river’s high and medium water stages when occasionally a very little pork,” Anna wrote.
swirling eddies scooped out rock and soil and created [Wintering Over, Nat. Hist, p. 379]
catch basins. Some lagoons were a mile in length.
Granger thought it was actually possible that the Fig. 12 shows Granger’s junk with the bow sweep is
main channel of the Yangtze had once passed along seen at rest off the bow. The port and starboard
way of the lagoons until it cut deeper and set a new sweeps rest amidships. The steersman (or men,
course. depending on difficulty of navigation and handling)
stood aft in the open space between cabins at the long
Covering the rock ledge in some places were deposits tiller seen angling upward toward the flagpole. This
of sand and gravel swept down by the river. Natives location was between the junk’s deckhouse and after
were washing this material for gold. house. Spare bamboo rope is coiled at the base of the
flagpole aft on the deckhouse roof. Further forward,
They sat in rude bamboo shelters. The sediment was sheets of thatched roofing for covering the opening
loaded into a basket that was then rocked back and when not in use can be seen at the end of the
forth by a crude cradle straddled over a broad sloping deckhouse roof.
table. Water was constantly poured into the basket to
wash out the finer sand and that was then put through As shown in Fig. 12, the junk’s mast was un-stepped
a separating process to isolate black sand particles. for downriver travel. It would then be raised to sail
Corlett’s surmise was that the black sand was then back upriver wherever and whenever it could.
sent away for further separation since the native Otherwise, it would be poled or trackers would haul
apparatus on the spot did not seem sufficiently it from ashore using long bamboo lines.
delicate for the job.
Morgan, V. L., 2009, “Exchanging Favors,” TGPP, Paper No. 1, - p. 19

Trackers. Many trackers drowned in the raging torrents of the

These were the river laborers who battled daily with Yangtze. Many more suffered from work-induced
the Yangtze, providing the muscle to drag 40 to 100 strains, hernias and other illnesses. A tracker’s career
ton vessels along sections of the 1,500-mile stretch rarely lasted more than five years.
from Shanghai to Chungking that included a series of
treacherous gorges and a current of six to 12 knots or Descent of the river, though less onerous, was
more. Mostly men, they worked 12 hours a day, nine equally dangerous. Trackers would now work mainly
days at a time. There were two types of trackers, in the boat. The bow-sweep, used to direct the boat,
permanent and seasonal. The permanent trackers demanded 15 men, while each of the oars 10. In
were based in local villages along the river. It was descent, far less important than propelling the boat
usually these that formed the basic crews of many forwards was maintaining a safe position in the fast-
junks. The seasonal trackers would hire themselves flowing current. For this, at particularly dangerous
out at temporary shantytowns, set up where their rapids, skilled captains who specialized in negotiating
need was greatest along the difficult gorge-strewn particular set of rapids were hired.
reaches of the Upper Yangtze above Ichang. The risk
of storm, the potential for sudden changes in the
river's water level, the avarice of ship owners and the
charged, violent atmosphere to which this brutal
lifestyle tended, introduced many additional, unseen
risks into what was already dangerous work.

Fig. 10. – Trackers and braided bamboo haul ropes in


Trackers used long ropes to pull craft upriver. Four-

inch wide braided, bamboo hawsers were attached to
the boat's prow. As many as 400 trackers would hitch
themselves in a long series to these and, shoed in
straw slippers, would listen for drum signals to direct
the progress of their haul. Along some stretches one
foot wide “tracker paths” were carved into the cliff.
Since these had to take into account the frequent
change in water level, these tracks could be as high as
300 feet above the river. More often, however,
trackers while heaving their load, had to dexterously
pick their way across various-sized boulders lying
along the shoreline. If a cliff stood in their way the
trackers would board the craft, and by inserting
hooked poles into nooks in the rock face, would inch
the boat laboriously along the cliff.

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