(Left: A view of Danshui River - date unknown.)
It is odd that some Brit by the name of Carozzi should become a bit player in the Battle of Fisherman's Wharf. Carozzi, after all, is an Italian name. An Italian or an Italian-British national, perhaps? And whom did he work for? Read on.
Because the Qing Court was ignorant of the navigational sovereignty ceding not only the navigational rights to foreign powers but the river and harbor pilot posts were filled by almost all foreign nationals. Some of these pilots later worked for the French in attacking Chinese ports. And Carozzi was one of them.
According to the communications of John Dodd (collected in the Journal of a Blockaded Resident in North Formosa, 1888), Carozzi's real name was Bentley, who was indeed from England. Dodd, a Scot and a long-time resident of Danshui (27 years from 1863), was known as the Father of Taiwan Oolong tea and the owner of Dodd & Co (寶順洋行). He had befriended all foreigners then living/working in Danshui, be they consular officers, ship captains or crews, traders, or missionaries. In fact, he had arranged Dr George Leslie Mackay's first rental residence (in a horse stall) and later attended Mackay's wedding. As a leader of the expat community, Dodd must also have known Bentley and probably most his secrets, too.
Bentley started working as a pilot in Keelung who later relocated to Danshui. He lived in the Pilots' Village in 油車口 and worked closely with another pilot, Tan A-Koon (陳阿坤). To fortify the defense of Danshui River, the Qing military had asked Bentley (who might have served in the British military) to design and construct 10 large mines strung across the river to deter the entry of the French fleet.
Interestingly, in the evening of Sept 3, 1884, a French gunboat (probably the Lutin) showed up at the mouth of Danshui River and signaled for a harbor pilot. Which was naturally ignored. On the next day, it signaled the British gunboat docked inside Danshui Harbor, the Cockchafer金龜子, asking specifically for Bentley (suggesting that the French already knew of him). That request was denied by Captain Boteler (more on order of British Consul Alexander Frater). By then or soon after, Bentley might have already sneaked to Hong Kong to peddle his services. Because of his detailed knowledge of Danshui Harbor and the mines, Adm Courbet hired him (apparently under the assumed name, Capt Carozzi) with a pay of 50,000 Francs/year. And on Oct 2, Bentley was actually on board the gun boat Vipere trying to help disable those mines that he had built. It was ultimately unsuccessful.
There was also a spy scandal that involved John Dodd and Bentley's friend (also Dodd's disgruntled ex-employee), Tan A-Koon. When the French started landing in the Fisherman's Wharf area, two Chinese spies were caught by the defending Qing army. These two implicated Tan who then tried to pin the charges on Dodd, in vain. It is possible that John Dodd might have known too much; for example, he knew Carozzi was actually Bentley. In the end, Tan, after an interrogation far worse than water-boarding, was executed on Oct 26 in Danshui for the crime of espionage. Bentley continued to serve his new master. On April 11, 1885 (4 days before the blockade of Danshui ended), he even informed the French to intercept transport ship 平安輪Ping-On, on board were 753 Qing soldiers and 10,500 silver dollars. His subsequent whereabouts remain unknown to this day. John Dodd went back to Scotland in 1890 never to see Danshui again.
Such were some examples of the lives in Danshui during the Sino-French war.
John Dodd's book has now been translated into Chinese and edited by Mr 陳政三 (Jackson Tan), published by 台灣古籍 in Taipei, under the title of "泡茶走西仔反──清法戰爭台灣外記" (Nov 13, 2007).