This question was posted on the China History Forum: “The Ever Victorious Army was the Qing army that helped put down the Taiping and Nein Rebellions and It was the first Chinese army which was trained in European tactics. My question is, does anyone know what kind of weapons did they use?” I replied:
According to Smith, 1978 Mercenaries and Mandarins, and Carr, 1992 The Devil Soldier (two of the most recent references on the subject of Ward and the Ever Victorious Army), at its beginning in 1860 and 1861, when the force numbered only several hundred, the Foreign Rifles we armed with revolvers and breech-loading rifles. The revolvers mostly were American Colts, with perhaps a few other makes familiar on the American frontier. The Colt percussion revolvers .44 Dragoon, and .38 Navy, were quite common.
The rifles were Sharps .577 percussion carbines, most likely from the lot of 6000 produced for the British in 1855, which had seen service in the Crimea (it was probably too soon for the Sharps New Model 1859 straight breech model to have turned up in China). As the Foreign Rifles grew into the larger Ever Victorious Army (EVA) between late 1861 and the end of 1862, there were not enough breech-loading rifles available to arm a force of 2000 to 4000, and rifled percussion muzzle-loaders became the norm. The 1851 and 1853 British Tower musket was a .702 rifled percussion model that was increasingly available after the Crimean War when, during the late 1850s, the 1853 Enfield .577 percussion rifle gradually replaced the Tower as standard issue to British troops. Both fired the Minié bullet and were known popularly as British Minié rifles.
When in 1862 Admiral Sir James Hope began to provide the EVA with materiel support from the British surplus store of Tower and Enfield rifles in India, the EVA then had access to a sufficient number of weapons to arm the force through its days under Gordon to its final muster in May of 1864. Andrew Wilson, in his history of the EVA under Gordon, says “a thousand of the men [Ward’s men in early 1862] were armed with Prussian rifles of the old pattern.” These may have been the 1848 Dreyse .61 percussion rifle, also called a Needle Gun.
When Li Hung-chang’s Huai army came to Shanghai in 1862 and began training with the EVA, some sources say that the Huai Army already had a small foreign rifle unit 洋槍小隊, and that as the Huai army grew in number it acquired many more foreign rifles. An initial search through online Chinese sources about the kind of foreign rifles the Huai army used did not turn up anything as specific as the foregoing, which I suppose is not surprising as Chinese then would have not been very well acquainted with the nomenclature of Western arms. More research on this lays ahead, in general sources on the Huai army, and in more detailed Chinese accounts such as 干醒民, 上海一八六二年 – 叫化兵入城, and personal journal diaries and journals.