Return to NHC homepageDocuments of the Boxer Rebellion

Secretary of the Navy's Report for 1900 on the China Relief Expedition

Source: Report of the Secretary of the Navy. Miscellaneous Reports. Washington: Government Printing Office. 1900.

Contents:

____

Report of the Secretary of the Navy.
____

NAVY DEPARTMENT,
Washington, D.C., November 17, 1900.

The PRESIDENT:

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the Navy Department for the past year:

OPERATIONS IN THE EAST.

          The fleet on the Asiatic Station has cooperated with the Army in the Philippines, transporting and convoying troops, patrolling a wide area of badly charted waters, sending out landing parties, and keeping the coast clear of the enemy. The small gunboats have been of great value in preventing the landing of arms for the insurgents and cutting off illicit trade with and among the islands.

          The cordiality which has characterized the relations of the Army and Navy is shown by numerous reports from officers on duty in the Philippines, and is alike creditable to both branches of the service.

          In view of the disturbed conditions in Asiatic waters and of the demands upon the Navy, the Department early in the year deemed it expedient to augment the force in that quarter. The commander in chief of the Asiatic Station, Rear-Admiral Remedy, was accordingly given an assistant, Rear-Admiral Kempff, to insure under command of an officer of rank and experience a division of the fleet, if necessary, in quarters distant from the Philippines. Almost immediately thereafter circumstances made it necessary to maintain a separate force in Chinese waters, and the junior rear-admiral was ordered to proceed with a squadron to Taku, China.

          When, therefore, an appeal for help came from the legations at Pekin, this Government not only had an adequate naval force at the nearest seaport town, but also was able to send forward immediately a force of marines for the protection of the United States legation. The small marine guard assigned to this duty under the command of Capt. John T. Myers consisted of 56 officers and men, made up of detachments from the U.S.S. Oregon and Newark. They reached the Chinese capital in the latter part of May, only a short time before the representatives and citizens of foreign countries in that city were subjected to siege and cut off from communication with the rest of the world.

          The annals of history present few examples of more dramatic interest than the story of the beleaguered legations in Pekin, from June 20, 1900, the date on which the German minister was killed and the siege began, until August 14, when the allied forces entered the Chinese capital. Official and unofficial reports, and particularly the dispatches of our minister, show that the American marines bore their full share in the burdens of defense during this memorable siege. The United States legation was situated just inside of and near to the wall of the Tartar city. When the legations were assaulted, the American detachment immediately occupied a position on the city wall, a strategic point of great importance; established an improvised sandbag fort there, which enabled them to defend the section of wall immediately commanding the legations, and, although repeatedly attacked by overwhelming numbers, and on two occasions driven for a few minutes from the wall, they were never permanently dislodged, but held this vital position until relief came.

          Some days before the siege began, and while railway communication with the Chinese capital was still open, arrangements had been made for the prompt dispatch, for the protection of the lives and property of Americans in the city, of another and larger detachment from our fleet at Taku. This second detachment was made up chiefly of seamen, under command of Captain Bowman H. McCalla, United States Navy, and was ready in the early part of June to join such expedition as the other governments interested might determine to send forward from their fleets at the mouth of the river.

          On the night of June 9 Admiral Seymour of the British navy, the ranking naval officer, received a telegram from the British minister at Pekin, advising him that "unless those at Pekin were relieved soon, it would be too late." At 9:30 the next morning a relief column, under command of Admiral Seymour, started for the Chinese capital by train, the expedition consisting of 915 British officers, seamen and marines, 450 German, 312 Russian, 158 French, 112 American, 54 Japanese, 40 Italian, and 25 Austrian, a total of 2,066. Finding at Langfang that the railway had been so much damaged as to render it useless as a means of advance, this column, after ten days' fighting in a difficult country, without the transportation, ammunition, or supplies necessary to an extended campaign, encumbered by wounded to the number of 230, and entirely cut off from communication front and rear was obliged, June 20, to fall back, and having on their return march captured the imperial armory near Hsiku, a few miles above Tientsin, there awaited reenforcements. Of the part borne in this hazardous expedition by the American sailors, honorable mention is made in all reports. The British admiral himself, in a letter to the senior United States naval officer at Taku, says:

I can not conclude my letter without expressing to you, sir, the high admiration I have for Capt. B.H. McCalla, who accompanied us in command of your officers and men. Their post was usually in the advanced guard, where their zeal and go was praised by all. I regret to state that Captain McCalla was wounded in three places, but considering the gallant way in which he exposed himself I am only equally surprised and thankful that he is alive.

          In the meantime the foreign settlement in Tientsin itself was subjected to attack, and communication between that city and Taku was interrupted. On the 19th of June a detachment of 8 officers and 132 enlisted men, chiefly from the first regiment of marines dispatched from Cavite by the Newark and Nashville, arrived at Taku. Instructions were immediately given that this force should take part in the forward movement for the relief of the besieged at Tientsin. This force, aggregating a little more than 500 men, was, however, too small to accomplish its object, and was speedily driven back by overwhelming numbers.

          The following day, June 22, British, Russian, German, Italian, and Japanese reenforcements arrived, making a combined force of about 2,000 men. The foreign city of Tientsin was entered and the siege raised. On Sunday morning, June 25, an advance was made to the relief of Admiral Seymour's command, who were intrenched at a point about 8 miles from Tientsin. This movement was accomplished with little opposition, and early on the morning of July 14 the walled city of Tientsin was captured by the allied forces.

          In this action, in which 22 officers and 326 men, under Col. R.L. Meade, participated, Capt. A.R. Davis, U.S. Marine Corps, was killed at the side of his commanding officer in the advanced trench; Capts. William B. Lemly and Charles G. Long, First Lieuts. Smedley D. Butler and Henry Leonard were wounded; a sergeant, a corporal, and 2 enlisted men were killed, and a sergeant, 2 corporals, and 12 enlisted men were wounded.

          To record the instances of gallantry displayed by our officers and men at the capture of Tientsin would almost be equivalent to a publication of the entire roster.

          The Chinese stronghold at Tientsin was captured early on the morning of July 14; on the same day systematic attacks upon the beleaguered legations at Pekin ceased; an informal truce was arranged at the instance of the tsungli yamen; communication between the besieged and the outside world was partially reopened; the legations were offered certain supplies by the Chinese authorities, and although subjected to desultory attacks from time to time and to a fierce final assault on the night of August 13 were on the following day relieved by the entrance into Pekin of the allied forces.

          During the time of these events both rear-admirals were in Chinese waters. Their prudence and efficiency are highly commendable.

_____

Report of the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation
_____

BUREAU OF NAVIGATION, NAVY DEPARTMENT,

Washington, D.C., October 1, 1900.

ASIATIC STATION

          The year on the Asiatic Station has included, besides the operations about the Philippines, the recent important operations at Taku, whither a portion of the fleet having been promptly dispatched, this Government was able to there put on shore a considerable force of blue jackets and marines with the earliest of the foreign troops landed.

          The first vessel near the scene was the Wheeling. At the end of April she was withdrawn and the Newark relieved her. A force of 25 marines and 5 enlisted men of the Navy, under Capt. John T. Myers, U.S.M.C., left the Newark, off Taku, on May 29 for the protection of the legations at Pekin. Captain McCalla proceeded to Pekin, with this force and then returned. On June 5 a force was landed from the Newark under the command of Capt. B.H. McCalla, U.S.N.; it consisted of 47 men and 4 officers, and was afterwards reenforced to a total of 112. These, joining at Tientsin the column under Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Seymour, proceeded toward Pekin. On the 19th, after heavy losses and severe fighting, the senior officers of the nationalities present, presided over by Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Seymour, unanimously decided that the advance on Pekin must be abandoned. That day the return to Tientsin began, but was soon checked. On the 22nd the force captured the Siku arsenal and was there besieged by a large Chinese force until the 25th, on which day the beleaguered column was relieved by a relief column from Tientsin. The Americans on the relief column were 100 marines, under the command of Major L.W.T. Waller, U.S.M.C. These men had landed at Taku on June 19, and with other national forces, after severe fighting, relieved the besieged Europeans in the foreign concessions at Tientsin on the 24th.

          On July 13 the foreign forces took the native city of Tientsin. After Col. E.H. Liscum, U.S.A., was killed the Americans were under Col. R.L. Meade, U.S.M.C.; the fighting was severe and the losses were very heavy. After the capture of Tientsin the American marines joined in the relief column which, on the 14th of August, relieved Pekin, where the American marines under Capt. John T. Myers, U.S.M.C., had been stationed, joining in the defense of the legation compound.

          The Monocacy was among the first of our vessels to reach Taku, and on account of her light draft was able to take a useful part in the operations. The Princeton, of this fleet, carried our minister to China on a trip from Taku, leaving August 23, 1899, touching at Hongkong October 7. The loss of the Charleston, about latitude 19 1' north, longitude 122 3' east, on November 2, 1899, on an uncharted submerged rock in the Balintang Channel, north of Luzon and near the Guinapak rocks, is the one serious loss of material which we have sustained on the Asiatic Station, where the conditions are such that similar accidents might be expected to be frequent. These waters are so far from being accurately known that discrepancies of as much as 10 miles between charted and actual positions are not infrequent. The grounding of the Oregon arose from like causes. This vessel, making a passage from Hongkong under orders to proceed to Taku with the utmost dispatch, was obliged to anchor in thick weather on foul ground near the Howki Light, Chang Shan Channel, Pechili Strait. After sounding about the anchorage the vessel got under way and grounded (June 28) on an uncharted submerged rock near by. Through indefatigable work of her officers and crew she was saved from a most perilous position, and even now is again on active duty. The courtesy of the Japanese Government in generously extending resources to make repairs should be highly appreciated by this Government. It is important that this Government should construct or acquire on this station a dock of its own for the largest vessels. Under other circumstances foreign docks might not have been available for the Oregon, or being available, might not have been offered for use. The lack of a dock in the Philippines makes it necessary to keep full crews on board such vessels as the Monadnock and Monterey. These vessels are of little use in the present state of the insurrection, but are needed in the Philippines as a reserve for strengthening the fleet in case of threat or attack from another power. Each six months, though, they need docking and must then have a crew and convoy besides to get them from Cavite to Hongkong, whereas with a dock in the Philippines they could be put in reserve and docked as necessary.

_____

Report of the Surgeon-General, U.S. Navy
_____

DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY,
BUREAU OF MEDICINE AND SURGERY,

Washington, D.C., October 1, 1900

          The new naval hospital at Mare Island is now occupied and in every respect meets the requirements of officers and men transferred from the Asiatic Station for longer treatment than would be feasible on that station, or treatment preparatory to discharge from the service.

          Temporary hospitals were established at Taku and Tien Tsin at the time of the advance of the allies on Pekin, and the patients from those hospitals subsequently transferred to the Solace, which vessel has sustained her reputation of always being where she is needed. Sixty army wounded were also transferred to the Solace; 57 were transferred to the Thomas at Nagasaki, and 3 of the more serious cases were left at the naval hospital, Yokohama.

          Fleet-Surgeon Persons took to Taku a large stock of surgical supplies, and an additional amount is now on the Arethusa en route.

Return to Documents of the Boxer Rebellion | Continue to Next Section



Source: Navy Department. Annual Report of the Navy Department for the Year 1900 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900), pp. 3-6, 448-50, 1059-60.

13 March 2000