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Peking: Operational Reports of Marine Commanders

 

HEADQUARTERS FIRST REGIMENT, U.S. MARINES,
Pekin, China, August 20, 1900.

SIR: In obedience to your order of the 17th instant I beg leave to submit my report of the operations against Pekin August 14.

          The marines advanced to a position near the north gate of the city under a slight fire and halted while a platoon from two companies was sent to the top of the wall to stop sniping and protect the artillery, which was successfully accomplished.

          The casualties of the day were three wounded: First Lieut. S.D. Butler, slight wound in chest; Private G.P. Farrell and Private F.W. Green. We bivouacked for the night just outside the walls of the Tartar City.

          Very respectfully,

W.P. BIDDLE,
Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding.

THE MAJOR-GENERAL COMMANDING UNITED STATES FORCES,
China Relief Expedition, Pekin, China.


HEADQUARTERS FIRST REGIMENT, U.S. MARINES,
Pekin, China, August 20, 1900.

SIR: In obedience to your order of the 17th instant, I beg leave to submit my report of the operations against Pekin, August 15, 1900.

          On the morning of the 15th the advance was made against the Imperial City with the marines leading. We took position on the Chien-men gate and cleared away the barricades, in order that the artillery might take position. Two companies of the first battalion were posted in the second story of the pagoda, while the second battalion took position along the wall, both battalions firing volleys at ranges of 900 yards at the first gate of the Imperial City, where the enemy were in force. During this period we were under a heavy small-arm fire and some artillery fire. The enemy, after a stubborn resistance, were driven from their position, and the marines were left to hold the Chien-Men gate, the artillery withdrawing.

          Very respectfully,

W.P. BIDDLE,
Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding.

THE MAJOR-GENERAL COMMANDING UINITED STATES FORCES,
China Relief Expedition Pekin, China.


HDQRS. FIRST BATTALION, FIRST REGIMENT U.S. MARINES,
Pekin, China, August 20, 1900.

SIR: In obedience to instructions, I have the honor to submit the following report: This battalion, with the portion of the regiment forming a part of the United States forces of the Pekin relief expedition, left Tientsin, European concession, during the afternoon of August 4; bivouacked for the night at a point near the Shi Ku Arsenal. On the morning of the 5th the Japanese troops engaged and defeated the enemy at Pietsang, but our troops were not engaged. On the morning of the 6th the column moved in three separate columns, Russo-French, English, and Americans. Our route lay along the left side of the railroad track, the Fourteenth Infantry leading, with a battalion of the Ninth Infantry on the right, marines in center and two battalions Fourteenth on the left, with the Fifth Artillery, Reilley's battery, between advance and main column. The enemy's lines were developed near Yanytsun in concave form. The fourteenth and English attacked the right, and on the left side of the road embankment. The Ninth, with marines in support, attacked a position on the left of the enemy's position, Reilley's battery shelling the enemy's guns. The enemy's artillery fire was very accurate. The marines, First Battalion on the line, Second in reserve, were deployed to support artillery. Numerous changes of direction and objective tired the men, and the great heat and the steady movement through high corn began to tell, the men dropping out of the line, overcome by heat. Reaching a point near the enemy's position we were subjected to a sharp rifle fire, but did not reply, moving on until the enemy's villages could be seen. A few volleys sent them out. About the same time we discovered the enemy's cavalry about 800 yards away. Several well-directed volleys put them to flight. The artillery followed the retreating cavalry with shrapnel. The villages in our front were carried with little or no opposition. Our casualties were 1 dead, 1 wounded. The death was caused by heat. One entire company failed to move forward on the last village, being nearly prostrated by the heat in the cornfield. This was Company H, Captain Bannon. We remained at Yanytsun on the 7th, bivouacked at Tsai-tsun on the 8th; Ho-shi-wu on the 9th; Tshienping on the 10th, a short distance from Matow; Dshang-dshai-wan on the 11th; Tung-chon on the 12th; Thing-fu-dsh on the 13th; all being uneventful but fatiguing days. On the 14th we advanced on Pekin. At about 12.30 p.m. I was directed to send men to the wall near the north gate, Tung-chou road, to protect the artillery from the enemy's fire. A part of A and H Companies were sent, silencing the enemy's fire. Lieutenant Butler was slightly wounded in the chest while getting the men of A Company on the wall. Our casualties for the day were 3 wounded. We bivouacked for the night just outside the walls of the Tartar City, near the legations. These people had been relieved and had joined us during the afternoon.

          On the 15th we marched to attack the Imperial City, the marines leading. We took a position over the Chien-men gate, clearing the barricades to permit the artillery to come into action on the pagoda. The guns fired at the enemy on the west gate. I was ordered by the commanding general to capture a number of flags mounted on the enemy's position at the west gate. This order was revoked, the enemy opening a heavy fire from the gate to the north, the second gate leading into the Forbidden City. The First Battalion, especially Companies A and C, did excellent work in this fire. Two pieces of artillery were turned on this gate and the enemy driven out after a stubborn resistance, but not until they had killed Captain Reilley. A braver soldier, a truer friend never breathed than this admirable and lamented officer. He died at my side, touching me at the moment of the blow. He died without murmur or groan.

          The marines held this position and the west gate, taken on the 16th, until the 19th, when we moved into a position in the Tartar City. The flags were captured for the commanding general on the 15th by Lieuts. A.E. Harding and David D. Porter. I wish to mention the admirable work done by Lieutenants Butler and A.E. Harding on the 14th and 15th. Lieutenant Porter does not belong to my battalion, but served, as always, with great courage. Lieutenant Butler had just recovered from his wound received at the battle of Tientsin, but marched with his men, bearing the hardships and fatigue, and always ready to jump to any call of duty. Lieutenant Harding, on this as on all other occasions, was ever ready to expose himself to set a good example to the men.

          Very respectfully,

LITTLETON W.T. WALLER,
Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding Battalion.

THE COMMANDING OFFICER.


HDQRS. SECOND BATTALION, FIRST REGIMENT, U.S. MARINES,
CHINA RELIEF EXPEDITION,
Yang-Chun, China, August 7, 1900.

SIR: In obedience to your order of this date, I have the honor to submit the following report:

2. At about 10 a.m., August 6, the Second Battalion followed the First over the railroad embankment and was immediately separated from it. Upon separation we came under the fire of an enemy's battery stationed on our front and right, the first shell passing over our heads and falling about 20 yards beyond. It did not explode.

3. Marching parallel to the railroad embankment, we took position by your order in a ditch in rear of the Fifth United States Artillery. We remained in this position for a short time and were then ordered to support the advance of the First Battalion, which was advancing to attack a village to the east of us.

4. As soon as the battalion was deployed orders were received to take position on the left of the First Battalion. Before the movement was completed the battalion was ordered to the left to form on the left of the Fifth United States Artillery, which had moved its position to the left and front. While moving to this latter position I received notice that the battery had moved to your left, and was ordered to move up on a line with you and to your left. This latter movement being completed, the enemy was shelled and the battalion advanced with the First to the attack. The village was found deserted, and, after a short halt, an advance was made to a village beyond. The second village was not attacked by the infantry, but at 2.30 p.m. we were directed to proceed to the site selected as a camp.

5. Half of the battalion was sent to the new camp, and the other half returned over the battlefield to take in those who had fallen out from heat prostration.

6. Owing to the intense heat and long march, one officer, First Lieut. J.H.A. Day, adjutant, and about 40 per cent of the men became overcome by the heat and were not able to advance beyond the first village.

7. During the first part of the battle the battalion was under both artillery and infantry fire, the fire of the former falling short and that of the latter going beyond us.

8. Both officers and men showed, individually and collectively, such commendable fortitude and spirit, many of them just dragging themselves along in order to be in the attack, it is impossible to discriminate.

9. Corpl. Thomas Brophy, U.S.M.C., of Company I, died at about 2.50 p.m. from heat prostration, and Private Norman Pruitt, U.S.M.C., of Company D, was wounded in the head.

          Very respectfully,

F.J. MOSES,
Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding Second Battalion.

THE COMMANDING OFFICER, FIRST REGIMENT U.S. MARINES.

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Source: Navy Department. Annual Report of the Navy Department for the Year 1901 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901), pp. 1278-80.

13 March 2000