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Report of the Commandant of the Marine Corps

 

HEADQUARTERS U.S. MARINE CORPS,
Washington, D.C., October 1, 1901.

MARINES IN CHINA.

          In my annual report for 1900 brief mention was made of the prominent part taken by the marine guard under command of Capt. J.T. Myers, U.S.M.C., in protecting the lives of those who were besieged in the legations in Pekin. At the time that report was made only meager cabled information had been received, and I was unable to give the details of the work done by the marines during the siege. I append to this report, marked "C," a detailed report from Capt. J.T. Myers, dated September 26, 1900, covering the period during which he had active command of the marines at Pekin, from May 29 to July 3, 1900, and one from Capt. N.H. Hall, dated August 30, 1900, marked "D," covering the period during which he was in charge of the marine guard after Captain Myers was wounded. I also append, marked "E," a complete list of the marines who were killed and wounded during the siege of Pekin. These reports describe in an interesting manner the important work done by the marine guard in the midst of almost insurmountable difficulties. I beg leave to quote at this point a letter from Hon. E. H. Conger, United States minister to China, to Capt. J.T. Myers, U.S.M.C., dated September 3, 1900, which shows clearly the estimation in which he held Captain Myers and the men under his command:

MY DEAR CAPTAIN MYERS: Congratulating you on the recovery from your dangerous illness and the early prospect of getting away from the scenes of your sad experiences, I can not let you go without expressing to you the profound gratitude of all the saved for the incomparable part you took in their salvation.

Yours was a most trying position from the start. Our fate depended upon holding the wall. It could not have been held except for your heroic and successful charge of July 3, when you received your ugly wound. For the brave men who fell upon that and other occasions we grieve with you and shall always honor their memory.

I beg you to convey to your men an expression of our highest appreciation and sincerest gratitude for all they so nobly did and so bravely endured on our account.

For yourself, please accept my warmest personal thanks and very best wishes for all your future.

E.H. CONGER.

          The following extract from the report of Minister Conger to the Secretary of State, dated August 17, 1900, is of interest as throwing additional light on the splendid work of the marine guard in protecting the legations during the siege of Pekin:

* * * * * * *

          To our marines fell the most difficult and dangerous portion of the defense by reason of our proximity to the great city wall and the main city gates, over which the large guns were planted.

          Our legation, with the position which we held on the wall, was the key to the whole situation. This given up, all, including many Chinese Christians, would at once be driven into the British legation, and the congestion there increased by several hundred. The United States marines acquitted themselves nobly. Twice were they driven from the wall, and once forced to abandon the legation, but each time, reenforced, immediately retook it, and with only a handful of men, aided by ten Russian sailors, and for a few days a few British marines, held it to the last against several hundred Chinese, with at least three pieces of artillery.

          The bravest and most successful event of the whole siege was an attack led by Captain Myers, of our marines, and 55 men -- Americans, British, and Russians -- which resulted in the capture of a formidable barricade on the wall, defended by several hundred Chinese soldiers, over 50 of whom were killed. Two United States marines were killed and Captain Myers and one British marine wounded. This made our position on the wall secure, and it was held to the last with the loss of only one other man.

* * * * * * *

          I can not close this dispatch without gratefully mentioning the splendid service performed by the United States marines, who arrived here on May 31 under command of Captain Myers. With slight exceptions their conduct won the admiration and gratitude of all, and I beg you to kindly communicate the fact to the Navy Department.


          At the time of my last report the marine legation guard was still at Pekin. This detachment of marines, including Capt. J.T. Myers, U.S.M.C., commanding, and Capt. N.H. Hall, U.S.M.C., left Pekin in accordance with orders from Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee, U.S.A., dated September 6, 1900, and, in obedience to such orders, acted as a guard for the sick and refugees en route from Pekin to Tientsin. Upon arrival at the latter place the marine detachment was relieved from further duty with the China relief expedition, Captain Myers going to the naval hospital, Yokohama, and Captain Hall to the U.S.S. Newark, and the enlisted men being distributed among the ships from which they were taken for service in China.

          I append to my report, marked "F," a report made by Maj. L.W.T. Waller, U.S.M.C., from Tientsin, China, dated July 30, 1900, and received at these headquarters after my last annual report was submitted, relative to the expeditions and engagements in which the marines under his immediate command participated between July 3 and July 16, 1900.

          No reports reached these headquarters, prior to my last report, relative to the First Regiment of Marines, China relief expedition, after they left Tientsin. A report since received from Maj. W. P. Biddle, U.S.M.C, commanding the First Regiment of Marines, dated August 20, 1900, shows that his command left Tientsin on the afternoon of August 4, 1900, as a part of the relief column under the command of Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee, U.S.A. In the engagement next day at Pietsang the United States forces did not come under fire. The marine regiment, however, participated in the battle which occurred the day following -- August 6, 1900 -- at Yangtsun. The marines acted as a support to Reilly's Battery, of the Fifth United States Artillery, during the day of the battle. In the early advance the marine regiment came under the fire of small arms and artillery. At one time during the fight the enemy's cavalry was discovered on the right front and were put to flight by several well-directed volleys. An advance was then made on a village in line of skirmishers, scouts being thrown out to the front, and the village was taken with little or no opposition and without loss. A short rest was then taken, followed by an advance on another village, from which the enemy was also driven. In his report of this battle Major Biddle states that, owing to the frequent changes of direction, flank movements, and excessive heat, many of the men were overcome. Corpl. Thomas Brophy died from the effects of the heat, and Private Norman G. Pruitt was wounded.

          Although the distance covered daily in the march to Pekin was not great, the men suffered severely from the effects of the extreme heat. But Major Biddle, in his report, says that at Matow, two-thirds of the way, when the order came to leave all men behind who were incapable of marching further, there were but four marines who were unfit to proceed.

          Major Biddle, in his report, gives the following particulars concerning the operations against Pekin:

August 14, 1900.--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 3 wounded--First Lieut. S.D. Butler, slightly wounded in chest; Private G.P. Farrell, and Private F.W. Green. We bivouacked for the night just outside of the Tartar City.

August 15, 1900.--An advance was made against the Imperial City on this date, with the marines leading. The marines took a position on the Chien Men Gate and cleared away the barricades in order that the artillery might take possession. Two companies of the First Battalion of Marines were posted in the second story of the Pagoda, while the Second Battalion took a 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. Meanwhile the marines were subjected to a heavy small-arms fire by the enemy, as well as to some artillery fire. After a stubborn resistance the enemy were driven from their position and the marines were left to hold the Chien Men Gate, the artillery withdrawing.

          A copy of the full report of Major Biddle, together with its inclosures, is appended to my report, marked "G."

          On September 4, 1900, in accordance with General Orders, No. 12, issued by Major-General Chaffee, the Second Battalion, First Regiment of Marines, was included in the First Brigade, China relief expedition, and the Third Brigade, First Regiment of Marines, was included in the Second Brigade, China relief expedition.

          On September 14, 1900, Maj. L.W.T. Waller, U.S.M.C., was, by command of Brigadier-General Wilson, U.S.A., appointed provost-marshal of that section of the Tartar City of Pekin within the jurisdiction of the United States.

          On the same date First Lieut. L.M. Little, U.S.M.C., was appointed ordnance and engineer officer on the staff of the brigadier-general commanding the First Brigade, China Relief Expedition.

          On September 28, 1900, the Secretary of the Navy cabled Admiral Remedy, informing him that the Major-General Chaffee had been instructed, pending settlement of affairs in China, to withdraw all troops except the legation troops, and directing him accordingly to withdraw all sailors and marines and resume control of Cavite as soon as sufficient marines reached there, sending the marines back to the stations by the naval vessels so far as possible. In pursuance of this order the marines were embarked on the Brooklyn, Zafiro, and the transport Indiana. The troops arrived at Cavite in these vessels without incident.

          A letter received from Maj. L.W.T. Waller, U.S.M.C., dated Cavite, P.I., January 23, 1901, stated that he shipped to this country, to be forwarded to these headquarters, two of the eighteen guns captured by the marines in China. Major Waller states that these guns would be followed by other trophies, such as small arms, banners, etc.

          The description and history of these guns is as follows:

The first gun.--A 3-inch fieldpiece, either breech or muzzle loading, at will, was captured with five others of the same class; two 20-pounder Krupp, two 12-pounder, same make, on July 15, 1900, in a fort to the north and west of the walled city of Tientsin, by a detachment of marines and Royal Welsh Fusileers, as mounted infantry, under Major Waller's command, and sent out by General Dorward, commanding British forces, for this purpose.

The second gun.--A Chinese machine gun, was captured August 16, 1900, in the Imperial Artillery Barracks, just outside of the Forbidden City, Pekin.

          At the time the last-mentioned gun was captured, 125 horses, with many more carts, harness, arms, field implements, and colors, etc., were captured. These, Major Waller reports, were turned over to the Army, except the carts necessary for the transportation of the marines.

          It has always been the custom to furnish guards for the legations in a foreign country from marines, and this custom has not been departed from until the present guard at the legations in China was established, which was furnished by the Army. Army troops are never supposed to be sent to a foreign country except in time of war, and for this reason legation guards, and other guards required in foreign countries, have always been furnished by the Marine Corps. It is respectfully submitted that it is eminently proper that the guard to be kept at the legation in Pekin should be furnished by the Marine Corps.

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Source: Navy Department. Annual Report of the Navy Department for the Year 1901 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901), pp. 1231-34.

13 March 2000