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Tientsin: The Allies Advance; Initial Attack Repulsed, 21 June 1900


U.S. FLAGSHIP NEWARK,
Taku, China, June 24, 1900.

SIR: I enclose herewith a copy of bulletin from the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Monocacy, dated 4.30 a.m. June 23, and a report of Maj. L.W.T. Waller, U.S.M.C., giving a detailed account of the battle near Tientsin on the morning of June 21, in which, as reported by telegram, 1 Colt's automatic and 1 3-inch rifle were abandoned; 3 Americans killed and 7 wounded.

          Attention is invited to the fact that the 3-inch rifle was not surrendered, but hidden as being unserviceable; and that the Colt automatic was not abandoned until it had jammed and ceased to be of service.

          I also inclose an official copy of the proceedings of a meeting held on the cruiser Rossia, giving a copy in both French and English of the proclamation issued by the senior naval officer present on June 20, 1900. A copy of this proclamation has already been forwarded by mail and by wire.

          On the morning of June 20, 1 private of Major Waller's force was accidentally shot and killed while on train en route to the relief of Tientsin. The name of this private has not yet been obtained, as it was not known to any of the party who returned with him. His name and the circumstances attending the fatal accident will be forwarded as soon as received.

Very respectfully,

LOUIS KEMPFF,
Rear-Admiral U.S.N., Second in Command, U.S. Naval Force, Asiatic Station.

THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY,
Navy Department, Washington.

 

The inclosures in the above letter relating to the Marine Corps are as follows:

CHIN LIANG CHENG, June 22, 1900.

SIR: I have the honor to report that I pushed forward from Tongku day before yesterday morning, and running the train by the great assistance of Captain Wise. We picked up the Russian column at a point about 8 miles from the town of Tongku. We found the road destroyed in places, and this was repaired by our people, the officers doing excellent work. We left Tongku at about 2.30 p.m., and reached a point about 12 miles from Tientsin at 11 p.m. We bivouacked there and sent the train back to Tongku. The understanding was at this time that we were to hold this position until the next afternoon (yesterday), and upon the arrival of reenforcements move forward on foot against Tientsin. At the council held that night the Russian colonel informed me that their orders were to try to reach Tientsin and help the garrison, but we were to await the arrival of reenforcements. At 2 a.m. yesterday we were called to another council, when the colonel informed me that he would push forward then and attack about daylight. I demurred to this, but finding myself in the minority, I agreed to do all that I could for the relief of our people. The firing on Tientsin during the night was very heavy.

          The 3-inch rifle was defective, so I was obliged to disable it and hide it in a canal. With the Colt gun in advance, the Russians following, and the rest of my force in the rear, we advanced slowly, scouting carefully, and reached the Chinese part of Tientsin at about 6.30 a.m. Our force consisted of 400 Russians and my very small detachment of 123 men and 8 officers. At the time we reached a point nearly opposite the arsenal we were met by a slight fire from a wall on our right. This was silenced by a few sharpshooters. The enemy then opened on us from front and flank. The fire from the front was exceedingly heavy at a range of about 300 yards, that from the flank being 900 yards away. The enemy were in force about 1,500 or 2,000 at this point. The Colt came into action and kept the frontal fire well down while I threw my men back and with some of the Russians (enlisted men) formed a line to the right and opened on the enemy on our right. These men on our front and right were imperial troops. A few boxers came on our left and annoyed us exceedingly with their fire, but were driven off by our men. The fire from the front was from hidden trenches. The enemy began to push troops to our right rear, and my line then became long and thin. The Russians fell back from the front and formed on my right flank, moving by that flank under the protection of the railroad embankment. The Colt, at this time, was in the original front with the Russian support of about 17 men. This dwindled to 2. The gun's crew lost 1 man killed and 2 wounded, when it jammed. The enemy's fire being unbearable, lieutenant disabled the Colt gun and retreated. At about 8.15 the enemy again attacked on my left flank, and as the Russians were some distance on my right flank I began my retreat by the same flank. During this retreat my force formed the rear guard. We were followed for four hours, but kept down the enemy's fire and brought off our wounded. We moved to this point, arriving a little before 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Our losses were 1 corporal and 2 privates killed, 1 corporal, 1 sergeant, and 5 privates wounded. The killed were Corporal Lannigan, Privates J.K. Miller and W.H. Morris. The seriously wounded were Privates Carter and Francis, and Corporal Kates. The other wounds were slight. The entire march was 30 miles. The fight occupied altogether about five hours.

          English and Russians arrived last night and bivouacked here. This morning more Russians with artillery arrived, and also a small party of Germans. I have sent a body of 16 men forward, to scout in front of the English force, and shall join them later with my whole body, cooperating with them.

          I can not say too much for the officers and men under my command; but I must speak especially of the conduct of Lieutenants Butler, A.E. Harding, Leonard, and Wynne. At a later time I shall take occasion to mention certain noncommissioned officers and men.

          The first relieving column reached Tientsin, but failed to relieve the place. I have done the best I could, sir, under the conditions surrounding me. Our men were the front to begin with and formed the rear in retreat. I have lost 2 guns, 1 from military necessity, the other by capture. We are footsore and weary, but will go forward now. The condition at Tientsin is almost hopeless. If we can not attack to-morrow, I fear the worst. An American escaped from Tientsin informs me that there were 2 killed and 4 wounded among the Americans before he left -- six days ago. He didn't know the men.

          Confidentially, I believe there can be no hope for Captain McCalla's party. I shall report from time to time.

          Very respectfully,

LITTLETON W.T. WALLER,
Major, United States Marine Corps, Commanding.

THE SECOND IN COMMAND,
United States Force, Asiatic Station.
(Through Commanding Officer U.S.S. Monocacy, Tongku.)

(Memorandum on outside of envelope:) Captain Wise: Please open and read and add Russian casualties, 2 killed, 9 wounded.    I need whisky.

_____

U.S.S. MONOCACY (3D RATE),
Tongku, China, June 22, 1900.

SIR: I have the honor to report: On Wednesday at 1 p.m. I dispatched by a train toward Tientsin 440 Russians, 130 United States marines, the latter having 1 Colt and one 3-pounder. The next day (Thursday) I dispatched 500 Welsh Fusiliers and 240 English blue jackets. I sent with the latter the Monocacy's 3-pounder, with directions to turn it over to Major Waller when encountered. Commander Craddock, R.N., was in command of the train. That same day (yesterday) about 6 p.m. I dispatached a second train with 900 Russian troops and four pieces of artillery with their four guns and four light Maxims, with about 100 horses. This morning at 8 a.m. I dispatched a train with about 200 Russian soldiers, 240 German and two heavy English guns on fixed mounts, the latter being secured to a box car, constituting movable field artillery on the railway line. There were with the Russians this morning about 100 horses and provision wagons. I have also sent out two platform cars containing large fresh-water tanks, each with a capacity of about 5,000 gallons, and I have been especially careful that every train and even car carried drinking water in small utensils, breakers, buckets, cracker tins, etc., as there is no potable water between here and Tientsin. I am now preparing another train to take out the remaining Russian troops (Cossacks) who arrived this morning; and have been informed that blue jackets from the Terrible have arrived, and they will also be dispatched. There will thus have been dispatched about 3,000 men. Of the trains sent out, that of Wednesday, with our marines, returned the same night. They had to repair track and bridges as they went along, but they had no mishap. Train No. 2, under Captain Craddock, had two cars derailed by an open switch about 4 miles out. They got past the obstruction and went on.

          At 11 p.m. last night an engine with two cars came back from the force farthest advanced containing wounded men, Russians and Americans. I inclose copy of Major Waller's report. He had retired to Chung Liang Cheng. I am about at the end of my resources with cars until some empty ones return from the front. Mr. Tuckey, Mr. Sherriff, and Mr. Clark of the late imperial service, have given me valuable information and assistance in running this makeshift train service, but the employees are all my own, with some English and German firemen and stokers. I have kept the distiller running, and all the fresh water mentioned above has been supplied from this ship. The three marines brought on board last night wounded are doing well. I had buried yesterday forenoon the one who was accidentally killed. As I have informed you, I have on board telegraphic and telephonic instruments, and when Major Wingate returned to the front this morning I told him that whenever he could get on the end of a telephone wire I would start the means for a "hello."

          Very respectfully,

F.M. WISE,
Commander, U.S.N., Commanding.

 

          I have to report that we made an unsuccessful attempt to relieve Tientsin this morning. We were surrounded and nearly overpowered. My loss is 4 killed and 7 wounded, 5 of the latter being slight. I lost both guns. All of the Colt's crew were shot but one. Further particulars later. If you can send the train, I will come in to Tongku. There is no reason to attempt the attack again without large force and much artillery. I was really forced into this much against my better judgment.

WALLER, Major.

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Source: Navy Department. Annual Report of the Navy Department for the Year 1900 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900), pp. 1148-50.

13 March 2000