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Tientsin: Report of Major Littleton W.T. Waller

 

HEADQUARTERS FIRST REGIMENT, U.S. MARINES,
Tientsin, China, July 30, 1900.

SIR: It has been suggested by Colonel Meade that I make a report to you covering the operations of our men since my last report, and up to the capture of Tientsin city, including an expedition under my command on July 16. On July 3 a small party of our men, subsequently increased to 80 in all, went under the immediate command of Lieut. Smedly D. Butler, joining a battalion under the command of Colonel Bower, of the British service, to capture a gun that had been annoying us considerably. The gun had been moved to the opposite side of the river and that part of the expedition was unsuccessful. Two villages were captured after sharp hand-to-hand fighting. When ordered to retire some of the Wei hei wei regiment (British-Chinese) were unable to fall back because the fire was too hot. Lieutenant Butler asked and received permission to support these men. He deployed the marines, advanced at the double to the position, opened fire by volleys, and permitted the Chinese regiment to fall back in comfort. He then fell back by sections in fine order and without casualty. I have before mentioned the fine qualities of Mr. Butler, his control of men, courage, and excellent example in his own person of all the qualities most admirable in a soldier. Colonel Bower sent his thanks for the services of our men and expressed his admiration for their training and fine discipline.

          2. We were shelled each day until the 9th, the Chinese fire being very accurate; our barracks were struck three times and the adjoining houses five or six times each. The British officers who had been in the siege of Ladysmith state that the shelling here was far more severe. On the 9th an attack was made, in two columns, on the west arsenal and along our west flank, the Chinese having spread around our flank on that side and threatened the river communication. I had command of the right column, consisting of our men and Japanese sailors, joined later by Sublieutenant Kennedy, of the royal navy, with a Maxim gun. We were shelled heavily by the Chinese, but fortunately without casualty, although frequently covered with dust and stung by stones and gravel thrown up by bursting shell. The left column hotly engaged the enemy and had them on the run in about thirty minutes. Some of the retreating enemy fled to the westward, while others retreated into the arsenal, too far out of range for me to reach them. The Chinese guns mounted in a mud fort to the westward of the arsenal were silenced by the Japanese and British mountain batteries and my column rushed into the arsenal, the action up to this point lasting about three hours. The Japanese cavalry had charged the retreating Chinese, killing many and capturing a field battery, four guns, and many standards. Proceeding to the first part of the arsenal, about 1,500 yards from the walls of Tientsin, we were met by a heavy rifle fire. My men were deployed and placed lying on the roofs of the huts, while the Japanese deployed on our right. We cleared the plain between the arsenal and city of the enemy, but the fire from the wall was very heavy. Fortunately we had no casualties. Observing that the bridge crossing the canal from the arsenal to the main road would be under a heavy fire from the city walls and the outside villages, I took my men across and deployed them along the mud wall, located the enemy, and when the wounded and artillery came to the bridge opened fire by section volleys. This fire kept down the enemy, and all the wounded, the Japanese and British mountain batteries, the British, Indian, and Japanese infantry passed without casualty. The Russian infantry relieved me to protect the passage of their troops and, I learn, had three or four casualties. In the afternoon of the same day I received, through the Japanese chief of staff, a present from Major-General Fukishima of one of the field guns captured by his cavalry. The present was accompanied by the following note:

"CONSULAT DU JAPON,
"Tientsin, le 10 juillet 1900.

"MON CHER MAJOR: Je fais envoyer à votre quartier général un des quatre canons que l'on a pris hier sur l'enemmi. C'est un souvenir du succés que nos forces réunies ont remporté dans cette même journée.

"Agréez mon cher Major, l'expression de mes sentiments très distingués,

"Y. FUKISHIMA."

The same evening I received a letter from Vice-Admiral Seymour, commander in chief of the British forces, and another from Lieutenant-Colonel Bower, commanding the Hongkong regiment. Copies follow:

"TIENTSIN, July 9, 1900.

"SIR: I beg leave to thank you for having been good enough to send out a force to cooperate in the action to-day. The steadiness of your men and the way in which they entered the arsenal was much admired. The actual command of the expedition was, as you know, under the Japanese general, with our general, Brigadier-General Dorward, assisting; but as being myself present, I desire to thank you for your valuable assistance, and to assure you that we are always happy to have your officers and men associated with ours.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

"C.H. SEYMOUR, Vice-Admiral."

 

"TIENTSIN, July 10, 1900.

"DEAR MAJOR WALLER: The officers who were with the detachment of my regiment that were dragging the guns yesterday have asked me to write and thank you for the support you gave them yesterday by keeping down the enemy's fire while they were crossing an exposed place. Their opinion is that had it not been for the action taken by you and your men they would have had a good many casualties. Please accept my most sincere thanks and believe me,

"Yours, sincerely, "P. BOWER."

I sent the following letters in acknowledgment:

"TIENTSIN, CHINA, July 10, 1900.

"SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your kind and flattering letter of yesterday's date relative to the services rendered by my officers and men. While I think, sir, that you overestimate these services, the opinion of one in such a high position as Vice-Admiral Seymour is most grateful to us.

"I hope, sir, that we may be able to retain the good opinion you have so gracefully expressed.

"I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant.

"LITTLETON W.T. WALLER,
"Major, U.S. Marine Corps.

"THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, BRITISH FORCES,
"Tientsin, China."

 

"HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES FORCES,
"Tientsin, July 10, 1900.

"Sir: On the part of my Government, myself, officers, and men, permit me to express to you our grateful thanks for the token of appreciation of the work done during the present expedition by the men under my command.

"I assure you, sir, that nothing could be more appreciated by us than the gun you have so gracefully presented.

"If you will permit me to say it, I should be glad to express my humble opinion of the troops under your command. I do not believe that there exists to-day a better body of men, as to discipline, training, courage, and ability to adapt themselves to surrounding conditions.

"Hoping, sir, to have the honor to serve under your command and direction, and with the assurance that for the purposes of this expedition, you may call on me, my officers, and men at any time.

"I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,

"LITTLETON W.T. WALLER,
"Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding United States Forces.

"THE COMMANDING OFFICER, JAPANESE FORCES."

 

"TIENTSIN, CHINA, July 10, 1900.

"DEAR COLONEL BOWER: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your kind note relative to the attack on the Chinese right on yesterday and to the assistance rendered by us to your regiment at the bridge.

"We did what I am sure you would have done under the circumstances. I hope you will feel that we feel toward you as comrades in arms, always ready to do any service at any time.

"Please express the thanks of my officers and men to your officers for their good opinion. It is very grateful to us.

"Sincerely yours,

"LITTLETON W.T. WALLER."

At the same time I sent the following letter to Vice-Admiral Seymour, inviting his attention to the admirable work done by Sublieutenant Kennedy with his Maxim:

"TIENTSIN, CHINA, July 10, 1900.

"SIR : Please permit me to express my thanks through you to Sublieutenant Kennedy, R.N., for the valuable assistance rendered by him and his men in yesterday's attack on the East Arsenal.

"Lieutenant Kennedy volunteered and courteously placed himself under my orders, performing excellent work with his Maxim against the retreating enemy.

"I have the honor to remain, sir, your obedient servant.

"LITTLETON W.T. WALLER,
"Major, U.S. Marines.

"THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF, BRITISH FORCES,
"Tientsin."

          The shelling of the European city continued until and during the 13th. On that day we attacked the Walled City in force. The report of our part of it is, I believe, covered by the report of Colonel Meade. I wish particularly to mention, however, the conduct of Private S.D. Sugar, my orderly. On two occasions I found it necessary to send orders to Captain Long, who was about a thousand yards in our right rear protecting our flank and rear from a considerable body of the enemy. I sent Private Sugar, and each time he walked quickly over the field that was swept by bullets, delivering his message and returning promptly to the firing line. I think promotion to sergeant is not a great reward for his conduct.

          On the morning of the 15th, at request of Brigadier-General Dorward, commanding the British forces, I took command of a detachment of mounted infantry composed of our own men and men of the Royal Welsh Fusileers. There were twenty-five men in all and four officers -- Captain Gwynne and Lieutenant Flower, of the Fusileers, and Lieut. A.E. Harding, my adjutant. Our orders were to scout to the west of the Walled City and look for the enemy, supposed to be in a fort near there. We made the fort and rushed it without opposition, securing eight guns, many standards, arms, carts, ammunition, etc.

          I can not speak too highly of the conduct of the officers of the Fusileers. This battalion has been by our side since June 23. They have responded to my orders with the greatest alacrity and willingness, all the officers and men ready to go anywhere. Captain Gwynne and Lieutenant Flower have been thrown more with me than the others; the first, because he commanded the battalion, with the latter as his adjutant. I have thanked General Dorward officially for their services and invited his attention to their courage and fidelity. I hope they may receive the promotion they so richly deserve.

          On the 15th I took a part of my battalion to guard the American quarter of the Walled City, the place having been divided into four quarters -- English, Japanese, American, and French. I found in the yamen of the salt commissioner, then under our guard and on fire, a couple of vaults of silver, amounting in all to about $800,000 silver. The estimated value is, I believe, $376,000. I think that a little low. After several days' hard work this was secured and is now in the Hongkong-
Shanghai Bank under our guard, awaiting the disposition of the Washington Government. This, I believe, closes the military operations to date. I am under orders to move forward and have been ready for two days. General Chaffee arrived to-day and assumed command of the forces in China. We are therefore under his orders on shore.

          Major Biddle has arrived at Tongku and reports that he expects to arrive here to-morrow. While I am glad to see Major Biddle I am sorry to lose command of the men. I have led them always until now. I suppose I must bow to the fortunes of war and a complication unforeseen by anyone.

          Very respectfully,

L.W.T. WALLER,
Major, U.S. Marine Corps, Commanding.

THE BRIGADIER-GENERAL, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS,
Washington, D.C.

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Source: Navy Department. Annual Report of the Navy Department for the Year 1901 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901), pp. 1273-75.

13 March 2000