The Boxer Rebellion


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Boxer Rebellion: Background

In the I Ho Chuan, loosely translated as the Fists of Righteous Harmony, which westerners loosely translated to 'Boxers' began efforts to increase membership. The Boxers were a society of zealots from the north of China that believed they had magical powers and were invulnerable to bullets and pain, and that "spirit soldiers" would rise from the dead to join them in their battles. At the time of the Boxers' formation, northern China was suffering from extreme draught conditions, and people were starving. The Boxers initially wished to overthrow the Empress, feeling she had let the people of the north down.

The Empress, however, was wise enough to encourage the Boxers, and successfully re-directed their wrath toward the foreigners in China. In early the Boxers began brutally attacking westerners. The first attacks were in the countryside. Nervous foreigners in the city of Beijing approached the Empress for help. The Empress, who had been encouraging the Boxers, promised the westerners that she would stop the Boxer efforts, but in reality did nothing.

Prince Duan led the Boxers to loot his enemies within the imperial court and the foreigners, although imperial authorities expelled Boxers after they were let into the city and went on a looting rampage against both the foreign and the Qing imperial forces.

Older Boxers were sent outside Beijing to halt the approaching foreign armies, while younger men were absorbed into the Muslim Gansu army.

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With conflicting allegiances and priorities motivating the various forces inside Beijing, the situation in the city became increasingly confused. The foreign legations continued to be surrounded by both Qing imperial and Gansu forces. While Dong Fuxiang's Gansu army, now swollen by the addition of the Boxers, wished to press the siege, Ronglu's imperial forces seem to have largely attempted to follow Empress Dowager Cixi's decree and protect the legations.

However, to satisfy the conservatives in the imperial court, Ronglu's men also fired on the legations and let off firecrackers to give the impression that they, too, were attacking the foreigners. Inside the legations and out of communication with the outside world, the foreigners simply fired on any targets that presented themselves, including messengers from the imperial court, civilians and besiegers of all persuasions.

The armistice, although occasionally broken, endured until 13 August when, with an allied army led by the British Alfred Gaselee approaching Beijing to relieve the siege, the Chinese launched their heaviest fusillade on the Legation Quarter. As the foreign army approached, Chinese forces melted away. Foreign navies started building up their presence along the northern China coast from the end of April Independent of the alliance, the Netherlands dispatched three cruisers in July to protect its citizens in Shanghai.

British Lieutenant-General Alfred Gaselee acted as the commanding officer of the Eight-Nation Alliance, which eventually numbered 55, The main contingent was composed of Japanese 20, , Russian 13, , British 12, , French 3, , U. Among the foreigners besieged in Tianjin was a young American mining engineer named Herbert Hoover , who would go on to become the 31st President of the United States. The international force finally captured Tianjin on 14 July. The international force suffered its heaviest casualties of the Boxer Rebellion in the Battle of Tianjin.

On 4 August, there were approximately 70, Qing imperial troops and anywhere from 50, to , Boxers along the way. The allies only encountered minor resistance, fighting battles at Beicang and Yangcun. At Yangcun, the 14th Infantry Regiment of the U. The weather was a major obstacle. These high temperatures and insects plagued the Allies. Soldiers became dehydrated and horses died. Chinese villagers killed Allied troops who searched for wells. The heat killed Allied soldiers, who foamed at the mouth. The tactics along the way were gruesome on either side.

Allied soldiers beheaded already dead Chinese corpses, bayoneted or beheaded live Chinese civilians, and raped Chinese girls and women. The international force reached Beijing on 14 August. Following the defeat of Beiyang army in the First Sino-Japanese War , the Chinese government had invested heavily in modernizing the imperial army, which was equipped with modern Mauser repeater rifles and Krupp artillery. Three modernized divisions consisting of Manchu Bannermen protected the Beijing Metropolitan region. Two of them were under the command of the anti-Boxer Prince Qing and Ronglu, while the anti-foreign Prince Duan commanded the ten-thousand-strong Hushenying , or "Tiger Spirit Division", which had joined the Gansu Braves and Boxers in attacking the foreigners.

It was a Hushenying captain who had assassinated the German diplomat Ketteler. The Tenacious Army under Nie Shicheng received western style training under German and Russian officers in addition to their modernised weapons and uniforms. They effectively resisted the Alliance at the Battle of Tientsin before retreating and astounded the Alliance forces with the accuracy of their artillery during the siege of the Tianjin concessions the artillery shells failed to explode upon impact due to corrupt manufacturing.

The Gansu Braves under Dong Fuxiang, which some sources described as "ill disciplined", were armed with modern weapons but were not trained according to western drill and wore traditional Chinese uniforms. They led the defeat of the Alliance at Langfang in the Seymour Expedition and were the most ferocious in besieging the Legations in Beijing. Some Banner forces were given modernised weapons and western training, becoming the Metropolitan Banner forces, which were decimated in the fighting.


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Among the Manchu dead was the father of the writer Lao She. The British won the race among the international forces to be the first to reach the besieged Legation Quarter. The U. In the U. The British Army reached the legation quarter on the afternoon of 14 August and relieved the Legation Quarter.

The Beitang was relieved on 16 August, first by Japanese soldiers and then, officially, by the French. In the early hours of 15 August, just as the Foreign Legations were being relieved, Empress Dowager Cixi, dressed in the padded blue cotton of a farm woman, the Guangxu Emperor, and a small retinue climbed into three wooden ox carts and escaped from the city covered with rough blankets.

Legend has it that the Empress Dowager then either ordered that the Guangxu Emperor's favourite concubine, Consort Zhen , be thrown down a well in the Forbidden City or tricked her into drowning herself. The journey was made all the more arduous by the lack of preparation, but the Empress Dowager insisted this was not a retreat, rather a "tour of inspection. The foreigners had no orders to pursue the Empress Dowager, so they decided to stay put. The Russian Empire and the Qing Empire had maintained a long peace, starting with the Treaty of Nerchinsk in , but Tsarist forces took advantage of Chinese defeats to impose the Aigun Treaty of and the Treaty of Peking of which ceded formerly Chinese territory in Manchuria to Russia, much of which is held by Russia to the present day Primorye.

The Russians aimed for control over the Amur River for navigation, and the all-weather ports of Dairen and Port Arthur in the Liaodong peninsula. The rise of Japan as an Asian power provoked Russia's anxiety, especially in light of expanding Japanese influence in Korea. Local Chinese in Manchuria were incensed at these Russian advances and began to harass Russians and Russian institutions, such as the Chinese Eastern Railway. The Czar's government used the pretext of Boxer activity to move some , troops into the area to crush the Boxers. The Chinese used arson to destroy a bridge carrying a railway and a barracks on 27 July.

The Boxers destroyed railways and cut lines for telegraphs and burned the Yantai mines. By 21 September, Russian troops took Jilin and Liaodong, and by the end of the month completely occupied Manchuria, where their presence was a major factor leading to the Russo-Japanese War. The Chinese Honghuzi bandits of Manchuria, who had fought alongside the Boxers in the war, did not stop when the Boxer rebellion was over, and continued guerilla warfare against the Russian occupation up to the Russo-Japanese war when the Russians were defeated by Japan.

Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic missionaries and their Chinese parishioners were massacred throughout northern China, some by Boxers and others by government troops and authorities. After the declaration of war on Western powers in June , Yuxian, who had been named governor of Shanxi in March of that year, implemented a brutal anti-foreign and anti-Christian policy.

On 9 July, reports circulated that he had executed forty-four foreigners including women and children from missionary families whom he had invited to the provincial capital Taiyuan under the promise to protect them. Journalist and historical writer Nat Brandt has called the massacre of Christians in Shanxi "the greatest single tragedy in the history of Christian evangelicalism. During the Boxer Rebellion as a whole, a total of Protestant missionaries and 53 children were killed, and 47 Catholic priests and nuns.

Collectively, the Protestant dead were called the China Martyrs of This was the first local canonisation for more than two centuries. Beijing, Tianjin, and other cities in northern China were occupied for more than one year by the international expeditionary force under the command of German General Alfred Graf von Waldersee. Atrocities by foreign troops were common. French troops ravaged the countryside around Beijing on behalf of Chinese Catholics. Yuan Shikai's forces killed tens of thousands of people in their anti Boxer campaign in Zhili Province and Shandong after the Alliance captured Beijing.

From contemporary Western observers, German, Russian, and Japanese troops received the greatest criticism for their ruthlessness and willingness to wantonly execute Chinese of all ages and backgrounds, sometimes burning and killing entire village populations. Kaiser Wilhelm II on July 27 during departure ceremonies for the German relief force included an impromptu, but intemperate reference to the Hun invaders of continental Europe which would later be resurrected by British propaganda to mock Germany during the First World War and Second World War:.

One newspaper called the aftermath of the siege a "carnival of ancient loot", and others called it "an orgy of looting" by soldiers, civilians and missionaries. These characterisations called to mind the sacking of the Summer Palace in An American diplomat, Herbert G. Squiers , filled several railroad cars with loot and artifacts. The British Legation held loot auctions every afternoon and proclaimed, "Looting on the part of British troops was carried out in the most orderly manner. Many of these looted items ended up in Europe. Some but by no means all Western missionaries took an active part in calling for retribution.

To provide restitution to missionaries and Chinese Christian families whose property had been destroyed, William Ament , a missionary of American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions , guided American troops through villages to punish those he suspected of being Boxers and confiscate their property. When Mark Twain read of this expedition, he wrote a scathing essay, "To the Person Sitting in Darkness" , that attacked the "Reverend bandits of the American Board," especially targeting Ament, one of the most respected missionaries in China.

Ament's counterpart on the distaff side was doughty British missionary Georgina Smith who presided over a neighborhood in Beijing as judge and jury. While one historical account reported that Japanese troops were astonished by other Alliance troops raping civilians, [] others noted that Japanese troops were 'looting and burning without mercy', and that Chinese 'women and girls by hundreds have committed suicide to escape a worse fate at the hands of Russian and Japanese brutes. The Daily Telegraph journalist E. Dillon stated that he witnessed the mutilated corpses of Chinese women who were raped and killed by the Alliance troops.

The French commander dismissed the rapes, attributing them to "gallantry of the French soldier. Many Bannermen supported the Boxers and shared their anti-foreign sentiment. In the words of historian Pamela Crossley , their living conditions went "from desperate poverty to true misery.

Under the lead of some highly ranked officials including Li Hongzhang , Yuan Shikai and Zhang Zhidong , several provinces in the southeast formed the Southeastern Mutual Protection during this period to avoid the further expansion of the chaos. These provinces claimed to be neutral and refused to fight either the Boxers or the Eight Nation Alliance. After the capture of Peking by the foreign armies, some of Empress Dowager Cixi's advisers advocated that the war be carried on, arguing that China could have defeated the foreigners as it was disloyal and traitorous people within China who allowed Beijing and Tianjin to be captured by the Allies, and that the interior of China was impenetrable.

They also recommended that Dong Fuxiang continue fighting. The Empress Dowager Cixi was practical, however, and decided that the terms were generous enough for her to acquiesce when she was assured of her continued reign after the war and that China would not be forced to cede any territory.

The protocol ordered the execution of 10 high-ranking officials linked to the outbreak and other officials who were found guilty for the slaughter of foreigners in China. The reparation was to be paid by , within 39 years, and would be ,, taels with interest 4 percent per year included. To help meet the payment it was agreed to increase the existing tariff from an actual 3. Chinese custom income and salt tax were enlisted as guarantee of the reparation.

A large portion of the reparations paid to the United States was diverted to pay for the education of Chinese students in U. To prepare the students chosen for this program an institute was established to teach the English language and to serve as a preparatory school. When the first of these students returned to China they undertook the teaching of subsequent students; from this institute was born Tsinghua University. Some of the reparation due to Britain was later earmarked for a similar program. The China Inland Mission lost more members than any other missionary agency: [] 58 adults and 21 children were killed.

However, in , when the allied nations were demanding compensation from the Chinese government, Hudson Taylor refused to accept payment for loss of property or life in order to demonstrate the meekness and gentleness of Christ to the Chinese. The Belgian Catholic vicar apostolic of Ordos, Msgr. Alfons Bermyn wanted foreign troops garrisoned in Inner Mongolia , but the Governor refused. It turned out that Bermyn had created the incident as a hoax.

The Qing government did not capitulate to all the foreign demands. The Manchu governor Yuxian, was executed, but the imperial court refused to execute the Han Chinese General Dong Fuxiang, although he had also encouraged the killing of foreigners during the rebellion. Concurrently, this period marks the ceding of European great power interference in Chinese affairs, with the Japanese replacing the Europeans as the dominant power for their lopsided involvement in the war against the Boxers as well as their victory in the First Sino-Japanese War. With the toppling of the Qing that followed and the rise of the Nationalist Kuomintang , European sway within China was reduced to symbolic status.

After taking Manchuria in , Japan came to dominate Asian affairs both militarily and culturally with many of the Chinese scholars also educated in Japan with the most prominent example being Sun Yat-Sen who would later found the Nationalist movement of the Kuomintang in China. In October , Russia occupied the provinces of Manchuria, [] a move which threatened Anglo-American hopes of maintaining the country's openness to commerce under the Open Door Policy. Japan's clash with Russia over Liaodong and other provinces in eastern Manchuria, due to the Russian refusal to honour the terms of the Boxer protocol which called for their withdrawal, led to the Russo-Japanese War when two years of negotiations broke down in February The Russian Lease of the Liaodong was confirmed.

Russia was ultimately defeated by an increasingly confident Japan. Besides the compensation, Empress Dowager Cixi reluctantly started some reforms despite her previous views. Under her reforms known as the New Policies started in , the imperial examination system for government service was eliminated and as a result the system of education through Chinese classics was replaced with a European liberal system that led to a university degree. Along with the formation of new military and police organisations, the reforms also simplified central bureaucracy and made a start on revamping taxation policies.

The effect on China was a weakening of the dynasty and its national defense capabilities. The government structure was temporarily sustained by the Europeans. Behind the international conflict, it further deepened internal ideological differences between northern-Chinese anti-foreign royalists and southern-Chinese anti-Qing revolutionists. This scenario in the last years of the Qing dynasty gradually escalated into a chaotic warlord era in which the most powerful northern warlords were hostile towards the revolutionaries in the south who overthrew the Qing monarchy in The rivalry was not fully resolved until the northern warlords were defeated by the Kuomintang 's —28 Northern Expedition.

Prior to the final defeat of the Boxer Rebellion, all anti-Qing movements in the previous century, such as the Taiping Rebellion , had been successfully suppressed by the Qing.

Battle of Peking (1900) - Boxer Rebellion vs Foreign Legations

Historian Walter LaFeber has argued that President William McKinley 's decision to send 5, American troops to quell the rebellion marks "the origins of modern presidential war powers": []. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. In the Second Sino-Japanese War , when the Japanese asked the Muslim general Ma Hongkui to defect and become head of a Muslim puppet state, he responded that his relatives had been killed during the Battle of Peking, including his uncle Ma Fulu.

Since Japanese troops made up the majority of the Alliance forces there would be no cooperation with the Japanese. From the beginning, views differed as to whether the Boxers were better seen as anti-imperialist, patriotic, and proto-nationalist or as "uncivilized", irrational, and futile opponents of inevitable change.

The historian Joseph Esherick comments that "confusion about the Boxer Uprising is not simply a matter of popular misconceptions", for "there is no major incident in China's modern history on which the range of professional interpretation is as great". Chinese liberals such as Hu Shih often condemned the Boxers for their irrationality and barbarity. Sun Yat-sen , the founding father of the Republic of China and of the Nationalist Party at first believed that the Boxer Movement was stirred up by the Qing government's rumors, which "caused confusion among the populace", and delivered "scathing criticism" of the Boxers' "anti-foreignism and obscurantism".

Sun praised the Boxers for their "spirit of resistance" but called them "bandits". Students shared an ambivalent attitude to the Boxers, stating that while the uprising originated from the "ignorant and stubborn people of the interior areas", their beliefs were "brave and righteous", and could "be transformed into a moving force for independence". In Sun praised their fighting spirit and said the Boxers were courageous and fearless, fighting to the death against the Alliance armies, specifically the Battle of Yangcun.

In other countries, views of the Boxers were complex and contentious.

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Mark Twain said that "the Boxer is a patriot. He loves his country better than he does the countries of other people. I wish him success". He accused Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany of being chiefly responsible for the lootings, rapes, murders and the "Christian brutality" of the Russians and other western troops.


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So Christianly unselfish, and yet so unjustly maligned! Several years ago it unselfishly seized Port Arthur, and now it is unselfishly seizing Manchuria; it has unselfishly flooded the frontier provinces of China with hordes of contractors, engineers, and officers, who, by their conduct, have roused to indignation even the Chinese, known for their docility. Even some American churchmen spoke out in support of the Boxers. The evangelist Rev. George F. Pentecost said that the Boxer uprising was a. The Russian newspaper Amurskii Krai criticized the killing of innocent civilians, charging that "restraint" "civilization" and "culture" instead of "racial hatred" and "destruction" would have been more becoming of a "civilized Christian nation".

The paper asked "What shall we tell civilized people? We shall have to say to them: 'Do not consider us as brothers anymore. We are mean and terrible people; we have killed those who hid at our place, who sought our protection'". The events also left a longer impact. The historian Robert Bickers found that for the British in China the Boxer rising served as the "equivalent of the Indian 'mutiny'" and came to represent the Yellow Peril.

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Later events, he adds, such as the Chinese Nationalist Revolution of the s and even the activities of the Red Guards of the s, were perceived as being in the shadow of the Boxers. In Taiwan and Hong Kong , history textbooks often present the Boxer as irrational. But in the People's Republic of China , government textbooks described the Boxer movement as an anti-imperialist, patriotic peasant movement whose failure was due to the lack of leadership from the modern working class, and described the international army as an invading force. In recent decades, however, large-scale projects of village interviews and explorations of archival sources have led historians in China to take a more nuanced view.

Some non-Chinese scholars, such as Joseph Esherick, have seen the movement as anti-imperialist; while others hold that the concept "nationalistic" is anachronistic because the Chinese nation had not been formed and the Boxers were more concerned with regional issues. Paul Cohen's recent study includes a survey of "the Boxers as myth", showing how their memory was used in changing ways in 20th-century China from the New Culture Movement to the Cultural Revolution.

In recent years the Boxer question has been debated in the People's Republic of China. In , the critical scholar Wang Yi argued that the Boxers had features in common with the extremism of the Cultural Revolution. Of the marines engaged in this action, seventeen enlisted men and four officers became casualties.

This breakthrough triggered widespread looting of the city.

The Boxer Rebellion (1898-1901)

On July 30, U. Army Gen. Adna R. Chaffee arrived in Tientsin and took command of all U. Infantry, the Sixth U. Cavalry, and one battery from the Fifth U. The expedition's main goal was to relieve the legations in Peking and protect American interests in China. On August 4, the international expedition of approximately 18, left Tientsin for Peking; Chaffee's force of approximately 2, Americans included marines. The next day, part of the international force, including the marines, fought successfully at Yangstun. Many members of the international force suffered from heat exhaustion during the eighty-mile march as a result of the high temperatures and occasional fighting from Tientsin to Peking.

On the fourteenth, the international force reached Peking and relieved the legations. Upon reaching Peking, the marine unit stopped near the north gate while a platoon went to the top of the wall to stop sniper fire and set up protection for the artillery. Two privates and Lt. Smedley Butler were wounded. Most of this activity was combated by German troops until the Boxer Protocol a formal peace treaty was signed in September By the time the siege was lifted, the Legation Guard had suffered eighteen casualties.

Seven enlisted men were killed, and eleven members of the Legation Guard were wounded, including Captain Myers and Assistant Surgeon Lippitt. The enlisted men of the Legation Guard returned to the ships on which they had served before being detached for service in China. Additional marines had arrived in China in mid-August but did not participate in relieving Peking. At the end of September, the remaining marines in China were ordered back to the Philippines and shipped out on the Brooklyn, Zafiro, and Indiana.

Shortly after Peking was relieved, U. Minister to China E. Conger wrote the secretary of state, "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. At a meeting held August 18, a group of American missionaries resolved that, "The Americans who have been besieged in Peking desire to express their hearty appreciation of the courage, fidelity, and patriotism of the American Marines, to whom we so largely owe our salvation.

Individual honors were bestowed on many marines in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion. Thirty-three enlisted men were awarded the Medal of Honor, including the first medal awarded to a marine posthumously. Harry Fisher was killed on July 16 while helping erect a barricade near the wall in Peking. Dan Daly received his first Medal of Honor for volunteering to stay alone on the bastion of the wall while undergoing constant fire from the enemy on the night of July Instead, officers noted for bravery in action were usually distinguished by being "advanced in numbers" in their rank or sometimes awarded brevet rank.

For example, Capt. John Myers was advanced four numbers and brevetted a major; 1st Lt. Smedley Butler was advanced two numbers and brevetted a captain; and 1st Lt. Henry Leonard was advanced two numbers. Smedley D. Butler, United States Marine Corps, in bringing in a wounded man from the front under heavy and accurate fire; Lieut. Butler was wounded while so doing but I am glad to learn not seriously.

Butler was suffering severely, volunteered to carry him out of the firing line. This gallant feat he successfully accomplished, but I regret to say was very dangerously wounded in so doing. The total number of marines sent to China during the Boxer Rebellion was 49 officers and 1, enlisted men. Louis, Missouri. Generally, service records for enlisted marines who separated from service prior to are held in Washington, D.

Service records or "case files" of enlisted marines at the National Archives are found in Record Group , Records of the U. Marine Corps, entry Service records may include: enlistment and reenlistment papers, descriptive lists, conduct records, notice of discharge, military history, and the issuance of campaign badges and awards. There are two series of case files. The first marines who enlisted prior to is arranged by date of enlistment or last reenlistment.

If the enlistment date is unknown, researchers can use the card index found in Record Group , entry 75, "Alphabetical Card List of Enlisted Men of the Marine Corps, It should be noted that it was not unusual for enlisted marines to use aliases during this period. Service records and enlistment cards are filed under the name the marine used while in service. Military personnel files for marine officers who served in the Boxer Rebellion are held in St. The National Personnel Records Center has records for all marine officers separated from service after A good source to verify service as a marine officer is the List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from to , edited by Edward W.

Some information on officers may be found at the National Archives in Washington, D. This volume includes information such as date and place of birth, state from which appointed, state of residence, date of commission, and military service for

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