Around the turn of the 19th century, a revolution was sweeping through China. This revolution was China’s resistance to the outside world coming in and (what locals felt as) taking over. These local people were frustrated and appalled at the Western influences seeping into their culture.
They also opposed the vast number of Christian missionaries coming to their homeland to convert them from the traditional ways to Christianity.
These locals banded together, organized and called their revolution the movement of the “Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists” – also known to the rest of the world as the Boxer Rebellion.
The hard feelings felt by the people of China were becoming well-known and obvious throughout the 1890s. Farmers and workers began to get involved with the movement, blaming the “outsiders” for the recent hardships they had to endure; such as drought and devastating floods.
The Influx of Foreigners
The organizers of the Boxers used these feelings to their advantage by urging followers to harass and even attack any and all foreigners. They also urged their followers to do the same with any Chinese Christians. Though the Chinese Imperial court was officially “anti-Boxer” there was sometimes little or no protection from the Boxer attacks.
To avoid such treatment, thousand of foreigners and Chinese Christians flocked to the city of Peking. Many thought that since the United States, along with Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and Russia all had maintained legations in the Legation Quarter of Peking, that they would be protected. However, in response to this vast migration of people, the Boxers burned several railroad stations between Peking and Paotingfu, including the large railroad junction at Fengtai.
This attack marked the turning point that led to the Siege of Peking.
U.S. Marines Enter Peking
On May 31, Capt. John T. Myers, USMC, arrived in Peking in overall command of two ship detachments of U.S. Marines in immediate response to the railroad attacks.
Myers was in command of about 50 marines and sailors derived from the crews of the USS Oregon and the USS Newark. Also arriving in Peking were about 350 other soldiers sent from the seven other European countries to protect their various interests.
Matters began to escalate after the influx of foreign soldiers in Peking. On June 17, Boxer rebels captured the Chinese forts at Taku and gave the foreign ministers an ultimatum. Leave the city with a guarantee of safe passage within 24-hours or burn along with the city of Peking.
The foreign ministers refused to flee the city and the Chinese empress issued a declaration of war against the Boxer Rebellion. The Boxer rebels made good on their word. On June 20, the siege on the city of Peking began. For nearly a month, artillery and small arms fire became a familiar sound in and around Peking. However, by June 25, US Marines were able to secure a critical position at Tartar Wall.
Marines and Allies Overturn Boxer Rebellion
By July 3, the Marines along with British and Russian troops made a successful charge on a series of Boxer barricades, forcing the rebels back even further. Though the charge was successful, Myers was wounded during the attack and was replaced by Captain Hall who was able to negotiate a truce. A rather unstable truce, but a truce nonetheless. The Marines under Myers and Hall participated heavily throughout the siege.
A group of American missionaries wrote:
“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.”
They went on to say, “By their bravery in holding an almost untenable position on the city wall in the face of overwhelming numbers, and in cooperating in driving the Chinese from a position of great strength, they made all foreigners in Peking their debtors, and have gained for themselves an honorable name among the heroes of their country.”Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com