• I'll Try, Sir! During the fiercely opposed relief expedition to Peking in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, when two companies of the U.S. Army's 14th Infantry Regiment were pinned by heavy fire from the east wall of the Tartar City and the Fox Tower between abutments of the Chinese City Wall near Tung Pien Gate, volunteers were called for to attempt the first perilous ascent of the wall. Trumpeter Calvin P. Titus of E Company immediately stepped forward saying, "I'll try, sir!" Using jagged holes in the stone wall, he succeeded in reaching the top. He was followed by the rest of his company, who climbed unarmed, and hauled up their rifles and ammunition belts by a rope made of rifle slings. As the troops ascended the wall artillery fire from Reilly's battery set fire to the Fox Tower. In the face of continued heavy Chinese fire, the colors broke out in the August breeze as the sign that U.S. Army troops had achieved a major step in the relief of the besieged Legations. For his courageous and daring deed in being the first to climb the wall, Trumpeter Titus was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.(CMH: "The U.S. Army in Action" DA Poster 21-73).

    "I'll Try, Sir!"

    I'll Try, Sir! During the fiercely opposed relief expedition to Peking in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, when two companies of the U.S. Army's 14th Infantry Regiment were pinned by heavy fire from the east wall of the Tartar City and the Fox Tower...

  • Allied Forces! this image shows Leland S Smith (standing , left) along with a U. S. Army Enginner named Larouch (atop the gun)and an unidentified German "sentry" with a 5-inch  artillery gun "manufactured in Germany in 1875" which was brought by the German contingent of the Relief Expedition for use against Chinese "Boxers." (Signal Corps Collection).

    Allied Forces!

    Allied Forces! this image shows Leland S Smith (standing , left) along with a U. S. Army Enginner named Larouch (atop the gun)and an unidentified German "sentry" with a 5-inch artillery gun "manufactured in Germany in 1875" which was brought by the...

  • Through the breach! This dated image shows a U.S. Army Field Artillery unit advancing into Peking. The caption on the image reads "The gate through the Chinese city wall at corner with the Tartar city wall which is higher and wider on top than that around the South or Chinese City. Here the Russians who were in advance of us took refuge from Chinese firing from both walls and would not move to let us through. Our artillery are shown at entrance "Chaffee" ride thru them. The gunners urgerd theirhorses on and the Russians then rushed out both ends of tunnel so not to get ran over by horse and guns." (Signal Corps Collection).

    Through the breach!

    Through the breach! This dated image shows a U.S. Army Field Artillery unit advancing into Peking. The caption on the image reads "The gate through the Chinese city wall at corner with the Tartar city wall which is higher and wider on top than that...

  • Fire! This image shows "Riley's Battery" of the U. S. Army Field Artillery in action near Peking. (Signal Corps Collection).

    Fire!

    Fire! This image shows "Riley's Battery" of the U. S. Army Field Artillery in action near Peking. (Signal Corps Collection).

  • "Jungals" This image shows U. S. Soldiers inside the Chinese arsenal in Peking and posing with "two of the two men guns, or Jungals, which were forerunners of the modern rifles. Shoots a very large ball." (Signal Corps Collection).

    "Jungals"

    "Jungals" This image shows U. S. Soldiers inside the Chinese arsenal in Peking and posing with "two of the two men guns, or Jungals, which were forerunners of the modern rifles. Shoots a very large ball." (Signal Corps Collection).

On August 14, 1900, an international military force, including American Soldiers and Marines, entered Peking, China (modern day Beijing) to rescue besieged diplomats and civilians during the Boxer Rebellion.

During spring 1900, civil unrest in China became a violent rebellion against foreign influence. By May the violence had spread to the city of Peking, forcing foreign civilians and Chinese Christians to seek shelter on the grounds of the Diplomatic Legations and at the North Cathedral. Both locations came under siege, and in late June communications with the outside world were cut.

In response to the emergency, an unofficial international coalition came into being. A first relief expedition was rapidly assembled from among available military forces at Tientsin on June 10. They were unable to break through the Boxers and had to fight their way back to Tientsin, which was now also under siege.

Reinforcements from Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States assembled off the coast of China. From its extensive forces in the Philippines, the U.S. Army sent the 9th and 14th Infantry Regiments, the 6th Cavalry Regiment, and Battery F of the 5th Field Artillery Regiment (Reilly's Battery). Major General Adna R. Chaffee, Sr. (a future Army Chief of Staff), commanded the American contingent. Count Alfred von Waldersee, former Chief of the German General Staff, was slated to become the overall Commanding General, but he would not reach China until September. Relieving the besieged embassies could not wait that long. Instead, Chaffee and his counterpart commanders of each other nationAca,!a,,cs forces developed an informal combined command system whereby they met in conference to decide strategy by majority rule. Troops worked under the control of their own commanders but could be sent to reinforce units from other nations during battle.

Joint naval operations against the Chinese batteries at Taku on June 17, allowed the relief expedition forces to land. They fought their way to Tientsin, taking the city on July 14. On August 4, 8000 Japanese, 4800 Russian, 3000 British, 2100 American, and 800 French soldiers began their march to Peking.

Fifteen miles from Peking, the five commanders met to plan their attack. They agreed to march to Peking on the 14th in five parallel columns. The attack on the city was scheduled for the 15th, with each force attacking a designated city gate. But, during the night of the 13th, the Russian forces stole a march on their allies, and attacked at the AmericansAca,!a,,c designated gate, the Tung Pien Men.

The other nations rushed to join the battle on the 14th. The American force, blocked from their gate by the pinned down Russians, moved forward to the city wall in ones and twos. Colonel Aaron S. Daggett of the 14th Infantry Regiment came up to the wall and wondered aloud if it could be climbed. Corporal Calvin P. Titus, bugler of Company E of the 14th, spoke up, "I'll try, sir." Corporal Titus led the way over the wall, allowing the Americans to attack the Chinese defenders at the gate. With the gate open, American and Russian forces fought their way through Peking toward the Diplomatic Legations.

With the Chinese forces distracted by the American and Russian attacks inside Peking, the British force was able to enter the city largely unopposed, and was the first to the Legations at about 3 p.m. The Americans reached it at 4:30, the Russians an hour later, and the Japanese commander arrived later that evening. The French arrived on the 15th.

During emergency of the Boxer Rebellion, military forces from eight nations cooperated in pursuit of the common goal of rescuing the diplomats and civilians trapped in Peking. A multinational parade was held in the city on August 28, 1900, to celebrate their victory, but the peace treaty would not be signed until a year later.

ABOUT THIS STORY: Many of the sources presented in this article are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). The artifacts shown are among nearly 50,000 items of the Army Heritage Museum (AHM) collections. MHI and AHM are part of the: Army Heritage and Education Center, 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA, 17013-5021.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16