May 1900

The events of May will all be included on this page as the amount of information is not overwhelming.

24 May

First American detachment of Marines from the U.S.S. Oregon is sent to Peking. This group was lead by Captain John T. Myers and consisted of 1 sergeant, 2 corporals, and 25 privates. 1

27 May

A telegraphic exchange between the Marquees of Salisbury and Sir C. MacDonald relating to events unfolding in Peking.

Telegram from Sir C. MacDonald to the Marquees of Salisbury

In continuation of my telegram of to-day, I have to report that I had an interview with Prince Ch’ing and the Yamen Ministers the afternoon. Energetic measures are now being taken against the Boxers by the Government, whom the progress of the boxer movement has, at last, thoroughly alarmed.

The Corps Diplomatique, who met in the course of the day, have decided to wait another twenty-four hours for further developments. 2

Telegram from the Marquees of Salisbury to Sir C. MacDonald

“BOXER” disturbances.

If you consider it necessary for the protection of the lives of Europeans you may send for marine guard. 3

Mary Hooker writes in her diary of Chinese drilling in Temple courtyards in Peking.

…Clara, the German governess, returned from Peking to-day, and tells us that all the natives she passed seemed to be alarmed, and that in all the temple enclosures companies of Chinese were being drilled.
Our servants, mostly native Chinese, assure us that these people are all Boxers, most of them flaunting the red sash, the insignia of that society, and that they are preparing for a general uprising when the time shall be ripe – an uprising that has for its watchword, “Death and destruction to the foreigner and all his works, and loyal support to the great Ching dynasty. 4

28 May

Mary Hooker writes in her diary of seeing the station and foreign houses at Feng-tai were burning and the steel bridge had been dynamited. Dr. Morrison, of the London Times, arrives to help. They make there way to Peking with Mr. Squires and a Cossack guard provided by the Russians. Below are excerpts from her multi-page diary entry for that day.

… We could see from our mountain balcony the railroad station at Feng-tai, with its foreign settlement, was burning. The immense steel bridge was gone, too, showing that dynamite and high explosives had been used to destroy it…
… Our position now, to say the least, was critical. Not a foreign man on the place to protect us… we saw down in the valley a dusty figure ambling along on a dusty Chinese pony, coming from the direction of Feng-Tai and making direct for our temple. It was Dr. Morrison, correspondent of the London Times, and an intimate friend of the Squireses.
… hearing early in the day of the mob at Feng-tai … he promptly started off in that direction to get as near as possible to the scene of the action, and ascertain for himself if the wild rumors circulating in Peking were truths before cabling them to London. Finding the worst corroborated … he started on his return trip to Peking, … when he became oppressed with the startling remembrance that we were at the temple, and probably alone and unprotected. So, instead of returning to Peking, he promptly returned to us.
… He was studying a possible defense of our balcony-home when Mr. Squires arrived post-haste, bringing with him a Russian Cossack, whom he had borrowed from the Russian Minister. Plan were made to defend the place from attack or incendiaries during the night… 5

29 May

Mary Hooker’s diary entry continues without breaking, it had mostly been written on May 29th, or at least the latter part of it.

… At 6 a.m. we were en route for Peking …
… The fifteen miles through which we travelled were utterly deserted …
… At 10.30 we reached the American Legation compound. 5

Telegram from Sir E. Seymour to Admiralty

IN consequence of unsettled state of affairs at Peking, I have sent “Orlando” and “Algerine” to Taku, ready to land guards if required by Minister.6

Telegram from Sir C. MacDonald to the Marquess of Salisbury

SOME stations on the line, among others Yeng-tai, 6 miles from Peking, together with machine sheds and European houses, were burnt yesterday by the Boxers. The line has been torn up in places. Trains between this and Tien-tsin have stopped running, and traffic has not been resumed yet.
The situation here is serious, and so far the Imperial troops have done nothing.7

Telegram from Sir C. MacDonald to the Marquees of Salisbury

IT was unanimously decided, at a meeting of foreign Representatives yesterday, to send for guards for the Legations, in view of the apathy of the Chinese Government and the gravity of the situation. Before the meeting assembled, the French Minister had already sent for his.8

A second American detachment of Marines from the U.S.S. Newark is sent to Peking by way of Tien-tsin. This group was lead by Captain Newt H. Hall and consisted of 1 sergeant, 1 corporal, 1 drummer and 23 privates.9

30 May

Telegram from Sir C. MacDonald to the Marquess of Salisbury

PERMISSION for the guards to come to Peking has been refused by the Yamên. I think, however, that they may not persist in their refusal. The situation in the meantime is one of extreme gravity. The people are very excited, and the soldiers mutinous. Without doubt it is now a question of European life and property being in danger here.
The French and Russians are landing 100 men each. 10

Telegram from Sir C. MacDonald to the Marquess of Salibury

LEGATION guards.
My telegram of yesterday’s date.
French, Russian and United States’ Ministers, and myself, were deputed to-day at a meeting of the foreign Representatives to declare to the Tsung-li Yamên that the foreign Representatives must immediately bring up guards for the protection of the lives of Europeans in Peking in view of the serious situation and the untrustworthiness of the Chinese troops…
… In reply, the Yamên stated that no reply could be given until to-morrow afternoon, as the Prince was at the Summer Palace… the danger will be greatest on Friday, which is a Chinese festival. 11

Mary Hooker writes of the growing danger in the area of Peking.

The times have become so dangerous that no women are allowed to leave the compound, but, of course, the diplomats and the military – such as are here – must move about and try to find out what the situation really is…
We are glad to hear that the Belgian officials at the Feng-tai station had heard of the intentions of the Chinese to burn them and the place, and had escaped to Peking without loss of life.
All Legations that have battleships at Taku wired some days ago to them, and we are looking for a total of about three hundred marines of all nationalities to reach Peking at any moment.
Legations, such as the Belgium and Austrian, which are some distance from the Legation centre, are forced to do constant sentry work to guard against thieves and incendiaries; the Ministers secretaries, and their foreign servants take turn night and day… Melotte, the big blonde Belgian secretary, came to tea to-day, and gave us a most vivid description of the difficulties of their tiny garrison.
Sir Robert Hall, the beloved Inspector-General of the Customs, dropped in also, and, while he seemed fairly sanguine about the present situation, I must say the tales of China and the Chinese that he unfolded to us are quite terrible…
…I can’t say, however, that his visit reassured us in our present dangerous situation…
This afternoon Dr. Morrison and some of the Customs students rode down toward the station at Magi-poo to look at the congested market-place and collection of angry rioters. Directly they were seen they were furiously stoned, but their Chinese ponies were fleet of foot, they escaped with a few bruises. 12

1 History of the United States Marine Corps (Collum, 1903), pages 410-411
2 Correspondence Respecting the Insurrectionary Movement in China (1900), page 29
3 ibid. page 29
4 Behind the Scenes in Peking (Hooker, 1910) page 7
5 ibid. pages 7-11
6 Correspondence Respecting the Insurrectionary Movement in China (1900), page 29
7 ibid. page 30
8 ibid. page 30
9 History of the United States Marine Corps (Collum, 1903), page 411
10 Correspondence Respecting the Insurrectionary Movement in China (1900), page 30
11 Ibid. page 30
12 Behind the Scenes in Peking (Hooker, 1910) pages 12-14