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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: Boxer Rebellion a conflict that was quickly deflated

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  • On this date in U.S. military history 114 years ago, a small force of American soldiers was engaged in one of its lesser known campaigns in a faraway land.
    Following the acquisition by the U.S. of the Philippines after the end of the Spanish-American War, interest in the Orient began to grow. In particular, interest in China for both commercial and humanitarian reasons grew.
    But the Chinese, long wary of foreign intervention, were not keen on foreigners from faraway countries entering its forbidden lands.
    Younger Chinese men in particular resented foreign intrusions, and formed a secret organization known as Boxers by Westerners, and undertook a campaign of violence against foreign intrusion.
    By early 1900, Boxers in northern China had killed hundreds of Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries, and things came to a boil in June when they killed the German minister to China.
    An unlikely ad hoc alliance of troops from America, Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia was formed, totaling some 19,000, to march on Peking, the capital.
    On July 13, U.S. forces reached Tientsin, to link up with other countries’ forces for a march to Peking, some 70 miles distant, and made famous by the movie "55 Days to Peking." Must have been quite a slow march.
    The force was dubbed the China Relief Expedition, and it was destined to be one of the most short-lived forces in military history.
    Most American troops came from the Philippines, where they were busily engaged in the Philippine Insurrection. The 9th and 14th infantry regiments and elements of the 6th Cavalry Regiment became part of the expeditionary force.
    The Russian commander decided to prematurely force an entrance to the Outer City at Peking, but was thrown into confusion and had to be rescued by forces from other countries.
    That proved to be a precursor for Russian actions against Japan four years later during the Russo-Japanese War.
    Although the Boxer Rebellion, as it was called, lasted only a few months and there was no pitched battle recorded, 59 Medals of Honor were awarded, 33 to Marines, 22 to the Navy, and four to the Army.
    One recipient has a local legacy in the Kansas City area.
    Ordinary Seaman William Seach was born in London, and by 1900 was in the U.S. Navy. He was one of the 22 Sailors awarded the Medal of Honor with the unusual write up in his citation that his actions covered four days, scattered from June 13-22.  
    As a naval gunner operating on land, he was cited for defending against a charge by 300 Chinese soldiers and Boxers, clearing out nests of snipers, and defending against a saber charge by Chinese cavalry and knocking out artillery guns. He was one busy sailor.
    Page 2 of 2 - His son, also William Seach, was a Pearl Harbor survivor and World War II submarine officer, and his grandson, also William Seach, is an Army veteran of Vietnam and lives in the Kansas City area.
    A recent trip to Fort Riley brought unexpected news for this column. In the Cavalry Museum there, you can see more artifacts from the Boxer Rebellion than anywhere else in the area.
    On display are a cavalry cook’s brassard, China Campaign Medal, Chinese bank book brought back as a souvenir, and information about the eight troops of the 6th Cavalry Regiment that served in the campaign.              
    That museum, plus the 1st Infantry Division Museum and Custer House, make a visit to Fort Riley a must for history buffs.
    That is, after you have visited the Frontier Army Museum at Fort Leavenworth and the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.

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