Fourteenth Infantry Storms Peking
"THE RIGHT OF THE LINE"
14th INFANTRY REGIMENT NEWSPAPER
published in "ON GUARD"
by Gerald McMahon, 1990,
taken from 84th Organization Day Program, 1944
"Fourteenth Infantry Storms Peking – August 14, 1900"
August 14th in the year 1900 found a weary, sun-blistered, dust-caked Fourteenth Infantry battling at the head of the Allied columns which were closing onto the Chinese-held city of Peking at the climax of the bloody fighting of the Boxer Rebellion.
It was this heroic day on which the colors of the Fourteenth were the first foreign flag to float over the walls of the desperately held city of Peking and which marked the final success of the China Relief Expedition.
In 1861, just 84 years ago this 14th day of August, the present-day Fourteenth Infantry was formed at Fort Turnbull, Connecticut, to play a leading role in the Civil War.
Both of these memorable days will be in the minds of the men of the Fourteenth Tuesday as they observe their 84th Organization Day in the heart of the enemy’s homeland just five months from the day they entered combat in Europe to participate in the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns of World War II.
On July 8, 1900, the Fourteenth, as part of the American force commanded by Gen. Ada R. Chaffee, had its orders for China and twenty days later landed at Taku, China.
A sharp engagement at the village of Yang-Sun was strongly defended by a determined, well-armed enemy backed by an ugly assortment of field artillery.
Here the Fourteenth, far ahead of its British and French allies, assaulted and captured the town while supporting artillery, with which contact had been lost, continued to shell the town.
Crossing to the west bank of the Pei-Ho River the next day (August 8), the allied forces resumed their advance on Peking. North China was suffering from a prolonged drought attended by a parching heat wave at this time. Breathless heat, little water, and a pall of dust stirred by the feet of the marching men made the following days a never-to-be-forgotten ordeal in the life of the Regiment.
August 13 found the weary columns before Peking. As the troops advanced to attack the city on August 14, the Fourteenth moved into a position from which it was to play a most dramatic and highly important role.
The Chinese fire from the wall surrounding Peking became so severe that it was necessary to silence it before storming the huge gates leading to the inner city and the key defenses. To do this required getting some of the Expedition’s men on the wall and into firing positions to neutralize the deadly fire which was creating heavy casualties among the ranks of the Allied forces.
Many loose bricks dotted the thirty-foot wall, which towered over the attacking forces. Volunteers to make an initial attempt to scale the wall by the use of numerous crevices and loose bricks were called for.
A light, agile, nervy young soldier, Musician Calvin P. Titus of Company "E" ran forward to make the first try. Under heavy covering fire, Titus cautiously worked his way up the vertical barrier and succeeded in reaching the top in safety.
This portion of the wall miraculously turned out to be unoccupied and not covered by immediate enemy fire and soon the Fourteenth held a sizable section of the wall.
A bitter fight developed as the Chinese attempted to force the Americans from the wall and as the fighting progressed the men of the Fourteenth were placed in danger of being fired on by friendly forces.
A mounted messenger brought the (Regiment’s Flag) heavy fire to the foot of the wall whence it was quickly hauled to the top.
A mighty shout of triumph and exultation came from the ranks of the American forces nearest the wall as the Fourteenth’s colors clearly designated that portion held by Allied forces and became the first foreign flag to fly on the wall of Peking following the bloody fight staged during the Boxer Rebellion.
The next day the Regiment in company with the famous "Riley’s Battery," which blew down the gates to the Imperial City, resumed the advance and by the next afternoon had driven the enemy from three high walls.
That night the Fourteenth was facing the last stronghold of the desperate Chinese-the wall of the sacred Forbidden City itself.
Just as a bloody victory lay in the grasp of the Regiment, hostilities were ordered suspended and soon after the Chinese capitulated.
The Fourteenth was selected to lead the triumphal entry of the Allied troops into the fallen city, and on August 16, the Regiment took station in the Temple of Agriculture in Peking.
Musician Titus received the Medal of Honor and a cadetship at West Point for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in conflict with the enemy. Many men of the Regiment were commended for their actions and a number of officers were brevetted for bravery.
General Daggett in commenting on the achievements of the Fourteenth in China attributed its remarkable success to the superior discipline which was found among all ranks of the organization throughout the heated fighting.
Fourteenth Infantry Storms Peking
Copyright © 2012 14th Infantry Regiment Association
Last modified: April 17, 2016