China Relief Expedition - Miscellaneous Passages


“America in the China Relief Expedition”
Brig-Gen A. S. Daggett
U. S. Army, Retired


Miscellaneous Passages from the book:


Author’s Introduction

The China Expeditionary Campaign was short in duration. The 14th Infantry sailed from the Philippines on 15 July 1900, completed the campaign, and left Peking on 21 October 1900. Brig-Gen Daggett, then Colonel, was Regimental Commander of the 14th Infantry. His book makes for interesting reading, for the accuracy of the reporting on the complete campaign, but more importantly, for the vignettes of military life that constitutes the “right of the line” side of story.


Reilly’s Battery, Battery F, 6 guns, 5th Artillery:


“The Fourteenth Infantry and this battery had served together in the Philippines and had learned to put perfect confidence in each other. Reilly’s guns were always at the front, either with himself or his lieutenants. Not a gun could have been lost as long as there was a squad of the Fourteenth left, nor could the Fourteenth have been overwhelmed as long as a gun of this battery and a round of ammunition remained.”


Shipboard life:


“The weather was pleasant, and the journey was a joyous one from Manila to the Gulf of Pechili. The master of the transport was a courteous gentleman, and the excellent quartermaster, Captain Henry Kinnison, an old Twenty-fifth Infantry comrade in the Santiago campaign, did all in their power to provide for the comforts of all.” ”There seemed to be a disposition to gather in a circle and banter each other, and sing songs, and, more than all, to discuss the prospects of the campaign they were about to enter upon. Small knots would sometimes gather on different parts of the deck, but, somehow, they lacked coherency, and they would soon join the large circle.” “The men also were equally happy, and looked forward with eager anticipation to the new field of activity they were about to enter in that strange country. Little did they know of the heat and dust they were to encounter, and that more than forty of their number would never return.”




“Captain Martin’s line made a rush for the gun at the station, accompanied by a few Sikhs, and it was a close race for about four hundred yards, but Lieutenant Murphy, with a few men, reached the station first. Captain Martin, with Sergeant Harry A. Baxter, Corporal Thomas T. Underwood, Privates Joseph Field, John Turon, George Kane, of M Company, and Sergeant William F. Green, of Company I, reached there a few seconds later, accompanied by Major Scott and six or seven Sikhs of the British army. Immediately, an advance was made across the railroad after the retreating Chinamen. But it was found to be impossible to push the men further. They had reached the limits of human endurance. A few houses and an extensive wall, surmounted by a tower, were about five hundred yards in front of our advance position, from which a scattering fire was received. A few sharpshooters, well posted at the station, soon silenced this fire.”




“There is no more important acquisition for an army officer than the knowledge of how to march troops. Soldiers may be ever so disciplined and skillful riflemen; if they can not be at the right place at the right time, or, if there, so exhausted as to be unable to render service, they are useless; they might as well have never been enlisted. The knowledge of what men can endure is acquired by long experience marching troops and close observation. To understand thoroughly what men can endure, the officer must have experience in marching with them. Some officers can march a column of troops to the designated point with the loss of only the feeblest; others will exhaust and disintegrate their commands during the first hours of the march, and few that may reach their destination will be able to render much, if any, service.” “The practice marches instituted in our Army ten or twelve years ago are in the right direction. But the primary effort of those marches should be to teach officers how to march troops.”

   “The distance marched that day by the route taken was about twelve miles. The day was oppressively hot. The road lay from one-fourth to three-fourths of a mile from the river and ran through almost continuous cornfields. The corn was from ten to fifteen feet high. ‘The dust of ages,’ as it was called, rose at every footstep. The corn obstructed the breeze, and did not allow it either to blow away the dust or fan the burning faces of the fainting soldiers.”




“The country between Tientsin and Peking is a vast and nearly treeless plain, three-fourths of which is covered with cornfields. Villages, small and great, are scattered over it from one to six miles apart, ordinarily not more than two to four miles from each other.” “Temples, modest and some pretentious, are found at every ten to fifteen miles along the road. The villages and temples are usually shaded by trees and supplied with wells of cool water. The villages were surrounded also by vegetable gardens in a good state of cultivation.” “It was but little, however, that our soldiers were benefited by these things, for the 12,000 Japanese and Russians that had preceded them had gathered everything of value. There was considerable needless destruction of property. Occasionally the whole or parts of villages were burned.” “A raised wagon road, from six to twelve feet high and about twelve feet wide, ran from Tientsin to Peking. It was very crooked, as all Chinese roads are. The object is to prevent the passage of evil spirits, for they always fly on straight lines, according to Chinese lore.”


Calvin P. Titus, climbing the wall:


“With what interest did the officers and men watch every step as he placed his feet carefully in the cavities and clung with his fingers to the projecting bricks! The first fifteen feet were passed over without serious difficulty, but there was a space of fifteen feet above him. Slowly he reaches the twenty-foot point. Still more carefully does he try his hold on those bricks to see if they are firm. His feet are now twenty-five feet from the ground. His head is near the bottom of the embrasure. All below is breathless silence. The strain is intense. Will that embrasure blaze with fire as he attempts to enter it? Or will the butts of rifles crush his skull? Cautiously he looks through, and sees and hears nothing. He enters, and as good fortune would have it, no Chinese soldiers are there.”

For more information see: Calvin P. Titus, Hero of Peking


Captain Martin’s, Senior Russian Officer affair:


“On the return march from Peking and while approaching Ho-Hsi-Woo, the column of the regiment one evening was over-taken by a Russian officer of high rank in his three-horse buckboard, driven by his orderly. At the time the rear battalion of the regiment, temporarily commanded by myself, was entering a defile, bordered on each side by low swampy ground, the road being just wide enough to accommodate the column. I suddenly heard a loud shout, ‘watch out, Captain! Watch out!’ but before I could even turn my head, I found my horse on his knees, with the Russian’s horses on top of us. After extricating ourselves, I found that the Russian, seeing the narrow road before him, and not proposing to be delayed by our column, had deliberately plunged into us, regardless of consequences. The temporary check which he had received by my being in the way seemed to infuriate the officer, and, with violent gesticulations, he ordered his orderly to drive on. Equally determined that he should not break up our column in this manner, I ordered two enlisted men nearest us to take his horses heads. This was too much. Taking the lines from his now helpless, bewildered driver, he forced his horses forward, but before he had completely gotten them away from the men holding them, I had ordered four more men to assist in stopping him and to keep him where he was until the rear of the column had passed. In spite of such a show of force, he persisted in violently urging his horses forward, and was only stopped by being knocked to the ground by the butt of a gun and having the horses unhitched from the conveyance. As he rose from the ground, he started to draw his revolver, when instantly several rifles were drawn on him. This seemed to bring him to a realizing sense of his impotency, and, putting up his revolver, he ran forward with tears in his eyes, and called out in French to the captain of the company passing: ‘I am an officer, an officer! Look at my frightful condition, and the humiliation which has been heaped upon me! Can you not give me justice? He received this consoling answer: ‘That’s all right, old man; there’s only room on this road for one of us, and we got here first.’ From a turn in the road we looked back to see the orderly getting the wreck together. His only witness was his commanding officer, standing off in abject despair.”


Col Daggett’s French Officers affair:


“On the 30th (October) the Quartermaster wired the regimental commander that twenty (rail) cars would be at Yang-tsun the next morning for his regiment.” “On beginning to load, the regimental Quartermaster found some French horses occupying one of the cars. With some difficulty he succeeded in having them removed.” “The baggage and most of the men were on the platform cars. About 7:30 the regimental commander with other officers went to the station to board the train. They found one of the passenger cars occupied by French officers and the door locked. Thirty-five officers of the Fourteenth were not provided for.” “There was no time to waste. The regiment must not be separated from its officers; the officers must go on that train. In the meantime the door of the car containing the French officers became unlocked. The regimental commander entered the car and explained to these officers the situation, telling them the train was for his regiment and that they must vacate the car. They made no reply. He again told them that he must have the car for his officers, having it repeated in French. They remained silent. He told them a third time that they must move from that car, as it was for American officers, and if they would not, he would use force. No sign of moving appeared, but when the officer of the day with a guard appeared and was about to carry into effect the order to clear the car, a French officer said they would vacate. They did but with much excitement on the part of some of the younger officers.” “There was some room left on the car, which they might have occupied. Two Japanese officers were in the car, and politely offered to withdraw, but were not required to, as there was room for them.”


Read the book:  America in the China Relief Expedition by Brig. Gen. A. S. Daggett



China Vignettes (further excerpts from America in the China Relief Expedition by Brig. Gen. A.S.Daggett)
Copyright © 2012  14th Infantry Regiment Association
Last modified: April 17, 2016