Kerry Ryan
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The Siege of Peking

One of the most famous battles that was waged during the Boxer Rebellion carried on from June through August 1900—The Siege of Peking. For quite some time, propaganda around the world told of a brutal massacre in which all the men who fought perished, leading to an outraged and unpredictably distressed response from the general public of most European nations and the United States. “London was virtually in mourning. A memorial service for the supposed massacre victims was scheduled for St. Paul’s Cathedral…” (O’Connor 183). The service was cancelled, however, when uncertainty over the truth of the claims began to arise. When correspondence was able to commence again from the compound of Peking, Minister Conger, United States minister to Peking, reported that the city was under siege, but that they had held strong for one month. The clue of that this message was actually valid was the inclusion of Minister Conger’s sister’s name, Alta. Richard O’Connor, author of The Spirit Soldiers notes that this became the one word that brought relief around the world.
The beginning of the attack on Peking has been documented by some men who lived through it long enough to write. “The Boxers had prepared blacklists and were searching through the city ‘hunting down all who had been connected with the foreigners cutting them down, hacking them to pieces, or carrying them off for more terrible torture in a Boxer camp” (Preston 74). When students learn about attacks and warfare in history, for the most part, ambushes seem unorganized and chaotic. By reading these accounts from survivors and onlookers, we learn that the Boxers, though not technically an organized militia did have a plan, and several targets.
One of the troublesome aspects of the siege of Peking is the length of time it took for assistance to arrive. Richard O’Connor gives some insight as to why this was so for the International Relief Force. First, he says, army and navy authorities from different countries found it difficult to communicate and cooperate properly. Second, travel was lengthy and hard for many nations. Third, because of international contentions, it was difficult for all those who were part of the International Relief Force to choose one chief commander. One other problem that was faced, that is not a problem that would be immediately recognized to the common man was that if all forces that could be used for salvation were turned toward Peking, there was the possibility of chaos elsewhere, where troops had been removed. After a series of battles, the ordeal finally started to come to an end.


Works Cited


Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Events, Experience, and Myth. New York,
NY: Columbia UP, 1997.

Esherick, Joseph W. The Origins of the Boxer Uprising. Los Angeles, CA: University of
California P, 1987.

O'Connor, Richard. The Spirit Soldiers. New York, NY: G.P Putnam Sons, 1973.

Preston, Diana. The Boxer Rebellion. New York, NY: Walker and Company, 2000.

Price, Eva J. China Journal: An American Missionary Family During the Boxer Rebellion. New
York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989.