by Bart Knutson (Great Grandson)
This project was put together due to the author’s interest in history, family and historical firearms. It is meant for other descendants of Charles W. Swan. Much of the material was obtained from family records, period books and, of course, the internet.
The Appendix will contain some of the information discovered so the reader can get a better grasp of the subject matter if desired. It will include photos, a 1900 US Census, interesting trivia, etc.
This writing will center around The Boxer Rebellion in China. This little known episode in American history has farther reaching affects in world events then our scholastic history books have put into print.
Charles W. Swan was listed in the 1900 U.S. Census as Charley W. Swan. While not his birth name, it is apparent that he went by Charley during this period. A photo from this period with his name hand written on it reads “Charlie Swan”. For the rest of this project he will be referred to as “Charley” as the census lists him.
Also note that the author has a rifle very similar to the one that Charley used. It mechanically operates exactly the same as Charley’s rifle and was originally built by the Springfield Armory. This type of gun is rare in its original military configuration and sells for around $1,000. However, many of these rifles were purchased as military surplus before and during the Great Depression. These surplus rifles were usually shortened along with other modifications to make them better suited for hunting. They sold for as little as $5 when new bolt action rifles were sold for $30 making them very popular for people of lesser means. Sporterized rifles can be found for around $300. Ammunition is becoming scarce, making reloading a must (brass is still available).
Finally, some of the dates don’t always agree. This is how they were found. Also, some of the spellings of places don’t agree with present day spellings. They are spelled as found in documents from the period.
CHARLEY SWAN – HIS LIFE
Charley Swan was born May 25, 1879, three years after Custer’s Last Stand and two years before Wyatt Earp’s gunfight at the O.K. Corral. His parents were Henry and Christie Swan. He grew up in Waupaca, Wisconsin with his parents and four sisters until they moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Charley didn’t finish high school and eventually enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 6, 1899. He is recorded as being a Private and as a musician (bugler). The Spanish-American War had ended August of 1898. However, the Philippine Insurrection had been going on since February of 1899 and lasted until July of 1902. In November of 1899 the Boxer Rebellion begun in China, which lasted until September of 1901. Charley would be involved in both the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion. See Appendix A for photo.
Charley would be honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on May 5, 1902. He would marry Etta Marion Humphrey on April 15, 1903. They would have a daughter and three sons together. (One son died in infancy.) They lived in Waupaca until 1905 when they moved to Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He became a mail carrier shortly thereafter.
Charley enlisted once again on April 6, 1917 during The Great War, the war to end all wars. (Of course, this would be called World War I only after there was a World War II.) He became a captain and organized Troop I, First Wisconsin Cavalry. His unit was moved to Texas where it became the 120th Field Artillery. Apparently, there was not a big call for cavalry units during The Great War due to new mechanization of the Army. Charley, as Captain, had to apply mathematics to cannon trajectory to hit targets down range. He was not equipped to perform the necessary mathematics (remember, he dropped out of high school) and asked to be transferred to a cavalry unit or be discharged. Charley was honorably discharged in January of 1918. The Great War would last another 10 months. See Appendix B for photo.
There is no doubt that Charley was proud of his military service. He was a charter member of the American Legion Romulus Berens Post #6 and a member of the Military Order of the Dragon (an organization for those who served in the Boxer Rebellion).
One of Charley’s sons died in 1941 in a fatal automobile accident. His wife, Etta, passed away on October 5, 1942. He would later marry Mrs. Helen Stroetz on June 8, 1943 in Oshkosh and lived in Waupaca.
Wade Swan passed away in 1946 at the age of 66 and is buried near Etta.
THE U.S. ARMY IN 1900
According to the Twelfth Census of the United States for Company I of the 14th Infantry Regiment dated June 30, 1900 Charley was listed as a private (see Appendix C). This is less than 5 months before the Chinese Relief Expedition started and the 138 listed soldiers are likely all going to China with Charley. This census includes three pages of the enlisted men starting with 2nd lieutenants and down through the privates. Commissioned officers were listed at the end.
This census documents that Charley W. Swan was from Oshkosh, Wisconsin with an address of 328 Central Avenue. He is a white male born May 21, 1879 and is single. It also documents that he was born in Wisconsin, his father in Michigan and his mother in Indiana. Lastly, it documents that he can read, write and speak English.
The U.S. Army had buglers and they still played a significant role during this time. As a bugler, Charley would have been alongside officers to bugle their commands to his fellow soldiers. Signals included announcing scheduled events. Some signals were on the battlefield to relay orders to go forward, go left, go right, about, rally on the Chief, rise up, lay down, commence firing, cease firing, disperse, etc. Although limited by notes that can be played on a bugle, the buglers were part of the band.
Captain John R. M. Taylor commanded Company I followed by 1st Lieutenant H. S. Wagner. They fell under Colonel A. S. Daggett’s command, a Civil War veteran, who was the commander of the U.S. Army’s China Relief Expedition.
General Adna Chaffee was General of the U.S. command in China. He was in the Union cavalry during the Civil War and was a brevet Captain. General Chaffee was one of the founders of the Military Order of the Dragon and served as president from its inception until he died in 1914.
Arthur MacArthur Jr. was the Brigadier General at the time of the Boxer Rebellion. He is the father of Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame. During the Civil War Arthur MacArthur was with the 24th Wisconsin Infantry as a 1st Lieutenant and received a citation for courage at Missionary Ridge in Tennessee.
Many of the veteran officers in 1900 had fought in the Indian Wars out West. And many of them, as seen above, were Civil War veterans as well. This includes the Commander in Chief, William McKinley the 25th President of the United States and a Union Brevet Major during the Civil War.
THE ARMY SERVICE RIFLE
The Krag Jorgensen Rifle
U.S. Magazine Rifle Model of 1898, Cal. 30
The end of the 19th Century saw rapid firearm development. The United States had been using the single shot 1888 Springfield trapdoor. This rifle shot black powder metallic cartridges in .45-70 caliber. This is a slow moving, heavy cartridge that is still in use today for hunting and cowboy action shooting. It is a shortrange affair, but hits hard. Charley no doubt was familiar with this rifle as it was still being used by some Volunteer Army units. He may have even trained with it himself. But back in 1886 the French developed a bolt action rifle that used a smokeless powder cartridge in a smaller caliber and the small arms race was on. Every major country was going with a small, but fast, cartridge in a bolt action rifle and the United States of America was falling behind. Spain had its Mauser, Russia the Mosin Nagant, Great Britain the Lee-Speed, and France who started it all had the Lebel.
The U.S. Army Ordinance Department conducted trials on gun designs both domestic and foreign. In 1892 the Danish Krag-Jorgensen was selected. This created an uproar among U.S. gun manufacturers and another trial was conducted. In 1893 the Krag-Jorgensen was approved. That same year the Springfield Armory started producing this Norwegian designed rifle, which was named after its inventors. Some changes were required with the design and a new cartridge was selected called the .30 Government. It was called by some the .30 Army or .30 US. However, today it is best known as the 30-40 Krag. This cartridge is ballistically on par with the British .303 cartridge, but is underpowered when compared with the Mauser or the later U.S. cartridge, the 30-06 (thirty ought six). The cartridge is by no means a slouch. It makes a decent deer hunting cartridge. It was also used to down a famously dangerous New Mexico grizzly bear named Old Mose in 1904. (Charley owned an 1895 Winchester rifle in this caliber, which was built in 1899. See Appendix K.)
The Krag-Jorgensen rifle was itself uniquely designed. It has a magazine box on the right side of the receiver that hinges open. Five cartridges are fed by hand and the magazine box is closed. It is said that the action of this rifle is about the smoothest there is and feels like the bolt is sliding on glass. Part of the reason for this is American craftsmanship. The other reason is that it only has one locking lug as compared to a Mauser design that has two. One lug means there is less friction. It also means that it is a weaker design and can’t take as much pressure as the Mauser design can.
Brigadier General Arthur MacArthur required that the U.S. delegation of soldiers be given new Model 1898 Krag-Jorgensen rifles prior to their departure for China in 1900. Charley would have received one of these rifles. Many of his fellow soldiers, and perhaps Charley himself, protested about giving up their older “Krag” rifles that they grew fond of and took personally. MacArthur would hear nothing of it. His soldiers were going to look their best when teaming up with other nations. They were not going to carry battle battered rifles…..period. It was a matter of national pride.
Appendix E for photos of this rifle.)
THE ARMY TRANSPORT SHIPS
The U.S. Army Transport Indiana was used to transport Charley from the Philippines to China. It was built in 1873 by William Cramp and Sons. In 1898 the U.S. Government requisitioned this ship for the Spanish-American War. It was later used as a hospital ship that transported wounded soldiers from Manila to San Francisco. See Appendix F for a photo of the ship.
The Indiana had a gross weight of 3,104 tons. It was powered by a single screw with a triple expansion engine and had auxiliary sails for a top speed of 11.5 knots. Total length was 343 feet.
Before it’s military service, the S.S. Indiana was utilized for many things including transporting for the Alaskan gold rush, serving as part of a leg for President Ulysses Grant’s world tour in 1877, transporting items to Russia for famine relief and other transatlantic service. After its military service it was used for service between New York and South America. In 1909, after 36 years of total service, the S.S. Indiana was grounded off Cape Tosco, Isla Santa Margarita, Mexico. The wreckage was sold for $5,000 salvage.
The U.S. Army Transport Warren was used to take Charley from China and back to Manilla. No specifications could be found for it. But it was the subject of two paintings and appeared to be a very nice ship. See Appendix F for an image.
The U.S. Army Transport Sheridan was used to ship Charley from Manilla to San Francisco. This was originally the S.S. Massachusetts in 1891. In 1898 it was requisitioned by the U.S. Government to serve as an Army Transport vessel during the Spanish-American War and renamed USAT Sheridan. It was scrapped in 1923. See Appendix G for photo.
The Sheridan had a gross weight of 5,590 tons. It was powered by twin screws with triple expansion engines. The engine cylinder diameters were 22-1/2″, 36-1/2″ and 60″ with a 48″ stroke. The engines were steam powered with coal-fired boilers. This ship could go through 60 tons (not a typo) of coal each day and had a speed of 13 knots. It was fitted with electric lighting and refrigeration machinery. Total length was 445 feet.
REBELLION IN CHINA
During the 1800’s western nations along with Japan had forced China to accept foreign control over much of its economic system. In addition, Christianity was being introduced. At first, the Qing Dynasty that ruled China at the time resisted this control, but it had loss millions of lives due to not having a modern military. There was the Opium War from 1839 to 1842 and again from 1856 to 1860. This was followed by the Sino-Japanese War from 1894 to 1895.
In the late 1890’s a Chinese secret society formed and was called The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists. This society practiced a form of martial arts and ritualistic calisthenics they believed would ward off bullets. To westerners this looked like shadow boxing and the society members were referred to as Boxers. Many of the Boxers were peasants from a Chinese province that had suffered from famine and flooding. This society blamed foreigners and Christianity on its misfortunes.
By 1900 the Boxer movement reached the Peking area (now known as Beijing). The Boxers were killing thousands of Chinese Christians and hundreds of foreigners. Beheadings were becoming common place with forcibly stretched necks and the quick swing of a sharp sword. (There were many photos taken of this act.) Churches and railroad stations were also being destroyed by the Boxers during this time. This became known as The Boxer Rebellion.
On June 20, 1900 the Boxers began a siege on the foreign legation district in Peking where the official quarters of foreign diplomats were located. On June 21, 1900 the Qing Dynasty Empress Dowager Cixi, after seeing the early success of the Boxers, declared war on all foreign nations with diplomatic ties to China and released her Imperial Army to fight with the Boxers. The diplomats with their families, missionaries, and guards (there were some U.S. Marines) had to fight off the boxers for weeks with little provisions on hand.
An international force of approximately 20,000 troops was being organized to free the besieged. Eight countries were involved including Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. These countries formed what was called The Eight-Nation Alliance.
Charley would be one of the 2,500 soldiers sent from the U.S. Army when stationed in Manila, Philippines.
ARRIVAL IN CHINA
Charley had been in the Philippines during the Filipino Insurrection for some time when the orders came on July 8, 1900 for the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment to go to China as part of the China Relief Expedition.
Charley had to immediately get ready. He was issued new clothing, rifle, and equipment. He was not only expected to fight…..to kill…..to possibly be killed…..but to look good
while doing it. Again, it was a matter of national pride. There were seven other nations that he was going to fight alongside of. They were all going to try to outdo each other. There would be military bands playing, flags flying and much pompous drilled exercises to be conducted in front of the other nations to display that they were the best. And then there was also the actual fighting to be done. Who was going to get to the next strategic position next? It was all about honor. The independent natured American soldier was likely to be the less affected by the show, but would be in awe all the same and would show some pride, albeit in a more casual and maybe cocky way. Just because they honestly felt they were the best and didn’t feel they had to prove it. After all, didn’t the American soldier kick England’s butt not just once, but twice? Didn’t they send Spain packing to the other side of the Atlantic? Who knows what Charley actually thought? But he was about to see some things he would not want to remember…..ever.
The Fourteenth Infantry Regiment was ready to embark on July 13, 1900. But the transport ships were not yet ready. However, the next day Charley boarded the USAT Indiana with six companies total. It was anchors aweigh at 3:00 p.m. on July 15, 1900 and the Indiana headed out behind USAT Flintshire. The Wyefield, which carried three months of supplies for the troops along with the officers’ horses and the mules that would pull supply wagons, would not follow for several days.
The voyage to China brought Charley along the island of Formosa (Taiwan). Books about China were distributed on the ship so the soldiers could familiarize themselves with China and also to help break up the monotony of being on a ship for weeks before impending battles. On July 21, 1900 Charley would arrive in Nagasaki, Japan. The ships would take 36 hours to refuel with coal. This gave the troops some time to get off the ship and check out Japan. It was a friendlier place than the Philippines as there was no strife with the people of this country, at this time. Charley got to see yet another place of different culture, sights and smells. If only those back home could see what he was seeing, he likely thought.
On July 26, 1900 the Indiana reached anchorage 10 to 12 miles off the coast of China. At this anchorage there were about 70 foreign war ships and transports already there. The big ships could not get any closer due to shallow waters. Smaller ships would have to bring the soldiers ashore.
On or around July 28, 1900 Charley boarded a smaller vessel. This vessel did not take to the waves as well as the bigger Indiana and it had to be a trip in itself to go the 10-12 miles to the shore of China in choppy waters. The landing was at Tong-ku, about 4 miles inland on the Pei-ho River. Charley had arrived.
ON THE MOVE
The village of Tong-ku was garrisoned by soldiers from delegations of the countries involved in the expeditionary force. (The strength of the allied forces was estimated at 2,500 Americans; 3,000 English (includes Sikhs from India); 800 French; 4,300 Russian; and 8,000 Japanese for a total of 18,600.) Commanding such a force of great diversity required much logistics. And there would be miscommunications.
Tong-ku had a railroad that would take the soldiers 30 miles (a two-hour trip) to Tientsin.
Peking would be another 70 miles.
At 3:00 p.m. on August 4, 1900 the Americans, British and Japanese soldiers moved out on foot along the right bank of the Pei-ho River for about four miles and went into bivouac. The French and Russians were on the left side of the river.
At 2:00 a.m. on August 5th the Japanese led the way on the right side of the bank. The Chinese Imperial Army was met at 4:00 a.m. at Pei-tsang. After 2 hours of artillery shelling from both sides the Japanese charged the Chinese position and “swept everything before them”, according to Colonel Daggett. The Japanese were then in hot pursuit with little resistance. The Americans followed up in the pursuit. The British were minimally involved. The French and Russians did not meet the enemy on their side of the river. It was the Japanese that carried this day and they suffered severe losses while doing it.
The pursuit took the allied forces to Tae-wa-she where they bivouacked for the night. The French and Russians were forced to go on the right side of the bank with the rest of the force due to flooding on the left side.
The Chinese Imperial Army retreated all the way up to Yang-tsun. One drawback as the allied forces advanced was that the Chinese were backing up into Peking. As the Chinese forces arrived in Peking they put their efforts into breaking down the barricades the foreign legations were hiding behind. A Krupp gun was pounding the besieged. Fortunately, an American Colt machine gun manned by the Marines with the foreign legation along with an Austrian Maxim gun managed to take out the Krupp gunnery crew. Still, there was much to worry about. They prayed for the allied forces to arrive soon.
LUNCH IN YANG-TSUN
There can be little doubt that the battle at Yang-tsun had great significance for Charley. In a letter home from Peking, after the The Boxer Rebellion was mostly over, his fighting at Yang-tsun was the only fighting he wrote about.
On the morning of August 6, 1900, the allied forces advanced on Yang-tsun. The Japanese troops went along the west river bank. The American troops went up the east river bank along the right of the British troops as support. The French and Russians followed as reserves. This was a terribly hot day where some troops suffered from heat stroke during the March.
As the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment approached the village of Yan-tsun through a corn field it was being shelled from a 3″ Chinese canon from beyond the village and also from the west side of the river. Most of the Chinese shrapnel failed to explode, fortunately. The Fourteenth continued to advance rapidly with gunfire coming from the village and they soon got ahead of the British. When 150 yards from Yang-tsun the Fourteenth took a short rest from the march and hot temperatures alongside of an elevated road that gave them some cover. Then came the orders to charge the outlying buildings of the village. Some of the ill-trained Chinese troops believed that if they shot high that the bullets would impact their targets with greater force and many times shot over the heads of advancing soldiers. The Chinese eventually gave up and took off on a run in front of the approaching troops of the Fourteenth.
In Charley’s letter home about this battle he stated he charged for two miles under heavy shrapnel fire onto Yang-tsun with a piece of shrapnel glancing off his wrist and causing him to get a different grip on his rifle. When they got just outside of Yang-tsun he cleverly wrote that the Chinese could have knocked his company over with “chopsticks”. After the brief rest on the road and then given the order to advance he wrote that they “tried to give the yell” and scared the Chinese off. Some rice and soup were left by the fleeing defenders and Charley along with his buddies literally ate their lunch.
The men of the Fourteenth were too exhausted to carry on any further. They had been on a long march on a very hot day without water and finished with a fire fight. Unfortunately, they had advanced so fast that the British and Russian forces were still shelling the village ignorant to the fact that the Fourteenth had already taken it and were the ones getting shelled. Eventually the mistake was realized and the allied shelling stopped, but not until after the Fourteenth had suffered more casualties from the “friendly fire”.
The battle at Yang-tsun ended. The Fourteenth Infantry Regiment, battle hardened from the rice fields of the Philippines, had taken the brunt of the fighting and carried the day for the allied forces. They had eight killed and fifty-seven wounded, of which another fifteen would die of their artillery wounds. The 9th, Reilly’s Battery and Marines of the U.S. force had been fighting at other villages in the area and met up with the Fourteenth later in the day. A long, hot, embattled day that Charley would not have forgotten for the rest of his life.
RACE TO PEKING
On August 7, 1900 (the day after the battle at Yang-tsun) the allied commanders agreed to continue the march on the next day, August 8th. The Japanese, with the largest force, led the way crossing the river at Yang-tsun to the west side. They were followed by the Russians, Americans and English in that order.
It was still extremely hot as the sun beat down during the march to Peking. This coupled with the dust being kicked up, made it difficult to breathe. Men continued to fall out of rank due to heat stroke. Canteens were empty. An average day’s march was 12 miles.
There were some villages of mud huts on the way to Peking that were mostly deserted. However, there were some poor souls left in these villages that tried to hide from the allied forces. These innocent non-combatants were wantonly abused and/or executed for no good reason aside from entertainment and prejudice. Supposedly, according to officers that were there, Americans did not participate in these activities. It was a European and Asian stain.
Most of the villages had wells. But by the time the American force came through these wells would be mostly dry. Cording would have to be obtained and used to lower the canteens down the wells. These cords were often kept as their use may be needed for other wells down the road. These cords would also play another unforeseen, but useful role, once Peking was reached.
As the march continued there was little resistance. There would be visible sign seen by the Americans how the combatants and non-combatants were swept away by the large Japanese Army, many of them on horseback. There would be many Chinese heads strewn about or decorating gate posts. Bodies were left unceremoniously along the way.
On August 12, 1900 Tung-chow was reached and the allied force stopped to bivouac. A Japanese advance guard went on ahead another seven miles and were within five miles of Peking. The Russian commanding officer wanted a day of rest at Tung-chow, but the other commanders wanted to continue on the 13th. The Russian commander insisted and it was decided that a reconnaissance force would go out on the 13th and that the main body would march out on the 14th where the Japanese advance guard was. It was agreed that the attack on Peking would begin on the 15th.
However, the Russian intentions were not as it seemed. A large Russian force secretly marched on to Peking the night of August 13th without the other allied armies being aware of it. The glory of freeing the embattled foreign legations in Peking was to be theirs alone, so they thought.
The Russians used artillery to bust open the Tung Pien gate of the Tartar wall surrounding Peking. As the Russians rushed into a courtyard inside the wall they were pinned down by the Chinese with gunfire and could not advance any further.
When the other allied armies realized that the Russians went ahead without them, the race to Peking was on.
INSIDE THE TARTAR WALL OF PEKING
The Fourteenth Infantry Regiment, along with the other U.S. troops, reached Peking the morning of August 14, 1900. Their orders were to advance through the Tung Pien gate, but that was where the Russians were pinned down and they were blocking the way. (The Russians were lost the night of August 13th and breached this gate mistakenly.)
The U.S. force improvised and continued to the south and found a 30 foot high wall, but no gate. And they did not have any ladders. Colonel Daggett asked for a volunteer from the Fourteenth Regiment to attempt scaling the wall using the cracks and crevices in the weathered stone. Corporal Calvin Titus, a bugler from Company E, stepped forward and replied “I’ll try, sir”. He climbed the wall and when he reached the top he shouted down to the others “The coast is clear. Come on up.”
This section of wall was not at first defended by the Chinese. Other soldiers of the Fourteenth Regiment from Companies E and H scaled the wall, one soldier fell and was injured. The cording that was saved for filling canteens from wells during the march were now used to haul their rifles up. A triumphant shout by American soldiers at the bottom of the wall was raised up as the American flag was planted at the top of the wall. Even the nearby Russians raised their voices up at the sight of this. By the time the Chinese realized that the Americans were on the wall it was too late. The Americans continued inside the wall and rescued the Russians of their dilemma at the Tung Pien gate, routing the Chinese in this sector.
Charley most likely was with the other 14th Regiment soldiers that came through the Tung Pien gate and entered Peking. They fought their way through the streets as they tried to identify friend from foe from non-combatant. The Japanese force was also advancing through Peking trying to reach the foreign legations.
As the Chinese Imperial Army and the Boxers concentrated their forces on the Americans and Japanese, the British force entered Peking through a water gate undetected and freed the foreign legation without firing a shot. Accolades were showered upon them. The American soldiers showed up later after they fought their way to the foreign legation. They were filthy, sweaty, and wore torn clothing. Their rifles were battle battered. They were somewhat shunned by those rescued due to their appearance, though they had done the lion’s share of the fighting that day.
The end of the siege on the foreign legations was over. The events that led up to and including the siege accounted for sixty-six foreigners being killed. Most were servicemen including eight American soldiers there to protect diplomats. One European woman and six children were also part of the number dead. However, approximately 30,000 Chinese Christian converts and missionaries had been killed at the hands of the Boxers.
Unbeknownst to the allied forces, the Empress Dowager Cixi escaped from the Imperial City dressed as a peasant woman.
There was still more to do. Charley would spend a total of two months in China.
TAKING THE IMPERIAL CITY – ALMOST
Even though the foreign legation was rescued, the Boxers and Chinese Imperial Army still had to be reckoned with. The Chinese had gone within the walls of the Imperial (Forbidden) City, which was within the Tartar Wall of Peking. From the top of the walls the Chinese continued to fire down upon the allied forces making it obvious that they had to be eliminated. Reilly’s Battery began shelling on August 15, 1900 from the Tartar Wall. The targets were a gate at the wall of the Imperial City and also lobbing shells inside the city itself. Later, two guns of Reilly’s Battery were brought within a few yards of one of the first gates and it was busted through within minutes. The Fourteenth Infantry entered. A platoon from Company M was sent ahead into a courtyard and were met with heavy fire causing them to hunker down. Return fire caused a significant reduction of Chinese fire. Companies E and G were sent to reinforce Company M. Company I (Charley’s company) along with Company K were ordered through the gate staying to the right and to get on the Chinese left flank. Company L came through the gate afterwards. The Fourteenth continued to advance.
It was not determined if it was jealousy or just wanting to be part of the foray (or both), but the French started shelling from the Tartar wall at a gate near the location of the Fourteenth Infantry. This caused great concern and distress. General Chaffee was incredulous and it was with considerable difficulty that he got the French to cease. Meanwhile, the Fourteenth got through two more gates getting closer to the interior of the Imperial City. The big guns were brought up and the fourth gate was breached. Inside lay the forbidden place where the gods protected the Chinese Dynasty from foreign devils.
Incredulously, General Chaffee suspended further action with no explanation to the troops. For all their work that day they were not able to seal the deal. All the gates were closed and the Fourteenth Infantry bivouacked outside the Tartar Wall of Peking. It was speculated amongst the troops that this was done for diplomatic reasons. The U.S. Army had made great gains that day and got further than the other allied nations had expected. These other nations must have been at first in awe of the American achievement, which later turned to jealousy. They did not want to return home having to explain how these Americans had out-bested them. Again, it was a matter of national pride.
During the afternoon of August 15th, the allied commanders decided not to occupy the Imperial City. However, on August 16th, the foreign ministers required that the city be re-occupied. Meanwhile, the Ninth Infantry was ordered by General Chaffee to place a guard detachment at the gate of the Imperial City and to not allow anybody to enter without his permission.
It was an anti-climactic day for Charley and his buddies. For all the fighting they had done a strategic goal was not obtained, although it appeared to them to be easily within their reach. They were left dumbfounded on just what in the world the upper brass was thinking. But they were exhausted…….and still alive…….and it was not over. (Another bit of information was being passed around by the soldiers. Captain Reilly was killed by a hostile bullet to the head while commanding his Battery on the Tartar Wall on the 15th. He was held in great esteem by his fellow soldiers.)
OCCUPATION OF PEKING
On August 16, 1900 the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment took over the Temple of Agriculture (Earth) inside Peking for its command post. The troops had long ago abandoned their tents and blanket rolls due to their rapid advances. Also, their uniforms were in tatters. Detachments were sent out under orders to acquire suitable tentage, blankets and attire. Most of the local Chinese had fled so it was easy to go through shops and dwellings and return with a hodge podge of materials of varying colors, textiles and configurations. This made for a much un-military look. Charley may have been wearing a silk robe and sleeping with a colorful quilt during this time. Some days later, supplies of uniforms and proper sleeping accommodations arrived and the “weird” look of the camp gave way to a more military look.
The allied commanders agreed to divide Peking into sectors for purposes of policing and defending. The Fourteenth Infantry took control of the southwest quarter. This quarter was at first deserted due to the fleeing of local Chinese that had run for their lives. The area had many dead Chinese in the streets and buildings, which of course attracted many scavenging animals. The sector was cleaned and put into order. Then the local Chinese people started returning a little at a time after realizing that the Americans were not going to retaliate against them. Most were peaceful now. But a few began looting the Americans and the strong arm of the military put them back into their place.
The allied forces now had to determine how the Forbidden City would be handled. It was decided that there would be a detachment from each allied country proportional to the total contingency each country had sent and have them walk into the south gate and out through the north gate. This was to occur on August 28th. That was easy to decide, but the order of the countries to enter was another matter. Japan should have been first, but Russia insisted they go first and Japan stepped aside and went in second. They were followed, in order, by England, America, France, Germany, Italy and Austria.
It was General Chaffee’s responsibility to inform an attendant of the palace for the Forbidden City that this show of force will be entering the next day along with the time. The official was “horrified” by this news and strongly protested. But he was told that nobody would be harmed as long as there was no resistance.
When the time came, the Chinese actually opened the south gate to let the allied detachments march through. They even had tables with refreshments for the passing soldiers who continued through and finally left out the north gate returning to their respective camps.
Some time later there were rumors that a large contingency of Boxers and Imperial Army soldiers were approaching from the south. The allied soldiers prepared for an assault, but no assault ever came. Unfortunately, during this slack time soldiers were pillaging and raping the native Chinese inhabitants in the area. The Russians, Germans, and Japanese were the biggest participants. The Americans were better restrained by their officers. That isn’t to say that the Americans had not participated at all. This event reached many newspapers, including American, which caused much worldwide disdain.
PUNITIVE EXPEDITION OF PA-TA-CHOW
The Fourteenth Infantry Regiment was part of a punitive expedition force that left for Pa -ta-chow 15 miles northwest of Peking on September 16, 1900. Near this location was a strong contingency of Boxers in the mountains where they possessed an arsenal. This position also commanded a road that led to a coal mine 25 miles further. The allied forces needed this coal as fuel for the upcoming winter months to keep the soldiers warm. For this reason the Boxers needed to be expelled.
The Fourteenth bivouacked the first night at Lin-ko-chow. At 2:00 a.m. on September 17th they marched out and reached the foot of the mountains at 4:30 a.m. They had to climb the mountain and once on top they could see the Boxers in a valley below. The Boxers were taken by surprise and returned fire on the allied forces, which included soldiers from England. They were eventually driven out of the valley leaving 25 dead behind them. There were no allied force casualties.
To give more detail of Charley’s involvement, the follow is a report from his Captain:
The Adjutant Third Battalion, Fourteenth Infantry,
Sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the action of September 19, 1900, at Pa-taChow, as far as concerns the movements of Company I, Fourteenth Infantry, of which I was in command. At 3 p.m. of September 17 the company left the Temple of Earth, Pekin, the camp of the Third Battalion, with the remainder of the battalion, and reached Lu-kou-chiao about 8 p.m., going into bivouac there.
At 2 a.m. September 18 the above town was left, and at about 6 a.m. we reached the foot of the hill shown in the sketch following this report, where we found the Sikhs, who had immediately preceded us upon the march. At about 6:45 the top of the saddle was reached, as shown in map at 1. The climb was rather difficult, the men carrying their blanket rolls with them. Upon reaching the top I heard a few shots from the valley and shortly afterwards was directed to move to the north by Major Quinton, Fourteenth Infantry, commanding the Third Battalion, to stop the Chinese, who were retreating up the valley. I moved out with my company to position 2, from which I could see groups of Chinese in the bottom of the arroyo near the Boxer headquarters, and also men retreating to the east. I fired a few shots at them, but the range was too great for efficient infantry fire, and as it was evident that a knoll to the north gave a fair command of the valley I moved forward to it, taking the position 3, which I reached about 7:45 a.m. I could see groups of Chinese at the foot of the hill on which the Boxer headquarters is situated, and I fired into them and some groups which were hurrying up the valley. There was very little return fire. I fired only a few shots and about 8 a.m. left my company in position under command of Lieutenant Hamilton, Fourteenth Infantry, and moved forward with a company of Sikhs which then came up behind me, and examined the redoubts noted on the map, which we found unoccupied and without any sign of occupation by the enemy. On our return the British officer commanding the company of Sikhs showed me orders which he had received from his commanding officer, dated 7:45 a.m., directing him to be careful not to fire to the east, as troops were going out there to cut off the retreat of the Chinese.
About 12 p.m. I was ordered to go into camp at the Boxer headquarters, which I did. About 8:15 a.m. September 19 Company I left that point with the Third Battalion and reached the camp at the Temple of Earth, Pekin, about 3 p.m. There were no casualties in Company I, Fourteenth Infantry.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
John R. M. Taylor,
Captain, Fourteenth Infantry, Commanding Company I
Towards the end of September, 1900, the word came down that the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment would be returning for Manila in October. Charley took the time to write a letter home dated October 2, 1900 from Peking. It was written on stationary provided by the Young Men’s Christian Association out of New York City. This organization was actually in China as an aid to the Army at the time and was much appreciated by the soldiers and officers for their charity of emotional/spiritual help and wanting of nothing in return. Apparently, they also helped the soldiers send letters back home. In his letter Charley wrote that he was “in the best of health, which is more than most of the soldiers over hear (sic) can say.” It is true that many of the soldiers had become ill due to exposure and the drinking of bad water on the march to Peking, let alone some of the injuries of combat. See Appendix I/J for an image of this letter.
The Fourteenth left Peking on October 21st. As they left the City a salute was made and General Chaffee made a complimentary speech to them as a sincere testimonial to the high esteem that the Fourteenth was held. On October 24th the Fourteenth arrived in Yang-tsun, but had to wait another six days to board a train. Arrangements were made with the Russians, who were in charge of the trains, to transport the Fourteenth on October 30th to Tong-ku. The baggage and most of the men were put on platform cars.
But one of the passenger cars meant for the officers of the Fourteenth were occupied by French officers with the doors locked. (Just what is it with the French, anyway?) The Russian officer said he could do nothing about it. Somehow the doors became unlocked and the Regimental Commander entered the train explaining that this was their car and the French needed to vacate. The French paid no attention. It was again repeated in French that the Americans needed this car. The French remained silent. The French were told a third time to leave with a threat of violence. They still made no move to leave. However, when the Americans were about to carry through with their threat, the French indignantly removed themselves from the car. It was said of the Fourteenth that they were a well behaved regiment, they were very observant of the rules of courtesy of others. But it also had a strong feeling of self-respect and much independence of spirit. Its morale was fine, its esprit de corps excellent. It was not an easy matter, therefore, to trample this regiment or any of its members under foot.
The Fourteenth arrived in Tong-ku at 7 a.m. on October 31st. It boarded a small craft called the “Ichang” that afternoon, but it later hung up on a sand bar and there they had to wait two days before they were put on a smaller vessel to take them to the USAT Warren. The seas were rough with some of the men getting seasick. The small vessel was tied along the Warren overnight and the men did not board until daylight the next morning on November 3rd. Finally, they set sail on the Warren and reached Nagasaki, Japan on November 6th staying for two days, like they had done on the trip to China, and filled up on coal.
On the way to Manila the Warren went through a strong typhoon in the China Sea making the soldiers even less fond of sea travel, if that was possible. They arrived at the Philippines on November 13th and thankful to be getting off the ship the next day.
BACK IN THE STATES
Now in Manila, Company I was assigned to the San Fernando Police Station and would stay there until their departure back to the States. It does not appear that anything of significance occurred during this time from a military standpoint that would involve Company I.
In Early June of 1901 word was being passed around that the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment would be leaving for the United States soon. Much paperwork had to be filled out. Positions being vacated by the Fourteenth had to be filled by others, which included training. Items had to be packed. Farewells were in order between those leaving and those staying with some to never meet again. It was a time of great anxiety.
The Fourteenth boarded the USAT Sheridan on July 20, 1901 and once again reached the port of Nagasaki, Japan five days later. This time they were there for three days as the bigger Sheridan took on coal. Again, there was time of leisure and to visit old and new points of interest on land. This time with the excitement of going “home” and not of battle or provost duty.
Orders were received of the USAT Sheridan to pick up General Arthur MacArthur at Yokohama, Japan. It would take two days of beautiful sight seeing as the Sheridan plied the waters along the Japanese coast to Yokohama. The Sheridan would be in port for four days giving the soldiers plenty of time to reach Tokyo for more sightseeing.
After the four day stay in Yokohama the Sheridan steamed for San Francisco arriving on August 18th. The sights of San Francisco were taken in for several days before Company I was sent to Fort Porter in the state of New York near Buffalo putting them in position for an important duty yet to come.
These last few months had to be very exciting for Charley. Finally leaving the battles of China behind and then returning to Manila, Philippines. Although still far from home, the familiarity of Manila had to feel like a home away from home. Then going back to Japan and seeing once again the beauty of that country and more of it. Finally getting back on American soil with more sightseeing of his own country.
Yet, Charley could not expect what was to come. Something that would grip the whole nation. And he was going to be at the epicenter of this event.
ONE LAST IMPORTANT DUTY
On September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The perpetrator, Leon Czolgosz, pulled a .32 caliber revolver out of his pocket as he came up to shake the President’s hand shooting twice into the abdomen. Czolgosz was immediately siezed by the crowd around him. The President was quoted as saying “Go easy on him, boys.” Police had a hard time keeping the crowd away, but eventually got Czolgosz in a jail cell in Buffalo. Czolgosz’s motivation was his belief that the government was enriching the wealthy by exploiting the poor. He was promoting anarchism.
President McKinley was rushed to a hospital at the Exposition, but there were no surgeons there. He did not get the best of care (this is another intriguing story). When a surgeon did arrive, he was not well prepared. After the surgery, the President was taken to the John Milburn House in Buffalo. It fell upon Companies I and L of the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment to guard the Milburn House and keep the crowds away.
President McKinley was recovering from his bullet wounds. One bullet had actually hit a button and only grazed the President. The other bullet, however, entered the abdomen and could not be found by the surgeon. The surgeon felt that it was better to probe no further and hoped that the bullet lodged into the back muscles where it would do little harm.
Unfortunately, President McKinley’s abdomen became infected. Gangrene lead to his death on September 14, 1901. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was then sworn in as the 26th President.
Leon Czolgosz was convicted of the assassination of President McKinley. He was sentenced to death by electrocution, which was carried out on October 29, 1901.
There was a funeral cortege on September 15, 1901 from the Milburn House to City Hall in Buffalo for President McKinley. The funeral cortege consisted of the President’s horse drawn hearse led by the mounted police of Buffalo along with Companies I and F of the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment, which Charley would have been part of. They were followed by many other military units and government officials. This whole scene has been recorded using a moving picture by Thomas A. Edison, Inc., without audio. This moving picture can be found on the website < www.loc.gov/item/00694352>. This is one of the earliest moving pictures and quite likely Charley can be seen on it. Though it definitely is not high-def and faces cannot be ascertained from it. Still, knowing that he may be somewhere on this film is of great interest. Company I escorted the body all the way to Canton, Ohio and stood guard as the deceased President laid in state.
This tidbit of information has apparently not been passed down to future generations. But Charley was definitely in Company I at this time. Where else would he be on that day of great importance?
THE BOXER REBELLION ENDS
The Empress Dowager Cixi had fled to Xi’an as the allied forces attacked Pekin dressed as a peasant woman. After the fall of Peking the Eight-Nation Alliance negotiated with the Qing Dynasty. Terms of the agreement included that the Empress would continue to rule and that China would not give up any land to foreign nations. Against her adviser’s protests that wanted to continue the war against the foreigners, the Empress agreed to the terms in what was called the Boxer Protocol. It also included a payment for war reparations to the eight nations for a total sum of $333,000,000. The United States returned its portion of the money, along with some other nations, with the agreement that the money be used to fund the creation of China’s Tsinghua University.
The Empress, who at first supported the Boxers as it looked that they were making gains, turned against the Boxers. The Imperial Army was sent out to round up the Boxers. There were many beheadings and tortures of captured Boxers, just as there were of Chinese Christian converts by the same Boxers earlier. One of the tortures for captured Boxers was putting the rebel in a suspended wooden cage on a public street with only room to stand inside. A noose would be around the neck and hands tied behind the back. When the rebel was too exhausted to stand it was over. This torture would take days. If the rebel was lucky a friend or family member would sneak poison through the cage and feed it directly. Mostly, the Chinese people would carry out these tortures and executions with westerners witnessing. Photographers were on hand and would take the most horrid photos of inhumanity. The photos and stories of these tortures, along with other stories of the campaign, would reach America raising the ire of public opinions dealing with America’s involvement in China and how it was handled.
The Boxer Rebellion officially
ended on September 7, 1901 with the signing of the Boxer Protocol.
POST BOXER REBELLION
The Empress Dowager Cixi did not return to the Forbidden City in Peking until January, 1902. The city was not as forbidden any more as she entertained the wives of western diplomats. It was a matter of survival for her as the Eight Nation Alliance could have had her removed. However, it was to the Alliance’s advantage to keep her in power as it would be easier to control China with her in power then it would be with a new unknown government. She was now embracing western culture. This would bring China closer to modern times. However, the Empress died November 15, 1908. The Qing Dynasty, which had originated out of Manchuria in 1644, had been weakened by the rebellion and an uprising in 1911 ended the Dynasty. China became a republic in 1912.
Captain John R. M. Taylor of Company I stood out as a leader and a standup guy. He was not shy about sharing his opinions. He was in charge of a military document titled “The Philippine Insurgent Records.” This document, truthful as it is, was very controversial at the time due to its incriminating content and Taylor became a victim of political censorship. But as far as Taylor’s leadership in China, a report from Major William Quinton reads:
I desire to bring especial notice of the general commanding for gallantry, coolness, and soldiery behavior in this action, Captains C. H. Martin and J. R. M. Taylor, and Lieutenants W. A. Burnside and A. N. McClure. These officers kept such control of their men throughout the action that I never observed the American Soldier, plucky fighter that he is, fight with more coolness and determined gallantry. It was a lovely sight to observe these men in action.
The first person listed on the census for Company I in 1900 is a man by the name of Louis McLane Hamilton, 2nd Lieutenant. He was the great grandson of Alexander Hamilton (rebel combatant during the Revolutionary War, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the first Secretary of the Treasury, involved with The Federalist Papers, killed by Vice President Aaron Burr in a pistol duel). Louis Hamilton signed Charley’s discharge papers. He was twice court-martialed after Charley left the service. The first time, then a 1st Lieutenant, Hamilton used offensive language in front of another officer’s wife while intoxicated. The second time was for being absent without leave and making a false report to his superior officer. In both instances President Theodore Roosevelt commuted the sentences, allowing Hamilton to continue serving in the Army. After a long illness, Hamilton died in Paris on August 29, 1911.
The bugler from Company E of the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment, Corporal Calvin Pearl Titus, was awarded the Medal of Honor for being the first volunteer to scale the Tartar Wall. He was also given an appointment to West Point. His words, “I’ll try, sir”, became a regimental motto. He retired from the Army in October 1930 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
The bugler from Company I of the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment, Private Charles Wade Swan, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on May 5, 1902. He returned home from where he had earlier escaped to go on the adventure of a lifetime. He had to be much wiser for it. Still, it had to be good getting back home with those that loved him and being back in beautiful Wisconsin once again, starting his own family soon after.
Hopefully, this writing will meet most expectations. There is much more information that could be added, but the intention here was to not “write a book.” It is merely a recording so that this part of family history is not lost and can be easily passed on for future generations. Any corrections or important information are welcome and may be added.
Some liberties were taken in this writing making some assumptions what Charley Swan may have felt or thought about different events. Here is one more:
Charley would not have thought in his wildest dreams that just over 100 years after his fighting in China that the United States of America would be indebted to the Chinese government for trillions of dollars. They don’t own all of the U.S. debt, but a good portion of it, which gives them great influence. At one time being taken advantage of by western nations, China presently has a commanding position in the world’s economy.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION:
America In the China Relief Expedition by Brig. Gen’l A. S.
Daggett, U.S. Army, Retired, 1908
The American Krag Rifle and Carbine
by Joe Poyer, 2007
Annual Reports of the War Department for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1900 by Government Printing Office, 1900
History of the Fourteenth United States Infantry, From January, 1890 to December 1908 by Captain L.S. Sorler, 14th Infant., 1909
Library of Congress Web Page www.loc.gov/item/00694352
The Savage Wars of Peace – Small Wars and the Rise of American Power by Max Boot, 2002
Wikepedia Searches for William McKinley, Captain J. R. M. Taylor, Empress Dowager Cixi
A young Charley Swan, likely during his first enlistment between 1899 and 1902. He is wearing white shoes, pants and jacket. The hat is the Army issued Stetson. The photo was taken in a studio. It could have been from San Francisco, Japan, China, but most likely from Manila. (Just a guess.)
A more mature and heftier Charley Swan, likely after enlisting during the Great War as a Captain in 1917.
Top portion of 1900 Census for Company I, page1. Louis McL.
Hamilton is the 1st entry.
Bottom portion of 1900 Census for Company I, page 3.
Charley Swan is the 119th entry.
Charley’s military badges for service In the Boxer Rebellion and the Philippine
Insurrection. These were not acquired until 1917 when he re-enlisted.
The Krag Jorgensen Rifle
U.S. Magazine Rifle Model of 1898, Cal. 30
The Krag Jorgensen rifle had the shortest life of any U.S. service rifle. It was obsolete almost as soon as it was issued. It was not as powerful as a Mauser type rifle and it could not be fed with a clip. Regardless, the American soldier became fond of it. While in the Philippines a song was made up by the soldiers, which Charley certainly would have sung along with. The following is a verse from this tune:
Damn, Damn, Damn the Filipinos!
Cut throat kha-ki-ak ladrones!
Underneath our starry flag,
Civilize ’em with a Krag,
return us to our own beloved homes.
The Sheridan In Port
The Sheridan At Sea
The 14th Infantry Regiment raising the flag on the Tartar Wall of Peking.
Charley Swan’s 1895 Winchester rifle in 30-40 Krag
used for deer hunting in Wisconsin. The barrel is marked “30 US”. Different
nomenclature for the same caliber he used in his military rifle. This rifle was
built in 1899 and remains in the family. Still functional!
The author’s Krag rifle. This is a Model of 1892 that was altered at the Springfield Armory to Model of 1896 standards. Functionally, it is much the same as the Model of 1898. In front of the bolt handle is the magazine box. There is a thumbpiece on top of the box to aid in leveraging the box open, which hinges down. Five rounds are fed into this box and then it gets closed. It cannot be clip fed as the Mauser design was, which was an undesirable trait as far as the Ordnance Department was concerned. (A later U.S. rifle design, the 1903 Springfield, would incorporate the Mauser clip feed design.)
The Krag also incorporated a magazine cut-off. This cut-off kept cartridges from feeding from the magazine when in the off position. This would allow for single loading. The on position would allow cartridges to feed from the magazine and was to be used only when fighting was intense. This system was used to keep soldiers from wasting ammunition. However, the fallacy of this train of thought was eventually realized.
The Krag rifle is nearly unknown today. Its short service life is one reason why. Another reason is that the 1903 Springfield rifle used in World War I has greatly overshadowed this rifle. Condemned as a service rifle in 1915, the Krag Jorgensen was brought back into service once the U.S. entered the war in 1917. It was used primarily as a training rifle as there weren’t enough 1903 Springfields for the front line. Approximately 475,000 Krags were built by 1903. They were eventually sold as part of the Civilian Marksmanship Program in the 1920s through the NRA. Many were modified as a hunting rifle, mainly by being shortened. (Bonnie and Clyde had one such rifle as can be seen in a photograph with several other of their firearms that Clyde posed with.)