Guy Marshall, August 30, 1900
Getting into Pekin.
Our Soldier Tells of the March from Tien Tsin. Awful Heat. Brave Advance. Letter from President. Value of Water.
Taltac City, Pekin, China.
August 30, 1900.
Editor Journal:--This is the first opportunity I’ve had of writing to you, since we left Tien Tsin. It was the 4th of August when we left that city and marched about four miles and struck camp and here our troubles began. It poured rain before we were settled, and altogether we spent a very miserable night. We all ate a very light supper. We haven’t yet learned the true value of “Government Straight”—corned-beef, hard-tack, and black coffee.
Reveille sounded at half past three, and we left camp at four, but had not gotten our of the corn fields our camp ground, when the Japs, who were in advance, opened up on the fort at Yemshung, and we had an opportunity of seeing a battle and not under fire. Once in awhile a shell came our way, but did not amount to much. Our column was acting as support. It was a grand sight and I would not have missed it for anything. I learned afterwards that the Japs sneaked up under cover of darkness and learned the position of the Chinese, and as soon as it was light enough opened up and captured the place, though not without heavy loss. The Chinese were soon retreating and then the race began. All hands pushed on after them as fast as possible all day. The next day we crossed a river and struck a desert marched half a day in that and met the Chinese at Yong Lung, had about two hours decent fight and routed them, and then doubled time, or rather tried to, across corn fields, ditches, etc. This was the toughest day of all. The fire was nothing to compare with the heat and there was no water. We never had a drop through the whole of the fight, and didn’t get any until we got in the town.
I was one of the scouts, and was one of the first to get in, and filled my canteen immediately. It was very poor water, full of alkali, and all that sort of stuff, but poor as it was $5,000 would not have bought my canteen. We camped at the Rail road bridge, that is the few who were left, about ¼ of the company. Most of the others were stretched out in the field, played out, and overcome with the heat, and several died right there.
We rested there all the next day, and laid in a supply of provisions and made preparations for sending back the sick and wounded to Tientsin. But most of all we rested. After this the Chinese did not put up a decent fight, and it was only an ordinary forced march, across, what seemed to me, endless corn and cane fields.
We were forced to take a very circuitous route. We did not dare take the military road, as that was mined. If we could have used this, it would have been much better, as it is constructed on the principle of a railroad bank, and would have placed us where a little breeze would been felt and we would have been out of the clouds of dust. The day before we reached Tong Chow, men were falling out by squads, overcome by the heat.
I had to fall out myself, I shucked my blanket, and if my haversack hadn’t had any supper in it, that would have followed suit. The last night for Pekin we marched until 2 a.m. before we camped, as usual, in a corn field.
The next day we were with the pack trains and hand Sinclo. That evening about dusk we got in the first wall, and marched up under the 2nd, camped, and the next morning Riley’s battery fired the gate, and before the Chinese knew it, had gotten up the ramparts, (all hands pulled them up) and planted on the 2nd wall, over the gate, in a pagoda, and opened the bail.
We were their support, as usual. Had a fine scrap here, we could see the Chinese fire, and what we did then was enough! Capt. Riley was killed, and there were several other casualties. Thus Pekin fell on the 14th of August, one month 8 days after Tientsin, that place having been taken July 13th. We camped on the wall that night, and lots of the marines who had been besieged came down and recognized old friends among us and there were all kinds of handshakes and rejoicings, experiences told, etc.
The next day we sent out foraging parties, and they brought in all kinds of candies, dried fruits, citrons, etc. Just imagine the whiskered dirty and tired boys eating fine candies and fruits! It was a comical sight and gave my stomach such a surprise I was sick, and it took a whole day to get acclimated.
We had a very nice letter of thanks from the President. It makes us feel better to know he realizes we are here. One morning we had bacon and coffee, and no hard tack, for breakfast! About this time I began to think we were lost and Billie didn’t know where we were. The mail is about to close. Henry White is still with me and is well. Address your letters to Co. D. 1st Reg. Marines, Cavite, P.I. They keep up with me, and I don’t know where I will be when this reaches you.
[New Bern Weekly Journal, 23 October 1900, page 4, column 5]
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