The Boxer Rebellion Part 1
Patrick Harris -China was one of the last great frontiers for the Empires of Europe. It was massive, had a huge population, and the interior had been closed to Europeans for many years. This had begun to change though; with the Opium wars and other European, as well as Japanese and American incursions, China was beginning to be opened up the "civilized" nations of the world. This was not always a positive thing. Much of this was at the expense of the Chinese, they became a market for addictive British opium, and were generally exploited by the powers of the world.
This of course did not sit well with the Chinese. Anti-European and anti-Christian movements had occurred before, but never on the scale of this revolt. Members of the Chinese population began calling themselves the "Righteous and Harmonious Fists", which the westerners referred to as "Boxers". Boxers believed that their rituals would make them invulnerable to Western bullets, similar to the Ghost Dancers in the USA.
The Boxer movement became prominent in Shandong Province in 1898, perpetrating attacks on Chinese Christians, missionaries and foreigners. Then came a severe drought, and against this backdrop, anti-western sympathies grew. These sympathies had been building for years, ever since the First Opium War in 1841. The Chinese had lost several wars against European powers, and many unequal treaties were force upon the Chinese. These treaties, among other things, granted Christian missionaries and western companies impunity from Chinese laws.
The Boxer's marched on Beijing, and received the support of the reigning Qing dynasty. This brought western protests, and the Qing dynasty reluctantly allowed several hundred western troops into Beijing to defend the western embassies. The Boxers, upon spreading to Beijing, quickly attempted to move against westerners and Christians in Beijing, surrounding the Legation quarter, trapping nearly 1000 westerners and 3000 Chinese Christians inside. Several Boxers were shot by British, German and American marines who were sent into the city to rescue Christians and missionaries trapped at various churches.
The immediate response of the western powers was to send 1800 troops (mostly Royal Marines) from the Allied naval bases along the Yellow Sea, under the command of British Vice Admiral Seymour. They travelled by train most of the way, but the line was cut and they were forced to march. Soon they were surrounded by thousands of Boxers and Imperial Chinese troops, who were much better equipped than the lightly armed naval troops. They were forced to fall back with over 200 wounded and 62 killed. While retreating, they were chased by Boxers until they happened upon an undefended Imperial Chinese arsenal, which enabled them to refill their dire ammunition stocks and gain heavier weapons. There they fortified until a combined British and Russian force arrived to rescue this rescue force.
Stayed tuned for part 2!