Introduction (Charles Summerall)

The Story of the Boxer Rebellion at Arlington National Cemetery

Introduction (Charles Summerall)

Arlington, Virginia 22202, United States

Created By: Georgetown University


Charles P. Summerall

The first stop on our tour is the grave of Charles P. Summerall (1867-1955). Born in Blounts Ferry, Florida, Summerall graduated from West Point in 1892. By 1900 he was serving as a First Lieutenant in Battery F, 5th Field Artillery Regiment. When ordered to China as part of the China Relief Expedition, Summerall and his battery were participating in the Philippine Insurrection, or Philippine American War. Present for most of the major battles of the expedition, Summerall was involved in the eventual relief of Peking (Beijing) and the assault on the Forbidden City. After the conflict he was promoted to Captain and returned to duty in the United States. In the First World War he commanded the 1st Infantry Division and was Chief of Staff of the Army from 1926 to 1930. He also served as the President of the Citadel from 1931 to 1953.


The Boxer Rebellion is today largely forgotten in America, overshadowed by the First World War and the Spanish-American War, the conflict only involved America for about 11 months with the majority of the fighting occurring between May and August 1900. About 4,000 Americans served in China during the conflict and about 150 were killed. To understand the context of the rebellion you must look back on the situation in China at the turn of the century.

By 1900, the Qing Dynasty of China, which had ruled for over 300 years, was in trouble. As with most Chinese dynasties, their rule followed a cyclic pattern. An invading dynasty from modern day Manchuria, the Qing assumed the “Mandate of Heaven” (essentially the divine right to rule) from the previous Ming dynasty. While they had initially prospered and expanded the kingdom’s borders, by the late 18th century the Qing had reached their zenith. Their decline was exacerbated by the arrival, in force, of Europeans. China, long a hegemonic power with no equals, was slow to open up to trade with the West or industrialize. Impatient European powers initially operated under strict trade rules but, beginning with the British, they began to use force to get their way. A series of conflicts with Europeans in the 19th century including the two Opium Wars, where Peking was captured by an Anglo-French force, led to harsher demands on the emperors. It was an internal struggle however, the Taiping Rebellion from 1850-64, which proved almost unrecoverable. It is estimated that at least 20 million Chinese died in that destabilizing conflict. To add insult to injury, in 1895 China lost a war against Japan, long considered an inferior power, and relinquished several of its territorial claims. Reformist mandarins realized that China needed to adapt if the dynasty was to survive, yet reactionary courtiers and the Dowager Empress Cixi, by then wielding nominal power, demurred or outright resisted reform. By 1900, every major power, except the United States, had some form of concession or leased territory in China.

Beginning in Shantung (Shandong) province and remaining largely confined to northeastern China, the Boxer uprising was a confluence of several key factors including crop failure, indignation over foreign concessions and treaties, frustration with Qing rule, and a dislike of Christian missionaries and converts. From 1898 to 1900, there were numerous small attacks against missionaries and converts in the countryside but, by the summer of 1900, the situation in the countryside had deteriorated dramatically.

Continue walking westward up the hill for about 40 feet. You will come across the grave of Manus MacCloskey. The tour continues there.

This point of interest is part of the tour: The Story of the Boxer Rebellion at Arlington National Cemetery


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