The Battle of Peking (Henry Reilly)

The Story of the Boxer Rebellion at Arlington National Cemetery

The Battle of Peking (Henry Reilly)

Arlington, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Virginia 22211, United States

Created By: Georgetown University


Henry J. Reilly

Henry J. Reilly was born in Ireland in 1845. Immigrating to the United States, Reilly fought in the Civil War as an enlisted artilleryman and was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1866. Reilly stayed in the Army for over 30 years, spending most of that time in Battery F, which he joined in 1868. Given the slow rate of promotions of the era he was still a captain in 1900 when the battery left Manila for China. Arriving on August 2nd, the battery joined the large multinational relief force. Reaching Peking on August 13th, the next day the battery supported the successful assault on the city which rescued the legations. On the following day, the battery alongside the 14th Infantry was ordered to assault the Imperial City. While observing the effects of his guns, Reilly was struck in the mouth by a Chinese bullet and killed. A large funeral service was held for his body after the end of the fighting. His son, Henry J. Reilly Jr. would rise to the rank of Brigadier General and command an artillery regiment in the First World War.

The Battle of Peking

After reestablishing order in Tientsin, the allies recognized that given the fierce Chinese resistance a much larger force would be needed to take Peking. They decided to wait and gather more troops and supplies to continue the march inland. Additionally, inaccurate news reached Tientsin that the legations in Peking had been overwhelmed and the foreigners all slaughtered. Shifting the goal from relief to revenge, the allies waited until August 4th to begin their advance.

The 2nd relief expedition included almost 22,000 allied troops (mainly Japanese, Russian, British, and American) including about 2,500 American soldiers and Marines. Departing Tienstin the force engaged in two small battles at Peitsang (Beicang) and Yangstun (Yangcun) before reaching the outskirts of Peking. The march was long and arduous, with temperatures reaching 105° F. Along the way the force burned Chinese villages and killed suspected Boxers. As the Boxers themselves had terrorized the region prior, much of the route was already abandoned and devastated. As they got closer to Peking, word reached the allies that the legations had not fallen, and they accelerated their march.

Arriving at Peking on August 13th, the army waited until the following day to attack. With each nationality taking a different gate to secure they began their attack before dawn. When the Americans arrived at their assigned gate however, they found the Russians already engaged there and they moved their troops about 200 yards south and climbed the 30-foot-tall wall. American troops drove Chinese forces off the wall and then climbed down the inside and headed toward the Legation Quarter. Reaching the legations shortly after the British contingent, the troops marched into the cheers of the rescued inhabitants.

On August 15th, the Americans continued their assault on the Imperial City which still housed Chinese troops. Blasting through the Imperial City gates, the Americans almost breached the Forbidden City before the commander, General Adna Chaffee, called off the attack. Chaffee was concerned both about the humiliation to China of foreign troops attacking the Forbidden City and of the jealousies and resentments of the other allies.

Several other Boxer Rebellion veterans are buried in the vicinity, feel free to spend some time looking at their graves. This includes Theodore Wint, who commanded the 6th Cavalry Regiment in China. When you are ready to leave take a left onto Lee Drive towards Sherman Drive. Take another left on Sherman then shortly after a right onto Humphreys Drive. Continue on this road as it circles around. On your left, roughly across from the Pam Am Flight 103 Memorial look for a short marker for William Hogg. This is the next stop.

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


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