Item #010239 1900-1901 – An exceptionally detailed archive of U.S. Naval operations in support of allied ground operations during the Boxer Rebellion from the personal files of Admiral Louis Kempf, the commander of the U.S. flotilla in Chinese waters. All related to Admiral Louis Kempff.
1900-1901 – An exceptionally detailed archive of U.S. Naval operations in support of allied ground operations during the Boxer Rebellion from the personal files of Admiral Louis Kempf, the commander of the U.S. flotilla in Chinese waters
1900-1901 – An exceptionally detailed archive of U.S. Naval operations in support of allied ground operations during the Boxer Rebellion from the personal files of Admiral Louis Kempf, the commander of the U.S. flotilla in Chinese waters
1900-1901 – An exceptionally detailed archive of U.S. Naval operations in support of allied ground operations during the Boxer Rebellion from the personal files of Admiral Louis Kempf, the commander of the U.S. flotilla in Chinese waters
1900-1901 – An exceptionally detailed archive of U.S. Naval operations in support of allied ground operations during the Boxer Rebellion from the personal files of Admiral Louis Kempf, the commander of the U.S. flotilla in Chinese waters
1900-1901 – An exceptionally detailed archive of U.S. Naval operations in support of allied ground operations during the Boxer Rebellion from the personal files of Admiral Louis Kempf, the commander of the U.S. flotilla in Chinese waters

1900-1901 – An exceptionally detailed archive of U.S. Naval operations in support of allied ground operations during the Boxer Rebellion from the personal files of Admiral Louis Kempf, the commander of the U.S. flotilla in Chinese waters

Ta-ku, China: 1900-1901. This archive from Admiral Kempff’s personal files consists of five densely packed, typed “Bulletins” and letters detailing the U.S. Navy’s participation in the conflict including its ground fighting at Ta-Ku which he personally directed. Over twelve pages of typed text. The documents contain some details not included in the official history of the action, The Boxer Rebellion: Bluejackets and Marines in China: 1900–1901, published by the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

In the spring of 1900, Admiral Kemph commanded the U.S. naval squadron that was ordered to China waters to support allied land forces in their attempt to relieve the international legations at Peking (today Beijing). During that time, he directed American ground actions in and around Ta-Ku at the mouth of the Pai (today Pei-ho) River. In response to a request from British Admiral Sir Edward Seymour that relayed a request from the foreign legations at Peking, Kempff ordered Bowman H. McCalla, the Captain of his flagship, USS Newark, to spearhead a combined landing force of bluejackets and marines ashore in an attempt to open an inland corridor. Allied troops from Japan, Great Britain, German, and other European nations joined his forces. On the road to Peking, they survived rebel ambushes and fought them in several skirmishes. Ultimately, they were attacked by a huge assembly of Boxers and forced to turn back against overwhelming odds.

Later, when allied ships began to bombard Chinese Imperial forts, Kempff refused to participate as he understood the intent of his orders from Washington was not to engage Imperial Chinese forces. Although condemned publicly by President William McKinley for his inaction, he submitted a lengthy rebuttal (the last document in the archive) declaring that the “Chinese government [had] not committed, so far as I’m aware, any act of open hostilities towards the foreign armed forces.”

Kempff was exonerated and later personally commended for his decision by Naval Secretary John D. Long who reported that “satisfaction with his conduct . . . was felt by the Administration [regarding] his discreet conduct in not joining in the fire of the forts.” Upon relinquishing his command, Kempff was again officially commended for his leadership in the Far East and specifically for his actions at Ta-Ku.

In this important archive Kempff extensively details his and his squadron’s actions at Ta-Ku. A few excerpts include:

Bulletin #6 (Shore Series). Taku, China, June 8, 1900. To Admiral Kempff from Victor Blue, Flag Lieutenant.

“In the eyes of the people [already] here the Americans are still gaining their reputation for pluck and energy. . .. Reports from the scene of fighting near Tientsin, (30 miles above) gave the loss of the Boxers as 20 and the loss of the Chinese troops as 11 killed. . .. Yesterday morning 78 Austrians and 80 Russians were sent up to Tienstin by train. . .. It is true that the natives of Tengku and Taku have been called out by the Boxers. The ‘signs’ have been marked on the doors. . .. Chinese Natives in both places are getting more and more insolent to foreigners every day. . .. Stones were thrown at our steam launch while passing through Taku. . .. The English have been asked to send a guard to Taungshaun on the Pei-Tai-He road. . .. Chinese troops at the fort abreast . . . are constantly drilling at their guns. . ..

“Memorando from Captain McCalla [states] I have a hundred men in two places in the city. [All are] well excepting to cases of diarrhea. . .. The railroad is intact to Yangatsun, 18 miles from here. There is an iron bridge the ties of which were burned by the Boxers. . .. A secret edict has been issued by the Empress dowager that the Chinese troops must treat the Boxers leniently. Today a decree was issued suspending all traffic between Peking and Tientsin. It would not be difficult to take possession of the [rail] road and operate it. . .. 2000 [Chinese] troops were brought to PeiTang. . .. [Received a] Telephone message from Tientsin that 32 wounded Chinese troops have arrived from the scene of the fighting. . ..”

Bulletin #9 (Shore Series). Taku, China, June 9, 1900. To Admiral Kempff from Victor Blue, Flag Lieutenant.

“The Boxers are advancing on Tientsin [and] the railroad station is threatened. . .. Captain Jellicoe [a British officer] will take measures to defend. . .. [He] asks for another company and machine gun. . .. Captain McCalla [recommends] one British, one Russian or French, and one American or German steams not more than forty feet long [should patrol the river.] European staff will leave Taungshaun tomorrow if they do not receive assurance of protection. Very urgent. . .. The English have secured the tug Fa Wan. . .. Will do well as a river gun boat. . .. I have little doubt that within a few days there will be no communication with Tientsin except by river, and only then by armed tugs that can force their way through. . .. [I think we will] secure the Heron, mount two 1-pounders on her and give her a fighting crew of twelve or fifteen men. . .. The British will make use of the hotel here as a hospital. . .. There is no doubt in my mind that within a very short time severe fighting will take place in Tientsin. The Chinese in Taku and Tengku are also disaffected, especially the coolies. . .. Everything points to a general uprising in this section of China. . .. The English may send a company of bluejackets . . . this afternoon. . ..”

Bulletin #14 (Shore Series). Taku China, Jun 14, 1900. To Admiral Kempff from Victor Blue, Flag Lieutenant.

“Captain Stewart [possibly a British naval officer] thinks some concerted action should be taken by foreign gun boats . . . in case hostilities begin . . . such as the relief expedition being fired on by Imperial troops. . .. All stations along the line above Tientsin are being guarded. The English and Americans alone attacked about 2000 or 3000 Boxers Monday afternoon and 68 Boxers were killed. Captain McCalla had a narrow escape. A Boxer came towards him holding a white rag in one hand and a spear in the other. When he was in striking distance he launched the spear at Captain McCalla and it just missed his body. The Captain then shot and killed him with his revolver. . .. There is little doubt that the Chinese troops will attack our men. Eight or nine thousand of them are waiting out side of Peking. There are some also collecting around Tientsin in large numbers. . .. The general opinion in Tientsin is that China will attempt to drive out the foreign troops in a day or two. . .. There are 10,000 Chinese troops near Tientsin. . .. The Boxers [have] stood up very well under fire, but they were indifferently armed, spears, swords, and a few rifles. . .. The relief expedition has given up all hope of repairing the road. . .. The British orderly [reports] the rumor that the British Legation has been burned and that 2000 Boxers are in Peking. . .."

Letter. Office of the Senior Squadron Commander, U. S. Naval Force on Asiatic Station. Flagship Newark, Cavite, P.I., Aug. 23, 1900. Admiral Neff to The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Force, Asiatic Station.

“It is my intention, after having familiarized with the situation here, to leave the Newark at this port with Captain B H. McCalla . . . and taking some one of the suitable smaller vessels, visit some of the more remote vessels on the station. . ..”

Letter. No. 1—D. Office of the Senior Squadron Commander, U. S. Naval Force on Asiatic Station. Flagship Newark, Cavite, P.I., January 7, 1901. In this letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Neff summarizes the actions at Tientsin and Taku, and refutes any suggestion that he acted inappropriately when Allied ships fired upon Chinese forts.

“I have the honor to invite the attention of the Department to an extract from the President’s message to Congress as follows . . . ‘A small force of marines was landed at Taku and sent to Peking for the protection of the American Legation. Other powers took similar action until some 400 men were assembled in the capital as legation guards. Still the peril persisted. . .. While the preparations were in progress for a larger expedition to strengthen the legation guards and keep the railway open, and attempt of the foreign ships to make a landing at Taku was met by fire from the Chinese forts. The forts were thereupon shelled by the foreign vessels, the American admiral taking no part in the attack. . .. Two days later the Taku forts were captured after a sanguinary conflict. Severance of communications with Peking followed and a combined force of additional guards which was advancing to Peking by the Pei Ho was checked at Langfang. The isolation of the legations was now complete.'

“This portion of the message is so manifestly in error that I beg leave to submit . . . a brief summary of events as they transpired at the time.

“On May 19 . . . the Newark [received] a cable message . . . requesting a warship at Taku. . .. Taking a portion of the marine guard from the U.S.S. Oregon, [on May 29 it] landed a force of about 100 men . . . under the very guns of the forts, proceed by river to Tientsin. . .. On May 31, a force of about 450 foreigners, including about 56 American marines and sailors proceeded to Peking . . . and by Government permission entered Peking unmolested. . ..

“The legations requesting reinforcements . . . a force composed of eight nationalities and numbering 2076 men started on June 10 to the relief of Peking. Before this time the Imperial troops had had engagement with the Boxers [and] their actions were not hostile to foreigners. Meanwhile the various nations were landing troops as they arrived. . .. Supplies and troops were being daily transported by [Chinese] Government trains . . . under the guns of the forts without molestation. . .. The Chinese Imperial troops, instead of having committed any act of hostility, as stated in the President’s message, by firing on a landing party had consistently allowed foreigners to land troops, arms and munitions of war with out opposition. . ..

“When it was therefore proposed on June 15 by the other foreign naval officers to seize the railroad station which was Chinese government property, I refused to join it. . .. [When] they signed a protocol . . . demanding the temporary surrender of the forts. . .. No gun had been fired by the Chinese Imperial troops against any foreign troops up to that time, nor . . . had they committed . . . any act of hostility. . .. Fire was opened . . . and after about six hours conflict the forts were taken and occupied. . .. The action was immediately followed . . . by the bombardment of Tientsin by Imperial troops the following night [and] by the Imperial troops attacking and driving back the . . . relief expedition . . . by their beginning their attack on the legations in Peking. . .. The isolation of the legations was now complete, and the life of every foreigner in China was jeopardized from [allied] attacks of Boxers and Imperial Chinese forces. . ..

“[By] the statements in the President’s message . . . I am placed in a false positon before the public. . .. I respectfully request that this letter be brought to the attention of the President of the United States, [as his] statements . . . are not correct.”

. Item #010239

Possibly unique, although it is probable that originals of these documents are held in the National Archives.

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Price: $7,500.00