The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners That Shook the World in the Summer of 1900

By Diana Preston | Go to book overview

6
A Failed Rescue

These were not fanatical "braves," or the trained soldiers of the Empress, but the quiet peace-loving peasantry -- the countryside in arms against the foreigner. -- Clive Bigham

VICE-Admiral Sir Edward Seymour would have been wounded to know that, due to his failure to arrive in Peking, the next seventeen days would earn him the nickname of "Admiral Seen-no-more." He had first become aware that something unusual was afoot when he received Sir Claude's telegram of 28 May asking for guards to be sent to Peking as a precaution against "troublesome" Boxers. When further alarming reports reached him on 31 May, he decided to sail up the Chinese coast and join the other foreign men-of-war from Russia, France, Germany, America, Austria, Italy, and Japan anchored off Taku. As Seymour later wrote, he was "fortunately" the senior admiral on the station, so it was his place to initiate proceedings. He invited the other commanding officers on board his flagship and urged that they work in concert. They agreed that if necessary an allied naval brigade should be landed to advance on Peking.

The sixty-year-old Seymour was confident that he was the proper person to command such an expedition by virtue of seniority and experience. He had a good China pedigree, having served as a young midshipman under his uncle Admiral Sir Michael Seymour in the China campaign of 1860. More important, he knew that if he took command it would avoid British men having

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