The Spoils of Peking
Every nationality accords the palm to some other in respect to the art of plundering, but it remains the fact that each and all of them went in hot and strong for plunder. -- Count von Waldersee
JN Peking a reign of terror had begun. The local population panicked and more than half had fled the city at the approach of the foreign troops. Dr. Martin described how, "in their haste, they left behind them wardrobes filled with costly furs, their floors were strewn with the richest silks; and in some cases the whole ground was covered with nuggets of silver. What a temptation to plunder!" Luella Miner climbed the tower of the Chienmen on 15 August and saw "party after party of poor refugees, men, women, and children, fleeing from the doomed city." "War is hell," she wrote sadly. Rumors spread that the foreign troops intended to blow up the city, adding to the terrible confusion.
Some grandees who had backed the Boxers chose suicide. The antiforeign Imperial Tutor was discovered "swinging high now from his own rafters, he and his whole household -- wives, children, concubines, attendants, everyone." Others set themselves alight or threw themselves into the moat, which became so choked with bodies that the water ceased to flow. Many Chinese women, unable to flee on their tiny bound feet, killed themselves. Roger Keyes was shaken by the discovery in a palace of "five pretty, dainty-looking young girls, aged about twelve to twenty, of the highest manchu class, in lovely clothes, lying dead in a row."