Battle of Peking (1900) - Background

Background

The first attempt to relieve the legations by a force of over 2,000 sailors and marines commanded by British Adm. Edward Seymour was turned back by strong opposition on 26 June.

On August 4, a second and much larger relief force called the Eight-Nation Alliance marched from Tientsien (Tianjin) toward Peking. The alliance force consisted of about 18,000 soldiers (4,300 Russian infantry, Cossacks and artillery; 8,000 Japanese infantry; 3,000 British, mostly Indian infantry, cavalry and artillery; 2,500 US soldiers and Marines with artillery; and an 800-man French (Indochina) brigade with artillery). Austria, Italy, and Germany—although they were members of the Eight-Nation Alliance—contributed no significant number of soldiers to the relief force at this time.

The Alliance forces defeated the Chinese army at the Battle of Beicang (Peitsang) on August 5 and the Battle of Yangcun (Yangtsun) on August 6 and reached Tongzhou (Tongchou), 14 miles from Peking, on August 12. The relief force was much reduced by heat exhaustion and sunstroke and the men available for the assault on Peking probably did not greatly exceed 10,000.

The British, American and Japanese commanders wanted to push on and attack Peking on 13 August, but the Russian commander said he needed another day to prepare and August 13 was devoted to reconnaissance and rest.

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