DAY 2 - Refit and Marching
Another sunrise in China is greeted with various activities in the camps of the International Relief Force. In the German and United States camp in SI-LIAN the orders were flying. A small officer contingent is sent to WENPO to consult with the other allies in order to plan of the day’s activities. Railway repair units, coolies and local German railway engineers, are sent north of SI-LIAN to repair the damage done to the tracks by the Boxers. The German and United States forces were going to “stand down” in order to refit and rest after the Battle of SI-LIAN. Officers of both forces meet with local merchants at SI-LIAN and WENPO to begin negotiating prices for the purchase of foodstuffs. American officers will begin recruiting locals for the purpose of forming and training a local militia. This was met with some success as both SI-LIAN and WENPO are pro-Western and count on foreign goods and trade to make their business thrive. Roughly 100 local Chinese militia have been recruited in SI-LIAN and in WENPO.
German and American cavalry patrols were sent out in several directions. One squadron of German cavalry was sent to reconnoiter southwest of SI-LIAN. They went as far south as the ferry at WO KAN PU. There were no signs of Boxers until the patrol reached WO KAN PU. From across the river the Germans could observe 10,000 thousand Boxers massing around WO KAN PU. The ferry across the SI-HO is working and could shuttle the Boxers across the river in short notice. The river is around 200 yards wide at this location.
The rest of the German East Asian Cavalry and the American 3rd Cavalry moved to secure the railroad bridge over the SI-HO river. One squadron of German cavalry was left at the bridge to dig in and hold the bridge for future operations. The rest will proceed along the railroad to FUSUCHOW. These forces encountered no Boxer opposition and no Imperial Chinese presence.
Meanwhile, orders were sent to bring the German and US supply wagons at WIE LUNG HOO to the front. They began to move out from WIE LUNG HOO around 8AM and moved southeast along the Imperial Road to WENPO. The 1st – 6th companies of the 3rd German marines will remain at WIE LUNG HOO, while the other six companies of German marines will escort the supply column. The American artillery (2 sections of 3” Light Field guns) also accompanied the supply column. The supply column arrived in WENPO at roughly 2PM.
General “Mad Dog” Hood sent a message to the Secretary of State to forward, either directly or thru contacts, additional monies to secure supplies and local support and caring for civilians rescued.
Sunrise in WENPO saw a quite different scene than in SI-LIAN. The French, Italians, and Russians are preparing to continue their march to the Western Trading Station in WUSEN, even without hearing from the Germans and Americans since yesterday. While the contingents were preparing to march the Russians sent the 1st Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Siberians to scout down towards the SI-HO river moving along the Imperial Road. Between 6am and 8am, the general staff attempted to gain information from the local populace in WENPO via conversation, gifts, and bribes. The locals have not seen any Boxers this far north, but some of the recent travelers have complained of Boxer harassment just south of the SI-HO river. The staff also attempted to hire a local guide familiar with the Central Ranges. Also, an interpreter was located and agreed to join the International Relief Force. The officer contingent from the German and US camp arrived at 6:45AM in WENPO and let the Russians, Italians, and French know of the German and US undertakings and plans to stand down for DAY2. This council of war was interrupted by some unfinished business General Konnellovski with the Amur Cossacks. General Konnellovski’s memoirs tells of the following communiqué to the commander of the Cossack Brigade:
From: General KonnellovskiLocal Chinese leaders and businessmen were assembled for this ceremony and were bewildered by the hanging of the Cossacks in the central square of WENPO. It is unlikely the Cossacks will dare the wrath of General Konnellovski any time soon. This bit of justice was completed by 7:30AM and the Russian, Italians, and French troops were nearly ready to move out in another 30 minutes..
To: Colonel Hackedoff (commander Imperial Russian cavalry brigade)
The actions yesterday of the Amur Cossack Cavalry in PIATSUNG were reprehensible and cannot be allowed to happen again. You will instill order in the troops. As punishment, you will pick 5 troopers from the unit and summarily hang them at 7am. All troops will be present for this display of justice.
If there are any more incidents of looting, killing of civilians, or burning of buildings without direct and explicit orders from me, you and your staff will be the next round of people led to the noose. We are about to enter hostile territory and inciting the natives against us will NOT help the situation. You WILL keep the Cossacks under control.
I expect that this is the last time that I will have to mention or deal with these situations.
Shouts spring from the walls of WENPO signaling the return of the 1st Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Siberians who were worse for their scouting efforts. Bloodied and excited the Lieutenant reports that thousands of Boxers are massed across the SI-HO river near the old ruined mud FORT KENSI!! With the Russian scouts driven back there are no eyes to the front of the army. Boxers could be pouring across the bridge and into the Millet fields surrounding WENPO.
Millet is no ordinary field crop. The stalks are nearly twice as tall as a man and as thick as a corn field. It would be impossible to deploy into a formation in these fields or even unlimber a battery. Forces would be restricted to paths and roads leading through the Millet. Since the Millet reaches from WENPO right to the banks of the SI-HO, this severely restricts the deployment and maneuver options of the International Relief Forces. The Boxers have chosen good ground for their defense where the only foot bridge crosses the SI-HO. With this horrible news shock and anger breaks out in the Allied camp.
The Russians suddenly become conservative and want to build an observation tower out of the tongues of their wagons. The Italians, ever aggressive with other nation’s soldiers, suggest that the Boxers on the north side of the SI-HO be pushed aside by some Russian peasant battalions, with the rest of the International forces following. The French argue that a good skirmish screen can be prepared and should be able to drive away the cowardly Boxers. The Russians insisting that they are not going to go into 12 foot high fields, which effectively eliminates the International force ranged weapons advantage. The Italians still insist that a couple battalions of Russians should be enough to clear the north bank. The French, pondering the Russian statements, think it might be better to build a observation tower, but don’t use the wagons as timber as this would cause their baggage train to become immobile. The French suggest that they send out officers and men to buy timber from the local merchants. General Konnellovski rolls his eyes and orders the Russians to make an observation tower out of the wagon tongues. The Italians and French decide to make an observation tower out of local materials perchased and backed by Italian government notes. The Russian tower is built and reports back before the foundation of the Franco-Italians observation tower is even started.
The Russians in the observation tower report that roughly 2000 Boxers are on the North side of the river moving through the millet. They are likely trying to ambush any international forces that move down the Imperial Road. The rest of the Boxers, over 20,000 strong, are manning the ruined mud fort and have even constructed earthworks around the bridge crossing the SI-HO. Among the Boxer forces cannons are observed, though most look to be old muzzle loaders.
General Konnellovski sends a courier to the US & Germans in SI-LIAN letting them know that over 20,000 Boxers are south of the SI-HO river, blocking the Imperial Road. Entrenchments have been seen and some Boxers have even cross to the North bank of the river. The General specifically wanted to know if the railway bridge had been secure which allow them to outflank the Boxers rather than try to direct assault such a difficult position.
General “Mad Dog” Hood read the message and sent the following terse reply to only the Russian commander: “Please move your forces to the railroad bridge via SI-LIAN.”
Upon seeing this dispatch the Russian general swore and cursed his bad luck. “General Hood is not mad, but senile!” exclaimed General Konnellovski. The Russian, French, and Italian generals still didn’t know any more than they did in the morning. Was the railroad bridge secure? Where are the US and German forces? Was there any Boxer presence around SI-LIAN?
Rather than waste any more precious time the Italians, Russians, and French decamped for SI-LIAN via WENPO’s north gate and marched cross-country to SI-LIAN and the railroad bridge. Because all the baggage was being moved with the column this pace was excruciatingly slow and it took nearly 5 hours for the front of the column to arrive at the railroad bridge. As the baggage arrived at the railroad bridge it quickly became apparent that no beasts of burden would cross the bridge. Railway bridges are not completely timbered hence there are large gaps between railroad ties which animals will not cross! This mistake forced the French, Italians, and Russians to turn their entire baggage train around and they sent it all the way back to WENPO as they didn’t want to leave it in the closer town of SI-LIAN because it was not walled! The baggage arrived at 9PM that night back in SI-LIAN with Siberian Cossacks, and French naval infantry protecting them.
The column’s commander’s joined the German and American HQ staff located on the south bank of the SI-HO for a council of war. The plan was for the US and German forces to march along the old tow path towards FORT KENSI, with the Germans leading the march and using their Krupp guns to soften up the enemy. The Russians, French, and Italians were to move through FUSUCHOW and come north through the Central Ranges and camp in the plain to the Southeast of FORT KENSI. The Russians would deploy on the left closes to the mountains with the French to their right and the Italians on the far right flank. All commanders agreed to muster at 5AM and launch the attack at first light (6AM). These pre-battle deployments occurred under full view of the Boxers. More digging can be heard from the Boxer lines. Conte de Milan, Generale Adolfo Modladatii, the Italian commander, decided it would be a great time to break into his personal case of Chianti as the battle should be a walk-over and top form will not be needed to cleanse the fortress of the Boxers in the morning.