Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Boxer Campaign - Battle of Fort Kensi - Part 6 of 12

The following took place on DAY3 of the campaign. Sorry for any unflocked bases as I hadn't had time to flock all of them before the battle.

Battle of Fort Kensi

The International Relief force mustered before daylight. Weapons were cleaned and inspected and rations were eaten, except for the Germans and American who had run out of rations the day before and didn’t have any additional supplies since their supply wagons had not been brought forward. They would have to fight this battle on empty stomachs. The Italians had not mustered for battle on this day as the Conte de Milan was in no condition to command as he and his staff drained nearly the entire case of Chianti. The Italian government will surely frown on this behavior as greater Italian glory cannot be achieved if the mighty Italian soldiers don’t fight.

The Germans, with the United States contingent behind them, were formed up between the SI-HO River and the mountains of the Central Ranges with the Red Banner Boxers deployed in front of them. The Russians faced the Yellow Banner Boxers, while the French faced-off against the Gold Banner Boxers. The Black Banner Boxers waited and shouted from their positions in the ruined mud fort.

The Boxers had been shouting, chanting, and singing late into the night and had even built a small redoubt in front of the Russian position and filled it with smoothbore cannons. The Russians, not wanting to wait for daylight, launch into the assault before the agreed upon start time much to the surprise of the allied commanders.

The Russians start with artillery fire and a general infantry advance towards the redoubt which was manned by the Yellow Banner Boxers. The Russian fire was a bit ineffective due to the lack of daylight, but their attack certainly invigorated the Boxers. Shouts of “sha, Sha, SHA!” (Kill, Kill, Kill) could be heard across the battlefield as the Boxers worked themselves into a frenzy.

The Red, Yellow, and Gold Banner Boxers launch themselves towards the allies in a primal rage. The Russians, due to their forward position, unloaded into the Yellow Banner Boxers shattering one mob before they could charge more than 50 yards. The French begin to fire, but the distance to the Boxers is too great and they were moving too fast so the accuracy was limited.

On they came … the Yellow and Gold Banners smashed into the French formations screaming and attacking with fanatic zeal. Zouaves, French Marines & Sailors, and Annamite-Tonkinese engage the Boxers in fierce close-range firefights and hand-to-hand combat. Mob after mob of Boxers are gunned down and torn to pieces by the Lebel rifles the French forces used to perfection. The Zouaves alone routed or destroyed two mobs during this desperate fighting.

Meanwhile on the German flank the Krupp guns open fire to soften up the Red Banners before they the Germans make their advance. The fire from the Krupp guns is spotty at best and the German infantry lead by Brig. Gen. Hans Dietrich decides to advance as they believed the Boxers an inferior opponent and should be easily brushed aside by superior Teutonic martial prowess. The 1st Brigade of the German East Asian Brigade advanced through their Krupp batteries to engage the enemy. German Mausers unleashed on the raging Red Banner mobs, but the Red Banners keep coming. The Germans fired again, but again the Red Banners keep coming. The Red Banners collide with the Germans and struggle at close range with their foes. The Boxers using swords, spears, bows, and antiquated muskets begin to take their toll on the Germans. Suddenly small groups of Germans start to fallback … how could this be? Then the 1st regiment routs! Then the 2nd Regiment routs!!! The Boxers, completely mad with victory, overrun the 3rd German infantry regiment and destroy a Krupp gun section killing every one of the crew!! Disaster!! The Germans 2nd Brigade fires into the oncoming Red Banner forces and attempts to slow them down.

The Americans, to their utter amazement, start to see masses of German infantry running, yes running, away from the battle. The US commanders turn to their men and bark out orders to advance through the German 2nd Brigade and deploy into firing line as the German command seemed to be shaken. These orders were carried out with crack efficiency. The 3rd Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment forms up and volleys into the Red Banners! Dozens of Boxers die and even more are wounded. The Americans volley again and hundreds fall.

The Russians seeing the plight of the German contingent send the Amur Cossacks to attack the flank of the Red Banner attack. The Cossacks hack and slash their way through the Red Banners leaving only a few survivors. The Red Banners are now in panic and their attack is shattered. There are no remaining Red Banner forces on the field. They lay in heaps and piles across the original German positions.

The French and Russians continue their advance after driving off the Yellow and Gold Banner forces. The Russians use rifle, machinegun, and artillery fire to reduce the Boxer redoubt and destroy the two smoothbore gun sections stationed there. The French advance at the double towards FORT KENSI killing and pushing aside any Boxers that stand in their way.

The French close rapidly on the fort driving past ineffective Boxer artillery fire. The round-shot from the ancient smoothbore cannons can’t find their range and the Boxer gun crews are just not able to load the weapons quickly. The French lead by the Zouaves push right to the edge of the mud fort walls.

The Zouave turn the flank of the fort and destroy another Boxer mob with Lebel rifle fire. The French Sailors, Marines and Annamite-Tonkinese close on the ruined mud fort. The Boxers deliver a massive cannon volley into the Annamite-Tonkinese which halts their advance. The French Marines form up and fire point blank into the Boxers in the fort, with devastating results. The Boxers are being overrun and destroyed. The French Marines are the first to enter the fort stepping over the hundreds of Boxer casualties littering the ground. The remaining Black Banner and Boxer commanders flee the field of battle. The battle is over by 8:30AM.

At the end of the battle the Victory Point total is as follows:
Russia = 5 (4 kills, 1 for launching attack early)
France = 13 (8 kills, +5 for 1st to breach fort)
USA = 2 (2 kills)
Germany = -8 (2 kills, 3 units routed (-6), 1 gun destroyed (-4))

The Imperial Road is now open to International movement. After the battle all allied wounded were tended too and sent back to SI-LIAN to recoup in the field hospital there, while the allied dead are buried near the fort. The Boxer bodies, nearly 8000 of them, are pilled up and burned. At this point the skies begin to darken and a steady rain begins to fall.

Post Battle Activity

Imperial Chinese emissary arrives at US HQ demanding to know why International forces are violating sovereign Chinese soil and demands for reparations for the loss of 4 Chinese war junks. Of course, the Internationalist commanders had no idea about the four War Junks as they were not aware of any naval battles.

The Imperial emissary is leery of the allied promises and diplomatic talk. They insist that this Boxer problem is an internal Chinese issue that is best left to the Imperial Army to resolve. The Chinese diplomats also insisted that the Allies move no further south than FUSUCHOW and any further aggression or southerly movement would be looked upon with great dissatisfaction by the Dowager Empress. The French, pulling aside the Chinese emissary wanted to provide assurances that the French will abide by current treaty obligations, but will defend themselves if Imperial Chinese forces attempt to hinder the evacuation of civilians. The French also apologized for the unfortunate sinking of Chinese Imperial War Junks which they suspect happened during their relief of the Catholic Mission, which they haven’t heard any news about. They continue to emphasize that the French are on a humanitarian mission and are only trying to evacuate civilians not gain any territorial concessions, but they can’t speak for the other international forces.

After this lengthy discussion, several officers from the French, Russian, German ranks, along with one of the USA’s chaplains were sent back with the Imperial Chinese diplomatic delegation in order to work out the peaceful relief of the Western Trading Station and to restore fruitful dialog between the allies and the Dragon Throne.

All German and United States forces, plus all the International forces that were wounded in the battle, returned to SI-LIAN to refit, rest, and eat. The German and American supply wagons also moved from WENPO to SI-LIAN now that the roads were clear of Boxer forces. The Lutheran Mission in SI-LIAN was turned into a field hospital to take care of the wounded during the campaign.

Meanwhile, in the steady rain the Russians, Italians and French forces moved from the rapidly deteriorating battlefield at FORT KENSI south to FUSUCHOW. This Chinese Coal Mining village is set where the Imperial road crosses the German Ost Asia Railway and a road branches off to the PORT YOAN area. It nestles in a group of hills. It is a favored overnight stop for Chinese Merchants on the Imperial Road. It supplies workers for the coal mines surrounding it. The coal mines are owned by the German Ost Asia Railway and have provided a branch line to the mines. Some of the mines have been stripped and are no longer worked.

The French learn that the Catholic Mission was a success and all nuns were safely evacuated along with a couple hundred Chinese Christians. The Chinese Imperial Navy did try to stop the flotilla on the way out of the KANSI WO INLET, but there antique ships were no match for the Japanese warships guarding the Gurbett and 4 Chinese war junks were sunk and the rest fled. The French commander, Genereaux Eric du Cottrell, sends a message to the Gurbett’s commander to do the following:

“The Gurbett is to drop off the nuns at WIE LUNG HOO and then steam down the SI HO River and land the 2 embarked battalions near the Imperial road bridge on the KENSI fort side. The units will then rejoin the main force.”

Captain Maurice de Ville, of the Gurbett, received his orders around noon on DAY3 and immediately set off to complete his task to the best of his ability. By 1PM the Gurbett was under steam and without naval escort. While attempting to pass FORT CANSU it came under fire and was hit several times by the fort’s heavy guns. Limping at half speed the Gurbett made it to the Imperial Road bridge around 5PM and disembarked their soldiers of the 1/11th Marines and 1st Annimite-Tonkenese Regiment who suffered only minor casualties from the fortress guns. The Gurbett, on the other hand, was no longer sea-worthy and has to anchor for repairs. Seamen quickly assemble work parties and send for assistance from the railway engineers located in the SI-LIAN RAIL YARDS. It is not known at this time how long it will take for the SI-LIAN to be repaired.

General Hal Hood of the United States Army sent orders back to WIE LUNG HOO to have the USS Monocacy make steam at night to slip past FORT CANSU to allow the ship to guard the hard won bridge over the SI-HO. He also penned the following dispatch to be relayed to the President of the United States, William McKinley.

From: General Hal Hood – American Relief Expedition - China
To: President McKinley and Secretary of State Henry Stimson

I write to inform you of our progress in Queng Lui Province. After disembarking at Wie Lung Hoo our forces, with German support, advanced down the East Asian Railway line toward Si-Lian. After leaving a German contingent at the port to erect a makeshift refugee camp, we set for Si-Lian with our 3rd Cavalry in the advance. French, Italian and Russian forces proceeded down the Imperial Road towards Wenpo.

As an aside, the cooperation of the French and Russians has been sporadic at best. It seems that the Russian Cossacks went rampaging against civilians at Piat-Sung which makes our mission more dangerous and complicated. I am confident of my men and officers and will do our duty with the utmost speed that safe operations can be executed. If our diplomatic emissaries can provide any help with the field commanders of the other contingents, it would be greatly increase our effectiveness.

I desperately need funds to secure food and support our allies and especially within the Chinese Christian communities. I have made arrangements to purchase food with vouchers upon arrival of funds. My officers and NCOs have collected a few funds to tide us over until these credits can be transferred.

Please inform the American people that our troops stand firm in their resolve to rescue all innocent civilians from rampaging brigands. Our initial contact with Imperial Chinese officials has been less than helpful. I may have to act with considering political consequences, to protect my men and our mission.

General Hood
Commander US China Relief Expedition

The French, Italian, and Russian forces arrive in FUSUCHOW around 5PM in a driving rain storm. The population of FUSUCHOW doesn’t seem particularly happy with their presence and several posters of Boxer literature are found throughout the city.

“The will of Heaven is that the telegraph wires be first cut, then the railways turned up, and then shall the foreign devils be decapitated.”

Although the International Relief Force has not had any communication from the Western Trading Station, nor have actively tried to communicate with the station, the forces protecting the station have repelled two Boxer assaults with limited damage.

A Chinese emissary from the TSUNGLI YAMEN (Diplomatic Corps of the Manchu Court) arrived at your HQ shortly after the Battle of Fort Kensi. Here are his words:

"Her Illustrious Majesty, the Dowager Empress of the Middle Kingdom, has graciously sent me to address you, the foreign representatives of the Western powers now present in China. It is with a heavy heart that I appear before you on this day.

We have received black tidings that some of your soldiery have brazenly seized a Chinese fortress, at Kensi, despite no permission granted by us for such occupation. To make the situation even more dire, four of our Imperial Navy ships were sunk in a predatory raid perpetrated by foreign vessels.

The Empress is pained at the innocent loss of life amongst her precious subjects and saddened by such brazen behavior on the part of certain guests in her lands.

It is now my duty to take back to her your replies as to the nature of the actions you will now most certainly undertake to apologize for these misdeeds and make the proper restitutions to the Chinese government and people.

Finally, I hope we need not remind you the Empress is not without her own Army, whose generals only await her permission to carry out necessary defensive measures should this unfortunate situation deteriorate even further.

May wisdom and caution color your reply."

Part 7 to be posted soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment