Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The spread of foreign influence in China led to a bloody uprising by a group of government-sponsored peasants in what became known as the Boxer Rebellion. In 1900, the Boxers -- dubbed so by foreigners because of their boxing and calisthenic rituals -- set out to destroy everything they considered alien. Foreigners, including missionaries, were slaughtered, as were those Chinese thought to support Western ideas. Houses, schools and churches were burned, and official residences of foreign diplomats besieged. When the diplomats sent out calls for their own national troops, the Manchu government declared war against the foreign powers. Finally, a rescue force of eight nations crushed the uprising, but created their own brand of havoc in the process. An excerpt from The Post of Sept. 3, 1900:
Copyright, 1900, by the Associated Press.
The Chinese in the Pei-ho Valley are paying dearly for the folly of their government. The retribution they are suffering exceeds the ordinary penalties of the war. Along the river and the roads traveled by the foreign troops between Tientsin and Pekin an orgie of looting and destruction continues, with much useless slaughter of unoffending inhabitants. While the international forces were advancing, the commanders, notably the Japanese, American, and British, enforced a certain degree of protection. ...
Now the people are returning to their homes, only to find no shelter, or rice, or occupation. In the overcrowded famine-threatened districts, away from the river, their lives and small possessions are at the mercy of bands of soldiers traveling about without officers. ...
Parties of soldiers of every nationality were roaming about unrestricted, and, presumably, were doing much wanton destruction, in the spirit of deviltry, smashing furniture and glassware, and trampling books and pictures under foot. Most of the Chinese were submitting to all this in abject fear. The few who dared to protest were kicked about.
Several bodies lay in the streets, apparently those of non-combatants. The inhabitants, without food or clothing, were huddled in back yards in a pitiable condition.
The villages to the southward are even worse despoiled. ... Fires are started daily, although the shelter will be much needed if the troops are to hold the country during the winter.
The soldiers are having "fine sport" in using natives who creep back to their houses or attempt to work in the field as targets. The sight of a farmer lying where he was shot with a basket of grain or armful of other produce nearby is quite common. The Russians are the chief actors in this style of conquest; but the French are remarkably conspicuous, considering their small numbers. The Indian troops and the Japanese are participants only when beyond the ken of their officers.
From the beginning the conduct of the Russians has been a blot on the campaign. ... When entering Pekin correspondents of the Associated Press saw Cossacks smash down women with the butts of their guns and pound their heads until they were dead. The Cossacks would pick children up barely old enough to walk, hold them by the ankles, and beat out their brains on the pavement. Russian officers looked on without protest.
While Gen. Chaffee was watering his horse at a stream under the wall of Tung Chow the Russians found a feeble old man hidden in the mud, except his nose, and dragged him out by the queue, shouting gleefully. They impaled him on their bayonets.
Gen. Chaffee remarked: "That is not war. It is brutal murder."