Battle of Beicang
The Battle of Beicang (Peitsang), during the Boxer Rebellion, was fought August 5, 1900, between the Eight Nation Alliance and the Chinese army. The Chinese army was forced out of its prepared entrenchments and retreated to Yangcun. The Eight-Nation Alliance army at Beicang consisted of Japanese, Russian, British, American and French troops. The Japanese spearheaded the Alliance victory at Beicang.
On August 4, 1900, the soldiers of the Allied forces left the city of Tianjin to march towards Beijing in order to relieve the Legations under siege. The force consisted of approximately 20,000 troops from the following countries: Japan, 10,000; Russia, 4,000; Great Britain, 3,000; United States, 2,000; France, 800; Germany, 200; Austria and Italy, 100.
Reconnaissance indicated that the Chinese forces were entrenched at Beicang, six miles from Tianjin, on both sides of the Hai River. The Americans, British and Japanese advanced on the west side of the river and the Russians and French advanced up the east side. The armies bivouacked the night of August 4 near Xigu Fort. The plan was for the Japanese, supported by the British and Americans, to turn the right flank of the Chinese lines and for the Russians and French to turn the left flank on the opposite side of the Hay River.
The Chinese force, estimated at between 8,000-12,000, was positioned behind several lines of well-constructed earthworks with approximately 26 artillery pieces at key positions. It was, according to accounts, "a formidable position to attack".
At 3:00 a.m. the Japanese launched the attack by capturing a battery on the extreme right of the Chinese lines. They then pushed forward on the flank of the Chinese positions. At dawn an artillery duel began between the Japanese and Chinese that lasted about a half-hour. During the artillery barrage a Japanese regiment crept forward and launched a direct assault on the Chinese positions near the river, advancing in close order through fields of millet and corn with a barrage of fire from the Chinese trenches pouring onto them. The Japanese had requested assistance from British cavalry for the assault but the British failed to arrive, so the Japanese pushed ahead alone. The Japanese suffered heavy casualties but forced the Chinese out of their entrenchments and into a hasty retreat.
On the east bank of the Hai River the Russians and French were unable to get around the Chinese flank due to flooded terrain. However, the Japanese victory on the west bank forced the Chinese to retreat, which they did in good order. The Chinese preserved most of their artillery by withdrawing it early in the battle, an action that, according to a United States' War Department report, "must have predisposed the rest of their army to its prompt retreat".
About 50 Chinese bodies were found on the battlefield. Almost all the Alliance casualties were Japanese, amounting to 60 dead and 240 wounded. A few British and Russian casualties were caused by Chinese artillery fire. The Americans were never engaged, not finding their way to the battlefield until the action was over.
American medics treated Japanese casualties.
The battle was over by 9:00 a.m. Pursuit of the Chinese army was hindered by the Chinese cutting through the river banks to flood the surrounding lowlands. The Alliance army bivouacked at Beicang and its supply train from Tianjin came up during the day. The first battle during the march to Beijing had been a relatively easy victory, albeit costly in casualties for the Japanese. The Chinese now awaited the Alliance in strong defensive positions at Yangcun.
The assessment of one participant at the Battle of Beicang was that the "Chinese troops received a blow from which they never recovered. They ever after offered no determined resistance".
- War Department. Adjutant General’s Office. Report on Military Operations in South Africa and China, Vol. XXXIII, Washington: Gov Printing Office, July 1901, pp. 568-571
- War Department, Adjutant General's Office, pp. 568-571
- War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, p. 567
- War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, p. 570
- Landor, A. Henry Savage. China and the Allies. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1901, p. 339
- Thompson, Larry Clinton, William Scott Ament and the Boxer Rebellion: Heroism, Hubris, and the Ideal Missionary. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009
- Landor, p. 343
- Robert B. Edgerton (1997). Warriors of the Rrising Sun: A History of the Japanese Military. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 89. ISBN 0-393-04085-2. Retrieved 2010-11-28.
- War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, p. 571
- Landor, p. 340
- "D’Arc’s Marionettes caught up in the Boxer siege of Peking and Tientsin, China’s Ford of Heaven.". p. 21. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
- Landor, 351