393.1123 Lincheng/25: Telegram

The Counselor of Legation at Peking (Bell) to the Secretary of State

143. Following from Minister at Tsinanfu:

“May 8, 4 p.m. I request that following be telegraphed without delay to Secretary of State.

On arriving Tsinanfu Sunday night May 6th, with naval attaché and learning of capture of Americans and other foreigners by bandits near Lincheng I telegraphed immediately Marshal Tsao Kun, inspector general of Chihli and Shantung, informing him thereof and earnestly urging him to take effective measures for immediate release of captives. He replied 7th, expressing great anxiety and stating he had “telegraphed the Military and Civil Governors of Shantung instructing them to secure the release of the captives immediately and send troops down there to deal with the bandits.” I have replied to Tsao Kun that I counted on him to press matters unremittingly and effectively until captives are released, I have also separately seen military and civil governors and impressed upon them need of prompt and effective action and on my suggestion American vice consul and British consul general called together on military governors 7th, making same demand and told him specifically [apparent omission] him responsible for the safety and immediate release of their nationals.

[Page 633]

Whitham of Asia Development Company has been most helpful. He sent two of his best men, Naill and Wiesenberg, to Lincheng on repair train 6th, and they arrived there at 5 o’clock same afternoon and have supplied us with most of our information. Their earlier report that two Americans had been killed was withdrawn by them late last night. They report Major Pinger74 wounded. To enable them to get some sleep Whitham sent this morning another of his men to Lincheng, McCann who speaks Chinese perfectly.

Through letter from Powell dated Sunday May 6th, bandit commander promised that if troops are withdrawn captives will be released. I do not know whether this is mere ruse or reliable promise and holds good. I have abstained and advised vice consul to abstain from giving any suggestions to Shantung authorities as to the methods they should employ in bringing about the immediate release of the captives which is the one thing we insist upon in all official conversations as our right.

At 11 o’clock this morning 8th, I had in company with vice consul long conversation with Military Governor and inquired what he was doing to bring about the release of captives. He said in present chaotic condition of China he felt his responsibility deeply and was doing his utmost. He showed me long telegrams from his military commander at Lincheng dated midnight in which it was stated only 11 foreigners now remained in hands of bandits. This may be true as Wiesenberg reported at 4:30 p.m. 7th, that there were 14. At that time Military Governor said his plan was to surround the bandits and in reply to my inquiry he assured me he had troops enough there. Force of military are pressing bandits closely and the latter are attempting to use captives as hostages. Captives are held in mountains about 10 miles from Lincheng up the [Tientsin-Pukow?] railway. The Military Governor intimates privately and confidentially that after he had the captives [bandits?] completely in his power he might negotiate with them for the release of the foreigners but in the meantime his policy consisted of the application of force. I repeated that we had no suggestions to make as to the method he should adopt but we demanded the prompt release of our nationals and I counted on the continuation of energetic action on his part until that result was brought about.

On returning from cooperating [conference?] with the Military Governor I found at the consulate following telegram from Naill at Lincheng dated 8th, 9:30 a.m., as follows:

“Leaving for bandit outpost with French and Italian consuls general. Wu Chang-chih putting every possible obstacle in our path. Can secure immediate release foreigners if we secure proper cooperation from military. Military does not want to negotiate with bandits.”

Wu Chang-chih is Shantung military commander. I devoutly hope Naill, who is not embarrassed by official connections, will succeed with his negotiations.

I have directed Major Philoon, assistant military attaché, to proceed to Lincheng to observe and use his best judgment in the matter [Page 634] of the release of the captives. Consul Davis and Vice Consul Berger have begun already.

Vice Consul Milbourn met all trains northward on 7th, took Miss McFadden and Miss Schonberg to hospital on their arrival at 5 o’clock, afterwards waited several hours at station for Miss Aldrich. He also sent two foreign and two Chinese doctors to Lincheng 7th and induced Military Governor to give him special train for the purpose, and he has arranged with the local American association to have food and clothes at station to meet every north-bound train for the relief of any released captives that may be aboard.

Please tell John D. Rockefeller, Jr., I visited Miss Aldrich and her companions, Misses McFadden and Schonberg, in Shantung Christian University Hospital afternoon. Have called and heard from each separately her story of capture, long marches and liberation. All better morning 6th and forenoon 7th [sic]. In spite of hardships undergone and exposure in storm with inadequate clothing and only night slippers to walk in they are quite well, and Misses Aldrich and Schonberg expect to get up in a day or two, the other lady will need some days longer. They will all proceed to Peking. No other released Americans in Tsinanfu. I leave tonight for Nanking.”

Schurman [Bell]
  1. Major R. W. Pinger, United States Army.