Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hobart Seymour, RN

Vice-Admiral Seymour was the Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, and had his flag aboard the British battleship H.M.S. Centurion. During his career he saw several combat actions, including the Crimean War (1856), the Battle of Canton (1857), the Battle of the Taku Forts (1858), and the Second Battle of the Taku Forts that occurred in 1860, as well as the Battle of Tzeki in 1862 (the Taiping rebellion, which was led by Hung Hsiu Ch'üan, the self-proclaimed Chinese brother of Jesus Christ). If nothing else, Admiral Seymour had a significant amount of experience with the Chinese prior to his leading the expedition that sought to rescue the ministers in Peking.

Many latter-day historians are quick to accuse Seymour of acting in haste in taking the "one-day" train ride to Peking, which ignores the fact that speed was of the essence, and walking there would have taken at least 9 days (if not longer, given the ferocious heat and heavy baggage train). The Admiral has also been accused of acting without orders, when in fact, a review of telegrams between Seymour and London shows that he was given permission from his superiors back home to act as he saw fit with regard to rescuing the trapped Ministers. As to his moving through potentially hostile country without scouts ahead of him, it can only be said that he had reason to believe that he had the Imperial Chinese Army on his side, and that in any case, scouts on horseback would be outrun by the faster trains they would be trying to escort.

In the end, the rescue mission ultimately failed because the Imperial Army threw its lot in with that of the Boxers, an act that only happened after the Western powers threatened to seize the Taku Forts. Had the Imperial Army remained neutral, it is possible that the expedition might have reached Peking. What would have happened after that, however, remains a matter of guesswork.

Admiral Sir Edward Seymour, Royal Navy

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