Sunday, February 8, 2015

The China Relief Expedition and the Death of Private Frank Thompson

On August 14, 1900, an international military force, including American Soldiers and Marines, entered Peking, China to rescue besieged diplomats and civilians during the Boxer Rebellion.

During spring 1900, civil unrest in China became a violent rebellion against foreign influence. By May the violence had spread to the city of Peking, forcing foreign civilians and Chinese Christians to seek shelter on the grounds of the Diplomatic Legations and at the North Cathedral. Both locations came under siege, and in late June communications with the outside world were cut.

The United States had many trained soldiers who had fought in the Spanish -  American War and next the Philippines – American War.   From its extensive forces in the Philippines, the U.S. Army sent the 9th and 14th Infantry Regiments, the 6th Cavalry Regiment, and Battery F of the 5th Field Artillery Regiment (Reilly's Battery). Major General Adna R. Chaffee, Sr., commanded the American contingent.

Included in the 6th Cavalry regiment, Troop M, was Private Frank Daniel Thompson.  Frank Thompson had lived in Delmar with his brother William J. Thompson and at the out break of the Spanish-American War had lied about his age and enlisted in the military.  He was like many other young men from the area who also enlisted such as; William E. Carmine, who enlisted in May 1898 at the age of 21 with the 1st Regiment of the Delaware Volunteers. He was to spend his time in Camp Tunnell at Middletown, Delaware for the course of the fighting and was discharged in October. Others from the surrounding area in the 1st Regiment were; William T. Baker, Zollie C. Collins, George W. Davis, William Driskill, Harry F. Hastings, Ira E. Hearn, William L. Hearn, Emmett Hegeman, William L. Hitchens, John W. Massey, William O. McGee, Edward P. O'Neal, Joseph F. Osborn, Eugene H. Philips, Claude S. Venables, James F. Waller, Earl A. Wiley, Harry L. Wooten, and Edward M. Woott,  G.Vickers White, John H. Waller, Wade Porter, William Bensinger, Percy Brewington and Morris Hitch joined the 1st Maryland Regiment. Harry Johnson and James H Burke joined the 5th Maryland Regiment.
Frank Thompson did not last long in China.  He died on December 29th 1900, not from battle wounds but from pneumonia, a common illness that killed many.

His death was noted in the Evening Times January 7, 1901 (Washington DC) .

General Chafee today sent to the War Department the following list of casualties of American troops in China: December 29th Pekin Frank D. Thompson, troop M Sixth cavalry, pneumonia; “

His body did not arrive back into the United States until May 7 1901  on board the transport ship “Egbert”.  The “Egbert” was held in quarantined in San Francisco harbor for three additional days due to the death of someone on board of smallpox.  Pvt. Frank D. Thompson body finally arrived in Delmar May 25th and was buried at St. Stephens cemetery. 
From the Salisbury Advertiser May 25 1901
“The remains of Frank D. Thompson , who died in China on Dec. 29th.,  arrived in Delmar Tuesday night and were interred in the M. E. Church Wednesday afternoon by W. W. Ellis and Son, undertaker.  Mr. Thompson formerly lived in Delmar, and is a brother of W. J. and G. R. Thompson, of this town.  He enlisted in the United States Navy, at the beginning of the Spanish American War and served for some time after which he was transferred to the Philippine Islands, and afterward to China, where he was taken with pneumonia, dying after a short illness. “

His tombstone is in the St Stephens cemetery between Grove and State street on the far southwest corner.  It reads;
 Frank Daniel Thompson, s/o Stephen and Julia A. Thompson, Died at Pekin China in the 6th US Cavalry Troop M, born 02/13/1880 died 12/29/1900

Frank Thompson was the son of Stephen V. R. Thompson.  Stephen was born in Erie County Pennsylvania and he serived in the American Civil War.  He first enlisted with the 111 PA. Inf in 1861 and was discharged in 1863 for a disability.  In 1864 he enlisted in the New York Volunteer Cavalry and was discharged in 1865 as a Corporal.  He worked as a carpenter and he married Julia, from Baltimore Maryland.  He had three sons and three daughters. 
His oldest son William J. Thompson (1863-1925) was a locomotive engineer and was transferred to Delmar.  He was a widower and after a few years on 11 April 1899 he married Florence White from Delmar.  His other two brothers, Frank and George R., had joined him in Delmar after the death of their mother in the early 1890’s.  The family was active in church and organization events.

George R. Thompson (1875-1903) married Bertha Dunn on 15 Sept 1897.  She was the daughter of Enoch E. and Emma Dunn of Delmar.  George was a carpenter and in 1900 worked in Birdnest and later Cape Charles Va.  He died in 1903 and Bertha returned to Delmar to live with her parents and her son, George Jr.  When her son grew to manhood he moved to new jersey taking with him his mother. 
When Frank died his father Stephen applied for a pension based on his son’s death.  He was living in Delmar at the time with William J.  By 1910 William J. Thompson and family had been transferred to Cape Charles Va.  His father would go to the US National Home For disabled Volunteers in Hampton Va. Stephen would die in 1920. 

Buried at St. Stephens Cemetery are;
Stephen V. R. Thompson, Corpl, 2nd Reg NY GAH born 1838 died 1920

Frank Daniel Thompson, s/o Stephen and Julia A. Thompson, Died at Pekin China in the 6th US Cavalry Troop M, born 02/13/1880 died 12/29/1900
William J. Thompson born 1863 died 1925

Florence Thompson born 1881 died 1949 (2nd wife of William)
Hattie Thompson born 1864 died 1897  (1st wife of William)

William J. Thompson Jr  born 1900 died 1981 (son of William)
Eva S. Thompson born 1900 died 1978  (wife of wm jr)

George R. Thompson born 1875 died 1903 (brother of William)
Bertha Thompson born 1875 died 1944  (wife of William)


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