August 12, 1900 ~ The Boxer Rebellion and the Carolina Parson

Francis Dunlap Gamewell of Camden, SC lived a storied life, including serving as a missionary in China and as one of the acclaimed “Fighting Parsons” at the Siege of the Legations during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

Gamewell was born in Camden, SC in 1857. The outbreak of the U.S. Civil war led to his family relocating up north.

In 1881 he joined the American Methodist Episcopal Mission and was assigned to Beijing, China – called Peking at that time – as a missionary and the principal of a boys’ school.

He would spend the next few decade serving at different posts throughout China.

In early 1900 an anti-foreign, anti-Christian peasant movement spread across China, burning churches and killing Chinese Christians.

The Boxers, as the participants in the movement were called also targeted Gamewell and the other Missionaries in Peking.

On June 8, all the Protestant American missionaries in Beijing decided to gather in the Methodist compound at which Gamewell was the senior missionary he began to turn the mission into a fortress.

On June 19, the already ominous situation in Beijing took a turn for the worse when the Chinese government ordered all foreigners to leave the city within 24 hours.

Fearing they would be massacred if they left the Legation, the foreigners decided to defy the order.

The British Minister Claude Maxwell MacDonald appointed Gamewell as Chief of Staff of the Committee for fortifications and gave him absolute authority to organize the fortification of the British Legation against an anticipated attack.

Gamewell undertook the assignment as if he was on a mission from God. He, and the members of his team, nicknamed “the fighting parsons,” spent their days filling of sand-bags, building barricades, strengthening walls, and making loopholes at the proper places for firing through. He designed bomb shelters and even dug trenches and moats as part of the defenses.

When the Chinese attacks on the Legation Quarter began on June 22 and continued for 55 days, Gamewells powerful barricades held.

Not a single civilian was killed in the British Legation and the siege became less of a battle than a stalemate with only sporadic Chinese attacks.

Gamewell was still strengthening his fortifications when an allied expeditionary force raised the siege and rescued the foreigners within the Legation Quarter on August 14, 1900.

Following the siege, he and his wife returned to the U.S. But the desire to serve in China was great and he returned in 1909. He served for 27 more years as a missionary before retiring in the United States.

Francis Dunlap Gamewell, the Fighting Parson passed away in 1950.


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