John Twiggs Myers
Lieutenant General, United States Marine Corps
Lieutenant General John Twiggs Myers, who earned a permanent place in Marine Corps history as commander of the American Legation Guard at Peking, China, during the Boxer Rebellion, died on April 17, 1952, at his home in Coconut Grove, Florida. A veteran of 40 years as a Marine officer, he retired from the Corps in 1935, after a career that included the Spanish-American War; the Philippine Insurrection; World War I service as Fleet Marine Officer of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet; expeditionary service in the Haitian, Santo Domingan, Cuban and Mexican campaigns; and a total of nearly ten years of sea duty.
General Myers was a great grandson of General John Twiggs, a Revolutionary War hero, and his father, Abraham C. Myers, was a West Point graduate who fought in the Seminole and Mexican Wars and later served as Quartermaster General of the Confederate Army. At the end of the Civil War, Abraham C. Myers took his family to Weisbaden, Germany, where John was born January 29, 1871. The family returned to this country in 1876, and young John attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Wilkinson's Preparatory School at Annapolis, Maryland, before entering the U.S. Naval Academy in September, 1887. Graduating in 1892, he continued to hold the rank of naval cadet until he was appointed an assistant engineer in August, 1894. He was transferred from the Navy to the Marine Corps on March 6, 1895, and accepted appointment as a second lieutenant the following day.
In May, 1896, after completing the course at the School of Application in Washington, D.C., and studying ordnance at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, the general was ordered to the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, where he completed his studies that September. He then served briefly at the Marine Barracks, Boston, Massachusetts, before joining the barracks detachment at Mare Island, California, in November of the same year. He left Mare Island May 7, 1898, to join the Marine detachment aboard the USS Charleston, which sailed a few days later to convoy six troop ships to the Philippines. Enroute, the Charleston stopped at Guam, and on June 21, General Myers (as a second lieutenant) accompanied the captain of the Charleston ashore as head of a landing party of 16 sailors and 30 Marines, which disarmed and made prisoners of the Spanish garrison on the island.
After that, the convoy moved to the Philippines, where the general (by then a captain) was transferred to the USS Baltimore in July, 1899. While attached to that ship during the Philippine Insurrection, he commanded a landing expedition which went ashore under fire to capture and destroy an Insurrect gun at Port Olongapo on September 23 and made another landing under fire at Bacoor on October 2. He also commanded a 100-man landing force which took over the naval station at Subic Bay on December 10, 1899, the day after it was captured by the Army. On April 18, 1900, the general was transferred from the Baltimore to the USS Oregon, and on May 24 of the same year he was detached to the USS Newark. Meanwhile, a wave of violence, led by an athletic society known as the Boxers, was erupting in China, where a number of foreigners were killed or subjected to gross indignities. The Imperial Government, sympathizing with the movement, did little to stop it, and the foreigners in Peking were soon forced to the take refuge in the legations there. On May 28, E.H. Conger, the American Minister at Peking, telegraphed the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Asiatic Squadron at Taku to send an armed force for the protection of the legation. The following day Myers set out for that city as commander of a force of 48 Marines and three sailors from the Oregon and Brooklyn. Along with detachments of British, Russian, French, Italian and Japanese Marines, they reached Peking at 11 o'clock on the night of May 31, just before the city was encircled.
On June 24 serious fighting broke out on the walls of the legations as hordes of Boxers, armed with swords, spears, clubs, stones, noise-makers and several three-inch field pieces, attempted to overwhelm the handful of foreign troops. A German detachment repulsed the first attack and the Marines hurled back a second, causing heavy losses amongst the boxers. After that the Chinese changed their tactics and began building a tower on the ancient wall above the American Legation, only about 25 feet from the Marines' position. Since this would have allowed the Boxers to fire at will on the troops and civilians below, Minister Conger reported this danger to the British Minister, Sir Claude M. MacDonald, who had been picked by common consent as commander of the international defense. He agreed to the American's suggestion that an attack should be made on the tower and the Chinese barricade behind it.
Myers was picked to head the attacking force, composed of himself and 14 other American Marines, 16 Russian and 25 British Marines. His plan was to have the Russians hit the barricade from the North, while the American and British Marines were to assault the tower, then fight their way to the barricade, along a sort of trench which ran from it to the tower. At a signal from Myers, the attack began about three o'clock on the morning of July 3.
The Anglo-American force, with Myers in the lead, found the tower empty when they reached it, then proceeded along the trench, where they ran into bitter, hand-to-hand fighting. Myers was badly wounded by a spear during the action in the trench, but the attack continued until the barricade was in friendly hands. In addition to Myers, the allied losses included two U.S. Marines and one Russian killed and two Russian and three British Marines severely wounded. Estimates of enemy losses ran as high as 50 dead. The British Minister called this action" one of the most successful operations of the siege, as it rendered our position on the wall, which had been precarious, comparatively strong." Largely because of it, the disheartened Boxers agreed to an uneasy truce on July 16.
Myers was brevetted major and advanced four numbers in rank for his bravery, and in President McKinley's message to Congress in February, 1901, he mentioned the captain by name. British appreciation was demonstrated a few years afterward, when a monument to the Royal Marines was erected outside the Admiralty in London, facing Buckingham Palace. One of the bas-reliefs on that memorial shows Myers leading the British Marines in the attack on the Boxers.
A relief column finally reached Peking on August 14, and the following month General Myers, convalescing from typhoid fever and the spear wound in his leg, was ordered to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokohama, Japan. From there he was a transferred to the Naval Hospital at Mare Island, where he was under treatment until March, 1901. After that, except for a short time on Samoa as judge advocate of a general court martial, he remained at Mare Island until December, 1902, when he took command of the Marine Barracks at Bremerton, Washington.
The general left Bremerton in May, 1903, arriving on the East Coast the following month to take command of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Brooklyn. He held that command until April 1905, then served at the Naval War College in Newport, until he took command of the School for Non-Commissioned Officers at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., in October of the same year. In May, 1906, he took command of the barracks detachment there, serving in that assignment until he left Washington that July. The following month he returned to the Philippines, commanding the 1st Marine Regiment there until January, 1907, when he was assigned to the USS West Virginia as commander of its detachment and Fleet Marine Officer of the Asiatic Fleet.
In May, 1909, General Myers was transferred from the West Virginia to the USS Tennessee for duty as Fleet Marine Officer, Pacific Fleet, but the following month, because of a serious intestinal infection, he was ordered once more to the Naval Hospital at Mare Island. He was hospitalized or on sick leave until January, 1911, when he entered the Army Field Officers Course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Completing that course in March, 1911, the general was stationed briefly at the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and on recruiting duty in Boston before he entered the Army War College in Washington that August. Graduating in July, 1912, he took command of the Marine Barracks at the Washington Navy Yard the following month. His service there was interrupted by expeditionary duty as a battalion commander with the 2nd Provisional Marine Regiment off Santo Domingo in 1912 and with the 2nd Regiment, 2nd Provisional Marine Brigade at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the following year. He left Washington in April 1913, to serve for the next year as commander of the Marine Barracks, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii.
In April, 1914, General Myers returned from that assignment to take command of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, at Mare Island, sailing with that unit for the west coast of Mexico later the same month. The regiment remained aboard the battleship South Dakota in Mexican waters during a period of strained relations between the United States and that country, but did not land. It returned to this country in July and General Myers, still commanding its 1st Battalion, was stationed with it at San Diego, California, until February, 1915, when that unit was assigned duty at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California. The battalion was ordered to sea duty with the Pacific Fleet in November, 1915, and in February of the following year, after service on the USS San Diego and USS Buffalo, it returned to San Diego.
The general (by then a lieutenant colonel) was detached from the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, in June 1916, when he was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet as Fleet Marine Officer and counter-intelligence officer on the staff of its commander. Serving in those capacities for most of World War I, he was stationed aboard the USS Wyoming until October, 1916, and on the USS Pennsylvania from then until August, 1918, when he took command of the Marine Barracks at Parris Island, South Carolina. He remained there until the war ended that November.
In January 1919, after a short time at Quantico, Virginia, General Myers assumed command of the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed until August, 1921.
He was then named Adjutant and Inspector of the Department of the Pacific, with headquarters at San Francisco, California, serving in that assignment until May, 1924. After that, he commanded the Marine Corps Base at San Diego from June of that year to November, 1925 when he sailed for Haiti to take command of the 1st Marine Brigade.
The general returned from that tour of expeditionary duty in January, 1928, and the following month, reported to Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington. There, after serving on various boards, he was named Assistant to the Major General Commandant in April, 1930, serving in that capacity until February, 1933. A month later he returned to San Francisco, where he was Commanding General, Department of the Pacific and Western Recruiting Area, until he was placed on the retired list, February 1, 1935, at the statutory retirement age of 64. A major general when he retired, he was promoted to lieutenant general on the retired list in 1942, when the law was passed authorizing such promotions for officers who had been specially commended in combat.
General Myers' medals and decorations included the Marine Corps Brevet Meal, Purple Heart, Spanish Campaign Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, China Campaign Medal; Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, Mexican Service Medal and the World War I Victory Medal with Armed Guard clasp.
The general was survived by his wife, the former Alice G. Cutts, of Mare Island, whom he married in 1898. They had no children. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
MYERS, ALICE CUTTS WIDOW OF JOHN T
Posted: 13 April 2000 - Updated: 3 October 2004