Calvin P. Titus
Bugler, Company E. 14th Infantry
The Boxer Rebellion

MOH Official Citation

Gallant and daring conduct in the presence of his colonel and other officers and enlisted men of his regiment; was first to scale the wall of the city.

Boxer rebellion painting  

During the fiercely opposed relief expedition to Peking in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, when two companies of the U.S. Army's 14th Infantry Regiment were pinned by heavy fire from the east wall of the Tartar City and the Fox Tower between abutments of the Chinese City Wall near Tung Pien Gate, volunteers were called for to attempt the first perilous ascent of the wall. Trumpeter Calvin P. Titus of E Company immediately stepped forward saying, "I'll try, sir!" Using jagged holes in the stone wall, he succeeded in reaching the top. He was followed by the rest of his company, who climbed unarmed, and hauled up their rifles and ammunition belts by a rope made of rifle slings. As the troops ascended the wall artillery fire from Reilly's battery set fire to the Fox Tower. In the face of continued heavy Chinese fire, the colors broke out in the August breeze as the sign that U.S. Army troops had achieved a major step in the relief of the besieged Legations. For his courageous and daring deed in being the first to climb the wall, Trumpeter Titus was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Titus was born in Vinton, Iowa, 22 September 1879. Young Titus' Medal of Honor feat lasted a few hours, but his career of military service lay ahead, a thirty-two year span that began when Titus was a teenager. Little is known about his parents. His mother died when he was about eleven and shortly after that, around 1890, Titus moved to Oklahoma and later to Kansas to live with his aunt and uncle. As a young man he developed a strong Christian faith and a passion for music. Self-taught on the cornet and violin, young Calvin began accompanying his Uncle Bill, a traveling Salvation Army preacher, and played music during his uncle's prayer meetings. He was also in the Wichita Salvation Army band.

During a Vermont meeting in 1898, news that the battleship Maine sank and that the Vermont National Guard sought recruits prompted Titus to enlist on the spot. "When they discovered that I played the cornet," he wrote, "I was in. 'We're needing a bugler, and you're it.' " Titus, however, caught malaria during training and his unit never left the states. So he made his way back to the Midwest. There he learned that troops were needed in the Philippines, a new American acquisition from the Spanish-American War. He enlisted in April 1899, in the regular army and was shipped to Manila with the 14th Infantry, arriving in June, and serving at Bacoor, again as a bugler and assistant to the chaplain. Less than a year later, Titus's unit landed in China, some four hundred miles away with the expeditionary force trying to rescue the besieged foreign legation from certain massacre.

Shortly after the siege of Peking, the site of Titus' daring thirty-foot climb of the Peking wall, he returned to America and decided upon a military career. His heroics earned a presidential appointment to West Point in 1901. Typical of military service careers, Titus' many assignments took him to many locations. Graduating from West Point as a Lieutenant, he left the army for a short time to undertake religious evangelical work, but re-enlisted in 1908, and joined his old unit, the 14th Infantry - still stationed in the Philippines where America maintained bases after the Philippine Insurrection. In 1910, the army transferred to Ft. Harrison, Montana, where he, among other things, fought forest fires. Subsequent duties the next four years involved training officers at Iowa and six other National Guard camps in the Midwest. Titus next joined General Pershing's 1916 Mexican expedition to try and capture Pancho Villa. By the time America entered World War I, he had become a major and was a lieutenant colonel before Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, ended the war. He performed administrative duties in America and did not go overseas until after the war, where he served for a time in France and Germany.

Upon his return from France Titus took over the ROTC program at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As Professor of Military Science and Tactics, Major Titus ran the Coe's battalion-strong program for six years, retiring about 1930. He ended up in a San Fernando, California veteran's hospital where he died 27 May 1966.