The Liscum Bowl

One of the foremost trophies of any American regiment is the Liscum Bowl, treasured by the 9th United States Infantry. It stands as a monument to Col. Liscum, regimental commander, who was killed in action at Tientsin, China, on 13 July 1900.

Liscum Bowl
The Liscum Bowl courtesy of the 2dInfantry Division Museum

The background of the bowl lies in the American Relief Expedition to China. On 13 July 1900, shortly after arriving on Chinese shores, the regiment was engages in the conquest of the walled city of Tientsin. With the exception of a battalion of Marines, the 9th Infantry was the only American unit engaged in the struggle, or in the locale. In the course of an assault upon the walls of Tientsin, Col. Liscum was struck by Chinese fire, and shortly after directing his men to "Keep up the Fire" on the walls of the city, he died.

When Tientsin fell, it was divided into districts, each of which was occupied by one of the various nations engaged in the expedition. Portions of the city were in flames, and official seizures, together with private looting, were occurring periodically. Two days after the fall, on 15 July, a government mint was discovered in the American sector and reported to Maj. Foote, the senior officer present. The area was immediately placed under guard by the 9th Infantry to prevent looting. Col. Meade, the senior American Officer present at Tientsin, was informed of the discovery. Further investigation revealed the presence of silver bars of an estimated value of $376,000. Col. Meade then directed that the bars be removed and placed in the compound quartering the Marines so they could be safe guarded. When the bars were removed from the mint, it appeared the heat had caused a number of bars to fuse together, resulting in the development of some large molten masses. Two of these formations were among the last of the silver removed from the building.

At the time, Capt. Frank De W. Ramsey, the regimental Quartermaster and the representative of the 9th Infantry was presented with the two formations. The presentation was ordered by Prince Li Hung Chang, as an expression of appreciation from the Chinese to the Manchu Regiment.

In early 1901, while the Regiment was in Peking, Capt. Ramsey, the custodian of the property, called an informal meeting of a number of the officers to explore possible actions in use of the fused silver. It was then that the idea of a trophy similar to the existing Liscum bowl was conceived. Before leaving Peking, fifty-two cups, forming part of the collection, were designed and constructed from a portion of the silver by Chinese silversmiths.

In April 1902, after returning to the Philippines, the regiment shipped the fused silver to Yokohama, Japan, where Arthur, Bond and Company performed the delicate task of forming the body of the bowl, the ladle and the heavy circular tray. The ensemble, received a year later, in April 1903, conformed to the instructions forwarded by the Regiment. It was an ornate bowl of large dimensions; the four handles insisted upon by the Regiment consisted of the torsos of four Imperial dragons peering over the edge of the bowl. There was a ladle and a tray. The bowl took eight months to create, and was completed on 2 Nov 1902, but the Regiment did not receive it until stationed at Madison Barracks, New York, in April 1903. It was transported by a U.S. cruiser, via the Suez Canal.

Customs immediately began to develop. The first of these centered around the original cups and consisted of an attempt to perpetuate the memory of the commissioned personnel who had served with the Regiment. The first name engraved was that of Col. Liscum. This collection has been added to by Manchu's from World War I, World War II, Korea. It weighs ninety pounds and has a capacity of fourteen gallons.

The bowl is currently part of the collections at the 2d Infantry Division Museum, Camp Red Cloud, Korea. More information about the museum can be found at 2ID/RUCD Museum .