Biographical Sketches
Biographical Sketches

Calvin P. Titus
submitted by John Thompson

One of Kingfisher's earliest residents,enumerated in the 1890 Territorial Census, was Calvin P. Titus. He is listed with his father Calvin Titus, and a brother Frank, on page 933 in Coronado Twp. Calvin P. (Pearl) Titus later joined the Infantry, and was awarded The Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. He also received an appointment to The Military Academy. Additional information can be found by typing in his name on Google. 



Ltc. Calvin P. Titus

Rank and organization: Musician, U.S. Army, Company E, 14th U.S. Infantry. 
Place and date: At Peking, China, 14 August 1900. 
Entered service at: Iowa. 
Birth: Vinton, lowa. 
Date of issue: 11 March 1902
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.

Lt. Col. Calvin P. Titus was awarded the U.S. Army's Medal of Honor for scaling the Peking Wall in 1900, leading a group of soldiers to quash a rebellion in the Chinese capitol. His heroism influenced others to take act gallantly as they fought to put down the Boxer Rebellion.


Calvin P. Titus was awarded the Medal of Honor for being the first to scale the Great Walls protecting the City of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion on August 14, 1900.

To show their appreciation, the Chinese Government awarded the 14th Infantry a number of silver ingots which were subsequently melted to form the Calvin P. Titus Punch Bowl shown below.

From "A History of 14th Infantry" written in the 104th Organization Day Program, dated 1 Jul 65.

"In 1900, The Boxer Rebellion in China took the Fourteenth deeper into the Far East. Our unit defeated the Chinese rebels in the battle of Yang-tsun and again a few days later in the battle for Peking where the Fourteenth, braving fire from above, scaled the walls of the city and overcame it's defenders. Here the Fourteenth Infantry added its 'Golden Dragon', the Chinese symbol of power, to its Regimental Crest."



From "History of Benton County Iowa," Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1910, p. 245-6.


Calvin Pearl Titus was born at Vinton, September 29, 1880, and on July 4, 1901, the people of his native city turned out to welcome and to honor him as one of the heroes of the Boxer rebellion in China. As a bugler of the Fourteenth United States Infantry he had been the first American soldier to scale the walls of Pekin and to assist in the rescue of the imprisoned Christians therein, some of whom were reached too late to escape massacre.  For that bright day in his life (May 27, 1900) young Titus had been rewarded with a medal and a cadetship in the regular army and had received marks of especial honor at the national capital.

Mr. Titus had spent about half his life in Vinton, and the balance at Wichita, Kansas. He was a natural musician and, as he became connected with Evangelical work in Vermont, and was thus engaged when the president called for troops to serve in the Spanish-American war. Enlisting in the First Vermont Regiment, he accompanied the command to Chickamauga, but was sticked with fever and obliged to return to his home in Wichita. In April, 1899, he re-enlisted in the Fourteenth United States Infantry, served in the Philippines until July, and on the outbreak of the Boxer rebellion, was ordered to China. The march to Pekin, of one hundred miles, was attended by hardships and privations, and when the first company of the Fourteenth Regiment approached the wall, which they knew not how they were going to scale, Mr. Titus offered to try, and, as stated was the first foreigner to scale it, there planting the Stars and Stripes. Shortly afterward, he was slightly wounded. At the close of the Boxer war the regiment was sent home, and Vinton sent an invitation to Bugler Titus to visit the city, at which time they took the opportunity of giving him a royal reception, with Company G, Forty-ninth Iowa Infantry, as a guard of honor. He was welcomed to his old home as befitted a valiant hero, and the day was made notable by the speeches of gifted orators and the large assemblage gathered to honor the city's guest.

Soon after returning to his regiment Bugler Titus was notified of his appointment by President McKinley to West Point, as a reward of his bravery at Pekin, and he was graduated from that institution with honors in 1905.  He was then appointed lieutenant in his old regiment, but in 1908 resigned and re-entered religious work, which he continued about one year. However, he decided he could be more useful in the army, being so familiar with its customs and orders were issued revoking his resignation. He received, in 1909, the appointment as chaplain in the army, and all who know him feel assurance he will serve with distinction to himself and honor to his country. As his people have moved from Vinton, he is seldom a visitor to the city, but will always receive a warm welcome from his former friends and associates.


(footnotes omitted)

Before the Chaplain Assistant
by William J. Hourihan, Ph.D.

The first official recognition of the chaplain assistant by the United States Army came in 1909. On December 28th of that year the Chief of Staff of the Army, Major General Franklin Bell, signed General Orders, No. 253, which authorized a commander who had a chaplain assigned to his unit to provide that chaplain with a chaplain assistant. “One enlisted man,” the directive specifically ordered, “will be detailed on special duty, by the commanding officer of any organization to which a chaplain is assigned to duty, for the purpose of assisting the chaplain in the performance of his official duties.

This initiative was an integral part of a reform movement which was then changing the face of the United States Army. Under what became known as the “Root Reforms,” the Army was substantially reorganized in the wake of the Spanish-American War of 1898. The catalyst for this reform was a corporation lawyer and political figure without any military experience by the name of Elihu Root. Appointed as Secretary of War in 1899, Root held that the “American soldier today is part of a great machine which we call military organization. . . . The machine today is defective; it needs improvement; it ought to be improved.”  This was a clarion call for the reform and professionialization of Army organization. In December 1899, as part of his first Annual Report, Root outlined a comprehensive plan of Army reorganization. It would be, as one historian has characterized it, a “managerial revolution.”

These great changes would also effect one of the smaller components of the Army, the chaplaincy. During the early years of the 20th century the chaplaincy initiated a group of changes and reforms which would establish it as a professional branch. Because of the small size of the chaplaincy in these years it was under the direct supervision of the Office of The Adjutant General. In 1904 there were only 57 chaplains on active duty; and as late as 1917 the figure stood at 74. It was not until 1920 that the chaplaincy was organized in the branch form we know today. Yet Army chaplains in this early period instituted a series of reforms which began the professionialization of the corps. In 1899 the Latin Cross was adopted as an insignia. That same year the chaplaincy adopted for the first time a coherent methodology of screening and selecting candidates. In 1904 chaplains were authorized the rank of major; and in 1905 that of lieutenant colonel. The year 1909 saw the creation of a Board of Chaplains. This Board was specifically established “to collect and tabulate suggestions from chaplains and commanders. . . [and] to make recommendations to the War Department of a more effective chaplaincy.” This Board of Chaplains would be an important governing factor in the chaplaincy until the establishment of the Office of the Chief of Chaplains in 1920. That same year, 1909, also saw another building block laid down in the creation of the modern chaplaincy with the publication of General Orders, No. 253. 

There were a number of reasons for officially sanctioning the position of the chaplain assistant, one of which was undoubtedly related to the increasing vulnerability of the chaplain on the modern, twentieth century battlefield. In 1864 the European nations met in the Swiss city of Geneva and adopted a series of conventions regulating various aspects of land warfare. The United States only became a signatory to these Conventions in 1882; so, the first war in which U.S. Army chaplains were officially noncombatants was the Spanish-American War of 1898. Articles I and II of the original Geneva Conventions dated 22 August 1864, stated that chaplains attached to ambulances and hospitals were to be acknowledged as “neuter” and, as such, to be “protected and respected by belligerents.” However, if they were separated from these medical functions there could be a problem. During the Spanish-American War Chaplain Leslie R. Groves, Sr., held that a “noncombatants had best be out of the way when the guns are working.”  Chaplains soon “discovered that protection and respect were not guaranteed when they were with the medics.” Making available an armed chaplain assistant was in part a response to this situation.

Prior to 1909 enlisted men did assist chaplains during the course of their duties, but this support was sporadic, unofficial, and generally based upon individual arrangements between the chaplain and the enlisted man. Most often this relationship existed because of the religious inclination of the latter, and was carried out in addition to his regular duties. Direct historical evidence for this relationship is scarce, since it was unofficial, but examples do exist or can be inferred. During the American Revolution, for example, Chaplain David Avery, of Patterson’s Massachusetts Regiment and, later, of the 15th Continental Line Regiment, kept a diary in which he makes a couple of references to his “waiter.” His diary entry of 18 January 1778, reads: “Robert – my waiter arrived from New-Town, in good health & put up with me at Mr. Jhone’s [sic].” Parker M. Thompson in his work on the early chaplaincy assumes “that Robert’s duties were those of a striker or batman, and in no way those of an enlisted assistant to assist the chaplain in his clerical responsibilities.”

The Civil War, while not providing any direct examples of enlisted help given to chaplains, does allow us to infer with some degree of certainty that this aid was given; in particular, as regards Roman Catholic chaplains. During this conflict large numbers of Roman Catholics, mainly Irish and German, served in the Union Army. Generally these men volunteered or were recruited to serve in ethnically separate regiments, and Roman Catholic priests came into the Army to serve as chaplains to these units. At this time the position of the priest in relation to these Catholic soldiers was a powerful one, and in many ways they were probably more influential than the regimental officers. So, it seems reasonable to assume that the soldiers were willing, and indeed quite eager, to be of substantial aid to these Catholic chaplains. 

A more concrete example before 1909 of enlisted men directly assisting the chaplain in the performance of his duties can be found in the activities of Chaplain Allen Allensworth, the chaplain of the black Twenty-Fourth Infantry Regiment, from 1886 to 1906. Chaplain Allensworth became well known in the Army at this time for his innovative program of education which he used in his regiment. Part of his training program made use of enlisted men as trainers. Allensworth’s program was recommended for adoption for use throughout the Army, and a number of officers and chaplains who supervised education programs at their posts adopted his program in their schools.

Undoubtedly the best documented case of an enlisted man assisting a chaplain in this period is seen in the relationship which developed between Chaplain Leslie R. Groves, Sr., and Corporal Calvin P. Titus, when both men served with the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment after the Spanish-American War. Born in Iowa in 1879, Titus enlisted in a volunteer regiment (1st Vermont Volunteer Infantry) during the Spanish-American War. After the war he transferred to the Regular Army and was assigned to the Fourteenth Infantry Regiment. The chaplain of the Fourteenth was Leslie R. Groves, Sr., a Presbyterian minister, who had joined the Army in 1896. By 1899 the Fourteenth was in the Philippines, and Titus and Groves formed a close relationship. Titus wrote later that he and Groves “took to each other at once and became fast friends.” The young, twenty-year old corporal was soon accompanying Chaplain Groves when he held Sunday services for the various companies of the Fourteenth, which were garrisoned around the city of Manila. “I got a violin,” Titus remembered over sixty years later, “and played the tunes for the songs sung at each place.”

In 1900 a nationalist insurrection in China referred to as the Boxer Rebellion had broken out and the insurgents had seized the capital, Peking. The Boxers then besieged the western embassies and legations in the city. In response, an international military expedition was formed and sent to China by the Great Powers to take Peking and relieve the threat to their diplomats. Part of this expeditionary force was made up of U.S. forces from the Philippines, which included elements of the Fourteenth. Groves and Titus landed with the regiment at Tientsin and began the march to Peking. Titus later wrote that:

"The first night camp after we started north from Tientsin was in a field of corn — just like the ones I knew in Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma! The ears were nice, big and Wonderful to eat! No one told us what the Chinese used for fertilizer! (Human manure) nor that any green stuff might do us in! Well — my insides just knocked me out — and every little while the next day I would have to stop by the roadside while the march went right on! The chaplain (Groves) kept at the tail of the column — most of the time walking, leading his horse, and when he found me half torn inside out — he got me up into the saddle and caught up with the regiment!"

It was during the storming of Peking that Titus entered into the pantheon of Army heroes. On the morning of 14 August 1900, his unit, Company E of the Fourteenth, along with a force of Russian infantry were pinned down by heavy rifle fire coming from the great fortress wall which surrounded Peking. The only entrance through the wall was the Tung Pien Gate. The company commander called for a volunteer to scale the fortress wall with a rope. Titus stepped forward saying, “I’ll try, Sir.” With the rope slung over his shoulder, Titus began climbing the wall under fire. Reaching the top he secured the rope and was followed up by men of Company E. After a brief skirmish they took the gate, opened it, and the allied infantry moved into the city.

For this action Titus was recommended to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Chaplain Groves was also recommended for the same award for his activities that day. Both men were soon back together, Groves holding services and Titus helping him. Groves was delighted that Titus had been so honored, describing him as “one of the reliable Christian men of the regiment.” “He is,” Groves wrote to his wife, “a modest chap, fine looking and afraid of nothing but wrongdoing.” As Earl F. Stover writes: “Thus, the Fourteenth’s religious leaders possessed unusual credentials; both men had been recommended for the Medal of Honor.” Groves, who had also been recommended for the decoration during the Spanish-American War, did not receive the prestigious award; he was given instead an “Honorable Mention.” Titus, however, was presented with the Medal of Honor. He also received an appointment to West Point. In June 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt, after reviewing the Corps of Cadets as part of the festivities commemorating the centennial celebration of the founding of the United States Military Academy, presented the Medal of Honor to Cadet Titus, of the Fourth Class, for “gallantry at Peking, China, August 14, 1900, while a soldier of the Fourteenth U.S. Infantry.” Graduating from West Point in 1905, Titus returned to the Philippines and the Fourteenth Infantry as an officer.

The relationship between Groves and Titus was an unusual one, but not exceptional. Titus was not a chaplain assistant, but he acted as one in addition to his regular duties. Nine years after their joint experience in China, General Orders, No. 253, formalized a situation that in a historical sense already existed in many cases, and thus officially began the association between the chaplain and the chaplain assistant which continues to the present day.


When newly minted second lieutenant Calvin P. Titus returned to the Philippines in 1905, he lived with Chaplain Groves and his family for a time until he was assigned quarters. His strongly held religious beliefs would lead him to become an ordained minister in 1909, and then apply to the Army to become a chaplain. After careful study his request to become an Army chaplain was denied, the paramount reason being that the denomination in which Titus was ordained was not a recognized denomination. 

The People’s Mission Church, according to a memorandum to the Secretary of War from The Adjutant General, has never “been recognized by the President either by appointment of a chaplain in the Army or by the allotment of chaplaincies. Heretofore appointments to chaplaincies have been confined to members of religious denominations that are known and recognized as such by the world generally.” 

In 1925 the denomination in which Titus was ordained merged with the Pilgrim Holiness Church, and in 1968 this church joined with the Wesleyan Methodist Church to form the Wesleyan Church of today. This denomination is now recognized and has chaplains serving in the United States Army. For Lieutenant Titus, a West Point graduate and a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, it was change of course in his life that was not possible in 1909. 

He continued his career in the Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1930. He settled in California, very near Chaplain Groves who had retired in 1918. The two often visited each other. Titus died on 27 May 1966, in San Fernando, California, at the age of 87. 


This page was last updated on August 10, 2008.