Events of the War

Spanish-American War Battle of Lonoy
Battle of Manila Bay Aguinaldo Captured
Siege of Manila Balangiga Massacre
February 4, 1899 Senate Investigation
Battle of Calumpit Lukban Captured
Battle of Cavite Malvar Surrenders
Battle of Tirad Pass War Trials

The Spanish-American War

On April 24, in response to the explosion of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana harbor, the United States declared war on Spain. The war was ostensibly to liberate Cuba from the Spaniards, but was truly more of a chance to test new American power against the old imperialism of Europe. It was called the “Splendid Little War,” which lasted only three months and caused 5,462 American deaths, most from disease. On July 26, Spain requested peace terms, and McKinley announced his terms as independence for Cuba, U.S. control of Puerto Rico, and U.S. occupation of Manila until further negotiation. However, the United States gained even more at the Paris Peace conference. In Article II of the Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain,"Spain cedes to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands." In exchange for $20 million, the United States gained control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines. Cuba was granted independence but the Philippines were not, and war broke out soon after.

The Battle of Manila Bay

Long before war ever broke out between Spain and the United States, Americans had their eye on the strategic city of Manila in the Philippines. During the fall of 1897, Admiral George Dewey and Theodore Roosevelt, then the assistant secretary of war, drew plans for an attack on the city. On December 7, 1897, Dewey set sail for Hong Kong where he and his fleet waited for further orders. On February 25, 1898, a message from Roosevelt arrived, telling Dewey that in the event of war he should proceed directly to the islands and destroy the Spanish fleet stationed there.

When Dewey heard that the Spanish-American War had begun, he set sail immediately for Manila. Upon his arrival, he met almost no resistance. The Spanish were unprepared for any attack, and Dewey was able to destroy the fleet while it lay in anchorage in the bay without the loss of any American life. After his victory, Dewey sent word back to the United States requesting ground troops to take the city. He also sent a ship back to Hong Kong to pick up the exiled Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo. When Aguinaldo arrived, Dewey urged him to assemble the Filipino army and take the islands back from the Spanish.

Siege of Manila

When American troops arrived in the Philippines during August 1898, they found an army of 30,000 Filipinos surrounding the city of Manila in 14 miles of trenches. Aguinaldo’s army, with Dewey’s encouragement, had cleared the Spanish from most of Luzon. The Americans joined the Filipinos and occupied a section of the trenches. The 15,000 Spanish trapped inside the city were glad for the American arrival and began secret negotiations with the Americans. By this time, the Spanish-American War was ending, but the Spanish couldn’t surrender without a fight, so they arranged a mock battle with the U.S. forces. On August 13, the Americans fired a few shots over the city. The Filipinos tried to join the Americans, but they were told to keep out of it. The Spanish then surrendered to the Americans on the condition that no Filipinos could enter the city. This infuriated the Filipinos, who were left surrounding the city as Americans built up a defensive barrier around Manila.

February 4, 1899

After occupying the city of Manila, Americans continued to push the Filipinos back by continuously redrawing the lines around the city. This created confusion and anger, because the Filipinos were never sure what land belonged to the Americans. On the night of February 4, Private William Grayson was patrolling newly annexed American territory, a high-tension area called the "pipeline." He later told of the night’s events:

I yelled, “Halt!”...The man moved. I challenged him with another “Halt." Then he immediately shouted “Halto” to me. Well I thought the best thing to do was shoot him. He dropped. Then two Filipinos sprang out of the gateway about fifteen feet from us. I called “Halt” and Miller fired and dropped one. I saw that another was left. Well I think I got my second Filipino that time. We retreated to where six other fellows were and I said, "Line up, fellows; the niggers are in here all through these yards."

Casualties on Feb. 5 The 1st Nebraska then drew back and continued to exchange fire with the distant Filipino lines. It is believed that no one died in this exchange, possibly because there may have been no Filipinos shooting back. The next morning, Aguinaldo sent a messenger to Otis, requesting peace. Otis refused, saying the war must continue “to the grim end." Three hours after dawn, the Americans attacked with heavy artillery, followed by an assault by 5,000 American soldiers. The American charge routed the Filipino army, which suffered 3,000 casualties in one day. Hundreds of Filipinos were killed trying to swim across the Pasig River to safety--as one American soldier explained, "picking off niggers in the water" was "more fun than a turkey shoot." American troops suffered only 60 casualties.

The recent battle of February 5th was somewhat of a revelation to Americans. They expected the motley horde to run at the firing of the first gun. It was my good fortune to be placed -- about ten hours afterward -- near the spot where this first gun was fired. I found the Americans still held in check. Our artillery then began to assail the enemy's position, and it was only be the stoutest kind of fighting that Tennessee and Nebraska Regiments were able to drive them out.
--Lieut. Henry Page, of the Regular Army

Battle of Calumpit

In April of 1899, General Otis sent troops commanded by Gen. MacArthur north from Manila along the rail line, in search of the enemy. MacArthur found only abandoned trenches and villages, and so ignored Otis’s orders and continued north, hoping to capture Aguinaldo at Malolos. Several skirmishes were fought along the way, decoys to cover Aguinaldo’s retreat north to San Isidro, thirty miles to the north. Finding Malolos deserted, MacArthur pushed five miles farther north to Calumpit, where he faced the Filipino forces of Gen. Antonio Luna. Luna ignored Aguinaldo’s orders to retreat and burn the bridge, and Col. Funston charged across to victory before the Filipinos could retaliate. Funston’s heroic but foolhardy attack won the Americans the bridge they coveted for their supply trains, and he was rewarded with a promotion and a medal of honor.

Battle of Cavite

In June of 1899, Otis began boasting to the press of the upcoming “final battle” against the Filipinos. He sent two columns, headed by generals Lawton and Wheaton, south towards the rebel hotbed of Cavite. On June 10th, the straggling American troops encountered 5,000 Filipino soldiers. About 400 Filipinos were killed in the ensuing battle, and only four Americans. However, Lawton’s plan to trap the Filipino army failed when the naval commander attacked too soon, and the Filipinos escaped and fled south to Imus, concealing themselves as civilians. It was a clear American victory, but hardly the coup Otis was seeking.

Gregorio del Pilar

Tirad Pass

In November of 1899, American troops converged on the city of Pozorrubio in northern Luzon, in hopes of trapping Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo managed to escape, but was pursued into the mountains where he left a rear guard of 60 Filipinos under the command of Gregorio del Pilar, a 22 year old boy general, at Tirad Pass to cover his retreat. On December 2, this small band was decimated by the 33rd volunteer infantry. The Filipinos fought valiantly, but only 7 lived to return to Aguinaldo. Gregorio del Pilar was killed in the fighting and the 33rd looted his body and left him lying naked and unburied. Later, Americans returned to the site and buried him with military honors.

Battle of Lonoy

Better called the Lonoy massacre, this attack was one of the most brutal of the war. In March of 1901, American forces learned of two insurgent encampments in Lonoy, Jagna, on the island of Bohol. The Filipino forces, commanded by Captain Gregorio Casenas, had prepared an ambush along a narrow path, but the American troops learned of the ambush when the Filipinos were betrayed by a fellow Boholano, Francisco Salas. Salas guided the Americans to the rear of the enemy defenses, where the soldiers were caught totally unprepared. Trapped in their own trenches, the Filipinos were gunned and bayoneted to death by the American troops. The Americans were ordered to take no prisoners, and any Filipinos attempting to surrender were shot. 406 Boholano soldiers, including Captain Casenas, were killed, and only seven escaped the massacre. Americans suffered three casualties in the assault. It is likely that there were Samareno victims among those killed, and anger over this surprise attack may have led in part to the Balangiga Massacre six months later.

Aguinaldo Captured

For years, the Americans had tried to capture the leader of Filipino resistance, Emilio Aguinaldo. All of these attempts had failed, and had resulted only in Aguinaldo fleeing farther north. By March 1901, Aguinaldo had established his headquarters in remote northern Luzon, in the village of Palanan. The isolation and mountainous terrain of this new headquarters destroyed any hopes the Americans had of taking the Filipino leader, until Colonel Funston hit upon a brilliant, yet underhanded plan. Funston intercepted one of Aguinaldo’s messengers, who was carrying documents from Aguinaldo requesting more troops. After clearing his plan with Gen. MacArthur, who was skeptical but desperately wanted an end the war, Funston assembled 81 Macabebe scouts to pretend to be the men Aguinaldo had requested. Funston and four other Americans then posed as prisoners held by the Macabebes.

On March 6, the group sailed to Casiguran Bay, where they were dropped off 50 miles from Aguinaldo’s camp by the U.S.S. Vicksburg. During their trek to Aguinaldo’s headquarters, the Macabebes told the villagers they ran across that they were taking five Americans, who they had captured making maps, to Aguinaldo. The villagers were fooled by the story, and treated the Filipinos and Americans with hospitality, even giving them directions to Aguinaldo’s camp. Five miles from the headquarters, the party stopped and sent a message ahead. They received a message back from Aguinaldo telling the Filipinos to come ahead, but to leave the Americans behind in care of Aguinaldo’s troops. This represented a setback to Funston’s plan, but was solved when Hilario Placido, the leader of the Macabebes, forged a note saying the Americans could come to the camp after all.

Aguinaldo Boarding ShipWhen the Macabebes arrived on March 23 (the Americans had hidden just outside the camp), they found the celebration of Aguinaldo’s 32nd birthday party winding down. The scouts were presented to Aguinaldo’s honor guard of 60 men, and told to enjoy the remaining festivities. Hilario Placido then signaled, and the Macabebes fired on the unprepared honor guard. The Americans quickly grabbed their guns and paddled across the river to the camp. Funston seized the shocked Aguinaldo, and the group fled. Eight miles from the camp they met the U.S.S. Vicksburg and sailed for Manila.

Aguinaldo was held for three weeks in Manila. During this time, he wasn’t harmed, (the Americans couldn’t risk martyring him), but was pressured intensely to surrender. Finally, he capitulated to the Americans and issue a proclamation declaring his allegiance to the United States and asking other generals to surrender. As a result, generals Alejandrino, Tinio, Mescardo, Lucon, and Cailles, as well as Sandiko, Father Aglipay, and Aguinaldo’s brother Baldermo all surrendered. Resistance survived only in isolated pockets such as Batangas and Samar; Americans celebrated victory.

The Balangiga Massacre

The Balangiga Massacre, planned by Gen. Vincente Lukban, was one of the few successful major Filipino attacks during the course of the war. It is condemned as a massacre, though the Filipinos lost nearly five times as many men in the assault as did the Americans, and the retaliations leveled upon them by U.S. forces afterward were equally brutal.

On August 11, 1901, Company C of the Ninth U.S. Infantry sailed into the village of Balangiga, Samar. The troops had been sent by Chaffee, at the request of town mayor Presidente Pedro Abayan, supposedly to protect the natives from Moro raiders. In command of the company was Captain Thomas W. Connell, a devout Irish Catholic who intended to clean up the town, physically and morally. He hired a native work force for this purpose, which unfortunately included 100 of Lukban’s best bolomen. Connell also forbade his men to carry weapons or touch native women, valiant attempts at diplomacy which contributed to his downfall.

On the night of September 26, many heavily clothed women were seen carrying small coffins to the village church. American soldiers were told the coffins contained the bodies of children killed in a cholera epidemic, but they actually concealed bolos, and many of the “women” were actually disguised men. The next morning, Filipino police chief Pedro Sanchez stopped to chat with a sentry, then grabbed the soldier’s rifle and fired. The ringing of church bells signaled bolomen hidden in the church and the nearby work crew, who attacked the American troops with bolos, axes, and shovels. Due to Connell’s orders, only sentries and officers were armed, and most of the men were cut down while eating breakfast in the mess hall. The unarmed Americans fought back with chairs, tent poles, and kitchen utensils. Connell was killed in the street, in full view of his men. A small group of American soldiers, commanded by Sgt. Breton, managed to secure their rifles and kill 250 Filipinos before fleeing along the coast to the garrison at Basey. All totaled, 59 of the Company C were killed, 23 were wounded, and only six escaped unscathed.

When the survivors reached Basey, the garrison commander Captain Bookmiller set sail immediately with 55 volunteers eager to avenge the slaughter. Filipino soldiers remaining near the shores or in the town were shot down immediately. The soldiers discovered the bodies of their comrades horribly mutilated, and when a Filipino burial party of twenty men was captured nearby, they were forced to dig graves instead for the American soldiers, and were then executed. As the Americans were buried, Bookmiller read from scripture, “They have sown the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind.” The bodies of the dead Filipinos were stacked in a pile and burned, and the company then returned to the village and burned it to the ground.

This incident had far more wide-reaching repercussions as well. It enraged the American soldiers and commanders, and as a result a “kill and burn” policy was quickly adopted on Samar, and civilians were routinely killed along with soldiers. Whenever Filipino soldiers were found with food or equipment suspected to be from Company C, they and every other Filipino in the vicinity were immediately executed. General Chaffee agreed that more severe methods must be adopted to win the war, and brutality increased across the islands. It was something of a hollow victory for the Philippine army.

Senate Investigation

In late 1901, General Jacob Smith commented to reporters that he planned to burn all of Samar and would probably kill most of its inhabitants. Anti-Imperialist Senator George Frisbee Hoar seized on the remark, and called on the Senate to form a committee to investigate the war. The already standing committee on the Philippines, headed by Henry Cabot Lodge, was chosen to investigate, and began the investigation in January of 1902. There were anti-imperialists as well as imperialists on the board, and hearings often degenerated into shouting matches. The key players in the debate were Senators Henry Lodge and Albert Beveridge on the imperialist side, and Hoar and Thomas Patterson on the opposing side. Taft was the first to testify, and was questioned for nearly a month. Taft was followed by other pro-imperialist witnesses, who often made embarrassing remarks and self-damaging confessions.

Smith’s trial in May introduced a wild new stream of debate. Shortly after the trial MacArthur was put on the stand, who made little sense, launched into lengthy and meaningless monologues, and preached Aryan superiority. MacArthur claimed that “no war in history has been conducted with as much humanity.” Lodge also called many veterans to testify, a strategy that backfired when most of them insisted that “kill and burn” was right and proper. The last to testify was Admiral George Dewey, and when he stepped down on June 28, the committee was adjourned for good. Beveridge claimed the investigation as an imperialist victory, and the entire event quickly faded from the public conscience.

Lukban Captured

After Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901, Samar, under the leadership of Gen. Vincente Lukban, remained one of the few areas of Filipino resistance. However, American troops found few enemies to attack, until two prisoners revealed the location of Lukban’s secret headquarters along the Caducan river. The prisoners warned that the fort was impregnable, but Major Littleton Waller sent scouts to investigate. On Feb. 27, 1902, Waller attacked with an amphibious assult team up the river, as captains Bearss and Porter attacked by land with forces from Basey and Balangiga. The water assault was foiled by a Filipino trap, and Porter attacked alone. The Filipino soldiers fled machine gun fire, leaving scaling ladders behind for the Americans. The retreating Filipinos were gunned down from behind as the American flag was raised above the garrison. It was a clear victory for the United States, with 30 Filipinos dead and no American casualties. However, the war on Samar would not truly be over until the rugged interior was conquered.

Malvar Surrenders

General Bell’s policy of concentrating civilians in zones and then waging total war on Malvar and his army had destroyed what remained of the resistance in Batangas. In April 1902, Malvar found himself in the mountains, surrounded by American troops being aided by the natives. His army was gone and his wife was nursing and feverish, having not eaten in several days. On April 16, Malvar marched to Lipa where he surrendered to General Bell.

War Trials

By early 1902, some of the darker aspects of the war were becoming clear to the United States, and Chaffee found himself under pressure to find a scapegoat. Major Littleton Waller was soon cast in this role, for his involvement in the Samar atrocities. He was relieved of duty on February 26, 1902, and upon his return to Manila was arrested and charged with murder. Waller had ordered the killing of civilians and the execution of prisoners, but was certainly less a criminal than Smith, from whom he had received his orders. Waller went before a court-martial on March 17, 1902, but was eventually acquitted on the argument that he was only following Smith’s orders to "kill and burn" and make Samar a "howling wilderness."

Naturally, the next to be tried was Smith himself. He faced a court-martial in May of 1902. General Wheaton, who could just have easily stood trial himself for similar atrocities, presided over the court which found Smith guilty of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline” and sentenced him “to be admonished by the reviewing authority.” During the trial, Smith made no attempt to deny the charges leveled against him, insisting that such tactics were entirely necessary, and even boasting of them. Even the imperialist press condemned him when his actions and attitudes became clear. However, Smith was cheered as a war hero upon his return to San Francisco. Due to “the well nigh intolerable provocation” which Smith had been under, Roosevelt retired him without any further punishment.

More trials followed in the fall of 1902, as a result of General Miles (Roosevelt’s Chief of Staff) investigation. Captains Ryan and Brownwell and Major Glenn faced charges of murder. Glenn was accused of having ordered the execution of 47 Filipino prisoners, accusations he did not bother to deny. All three were acquitted by citing Chaffee’s orders as their defense. Chaffee, of course, never faced trial.

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