Philippine-American War

Philippine-American War
Manila646 1899.jpg
U.S. soldiers of Company B, First Nebraska volunteers, in action near Manila in 1899
Date late months of 1899–1902 (official duration)
1899–1913 (unofficial duration due to guerrilla action)
Location Philippines
Result United States victory
The Philippines remained as U.S. territory
Flag of United States United States Philippines flag original.png First Philippine Republic
guerrilla groups post-1902
William McKinley
Theodore Roosevelt
Emilio Aguinaldo
Miguel Malvar
unofficial leaders post-1902
126,000[1] 80,000
4,196[2] ~12,000-20,000 (military)[1][3]
200,000 to 1,500,000 (civilian)[3]

The Philippine-American War was an armed military conflict between the United States of America and the nascent First Philippine Republic, fought between 1899 until at least 1902. The conflict arose from a Filipino political struggle against the U.S. occupation of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. It is also known as the Philippine Insurrection and was historically the name most commonly used in the United States. However, Filipinos and some American historians refer to these hostilities as the Philippine-American War, and, in 1999, the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term.


The conflict officially ended on July 4, 1902.[4][5] This date marked the end of the war as far as the United States and the Filipino elite were concerned. However, for the Filipino masses, who saw the war against the Americans as a continuing struggle for independence, their resistance lasted longer.[6] Remnants of the Philippine Army and other resistance groups continued hostilities against American rule until 1913, and some historians consider these unofficial extensions as part of the war.[5] America's ventures in the Philippines were in the context of its increasing involvement in affairs beyond its shores, in "foreign entanglements" which it had earlier vowed to avoid. This is also referred to as "American Imperialism," which some regard as an extension of the concept of Manifest Destiny. The notion of American Exceptionalism and its form of imperialism became known as different from previous empires. The United States chose to use its position to defend, nurture and spread democracy; to establish freedom, justice, and free market economics. The people of the Philippines engaged themselves in a struggle for freedom against the United States. American imperialism was viewed as much like that of the former Spanish Empire. Later in the twentieth century, Philippine-U.S. relations improved in substance, particularly after the Allied victory in World War II liberated the Philippine Islands from Japanese domination. Today, there is a strong Philippine cultural and political affinity with the United States.

Philippine-American War
Manila – Santa Cruz – Pagsanjan – Paete – Quingua
Zapote Bridge – San Jacinto – Tirad Pass – Paye – Catubig
Pulang Lupa – Balangiga – Mabitac – Lonoy – Moro Rebellion


A late nineteenth century photograph of Filipino Katipuneros

Philippine Revolution

On July 7, 1892, Andrés Bonifacio, a warehouseman and clerk from Manila, founded the Katipunan, a secret organization which aimed to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule by armed revolt. The Katipunan spread throughout the provinces, and the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was led by its members.[7][5]

While a charismatic and decisive figure, Bonifacio suffered defeats at the hands of the Spaniards in battles he personally led, including the very first major battle at San Juan del Monte, Manila.[8] Some historians have thus considered him an ineffectual military leader, but others have argued the opposite by virtue of chain of command as other lower-ranking commanders whom he directed were successful.[9]

Fighters in Cavite province won early victories. One of the most influential and popular Caviteño leaders was Emilio Aguinaldo, mayor of Cavite El Viejo (modern-day Kawit), who gained control of much of eastern Cavite. Eventually, Aguinaldo and his faction gained control of the movement. The Katipunan was superseded by a revolutionary government, of which Aguinaldo was elected president, and the “outmaneuvered”[5] Bonifacio was executed for treason.[10][5]

The conflict between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo has subsequently become a controversial matter among Filipino historians. At least one, Nick Joaquin, has opined that the Revolution of 1896 as led by the Caviteños is to be distinguished from Bonifacio's failed uprising in Manila. On July 7, 1892, Andrés Bonifacio, a warehouseman and clerk from Manila, founded the Katipunan, a secret organization which aimed to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule by armed revolt. The Katipunan spread throughout the provinces, and the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was led by its members.[7][5]

While a charismatic and decisive figure, Bonifacio suffered defeats at the hands of the Spaniards in battles he personally led, including the very first major battle at San Juan del Monte, Manila.[8] Some historians have thus considered him an ineffectual military leader, but others have argued the opposite by virtue of chain of command as other lower-ranking commanders whom he directed were successful.[9]

Fighters in Cavite province won early victories. One of the most influential and popular Caviteño leaders was Emilio Aguinaldo, mayor of Cavite El Viejo (modern-day Kawit), who gained control of much of eastern Cavite. Eventually, Aguinaldo and his faction gained control of the movement. The Katipunan was superseded by a revolutionary government, of which Aguinaldo was elected president, and the “outmaneuvered”[5] Bonifacio was executed for treason.[10][5]

The conflict between Bonifacio and Aguinaldo has subsequently become a controversial matter among Filipino historians. At least one, Nick Joaquin, has opined that the Revolution of 1896 as led by the Caviteños is to be distinguished from Bonifacio's failed uprising in Manila.[11] Others such as Teodoro Agoncillo and Milagros C. Guerrero have noted that Bonifacio organized the Katipunan into a government prior to the outbreak of hostilities, with him as president.[12][9] This government was called Republika ng Katagalugan, after "Tagalog," the name of an ethnic group, used to refer to all natives.[9] Regardless, Aguindalo's national government and presidency are usually considered the first in Philippine history.

Others such as Teodoro Agoncillo and Milagros C. Guerrero have noted that Bonifacio organized the Katipunan into a government prior to the outbreak of hostilities, with him as president.[12][9] This government was called Republika ng Katagalugan, after "Tagalog," the name of an ethnic group, used to refer to all natives.[9] Regardless, Aguindalo's national government and presidency are usually considered the first in Philippine history.

Aguinaldo's exile and return

General Emilio Aguinaldo

By December 1897, the struggle had come to a stalemate. In August 1897, armistice negotiations were opened between Aguinaldo and the current Spanish governor-general, Fernando Primo de Rivera. By mid-December, an agreement was reached in which the governor would pay Aguinaldo a sum described in the agreement as "$800,000 (Mexican)" in three installments if Aguinaldo would go into exile.[13][14] Aguinaldo then established himself in Hong Kong.[13][15] Before leaving, Aguinaldo denounced the Revolution, exhorted Filipino combatants to disarm and declared those who continued hostilities to be bandits.[5] However, some Filipino revolutionaries did continue armed struggle against the Spanish colonial government.[5][16][17][18][19][20][21]

Aguinaldo wrote retrospectively in 1899 that he had met with U.S. Consuls E. Spencer Pratt and Rounceville Wildman in Singapore between April 22nd and 25th, and that they persuaded him to again take up the mantle of leadership in the revolution, with Pratt communicating with Admiral Dewey by telegram, passing assurances from Dewey to Aguinaldo that the United States would at least recognize the Independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy, and adding that there was no necessity for entering into a formal written agreement because the word of the Admiral and of the United States Consul were in fact equivalent to the most solemn pledge that their verbal promises and assurance would be fulfilled to the letter and were not to be classed with Spanish promises or Spanish ideas of a man’s word of honor.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag The New York Times wrote on August 6, 1899 that Pratt had obtained a court order enjoining the publication of certain statements "… which might be regarded as showing a positive connection" between himself and Aguinaldo.[22] The New York Times reports the court ruling to uphold Mr. Pratt's position that he had "no dealings of a political character" with Aguinaldo and the book publisher withdrew from publication statements to the contrary.[22]

In Cavite, Aguinaldo reports meeting with Admiral Dewey, and recalls: "I asked whether it was true that he had sent all the telegrams to the Consul at Singapore, Mr. Pratt, which that gentleman had told me he received in regard to myself. The Admiral replied in the affirmative, adding that the United States had come to the Philippines to protect the natives and free them from the yoke of Spain. He said, moreover, that America is exceedingly well off as regards territory, revenue, and resources and therefore needs no colonies, assuring me finally that there was no occasion for me to entertain any doubts whatever about the recognition of the Independence of the Philippines by the United States."[23] By late May, Dewey had been ordered by the U.S. Department of the Navy to distance himself from Aguinaldo lest he make untoward commitments to the Philippine forces.[24]

Aguinaldo proclaims the independence of the Philippines from Spain on June 12, 1898 - as depicted on the back of the old Philippine 5-peso bill.

In a matter of months after Aguinaldo's return, the Philippine Army conquered nearly all of Spanish-held ground within the Philippines. With the exception of Manila, which was completely surrounded by the Philippine Army of 12,000, the Filipinos now controlled the Philippines. Aguinaldo also turned over 15,000 Spanish prisoners to the Americans, offering them valuable intelligence. On June 12, Aguinaldo declared independence at his house in Cavite El Viejo.

On August 13, with American commanders unaware that a peace protocol had been signed between Spain and the United States on the previous day, American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish.[24] Governor-General Fermin Jaudenes had made a secret agreement with Dewey and General Wesley Merritt. Jaudenes specifically requested to surrender only to the Americans, not to the Filipino rebels. In order to save face, he proposed a mock battle with the Americans preceding the Spanish surrender; the Filipinos would not be allowed to enter the city. Dewey and Merritt agreed to this, and no one else in either camp knew about the agreement. On the eve of the mock battle, General Thomas M. Anderson telegraphed Aguinaldo, “Do not let your troops enter Manila without the permission of the American commander. On this side of the Pasig River you will be under fire”.[25]

At the beginning of the war between Spain and America, Americans and Filipinos had been allies against Spain in all but name; now Spanish and Americans were in a partnership that excluded the Filipino insurgents. Fighting between American and Filipino troops almost broke out as the former moved in to dislodge the latter from strategic positions around Manila on the eve of the attack. Aguinaldo had been told bluntly by the Americans that his army could not participate and would be fired upon if it crossed into the city. The insurgents were infuriated at being denied triumphant entry into their own capital, but Aguinaldo bided his time. Relations continued to deteriorate, however, as it became clear to Filipinos that the Americans were in the islands to stay.[24]

The June 12 declaration of Philippine independence had not been recognized by either the United States or Spain, and the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which was signed on December 10 1898, in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets lost.

On January 1, 1899, Aguinaldo was declared President of the Philippines—the first and only president of what would be later called the First Philippine Republic. He later organized a Congress at Malolos, Bulacan to draft a constitution.[26]

Admiral Dewey later argued that he had promised nothing regarding the future:

“From my observation of Aguinaldo and his advisers I decided that it would be unwise to co-operate with him or his adherents in an official manner… In short, my policy was to avoid any entangling alliance with the insurgents, while I appreciated that, pending the arrival of our troops, they might be of service.”[18]

War against the United States

Conflict origins

Filipino soldiers outside Manila in 1899.

The Philippine Declaration of Independence was made on June 12, 1898, when Filipino revolutionary forces under Aguinaldo (later to become the Philippines' first Republican President) proclaimed the sovereignty and independence of the Philippine Islands from the colonial rule of Spain after the latter was defeated at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War.

The declaration, however, was not recognized by the United States or Spain.

Tensions between the Philippine and the American governments existed because of the conflicting movements for independence and colonization, aggravated by the feelings of betrayal on the part of Aguinaldo. The Malolos Congress declared war on the United States on June 2, 1899, with Pedro Paterno, President of Congress, issuing a Proclamation of War.[27] The Philippine-American war ensued between 1899 and 1902.

First Philippine Commission

On January 20, 1899, President McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission (Schurman Commission), to investigate conditions in the islands and make recommendations. In the report that they issued to the president the following year, the commissioners acknowledged Filipino aspirations for independence; they declared, however, that the Philippines was not ready for it. Specific recommendations included the establishment of civilian government as rapidly as possible (the American chief executive in the islands at that time was the military governor), including establishment of a bicameral legislature, autonomous governments on the provincial and municipal levels, and a system of free public elementary schools.[28][29]

On November 2, 1900, Dr. Schurman signed the following statement: [456]— "Should our power by any fatality be withdrawn, the commission believe that the government of the Philippines would speedily lapse into anarchy, which would excuse, if it did not necessitate, the intervention of other powers and the eventual division of the islands among them. Only through American occupation, therefore, is the idea of a free, self-governing, and united Philippine commonwealth at all conceivable. And the indispensable need from the Filipino point of view of maintaining American sovereignty over the archipelago is recognized by all intelligent Filipinos and even by those insurgents who desire an American protectorate. The latter, it is true, would take the revenues and leave us the responsibilities. Nevertheless, they recognize the indubitable fact that the Filipinos cannot stand alone. Thus the welfare of the Filipinos coincides with the dictates of national honor in forbidding our abandonment of the archipelago. We cannot from any point of view escape the responsibilities of government which our sovereignty entails; and the commission is strongly persuaded that the performance of our national duty will prove the greatest blessing to the peoples of the Philippine Islands."
[456] [30]

First shots

This print, titled "The Battle of Paceo, February 4-5, 1899, Philippine Islands," is a depiction of initial hostilities between Filipino and American forces. Note its inaccuracies, especially the depiction of native Filipinos as American Indians

The conflict began on the night of February 4, 1899, when a Filipino soldier was shot by an American soldier.[31] San Juan Bridge in modern San Juan City, Metro Manila was considered the site of the event until 2003, when the Philippine National Historical Institute relocated it to the Sosiego and Silencio Streets in Santa Mesa, Manila (moving a marker).[32] Immediately before the shooting, Grayson and others witnessed a series of outpost signals.[31]

An eyewitness account from an American sergeant states that the shot Filipino was a "particularly abusive" officer who would curse at the sentries, regularly accompanied by a drunken mob. (This account conflicts with Grayson's version in some ways; it also claims "fire immediately erupted all along the [American] line" and "a large group of Filipinos, screaming at the top of their lungs" rushed the bridge and were checked by volley fire, details absent from Grayson's account).[33] Some posit that the shot Filipino was himself probably drunk.[34][35] One account says there were four Filipinos, drunk and unarmed, who mocked Grayson's challenge.[35]

Fighting soon erupted in Manila. On February 5, General Arthur MacArthur (father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur) ordered his troops to advance without investigating the incident.[36] The fighting caused 2000 casualties for Filipinos and 250 for the Americans.

Aguinaldo was in Malolos when the conflict started. That same night, a Filipino captain wired Malolos, stating the Americans had started the hostilities. The next day (February 5) Aguinaldo sent an emissary to General Elwell Otis to sue for peace, saying "the firing on our side the night before had been against my order." Otis replied: "Fighting having begun, must go on to the grim end."[37] Aguinaldo then sent a telegram to all "local chiefs" informing them of the hostilities.[37]

According to Murat Halstead, official historian of the U.S. Philippine Expedition, Aguinaldo issued the following proclamation:

I order and command: 1. That peace and friendly relations with the Americans be broken and that the latter be treated as enemies, within the limits prescribed by the laws of war. 2. That the Americans captured be held as prisoners of war. 3. That this proclamation be communicated to the consuls and that congress order and accord a suspension of the constitutional guarantee, resulting from the declaration of war.

This proclamation may be the aforementioned telegram, but Halstead dates it to February 4.[38]

Aguinaldo also ordered an investigation of the events. It was learned that 200-300 American troops were shipped to Cavite on the morning of February 4, but were sent back to Manila without disembarking; also, on February 2 and 3, Filipino employees on American ships were dismissed from service for no apparent reason. Considering the American attack was sudden, these events led to Filipino suspicions that the Americans had planned to force them into war. In contrast, American authorities made no investigations and instead declared all-out war.[37] Filipino historians Agoncillo and Renato Constantino both say American aggression sparked the war.[37][5]

The Malolos Congress only declared war on the United States on June 2, 1899, with Pedro Paterno, President of Congress, issuing a Proclamation of War.[39][40] Prior to this proclamation, several battles had already occurred.[37]

U.S. President William McKinley later told reporters “that the insurgents had attacked Manila” in justifying war on the Philippines. The McKinley administration declared Aguinaldo to be an “outlaw bandit,” and no formal declaration of war was ever issued. Two reasons have been suggested for this:

  1. Calling the war the Philippine Insurrection made it appear to be a rebellion against a lawful government.[34]
  2. To enable the American government to avoid liability to claims by veterans of the action.

Second Philippine Commission

The Second Philippine Commission (the Taft Commission), appointed by President McKinley on March 16, 1900, and headed by William Howard Taft, was granted legislative as well as limited executive powers. Between September 1900 and August 1902, it issued 499 laws. A judicial system was established, including a Supreme Court, and a legal code was drawn up to replace antiquated Spanish ordinances. A civil service was organized. The 1901 municipal code provided for popularly elected presidents, vice presidents, and councilors to serve on municipal boards. The municipal board members were responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining municipal properties, and undertaking necessary construction projects; they also elected provincial governors.[28][41]

American escalation

Pasig. Oregon Volunteer Infantry on firing line, March 14, 1899.

An American military force of 126,000 soldiers was needed to conquer the country, and the force was regularly engaged in war against Filipino forces for another decade. Also, Macabebe Filipinos were recruited by the United States Army. Twenty-six of the 30 American generals who served in the Philippines from 1898 to 1902 had fought in the Indian Wars.[42]

By the end of February 1899, the Americans had prevailed in the struggle for Manila, and the Philippine Army was forced to retreat north. Hard-fought American victories followed at Quingua (April), Zapote Bridge (June), and Tirad Pass (December). With the June assassination of General Antonio Luna by rivals in the Philippine leadership, conventional military leadership was weakened. Brigadier General Gregorio del Pilar fought a delaying action at Tirad Pass to allow Aguinaldo to escape, at the cost of his life. After this battle and the loss of two of their best generals, the Filipinos' ability to fight a conventional war rapidly diminished.

Philippine war strategy

Manila—Filipino insurgent attack on the barracks of Co. C, 13th Minnesota Volunteers, during the Tondo Fire.

Estimates of the Filipino forces vary between 80,000 and 100,000, with tens of thousands of auxiliaries.[43] Lack of weapons and ammunition was a significant impediment to the Filipinos. U.S. troop strength averaged 40,000 and peaked at 74,000.[43] A total of 126,468 U.S. soldiers served there.[44]

The goal, or end-state, sought by the First Philippine Republic was a sovereign, independent, socially stable Philippines led by the ilustrado (intellectual) oligarchy.[45] Local chieftains, landowners, and businessmen were the principales who controlled local politics. The war was strongest when illustrados, principales,, and peasants were unified in opposition to annexation.[45] The peasants, who provided the bulk of guerrilla manpower, had interests different from their illustrado leaders and the principales of their villages.[45] Coupled with the ethnic and geographic fragmentation, unity was a daunting task. The challenge for Aguinaldo and his generals was to sustain unified Filipino public opposition; this was the revolutionaries' strategic center of gravity.[45]

The Filipino operational center of gravity was the ability to sustain its force of 100,000 irregulars in the field.[46] The Filipino general Francisco Makabulos described the Filipinos' war aim as, “not to vanquish the U.S. Army but to inflict on them constant losses.” They sought to initially use conventional tactics and an increasing toll of U.S. casualties to contribute to McKinley's defeat in the 1900 presidential election.[46] Their hope was that if elected President, the avowedly anti-imperialist William Jennings Bryan would withdraw from the Philippines.[46] They pursued this short-term goal with guerrilla tactics better suited to a protracted struggle.[46] While targeting McKinley motivated the revolutionaries in the short term, his victory demoralized them and convinced many undecided Filipinos that the United States would not depart precipitately.[46]

Guerrilla war phase

In 1900, Aguinaldo shifted from conventional to guerrilla warfare, a means of operation which better suited their disadvantaged situation and made American occupation of the Philippine archipelago all the more difficult over the next few years. In fact, during just the first four months of the guerrilla war, the Americans had nearly 500 casualties. The Philippine Army began staging bloody ambushes and raids, such as the guerrilla victories at Paye, Catubig, Makahambus, Pulang Lupa, Balangiga and Mabitac. At first, it even seemed as if the Filipinos would fight the Americans to a stalemate and force them to withdraw. This was even considered by President McKinley at the beginning of the phase.

The shift to guerrilla warfare, however, only angered the Americans into acting more ruthlessly than before. They began taking no prisoners, burning whole villages, and routinely shooting surrendering Filipino soldiers. Much worse were the concentration camps that civilians were forced into, after being suspected of being guerrilla sympathizers. Thousands of civilians died in these camps. In nearly all cases, the civilians suffered much more than the guerrillas.

The subsequent American oppression towards the population tremendously reduced the materials, men and morale of many Filipino soldiers, compelling them in one way or another to surrender.

Decline and fall of the First Philippine Republic

The Philippine Army continued suffering defeats from the better-armed American Army during the conventional warfare phase, forcing Aguinaldo to continuously change his base of operations, which he did for nearly the length of the entire war.

A group of Filipino combatants are photographed just as they lay down their weapons prior to their surrender.

On March 23, 1901, General Frederick Funston and his troops captured Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela, with the help of some Filipinos (called the Macabebe Scouts after their home locale) who had joined the Americans' side. The Americans pretended to be captives of the Macabebes, who were dressed in Philippine Army uniforms. Once Funston and his “captors” entered Aguinaldo's camp, they immediately fell upon the guards and quickly overwhelmed them and the weary Aguinaldo.

On April 1, 1901, at the Malacañang Palace in Manila, Aguinaldo swore an oath accepting the authority of the United States over the Philippines and pledging his allegiance to the American government. Three weeks later he publicly called on his followers to lay down arms. “Let the stream of blood cease to flow; let there be an end to tears and desolation,” Aguinaldo said. “The lesson which the war holds out and the significance of which I realized only recently, leads me to the firm conviction that the complete termination of hostilities and a lasting peace are not only desirable but also absolutely essential for the well-being of the Philippines.”[47]

The capture of Aguinaldo dealt a severe blow to the Filipino cause, but not as much as the Americans had hoped. General Miguel Malvar took over the leadership of the Filipino government, or what remained of it.[48] He originally had taken a defensive stance against the Americans, but now launched all-out offensives against the American-held towns in the Batangas region.[6] General Vincente Lukban in Samar, and other army officers, continued the war in their respective areas.[6]

In response, General J. Franklin Bell performed tactics that countered Malvar's guerrilla strategy. Forcing civilians to live in hamlets, interrogating suspected guerrillas (and regular civilians alike), and his execution of scorched earth campaigns took a heavy toll on the Filipino revolutionaries.

Bell also relentlessly pursued Malvar and his men, breaking ranks, dropping morale, and forcing the surrender of many of the Filipino soldiers. Finally, Malvar surrendered along with his sick wife and children and some of his officers on April 13, 1902. By the end of the month, nearly 3000 of Malvar's men had also surrendered. With the surrender of Malvar, the Filipino war effort began to dwindle even further.

Official end to the war

The Philippine Organic Act of July 1902 approved, ratified, and confirmed McKinley's Executive Order establishing the Philippine Commission and stipulated that a legislature would be established composed of a lower house, the Philippine Assembly, which would be popularly elected, and an upper house consisting of the Philippine Commission. The act also provided for extending the United States Bill of Rights to Filipinos.[28][41]

On July 2, the Secretary of War telegraphed that the insurrection against the sovereign authority of the U.S. having come to an end, and provincial civil governments having been established, the office of Military Governor was terminated. On July 4, Theodore Roosevelt, who had succeeded to the U.S. Presidency after the assassination of President McKinley on September 5, 1901, proclaimed a full and complete pardon and amnesty to all persons in the Philippine archipelago who had participated in the conflict.[49][50]

Post-1902 hostilities

Some Filipino historians like Constantino have suggested that the war unofficially continued for nearly a decade, since bands of guerrillas, quasi-religious armed groups, and other resistance groups continued to roam the countryside, still clashing with American Army or Philippine Constabulary patrols.[5] After the close of the war, however, Governor-General Taft preferred to rely on the Philippine Constabulary in a law enforcement role rather than on the American army. He was, in fact, criticized for this.[51]

Simeon Ola of Guinobatan, Albay in the Bicol region has been suggested as the last Filipino general to surrender (on September 25, 1903) in place of Malvar.[52]

In 1902, a veteran Katipunan member and self-proclaimed generalissimo named Macario Sakay attempted to form his own Republic, called Katagalugan after Bonifacio's, in southern Luzon. After years of resistance, he was captured and executed in 1907 after accepting an amnesty offer.[53][5]

Quasi-religious armed groups included the pulajanes (so called because of their red garments), colorum (from a corruption of the Latin in saecula saeculorum, part of the Glory Be to the Father prayer), and Dios-Dios (literally "God-God") groups of assorted provinces . These groups were mostly composed of farmers and other poor people led by messianic leaders, and they subscribed to a blend of Roman Catholicism and folk beliefs. One of these leaders was Dionisio Seguela, better known as Papa Isio (Pope Isio). The last of these groups were wiped out or had surrendered by 1913.[5]

These resistance movements were all dismissed by the American government as banditry, fanaticism or cattle rustling.[5]

American opposition to the war

Some Americans, notably William Jennings Bryan, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Ernest Crosby, and other members of the American Anti-Imperialist League, strongly objected to the annexation of the Philippines. Other Americans mistakenly thought that the Philippines wanted to become part of the United States. Anti-imperialist movements claimed that the United States had betrayed its lofty goals of the Spanish–American War by becoming a colonial power, merely replacing Spain in the Philippines. Other anti-imperialists opposed annexation on racist grounds. Among these was Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina, who feared that annexation of the Philippines would lead to an influx of non-white immigrants. As news of atrocities committed in subduing the Philippines arrived in the United States, support for the war flagged.

Mark Twain famously opposed the war by using his influence in the press. He felt it betrayed the ideals of American democracy by not allowing the Filipino people to choose their own destiny.

“There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it—perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands—but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector—not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now—why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.”[54]

In 1904 or 1905, Twain dictated the War Prayer in protest against the Philippine-American war. It was submitted to Harper's Bazaar for publication, but the magazine rejected the story as "not quite suited to a woman's magazine." Because he had an exclusive contract with Harper & Brothers, Mark Twain could not publish The War Prayer elsewhere; it remained unpublished until 1923. According to one account, his illustrator Dan Beard asked him if he would publish it regardless, and Twain replied that "Only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead."[55] Mindful of public reaction, he considered that he had a family to support,[56] and did not want to be seen as a lunatic or fanatic.[55] In a letter to his confidant Joseph Twichell, he wrote that he had "suppressed" the book for seven years, even though his conscience told him to publish it, because he was not "equal" to the task.[55][57] The story was found in his manuscripts and published posthumously in 1923.[57]

Some later historians, such as Howard Zinn and Daniel Boone Schirmer, cite the Philippine–American War as an example of American imperialism.[58]

Filipino collaboration with America

Some of Aguinaldo's associates supported America, even before hostilities began. Pedro Paterno, Aguinaldo's prime minister and the author of the 1897 armistice treaty with Spain, advocated the incorporation of the Philippines into the United States in 1898. Other associates sympathetic to the U.S. were Trinidad Pardo de Tavera and Benito Legarda, prominent members of Congress; Gregorio Araneta, Aguinaldo's Secretary of Justice; and Felipe Buencamino, Aguinaldo's Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Buencamino said in 1902: "I am an American and all the money in the Philippines, the air, the light, and the sun I consider American." Many such people subsequently held posts in the colonial government.[5]

The American government organized the Philippine Scouts and Philippine Constabulary, which saw action against resistance groups.


Some Filipinos wounded by the fighting in 1899.

In the official war years, there were 4,196 American soldiers dead, 1,020 of which were from actual combat; the remainder died of disease, and 2,930 were wounded.[2] There were also 2,000 casualties that the Philippine Constabulary suffered during the war, over one thousand of which were fatalities. Philippine military deaths are estimated at 20,000 with 16,000 actually counted, while civilian deaths numbered between 250,000 and 1,000,000 Filipinos. These numbers take into account those killed by war, malnutrition, and a cholera epidemic that raged during the war.[59] The Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative gives an estimate of 510,000 civilian deaths, and 20,000 military deaths, excluding 100,000 deaths from the Moro Rebellion. The American military and Philippine Constabulary still suffered periodic losses combating small bands of Moro guerrillas in the far south until 1913.

The high Filipino casualty figures were a combination of the superior arms and even more superior numbers of the Americans, who were equipped with the most modern, up-to-date weapons in the world, including superb Krag-Jørgensen bolt-action rifles and machine guns, and who were also well-led. Furthermore, U.S. warships stood ready to destroy Philippine positions when needed. In contrast, the Filipinos were armed with a motley collection of rifles such as Mausers and Remingtons, many which had been taken from dead enemy soldiers (including Spanish troops from the previous conflict) or smuggled into the country by their fellow Filipinos. Their artillery was not much better, consisting mostly of worn-out artillery pieces captured from the Spanish. Although they did have a few Maxim and Gatling machine guns, along with a few modern Krupp artillery pieces, these were highly prized and taken to the rear for fear of capture before they could play any decisive role. Ammunition and rifles became more scarce as the war dragged on, and Filipinos were forced to manufacture their own, like the homemade paltik. Still most did not even have firearms. Many used bolos, spears, and lances in fighting, which also contributed to high casualty figures when such obsolete weapons were used against the Americans' superior arms. However the Filipinos did have the advantage of knowing their own country and rough terrain well, in contrast to the Americans who were fighting on foreign terrain.

Filipino casualties on the first day of Philippine-American War. Original caption is 'Insurgent dead just as they fell in the trench near Santa Ana, February 5. The trench was circular, and the picture shows but a small portion.'

In recognition of United States military service during the Philippine-American War, the United States Army created two service decorations which were known as the Philippine Campaign Medal and the Philippine Congressional Medal.

In 1916, the United States granted the Philippines self-government and promised eventual independence, which came in 1946.

War crimes

American atrocities

In 1908, Manuel Arellano Remondo, in a book entitled General Geography of the Philippine Islands, wrote:

“The population decreased due to the wars, in the five-year period from 1895 to 1900, since, at the start of the first insurrection, the population was estimated at 9,000,000, and at present (1908), the inhabitants of the Archipelago do not exceed 8,000,000 in number.”[60]

U.S. attacks into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns where entire villages were burned and destroyed, torture (water cure) and the concentration of civilians into “protected zones” (concentration camps). Many of the civilian casualties resulted from disease and famine.

General Jacob H. Smith's infamous order "KILL EVERY ONE OVER TEN" was the caption in the New York Journal cartoon on May 5, 1902. The Old Glory draped an American shield on which a vulture replaced the bald eagle. The bottom caption exclaimed, "Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines." Published in the New York Journal-American, May 5, 1902.

American soldiers' letters and response

From almost the beginning of the war, soldiers wrote home describing, and usually bragging about, atrocities committed against Filipinos, soldiers and civilians alike. Increasingly, such personal letters, or portions of them, reached a national audience as anti-imperialist editors across the nation reproduced them.[61]

Once these accounts were widely reproduced, the War Department was forced to demand that General Otis investigate their authenticity. For each press clipping, he forwarded it to the writer’s commanding officer, who would then convince the soldier to write a retraction.

Private Charles Brenner of the Kansas regiment resisted such pressure. He insisted that Colonel Funston[62] had ordered that all prisoners be shot and that Major Metcalf and Captain Bishop enforced these orders. Otis was obliged to order the Northern Luzon sector commander, General Arthur MacArthur, to look into the charge. Brenner confronted MacArthur’s aide with a corroborating witness, who confessed to shooting two prisoners after Bishop or Metcalf ordered, “Kill them! Damn it, Kill them!” MacArthur sent his aide’s report on to Otis with no comment. Otis ordered Brenner court-martialed “for writing and conniving at the publication of an article which… contains willful falsehoods concerning himself and a false charge against Captain Bishop.” The judge advocate in Manila convinced Otis that such a trial could open a Pandora’s box because “facts would develop implicating many others.”

General Otis sent the Brenner case to Washington writing: “After mature deliberation, I doubt the wisdom of court-martial in this case, as it would give the insurgent authorities a knowledge of what was taking place and they would assert positively that our troops had practiced inhumanities, whether the charge should be proven or not, as they would use it as an excuse to defend their own barbarities;” and Otis went on, justifying the war crimes, “and it is not thought that his charge is very grievous under the circumstances then existing, as it was very early in the war, and the patience of our men was under great strain.”[63]

Towards the end of 1899, General Otis attempted to repair his battered image. He began to work to win new friends among the journalists in Manila and bestowed favors on any journalist who gave him favorable press.[64]

Concentration camps

As one historian wrote about Marinduque, the first island with concentration camps:

“The triple press of concentration (camps), devastation, and harassment led Abad (the Marinduque commander) …to request a truce to negotiate surrender terms… The Army pacified Marinduque not by winning the allegiance of the people, but by imposing coercive measures to control their behavior and separate them from the insurgents in the field. Ultimately, military and security measures proved to be the (essential element) of Philippine pacification.”[65]

Filipino atrocities

To counter the bad press back in America, General Otis stated that insurgents tortured American prisoners in “fiendish fashion,” some of whom were buried alive, or worse, up to their necks in anthills to be slowly devoured. Others were castrated, had the removed parts stuffed into their mouths, and were then left to suffocate or bleed to death. It was also stated that some prisoners were deliberately infected with leprosy before being released to spread the disease among their comrades. Spanish priests were horribly mutilated before their congregations, and natives who refused to support Emilio Aguinaldo were slaughtered by the thousands. American newspaper headlines announced the “Murder and Rapine” by the “Fiendish Filipinos.” General “Fighting Joe” Wheeler insisted that it was the Filipinos who had mutilated their own dead, murdered women and children, and burned down villages, solely to discredit American soldiers.[66]

Other events dubbed atrocities included those attributed by the Americans to General Vicente Lukban, allegedly the Filipino commander who masterminded the Balangiga massacre in Samar province, a surprise attack that killed almost fifty American soldiers. Media reports stated that many of the bodies were mutilated.[67] The attack itself triggered American reprisals in Samar, ordered by General Jacob Hurd Smith, who said, "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States," and defined this as everyone over ten years old. To his credit, Major Littleton Waller countermanded it to his own men. Nevertheless, some of his men "undoubtedly" carried out atrocities.[64]

Sergeant Hallock testified in the Lodge Committee that natives were given the water cure, “…in order to secure information of the murder of Private O'Herne of Company I, who had been not only killed, but roasted and otherwise tortured before death ensued.”[68]

On the Filipino side, information regarding atrocities comes from the eyewitnesses and the participants themselves. In his History of the Filipino People Teodoro Agoncillo writes that the Filipino troops could match and even exceed the Americans' penchant for brutality regarding prisoners of war. Kicking, slapping, and spitting at faces were common. In some cases, ears and noses were cut off and salt applied to the wounds. In other cases, captives were buried alive. These atrocities occurred regardless of Aguinaldo's orders and circulars concerning the good treatment of prisoners.[69]

Reporters and Red Cross accounts contradict Otis

During the closing months of 1899, Emilio Aguinaldo attempted to counter General Otis’s account by suggesting that neutral parties—foreign journalists or representatives of the International Red Cross—inspect his military operations. Otis refused, but Emilio Aguinaldo managed to smuggle in four reporters—two English, one Canadian, and a Japanese—into the Philippines. The correspondents returned to Manila to report that American captives were “treated more like guests than prisoners,” were “fed the best that the country affords, and everything is done to gain their favor.” The story went on to say that American prisoners were offered commissions in the Filipino army and that three had accepted. The four reporters were expelled from the Philippines as soon as their stories were printed.[70][71][72][73][74][75][76][77][78][79][80][81][82]

Emilio Aguinaldo also released some American prisoners so they could tell their own stories. In a Boston Globe article entitled “With the Goo Goo’s” Paul Spillane described his fair treatment as a prisoner. Emilio Aguinaldo had even invited American captives to the christening of his baby and had given each a present of four dollars, Spillane recounted.

Naval Lieutenant J. C. Gilmore, whose release was forced by American cavalry pursuing Aguinaldo into the mountains, insisted that he had received “considerable treatment” and that he was no more starved than were his captors. Otis responded to these two articles by ordering the “capture” of the two authors, and that they be “investigated,” therefore questioning their loyalty.[70][83]

When F. A. Blake of the International Red Cross arrived at Emilio Aguinaldo’s request, Otis kept him confined to Manila, where Otis’s staff explained all of the Filipinos' violations of civilized warfare. Blake managed to slip away from an escort and venture into the field. Blake never made it past American lines, but even within American lines he saw burned out villages and “horribly mutilated bodies, with stomachs slit open and occasionally decapitated.” Blake waited to return to San Francisco, where he told one reporter that “American soldiers are determined to kill every Filipino in sight.”[84][85][86][87][88]

Ratio of Filipinos wounded

The most conclusive evidence that the enemy wounded were being killed, came from the official reports of Otis and his successor, General Arthur MacArthur, which claimed 15 Filipinos killed for every one wounded. In the American Civil War, the ratio had been five wounded for every soldier killed, which is close to historical norm. Otis attempted to explain this anomaly by the superior marksmanship of rural southerners and westerners in the U.S. military, who had hunted all their lives.

MacArthur added a racial twist, asserting that Anglo-Saxons do not succumb to wounds as easily as do men of “inferior races.”[89][90]



In the south, Muslim Filipinos resisted until 1913—the so-called Moro Rebellion. They were never part of Aguinaldo's movement but independently fought the Americans.

The Catholic Church, language, and education

The Roman Catholic Church was disestablished and a considerable amount of Church land was purchased and redistributed. The bulk of the land, however, was quickly bought up by American companies with little going to Filipino peasants.

U.S. President McKinley, in his instructions to the First Philippine Commission in 1898, ordered the use of the Philippine languages as well as English for instructional purposes. The American administrators, finding the local languages to be too numerous and too difficult to learn and to write teaching materials in, ended up with a monolingual system in English with no attention paid to the other Philippine languages except for the token statement concerning the necessity of using them eventually for the system.[91]

In 1901, some 500 teachers (365 males and 165 females) arrived from the U.S. aboard the USS Thomas. The name Thomasite was adopted for these teachers, who firmly established education as one of America's major contributions to the Philippines. Among the assignments given were Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, and Masbate. Of the original Thomasites, 27 either died of tropical diseases or were murdered by outlaws during their first 20 months of residence. Despite the hardships, the Thomasites persisted, teaching and building learning institutions that prepared students for their chosen professions or trades. They opened the Philippine Normal School and the Philippine School of Arts and Trades (PSAT) in 1901, and reopened the Philippine Nautical School, established in 1839 by the Board of Commerce of Manila under Spain. by of 1904, primary courses were mostly taught by Filipinos, were under American supervision.[92]


In the fall of 1899, Gen. Arthur MacArthur, who was still loyal to General Otis, said to reporter H. Irving Hannock:

When I first started in against these rebels, I believed that Aguinaldo’s troops represented only a faction. I did not like to believe that the whole population of Luzon—the native population that is—was opposed to us and our offers of aid and good government. But after having come this far, after having occupied several towns and cities in succession, and having been brought much into contact with both insurrectos and amigos, I have been reluctantly compelled to believe that the Filipino masses are loyal to Aguinaldo and the government which he heads.[84]


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  21. Miller states that the amount was $800,000. Miller, 1982, 35.
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Further reading

  • The "Lodge Committee" (a.k.a. Philippine Investigating Committee) hearings and a great deal of documentation were published in three volumes (3,000 pages) as S. Doc. 331, 57th Cong., 1st Session An abridged version of the oral testimony can be found in: Henry F. Graff, ed. American Imperialism and the Philippine Insurrection: Testimony Taken from Hearings on Affairs in the Philippine Islands before the Senate Committee on the Philippines—1902. New York: Little, Brown, 1969.
  • Secretary Root's Record: "Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare—Wikisource Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  • Wilcox, Marrion. Harper's History of the War. New York and London: Harper, (1900) 1979. (Alternate title: Harper's History of the War in the Philippines. Also reprinted in the Philippines by Vera-Reyes.)
  • Zwick, Jim. Friends of the Filipino People Bulletin.

External links

All links retrieved April 26, 2015.


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