The death of Del Pilar is something more than a soldier's death. It was the sublime protest of a patriot against the decree of adverse fate. He had yearned for death when he saw that all was lost for the Republic. He had wished for it when long before the battle of Tirad, he proposed to meet the pursuing enemy after the disaster at Caloocan. He felt its obsession when at midnight on the bank of the river at Aringay he woke up his soldiers and pointedly asked them this question: "Brothers, which do you prefer, to die fighting or to flee like cowards?
The War in 1900-1901: African Americans in the Fil-Am War
Companies from the segregated Black 24th and 25th infantry regiments reported to the Presidio of San Francisco in early 1899. They arrived in the Philippines on July 30 and Aug. 1, 1899. The 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments were sent to the Philippines as reinforcements, and by late summer of 1899, all four regular Black regiments plus Black national guardsmen had been brought into the war against the Filipino "Insurectos." The two Black volunteer infantry regiments -- 49th and 48th -- arrived in Manila on January 2 and 25, 1900, respectively.
African American soldiers of Troop E, 9th Cavalry Regiment before shipping out to the Philippines in 1900. Up to 7,000 Blacks saw action in the Philippines.
African American soldiers of Troop C, 9th Cavalry Regiment, at Camp Lawton, Washington State, before shipping out to the Philippines in 1900
9th Cavalry soldiers on foot, somewhere in Luzon Island.
The U.S. Army viewed its "Buffalo soldiers" as having an extra advantage in fighting in tropical locations. There was an unfounded belief that African-Americans were immune to tropical diseases. Based on this belief the U.S. congress authorized the raising of ten regiments of "persons possessing immunity to tropical diseases." These regiments would later be called "Immune Regiments".
Many Black newspaper articles and leaders supported Filipino independence and felt that it was wrong for the US to subjugate non-whites in the development of a colonial empire. Some Black soldiers expressed their conscientious objection to Black newspapers. Pvt. William Fulbright saw the U.S. conducting "a gigantic scheme of robbery and oppression." Trooper Robert L. Campbell insisted "these people are right and we are wrong and terribly wrong" and said he would not serve as a soldier because no man "who has any humanity about him at all would desire to fight against such a cause as this." Black Bishop Henry M. Turner characterized the venture in the Philippines as "an unholy war of conquest".
African American soldiers during the Philippine-American War in undated photo.
Many Black soldiers increasingly felt they were being used in an unjust racial war. One Black private wrote that “the white man’s prejudice followed the Negro to the Philippines, ten thousand miles from where it originated.”
The Filipinos subjected Black soldiers to psychological warfare. Posters and leaflets addressed to "The Colored American Soldier" described the lynching and discrimination against Blacks in the US and discouraged them from being the instrument of their white masters' ambitions to oppress another "people of color." Blacks who deserted to the Filipino nationalist cause would be welcomed.
One soldier related a conversation with a young Filipino boy: “Why does the American Negro come to fight us where we are a friend to him and have not done anything to him. He is all the same as me and me the same as you. Why don’t you fight those people in America who burn Negroes, that make a beast of you?”
Another Black soldier, when asked by a white trooper why he had come to the Philippines, replied sarcastically: “Why doan’ know, but I ruther reckon we’re sent over here to take up de white man’s burden.”
The Black 24th Infantry Regiment marching in Manila. Photo taken in 1900.
One of the Black deserters, Private David Fagen of the 24th Infantry, born in Tampa, Florida in 1875, became notorious as "Insurecto Captain". On Nov. 17, 1899, Fagen, assisted by a Filipino officer who had a horse waiting for him near the company barracks, slipped into the jungle and headed for the Filipinos' sanctuary at Mount Arayat. The New York Timesdescribed him as a “cunning and highly skilled guerilla officer who harassed and evaded large conventional American units.” From August 30, 1900 to January 17, 1901, he battled eight times with American troops.
Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston put a $600 price on Fagen's head and passed word the deserter was "entitled to the same treatment as a mad dog." Posters of him in Tagalog and Spanish appeared in every Nueva Ecija town, but he continued to elude capture.
Hunters with indigenous Aetas, circa 1898-1899
On Dec. 5, 1901, Anastacio Bartolome, a Tagalog hunter, delivered to American authorities the severed head of a “negro” he claimed to be Fagen. While traveling with his hunting party, Bartolome reported that he had spied upon Fagen and his Filipina wife accompanied by a group of indigenous people called Aetas bathing in a river.
Page 1, issue of Dec. 9, 1901
The hunters attacked the group and allegedly killed and beheaded Fagen, then buried his body near the river. But this story has never been confirmed and there is no record of Bartolome receiving a reward. Official army records of the incident refer to it as the “supposed killing of David Fagen,” and several months later, Philippine Constabulary reports still made references to occasional sightings of Fagen.
The Indianapolis Freeman, issue dated Oct. 14, 1899, features Edward Lee Baker, Jr., an African-American US Army Sergeant Major, awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Cuba. Founded in 1888 by Edward C. Cooper, it was the first Black national illustrated newspaper in the US.The article at right, included in this issue although datelined Aug. 18, 1899, describes the movements of the 24th Infantry Regiment while campaigning in the Philippines.
A Black newspaper, the Indianapolis Freeman, editorialized in December, 1901, "Fagen was a traitor and died a traitor's death, but he was a man no doubt prompted by honest motives to help a weakened side, and one he felt allied by bonds that bind."
The Scranton Tribune, Page 1
During the war, 20 U.S. soldiers, 6 of them Black, would defect to Aquinaldo. Two of the deserters, both Black, were hanged by the US Army. They were Privates Edmond Dubose and Lewis Russell, both of the 9th Cavalry, who were executed on Feb. 7, 1902, before a crowd of 3,000 at Guinobatan, Albay Province.
Black and white American soldiers with Signal Corps flag
Nevertheless, it was also felt by most African Americans that a good military showing by Black troops in the Philippines would reflect favorably and enhance their cause in the US.
The sentiments of most Black soldiers in the Philippines would be summed up by Commissary Sergeant Middleton W. Saddler of the 25th Infantry, who wrote, "We are now arrayed to meet a common foe, men of our own hue and color. Whether it is right to reduce these people to submission is not a question for soldiers to decide. Our oaths of allegiance know neither race, color, nor nation."
Although most Blacks were distressed by the color line that had been immediately established in the Philippines and by the epithet "niggers", which white soldiers applied to Filipinos, they joined whites in calling them "gugus". A black lieutenant of the 25th Infantry wrote his wife that he had occasionally subjected Filipinos to the water torture.
Capt. William H. Jackson of the 49th Infantry admitted his men identified racially with the Filipinos but grimly noted "all enemies of the U.S. government look alike to us, hence we go on with the killing."
The Black 24th Infantry Regiment drilling at Camp Walker, Cebu Island. Photo was taken in 1902.
Jan. 6, 1900: US Newspaper Reports Record Incidence of Insanity Among Americans In The Philippines
The Guthrie Daily Leader, Guthrie, Oklahoma, Jan. 6, 1900, Page 1
Jan. 7, 1900: Battle of Imus, Cavite Province
Photo taken in 1900
On Jan. 7, 1900, the 28th Infantry Regiment of US Volunteers, commanded by Col. William E. Birkhimer, engaged a large body of Filipinos at Imus, Cavite Province.
Original caption: "Filipinos firing on the American out-posts, P.I." Photo was taken in 1900, location not specified.
Original caption: "The rude ending of delusion's dream ---Insurgent on the Battlefield of Imus, Philippines."
Four soldiers of Company M, 28th Infantry Regiment of US Volunteers. Photo was taken in 1900. The regiment arrived in the Philippines on Nov. 22 and 23, 1899. It was commanded by Col. William E. Birkhimer.
The St. Paul Globe, St. Paul, Minnesota, Jan. 8, 1900, Page 1
The Americans suffered 8 men wounded, and reported that 245 Filipinos were killed and wounded.
Licerio Topacio, Presidente Municipal (Mayor) of Imus, with two Filipino priests. PHOTO was taken in 1899.
January 14-15, 1900: Battle of Mt. Bimmuaya in Ilocos Sur
US artillery supporting the infantry. Photo taken in 1900, location not specified
On Jan. 14-15, 1900, the only artillery duel of the war was fought in Mount Bimmuaya, a summit 1,000 meters above the Cabugao River, northwest of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur Province. It is a place with an unobstructed view of the coastal plain from Vigan to Laoag. The Americans -- from the 33rd Infantry Regiment USV, and the 3rd US Cavalry Regiment -- also employed Gatling guns and prevailed mainly because their locations were concealed by their use of smokeless gunpowder so that Filipino aim was wide off the mark.
It was believed that General Manuel Tinio, and his officers Capt. Estanislao Reyes and Capt. Francisco Celedonio were present at this encounter but got away unscathed.
Elements of this same 33rd Infantry unit had killed General Gregorio del Pilar earlier on Dec. 2, 1899, at Tirad Pass, southeast of Candon, llocos Sur.
The Battle of Mt. Bimmuaya diverted and delayed US troops from their chase of President Emilio Aguinaldo as the latter escaped through Abra and the mountain provinces. After the two-day battle, 28 unidentified fighters from Cabugao were found buried in unmarked fresh graves in the camposanto(cemetery).
Manila burns: US soldiers firing at Filipinos, Feb. 23, 1899
The fire, the blare of guerrilla bugles and the shooting confused the Americans. They made their stand on Calle Iris near the Bilibid Prison and waited for reinforcements.
Chinese quarters and business street in Manila. Photo taken in 1898 or 1899.
By now the Binondo market was on fire, but Lucio Lucas --another Luna officer--and his men failed to reach the Meisic police station, his prime objective ((Meisic derived from "Maintsik", which today is Manila’s Chinatown).
The Americans had learned of the planned attack earlier, and were prepared to meet him. Lucas's men retreated towards Calle Azcarraga. In hand-to-hand combat they broke through the American detachment there and disappeared into the night.
The Americans counter-attacked the next day with fresh troops and gunboats. They pushed the Filipinos into Tondo (LEFT, dead Filipinos on a Tondo street). At the tramway station, Paco Roman's men resisted until late in the morning. Others were able to hold a blockhouse but had to withdraw for lack of ammunition.
On February 24, General Luna reported to Aguinaldo that had it not been for the refusal of the Cavite soldiers to attack when ordered, "our victory would have been complete."
General Otis, horrified by Luna's bold plan, admitted that the attack was "successful in its inception and primary stages."
Aguinaldo took propaganda advantage of the small victory even as Luna accused him of holding back the Cavite soldiers (Aguinaldo's provincemates).
The troops composing the US Eighth Army Corps under General Otis's command by this time were of regulars 171 officers and 5,201 enlisted men and of volunteers 667 officers and 14,831 enlisted men, making an aggregate of 838 officers and 20,032 enlisted men.
Filipino dead at Tondo.
American photograper's caption: "At the battle of Tondo ---work of Minnesota men."
Original caption: "An old man killed while picking chicken in the Filipinos' headquarters in Tondo during the insurgent outbreak."
Luna's attack plan, though a good one, failed for lack of coordination and sufficient firepower. General Luna managed to provide artillery support by using a single Krupp breech-loading cannon firing a six-inch projectile weighing 80 pounds. It was manned by Spanish prisoners with MacArthur’s Headquarters at the house of Engineer Horace L. Higgins as target. Higgins was the general manager of the English-owned Manila Railway Company. This singular artillery piece was neutralized by American counter-battery fire.
A Chinese shop near the carhouse of the Manila Railway Company at Tondo, where the Filipinos barricaded the streets. They fought from inside the wall to the left with the lamp on top.
Bridge in eastern Tondo, fortified by the Filipinos with stone blocks, behind which they fought.
The Annual Report of the U.S. War Department listed 5 Americans killed and 34 wounded; 500 Filipinos killed and wounded.
Original caption: "Minnesota & 23rd Infantry guarding burned district."
Company I, 13th Minnesota Volunteers, at mess, 1899.
Photo published in The St. Paul Globe, Feb. 26, 1899.
"Bomberos" of the Manila Fire Department, Photo taken in 1899. An American artist wrote at the back of this photograph: "Never known to get there on time."
Ruins of Tondo.
Ruins of Tondo; photo includes the American photographer's original caption.
Terra Basta Street in ruins.
Refugees from the fighting and fire at Tondo.
Market scene outside ruins of old market.
Combats between Manila and Lake Laguna de Bay
1899 US Army map of the district between Manila and Lake Laguna de Bay (lower right corner)
With fresh troops from the U.S. mainland, Maj. Gen. Elwell S. Otis ordered the clearing of the country between Manila and Lake Laguna de Bay, and a push to the north and capture Aguinaldo.
He believed that this move will stretch a line of American troops across Luzon island, thus cutting all communication between the northern and southern wings of Aguinaldo's army.
1899: Review of Company I, 12th US Infantry Regiment, at the Luneta, Manila
U.S. troop strength was 20,851 at the start of hostilities on Feb. 4, 1899; the average strength was 40,000 during the 40-month war (peaking in 1900 to 2,367 officers and 71,727 enlisted men). By war's end, a total of 126,468 American soldiers had served in the Philippines. Also, beginning in September 1899 Macabebe Filipinos --- and in the next two years --- Ilocanos, Cagayanos, Boholanos, Cebuanos, Negrenses and Ilonggos were recruited and served as scouts for the US Army. These regional Filipino scout units were integrated and organized as the Philippine Scouts on Feb. 2, 1901. The Philippine Constabulary was inaugurated on Aug. 8, 1901.
The 3 rifles used in the Philippine-American War by US services---Above, the Winchester Lee, used by the Navy and Marine Corps; in the Center, Springfield, used by most of the Volunteers; Below, the Krag Jorgensen, the weapon of the Regulars. PHOTO taken in 1899.
Twenty-six of the 30 American generals who served in the Philippines from 1898 to 1902 had fought in the Indian Wars. Sixteen graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point died in combat against the Filipinos. Eighty Americans were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Filipino strength at the start of the war was about 20,000 soldiers with 15,000 rifles. In succeeding months, it ranged between 20,000 - 30,000. The number of rifles dwindled as the war dragged on, as many malfunctioned, or were captured by American troops. Ammunition ran low; the Filipinos were forced to manufacture their own cartridges and powder. The makeshift gunpowder lacked power and released thick black smoke that revealed their positions.
The Filipino infantry was tough and hardy, requiring few supplies, and had demonstrated its competence by easily overrunning Spanish garrisons. However, it was relatively poorly trained and the officer corps was weak.
Worst, among the Filipino military and political leaders, disunity caused divisions, usually along regional lines. Although they faced a common enemy who enjoyed vastly superior military training and resources, they still found time to engage in personal, and often bitter quarrels, with disastrous and tragic consequences to the First Philippine Republic.
This color-tinted photo of US soldiers was taken in 1899, somewhere in Luzon Island.
Original caption: "There goes the American soldier and all Hell can't stop him, P.I."
Two members of a US cavalry unit
Americans bury their dead at a graveyard near Fort San Antonio de Abad, Malate district, Manila
The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Virginia, issue of March 17, 1899, Page 1
Battle of Guadalupe Church, March 13, 1899
The Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church and convent before destruction
Brig. Gen. Loyd Wheaton (LEFT) led five American regiments against Filipino forces entrenched in the area surrounding the church at Guadalupe, San Pedro de Macati (now Makati City).
The official US report listed 3 Americans killed and 25 wounded; it estimated Filipino losses at 200 dead and wounded.
1st California Volunteers positioned near the Guadalupe Convent
US gunboat Laguna de Bay bombards Guadalupe Convent. The side-wheeled steamer used to be a passenger boat that plied the Manila - Lake Laguna de Bay route; Maj. Gen. Elwell S. Otis purchased her from a Spanish firm. Capt. Frank A. Grant of the Utah Volunteer Light Artillery armored the boat and mounted eight guns upon her. The gunboat was about 125 feet long and 37 1/2 feet wide.
Filipinos killed at Guadalupe
The Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Makati City has been renamed as Nuestra Señora de Gracia. The church was completed in 1629. The masonry roof of the church collapsed in the earthquakes of 1880 and the structure was rebuilt in 1882.
Battle of Pateros, March 14, 1899
A battalion of the 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry Regiment under Maj. John J. Weisenburger attacked Pateros on March 14, 1899.
From Taguig, the Americans crossed a channel in cascos and by swimming and stormed the Filipino entrenchments at Pateros. The town took fire and burned. The Filipinos withdrew.
The Americans suffered 1 killed and 5 wounded. Filipino casualties were undetermined.
2nd Oregon Volunteers at lunch near General Wheaton's headquarters, near Pateros, March 17, 1899
Battle of Pasig, March 15, 1899
Pasig: Battery A, Utah Volunteer Light Artillery, commanded by Capt. Richard W. Young, West Point Class of 1882. Brig. Gen. Loyd Wheaton, sitting among the bananas, and Captain Young, at his back, are watching the progress of the advancing American troops.
Brig. Gen. Loyd Wheaton attacked the town of Pasig with a Provisional Brigade consisting of: a gunboat, 20th Infantry; 22nd Infantry; two battalions 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry; seven companies 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry; one platoon 6th Artillery, and three troops 4th Cavalry.
The Pasig expedition was the first organized campaign against the Filipinos. General Wheaton's instructions were to "drive the enemy beyond Pasig, striking him wherever found".
American losses were 1 killed and 3 wounded. TheNew York Times reported that the Americans found 106 dead Filipinos and 100 new graves near Pasig, and that the 20th Infantry took 175 prisoners. [A separate American report estimated Filipino dead at 400].
Reserves of the 22nd Infantry Regiment awaiting their call to the firing line. They are taking their rest just before the general advance on Pasig.
The 22nd US Infantry awaiting orders for the general advance upon Pasig. The original black and white photo was color tinted in 1902, but the artist incorrectly gave the soldiers blue uniforms; in fact, they were khaki.
Original caption: "The wall of fire. Part of the firing line near Pasig, March 15, 1899. It represents volley-firing in clock-like order at the insurgent intrenchments. The picture was taken just before the general advance." Colorized photo shows 2nd Oregon Volunteers --- armed with 45-70 caliber Springfield "trapdoor" rifles --- correctly portrayed in their blue uniforms.
Skirmish line of 2nd Oregon Volunteers at Pasig
2nd Oregon Volunteers at Battle of Pasig
Original caption: "This shows effect of first smokeless powder used by Americans in the Philippines. The guns are the old Springfield model. Photograph taken during heat of the action at Pasig. In this instance it is long distance firing." This is a colorized version of preceding photo of 2nd Oregon Volunteers.
Skirmish line of 1st Washington Volunteers at Pasig
Skirmish line of 1st Washington Volunteers at Pasig
Original caption: "Taking of Pasig --- In the distance to the left the city is seen, and in front the puffs of smoke from the insurgents' rifles, while half way down the open field the American line is returning the fire, being reenforced by others who are hurrying from the boat on the other side of the river. In the background are the reserve troops who have been protecting the advance."
Original caption: "Driving the insurgents through the jungle near Pasig."
Original caption: "Driving the insurgents through the jungle near Pasig."
Dead Filipino soldiers at Pasig
St. Paul Daily Globe, St. Paul, Minnesota, issue of March 16, 1899, Page 1
US troops in front of church at Pasig
Another view of the church at Pasig. American soldiers, barely visible in the photograph, are seen in the lower left and right corners.
The Pasig Catholic church in 2006. Photo by Elmer I. Nocheseda
Original caption: "The Church Saint Sat On By A Washington 'Johnnie', Pasig, P.I."
American bivouac at Pasig, March 1899.
Two Americans guard a bridge on the main highway at Pasig
US troops returning to Manila after the battle of Pasig
Original caption: "The Washington Boys repulsing an attack of Insurrectos on March 26, 1899, at Pasig, P.I."
Following their defeat in the main battle, the Filipinos occasionally harassed the American garrison at Pasig.
Original caption: "Expecting a Filipino Attack behind the Cemetery Wall, Pasig, Phil. Islds."
Company G of the 1st Washington Volunteers in action at Pasig
Company G of the 1st Washington Volunteers in action at Pasig
Cainta, March 16, 1899
20th US Infantry men returning with their dead; 1899 photo, unspecified location
On March 16, 1899, Maj. William P. Rogers, CO of the 3rd Battalion, 20th US Infantry Regiment, came upon the Filipinos in Cainta, about 1,000 strong, and forced them to retreat. He burned the town. Two Americans were killed and 14 wounded, while the Filipinos suffered about 100 killed and wounded.
The 3rd Battalion, 20th US Infantry Regiment, is drawn up in the main street of Pasig after the fight at nearby Cainta.
Upon the approach of the Americans, Exequiel Ampil, the Presidente Municipal of Cainta and a former agente especial of the Katipunan who had become a pronouncedAmericanista, strongly advised the Filipino soldiers to surrender. Instead, they shot him. Although wounded, Ampil managed to escape.
Issue of March 3, 1902, Page 1
On March 3, 1902, major American newspapers, including the New York Timesreported: “…Felizardo, at the head of twenty-five men armed with rifles, entered the town of Cainta…and captured the Presidente of Cainta, Señor Ampil, and a majority of the police of the town. Señor Ampil has long been known as an enthusiastic American symphatizer, and it is feared that he may be killed by the enraged ladrones. A strong force of constabulary has been sent to try to effect his release.” [Timoteo Pasay was the actual leader of the guerilla band that kidnapped Ampil on Feb. 28, 1902].
A village in the town of Morong, Morong Province. PHOTO was taken during the period 1899-1901.
On March 4, 1902, near the hills of Morong town, Ampil found an opportunity to escape. A detachment of constabulary was taken from the garrison at Pasig and stationed at Cainta for his protection. He survived the war.
[ A considerable number of the population of Cainta are descended from Indian soldiers who deserted the British Army when the British briefly occupied the Philippines in 1762 to 1764. These Indian soldiers, called Sepoys, were recruited from among the subjects of the Nawab of Arcot in Madras, India. They settled in Cainta and intermarried or cohabited with the native women. The Sepoy ancestry of Cainta is very visible in contemporary times, particularly inBarrio Dayap near Barangay Sto Nino. Their distinct physical characteristics --- darker skin tone and taller stature --- set them apart from the average Filipino who is primarily of Malay ethnicity, with admixtures of Chinese and Spanish blood. ]
Battle of Taguig, March 18-19, 1899
The 22nd US Regular Infantry Regiment, 1st Washington Volunteers and 2nd Oregon Volunteers, all under the overall command of Brig. Gen. Loyd Wheaton, engaged Filipino troops led by General Pio del Pilar in the town of Taguig. The Americans suffered 3 dead and 17 wounded; Filipino losses were 75 killed in action.
March 19, 1899: Companies D and H, 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry Regiment, firing at Filipinos from behind the stone wall of the church at Taguig
Some US troops form a skirmish line just outside the church compound
Moments later, the rest of the Americans break out from the church compound to advance across an open field -- Filipinos 800 yards in front.
Original caption: "The Open Field Over Which The Washington Boys Charged The Filipinos From The Church Tower. Taquig, P.I."
March 1899: Company D, 1st Washington Volunteers, at Taguig church.
March 19, 1899: Company H, 1st Washington Volunteers, at Taguig church.
The church at Taguig; US soldiers are positioned behind the stone wall, with lookouts on the roof and bell tower. Photo taken in November 1899.
Colonel John H. Wholley, Commanding Officer, 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry Regiment; he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1890.