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Elwell S. Otis

2nd American Military Governor of the Philippines
In office
August 28, 1898 ‚Äď May 5, 1900
Preceded by Wesley Merritt
Succeeded by Arthur MacArthur, Jr

Member of the Schurman Commission
In office
March 4, 1899 ‚Äď March 16, 1900
Preceded by Newly created
Succeeded by Bernard Moses
(Taft Commission)

Born March 25, 1838(1838-03-25)
Frederick, Maryland, United States
Died October 21, 1909 (aged 71)
Rochester, New York, United States
Spouse(s) Louise Bowman Otis [1]
Alma mater University of Rochester
Harvard Law School [1]
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Unit 140th New York Regiment
22nd Infantry
V Corps
VIII Corps
Battles/wars American Civil War
*Battle of Fredericksburg
*Battle of Gettysburg
*Siege of Petersburg
*Battle of Peebles' Farm
Indian Wars
*Great Sioux War
Spanish-American War
Philippine-American War
*Battle of Manila (1899)

Elwell Stephen Otis (March 25, 1838 - October 21, 1909) was a United States of America General who served in the Philippines late in the Spanish-American War and during the Philippine-American War.



Otis was born in Frederick, Maryland on March 25, 1838. He attended the University of Rochester, where he was a member of the (now defunct) Iota Chapter of St. Anthony Hall aka the Fraternity of Delta Psi. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1860 and was practicing law during the first year of the Civil War.


Civil War

During the Civil War Otis was appointed captain in the 140th New York Regiment. He fought at the battles of Fredericksburg Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. On December 23, 1864 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of his regiment. At the battle of Spotsylvania the regiment's colonel was killed and Otis assumed command. He fought in all the battles of the Overland Campaign. During the Siege of Petersburg, he assumed command of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division in V Corps leading it into action at the battle of Peebles' Farm. During this battle he was severely wounded effectively ended his field career during the Civil War. He was promoted to brevet brigadier general of volunteers for actions at the Chappell House (battle of Peebles Farm). Otis eventually recovered and was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 22nd U.S. Infantry in 1867.

Indian Wars

Otis continued serving in the army during the Indian Wars as part of the 22nd U.S. including campaigning in Montana in the aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. On February 8, 1880 he was appointed colonel of the 20th U.S. Infantry. On November 28, 1893, he was appointed brigadier general in the regular army. He commanded the Department of the Columbia and the Department of Colorado.

Philippine-American War

On May 4, 1898, he was appointed major general of volunteers and was sent to the Philippines with reinforcements for General Wesley Merritt. Otis assumed command of the VIII Corps, replacing Merritt who had become the military governor of the Philippines. Merritt served as military governor only briefly before he returned to the United States. On August 28, 1899 Otis was appointed Military Governor for the Philippines.

He also continued in command of the VIII Corps during the Philippine-American War. He conducted the U.S. Army during the battle of Manila in 1899 and during the first phase of the insurrection before fighting turned primarily to guerrilla warfare.

Otis's response when Emilio Aguinaldo tried to stop the war by sending an emissary to General Otis to appeal for an end to the fighting in the Battle of Manila was, "fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end.".[2]

Otis also oversaw many of the first atrocities of the Philippine-American War by American soldiers:

"The conduct of the Washington Volunteers has been the subject of special investigations for some time. They deny wanton burning or cruelties. And still there are strong indications that they practised these infractions to some extent."[3]

Later life

He was relieved of command in 1900 and replaced with Arthur MacArthur. He returned to the United States and commanded the Department of the Lakes. He was appointed major general in the regular army in 1906.

Otis was a skilled general and able administrator. However, he was generally disliked by his subordinates and peers and received harsh treatment in the press. He was known as "Granny" by his troops because of his age and graying hair.[4] He died in Rochester, New York on October 21, 1909 from painful angina.

See also


  1. ^ a b Elwell Stephen Otis , Arlington National Cemetery.
  2. ^ Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982). Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03081-9.   p. 63
  3. ^ Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare - Wikisource at
  4. ^ Linn, Brian McAllister (2000). The Philippine War: 1899-1902. University Press of Kansas.   p. 27-29

Further reading

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Military offices
Preceded by
Commandant of the Command and General Staff College
November 1881 - June 1885
Succeeded by
Thomas Howard Ruger
Government offices
Preceded by
Wesley Merritt
Military Governor of the Philippines
August 28, 1898‚ÄďMay 5, 1900
Succeeded by
Arthur MacArthur, Jr
Political offices
Preceded by
Newly created
Member of the Schurman Commission
March 4, 1899‚ÄďMarch 16, 1900
Succeeded by
Bernard Moses
(Taft Commission)


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