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Philippine-American War
Fil-American War Feb 04,1899.jpg
The Battle of Manila, February 1899.
Date Filipino Rebellion: June 2, 1899 – July 4, 1902[a]
Moro Rebellion: 1899–1913
Location Philippines, Southeast Asia
Result United States victory and dissolution of the First Philippine Republic.
United States gained control of the Philippines.
Philippines First Philippine Republic
Philippine revolution flag kkk1.svg Revolutionary forces
Philippines Pulajanes
Late 19th Century Flag of Sulu.svg Sultanate of Sulu
Philippines Moro
United States United States
Philippine Constabulary
Philippine Scouts
Philippines Emilio Aguinaldo
Philippines Miguel Malvar
Philippines Manuel Tinio
Philippine revolution flag kkk1.svg Arcadio Maxilom
Philippine revolution flag kkk1.svg Macario Sakay
Philippines Dionisio Seguela
Late 19th Century Flag of Sulu.svg Sultan of Sulu
United States William McKinley
United States Theodore Roosevelt
United States Elwell Otis
United States Arthur MacArthur
United States John Pershing
United States Jacob Smith
80,000[citation needed] ~126,000 total[1][2]

~24,000 to ~44,000 field strength[3][4]

Casualties and losses
~12,000–20,000 killed[1][5] 4,196 killed, ~3,000 wounded;

2,000 Philippine Constabulary killed or wounded[6]

34,000 to 1,000,000 Philippine civilians killed including deaths from famine and disease[5][7][8]
a July 4, 1902 is the official ending date of the war, though the Moro, the Pulahanes, the remnants of the Katipunan, and the Tagalog Republic, continued hostilities until June 15, 1913.[9][10]

The Philippine–American War, sometimes known as the Philippine War of Independence or the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902)[11] was an armed military conflict between the Philippines and the United States, which arose from the struggle of the First Philippine Republic against United States' annexation of the islands.[12][13] The war was a continuation of the Philippine struggle for independence, following the Philippine Revolution and the Spanish-American War.

The struggle officially began on June 2, 1899, when the Philippines declared war against the United States and it officially ended on July 4, 1902, after Aguinaldo's surrender.[9][14] However, remnants of the Katipunan and other resistance groups, such as the Muslims and Pulajanes, continued hostilities until June 15, 1913 (Battle of Bud Bagsak).[9][10]

Opposition to the war inspired Mark Twain to found the Anti-Imperialist League on June 15, 1898. British poet Rudyard Kipling wrote The White Man's Burden, about colonialism. In its aftermath, the war and United States' occupation would change the cultural landscape of the islands, as the people dealt with an estimated 200,000–1,500,000 casualties, disestablishment of the Catholic Church as the state religion, and the introduction of the English language as the primary language of government and some businesses. In 1916 the United States granted the Philippines autonomy and promised eventual self-government, which came in 1934, and eventual independence in 1946.



Philippine Revolution

On July 7, 1892 Andrés Bonifacio, a warehouseman and clerk from Manila, established the Katipunan, a revolutionary organization which aimed to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule by armed revolt.[15] The Katipunan spread throughout the provinces, and the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was led by its members, called Katipuneros.[9][16] Fighters in Cavite province won early victories. One of the most influential and popular Cavite 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 leadership of the movement. In 1897, Aguinaldo was elected president of an insurgent government while the “outmaneuvered”[9] Bonifacio was executed for treason.[9][17] Aguinaldo is officially considered the first president of the Philippines.

A late 19th century photograph of Filipino Katipuneros.
1899 political cartoon by Winsor McCay. Uncle Sam (representing the United States), gets entangled with rope around a tree labelled "Imperialism" while trying to subdue a bucking colt or mule labeled "Philippines" while a figure representing Spain walks off over the horizon carrying a bag labeled "#20,000,000".

Aguinaldo's exile and return

Emilio Aguinaldo in the field.

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.[18][19] Aguinaldo then established himself in Hong Kong.[18][20] Before leaving, Aguinaldo denounced the Revolution, exhorted Filipino combatants to disarm and declared those who continued hostilities to be bandits.[9] However, some Filipino revolutionaries did continue armed struggle against the Spanish colonial government.[9][21][22][23][24][25]

Aguinaldo wrote retrospectively in 1899 that he had met with U.S. Consuls E. Spencer Pratt and Rounceville Wildman in Singapore between April 22 and 25, and that they persuaded him to again take up the mantle of leadership in the revolution, with Pratt communicating with Admiral George Dewey (the U.S. Navy's Asiatic Squadron commander) 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 honour.[26] Aguinaldo reports agreeing to return to the Philippines, traveling from Singapore to Hong Kong aboard the steamship Malacca, onwards from Hong Kong on American dispatch-boat McCulloch, and arriving in Cavite on May 19.[26] 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.[27] The 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.[27]

In Camiguin, 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."[26] 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.[28]

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.[29] 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. 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”.[30]

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.[28]

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 only president of what would be later called the First Philippine Republic. He later organized a Congress at Malolos, Bulacan to draft a constitution.[31]

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.”[24]

War against the United States

Conflict origins

Filipino soldiers outside Manila in 1899.

On June 12, 1898, Filipino revolutionary forces under Aguinaldo (later to become the President of the insurgent First Philippine Republic) 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.

Wounded American soldiers at Santa Mesa, Manila in 1899.

The declaration, however, was not recognized by the United States or Spain, as the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, in consideration for an indemnity for Spanish expenses and assets lost.

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.[32] The Philippine-American war ensued between 1899 and 1902.

First Philippine Commission

On January 20, 1899 President McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission (the 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.[33][34]

On November 2, 1900 Dr. Schurman signed the following statement:

"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 honour 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." [...][35]

First shots

This print, titled "The Battle of Paceo, February 4–5, 1899, Philippine Islands", is a depiction of initial hostilities between Philippine and American forces.

The conflict began on the night of February 4, 1899 when a Filipino soldier was shot by an American soldier, Pvt. William W. Grayson (an English immigrant who acquired U.S. citizenship in 1900[36]). 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 found that it actually happened in Sociego and Silencio Streets in Santa Mesa, Manila (moving a marker).[37] Immediately before the shooting, Grayson and others witnessed a series of outpost signals.[36] Grayson's own account subsequently states:

"In a moment, something rose up slowly in front of us. It was a Filipino. I yelled “Halt!” and made it pretty loud, for I was accustomed to challenging the officer of the guard in approved military style. I challenged him with another loud “halt!” Then he shouted “halto!” to me. Well, I thought the best thing to do was to 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 our six other fellows were and I said "Line up fellows, the niggers are in here all through these yards.[38]" We then retreated to the pipe line and got behind the water work main and stayed there all night. It was some minutes after our second shots before Filipinos began firing.[39][40]

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).[41] Some posit that the shot Filipino was himself probably drunk.[42][43] One account says there were four Filipinos, drunk and unarmed, who mocked Grayson's challenge.[43] For more details see Battle of Manila (1899).

However, according to a 2004 article in KASAMA, the newsletter of the Solidarity Philippines Australia Network (SPAN), the book The forbidden book: the Philippine-American War in political cartoons asserts:

A Chicago Chronicle cartoon in January 1900 showed President McKinley preventing Uncle Sam from reading the “Forbidden Book” about the “true history of the war in the Philippines.”...

On February 4, 1899, the United States went to war based on a false claim that Filipinos began attacking American soldiers in Manila. The first shots were actually fired by an American soldier as Filipinos crossed a bridge, and historians would later discover a “prearranged plan” by the U.S. military to precipitate a war as soon as an incident was provoked. Misled by false reports, the Senate passed (by one vote) a treaty to annex the Philippines. President McKinley would later justify the war by claiming that God had counseled him to take the Philippines in order to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos. What was really behind the annexation was the need for overseas markets and raw materials for American industry.[44]

Fighting soon erupted in Manila. On February 5 General Arthur MacArthur ordered his troops to advance without investigating the incident.[45]

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."[46] Aguinaldo then sent a telegram to all "local chiefs" informing them of the hostilities.[46]

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.

Section 3 of this proclamation invoked Article 30 of the Malolos Constitution, effectively giving a seven-member Permanent Commission within the First Philippine Republic the power to govern the by decree and to temporarily suspend some civil rights guarantees.

This proclamation may have been embodied in the aforementioned telegram, but Halstead dates it to February 4.[47]

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.[46] Filipino historians Agoncillo and Renato Constantino both say American aggression sparked the war.[9][46]

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.[48][49] Prior to this proclamation, several battles had already occurred.[46]

U.S. President William McKinley later told reporters “that the insurgents had attacked Manila” in justifying war on the Philippines.[50] The McKinley administration declared Aguinaldo to be an “outlaw bandit”, and no formal declaration of war was ever issued.

Second Philippine Commission

The Second Philippine Commission (the Taft Commission), appointed by 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.[33][51]

American escalation

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

U.S. troop strength averaged 40,000 and peaked at 74,000.[3] Typically only 60 percent of American troops were combat troops, with a field strength ranging from 24,000 to 44,000.[3] A total of 126,468 US soldiers served there.[2] After the official end to the war, U.S. forces were regularly engaged against Filipino guerrilla 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.[52]

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 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.[3] Lack of weapons and ammunition was a significant impediment to the Filipinos.

The goal, or end-state, sought by the First Philippine Republic was a sovereign, independent, socially stable Philippines led by the ilustrado (intellectual) oligarchy.[53] 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.[53] The peasants, who provided the bulk of guerrilla manpower, had interests different from their illustrado leaders and the principales of their villages.[53] 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.[53]

The Filipino operational center of gravity was the ability to sustain its force of 100,000 irregulars in the field.[54] 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.[54] Their hope was that as President the avowedly anti-imperialist William Jennings Bryan would withdraw from the Philippines.[54] They pursued this short-term goal with guerrilla tactics better suited to a protracted struggle.[54] 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.[54]

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.[55] 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. Civilians were forced into concentration camps, after being suspected of being guerrilla sympathizers. Thousands of civilians died in these camps. The camps and slaughter of civilians was excused by the fact that the media told the American population that the savages were little children needing America's help and cleansing. The guerilla warfare helped this case by giving a moral right to what the American's were doing since the "savages" were cowardly uncivilized enemies.[56]

The subsequent American oppression of the population tremendously reduced the materials, men, and morale of many Filipino soldiers, compelling them in one way or another to surrender. The start of guerrilla warfare fuelled pro war journalists with more material to spin. The journalists basically criticized the Filipinos for their style of waging war.[57]

Decline and fall of the First Philippine Republic

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

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.

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. On April 19, he issued a Proclamation of Formal Surrender to the United States, telling his followers to lay down their weapons and give up the fight. “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.”[58][59]

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.[60] He originally had taken a defensive stance against the Americans, but now launched all-out offensive against the American-held towns in the Batangas region.[10] General Vincente Lukban in Samar, and other army officers, continued the war in their respective areas.[10]

In response General J. Franklin Bell adopted tactics to counter Malvar's guerrilla strategy. Forcing civilians to live in hamlets, interrogating suspected guerrillas (and regular civilians alike), and his scorched earth campaigns took a heavy toll on the Filipino revolutionaries.[61]

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 3,000 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.[33][51]

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 people in the Philippine archipelago who had participated in the conflict.[62][63]


The war unofficially continued for nearly a decade as Constantino has suggested, since groups collectively know as Irreconcilables remained active. These included remnants of the Katipunan, and other resistance groups continued to their struggle by fighting the United States Military or Philippine Constabulary.[9] 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.[64]

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.[65]

In 1902 a veteran Katipunan member and self-proclaimed generalisimo 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.[9][66]


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. For example, they used amulets (called agimat or anting-anting), believing they would become bulletproof. 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.[9]

These resistance movements were all dismissed by the American government as banditry, fanaticism or cattle rustling.[9]

Moro Rebellion

The American government had a peace treaty with the Sultanate of Sulu at the outbreak of the war with Aguinaldo that was supposed to prevent war in Moro territory. However, after the resistance in the north was crippled, the United States began to colonize Moro land that provoked the Moro Rebellion. Beginning with the Taraca, which occurred on April 4, 1904, American forces battled Datu Ampuanagus, who surrendered after losing 200 members of his people.[9][67] Numerous battles would occur after that up until the end of the conflict on June 15, 1913. During the conflict, the battles of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak were among the most notable since casualties included women and children[10]

Political atmosphere

American opposition

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.[citation needed] Anti-imperialist movements claimed that the United States had become a colonial power, by replacing Spain as the colonial power 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 into the United States. 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 said the war 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.”[68]

Some later historians, such as Howard Zinn and Daniel Boone Schirmer, cite the Philippine–American War as an example of American imperialism.[69]

Filipino collaboration

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 is recorded to have 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.[9]

U.S. Army Captain Matthew Arlington Batson formed the Macabebe Scouts[70] as a native guerrilla force to fight the insurgency. Later, these scouts became 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.[6] There were also 2,000 casualties that the Philippine Constabulary suffered during the war, over one thousand of which were fatalities. It should be noted that total Filipino casualties was at the time and still is a highly-debated, argued, and politicized number. It is estimated that some 34,000 Filipino soldiers lost their lives and as many as 200,000 civilians may have died directly or indirectly as a result of the war, most due to a major cholera epidemic that broke out near its end.[71] 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.[8] These numbers take into account those killed by war, malnutrition, and a cholera epidemic that raged during the war.[7] 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.[citation needed] The American military and Philippine Constabulary still suffered periodic losses combating small bands of Moro guerrillas in the far south until 1913.

Filipino soldiers killed during the Battle of Manila. 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."
American Colonel John M. Stotsenburg was killed during the Battle of Quingua

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 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.[72] 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.

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

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, Jr., which claimed fifteen 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.[73]


American atrocities

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.

In 1908 Manuel Arellano Remondo, in 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.”[74]

United States attacks into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns[61] where entire villages were burned and destroyed, torture (water cure[75]) and the concentration of civilians into "protected zones"[76]. Many of the civilian casualties resulted from disease and famine.

In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger reported:"The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog...."[77]

In an article, We Charge Genocide: A Brief History of US in the Philippines, appearing in the December, 2005 issue of Political Affairs (the official magazine of the Communist Party USA), E. San Juan, Jr., director of the Philippines Cultural Studies Center, Connecticut, argued that during the Philippine–American War (1899–1902) and pacification campaign (1902–1913), the operations launched by the U.S. against the Filipinos, an integral part of its pacification program, which they quoted as claiming the lives 1.4 million Filipinos, constituted genocide.[78]

American soldiers' letters and response

From almost the beginning of the war, soldiers wrote home describing the 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.[79]

Once these accounts became popular press fodder, the War Department became involved and demanded that General Otis investigate their authenticity. Each press clipping was forwarded to the original writer’s commanding officer, who would then convince or force the soldier to write a retraction of the original statements.[80]

Private Charles Brenner of the Kansas regiment resisted such pressure.[citation needed] He insisted that Colonel Funston[81] 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 MacArthur, to look into the charge. Brenner confronted MacArthur’s aide with a corroborating witness, Private Putman, 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 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.”[82]

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.[83]

Concentration camps

As one historian, Andrew J. Birtle, wrote about Marinduque, the first island with concentration camps:

“The triple press of concentration (camps), devastation, and harassment led Abad (the Marinduque commander) 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.”[84]

Filipino atrocities

U.S. Army General Otis stated that Filipino insurgents tortured American prisoners in “fiendish fashion”. According to Otis, many were buried alive, or were placed up to their necks in anthills. Others had their genitals removed and stuffed into their mouths, and were then executed by suffocation or bleeding 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.”[85] 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.[85]

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 Filipino attack that killed almost fifty American soldiers. Media reports stated that many of the bodies were mutilated.[86] The attack itself triggered American reprisals in Samar, ordered by General Jacob Hurd Smith, who reportedly ordered his men to kill 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.[83] Smith was court-martialed for this order and found guilty in 1902, which ended his career in the U.S. army.[87] Waller was found guilty of killing eleven Filipino guides.[87]

Sergeant Hallock testified in the Lodge Committee that natives were given the water cure, “ 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.”[88]

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.[89]

Worcester recounts two specific Filipino atrocities as follows:

"A detachment, marching through Leyte, found an American who had disappeared a short time before crucified, head down. His abdominal wall had been carefully opened so that his intestines might hang down in his face.

Another American prisoner, found on the same trip, had been buried in the ground with only his head projecting. His mouth had been propped open with a stick, a trail of sugar laid to it through the forest, and a handful thrown into it.

Millions of ants had done the rest."[90]

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 four reporters — two English, one Canadian, and one 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.[91]

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.[92]

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.”[93]


Cultural impact

The Roman Catholic Church was disestablished and a considerable amount of church land was purchased and redistributed. The land amounted to 170,917 hectares (422,350 acres), for which the Church asked $12,086,438.11 in March 1903.[94] The purchase was completed on 22 December 1903 at a sale price of $7,239,784.66.[95] The land redistribution program was stipulated in at least three laws: the Philippine Organic Act[96], the Public Lands Act[97] and the Friar Lands Act[98].[99] Section 10 of the Public Land Act limited purchases to a maximum of 16 hectares for an individual or 1024 hectares for a corporation or like association.[97][100] Land was also offered for lease to landless farmers, at prices ranging from fifty centavos to one peso and fifty centavos per hectare per annum.[97][100] Section 28 of the Public Lands Act stipulated that lease contracts may run for a maximum period of 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.[97][100]

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.[101]

In 1901 at least five hundred 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. Twenty-seven of the original Thomasites 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 the end of 1904, primary courses were mostly taught by Filipinos under American supervision.[102]

Philippine independence

On January 20, 1899, President McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission (the Schurman Commission), a five-person group headed by Dr. Jacob Schurman, president of Cornell University, 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.[103]

The Second Philippine Commission (the Taft Commission), appointed by 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. In July 1901 the Philippine Constabulary was organized as an archipelago-wide police force to control brigandage and deal with the remnants of the insurgent movement. After military rule was terminated on July 4, 1901, the Philippine Constabulary gradually took over from United States army units the responsibility for suppressing guerrilla and bandit activities.[103]

From the very beginning, United States presidents and their representatives in the islands defined their colonial mission as tutelage: preparing the Philippines for eventual independence. Except for a small group of "retentionists," the issue was not whether the Philippines would be granted self-rule, but when and under what conditions. Thus political development in the islands was rapid and particularly impressive in light of the complete lack of representative institutions under the Spanish. The Philippine Organic Act of July 1902 stipulated that, with the achievement of peace, 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, which was to be appointed by the president of the United States.[103]

The Jones Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1916 to serve as the new organic law in the Philippines, promised eventual independence and instituted an elected Philippine senate. The Tydings-McDuffie Act (officially the Philippine Independence Act; Public Law 73-127) approved on March 24, 1934 provided for self-government of the Philippines and for Filipino independence (from the United States) after a period of ten years. World War II intervened, bringing the Japanese occupation between 1941 and 1945. In 1946, the Treaty of Manila (1946) between the governments of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines provided for the recognition of the independence of the Republic of the Philippines and the relinquishment of American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands.

See also


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  • “Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U. S. Empire: The Philippine-American War as Race War,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 30, No. 2 (April 2006), 169-210. (Adapted version at


Further reading

  • The "Lodge Committee" (a.k.a. Philippine Investigating Committee) hearings and a great deal of documentation were published in three volumes (3000 pages) as S. Doc. 331, 57th Cong., 1st Session An abridged version of the oral testimony can be found in: American Imperialism and the Philippine Insurrection: Testimony Taken from Hearings on Affairs in the Philippine Islands before the Senate Committee on the Philippines—1902; edited by Henry F Graff; Publisher: Little, Brown; 1969. ASIN: B0006BYNI8
  • Richard W. Stewart, General Editor, Ch. 16, Transition, Change, and the Road to war, 1902-1917", in "American Military History, Volume I: The United States Army and the Forging of a Nation, 1775-1917", Center of Military History, United States Army, ISBN 0-16-072362-0
  • Wilcox, Marrion. Harper's History of the War. Harper, New York and London 1900, reprinted 1979. [Alternate title: Harper's History of the War in the Philippines]. Also reprinted in the Philippines by Vera-Reyes.
  • Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare — Wikisource
  • Linn, Brian McAllister. The Philippine War 1899–1902. University Press of Kansas, 2000. ISBN 0-7006-0990-3.

External links

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