Philipine Insurgents

Introduction to The U.S. vs the Philippines Insurgents, (1899-1932)

By Lynn Bodin

After the Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War, a curious situation existed in the Philippine Islands. The U.S. occupation force of 11,000 men (mostly volunteers) was in Manila completely surrounded by about 20,000 Filipino insurgents. The Americans, led by Major General Ewell S. Otis ("Colonel Blimp") and the insurgents, led by Emiho Aguinaldo, had lived through two months of an unofficial cease-fire. On the night of February 4, 1899, the itchy trigger finger of a 1st Nebraska Volunteer Infantry private set the Insurrection in motion.

General Otis had several immediate problems: The most pressing was the fact that, by law and Army Regulations (now that the Spanish-American War was officially over) he had to send home all his volunteer troops, almost 75% of his available force. Surprisingly, however, almost all the volunteers chose to stay until regular Army replacements arrived. Tropical diseases were also taking their toll of the Americans. At times, nearly one-third of the U.S. troops were on the sick lists.

Nevertheless, Otis and his subordinates, Major General Arthur MacArthur (father of Douglas) and Brigadier General Thomas N. Anderson, began preparing for a campaign against the insurgents. MacArthur's command consisted of the 1st Montana, 10th Pennsylvania, 1st South Dakota, 1st Colorado, 1st Nebraska, 20th Kansas, 3rd U.S. Artillery (acting as infantry), and two batteries of the Utah Light Artillery. General Anderson's troops were the 1st Washington, 1st Idaho, 1st California, 14th U.S., 1st North Dakota, two batteries of the 6th U.S. Field Artillery, and the 4th U.S. Cavalry (on foot).

The volunteers were armed with the single-shot, black powder, breech-loading .45-caliber Springfield rifle. The U.S. Regulars carried the.30-caliber Krag-Jorgensen repeater, using smokeless powder. The artillery had some 3.2 inch breech-loading quick-fire cannons and a few three-inch mountain guns. There were also several Gatling and Hotchkiss machine guns with the infantry units. Some additional fire support came from the shallow-draft gunboat Laguna de Bay. She was covered with bullet-proof plating and was armed with two 3-inch guns, two 1.65-inch Hotchkiss revolving cannons, and four Gatling guns. The U.S. Navy monitor Monadnock thundered in the distance and threw an occasional 10-inch armour-piercing shell at the enemy lines. The noise was usually more effective as the shells tended to bury them-selves in the ground without exploding. The insurgents were armed with rifles varying from modern Mausers to ancient muzzleloaders. All men carried the bob, a 20inch long jungle knife described as "a cross between a butcher knife and a hatchet". Aguinaldo's men had few artillery pieces, a couple of Krupp guns captured from the Spanish and some old muzzle-loaders. They had no machine guns, and ammunition was scarce and unreliable.

By March of 1899, the Americans had cleared the insurgents from the vicinity of Manila and had captured the rebel capital of Malolos. Aguinaldo's "government" had fled northward into the mountains. Several other minor skirmishes occurred between June and October, but no major battles. By October of 1899, all the volunteers had been replaced by the 24th (Negro), 16th, 34th, and 22nd U.S. Infantry; a cavalry brigade consisting of eight troops of the 3rd, and nine troops of the fourth U.S Cavalry; and an artillery battery of four Hotchkiss l2pdrs manned by two companies of the 37th U.S. Infantry. To this force was added the 6th U.S. Field Artillery, the 3rd U.S. Artillery (still acting as infantry), and the 14th U.S. Infantry which were already in the Philippines. These last three units comprised the experienced core of the new all-regular Philippine field army. Other units which arrived during the next year included the 6th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 29th, 33rd, 35th, and 43rd Infantry Regiments.

On October 19, 1899, some 900 insurgents were routed at San Isidoro. In November, a captured message revealed the location of Aguinaldo' new "capital" at Bayombong. A forced march with few supplies was made by Brigadier General Samuel Young's cavalry brigade in an attempt to corner the rebel leader. A blunder by an American officer, however, allowed Aguinaldo to escape. Most of his troops, however, were killed, captured, or scattered into the jungles. One final pocket of resistance was cleaned up and the formal insurrection was over. Otis was so confident of his success that, in December of 1899, he sent three gunboats, two infantry regiments, and some artillery to the south to open up the hemp ports for commerce

Aguinaldo, still at large, had declared a guerrilla war against the Americans in a secret society. The Katipunan ("Worshipful Association of the Sons of the People"), was formed and practiced ritual terror against the U.S. troops and their Filipino friends for 18 months. As an example, in the first four months of 1900, 442 guerrilla skirmishes cost the Americans over 450 men killed or wounded. Finally, on March 22, 1901, after a rather suspenseful undercover infiltration of Aguinaldo's headquarters in the mountains near Palanan had succeeded, the insurgent chieftain was captured.

One final flare-up of resistance occurred in September of 1901 when 48 men and officers of Company C, 9th U.S. Infantry, were chopped to pieces by bolo-wielding villagers in Balangiga. The U.S. Army was outraged and reacted by burning villages, capturing or killing suspected insurgents, and confiscating crops. Several U.S. officers were court-martialed for their ruthlessness during this final campaign. By July of 1932, all the Christian areas of the Philippines had been pacified. U.S. troop strength was reduced from 70,000 to 34,000 and the newly formed Philippine constabulary took over many of the police duties. On July 4, 1902, President Roosevelt proclaimed an end to hostilities

The Insurrection cost the U.S. about $8,000,000. More than 100,000 men had been used, fighting in 2,811 actions, losing 4,243 killed and 2,818 wounded. Filipino losses have been estimated at about 16,000 killed in combat and, perhaps, another 100,000 dying of famine and disease.

Uniforms of the Campaign:

U.S. Troops - Khaki campaign (slouch) hats, dark blue "sack" coat, light blue or khaki pants. Brown or grey belts and equipment. Later in the campaign the all khaki "tropical service" uniform with brown belts began to appear.

Insurgents - Straw hat or sometimes a grey or white felt hat with black band, long loose fitting jacket, usually white. Pants were of many colours, but rust red and grey seemed most prevalent. The only equipment was a leather haversack for ammunition, rations, and personal items.


Dupuy, Colonel R. Ernest and Baumer, Major General William H., The Little Wars of the United States, Hawthorne Books, New York, 1968.

Scruby, Jack, "Asiatic Colonial Wargames", The Miniature Parade, Volume 11, Number II, October 1968, pp 3-6.

Wolf, Leon, Little Brown Brother, Doubleday, Garden City, 1968.