Philippine Insurrection

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PHILIPPINE INSURRECTION. More usually called the Philippine-American War or the Philippine War, the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902) was America's first conflict of the twentieth century. On 1 May 1898, at the beginning of the Spanish-American War Commodore George Dewey sank the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, Philippines. Believing they would be given independence by America, Filipino forces under Emilio Aguinaldo, who had been fighting the Spanish since 1896, laid siege to Manila and occupied the rest of the archipelago, destroyed Spanish control, and declared independence as a democratic republic on 12 June 1898.

U.S. volunteer troops under Generals George M. Anderson and Wesley M. Merritt, later replaced by General Elwell S. Otis, occupied Manila. Tensions rose as Filipinos requested a voice in peace negotiations between the United States and Spain. However, President William McKinley declined to recognize the Philippine government or its independence nor assure Filipinos that their nation would not be given back to Spain.

With the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 10 December 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States. American troops were ordered to occupy the entire archipelago. Talks between Otis, who demanded unconditional submission of the Filipinos, and Aguinaldo,

who demanded a promise of future independence, were unfruitful and eventually broke down.

Hostilities erupted on 4 February 1899 in the outskirts of Manila. While American troops were initially outnumbered twelve thousand to twenty-five thousand, they had better discipline and organization and the advantage of surprise. The Filipinos also lacked experience of conventional warfare and weapons expertise.

Some thirty major engagements between U.S. and Filipino troops occurred in the next ten months. In November 1899, with Aguinaldo in hiding, the Filipino army was officially disbanded, and the war moved into a guerrilla phase. Lasting until 1902, the guerrilla war was marked by atrocities on both sides.

Otis, who had believed that Filipinos ought to be American subjects, was replaced by the more objective General Arthur MacArthur (father of Douglas MacArthur). Military action was accompanied by a "hearts and minds" campaign that included education, fiscal reform, and civil construction projects.

Hoping that a victory by William Jennings Bryan in the 1900 U.S. presidential election would lead to independence, Filipinos continued fighting. Bryan lost to McKinley, a blow to insurgent morale. This, and a forceful campaign by MacArthur with seventy thousand men, led to an increasing number of surrenders and captures of Filipino forces in 1900 and 1901.

In March 1901 Major Fredrick S. Funston entered Aguinaldo's headquarters under false colors and captured him. William Howard Taft, later to be president of the United States, was appointed as civilian governor, and MacArthur was replaced by General Adna R. Chaffee.

By the end of 1901, organized resistance in the Christianized part of the country continued in two provinces, Batangas and the island of Samar. Resistance in Batangas was ended by General James Franklin Bell, who introduced a reconcentrado policy to separate the population from the guerrillas. Samar was pacified by five thousand U.S. marines in a punitive expedition following the killing of forty-eight men of the Ninth Infantry regiment in Balangiga, southern Samar, the worst American loss of the war. With the surrender of Filipino General Miguel Malvar in Luzon and the capture of General Vicente Lukban in Samar, Filipino forces lost centralized leadership and were unable to recover.

President Theodore Roosevelt announced a formal end to hostilities in the Philippines on 4 July 1902. Unrest (which continued until 1913) arose again in Samar in 1904 with the emergence of the religious extremists, the Pulahanes. Conflict with the Muslims of Mindanao began in 1902 and was never entirely resolved; it is not usually considered part of the Philippine-American War.

Some 130,000 American troops were employed in the Philippine Insurrection. In 2,811 formal engagements and many more unconventional engagements, U.S. losses amounted to some four thousand with another twenty-nine hundred wounded in action. Estimates of Filipino dead, directly and indirectly due to the war, range from two hundred thousand to 1 million. The war led to bitter recriminations within the United States, particularly by the Anti-Imperialist League, supported by Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie. Many were shocked by a Senate inquiry into the war and resultant courts martial of General Jacob Smith, Lieutenant Waller T. Waller, and other officers.

Philippine independence was finally recognized in 1946. Permanent U.S. Navy and Air Force bases were maintained in the Philippines until 1992 and played a critical role in conflicts such as Vietnam and Korea and in projecting American influence into the Asia-Pacific region.

The Philippines is America's oldest and most militarily active ally in southeast Asia.


Agoncillo, Teodoro. The History of the Filipino People. Quezon City, Philippines: R.P. Barcia, 1974.

Gates, John M. Schoolbooks and Krags, The United States Army and The Philippines. 1898–1902. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1973.

Gleek, Lewis L. The American Half-Century, 1896–1946. Rev. ed. Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers, 1998.

Linn, Brian McAllister. The Philippine War, 1899–1902. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2000.

Taylor, John R. M. The Philippine Insurrection Against the United States. Pasay City, Philippines: Eugenio Lopez Foundation, 1971.

Robert D.Couttie

See alsoAnti-Imperialists .

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