Terrorism in the Philippines

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Terrorism in the Philippines

Filipinos Burned Bodies of Soldiers at Balangiga

Newspaper article

By: New York Times

Date: October 3, 1901

Source: New York Times

About the Author: The New York Times, a daily newspaper founded in 1851, has over one million subscribers and is distributed nationally.


The Philippine-American War, an outgrowth of the Spanish-American War, began on February 4, 1899, and officially ended on July 4, 1902. When the United States government declared war on Spain in the spring of 1898, American forces quickly defeated the Spanish in the Philippines. Spain had ruled the Philippines for nearly three hundred years but, under the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, agreed to turn over ownership of the nearly 7,000 islands to the victorious United States for $20 million.

The U.S. Senate approved annexation of the Philippines in February 1899. As American intentions became clear in the weeks preceding the Senate vote, Filipino revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of his country and ordered his soldiers to fight American troops. In the spring of 1899, Aguinaldo switched from a formal style of fighting to guerilla warfare. In 1901, after enormous military efforts, prolonged guerilla warfare, and massive casualties on both sides, U.S. forces captured Aguinaldo and effectively smashed the Filipino insurrection. Aguinaldo issued a proclamation accepting the sovereignty of the United States on April 19, 1901.

A few Filipinos continued to fight after Aguinaldo's surrender. In the most famous case, supposedly loyal Filipinos on the island of Samar carried out a gruesome massacre of fifty-four American soldiers of Company C at Balangiga. Company C consisted of seventy-one men and three officers, most of whom had seen service in China, Cuba, and Northern Luzon in the Philippines. The company was led by Captain Thomas Connell, with Lieutenant E. C. Bumpus as second in command. In Balangiga, the outfit engaged in routine duties, including the cleanup of garbage by one hundred male conscripts. Later, eighty additional Filipinos from the nearby hills were added to the work force on recommendation of the town mayor. Unknown to the Americans, these eighty men were highly trained Filipino "bolomen," or soldiers, skilled in the use of cane cutting knives.

On the night of September 27, 1901, American sentries at Balangiga were surprised by the unusual number of women hurrying to church. They were all heavily clothed, which was unusual, and many carried small coffins. Inside all of the coffins were bolo knives. At 6:20 a.m. that morning, Pedro Sanchez, the Filipino chief of police, lined up the eighty laborers to start their daily cleanup of the town. Company C, already awake, was having breakfast at the mess tents. Sanchez walked behind an American sentry, grabbed the soldier's rifle, and brought the butt down on his head. Sanchez then fired the rifle and yelled out a signal. The church bell began to ring as conch shell whistles blew from the edge of the jungle. Bolomen then poured out of the church doors as the laborers suddenly turned on the soldiers and began chopping at them with bolos, picks, and shovels. A small group of American soldiers, a number of them wounded, were able to secure their rifles and fight back, killing some 250 Filipinos. Of the company's original complement, forty-eight were killed or unaccounted for, twenty-two were wounded, and only four were unharmed. The survivors managed to escape to the American garrison in Basey.


Manila, Oct.3.— The latest advices from the island of Samar give harrowing details of the slaughter of the members of Company C, Ninth United States Infantry, last Saturday at Balangiga. It seems that the Presidente of the town, claiming to be friendly, led the assault in person.

On hearing of the slaughter Col. Isaac D. De Russy of the Eleventh Infantry started for the scene immediately with a battalion. The body of Capt. Connell was found tied at the heels, saturated with kerosene, and partly burned. Forty-five bodies had been burned in a trench. The charred remains of many were recovered. In numerous instances the bodies had been badly mutilated.

The American publishes a telegram giving an account of the fight. The fight was long premeditated and the Filipinos were called to commit the slaughter by the ringing of church bells at daylight. They got between the soldiers, who were breakfasting, and their quarters. The insurgents were mostly armed with bolos, but they had a few rifles with them.

As soon as a typhoon, now raging, subsides, the United States hospital ship Relief will leave with one battalion of the Seventh Regiment and at Legaspi will embark a battalion of the Twenty-sixth Regiment and 300 Macabebes to reinforce the troops in the island of Samar.


The attack on Balangiga and its aftermath severely weakened American interest in overseas possessions. In the immediate days after the massacre, American soldiers in the Philippines sought revenge for the deaths of their comrades. Brigadier General Jacob Smith placed Major Littleton Waller in charge of pacifying Samar. Smith gave the instructions: "I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn the better it will please me." He directed that Samar be converted into a "howling wilderness." There were to be no prisoners and every male over the age of ten was to be killed because they were capable of carrying arms. Major Waller reported that in an eleven-day span, his men burned 255 dwellings, slaughtered thirteen carabaos, and killed thirty-nine people. Both Smith and Waller were later court-martialed. While Waller was acquitted, Smith was convicted of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, among other counts. Sentenced to be admonished by a reviewing authority, he retired from active service.

Many Americans had initially opposed annexation of the Philippines because conquering a foreign territory seemed to be contrary to cherished American principles of freedom and liberty. The terrorism in the Philippines increased American resistance to the conquest of the Philippines and prompted the United States to lose interest in the future annexation of foreign lands.

In response to the violence in the Philippines, Americans reached the consensus that gains should be retained and protected, but not increased. Further overseas growth seemed unwise. While the United States would later intervene in countries such as Nicaragua and Haiti, it would make no attempt to turn those countries into American possessions.



Miller, Stuart Creighton. Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899–1903. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982.

Wolff, Leon. Little Brown Brother: How the United States Purchased and Pacified the Philippine Islands at the Century's Turn. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1961.

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