How the story of Balangiga was told abroad in 1903 2

How the story of Balangiga was told abroad in 1903

Pages from an issue of the Detroit Free Press in 1903—up for auction this coming February at Leon Gallery—shed light on the American perspective on the Balangiga Massacre of September 28, 1901, detailing the difficulties and challenges US troops had to go through
ANCX | Dec 26 2018

The featured article here, originally published in the Detroit Free Press in 1903, narrates the difficult experiences of the First U.S. Infantry Regiment, whose soldiers were stationed in Samar Island around and in the aftermath of the massacre of Company C, Ninth U.S. Infantry Regiment in Balangiga on September 28, 1901.  

It was to this U.S. Army unit that the Philippine Revolutionary Army in Samar, led by Gen. Claro Guevara, surrendered in the capital town of Catbalogan on April 27, 1902 (not June 1902 as mentioned in the article).

Many American soldiers' accounts referred to the Filipinos and their revolutionary fighters as "goo-goos". They might have adopted and evolved the term from the Tagalog word "gago" (fool, naive, etc.), perhaps a favorite cuss word of Filipino revolutionary officers to berate their underlings. In much the same way that the American occupation army apparently learned about "water cure" as a procedure for inflicting torture from the Filipino side.

The First Regiment experienced the friendliness and hospitality of the people of the town of Catbalogan during their stay there. A similar reception was apparently shown by the local resident of Balangiga to Company C for at least six weeks, before the fateful last week that culminated in the famous attack.

The retaliation on Samar by Gen. Jacob Smith through his "kill and burn" campaign from October 1901 to January 1902 is already much-described in the literature. Ditto the capture of Gen. Vicente Lukban, the politico-military governor of Samar, on February 19, 1902. —Dr. Rolando O. Borrinaga, Professor, School of Health Sciences, University of the Philippines Manila

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Pages from an issue of the Detroit Free Press in 1903—up for auction this coming February at Leon Gallery

With the Fighting First in the Philippines

The Regiment That Has Just Come to Fort Wayne Found Plenty of Hot Work on The Island of Samar

Back from the hikes in the wilderness of the Island of Samar in the Philippines, the Second Battalion, First Infantry, U.S.A, is now at home in its comfortable quarters at old fort Wayne.

It fell to the good-fortune of these men to receive the surrender of Gen. Guivarra and 350 insurgents, the last of the large fighting force of natives on the Island of Samar. This event took place in June, 1902, on the plaza at Catbalogan. Some of the “goo-goos," when they surrendered, carried the rifles and equipment of Company C. Ninth Infantry, that was massacred at Balanguiga.

During their two years and eight months in the Philippines, the men of the First Infantry had some wild experiences, and although they are modest  and do not say much about their troubles, now that they are over, the memory of their deeds will remain forever.

The story of the events immediately preceding and following the surrender of the insurgents is a very interesting one as told to a Free Press representative by the men who too (missing text in the Leon Gallery copy).

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Gen. Guivarra's troops turning in arms at headquarters day before surrender
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Company of Guivarra's army at surrender. They wear equipment of massacred ninth Regiment men.

Lured by Friendly Acts

The First Regiment went to Samar to relieve the Twenty-ninth Volunteers. It was thought that the insurrection was over, but It was discovered that many people in the town of Catbalogan were insurrectionists, although they were entertaining the First Regiment in hospitable style. They gave dinners and balls in honor of the United States soldiers, and from their actions one would not think that anything but the most friendly feeling existed.

But letters were discovered that gave the whole plan away. It was learned that the Filipinos were nearly ready to act, and it was their plan to fall upon the Americans at one of the celebrations, and massacre them. The Filipinos are about as tricky as the American Indians were.

The men of the First, stationed in the town of Catbalogan, had not been doing any worrying about the insurgents. The town is surrounded by hills on three sides and water on the fourth. When the soldiers were at drill they were fired upon by insurgents from the tops or the neighboring hills, but as the rifles did not carry far enough to do any damage, no attention was paid to the firing.

Then came the terrible massacre of the men of Company C, Ninth Infantry, at Balanguiga, that was planned as the first of a series and that opened the eyes of the officers and men of the First. A member of Company C, or the Ninth, deserted and, in the expectation of a large reward from the natives, he told of the situation and lay-out of the camp of Company C. At breakfast time the insurgents fell upon the men of the Ninth, whose arms were at their quarters, some distance away. The men grabbed spades, knives and anything within reach, with which to defend themselves, and made a brave fight. One hospital man was found dead with a spade in his hands, and around him were eleven dead Goo-goos, or insurgents, that he had laid low with that weapon.

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It was after this massacre that Gen. Smith issued the celebrated order to make Samar a howling wilderness, and then the men, as they themselves say, “did raise hell.”

All friendly natives were ordered to come in to the towns, and those who remained out were looked upon as enemies to be shot down on sight. As far as the First regiment is concerned, even members of the band were given rifles and ordered to do guard duty, and the women in the camp were ordered to keep out of danger. But the Filipinos failed to make an attack.

Hunting the enemy and fighting him was no easy matter, for he kept well out of sight until he was ready to strike. The tropical grass was taller than a man and so thick that the Americans had to cut its paths through it. One company at a time went out on hikes, to round up some of the sneaking foes. The favorite plan of the Goo-goos was to lie in ambush, and take the Americans in surprise. They were aided by false guides, who entered the town and gave stories about the whereabouts of a party of the enemy. A company then left to go to the scene. The false guide led them around through horrible country, swamps and the wildest tangles of underbrush, and nothing came of it, except that the Americans were exhausted. The guides then disappeared and nothing more was seen of them. The Americans got onto this game, and the offers of the native guides were refused, after about a year of more or less fruitless chasing.

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Then Gen. Luckban, the leader of the Samar insurgent was captured by a rare piece of good-luck. A company of the Philippine scouts lost their way and happened to run across Luckban. He had no uniform and had only four or five men with him, to mislead the Americans, who, it was expected, would not suspect him if found under these conditions. But he was identified by some of the friendly natives.There was no struggle. The Americans ran up on him and grabbed him and his party.

Lieut. Sterbler was in charge of this party of Philippine scouts and Gen. Smith recommended him for promotion to be lieutenant of artillery. Strebler is the man on the left in the rear row of the group picture showing Gen. Luckban in prison. The other American is Lieut. Hoover, of the Philippine scouts, who was the officer in charge of the guard over Luckban after the capture. The picture was taken in the prison room by Serge S. N. Soderblom, of the First Regiment band. The man in the center of the front row is Gen. Luckban. The one at the left of the front row is Luckban's adjutant, Artiche, and the one at the right is Luckban's secretary Ortiz. Both were captured with him.

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Luckban’s Successor

For about a month after the capture of Luckban, the insurgents were led by Gen. Guivarra: but Luckban was the soul of the insurrection on the Island of Samar, and there was no serious engagement after his capture. But Gen. Guivarra for a time held out. His chief of staff, Col. Rafael, was his chief adviser, and they are shown in the picture carrying American swords which were taken from the bodies of Ninth Infantry officers, who were slain in the massacre at Balanguiga.

Peace envoys were then sent out by the Americans, and the insurgents to the number of about 350 or 400 gathered on the Gandara river to surrender. They formed a big camp and there was a great amount of palaver. Gen Guivarra wanted to stipulate that he should be appointed civil governor if he surrendered. Finally Gen. Grant set a date on which the insurgents were to come in unconditionally or go and fight it out.

They decided to surrender, and this was the biggest event in the campaign of the First Infantry in the Philippines. It took place on the plaza at the town of Catbalogan, in June, 1902, and 350 men and rifles were received. It was the last important surrender on Samar. One company of Guivarra's men, as shown in one of the pictures, carried the rifles and accoutrements of Company C, Ninth Infantry massacred at Balanguiga.

The stronghold of Luckban was found later and destroyed the fire. It was a large frame building, on brick foundation, and the Mestranza, the fort, was a well-built structure. There was found the Filipinos’ treasure, between $30,000 to $50,000 in Mexican money.

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In the Backwoods

Company F, of the first regiment, had about as bad a time as any of the companies of the Fighting First. They went to San Jose, away back in the island of Samar, hoping to find a body of the enemy, but they were disappointed: One member of the company said:

“We went back into the wilderness where even the Filipinos could hardly live, and there we had to stay, until we got sick. There was nothing doing in the way or a fight. Our provisions got low, so that we were on less than half rations, and some of the boys ate mule meat.

"Forty mules and a dozen horses were used up in getting back there 60 miles into the heart of the island. A packtrain carried our provisions and the muddy roads were too much for the animals. They were worn out and died of exhaustion. There were no wagon roads. We were at San Jose six months. It was as tough an experience as any man can want to go through.

“In June, 1901, on the Gandara river en route to Tarangan, on the south coast, we killed a score of Goo-goos, and captured others. Later Company E, of the Ninth, was attacked in about the same place and butchered.”

First Sergt. Belden, of Company F, was one of the officers at San Jose, and although he had not much to say about his experiences, it was evident that he considered it a severe service Company F finally abandoned San Jose and returned to Catbalogan.

Company E had several men wounded by being hit by spears, thrown at them from the rear.

Company H was on a hike and Lieut. Downes was in the lead, with a native guide. Going around a bend, he was out of sight for a moment and some bolo men jumped out of the bush and cut off his head. The whole company was in the immediate neighborhood but the bolo men did not attack them showing the sneaking method of warfare and their cowardliness.

Tactics were of little use in fighting the Filipinos. It was bush fighting, after the style of a manhunt. The Americans had to penetrate thick swamps, filled with big mosquitoes and countless lizards. There were centipedes by the millions about five inches long and about as thick as a man's finger. They dropped down on the men at night, biting them, causing terrific burning pains that lasted for days, and accompanied by a great swelling of the flesh around the place bitten. The bite was not often fatal. Altogether, the First lost about a dozen men in battle. By disease and drowning, in forcing the swift rivers, about fifty more were lost. Col. Harbach was the commanding officer during the greater part of the time, the present commander, Col. Duggan, having been with the men for about the last six months.

The officers of the First now at Fort Wayne are: Col. Duggan, Capt. Swaine, Company E; Capt. Tayman, Company F; Capt. Newman, Company G; Capt. Bell, Company H; Capt. Chandler, Q. M.; Capt. Buffington, unassigned; Capt. Lacey, adjutant; Capt. Crofton, commissary; Lieut. Reed, battalion adjutant; Lieut. Ruttencutter, Company E; Lieut. Bishop, Company G; and Lieut. Thompson, Company G.


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The Illustrations

The pictures accompanying this article were furnished to The Free Press by Serge. S. N. Soderblom, of the First Regiment band, who is an expert with the camera and made the best of his opportunities in the wilds of Samar. He has a good collection of views, and he proposes to mount many of them as single photos for in portfolios, which he will sell at some store in Detroit later on. They are truthful pictures of Samar, not touched up in any particular. He also has many other photographs of other very interesting scenes in the Philippines.

The picture of Moros of Mindanao shows how these men dress when they are walking about the streets of the town of Zamboanga, island of Mindanao. Under the influence of some strong native intoxicating drinks it can be imagined that these men could do some damage with their bolos.

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The battalion drill of the Second Battalion of the First Infantry, now at Fort Wayne, when at Camp Connell, Samar, was a fine sight. The illustration gives an idea of the tropical foliage that formed an artistic background or setting for the scenes on that wild island. As the men now say, it is a fine place for looks, but a hanged bad one to live in.

The president of the town of Borongan, Samar was and is the best friend Americans have on that island. His name is Magno, and he has a family of eleven children. He is still the president, or mayor, of that town, and one of his sons is a lieutenant in the Philippine Scouts.