American Boys' Life of William McKinley/Chapter 26


The Situation in the Philippines—Fall of Manila—President McKinley's Views—Campaigns against Malolos and San Isidro

The war with Spain, instituted solely for the purpose of helping the Cubans to establish their liberty, threw into the hands of the United States the island of Porto Rico, quite a valuable possession, and also all the rights Spain possessed in the twelve hundred islands composing the Philippine Archipelago.

At this time the situation in the Philippines was a delicate one. As in Cuba, there had been numerous revolutions there, and the Filipinos were fighting for their liberty when war between Spain and the United States was declared. The Filipinos were now willing to take sides with the Americans, but they wanted to do this only in order to have the country to themselves as soon as Spain should be driven out.

It had been an easy matter for Admiral Dewey to sink the warships of Admiral Montojo, but with only a handful of sailors and marines it was absurd to think of capturing or trying to hold the city of Manila itself.

When the war with Spain broke out, nobody had any idea that we should have to ship our soldiers half around the world, to fight in a country that was new and strange to nearly all of us. Up to that time the Philippines were known only to a few traders, and the trade with the United States amounted to very little. The people were strangers to us, just as they were to a large part of the rest of the world.

But President McKinley had put his hand to the plough, and with him, when once this was done there was no turning back. As soon after Dewey's victory as possible, extra volunteers for Philippine service were called for, and on May 25 the first detachment left San Francisco, under command of Brigadier-general Thomas A. Anderson. This expedition was followed by one under General Green, and a third under General McArthur. These forces numbered about eleven thousand officers and men.

Admiral Dewey's war-ships lay in the bay of Cavité, and it was at and near the latter place that the troops landed. Without delay preparations were made to attack Manila city with as much vigor as Dewey had exhibited in attacking the war-ships in the bay, whose battered wrecks still dotted the shore.

At this time the Filipino army consisted of about twelve thousand men. The insurgents were commanded by General Emilio Aguinaldo, who had set up a republic of his own, of which he was the President and of which he afterward became Dictator. Aguinaldo was both shrewd and daring, and it was largely through him that the struggle in the Philippines was continued for so long a time.

General Merritt was in command of the American forces, and on August 9 he and Admiral Dewey united in a demand on the Spanish governor-general of the Philippines for a surrender of the city, under threat of bombardment. The governor wished time for consultation, but this was denied; and on the 13th the city was attacked, and, after some sharp fighting, captured.

The insurgents were anxious to get into the city immediately after it was taken, for the purpose of looting it, but this was prevented by the Americans. This made Aguinaldo and his followers very angry, and from that moment the friendliness between our troops and those of the Filipino rebels ceased. Soon came an open rupture and a fight of more or less importance, and then followed the war in the Philippines which cost the lives of thousands of brave Yankee soldiers, and equally brave but misguided Filipinos.

Soon after the city was taken our army was increased to thirty thousand men and placed in charge of Brigadier-general Elwell S. Otis, who was also made military governor of the Philippines. The insurgents became active, and an attempt was made to burn Manila, but this plan failed. Then began a campaign along the railroad running from the capital city to Dagupan, resulting in the capture of Caloocan, Malabon, Polo, and the rebel capital, Malolos. Here our soldier boys endeavored to catch the wily Aguinaldo, but he was on the alert and escaped in the direction of San Isidro.

In the United States, opinions were very much divided upon the question of what should be done with the Philippines. Many were opposed to what they called Imperialism, and claimed that the United States had no right to take the islands, but should give them into the hands of the Filipinos led by Aguinaldo. But the so-called Filipino government was only such in name, and had this been done, it is more than likely that the Filipinos would have had constant revolutions among themselves, attended with great slaughter, and in the end foreign powers might have treated them far worse than we proposed to treat them.

"It is our plain duty to take hold out there," said President McKinley. "We must protect them, both from themselves and from the world at large. We must restore order and civil power, and teach them the art and science of real civilization. We must give them good roads, good schools, good courts of justice, open up the industries and commerce of the islands, and assist them in all those things in which they need assistance." These were not his exact words, but it was what he meant and the policy which he carried out to the letter.

President McKinley had appointed a Philippine Commission to go to Manila and deal with the Philippine question as justly and humanely as possible. This commission now issued a proclamation calling on the rebels to surrender and promising them the many good things enumerated above. But many of the more ignorant could not read the proclamation after they received it, and some of the leaders went among the people and said it was merely a Yankee trick, and that if they submitted they would be treated worse than when under Spanish rule. So the proclamation did little good, and the war went on, laying the country waste for miles around and involving the continued loss of brave lives.

One of the most gallant fighters in the Philippines at this time was Major-general Henry W. Lawton, who had made for himself such a record at the battle of El Caney. Lawton was a veteran of the Civil War, and had spent years in tracking the Indians of the West. He was fearless to the last degree, which is proved by the fact that he died on the firing line after covering himself with glory in more than one brilliant campaign.

While one body of the Filipino insurgents had gone northward from Manila, another body operated in the east, and it was General Lawton, who, after the fall of Malolos, engaged this eastern army on the shores of Laguna de Bay. Here a victory of some importance was gained, and the insurgents were scattered in several directions, the most of them fleeing northward to join the balance of the army in that territory.

The rainy season in the Philippines was now but a few weeks off, and it was felt by General Otis that if Aguinaldo and his followers were to be defeated, another movement must be started against them without delay. A campaign was formed whereby General McArthur at Malolos was to strike out northward, while General Lawton was to aim for San Isidro in something of a semicircle. Thus if the rebels were defeated at Calumpit and tried to fall back to the mountains, General Lawton would be on hand to cut them off.

The advance of General McArthur was comparatively easy, although several severe engagements were fought. But the advance under General Lawton taxed his troops to the utmost. The route lay directly through the jungle, where the roads were extremely bad, and where many streams with broken bridges had to be crossed. A hundred and fifty miles were covered in twenty days, and during that time the soldiers fought twenty-two battles and captured twentyeight toAvns and a large quantity of army supplies.

But the wily Aguinaldo was not to be captured, and when San Isidro was taken, he and his army immediately fell back to Tarlac and to the mountains. The rainy season was now on in all of its fury, the waters in all streams and lakes rising to a great height, and for the time being further pursuit became out of the question.

The Filipinos had sued for peace, and now they sued again. But they wanted everything settled upon their own terms, and much as he desired to see peace established. President McKinley, backed by his ofhcial advisers, had to decline their terms. Our people everywhere pitied the condition of the Insurgents, but it was felt that now Old Glory had been planted in the islands the supremacy of the United States must be firmly established.