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Default Soldiers Letters "Philipine-American War"


Registered to :Aug 29, 2001
Messages :163
From :P-Town
Posted 15-03-2002 at 13:55
Soldiers' Letters
Being Materials for the History of a War of Criminal Aggression
(Anti-Imperialist League, 1899).


News about the Philippine-American War was routinely censored by the U.S. military in Manila before it was allowed to be sent to the United States. Letters home from soldiers fighting there often presented new and startling information and were given considerable attention in the local and national press. This collection of letters was published by the Anti-Imperialist League in May 1899, just a few months after the war began. Many of the letters are from volunteers who enlisted to fight in the Spanish-American War and found themselves engaged in a very different war in the Philippines.


The Anti-Imperialist League believes that it is due to the people of America that they should have all the information obtainable, and all the side-lights possible, upon the condition of things in the Philippines, to the end that they may be able to render an intelligent decision as to our policy there, with all the facts before them.

The rigid censorship of all news from Manila, -- a censorship directed not against the Filipinos, but against our own people, -- makes it the more necessary to secure all unofficial views and reports bearing upon the case, the military authorities giving only such "news" as they choose to furnish.

The Anti-Imperialist League, therefore, publishes these letters of soldiers, mostly written to relatives and friends, but many of them published in local journals, as a valuable source of information as to the real situation.

As it is often unable to verify their statements, or even to identify the writers, it disclaims responsibility for their truthfulness. The letters are given for what they are worth.

Most of them bear evidence of the sincerity and trustworthiness of their authors. There seems little reason to doubt their statements, though some show a tendency to boast of brutal deeds, probably exaggerated, and a loose morality, which indicate the demoralizing effects of war even upon educated young men.

Let these letters, good and bad, be read and judged by the citizens of the United States as an aid to their verdict upon this war of subjugation.


Private Fred B. Hinchman, Company A, United States Engineers, writes from Manila, February 22d:

"At 1:30 o'clock the general gave me a memorandum with regard to sending out a Tennessee battalion to the line. He tersely put it that 'they were looking for a fight.' At the Puente Colgante (suspension bridge) I met one of our company, who told me that the Fourteenth and Washingtons were driving all before them, and taking no prisoners. This is now our rule of procedure for cause. After delivering my message I had not walked a block when I heard shots down the street. Hurrying forward, I found a group of our men taking pot-shots across the river, into a bamboo thicket, at about 1,200 yards. I longed to join them, but had my reply to take back, and that, of course, was the first thing to attend to. I reached the office at 3 P.M., just in time to see a platoon of the Washingtons, with about fifty prisoners, who had been taken before they learned how not to take them."

A private in the Utah Battery:

"The cable news has kept the home folks fully informed as to the progress of this 'goo-goo' hunt, so it is unnecessary to recount any details of battles. The cruelties of Spain toward these people have been fully discussed, but if the thing were written up by a recent arrival here, he would make a tale just as harrowing. But the old boys will say that no cruelty is too severe for these brainless monkeys, who can appreciate no sense of honor, kindness, or justice.... With an enemy like this to fight, it is not surprising that the boys should soon adopt 'no quarter' as a motto, and fill the blacks full of lead before finding out whether or not they are friends or enemies."

Arthur H. Vickers, Sergeant in the First Nebraska Regiment:

"I am not afraid, and am always ready to do my duty, but I would like some one to tell me what we are fighting for."

Another soldier in the Nebraska regiment:

"We came here to help, not to slaughter, these natives; to fight the oppressor Spain, not the oppressed. It strikes me as not very fair to pursue a policy that leads to this insurrection, and then keep us volunteers out here to fight battles we never enlisted for. I cannot see that we are fighting for any principle now."

A Corporal in the California Regiment:

"We sleep all day here, as we do our duty all night, walking the streets. We make every one get into his house by 7 P.M., and we only tell a man once. If he refuses, we shoot him. We killed over three hundred men the first night. They tried to set the town on fire. If they fire a shot from a house, we burn the house down, and every house near it, and shoot the natives; so they are pretty quiet in town now."

Guy Williams of the Iowa Regiment:

"The soldiers made short work of the whole thing. They looted every house, and found almost everything, from a pair of wooden shoes up to a piano, and they carried everything off or destroyed it. Talk of the natives plundering the towns: I don't think they are in it with the Fiftieth Iowa."

General Reeve, lately Colonel of the Thirteenth Minnesota Regiment:

"I deprecate this war, this slaughter of our own boys and of the Filipinos, because it seems to me that we are doing something that is contrary to our principles in the past. Certainly we are doing something that we should have shrunk from not so very long ago."

Sergeant Elliott, of Company G, Kansas Regiment:

"Most of the general officers think it will take years, and a large force of soldiers, to thoroughly subjugate the natives. And the unpleasant feature of this is that unless the conditions change radically there will be few soldiers who will care to stay there. There's no use trying to conceal the fact that many of the men over there now, especially the volunteers, are homesick, and tired of fighting way off there, with nothing in particular to gain. There is not one man in the whole army now in the Philippines who would not willingly give up his life for the flag if it was necessary, but it isn't pleasant to think about dying at the hands of a foe little better than a savage, and so far away from home. And the thought of its not ending for several years is not an especially pleasant one, either."

Charles Bremer, of Minneapolis, Kansas, describing the fight at Caloocan:

"Company I had taken a few prisoners, and stopped. The colonel ordered them up in to line time after time, and finally sent Captain Bishop back to start them. There occurred the hardest sight I ever saw. They had four prisoners, and didn't know what to do with them. They asked Captain Bishop what to do, and he said: 'You know the orders,' and four natives fell dead."

Sylvester Walker, of the Twenty-Third Regulars, February 20:

"There has not been a night for the last ten days we have not had fighting. Our force is too weak, and we cannot spare any more men, and will have to wait for more troops. Then we will have hard fighting, for there are so many that, no matter how many we kill or capture, it doesn't seem to lessen their number."

Martin P. Olson, of the Fourteenth Regulars:

"We can lick them, but it will take us a long time, because there are about 150,000 of the dagos back in the hills, and as soon as one of them gets killed or wounded there is a man to take his place at once; and we have but a few men in the first place, but we are expecting about 8,000 more soldiers every day, and I hope they will soon get here, or we will all be tired out and sick.... This is an awful bad climate and there have been from two to four funerals every day. The boys have chronic diarrhea and dysentery, and it just knocks the poor boys out. You musn't feel uneasy about me, because I don't think there is a Spanish bullet made to kill me; it is disease that I am most afraid of."

Fred D. Sweet, of the Utah Light Battery:

"The scene reminded me of the shooting of jack-rabbits in Utah, only the rabbits sometimes got away, but the insurgents did not."

Capt. Albert Otis describes his exploits at Santa Ana:

"I have six horses and three carriages in my yard, and enough small plunder for a family of six. The house I had at Santa Ana had five pianos. I couldn't take them, so I put a big grand piano out of a second-story window. You can guess its finish. Everything is pretty quiet about here now. I expect we will not be kept here very long now. Give my love to all."

Ellis G. Davis, Company A, 20th Kansas:

"They will never surrender until their whole race is exterminated. They are fighting for a good cause, and the Americans should be the last of all nations to transgress upon such rights. Their independence is dearer to them than life, as ours was in years gone by, and is today."

J. E. Fetterly, a Nebraska soldier:

"Some think the insurgents are disheartened, but I think they will make a desperate struggle for what they consider their rights. I do not approve of the course our government is pursuing with these people. If all men are created equal, they have some rights which ought to be respected."

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Registered to :Aug 29, 2001
Messages :163
From :P-Town
Posted 15-03-2002 at 14:09

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Registered to :Aug 29, 2001
Messages :163
From :P-Town
Posted 15-03-2002 at 14:24
Arthur Minkler, of the Kansas Regiment, says:

"We advanced four miles and we fought every inch of the way; . . . saw twenty-five dead insurgents in one place and twenty-seven in another, besides a whole lot of them scattered along that I did not count.... It was like hunting rabbits; an insurgent would jump out of a hole or the brush and run; he would not get very far.... I suppose you are not interested in the way we do the job. We take no prisoners. At least the Twentieth Kansas do not."

Burr Ellis, of Frazier Valley, California:

"They did not commence fighting over here (Cavite) for several days after the war commenced. Dewey gave them till nine o'clock one day to surrender, and that night they all left but a few out to their trenches, and those that they left burned up the town, and when the town commenced burning the troops were ordered in as far as possible and said, Kill all we could find. I ran off from the hospital and went ahead with the scouts. And you bet, I did not cross the ocean for the fun there was in it, so the first one I found, he was in a house, down on his knees fanning a fire, trying to burn the house, and I pulled my old Long Tom to my shoulder and left him to burn with the fire, which he did. I got his knife, and another jumped out of the window and ran, and I brought him to the ground like a jack-rabbit. I killed seven that I know of, and one more I am almost sure of: I shot ten shots at him running and knocked him down, and that evening the boys out in front of our trenches now found one with his arm shot off at the shoulder and dead as h___. I had lots of fun that morning. There were five jumped out of the brush and cut one of the Iowa band boys, and we killed every one of them, and I was sent back to quarters in a hurry. Came very near getting a court-martial, but the colonel said he had heard that I had done excellent work, and he laughed and said: 'There's good stuff in that man,' and told me not to leave any more without orders. Well, John, there will always be trouble here with the natives unless they annihilate all of them as fast as they come to them."

Tom Crandall, of the Nebraska Regiment:

"The boys are getting sick of fighting these heathens, and all say we volunteered to fight Spain, not heathens. Their patriotism is wearing off. We all want to come home very bad. If I ever get out of this army I will never get into another. They will be fighting four hundred years, and then never whip these people, for there are not enough of us to follow them up.... The people of the United States ought to raise a howl and have us sent home."

Captain Elliott, of the Kansas Regiment, February 27th:

"Talk about war being 'hell,' this war beats the hottest estimate ever made of that locality. Caloocan was supposed to contain seventeen thousand inhabitants. The Twentieth Kansas swept through it, and now Caloocan contains not one living native. Of the buildings, the battered walls of the great church and dismal prison alone remain. The village of Maypaja, where our first fight occurred on the night of the fourth, had five thousand people on that day, -- now not one stone remains upon top of another. You can only faintly imagine this terrible scene of desolation. War is worse than hell."

Leonard F. Adams, of Ozark, in the Washington Regiment:

"I don't know how many men, women, and children the Tennessee boys did kill. They would not take any prisoners. One company of the Tennessee boys was sent to headquarters with thirty prisoners, and got there with about a hundred chickens and no prisoners."

D. M. Mickle, Tennessee Regiment, at Iloilo:

"The building had been taken possession of by a United States officer, and he looted it to a finish. I suspected something and followed one of his men to the place. I expected to be jumped on by the officer as soon as I found him there, as I was away from my post, but it seems he was afraid I would give him away; in fact, we were both afraid of each other. He was half drunk, and every time he saw me looking at anything he would say, 'Tennessee, do you like that? Well, put it in your pocket." ... The house was a fine one, and richly furnished, but had been looted to a finish. The contents of every drawer had been emptied on the floor. You have no idea what a mania for destruction the average man has when the fear of the law is removed. I have seen them -- old sober business men too -- knock chandeliers and plate-glass mirrors to pieces just because they couldn't carry it off. It is such a pity."

A private writes:

"In a word, I believe they should be accorded all the rights that we claim for ourselves. As for myself, I marched into the battle to make them free, not to make them subjects. I understood our mission to be one of humanity and for the cause of freedom, but our offering on the altar of liberty has been prostituted."

Theodore Conley, of a Kansas Regiment:

"Talk about dead indians! Why, they are lying everywhere. The trenches are full of them.... More harrowing still: think of the brave men from this country, men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of Cuba, dying in battle and from disease, in a war waged for the purpose of conquering a people who are fighting as the Cubans fought against Spanish tyranny and misrule. There is not a feature of the whole miserable business that a patriotic American citizen, one who loves to read of the brave deeds of the American colonists in the splendid struggle for American independence, can look upon with complacency, much less with pride. This war is reversing history. It places the American people and the government of the United States in the position occupied by Great Britain in 1776. It is an utterly causeless and defenceless war, and it should be abandoned by this government without delay. The longer it is continued, the greater crime it becomes -- a crime against human liberty as well as against Christianity and civilization.... Those not killed in the trenches were killed when they tried to come out.... No wonder they can't shoot, with that light thrown on them; shells bursting and infantry pouring in lead all the time. Honest to God, I feel sorry for them."

F. A. Blake, of California, in charge of the Red Cross:

"I never saw such execution in my life, and hope never to see such sights as met me on all sides as our little corps passed over the field, dressing wounded. Legs and arms nearly demolished; total decapitation; horrible wounds in chests and abdomens, showing the determination of our soldiers to kill every native in sight. The Filipinos did stand their ground heroically, contesting every inch, but proved themselves unable to stand the deadly fire of our well-trained and eager boys in blue. I counted seventy-nine dead natives in one small field, and learn that on the other side of the river their bodies were stacked up for breastworks."

A Henry County boy in the Washington Regiment:

"It would be a novel idea to those who so strongly favor territorial expansion, for political reasons only, to make a thorough investigation and research of the land to be so acquired, and especially estimate its resources, and the expenditures in maintaining peace with the hostile and treacherous natives. It would require a vast army to keep them within bounds, and it can easily be foreseen that new difficulties would continually be arising, for they are almost unanimous in the determination of ruling themselves. Why should we desire to annex revolting and oppressive people? The expense of maintaining peace would be enormous, and, taken from a financial standpoint, I fear they would not prove very remunerative."

Colonel Funston, Twentieth Kansas Volunteers:

"The boys go for the enemy as if they were chasing jack-rabbits.... I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening rod, good, hard, and plenty, and lay it on until they come into the reservation and promise to be good 'Injuns.'"

A private from the Miami County Kansas Regiment:

"I suppose the people back home did not expect us to have any fighting, but we have already had the greatest land fight of the war, and it may take a great deal more to finish it yet, for we may have to kill all the black rascals before they are conquered.... Occasionally a Filipino would fall forward apparently dead, wait until he was fairly under the heels of the Americans, and then foolishly rise and attempt to gain safety. To shoot a man at six feet range with a Springfield rifle is a hard thing to do, but the orders were to let no insurgent live, and off would go the whole side of his head, or he would fall with a wound in his abdomen large enough to drop a potato through."

E. D. Furnam, of the Washington Regiment, writes of the battles of February 4th and 5th:

"We burned hundreds of houses and looted hundreds more. Some of the boys made good hauls of jewelry and clothing. Nearly every man has at least two suits of clothing, and our quarters are furnished in style; fine beds with silken drapery, mirrors, chairs, rockers, cushions, pianos, hanging-lamps, rugs, pictures, etc. We have horses and carriages, and bull-carts galore, and enough furniture and other plunder to load a steamer."

Next: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Latin America in Caricature, by John J. Johnson (contents).
Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism, by Laura Wexler.

Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism: From the Revolution to World War II, by John Carlos Rowe (contents).

The Unwept: Black American Soldiers and the Spanish-American War, by Edward Van Zile Scott.

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