Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare How Secretary Root Investigated the Charge of Killing Prisoners
On January 19 Secretary Root ordered that Lieutenant Hall's communication be sent to the
commanding general at Manila, with instructions to investigate only so much of the allegations
Wilder S. Metcalf ... with having killed an unarmed prisoner of war and Brigadier-general
Frederick Funston, United States Army, with having used his influence to prevent a fair and
impartial investigation of the shooting of such prisoner, and to convene a board of officers for
Three things are conspicuous in this order:
1. Out of the grave charges against General Funston, only one is selected. The terrible
accusation that he was responsible for the killing of wounded men or prisoners is ignored. The
other charges affecting his honor and character are also passed over in silence.
The Secretary was willing to inquire whether one prisoner had been killed, but not whether the
killing of many had been ordered. Did he think that an order to give no quarter was not an
offence, or, like Lieutenant Colonel Crowder, that an investigation would implicate so many that
it was undesirable? In either case a refusal to investigate, especially after the public notoriety
which the charges had received, meant to the army that the Secretary of War did not propose to
punish such barbarity, whether it was the fault of a single officer or a general practice.
2. Though Metcalf was in the United States, and most of the witnesses were there, the inquiry is
ordered to take place in Manila; and
3. No court-martial or court of inquiry is ordered, only an investigating board. The difference is
important, as will appear.
On March 1, 1900, General Otis appointed "a board of officers" to investigate the charges
specified in the Secretary's order, which met on March 5 at Angeles, Philippine Islands, at 2.15
The next day this board asked for further instructions, pointing out that Metcalf was in the
United States, that in Mr. Hall's communication
the names of many witnesses, ex-officers, and ex-soldiers of volunteers are given who are in the
1. Is the board to investigate these accusations without the said Metcalf being present, and
without his having an opportunity to refute these accusations?
2. Is the board to confine its investigation to such witnesses as are in the Philippine Islands?
3. The essential difference between the powers and procedure of this board and those of a board
of inquiry are not clear to the board.
On March 7 the board received this reply by command of General Otis from the Assistant
Adjutant-general of the department:
The papers in this case transmitted from Washington affirmatively show that the principal
witnesses are not in the Philippine Islands. It must therefore have been contemplated that the
proceedings of the board here would necessarily be partial and incomplete. It was in the power
of the Secretary of War to order a court of inquiry upon his own motion, had he so desired.
Instead, he directed the convening of a board of officers to investigate. There is no authority for
the swearing of the members of such a board, and such authority could not be granted boards of
this character by executive orders. Like boards of survey, to which it is more nearly related than
to courts of inquiry, it may take evidence by affidavit. It need hardly be pointed out that General
Funston should be heard personally and through witnesses.
From this letter it is clear the Secretary ordered a partial examination of two out of many charges
by an unsworn board, where the complainant and his witnesses could not be present, where
General Funston and his witnesses were to be heard personally, and where affidavits could be
used instead of having witnesses personally examined. Secretary Root, a trained lawyer, knows
well that cross-examination is needed to sift testimony, and that a witness on the stand, in the
presence of judge or jury, is far more likely to be weighed correctly than if his affidavit only be
read. A tribunal thus instructed to hear the defendant and unable to hear the witnesses against
him is a tribunal which cannot do justice.
The expected happened. Of the witnesses named by Mr. Hall the board was able to reach Private
Husky and Captain Green, both of whom appeared before it, and were interrogated. In the case
of Husky his answers were embodied in an affidavit, which was read over to him in the presence
of the board; and he acknowledged its correctness. Captain Green, at the request of the board,
made a written statement; and General Funston was given the chance to be heard, but preferred
to submit a written statement, and desired to call no witnesses. He also wished Major Mallory to
submit a certificate as to whether he, Funston, had used any influence to prevent a fair and
Husky was one of the privates still in the service to whom Funston's threat, quoted by Mr. Hall,
had referred. He was cut off from his former comrades; and to what influences he was exposed
in an army whose commander had suggested court-martialling Brenner for giving information,
we can only guess. Husky had made an affidavit in which he said that he was Major Metcalf's
orderly, and that Metcalf had shot a prisoner while he was unarmed and on his knees. Hall's
letter stated that afterward
at Manila, in the presence of Colonel Metcalf, Lieutenant Colonel Little, and Captain Boltwood,
Husky made a statement of these facts and all the circumstances to Metcalf, who merely said,
"The boy evidently thinks he is telling the truth," and that Metcalf was advised, if innocent, to
have Husky court-martialled, but declined to do it.
In the affidavit before the investigating board Husky describes the situation as before, and says:
Major Metcalf and Lieutenant Ball were present there, and some one shot a Filipino prisoner, but
his [Husky's] attention was drawn to another place, and he did not see the prisoner shot or who
that he heard him shot, and knew he was shot, and "is not positive that Major Metcalf did not
shoot the prisoner." He said, further, that his first affidavit was made under the influence of
liquor, and was not true, in so far as it stated that the prisoner was brought to Metcalf and shot by
him, being at the time on his knees.
Captain Green said he had no personal knowledge that Metcalf shot the prisoner, all he knows
being gathered entirely from hearsay.
There was more or less talk in the regiment that certain officers had killed some insurgents who
had surrendered, but of that I have no knowledge other than that of rumors circulating through
The board reported that, being limited by the letter of instructions to the consideration of such
evidence as was procurable in the Philippine Islands, and having exhausted all such evidence
(1) The board is of opinion from the evidence available and before it that there is nothing to
show that the said Wilder S. Metcalf ... did shoot and kill an unarmed Filipino prisoner as
-- a carefully guarded finding; and
(2) that Brigadier-general Funston did not use his influence to prevent a fair and impartial
investigation of the shooting of certain Filipino prisoners during the battle of Caloocan, and that
anything he may have said to General MacArthur on the subject did not affect the conduct and
scope of the investigation.
General MacArthur wrote to the board that he recalled a conversation
when General Funston remarked that the investigation then being made by Major Mallory,
inspector-general of the division, was conducted in a very thorough manner, and that he thought
that the latitude given in the premises was stimulating the worst element in the regiment to
magnify these matters by way of resentment and vindictiveness.
Funston certifies that, in conversation with General MacArthur,
I said that I regretted very much that the charges against Captain Bishop had ever received
official notice, because, in my opinion, Major Mallory's investigation was taking so wide a
scope, and he was going into the matter so thoroughly, that officers and men, who had
grievances against certain ones of their superiors, were taking advantage of this opportunity of
punishing officers for doing their duty.
The report of Major Mallory, already quoted, shows nothing of any such attempt, nor does his
report or the action of Lieutenant Colonel Crowder give any countenance to this theory.
If we compare these statements of General MacArthur and General Funston with Mr. Hall's
charge, they seem to sustain it. General MacArthur says it did not occur to him that General
Funston was trying to influence him. Funston says he was not. Mallory says that what Funston
said did not influence his action. But it is evident that Funston was not helping or encouraging
the investigation, and, on the other hand, that he wanted it stopped.
It is clear on this record that the grave charge against Funston of ordering that no quarter be
given was never investigated al all, and that such investigation as was had of less serious charges
was held at a place and under conditions which make it apparent that the purpose was not to
The record must satisfy anybody, as it satisfied Lieutenant Colonel Crowder, that an
investigation would have implicated many. This is the reason avowed by him and by General
Otis for not proceeding against men who were guilty of an admitted crime. The action of
Secretary Root leaves no doubt as to his attitude; and thus at the outset of the war, before the
Filipinos had done more than be defeated with frightful loss, the officers and soldiers of our
army were given to understand that the killing of prisoners and wounded men would not be
No one can read this record without seeing
1. That the first impulse of the authorities was to punish the soldier whose true statement led to
2. That the attempt was made to have an investigation where the witnesses could not be had, so
that it would be possible to claim that no evidence was found to prove the charge, when in fact
no real attempt to investigate was made.
3. That the most serious charge was not investigated at all.
What might have been the result, had the witnesses named by Lieutenant Hall been summoned,
is shown by the affidavits exhibited to the Committee on Pensions of two eye-witnesses who saw
Major Metcalf shoot the prisoner, and of Captain Boltwood, who swore that he was present
when Husky accused Metcalf, and that Husky was not drunk when he made his affidavit.