Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare The History of Samar
Let us pass now to Samar, the scene of General Smith's campaign.
Under date of August 20, 1901, General Hughes, in command of our forces on that island,
reported as follows:
The progress in Samar is satisfactory in some ways, and not in others. The subduing of the
fighting propensities of the war faction is reduced almost to a nullity. The growth of our strength
in the estimation of the people is also quite satisfactory. The fact is, their love for the flesh-pots,
and, incidentally, for the Americans, who represent said pots, is growing burdensome, as the
securing of the hemp with which to pay for rice is becoming a heavy business. In nearly all our
ports where the commander has exercised good judgment, colonies of natives have come in and
settled, and concluded they would set up their fares and penates under our wing.... The
correspondence the troops have captured shows that the armed forces are deserting and breaking
away from the military control of the Vicol leaders.
The unsatisfactory features are the slowness of the process of conversion, the failure to get rifles,
and the slowness and the difficulty in making roads and trails;... and, while efforts have been
made to push things faster, I am entirely satisfied with the results thus far secured.
This report on August 27 was forwarded to Washington by General Chaffee, with an
indorsement which concluded:
No estimate can be made of the time when the campaign in Samar is liable to close. It will have
to be continued until the surrender of Lucban is effected.
Captain H. L. Jackson on August 26 reported that on the 18th he had found Lucban with two
officers, "three riflemen and about twenty bolomen," that he charged them, killed three,
wounded one officer, and captured the two officers, the wife and child of Lucban, some
ammunition, and Lucban's "correspondence and personal effects." Apparently, resistance was
reduced to a minimum.
On September 28 occurred the affair at Balangiga, in which a detachment, consisting of three
officers, one hospital corps man, and seventy men, were overpowered, and lost in action and
retreat all but twenty-nine men, of whom twenty-two were wounded; while the enemy's loss was
estimated at from fifty to one hundred and fifty killed.
One of the survivors of the garrison gave the history of the disaster before the Senate Committee.
This was William J. Gibbs, of Springfield, Mass., who was promoted to be a corporal for his
bravery in this fight, and was one of five recommended as deserving a medal of honor. He may
therefore be regarded as a reliable witness. From his testimony it appeared that he had served in
the Philippines for about three years, that he was one of the detachment sent to Balangiga, -- a
village of about two thousand inhabitants, living in some two hundred houses, who got their
living by chopping down cocoanuts and fishing, -- that, after landing, the commander, Captain
called the officials together, and told them he came there to establish peace and to keep out the
surrounding bands of robbers. He told them he wanted them to be peaceable, and, if they were
not, he was all ready and prepared to fight.
Then Captain Connell
wanted to have things cleaned up around the town, and he went to work and issued a
proclamation to have all the natives appear the next morning and clean out the town. The natives
appeared to be somewhat reluctant in regard to that. They turned out, but they did not work very
hard. And then the next morning they refused to come at all. So he went to work, and sent the
men, -- each man to a shack, -- and forced them to come out, and had a guard placed over the
men while they were working in the hot sun. He had two Sibley tents; and they put the ninety
natives in the two Sibley tents, which only held about sixteen soldiers; they could not lie down;
they had to stand up. There was not room enough to lie down. They stayed there for two or three
days. In the morning Captain Connell would line the natives up, and would issue to them bolos
for the purpose of cutting down the underbrush.
Captain Connell began this cleaning up the day he arrived; and, when he sent the soldiers to get
everybody was brought out that was able to work, -- every man. There were about ninety,
aged from forty-five to thirteen.
They had these bolos, and they were placed in the line, and had to cut down the underbrush and
different stuff, and they stayed there right in the heat of the sun, with about twelve soldiers
standing over them; and they were confined in the Sibley tents, about forty-five natives in each
tent. The weather was damp, and of course it was the rainy season at that time; and it was very
unpleasant all right for the natives, and they started to complain about it. They even wanted a
little matting to put on the inside of the tent to keep them from the dampness, but he would not
allow that at all.
After about four days of this treatment the men were allowed to go home and appear in the
morning; and they did so, though they worked reluctantly all the while. This went on till about a
week before the massacre, when the native chief of police brought seventy-five men from the
mountains, who were confined for a week in the Sibley tents; and, though "it rained move or
less during the day," "no matting at all was given" to them. They complained to the soldiers;
"they were afraid to make complaints to the officers," but were not relieved.
Gibbs was asked,
What sort of a man was Captain Connell? A. He did not seem to treat them right in one respect.
While the natives were cleaning up the town, he sent out men from the company to destroy all
the rice and fish and everything in the line of food that they possibly could. He thought they
were taking them to the insurrectos in the mountains.
was stored in about the same way as we store hay in the barn, perhaps fifteen or twenty bushels
in some places. The work of cleaning up the town in the immediate locality was continued
consecutively from the time we went there in July until the massacre occurred in September.
In a word, this Captain Connell came to a quiet village, and forced every man in the place, from
forty-five to thirteen years of age, to work for months at cleaning the town with soldiers over
them, while he destroyed all their food and confined them at night for the time and in the manner
described by the witness. Suppose we had heard that a Spanish officer had done this. Truly, it
was a strange way to assure them "that full measure of individual rights which is the heritage of
free peoples," or to prove that the mission of the United States was "one of benevolent
assimilation, substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule."
Singularly enough, these men rose upon their oppressors, and attacked them with the very bolos
that the Americans had furnished them; and, singularly also, they tried to surprise them, perhaps
remembering that bolos are a poor weapon against rifles. The result was that in this village the
American force was cut to pieces, though, as Mr. Gibbs estimated, one hundred and fifty
Filipinos were killed in the struggle. This is the massacre of Balangiga.
On the 10th of October General Jacob H. Smith was assigned to the command of the forces
located on the island of Samar, with headquarters at Catbalogan. Either with knowledge of the
facts just stated by the witness Gibbs or without investigation, he undertook to revenge the death
of the soldiers killed at Balangiga upon the whole population of Samar, an island which,
according to the American Encyclopedia, had in 1881 a population of over 250,000 persons and
an area of 5,000 square miles. Shortly afterward there appeared in the newspapers of this country
a statement that he proposed to make of Samar "a wilderness where not even a bird could live."
It is charitable, if difficult, to believe that Secretary Root did not see this despatch; but it is not
possible to believe that no notice reached him of General Smith's purpose.
Certainly there was enough of vengeance foreshadowed in the reports from Manila to make it
clear that a restraining hand from Washington was needed. On November 4 the Manila News,
approving what it narrated, published the following:
The transport "Lawton" returned yesterday afternoon from a two weeks' cruise, touching at
Catbalogan, Cebu, Perang-Perang, and Davao. On her outward passage she took two hundred
Ilocano scouts for the Samar service.
On the arrival of the "Lawton" at Catbalogan, Brigadier-general Smith had been in Samar about
ten days; and his strong policy was already making itself felt. He had already ordered all natives
to present themselves in certain of the coast towns, saying that those who were found outside
would be shot and no questions asked. The time limit had expired when the "Lawton" reached
Catbalogan, and General Smith was as good as his word. His policy of reconcentration is said to
be the most effective thing of the kind ever seen in these islands under any flag. All suspects,
including Spaniards and half-breeds, were rounded up in big stockades and kept under guard.
The dates show that General Smith gave this large scattered foreign population about ten days'
notice to abandon their homes on pain of death. The time limit had expired, and he was
enforcing the penalty.
Must we assume that this statement thus published broadcast at Manila did not reach the eye of
General Chaffee nor the notice of the War Department? Was any step taken by any one to
inquire or to stay General Smith?
The truth was worse even than the newspaper statement. To quote from Mr. Root's letter to the
President of July 12, General Smith gave "the following oral instructions:"
"I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn: the more you kill and burn, the better you will
please me," and, further, that he wanted all persons killed who were capable of bearing arms and
in actual hostilities against the United States, and did, in reply to a question by Major Waller
asking for an age limit, designate the limit as ten years of age.
It will be observed that the Secretary, after the words "capable of bearing arms," interpolates the
words "and in actual hostilities against the United States." These words do not appear in the
statement of General Smith's orders made by his own counsel at this trial, as they were quoted in
the despatches from Manila, which were never questioned. He said:
General Smith did give instructions to Major Waller to "kill and burn" "and make Samar a
howling wilderness," and he admits that he wanted everybody killed capable of bearing arms,
and that he did specify all over ten years of age, as the Samar boys of that age were equally as
dangerous as their elders.
On the 4th of February, 1902, the extract quoted from the Manila newspaper as to General
Smith's course was brought to the attention of the Senate in the petition of ex-Senator Edmunds
and others already referred to. These gentlemen asked that these charges be investigated, and
that orders be given to stop such practices. Secretary Root can hardly plead ignorance of this
demand from responsible citizens. Did he take any action either to investigate or to stop? So far
as the record shows, none. The order to try General Smith by court-martial was not given till
Then General Smith was tried by a court composed of high officers on the charge of "conduct to
the prejudice of good order and military discipline," in that he gave the order quoted to Major