All Rights Reserved.
Site last updated
13 January, 2012
Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare|
The Waller Court-Martial
|Major Waller was tried for murder. He admitted that he had ordered eleven Filipinos, not
hostile nor in arms against the United States, but acting as "cargadores," or carriers, for his
expedition, -- active allies, in fact, -- to be shot without trial, because they were suspected of not
having got food for our men when they could.
At his trial, Waller pleaded that he had acted under General Smith's orders, and, testifying in his
own defence, justified his acts by referring to what had been done by the troops in China,
Americans as well as others, saying: "I shot them. I honestly thought then that I was right, and I
believe so now." He did not plead sickness, mental excitement nor any like excuse, but openly
justified his acts.
The judge advocate, in addressing the court, said, as reported in the despatches, that
according to the evidence the natives acted in many instances in a highly commendable manner,
and maintained that their faithfulness, and not their treachery, had been disclosed before the
As reported in the press despatches he said the prisoners
were lined up for the raffle of death at the sole will and pleasure of Private Davis, a marine who
was judge and prosecutor, and professed many arms.
Upon the issue thus presented the court-martial found him not guilty, thus deciding that such
killing of allies was not only no murder, but no crime.
General Chaffee, in dealing with the finding, said: "The sending of the natives in question to
their death partook more of unlawful retaliation than a justifiable act of war."... He points out
that Waller, when he gave the order, "was sick, prostrate from fever, suffering acute pain of
body ... and mental anguish concerning the fate of his men," and then says:
Giving heed to the mental attitude of Major Waller, as much of the findings of the court as are to
the effect that Major Waller is not guilty of murder is approved. But the reviewing authority is at
a loss to understand why the court did not find against Major Waller in the minor offence.
It will be observed that Major Waller's acquittal of murder is approved on account of his
physical condition and mental anxiety, -- a defence which he does not seem to have made, and a
defence which could not be set up for General Smith, whose orders he claimed to have obeyed.
Lieutenant Day, who executed Major Waller's orders, was also tried and acquitted; and the
finding was disapproved on the ground that, owing to Major Waller's condition, he should have
These findings throw a flood of light on the attitude of the army, when acts like these are found
deserving not even of censure by a court-martial sitting in cold blood months after the event.