Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare The Orders of Bell and Smith
Finally, the Secretary had before him, when he wrote his letter, the orders of General Bell in
Batangas and General Smith in Samar. After one-sixth of the people of Luzon had been killed or
died in two years, after the horrors of Macabebe war, after the burning of towns, the torture of
prisoners, the terrible slaughter which the evidence discloses, General Bell in Batangas and
General Smith in Samar were evidently given what, in the language of the War Department, is
called "a free hand."
In General Bell's circular order to station commanders of December 9, 1901, we find him
[Telegraphic circular No. 3.]
Batangas, Dec. 9, 1901.
To All Station Commanders:
A general conviction, which the brigade commander shares, appears to exist, that the
insurrection in this brigade continues because the greater part of the people, especially the
wealthy ones, pretend to desire, but in reality do not want, peace; that, when all really want
peace, we can have it promptly. Under such circumstances it is clearly indicated that a policy
should be adopted that will as soon as possible make the people want peace, and want it badly.
Commanding officers are urged and enjoined to use their discretion freely in adopting any or all
measures of warfare authorized by this order which will contribute, in their judgment, toward
enforcing the policy or accomplishing the purpose above announced.
It is not necessary to seek or wait for authority from these headquarters to do anything or take
any action which will contribute to the end in view. It is desired that subdistrict commanders
accord to their subordinate officers and commanders a degree of confidence and latitude in
operations similar to that herein conferred upon them. Such restraint and supervision only should
be exercised as is dictated by sound discretion, and as may be essential to securing concert of
action and co-operation when desirable, adherence to authorized methods, and a uniform policy
and harmonious action in working for a common end. Subordinate commanders and young
officers of experience should not be restrained or discouraged without excellent reason, but
should be encouraged to hunt for, pursue, and vigorously operate against armed bodies of
insurgents wherever they may be found. Considering the comparative morale of our troops and
insurgents, and the lack of reliable ammunition and training on the part of the latter, it is not
believed there exists any just cause for exceptional caution or apprehension in attacking them
No person should be given credit for loyalty solely on account of his having done nothing for or
against us, so far as known. Neutrality should not be tolerated. Every inhabitant of this brigade
should either be an active friend or be classed as an enemy....
Another dangerous class of enemies are wealthy sympathizers and contributors, who, though
holding no official positions, use all their influence in support of the insurrection, and, while
enjoying American protection for themselves, their families and property, secretly aid, protect,
and contribute to insurgents. Chief and most important among this class of disloyal persons are
The same course should be pursued with all of this class; for, to arrest any one believed to be
guilty of giving aid or assistance to the insurrection in any way or of giving food or comfort to
the enemies of the government, it is not necessary to wait for sufficient evidence to lead to
conviction by a court, but those strongly suspected of complicity with the insurrection may be
arrested and confined as a military necessity, and may be held indefinitely as prisoners of war, in
the discretion of the station commander or until the receipt of other orders from higher authority.
It will frequently be found impossible to obtain any evidence against persons of influence as
long as they are at liberty; but, once confined, evidence is easily obtainable.
Batangas, P.I, Dec. 15, 1901.
To All Station Commanders:
Every proper effort will be made at all times to deprive those in arms in the mountains of food
supplies; but, in order that those who have assembled in the towns may not be reduced to want, it
is absolutely essential to confiscate, transport to garrison towns, and save for future
contingencies, wherever possible, every particle of food supply which may be found concealed
in the mountains for insurgents or abandoned at a distance from towns.
In accomplishing this, all means of transportation may be seized and every able-bodied male
impressed and marched under guard to transport said food products into towns.
It should not take more than a week to completely clear all outlying districts of food products.
It is the purpose of this order to place the burden of feeding the poor upon the wealthy classes,
whose disloyalty has brought on and maintained this war, and upon those who still remain
disloyal, especially upon those who are actively sympathizing, contributing to, and otherwise
aiding and assisting the insurrection.
J. F. Bell,< Brigadier-general Commanding.
Batangas, Dec. 20, 1901.
To All Station Commanders:
Commanding officers in the provinces of Batangas and Laguna will prepare to send out
commands on the 26th of December and every day thereafter until January 1, for the especial
purpose of hunting insurgents and disloyal persons, and confiscating and bringing into
government storehouses all rice and food supplies found within the jurisdiction of their town and
outside the zone of protection. Rice found in the possession of families so situated will, if
practicable, be moved with them to town; that found abandoned or apparently stored in
mountains or other places for insurgents will be confiscated.... Whenever it is found absolutely
impossible to transport it to a point within the protected zone, it will be burned or otherwise
destroyed. These rules will apply to all food products.
J. F. Bell, Brigadier-general Commanding.
[Telegraphic circular No. 14.]
Batangas, Dec. 21, 1901.
To All Station Commanders:
On and after Jan. 1, 1902, all traffic on roads or trails outside of the limit of protected zones for
any purpose whatever, and all passing of persons or merchandise to and fro between towns, will
be strictly forbidden by all commanding officers in the towns of Batangas and Laguna. No
person will be permitted to leave the town without a written pass from the commanding officer
thereof, said pass to show length of time the said individual has permission to be absent, where
permitted to go, and for what purpose.
Any able-bodied male found by patrols or scouting detachments outside of protected zones
without passes will be arrested and confined, or shot if he runs away.
No old and feeble man nor any woman or child will be shot at pursuant to this rule.
[Confidential telegraphic circular No. 18.]
Batangas, Dec. 23, 1901.
To All Station Commanders:
Wherever similar action has not already been taken, commanding officers of all garrisoned
towns in the provinces of Batangas and Laguna on the first day of January, 1902, or as soon
thereafter as practicable, will, with the exceptions hereinafter noted, arrest all native municipal
officials, including cabezas of all barrios, leading principales, members of police force (who
have not fully complied with their duty by actively aiding the Americans and rendering them
valuable service), and any other person in the community who is known to be or is strongly
suspected of being an active aider and abettor of the insurrection, or a sympathizer therewith,
who uses his influence against the American government. Though all such persons will be
arrested without distinction, it is especially desirable that no guilty principales or prominent
Exception made (may) be made of any one of the persons above mentioned who has
demonstrated his loyalty by methods mentioned in telegraphic circular No. 3, or who has given
secret aid and information of value to the commanding officer; but no neutrals will be spared.
The secret repetition of idle rumors or of information that everybody knows is to be considered
All persons not so arrested will be given to clearly understand that the time has now come when
the principal people of each town have either got to go prison as suspects or organize and work
for peace by notifying insurgents that they will no longer aid or assist them, but will aid the
government by denouncing insurgents who secretly enter towns in disguise, by giving to
commanding officers all information of insurgent plans and movements that come to their
notice, by refusing to contribute any longer either money or food, by assisting in defending the
towns against attack, and by doing other things mentioned in telegraphic circular No. 3 to
demonstrate their loyalty.
[Telegraphic circular No. 19.]
Batangas, Dec. 24, 1901.
To All Station Commanders:
In order to make the existing state of war and martial law so inconvenient and unprofitable to the
people that they will earnestly desire and work for the re-establishment of peace and civil
government, and for the purpose of throwing the burden of the war upon the disloyal element,
pursuant to provisions of paragraphs 21, 37, 76, and 156, General Orders No. 100, the following
expedients may, in the discretion of subdistrict and station commanders, be adopted throughout
Batangas and Laguna:
First. Until the re-establishment of civil government and the making of provisions thereby for the
repair of roads and performance of other public work, the old Spanish law requiring either
fifteen days' free labor or three pesos tax in lieu thereof may be enforced, and road work be
begun as soon as it is practicable or safe to do so.
With this purpose in view, lists will be immediately prepared of all the principales, who will
have the privilege of either paying three pesos or working; but all other poor people, able-bodied
males, will be required to work in turn.
The following order was issued on Christmas Eve:
[Telegraphic circular No. 22.]
Batangas, Dec. 24, 1901.
To All Station Commanders:
The purpose of the preceding telegraphic circulars of instruction has been to place the burden of
the war on the disloyal, and to so discipline the inhabitants that they will become anxious to aid
and assist the government in putting an end to the insurrection and in securing the
re-establishment of civil government. Their provisions are based upon the assumption that, with
very few exceptions, practically the entire population has been hostile to us at heart. In order to
combat such a population, it is necessary to make the state of war as insupportable as possible;
and there is no more efficacious way of accomplishing this than by keeping the minds of the
people in such a state of anxiety and apprehension that living under such conditions will soon
Little should be said. The less said the better. The making of threats which cannot be carried out
should especially be carefully guarded against. Let acts, not words, convey intentions. The more
an officer does and the less he says about what he is going to do, the more apprehensive and
anxious will become those who are guilty and who wait for what is next to happen. When it
becomes necessary to give warning or public instructions, do it dispassionately, and not in a
Though it is intended and desired that the policy to be enforced shall be as rigid and relentless as
it possibly can be until the people have come to their senses and completely turned against the
insurgents, the brigade commander relies upon the sense of duty of every officer and
non-commissioned officer and the personal pride and gentility of every enlisted man to
effectually preclude looting and other abuses committed for personal advantage. He feels certain
that officers and men who have so important a duty to perform, and who are forced to adopt such
radical measures to accomplish it, do not wish to reflect serious discredit upon their motives by
seeking or desiring any personal advantage.
J. F. Bell, Brigadier-general Commanding.
In other words, the military authorities took whole provinces of people apparently pursuing their
ordinary avocations, and undertook by every form of oppression -- burning their houses,
destroying their food, confining them within certain zones, confiscating their property,
imprisoning them, or forcing them to work -- to make them active agents on our side in this war
What General Bell actually did is shown by his report made the day after Christmas:
Batangas, Dec. 26, 1901.
I have become convinced that within two months at the outside there will be no more
insurrection in this brigade. We may not have secured all the guns or caught all the insurgents by
that time, and the present insurrection will end and the men and the guns will be secured in
time.... I am practically sure they cannot remain here in Batangas, Laguna, and a part of Tayabas.
The people are now assembled in the towns, with all the visible food supply except that cached
by insurgents in the mountains. For the next six days all station commanders will be employed
hunting insurgents and their hidden food supplies within their respective jurisdictions.
Population of each town will be turned out, and all transportation that can be found impressed to
bring into government storehouses all food that is found, if it be possible to transport it. If not, it
will be destroyed.
I am now assembling in the neighborhood of twenty-five hundred men, who will be used in
columns of about fifty men each. I expect to accompany the command. Of course, no such
strength is necessary to cope with all the insurgents in the Phillipine Islands, but the country is
indescribably rough and badly cut up.... To the ravines and mountains I take so large a command
for the purpose of thoroughly searching each ravine, valley, and mountain-peak for insurgents
and for food, expecting to destroy everything I find outside of towns. All able-bodied men will be
killed or captured. Old men, women, and children will be sent to towns. This movement
begins January 1, by which time I hope to have nearly all the food supply in the towns. If
insurgents hide their guns and come into the towns, it will be to my advantage; for I shall put
such a pressure on town officials and police that they will be compelled to identify insurgents.
If I catch these, I shall get their guns in time. I expect to first clean out the wide Loboo Peninsula
south of Bantangas, Tiasan, and San Juan de Boc Boc road. I shall then move command to the
vicinity of Lake Taal, and sweep the country westward to the ocean and south of Cavite,
returning through Lipa.
I shall scour and clean up the Lipa Mountains. Swinging northward, the country in the vicinity of
San Pablo, Alaminos, Tananan, and Santo Tomas, will be scoured, ending at Mount Maguiling,
which will then be thoroughly searched and devastated. This is said to be the home of Malvar
and his parents.
Swinging back to the right, the same treatment will be given all the country of which Mount
Cristobal and Mount Banabao are the main peaks. These two mountains, Mount Maguiling, and
the mountains north-east of Loboo are the main haunts of the insurgents. After the 1st of January
no one will be permitted to move about without a pass....
These people need a thrashing to teach them some good common sense, and they should have it
for the good of all concerned. Sixto Lopez is now interested in peace because I have in jail all
the male members of his family found in my jurisdiction, and have seized his houses and palay
and his steamer.
Let us see now what General Smith's orders were.
The following was issued after Major Waller and others had been at work for some time, as
General Smith took command October 10, and Major Waller's report of burning one hundred and
sixty-five villages was dated November 23:
[Circular No. 6.]
Headquarters Sixth Separate Brigade,
Tacloban, Leyte, P.I, Dec. 24,1901.
To All Station Commanders:
The brigade commander has become thoroughly convinced from the great mass of evidence at
hand that the insurrection for some time past and still in force in the island of Samar has been
supported solely by the people who live in the pueblos ostensibly pursuing their peaceful
pursuits and enjoying American protection, and that this is especially true in regard to the
"pudientes," or wealthy class.
He is and for some time past has been satisfied that the people themselves, and especially this
wealthy and influential class, can stop this insurrection at any time they make up their minds to
do so; that up to the present time they do not want peace; that they are working in every way and
to the utmost of their ability to prevent peace. He is satisfied that this class, while openly talking
peace, is doing so simply to gain the confidence of our officers and soldiers, only to betray them
to the insurrectos, or, in short, that while ostensibly aiding the Americans, they are in reality
secretly doing everything in their power to support and maintain this insurrection.
Under such conditions there can be but one course to pursue, which is to adopt the policy that
will create in the minds of all the people a burning desire for the war to cease, -- a desire or
longing so intense, so personal especially to every individual of the class mentioned, and so real
that it will impel them to devote themselves in earnest to bringing about a state of real peace, that
will impel them to join hands with the Americans in the accomplishment of this end.
The policy to be pursued in this brigade, from this time on, will be to wage war in the sharpest
and most decisive manner possible. This policy will apply to the island of Samar and such other
portions of the brigade to which it may become necessary to apply it, even though such territory
is supposedly peaceful or is under civil government.
In waging this warfare, officers of this brigade are directed and expected to co-operate to their
utmost, so as to terminate this war as soon as practicable, since short severe wars are the most
humane in the end. No civilized war, however civilized, can be carried on on a humanitarian
basis. In waging this war, officers will be guided by the provisions of General Orders, No. 100,
Adjutant-general's Office, 1863, which order promulgates the instructions for the government of
the armies of the United States in the field. (Copies of this order will be furnished to the troops
of this brigade as soon as practicable. In the mean time commanding officers will personally see
to it that the younger and less experienced officers of the command are instructed in the
provisions of this order, wherever it is possible to do so.)
Commanding officers are earnestly requested and expected to exercise, without reference to
these headquarters, their own discretion in the adoption of any and all measures of warfare
coming within the provisions of this general order which will tend to accomplish the desired
results in the most direct way or in the shortest possible space of time. They will also encourage
the younger officers of their commands to constantly look for, engage, harass, and annoy the
enemy in the field; and to this end commanding officers will repose a large amount of
confidence in these subordinate officers, and will permit to them a large latitude of action and a
discretion similar to that herein conferred upon the commanding officers of stations by these
In dealing with the natives of all classes, officers will be guided by the following principles:
First. Every native, whether in arms or living in the pueblos or barrios, will be regarded and
treated as an enemy until he has conclusively shown that he is a friend. This he cannot do by
mere words or promises, nor by imparting information which, while true, is old or stale and of
no value; nor can it be done by aiding us in ways that do no material harm to the insurgents. In
short, the only manner in which the native can demonstrate his loyalty is by some positive act or
acts that actually and positively commit him to us, thereby severing his relations with the
insurrectos and producing or tending to produce distinctively unfriendly relations with the
Not only the ordinary natives, but especially those of influence and position in the pueblos, who
manifestly and openly cultivate friendly relations with the Americans, will be regarded with
particular suspicion, since by the announced policy of the insurgent government their ablest
and most stanch friends or those who are capable of most skilfully practising duplicity are
selected and directed to cultivate the friendship of American officers, so as to obtain their
confidence, and to secretly communicate to the insurgents everything that the Americans do or
contemplate doing, particularly with regard to the movement of troops. In a word, friendship for
the Americans on the part of any native will be measured directly and solely by his acts; and
neither sentiment nor social reasons of any kind will be permitted to enter into the determination
of such friendship.
Second. It will be regarded as a certainty that all officials of the pueblos and barrios are likewise
officials of Lukban and his officers, or at least that they are in actual touch and sympathy with
the insurgent leaders, and that they are in secret aiding these leaders with information, supplies,
etc., wherever possible. Officers will not be misled by the fact that officials of the pueblos pass
ordinances inimical to those in insurrection, or by any action taken by them, either collectively
or individually. The public acts of pueblo councils that are favorable to the Americans are
usually negative by secret communication on the part of the parties enacting them to those in
insurrection. Therefore, such acts cannot be taken as a guide in determining the friendship or
lack of it of these officials for the American government.
Third. The taking of the oath of allegiance by officials, presidentes, vice-presidentes, consejeros,
principales, tenientes of barrios, or other people of influence, does not indicate that they or any
of them have espoused the American cause, since it is a well-established fact that these people
frequently take the oath of allegiance with the direct object and intent of enabling them to be of
greater service to their real friends in the field. In short, the loyalty of these people is to be
determined only by acts which, when combined with their usual course of conduct, irrevocably
binds them to the American cause.
Neutrality must not be tolerated on the part of any native. The time has now arrived when all
natives in this brigade, who are not openly for us must be regarded as against us. In short, if not
an active friend, he is an open enemy.
Fourth. The most dangerous class with whom we have to deal is the wealthy sympathizer and
contributor. This class comprises not only all those officials and principales above mentioned,
but all those of importance who live in the pueblos with their families. By far the most important
as well as the most dangerous member of this class is the native priest. He is most dangerous;
and he is successful because he is usually the best informed, besides wielding an immense
influence with the people by virtue of his position. He has much to lose, in his opinion, and but
little to gain through American supremacy in these island.
It is expected that officers will exercise their best endeavors to suppress and prevent aid being
given by the people of this class, especially by the native priests. Wherever there is evidence of
this assistance, or where there is a strong suspicion that they are thus secretly aiding the enemies
of our government, they will be confined and held. The profession of the priest will not prevent
his arrest or proceedings against him. If the evidence is sufficient, they will be tried by the
proper court. If there is not sufficient evidence to convict, they will be arrested and confined as a
military necessity, and held as prisoners of war until released by orders from these headquarters.
It will be borne in mind that in these islands, as a rule, it is next to impossible to secure evidence
against men of influence, and especially against the native priests, so long as they are at large.
On the other hand, after they are arrested and confined, it is usually quite easy to secure
abundant evidence against them. Officers in command of stations will not hesitate, therefore, to
arrest and detain individuals whom they have good reasons to suspect are aiding the insurrection,
even when positive evidence is lacking....
Others of his orders are counterparts of those issued by General Bell, the phraseology being the
Here, then, were several great provinces placed under the heel of two military officers, who
started by assuming that the entire population was hostile, who regarded the most friendly
behavior as especial evidence of hostility, who imparted their suspicions to their subordinates,
urged them to act without consulting headquarters, and then began a campaign of
reconcentration, devastation, and extermination. The only evidence of friendship that was to be
accepted substantially was pointing out guns or insurgents, and the natives were to be subject to
what General Bell calls once an "unsupportable" and once "intolerable" pressure.
Evidence thus obtained must be unreliable, as it always has been in every age and every country;
and General Bell himself furnishes the proof in the following despatch:
Batangas, Jan. 9, 1902.
To All Station Commanders:
Information reaching these headquarters indicates that the hardship and pressure which has been
placed upon the people by the campaign has caused them, in seeking revenge or means of
self-defence, to resort to their well-known expedient of false denunciation. Inasmuch as this
custom is both a pernicious nuisance and might become a serious impediment to the success of
military operations, commanding officers in the provinces of Batangas and Laguna will promptly
bring to trial by provost court, for conduct prejudicial to good order and military operations, any
person who makes a false denunciation, whenever it can be established to the satisfaction of the
commanding officer that said false denunciation has been knowingly and viciously made for
purposes of revenge, of self-defence, of clouding the real issue, of throwing discredit upon the
transactions, motives, or testimony of material witnesses, or for any other purpose.
Inasmuch, however, as it is not intended to prevent or discourage the making of legitimate
complaints, commanding officers will take great pains to investigate carefully and bring no one
to trial until it has been clearly ascertained that they have made false denunciations knowingly
and purposely, with vicious intent.
Any kind of defiance of the government or disloyal manifestations against measures adopted by
it to put an end to insurrection, in this brigade, will be suppressed at once. These people must be
taught the necessity for submission to the legally constituted authority, and this can be properly
done in one way only, -- by firm and relentless repressive action.
J. F. Bell,
Who were the men who as commanding officers, or provost courts, held absolute sway over
thousands of men? They were various subordinate officers, without judicial experience,
unfamiliar with the language of the witnesses, and with every passion and prejudice inflamed
against the people whom they were set to govern or try by such orders from their superiors as
have been quoted.
This was carrying out President McKinley's standing order that
it should be the earnest and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence,
respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible
way that full measure of individual rights which is the heritage of free peoples.
We have here concentration, devastation, the destruction of food and dwellings wherever found
outside the "protected zones," killing, and every feature of the most barbarous war.
How such orders appear in the execution may be gathered from the following letter written to
Senator Hoar by Clarence Clowe, of Seattle, on June 10, 1900, at a time when we were supposed
to be pursuing "the magnanimous and benevolent policy" of which General Bell speaks in his
order of December 13, 1902. It was about sixteen months after hostilities began.
At any time I am liable to be called upon to go out and bind and gag helpless prisoners, to strike
them in the face, to knock them down when so bound, to bear them away from wife and
children, at their very door, who are shrieking pitifully the while, or kneeling and kissing the
hands of our officers, imploring mercy from those who seem not to know what it is, and then,
with a crowd of soldiers, hold our helpless victim head downward in a tub of water in his own
yard, or bind him hand and foot, attaching ropes to head and feet, and then lowering him into the
depths of a well of water till life is well-nigh choked out, and the bitterness of a death is tasted,
and our poor, gasping victims ask us for the poor boon of being finished off, in mercy to
All these things have been done at one time or another by our men, generally in cases of trying
to obtain information as to the location of arms and ammunition.
Nor can it be said that there is any general repulsion on the part of the enlisted men to taking part
in these doings. I regret to have to say that, on the contrary, the majority of soldiers take a keen
delight in them, and rush with joy to the making of this latest development of a Roman holiday.