Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare Appendix A: General Bell's Orders
[Circular No. 6.]
Headquarters Sixth Separate Brigade,
Tacloban, Leyte, P.I, December 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 anytime 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
Without warranting in any way carelessness of action or recklessness in the slightest degree, or
the relaxation of that constant vigilance which the officer should at all times exercise in the
enemy's country, and especially in these islands, officers should be encouraged to bear in mind
always that we have the decided morale over the natives of the islands, and that they must not
hesitate to attack them boldly on all occasions and to drive home such attacks with vigor; they
should bear in mind that mere numbers of insurgents should not warrant any other course, unless
and until his command is so outnumbered as to render the loss of a major portion thereof a
certainty, which contingency is not likely to arise within this brigade.
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 mist 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
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 islands.
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 reason to suspect are aiding the insurrection,
even when positive evidence is lacking.
Fifth. Presidentes and officials of the pueblos generally, including the police, will be especially
watched by the troops; and whenever sufficient evidence can be found to warrant their
conviction before the proper court of the violation of their oaths of office, by reason of their
acting as agents of the insurrectos, or by aiding or assisting or protecting these insurgents in any
way, they should be arrested and tried by military commissions or provost courts. In all cases
where evidence will warrant conviction, charges will be preferred, and duly forwarded for action
by these headquarters.
Sixth. In the treatment of natives the officers of this brigade will bear in mind that the ordinary
"tauo" is regarded by the native influence and standing as but little more than a piece of
machinery to be manipulated as may suit his fancy. He is the ignorant tool who follows but too
blindly the lead of the men of influence. But little attention will be paid therefore to the ordinary
offences against the laws of war that may be committed by this class. Their minor offences can
and will be safely and properly disregarded. Their services may be utilized wherever practicable
or desirable in operations against their leaders.
In the selection of guides, however, officers will bear in mind that the more intelligent the native
selected the greater the chance of success in the particular undertaking. Guides from the
"pudientes," or influential class, should be impressed freely and in numbers sufficient to
accomplish the object in view. They should be informed of their duties and responsibilities as
such, and be held to a strict compliance therewith. This class can at all times communicate with
the insurgents when they wish to do so, and this desire can and should be cultivated in them.
Even though they may not know any given trail, their facilities for acquiring knowledge thereof
are unlimited. Besides, it is quite well established that this class are good barometers, and as
such will afford ample protection against the bamboo trap and similar pitfalls placed in the trails,
if they occupy their proper position in the command.
Seventh. Special efforts will also be made to prevent contributions of all kinds to the enemy.
Natives living in the pueblos will be informed that they can secure protection from forced
contributions whenever they really desire such protection. To secure it, however, reports of
attempted collections must be promptly made to the nearest American officials and in time to be
of value. Presidentes of pueblos can at all times prevent the collection of contributions within
their pueblos if they really wish to do so. Any failure to do this on the part of any official, when
known, should be carefully investigated; and, unless it is clearly established that he is not at
fault, he should be promptly confined and punished.
It is quite common for natives of all classes to claim that they are afraid of the insurgents; that, if
they assist the Americans or give any information to them, they will be killed. There may be
some isolated cases in which such claims have a foundation, but they are very rare indeed, and it
is quite certain that in all cases this fear may be promptly removed by an honest effort on the part
of the party possessing it. This myth of so-called fear will disappear with the first honest effort
of the possessor to suppress the insurrection. Officers will furnish protection against all real
dangers directed against those natives who seek such protection within their commands,
provided they are friends of the established government, and to no one else. All collectors of
these contributions will be promptly arrested and proceeded against.
By command of Brigadier-general Smith.
W. E. Ayer, Captain, Twelfth Infantry, Adjutant-general.