Philippine Insurrection: “Gallant Fight by American Troops”

Few Americans know anything about the Philippine Insurrection or Philippine-American Revolution. Shortly after Spain surrendered ending the Spanish-American War in 1998, fighting broke out after it was made clear that the U.S. would not grant the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, independence. The “insurrection” ended in 1902 with a U.S. victory at a cost of 4,000 American dead and 20,000 rebel casualties. A whopping 500,000 Filipino civilians were also killed according to Some insurgents continued guerrilla operations until 1913.

Gallant Fight by American Troops

MANILA has just heard the story of a plucky fight between a detachment of nine men of the Fifteenth Infantry and a force of Gen. Calles’s men, variously estimated at from 200 to 250. Of these insurgents some were bolomen and hence did not get into the thick of the fight, but it speaks well for the valor and fighting skill of the nine Americans that they were not overwhelmed and killed or carried off as prisoners.

The detachment consisted of nine men from L Company and was in charge of Sergeant Philbon, who had orders to go to the town of Paete on the Laguna de Bay and bring back the meat rations for the post. He set out about daylight on the morning of December 31 to march from Lumban, the company headquarters, down along the river and lakefront to Paete. The year closed in a spell of glorious weather, and the men swung along with easy gait through long stretches of cool, shady coconut groves.

Nothing of note occurred until the men had gone about half the distance, when a native was seen to run across the road a short distance in front of them. It was undoubtedly a surprise for both parties, but though the native escaped, the soldiers found a bit of paper in the bushes where he had disappeared. On the paper was a message from the insurgent General of the district to the local commander ordering an attack to be made on Lumban at sunrise of the following day.

The little party made all haste to Paete, where they reported the discovery and notified the Lumban company to be prepared for the attack. As soon as the fresh meat and provisions had been secured the detail hurried off again so as to reach their company in time to become mixed up in the expected scrap, but it turned out they had a row that was all their own.

It was after dark when they left Paete, but the moon was up and the night was clear, and they urged along the heavily laden pack ponies at top speed. Suddenly, just after the detachment passed through the barrio of San Juan, the insurgents opened fire from the front and both sides of the road.

It was a pretty lively surprise, but In a moment the ponies had been run off to the side and Philbon had distributed his men to the best advantage. Then firing began in earnest.

With nothing more than the flash of the rifles to guide them, the men lay flat in the road, firing regularly and trying to locate the scattered enemy and make every shot count. For half an hour the uneven struggle was maintained, and then as the moon rose higher and higher the insurgents could be seen gradually closing in on all sides.

Early in the fight, Sergeant Philbon was wounded, but he said nothing and went on giving commands so naturally that some of the men did not know of his hurt. Shortly afterward Private Kearney was hit, and his comrades pulled him to a place of safety, and then Philbon was wounded again.

In the meantime, the Paete garrison had heard the shooting, and Captain Smith and Lieutenant Banford rushed out with a relief party. They arrived none too soon, for the insurgents were closing in rapidly and firing so quickly that it was evident that they were well supplied with ammunition. When the relief arrived the insurgents made for the hills as fast as they could.

Sergeant Philbon wounded four times

When rescued the ammunition of the Americans was well nigh exhausted, and some of the men would have given little for their chances of eating the New Year’s dinner. Philbon was hit four times. One of the shots shattered his left hand and blew off the bolt of his gun. Private Brannon was missing, and it is almost certain that he was carried off by the retreating enemy.

Five or six Filipinos were found dead and four others were picked up so badly wounded that they could not crawl away. All the wounded men were taken to the American hospital at Santa Cruz, where they are receiving all possible attention.—New York Sun: March, 1901.