2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry in the anti-Filipino War

Boondocks, n., hinterland, remote and underdeveloped
area. From Tagalog bundok, meaning mountain...
more

Ulysses Grant McAlexander, commander 13th Minnesota Infantry in the Spanish American War. OSU's McAlexander Fieldhouse is named after him. His 13th Minnesota campaigned with the 2nd Oregon in the Phillipines. Upon his return, McAlexander's regimental historian joined Mark Twain's anti-Imperialist League, as did the Governor of Minnesota.

"About dark, before Company D's return, Colonel Summers rode over to General Wheaton's headquarters. Shortly after reaching there reports, which afterwards proved to be somewhat exaggerated, came in that two companies of the Twenty-second Infantry had been literally cut to pieces, having fallen into an ambush. After a hasty consultation it was decided to proceed at once to kill or drive into the lake every native possible to be found in the half-moon-shaped district lying between the mouth of the Mateo river and the farther end of the lake, a distance of twelve miles." - letter home from Fielding Lewis Poindexter, 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry

Above: Tondo, after the 2nd Oregon.


"I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me" 

-Gen. Jacob Smith. Testimony in the Court Martial of Maj. Littleton Waller


In the Philippines

by Katharine Lee Bates, author of America the Beautiful

Silvery rice-fields whisper wide 
How for home and freedom their owners died. 

We've set the torch to their bamboo town, 
And out they come in a scampering rush, 
Little brown men with spears. 
Shoot! 
Down they go in a crush, 
Sickening smears, 
Hideous writhing huddles and heaps 
Under the palms and the mango-trees. 
More, still more! Shoot 'em down 
Like brown jack-rabbits that scoot 
With comical leaps 
Out of the brush. 
No loot? 
No prisoners, then. As for these -- 
Hush! 

The flag that dreamed of delivering 
Shudders and droops like a broken wing. 

Silvery rice-felds whisper wide 
How for home and freedom their owners died.

From America the Beautiful and Other Poems (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1911)

Letter from a black soldier to the New York Age from Manila, Philippine Islands, August 11, 1899

I have mingled freely among the natives and have had talks with American colored men here in business, and who have lived here for years, in order to learn of them the cause of their (Filipino) dissatisfaction and the reason for this insurrection and I must confess they have a just grievance. All this would never have occurred if the army of occupation had treated them as people. The Spaniards, even if their laws were hard, were polite and treated them with some consideration; but the Americans, as soon as they saw that the native troops were desirous of sharing in the glories as well as the hardships of the hard won battles with the Americans, began to apply home treatment for colored peoples. Curse them as damned niggers, steal and ravish them, rob them on the street of their small change, take from the fruit vendors whatever suited their-fancy and kick the poor unfortunate if he complained, desecrate their church property, and after fighting began, looted everything in sight, burning, robbing the graves.
This may seem a little tall-but I have seen with my own eyes carcasses lying bare to the broiling sun, the result of raids on the receptacles for the dead in search for diamonds. The troops, thinking we would be proud to emulate their conduct, have made bold of telling their exploits to us. One fellow, a member of the Thirteenth Minnesota, told me how his boys did; another, a Tennessean, told me of how some fellows he knew had cut off a native woman's arm in order to get a fine inlaid bracelet. On upbraiding some fellows one morning whom I met while on a walk (I think they belonged to a Nebraska or Minnesota regiment, they were stationed on the Malaban road) for the conduct of the American troops toward the native and especially as to raiding, etc., the reply was: "Do you think we could afford to stay over here and fight these damned niggers without making it pay all it's worth? The government only pays us $13 per month; that's starvation wages. White men can't stand it." Meaning they could not live on such small pay. In saying this they never dreamed that colored soldiers would never countenance such conduct. They talk with impunity of 'niggers' to our soldiers, never once thinking that they are talking to home "niggers" and should they be brought to remember that at home this is the same vile epithet they hurl at us, they beg pardon and make some effeminate excuse about what the Filipino is called.
I want to say right here, if it were not for the sake of the 10,000,000 black people in the United States, God alone knows on which side of this subject I would be. And for the sake of the black men who carry arms and pioneer for them as their representatives, ask them not to forget the present administration at the next election. Party be damned! We don't want these islands, not in the way we ought to get them, and for Heaven's sake put the party in power that pledges itself against this highway robbery-expansion is too clean a name for it.

Above: African-American soldiers in the Phillipines during the Spanish American War

Below:  at Santa Ana, in the Phillipines

I was just turned twenty-one,
And Henry Phipps, the Sunday-school superintendent,
Made a speech in Bindle's Opera House.
"The honor of the flag must be upheld," he said,
"Whether it be assailed by a barbarous tribe of Tagalogs
Or the greatest power in Europe."
And we cheered and cheered the speech and the flag he waved
As he spoke.
And I went to the war in spite of my father,
And followed the flag till I saw it raised
By our camp in a rice field near Manila,
And all of us cheered and cheered it.
But there were flies and poisonous things;
And there was the deadly water,
And the cruel heat,
And the sickening, putrid food;
And the smell of the trench just back of the tents
Where the soldiers went to empty themselves;
And there were the whores who followed us, full of syphilis;
And beastly acts between ourselves or alone,
With bullying, hatred, degradation among us,
And days of loathing and nights of fear
To the hour of the charge through the steaming swamp,
Following the flag,
Till I fell with a scream, shot through the guts.
Now there's a flag over me in Spoon River!
A flag! A flag!

-Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon RiverAnthology


Dedicated to the President and Congress of the United States, and to Gen. Leonard A. Wood

by Charles Erskine Scott Wood (next to Ken Kesey, Wood has probably been Oregon's most famous writer. He was a friend of Mark Twain, of Chief Joseph, and Ansel Adams.)

Six hundred Moros have been slain -- all -- all -- all --
Fathers and mothers and boys and girls and black-eyed babes.
It is a glorious victory.

I weep for the little children who shall never play again;
The little children of the slim soft limbs, so full of grace.
I have seen these naked little children lying about like broken toys,
Their fat little arms and legs tossed about as if they were asleep. Dead!
Their chubby bodies naked and glistening;
Their laughter forever hushed. Ended their childish joy of living,
Ended by a blue hole in the forehead -- by a black spot on the breast -- by a bullet in the smooth, soft belly.
I have seen them lie under the sun, wounded, wailing for water -- dying.
I have seen them with eyes staring and patient, not understanding; I have seen their eyes clouded in the hideous suffering, waiting for death.
I have seen the mangled abdomens and shattered limbs and the dumb, frightened look of their eyes, saying,
"Why must we die? Why must we be killed? Why should our childish lives be ended?"
Why! In the name of Christ, the compassionate, the all merciful -- Why?
I have heard the sharp shriek of childish agony as the bullet struck its soft mark.
I have heard the childish moans as little boys lay dying -- killed by brave soldiers.
I have seen the yellow mother stoop over her slendor boy and fall upon him, dead, --
She, too, crushed by a bullet, --
Mingling their blood together in death as when she gave him life.
Or did God give it?

 

"Kill Every one over the age of 10." - Gen. J. Smith

"Neutrality must not be tolerated on the part of any native. The time has now arrived when all natives in this brigade (i.e, the territory in the charge of the brigade; no native troops were in the US Army), who are not openly for us must be regarded as against us.  - Gen. Bell"

Below:  at Mt. Dajo

Note: The Moro people victimized above have subsequently spawned, over a century, many resistance groups. Like the Seminoles in Florida, they have never been completely subjugated.  Several have recently been labeled as sympathetic to Al Qaeda. Imagine.


Above and below: 2nd Oregon at rest in the Phillipines.

"Of course I feel pity for the dead and wounded, but it all adds to the general feeling of horror for the whole business of war. I wonder if people would have wanted these God-forsaken islands if they had foreseen the cost. That twenty million dollars that they paid bought only Manila. Most all the men who think in the Army Corps are opposed, and have been from the start, to holding these islands. Well, I hope we may never get another weak-kneed politician in the presidential chair at a critical time like this" - letter home from Herbert Cooper Thompson, 2nd Oregon

...who are not openly for us must be regarded as against us. - General Bell. on the eve of the massacres of Moros.

"Either you're with the United States of America or you're against the United States of America. (Applause.) - George Bush, speaking in Portland, on the eve of US Army troops arriving in Moroland, the Phillipines, a century later."


Message from another President, Grover Cleveland (1904)

When our Government entered upon a war for the professed purpose of aiding to self-government and releasing from foreign rule a struggling people whose cries for liberty were heard at our very doors, it rallied to its enthusiastic support a nation of freemen, in whose hearts and minds there was deeply fixed by heredity and tradition the living belief that all just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed.

It was the mockery of Fate that led us to an unexpected and unforeseen incident in this conflict, and placed in the path of our Government, while professing national righteousness, representing an honest and liberty-loving people, and intent on a benevolent, self-sacrificing errand, the temptation of sordid aggrandizement and the false glitter of world-power.

No sincerely thoughtful American can recall what followed without amazement, nor without sadly realizing how the apathy of our people's trustfulness and their unreflecting acceptance of alluring representations can be played upon.

No greater national fall from grace was ever known than that of the Government of the United States, when in the midst of high design, while still speaking words of sympathy with the weak who struggled against the strong, and while still professing to exemplify before the world a great Republic's love for self-government and its impulse to stay the bloody hand of oppression and conquest, it embraced an opportunity offered by the exigencies of its beneficent undertaking, to possess itself of territory thousands of miles from our coast, and to conquer and govern, without pretense of their consent, millions of resisting people -- a heterogeneous population largely mixed with elements hardly within the light of civilization, and all far from the prospect of assimilation with anything American.

In one hand the party in power held aloft before our people the dazzling and misleading promise of commercial advantage and the glory of rivaling monarchical expansion, while with the other it slaughtered thousands of the abject possessors of the soil it coveted, and sent messages of death and disease to thousands of American homes.

In the wildest exhibition of partisan rancor the Democratic party cannot be accused of reactionary opposition to any movement within the lines fixed by our national mission and traditions that tends to increase our country's greatness. It demands, however, that this mission and these traditions shall above all things be inviolably preserved as guides to our national activity and standards for the measurement of every national achievement. Democracy will not be cajoled into silence by the transient appearance of a manufactured or heedless public sentiment, but will speak, and trust for its vindication to the sober second thought of our people. Refusing to accept the shallow and discreditable pretense that our conquest in the Philippines has gone so far as to be beyond recall or correction, we insist that a nation as well as an individual is never so magnanimous or great as when false steps are retraced and the path of honesty and virtue is regained.

The message of the Democracy to the American people should courageously enjoin that, in sincere and consistent compliance with the spirit and profession of our interference in behalf of Cuba's self-government, our beneficent designs toward her should also extend to the lands which, as an incident of such interference, have come under our control; that the people of the Philippine Islands should be aided in the establishment of a government of their own; and that when this is accomplished our interference in their domestic rule should cease.

 

Return to Corvallis Community Pages