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Philippine-American War

The Philippine-American War was a war between the armed forces of the United States of America and the Philippines from 1899 through 1913. Historically the term "the Philippine Insurrection" was long preferred by the United States, but Filipinos and an increasing number of American historians refer to these hostilities as the Philippine-American War, and in 1999 the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term.

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Origins of the War

In 1898, the Americans purchased the Philippines from Spain at the Treaty of Paris for the sum of 20 Million USD, after the Americans defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War. The American government made plans to make the Philippines an American colony. However, the Filipinos, fighting for its independence from Spain since 1896, declared their independence on June 12, 1898. On August 14, 1898, 11,000 ground troops were sent to occupy the Philippines. Emilio Aguinaldo, on January 1, 1899, was declared the first President. He later organized a Congress at Malolos[?], Bulacan to draft the constitution.

The start of the War

Tensions between the Filipinos and the American soldiers on the islands existed and hostilities started on February 4, 1899 when an American soldier shot a Filipino soldier who was crossing a bridge into American-occupied territory in San Juan del Monte. Historians recognize this incident to be the start of the war. President McKinley later told reporters, "that the insurgents had attacked Manila" to justify a U.S. war on the Filipinos.

The administration of US President William McKinley subsequently declared Aguinaldo to be an "outlaw bandit". However, no formal declaration of war was ever issued.

American Escalation

A large American military force (126,000 soldiers) was needed to occupy the country, and would be regularly engaged in war, against Filipino rebels, for another decade. Also, Macabebe Filipinos were recruited by the American Army.

In March 1901, Aguinaldo was captured by the Macabebe Scouts, under the command of Brigadier General Frederick Funston[?] in Palanan, Isabela[?]. On July 4, 1902 the President Theodore Roosevelt declared the war was over. The Americans gradually succeeded in taking control of urban and costal areas by the end of 1903. In 1907, Macario Sacay[?], one of the last remaining Filipino generals fighting against the Americans, was captured and hanged.

While some measures to allow partial self-government were implemented earlier, the guerrilla war did not subside until 1913 when USA President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a change in policy that would after a transitional period grant the Philippines full independence. In the south, Muslim Philippines resisted until 1916 - the so-called Moro rebellion[?].

Opposition to the War

Some Americans, notably Mark Twain, strongly objected to the annexation of the Philippines. Other Americans mistakenly thought that the Philippines wanted to become part of the United States.


During the war, 4,234 American soldiers were killed and 2,818 were wounded. Philippine military deaths are estimated at 20,000 while civilian deaths numbered in 250,000 to 1,000,000 Filipinos. U.S. attacks into the countryside often included scorched earth campaigns where entire villages were burned and destroyed, torture (water cure[?]) and the concentration of civilians into "protected zones". Many of these civilian casualties resulted from disease and famine. Reports of the execution of U.S. soldiers taken prisoner by the Filipinos led to disproportionate reprisals by American forces. Many American officers and soldiers called war a "nigger killing business".

During the U.S. occupation, English was declared the official language, although the languages of the Philippine people were Spanish, Visayan, Tagalog and other native languages. 600 American teachers aboard the U.S.S. Thomas were imported. Also, the Catholic Church was disestablished, and a considerable amount of church land was purchased and redistributed.

In 1914, Dean C. Worcester, U.S. Secretary of the Interior for the Philippines (1901-1913) described "the regime of civilization and improvement which started with American occupation and resulted in developing naked savages into cultivated and educated men."

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