Fort D. A. Russell

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From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: Ft. D.A. Russell continued, Guard Mount, The Bells of Balangiga, The Philippine Insurrection.



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Guard Mount before enlisted men's barracks, Ft. Russell, 1909.

For discussion of "Guard Mount" see Fort Laramie.


Guard Mount, 1912.

Near the base flagpole, there is a memorial to Soldiers and Sailors who died in the Philippine Insurrection of 1899-1902. The memorial consists of two bells, the Bells of Balangiga. Today, strong feelings exist in the Philippine Republic regarding the memorial. Many in the Philippines want the bells to be returned as a memorial to the war of Philippine Independence against the United States, others as a memorial to Philippine-American Friendship.


Guard Mount, 1920'S.

Overvew of Spanish-American War
(Wyoming involvement on following ages)

In 1896, the crumbling Spanish Empire faced a rebellion in its distant colony of the Philippines. Other insurrections broke out in Cuba, supported by Cuban exiles in Key West, Tampa, and St. Augustine, Fla. By 1898, it had become apparent to Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, that there would be war between the United States and Spain and Admiral Dewey was dispatched to the Pacific. When war was finally declared, the fleet was already in the Pacific ready to attack Manila. Troops from the Wyoming National Guard were assigned to the war in the Philippines and, indeed, were the first to enter Manila. It has been contended that Admiral Dewey received the cooperation of Philippine revolutionaries under General Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy based on a promise that following the war, the independence of the Philippine Republic would be recognized.


Mounted Artillery, Ft. D. A. Russell, 1909

At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, the United States received possession of Cuba which was given its independence, first as a protectorate, and later as an independent republic, with, however, the United States retaining possession of Guantanamo. The United States also received Puerto Rico and Guam, the latter under the jurisdiction of the Navy as a coaling station. The Philippines were purchased from Spain and the question arose as to their future. The United States had a concern that if the islands were given their independence, they would be picked off by Germany which beginning in the 1880's had become increasingly expansive in the Pacific annexing the Northern Solomon Islands, a portion of New Guinea, the Carolines, Palau, a portion of the Marshall Islands, the Marianas and Nauru.

General public opinion, urged on by concerns that the nascent government of General Aguinaldo would not be able to maintain civil order, and that it was a moral duty and obligation of the United States to bring civilization to the Islands, supported the proposition that the Philippines should be annexed. This attitude was exemplified by a dream of President McKinley and the writings of Rudyard Kipling who published his The White Man's Burden in McClure's Magazine in February 1899. In it he urged the United States, not withstanding the difficulties, inimicality from natives, blood and treasure, to annex the Islands:

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another's profit
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead.

When it became apparent that the United States was to retain the Philippine Islands, the war fought by Filipinos against Spain continued against the United States. American troops were thus required to be stationed in the Islands. These included the 11th Infantry a portion of which had as its home base Fort D. A. Russell, and units of the 9th Infantry. Many of the commanders such as Major General Wesley Merritt and General Arthur MacArthur had previous seen duty in the Indian Wars in Wyoming.


Officers' quarters, Ft. D. A. Russell, undated

Company C of the 9th Infantry served as an honor guard at the inauguration of Philippine Governor Wm. H. Taft in 1901. On August 11, 1901, Company C was assigned to the small town of Balangiga on Samar which was then being beseiged by guerillas from the surrounding countryside. Filipinos argue that it was the town that was being beseiged and starved by the Americans. The guerillas were led by General Vincente Lucban. It has been contended that when soldiers ventured out into the countryside, priests from the church at Balangiga would alert the guerillas by ringing the bells. This is disputed by the Filipino sources. Elsewhere in the Islands, captured Americans were tortured and their noses and ears cut off. Capt. Paul Melshen in Proceedings, U. S. Naval Institute Nov. 1979, noted a later occasion when a pro-American Filipino was captured, his head wrapped in an American flag, doused with kerosene, and set alight.


Bells of Balangiga, Fort D. A. Russell, approx. 1910

A second memorial to those who fought in the Spanish-American War stands on the southeast corner of the Capiol Ground in Cheyenne, a statue of a Wyoming Volunteer "Taking the Oath." It is depected on the pages devoted to the State Capitol Building.

On the morning of September 28, 1901, as members of Company C were sitting down for breakfast, the church bells began to ring and out of the church came guerillas armed with bolo knives (sharpened cutlasses) and attacked the Americans. Additionally, other guerillas broke through a convent and attacked the American barracks and the town hall. A Filipino study group consisting of Bob Couttie, author of The Balangiga Attack; Professor Rolando Borrinaga, a Filipino writer; and an American, Jean Wall-Fe; argue that the Americans were attacked by men under the command of the local chief of police Valeriano Abanador. It is argued that only one bell rang and that was after the attack commenced. Of the 74 men of Company C, 48 were killed or missing. Those killed were mutilated. Twenty-two were wounded. Only four were unharmed. The survivors made their escape by boat.

The guerillas had entered the church the night before disguised as women attending a funeral for children. According to Joseph L. Schott's 1964, The Ordeal of Samar, an American sergeant of the guard was told that the children died of cholera. He was shown the dead body of a child in a casket and told, "El calenturon! El colera! No cholera had, however, been reported in the area. The weapons were concealed in the caskets. Filipinos contend that there were no caskets and that the American saw a statue used in religious ceremonies the day before. The next day, relief troops retook the town. Later troops took the three bells from the Church. One bell was later presented to the survivors of Company C, see next photo. The 9th Infantry continues to hold the bell. The other two bells made their way to the 11th Infantry on Leyte, and from there back to Fort D. A. Russell. In her 1914 autobiography, Recollections of Full Years Mrs. Wm. H. (Helen) Taft recalled that subsequently General Lucban boasted of "our glorious victory of Balangiga."


Survivors of Company C with bell, 1901

Retribution by special forces under Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Smith (a veteran of Wounded Knee) and Major (Brevet Lt. Col.) Littleton Waller, USMC, was harsh. Smith ordered that prisoners not be taken. Waller disobeyed the order and instead invoked President Lincoln's General Order 100 from the Civil War, which permitted the summary killing of persons in civilian clothing engaged in acts of war. Persons who surrendered were in fact treated as prisoners. Both Gen. Smith and Major Waller were court martialed for their excesses. Waller was found not guilty, although the verdict was strongly criticized by Gen. Arthur MacArthur. Smith was removed from the service.

As noted, the bells remain a highly emotional source of controversy. The Philippines have requested the return of at least one bell so that it could be used to commemorate the Philippines' War of Independence. The Philippine Congress, in celebration of the massacre of the American troops, has declared September 28, "Balangiga Encounter Day." President Clinton, according to a Manila newspaper agreed with this request, but return would require an act of Congress. The Maryland Legislature has passed a resolution supporting the return and the Congressional delegate from Guam has introduced a resolution calling for the return of one bell. The Philippine Roman Catholic Church has taken the position that the bells belong to the Church. Senators Craig Thomas (R. Wyo.) and Michael Enzi (R. Wyo.) have introduced legislation to require that there be Congressional approval before any memorials are dismantled. Veteran groups in Wyoming have opposed any return of the bells.

Music this page:

MARCHING TO CUBA

1.

We're going down to Cuba, boys, to battle for the right
We're going to show those Spaniards that we Yankee boys can fight
And when they see us coming they'll scatter left and right,
When we march into Cuba.

Chorus:

Hurrah ! Hurrah !
Hurrah! We'll sound the jubilee.
Hurrah ! Boys, Cuba shall be free, And we'll sing the chorus from Mt. Gretna to the sea,
While we are marching to Cuba.

2.

'Twas in Manila, boys, our ships the foe did meet.
We didn't need a hurricane to wreck,
To wreck the Spanish fleet,
But just one Dewey morning, and our victory was complete,
As we were marching to Cuba.

Repeat Chorus

3.

In Santiago harbor Sampson had them bottled tight.
Hobson put the cork in, and we think he did it right,
And when they find they can't get out, they'll have to stand and fight,
When we march into Cuba.

Repeat Chorus

4.

With Dewey, Schley, and Sampson, we need not have a fear,
For they will guard the harbors while we attack the rear.
We'll plant our flag on Morro and give one mighty cheer,
When we march into Cuba.

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