Editor's Notes: The term 'Moro' is a misnomer but it is repeatedly used in the historical sources but for the sake of political correctness, I will use Muslim Filipinos to correctly identify the people involved. This is a reprint of the article posted in old blog site.


As the Filipino-American War reached its second year, another dimension of the conflict emerged in the troubled south, the island of Mindanao and Sulu archipelago. This area, which never been controlled by the Spanish for more than 300 years, is the only area which opposed any form of incursion by the Christian Filipinos and American authorities.

Despite the Muslim Filipinos' unified stand against these local and foreign 'invaders', they were slowly evicted from their own lands as immigrants from the Visayas and Mindanao have settled much of their ancestral land. Japanese and Chinese immigrants have also increased in numbers particularly in the Christian-dominated areas of Misamis, Zamboanga and Davao provinces.

Faced with a growing threat, the Muslim Filipinos decided to make a stand against any form of incursion to their territories. However, they are also suffering from factional differences since they are governed by various warring datus and sultans.

A Datu and his retinue

Now that the Americans have defeated their Christian brothers of Luzon and Visayas in a bloody and costly campaign. The Americans set their sights on Mindanao.

Eventhough, General Emilio Aguinaldo has surrendered and some pockets of resistance of General Miguel Malvar in Batangas and General Vicente Lukban in Samar were still undergoing, the Americans has still have work to do in Mindanao. And pacifying Mindanao is the job of Indian War veterans of the U.S. forces under the leadership of Brigadier General John C. Bates (and later under the command of Brigadier General William Kobbe and Brigadier General George Whitefield Davis).

This forgotten war is similar to what the Americans are facing right now in Iraq as each soldier is a man for himself as they suffered casualties from juramentados, which is similar to Iraqi suicide bombers. Despite superior firepower, the Americans fought with equal ferocity as they never faced such zealous and brave warriors like the juramentados.

Crowd gathers on a local customary fight scene

For many unsuccessful occasions, the Spanish fought a bitter war against the Muslim Filipinos and had some successes of their own by capturing the Sultanate of Sulu's capital, Jolo, in 1876. A Treaty of Peace was signed between the Sultanate and Spain on July 22, 1878. After the Spanish defeat in the war, the Philippines were sold to the Americans at the Treaty of Paris, but the mistranslation of the earlier treaty of Spain with the Sultanate allowed the Americans to occupy strategic garrisons located in the Sultanate's territory.

Brigadier General John C. Bates was sent to negotiate with Sultan Jamalul Kiram II. The Sultan was disappointed by the hand-over of control to the Americans because he expected that the Sultanate's sovereignty will be restored by the defeat of Spain. After the Bates Treaty was signed, which was based on the controversial Spanish treaty, the mistranslation was still retained. Who said lightning only strikes once? The new treaty gave the Americans more power than the Spanish had.
The Sultan of Bayan visits Captain John J. Pershing at Camp Vicars, Mindanao, 1902

The Start of the Conflict

On March 27, 1901, the rebel army of a certain General Capistrano surrendered to the Americans, thus ending the American campaigns in northern Mindanao. Because of this development, the Americans can now devote more resources to their push to the south.

The Americans were now in the position to attack the poorly-defended areas of Muslim Mindanao. They already relieved the Spanish at their garrisons in Jolo on May 18, 1899 and Zamboanga on December 1899.

One of the problems that cause the conflict to erupt was the American's ignorance of the people's culture especially the Muslim Filipinos. Furthermore, the "white man's burden" inculcated in typical American soldier (most of them came from the racially-divided southern states) further brushed the "salt to the wound." Misunderstanding between Americans and Muslim Filipinos contributed to the outbreak of hostilities.

Though Brig.-Gen. Davis and Captain John J. Pershing (the future commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I) made conciliatory approaches with the various Muslim leaders in the area, some of the Indian War veterans took their racist mentalities with such catchphrases like "a good Indian is a dead Indian" or "civilize 'em with a Krag". And just like what they did to the Indians back home, they also made the Muslim Filipinos suffer.

Ambushes against American patrols began and because of this, Major General Adna Chaffee -- the military governor of the Philippines -- demanded that the offending datus should hand over the killers of the American troops and return all stolen government properties.

A series of bloody battle ensued.

Future US President Howard Taft with Muslim leaders

The Battle of Pandapatan

The first major encounter between the Americans and the Filipinos was the Battle of Pandapatan. An American unit led by Colonel Frank Baldwin was sent by the authorities to quell further violence against American patrols. On May 2, 1902, Col. Bell's forces attacked a Muslim cotta in Pandapatan. The American firepower was obviously terrifying as the otta was only defended by determined kris-wielding warriors and some riflemen using antiquated Spanish Mauser rifles with matching Napoleonic regalias. These men, though overmatched and outpowered fought to the bitter end.

The cotta was unexpectedly strong because of the fact that it was on a strategic position -- it was on a steep slope and was littered with marshes. On the first day of the battle, the Americans suffered about 18 casualties.

The 27th Infantry Regiment on the March to Lake Lanao - April, 1902

On the second day, the Americans used ladders and moat-bridging tools to break through the fortifications, and a general slaughter of the defenders followed. This massacre illustrated a major difficulty the Americans would face time and again in their dealings with the Muslim Filipinos—how to avoid killing them, a task made especially difficult by the custom of taking their women and children with them into their cotta fortifications when danger threatened.

Camp Vickers was established and the Americans started to consolidate their gains. Captain Pershing warned Colonel Baldwin that further attacks against the hostile datus can provoke other datus to join the enemy even though the survivors of the battle built another stronghold in Bacalod.

Developments in the American camp

The first American victory against the Muslim Filipinos encouraged Captain Pershing to continue his diplomacy with the different datus in the area. On July 4, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the cessation of hostilities in the Philippines except the Muslim-area of Mindanao. Brig.-Gen. Davis became the governor general of the Philippines and Brigadier General Samuel Sumner became the head of the Mindanao-Jolo Department.

The Macui Expedition by Captain Pershing established American dominance in the area. In a strange twist of fate, Captain Pershing was named datu by Datu Sajiduciaman, the defeated datu of the battle of Pandapatan, on February 10, 1903.

April 11. 1902 - Generals Chaffee and Davis catch up with Colonel Baldwin
April 26 - Baldwin conference with coastal inhabitants
April 27 - General Davis and Adjutant, Major James Pettit, in conference with local datus

Moro Rebellion -- wikipedia.com
Guardians of Empire by Brian McAllister Linn
Kris vs. Krag by Miguel J. Hernandez
Swish of the Kris by Vic Hurley

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{picture#https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-AgIZYN7u_Hg/VZvLmrA0hpI/AAAAAAAARt8/mscbLJ1All4/profile%2Bpic.jpg} JP Canonigo is a historian, professional blogger and copywriter, online content specialist, copywriter, video game junkie, sports fanatic and jack-of-all trades. {facebook#http://www.facebook.com/istoryadista} {twitter#http://www.twitter.com/jpthehistorian} {google#http://plus.google.com/+JPSakuragi}
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