There has been one shot that changed the course of world history and most history buffs would automatically say that it was Serbian anarchist Gavrilo Princip but there is another shot that even Filipinos don't know about. It was the shot that started the Filipino-American War (or Philippine Insurrection if you're American). When British-born 1st Nebraska Volunteer infantryman Private William Walter Grayson shot four Filipino soldiers crossing the San Juan del Monte Bridge on February 4, 1899. As they, the rest was history.
The war officially raged on for three years from 1899 to 1902 (although remote skirmishes occurred until 1913) that ultimately cost military deaths of 8,000 Americans and 20,000 Filipinos and civilian deaths of up to 200,000.
But what if Private Grayson never pulled the trigger on that fateful night? What would have happened?
We all know that by 1899, the Americans have already landed enough troops to wage war against the Filipinos after successfully defeating the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay and the so-called Mock Battle of Manila. At that time, there was also a wave of anti-imperialism from the likes of William Jennings Bryan and Andrew Carnegie. Formed in Boston, Massachusetts in June 15, 1898, the Anti-Imperialist League has pressured President William McKinley not to colonize the Philippines.
The Filipinos would have gained enough time to surround the Americans occupying the city of Manila should hostilities would happened. By this time, some Filipino leaders would have already feel that the American "liberators" have already extended their stay and that their increasing numbers may have confirmed their fears that the Americans are just replacing the Spanish as our new masters.
Although the Americans would prevail in a slightly delayed Filipino-American War in this timeline, the Filipinos may have prepared for the initial battles that would have happened. On the other side of the world, the Anti-Imperialist League would have gained more support from prominent individuals like Mark Twain and Ernest Crosby. With Carnegie bankrolling the movement, they would have formed a formidable political force.
Interestingly, foreign powers have been interested in replacing the Spanish as new colonial overlords as well. The Germans, with a show of force, sent their warships in Manila Bay to protect its interests in the city. A handful of Japanese shishi, or ultranationalists, have shown their support for President Emilio Aguinaldo's army. Led by Captain Hara Tei, they landed in Manila an eventually joined Filipino forces. Although Japanese assistance to the fledgling Filipino republic was deemed unofficial and passive, they indirectly supported the cause as evidenced by numerous Japanese newspaper articles.
Without the San Juan del Monte bridge incident, there would have been extra time for General Antonio Luna to reorganize his army into strong defensive positions in order to surround the growing American forces. His knowledge in military tactics and ballistics would have helped him hatched a defensive blockade with the help from the Japanese volunteers and the arms and ammunition captured from Spanish armories.
Back in Washington D.C., the Anti-Imperialist League has successfully delayed the ratification of the Treaty of Paris. It was enough for his three army groups led by Colonel Luciano San Miguel, who occupied Mandaluyong; General Pío del Pilar, who occupied Makati; and General Mariano Noriel, who occupied Parañaque; Pacheco, Navotas, Tambobong, and Caloocan to launch a simultaneous attack on the weak American frontier posts. Some units have infiltrated behind enemy lines by disguising themselves as women, nuns and priests.
Despite its superior firepower, the Americans were not expecting any resistance from the Filipinos. They tried to send a telegram to General Henry Lawton, who was in Ceylon with his troops at that time, for reinforcements but it wasn't delivered as all telegraph lines were cut ahead of the attacks. Some irregular units have started burning some strategic buildings throughout the city to prevent the Americans from holding it.
Besieged by a massive three-pronged attack, the Americans tried to reorganize. Admiral George Dewey's ships are out of range and won't be able to provide artillery support without risking friendly fire. There was pandemonium throughout the city as casualties piled. President Aguinaldo learned about the attacks so he decided to reinforce Luna's men in order to gain his moment of glory.
However, the Americans have gained ground and blunted Del Pilar's attack with devastating consequences - half of his men were killed or captured. Del Pilar regrouped while waiting for an Aguinaldo reinforcement. But the reinforcements never arrived in time as Minnesota Volunteer Infantry encircled Del Pilar's remaining forces with him on it. Luna decided to plug in the gap by mobilizing his Kapampangan units into Makati. There Aguinaldo consolidated the Caviteño and Kapampangan units under his command.
Aguinaldo decided to regain the initiative by trying to lure the Americans into fighting a weaker "decoy" unit that's headed to a tiny forested patch while the much larger Kapampangan unit will ambush the Americans. Just as planned the enemy was lured into the trap, things went wrong when the foolhardy and vainglorious Aguinaldo joined in the fray by leading a cavalry charge on the hapless American forces. A rear-guard action by Americans with their hidden Gatling machine gun cut down the cavalry charge into pieces and killed the president in the process.
This has opened Luna to consolidate his grip in the armed forces without the leadership of Aguinaldo. And as the war raged on, casualties have mounted on both sides. News have trickled back into the United States on their military's misadventures in the Far East. By 1900, both Democrat and Republican politicians have realized that the Filipinos don't want another colonizer and the war would cost American lives. This has reinvigorated the anti-imperialists to push Congress to effectively throw the Treaty of Paris to the dustbin. By the time the election has concluded, Bryan emerged as the new president.
While the politics remained unsettled in the United States, the Filipinos kept on pushing the Americans and with more support came in from Chinese volunteers and other foreign mercenaries. By 1901, the Americans have lost political support from home due to rising discontent on the progress of the war. They effectively withdraw and removed their beleaguered forces from Manila and other neighboring suburbs with Luna entering Intramuros as victorious war hero.