The Clash of the Krag and the Kris: The Untold Story of the Moro Wars II

Editor's Notes: The term 'Moro' is a misnomer but it is repeatedly used in the historical sources but for the sake of politica...

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.

Pacification Plan

In an effort to win the hearts and minds of the people, the Americans divided Mindanao into five provinces, wherein each province is administered by American officials. These provinces include: Cotabato, Davao, Sulu, Lanao and Zamboanga. The Americans took advantage on the existing political system familiar to the Muslim Filipinos wherein major datus became ward chiefs while the minor datus became sheriffs, deputies and judges. Several American-held forts were established to discouraged further uprisings.

Under the Wood Administration

Under the governorship of Leonard Wood, the U.S. has assumed direct control of the Muslim areas and demoted the Sultan of Sulu to a purely religious office. Slavery was abolished and the Cedula Act of 1903 created an annual poll registration tax. The legal code was changed as well as the educational and economic system.

Sultan Jamal-ul-Kiram II at center of the bottom row. Datu Tahil is on the bottom row to the far left. The American officer is believed to be 2nd Lt. John W. Norwood of the 23rd Infantry. In a 1912 memoir, Norwood describes a similar photo session in early 1900. Charlie Schuck, the invaluable German-born interpreter for the Americans is standing to Norwood's left, and the man with the hat at the back left of the photo is his older brother Eddy Schuck.  (Photo from Library of Congress).

Despite some non-violent effort to appease the Muslim Filipinos, military and punitive actions were made to curtail rampant lawlessness and banditry throughout the frontier. During Governor Woods term as governor, there five major engagements between the Americans and the Muslim Filipinos.

The first one was an attempt by Governor Wood to replicate an earlier expedition by Captain Pershing. But "Wood's March Around Lake Lanao" was aborted. Unlike Pershing's humane approach, Wood took the expedition by storm with "a big stick," he later realized that his "war" against the Muslims was not against the individual hostile datus but the people themselves.

The second engagement was the Hassan Uprising wherein Governor Wood personally led the Provincial Army against Panglima Hassan of Luuk, the most powerful datu of Jolo. Also involved in the uprising were prominent datus like Datu Andung of Taglibi, Datu Usap of Luuk, Datu Pala of Jolo and Datu Jikiri of Pata. The flames of war were further heated up because of this engagment.

Punitive expeditions were sent against hostile datus in Maguindanao, and in 1903, the Ali Rebellion broke out and all-out war was waged in the areas of the Rio Grande. The uprising was the open collective defiance of the Maguindanaoans, who followed the earlier movement of Datu Uttu of Buayan -- who fiercely resisted Spanish incursions into Rio Grande and Pulangi. Uttu's son, Datu Ali, continued his crusade against the Americans even though he lacked the support from his father-in-law, Datu Piang ("the Lame"). Because of Piang's cooperation with the American authorities, Ali's rebellion was brutally suppressed. The last uprisings in the Maguindanao region ended in 1913 with the defeat of Datu Alamada of Buldon, Datu Ampatuan of Manganui and Datu Ingkal of Kidapawan.

In the Lanao region, Lt. Col. Lloyd M. Brett's troops with the help of Piang's men defeated the Datu Udasan of Malabang in a bloody battle in April 1903. Udasan's men were accused of cattle rustling and horse stealing. The conflict between the Maranaos and Maguinadaons intensified after the death of Datu Amirul Umbra and 14 of Udasan's men. The Maranaos blamed the American authorities for taking side with the Maguindanaoans. The Maranao attacks on U.S. patrols were attributed to Maranao resentment for the resentment for the killing of Datu Umbra and two kinsmen of Datu Dacula, Umbra's father.

A Navy shore party transporting a dismounted 3 inch gun on board an Army cannon on Jolo Island for use in the siege of cotta Pang-Pang in 1904. (Photo from 14th Cavalry Collection, US Army Military History Institute).

The third engagment was the Battle of Taraca in present-day Taraka, Lanao del Sur. General Wood invited Datu Ampuanagus to consult with him, but was met with refusal. The Muslim Filipinos then began extensive preparations in fortifying the Datu's fort. The fort was assaulted and captured by American forces, resulting in the death of two hundred of the Muslim Filipinos warriors. Datu Ampuanagus surrendered along with six other datus and 22 warriors. The Americans lost two killed and five wounded.

The fourth engagement involved a series of battles against Datu Ali because of his defiance of Governor Wood's anti-slavery policy. This battles were the Battle of Siranaya and the Battle of the Malalag River. The Battle of Siranaya was an interesting one because of the fact that there were some Americans defected to the other camp and battled their own "comrades."

The fifth engagement, and the bloodiest so far, was the First Battle of Bud Dajo wherein an estimated 800 to 1,000 Muslim men, women and children had taken refuge in a volcanic crater, and after a bloody battle (American casualties, 18) only six survived. Although a victory for the American forces, Bud Dajo became a public relations disaster.

The First Battle of Bud Dajo

"Sultan of Sulu: It will be a very good idea if there is any more trouble among the Moros to let the chief and head-men get together and have a conference, and put it down themselves.
Wood: That is a very good idea indeed. I think that the sight of the sultan… carrying out the law… would have a fine effect here.”

-- The Wood Papers, Stenographic report, 13 April 1906

Some Muslim tribes on Sulu island continued resistance against American rule for over a decade of intermittent fighting. The Americans used a lot of “soft power” through markets and religious influence to calm the population. In particular, the U.S. relied on the Sultan of Sulu as a spiritual leader of the Muslims. The U.S. even contacted the Ottoman Empire and receive the Turkish Caliph authorization to rule over Muslim people.

The bloody road to the battle began when a certain Pala ran amok in British-held Borneo. The Muslim Filipinos differentiate between the religious rite of the juramentado and the strictly secular violence of the amucks, Pala's rampage was of the latter. Pala then went to ground at his home cotta near the city of Jolo (the seat of the Sultan of Sulu), on the island of Jolo. Colonel Hugh L. Scott, the governor of the District of Sulu, attempted to arrest Pala, but Pala's datu opposed this move. During the resulting fight, Pala escaped. He avoided capture for several months, setting up his own cotta and becoming a datu in his own right. Wood led an expedition against Pala but was ambushed by Muslim Filipinos from the Bud Dajo area with the help of Pala. Wood beat off the ambushers, and many of them found refuge in the crater of Bud Dajo. Wood determined that the Muslim Filipinos held too strong of a position to assault with the forces at hand, and so he withdrew.

In formation in new tropical khaki uniforms

Bud Dajo lies 6 miles (10 km) from the city of Jolo and is an extinct volcano, 2,100 feet (640 m) above sea level, steep, conical, and has thickly forested slopes. Only three major paths lead up the mountain, and the thick growth kept the Americans from cutting new paths. However, there were many minor paths, known only to the Muslim Filipinos, which would allow them to resupply even if the main paths were blocked. The crater at the summit is 1,800 yards in circumference and easily defended. The mountain itself is eleven miles (18 km) in circumference, making a siege difficult.

Over the months that followed, the Bud Dajo rebels were joined by various outlaws, bringing the population of the crater up to several hundred. Water was plentiful, and the rebels began farming rice and potatoes. Scott sent the Sultan of Sulu and other high ranking datus to ask the rebels to return to their homes, but the rebels refused. Wood ordered an attack in February 1906, but Scott convinced him to rescind the order, arguing that the opposition of the surrounding datus would keep the rebels isolated. Scott was worried that an attack on Bud Dajo would reveal just how easily defended it was, ‬encouraging repeats of the standoff in the future. Unfortunately, the Bud Dajo rebels were embolden by American inaction, and began raiding nearby Muslim settlements for women and cattle. Although the datus of Jolo continued to condemn the rebels, there began to develop popular support of a general uprising among the Muslim commoners of Jolo.

The crisis at Bud Dajo occurred during a period of transition in the leadership of the 'Moro Province.' On February 1, 1906, Wood was promoted to the position of Commander of the Philippine Division, and was relieved as commander of the Department of Mindanao-Jolo by General Tasker H. Bliss. However, Wood retained his position as civil governor of the 'Moro Province' until sometime after the Battle of Budd Dajo. Colonel Scott was absent during part of the crisis, and Captain Reeves, the deputy governor of the Sulu District, served as his substitute.

On March 2, 1906, Wood ordered Colonel J.W. Duncan of the 6th Infantry (stationed at Zamboanga, the provincial capital) to lead an expedition against Bud Dajo. Duncan and Companies K and M took the transport USS Wright to Jolo. Governor Scott sent three friendly datus up the mountain to ask the rebels to disarm and disband, or at least send their women and children to the valley. They denied these requests, and Scott ordered Duncan to begin the assault.‭

General Davis on the march to Bayan

The assault force consisted of “272 men of the 6th Infantry, 211 [dismounted] men of the 4th Cavalry, 68 men of the 28th Artillery Battery, 51 Sulu Constabulary, 110 men of the 19th Infantry and 6 sailors from the gunboat Pampanga.” The battle began on March 5, as mountain guns fired 40 rounds of shrapnel into the crater. On March 6, Wood and Bliss arrived, but left Duncan in direct command. Captain Reeves, the acting governor of the District of Sulu, made one last attempt to negotiate with the rebels. He failed, and the Americans drew up into three columns and proceeded up the three main mountain paths. The columns were under the command of Major Bundy, Captain Rivers, and Captain Lawton. The going was tough, with the troops ascending a 60% slope, using machetes to clear the path.

At 0700, March 7, Major Bundy's detachment encountered a barricade blocking the path, 500 feet (150 m) below the summit. Sharpshooters picked off Muslim Filipino defenders, and the barricade was shelled with rifle grenades. The barricade was then assaulted in a bayonet charge. The Muslim Filipinos staged a defense, then charged with‭ kris and spear. Two hundred Mulsim Filipinos died in this engagement, and Major Bundy's detachment suffered heavy losses. Captain Rivers' detachment also encountered a barricade, and took it after several hours of fighting, during which Rivers was severely wounded. Captain Lawton's detachment advanced up a poor path, so steep in places that the Americans proceeded on hands and knees. They were harassed by Muslim Filipinos hurling boulders and occasionally rushing with‭ krises. Lawton finally took the defensive trenches on the crater rim by storm.

The Muslim Filipinos retreated into the crater, and fighting continued until nightfall. During the night, the Americans hauled mountain guns to the crater's edge with block and tackle. At daybreak, the American guns (both the mountain guns and the guns of the Pampanga) opened up on the Muslim Filipinos' fortifications in the crater. The Muslim Filipinos, armed with krises and spears, refused to surrender and held their positions. Some of the defenders rushed the Americans and were cut down. The Americans charged the surviving Muslim Filipinos with fixed bayonets, and the Muslim Filipinos fought back with improvised grenades made with black powder and seashells. The defenders were wiped out.

Out of the estimated 800 to 1,000 Muslim Filipinos at Bud Dajo, only 6 survived. Corpses were piled five deep, and many of the bodies had fifty wounds. According to Hurley, American casualties were 21 killed, 75 wounded. According to Wood's biographer Herman Hagedorn, “one-fourth of the troops actively engaged have been killed or wounded.” By any estimate, Bud Dajo was the bloodiest engagement of the 'Moro Rebellion.'

The Aftermath

Bud Dajo is comparable to the My Lai Massacre in the Vietnam War. It marked the high point in the U.S. Anti-Imperialist movement. Mark Twain even criticized American conduct in the battle and went on to ridicule Medal of Honor awardee 1st Lt. Gordon Johnston.

“Apparently Johnson was the only wounded man on our side, whose wound was worth anything as an advertisement. It has made a great deal more noise in the world than has any similarly colossal event since ‘Humpty Dumpty’ fell off the wall and got injured.”

“Heretofore, the Moros have used knives and clubs mainly; also ineffectual trade-muskets, when they had any….

“[T]o pen six hundred helpless and weaponless savages in a hole like rats in a trap and massacre them in detail during a stretch of a day and a half, from a safe position on the heights above, was no brilliant feat of arms.”
President Theodore Roosevelt congratulated Governor Wood for their victory but on March 9, 1906, the New York Times put "WOMEN AND CHILDREN KILLED IN MORO BATTLE PRESIDENT WIRES CONGRATULATIONS TO TROOPS" on its headlines.

The press' lurid account of the "Moro Crater Massacre" fell on receptive ears. There were still deep misgivings among the American public about America's role during the Spanish-American War and the stories of atrocities carried out during the Philippine Insurrection. The public had also been largely unaware of the continuing violence in the 'Moro Province,' and were shocked to learn that killing continued. Under pressure from Congress, Secretary of War William Howard Taft cabled Wood for explanation of the “wanton slaughter” of woman and children. Despite not being in command of the assault (although he was the senior officer present), Wood accepted full responsibility. By the time the scandal died down, Wood had assumed his post as Commander of the Philippine Division, and General Tasker H. Bliss had replaced him as governor of the 'Moro Province.'

In response to criticism, Wood's explanation of the high number of women and children killed stated that the women of Bud Dajo dressed as men and joined in the combat, and that the men used children as living shields.

Some of Wood's critics accused him of seeking glory by storming the crater rather than besieging the rebels. Wood did show some signs of being a glory-hound earlier in his tenure as the governor of the 'Moro Province,' taking the Provincial Army on punitive raids against cottas over minor offenses that would have been better left to the district governors. This heavy-handedness jeopardized relations with friendly datus, who viewed the encroachment of the army as a challenge. Wood badly needed military laurels, since he had gone through an uphill United States Senate battle over his appointment to the rank of Major General, which was finally confirmed in March‭ 1904. Although Wood had served as an administrator in Cuba, he had seen only a hundred days of field service during the Spanish-American War. Wood had been promoted over the heads of many more senior officers, bringing charges of favoritism against President and fellow Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt. Even though his promotion had been confirmed, Wood's reputation still suffered. Wood's willingness to take responsibility for Bud Dajo did much to improve his reputation within the army.

Wood argued that besieging Bud Dajo would have been impossible, given the ample supplies of the rebels, the 11-mile circumference of the mountain, the thickly forested terrain, and the existence of hidden paths up the mountainside. During the Second Battle of Bud Dajo, in December 1911, General “Black Jack” Pershing (the third and final military governor of the 'Moro Province') did succeed in besieging Bud Dajo, by cutting a lateral trail which encircled the mountain, 300 yards downhill from the crater rim. This cut off the Muslim Filipinos in the crater from the hidden mountainside paths. However, the tactical situation facing Pershing in 1911 was far different from that facing Wood in 1906.

The Colt .45 handgun was used by the Americans to repel attacks by juramentados

In response to the casualty rates of American soldiers from repeated attacks and ambushes, the then-standard .38 Long Colt revolver was found to be unsuitable for the rigors of jungle warfare, particularly in terms of stopping power, as the Muslim Filipinos had very high battle morale and 'frequently used drugs' to inhibit the sensation of pain. The U.S. Army briefly reverted to using the M1873 single-action revolver in .45 Colt caliber, which had been standard during the last decades of the 19th century; the slower, heavier bullet was found to be more effective against charging tribesmen. The problems with the .38 Long Colt led to the Army shipping new single action .45 Colt revolvers to the Philippines in 1902. It also prompted the then-Chief of Ordnance, General William Crozier, to authorize further testing for a new service pistol.

The Juramentados

A dead juramentado

Despite the defeat of various Muslim uprisings, another form of resistance have took another form. The other means of resistance was juramentado attacks. Individuals would take a religious oath to become suicide warriors who would ambush Americans or Filipino Catholics in crowded markets, at night, or in the jungle. Juramentados fought almost like commandos in small teams. They would try to ambush Americans from concealed positions, or attempt to raid American camps at night. Official juramentados needed religious leaders to give the oath, and in the absence of actual attempts to Christianize the populations, few religious scholars and jurists were willing to give it. American encounters with juramentados were quite rare compared to the frequency of attacks on Spaniards in the previous century.

~ to be continued ~

Moro Rebellion --
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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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: The Clash of the Krag and the Kris: The Untold Story of the Moro Wars II
The Clash of the Krag and the Kris: The Untold Story of the Moro Wars II
Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger
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