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Chapter 4

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Sea Duty

by
Yates Stirling

published by
G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York
1939

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter 6
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p61  Chapter V

The Philippine Insurrection


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I reached Manila in January of 1900, ater a long and stormy passage from Seattle. At Nagasaki, Japan, where we stopped for coal, some of us visited the Russian battleship Retvisan.º The contrast between their discipline and what I had been accustomed to in our warships was striking. The Russian sailors seemed servile, like slaves, while the officers were downright brutal in their treatment of the men, who did not seem to take offense. I was shocked to see an officer strike a sailor across the face with a swagger stick, merely because the sailor did not make way for him fast enough to suit him. This type of discipline could not produce loyalty and efficiency, and the incident lowered the Russian navy in my estimation.

My first duty in the Philippines was disappointing. I went to a supply ship, the Celtic, supplying fresh beef and mutton to the Army and Navy in the Islands. I was on the ground but not in the war. The next several months were spent at anchor off Cavite, or making trips between Manila and Sydney, Australia, for frozen meat. I went to Manila constantly and made many acquaintances among the Army and Civil Government. That was in what was called the days of the "Empire." Manila was a very gay place, almost like Paris during the war. Officers would come there from the fighting in the provinces and live in luxury until their leave expired. The Army and Navy Club was a popular rendezvous. There was dancing at the club after dinner each  p62 night. Of course there were not half enough women to go around and even wall flowers were suddenly popular. In the evening just before dark everyone drove around the Lunetta where the white and Oriental world was on view. Then I was given command of the gunboat Paragua.

The insurrection first broke out near Manila. General Aguinaldo's army was soon scattered by the organized American attacks. The Filipinos soon learned they could not stand against disciplined troops with modern artillery and rifles. Then the next phase was guerrilla warfare, and this spread to many of the Islands.

Our Army's general strategy was to garrison all the important cities and towns and heavily patrol all the available roads. Crushing all concentrations at once was a cardinal principle. In this way the enemy were denied food and help from those who would have been willing to give it. It was a lost cause for the rebels from the start, but it took several years to convince them of that fact.

The Army secret service discovered that insurgents had many friends among the rich and powerful natives who were supplying them with money and arms. This had to be stopped.

Major Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Glenn,º who was court-martialed in Manila on orders from Washington and cleared, had unearthed many plots against our Government and the troops. He used the water cure but administered it in a most scientific manner. I assisted him in rounding up suspects when in command of the Paragua. He would suddenly seize prominent wealthy natives in a suspected town and hold them in solitary confinement for days. The water cure was administered under the supervision of a medical man and the "patients" were not long in confessing their sins. The Major discovered and prevented the planned massacres of many of the small garrisons and saved the lives of many of our soldiers. Of course the method used was uncivilized and cruel, but war is both of these.a

I took command of the gunboat Paragua at Iloilo, Island of Panay. The major of whom I have been speaking was the adjutant general of the Department of the Visayas under Brigadier General Hughes, to whom I reported. The Visayas consisted of the larger islands of Panay, Negros, Leyte, and Samar. There were about ten regiments of American troops to garrison all these islands. The Filipino forces were far more numerous but not all  p63 were armed with rifles. There were hordes of men armed with bolos only who, in the jungle country, were as great a menace to our soldiers as those armed with rifles.

The duty of the gunboats was primarily to keep open the Army's lines of communication, both by sea and up the many rivers. There were few real roads and the greater part of the communication system was by small steamer along the coast or by launches and boats on the rivers. The Paragua, when I joined it, had been engaged in entering the rivers of Panay, still in the possession of the insurgents, and transporting small detachments of troops here and there for sudden operations against concentrations of the enemy.

The Filipino rebel leader in Panay was General Quintin Solas, a cruel and cunning foe. The rebels seldom stood their ground before an attacking force. Their method was to concentrate against small detachments of American troops and massacre them to the last man, and to terrorize the would‑be loyal and wealthy natives and force them to contribute large sums of money to maintain the insurrection. It was a very difficult war, and the terrain advantages were all with the natives. It was most difficult to distinguish between friend and foe, and our soldiers had to be ever on guard to discover treachery, even among those natives who appeared to be on the side of our forces.

In the Dumangas region, just north of Iloilo, Panay, there was a wide swampy district cut up by many streams, and here Quintin Solas was supposed to have his headquarters. My first expedition was to enter this district with the Paragua and search it with the object of locating this hideout of the insurgent leader. The Dumangas River, a short narrow one, gave entrance from the sea to this swampy area. It was not an easy matter to enter this river with a gunboat, as the channel across the bar was shallow and constantly changing. Before entering, we sounded out the entrance with boats and drove bamboo stakes to mark the deep water. After considerable labor we managed to work the ship across the bar. Once in the river there was plenty of water. I had on board an Army lieutenant by the name of Crocket with about twenty soldiers to augment our crew as a landing force.

It was not very clear in my mind as to what was expected of us. We knew that a number of Army troops were operating against the rebels on solid ground inland from the Dumangas  p64 swamps, and I supposed that our usefulness consisted of being a menace to any rebels who took refuge in the swamps from the soldiers. Crocket and I decided that the best thing we could do was to gather information as to where this bandit leader maintained his headquarters. We found a good place to tie up the gunboat about five miles up the river. Here the land was more open and less swampy, and the banks of the river were covered with coconut palm trees. While approaching this place, we had been fired upon from the jungle several times and returned the fire with our Colt guns. One of these guns was mounted on a platform built high up on the foremast, where a view could be obtained over the mangrove bushes lining both sides of the river. We saw a number of people in a clearing ahead of us and, taking them for insurgents, opened up on them with the gun on the mast. I was using my binoculars to observe the effect of the fire and was scared out of a year's growth when I recognized that these people were not insurgents but women and children. I ordered cease firing at once, but I had visions of having killed and wounded many innocents. The gunboat was landed alongside the bank where these people were gathered, and I was the first ashore. There were about fifty women, all with children and some with babies in arms. They all seemed calm and had glad smiles to welcome us. Hurriedly looking them over, we found no one had been hit, which did not speak well for the accuracy of our machine‑gun fire. The sight‑bar range had been in error, for which I thanked Providence.

Through our interpreter we learned from the women that they were the families of the carabao tenders and that they had been told that in the swamps the gunboat would protect them from the soldiers operating in the interior. They had no food and the children were all crying because they were hungry. I told the people they could stay there near the gunboat, and our soldiers put up canvas shelters for them and gave them plenty of hardtack and canned cornbeef. We posted guards to prevent their molested by our men. Some of the women were very comely and already had begun to flirt with our nice looking young sailormen and soldiers.

The country was alive with doves, and my boatswain's mate, Deming, and I went out on a hunt. I carried a shotgun and he a rifle. Not far from the ship, just off a trail within the jungle, we saw a sled loaded with palay, unshelled rice. I had a pair of  p65 ponies in Iloilo and was determined to get the palay on board for them. It is fed to the Filipino ponies just as oats are fed to our horses. But we could not move the sled. Deming had the instinct of an Indian and soon found a large carabao, concealed in the thick jungle and tied to a large tree. The next thing I knew, Deming had untied the carabao and started to lead him to the sled. He seemed very gentle, and we had often seen children riding on their backs or leading them with a rope tied to a ring through their nose. What we did not know was that the carabaos do not like the smell of a white man. This one put down his head and charged Deming. They circled around the tree while I stood by powerless to give aid because my shotgun could only infuriate the animal more and Deming had leaned his gun against the tree out of my reach when he had untied the animal. I thought it would be the end of my excellent boatswain's mate. These heavy lumbering animals with wide spreading horns had seemed to move very slowly, but this one covered the ground at incredible speed. I had already pictured Deming's body gored and trampled out of recognition. But apparently he knew what he was doing. He got far enough ahead of the animal to seize his gun, turn, and fire. Deming was a fine shot. The carabao dropped in his tracks with a bullet through his head. We then found no less than twenty more carabao hidden in the jungle and tied to trees.

Later in the day, while I was having good sport shooting pigeons flying home to roost on an island in the swamp, we discovered another crowd of women and children farther inland from the first lot. Questioning brought out the same story. They were families of carabao tenders, and our find of carabaos seemed to corroborate their story. When I returned to the gunboat and told Crocket, he believed we had something. His idea was that the Filipino men would visit these women during the night and if we then surrounded the women we could capture the men and get valuable information from them. This we did about midnight, and our stratagem netted us about twenty cringing human beings. Many more escaped by diving into the river. I had given orders that there was to be no firing unless we were fired upon. None of the men were armed, but all carried bolos, which they made no attempt to use. All natives carry these sharp swords to cut their way through the jungle. We took our caravans back to where the gunboat was moored. The sailors had christened the locality Paragua Park. Both Crocket and I were fearful of the  p66 water cure, which at that time was being used by the Army to some extent, but had been severely condemned in the United States. The water cure is given to force a captive to tell all he knows. The victim is laid on the ground, his arms and legs held, and his mouth forced open. Then water from a bamboo bucket is funneled into his mouth while his nose is pinched closed. The man has to drink the water else suffocate. It is a most cruel torture and said to have been introduced by the Spaniards. We learned it from the Filipinos.

We decided to use another method to force our captives to give information regarding the insurgent activity in the Dumangas region. One man at a time was taken out, questioned, and "shot." The "execution" consisted of forcing the man to run and firing a couple of shots in the air. The men were terrified and had to be almost beaten to make them run from us. Then we told the others that this one had lied or refused to talk and had been shot. Strange to relate nearly all stuck to their story that they knew nothing and that they were merely poor carabao tenders. The very last was a boy, maybe seventeen years old. He decided to save his life by using his imagination. He gave us most graphic descriptions of Quintin Solas's hideaway and said he could lead us to it. He further told a harrowing story of several American soldiers being held there and tied so they could not sit down and were being constantly tortured to obtain information.

We at once manned two boats, each having a Colt machine gun, with soldiers and sailors and started out. Our young Filipino was in the bow of the leading boat with our interpreter. We pulled and pulled, up one branch of the river and down the next, in places too shallow for the gunboat. Then, just as the first streaks of dawn appeared, the Filipino broke down and acknowledged he had made up the story to save his life. Later at Paragua Park, Crocket, still believing the boy must know something, had him tied to a tree and threatened him with his revolver. It was fruitless. Then we told him to go. He clung to us, begging us to shoot him then and there. Finally we made him run and fired a shot in the air. He dived into the jungle head first and disappeared. Crocket believed the water cure would have brought us information, but my belief was that these men were, as they said, ignorant carabao tenders and knew nothing. I suppose this boy is now telling his grandchildren how he escaped from the cruel Americans.

 p67  On looking back, I cannot see that we accomplished anything in the Dumangas River. We were fired upon occasionally but never saw an enemy. Whether Quintin Solas had his headquarters there I never learned.

The gunboat Castine, much larger than the Paragua, under Commander C. G. Bowman, was surveying the area around Iloilo Straits, and although he was our immediate superior in command, he was too much occupied with his own troubles to bother about ours. He seemed to take no interest in the war ashore. One day, while erecting a signal on shore, a small party of sailors from the Castine led by Ensign W. D. Leahy, afterward admiral and Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, was fired upon by the insurgents from a small town near where the signal was being erected. Commander Bowman went to see General Hughes in Iloilo and asked that his surveying parties be protected by the Army. I knew that Bowman and the General were none too friendly. My orders from the Admiral were to co‑operate with the Army, but of course I was under the orders of Bowman as senior naval officer present. I was forced, in a way, to serve two masters.

The Paragua was in Iloilo. General Hughes sent for me, and when I arrived in his office, he told me what Bowman had asked. Bowman had said nothing to me although he had landed alongside the Paragua in his steam launch on his visit to the General. It was therefore news to me.

"Can you handle the situation?" the General asked me; "a little black paint; and how many men do you need?" I told him a couple of squads and a sergeant. They were sent, and I immediately sailed.

When the Paragua arrived at the Castine's anchorage, which was about five miles from Iloilo, not far from the offending town, I was directed by Bowman to come on board. I was dressed in khaki, and my men were in nondescript uniforms, looking more like pirates than sailors. My boat had a Colt gun mounted in the bow and the crew had deter rifles under the thwarts.

When I reported to Bowman in his cabin, he said: "Where are you going, and what are you going to do?"

I told him I was going to land and burn the town because that was the Army's policy when a town showed itself to be harboring the enemy.

 p68  "I can't let you do that," he said most solemnly. I could not understand his point of view. "The town deserves it," I replied.

"Go back to General Hughes and tell him that I won't allow you to risk your men. You are not for that purpose," he said.

"But I have sixteen soldiers and a sergeant for the purpose," I explained. "I'll throw a few shells in the direction of the town and then land. Of course I shall be in charge."

"No, I would be in charge, for you would be in sight of my ship," he said. "Navy men have no right to risk themselves fighting on ship. That's the Army's function. Our trained men are too valuable."

I returned crestfallen and told the General what had occurred. He merely shrugged his shoulders.

"He has a ship with over a hundred men and yet asks for help. I didn't expect he would let you," he said with a humorous smile on his face.

I suddenly began to see what had happened. The General had used me to get ahead of Bowman. A day later the town went up in flames, set on fire by troops from the interior. Commander Bowman solved his difficulties by arming his surveying parties, and they never again, as far as I know, were molested. There was a clash of authority between the Army and Navy leaders in Iloilo, but I had been too occupied seeking adventure and excitement to bother my head over fundamentals of authority. I had been ordered to help the Army and was doing it in the way I thought was most effective.

I realize now that my job was a difficult one. I considered I was there to help the Army to put down an insurrection, and whenever I could augment a landing party and take part in any operation against the insurgents on shore, I was only too willing. I thought it most exciting and worth-while duty. Bowman believed I was putting my ship and myself too much under Army authority. With him it was a matter of precedence, a thing I did not even consider. His dictum was that the Army commanded ashore and the Navy afloat. He thought that naval men should not land with an Army outfit and put themselves under the command of the Army. I took the stand that I never did that. Whenever I landed, I reserved the right to return to the gunboat whenever I saw fit and did not put myself under the Army. In fact, when I had troops with me in the gunboat, I commanded, myself, the mixed force when we landed. I did not know at the  p69 time that I was face to face with a very perplexing question, one of so‑called "paramount interest" between the Army and Navy that had been unsolved for years and always came up to spoil close co‑operation between the two services. My mind at that time did not bother itself with these theoretical questions of precedence. Years later at the Naval War College, when I was on the staff there, I was a member of a board that studied very thoroughly this question and worked out a solution that is now being followed.

The controversy between the local heads of the Army and Navy in Iloilo almost cost me my command. Some weeks later the Paragua was in the river at Iloilo, coaling, while Bowman and his Castine were some distance away in the northern part of the Straits engaged in surveying.

Major Glenn, an aide to the General, afterwards a general himself, and commander of an army division in the World War, came to the ship to tell me the General wanted me to be ready to sail as soon as I had finished coaling. I thought it was merely a routine trip. About dusk General Hughes and his aide, Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Simmons, together with Major Glenn, surprised me by coming on board with their valises. I got underway at once and stood down the river.

I said to the General on the bridge: "I must go to where the Castine is anchored, about an hour's steam to the north, and obtain the Commander's authority to sail. A mere matter of form," I added.

The General smiled but said very seriously: "It's a matter of life and death that we do not delay even an hour. I ordered the evacuation of an Army post in Cebu (he mentioned the name). I wanted to rescind the order but all telephone lines have been cut by the rebels. If our soldiers leave the town, all the natives who have been friendly to us will be executed. I must arrive there before my order is carried out."

To go to the Castine would delay us at least two hours, even more. So I did not report to Bowman but instead headed in the opposite direction straight for the town in Cebu. We arrived in the nick of time. The Army garrison was just about to embark in a waiting small army transport. Once having started on a cruise, the General decided he would make a thorough inspection of his command. We stopped at many garrisons in all the islands. The charts were very poor, and many times I came very near to  p70 being stranded. I remember once at night I was looking for a town shown as a dot on the chart. I saw hundreds of bright lights near where the town should be and steered among them. They were flares from fishing boats in the shallow water of a reef, and of course we grounded among the coral and stuck fast. The engines would not budge the ship. I sent out Deming to find where the deep water was. Then we carried out a bow anchor with a rope hawser attached and soon hauled the ship into deep water by means of our steam winch. The cruise was strenuous for me because in our haste I had not awaited the return of my second officer, who was ashore on liberty, and in consequence had to be on the bridge all the time when underway. Yet it was most interesting. We visited many isolated Army posts where living was most primitive and dangerous. I came to have a high regard for army women who accompanied their husbands into exile. They seemed happy and contented, their one thought to make their men's lives easier. They shared their dangers, and even when attack seemed imminent they refused to leave and go to Manila. They were living over again the traditions of frontier days and the wars with the Indians.

Two weeks had slipped by before we headed back for Iloilo. We arrived there during the night, and I steamed close alongside the Castine in order to hail that ship and receive permission to go into the river and land the General.

My hail was answered by Commander Bowman himself. He called back: "Who have you on board?" I answered: "General Hughes," and then added: "I'd like to go up the river and moor."

Bowman's reply was: "Anchor where you are. I'll send a launch to take the General ashore." I saw no logical reason for his refusal. I had been accustomed to enter and leave the river at any time, day or night. Bowman had his chance to assert his authority over the General and took it.

The next morning I took Bowman a written report of the cruise. He was abrupt in his manner and frigid. Then he handed me a copy of the letter he had sent to the Admiral in Manila. It was a formal complaint against me for my actions and a serious arraignment. Sailing without my assistant on board was emphasized because that endangered the safety of the ship. Then, not giving Bowman any advance information as to when and where I was going and whom I had on board was another point he made. He did not openly ask for my detachment but insinuated  p71 that I was endangering the Navy's prestige by placing myself practically under the General's orders. I know now, on looking back, just how Bowman felt. He believed that I was hitching my wagon to the General because I thought there was more pulling power in the latter. Maybe he was right, for I knew that the General needed the gunboat's services very much and it made his task simpler to know that I was ready to do anything he asked cheerfully. I also thought the General's job was a very hard one and a most responsible one; while Bowman was only surveying, and, as long as the war did not touch him in his work, he did not care a hang about it.

I explained fully to him why I had not reported my departure and cleared up, I felt, every complaint he had made against me. I had an answer for his every question. I saw he was weakening and being convinced that I was not really at fault. I could not have sent him a letter that he could have received any sooner than my own return to Iloilo, for there were no means of sending mail then, except by accidentally falling in with a vessel that was going to Iloilo. Finally I got my ire up and insinuated that his lack of co‑operation with the General would not be appreciated by the Admiral, who was very anxious to give the Army every assistance to bring the insurrection to an end. Then, when that thought had sunk home, I said: "But Commander Bowman, why should we air our dirty linen before the Admiral? Isn't it a thing that can be settled between you and me?"

I do not think that Bowman felt any too secure in his own command. He was about fifty‑two years old and the Castine was his first command, a vessel of only a little over 1000 tons. Today, a vessel of that tonnage would be commanded by a lieutenant under thirty years old. He was none too sure of himself, having reached a position of responsibility at too old an age. All of our older officers at this time were in terror of the Admiral and feared to take responsibility. Bowman realized that if I divulged the conflict between him and the General, the Admiral would blame him and not me. Bowman was a capable man and had been an excellent officer, but slow promotion had sapped his initiative as it had many others of his time. He was an example of the viciousness caused by stagnation in naval promotion.

Bowman went to his desk and wrote about a page, then showed it to me. "If you are willing to accept this," he said, "I shall withdraw my charges against your conduct."

 p72  I read the paper. As nearly as I can remember, it ran thus: "Lieutenant Stirling has explained many things of which I was not cognizant when my letter to the Admiral was written. I now believe that he acted in a manner that he thought at the time was best. He admits that he committed an error of judgment. On account of his manly admission that he was in the wrong, I desire to withdraw all remarks of mine reflecting adversely upon his actions."

I was delighted. I had seen my precious Paragua dissolving before my eyes. Now the danger was over. I would have signed a confession that I had committed grand larceny if he had required it, in order to hold my command. We settled our difficulties thus, and from that time on our relations were always most pleasant.

I was impressed by this experience of the almost insurmountable difficulty of getting co‑operation between the two services, the Army and Navy, more especially between the high-ranking officers. The young men were not concerned with precedence and wanted results, therefore between them co‑operation was not difficult. They were not looking for chips on each other's shoulders and their feelings were not too sensitive when trod upon.

Not long after this incident the Paragua was ordered to Cavite, Manila Bay, for overhaul, long postponed because of the need for the ship in service. On the way up we captured a large banca under sail, attempting to enter a port that was in the hands of the insurgents. When the sailors uncovered the cargo we found the banca contained livestock: two carabaos and a half-dozen cattle, jammed in like sardines in a box. We took the prize in tow. On nearing Cavite, I began to realize that I was getting into civilization where Naval Regulations had to be carried out religiously. That meant condemnation proceedings, endless paper work and red tape, absorbing precious time and energy. I decided therefore to let the captive go. He was a long way from his home port and could do no harm by landing his cargo, for all ports around Manila Bay were peaceable. First we hoisted on board a nice young steer, then we cut the tow line and waved a farewell. I am not sure whether the expression on the faces of the men in the banca was of relief or anger. The Oriental has a way of hiding his true feelings. I was glad to be rid of the encumbrance, and my crew were delighted with the prospect of fresh meat at no expense to them. Ordinarily we would have towed the banca  p73 into a port held by the Army and given the prize to the officer in command without any paper work of any kind.

Before I had fallen heir to the Paragua she had been run ashore on an uncharted coral reef in the open sea and had pounded her bottom considerably before being dragged to safety by another gunboat. When the ship was on the marine railway at Cavite, the Naval Inspection Board was aghast over the state of the ship's underwater plating. It was actually fluted, and many rivets were missing. The bottom had not leaked, only because of the cement that had been poured in after the grounding.

I was called to the flagship, Kentucky, Admiral Louis Kempff, and informed that the ship must remain in the Bay of Manila and was not to be sent to sea again until the bottom was fully repaired. There were no funds available for the work. We were crestfallen, but there was nothing we could do. I made frequent trips to the flagship, to try to persuade the Admiral to lift the embargo but without result.

The rebels in the Island of Samar, under the Filipino General Lukban, had become most aggressive. A whole company of regular troops of the 9thº Infantry and two officersb were massacred in the town of Balingiga.º The Army began to demand more gunboats for river work, and the Admiral was hard put to find them. I had hopes this new need might work out in our favor. Samar had no roads and few trails, and the rivers were most important in the distribution of our soldiers.

At the same time there came a shift in the command in Manila. Admiral Fred Rogers in the New York was in charge of the Philippine station. I hoped I could persuade him that he needed our ship in spite of what the Inspection Board had said. I got the Paragua under way and went close to the flagship. The captain, "Bull" McKenzie, met me at the gangway. He gazed critically at the Paragua, whose main-topmast was missing. Pointing to the gunboat, he asked: "How did you lose your topmast; a gale of wind?" I replied, "No, I caught it on a tree." Which I had. He nearly doubled up laughing at the idea. Then he took me down to see Admiral Rogers.

"What about your ship; are you ready to go to Samar?" the Admiral asked. "They tell me she is unseaworthy; what do you say?"

I explained to the Admiral that in my opinion the Paragua's bottom, instead of being weakened by the wavy plating, actually  p74 was stronger. "Our gunboats are made of wrought iron," I said, "and they corrugate boiler furnaces to give them added strength. The Paragua is perfectly seaworthy to go anywhere; I've been trying to explain that for months, but nobody would listen." Stephen Bonsal, the writer, from Baltimore, and a friend of the Admiral's was in the cabin at the time and seemed most interested. He saw a human interest story there. Afterward I found my name for the first time in the Congressional Record. Bonsal had gone before an investigating committee of Congress to vouch for the unselfish work the Navy was doing and he quoted this as proof that they were even asking to be sent to sea in ships known to be unseaworthy, just to get into the war.

I returned to my ship waving my orders to Samar.

On arrival at Calbayoc, Samar, I found my old friend General Hughes had established headquarters there. I learned I was to enter the Gandara River at once. The insurgent leader in Samar at that time was Lukban, a very formidable enemy. The island was a most difficult one for campaigning by our troops. There were no roads, only small trails through the almost impenetrable jungle. The natives either lived in settlements on the seacoast or else on the banks of the rivers. Their principal method of travel was in lorchas, bancas, or canoes, and of course on foot by the trails. The Gandara River was one of the most important in Samar and the Army plan was to make this river unavailable to the insurgents.

I never shall forget my long talk with General Hughes. Of course I knew him well from our previous acquaintance in Iloilo and the cruise we had made together. He liked me and always called me Admiral. I admired him greatly. To my mind he was a great General, besides being most human and having a rare sense of humor which I found mostly lacking in men of great responsibility. Hughes always had a way of putting one at his ease by telling a story. The story he told seemed to have little to do with our subject, but I have never forgotten it.

When General Hughes was Provost Marshal General of Manila under General Otis, the Chinese gamblers in the Tondo district of Manila were making much money from the soldiers, and Hughes was determining to clean out these gambling Chinese. He raided their "joints" to within an inch of their lives, broke up the gambling material, and just about put them out of business. One day he was in his office when a well-dressed Chinaman came  p75 to see him. He went right to the point and told the General if he would but give him the scheduled times of his raids there would be plenty in it for him. The General naïvely asked him, just how much. The Chinaman put down a roll of money on the table. Fifty thousand dollars! The General told him to get out. The Chinaman came back on three successive days, each time increasing the sum. At last it was two hundred thousand dollars! The General called his orderly and told him to kick the Chinaman out and order his horse to be brought to the door at once. The General rode to the Malacannanº Palace and went to General Otis's office. He sat down at the General's desk until the latter was ready to speak to him. Otis greeted him most cordially and complimented him on his work.

"I came to tender my resignation as Provost Marshal General of Manila," Hughes began. Otis would not listen to it. Then he asked if there was a reason. Hughes acknowledged there was.

"Well, what is it?" Otis asked eagerly. "If it is anything I can correct, it's done," he said.

"I'm afraid there's nothing you can do," Hughes replied. Whereupon he told him about the persistent Chinaman, ending up: "The truth is, they're getting too near my price."

I laughed as I was expected to do, although I had heard him tell the story before. I wondered why he had told the story to me now. Did it have any bearing on the work I was about to undertake?

I gathered many things from the General's confidential talk. There had been a hue and cry at home because of the supposed cruelties practiced by the Army on the Filipinos. Our people in the United States condemned the water cure and the great destruction of property in the campaigns against the insurgents. General "Jake" Smith had been investigated on orders from Washington because of his supposed cruelties towards the poor benighted heathens. The Filipinos were all Christians, as a matter of fact. Hughes realized that he had to be cautious, yet the work had to be done just the same.

Hughes's idea was to treat Samar as Sherman had treated Georgia. Instructions were all verbal and indirect. There were no written instructions of any kind. No high-ranking officer dared fly in the face of Providence. Congress was on the rampage at home. Election stuff probably, and they were after the scalps  p76 of the leaders on humane grounds. It was easy enough to criticize from ten thousand miles away.

The General told me that entering the Gandara River would be a loathsome job and not a safe one. The river was narrow. When the gunboat anchored in mainstream, lines had to be carried to each bank and made fast to trees to prevent the ship from swinging when the current changed direction, otherwise the stern would strike the sides of the river and the gunboat might be boarded by hordes of bolomen. He told me there were now several prosperous towns on the river, and the land was fertile and readily cultivated. The natives raised quantities of rice for food and hemp for export. Much hemp manufactured into ropes in Manila and shipped as over the world came from Samar. Several big commercial firms, among the most wealthy and prosperous being the British, were anxious to get this hemp out of the river. The sale of it was supplying money to the rebels for guns and ammunition.

"You see," the General said, "we can't let this hemp get out of the river, and we can't permit the enemy to travel or subsist on the river."

Then he asked: "You know what 'black paint' is? I hope you use plenty of it."

This expression, "black paint," was the General's own. He was telling me that he wanted all the native towns burned down. Black paint was fire. I gathered before leaving the General that we were to destroy all hemp that had been accumulated for shipment, all boats of any sort, food, including cattle; and in order that the rebels could not cultivate the land and raise food for their soldiers, I must also destroy the work animals, the slow lumbering carabaos.

"You must be careful," the General cautioned, "not to permit these insurgents to concentrate upon you. Lukban is a dangerous fellow and has a large army that can move fast through the country. Much faster than our soldiers. Don't let him capture your ship as they did one of our gunboats in Luzon the other day." The gunboat Urdanetta had been surrounded after running aground in a river of Luzon and captured by the insurgents. Cadet Woods, the commanding officer, and several others had been killed, and the rest of the crew captured.

It was not, as can easily be imagined, with any great degree of confidence or feeling of security that I sounded out and staked  p77 the entrance channel to the Gandara River. My assistant at this time was Cadet Chauncey Shackford, an efficient youngster and a splendid shipmate. We spent almost a year in the closest association. Of course we had differences. One of the most important was that I thought he was too sure of himself. I felt I was much older in experience, and being a lieutenant, I looked upon him as a mere boy who should always from to my maturer judgment. I was older by about five years. We really got along famously, and I have always had the greatest affection for him. We went through some exciting times together.

I recall very vividly my sensations on entering the Gandara River for the first time. The first few miles were mangrove swamps, the roots of the mangroves resembling twisted snakes. We were fired upon several times from the banks, but only a few shots at a time, probably to register a protest at our coming. After we had passed the swampy area, the river widened out and became really lovely, running through well-cultivated lands with coconut groves here and there and small hamlets nestling among the trees. I felt sorry that it was necessary to use "black paint" on these scenes of tranquillity and prosperity.

The river ran for about twenty miles to where it forked. At the fork was the town of Gandara. A collection of nearly a hundred houses with large grazing grounds near by in which we saw cattle and carabao. We saw no human beings. They had all gone or else were keeping out of sight. We navigated the left fork for about ten miles, when the river became too narrow for the ship to turn around, and we had to back some distance to be able to turn and head downstream. There was an Army camp on this fork, and, as I could not reach it in the gunboat, I manned a boat and visited it; this required a five‑mile pull. I found there a captain of Infantry with one company of soldiers, possibly a hundred and fifty men. It was a lonely post and not at all a safe one. They were frequently attacked.

Then we navigated up the right fork to about the same distance, when the river became too shallow for our draft. There were two more army camps on this fork, both of which I visited later.

Before beginning serious operations, I investigated the river as far as we could go and made a running survey of it, showing width, compass direction, depth of water, and the usual symbols in order to recognize a locality. In fact I constructed a sketch  p78 chart, that the Army afterwards published, which was accurate enough to follow.

Then we started in on our work of destruction. I guess the human species must love to destroy. There was in evidence among our crew a diabolical satisfaction in seeing things that men had toiled to construct being consumed by flames in a few short minutes.

I had a landing party of about ten men. We flagrantly disobeyed the Army rule that no less than twenty-five soldiers could be sent out from a garrison, but all my men were expert shots and all quite fearless. That was my main worry. They did not seem to know what danger meant.

While steaming up or down the river, we used a platform in our top, about fifty feet high on the foremast, as an observation post, and continuously kept one man there with a Colt automatic gun. When we came to a place that looked good for our purpose, we would anchor the ship and I would take the landing party ashore. The gunboat would be alert to discover signs of an enemy and warn us in time to take precautions and seek its shelter.

I suppose it was our youth that allowed us to take these most evident risks. The work of all our naval gunboats was similar and carried out with the same brashness. Probably it was this daring and always taking the initiative that gave us immunity from attack much of the time. The Filipinos seemed to fear the gunboat sailors.

When we landed, we found the towns were deserted. A few even had been burned down by their owners when they learned the gunboat was in the river. Looking back on those days, I wonder that we ever came through some of our foolhardy adventures alive. Often our small party found itself several miles from the river and the gunboat, while there were thousands of insurgents in the vicinity. Shackford often begged to take my place in the landing party, but I seldom let him. I would have worried every minute he was away; so for my peace of mind it was better I go myself. The responsibility was mine, and it was up to me to take the risks and not shoulder them on others.

Of course, occasionally we were fired upon from the jungle, but we always managed to hold our own and show the enemy it was best not to attempt to rush us. Our men could shoot by ear almost as well as by sight. Fortunately we never drew a concentration down upon us. The greatest danger was the bolomen,  p79 armed only with sharp swords or bolos. They had been most daring in their attacks upon Army columns of from fifty to a hundred soldiers, yet a mere half-score of sailors were never molested by these dangerous hordes. To me now it seems as if we all bore charmed lives.

Shortly before we around in the river, a company of soldiers on a hike had been well-nigh annihilated by a general band of bolomen on the bank of the river just below the fork. The soldiers were hot and tired after their strenuous march, and the cool water of the river looked tempting. The river was also full of crocodiles, but the men seemed to have been willing to chance that danger. When they reached the bank of the river, the lieutenant in charge permitted his men to go swimming. The soldiers stacked their guns on high ground near the river, leaving only a few men to guard them, and all went into the water. Suddenly several hundred bolomen rushed the guns and seized them. They did not attempt to use the guns. The soldiers came out of the water and fought the savages with their bare fists in an attempt to obtain their rifles. The only ones that were not hacked to pieces were the few who swam to the opposite bank of the river and concealed themselves. A few managed to reach their rifles, but even they were so horribly mutilated that they died. The General had failed to tell me this, probably not wishing to discourage me too much. I learned it from the camp I had visited the day before. It was not cheering news.

We certainly did a good job on the river. After we had finished up, there was little left to speak of. We burned the villages; in fact, every house for two miles from either bank was destroyed by us. We killed their livestock: cattle, pigs, chickens, and their valuable work animals, the carabaos. It seemed ruthless; yet it was after all war, and war is brutal.


Thayer's Notes:

a Writing nearly four decades after the event, Adm. Stirling has got this wrong; I am indebted to Prof. Allan W. Vestal of Drake University Law School, Des Moines, Iowa for the heads‑up and the citations in this note. Maj. (later Maj.‑Gen.) Glenn was tried for the torture of one of those Filipinos, the Mayor of Igbaras, Joviniano Ealdama, and found guilty, as reported in Letter From the Secretary of War in Response to Senate Resolution of February 23, 1903, Transmitting a Report Showing the Trials or Courts-Martial Had in the Philippine Islands in Consequence of the Instructions Communicated to Major-General Chaffee on April 15, 1902, Together With the Action of the President or the Secretary of War Thereon, 1903, 57th Cong., 2d Sess., Sen. Doc. 213, p17. Glenn was suspended from command for a month and fined $50 (roughly equivalent in 2016 to $1350).

Prof. Vestal offers an explanation for Adm. Stirling's erroneous statement: "Some of the confusion may arise because Major Glenn was court-martialed a second time for his conduct in the Philippines. He was charged in the execution of seven Filipino prisoners of war. Tried in December of 1902, he was acquitted in a disputed result." Given, however, that Stirling assisted Glenn in "rounding up suspects" for the interrogation; Stirling's racial and other attitudes as he himself reports them in Chapter XVI, "The Massie Case"; and finally the high profile of both Glenn courts-martial at the time, I can't avoid being less charitable than Prof. Vestal, and viewing the statement Stirling makes here as, at best, slippery and disingenuous.

Glenn's career in the Philippines and the court-martial are discussed in detail in a recent book by John Fabian Witt, Lincoln's Code: The Laws of War in American History (Free Press, 2012), pp359‑361. More accessibly online, see Richard Prevost, Water Cure • US Policy and Practice in the Philippine Insurrection, pp1‑2 and 8‑11.

[decorative delimiter]

b Three officers, actually, according to Annual Report of the War Department, 1902, p629: First Lieut. Edward A. Bumpus, C Company, 9th Infantry; the commander of the company, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Thomas W. Connell; and a surgeon, Maj. Richard S. Griswold, U. S. Volunteers. In American accounts the attack is usually called the Balangiga Massacre: 48 members of the 74‑man company were killed in an ambush by leaders of the village it was occupying. Filipino historian Rolando O. Borrinaga lays the blame on Capt. Connell. A thorough account of the attack, what led up to it, and what followed, with photographs, a map, and primary sources, is given at PhilippineAmericanWar.webs.com.


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