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America in the Philippines 1898-1902 2016-10-05

America first became active in the Philippine Islands on 1 May 1898 when acting secretary of the navy, Theodore Roosevelt, ordered then Commodore George Dewey to destroy the Spanish fleet at Manila. a state of war had existed for just over a week when Dewey proclaimed "Gridley...you may fire when ready!"as a result, Dewey's Asiatic Squadron was responsible for firing the first shots of the Spanish-American War and thrusting the United States onto the 'world stage'.

Dewey's fleet made quick work of the dilapidated Spanish squadron in Manila Bay. sure, they fired their guns at the Yanks (as well as shore batteries) but they were all pretty much off the mark (a few shells got through but did little damage & no KIA). the sole American casualty was a sailor who suffered a heart attack aboard the USRC McCulloch before the battle even took place.

the Spanish were quick to realize that they were clearly outgunned. they took refuge in the old port city of Manila and the surrounding vicinity while the Americans and the Filipino rebels dug in around Manila. what our history books failed to tell us was that the Spanish and the Filipinos were just resuming hostilities against one another when war broke out vs the US and the Spanish. in 1896, the Filipinos had engaged the Spanish in open warfare w/ an eye towards independence and the eviction of the oppressive Spanish colonial regime on the islands. a cease-fire had been brokered by the time the US came into the picture. soon thereafter, by May of 1898, the USN (by Dewey himself!) picked up the rebel leaders, Emilio Aguinaldo among them, in Hong Kong and delivered them back to the islands in an effort to assist the US in their struggle for the Spanish. fast-forward to June of 1898: the Filipinos declare their independence from Spain and form what historians refer to as the "First Philippine Republic".

By August 1898, American forces had entrenched themselves around the outskirts of Manila. the initial battle for Manaila against the Spanish is a controversial one in that the event is said to have been staged as a pre-arranged mock battle. the logic was that the Spanish petitoned the American contibgent for what they deemed an honorable surrender. most improtantly, though, was the fact that the Spanish wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Filipino rebels for fear of fatal repraisals. as such, the rebel army, under the command of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, was not notified nor briefed when the staged event began. Manila fell to the Americans in August 1898 when the Spanish surrendered all Philippine possessions. General Elwell S. Otis, the new commander of the VIII Corps, set up a perimeter around the city and ordered all rebel forces to vacate the city.

the turning point of American involvement in the Philippine Islands came in December 1898 when the US and Spain negotiated the Treaty of Paris thus officially ending the war and as a result, the Philippine Islands were ceded over to the US for the sum of $20M. left completely out of the negotiations were the Filipinos. tensions were mounting as the US began sending in transport after transport full of re-enforcements.

4 February 1899: the recently signed Treaty of Paris was waiting for Congressional ratification when an American sentry fired on a Filipino when he refused his order to halt. the Philippine-American War had begun.

little is taught or spoken of about this war. it wasn't until 1998 that the US Congress officially changed the name of the conflict from "The Philippine Insurrection" to the "Philippine-American War". this switch was done primarily b/c many Filipino historians note that since the rebels declared independence from Spain in June 1898 that the rebels were no longer rebels and that they were instead a soveriegn nation when the hostilities between the US and the Filipinos began in February 1899. however, the classification of the conflict as an "insurrection" is somewhat accurate as a) the US Congress never declared war vs the Filipinos and b) from a legalistic standpoint, the islands were a possession of the US as a result of the Treaty of Paris and for all intensive purposes, were of internationally recognized as the possessors of the islands.

The Main Thread: America in the Phillipines

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