Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Philippine Insurrection

Dead Insurgents

The Philippine Insurrection
The following letter and poem was written by soldiers who were in the 42nd U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish American War. The letter was written to a friend in Pottsville. The soldier, Corporal Martin McCarthy was from Wilkes Barre, Pa. but a note stated he was a resident of Schuylkill County at one time. He sent this letter home with a poem that was written about their action in June of 1901.
What McCarthy was writing about was an action during the Philippine American War, also known as the Philippine Insurrection. This insurrection was started before the Spanish American War. And after a historic naval victory during the Span Am War by the Americans, Commodore George Dewey who was in charge aided and encouraged the Filipinos to rise up against Spanish Rule. In 1898 Filipinos rejoiced at the collapse of Spanish Rule and were hoping to have their independence. As a result General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the PI independent. Unfortunately part of the 1898 treaty of Paris gave ownership of the Philippines to the United States, and President McKinley made it clear that the PI would not be granted independence. Confusing? Anyway fighting broke out between the U.S. and the Filipinos who resorted to guerilla warfare. Finally on April 16th 1902 the war was over. This war cost the lives of over 4,000 American soldiers, 20,000 Filipino soldiers and 500,000 Civilians. It is strange that today we are so intone to the word Insurgency and insurgents from our own war in Iraq. So take it as it may be we have already fought an insurgency.
The poem is an excellent account of the actions of the 42nd U.S. volunteers during the insurrection. It was written by a comrade of McCarthy, J.R. Conway of Company D. 42nd.
Hello Mr. James P……..This was composed after 35 days on the firing line, we had no shelter but the poncho, we started from camp with five days rations, so we foraged most of all the balance of our 30 days and many a poor devil went to his resting place on account of that long hike and only two where killed out right, and five wounded.
The rainy season is here now and I can tell you its very disagreeable. There are transports in the bay and out side the harbor for weeks and they can’t land. We had no beef or mail in a long time on account of the storms; typhoons are the order of the day with a few water spouts on the side. James I could write 10 pages about the rainy season and treacherous nigers but I know you get it all in the home papers. So I will merely say I am well and enjoying life as good as any soldier can.
I read an account of your trip to San Francisco and I wish I was there when you was, for I am very well in with that City, and would make things interesting for you during your stay.
So that is all for this time, hoping this finds all you people well and in good health, also yourself.
From Your Friend
Corporal ,M. F. McCarthy
Formerly of Company H but now with the 42nd Regt. Band.


I’ve seen the Pilipino fall beside his ancient gun.
I’ve seen the trenches red with blood, I’ve seen them scoot and run
I’ve heard the Krag make echoes that for years have silent been.
On mountains trail and deep ravine and rice fields wet and green.

For scenes like those I left my home my all that I hold dear.
To serve beneath the stars and stripes as a U.S. volunteer.
Yet pleasant dreams come to one as I close my weary eyes.
In sleep upon the mountain side beneath a sweeping sky.

On San Antionias rugged trail we first received their fire.
Our quick response compelled them in disorder to retire.
And over mountains rugged crest in terror how they fled.
Leaving behind them in their trench their wounded and their dead.

Outside the town of Paquil they next appeared in force.
Their breast work built of earth and stone beside a streamlets course
From trench and bush on either side the bullets fell like hail.
From twenty feet above us on the mountains rugged trail.

It took us but a moment to answer with a will.
And in extended order took possession of the hill.
We captured seven prisoners and on retiring found.
That 2 of our command were lying wounded on the ground.

Theirs was the first blood of our corps shed on foreign soil.
Theirs be the first blood to avenge before we leave this isle.
But sooner than we dreamed off were we to meet again.
The foe who fight in ambush but dread the open plane.

Everything will come tothose who patently wait.
But doubly sure is he who goes to meet it at the gate.
And as the hawk on pinions bold soars forth to met his prey.
So we marched from Paete on the forenoon of the next day.

We scarce had left Paquil behind its houses still in view.
When from the mountains tangled base a shower of bullets flew.
We lined the road side opend fire with a vim along the line.
And for some forty minutes now there was a shot old time.

We charged the tangled bamboo brush and up the mountain side.
No powers on earth could stay that rushing volley firing tide.
And as we gain the vacant trench no enemy appears.
To stay the rushes of the 42nd U.S. Volunteers.

At different points along the trench deep pools of blood we see.
A bloody shirt torn from the breast of a wounded enemy.
Proved that our aim was steady and our fire was not in vain.
Fresh graves shall greet the morning sun as it shines on hill and plain.

From Pasig to Paete pass the joyful news along.
Of the gallant part enacted by our comrades at Morong.
Who midst the creeping shadows and the glowing flickering lamp.
Attacked surprised and captured a Philipino camp.

One volley and they scamper one charge the field was won.
Another march on our record page for June nineteen ought one.
And when we sail for home again and the Golden Gate appears.
No milk white flag greet the 42nd U.S. Volunteers.

By J. R. Conway
Co.D 42nd U.S. Volunteers Pasig City P.I.

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