18 February 2018

The US Army 28th Infantry Regiment in Batangas in 1900 and their Operations in Taal, Lemery, Calaca and Nasugbu

Image credit:  Sandra Plummer Collection at the Fort Worth Library's Digital Archive.
This article starts a new series in this web site on the activities of the United States Army’s 28th Infantry Regiment as it saw action in Batangas against “insurrectos1” as Filipino freedom fighters were called during the Philippine-American War. The regiment was part of the United States Volunteers or USV, the members of which were recruited and trained to augment the regular army and fought outside the United States between 1794 and 19022.

Most of the information about the movements of the regiment in Batangas at the turn of the twentieth century is taken from a public domain book3 compiled by W. B. Conner from the regiment’s records while in the Philippines and published in San Francisco in 1901.

Readers are advised to keep in mind that the source document was written from the American point of view.

The regiment was first organized at Camp Meade in Pennsylvania in July of 1899 as directed by the United States President William McKinley, after a Congressional Act approved in March of the same year. While at Camp Meade, each battalion (a military unit of anything from 300 to 800 men, depending on the country4) spent up to ten days perfecting shooting skills at target practice.

In late September, the regiment left for San Francisco, where its soldiers would undergo more target practice while waiting for transport across the Pacific. The soldiers left San Francisco in late October on board the USAT5 Tartar and Newport. There was a one-day layover in Honolulu before the ships sailed on to Manila, arriving there on 22 November.

In the Philippines, command of the regiment was turned over to Colonel William E. Birkhimer, who had been in the Philippines since the outbreak of the Philippine-American War. Apart from being an officer in the United States Army, because Birkhimer was a lawyer, he also functioned as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines at the time6.

By December, the regiment was deployed to Cavite where it relieved the United States Army’s 14th Infantry Regiment. The following month, despite being outnumbered 430 to roughly 700 by the Filipino “insurrectos,” the regiment won a famous victory at a barrio called Putol. This was quickly followed by another victory over a 1,000-strong group of Filipino fighters near Imus.

By January of 1900, troops of the United States Army were being posted around Cavite and neighboring provinces to hunt down pockets of Filipino resistance fighters.

On the 17th of the same month, the 1st Battalion made up of Companies B, C, and D (a company being anything from 80 to 150 soldiers, depending on the country7 of the 28th Infantry Regiment under the command of Major George H. Morgan was sent to the towns of Lemery and Taal. The battalion would remain there until late November.

On the 24th of February, an operation using 12 men from Company C and 50 more from Company D was launched against an “insurrecto” force totaling about 200 men at the Sinisian River between Lemery and Calaca. The troops were led by Captain Peter Vredenburgh.

At the same time, troops on horseback from Companies A, C and D under the command of Captain Samuel Crawford attacked the Filipinos from the rear. Many of the “insurrectos” were either killed or wounded. The buildings they had erstwhile occupied were destroyed – presumably burned, as was often reported in barrio histories about the Philippine-American War – along with their trenches. Their cache of arms was also captured.

By April, Regimental Headquarters was transferred to Taal. Birkhimer was promoted to Commander of the Second District, Department of Southern Luzon. Command of the 28th Infantry Regiment was turned over to Lt. Colonel Robert Leonard.

On 5 June, troops from Companies A and B, commanded by Captain Frank Crenshaw and Captain Frederick Neilson, engaged Filipino fighters at Barrio Payapa. They were led to the site by captured “insurrectos.” The Filipinos retreated after half an hour of fighting, leaving behind 14 dead and 3 wounded. The “guides” who led the Americans to the barrio tried to escape and were also shot.

For the Americans, Crenshaw – who was shot in the head – and Private Frank Smith – who was shot in the thigh – lost their lives.

On the 19th of October, troops of the regiment under the command of Captain George W. Biegler, including a mounted detachment (i.e. on horseback), left Balayan to scout Barrio Looc in Nasugbu. Two days later, they were attacked by “insurrectos” numbering about 400 men. After fighting which lasted about four hours, the Filipinos were “sufficiently punished,” including the death of two of their senior officers.

Biegler withdrew his troops to Poblacion Nasugbu, his men tired and ammunition almost exhausted. The “insurrectos,” meanwhile, suffered an estimated 75 mean either killed or wounded; and were beaten back despite their superior numbers.

More stories of the 28th Infantry Regiment’s operations while in Batangas will be told in future installments at this webs site.

Notes and references:
1 Because the source document told the story from the American point of view, Filipino freedom fighters were referred to as “insurrectos” or insurgents. To these “insurgents,” of course, the Americans were usurpers not only of Filipino lands but also of sovereignty.
2United States Volunteers,” Wikipedia.
3History of the 28th Regiment Infantry, United States Volunteers, from Organization to Muster-Out, with Roster and Records of Events by Companies,” compiled by W. B. Conner, published in San Francisco in 1901, online at Hathitrust.
4Battalion,” Wikipedia.
5 USAT meaning United States Army Transport.
6William E. Birkhimer,” Wikipedia.
7Company,” Wikipedia.

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