The Battle of Bayan and Other Battles
by James Edgar Allen & John J. Reidy
Two accounts within one special edition
As the 19th Century drew to a close and the United States had consolidated its dominance of North America, the new nation looked outwards into a world of imperial powers who vied with each other to dominate the globe in influence and trade. Those Americans who believed that a great nation should not be absent from great politics ensured that the United States would soon be flexing its own muscles on the international stage. War in Cuba—the Spanish American War—followed, together with the annexation of the Philippine Islands. There the American forces had to deal with Spanish forces, those Philippinos who had their own ideas on independence and with the Moros, a fierce Muslim tribal minority ready to take on all comers. This book is not a campaign history. It deals with the day to day experiences on campaign—and on the firing line—of ordinary American soldiers fighting on strange and foreign shores. These recollections make fascinating reading for those interested in the early period of the American Army at war beyond its own frontiers.
Our orders were to march to Maricana, which was held by the enemy. We marched twelve miles before camping. It rained before we started out from Manila and cleared up, but left the roads very muddy and made marching very hard. The twelve miles were made by ten o’clock. That night the wet ground served as couch and one blanket as all the covering. We had to recline, if we lay down at all, with gun and belt at our side, ready at a moment’s notice to meet the enemy’s attack should they swoop down upon us in camp. After a halt of six hours we set about at four o’clock preparing breakfast, every man cooking his own rations in camp kit and making coffee in a quart cup. <br>
Men were gathered around their little fires of wet wood on the damp ground trying to burn wet wood and cook over the little fire it made. Some of the hungry men had just succeeded in getting their fires to burn and commenced to cook when orders were given to prepare for the march to Maricana, which we were expected to capture that day and to take the Filipinos prisoners or drive them into the neighbouring mountains. It is needless to say that those men who failed to get their breakfast were ready to fight. They had an opportunity before many hours passed.<br>
From the camp it was five miles to Maricana. The march began at four-thirty, while it was still dark, and we could move unseen by any of the enemy who chanced to be lurking in our vicinity. We marched through the woods and without speaking above a whisper marched close to the enemy before we were discovered. Their sentinels in the church towers were the first to discover our approach and give the alarm by ringing the bells.<br>
Maricana is located on the bank of a river and we advanced within one hundred and fifty yards of the opposite bank before we were discovered. We advanced at double time and reached the river bank, when we lay down and opened fire just as the early daylight was appearing. Our skirmish line covered the whole town, in which the enemy were stationed as a reserve force to their advanced lines along the river. This advance, or outer line of the enemy, were fortified behind a stone wall. Our line was at the disadvantage of being in the open ground. The lines thus formed were hotly engaged for some time when the command was given to cross the river and charge the enemy’s lines. The river bank in front of me was about ten feet high, but this offered no obstacle to me when bullets were falling thick and fast near by. At the command to cross I jumped and somehow got down the bank and into the water. Looking back I saw no one else coming. The bullets were coming around me so fast I had no time to form any plans and I pushed on into the water until it was almost over my head. I remained in this condition until I saw my command crossing about one hundred yards below me. I could not get out on the bank to go down and decided I would wade down to the crossing place and join our forces there. I was almost exhausted when I reached the shore. The enemy, seeing our intentions to attack their line, remained behind the stone wall and fired at us until we were nearly across. Then they could stay there no longer and fled from their strong position. We crossed and entered the town, capturing five armed men. The enemy beat a hasty retreat, rather a pell-mell flight across the open country towards the mountains, at whose bay they had entrenchments and a large reserve force. The fight lasted from daylight till about two o’clock in the evening. The battle of Maricana was as hard as any fought in the Philippine Islands. About three thousand American soldiers were engaged. Several were killed and a great many of the Filipinos.<br>
When an American was wounded his wound was dressed and some soldier’s blue shirt hung up near him to designate the place where a wounded American was. In this way no one would be left on the field after the battle when the dead and wounded were picked up.<br>
The Filipinos were not so well cared for. I saw a great many soldiers run out of their way in order to step on a dead or wounded Filipino. They would shout with joy at their punishment of the poor Filipino.<br>
I was near three Americans who were shot that day; two of them were killed. The one who recovered was a member of my company. A ball passed through his body, entering the back and passing out on the right side. It didn’t seem possible for him to live, but in one month he was again at his post of duty. A lieutenant of the Fourth Infantry had his horse killed under him. Jumping off he took out his field glasses and got on his knees and began looking for sharpshooters. In less than a minute he was shot through the heart and fell dead without speaking. I thought every second I would get a bullet, for they were flying so thick and close that I did not see how I could escape them. Before the battle was over I wished I might be shot, for I never was so nearly dead in all my life. My condition did not appear to be any worse than that of every other American soldier.