Top of page

Collection The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures

The Philippine Revolution

Although the fighting with Spain in the Philippines had ended in August 1898, American troops found themselves with more battles to fight there in order to assert U.S. dominance over the region. The fighting with Filipino rebels began as a result of the U.S. refusal to include the Filipino nationalists in negotiations over the future of the Philippines. The Philippines were ceded to the United States by Spain for $20 million by the Treaty of Paris, signed on December 10, 1898. On December 21, 1898, President McKinley issued the Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation, which outlined his colonizing policies in the Philippines. In response, the Philippine Republic was declared on January 1 with Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy as its president, but the United States refused to recognize it as the legitimate government. In reaction to this non-recognition, the Filipino government proclaimed its constitution on January 27, 1899. By February 4, the Philippine Republic had declared war on the United States after three Filipino soldiers were killed by U.S. troops. The fighting eventually came to be known by a variety of names: the Philippine Insurrection, the Philippine-American War, the Filipino-American War, the Philippine War, and the Philippine Revolution, to name a few.

25th Infantry. American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. March 23, 1900. The Philippine Islands. Camera, Raymond Ackerman. Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress.

Aguinaldo was eventually captured by American troops led by Colonel Frederick Funston on March 23, 1901. Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the hostilities in the Philippines over on July 4, 1902, although guerrilla resistance continued.

Biograph sent two expeditions to cover the Philippine Campaign, as it was called in the company catalog. Three films in this presentation were shot in 1900 during the Philippine Revolution: Aguinaldo's Navy, filmed on the Pasig River near Manila; 25th Infantry; and An Historic Feat.

The film 25th Infantry featured an African-American regiment, which had won an impressive victory at El Caney, Cuba. The regiment had been sent to the Philippines in August 1899, and engaged frequently with the enemy in many skirmishes, winning particular recognition for their successful raid on the town of O'Donnell.

An Historic Feat featured General J. Franklin Bell's mule pack train swimming the Agno River in Northern Luzon. General Bell arrived in the Philippines as a major in a volunteer regiment. Often performing dangerous reconnaissance missions, he rose quickly through the ranks to become colonel in command of the 36th Infantry. He eventually attained the rank of Chief of Staff of the Army. Bell's contribution to the fighting included strengthening the intelligence services of the army and taking hard measures against rebels and their supporters, even to the extremes of harassment and punishment. His most controversial measure was ordering the concentration of the populace into protected zones to fight counterinsurgency. Although efforts were made to prevent the suffering of these people, poor conditions in the camps may have led to the deaths of as many as 11,000 Filipinos, according to some estimates.

U.S. Troops and Red Cross in the Trenches before Caloocan. Edison Manufacturing Co. May 1899. The Orange Mountains near West Orange, New Jersey. Reenacted by the New Jersey National Guard. Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress.

Rather than send a camera crew abroad, the Edison Manufacturing Company made reenactments of events in the Philippines under the supervision of James White, Kinetograph Department Manager for Edison. In Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan, Colonel Frederick Funston's men are depicted fighting in a battle that lasted less than two hours, resulting in the victory of his 20th Kansas Infantry. In that battle, Funston relied on using a constant line of assault firing to back the rebels away from their defenses; the Filipinos can be seen retreating from their trenches in U.S. Troops and Red Cross in the Trenches before Caloocan.

Colonel Funstan Swimming the Baglag River [sic] shows Funston heroically taking his fellow soldiers by raft to shore under enemy fire. The film refers to an incident that occurred when his regiment was faced with the daunting task of swimming the Bagbag River. Not knowing whether Filipino soldiers were awaiting them on the far shore, Funston led four other soldiers in swimming to the other side where they fell into the nearest Filipino trench, which was abandoned. Since Funston encountered no opposition the rest of the brigade soon crossed the river without incident. Funston later was awarded a commendation for "most distinguished gallantry in action."

According to the Edison catalog, Filipinos Retreat from Trenches is the depiction of an incident from the Battle of the Trenches at Candaba.

Actualities of Events in the Philippines

Reenactments of Events in the Philippines