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The Moro-American War is sometimes referred to as the second phase of the Philippine-American War.
Chap 7, pg 1
Bangsamoro and the Moro
The word Bangsamoro refers to the homeland of the Muslim people in the Philippines. It comes from the Malay word ‘bangsa’, meaning nation or people, and the Spanish word ‘moro’ which refers to Muslims. The Moro (Muslim inhabitants of Bangsamoro) resisted Spanish colonial rule more successfuly than the people of the Visayas and Luzon. One reason was because they were better-organized: the Sulu Sultanate had laws, a government, an army and navy, fiscal management and taxation, foreign trade and diplomatic relations. The Moro were therefore not integrated with the rest of the Spanish Philippines.
Although Spain claimed the territories of Bangsamoro, they had little control. The Moro fiercely resisted Spanish attempts at conversion to Catholicism. Moro warriors, known by the Spanish as juramentado, had a reputation as fierce fighters.
The Spanish were restricted to a few coastal forts, such as Fort Pilar in Zamboanga.
The Moros had not joined the 1896-1898 Philippine Revolution against the Spanish, because they considered themselves separate and different from the people of the Northern Philippines.
The Bates Treaty 1899
Chap 7, pg 2
In 1899, the few American troops in the Philippines were busy fighting the Philippine Army in Luzon. The US Army had no soldiers to spare for stationing in Bangsamoro. In February 1899, American Brigadier General John C. Bates was sent to the Sulu archipelago to negotiate with the Moros. The idea was to buy time until more American soldiers were available to make a show of force in the south. Jamalul Kiram II, the Sultan of Sulu, was the most powerful Moro in the region.
General Bates and the Sultan made an agreement which became known as the Bates Treaty. The treaty was an agreement between two sovereign states: the Sultanate of Sulu and the United States of America The treaty was a promise that: 1) The U.S. would not interfere with religion, social and domestic customs or internal economic or political affairs of Moros, unless requested to do so. 2) The U.S. was not to give or sell Sulu or any part of it to any other nation. 3) The U.S. would continue to pay the Sultan 250 dollars per month allowance, as the Spanish had done. 4) Slaves would be allowed to purchase their freedom from the Sultan.
In truth, the Agreement gave the Sultan of Sulu governing authority in the Sulu Islands in exchange for his recognition of U.S. sovereignty. Thus, he had no motivation to join the Philippine nationalists who were fighting the Americans in the north.
In May 1899 the U.S. sent troops to peacefully replace the Spanish garrison on Jolo Island, Sulu. In December 1899 the Americans replaced the Spanish soldiers in Fort Pilar, Zamboanga. The Spaniards were glad to leave.
Clashes with the Moro 1901-1902
Chap 7, pg 3
American newspapers painted a negative view of the Moros, like this inflammatory 1900 American newspaper headline. However, there was little conflict between the Moros and American troops.
In late 1901 there began to be clashes between the American troops and the Moros, especially in the area around Lake Lanao, Mindanao.
Battle of Bayan
In 1902, American Colonel Frank Baldwin led a military expedition to punish them. His soldiers attacked two Moro cotta (forts), and after the Americans broke through their fortifications, they slaughtered the defenders.
In July 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt issued a proclamation declaring an end to the Philippine Insurrection (his name for the Philippine-American War, which was never officially called a war.) and a cessation of hostilities in the Philippines “except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes, to which this proclamation does not apply.” Thus the war was essentially finished in the north, but “Moroland” as the Americans called it, in Mindanao and Sulu, was not yet pacified. The Americans would now try to conquer Bangsamoro.
Moro Province and the Wood Era 1903-1906
Chap 7, pg 4
In 1903, with the war against Filipino nationalists in the north mostly won, the US Government decided that it was time to take control over ‘Moroland’, as they called Bangsamoro. Major General Leonard Wood, hero of the SpanishAmerican war of 1898, was appointed as the first military Governor of the new Moro Province, composed of what had been the Sulu Sultanate and the Maguindanao Sultanate. Wood was “personally offended by the Moro propensity for blood feuds, polygamy, and human trafficking,” and as a result he was very strict with the Moros. He sent American soldiers to punish Moro inhabitants for minor infractions, and his governorship was a harsh and bloody period.
Sulu and Panglima Hassan
In Sulu, the fiercely independent Tausug Moros had allowed the Spaniards to build just one fort. After many failed attempts, the Spanish realized they were unable to subdue them. But in 1903 the Americans had a stronger military force than the Spanish before them, and they were determined to subdue the Moro. The Sultan of Sulu ordered that, in the interest of peace, the people should acknowledge American sovereignty. However, chief Panglima Hassan of Luuk, Sulu, looked at the intrusive American “infidels” as threats to Islam and Moro society. Hassan and about 3,000 warriors besieged the American garrison in Jolo. Armed only with kris swords and old rifles, they bottled up the Americans for a week before being forced to withdraw.
Maguindanao and Datu Piang
In the Maguindanao Sultanate of Mindanao, the situation was more complicated: some Moros resisted and fought the Americans, while others, such as the leader Datu Piang, cooperated.
End of the Bates Treaty
By 1904 the Bates Treaty had served its function, and the United States abrogated (broke) it. The Americans claimed that Sultan Kiram had failed to stop Moro resistance and that the treaty was a hindrance to effective colonial administration. They stopped payments to the Sultan and his datus. General Bates later confessed that the agreement was merely a temporary measure to buy time until the war in the north was won. The Sultan protested the unilateral abrogation of the Bates Treaty. He argued that he couldn’t stop the Moro conflict against the Americans because the Americans had imposed poll and land taxes on the population, a practice which the Moros were not accustomed to. He urged the Americans not to “put yokes on our necks that we cannot bear, and don’t make us do what is against our religion and don’t ask us to pay poll tax forever and ever as long as there is sun and moon, and don’t ask taxes for land which are our rights of the Moro people, including all that grows (is planted) in Jolo and its islands.”
First Battle of Bud Dajo 1906
Chap 7, pg 5
In March 1906, nearly 1000 Moro warriors, women and children climbed up into the volcanic crater of Bud Dajo Volcano on Jolo Island, to protect themselves from the American army. They were attacked by 790 American soldiers. The Americans killed all but six Moros, while they only lost around twenty killed and seventy-five wounded. The US Army called it the Battle of Bud Dajo, while critics called it the Moro Crater Massacre. Although the battle was a victory for the American forces, it was a public relations disaster. It was the bloodiest engagement of the Moro-American War.
Rowland Thomas, an American soldier who participated in the battle, told the Boston Transcript that that the killing of 600 Moros had no great significance; it was merely a “piece of public work” that the army had to do.
Governor Bliss Era
In 1906 Major. Gen. Tasker H. Bliss took over as military commander of the Department of Mindanao-Jolo, and also as the Governor of Moro Province. His tenure is regarded as a fairly peaceful era, because he launched no punitive military expeditions. However, some American military officers were unhappy because they thought Bliss was too lenient with the Moros. Governor Bliss served until 1909.
The Pershing Era 1906-1913
* Stationing of Philippine Scouts in small detachments to increase local American control, reduce crime and promote agriculture and trade. * Encouragement of the local economy, with increased exports of hemp, copra, and lumber. * Creation of Industrial Trading Stations in the interior to encourage trade between the Moros and the rest of the Philippine colony. * Streamlining of the legal system. * Labor contract law reform of 1912. * Donation of government land for construction of Muslim mosques. * Recognition of the practice of ‘sacopy’: indentured servitude in exchange for support and protection.
Chap 7, pg 6
Major General John J. Pershing was the next American governor of Moro Province, serving from 1909 to 1913. He was a relatively progressive administrator and enacted a number of changes:
Executive Order No. 24
Continued violent incidents led Governor-General Pershing to believe in the necessity of disarming all Moros. In September 1911, he issued Executive Order No. 24, which ordered the confiscation of all weapons from the local inhabitants. The Moros resisted disarmament, especially in the district of Jolo, leading to more conflict.
Second Battle of Bud Dajo 1911
In December 1911, about 1500 Moros again fortified the top of Bud Dajo volcano. Governor Pershing, through negotiations, succeeded in persuading the majority of them to return home. The others refused to surrender and remained in the volcano. The Americans attacked and killed or captured all the Moros during the five-day battle.
After this battle there was a fairly peaceful period which lasted several years.
Battle of Bud Bagsak 1913
Chap 7, pg 7
The peaceful lull was interrupted by another battle. As before, Moro fighters, armed mostly with kris, barongs, spears and a few guns, had fortified the top of Mount Bagsak in Sulu. Americans soldiers and Philippine Scouts, led by General Pershing, attacked and killed most of the defenders. General Pershing later wrote his wife: “The fighting was the fiercest I have ever seen... They are absolutely fearless, and once committed to combat they count death as a mere incident.“ More than 2,000 Moros died, including 196 women and 340 children. General Pershing called it a “severe, but well deserved, punishment.” The battle marked the end of organized Muslim resistance to US colonialism in the Philippines.
Transition to Civil Government
Following the battle, General Pershing agreed that the Moro Province needed to transition to civil government. In December 1913, Governor-General Pershing was replaced by a civilian, Frank Carpenter. The appointment of a civilian governor signaled the end of the war. Carpenter was the first non-military governor of the province and this indicated American confidence that Bangsamoro had finally been pacified.
End of the Moro-American War Casualties
Unlike the Spanish before them, the Americans succeeded in vanquishing the Moro. Regardless of the wishes of the Moro, they were to be part of the American colony of the Philippines. * Moros: estimates range from 10,000 to more than 20,000 killed, with an unknown number of wounded. * Americans: 130 killed and 323 wounded. * Philippine Constabulary: 750 killed (fought under the Americans.) * Philippine Scouts: 116 killed (also fought under the Americans.)