Lt. Col. Walter Loving and the Philippine Constabulary Band

Despite President Roosevelt’s declaration that the Philippine-American War was over in 1902, there was actually still a lot of fighting to do. Combat was largely turned over to two new Philippine services: the Constabulary (police) and the Scouts (army), both of which were organized and administered by the American colonial government. Noncommissioned officers and junior officers in the US Army were tapped to become officers of these services as they started out. One of these men would become a beloved figure in Manila: Philippine Constabulary Band leader, Lt. Col. Walter Loving.

As a colonial army, leadership positions in the Constabulary were not equitably distributed. For starters, officer positions were not granted to Filipinos at all. (Talusan 2004, 501) Secondly, discriminatory practices still benefited white officers over African Americans, despite the latter being preferred by Filipinos. A Filipino physician told Sergeant Major John W. Calloway, a Black soldier who was working part-time as a reporter from the Richmond Planet: Between you and him we look upon you as the angel and him the devil. (“Voices from the Philippines” 1899, 1)

White leaders justified their continued segregation and discrimination with the supposed poor performance of African American soldiers—but this claim simply wasn’t true. In fact, it had already been proven untrue in the Spanish-American War when the Ninth and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantries saved Roosevelt’s own hide.

Dress-on-the-Colors
“Dress on the Colors” by Dale Gallon. Acting Color Sergeant George Berry of Troop G, 10th US Cavalry Regiment carries the national flag of his own command as well as the standard of the 3rd US Cavalry Regiment in the assault upon the Spanish works at Kettle Hill, San Juan Heights, Cuba, July 1, 1898. Original commissioned by US Army War College, Carlisle, PA.

As an example of continuing discrimination, Edward L. Baker Jr. has to be one of the most overqualified second lieutenant in American military history. He had earned a Congressional Medal of Honor—the highest award for valor in action that can be awarded to anyone in the United States Armed Forces—while a sergeant with the 10th Cavalry in the Spanish-American War. (National Park Service 2015) He then served as a first lieutenant, then captain, of African American volunteer regiments in the Philippines. When those regiments were disbanded in 1902, Baker joined the Philippine Scouts in 1902, but he was forced to accept a significant demotion. (Cunningham 2007, 13) A second lieutenant is the entry level of an officer, right out of officer training, and that’s two grades lower than the captaincy that experienced veteran and Medal-of-Honor-winner Baker previously had.

Edward-Baker-Medal-of-Honor-Cuba
Edward Lee Baker, Jr., of the 10th Cavalry, winner of the Medal of Honor for service in the War against Spain in Cuba. Image courtesy of the National Medal of Honor Museum.

Second lieutenant was still an officer position, though, and this kind of promotion is what drove a veteran named Walter Loving to make his career in the Philippines. Loving was not a line officer but a cornet player. The cornet is a horn similar to trumpet but shorter and with a mellower tone. “Military bands were an important part of every regiment, and the Army’s Black bands enjoyed especially good reputations, perhaps because they were able to attract talented musicians with fewer opportunities for steady civilian employment.” (Cunningham 2007, 6) Loving was one of those talented musicians. The Black chaplain of the 24th Infantry unit, Loving’s first regiment, wrote him a glowing recommendation as a “fine musician” and said that one day Loving “would be successful as a chief musician of a regimental band.” (Cunningham 2007, 7) At this point, all the chief musicians in the permanently constituted regular army were white, and part of the reason for this may be pay: they earned more than other soldiers of their rank, and they had quartermaster privileges. Worse, these white officers were sometimes ex-Confederates (Gleijeses 1996, 193). Loving would later remark on this practice:

Even in Civil War days colored units carried colored non commissioned officers . . . that most of these white non commissioned officers view themselves in the light of the overseer of antebellum days is shown by their practice of carrying revolvers when they take details of men out to work. (Quoted from African American Registry)

When Loving could not secure the post of band leader, he decided to re-enlist in the 8th U.S. Volunteer Infantry, which served in Cuba. The white colonel of the unit said: “My colored officers and men have quietly submitted to slights and insults which would not patiently be borne by white troops, and I hope they will continue to do so in future. But each prejudice is a source of constant danger to regiments constituted as mine is and stationed in the South.” (Cunningham 2007, 8) When the entire regiment was mustered out, for example, they were “roughed up” by the police as they passed through Nashville on the train. (Cunningham 2007, 8) It was with the 8th USVI that Loving was finally promoted to second lieutenant to become the chief musician of the band—but since the volunteer unit was a temporary one, his commission was temporary too. (Think of volunteer units as having an expiration date. Most enlistments in them were a year, and the units were disbanded once they were no longer needed. This is what had happened to Baker too.)

1905-Constabulary-Band-Manila
The Philippine Constabulary Band on parade in Manila, August 1905. Photo from the U.S. National Archives, reprinted in “The Loving Touch,” Summer 2007 edition of Army History magazine, page 13.

Loving returned to school at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where his professor wrote that “his progress had been ‘very remarkable’ and that the mark he had attained as a cornet soloist had ‘never been surpassed since this Institution . . . organized its special course for the cornet.’” (Cunningham 2007, 9) Loving did not stay to complete his degree, though, because war in the Philippines lured him back into the service.

Three men playing guitars and three women listening on balcony, Philippine Islands. Reads: “Where softly sighs of love the light guitar—a Visayan-Filipino serenade.” Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

While serving as the chief musician for the 48th US Volunteer Infantry, another temporarily-constituted unit, his commanding officer said to him: “The high state of efficiency to which you have brought the band when hardly two men knew how to make a note when they first reported seems almost beyond belief, and the development of the regimental chorus of four hundred voices all bear witness to your ability.” (Cunningham 2007, 10) (This perspective is flattering to Loving but not to the Filipino musicians, who had a long tradition of excellent music. More on that in a bit.)

But then the 48th USVI was mustered out too. What would Loving do now? He sought the assistance of Vice President Theodore Roosevelt—a friend of his sister’s employer—to secure a position as a messenger in the U.S. Senate. Roosevelt wrote his regrets, saying that “he already had a ‘colored messenger, . . . and the other messengers are appointed by the individual senators. They would not tolerate any advice from the Vice President about them.” (Cunningham 2007, 10) Next, Loving sought a position with the Philippine Scouts, and he again asked for Roosevelt’s help. “Although Roosevelt had previously assured [Julia’s employer] that he was willing to help Loving, he instructed his secretary to inform the War Department that he did not ‘wish any unusual action taken’ in the case, and the Scout commission never materialized.” (Cunningham 2007, 10)

African-American-officers-Manila-1908
Leading African American officers and civil servants in the Philippines, c. 1908, included, left to right, Lieutenant Thompson; Robert G. Woods; Maj. William T. Anderson, chaplain of the 10th Cavalry; J. B. Quander; and Captain Loving. Woods and Quander were high-ranking clerical officials of the Philippine Constabulary. Photo from the U.S. National Archives, reprinted in “The Loving Touch,” Summer 2007 edition of Army History magazine, page 13.

Finally, things did turn around. Loving was able to return to the Philippines in 1902 as a second lieutenant for the Philippine Constabulary under General Henry T. Allen. “Loving was lucky to serve under Allen because the general had a relatively high opinion of African American (and Filipino) capabilities. As Allen’s biographer has pointed out, his ‘moderate racial views put him in the minority among the senior officers of his day.’” (Cunningham 2007, 11) That is faint praise now, but Allen’s word meant something to Governor Taft, who then tapped Loving to form a Constabulary Band. Actually, this was something Taft had promised to do back when Loving was still with the 48th USVI, but with Allen’s push he finally made good on his word.

Loving would have a lot of talent to work with. According to scholar Mary Talusan:

The men who formed the original Band were some of the most promising musicians of their time. Some of them descended from a long line of small town band musicians or were former members of regimental bands under Spanish rule. Others were already enlisted in infantry bands under U.S. control, and a few were “trumpeters who had served under Aguinaldo” (Richardson 1983, 9). Most men came from or lived in the Manila area, but a few were from the llocos, Visayas, and other places.

Filipino street band 1900 full color image from Harper's Magazine in Gilded Age American colony
Full color image from the Harper’s History of the War in the Philippines, accessed at Google Books.

The Philippines had long valued music in the home, on village streets, and in military bands. Town bands played at fiestas, marriages, funerals, baptisms, and just for weekend fun. Competitions between local bands would last for days. Instruments were handed down from parent to child, but there was also formal musical education available. (Talusan 2004, 506-7)

Outside of religious institutions, European classical music was taught in boys’ colleges, normal schools for boys, the Ateneo, the University of Santo Tomas, the Beaterio Colleges for girls, and also privately. Filipino elites and intellectuals actively supported the performances of concerts and operas by individuals, visiting organizations, and local art and literary societies with musical components. Ilustrados (educated elite who studied in Europe) brought back and kept in touch with the musical scene in Europe. Orchestras performed for a widely popular native form of opera called sarsuela. (Talusan 2004, 506)

G. W. Peter’s illustration, “An Evening Concert on the Luneta,” which was published in Harper’s Weekly as the centerfold on 25 November 1899. This version is color-corrected from a high resolution image in order to bring out the American soldiers on the right side. The Constabulary Band led by Loving is in the upper right-hand corner.

Musicians and audiences embraced the new Constabulary Band, and it would become a regular feature during evenings at the Luneta. Even more importantly, the skilled Filipino musicians embraced Loving’s leadership:

I have heard many stories from [the family of Loving’s protege, Pedro B. Navarro] of the great respect that the bandsmen had for Loving as a leader, musician, and officer. He was described as a very strict, principled, and compassionate man, and the bandsmen were fiercely loyal to him. My great-aunt, Leonora Navarro, related that Loving would often eat dinner with their family. In addition to their profound relationship as musicians, Loving’s command of Spanish certainly fortified their connection. During those times many Filipinos used Spanish as a language of resistance against American hegemony, since many Americans in Manila could not speak it. By using Spanish to communicate the bandsmen and Loving created for themselves a space for camaraderie and resistance. (Talusan 2004, 510)

Loving also learned some Tagalog, the language of Manila and nearby provinces. He was promoted to first lieutenant in 1903, (Cunningham 2007, 11) and in the next year he would bring his band to the United States to be one of the most popular attractions at the 1904 World’s Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, in St. Louis. This experience was one of the highlights of Loving’s early career, but it was not without its challenges. The experience of Filipinos and African Americans at the World’s Fair was a pointed illustration of the assimilationist racism of American imperialism at the turn of the century (Kendi 2017):

Loving, as a Negro officer in military uniform, might have been perceived by audience members as having been assimilated and made successful by American tutelage and training. He seemed to confirm the trope of “benevolence” by embodying America’s democratic rather than racist principles. In sharp contrast, African American groups were kept from participating in the fair and their representation was limited to the nostalgic “Old Plantation” exhibit. The few Black fairgoers that did attend were excluded from water fountains and restaurants. . . . In fact, I found no references to Loving’s race in any of the public documents of the Fair, suggesting that, since he could not be contained in the discourse of [racist] evolutionary hierarchy, his racial identity was better left unidentified. (Talusan 2004, 519)

The 80-member Filipino Constabulary Band, under the direction of Lt. Loving (seated in front), was considered “among the best bands at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition,” according to photographer Jessie Tarbox Beals. Photo from the Missouri History Museum.

For the Filipinos of the Constabulary Band, the World’s Fair was a forum to showcase their talent on a world stage:

During one evening concert, the band especially impressed its audience when the power went out and the Filipino musicians continued to play the William Tell Overture in the dark, without missing a note. Loving, who quickly tied a white handkerchief to his baton so that it could be seen, had insisted that his men memorize their repertoire. (Cunningham 2007, 12)

As scholar Mary Talusan argues, it may have been possible for both groups to serve their own agendas simultaneously in St. Louis:

Such representations in America’s expositions encouraged American fairgoers to marvel at the civilizing effects of the U.S. on the Philippines, legitimizing the contentious way by which the Philippines was brought under its custody. In this way, the United States government’s exhibition of Filipinos at the St. Louis Fair can be seen as a successful effort to construct an image of the ideal colonized person, one who embodied an identity characterized by passivity, obedience, and perhaps gratitude through the convergence of military and musical performance. By contrast, the Filipino elites who worked with the American colonial government in organizing the Fair and, to a large extent, the musicians themselves viewed the accomplishments of the PC Band in nationalist terms, emphasizing rather than obscuring Filipino musical traditions established at least a century prior to American rule. . . . American colonialists did not always succeed in binding colonial subjects to their proper place—individual agency and acts of resistance were never fully restricted or contained, especially in the arena of human creativity. (Talusan 2004, 500)

1904-worlds-fair-bridge-spain-intramuros
At the 1904 World’s Fair (the Louisiana Purchase Exhibit), the Philippine exhibit included a replica of the Bridge of Spain over Lake Arrowhead to a model of Intramuros, the walled city of Manila. Photo from the St. Louis Public Library Digital Collections.

The white colonel who oversaw the Constabulary’s trans-Pacific voyage suggested that Loving “richly deserved” a promotion—which happened a month later as Loving was made captain. And it was because of Loving that President Roosevelt told the War Department that the white chief musicians in the regular army should be shifted to white units, clearing the way for African Americans to be promoted in their place. (Cunningham 2007, 13-14)

The Constabulary Band in the March 1909 blizzard inauguration of President William Howard Taft. Image courtesy of Positively Filipino.

Most visible of all, when Taft won the US presidential election, he invited the band to play at his 1909 inaugural festivities, which happened to be in the middle of a blizzard. “To pay for the $20,000 cost of their trip, the Constabulary Band played cities all along their routes, from Nagasaki to Washington, even in the White House, and back.” (Cunningham 2007, 15-16) On the way back, John Paul Sousa, the most famous white composer and conductor of martial music, said the Constabulary Band was better than the (white) United States Marine Band (Sousa’s alma mater). (Cunningham 2007, 15)

Walter-Loving-1890s-and-1904-World-Fair
Walter Loving, first pictured in the 1890s courtesy of Wikipedia, and in 1904 at the World’s Fair, also from Wikipedia.

We should be careful not to praise Sousa in the matter, especially considering his assimilationist racist attitude towards ragtime music. He played some ragtime because it was popular, but he felt he had to “put a clean dress on it.” (Quoted in Talusan 2004, 516) Loving seemed unable or unwilling to incorporate any African American music into his concerts Stateside, possibly because he was given less leeway. “As long as Loving and the bandsmen operated within acceptable parameters without overtly threatening the existing social order, they were allowed inside and commended in the military, the concert hall, and historical record.” (Talusan 2004, 516) He stuck to the unwritten rules.

Part of the March 8, 1909, feature on the band’s concert for Taft’s inauguration. Even the above article, which was favorable to the band, includes the racist idea that Filipinos had “never seen an instrument” before the American arrival, which is so preposterous a claim that only other Americans would believe it. In fact, the musical tradition was more essential to small-town Filipino life than American.

Loving eventually retired from the Constabulary as a major in 1916, and—after a brief civilian sojourn in California—he returned to US Army service as an undercover officer reporting on Black socialists, one of the most controversial parts of his life. Interestingly, it is in this questionable work he was given his highest promotion in the US Army, to major. He would have argued that this position allowed him to work from within to advocate for changes in military practices—such as not allowing southern white officers to command African American regiments. But he also spied on antiracist activities of Black communities throughout the United States, hurting the very cause he championed. (African American Registry)

philippine-constabulary-band-soloists-1909-white-house
The Philippine Constabulary Band soloists at the White House, Washington, DC, 1909. Photo courtesy of Eduardo De Leon at Flickr.

In the 1930s, Loving returned to Manila and was promoted to lieutenant colonel by Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon. (Cunningham 2007, 16, 19) In a sad note, Loving would be imprisoned at the University of Santo Tomas during World War II until he was released to live under house arrest either at the Manila Hotel (Davis 2016) or a house in Ermita (Cunningham 19)—a rather unusual move for the Japanese command, supposedly in deference to Loving’s age and declining health. (Cunningham 19)

Loving would die in Manila at the hands of the Japanese during the Battle of Manila in 1945. There are many stories of how he died: one explanation simply says Walter and his wife were separated by a Japanese soldier, and that was the last anyone saw of him (Cunningham 19); another claims that he refused preferential treatment by the Japanese to be beheaded with other Americans; another gives him credit for barricading a stairwell of the Manila Hotel so that fellow Americans could escape, causing him to be bayonetted and killed (Davis 2016); and a final story wrote that after Loving was shot in the back by retreating Japanese, he “half-walked and crawled to the Luneta, an open park where his famous band had many times thrilled the populace” where “the famous soldier and band leader drew his last breath.” (Loeb 1945, 8)

The Luneta at sunset.

After his death, Loving was posthumously awarded the Philippine Presidential Medal of Merit and the Distinguished Conduct Star, the second-highest military honor in the Philippines. What would have made Loving even happier, though, was seeing his son, Walter Loving, Jr., serve as an artillery captain during the Korean War, after the desegregation of the armed forces following World War II. Loving’s son would retire as a full colonel in 1969. (Cunningham 2007, 19)

Bibliography:

Cunningham, Roger D. “The Loving Touch: Walter H. Loving’s Five Decades of Military Music.” Army History, Summer 2007, 4-25. Accessed June 30, 2020. https://history.army.mil/armyhistory/AH64(W).pdf.

Davis, Collis H. “Leader of The Band.” Positively Filipino. Last modified April 13, 2016. Accessed September 5, 2020. http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/leader-of-the-band.

Gleijeses, Piero. “African Americans and the War against Spain.” The North Carolina Historical Review 73, no. 2 (1996): 184-214. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23521538.

Kendi, Ibram X. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. New York: Bold Type Books, 2017. Kindle edition.

Loeb, Charles H. “Eyewitness Tells How Famous Bandleader Was Slain by Japs.” Afro-American (Baltimore, MD), April 14, 1945, 8. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=TB0mAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wP0FAAAAIBAJ&pg=3008%2C4087694.

National Park Service. “The Philippine War: A Conflict of Conscience for African Americans.” Presidio of San Francisco. Last modified February 25, 2015. Accessed July 3, 2020. https://www.nps.gov/prsf/learn/historyculture/the-philippine-insurrectiothe-philippine-war-a-conflict-of-consciencen-a-war-of-controversy.htm.

Talusan, Mary. “Music, Race, and Imperialism: The Philippine Constabulary Band at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.” Philippine Studies 52, no. 4 (2004): 499-526. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42634963.

“Voices from the Philippines: Colored Troops on Duty—Opinions of the Natives.” Richmond Planet. (Richmond, Va.), 30 Dec. 1899. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84025841/1899-12-30/ed-1/seq-1/.

“Walter Loving Born.” African American Registry. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://aaregistry.org/story/walter-loving-born/.

Who Saved Roosevelt’s Hide

This is the story you may have heard: Theodore Roosevelt built the second half of his national political career on his reputation as a hero from the Cuban theater of the Spanish-American War. As a lieutenant colonel with the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, also known as the “Rough Riders,” Roosevelt promoted his own efforts in the fight to liberate Santiago, Cuba. His friend, Colonel Leonard Wood, helped create the legend by reporting to the War Department, “I have the honor to recommend Lieut. Col. Theodore Roosevelt . . . for a Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry in leading a charge on one of the entrenched hills to the east of the Spanish position in the suburbs of Santiago de Cuba, July First, 1898.” (Yockelson 1998, 3)

This is the part you probably don’t know: Wood was not at the battle, and those who were there would tell a different story: Roosevelt and his Rough Riders owed their victory and probably their reputations to the African American regiments who saved their hides. These were the same troops Roosevelt would later disparage and, in some cases, dishonorably discharge by executive order.

History in Sugar Sun series by Jennifer Hallock
Navy accidents, fake news, and a New Yorker bent on war. I mean the Spanish-American War of 1898. What were you thinking? Find out more.

Mr. Charles McKinley Saltzman, a white graduate of West Point and a veteran of the Cuba campaign, praised the 9th and 10th Cavalries, along with the 24th Infantry, for charging San Juan Hill in the most integrated battle of the war. He said that these African American soldiers “did much to save the Rough Riders from being cut to pieces.” (“Compliment to Colored Soldiers,” 1) The 24th Infantry “bore the brunt” of the fighting—and though they were specifically targeted by the Spanish, they stood their ground and performed challenging maneuvers “under the hottest fire of the day.” (“Colored Troops Win Praise from the White Press,” 2)

A reporter from New York said that the 10th Cavalry advanced, “firing as they marched, their aim was splendid. Their coolness was superb and their courage aroused admiration of their comrades.” (New York State Division) First Lieutenant John “Black Jack” Pershing—a hero who would fight in the Philippines and eventually become the American commander in Europe during World War I—also agreed that the 10th Cavalry saved Roosevelt’s forces. Rough Rider Frank Knox himself called the 10th Cavalry “the bravest men he had ever seen.” (New York State Division) A white corporal, who would also admit to his prejudice against Black Americans in general, was quoted saying: “If it had not been for the Negro Cavalry, the Rough Riders would have been exterminated.” (“Gov. Tanner’s Speech,” 4)

African-American soldiers Spanish-American War
Formation of African American soldiers whose unit is not identified. Accessed at the Library of Congress.

The Richmond Planet, an African American community newspaper, forecasted that though these soldiers had been “a right useful ‘article’ when white troops are in a tight place,” (“Gov. Tanner’s Speech,” 4) they would not be properly recognized. That is not entirely true. A few were: five members of the 10th Cavalry received the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest and most-prestigious personal military decoration, as did a Black naval fireman on the USS Iowa off the coast of Cuba.

Edward-Baker-Medal-of-Honor-Cuba
Edward Lee Baker, Jr., of the 10th Cavalry, winner of the Medal of Honor for service in the War against Spain in Cuba. Image courtesy of the National Medal of Honor Museum.

Twenty-five other soldiers from African American units were awarded the Certificate of Merit, the second highest award at the time. (New York State Division) But those who did not survive Cuba did not receive their due posthumously. In fact, they were not even brought home to be buried like the fallen Rough Riders and other white officers. Instead, after suffering a 20% casualty rate (New York State Division), the African Americans killed in combat were buried in unmarked graves on the San Juan Heights near where they fell. (“President McKinley and the Negro Soldiers,” 1)

Dress-on-the-Colors
“Dress on the Colors” by Dale Gallon. Acting Color Sergeant George Berry of Troop G, 10th US Cavalry Regiment carries the national flag of his own command as well as the standard of the 3rd US Cavalry Regiment in the assault upon the Spanish works at Kettle Hill, San Juan Heights, Cuba, July 1, 1898. Original commissioned by US Army War College, Carlisle, PA.

How did Roosevelt get the credit? He had “friends in the newspaper business [who] ensured that his exploits in Cuba were not overlooked by the public” (Yockelson 1998, 1) And it did make a good story: the rising star of the Republican Party had overcome debilitating asthma in his youth to become a college athlete, a successful rancher, and New York City Police Commissioner. Then he resigned his desk job as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy to endanger himself in battle. At least those parts of the story are true. The rest is not:

Roosevelt gives the impression that he alone was the first to charge the San Juan Heights to drive away the entrenched Spaniards. This image of Theodore Roosevelt was propagated with the help of Richard Harding Davis. Reporting for the New York Herald, Davis transcribed what Roosevelt told him, then added his own twist to the story. In addition to the newspaper articles, magazines and books picked up his story. Davis depicted a fearless Roosevelt, wearing a blue polka-dotted bandanna, charging up the hill mounted on his horse, Texas. Thus the legend of Theodore Roosevelt was created. (Yockelson 1998, 2)

As he continued to recount his exploits, the tales grew taller and taller. (Yockelson 1998, 2) Eventually, reflecting satisfactorily on his own bravery, Roosevelt wrote: “I am entitled to the Medal of Honor and I want it.” (Yockelson 1998, 1) Four months later, he “painfully told [Senator Henry Cabot] Lodge on December 6 that ‘if I didn’t earn it, then no commissioned officer can ever earn it.’” (Yockelson 1998, 3) When faced with the lack of direct eyewitnesses to prove his valor, Roosevelt claimed that was because he was so far out ahead of his fellow soldiers: “I don’t know who saw me throughout the fight, because I was almost always in the front and could not tell who was close behind me, and was paying no attention to it.” (Yockelson 1998, 4) His entitlement reached a fevered pitch when he wrote Senator Lodge: “I don’t ask this as a favor—I ask it as a right . . . If [the president and the War Department] want fighting [over it], they shall have it.” (Yockelson 1998, 3)

Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill
Charge of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill by Frederic Remington. Accessed at the New York Public Library.

Twenty-six other soldiers did earn the Congressional Medal of Honor in the fight for Santiago, Cuba, including the five Black cavalrymen of the 10th and the one sailor mentioned above, but Roosevelt did not receive the citation in his lifetime. (Yockelson 1998, 4) He did not lose well, especially not to the African American soldiers that the War Department recognized:

In a series of articles published in Scribner’s Magazine [Roosevelt] contended that the physical ability of African-Americans to perform on the battlefield was only useful if guided by the paternal supervision of white officers. He even claimed that African-American soldiers had an inordinate tendency to retreat and engage in “misconduct” when white officers were not present. . . . [This behavior was] “natural in those but one generation from slavery and but a few generations removed from the wildest savagery.” (Ngozi-Brown 1997, 44)

In another article, Roosevelt wrote that Black soldiers were “particularly dependent upon their white officers. Occasionally they produce non-commissioned officers who can take the initiative and accept responsibility precisely like the best class of whites; but this can not be expected normally, nor is it fair to expect it.” (Amron 2012, 414-15) He even claimed that the African American soldiers lagged back in the rear, some fleeing the battlefield, until Roosevelt himself prompted them forward at revolver-point. (Amron 2012, 415; New York State Division) “According to Presley Holliday, a former Sergeant in the 10th Cavalry, Roosevelt actually stopped four soldiers on their way to pick up ammunition from a supply point”—not retreating at all, in fact. The four soldiers were doing their job. (New York State Division)

Scribners Roosevelt Memoirs
Roosevelt’s serialized war memoirs in Scribner’s, courtesy of Streets of Salem.

How did the United States War Department see fit to reject Roosevelt’s lobbying for an award and instead bestow the same upon a handful on the soldiers he disparaged? Could they have been swayed by other press outlets? J. N. Johnson, a prominent African American doctor and attorney, wrote to the Washington Post:

. . . I write to thank the press, including The Post, in the name of the whole race, for favorable mention of the black soldiers who played their part so well, though having no opportunity for official recognition of their conspicuous bravery. . . . The negro soldier was needed; he was on hand and played his part well; and though the government is silent the press sings his praise. (“Negro Soldiers Bravery” 1898)

24th-Infantry-leaving-Salt-Lake-City
24th Infantry Leaving Salt Lake City, Utah, for Chattanooga, Tennessee, April 24th, 1898. Accessed at the Library of Congress.

Unfortunately, according to antiracism expert Ibram X. Kendi in his book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, the recognition of these Black war heroes did little to halt the spread of racist ideas. “While ‘negative’ portrayals of Black people often reinforced racist ideas, ‘positive’ portrayals did not necessarily weaken racist ideas. The ‘positive’ portrayals could be dismissed as extraordinary Negroes, and the ‘negative’ portrayals could be generalized as typical.” (2017, 328) Bravery, patriotism, and valor would not end discrimination. In fact, the crimes of the Jim Crow period—including disenfranchisement, convict leasing, and lynchings—would only accelerate.

African American Medal of Honor winners
Portraits of 15 African American soldiers and sailors who received Medals of Honor for service in the American Civil War, American Indian Wars, and Spanish American War from W. E. B. Du Bois, accessed at the Library of Congress.

How bitter would Roosevelt be? On the one hand, in 1901 he was the first president to invite an African American to join his family for supper at the President’s House. But the straightforward invitation to prominent educator Booker T. Washington set off a firestorm. South Carolina senator said that it would take the lynchings of a thousand Black people “before they will learn their place again.” (Kendi 2017, 290) Roosevelt promised to never repeat his mistake, and to be sure he officially renamed the residence the White House. (Kendi 2017, 290) He would also single-handedly tear apart the careers and eliminate the pensions of 167 Black veterans—the entire 25th Infantry battalion—after blaming them for a riot in Brownsville, Texas, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Six of these men had won the Congressional Medal of Honor, and thirteen had received the Certificate of Merit, the next highest award. 123 of the 167 had served in the US Army for over five years, which means combat in the Philippines, and 26 of them had served for over ten years, which means combat in Cuba too. One career soldier had spent 24 years in the Army. All of them lost their entire retirement investment by executive order, without even the decency of a court-martial. (“Troops Not Spared” 1906, 1)

Washington and Roosevelt in the White House
Booker T. Washington at the White House from “The Secret Life of Booker T. Washington.”

Eventually Teddy Roosevelt got what he wanted—in 2001, more than eight decades after his death. During the waning days of the Clinton Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense bestowed a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor upon Theodore Roosevelt. His media machine finally won.

[Featured image is a vintage postcard of the 25th Infantry at Basilan in the Sulu Archipelago.]

Bibliography:

Amron, Andrew D. “Reinforcing Manliness: Black State Militias, the Spanish-American War, and the Image of the African-American Soldier, 1891-1900.” The Journal of African American History 97, no. 4 (2012): 401-26. https://doi.org/10.5323/jafriamerhist.97.4.0401.

“Colored Troops Win Praise from the White Press.” Richmond Planet. (Richmond, Va.), 23 July 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84025841/1898-07-23/ed-1/seq-2/.

“Compliment to Colored Soldiers.” Iowa State Bystander. (Des Moines, Iowa), 29 July 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83025186/1898-07-29/ed-1/seq-1/.

“Gov. Tanner’s Speech.” Richmond Planet. (Richmond, Va.), 23 July 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84025841/1898-07-23/ed-1/seq-4/.

Johnson, J. N. “Negro Soldiers’ Bravery: How Can They Be Utilized in Our New Territory.” The Washington Post (1877-1922), Jul 13, 1898. https://search.proquest.com/docview/143949611?accountid=11220.

Kendi, Ibram X. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. New York: Bold Type Books, 2017. Kindle edition.

New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. “Black Americans in the US Military from the American Revolution to the Korean War: The Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurgency.” New York State Military History Museum and Veterans Research Center. Last modified March 30, 2006. Accessed June 29, 2020. https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/articles/blacksMilitary/BlacksMilitaryContents.htm.

Ngozi-Brown, Scot. “African-American Soldiers and Filipinos: Racial Imperialism, Jim Crow and Social Relations.” The Journal of Negro History 82, no. 1 (1997): 42-53. https://doi.org/10.2307/2717495.

“President McKinley and the Negro Soldiers.” The Broad Ax. (Salt Lake City, Utah), 22 July 1899. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024055/1899-07-22/ed-1/seq-1/.

“Troops Not Spared.” The Washington Post (1877-1922), Nov 22, 1906. https://search.proquest.com/docview/144648836?accountid=11220.

Yockelson, Mitchell. “‘I Am Entitled to the Medal of Honor and I Want It’: Theodore Roosevelt and His Quest for Glory.” Prologue, Spring 1998. Accessed July 30, 2020. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/spring/roosevelt-and-medal-of-honor-1.html.

Happy Fil-Am Friendship Day!

Happy Fourth of July, Republic Day, Philippine-American Friendship Day, and 21st Hallock wedding anniversary! (Yes, Mr. H and I married on American Independence Day because we enjoy irony.)

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The American administration in the Philippines could be quite cheeky too: they liked using the Fourth of July as a marker date in their administration, despite the fact that seizing the islands turned the US into the very redcoats we declared unfit oppressors via the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1774. (Independence was actually declared on the 2nd of July, but never mind.)

The Insular authorities used July 4, 1902, as a declared “mission accomplished” date, ending (supposedly) what was then called the Philippine Insurrection. Much like George W. Bush’s gaffe over a hundred years later, though, the mission was very far from accomplished. In fact, the Philippine-American War would not be over until 1913.

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The USS Abraham Lincoln, returning from a 10-month deployment to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the setting for President George W. Bush’s speech declaring the end to “major combat operations” in Iraq. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Juan E. Diaz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Cheekier still, when setting up the path to Philippine independence, the American authorities decided to terminate the Commonwealth on July 4, 1946—so that conveniently we and our former colony (but still beholden to the US under the Bell Trade Act of 1946 and Military Bases Agreement of 1947) would have the same independence day.

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The last American flag to fly in the Philippines, with each star sewn by representatives of the different provinces, with Mrs. Manuel Roxas, Mrs. Manuel L. Quezon, and Mrs. Sergio Osmeña supervising. Colorized image courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library.

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July 4th was celebrated as such until Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal changed the law in May 1962, recognizing June 12th as the true date of Philippine independence—honoring the day that President Emilio Aguinaldo established the First Philippine Republic in 1898. That was before the Americans even decided to keep the islands as spoils of the Spanish-American War. This makes sense, but it took them sixteen years to do it, which shows you how large the American footprint still was in early Cold War-era Philippines.

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Diorama 39: Proclamation of Independence from Spain, Cavite, 1898, as created by Ayala Museum Staff (Historians, Researchers, Artists) and Artisans from Paete, Laguna, 1974-2011, and found at Google Arts and Culture.

4 July 1946 was still relatively important, of course: it marked the birth of the Third Republic. (The Second Republic was under Japanese occupation, in case you were wondering.) Therefore, the Fourth of July was renamed Republic Day. But after President Ferdinand Marcos enacted martial law and then a new constitution in 1972, he decided to rename the day yet again to Philippine-American Friendship Day.

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Celebrating Fil-Am Friendship Day on our (former) farm in Indang, Cavite, in 2009, with friends Dong, Jim, Mr. H (wearing a hat that someone brought, not ours, just FYI), and Nonoy.

Commemoration post-Marcos has returned to Republic Day, but my friends and I still choose to celebrate Fil-Am Friendship Day (and the Hallock anniversary) with ice-cold San Miguel, guitars, and good food. To our friends and found-family in the Philippines, we miss you all and wish we were there to celebrate with you.

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A happy crowd, with our lovely old dogs, Grover (white with black spots) and Jaya (black with tan paws). I am in the middle, sitting, with the teal shirt, and Mr. H is standing in the black shirt. Our Ninang Sol—who helped Mr. H cook the feast—is the first standing from the left.

For more photographs and history behind this day, see the Official Gazette feature. The banner photograph at the very top of the post is Manuel Roxas and Douglas MacArthur shaking hands at Roxas’s inauguration, courtesy of the Philippine Photographs Digital Archive at the University of Michigan. (Whether this was Roxas’s inauguration as the third and last president of the American Commonwealth of the Philippines on May 26, 1946, or his inauguration as the first president of the Third Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946, I cannot say for sure—but based on the chairs, I think it is the latter.)

Happy day, everyone! Our marriage is now old enough to drink in the United States, so happy anniversary to Mr. H!

A Sewing Hero

Ben Potter is not your typical hero. I don’t say this because of his checkered past, which he has. No, I mean his unusual talent for a male lead in a historical romance: Ben sews.

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Ben is the grandson of a self-made tailor and the son of an industrious seamstress. He grew up working in his family’s shop. He was supposed to inherit it—before the Spanish-American War broke out, that is. (Before Ben, like so many other young men, were persuaded by the sensationalist press to “liberate” the Cuban people from Spanish tyranny. That’s not how it turned out, by the way.)

Ben has opinions about the fit of suits. He sizes a man up by his “well-molded shoulders” and “perfect trouser break.” He is the one who visits the tailor several times to make his suit fit. “Even so, the collar did not feel right,” he thinks to himself, and after that he makes his own work shirts. Fashioning a doll for his niece is no sweat, and a sewing machine makes dresses for the doll even easier and faster.

Could there really be a Singer on a hacienda in Bais? Yes! The Singer Sewing Machine company had actually been selling their products in the Philippines since 1882, predating the American colonial period. According to Pinoy Kollektor, over a quarter-million units were sold by 300 Singer outlets in the Philippines by 1912, adding 1500 jobs to the economy.

An early trade card of the No. 66-1 by Singer, as featured on the Pinoy Kollektor website.

The Singer showroom on the Escolta was one of the most photographed landmarks on the street, probably because the Americans who saw it assumed it arrived with Dewey’s navy. (Of course they did.)

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Photo of the Escolta from University of Michigan Philippine Photographs Digital Archive.

Ironically, one of the reasons that Americans desired an empire was to sell their goods in Asia—particularly in China, but in the Philippines too. Did they need military conquest to do so? No. As Private First Class Reginald “Malik” Edwards, a Vietnam vet, said of that subsequent war, “Sometimes I think we would have done a lot better to by getting [the Vietnamese] hooked on our life-style than by trying to do it with guns….Blue jeans works better than bombs.” In this case, Singer sewing machines would have worked better than Colts and Krags. Ben certainly would have preferred them.

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Final note: for more beautiful, historic Singer photographs, check out the website of Pinoy Kollektor.

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The Balangiga Bells are Repatriated

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For a shortcut to my paper on the return of the bells of Balangiga, please click on this image.

The bells of Balangiga are scheduled to land in Manila as this original post is being typed. A US Air Force plane will finally deliver them back to the country they were taken from 117 years earlier. Why would the US give the bells back now, at a time when relations between the two countries may be at their worst point since the Philippines ejected Americans from their Luzon military bases in 1992? Why did the American government finally decide to ignore the protests of the Wyoming congressional delegation—including the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney—who still openly oppose the return of the bells? And what might this have to do with the Philippines’ reevaluation of the 1951 mutual defense treaty between the two countries?

One of many wonderful dioramas designed by the Ayala Museum and now viewable through the Google Cultural Institute.

The joint efforts of veterans and scholars deserve a lot of the credit. Even if they did not convince the Department of Defense to finally take this move—because the Pentagon does what the Pentagon wants, after all—they were essential in greasing the airplane wheels. Only after the Balangiga Research Group, which includes authors Rolando O. Borrinaga and Bob Couttie, assembled a better understanding of the attack could both sides move on.

Two outstanding scholars on the Balangiga Incident, Rolando O. Borrinaga and Bob Couttie. Bottom right is my photo of the monument to the attackers in Balangiga town.

But some of the credit also goes to the increasingly worrisome geopolitical struggle between the United States and China—a struggle that the Philippines will literally have a front-row seat for. This is good for none of us, but it helped bring the bells back.

I tried to write something short for this blog and failed. Instead of posting a long article here, please feel free to download my paper and read it at your leisure. Congratulations to the people of Balangiga, Samar, and the Philippines as a whole. This should have happened long ago.

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