US Military Campaigns For Filipino-American War

American history is full of war events. Being one of the largest economies on the planet, there has always been a key role of America in smaller countries. As a result, America becomes a part of the small wars or battles which are quite related to its allies. 

Besides the Vietnam War, the Filipino-American war was one of the most important historical events in the American history during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Several important campaigns were led by the US during this time. 

What was the Filipino American conflict?

For those who don’t know, the Philippine-American war was a major force to force conflict between the First Philippine Republic and the United States which lasted for over 3 years. Right after Emilio Aguinaldo was sworn in as the first President of the Philippines, the conflict between the US and the Philippines started. 

The US did not want to let go of the Philippines so easily and wanted to hold their control while the Philippine Revolution and nationalism were at their peak with activists constantly fighting for their rights. The primary reason for the Filipino American conflict was the Treaty of Paris that was signed between Spain and America which allowed the US to have possession of the Philippines from Spain thereby ending a long-term Spanish-American War. However, Filipino leaders were not willing to let go of the Philippines like this. 

The Filipino-American conflict is considered as one of the biggest tragedies because it resulted in the death of more than 200,000 civilians while 20,000 soldiers also lost their lives. Such was the huge price that had to be paid by Filipinos to gain independence against external forces such as the US. 

The Start of War

With Emilio Aguinaldo coming into power, the country had Filipinos with control all over the country except for the Capital City of Manila. This area was held by the US. The war was started when it was found out that some American soldiers had killed Filipinos. This happened on 4th February 1899 after which the rebellion increased among both sides. The first military campaign by the US was led for the Battle of Manila also known as the Manila Campaign. 

The Manila Campaign

The Manila Campaign started after the killing incident. The Filipinos had already attacked the American troops which gave America a good reason to fight back. Some 40,000 men under the direction of President Aguinaldo were defeated by only 12,000 American soldiers. The Manila Campaign was headed by Major General Elwell Otis for the Americans. 

American forces pushed in multiple directions upon seeing that they were suppressing Filipinos which is why they were able to capture multiple small towns and cities as well. Multiple US Forces Commanders such as Major General Arthur MacArthur, Brigadier General Loyd Wheaton, and Brigadier General Henry Lawton were part of The Manila Campaign. 

The campaign was considered to be successful for the US because it was able to gain much of the areas back Aguinaldo also had a loss of direct control of forces in South of Manila. Other than the Battle of Manila, there were other battles fought between the two parties during the Manila Campaign which include the Battle of Caloocan and the Second Battle of Caloocan. 

The control of Manila was a key objective of the American forces which was accomplished. The control of Luzon was also under America which provoked them to establish further control in other important areas. The Iloilo Campaign was focused on getting the Iloilo area on the Panay Land which was accomplished in the same month. On March 11, after a series of street fights and naval bombardment, the US forces were able to capture Iloilo. 

Malolos campaign

The American forces wanted to regain control from the President of the country who was fully preparing the army for newer campaigns. The Malolos Campaign was initiated by the US right after the Manila Campaign stopped. General MacArthur, with heavy cavalry, proceeded to the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan railroad which was headed towards the North Malolos which was the initial capital as decided. 

The Malolos Campaign was a very fierce one that started from the Battle of The Tullahan River. This was an unsupported frontal assault against a heavily defended position which was not much successful at America’s end. The second battle soon followed in the Battle of Meycauayan Bridge in which General MacArthur advanced with his forces to the Northside. Over 90 Filipinos were killed. 

The American forces then proceeded to the Town of Malinta and saw that the defensive positions were not held by the Filipinos. On March 26, 1899, the American troops found themselves trapped in Malinta as the Philippine forces were inside the town. However, under the direction of Captain John Ballance, this battle became a success for America.

There were two other battles at the Marilao River and Bocaue River after which Malolos was captured on 31 March 1899. Two further battles took place at Quingua and Calumpit. In the Battle of Quingua, the US Colonel John Stotsenberg was killed.

The Malolos Campaign was a shock for America as US Colonel John Stotsenberg was killed.

The San Isidro Campaign

A relatively shorter but important campaign was the San Isidro Campaign which started on 21 April and concluded on May 30, 1899. During this campaign, MacArther’s forces captured Calumpit on 25th April. What was more shocking was that despite having 4000 soldiers, the American forces soon crossed the Rio Grande. The aggressive progressions by American Generals proved favorable for them as they were able to capture Norzagaray, Bulacan, and Angat soon. 

Seeing the fall so fast, the Filipinos went with negotiations with America with Aguinaldo being a key figurehead. However, with incomplete negotiations, General Lawton advanced and captured San Rafael, Bustos, and Baliuag on 2nd May. A temporary local government was created over here by General Lawton. After a short break, Lawton advanced on to capture San Miguel and finally, San Isidro was also captured. During this time, Aguinaldo and his supporters had fled from San Isidro to Tarlac. 

Zapote River campaign

This was a single-day campaign but due to the battle that took place between both parties, it holds major significance in the American Filipino War. With Luna, a partner of Aguinaldo, being murdered, the forces of the Philippines were being improved and Aguinaldo divided the 4000 soldiers under different generals at various places. On the other hand, the American Army had also started to grow with 47500 men that came by the end of the year improving the strength.

On June 13, 1899, the Zapote Bridge Battle was fought which became known as the second-largest battle of the Philippine-American war. American forces were underestimated as General Lawton routed a heavy force with state-of-the-art artillery. Over 150 deaths and 400 casualties were reported.  

Other Campaigns in the Filipino American War

There were a few other campaigns as well which were undertaken during 1899 – 1901. Between October 7 and October 13, 1899, the Cavite Campaign was conducted when General Lawton, Brigadier General Theodore Schwan, and Colonel William Bisbee captured Cavite and proved successful against resistance in the city. Adjacent provinces were also destroyed. 

As Aguinaldo had earlier fled to Tarlac, the Americans believed that it would be the right place for their next attack. Between 5th and 20th, November 1899 General MacArther advanced towards Tarlac and seized it completely by November 12th. Dagupan was also taken away on November 20th putting two of the most important states under the hands of American forces. It was becoming more clear with these campaigns that the Filipinos could not survive much against the American forces. 

During the San Fabian Campaign, General Wheaton and Colonel Bisbee moved their infantries forward and landed on San Fabian on November 7th. They captured the area to meet MacArther on November 20th. The San Jacinto battle was fought between the two which was won by the US Forces.

Read more on the other important events between 1900 and 1901 regarding the Filipino American war here – The War in 1900-1901 

When did the American Campaigns stop?

The American campaigns stopped as soon as they captured Aguinaldo. Many leaders had surrendered already while others were yet to follow. During this time, some Filipinos betrayed Aguinaldo and went to the side with the Americans. The American soldiers disguised as prisoners and the Filipinos became the guardians of these soldiers. 

These so-called captives and guardians entered Aguinaldo’s camp easily as it did not give off any kind of mischievous feeling. On 23rd March 1901, American forces caught Aguinaldo and captured him with the help of the Filipinos. Within the next 7 days, Aguinaldo swore an oath accepting the authority of the US over the Philippines and pledged the alliance to the American government.

Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the Philippines.  


The US Military campaigns were quite a lot for the Filipino-American war. We have seen that it took a lot of time for the US to completely shun the campaigns before they were finally able to capture Aguinaldo and stop the campaigns. It was not long before America finally accepted the Philippines as a sovereign state and the country gained full independence over the next 46 years. Today, the Philippines and America have good geopolitical relations with each other.