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The Philippine Scouts, 1899–1942 A Historical Vignette On 23 March 1901, a small band of Philippine Scouts captured the leader of the Philippine cause—EmilioAguinaldo—and broke the back of the movement against the Americans. The war of Independence, or, as the Americans termed it, the Philippine Insurrection, had gone on since February 1899, and much fighting remained. Increasingly, the Americans relied on native auxiliaries—the Philippine Scouts and the Philippine Constabulary—to impose their rule on the archipelago of some seven thousand islands. When Brigadier General Frederick Funston, the leader of the expedition to capture Aguinaldo, asked the first sergeant of Company D, 1st Battalion of Macabebe Scouts, if his men would loyally carry out the operation, Pedro Bustos replied: “I cannot speak for the others, but I am a soldier of the United States.”1 He was and yet he was not: that is the paradox of a native auxiliary. Colonial powers have traditionally relied, to a certain extent, on native troops. Although new to colonialism, Americans had been accustomed to the aid of Indian allies in their frontier wars. In some cases, tribes which had nourished enmity for each other since time immemorial welcomed the opportunity to have the whites upset the balance to what they thought might be their advantage. In other instances individuals sold their services as guides or scouts to the U.S. Army. Thus, Crow scouts accompanied Custer on his ill-fated campaign against the Sioux in 1876, just as the more successful General George Crook used Navajos, Yaquis, Pueblos, and other tribal members of the Apache nation against Chiricahua Apaches. Then, Americans had long been aware of the value of soldiers of a different ethnic background. Throughout the nineteenth century, large numbers of immigrants had served in the ranks. In the period 1865– 1874, for example, half of the recruits were foreign born. At the turn of the century approximately 12 percent of the Regular Army recruits 68   The Embattled Past were immigrants.2 Blacks had also served since a few years after their arrival as slaves in the seventeenth century. After the Civil War, in which some 180,000 wore the blue uniforms of the U.S. Army, blacks were permitted to join the RegularArmy. Segregated in four regiments (roughly 10 percent of the army from 1876–1898), officered almost entirely by whites, they took part in the last of the Indian Wars and won laurels in the fighting in Cuba in 1898. Later these four regiments— 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry—together with two volunteer (temporary) regiments with some black officers fought in the Philippines. White attitudes toward the black soldiers varied, with some according them high regard while others viewed them with contempt, but the common denominator was the concept that blacks were inferior. If they did well white officers got the credit, while shortcomings were ascribed to innately inferior racial characteristics. Nevertheless, these Regular regiments rarely wanted for recruits, had comparatively low desertion rates, and maintained a high esprit.3 In 1891, a few months after the Wounded Knee action which is generally considered to mark the end of the Indian Wars, the War Department authorized an interesting experiment: The army would fill up one company or troop in each regiment with Indians. These were to be Regular soldiers, not scouts, who would perform routine duties under white officers. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the army as well as language and general cultural barriers soon brought about the collapse of this program. By the end of 1894 only one troop remained, and Troop L, 7th Cavalry (curiously enough, Custer’s regiment) was discharged in May 1897. A photograph of those fully uniformed Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches in that troop is one of the most evocative mementoes of the attempt to acculturate Indians into the ways of the whites.4 Acculturation was also one of the reasons why colonial powers maintained native units. When the Americans decided to remain in Puerto Rico after the Spanish War, they organized a battalion of natives and a year later, in 1900, expanded it to a regiment. Since there was no fighting in this Caribbean island, two years later, the secretary of war unsuccessfully advocated disbanding the unit. In 1904, the regiment became the only armed force on the island with the withdrawal of the The Philippine Scouts, 1899–1942   69 lastAmerican occupation troops. Initially the officers wereAmericans, with Regular Army officers serving in the...


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