The “Rescue” of Spanish Prisoners in Rosario, Batangas by American Soldiers in 1900 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore The “Rescue” of Spanish Prisoners in Rosario, Batangas by American Soldiers in 1900 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

The “Rescue” of Spanish Prisoners in Rosario, Batangas by American Soldiers in 1900

In a much earlier article, Batangas History already featured the capture and looting of the then-town of Lipa1 in 1900 by forces of the United States Army. That article included a short aside about a daring if foolhardy ride to the neighboring town of Rosario by a small group of Americans led by Cols. Robert L. Bullard and Geo S. Anderson, Commanders of the 38th and 39th Infantry Regiments, United States Volunteers (USV), respectively, to rescue a comrade.

From a first-hand account2 written by one Charles Judson Crane, a lieutenant colonel assigned to the 38th Infantry Regiment under Anderson and who participated in the raid, we get more information about what actually transpired.

Lipa Batangas 1900
The US Army stationed in front of the Cathedral of San Sebastian.  Image souce:  Hoosiermarine on Flickr.

Both the 38th and the 39the Infantry Regiments were camped at Tanauan on 12 January 1900, and set out for Lipa early the next day. The distance from the two towns is roughly 22 kilometers3. The Americans had a skirmish with Filipino revolutionary forces “several miles out from Tanauan,” so the troops would have reached Lipa the same day or the following day, the 13th.

Arriving in Lipa, Crane described seeing “at the windows of the biggest and best houses many Spanish prisoners waving hats, hands and handkerchiefs at us, and soon we saw those men on the street, about 130 of them, all wildly delighted and loud with ‘vivas’ for the Americanos.”

These men, apparently, were from the Spanish garrison of Lipa who were being held prisoners by the revolutionaries. There was, obviously, irony in their delight upon seeing the Americans, to whom they lost the war that forced them to concede the Philippines.

The Americans were anxious to locate the whereabouts of and liberate comrades being held prisoner by the Filipinos, especially one Ensign Gilmore of the US Navy who had been captured in Baler several months back. The liberated Spaniards informed the Americans that the revolutionaries had retreated to the town of Rosario and that “they had a number of American prisoners.”

Bullard and Anderson quickly organized a rescue party and rode for Rosario, an act which Major General John C. Bates, Division Commander, would later describe as “in obedience to an impulse of enterprising courage, is so peculiar that it is impossible to praise it without combining rebuke with approbation or to censure it without expression of admiration for the dash and gallantry displayed4.”

In the party, as mentioned, was Crane along with a guide from among the liberated Spaniards, one Captain Martinez who “was immediately given a horse which a mounted orderly had been riding.” Crane thought the rescue “foolhardy” but went, anyway, but not before making sure he was properly armed with “a rifle and a belt full of cartridges.”

Upon arriving in Rosario, the American party scattered. Crane found himself at the town’s big church, and instantly remembered “how the convent5 was usually occupied by the garrison of the town.” Getting off his horse and tying it some 30 yards from the church, he saw “Spanish prisoners coming down the steps at the front entrance…”

As in Lipa, the Spaniards were shouting “Viva Americanos” and wanted to hug Crane to tell him “how they loved the Americans.” Pretty soon, Crane was joined by the other Americans. The search for American prisoners had been in vain, but meanwhile one or two of the Spanish prisoners were telling Crane about “mucho dinero” (plenty of money).

He ignored this, but Bullard, who was more patient with the prisoners, learned that what the Spaniards were trying to say was that the town’s Presidente (Mayor) “had in his yard many boxes of silver money, all ready to be carried away in a cart.” The Americans sped to the Presidente’s house and found “about twenty boxes, nailed up and heavy… One box was partly opened, and it was found to contain silver coin, mostly Spanish pesos, worth half a dollar each.”

The Americans henceforth commandeered a couple of carromatas – horse-drawn carts – and a couple of ponies, loaded the boxes on these and headed back for Lipa. Two miles out of Rosario, the small party met up with two companies of American soldiers so that the rest of the “travel back to Lipa was no longer dangerous.”

Crane noted that an estimated 20,000 in “insurrecto funds” had been captured, not to mention the release of “130 Spanish prisoners in Lipa, and 70 more at Rosario.”

No American prisoners were found, of course, because the raid had been nothing but a wild goose chase. Crane explained:

“I believe that when the Spanish prisoners rescued at Lipa learned that we were looking for American prisoners to rescue, they purposely deceived us about their being in Rosario, in the hope that our rapid ride there would liberate their own comrades imprisoned at that place. I never blamed them one bit for that small piece of deception, and Capt. Martinez was a fine fellow.”
Notes and references:
1 The details of this earlier article, including the raid of Rosario, were taken from “Soldiers in the Philippines: a History of the Insurrection,” by Colonel William Thaddeus Sexton, first published in 1939 by the Military Service Publishing Company with the title “Soldiers in the Sun.”
2 Most of the details of this article are taken from “The Experiences of a Colonel of Infantry,” by Charles Judson Crane, published 1923 in New York.
3 Distance Calculator.
4 Sexton, op cit.
5 In the Spanish era, the convent was often if not always an adjunct to the church itself.
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