After the Americans left Balangiga on the morning of the 28th, many of the Samarenos returned to the town, recovered their dead, and buried as many as fifty in a single mass grave behind the church bell tower on the western perimeter of the plaza.

Meanwhile, others gave chase to the retreating Americans.

Accounts vary, but Vicario Ferreras reported attacking beached American soldiers at Pinamitinan — an account which appears to match the attack that took the lives of Armani and Buhrer.   Other accounts have Ferreras killing a total of seven Americans, while American accounts note only four lost during the escape to Basey — Armani, Buhrer, Wingo, and Driscoll.

Victory had been achieved — the Americans had been driven away, but at what cost?  More than one hundred of the attackers lay dead, many of them townspeople of Balangiga.  Others were members of the mountain clans brought in by Eugenio Daza.

Some among the Filipinos engaged in mutilations of the American bodies. No record remains of who was responsible, but the most likely explanation is that the acts of mutilation were carried out by the mountain tribesmen.  But to the Americans, who would discover their brethren with their bodies debased, it would not matter who did it — the enemy did it, and the enemy was responsible.

It would be much later when Lukban would learn of the mutilations, with word reaching him only after he was a prisoner of the Americans.  Nevertheless he ordered an investigation by Claro Guevara, who was then Daza’s commanding officer and was still  in the field. Guevara had little time to carry out the investigation before he too was captured. 


General Jacob Smith was assigned responsibility for conducting a campaign of retribution in Samar by General Adna Chafee.  “Hell-roaring Jake” as he was known was a man of small stature and a long and controversial career that extended back to the Civil War.  In 1885 he was court-martialed for welching on a poker bet and in 1886 was court martialed again, only to be given a reprieve by President Grover Cleveland.  He was court-martialed yet again in 1891, this time for using enlisted men as servants.  He had recently been promoted to Brigadier General.

On the morning of October 9, Smith sailed from Manila. 

On October 30, 1901, The Age reported Smith’s activities with approval: “Filipino Treachery. How America Deals With It:

Brigadier-General Smith, commanding the American troops in the island of Samar, one of the Philippines, has called to account the presidentes and head men of all the towns and villages in the island, in connection with the late treacherous attack on a company of United States infantry at Balangiga in September last… General Smith has now summoned the presidentes and headmen in Samar to surrender to him every Filipino concerned in the treacherous attack on or before 11th November. If these surrenders are not made the American informs the presidentes that they themselves will be exiled, their villages will be destroyed, and the property of the villagers will be confiscated.

Another mechanism for dealing with “Filipino treachery” was the “water-cure”, a technique that was learned from the Spanish and was perfected by Major Edward Glenn. 

Lieutenant Grover Flint described the technique:

A man is thrown down on his back and three or four men sit or stand on his arms and legs and hold him down; and either a gun barrel or a rifle barrel or a carbine barrel or a stick as big as a belaying pin – that is, with an inch circumference, – is simply thrust into his jaws and his jaws are thrust back, and, if possible, a wooden log or stone is put under his head or neck, so he can be held more firmly. In the case of very old men I have seen their teeth fall out, – I mean when it was done a little roughly. He is simply held down and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious. And, when he becomes unconscious, he is simply rolled aside and he is allowed to come to. In almost every case the men have been a little roughly handled. They were rolled aside rudely, so that water was expelled. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it. His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.

To strengthen the US presence in Samar after Balangiga, two additional battalions, 543 men of the 7th and 400 of the 26th Infantry, were dispatched.

On October 20 a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, Littleton WT Waller was placed in charge of a battalion with responsibility for the entire southern coast of Samar from Basey on the west to Hernani on the east — a sector that included Basey, Balangiga, and Giporlos.  On October 24th in Basey, General Smith interviewed Waller with Rear Admiral Fred Rogers present.  Said Smith:  “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better you will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms against the United States”.

Waller sought clarification: “I would like to know the limit of age to respect, Sir.”

“Ten years,” responded Smith.

Waller sought confirmation of the astonishing order.

“Persons of ten years and older are those designated as being capable of bearing arm?”


Waller arrived in Basey on October 25 where he relieved Captain Bookmiller.   He immediately dispatched Captain DD Porter with 159 men, to Balangiga.  Waller revised the orders he had been given from Smith:  “I’ve had instructions to kill everyone over ten years old. But we are not making war on women and children, Porter. We are making war on men capable of bearing arms. Keep that in mind, no matter what orders you receive.”

At a subsequent court martial, Porter confirmed that Waller’s orders: “(did) not go as far” as Smith’s.

Days after Waller’s arrival in Balangiga, the American operated Manila Times reported: “Extermination has been decided upon in retaliation for the massacre.”

Waller and his men proceeded to work their way across the southern third of Samar.  Along the way they reduced   Lawaan, Giporlos, Lipata, Gibasey, Quinapondon, and San Antonio to ashes.  On November 1st he sent out an expedition with orders to destroy all homes between the Candacan (Sotohon) River and Capines Point.  Another party went northwards on the 4th to various streams to destroy all boats and burn any buildings missed the first time around.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the punitive expeditions carried out by Waller and others left all of southern Samar a smoldering ruin, with all of the major towns and barrios burned to the ground.

In 1903, the Visayan supervisor for the 1903 census, issued a report which, while possibly inaccurate, may generally be considered as reliable a source as exists in terms of establishing “order of magnitude” figures.

Samar consisted of 44 municipalities, which are roughly equivalent to a “county” in American parlance.  Of these,  27 were in ashes.  A typical municipality consisted of of a main “poblacion” or town proper, plus as many as a dozen outlying barrio villages. Thus hundreds of villages had been erased.

The once thriving abaca hemp industry was in tatters.

Coconut was virtually non-existent, its recovery from the 1897 typhoon stopped dead by the policy of destroying everything of economic value.

As many as 85 percent of draft animals were dead, the great majority shot during the war.

Food animals and other sources of normal sustenance had largely been eradicated.

What food there was had become too expensive for most people to buy, leading to widespread malnutrition. More than a quarter of a million people now scavenged for wild camote and ubod.

How many died?

A figure of 50,000 was initially put forward. Revisionists on both sides of the argument have put it as high as 200,000, and as low as 5,000.   Careful analysis of census figures from 1896 and 1903 yields a figure of approximately 15,000.

Littleton Waller and Jacob Smith were both court-martialed.  Although Waller was dubbed the ‘Butcher of Samar’ in the U.S. Media, his court martial revolved around a specific incident involving the summary execution of native guides, and Waller was acquitted.  He is generally credited with not carrying out Smith’s “kill and maim” orders, nor his orders to kill anyone over the age of ten. 

Smith was convicted and cashiered from the army.  Many on both sides believe he we was deserving of a more serious sentence than loss of his career.

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