Counterattack

1

The historical record of the attack from the American perspective is reasonably rich in available, if sometimes contradictory, information due to the intensive debriefings of survivors after the event, and subsequent congressional testimony.  Not so on the Filipino side, where it is much more difficult to piece together the individual actions of named participants.

One other  area where some detail exists regarding the actions of individuals on the Samareno side during the attack on the Municipal hall. There it is known that Francisco Dadulla was among the first into the hall, where he launched the attack by  killing Henry Scharer, Sergeant of the Guard. Also in the municipal hall, another Samareno, Osep Baldoza, strangled two of the American soldiers to death with his bare handsafter losing his bolo.

Another area where details exist concerns the failed attempt to bring down the American flag in front of the municipal hall — an effort which would leave four attackers dead, picked off by American sharpshooting by Sergeant Markley, firing from the second floor of the Belaez house, and others.  Three Samarenos from one family, the  Bajo clan of Bankaw, died trying to bring down the flag.  A fourth Samareno who died while trying to pull down the American flag was Bango Catalogo, the brother of the girl at the center of the tuba stall ruckus the previous Saturday. 

The sharpshooting from Markley and his men in the Belaez house, and the concurrent emergence Sergeant Betron and the men of the Salazar marked the beginning of what would evolve into an American counterattack.

The third element of that counterattack involved Adolf Gamlin, the guard who was originally struck down by Abanador and who then fought his way into the rear of the municipal hall, only to withdraw back to the plaza after being unable to reach the room where Krags were stored.

After exiting the back of the municipal hall, Gamlin armed himself by grabbing one of the Krags being tossed from the second floor by Samarenos there.  He then began calmly firing at attackers in the plaza who were armed with Krags but having trouble puzzling out how to use them.  Several dropped their weapons as Gamlin fired at them and others in the plaza.

Gamlin’s appearance came just as Markley was beginning to find targets from his perch on the second floor of the Belaez house on the north side of the plaza, and Betron and company were beginning to spray the plaza as they advanced southwest from the Salazar house in the plaza’s northeast corner. 

Then Markley, Irish and Swanson emerged firing from the Belaez house, spraying attackers in front of the municipal hall.  As they were advancing, Irish noticed a short knife laying on the ground, picked it up and stuffed it in his boot.   

Hearing firing at the Salazar house, Irish spotted Sergeant Betron, Corporal Burke and musician Meyers firing at Filipinos retreating into the underbrush east of the kitchen.  The two groups spread out to form a skirmish line and continued to advance.

Suddenly, throughout the plaza,  the men of Company C who were still unarmed yet fighting off attackers with whatever makeshift weapon they could lay hands on saw the beginnings of an organized counterattack and felt a renewed determination and confidence.   

Perhaps all was not lost.

The tide was turning in the favor of the remaining Americans.

2

One who felt such an emotional turnabout was Richard Considine, who upon seeing Gamlin dropping attacker after attacker, fought his way to the fallen guns and grabbed one, using it as a club until the stock broke.  He then discovered it was loaded and started firing, and would keep firing until his hands blistered.

Another who was affected, particularly by the site of Gamlin’s sharpshooting, was De Graffenreid, who was still standing atop a concrete pile near the kitchen surrounded by a half dozen attackers.  He  heard the rough report of a Krag and saw Gamlin near the barracks firing at Filipinos in the windows of the Municipal Hall. “I saw Gamlin raise his rifle and more than once pick the gugu out of the window, causing him to drop the rifle on the outside of the building, where some of the boys would pick it up and use it. It has always seemed that it we all owed our lives to him… (He) gave me added courage and saved my life.”

As Markley and his men moved into the plaza from the Belaez house to the north, bleeding profusely, Marak went around the Municipal Hall on its north face.  He met  Meyers, from the Salazar house who appeared with a rifle and revolver and handed the revolver to Marak, who emptied it into the attackers.  With the revolver empty, Marak looked around and saw a Krag lying on the ground that had been thrown from the second floor of the municipal hall.  He picked up one but his left arm was now useless. He put his back against the stone wall of the municipal building and tried to bring the weapon into position with one arm.

A moment later, Markley found Marak and told him to hold a cross street on the north side of the building. Marak did as ordered, fired one shot, then buckled and hit the ground, unmoving. 

Meanwhile Meyers and Markley kept firing at Samarenos emerging from the municipal hall, picking them off as they exited.   “As fast as they appeared, we shot them, many being dead before striking the ground.”

One who had been able to arm himself was Claude Wingo.   Roland Clark, also in the plaza,  spotted an attacker running at Wingo from behind and yelled for him to stoop down.  Wingo obliged and Clark shot the attacker.  Wingo came up grinning: “Clark, that was very thoughtful of you.”

3

Abanador’s worry going into the attack had been that his men would inflict great damage, but would not be able to keep all the Americans from getting to their arms, and this would give the Americans an opportunity to turn the tide. And that is precisely what had happened.  Moreover, something he hadn’t counted on had happened — his men could not consistently figure out how to operate the Krag rifles when they did get their hands on them.  Thus not only had the Americans gotten to their Krags — the Samarenos who should have been able to engage them on equal terms could not, because of the sophisticated firing mechanism.

The result was a situation as one-sided in favor of the Americans due to technology as had been the case in the Battle of Manila Bay, where the thirty-nine wood ships of Admiral Montoyo’s Spanish fleet had been no match for the fourteen American ironclads under then Commodore Dewey.

In Balangiga, there were perhaps twenty Americans who could still fight, but they  were armed with magazine fed Krag Jorgensens, this technological assist made them more than a match for any number of bolo-wielding Samarenos, no matter how ferocious or heroic the Samarenos were.

Faced with this realization, Abanador shouted orders for retreat and his force left the Plaza.

4

Most of the attackers retreated upon hearing Abanadaor’s order.  But the attackers inside the municipal hall were in no position to follow Abanador’s order, even if they had heard it.  They were trapped.

Firing as he ran around the municipal hall, Closson made his way to the main door.  There he joined Gamlin, De Graffenreid, Considine, and Manire who were trying to break it down with spades and a shovel.  The group was joined a moment later by Claude Wingo.

From the inside, Samarenos were holding the doors shut.

Closson fired several rounds through the door, and the Samarenos let go.  Immediately the Americans forced their way in, driving their opponents up the stairs to the second floor.

At the top of the stairs, Closson picked up another rifle and gave his own to Manire.  De Graffenreid also found a rifle. They all began firing through the thin wall into the room where the Samarenos were. Faced the overwhelming firepower of five Krag-armed Americans, many Samarenos started jumping from the Municipal hall windows, while one group ran into the orderly room.

The Americans pursued them.

Outside the orderly room, Closson peered through the cracks in the wall of the orderly room. The Samarenos knew they were trapped.  Many dropped to their knees and tried to surrender.  Some claimed they had been forced to take part in the attack.     A debate broke out among the Americans between Wingo, who wanted to take prisoners, and Clausson, who did not.  Clausson won the argument:  “…We could see it was crowded with natives, so we opened up on them and 14 or 16 were killed in there.”

None survived.

4

Meanwhile, in the Plaza, Markley heard shouts form the convent at the opposite end of the Plaza and he Irish and Swanson headed for it. On the way Ralston, bleeding profusely from a scalp wound, joined them.  They reached Connell’s body and turned it over. The captain seemed to  gasp once,  but it was clear he was already dead.

At the Convent Bertholf, Francisco, Taylor Hickman, and Mumby told them all the officers were dead.  Irish went up the stairs, then returned and said “For God’s sake, don’t go up there” but the group went up anyway.  There they stood silently for a long moment staring at Bumpus, the entire lower half of his face dangling on his chest, and and Griswold dead from multiple stab wounds and lacerations.

Ralston started to totter and was about to fall.

“You better do something, Ralston, you are bleeding”, said Markley.

Hickman found a towel for Ralston’s neck wound and wrapped it around him, but Ralston had lost much blood and he fainted.  They laid him on a cot.

Markley went to the window and looked out.

At different spots around the plaza he could see wounded American soldiers desperately trying to staunch their wounds with dry dirt and strips from their shirts, or from those of dead men lying nearby.

The plaza was littered with Samareno dead and dying.  One man, hit in the head by a Krag bullet lay, still breathing, the pressure of the impact having pushed his eyeballs out of their sockets. He would take more than four hours to die.

5

Crossing to the other side of the convent, Markley looked out and saw dozens of attackers retreating across the river behind the church, while another group of Samarenos in boats had surrounded three Americans, Claas, Dobbins, and Covington.   Markley, Irish and Mumby ran to the riverbank and began firing.  They were joined momentarily by Considine and Allen.

The Samarenos were hacking at the three men but slowed down their assault as bullets from the Krags begin flying into their midst.  Samarenos dropped, but others continued the assault and two of the men, Dobbins and Covington, went down.

Claas disappeared beneath the surface and did not come back up.

With no more Americans to attack and under fire from the shore, the Samarenos abandoned the attack and made for the opposite shore.  Meanwhile dozens of other Samarenos were in the water, swimming for the opposite side.

Considine saw what he thought was a good targe,  fired and missed. Before he could fire again the head turned, it was Private Henry Class, who shouted ‘Don’t shoot boys, I’m one of you!’

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