Edwin Victor Bookmiller
Colonel, United States Army
Victor Bookmiller of Ohio.
Appointed from Ohio, United States Military Academy, 14 June 1885 (28)
Second Lieutenant, 2nd U. S. Infantry, 12 June 1889
First Lieutenant, 9th U. S. Infantry, 10 July 1896
Captain, 16th U. S. Infantry, 8 July1899
Transferred to the 9th U. S. Infantry, 29 August 1899
Spain colonized the Philippines for 377 years. The people wanted independence, but instead the country became a colony of the United States after the Spanish-American War. As a result, Filipino General Emilio Aguinaldo turned against his American allies.
Resistance continued despite Aguinaldo’s capture on March 25, 1901.
That summer, American troops were sent to tiny Balangiga on the backwater southern coast of Samar. After several uneventful weeks the scene was set for an episode that would be unparalleled in the Philippine-American War, according to Brian McAllister Linn, a Texas A&M University history professor who has spent 20 years researching the war.
On the night of September 27, several women carrying small coffins were seen hurrying to the village church and were stopped. A sergeant looked inside one coffin and was told the child inside had died of cholera.
He let them pass without noticing that the coffin also contained bolos — large knives — and that the women were not really women.
Four days after the Balangiga attack, a report by 9th Infantry Captain Edwin V. Bookmiller fingered local Chief of Police Pedro Sanchez as the instigator of the assault at 6:20 a.m. September 28.
“As the Sentinel passed him, [Sanchez] seized the Sentinel’s rifle,
“As the Sentinel passed him, [Sanchez] seized the Sentinel’s rifle, gave a loud call, the Church bells rang and a rush was made by the natives simultaneously on the different barracks, officers’ quarters and on men at the breakfast table and kitchen,” Bookmiller wrote.
He estimated the attacking force at 400. Company C tried to fend off the attackers with kitchen utensils, chairs, cans of food and anything else on hand. They made a run for the rifles and reached some before the rebels.
Those who made it to five canoes on the shore of Samar faced a grueling, 25-mile paddle up the coast. Some men drowned, others succumbed to their wounds along the way.
The next day, Company G, 9th Infantry, steamed
back down the coast on the USS Pittsburgh. The soldiers retook Balangiga
and burned the village to the ground.
Fresh American detachment of fifty-three volunteers promptly steamed to Balangiga, their ship machine gun and cannon scattering a mob of natives defiantly shouting from the shore. The soldiers, bayonets fixed, charged through the surf to behold a ghastly sight. Their dead comrades had been mutilated beyond belief, as if an arcane rite had driven the townsfolk into barbaric frenzy. Disemboweled bodies had been stuffed with molasses or jam to attract ants. The sergent killed while washing his mess kit was still upended in the water barrel, feet chipped off. A bag of flour had ben pured into the slit stomach of an unidentified corpse. Even the company dog had been slain, its eyes gouged out and replaced with stones. Captain Connell's head was found in a fire, far from his torso, his West Point ring missing along with the finger.
Captain Edwin Bookmiller, commander of the column, buried the dead Americans. Despite the pleas of two old women, who begged that the 250 natives slain in the melee be given a Christian burial, he had them cremated. His men, scouring the vicinity, gunned down 20 Filipinos hiding in the nearby jungle.
News of the Balangiga massacre jolted the US
public. The press rated it with the Alamo and Custer's defeat as one of
the worst tragedies in American military annals. Chaffee, his pessimism
confirmed, remarked that Taft's 'silly talk of benevolence and civilian
rule (and) the soft mollycoddling of treacherous natives' was no substitute
for 'shot, shells and bayonets.' He thereupon directed Brigadier Jacob
H. Smith to end the resistance on Samar once and for all.
BOOKMILLER, CORA LOUISE