The term Moro Rebellion refers to American military operations in Moroland, Philippines from the declared end of the Spanish-American War to the hand-over of control of the Moro Province to American civil authorities in 1913 with the actual end of the extended Spanish-American War hostilities. "Moro" was an originally derogatory term for Filipino Muslims, who primarily inhabit the Sulu Archipelago and the large island of Mindanao. This area of the Philippines is sometimes known as Moroland. The Moro Rebellion is sometimes referred to as the second phase of the Philippine-American War. Modern Muslim inhabitants of the southern Philippines see the Moro Rebellion as one phase of a continuing struggle against non-Muslim influences, the Spanish, the Americans, and the central government of the Philippines. Given the political and cultural fragmentation of the Moros during this period, the term "rebellion" is something of misnomer--the American occupation forces did not face a unified insurgency or nationalistic movement, but rather the forces of individual datus who refused to accept American control as well as localized popular uprisings.
|Manila - Santa Cruz – Pagsanjan – Paete – Quingua - Zapote Bridge - San Fabian – San Jacinto – Tirad Pass - Paye - Siege of Catubig - Pulang Lupa - Balangiga - Mabitac - Moro - Lonoy massacre - Wood's March - Hassan - 2nd Taraca - Dolores - Siranaya - Malalag River - 1st Bud Dajo - 2nd Bud Dajo - Bud Bagsak|
Prologue (to 1900)
Although Spain claimed the territories of Moroland prior to the Spanish-American War, the Spanish had little actual control over the area. The staunchly Muslim inhabitants of the Sulus and Mindanao fiercely resisted Spanish attempts at forcible conversion to Catholicism. In the face of this stiff resistance, the Spanish were restricted to a handful of coastal garrisons, and making only occasional punitive expeditions into the interior. After a series of less-than-successful attempts during the centuries of Spanish rule in the Philippines, Spanish forces captured the city of Jolo, the seat of the Sultan of Sulu, for good in 1876. The Spanish and the Sultan of Sulu signed the Spanish Treaty of Peace on July 22, 1878. Control of the Sulus outside of the Spanish garrisons was left in the hands of the Sultan. The treaty had translation errors: According to the Spanish language version, Spain had complete sovereignty over the Sulus, while the Tausug version described a protectorate instead of an outright dependency. 
Despite this suspect claim to the Moro territories, Spain ceded them to the United States in the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War. Following the American occupation of the northern Philippine Islands during 1899, Spanish forces in Moroland were cut off, and retreated to the garrisons at Zamboanga and Jolo. American forces relieved the Spanish at Jolo on May 18, 1899, and at Zamboanga in December of the same year. 
Brigadier General John C. Bates was sent to negotiate a treaty with the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II. Kiram was disappointed by the hand-over of control to the Americans, and had expected to regain sovereignty over the Sulus after the defeat of the Spanish. Bates' main goal was to guarantee Moro neutrality in the Philippine-American War, and to establish order in Moroland. After some negotiation, the Bates Treaty was signed. This treaty was based on the earlier Spanish treaty, and retained the translation error: the English version described a complete dependency, while the Tausug version described a protectorate. Although the Bates Treaty granted more powers to the Americans than the original Spanish treaty, the Treaty was still criticized in America for granting too much autonomy to the Sultan. One particular clause, which recognized the Moro practice of slavery, also raised eyebrows in Washington. Bates latter admitted that the Treaty was merely a stop-gap measure, signed only to by time the war in the north was ended and more forces could be brought to bear in the south. 
In signing the Treaty, Bates was not aware of a complicating factor: the nominal nature of the Sultan's authority. In theory, the Sultan of Sulu was the supreme authority in Moroland. The Sultanate of Maguindanao was independent and autonomous, but recognized the supremacy of Sulu in religious and international matters. In reality, the Sultan of Sulu had less power than any of the major datus of the Sulus, and datus who had not been included in the Treaty negotiations felt slighted and resisted recognition of the treaty. Matters were even worse on Mindanao. The Lake Lanao district was divided between more than 200 feuding datus, while the Cotabato area (the watershed of the Rio Grande de Mindanao) was under the loose overlordship of Datu Ali. In addition to the two true Sultans, there were some 32 self-proclaimed Sultans who laid claim to the title on the basis of controlling more territory than a normal datu.
The Bates Treaty did establish Moro neutrality in the Philippine-American War, and allowed the Americans to establish a few outposts in Moroland. American forces were organized into the military District of Mindanao-Jolo, under the command of General Bates. His forces were spread thin: there were only 2 infantry regiments in the entirety of Mindanao, giving the Americans only enough strength to control the District headquarters at Zamboanga and its surrounding peninsula.
Department of Mindanao-Jolo (1900-1903)
On March 20, 1900, General Bates was replaced by Brigadier General William A. Kobbe, and the District of Mindanao-Jolo was upgraded to a full Department. American forces in Mindanao were reinforced with a third infantry regiment. Garrisons were established at Jolo and thirteen other coastal towns throughout the Sulus, and stations were established at various places on the coast of Mindanao. During the winter of 1900-1901, Moro hostility lessened and Filipino forces in Moroland were driven into the hills. Trade revived, but so did slave raiding and piracy. Bandits attacked isolated American posts, and soldiers that went astray in the jungles faced attacks from juramentados.
Filippino Insurrectionist forces in Moroland were commanded by General Capistrano, and American forces conducted an expedition against him in the winter of 1900-1901. On March 27, 1901, Capistrano surrendered. A few days later, General Aquinaldo's surrender on Luzon signaled the end of first phase of the Philippine-American War. This major victory in the war in the north allowed the Americans to devote more resources to the south, and they began to push into the interior of Moroland.
On August 31, 1901, Brig. Gen. George Whitefield Davis replaced Kobbe as the commander of the Department of Mindanao-Jolo. Davis adopted a conciliatory policy towards the Moros. American forces under his command had standing orders to buy Moro produce when possible and to have "heralds of amity" precede all scouting expeditions. Peaceful Moros would not be disarmed. Polite reminders of the America's anti-slavery policy were allowed.
One of Davis' subordinates, Capitan John J. Pershing, assigned to the American garrison at Iligan, set out to better relations with the Moros of the Malanao tribes on the northern shore of Lake Lanao. He successfully established friendly relations with Ahmai-Manibilang, the retired Sultan of Madaya. Although retired, Manibilang was the single most influential personage among the fragmented inhabitants of the northern shore of the Lake. His alliance did much to secure American standing in the area.
Unfortunately, not all of Davis' subordinates were as diplomatic as Pershing. Many veterans of the Indian Wars took the "only good Indian is a dead Indian" mentality with them to the Philippines, and "civilize 'em with a Krag" became a similar catchphrase. Three ambushes of American troops by Moros, one of which involved juramentados, occurred to the south of Lake Lanao, outside of Manibilang's sphere of influence. These events prompted Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee, the military governor of the Philippines, to issue a declaration on April 13, 1902, demanding that the offending datus hand over the killers of American troops and stolen government property.
A punitive expedition under Col. Frank Baldwin set out to settle matters with the south-shore Moros. Although an excellent officer, Baldwin was "eager," and a worried Davis joined the expedition as an observer. On May 2, 1902, Baldwin's expedition attacked a Moro cotta at the Battle of Pandapatan, also known as the Battle of Bayan. Pandapatan's defenses were unexpectedly strong, leading to heavy American casualties during the first day of fighting. On the second day, the Americans used ladders and moat-bridging tools to break through the Moro fortifications, and a general slaughter of the defenders followed. This massacre illustrated a major difficulty the Americans would face time and again in their dealings with Moros--how to avoid killing them, a task made especially difficult by the Moro custom of taking their women and children with them into their cotta fortifications when danger threatened.
The expeditionary force built Camp Vickers one mile south of Pandapatan, and Davis assigned Pershing to Baldwin's command as an intelligence officer and as director of Moro affairs. As director, Pershing had a veto over Baldwin's (Pershing's superior by three grades) movements, an obviously unstable arrangement. This arrangement was tested when survivors of Pandapatan began building a cotta at Bacalod. Baldwin wanted to move on the hostile Moros immediately, but Pershing warned that doing so could create an anti-American coalition of the surrounding datus, while some patient diplomacy could establish friendly relations with most of the Moros, isolating the hostile minority. Baldwin grudgingly agreed. On June 30, 1902, Pershing assumed command of Camp Vickers, and Baldwin returned to Malabang. A command the size of Camp Vickers would normally have gone to an officer with the rank of Major, and a careful shuffling of personnel would be required to ensure that reinforcements to the Camp did not include officers that were senior to Pershing.
On July 4, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt issued a proclamation declaring an end to the Philippine Insurrection and a cessation of hostilities in the Philippines "except in the country inhabited by the Moro tribes, to which this proclamation does not apply." Later that month, Davis was promoted and replaced Chaffee as the supreme commander of American forces in the Philippines. Command of the Mindanao-Jolo Department went to Brig. Gen. Samuel S. Sumner. Meanwhile, Pershing settled down to conduct diplomacy with the surrounding Moros, and a July 4 celebration had 700 guests from neighboring rancherias. In September 1902, he lead the Macui Expedition, which resulted in a victory that did much to establish American dominance in the area. On February 10, 1903, Pershing was declared a datu by the formally hostile Pandita Sajiduciaman of the Bayan Moros (who had been defeated at the Battle of Pandapatan) --the only American to be so honored. Pershing's career at Camp Vickers culminated in the March Around Lake Lanao during the April and May of 1903. Also known as the Marahui Expedition, it included the Battle of Bacolod and First Battle of Taraca, but was otherwise peaceful. This expedition quickly became a symbol of American control of the Lake Lanao region, and was regarded as a landmark event by the inhabitants of that region.
While Pershing was working to the south of Lake Lanao, Major Robert Lee Bullard was working to the north, building a road from Iligan to Marahui. Although never officially declared one, like Pershing, he was regarded as a datu by the Moros. Because of the Lake Lanao Moros' very personalistic style of leadership, they had troubles seeing them as two officers in the same army. Instead, they saw them as two powerful chieftains who might become rivals. During Pershing's March Around Lake Lanao, one Moro ran to Bullard, exclaiming that Pershing had gone juramentado, and that Bullard had better run up the white flag (signaling that they had no quarrel with Pershing's troops). Bullard was unable to explain to the Moro why he was not worried about Pershing's approach. On another occasion, a powerful datu proposed an alliance with Bullard, for the purposes of defeating Pershing and establishing overlordship over the entire Lake Lanao region.
On June 1, 1903, the Moro Province, which included "all of the territory of the Philippines lying south of the eight parallel of latitude, excepting the island of Palawan and the eastern portion of the northwest peninsula of Mindanao,"  was created. The Province had a civil government, but many civil service positions, including the district governors and their deputies, would be held by members of the American military. The governor of the Province would also serve as the commander of the Department of Mindanao-Jolo. This system of combined civil and military administration had several motivations behind it. One was the continued Moro hostilities. Another was the Army's experience during the Indian Wars, when it came into conflict with the civilian Bureau of Indian Affairs. A third was that the Moros, with their feudal, personalistic style of government, would have no respect for a military leader who submitted to the authority of a non-combatant.
In addition to the executive branch, under the Governor, the Province also had a legislative branch: the Moro Council. This Council "consisted of the governor, a state attorney, a secretary, a treasurer, a superintendent of schools, and an engineer." (Hagedorn, pg. 14) Although the governor appointed all of the other members of the council, this body was permanent, and provided a more solid foundation for laws then the fiats of the governor, which might be overturned by his successor.
The Province was divided into five districts, with American officers serving as district governors and deputy governors. These districts included: Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Sulu, and Zamboanga. The districts were sub-divided into tribal wards, with major datus serving as ward chiefs and minor datus serving as deputies, judges, and sheriffs. This system took advantage of the existing structure of Moro political society, which was based on personal ties, while paving the way for a more individualistic society, where the office, not the person holding it, would be given respect.
Governorship of Leonard Wood (1903-1906)
On August 6, 1903, Mjr. Gen. Leonard Wood assumed his position as the governor of Moro Province and commander of the Department of Mindanao-Jolo. Wood was somewhat heavy-handed in his dealing with the Moros, being "personally offended by the Moro propensity for blood feuds, polygamy, and human trafficking" and with his "ethnocentrism sometimes [leading] him to impose American concepts too quickly in Moroland." (Birtle, pg 164) In addition to his views of the Moros, Wood also faced an uphill Senate battle over his appointment to the rank of Major General, which was finally confirmed on March 19, 1904. This drove him to seek military laurels in order to shore up his lack of field experience, sometimes leading the Provincial army on punitive expeditions over minor incidents that would have been better handled diplomatically by the district governors. The period of Wood's governorship saw the hardest and bloodiest fighting of America's occupation of Moroland.
Wood instituted many reforms during his tenure as governor of Moro Province:
- On Woods' recommendation, the United States unilaterally abrogated the Bates Treaty, citing continuing piracy and attacks on American personnel. The Sultan of Sulu was demoted to a purely religious office, with no more power than any other datu, and was provided with a small salary. The United States assumed direct control over Moroland.
- Slavery was abolished. Slave trading and raiding were repressed, but slaves were left with their owners. Wood announced that slaves were "at liberty to go and build homes for themselves wherever they like[d]," and pledged the military's protection for any former slaves that did so. Similar actions had been taken by individual commanders in the past, but Wood's edict had the backing of the Moro Council, giving it more permanent weight.
- The Cedula Act of 1903 created an annual registration poll tax. This registration poll tax was highly unpopular with the Moros, since they interpreted it as a form of tribute. According to Hurley, participation in the Cedula was very low as late as 1933. 
- The legal code of Moroland was reformed. Disputes between Moros and non-Christians had been left to Moro laws and customs, with Philippine laws only applying to disputes with Christians. This lead to a double standard, with a Moro who killed a Christian facing a stiff prison sentence, but with a Moro who killed another Moro facing only a maximum fine of 150 pesos. Wood attempted to codify Moro law, but there was simply too much variance in laws and customs between the different tribes and even between neighboring cottas. Wood placed the Moros underneath the Philippine criminal code, but actual enforcement of this would prove difficult.
- Private land ownership was introduced, in order to help the Moros transition to a more individualistic society from their traditional tribal society. Each family was given 40 acres of land, with datus given additional land in accordance with their status. Land sales had to be approved by the district governments in order to prevent fraud.
- An educational system was established. By June 1904, there were 50 schools with an average enrollment of 30 students each. Because of difficulties in getting teachers that spoke native languages, classes were conducted in English after initial training in that language. Many Moros were suspicious of the schools, but some offered buildings for use as schools.
- Trade was encouraged in order to give the Moros an alternative to fighting. Trade had been discouraged by banditry, piracy, and the possibility of inter-tribal disputes between Moro merchants and local customers. When trading with foreign merchants (usually maritime Chinese), a lack of warehousing made for a buyer's market, leading to low prices. Wood handled banditry and piracy by establishing military posts at river mouths in order to protect sea and land routes. Starting with a pilot project in Zamboanga, a system of Moro Exchanges were established. These exchanges provided Moro traders with warehouses and temporary housing in exchange for honoring a ban on fighting within the exchange. Bulletin-boards listed market prices in Hong Kong and Singapore, and the district governments guaranteed fair prices. These Exchanges proved highly successful and profitable, and provided a neutral ground for feuding datus to settle their differences.
Major military actions during Wood's governorship include:
- Wood's March Around Lake Lanao during the fall of 1903 was an abortive attempt to replicate Pershing's earlier March.
- In the October and November of 1903, Wood personally lead the Provincial Army to put down the Hassan Uprising, which was led by the most powerful datu on the island of Jolo.
- In the spring of 1904, Wood destroyed or captured 130 cottas during the Second Battle of Taraca.
- Beginning in the spring of 1904 and continuing into the fall of 1905, American forces conducted a lengthy and massive manhunt for Datu Ali, the overlord of Cottabato Valley. Datu Ali had rebelled over Wood's anti-slavery policy. Engagements during this campaign include the Battle of Siranaya and the Battle of the Malalag River.
- The most (in)famous battle of the Moro Rebellion, the First Battle of Bud Dajo, was fought March 5-7, 1906. An estimated 800 to 1000 Moro rebels had taken refuge in a volcanic crater, and after a bloody battle (during which the Americans also took heavy loses) , only six survived. Although a victory for the American forces, Bud Dajo became a public relations disaster.
Governorship of Tasker H. Bliss (1906-1909)
On February 1, 1906, Mjr. Gen. Tasker H. Bliss replaced General Wood as the commander of the Department of Mindanao-Jolo, and replaced him as governor of Moro Province sometime after the First Battle of Bud Dajo. Bliss' tenure is regarded as a "peace era," and Bliss launched no punitive expeditions during his term in office. However, this superficial peace came at the price of tolerating a certain amount of lawlessness. Constabulary forces in pursuit of Moro fugitives often found themselves forced to abadon their chase after the fugitives took refuge at their home cottas. The constabulary forces were outnumbered, and a much larger (and disruptive) expedition would have been required to dislodge the fugitives from their hidding place.
Governorship of John J. Pershing (1909-1913)
On November 11, 1909, Major General John J. Pershing, the third and final military governor of Moro Province assumed his duties.
Pershing enacted the following reforms during his tenure as governor:
- In order extend rule of law into the interior, Pershing stationed the Philippine Scouts in small detachments throughout the interior. This reduced crime and promote agriculture and trade, at the cost of reduced military efficiency and troop training. The benefits of this reform outweighed the costs.
- Streamlined the legal system. Previously, trials had started with at the Court of First Instance, which convened every 6 months, and appeals to the Supreme Court in Manila often took a year. Pershing expanded the jurisdiction of the local ward courts, which were presided over by the district governors and secretaries, to include most civil cases and all criminal cases except for capital offenses. The Court of First Instance became the court of last resort. This reform was popular with the Moros, since it was quick, simple, and resembled their traditional unification of executive and judicial powers.
- Pershing promised to donate government land for purposes of building Muslim houses of worship.
- Pershing recognized the practice of sacopy – indentured servitude in exchange for support and protection – as legitimate, but reaffirmed the government's opposition to involuntary slavery.
- Labor contract law reform of 1912. Defaults on contracts by workers or employers were no longer punishable unless there was intent to defraud or injure. Moros, unused to Western notions of work, were prone to absenteeism, which could lead to breach of contract suits.
- The economy of Moro Province continued to expand under Pershing. The three most important exports – hemp, copra, and lumber – increased 163% during his first three years, and Moros began to make bank deposits for the first time in their history.
- The Moro Exchange system was retained, and was supplemented by Industrial Trading Stations. These Stations operated in the interior, where merchants seldom went, and bought any non-perishable goods the Moros wished to sell. The Stations also sold goods to the Moros at fair prices, preventing price gouging during famines.
Law enforcement in the Moro Province was difficult. Outlaws would go to ground at their home cottas, requiring an entire troop of police or soldiers to arrest them. There was always the danger of a full-fledged battle breaking out during such an arrest, and this lead to many known outlaws going unpunished. In 1911, Pershing resolved to disarm the Moros. Former Moro Province governor Leonard Wood, now Army Chief of Staff, disagreed with this plan, stating that the move was ill-timed and that the Moros would hide their best arms, turning in only their worst. Pershing waited until roads into the interior had been completed, so that government troops could protect disarmed Moros from holdouts. He conferred with the datus, who mostly agreed that disarmament would be a good idea – provided that everybody disarmed.
Six weeks before putting his disarmament plan in to action, Pershing informed Governor-General Forbes, who agreed with the plan. Pershing did not consult or inform his commanding officer, Mjr. Gen. J. Franklin Bell. On September 8, 1911, Executive Order No. 24, which ordered the disarmament, was issued. The deadline for disarmament was December 1, 1911.
Resistance to disarmament was particularly fierce in the district of Jolo, and led to the Second Battle of Bud Dajo (which, while involving roughly equivalent forces as the first battle, was far less bloody), and the Battle of Bud Bagsak.
Transition to Civil Authority
By 1913, Pershing agreed that the Moro Province needed to transition to civil government. This was prompted by the Moro's personalistic approach to government, which was based on personal ties rather than a respect for an abstract office. To the Moros, a change of administration meant not just a change in leadership but a change in regime, and was a traumatic experience. Rotation within the military meant that each military governor could serve only for a limited time. Civil governors were needed in order to provide for a lengthy tenure in office. Until 1911, every district governor and secretary had been a military officer. By November 1913, only one officer still held a civil office – Pershing himself. In the December of 1913, Pershing was replaced as governor of Moro Province by a civilian, Frank Carpenter.
During the Moro Rebellion, the Americans suffered clear cut losses, amounting to 130 killed and 323 wounded. Another 500 or so died of disease. The Philippine Scouts who augmented American forces during the campaign suffered 116 killed and 189 wounded. The Philippine Constabulary suffered heavily as well, more than 1,500 losses sustained, half of which fatalities.
On the Moro side, losses were remarkably high, with several thousand killed and wounded. Estimates range from 10,000 to well over 20,000 killed, with an unknown number of wounded.
In Popular Culture
- Birtle, Andrew J. U.S. Army Counterinsurgency & Contingency Operations Doctrine: 1860-1941. ISBN 0-7881-7327-8
- Hagedorn, Hermann. Leonard Wood: A Biography, vol. 2. New York, Harper & Brothers: 1931.
- Hurley, Vic. The Swish of the Kris. http://www.bakbakan.com/swishkb.html
- Kho, Madge. "The Bates Treaty." http://www.philippineupdate.com/Bates.htm
- Kolb, Richard K. "'Like a mad tiger': fighting Islamic warriors in the Philippines 100 years ago." VFW Magazine, May 2002. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0LIY/is_9_89/ai_87704451
- Lane, Jack C. Armed Progressive: General Leonard Wood. San Rafael, California: Presidio Press. 1978.
- Millett, Alan R. The General: Robert L. Bullard and Officership in the United States Army 1881-1925. Westport, Connecticut, Greenward Press. Copyright 1975, by author.
- Palmer, Frederick. Bliss, Peacemaker: The Life and Letters of General Tasker Howard Bliss. Freeport, New York, Books for Libraries Press. Original copyright 1934, reprinted 1970. ISBN 0-8369-5535-8
- Smythe, Donald. Guerrilla Warrior: The Early Life of John J. Pershing. New York, Charles Scribener's Sons: 1973.
- Vandiver, Frank E. Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing., vol. 1. Copyright 1977. ISBN 0-89096-024-0
The word "Moros" was due to Spain having used portions of Mindanao as a penal colony. These prisoners were transported from Spanish Morocco in Africa.
John Foy Grandson of a 27th Infantry sniper.Michael Slattery aka Michael Michael Mc Cormack
- Moro Muslims engage US-Army: battles of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak - History; Article.