Elwell S. Otis

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Elwell Stephen Otis (1838 - 1909) was a United States of America general who served in the Philippines late in the Spanish-American War and during the Filipino-American War.

Otis was born in Frederick, Maryland on March 25, 1838. During the Civil War he served as a captain in the 140th New York Regiment and fought in many of the battles of the Army of the Potomac including Fredericksburg and Battle of Gettysburg. During the siege of Petersburg, he was in command of a brigade in V Corps leading it into action at the battle of Peebles' Farm. A wound during the siege effectively ended his field career during the Civil War but he was promoted to brevet brigadier general of volunteers. He continued serving in the army during the Indian Wars. In 1893, he was appointed brigadier general in the regular army.

In May 1898, he was appointed major general of volunteers and was sent to the Philippines with reinforcements for General Wesley Merritt. When he arrived, he assumed command of the VIII Corps, replacing Merritt who had became the military governor of the Philippines. When Merritt left, Otis was appointed Military Governor.

He continued in command of the VIII Corps during the Battle of Manila (1899) and the opening phase of the Filipino-American War.

Otis's response when Emilio Aguinaldo tried to stop the war by sending an emissary to General Otis to appeal for an end to the fighting in the Battle of Manila was, "fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end.".

Otis also oversaw many of the first atrocities of the Philippine-American War by American soldiers:

"The conduct of the Washington Volunteers has been the subject of special investigations for some time. They deny wanton burning or cruelties. And still there are strong indications that they practised these infractions to some extent." [1]

He was relieved of command in 1900 and replaced with Arthur MacArthur. He returned to the United States and commanded the Department of the Lakes. He was appointed major general in the regular army in 1906.

Otis was a skilled general and able administrator. However, he was generally disliked by his subordinates and peers and received harsh treatment in the press. He was known "Granny" by his troops because of his age and graying hair. He died in Rochester, New York on October 21, 1909 from painful angina.


  1. Elwell Stephen Otis, Arlington National Cemetery.
  2. Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982). Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899–1903. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03081-9. p. 63
  3. Secretary Root's Record:"Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare – Wikisource at en.wikisource.org
  4. Linn, Brian McAllister (2000). The Philippine War: 1899–1902. University Press of Kansas.
  5. Rudolph Rau (12 June 2007). General of the Night. ISBN 9780615303444.
  6. United States Census, 1880 and 1900, and The Historical record of Wyoming Valley: A compilation of matters of local history from the columns of the Wilkes-Barre record, Volume 8 p. 348 available online
  7. Kramer, David (15 June 2015). "Remembering General Elwell Otis on his Day, June 15th: Rochester's imperial war hero". Democrat & Chronicle. Gannett. Retrieved 15 June 2015. "Otis Day at Rochester". Boston Evening Transcript. 15 June 1900. Retrieved 15 June 2015. Official Program, Otis Day Souvenir: Rochester, N.Y., June 15th, 1900. Rochester Chamber of Commerce. 1900.
  8. Donovan A. Shilling (2012). They Put Rochester On The Map. Pancoast Publishing. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-9838496-1-2.