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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Capture of Aguinaldo

The capture of the 1st Philippines Republic president, Emilio Aguinaldo, heralded the beginning of the end of Filipino resistance against the Americans.   By the time of his capture, Filipinos were using guerilla warfare to resist and Aguinaldo served more as an inspirational leader than an operational one.  Soon after his capture, major portions of the Philippine army soon surrendered to the American authorities. 

Below is the story of events that lead to Aguinaldo's capture:

May 1900                         Funston's 4th district captures the headquarters of General Urbano Lacuna
                                          capturing personal letterheads and stationery

General Urbano Lacuna

September 1900               After lengthy trek to elude his pursuers, Aguinaldo and his entourage (by this
                                          time, reduced to a few dozen persons) established themselves  in a small remote
                                          village of Palanan, Isabela province.



                                           Aguinaldo maintained nominal control over the revolutionary leaders and
                                           communicated with local leaders of the resistance via correspondence carried
                                           by couriers.  A tedious process which took 2 to 3 months to complete, if they
                                           are completed at all.


January 1901                     In an effort to reinforce his forces, Aguinaldo dispatched a soldier, Cecilio
                                           Segismundo, from Palanan with letters for his second cousin, Baldomero
                                           Aguinaldo and several other guerilla commanders in central and southern Luzon.

February 8, 1901               After a month long trek, the courier and his twelve man escort was captured in
                                           Casignan, Nueva Vizcaya after being convinced by the mayor of Casignan to
                                           give up.  He surrendered himself and his documents to the US commander of
                                           the local garrison, 1st Lt. James Taylor.



                                           Taylor realizing the importance of his find, immediately telegraphed his
                                           command located at San Isidro, 60 miles southwest of Casignan.  The district
                                           commander was Brig. General Frederick Funston.  Funston , a Medal of
                                           Honor recipient, commanded a force of 2,400 U.S. troops in the Fourth
                                           District.  His command covered two provinces in north central Luzon.

MajGenFrederickFunston.jpg
Frederick Funston
Funston wearing a sunflower pin shown in detail below
              
                                          Funston, quickly acted and exploited the potential intelligence windfall.  He
                                          quickly instructed Lt. Taylor to send Segismundo and his documents to San
                                          Isidro under guard.

                                          In San Isidro, the courier told the Americans that Aguinaldo was in Palanan.
                                          According to some accounts, the confession was extracted via water cure.

                                          Palanan was a remote town, seven miles from the Philippine sea, about ninety
                                          miles to the north of Casiguran, the nearest village.  It was impossible to
                                          approach Palanan via a few dirt trails without alerting Aguinaldo as the routes
                                          leading to the town is constantly under watch by Balugas (an Aborigine
                                          tribe who lived in the mountains).  Capturing Aguinaldo thru conventional
                                          means is out of the question given the situation.

                                          Funston's solution took advantage of the earlier capture of Gen. Urbano Lacuna's
                                          headquarters and the courier's packet of letters.  Funston planned a raid on
                                          Palanan using a force of pro U.S. Filipinos with a few American officers who
                                          would disguise themselves as reinforcements.  Carrying forged credentials from
                                          Lacuna and guided by Segismundo, the troops would openly march into Palanan.
                                          The Americans in the group would pretend to be prisoners.  Once in Palanan, the
                                          group will throw off their disguises, capture Aguinaldo and take him to the coast
                                          for pickup by Navy vessel.

                                          The plan called for a long march to Palanan of about one hundred miles along
                                          the coast of unmapped wilderness from Casiguran to Palanan.  This is necessary
                                          to maintain the deception that they are reinforcements coming from Central
                                          Luzon. A landing close to the objective would not have gone unnoticed.  This
                                          meant that the troops would have subsisted on whatever food and supplies they
                                          can forage along the way.  This would help maintain the deception.

Funston's route to Palanan 

               
Last week of Feb 1901     With the plan approved by General MacArthur Sr., Funston assembled his
                                         raiding team.  They came from Company D, 1st Battalion of the Macabebe
                                         scouts commanded by Captain Russell T. Hazzard.  Hazzard was an officer
                                         detailed from the 11th U.S. Volunteer Cavalry.  The unit was recruited
                                         from a Central Luzon minority tribe whose members served as colonial
                                         troops for the Spaniards.

Some of the Macabebe scouts from Company D 

                                         Funston obtained Filipino peasant clothing and a mixture of Filipino weapons
                                         e.g. Mausers, Remingtons and U.S. Army Krag-Jorgensen rifles.

                                         To act as leaders of this supposed reinforcement team, Funston drafted
                                         former nationalist officers who were captured or have surrendered and
                                         have taken an oath of allegiance to the United States.  They had worked
                                         for Funston as informers and scouts.  Hilario Talplacido, a former Philippine
                                         army major, received the role of lieutenant colonel and nominal commander.
                                         Two former lieutenants, Gregorio Cadhit and Dionisio Bato played roles
                                         at that rank.  Segismundo who also had sworn allegiance to Uncle Sam
                                         came along as a guide.

The US oath of allegiance

                                        To act as captain and second in command of the supposed reinforcements, 
                                        another guerilla defector, an Iberian Spaniard who had come to the 
                                        Philippines as a Spanish sergeant but defected to the Filipinos later in the
                                        revolution.

                                        Segovia was among those taken captive and held prisoner by the forces of 
                                        General Urbano Lacuna in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija during the war against 
                                        Spain. Segovia's story of having been kind to Dr. Rizal as the guard 
                                        assigned to serve as escort when the hero was rearrested in Barcelona 
                                        and shipped back to Manila to stand trial for complicity in the Katipunan 
                                        uprisings endeared the former civil guard to Lacuna and became one of his 
                                        trusted aides. 

                                        In May 1900 he worked for the Americans as a scout and
                                        an intelligence officer.  He became a de facto member of Funston's staff.
                                        Fluent in Tagalog and Spanish, he helped Funston decode and translate
                                        captured letters.  Physically tough, courageous and able to think fast on
                                        his feet, he became the actual leader among the non-American officers and
                                        served as Funston's deputy for the entire expedition.

                                        The American contingent was composed of Funston, Captain Hazzard
                                        and his brother and second-in-command, Lieutenant Oliver P.M. Hazzard.
                                        The brothers knew their men well and could coach them through the
                                        mission.  Also included were Funston's cousin, Lt. Burton Mitchell and
                                        Captain Harry W. Newton.  Newton was formerly stationed in Baler,
                                        the closest American garrison to the destination and was slightly familiar
                                        with the terrain on which they have to take.

March 6, 1901                The Vicksburg steamed out of Manila Bay.  While out at sea, letters were written
                                       on the forged Lacuna papers.   The critical letters were composed in Spanish with
                                       the help of Segovia.


                                       The first letter contained the acknowledgement of Lacuna on
                                       the receipt of Aguinaldo's letter which Segismundo carried.  He also
                                       reported great military successes against the Americans.

Stationaries and seals were difficult to forge such as the one above from Aguinaldo

                                       The second letter stated that Lacuna, on orders from Baldomero
                                       Aguinaldo, was sending a company of reinforcements to the president
                                       under the command of Hilario Talplacido.  An officer with whom
                                       Aguinaldo was acquainted.
Sample of a seal


                                       The letters were to be sent in advance to Aguinaldo via courier after they
                                       have landed.

                                       While on the ship, all of those included in the mission rehearsed their roles.

March 13, 1901             Vicksburg approached Casiguran Bay with all lights screened.

Casiguran Bay
                                        Casiguran was the point at which a column traveling over the mountains
                                        from central Luzon would have to come down to the coast for the
                                        final leg of a march to Palanan.  This is also the closest point where Funston
                                        can start their trek to Palanan without revealing their true identities.
                                      
                                      
 March 14, 1901             At 2 o'clock in the morning, eighty-nine men from the Vicksburg landed
                                        along a remote beach of Casiguran.  The soldiers wore ragtag clothing and
                                        were barefoot.  The party went ashore unobserved in Vicksburg's small
                                        boats under cover of darkness and rain during the early hours of the day.
                                        Before dawn the Vicksburg had withdrawn out of sight of land.


USS Vicksburg



                                        Vicksburg had orders to approach the shore near Palanan on March 25
                                        to retrieve the raiders hopefully with the prisoners.  Meanwhile, the
                                        Vicksburg will cruise up and down the coast and land parties at the
                                        few settlements to look for the five supposed captured Americans as cover
                                        for its presence in the area.

                                       At daybreak, the party proceeded to the nearby town of Casiguran.  The town
                                       was guerilla controlled and rarely visited by American patrols.  Ahead of
                                       the group, Cadhit, Segismundo and two Macabebes brought a letter signed by
                                       Talplacido to the mayor of Casiguran informing him of the party's mission and
                                       requesting for quarters and food for his men and their prisoners.  The mayor
                                       they discovered had gone to Palanan to attend Aguinaldo's 32nd birthday
                                       but his deputy complied.  Marching under a tumultuous welcome from the
                                       townsfolk, the group were housed in various houses, while Funston and the
                                       other "prisoners" were housed in the municipal building.  Nearby were the
                                       Filipino officers.  Segovia slipped into the American's room late at night for
                                       whispered conferences, while the Macabebes regaled the locals with stories
                                       of their supposed exploits against the Americans.

March 15 and 16           The group stayed in Casiguran while Funston and Segovia secretly prepared
                                       another letter.  The forged letter was supposedly from Talplacido to Aguinaldo,
                                       informing Aguinaldo that he was on his way to Palanan with a company of
                                       troops from Lacuna.  On the march, they encountered a detachment of
                                       Americans, killing two, wounding three and taking five prisoners.  So as not
                                       to weaken his detachment, he will bring along the prisoners with him to
                                       Palanan.

                                       They requested from the deputy to send the new letter and the forged Lacuna
                                       letters to Palanan via two townsmen so that Aguinaldo would
                                       know that the approaching troops were friendlies.

                                       The couriers left Casiguran on the sixteenth and arrived in Palanan two days
                                       ahead of Funston and his column.

                                       Funston's concern during this time was having enough food and supplies for
                                       the hundred-mile trek to Palanan and he was trying to secure as much supplies
                                       as possible.  Having been told by the mayor's deputy that he can secure the
                                       needed supplies can be secured in around 5 days, Funston decided that they
                                       will have to march within 2 days on whatever they have foraged, which by that
                                       time amounted to 4 days of short rations including dried carabao meat and
                                       6 live chickens.  They also heard a rumor that General Tinio was in Palanan with
                                       four hundred troops.  They decided to continue as they knew they had the
                                       element of surprise.
                                    
March 17 to 22             The column along with a dozen men from Casiguran together with a Baluga
                                       guide (who later deserted and was replaced by a local) marched out of
                                       Casiguran.  The locals, although helpful made the journey harder as they
                                       had to keep up the masquerade throughout the trek.

                                       The march was brutal as the terrain was hardgoing for the shoeless Macabebes.
                                       Funston counted sixty streams forded during the trek.  Rain was constant and
                                       after their supplies ran out, the column had to subsist on cooked corn mush with
                                       snails and small fish gathered along the beach.

                                       The inadequate diet, tension and physical exertion took its toll as the tough
                                       Macabebes became weak and ill.  Funston suffered rheumatic pains, Mitchell
                                       who was unable to eat became emaciated and listless.  Talplacido, terrified by
                                       the whole enterprise and overweight collapsed and had to be carried by
                                       Macabebe relays.  By March 22, the force, according to Funston, "stumbled
                                       along in a half-dazed condition.... Our men were scattered for a mile along the
                                       beach, some of them so weak they reeled as they walked."

                                       Late in the afternoon of March 22, Funston and the exhausted group reached
                                       Dinundungan, a point where a trail branched inland from the beach toward
                                       Palanan, eight miles away.  Here they encountered an outpost manned
                                       by an elderly Tagalog and several Balugas.  The old man presented to
                                       Talplacido a letter from Aguinaldo's chief of staff, Simeon Villa, instructing
                                       Talplacido to bring his force to Palanan.  It also directed Talplacido to leave
                                       the prisoners and a ten-man guard at Dinundungan for security reasons.
                                       Aguinaldo planned eventually to release the captives and did not want them
                                       to know the location of his headquarters.  The old man told Segovia and
                                       Talplacido that Tinio was not in Palanan, much to the relief of the group.

Left to right- Barcelona, E. Aguinaldo and Simeon Villa

                                       Segovia sent a note to Palanan requesting for provisions to be able to
                                       complete the march.

March 23                    
  
      Early morning            Porters arrived from Palanan with enough corn to give the troops a much
                                       needed breakfast.

      8:00 AM                   The main body of Macabebes, headed by Talplacido, Segovia, Cadhit,
                                       Bato and Segismundo accompanied by the bearers from Casiguran
                                       marched to Palanan.

   Around 9:00 AM         Two Macabebes came back down the trail carrying a note from Segovia
                                       to the corporal in charge of the Americans.  The corporal showed it to the
                                       elderly Tagalog.  It stated that new orders were received that all were going
                                       to march to Palanan, including the prisoners.

                                       Halfway to Palanan, the main body met ten of Aguinaldo's soldiers sent
                                       to relieve the detachment guarding the prisoners so that everyone can join
                                       the welcome in Palanan.  Segovia distracted Aguinaldo's soldiers and held
                                       them long enough while a Macabebe sergeant and a private were sent
                                       to Funston to warn them.  Funston hid in the jungle until the detachment
                                       from Palanan marched past.

         2:00 PM                The main body reaches the bank of the Palanan river opposite the village.


        Diagram of Aguinaldo's headquarters.
KEYS TO NUMBERS: A. Aguinaldo's house. 1. Sitting room. 2. Hallway.  3. Bedroom used by Aguinaldo, Barcelona and Villa. 4. Kitchen. 5,6. Doorways. 7,9. Barracks. 8. Village church. 10,11. Bandstands. 12. Summer house. 13. Window from which Aguinaldo called to the Macabebes to cease firing. 14. Position of Aguinaldo's guard when fired on. 15, 16. Position of Funston's men at beginning of attack. The marks "- - - -" indicate trenches placed in the public square 
around the bandstands.
                                      In the meantime, the “rebel” officers of Funston’s column had crossed the
                                      rain-swollen Palanan River and made their way to Aguinaldo’s headquarters.  
                                      Aguinaldo greeted Placido and Segovia and took them to his residence. Placido 
                                      gave a long, time consuming account of the Filipinos’ victory over the Americans. 
                                      At the same time, Segovia nervously watched the crossing of the rest of the 
                                      column, hoping that the plan would not be betrayed before the force was across
                                      the river.

                                      Once across, the Little Macs formed ranks and marched towards Aguinaldo’s 
                                      guards. At the right moment, Segovia gave the signal by waving his hat and 
                                      calling out to the men. In an instant, the Macabebes opened fire, killing two guards 
                                      and scattering the rest.

                                      Aguinaldo, thinking that the shots were intended as a salute to the newcomers,  
                                      moved towards the window to order the guards to conserve their ammunition. 
                                      As he did, Talplacido tackled him and wrestled him to the ground. At the same
                                      time, Segovia rushed back in from the balcony where he had given the signal.
                                      By then, Aguinaldo’s officers began to recover from their shock and started to
                                      draw their weapons. Segovia immediately fired six shots from his revolver, killing
                                      two rebels. The others quickly surrendered or jumped out the windows to
                                      escape.

                                       Funston’s small group arrived at the river crossing just as the gunfire erupted
                                       and crossed quickly. Funston’s intervention spared several of Aguinaldo’s
                                       men from the Little Macs who were more than willing to fight it out with the
                                       rebels. Inside the headquarters, Funston found Aguinaldo pinned to the floor
                                       with the stocky Talplacido sitting on him. Aguinaldo quickly realized what had  
                                       happened and meekly surrendered. Two of his chief officers were also taken
                                       prisoner.



Aguinaldo and company before boarding the Vicksburg
                                       With the mission almost over, Funston and his party rested and helped
                                       themselves to food left behind by the villagers who had fled when the
                                       shooting began. On the morning of 25 March, Funston’s column
                                       rendezvoused with Vicksburg in Palanan Bay and set sail for Manila.


                                  
Aguinaldo's capture added to Funston's already high prestige.  Later he bacame a major general,
commanding BGen. John Pershing during his operations against Pancho Villa.  If he did not die
at age 51 (February 1917), he and not Pershing, would have commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.
                                      
Funston's sunflower pin in commemoration of the Philippine campaign

                                         

              
                                  

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