A Soldier's Letter - Part 1


November 16, 1906

 

A Soldier's Letter

 

JOLO JOLO, P. I.,

 

Kind Father:--I will endeavor to give you an account of the Mt. Dago [Dajo] fight. The narrative is in part as follows: The battle proper began on the afternoon of March 6, 1906, being mainly confined to reconnoissance [sic] and artillery work on that day. It was the beginning of the great fight. In the afternoon of March 7th Capt. Lawton's Nineteenth Infantry had lined up and started up the narrow path a third of a mile long, that follows the flank of Dago [Dajo] to the precepitous [sic] trail that reached the Moro fort on the summit of the crater. One could hardly have believed that out of that number of men, less than two hundred who were stepping off as gaily as if they were going to shoot pigeons, there would be ten killed and thirty-five wounded. At that time I did not realize the nature of this particular expedition, having just got into the camp from Jolo and took up my position with the artillery who were shilling the fort and their riflemen were clearing a path for the advance of Lawton's men up the summit. The artillery consisted of the Twenty-eight Battalion under Capt. McGlothlin. But the gun which the writer was with was commanded by Liet. [sic] Mack together with Lieut. Powell, of the engineer corps. This gun did remarkable work. It was like target practice; every shot seemed to strike just where aimed by the veteran gunner, Corporal O'Bryan. On the summit of Dago [Dajo], just in front of the trenches four or five Moros were running, evidently watching Lawton's forces, who had already begun the steep ascent; Mack O'Bryan sighted the gun, the string was pulled and there was a deafening explosion, a huge cloud of smoke rose and there was one less Moro. Without the work of the artillery who incessantly threw shrapnels to the heights above, the fight would not have been won as soon as it was. The Moros gathered on hundreds of surrounding hills, and having been encouraged, and made a flank attack on the Americans and annilhilated [sic] them. The shrapnels bursting above their trenches killed many of them and destroyed their trenches, and thoroughly demoralized their fighting men. The riflemen kept up a tremendous fire always a little in advance of Lawton's men. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds of lead was fired into the hill, and the sound of the volleys echoed from the crater side like the roar of thunder.

 

Mack and his men displayed great bravery under the fire of the Moro snipers. The Moros possessed some good rifles and were able to carry to the position of the artillery and riflemen.

 

As a rule the Moros aimed much to high, and I believe that no American soldier was hit at any distance. Occasionally one could hear the report of a Mauser, and one bullet striking under a mule standing under a tree caused her to jump so high, that a soldier said her name was surely Maud.

 

Meanwhile Lawton's men were slowly toiling up the trail. Directly under the enemy's cotta (fort) it is a hand [hard?] trail and weary, the red volcanic granite disintegrated into a sort of porous loam; breaks into ones hand as he endeavors to catch upon the soil and slips under his feet; now the men would grasp some huge root that trailed down the surface of the hill like a vine and pull themselves up through the forest that run on both sides of the narrow path; again a man would stand upon his comrades shoulders. It was gasping, choking work, and the hot sun suddenly burst from behind threatening clouds. If a man showed himself for a moment upon the bare red and yellow path he was at once bothered by the rifle fire of the Moro snipers.

 

Lawton's advance was headed by Capt. Wetherhill and Lieut. Cecil Wetherhill, son of the brave captain who gave up his life at San Juan hill, being in advance of the rest of the column to open the attack on the enemy's cotta. The men knew the trail. The day before Capt. Wetherhill had made a reconnoitring [sic] trip climbing and creeping within twenty yards of the Moro trenches. All at once a Moro discovered him and ran to cut him down, but the malay was shot by a sergeant and fortunately from the Moro fire drawn by the shot the captain retreated in safety. The Americans knew their trail, had their plans made and all things together. It was a fight of American brawn against Malay sinew, American intelligence against native cunning and the Anglo-Saxon won against the savage. When Capt. Lawton's men were within forty or fifty yards of the cotta the Moros began a fierce rifle fire. They rolled down great boulders two or three feet in diameter, and a perfect shower of javlins [sic], spears, krisses and barongs shot from the edge of the cotta and down over the hillside. Beneath the Americans struggled in the brush. To the left they cut their ways with Bolos to avoid getting into the great cleared gash before the fort. They fired as best they could, the moment a Moro appeared above the cotta he was fired upon.

 

Directly in front of the entrenchment say twenty-five or thirty feet, the Moros had built fences with bamboo which opposed a direct charge against the trenches that was dug in the narrow rim of the crater. Looking over in front of the bamboo one could not see the Moros in the trenches, but the rim of the crater at this point slopes from the right to the left as the Americans faced it, so at the extreme left of the bamboo entanglements on could loop up the entire length of the trench. The men worked rapidly to the left and closely to the trenches; they were still concealed in the brush. From their position they could enfilade the entire trench. Two thirds of the men were packed together in the brush below the fort like sardines. They were calm. Those were desperate moments in their cliff-like hillside. They were then probably half an hour working like mad men to mount a Colt's rapid fire gun and prepare for the assault. Fancy that wall rising above them almost fifty feet.

 

BURRELL SISCO.

 

(Concluded next week.)

 

Source:  Crittenden Record. (Marion, Ky.) 1904-1907, November 16, 1906, Image 7 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.

 

[My comments are in brackets.]