Sunday, July 06, 2008

The 20th Kansas in the Philippines

Just finished reading "Guardian" by Joe Haldeman (better known for his "Forever War" sci-fi novel.) "Guardian" is a strange book. It's labelled as science fiction but is 85% historical and 14% fantasy and maybe 1% science fiction. It is an engaging read and I couldn't put it down, but ultimately, it felt uneven.

The central character is Rosa, a Southern woman who escapes with her son from an abusive husband. She builds a life for herself in Kansas, but then is forced to escape once more with gold rush prospectors when a detective comes after her.

An interesting passage concerns the Philippines, which I am reproducing here:

An interesting thing happened while we were gone. There were lots of soldiers and sailors in the area. Daniel saw a Kansas flag and left Chuck to go talk to them.

They were headed for the Philippines, following the 20th Kansas, to which Daniel would have been attached in Topeka, had I signed for him to join under-age. So he wouldn't have gone to follow the Rough Riders to glory in Cuba, after all. The Kansas troops were shipped overseas to, as the man who talked to Daniel put it, "go kill niggers in the Philippines."

Thank God Daniel hadn't gone with them. The truth of the Filipino insurrection was decades in coming, mainly because it was too horrible to accept: American soldiers killed at least 200,000 -- women and children as well as soldiers -- and Kansas was at the front of the slaughter.

Pressed into my diary at this point is a later article from the Anti-Imperialist League Journal. Yellow and crumbling, it dropped into two pieces when I unfolded it. It quoted letters from the 20th Kansas: a captain said, "Caloocan was supposed to contain 70,000 inhabitants. The 20th Kansas swept through it, and now Caloocan contains not one living native." A private under him repeated that he himself had torched over fifty houses, killing women and children.


  1. In the US, we aren't taught anything about the Philippine-American war that followed the Spanish American war.....
    I read up a little on it after reading your post.

  2. Hi, Robert: did a bit more research on this and also found The 20th Kansas was also known as the Fighting 20th, made up mostly of volunteers. From the novel, I gathered that they had signed up to fight in Cuba but were assigned to he Philippines instead.

    There's another book I'm planning to get (I'm getting more into history now -- a sign of old age?) entitled "Balingaga Massacre." More on that sometime soon.

  3. thanks for that site. there's a lot of information .......the green background is a bit distracting , though.