Monday, October 10, 2016

Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 3- The Battle of Macahambus Hill)

Fresh from their victories in previous battles in Cagayan de Misamis, troops of the 40th Infantry Regiment, Volunteer Corps would launch another military expedition to an enemy stronghold that was about 14 kilometers to the southern upland area of the town. Their objective was to capture a fort that served as an advance post to the headquarters of Western Mindanao Division at Langaon under the command of Colonel Apolinar Velez.

Colonel Apolinar Velez
Unknown to the Americans, the Filipino guerillas were tipped of the impending military plan. The latter then toiled hard to fortify their area for an expected battle. They made breastworks around their perimeter and beyond them were laid on the ground foliage- camouflaged pitfalls with sharpened woods and bamboos in them. Although not sufficient in armaments, the guerillas occupied a vantage position which were forested hills flanked by natural barriers which was a steep precipice along the Cagayan River on the eastern side and the deep, narrow gorge on the western side. 
When the US troops reached Kabula on June 4, 1900, the Filipino sentry Apolinario Nacalaban, who saw them, hurried d to the fort to inform its commander Lieutenant Cruz Taal of the enemy’s presence.  Meanwhile, the American soldiers, in closing in on their objective, had to move along a trail so narrow that only one man or horse could pass at a time. Near the fort, the trail was closer to the edge of the precipice and the slope of the ground was higher. 

                                                      Lieutenant Cruz Taal                                                           
Lieutenant Cruz Taal gave instruction to his men to hold their fire until the Americans were at a very close shooting range. When the leading element of American soldiers under Captain Walter Elliott of “I” Company was about to reach the entrance of the fort, a soldier shouted “Good Morning!” Filipino guerillas then quickly answered them with rifle and cannon fires. The initial salvoes stopped the Americans right on their tracks and drove them back down. Some of them fell off the high precipice while others stumbled on the concealed pitfalls on the ground. The sharpened wooden and bamboo arrows and spears in the pits were deadlier than the gun fires of the Filipino guerillas. Many of the American soldiers were killed and wounded during the encounter.

Captain Thomas Millar of Company “H”, 40th Infantry Regiment made an attempt to ease the pressure put up by the guerillas. He maneuvered towards the western flank of their stronghold, but to his dismay there was a deep narrow gorge at it so that attacking the guerillas to that direction would be very difficult and risky. An attack to the front was the most ideal course of action. However, Captain Millar had to deal with the thick vegetation and the pitfalls along the direction of the attack. It would also be difficult to outdo enemies in gun battle where they were well concealed and covered on a vantage ground.  

Repeated attempts by the Americans to capture the fort were beaten back by the Filipino Guerillas. Realizing the futility of their effort because of the difficult terrain around the Filipinos’ stronghold, the American retreated from the scene leaving behind their dead and most of the rifles of those who were killed..                                                                                                                                                  
The battle resulted to 20 dead and 20 wounded and one captured American soldiers. On the side of the Filipinos there was only one killed and 3 wounded guerillas. The battle was the first and only known recorded victory of the Filipinos over the Americans in the 1900-1901 Philippine-American War in Mindanao.

Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 1- The Battle of Cagayan de Misamis)
Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 2- The Battle of Agusan Hill)
Cagayan de Oro during the Philippine-American War (Part 4- American Victory)