1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
The Datu Ali Expedition -1905
Campaign Streamer awarded to the 22nd Infantry for its service in Mindanao 1904-1905
Datu Ali, brandishing his kris most prominently, in a portrait with one of his wives and son.
Photo courtesy of the website:
The History of Uncle Sam and the Moros
Datu* Ali was the
last, and most formidable Moro chieftain to oppose American rule
on the island of Mindanao. For nearly two years, operations against Ali were carried out by
several formations of the US Army and the Philippine Constabulary.
* The word
"Datu" was used to describe leading members of Moro
royalty. The Sultan was
the highest authority in Moro society, followed by the Datu's. Depending upon what level
of prestige an individual Datu occupied, the word could be translated to mean prince,
duke, count or baron. Period spellings of the title included "Datuk", "Dato" and "Datto".
Ali eluded capture
all that time, until finally surprised and killed by a
of the 22nd Infantry, led by Captain Frank R. McCoy, the Aide De Camp of General Leonard Wood.
Colonel John White,
who spent 15 years as an officer in the Philippine Constabulary,
sets the stage with a description of Ali's home land -- the Cotabato District of Mindanao:
EARLY in June, 1904, General
Wood called upon Colonel Harbord to organize a Constabulary in
the District of Cotabato,
the largest and perhaps least-known division on the Moro Province, where a prominent Moro chief named Datu Ali
had recently started on the war-path. Colonel Harbord relieved me as adjutant for assignment as Senior Inspector of the Constabulary
of Cotabato with instructions to recruit as rapidly as possible among the tribes of friendly Moros and organize a force that could be used as Scouts,
accompanying expeditions of United States troops against the hostiles scattered throughout the length and breadth of the valley of the
Rio Grande de Mindanao. Cotabato District consisted of the valley of this broad, deep, muddy stream, a valley some two hundred miles long
and from ten to fifty broad. This watershed contained large areas of swamp and lakes, with villages of Maguindanaw Moros sparsely scattered
along the banks of the river and its tributaries or amid the almost trackless and impassable swamps. Back of the valley rose forbidding ranges
of mountains, culminating in Mount Apo, eleven thousand feet in height. In the jungles of these mountains were legendary pagan tribes,
rejoicing in the names of Tirurayes, Manobos, Bagobos, Bilanes, and many more such.
The Maguindanaws were the
largest tribe of Moros. They controlled practically the whole of
the mainland of Mindanao.
Although more agricultural and less piratical than their cousins in Sulu, they held almost as tightly to their ancient privileges of slavery
and control of the pagan tribes, while the situation of their bamboo villages and earthen cottas (forts) on the shores of the mountain lakes,
as in Lanao, or amid the swamps, as in Cotabato, made campaigning against those chiefs who refused to recognize the authority
of the United States both difficult and costly.
The Spaniards had sent many an
expedition up the Rio Grande, and with shallow-draft gunboats had
shot their way into the heart
of Cotabato District. They obtained concessions from Datu Utu, the Maguindanaw chief who then ruled that swampy land. But the control
exercised by the Spaniards extended little if any further than the range of cannon shot from the toy men-of-war, while the price they paid in men
and blood for even such victory was heavy. Furthermore, every inch of ground wrested from the Maguindanaws must be controlled by stone-fort
or blockhouse. When, in 1899, the Spaniards withdrew before the advancing Americans from the north, anarchy reigned in Cotabato.
Datu Utu had gone to the voluptuous reward of good fighting Moros, and his nephew, Datu Ali, ruled in his stead. ¹
The following passages
illustrate the problems the US Army was having with Datu Ali.
They are taken from the Annual Reports to the Secretary of War, and indicate encounters
with Ali during the year 1904:
The following is
the short, but official narrative of the operation which put an
end to Ali's activities,
as recorded by CPT Daniel Appleton, in the 1922 Regimental History.
The Datu Ali Expedition
Just as the regiment had completed preparations
for the return to the United States, and the officers and men
were beginning to anticipate
the joy of being once more in their native land, affairs took a sudden turn in the other direction, and the following order, quoted in full
on account of its intense interest, again placed the regiment in line for further active service in the Philippines.
OF MINDANAO, Zamboanga, Mindanao, P. I.,
October 5, 1905. Strictly Confidential.
The Department commander
is preparing an expedition to surprise and capture Datu Ali. In
view of the excellent service
and experience of the 22nd Infantry, he has selected it to furnish the major portion of the expedition, which will be commanded
by Captain F. R. McCoy, A. D. C., he being the only officer in the department who has been over the route decided on.
He directs that for this hard and important work, one first lieutenant, two second lieutenants and one hundred picked men be selected
as were those forming the original provisional company, armed and equipped as at the end of their tour in the Rio Grande valley,
and be prepared to board the Sabah on the morning of the 13th inst, at Camp Overton. The necessary medical attendance and supplies
will be furnished, the supplies to be put in packages not exceeding forty pounds. One hundred rounds of extra rifle ammunition (1,903) per man,
and forty rounds of pistol ammunition will be taken. Field and travel rations will be prepared for you at Camp Overton or Zamboanga.
Squad boxes with extra clothing, etc., may be taken aboard ship to leave at base.
Bring, if possible, one
hundred picked cargadores; if not, wire deficiency and it will be
made up here. Tomas Torres,
civil interpreter, will accompany. The destination of these troops, further than Camp Overton, will not be made known
to even the officers with them. Acknowledge receipt by wire.
DANIEL, H. BRUSH, Lieut. Colonel, Inspector General,
Acting Military Secretary.
In accordance with this confidential
memorandum, a provisional company of the 22nd Infantry was again
organized on October 9, 1905.
Following are the names of the officers assigned to this company:
First Lieutenant Solomon B. West, Commanding.
Second Lieutenant Philip Remington.
Second Lieutenant B. B. McCroskey.
The Provisional Company of the 22nd Infantry formed for the Datu Ali expedition
Photo courtesy of Robert Hart whose father
Grover Hart was a member of the Provisional Company.
Private Hart is in the front row, fourth from the left.
The provisional company left Camp Keithley at
4:30 p. M., October 11, 1905. At this time nothing definite was
known of Datu Ali's whereabouts,
though he was generally thought to be on his ranchiera on the Malola river.
In order to avoid any possibility of encountering Ali's spies, the expedition proceeded to Digas, on the gulf of Davao, landing at Digas on October 16.
At this point a detachment of ten Filipino scouts, under Lieutenant Henry Rogers, P. S., joined the Americans; and before proceeding further,
all footsore and sick men were weeded out and left behind.
On the morning of October 22 the advance guard
of the column, under Lieutenant Remington, reached Datu Ali's
ranchiera. The main body,
under Lieutenant McCoy, followed along closely, while flank patrols were sent out under West and Johnson.
Perceiving Datu Ali on the porch of his house, with some ten or twelve of his followers, Lieutenant Remington with the advance guard of two squads,
rushed forward, hoping to capture the unarmed party by a complete surprise. However, the movements of Remington's men were quickly discovered,
and the enemy disappeared inside the house, Datu Ali, himself, firing point blank at Lieutenant Remington as the latter reached the entrance.
The shot missed Remington, but killed Private L. W. Bobbs, Company G, 22nd Infantry. At almost the same instant Lieutenant Remington
returned the fire from his pistol, shooting the Datu through the body and bringing him to his knees. Struggling to his feet the Datu made a desperate effort
to escape, but was shot dead by the men of the advance guard, two of whom were wounded in the course of the fight.
Private Morton L. Bales, Company K, subsequently died of his wounds, and Private John J. Rorke, of Company G, was less seriously wounded. §
§ ( The names of the 22nd Infantry soldiers who died were mis-spelled in the Regimental history. Those soldiers were:
Llewellyn W. B. Bobb of Company G 22nd Infantry
Martin L. Bales of Company K 22nd Infantry )
Left: Private Llewellyn Winfield Bobb
Killed by Datu Ali on October 22, 1905.
According to his enlistment
record Llewellyn W. Bobb was born in Richland County,
Private Bobb was buried in the
Post Cemetery at Camp Keithley and on July 14, 1906 his
Photo by orbweb49 from Ancestry.com
This second provisional company of the regiment
acquitted itself as splendidly as had the first, accomplishing
its mission in the quickest time
and with the minimum loss of life, and unquestionably added another lustrous page to the regiment's history. Following the action
recommendations were submitted for the award of a certificate of merit to Sergeant, First Class, J. C. Gunn, Hospital Corps;
Sergeant Louis A. Carr, Company K, Corporal Barry Smith, Company G, and Private William B. Hutchinson, Company K, all of the 22nd Infantry.
November 3, 1905, the provisional company
returned to Camp Keithley and was disbanded.
At this point the active service of the 22nd Infantry in the Philippines came to an end; the regiment engaged in no further field service,
and spent the following month in making extensive repairs to some Spanish gunboats which had sunk, and in consequence had first to be raised.
This in itself constituted an engineering project of considerable proportions.
The 22nd Infantry left Manila for the United
States via Nagasaki on December 15, 1905, and arrived at San
January 14, 1906, after an uneventful voyage on the transport Sherman.
Captain Frank R. McCoy
Personal Aide De Camp
Photo taken 6 years after the Ali
A letter from
Letter courtesy of Robert A. Fulton,
MOROLAND The History of Uncle Sam
Tumalo Creek Press, Bend, Oregon 2007, 2009
Above: The casualty report of the Datu Ali expedition filed by Captain Frank McCoy giving a summary of the operation.
Above: The casualty report filed by Captain Frank McCoy indicating the casualties of the Provisional Company of the 22nd Infantry
in the fight at Datu Ali's rancheria.
A week after Ali was killed the event made the US newspapers:
Left and above: article from
Left and above: article from
The following interesting
account of the Datu Ali expedition was published in the
Army And Navy Register January 6, 1906:
DEATH OF DATTO ALI
[The true story of the pursuit, capture and death of the notorious Moro outlaw told by a member of the 22d Infantry and published in the Philippines Gossip.]
Datto Ali, or rather "Datu
Ali," as he was known among his people, was a mere nobody a
few years ago. Being a great gambler, and a natural cutthroat,
he watched and waited for his opportunity to force himself forward and become a leader of his people. The enactment of the anti-slavery law in the
Moro province gave him the chance he was looking for. Gathering about him the scum and riff-raft of the Cottabato Valley he organized a gang of outlaws
and murderers, who caused the government considerable trouble and annoyance until recently, when he met his death at the hands of Lieutenant Philip Remington
of the 22d Infantry, while the latter was leading a charge against the notorious outlaw.
Up to October General Wood had
made many attempts to locate and capture this robber chieftain.
He has had several scrimmages with the American troops,
but Invariably managed to elude capture and death.
When the anti-slavery law was
passed, Datu Ali seized upon it as an excellent means for
exciting the people, and many more Moros flocked to his standard,
believing him to be a "Heaven-sent leader."
The real causes leading to the
last and finally successful expedition against Datu Ali were
mainly the fact that the constabulary operating against him
were unable to successfully prevent his depredations, and a letter was written under date of October 2, 1905, by Captain George T. Langhorne,
11th cavalry, secretary of the Moro province and acting governor during the temporary absence of General Leonard Wood, to Brigadier General James A. Buchanan,
commanding the department of Mindanao, in which he said:
"Datto All has lately
commenced raidlng the friendly Moros on the Rio Grande,
Cottabato. It Is impossible for the constabulary force in control
of the province
to successfully prevent his depredations; therefore, I have the honor to request that such steps as you may think necessary be taken in order to capture
and destroy Ali and the band of desperadoes which follow him."
Three days after the receipt of
this letter at the department headquarters. General Buchanan sent
the following Instructions to Major Crittenden,
then in command of the troops at Camp Kelthley:
"The department commander
is preparing an expedition to surprise and capture Datto Ali. In
view of the excellent service and experience of the 22d Infantry,
he has selected it to furnish the major part of the expedition which will be commanded by Captain Frank R. McCoy, A. D. C., he being
the only officer in the department who has been over the route decided on.
"He directs that for this
hard and important work one first lieutenant, two second
lieutenants and one hundred picked men be selected, as were those
the original provisional company, armed and equipped as at the end of their tour in the Rio Grande Valley, and be prepared to board the 'Sabah' at
Camp Overton on the morning of the 13th instant.
"The necessary medical
attendance and supplies will be furnished. One hundred rounds
extra rifle ammunition and forty rounds extra revolver ammunition
will be taken per man.
"The destination of these troops further than Camp Overton will not be made known to even the officers with them."
At the same time General
Buchanan wired the commanding officer of the troops at Camp
Overton to make every arrangement for rations, supplies, etc.,
so as not to delay the troops.
Other than the general himself,
Major Crittenden and Captain McCoy, there was not a soul, either
among the troops or the Moros who had the faintest idea
of what the expedition was for. Even Datu Ali considered himself safe, as word was always brought him by swift runners of every expedition against him.
All plans, arrangements, etc.,
for the capture of All were placed in the hands of Captain Frank
R. McCoy, a youthful but able officer, aide-de-camp
to Major General Leonard Wood. He was given full power and selected his forces with the greatest care. He had with him 1st Lieutenant Gordon Johnson,
signal corps, as field quartermaster and commissary; 1st Lieutenant Wilson T. Davis, assistant surgeon, as the surgeon, a young medical officer who
has made an enviable record for himself at Corregidor Island, while in charge of the tuberculosis ward; arid a provisional company of the 22d Infantry,
consisting of 1st Lieutenant S. B. West, and 2d Lieutenants Philip Remington and B. B. McCroskey; a detachment of the Philippine scouts under
1st Lieutenant Henry Rodgers, several hospital corps men, one interpreter, Datto Enok, as guide, Stevedore Clement and 186 cargadores.
Captain McCoy realized that for
the past two years several unsuccessful attempts had been made to
capture Datu Ali, and knew that if he attempted
to go by way of the Cottabato Valley he could not succeed, as every movement of troops in that region was at once made known to him by spies.
Datu Ali's hiding place was
supposed to be somewhere in the Lake Liguasan region. Captain
McCoy knew of but one trail by which he might reach the
Moro outlaw, and that was the trail from Digos, on the Gulf of Davao, through the Bagobo and Bilan country, to Buluan. As there were no Moros living
on that trail and as the Hill men in that region were more afraid of Ali than of the Americans, the department commander thought that trail the only medium
through which to affect a surprise.
The department commander,
General Buchanan, conferred with Captain McCoy and enjoined the
strictest kind of secrecy in all that pertained to this
as the sole hope of capturing Ali was through his (Ali's) ignorance of the move.
Therefore, at the suggestion of
General Buchanan, Captain McCoy, at that time acting as chief
quartermaster of the department, openly proceeded to the
Cottabato Valley, apparently in his capacity as chief quartermaster, and excited no suspicion among the Moros. While in the Cottabato Valley he obtained
some very valuable information, which, unlike the information usually obtained from the Moros, was accurate and correct.
Datto Piang, the Sheriff Afdal
and Datto Enok, all friendly to the Americans, divulged the
information that owing to sickness in the family of Datu Ali,
the Moro chief had left his hiding place in the Lake Liguasan country and had settled with a personal body-guard at his rancheria, which was reported
to be located somewhere (vague, but we made it do) on the Malala River.
Accordingly, the one hundred
picked men and the three officers of the 22d infantry left Camp
Keithley on October 11 and boarded the chartered transport
Sabah making for Zamboanga, where they arrived the following night, picking up Captain McCoy, Lieutenant Davis, the surgeon and Lieutenant Johnson,
when the entire expedition proceeded to Digos on the Gulf of Davao.
About the same time the
chartered transport Borneo sailed from Zamboanga for Digos via
Margosatubig, with the cargadores and to pick up
Lieutenant Henry Rodgers with his detachment of Philippine scouts, the entire party there to concentrate and move out against the Moro outlaw.
On the 19th of the month the
department commander ordered two companies of the 19th infantry
from Malabang and one company from Parang to
Cabacsalan Island, Captain John Howard commanding the troops of the 19th Infantry.
The expedition landed at Digos, on Davao Bay, on the afternoon of October 16 and disembarked from the Sabah and Borneo.
While there, they secured the
services of Lieutenant E. C. Bolton, 17th Infantry, governor of
Davao, and Mr. Skinner, an American planter, to accompany them.
The fact of Lieutenant Bolton and the American planter accompanying the expedition, allayed the fear of the hill tribes and kept them from deserting their villages
and spreading the news of the expedition.
When the expedition reached the
divide between Davao Bay and the Rio Grande Basin it was decided
that only the ablest men were to proceed on further.
So Lieutenant Rodgers with the scouts, all the cargdaores and supplies, and all men who had sore feet, who were played out, etc., were left behind
to follow at their leisure, while the seventy-seven healthy remaining members of the provisional company were to make a dash for Datu Ali's rancheria,
stripped of all impedimentia, excepting one day's cooked rations, and last, but far from least, reserve ammunition.
For the next two days this
little band steadily marched through an extremely hostile
country, over mountains and swamps, crossing swollen streams and
crawling through jungles, by night as well as by day, living on what snatches of food, such as hardtack and canned salmon, they had time to bite, and just at
daybreak on the morning of October 22 they approached Datto Ali's rancheria on the Malala river, after a forced and rapid march of over 50 miles
over an almost impassable country.
Lieutenant Philip Remington, 22d
infantry, was placed in charge of the advance guard; Captain
McCoy commanded the main body, while Lieutenants
West and Johnson each commanded a detachment that was advancing on Ali's rancheria from both right and left, so that there was practically no escape for him.
When within about three hundred
yards of Ali's house, a party of eight Moros armed with spears
and krises was surprised and captured by Captain McCoy,
just as Lieutenant Remington with the advance guard had reached the clearing around Datu Ali's house.
Seeing Datu Ali and some twelve
armed men sitting on the porch of the house, Lieutenant Remington
with two squads gave the command "Charge!"
and all dashed forward hoping to capture the un-armed party, but quick as Lieutenant Remington was, wily old Ali was still quicker,
for in a second's time they all jumped back into the house and Datu Ali remaining alone on the porch raised his rifle and fired pointblank,
killing Private Llewellyn W. Bobb, company G, 22d Infantry.
Almost at the same instant Lieutenant Remington raised his revolver and fired, shooting Datu Ali through the body and bringing him to his knees.
Under the cover of a galling fire from his followers he struggled to his feet and endeavored to escape, but was riddled by the remainder of the advance guard.
Datu Ali's followers enraged at
the death of their chief kept up a stirring fire from the
interior of the house, wounding two more of the advance guard.
In the meantime, Lieutenants West and Johnson had cut their way through the heavy foliage and underbrush on right and left and advanced on the
double quick, firing rapidly and cutting off all escape.
Captain McCoy then united with Lieutenant Remington and the advance guard.
When Datto Enok excitedly yelled
the all important news, "Datu Ala Muerte," all firing
ceased and recall was immediately sounded. The wounded Moros
were turned over to the tender mercies of Datto Enok, and all the surrounding houses searched for arms, ammunition and other munitions of war.
Word was then sent by messengers to all the surrounding rancherias that they had no more to fear.
Datu Ali, the terror of the
valley, was dead, and hostile operations in the Rio Grande valley
were all over. Private Martin L. Bales company K, 22d Infantry,
who was wounded, died within an hour afterward, while Private John J. Rorke, company G, 22d Infantry, while wounded through the lungs seemed to do well
and took part in the remainder of the engagement. Shortly afterward the camp was removed to the Alip river, where Lieutenant Rodgers with his scouts,
train, supplies, exhausted men, etc., rejoined and the entire command proceeded on the following day to Buluan, to await the arrival of vintas and rations
by way of Lake Liguasan.
On the 26th Instant, Captain
Howard, with the 19th infantry, arrived with vintas and rations
when the expedition proceeded to Cabacsalan Island,
where it reported to the commanding general of the department, on the evening of the 28th and there was disbanded.
Captain McCoy, in speaking of
the conduct of the officers and men on this expedition, says that
it was of the highest order, and recommends for
certificates of merit, 1st Class Sergeant James C. Gunn, hospital corps (twice wounded in the attack on Peruka Utig's Cotta in May, 1904,)
for particularly meritorious and excellent services throughout the expedition in caring for the wounded while under a heavy fire In the attack on Datu Ali.
He also recommends Corporal Barry Smith, company G, 22d Infantry, the non-commlssloned officer in charge of the advance guard, for special bravery
in action; Private William R. Hutchinson, company K, 22d infantry, member of the advance guard, for bravery in action and fine marksmanship;
Sergeant Lewis A. Carr, company K, 22d infantry, for arduous work and rare judgment as quartermaster sergeant, in charge of all supplies and cargadores.
Sergeant Carr often worked day and night and the peculiar conditions attending the expedition made the care and distribution of the six days' rations,
which had to last for ten days, a matter of rare importance.
In his report of the expedition,
the department commander takes advantage of his opportunity to
thank Major John J. Crittenden, commanding the 22d infantry,
for the admirable manner in which he carried out his orders and instructions. He also speaks of the fact that Datto Ali had terrorized the Cottabato Valley
for months, killing Moros friendly to Americans and threatening the lives of others. Complaints were made by the hill tribes living around Simpetan
and the Gulf of Davao that he had looted their villages and carried off their woman.
The department commander has
called the attention of the division commander to the great
hardships experienced by Captain McCoy
and his command in their march through a country specially adopted for four-footed animals or winged travellers.
Attention is finally invited to the superb discipline of the officers and enlisted men of the 22d infantry.
In 1936 the Chicago Tribune
newspaper printed a two page article commemorating the Datu Ali
as part of the paper's "Making America" series. The article featured a stylized but detailed map
and also included photos of Frank R. McCoy as a Major General in 1936 and as a young Lieutenant
in the 10th cavalry:
Above: The top section of the first page of the article in the Chicago Tribune Sunday September 6, 1936
From the Chicago Tribune website
Above: The map from the 1936 Chicago Tribune article
From the Chicago Tribune website
Below is the text of the article
from the Chicago Tribune of September 6, 1936. As in the above
articles about the
Datu Ali expedition, this article gives additional details and information:
Jungle Epic - How Yankee Heroes
Slew the Evil Datu Ali
McCoy's Bold Exploit in the Land of the Moros
The accompanying account of how Capt. Frank R. McCoy and his soldiers wiped out the menace of the powerful Moro bandit chief, Datu Ali,
is one of the articles of the " Making America " series. Another will appear in the Graphic Section at an early date.
By JOHN A. MENAUGH
ALL hell breaks loose in the tall, lush grass along the banks of the Malala river.
Women and children scream and mongrel dogs yelp. Men, in the grip of intense excitement, shout hoarsely much in the manner that bulls bellow. Rifles roar
on every hand, and the din is punctuated by the deep coughs of heavy revolvers. The air is laden with the penetrating fumes of smokeless powder.
Death holds carnival on the Malala.
From a barricaded bamboo house under a solitary durian tree come flashes of fire as weapons of various sorts are exploded toward the thin ring of khaki-clad soldiers
circling the habitat. The flashes of flame are answered by others from the circle. The soldiers swiftly close in.
A gigantic man, his gleaming body bare except for a scanty breechclout, emerges from the low door of the house. In his hands is a Mauser rifle,
the bolt of which he works furiously as he delivers a stream of metal jacketed bullets toward the line of soldiers before the door of the house.
A revolver and twelve rifles--- these are Springfields---speak simultaneously. The huge man with the Mauser sinks to the ground. His figure is motionless.
Datu Ali, raider, robber, and woman stealer, is dead.
How Capt. Frank R. McCoy, a young American cavalry officer, more than thirty years ago put a fatal finish to the depredations of the powerfully dangerous
Moro chieftain, Datu All, and brought peace to the valley of the Rio Grande de Mindanao in the Philippine Islands, is a story that involves:
A company of fearless, fighting Americanos, struggling and sweating through the Filipino jungles as only heroes can.
Assorted Moros, some hostile, some friendly.
A lonely durian tree, which turned out to be the key to the success of an avenging expedition.
And a lot of background and foreword that are essential to the proper unfolding of the story.
McCoy, who since 1929 has been a major general, who saw active service in France in the World war, and who has been almost everywhere on strange,
surprising, and highly important missions, would tell you that the destruction of Datu All was wholly, or almost wholly, due to luck. He is prone to minimize
his part in the affair. Yet, Without the initiative of young Capt. McCoy it is doubtful that Datu All, Public Enemy No. 1 of the Island of Mindanao,
could have been trailed to his doom on the banks of the Malala, Oct. 22,1905.
"When you write this," said Gen. McCoy not long ago, " do not make it appear that I am telling the story. First person pronouns seem a bit too much like boasting.
Just let me tell it all to you as I remember it, and then you retell it in your own words."
It is true indeed that the general was reluctant to provide the account of the fateful expedition against Datu All. " Much better to have some one else tell it," he said.
But there was no one else available to reveal the facts of that notable exploit of American heroes in a strangely exotic land. And if there had been one
he would not have had every fact at his command as had the general. The bold action that brought lasting peace to the valley of the Rio Grande
was history of the brand that helped make America.
Fire kindled in McCoy's kindly eyes as he relived again the stirring days spent in the quest of the jungle scourge, Datu Ali.
The story begins properly 415 years ago, when Spaniards first set foot on the southern islands of what now are known as the Philippines.
Those first daring explorers found on the islands a native people, bronze hued and rather small of stature, but quick and cunning and far more
intelligent than ordinary savage islanders. Because these people were Mohammedans and of dark complexion, the Spaniards called them Moros,
the identical Spanish word for another people, the Moors, dusky Mohammedans with whom the Spaniards had been battling for centuries
back on the other side of the world.
Ancestors of these Moros had come into the Philippines from Malaysia in the dim and distant past. They had brought the faith of Islam with them,
had interbred with other peoples already on the islands, and had produced a race of upstanding, fearless men and women who asked no privileges,
who took what they wanted and what they needed. They had their own nobility, their noblemen generally possessing in their veins true Arabic blood.
Each nobleman, or datu, had as headman in his household a tall dignified Arab. These Arabs quite often married into the families of the datus.
The datus not infrequently rose to be rulers of the districts in which they dwelt. It became common practice to refer to them as sultans.
As followers of the prophet, they, one and all, maintained harems. In all the more than 7,000 islands of the Philippines there were no other warriors
so fearless and dangerous as the Moros, and no Moros so difficult to combat as their noblemen, the datus.
Favorite arm of the Moros was the kris, or creese, a wicked, swordlike cutting weapon. Some of these were straight bladed, others had wavy edges.
Each tribe was partial to its own particular kind of kris. Datu Ali, villain of the chapter of history that has to do with Mindanao in the early 1900s,
was equally proficient with straight bladed and wavy edged kris. The barong and the campilan were variants of the kris. Moros also used spears
in warfare and in hunting, but apparently never mastered the bow and arrow. They took to firearms after the arrival of Europeans, learned to make
crude muskets and cannon, solved the mystery of the manufacture of gunpowder, and grew skilful at stealing rifles from the white men.
The Spaniards who established settlements in the Philippines were able to Christianize many of the tribes, especially those of the northerly islands,
but they never made much headway in missionary work among the Moros. The last named remained throughout the Spanish occupation
more fiercely Mohammedan than Arab or Turk. Though now pacified, they still adhere to the faith of their ancestors.
Spain made little pretense at attempting to civilize the natives of Mindanao, the area of which is slightly greater than that of the state of Indiana.
A few feeble efforts met with failure in the early days, and the Island was virtually abandoned by the white men in the seventeenth century,
to be reoccupied in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The Spaniards returned to the island in the '80s and '90s, built a few small stone forts,
and finally established control over the Moros, although they never in the true sense set up an actual government on the island. They didn't try to govern.
They only protected Christianized Filipinos, Chinese, and others. It was Gen. Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, marques of Tenerife, better known as
"The Butcher" of the Cuban war, who temporarily pacified the Moros, who whipped their chieftain, an uncle of Datu Ali, and made the territory in the
neighborhood of Spanish forts relatively safe for Spaniards.
Then came the Spanish-American war in 1898. The defeated Spaniards moved out of Mindanao in 1901.
After the evacuation of the Spanish garrisons and before the arrival of American troops in the remote island there flashed into the picture the then
little known sultan of the upper valley of the Rio Grande de Mindanao, a great sprawling fertile lowland, crossed by streams, dotted here and there with rice fields,
and hemmed in on all sides by mountains, at the bases of which were thick, tropical jungles. This sultan's name was Datu Ali. He was a strapping fellow
well over 6 feet in height. He and his brother, Djim Bangan, also a giant of a man, although lacking some of the fiercely warlike qualities of Ali, moved down
the Rio Grande with their followers and raided the town of Cotabato [cota means fort; bato means stone; cotabato means stonefort], which had been
left to their mercy by the Spaniards. Native homes were looted. The blade of the kris flashed in the sunlight. The earth grew damp with a deep red stain.
It was much like the sacking of an ancient town by buccaneers, and almost as bloody. Datu Ali and Djim Bangan ordered all the women, of the village
paraded before them. They took their pick. And after much feasting and carousing the Moros from up the river settled down in possession of Cotabato.
But not for long. The departure of the Spaniards was followed closely by the arrival of the Americans. When the soldiers of Uncle Sam appeared upon the scene
Datu Ali and his wives, children, and followers retired up the river---vanished into the wilds of the upper valley.
The first American commander in that region was Col. Lea Febiger. As Capt. John Pershing [the general of World war fame] was pacifying to a degree
the Moros of the Lake L'anao district. to the north of Cotabato, Col. Febiger was winning the friendship of Datu Ali, sultan of the upper valley
of the Rio Grande. The Louisiana Purchase exposition was scheduled to be held in St. Louis in 1903 [it was delayed a year], and Febiger suggested
that Ali and his wives be included in the group of Filipinos who were to be taken to the fair. All arrangements had been made to transport the sultan
and his harem to the United States when some enterprising American discovered that the Moros were slaveowners and that some of the native individuals
slated for a trip to St. Louis actually were slaves. Washington called off Ali's excursion at the last moment.
That was an affront that Datu Alt could not ignore. Moro chiefs refuse to be treated shabbily, even by governments. And Ali was more sensitive than
most noble Moros. He had lost face among his people. He broke off friendly relations with Americans. He was through.
In 1903 Leonard Wood, just promoted to major general, was ordered to the Philippines, his assignment being to organize a government in the Moro province
to supplant the mere army post control then in existence. The province took in all of the Island of Mindanao, except certain Christian districts, and the
Sulu archipelago, the last named territory ruled over by the only sultan in the Philippines more powerful than Datu Ali. The capital of the Moro province was Zamboanga.
Accompanying Gen. Wood to the new American possessions, over which years later he was to become governor general, was Capt. McCoy. The young officer
was the general's aid. He was appointed to the council of five which constituted the executive body handling the affairs of the new government. This council
ordered roads built, established district governors, and in general created order out of chaos. There were two army officers on the council of five,
and three civilians. These men and their subordinates worked directly through native chiefs.
Gen. Wood realized that if he could bring Datu Ali, most powerful sultan in Mindanao, to terms he would be going a great way toward establishing permanent peace.
The general sent word to Ali, inviting the sultan to become headman of the upper valley as the representative of the American government. Ali replied that he
would not act under American orders. Hostilities began when Ali retired to a cota at Serenaya, about fifteen miles north of the Rio Grande
and about seventy miles from Cotabato.
Capt. McCoy, who then was at Cotabato, considered the situation serious enough to call for Gen. Wood, who arrived from Zamboanga with a battalion of troops.
Wood again invited Ali to a conference on the lower river. The sultan replied by inviting Wood to come to him. The general set out with his troops for Serenaya.
On the way the Americans were ambushed. A few were wounded. Ali fell back to the fort at Serenaya, which consisted of a series of earthworks with bastions,
the whole revetted with bamboo. When Capt. McCoy inspected it after its capture he found it to be the strongest native fort he had ever seen.
Wood sent back to Cotabato for artillery. The guns were dragged through rice fields and jungles to the vicinity of the cota at Serenaya, where All,
with 1,200 to 2,000 followers, was taking refuge behind the protection of some sixty native bronze cannon and twenty old Spanish pieces,
some of large caliber. Gen. Wood turned his gunners loose on the Moro fort. Shells ripped through jungle foliage. Splinters and flying earth filled the air.
Surviving Moros stole out of the fort and vanished, leaving several hundred dead and wounded behind. It was the start of a two year war.
After the bombardment at Serenaya Ali fled to Bual, pursued by the American troops. Capt. McCoy went along with the soldiers as an interpreter,
and it was on this expedition that Djim Banyan, Ali's brother, was captured under highly amusing circumstances. The big Moro fled across a wet log
spanning a stream, and stood at bay with an uplifted spear. One of the American officers fell into the stream in trying to negotiate the slippery log.
Another, the present General Darrah, quickly sized up the situation, boldly ran across the log, captured the datu, and secured the spear.
The whole affair ended in laughter. Djim Banyan was mounted on a carabao and marched back to Cotabato. He was kept prisoner at Zamboanga for a year.
In the war between Datu Ali and the Americans that flourished from the time of the bombardment at Serenaya to the death of the Moro sultan,
Ali had all the best of it. His espionage was better than that of the Americans. Peaceful natives were afraid to betray him, for his vengeance was
far-reaching. He raided up and down and across and back the wide valley of the Rio Grande. He even went beyond the limits of his own territory.
He looted villages, put to death those who opposed him, and stole all the pretty girls upon whom his eyes fell. His warriors ambushed American
detachments in the jungles, fired their stolen rifles at the white men who saw nothing to shoot at in the black shadows of the trees, and laughed as they fled
before the wrath that was next to helpless in a disadvantage such as that.
In one of these ambushes planted by Datu Ali two officers and more than twenty men were slain. It was a company of the 17th infantry, under two young lieutenants,
Woodruff and Hall, that marched into the death trap at a place called Simpetan, on the edge of the Liguasan marsh, far up in the valley of the Rio Grande.
Only twelve of the company survived. The Moros captured between thirty and forty Springfield rifles.
Troops were dispatched up the river to the scene of the ambush. There was nothing that could be done, however. On the return from Simpetan Capt. McCoy
was left at Buluan with orders to go up into the hills and warn peaceful natives against Datu Ali. With McCoy were Lieut. Benjamin Foulois [recently army air chief],
Bishop Charles Henry Brent, a few soldiers, and some natives, including Datu Enok, a foster brother of Datu Ali, who went along to act as guide. Datu Enok
was Datu Ali's mortal enemy. Ali had stolen Enok's favorite wife, Makalie.
The little group under the command of Capt. McCoy went up into the jungle country south of Mount Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines.
McCoy and Foulois were the first American officers ever to penetrate this isolated region. They came out at a place called Digos, on Davao gulf.
On the evening after separating from the main force at Buluan the little party camped on the Malala river. While the natives were making camp
for the soldiers, Datu Enok and Capt. McCoy stood together gazing at the colorful panorama before them. The guide pointed out the peak of
Mount Apo, then called attention to a great pyramidal tree to the northeast that reared itself above the surrounding landscape. Between the two men
and the tree was only flat territory, covered with tall grass.
"That's a durian tree," said Datu Enok. " It is the only one within a hundred miles. Natives come here from over the whole valley to eat of its fruit."
The tree of this species bears a spherical fruit six to eight inches in diameter. The inside of the fruit when ripe has the consistency of custard and,
although it smells to the heavens, the natives like it.
The lone durian tree on the banks of the Malala turned out to be more than just an attraction to hungry Moros. How it proved the key
to the collapse of Moro resistance in Mindanao will be revealed as the story unfolds.
Datu Ali's defiance of American authority dragged on through the months. Gen. Wood was making ready to return to the United States on leave,
but before he departed he made another effort to arrange a truce with the wily Moro sultan. He sent the other of his two aids, Capt. Ralstead Dorey
and a Syrian doctor, Najab Saleeby, who spoke Arabic, up the Rio Grande to the rancheria of one Datu Piang, a cunning old chieftain,
part Moro and part Chinese. Capt. Dorey there conferred with Datu Ali, who finally agreed to come to terms and yield to the Americans.
A proposed surrender of arms on the part of the Moro sultan proved a stumbling block to the proceedings. After three or four days of parley
Ali vanished in the night. He had been fooling all the while.
And when he disappeared he took with him Datu Piang's favorite daughter, Minka.
Gen. Wood went away, leaving Capt. McCoy as acting governor. It was decided to do nothing about Datu Ali until Wood's return,
the plan being to keep negotiations with the elusive Moro alive until the general could be present to direct them.
The program was changed, however, just before the expected return of Wood. Brig. Gen. James A. Buchanan had been sent in to assume command
of the troops in Mindanao, although not to supplant Wood as governor. McCoy had been relieved of the duties of acting governor, but still
was a member of the legislative council. The new plan was to make one more try for Datu Ali.
Capt. McCoy went up the river to Datu Piang's place to see if he could learn from the old man, whom he knew as " a clever old coon," the whereabouts
of the slippery Datu Ali. Datu Piang was friendly to the Americans. But he also was friendly to, or fearful of, Datu All. For several days McCoy remained
at Piang's rancheria, making no headway at worming the secret of Ali's whereabouts out of his host. Finally, realizing that he was getting nowhere
and time was flying, McCoy put the case squarely up to Piang in words like these:
"Now, Piang, I'm going back, and you haven't told me anything. I don't want to have to tell Gen. Wood that you have told me nothing.
I know you know where Ali is."
Piang did not relish the role of enemy to Gen. Wood. He slowly revealed to Capt. McCoy that he knew where Ali was hiding out. Six weeks before,
according to Piang, Ali had sent for Minka's mother to nurse Minka through a spell of sickness. The old woman had been taken up the river,
through the marsh, or everglades, to the Malala river. She had returned to Piang's place the day before the arrival of McCoy.
Piang felt that he could tell Capt. McCoy where Ali was hiding---that is, in a rather indefinite way. He knew that the soldiers could not go up the Rio Grande
without Ali being informed of their approach. And he also knew that in telling McCoy that Ali was camped on the Malala he was not revealing the location
with any great degree of accuracy. There were thousands of places to hide along the stretches of the winding river.
The old native told the captain that Ali was staying in a house on high ground somewhere [he wasn't certain just where] on the banks of the Malala.
Without giving the matter a thought, Piang said that the house stood under a durian tree.
That was enough for Capt. McCoy.
Back to Zamboanga went McCoy immediately. Gen. . Buchanan was for dispatching an expedition at once, to capture or kill Datu Ali. McCoy suggested
a secret expedition, by way of Davao gulf and an overland march to the Malala river from the east. From Digos, where the expedition finally landed,
to within fifteen miles of the house in which Datu Ali was found, was the rankest kind of jungle. The route was over a divide, and along the bases
of the mountains. McCoy knew that any expedition approaching the Malala river from Cotabato could have no secrecy---that Datu Ali would know about it
days in advance of its arrival. The captain also knew that by going in the back door, so to speak, he would have a chance to trap the foxy chief.
Gen. Buchanan insisted that McCoy lead the troops against the Moro sultan.
The, captain therefore chose a company of the 22d infantry, which was stationed at Camp Keithley on Lake L'anao. He wanted soldiers from the camp
most remote from the valley of the Rio Grande. He didn't want his plans to leak out. The soldiers were taken to Zamboanga , with it understood
that they were going on an expedition to the Sulu Islands.
There were a hundred soldiers and a company of native scouts under Capt. Henry Rodgers in the little force selected to go after Datu All. Capt. McCoy
took Lieut. Gordon Johnston [the Col. Johnston killed in a polo accident in Texas in 1934] as his right hand man. Also on the expedition were
Lieut. Philip Remington, Lieut. Solomon B. West, Lieut. B. M. McCroskey, Dr. W. T. Davis, 150 native bearers, Datu Enok, the sworn enemy of Datu Ali,
and Tomas Torres, a Filipino veteran of Moro wars, whose wife also had been stolen by Ali. Torres knew Ali by sight.
The expedition sailed from Zamboanga in the little steamer Sabah. A landing was made at Digos in Davao gulf. McCoy's plan was to push forward as rapidly
as possible in order to reach the house under the durian tree before Datu Ali could learn of his advance. The soldiers and native scouts and bearers
plunged into the jungle, working their way up to the divide near Mount Apo. The whole advance toward the goal on the Malala river took six days,
the soldiers, however, marching in the main by night. When the divide was reached it was found that twenty-three of the soldiers were played out.
Others of the expedition pushed on toward Ali's hiding place.
Capt. McCoy had in his mind as a possible danger point the village of Bilanes on the route to Ali's house. He expected to make a forced march
from the divide by day, then halt for a while, and work around the village at night. Instead, he miscalculated and blundered into the village.
It was dark when this happened, and rain was falling. McCoy's soldiers rushed through the village to the barking of dogs and the beating of gongs,
and soon were between it and Ali. In the meantime five more men had been overcome by fatigue. They were left behind, somewhere near the village of Bilanes.
After stumbling into the little native settlement the troops rested from 7 o'clock until midnight. McCoy and Johnson made a reconnaissance as the soldiers slept.
At daylight the advancing column came to the banks of the Malala river. Two Moros were on the other side, one astride a pony, the other afoot. Lieut. Johnston
was about to fire his revolver at them when he was restrained by Capt. McCoy. The captain did not want to give the alarm, and he was not certain that
the two Moros were messengers sent from the village of the Bilanes to warn Ali of the approach of the Americans. As it transpired, however, that is exactly
the mission that the two were on. They rushed to Ali and told him the soldiers were near, but All refused to believe them until it was too late. The villagers
had not seen the soldiers as they ran through in the dark. They had only surmised that the party rushing through was made up of Americans.
That was why Ali was skeptical.
The Americans and the few scouts accompanying them advanced rapidly in the early gray of the morning, crossing and recrossing the river several times
until they came to the ford nearest the house under the durian tree. A guard of seven men who had been watching this crossing had departed
for breakfast shortly before the weary American soldiers arrived at 6 o clock. That was one of the circumstances that McCoy considered sheer luck.
Lieut. Remington was ordered to go forward as speedily as possible with seventeen picked men---his job to capture or kill Datu Ali before the Moros
could organize resistance. Remington and his men advanced at a dog trot through the tall grass. Lieut. Johnston with a platoon moved to the left
to cover the river. Lieut. West and others of the soldiers proceeded to the right to keep any of the enemy from fleeing on that side by the way of the river.
Above the waving grass Capt. McCoy saw the spears of the seven Moro guards returning to the ford after having had their coffee. These guards
had missed Remington and his soldiers. McCoy indicated to the men with him that he to lake the seven without sounding an alarm, and just as his soldiers
pounced upon the natives there came from the vicinity of the bamboo hideout of Datu Ali the sound of gunfire.
When the shooting began at the house McCoy ran ahead to join Remington. As he broke out of the taIl grass about a hundred yards from the house
he saw a line of his soldiers firing into the bamboo structure. He saw both Datu Enolk and Tomas Torres firing toward the house. He saw Remington
firing with a .45 caliber revolver. The expedition had armed itself at Zamboanga with pistols heavier than the then regulation .32 caliber service weapons,
in the knowledge that Moros required a weight of lead to stop them.
McCoy saw a gigantic Moro emerge from the door of the house. The man was without sarong or turban---nude except for a small breechclout.
In his hands he held a rifle---a Mauser, a weapon of a make popularized among the Moros by the Spaniards. The big Moro was shooting fast.
One of his bullets killed a man standing near Remington.
Remington fired his revolver at the man with the Mauser. At the same time a dozen other American soldiers let loose their Springfields at the man.
Every bullet hit him. He fell.
"That was Ali," shouted Tomas Torres.
McCoy called to Remington to cease firing. Johnston, on the bank of the river, had heard the name of Ali shouted above the din of battle.
He saw a Moro make for the river and thought it was Datu Ali escaping. The lieutenant jumped into the river himself, and almost drowned,
but the fleeing Moro got away, the only one to escape from the great bamboo house that stood only sixty feet from the bank of the Malala under the durian tree.
As Remington emerged from the cover of the tall grass he bad seen a group of Moros taking coffee on a platform in front of the house. He rushed at them,
firing as he ran. The Moros retreated into the house, lay down on the floor, and fired through loopholes with Springfields and Mausers at the soldiers on the outside.
There were twenty-one Moro men in all in the house, and in addition were the wives and some of the children of Datu Ali. Only Ali of all the Moros stood up
to fight it out with his enemies.
Datu Enok called to those in the house to surrender. A woman's voice answered that all of the men had been killed. In the place were twenty women
and children, nearly all of whom had been wounded. But no woman or child was slain.
Dr. Davis attended to the wounds of the women and children, as well as those of the Americans who had received bullets in the fight. Two Americans
were killed, and three wounded. Minka, the daughter of Datu Piang, at first would not allow the doctor to dress her wounds. As Capt. McCoy talked to her,
urging her to accept the physician's care, he turned toward the house and beheld an amazing sight
A woman, stark naked, was coming out of the house. In her arms she held a baby. The woman was badly wounded. She was Datu Enok's stolen wife, Makalie.
Finally all the wounds were dressed, including those of Minka. The dead were buried, and the women and children collected together and sent down the river.
The soldiers recovered the rifles taken in the ambush at Simpetan. Datu Enok, at his own request, got back his wife. The troops moved to Buluan on Lake Buluan,
where they took up a defensive position and waited for other troops sent in from Cotabato by Gen. Buchanan.
Then Capt. McCoy and his soldiers went down the river, through the sunbathed valley of the Rio Grande, in which no hostile shot has been fired
since that eventful day of Oct. 22, 1905.
"What was Datu Ali wearing when he was killed?" Datu Piang asked Capt. McCoy weeks later.
"Only a breechclout," rejoined the captain.
"Didn't he have on a shirt? " queried the old man.
"No," said McCoy.
"That's why he was killed. He wasn't Wearing his magic shirt," confided Piang.
It seems that All, as an alleged descendant of Mohammed. possessed a bulletproof shirt of silk, and a pot of sacred oil
that was guaranteed to keep him safe from harm.
But no charms were working at that fateful hour when he stopped more than a dozen bullets on the banks of the Malala.
Article from the Chicago Tribune Sunday September 6, 1936
From the Chicago Tribune website
Incredibly, within a few months,
a report originating in Manila, that Ali was not killed,
but was still alive on Mindanao, appeared in US newspapers:
From the San Francisco Call, Saturday, May 26, 1906
CDNC California Digital Newspaper Collection
Within two days articles were
to contradict the report that Ali was still alive:
Article from the Los Angeles Herald, Monday, May 28, 1906
CDNC California Digital Newspaper Collection
Since the 22nd Infantry was now
stationed in San Francisco, a newspaper in that city was able to
get a more
detailed account from the two officers of the 22nd Infantry who were part of the mission, and had seen Ali's body.
1st Lieutenant Solomon B. West and 2nd Lieutenant Philip Remington were interviewed for the following article.
At the end of the article Remington, ..."who fired the shot that brought Ali to the ground", remarked that Ali
had been shot ..."in fifteen different places, three bullets having entered vital organs."
Article from the San Francisco Call, Monday, May 28, 1906
CDNC California Digital Newspaper Collection
Annual Reports of the War
Department for the Fiscal Year ended June 30, 1906,
included this description of the Datu Ali episode:
Brigadier General Tasker H. Bliss Commanding Department of Mindinao for the period July 1, 1905 to April 12, 1906
In 1923 the Army awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross to LT Philip Remington,
for his actions on October 22, 1905, during the expedition which finally brought an end to Datu Ali.
The citation for that award is below:
For an account of one of the
22nd Infantry Soldiers who was part of the Provisional Company
which tracked down and killed Datu Ali, go to the following link on this website:
SGT Grover Hart - Going after the Datu Ali
For an extremely detailed account of the hunt for Datu Ali, see the book:
MOROLAND The History of Uncle Sam
and the Moros 1899-1920
by Robert Fulton
Tumalo Creek Press, Bend, Oregon 2007, 2009
Robert Fulton, the author of the
book above, has many photos, maps, and much information
on the pursuit of Datu Ali on his website. Click on the following link to visit the website:
¹ BULLETS and BOLOS Fifteen Years In The Philippine Islands
by John White
The Century Company, New York & London 1928
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