Philippine-American War, 1899-1902

by Arnaldo Dumindin

July 26-30, 1899: Capture of Calamba, Laguna Province

The "Napindan" towing four casco loads of US troops during the advance against Calamba.

On July 26, 1899, an expedition under Brig. Gen. Robert H. Hall, attacked Calamba, an important trading town on the south shore of Lake Laguna de Bay about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Manila. It was much further south than U.S. troops had before penetrated on land. The taking of Calamba was made pursuant to a plan which contemplated surrounding Aguinaldo's southern army. It was Maj. Gen. Henry W. Lawton's direct objective on April 10, 1899 when he captured Santa Cruz, about 30 miles (50 km) to the east. Lawton was unable to reach Calamba then on account of shoal water. 

The American force comprised 450 of the 21st Infantry, 400 of the 1st Washington Volunteers, 150 of the 4th Cavalry and 2 guns of the 1st Artillery. The troops boarded cascoes the preceding night. These and the gunboats Napindan and Oeste assembled opposite Calamba.

The Filipinos were commanded by General Miguel Malvar.There were two hours of sharp fighting, during which 4 Americans were killed and 12 wounded. The Filipinos retreated through the town, shooting from houses and bushes as they fled to the nearby Mt. Makiling.

After the fight 12 Spanish men holding up their hands and shouting " Castillanos!" met the American cavalry. They embraced the Americans hysterically. There were 50 Spanish prisoners at Calamba, of whom some were civil officials and some were soldiers. They had been given the choice of joining the Filipino army or becoming servants to Filipinos, and chose the army, intending to surrender at the first opportunity.

July 27, 1899, Calamba, Laguna Province:  From left to right: Maj. Gen. Henry W. Lawton, Manley Lawton, Capt. Edward L. King, Mrs. Mary Craig Lawton, Garvin Denby, Dean C, Worcester (the photographer & writer) and Filipino collaborators Felipe Calderon and Benito Legarda.

Maj. Gen. Henry W. Lawton, Professor Dean C. Worcester, of the First Philippine Commission; Mrs. Lawton and General Lawton's son Manley accompanied the expedition on board a launch and sat in an unprotected boat close to the shore during the fighting.

The following day, July 27, the reinforced Filipinos, thinking that the Americans had evacuated the town, descended from Mt. Makiling, intending to reoccupy Calamba. The Americans drove them back.

Headquarters of  Brig. Gen. Robert H. Hall at Calamba, Laguna Province.

Three days later, on July 30, General Hall, hearing that General Malvar was preparing to make an attack, sent 3 companies of the 21st Infantry, 3 troops of cavalry and 1 gun to attack the Filipinos. This detachment found a force of about 1,000 Filipinos behind hastily made entrenchments. The Filipinos held their fire until the contingent of the 21st Infantry was within 300 yards, when they fired a volley. The Americans dropped in the high grass out of sight and returned the fire.

A Filipino officer stood at the top of the trenches, directing the fire of his men until he was killed, when the Filipinos fled.

The total American loss at Calamba was 7 killed and 20 wounded. Sixteen dead Filipinos were found.

1Lt. Matthew Batson inspects the rifles of members of Company E , 4th U. S. Cavalry Regiment stationed in Calamba. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on the first day of the battle for the town. Batson founded the infamous  Macabebe Scouts in Pampanga Province on Sept. 10, 1899.

General Hall, a member of West Point Class 1860, left a garrison in the town.

39th US Volunteers and Filipino civilians riding a string of small railcars pulled by a carabao (water buffalo) at Calamba, 1900.