Hartman George Arthur, Letters From the Philippines, 1898-1899
George Arthur Hartman, Letters From the Philippines, 1898-1899
George Arthur Hartman’s letters from the Philippines, 1898-1899, are an important piece of historical evidence because they show firsthand experience narrated by a soldier who fought when the Americans had begun to pursue the Philippine Islands in 1898. Therefore, the analysis is based on the letters. An additional source is John McCasland’s soldier narrative. It emphasizes that when the United States was leading the war in Philippines, which erupted in 1898, the American soldiers shared their experiences with their families through letters. They tried to explain their experiences on the battlefields, such as the brutality and military tactics they were applying to combat their enemies. Moreover, as the Philippines attempted to oppose the aforementioned brutality, the American soldiers had to improve their tactics and ammunition to defeat the enemy. On the other hand, these soldiers wanted to impress their families and friends in order to maintain the spirit of nationalism and American identity. However, despite the shared zeal of nationalism among the American soldiers, the challenges and brutality of the war is evident in the letters that these soldiers sent to their families, as seen in George Arthur Hartman’s letters from the Philippines, 1898-1899.
Notably, Hartman’s letters were written based on first-hand experiences of the troops during their invasion. First, the challenges that the American soldiers faced started even before they arrived to the battlefields. For example, in his letter, Hartman says that first they were not aware that the war had already erupted. Although they had heard some shooting in the distance, they learnt the American soldiers were trying to conquer the island only from a health officer (Hartman, 1898-1899.). Therefore, those soldiers were not aware that the war had already begun. They were supposed to conquer the island with the guidance of a messenger. Besides, the circumstances in which they had found themselves were quite exhausting. They had to struggle with unfavorable weather conditions such as strong winds, rough sea, and heavy downpour. In his letter, Hartman says, “Just after we got started it rained, rained, rained; I never seen such a heavy rain in all my life” (Hartman, 1898-1899). Their situation was rather dire, to the extent that soldiers had contemplated surrendering. Possibly, those conditions limited the chances of people to travel to the island. According to Hartman, small vessels from Spain travelled to this island about three or four times a year. Unfortunately, as the war unfolded, some of the soldiers were captured and held as prisoners (Hartman, 1898-1899).
Moreover, Hartman’s letters do not only depict the experiences of his fellow soldiers but also those of the civilians they encountered. For example, in one of the villages, there were about five hundred inhabitants who could speak English fairly good (Hartman, 1898-1899). They were farmers and business people, who used to sell such commodities as fruits, vegetables, pigeons, and chicken. The most interesting thing in that village was that the residents were supposed to pay 25 or 50 percent of their proceedings for the privilege of being alive. In case they were unable to pay the fee, refused to pay, or disobeyed the aforementioned law, they were put in prisons (Hartman, 1898-1899).
Further, Hartman’s letters reveal that when fighting their enemies, the American troops used warships. However, there were instances when they were forced to hide in the trenches to shoot Spaniards. Besides, when insurgents surrendered, the American troops had to guard the artillery and the houses under their control during the night (Hartman, 1898-1899). Furthermore, some of the soldiers from the United States were captured by the enemies who mistreated them. Those soldiers had to endure hardships, especially due to starvation. The Spaniards insurgents also forced American captives to move approximately 40 miles up to the mountains. As the war continued, both sides suffered considerable casualties. Many American soldiers and their enemies lost their lives during attacks (McCasland). These occurrences were unpleasant, and some soldiers were getting tired of fighting because they felt the war was pointless. Like Hartman, most of them suffered from homesickness, and, most likely, that was one of main reasons he wrote letters to his family. Besides, the American force was gradually becoming weak, and the US soldiers had to call for reinforcement because the numbers of their enemies highly outnumbered those of the American troops. On the contrary, the enemies had reserves that would easily replace the lives of those lost in the battle (Hartman, 1898-1899).
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The challenges of the war became more severe when the troops suffered from diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery. Similarly, the sights of execution and scattered corpses disheartened the American troops to continue fighting, and they started to think of going back home (McCasland). Sometimes, their enemies fought tactically as well, even though they had not acquired skilled training like the American soldiers had. For example, some insurgents were lying down as if they were dead to escape being injured. However, after the American troops had passed, they would stand and start shooting them. A deeper analysis of Hartman’s letter shows that these problems and the resistance that the troops faced during the war were caused by the failure of the American government to design comprehensive plans (Hartman, 1898-1899). In other words, the American soldiers pursued the Philippine Islands as a result of the military operations orchestrated by those interested in the conflict. Moreover, the American government had a secret intention to possess that area without considering the response of the native Filipinos. Practically, the Filipinos had been resisting the Spanish rule for a long time, and there was no way they could accept to be ruled again by the Americans (Hartman, 1898-1899). Therefore, when the troops started to attack, they faced stiff resistance. The insurgents were shooting from different locations. They also attacked the troops in close range of about 150 yards, thus wounding many soldiers. Those outcomes show that the American soldiers were not exploiting their full military potential (Hartman, 1898-1899).
In conclusion, George Arthur Hartman’s letters from the Philippines, 1898-1899, depict the encounters of the American troops as they pursued to attack and conquer the Philippine Islands. First, the soldiers faced violent resistance from the enemies, leading to significant casualties. From Hartman’s letters, it is clear that those attacks were not planned. Most of the soldiers were not even aware that the war had erupted. Second, the weather conditions on the island were not favorable; there were strong winds that made it difficult for the troops to sail the warships. In addition, the soldiers suffered from diseases that demoralized them to continue fighting. The insurgents had also developed their tactics to resist the attacks of the American soldiers. They pretended to be dead only to attack the troops after they had passed. Furthermore, some of the troops were captured and held as prisoners, and they were mistreated and starved. In some cases, the troops had to wait for reinforcements to continue fighting. On the other hand, the insurgents staged strong opposition before they surrendered, because they were not willing to allow another foreign power to dominate them.