HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 50 no. 1 - 4 (2004)

A Balangiga Survivor's Letter from Samar on January 18, 1902, At the Height of Gen. Smith's 'Kill and Burn' Campaign

Rolando O. Borrinaga

Discipline: History



Private Ernest U. Ralston survived the massacre of Company C, 9th US. Infantry Regiment, in Balangiga, Samar, on September 28, 1901. He spent 40 days in a military hospital in Tacloban, Leyte, and after recuperation was assigned to the regimental headquarters in Calbayog, Samar.


In Calbayog, Ralston wrote a four-page letter to his parents, at the height of Brig. Gen. Jacob H. Smith's "kill and burn" campaign in retaliation for the U.S. Army's debacle in Balangiga.


Ralston mentioned his published accounts of the Balangiga fighting in some American newspapers and the recent arrival in Calbayog of new soldier-recruits from the U.S. He chided his parents for believing that the "war was over" in the Philippines. He also revealed that some Us. Army officers had enriched themselves at the ·expense of the war in Samar, and cited Brig. Gen. Robert P Hughes, commander of the Department of the Visayas, and Gen. Smith, as examples. At the same time, he lauded Major Edwin F Glenn, Judge Advocate of the Department of the Visayas, for unearthing a native plot that resulted in the detention of an unnamed presidente (mayor), the hanging of an unnamed priest, and the confiscation of a large amount of cash amounting to $10,000 from the alleged plotters.


Ralston had filed for discharge from the army when he wrote the letter, Where he also revealed he was "(awfully) sick" of army life.


This paper analyzes Ralston's letter and provides an expanded context of the people and events in Samar that he had mentioned, as corroborated by other documents from American, Filipino, and British sources.