On this date in 1902, two African-American U.S. Army privates were hanged before a crowd of 3,000 at Guinobatan, Philippines for deserting to the anti-occupation insurgency.
The 7,000 black soldiers deployed to put down Philippine national resistance against the American occupation faced an obvious conundrum: they were second-class citizens back home, fighting a savage war to keep Filipinos second-class citizens abroad.
Men in such situations have been known to square that circle by going over to join their fellow downtrodden.
Edmond† Dubose and Lewis Russell, whose firsthand voice we do not have, must have felt those unreconciled strivings, too. These two enlisted men slipped out of the 9th Cavalry‡ in August 1901 while that regiment was conducting anti-insurgency operations in Albay, and were next seen fighting with those same insurgents.
Captured, they were among approximately 20 U.S. soldiers death-sentenced for desertion.
General Adna Chaffee, a veteran of the U.S. Indian Wars and latterly fresh from crushing China’s Boxer Rebellion, approved the hangings — as did the U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt. (Roosevelt later announced that future desertion cases would not be capitally punished, so Dubose and Russell were the only two executed for that crime during the U.S. war against Philippine independence.)
So nice of TR to make that pronouncement after the black men were killed.
I would show a photo of this as well. But I don’t have one.