John Hay, Secretary of State under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, famously called the Spanish-American War a “splendid little war.” And since the war lasted barely three months, and an American empire was established at the cost of fewer than 500 killed, many at the time agreed with his description. However, within months of the Treaty of Paris, the United States was at war again, this time with the Philippine forces that had been their allies against Spain.
For the Filipinos, this action (referred to as the Philippine-American War, the Filipino Insurrection or sometimes the War of 1900) was a continuation of their quest for independence that began with an 1896 revolt against Spain. The Americans, however, treated it as an insurrection against their newly-established colonial rule. Serious fighting broke out with the February 4, 1899, Battle of Manila. Much of the fighting was done by irregular Filipino forces, fighting a guerilla war against the Americans. This led to often savage attacks and reprisals by both sides. For example, A. A. Barnes wrote the following home to his brother in 1899: “Last night one of our boys was found shot
and his stomach cut open. Immediately orders were received from Gen. Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight, which was done to a finish. About 1,000 men, women, and children were reported killed.”
Over the three years of the conflict, more than 126,000 American servicemen would serve in the Philippines, with a field army of between 25,000 and 45,000 at all times. Filipino forces numbered between 80,000 and 100,000, divided between regular and guerilla units. The casualty lists were striking, especially in the wake of the Spanish-American War’s relatively minor losses. Over 1,000,000 Filipinos died, most of famine and cholera brought on by the war. Military losses among the Filipino forces numbered approximately 15,000. Approximately 5,000 Americans died in the Philippines, more than ten times the number who perished in the Spanish-American War, making the Filipino Insurrection truly the “forgotten war.”
Among those who died in the Philippines was John H. Large of Litchfield, who served with the Fifth United States Infantry. The Fifth United States saw distinguished service in the Civil War and in the Indian Wars, in which 42 of its members won the Medal of Honor. Befitting a forgotten war, little is known about Large’s (or his regiment’s) service. He died on September 5, 1902, two months after the official end of the insurrection. Guerilla fighting, however, continued on until 1915. Large is buried in Litchfield’s East Cemetery.