Prologue Magazine

Researching Service in the U.S. Army During the Philippine Insurrection

Summer 2000, Vol. 32, No. 2 | Genealogy Notes

By Trevor K. Plante


refer to caption

Members of the 17th Infantry head for action in the Philippine Islands.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds a wealth of information for genealogists researching individuals who served in the U.S. Army during the Philippine Insurrection. Several NARA record groups contain material related to Regular Army officers, enlisted men, volunteers, physicians, contract surgeons, nurses, and Philippine scouts.

The Philippine Insurrection is a difficult and often confusing war to study. Some historians even disagree on what to call the conflict. Some refer to the war that lasted from 1899 to 1902 in the Philippines as the Philippine Insurrection, Philippine-American War, Filipino-American War, Fil-American War and the Philippine War.1 This article uses the term "Philippine Insurrection" to coincide with the historic records held at NARA.

During the Spanish-American War, U.S. forces in the Philippines and Filipino forces led by revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo had a common enemy in Spain. As hostilities came to a close and the United States emerged from the war victorious, Aguinaldo and his supporters were eager for Philippine independence. However, as a result of the Treaty of Paris, December 10, 1898, the United States gained the Philippines as a U.S. territory. Many in the islands were not eager to see one colonial power replaced by another. This desire for independence soon resulted in armed resistance against the United States. The Philippine Insurrection began with a skirmish on the night of February 4, 1899, just outside of Manila.

Fighting initially centered on the area around the city, with Filipino forces employing traditional European style warfare. These tactics eventually gave way to guerilla warfare, which soon spread to several other Philippine islands. As noted by historian Brian McAllister Linn, "in some areas there was long and bitter armed struggle marked by atrocities and widespread destruction, but in other areas—roughly half of the archipelago's provinces—there was little or no fighting."2

Approximately 125,000 troops served in the Philippines during the war. After more than three years of fighting, at a cost of 400 million dollars and approximately 4,200 American dead and 2,900 wounded, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed an end to the insurrection in the Philippines on July 4, 1902.3 Despite Roosevelt's proclamation, isolated and sporadic guerilla activity continued throughout the period of American rule, which lasted until 1946, when the Philippines finally gained their independence.

Shortly after the Spanish-American War ended, the U.S. Army faced a personnel problem in the Philippines. Spanish-American War volunteers had enlisted for the duration of the war. The outbreak of hostilities in the Philippine Islands in February 1899 required additional volunteer forces to reinforce Regular U.S. Army units and replace Spanish-American War volunteers still on the scene. On March 2, 1899, Congress passed a bill maintaining the Regular Army at sixty-five thousand and authorizing the secretary of war to enlist a maximum of thirty-five thousand volunteers for twenty-five regiments to be recruited from the nation as a whole. The bill also allowed the army to keep state volunteers in the Philippines if absolutely necessary.4


Volunteer units raised for the Philippine Insurrection bore "U.S. Volunteer" designations and not state designations used in previous American conflicts. This is an important distinction. If you are researching someone who served in the Philippines in a regiment bearing a state designation, you need to consult the Spanish-American War compiled military service records.5 Fifteen Spanish-American War volunteer infantry regiments bearing state designations served during the first year of the Philippine Insurrection.6 U.S. Volunteer units raised specifically for the Philippine Insurrection were the Eleventh U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and the Twenty-sixth through Forty-ninth U.S. Volunteer Infantry. African Americans served in the Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth U.S. Volunteer Infantry.

The Philippine Insurrection is the last conflict in which the War Department compiled military service records for volunteers. The War Department did not compile military service records for individuals who served in the Regular Army. When researching volunteers, begin by consulting National Archives Microfilm Publication M872, Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Philippine Insurrection. These index cards are arranged alphabetically by the individual's last name and show the soldier's name, rank, and the unit or units in which he served. There are also cross-references to names that appear in the records under various spellings. If you are unable to locate a volunteer who served in the Philippines in this index, then consult National Archives Microfilm Publication M871, General Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War with Spain.

The compiled military service records for individuals who served in the Philippine Insurrection have not been copied onto microfilm. Researchers can request to see the original service records at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C.7 The compiled service records consist of an envelope containing card abstracts taken from muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, and other records that relate to the individual soldier. Information in the service record may include references to wounds, death, hospitalization, absence from the unit, courts-martial, and other events. Carded medical records of volunteers are filed with the individual's compiled military service record. For a brief historical synopsis of each U.S. Volunteer unit, consult the "Record of Events" filed with the muster rolls, returns and regimental papers in Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's-1917, entry 59. The Records of Events provide a brief history of the unit and are usually found in the first or last box of the regimental papers.8

In some cases, Spanish-American War volunteers such as Arthur Plante stayed in the Philippines past their enlistments. Plante enlisted May 11, 1898, in Pennsylvania and went to the Philippines as a member of Company K, Tenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He stayed with his unit in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War ended and was promoted to the rank of corporal in December 1898. Corporal Plante mustered out of service at the Presidio, San Francisco, California, on August 22, 1899. By staying in the Philippines past his enlistment, Plante became eligible for the Philippine Congressional Medal (described later in this article under "Medals"). Plante was awarded a Philippine Congressional Medal, serial number 6105, on June 15, 1925.9

Regular Army Enlisted Men

Many Regular Army infantry, cavalry, and artillery units were sent to fight in the Philippines during the war. These included four units of African American soldiers who served in the Ninth U.S. Cavalry, Tenth U.S. Cavalry, Twenty-fourth U.S. Infantry, and Twenty-fifth U.S. Infantry. The most complete record on enlisted men is the Enlistment Papers, 1894–1912 (RG 94, entry 91). This series is arranged alphabetically by name and generally shows the soldier's name, place of enlistment, date, by whom enlisted, age, occupation, personal description, regimental assignment, and certification of the examining surgeon and recruiting officer. Enlistment papers for individuals who served two or more enlistments are sometimes consolidated. Researchers can also consult the Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798–1914, which is reproduced on National Archives Microfilm Publication M233. The register of enlistments is arranged chronologically and thereunder alphabetically by first letter of surname and usually shows the individual's name, military organization, physical description, age at time of enlistment, place of birth, enlistment information, discharge information, and remarks. Carded medical records (RG 94, entry 530) for Regular Army personnel admitted to hospitals for treatment may include information such as name, rank, organization, age, race, birthplace, date entered service, cause of admission, date of admission, hospital to which admitted, and disposition of the case.

Using both the enlistment paper and the register of enlistments, researchers can gain valuable information about a soldier. For example, according to his enlistment paper, Louis E. Plante, a tobacco worker from Illinois, enlisted for three years in the U.S. Army on September 10, 1900. Plante served in Company M, Thirteenth U.S. Infantry, in the Philippine Islands. Plante's enlistment paper also provides a physical description of him at the time of his enlistment. He is listed as five feet, six inches tall with blue eyes, brown hair, fair complexion, and a number of scars. We learn the name of Louis's father, for Charles L. Plante gave permission for his son, aged twenty, to join the army by signing the "Consent in Case of Minor" section of the enlistment paper. According to the register of enlistments, Plante was discharged from the army at Fort Mason, California, on September 9, 1903. He reenlisted on Christmas Eve 1903 and was later discharged at Jackson Barracks, Louisiana, on December 23, 1906. Since Louis Plante enlisted in the army twice, he has two enlistment papers and appears in the register of enlistments in both 1900 and 1903.10

Regular Army Officers

Many army officers have consolidated files found in the Adjutant General's Document File (AGO Doc File), 1890–1917 (RG 94, entry 25).11 The AGO Doc File may contain reports written by or about an officer. Consult National Archives Microfilm Publication M698, Index to General Correspondence of the Office of the Adjutant General, 1890–1917. The name and subject index provides file numbers needed to access the AGO Doc File. Although the index is on microfilm, the AGO Doc File itself is not.

When researching army officers, researchers should consult Francis B. Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, From Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903, two volumes (Washington: GPO, 1903). Volume 1 contains a register of army officers that provides a brief history of service. Volume 2 contains a "chronological list of battles, actions, etc., in which troops of the Regular Army have participated and troops engaged." The list covering the Philippine Insurrection can be found on pages 449 through 474 of volume 2.

Posts and Regular Army Units

Also of interest to researchers may be records related to posts and Regular Army units. Returns for many military posts, camps, and stations in the Philippine Islands are reproduced on National Archives Microfilm Publication M617, Returns From U.S. Military Posts, 1800–1916. Returns generally show units stationed at the post and their strength, the names and duties of officers, the number of officers present and absent, and a record of events. For records related to units, consult Record Group 391, Records of United States Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821-1942, and operational records in Record Group 395, Records of United States Army Overseas Operations and Commands, 1898–1942. Returns for Regular Army units are reproduced on microfilm and can be found on M665, Returns From Regular Army Infantry Regiments, June 1821–December 1916; M744, Returns From Regular Army Cavalry Regiments, 1833–1916; and M727, Returns From Regular Army Artillery Regiments, June 1821–January 1901. These monthly returns of military organizations report stations of companies and names of company commanders; unit strength, including men present, absent, sick, on extra duty or daily duty, in arrest, or confinement; and significant remarks.


When researching doctors or contract physicians, consult the Surgeon General's general correspondence file (SGO Doc File) found in Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), entry 26. First consult the name and subject index (RG 112, entry 23). There is a separate heading for "contract surgeons." Two other series related to contract surgeons in the Philippine Insurrection are registers showing service and service history cards (RG 112, entries 138 and 139). There may also be material related to doctors found in the personal papers of medical officers and physicians (RG 94, entry 561) and military service cards of Regular Army officers of the Medical Corps (RG 112, entry 91).


There are several series related to women who served as contract nurses in the Philippines and later in the Nurse Corps.12 The Nurse Corps was formed in the Regular Army in 1901. Prior to 1901, nurses in the Philippines worked under contract with the U.S. Army. Personal Data Cards of Spanish-American War Contract Nurses, 1898–1939 (RG 112, entry 149), includes contract nurses who served during the Philippine Insurrection. The personal data cards include information such as full name, address, education, hospital experience, age, date, and place of birth, and marital status. The files also include a brief history of service with the army and in many cases cross-references to files found in the SGO Doc File. You can also consult the SGO Doc File (RG 112, entry 26) by looking under "contract nurses" in the name and subject index (RG 112, entry 23). Other records related to nurses in the Army Nurse Corps during the Philippine Insurrection can be found in Record Group 112, entries 104 and 105, case files of candidates seeking appointments as army nurses and the register of military service of members of the Army Nurse Corps, 1901-1902.

Mary Clare Deasy is a good example of a nurse who served during the Philippine Insurrection. Personal data cards show Deasy's service and duty stations as a contract nurse and nurse in the Nurse Corps. There are also two files in the SGO Doc File concerning her service, including oaths and contracts with the army. Based on these records, we learn that Deasy began her service as a contract nurse in San Francisco, California, on February 13, 1900. She worked under two contracts until July 31, 1900. The next day, Deasy signed a new contract for duty in the Philippines and left California for Manila the same day. Deasy was later appointed a nurse in the Nurse Corps on February 2, 1901, while on duty at the military hospital in Lucena, Tayabas, Philippine Islands. She was later discharged on January 7, 1902, in San Francisco.13

Philippine Scouts

During the Philippine Insurrection, the U.S. Army enlisted Filipinos as scouts. Information related to Filipinos who served as scouts for the U.S. Army can be found in the Regular Army Enlistment Papers, 1894–1912 (RG 94, entry 91) and the Register of Enlistments of the U.S. Army, 1798–1914 (M233). Microfilm roll number 72 contains the register of individuals who served in the Philippine Scouts from October 1901 to 1913. Medical information can be found in the carded medical records (RG 94, entry 530) described earlier in this article under Regular Army.


Records related to proceedings of U.S. Army courts-martial or courts of inquiry can be found in Record Group 153, Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army). The name index (entry 17) and case files (entry 15B) include the Philippine Insurrection and are now located at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.14


The Philippine Campaign Medal (Army) was authorized in 1905 and was awarded for army service in the Philippine Insurrection covering service up to 1913. The Philippine Congressional Medal was established June 29, 1906, for members of the U.S. Army who volunteered to remain in the Philippines beyond their discharge date. Individuals who remained in the Philippines and served between February 4, 1899, and July 4, 1902, were eligible.15 To research recipients of the Philippine Campaign Medal and Philippine Congressional Medal, consult Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, entry 256. This series is a name index to several series in RG 92 related to the issuance of medals. If the Philippine Campaign Medal serial number is known, check RG 92, entry 282, "Special List of Philippine Campaign Medals Issued, 1907–1925." The Philippine Congressional Medal should not be confused with the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military award, which is sometimes referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor was awarded to sixty-nine men of the U.S. Army for service in the Philippine Insurrection. The AGO Doc File is the place to start when researching records related to the Medal of Honor.

Pvt. Cornelius J. Leahy, Company A, Thirty-sixth U.S. Volunteers, was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in the Philippines. According to the AGO Doc File index, there is a Medal of Honor file for Leahy listed as 425522. As often happens with the AGO Doc File, the file is not in the box, but instead there is a cross-reference card to another file. Often a file is consolidated with one or more files in the AGO Doc File or in a document file of a subordinate office in the Adjutant General's office. This is the case with AGO Doc File 425522, which has been consolidated with a file (R&P 686789) found in the Record and Pension Office document file (RG 94, entry 501). This file contains various correspondence, including Leahy's Medal of Honor citation, "For most distinguished gallantry in action in defending and driving off a superior force of insurgents and with the assistance of one comrade bringing from the field of action the bodies of two comrades—one killed and the other severely wounded. This while on a scout near Porac, Luzon, P.I., September 3, 1899."16 Leahy was later killed in action at Pilar, Luzon, Philippine Islands, on December 1, 1900. After corresponding with the War Department, Leahy's mother, Mary Leahy, received her son's Medal of Honor on May 9, 1902.17


For researchers interested in pension files of individuals who served in the Philippine Insurrection, National Archives Microfilm Publication T288, General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934, is the place to start. This microfilm publication is arranged alphabetically by the individual's last name. The index cards include the individual's unit(s), making it easier to distinguish individuals with the same name. For example, both Arthur Plante and Louis Plante appear in the pension index. Because the index cards usually indicate when and where an individual applied for a pension, we know that both Plantes were living in California in the 1920s when they applied for their pensions. A search of pension files in Record Group 15 using the numbers found on the two Plante index cards proved unfruitful. The files are not at the National Archives, which means they are still in the legal custody of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In a case such as this, researchers can gain access to pension files by contacting their local district office of the Department of Veterans Affairs using the pension numbers found on the T288 index.

Researchers interested in finding more information on the Philippine Insurrection can consult National Archives Microfilm Publication M997, Annual Reports of the War Department, 1822–1907. Also of interest is The Philippine Insurrection Against the United States: A Compilation of Documents With Notes and Introduction prepared by Capt. John R.M. Taylor, Fourteenth Infantry, U.S. Army. This publication was proofed in preparation for printing by the Government Printing Office but never published. Captain Taylor's work is reproduced as part of National Archives Microfilm Publication M719, "History of the Philippine Insurrection Against the United States, 1899–1903," and Documents Relating to the War Department Project for Publishing the History. For a recently published, scholarly, yet highly readable secondary source, consult The Philippine War, 1899–1902, by Brian McAllister Linn.

Unless otherwise mentioned, the records and microfilm publications described in this article are available at the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. For researchers unable to visit the National Archives, copies of compiled military service records and pension files held by NARA can be obtained through the mail. To obtain the proper request form, please write to Old Military and Civil Records, National Archives and Records Administration, 7th and Pennsylvania Avenues NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001.


The author would like to thank Mitch Yockelson of the National Archives for his helpful suggestions after reading the draft of this article.

1. Brian McAllister Linn, The Philippine War, 1899–1902 (2000), p. x.

2. Ibid., p. ix.

3. Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski, For the Common Defense1994), pp. 312–313; Linn, The Philippine War, p. 219.

4. Millett and Maslowski, Common Defense, pp. 306–307; Linn, The Philippine War, p. 90.

5. For more information on researching individuals in the Spanish-American War, see Rebecca Livingston's "Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines of the Spanish-American War: The Legacy of USS Maine," Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration 30 (Spring 1998): 62–72.

6. There were also three state artillery units and one state cavalry regiment that served during 1899 in the Philippine Insurrection. The last state unit from the Spanish-American War left the Philippine Islands in October 1899. Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses From All Causes1899).

7. The service records are found in entry 525, "Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations: Philippine Insurrection," Record Group (RG) 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's–1917, National Archives Building (NAB), Washington, DC.

8. Similar abbreviated "Record of Events" for volunteer regiments and companies can be found in the first box of each regiment in the Compiled Military Service Records of the Spanish-American War (RG 94, entry 522) and Philippine Insurrection (RG 94, entry 525), NAB.

9. Arthur Plante, Co. K, Tenth Pennsylvania Infantry, Spanish-American War, CMSR, box 2521, RG 94, NAB.

10. Louis E. Plante, Enlistment Papers, 2nd series, box 1059, RG 94, NAB. Register of enlistments, Register of Enlistments of the U.S. Army, 1798–1914 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M233, rolls 54 and 58), RG 94.

11. From 1890 to 1917 the U.S. Army filed general correspondence by number in "document files," which are often referred to as "doc files."

12. For more information on nurses, see American Women and the U.S. Armed Forces: A Guide to the Records of Military Agencies in the National Archives Relating to American Women (1992).

13. Mary Clare Deasy, box 2, Personal Data Cards, entry 149, RG 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army), NAB; also files 69323 and 79148, boxes 424 and 523, General Correspondence, entry 26, RG 112, NAB.

14. Entry 17 covers 1891–1917, and entry 15B covers 1894-1938. Both series are in RG 153, Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army), NARA, College Park.

15. Evans E. Kerrigan, American War Medals and Decorations (1964), pp. 77–78.

16. R&P File 686789, box 1343, entry 501, RG 94, NAB.

17. Ibid.


Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.