Joe Brock, February 26, 1900
Out Boys in the Philippines
Near Manila, Feb. 26th, 1900
The day after I received your letter, we were ordered out on an expedition to the southern part of the island, supposed to be the hot bed of insurrection, then we began to see a soldier’s life in earnest. I carried with me a change of underclothes, rolled up in a poncho strapped to the rear end of my saddle.
There are two pockets to our saddles, in one we carry a watering bridle, (a bit and reins, which we fasten to the halter of the horse when we stop to rest) and a lariat with an iron pin to drive in the ground, curry comb and brush, two horse shoes, in case he should lose one, and a nose bag for his oats. Our bed blanket is put on top of saddle blanket, and we use both at night. Carbine, saber and revolver, complete the outfit. The carbine is carried in a leather boot strapped to the right side of the saddle with the muzzle down, and under the calf of the leg, the saber goes on the other side in the same position, the revolver is strapped to the belt in which we carry 100 rounds of ammunition.
Well that was my first night sleeping on the ground, and I felt a little stiff in the morning. At first we had two men detailed to do the cooking. The utensils and provisions, consisting of hard-tack, bacon and coffee, are strapped on the backs of mules.
For the first few days we had nothing to eat in the middle of the day, but kept on the march all day, we traveled too fast for the pack train, so our utensils were turned over to the Infantry, and we were issued rations, and had to do our own cooking.
A young man named Harry Cartwright, who enlisted in New York, showed be how to fix hard-tack so it tasted real good: break it up in half the mess-pan and pour a little water and let is stand a while, then fry in the grease from the bacon and sprinkle a little sugar on it—if you have it to spare. It touches the right spot when you are living on government rations.
Sometimes we catch some of the natives chickens, and then we have a feast, when we can find a little rice we cook that with the chickens, using a stone bowl, we do not ask for these things as over half the towns we went through were totally deserted, and we helped ourselves to whatever we saw, although there were orders that there should be no looting, every house of any consequence was thoroughly ransacked.
The third day of our march there was a small skirmish, but I was not in it.
We were in the rear of the column, and it was all over before we were ordered out. We lost two or three men killed and some wounded. Three or four days later we were drawing near a town named Male and when about three miles from the town the scouts were fired upon, and one man killed instantly. Firing began all along our right, and the scouts kept up a steady return fire, although we could seldom see an insurgent. It was all rice paddys for 200 yards on the right then there was a deep ditch, with small trees and bushes, that afforded them protection. We were ordered to dismount and fight on foot and formed a skirmish line about 10 feet apart. My carbine was not loaded, and I had to load as I walked along. The troop commander was just behind us and we began to advance in a crouching position, stopping every 20 or 30 yards, and firing repeatedly at the men we saw in the bushes. Every step I took in the rice paddy, I mired to my ankles, and the noonday Philipino Sun, was doing its duty to the fullest extent, so that the perspiration was running from every pore. One poor fellow about ten yards on my right was wounded, and we left a man with him and kept on. Their fire was silenced in half an hour and soon we were all back on the road again. The poor fellow who was wounded, named Madden, died about a week after, from blood poison.
This was my first experience, and I suppose you wonder how I felt. Well, when the firing first began and two or three bullets whizzed uncomfortably near, I felt a little curious, but after I got in it I was all right. I think there were four men killed that day.
Well, I cannot tell about the whole trip this time, but will send you a Manila paper with an account in it.
It is reported that we will be home in June. I don’t know whether it is true or not, I would like to accomplish something first before I go home.
Joe W. Brock
Troop B, 4th Cavalry.
[New Bern Daily Journal, April 23, 1900, page 4, col. 4-5]
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