The 1896 Revolution is one of the most famous events in Philippine history– it is certainly the most referenced in the nationalist mythology. It is therefore remarkable how little people actually know about it. This is especially true of the military aspects of the Revolution, i.e. Filipinos know little about the fighting that happened during the 1896 Revolution. Most people know about the election at Tejeros and the death of Bonifacio, but in my experience, the average Filipino only knows the vaguest outline of how the warfare during the 1896 Revolution actually transpired.
One problem is that very few published primary sources that are widely available deal with the fighting during the 1896 Revolution. What most people do know about the Revolution comes from secondary sources, like Teodoro Agoncillo’s Revolt of the Masses or Renato Constantino’s history book.
Today’s primary source is Campaña de Filipinas: La División Lachambre, one of three Spanish sources that actually describe the Spanish military operations against the rebels in Cavite in 1896-1897. The book was written by Federico de Monteverde y Sedano, a staff officer attached to the headquarters of José de Lachambre, the general in command of the Lachambre Division. The Spanish did not have sufficient forces on hand to defeat the scattered uprisings of ’96, although they were powerful enough to hold the port city of Manila. The Spanish therefore hunkered down in the city, waiting for reinforcements. When these came, they were formed into a division (the largest permanent formation in the Spanish army at that period was the regiment), and the division was named after its commander, hence the name, “Lachambre Division.”
Campaña de Filipinas: La División Lachambre, is otherwise a straightforward unit history that offers a very detailed operational account of the combat. It describes the fighting, the maneuvers, the forces involved and even ancillary topics like logistics and (especially) military engineering. For students of Spanish military history, it offers an invaluable look at the late 19th-century Spanish army, and its performance in colonial warfare. For students of Filipino history, one has to be more circumspect, but it shows how the Filipino revolutionaries under Aguinaldo– untrained amateur soldiers– handled themselves in combat with minimum preparation and equipment.
I won’t go into detail on how the Filipinos fought since I intend to write about this professionally in the future. I encourage people to read Campaña de Filipinas: La División Lachambre and form their own conclusions. I will say this, however: the Filipinos did not fight like “guerrillas” and Monteverde y Sedano describes (and shows diagrams of) the elaborate Filipino trenches and fortifications. Suffice it to say that this was a very profound shift in Filipino warfare and says much about the political qualities of the revolutionary movement.
A few caveats about using these sources:
1) The book is in Spanish– proficiency is required. In my experience, Monteverde y Sedano’s use of military terminology makes him a doubly difficult read for non-military historians.
2) He is fairly one-sided. His book has a triumphalist tone and he downplays Spanish errors. In fact, he does not write about any Spanish defeats. Now this is not necessarily a blatantly untruthful triumphalist bias– the Filipinos simply never defeated the Spanish during the Lachambre Division’s campaign–but Monteverde y Sedano does seem to whitewash Spanish military performance.
There is a way around this problem, however. Aguinaldo’s memoirs Mga Gunita ng Himagsikan describe some of the events that Monteverde y Sedano also narrates, so the two memoirs can be used to cross-check each other. in Aguinaldo and the Revolution of 1896, Achútegui and Bernad highlight one event that both memoirs mention: the battle for Anabo II– an engagement fought outside a small village in Cavite. Monteverde y Sedano does not quite admit that this battle initially went very badly for the Spanish. They won in the end, but not without difficulty and not without cost. Aguinaldo provides more details of the Filipino side of this battle.
Ultimately, however, Campaña de Filipinas: La División Lachambre is simply invaluable because accounts such as these are very rare. The book is also very under-utilized, with that stalwart of Filipino military history, Carlos Quirino, being one of the few historians to have made extensive use of it in his two books, The Young Aguinaldo and Filipinos at War. This book was once quite rare, but the wonders of the Internet now make it easily available. My personal copy is a scan I made myself, but archive.org had its own scan floating around, and a slightly reformated (I removed some blank pages, numbered the pdf document, and reduced it in size) version of that is what I am linking to here.
Campaña de Filipinas: La División Lachambre.