Friday, September 10, 2010

Pulang Lupa: Capt. Shields' letter to his beloved wife

The dearth of information on the lives and deeds of our local heroes who fought in the Battle of Pulang Lupa and Battle of Paye, historical events that we celebrate every year as Marinduquenos, should continue to be filled, such as the few writings posted in this blogsite on the celebrated heroes of said battles, Col. Maximo Abad and Capt. Teofilo Roque.

The lives and deeds of their American counterparts, such as that of Capt. Devereux Shields also continue to be chronicled to this day by their descendants and historical researchers. Through Curt Shepard, an American resident in Marinduque who has taken profound interest in our local Marinduque history and the role played by our beloved province during the two-phases of the Philippine Revolution, we have been able to have access to and privileged to have a glimpse of the American experience then through letters and documents now faded with time.


The following letter was sent by Capt. Devereux Shields' granddaughter, Julia to Mr. Shepard on August 24, 2010. It was originally enclosed in a postmarked, stamped envelope and addressed to: Mrs. Devereux Shields, No. 617 N. Union Street, Natchez, Mississippi, U.S.A. The return address was Devereux Shields, Capt 29th Inf. U.S.V., Manila P.I. Across the top is written - Soldier's letter. Also enclosed was a pressed 4-leaf clover in a carefully folded holder.

"1st Reserve Hospital
Manila P.I. Oct 15th 1900

"My darling beloved precious wife,

I just got out of my captivity yesterday afternoon and was taken on board the U.S.S. Bennington at Buena Vista, Marinduque Island. I am perfectly well my darling & will cable you to that effect in the morning. I am in the agony of dispense in regard to you, oh my beloved, my life, if God has only spared you to me. I have prayed all day & night every hour that it would not make you suffer too much or injure your health.

"I was ambushed some 12 miles from Santa Cruz at 5:30 am on Sept 13 by the insurgent, it was in the mountains and they had 225 rifles and 2000 Bolo men. I had only 52 men, at 6am I was wounded in the left shoulder and after 8 hours hard & dreadful fighting, at 2pm, I received another wound through my neck which passed through and out of my mouth breaking the right jaw bone and tearing out five teeth, it disabled me entirely & I thought all was up with me for a while, I lay in the rice field bleeding & having lost about 3 quarts of blood from my other wound & my left arm useless I could only wait for them to take me. I gave orders to my company to move on & cut their way out but a short distance from me they were completely surrounded & having but little ammunition left, surrendered to 2500 of the enemy.

"I cannot write you of the dreadful suffering & hardships I have undergone during the month they have had me. I am perfectly safe now but cannot write because my neck is still so stiff & my left arm still pains me very much. The transport leaves in the morning & I have gotten Capt. Dowdy & Mrs. Sargent both to write to you. After I got on the Bennington yesterday afternoon Gen. Hare who now commands the forces operating on Marinduque sent me to Manila on the U.S.S. Villalobos, & I got here this evening.

"Would to God I could write more, but I cannot, you will know long before this reaches you that I am well & I hope by the time you get this letter I will be leaving here for home if not before as being wounded they will send me home for a rest. I will write to you a little every day so the next boat will take you many letters.

"Now God bless you & my boy oh I pray God my beloved, my life, my darling precious, my life's only thought & love that you are well, merciful God what will become of me if all this has injured you.

"God bless you my wife. Oh God has been so good in saving my life it must be that he has saved you to me.

"Your devoted beloved husband.
Devereux

"Many tender kisses to you my darling & some to my son. Give my love & kisses to my mother and all those that you & I love.

"Your husband
Devereux"

As regards the Devereux Shields persona, the following is an edited version of Capt. Shields' obituary that appeared in the Natchez News, March 26, 1910:

MARTIAL TASTES INHERITED. Captain Shields came of an heroic ancestry. Both his paternal and maternal ancestors had fought their country’s battles on sea and on shore. His father, Lieutenant Commander Wilmer Shields, served for seventeen years in the United States Navy. His grandfather, Richard Watts Ashton, ran away from school at the age of thirteen, impelled to this act by his military instincts. Ashton served during the War of 1812 with distinction and afterward entered West Point where he graduated and served as Lieutenant of Marines for a number of years. His paternal grandfather, Thos. Shields, of the navy, is mentioned in Cooper’ s Naval History for conspicuous gallantry under fire and valuable services rendered his country on the Great Lakes [instead of ‘on the Great Lakes’ should have said ‘in the Battle of New Orleans,] during the War of 1812.

EARLY INDICATIONS: Even in his earliest childhood Captain Shields showed un-mistakable evidences of the trend of his inclinations. In the choice of the toys
among which he spent the fleeting hours of his young boyhood; in the books which
appealed to his childish fancy; in the games which were the chief delight of his
school days, and in numberless other ways was revealed the gradual but unceasing development of his leaning toward things military and his admiration for the warrior heroes of history.

BIRTH AND EDUCATION. Captain Devereux Shields was born at Laurel Hill [Plantation], Miss., on the 28th day of November 1869. [Actually born 24th day of April 1869] He was the second son of Lieutenant Commander Wilmer Shields, of the United States Navy, and of Mrs. Julia Ashton Shields, a descendant of one of the most prominent Southern families. Captain Shields’ martial tastes received the greatest encouragement during his residence at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn., which at that time had a Government military instructor; and there, his natural bent fostered and developed by his instructions and associations, he gained the fundamental principles of that intimate knowledge of military strategy and tactics which enabled him in after years to act with promptitude and decision during the various exigencies of the battle field.

After his graduation from the University of the South, Captain Shields returned to Natchez,deeply versed in military lore as well as in the more academic branches of learning taught in that institution. Shortly after his return he was unanimously chosen captain of the Natchez Rifles.

RECEIVES COMMISSION: When the long list of atrocities committed by Spanish governors in Cuba became such as was viewed with disgust by civilized nations and the tragedy of the Maine Precipitated war between Spain and the United States, Colonel Shields immediately proffered his services to the government and was given a commission of Lieutenant Colonel in the Second Mississippi United States Volunteer Regiment. He had no opportunity, however, during the brief struggle which resulted in the overthrow of Spanish dominion in the island of Cuba, of testing in actual warfare the stores of military knowledge, the possession of which had gained for him his commission.

SAILS FOR MANILA: Some months after the conclusion of the Spanish War the United States government issued a call for Volunteers for service in the Philippine
Islands, where the noted insurgent Aguinaldo was conducting a species of guerrila
warfare, and endangering the lives of Americans and other Caucasian races in the
islands. Capt. Shields immediately responded to the call and applied for a commission. Upon the recommendation of many officers of high rank who had been impressed by the profound knowledge of military strategy shown by the young soldier during his encampment at Jacksonville, he was given a commission as captain in the twenty-ninth regiment, U.S.A. He received the commission on the fifth of July 1899, and on the fifth of October his regiment sailed from San Francisco on board the transport Zelandia, arriving in the Philippines just in time to participate in the battle of San Mateo in which Gen. Lawton was killed.

EXECUTIVE ABILITY: After the battle of San Mateo he was appointed governor of the island of Corregidor. Six months he remained on Corregidor, administering the affairs of the island with a success that gained for him the highest commendations
from his superior officers, to whom his executive ability was as surprising as it was
gratifying.

SENT TO MARINDUQUE: On June 1, 1900 he was detailed with his company to take charge of the island of Marinduque, one of the most turbulent of the islands of the Philippine archipelago. Marinduque is a small island 200 miles south of Manila
and its inhabitants were noted for the resolution with which they opposed American
occupation. On this island he remained up to the time of the engagement in which
he was captured in which he received wounds [which made necessary] his return to Natchez.

THE FATAL EXPEDITION: Shortly before noon on the eleventh of September Captain Shields and his men left Santa Cruz, Marinduque, on board the gunboat Villabois, intending to return overland to Santa Cruz. At about three o’clock in the afternoon of the same day the men and their gallant commanding officer reached their destination, Torrijos. Landing without opposition the detachment went into quarters for the night. On the following day Captain Shields made a reconnoitering sortie in a westerly direction and about five miles from Torrijos came upon a rebel garrison. The fire of the Americans forced the enemy to flight, the fleet-footed Filipinos dispersing into the underbrush where it was impossible for the Americans to pursue them. Among the papers left by the fugitive garrison Captain Shields found letters from two prisoners. Nothing better illustrates the noble character of Captain Shields than the incident that followed, for it was in the endeavor to rescue these two prisoners that Captain Shields so nearly lost his life and was captured.

THE AMBUSCADE: The company was ambushed that afternoon. Seemingly from every point of the compass came a hurricane of lead from myriads of unseen enemies. In good order the detachment deployed in a circle and commenced a heroic defense. The enemy proved stubborn, advancing in hosts upon the small but intrepid band of Americans. Hundreds of the raging Filipinos, banishing their weapons with yells of rage, swarmed out of the ambuscade. The hundreds developed into thousands until a conservative estimate of their number placed it at about two thousand five hundred men. Surrounded by merciless foes, out numbered fifty to one, the undaunted Americans, inspired by the fearless conduct of their commander kept their foes at bay for over eight hours, their ammunition supply, small to begin with, running lower and lower.

SHIELDS WOUNDED: Early in the battle Captain Shields received a wound in the
shoulder but rallied and bravely urged on his command. Shortly before the
ammunition was entirely exhausted he received a terrible wound in the neck which
incapacitated him from further participation in the hopeless struggle. The command devolved upon Sergeant Winn who gallantly carried on the futile struggle against overwhelming odds. Captain Shields’ second wound came near to inflicting instant death. The ball entered the back of the neck nearly grazing the spinal column, passed through the throat and mouth knocking out four teeth, and breaking the jaw bone passed out through the cheek. The gallant officer fell partly in a small stream and his life was probably due to this circumstance; the cold water partly resuscitated him, restoring him to consciousness.
(Pulang Lupa's steep cliffs, valleys, underbrush and impenetrable jungles. Photo courtesy of Curt Shepard)

WEEKS OF SUFFERING: The capture of Captain Shields and his men was followed by four weeks of suffering such as could only be appreciated by men who have gone through similar experiences. Marched relentlessly over steep cliffs, down valleys, through underbrush and almost impenetrable jungles they were shown no mercy by their barbarous captors. Night and day they were compelled to march, strong and wounded alike, with no food other than the small quantities of rice doled out to them at irregular intervals.

RESCUED: When they were finally rescued by the regiment sent to search for them they were almost dead with fatigue and hunger, so thin and emaciated as hardly to be recognized by their intimate friends. The sufferings of the wounded during captivity would have been unendurable but for the devoted and unintermitting attentions of the hospital corps man who formed a member of the attachment and whose devotion to Captain Shields during his long weakness is one of the brightest incidents of the Philippine War.

HIS RECEPTION: The reception given Captain Shields upon his return to Natchez was the greatest ever tendered a man by this city. The citizens of Natchez, in a body, assembled in the Temple Opera House and about its doors awaiting to welcome the returning hero and to congratulate him upon his return to life and health.

2 comments:

David B Katague said...

Excellent historical documentation of The Battle of Pulang Lupa. I enjoyed reading the letter of Shields to his wife. May I reprint portion of your blog to one of my site. Cheers!

eli j obligacion said...

Yes pls do, Dave...

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