The Devil's Causeway: The True Story of America's First Prisoners of War in the Philippines, and the Heroic Expedition Sent to Their Rescue
, 2012 - History
- 417 pages
In 1899, a naval officer's reckless grasp for glory triggered a real American Heart of Darkness--a rebel ambush, America's first prisoners of war in the Philippines, their forced march through triple-canopy jungle and behind enemy lines, and one of the greatest rescue missions in US Army history. As the United States prosecuted a bloody campaign to pacify its newly won Philippines territory at the turn of the nineteenth century, a secret mission of mercy went terribly wrong. The result was a prisoner-of-war crisis, the likes of which our nation had never encountered before. The epic struggle for survival that followed was not only a test of the human will to live but a crucible for heroes. And yet, what was touted as a heroic rescue operation extended a war by almost two years and cost the lives of thousands. In April 1899, Admiral George Dewey dispatched the USS Yorktown to liberate a detachment of Spanish soldiers under siege by Filipino rebels. To reconnoiter enemy defenses, one of the Yorktown's armed cutters--manned by a crew of fifteen sailors--was sent toward shore. And then it happened. Defying orders, Lieutenant James C. Gillmore Jr. recklessly pushed upriver into heavy jungle--and headlong into an ambush that would kill four of his men. The survivors were dragged across mountains and through dense jungle from one pestilent prison to the next along what Gillmore called "a veritable Devil's Causeway." Their captivity and the torturous expedition sent to recover them, recalled today as one of the greatest marches in US Army history, features a tightly hewn cast of characters--including a frail yet determined teenaged sailor and his hardened seafaring mates; battle-tested veterans of the Civil War and the Indian Wars; and a fiery revolutionary commander who gave orders to bury wounded Americans alive. A sweeping military epic drawing on international primary sources, "The Devil's Causeway" tells their extraordinary story in its entirety for the first time.