Battle of Bud Bagsak

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The Battle of Bud Bagsak as depicted from U.S. Army Poster No. 21-48 dated 1963.

The Battle of Bud Bagsak, fought from 11 June to 15 June 1913, was a battle-turned massacre which took place in the Moroland of Jolo, southern Philippines. This four-day battle was led by U.S. Brigadier General John “Black Jack” J. Pershing of the 8th Infantry and Philippine Scouts against Moro fighters armed with traditional weapons such as kris, barong, spear and guns they collected from defeated Americans.



Several months before the actual assault of the crater, a band of Moros (about 6,000 to 10,000) of Lati fortified themselves at the top of Mount Bagsak. Since the Spanish period, outlaws, such as remontados and vagamundos, found home in the wilderness, and so until the American period, the government officials and the military were continuously chasing these “bandits.”

The Moros were watching over the military. Whenever the American troops were inactive, they send their children and women in the fields to work and to supply their band with food. They also had their eyes on General John J. Pershing – a simple visit of the General to Jolo already alerted the Moros

The American military led by Gen. Pershing, were faced by problems. First, they do not know how to get the women and children off the mountain before they attack the Moro outlaws in it. Another is the “unstoppable bravery” of the Moros only armed with a number of local blades and overflowing courage. This led to the invention of U.S. Army Colt 0.45 caliber pistol.


Gen. Pershing then had a secret plan – a tactic he kept to himself. On 5 June, a telegram was sent to the commanding officer of Jolo ordering all field operations off and commanding the troops into the barracks. After four days, he made a public announcement that he'll be at Camp Kiethley in Mindanao to visit his family. But the General has something on his mind. Evening of 9 June, he sailed from Zamboanga and when the ship was a distance away from the island, the course was changed to Basilan and to Siasi, where they picked up the 51st and 52nd Scout Companies, respectively.

Silently, their ship sailed for Jolo and harbored on the night of 10 June. Around 5 o'clock in the morning of 11 June, the troop advanced on Mount Bagsak. The Americans had difficulty penetrating the the mountain as the main cotta was formidably defended by stone fortress. Five forts support the main cotta – Pujacabao, Bunga, Matunkup, Languasan and Pujagan. The only way to reach the summit was to do a simultaneous assault of all the smaller defensive forts.

The troop was divided into different directions. They positioned themselves in strategic locations and started the attacks on the forts. Of the five supporting forts, the cotta of Lagusan was captured without difficulty.

For the next two days, the attacks continued bringing casualties to both parties. On the fourth day, the American troops prepared for their final assault. For two hours, the troop conducted a barrage to the Moro fort after which they moved up the hill for the attack. Sharpshooters were scattered in the area. They reached the top of the hill while gunmen fired on the fort nonstop. At the fort, the Moros stood on its walls with their sharp, bladed weapons in one hand. By 5 o'clock in the afternoon, Gen. Pershing commanded Captain Charleton for their final attack. They successfully took over the fort, and the savage battle ended.


During the final assault, the 13 men of the American troops were killed, and the entire battle caused the lives of 2,000 Moros, of which 196 were women and 340 were children. Although defeated, the Moros only showed that they did not, and will never, fear death. In the words of General Pershing :

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