Friday, February 16, 2007

Pg. 69: "A War of Frontier and Empire"

David Silbey is Associate Professor of History at Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania.

His new book is A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. I asked him to apply the "page 69 test" to it; here is what he reported:

Having Marshall McLuhan look over one's shoulder is a bit intimidating, I have to say. And, like many authors, I realized that I was going to have to go back and look at page 69 to remember what it covered. In an odd way, thus, I replicated McLuhan's decision-making process: I read and judged page 69 of my own book, coming to it something of a blank slate. Oh, I knew the story of the larger book, but the page itself was a mystery. The difference, of course, was that I wasn't trying to decide whether to buy it, but rather to figure out if McLuhan had been right. Was page 69 (or any interior page, really) representative of the book?

I think Marshall is chuckling quietly behind me at the moment. Page 69 picks up the story at the very beginning of the war between America and the Filipinos. The United States has successfully defeated Spain and acquired the Philippine Islands for the bargain price of $20 million. Unsurprisingly, the Filipino revolutionaries, led by their President Emilio Aguinaldo, objected to this sale. Within a month of the announcement of the final treaty, on February 4, 1899, a nighttime incident between Filipino and American forces in the defensive lines around the capital city of Manila has led to a night of confused fighting. In the morning, as page 69 starts, the American Army gathers itself and launches forward into the offensive. It could have been a suspenseful day, with the armies fighting back and forth. It should have been a suspenseful day, as the Filipino Army of Liberation had had months to fortify their lines. But it wasn't. The Americans swept all before them and convincingly won the Battle of Manila. Aguinaldo thus faced a difficult choice: continue fighting a conventional war, or retreat to the hills, abandon the fledgling Filipino Republic of which he has just led the creation, and undertake a guerrilla war that could stretch years if not decades. The events of page 69 mark not only the start of a war, but foreshadow both its end and the start of another, much murkier conflict.

Here is page 69 in its entirety:

for permission to go over to the attack. Otis agreed and both MacArthur and Anderson launched their troops into the assault. The prospect was not, at first, promising. The Filipinos had had many months to fortify their lines and connect the blockhouses with lines of trenches and other emplacements. If they fought tenaciously, they could inflict heavy casualties on the attacking Americans.

The troops in MacArthur’s Second Brigade attacked first, at 8:10 a.m. The First Colorado and First Nebraska Regiments struck Blockhouses 5, 6, and 7, and the lines in between. In both cases, the units took their targets relatively easily. The First Nebraska, in fact, made it past Blockhouse 7 and captured the San Juan Bridge and Hill beyond it, putting them across the San Juan River.

To the south, Major General Anderson ordered a general advance against the lines of the Army of Liberation. It met with similar success as had greeted the Coloradans and Nebraskans. Anderson recounted, in his after-action report, the assault by seven companies of the First Wyoming and First California:

The movement began at 8:20 A.M. with a rush over the creek on our front, a cheer, and rattling volleys as the whole line advanced, not by rushes, but with a rush. The insurgent line fell back before our advance, fighting, however, with spirit. The rice-fields in our front were intersected with little irrigating dykes, and behind each of these, a stand was attempted, the Filipinos firing from behind them. Our men disdained these shelters and moved steadily on until raking fire was opened on them from the redoubt in the neck of the bend between Pandacan and Santa Ana. The Idaho Regiment made a turn

Thanks to David for the input.

Among the early praise for A War of Frontier and Empire:
"[T]he best brief introduction to the complex subject of the U.S. conquest of the Philippines now available."
Publishers Weekly

"David Silbey provides a much-needed introduction to the Philippine-American War. In well-written and clearly argued prose, Silbey offers a smart and provocative argument for this war's complexity, brutality, and centrality to American as well as Filipino history. Everyone with an interest in American habits of empire should read it."
—Eric Rauchway, author of Blessed Among Nations

"Since at least the Vietnam War of the 1960s, the Filipino revolt of 1899 against the U.S. occupation has provided crucial historical lessons in regard to American mirages about Washington's ability to nation-build and install democratic systems in fragmented, non-industrial countries. Silbey masterfully and succinctly (and, at appropriate times, graphically) analyzes that revolt and its implications for the time of Theodore Roosevelt — and George W. Bush."
—Walter LaFeber, Tisch University Professor Emeritus, Cornell University

"Silbey's chronicle ... is fair and frequently surprising. As Silbey indicates, the Americans were hardly brutal imperialists; their motives for holding the islands were a mixture of self-interest and altruism. Although Filipino nationalists fought bravely, they were hindered by a fragmented political movement and erratic leadership. Silbey's portrait of the personality and career of Filipino icon Emilio Aguinaldo is particularly interesting. This is a well-researched examination of a struggle that, ultimately, helped forge a new nation out of disparate elements."
—Jay Freeman, Booklist
David's previous book is The British Working Class and Enthusiasm for War, 1914-1916.

Previous "page 69 tests:"
Peggy Orenstein, Waiting for Daisy
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, My Year Inside Radical Islam
Mark Coggins, Candy from Strangers
Arthur Allen, Vaccine
Beth Ann Fennelly, Great with Child
Kenneth Gross, Shylock Is Shakespeare
Trinie Dalton, Wide Eyed
Barbara J. King, Evolving God
Patrick Anderson, The Triumph of the Thriller
Linda R. Hirshman, Get to Work
Lynne Tillman, American Genius, A Comedy
Patrick Radden Keefe, Chatter
Dana Stabenow, A Deeper Sleep
Siobhan Roberts, King of Infinite Space
Erin McKean, That's Amore!
Michael Lowenthal, Charity Girl
Niraj Kapur, Heaven's Delight
Keith Dixon, The Art of Losing
David Edgerton, The Shock of the Old
Mary Sharratt, The Vanishing Point
David Fulmer, The Dying Crapshooter's Blues
Anya Ulinich, Petropolis
Jagdish Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization
Olen Steinhauer, Liberation Movements
Andrei Markovits, Uncouth Nation
Julie Kistler, Scandal
Robert Ward, Four Kinds of Rain
Tim Harford, The Undercover Economist
William Landay, The Strangler
Kate Holden, In My Skin
Brian Wansick, Mindless Eating
Noria Jablonski, Human Oddities
Ruth Scurr, Fatal Purity
Neal Pollack, Alternadad
Bella DePaulo, Singled Out
Steve Hamilton, A Stolen Season
Eric Klinenberg, Fighting for Air
Donna Moore, ...Go to Helena Handbasket
Louis Bayard, The Pale Blue Eye
Neal Thompson, Riding with the Devil
Sherry Argov, Why Men Marry Bitches
P.J. Parrish, An Unquiet Grave
Tyler Knox, Kockroach
Andrew Rehfeld, The Concept of Constituency
Laura Wiess, Such a Pretty Girl
Jeremy Blachman, Anonymous Lawyer
Andrew Pyper, The Wildfire Season
Wendy Werris, An Alphabetical Life
Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know
Meghan Daum, The Quality of Life Report
Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin' Man
Richard Aleas, Little Girl Lost
Paul Collins, The Trouble With Tom
John McFetridge, Dirty Sweet
Michael Kazin, A Godly Hero
Bill Crider, Murder Among the OWLS
Zachary Shore, Breeding Bin Ladens
Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club
Lawrence Light, Fear & Greed
Simon Read, In The Dark
Sandra Ruttan, Suspicious Circumstances
Henry Ansgar Kelly, Satan: A Biography
Alison Gaylin, You Kill Me
Gayle Lynds, The Last Spymaster
Jim Lehrer, The Phony Marine
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
Debra Ginsberg, Blind Submission
Sarah Katherine Lewis, Indecent
Peter Orner, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
William Easterly, The White Man's Burden
Danielle Trussoni, Falling Through the Earth
Andrew Blechman, Pigeons
Anne Perry, A Christmas Secret
Elaine Showalter, Faculty Towers
Kat Richardson, Greywalker
Michael Bess, Choices Under Fire
Masha Hamilton, The Camel Bookmobile
Alex Beam, Gracefully Insane
Nicholas Lemann, Redemption
Jason Sokol, There Goes My Everything
Wendy Steiner, Venus in Exile
Josh Chafetz, Democracy’s Privileged Few
Anne Frasier, Pale Immortal
Michael Lewis, The Blind Side
David A. Bell, The First Total War
Brett Ellen Block, The Lightning Rule
Rosanna Hertz, Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice
Jason Starr, Lights Out
Robert Vitalis, America's Kingdom
Stephen Elliott, My Girlfriend Comes To The City And Beats Me Up
Colin McGinn, The Power of Movies
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood
Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind
Stanley Fish, How Milton Works
James Longenbach, The Resistance to Poetry
Margaret Lowrie Robertson, Season of Betrayal
Sy Montgomery, The Good Good Pig
Allison Burnett, The House Beautiful
Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History
Ed Lynskey, The Dirt-Brown Derby
Cindy Dyson, And She Was
Simon Blackburn, Truth
Brian Freeman, Stripped
Alyson M. Cole, The Cult of True Victimhood
Jeff Biggers, In the Sierra Madre
Jeff Broadwater, George Mason, Forgotten Founder
Alicia Steimberg, Andrea Labinger (trans.), The Rainforest
Michael Grunwald, The Swamp
Darrin McMahon, Happiness: A History
Leo Braudy, From Chivalry to Terrorism
David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie
Leah Hager Cohen, Train Go Sorry
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue