Friday, 19 February 2016

Philippine War Letter Home a Treasure Discovered

I was going through my mother's writing files, and was floored when I found a portion of a letter my grandfather Harry Ozro Whitson wrote home to his mother, sister, brother, and friends in Oklahoma from the Philippines during the war. There is only the first page and a fourth page, but the first has a drawing he made of his surroundings at the top.  It is priceless.  I asked my mother about it and if she had the other pages or knew who did. She (she suffers from dementia) said I didn't have it, you must have.  I knew it wasn't me, as I would never have laminated it.
This find was exciting.  I have already had one journey in finding my grandfather's experience during the Philippines War and wrote it here on my blog.
Harry O Whitson 

Company B picture location was not written on the back, just Spanish American War
This letter gave me first hand experience from him where he was and some of what he did, albeit it is only part of the story. These are the two pages of the letter.  I believe that he wrote on the back of the paper, but it is hard to tell since it is laminated together.
Letter from Harry O Whitson to his family in Oklahoma from the Philippines 1900 in possession of Fran Ellsworth 

Page 4 or flip side of above of Harry O Whitson's letter in possession of Fran Ellsworth

The hand drawn illustration on the first page.
I had downloaded GenScriber before for transcribing some wills and documents, so I dusted it off and began my hand at transcribing what my grandfather had written.  It was not easy and obviously as I worked I saw he didn't know how to spell many of the place names, I was able to figure it out, but I did not change anything as I was transcribing.  NOW, I have another reason for posting, hoping some of my eagle-eyed genfriends will see what I have missed and let me know. Crowd sourcing. (smiling) Those of you just starting, this is an awesome FamilySearch Wiki page that helps tremendously Transcribing Historical Documents (National Institute)
This is my attempt at transcribing the above letter.
Marinduquie, Santa Cruz, Oct the 28th  9100
The 38th, , U. S. V. Inf. Co. B
Dear friends Mother Sister Brother and friends one and all I will Try and let you know what we are dewing and have been for the last 30 days, We left the Luzon the 25th of last month for this place for the purpose of recapturing the 29th the 58 men and th?ec (their?) captors it was T. Co. who were captured they were about 12 miles from there quarters and they were very for st?f ok they would of never ben captured   We went through the country a cupel of times and they thought they had better turn them in so they turned them over to us they looked very hard for they they  had no shoes and but very little clothing of any kind
[page 2 and 3 are missing]
Page (4)And the seconday on water there were some sick boys  I enjoyed the trip very well myself the 27th of Dec ? disembarked at Minalea and this 1th day of January 1900 We left Minalea and landed at [Supor… Brxny] there […one word…]first on the firing line  The 1st of Jan  We started in the advance to the south line with 20,000 trops in the skurmish line through the rice fields We landed at Balangas Jan the 16th  and stayed there until Sept the 25th and then We left for Marinduque Island Santa cruz and there we are know but I do not think We shall stay here long  I will have to get ready for drill so long I will write some more to night good by

Using his letter, I searched on some of the old newspapers and found the press coverage of the same events and online I found, a wonderful webpage about the Philippine War from their perspective (always good to have). 
My grandfather's company was under Captain Anderson who was the first to go search for the captured men. From the accounts of the press it appears that it was not an easy task. This war was captioned later as the first Viet Nam.  
One of several newspaper articles I found.
The Inter Ocean
(Chicago, Illinois)
17 Oct 1900, Wed • Page 3

  When searching the Newspapers on,, and, I first put  Marinduque insurgents and the date 1900.  The articles came right up.  My grandfather's account was as accurate as he accounted it. My quest for information was satisfied.
On a side note I discovered a short article about their clothing on GenealogyBank which really made sense. This is just a snippet.  Those guys must have been miserable when they first arrived.
This War was not covered greatly in my American History class. It was lumped in the Spanish American war that featured Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, so this has been a learning experience for me as well as a journey that has helped me know my grandfather a little better, probably better than my mother who was only 2 months old when he died.  See you all next month ~FranE


  1. Fran,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Thank you Jana. You are such a great gene friend...

  3. This is such a fascinating post. Well done, as always, Fran.

  4. What a priceless treasure you have found even if two pages are missing. So interesting to read his impressions so far away from home during a war many of us don't know much about.

  5. What a priceless treasure you have found even if two pages are missing. So interesting to read his impressions so far away from home during a war many of us don't know much about.


Hello, thanks for leaving a comment on the World Wide Genealogy Blog. All comments are moderated because of pesky spammers!

Best wishes
World Wide Genealogy Team