Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where In the World is David Fagen?

The Spanish-American War is often a under studied and unappreciated part of American History. Apart from a few key events, the sinking of the USS Maine, the Battle of Manila Bay, Teddy Roosevelt & the Rough Riders and the birth of an Imperial America.  But most often, the Pacific Theater, especially the war in the Philippines is rarely mentioned, with the exception of the aforesaid Battle of Manila Bay and the leadership of Admiral Dewey. But enough about what we know, I hear to write about what we don't know. Today's person of interest is one, David Fagen. Never heard of him? Me neither until Christopher T. Wood brought him to my attention, and like the clip says "he starts out good and then sucks," but we will see he is a hero in every sense of the word and actually doesn't suck at all.

archives.gov

So like I said before, the Battle of Manila Bay is usually, and hopefully, something people know about the Spanish-American War. What most people don't know about is the role of African Americans in the during the war, which would be the first war they'd be a part of since the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. The Spanish American War would be a major event in the history of African Americans. Why? Well because, even though still segregated, they would be a major part of the American fighting force. Now, the Spanish American War didn't really sneak up on Americans, but what really fired Americans up was the attack on the USS Maine, in Havana Harbor. After the attack American men of every color and creed signed up to avenge the victims on the Maine, and David Fagen was no different. Fagen, a native of Tampa, Florida would have heard the news earliest and more rumors than any other part of the states due to his proximity to the attack. Not much is now about Fagen's early like, but what we do know is he enlisted in June of 1898 and made his way to the Philippines with the 24th Infantry Regiment in June of 1899. However, by this time the Spanish American War had ended and the U.S. was now an occupying force fighting a "guerilla" Philippine Army.

archives.gov

Now, if you thought the Spanish American War was under studied, try to find someone whose studied the Philippine-American War. In short it somewhat parallels the current situation America is facing in Afghanistan and Iraq. After the Spanish American War the U.S. failed to recognize the Philippine's claim to independence, talk about irony, and instead tried to control the island nation, remember the birth of American Imperialism? Fagen fits back into the story because he saw that fighting the Filipino's was, well wrong and drew similarities between the Filipinos and the treatment of African Americans back home in the states. It was after requesting a transfer out of the Philippines three different times, and not getting it, Fagen's view on his service in the Philippines changed. On November 17, 1899 David Fagen went AWOL and well disappeared.

 blackpast.org

Sometime shortly after this, and it is unclear how, but Fagen ended up in the ranks of the Filipino Army. Over the next year Fagen lived and worked with the Filipino resistance in the Pampanga Province. Fagen was slowly becoming a hero through out the Philippines, but a villain back in the states. He fought against American forces at least 8 times, the most important exploit was at the capture of a steam ship on the Pampanga River. It was during this time Fagen was promoted to captain but known as "General Fagen." At the same time the New York Times reported on Fagen somehow complimenting him, but at the same time vilifying him. Fagen's success did two things to the American Army occupying the Philippines, first, he pissed off the white commanding officers, and second he created a fear of mass African American defection, which would result in actually a total of 20 men, both black and white. Fagen was becoming a bigger fish then the actual occupation of the Philippines. A planned court martial and execution were planned and throughout the country reward posters were posted offer a whopping $600 for Fagen, dead or alive. Eventually, Fagen disappeared off the radar until Anastacio Bartolome brought the head of a man to American officials. He claimed it was Fagen as he came across his Fagen living with natives , but there is no evidence that it was really Fagen's head. So what happened to David Fagen?

flickriver.com

What happened to Fagen? No one really knows. The file on Fagen even notes a supposed killing but nothing certain. What we can say is David Fagen's life after the war is just as shrouded in mystery as his life before the war. One theory is that Fagen started a family and lived the rest of his life out, peaceful in the Philippine country side, which sounds nice, but very fairy tailish. What is more important is that David Fagen she be held  in very high regards. In the Philippines, Fagen is remembered as a national hero, a man who worked to gain Independence for a foreign nation. Now, here in the states Fagen isn't even a blip on the America History radar. But I think he should be. Sure he switched sides during a war, but lets look back at that. He left an imperialistic and racist military to support a nation seeking Independence, liberty and freedom from an occupying army, as well as personal freedom from a segregated society. I think it is important when looking at David Fagen the whole picture is looked at, David Fagen embodies all the characteristics that America was built on, in reality he did what America should have done. So remember David Fagen when celebrating forgotten heroes of America. So where ever you are or what ever happened to you ''General" Fagen kudos to you and may your memory not be forgotten.

6 comments:

  1. "You and your men on left flank, Capt. Fagen, you know what to do. Once the lookout from that knoll give the signal, go for the cut down."

    " Yes sir, Gen. Alejandrino."

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  2. I would be more than happy to volunteer to copy read what you write here, Mike. What you have to tell is important, but your typos make following it challenging.

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  3. Hey Guys, Christopher T. Wood here. I think the clip referenced above will be featured in the Huffington Post soon!

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  4. there is a indie movie about david fagen. its david f cinemalaya movie:)

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  5. There is a story that in World War II some Americans came across an african filipino who spoke english in the african pidgin in Zambales. They said that she was descendant of Fagen. I don't know how true is this but I read this from way back.

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