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Spanish Order of Battle, 1897: Philippines

Contributed by James Nelson

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While attempting to create an Order of Battle for this work it became apparent there was no consensus among authors and historical documents relating to the numbers of Spanish troops in the Philippines at any given time, nor their unit identification and location. Indeed, the conflict between sources was so varied it was impossible to be sure what was correct. A great deal of calculation and comparison was conducted in an attempt to derive numbers that would stand scrutiny by the historian. In the end that failed simply because of the many conflicts.

Having reviewed most of the major sources available, it was necessary to take from each source that which appeared reasonable, then cut-and-paste it to the Order of Battle given below. Some units, particularly administrative and volunteers were listed in some sources, but not others, and were subsequently left out of this work. In some cases, as with the native regiments, personnel strength levels for the units are not provided because none were found. Only the total personnel for all regiments were provided in the sources. Unit identification was however, preserved.

The choice was to refrain from providing any numbers in this work, and avoid criticism for error, or to make a calculated, somewhat informed decision that “this-or-that” piece of information would be included, while another would be overlooked—accepting that a degree of confusion would exist no matter what. In summation, and to assist the reader in cutting through the confusing numbers in the Order of Battle, the following general statement regarding the personnel numbers of the Spanish army in the Philippines is provided:

By late 1897, there were approximately 46,000 personnel in the Spanish army throughout the islands. Because of troop rotations back to Spain, battle casualties, desertion, disease, and disbandment, the army was reduced to about 26,000 men by January 1898. Of that number, 23,000 were stationed on Luzon; and, of that number, 10-15,000 were around Manila, Cavite, and Subig Bay at any given time. At a result of ongoing action with the insurgents, and eventually the Americans, most of the Spanish army on Luzon was driven into Manila where 13,300 were surrendered on August 13, 1898, along with 22,000 stand of arms. Some months later, the remainder of the army in the southern islands, about 3,000 men, was surrendered as well. The mass of native troops either deserted to the rebels, the Americans, or went home.
It should be noted that "Native" regiments could include Spanish as well as Filipino forces.

Probable Order of Battle for Spanish Forces, Philippine Islands as of October 1897:

Native Regiment # 68 (Legaspi). 2 Battalions.
     (Headquartered in Jolo; in the field in Luzon and Mindanao, with  detachments in Carolina and  Paragua Islands)
Native Regiment # 69 (Iberia). 2 Battalions.
     (Headquartered in  Zamboanga; in the field in Luzon)
Native Regiment # 70 (Magallanes). 1 Battalion.
     (Headquartered in  Manila; in the field in Luzon)
Native Regiment t#71 (Mindanao). 2 Battalions.
     (Headquartered in  Iligan; at Manila, and in the field in Mindanao)
Native Regiment #72 (Visayas). 1 Battalion.
     (Headquartered in  Manila; and in the field in Mindanao)
Native Regiment #73 (Jolo). 2 Battalions.
     (Headquartered in  Manila; in the field in Luzon and Mindanao)
Native Regiment t#74 ((Manila). 2 Battalions.
     (Headquartered in Manila; in the field in Luzon and Mindanao)

   Probable Total, Native Regiments:  372 Spanish, 11,368 native1

Expeditionary Battalions (Battalones cazadores expedicionarios)  #1 thru #15, from Spain,  (461 officers, 20,149 men)5 consisting of:

1st Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
2nd Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
3rd Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
4th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
5th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
6th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
7th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
8th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
9th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
10th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
11th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
12th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
13th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
14th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
15th Expeditionary Rifle Battalion (Military District of Luzon)
1st Regiment of Marine Infantry  (45 officers, 1,743 men)
Cavalry (Caballeria de Filipinas) Regiment #31  (31 officers, 161 Spanish troopers, 453 native troopers)
Cavalry Squadron (Lanceros Expedicionario, No.1)  (11 officers, 162 Spanish troopers)
Regiment de la Plaza (fortress artillery) (40 officers, 1,500 men)
6th Regiment of Artillery (mountain artillery) (21 officers, 696  men)
Battalion of Engineers  (31 Spanish officers, 1,266 natives)
One Battalion Carabineros (volunteer riflemen, listed in some  sources as Customs Guards)(14 Spanish officers, 415  natives)
Guardia Civil Regiments (three regiments)(155 Spanish officers, 3,530 natives)6
Guardia Civil Regiment #20
Guardia Civil Regiment #21
Guardia Civil Regiment #22
One Transport Brigade (Unknown; probably 15 Spanish officers and innumerable  native drivers)
One Sanitary Detachment  (4 officers, 345 Spaniards)
One Ordnance Detachment (Maestranza)  (4  officers, 72 Spaniards)
Probable Total, Spanish Forces:  25,660 Spanish, 5,664 natives2

Volunteers/Guerrillas Forces (mounted and infantry)

 (La Union)
 (Vol de Infanteria Manila)
 (Vol de Albay)
 (Vol del Abra)
 (Vol Ilocos Norte)
 (Vol Ilocos Sur)
 (Vol Rios Canovas)
 (Vol Pampangos)
Probable Total of Volunteers/Guerrillas Forces (numbers in each force are unknown) Approx 2,857 total, Spanish and Filipino3.

GRAND TOTAL: 26,032 Spanish, 17,032 Native soldiers, not counting the approximate 2,857 volunteers4.


1. AGOC, Table, 2:654-55. An additional source provided some unit identification and personnel strength, although much of it appears to have been derived from the same source as AGOC; see Hall, p.130. See also, War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Military Information Division, Notes and Tables...Colonies., 176-218. This reference provides listing of units in the Territorial Division, most probably based on the 1897 buildup, and suggesting approximately 43,000 in the force for 1898 (excluding volunteers). It coincides closely with the AGOC list.

2. Ibid., AGOC.

3. Volunteer/Guerrilla identification and numbers cited in Nunez, 216-17.

4. Of the 45,921 Spanish troops (including the volunteers), shown in the Grand Total above, AGOC  identifies some units that rotated back to Spain, and states as much as 50 percent of the remaining Spanish troops were reduced by desertion, disease, and casualties by May 1898. That would seem to leave only 13,016 Spanish regulars in the islands. It is possible the 50 percent reduction is an overstatement.

a.  Of the 17,032 natives, two army regiments, or portions thereof, deserted by May 1898 (about 1,800 men), and most likely half of the 5,664 working Filipinos (laborers, engineers, etc), leaving approximately 12,400 natives. See also Blunt,  p. 145: “Mar 24, 1898, 74th deserts.” The next day, the 74th was followed by “another regiment.” In addition: “Militia at Silang, Indang, San Francisco de Malabon, and Imus deserted to the rebels” (May 1898), p. 161.

b. Combining the remaining Spanish (13,016) and natives (12,400) from the Grand Total, leaves 25,416 men throughout the islands as of May 1898.  de togores y Saravia, p. 51, indicates “24,771 las fuerzas terrestres en Filipinas.” One author claims: “25,000 men in the islands as of January 1898.” See Foreman, p. 620.

c. Another source, Trask,  371, citing Taylor, concludes: “Remaining in the islands were approximately 26,000 regulars and 14,000 militia” (probably numbers from the 1897 list) of which approximately “23,000 were on the Island of Luzon,” (probably accurate as of May 1898).” For the current narrative (shown on p. 122) total troop numbers were arbitrarily adjusted, based on Trask & Taylor, to indicate 26,000 troops (Spanish, native, and volunteer) remained in the islands, and 23,000 were on Luzon, as of May 1898.

d. When considering the breakout of troops for Manila, Subig Bay, and Cavite, from the 23,000 on Luzon, see Toral, p 311-14, who provides an Order of Battle as of 29 May 1898, in Manila, indicating 11,360 total, of which perhaps 2,750 were volunteers. Nunez,  202-206, lists troops in Manila as 10,720. On page 219, he states, as of 6 Aug 1898, there are “8,382 Spanish, and 4,950 Filipino troops” (total: 13,332) in Manila. Based on the variances, 10-15,000 was used as a rule in the current narrative. Volunteer/Guerrilla identification and numbers are cited at pages 216-17, Nunez.

e. Foreman (620), claims: of the 25,000 men in the islands he identifies, 7,000 were shipped to Spain in the spring of 98; during the final campaign 8,000 were taken prisoner by the rebels; killed or wounded 2,000; surrendered in the Visayas 3,000; in hospital in Manila 2,600 (Spaniard); and able-bodied men surrendered in Manila on August 13, just 2,400 (Spaniard). Foreman does not account for the native and volunteer troops also surrendered at the time. All other accounts of the surrender at Manila indicate 13,300 surrendered and about 22,000 stand of arms. Foreman (631-32), indicates in the aftermath of the Spanish surrender: “On 24 Dec four steamers transported Gen Rios and all the troops from Iloilo, Cebu and Iligan to Zamboanga where they remained until brought back to Spain.” Rios had evacuated Iloilo on 23 Dec after a rebel attack, which left 500 dead and wounded rebels. Rios returned to Manila to arrange for evacuation of his troops, and the prisoners held by the rebels. There were reputed to be 11,000 prisoners in rebel hands, all Spanish, of which 1,500 were civil servants and their families; 9,400 soldiers and officers; and about 100 friars.

5. See Sastrón, 227-29,  showing 15 expeditionary battalions, strength, transports, and  dates shipped from Spain, but identifies 24,800 men.

6. The Guardia was  dispersed among the many towns and islands, not confined  to Luzon alone. One source places the 22d in the Visayas,  see Sastrón, p. 737.


Blunt, John Young, USA (Ret), An Army Officer’s Philippine Studies. (Manila, P.I., University Press, 1912) 145.

Foreman, John, The Philippine Islands: A Political, Geographical, Ethnographical, Social and Commercial History of the Philippine Archipelago and its Political Dependencies, Embracing the Whole Period of Spanish Rule. 2d ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899) 620.

Hall, Arthur D., The Philippines. (New York: Street & Smith Publishers, 1898).130

Nunez, Severo G., La Guerra Hispano-Americana: Puerto-Rico y Filipinas. (Madrid, Spain: Imprenta del Cuerto de Artilleria, 1902), 216-17.

Sastrón, Manuel, La Insurreccion en Filipinas. (Madrid, Spain:  Imprenta de la viuda de M. Minueso de los Rios, 1897) 227-29.

Taylor, John R. M. The Philippine Insurrection against the United States: A Compilation of Documents with Notes and Introduction. 5 vols. Galley Proofs. Washington, D. C., 1906,

de Togores y Saravia, Jose Roca,  Bloquco y sitio de Manila en 1898. (Huesca, Spain: Tipografia de Leandro Perez, 1908) 51.

Toral, Juan y Jose, El sitio de Manila (1898): Memorias de un Voluntario. (Manila, P.I.: Imprenta Litografia Partier, 1898) 311-14.

Trask, David, The War with Spain 1898. (New York: The Free Press, Simon & Shuster, 1981; reprint, Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1996) 371.

War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Correspondence (hereafter AGOC) relating to the War with Spain, including the Insurrection in the Philippine Islands and the China Relief Expedition between the Adjutant General of the Army and Military Commanders in the United States, Cuba, Porto Rico, China, and the Philippine Islands, from April 15, 1898, to July 30, 1902. two volumes, (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1902), Table, 2:654-55

War Department, Adjutant General’s Office, Military Information Division, Notes and Tables on Organization and Establishments of the Spanish Army in the Peninsula and Colonies. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1898), 176-218.

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