This is a magnificent old Stereotype Photograph of US Soldiers manning a loaded Colt Gatling Gun in the Phillipines in 1899. As you will note in the image, these guys are in actual combat conditions set up behind sand bags. Over the years, we've seen a few original photos of Gatling guns...one was at a fort in the Mid-west, another loaded onto a train, but this is one of the few we've ever seen in use during actual hostilities. As most of you know, the United States captured Phillipine Islands from the Spanish during the Span-Am War of 1898.
If you've ever wondered how a little dispute with Spain over an island called Cuba expanded all the way to the other side of the world in the Phillipines, we can sum it up for you in two words! THEODORE ROOSEVELT! Back in 1898, TR was serving as the Assistant Secretary of the US Navy. It just so happened that the Secretary of the USN was out of the office for a day or two. This left TR temporarily in charge and he wasted no time in wielding a "his big stick" to thrash the Spanish with a blow that would alter US history beyond anyone's imagination with one piece of paper. That piece of paper was in the form of a telegram sent to Admiral Dewey in charge of the USN's Pacific Fleet ordering him to load his ships up with coal and sail from Hong Kong directly to the Manila Bay. Upon his arrival in Manila Bay, he was to destroy the Spanish fleet and liberate the Phillipines. When the US Fleet arrived several days later, nobody was more surprised than the bewildered Spanish who initially thought the sound of the the US Naval cannons were some kind of salute. 4 or 5 hours later, the Spanish Fleet was in complete ruin and the US would control the islands for the next 4 decades.
As you might imagine, the Secretary of the Navy was quite shocked when he returned back to his headquarters and learned of TR's actions. I would give 1000 bucks just to see the look on his face. TR probably knew, but had made his move and rather than hang around, he quickly left his position in the Navy to help raise the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry aka "The Rough Riders" to fight in Cuba. Aside from TR's viewpoint, and according to my old History Professor, its unlikely that the United States would have ever thought to expand their war with Spain over Cuba over to the Phillipines. When President McKinley was informed of the destruction of the Spanish Fleet at Manila Bay, it is rumored that he was so unfamiliar with this part of the world that he had to look it up on a map. Unfortunately, taking the islands away from Spain was the easy part...it was keeping the peace with the Filipino population that became a challenge for US Troops as they quickly became resentful of a new outsider's influence. It took several years for US Troops to finally quell a violent insurgency by the Islamic Moro tribesmen. The parallels one could draw to today's War in Iraq are in many ways are one and the same. However, if history does repeat itself, one positive thing to note about this long-forgotten War is that the US did eventually succeed in suppressing the Moros and making peace. This old photograph is evidence of what it took the US Army many years to win that peace.
In the photo, three soldiers are attending to the Gatling. If you look closely, you can see the magazine is about 3/5 full of what looks like 45-70 cartridges. One can only wonder where the other rounds went? One man is seated on the carriage to aim the gun, a loader stands to the left, and the man on the right is holding the crank handle. Note the bandage on his left wrist and what looks like either a cartridge or cigar between his fingers. The loader standing to the left is wearing a holster with a Colt revolver. Note how he's wrapped the gun and its handle up in a rag to keep away from rain and moisture. If you look at it with a loop, it appears to be a Colt DA as you can see the outline of the lanyard through the rag. The man seated on the gun is wearing a checkered shirt. Note his belt is holding a bayonet for a Springfield Krag rifle. The two men in the foreground are kneeling by an open wooden crate of 45-70 ammunition and placing the cartridges into wooden blocks. Looks like each block holds 20 rounds. To the right of the photo is another identical unopened crate that appears to be marked "CARBINE AMMUNITION"...probably for Springfield Trapdoor carbines. In the distance, the gun is pointed towards what appears to be a field with a thin line of trees. The bottom of the photo reads "Gatling Guns trained on Filipinos, near Manila, Phillipine Islands. Copyright 1899 by R.Y. Young. Right edge is marked "New York U.S.A. 725-727 Broadway". The photo is in good condition with no rips, tears, or pieces missing. It turned a bit yellow with age. A rare glimpse of a Colt Gatling Gun serving in a foreign land under war-time combat conditions.