Gregorio del Pilar General Niño

Gregorio del Pilar, the Boy General

Gregoiro del Pilar y Sempio (November 14th, 1875- December 2nd, 1899) was one of the youngest generals in the Philippine Revolutionary Forces during the War against Spain and the Philippine-American War, that’s why he was known as the “Boy General”.

He died at the age of 24 fighting against the American army, after having achieved the fame in combats such as the successful assaults against the Spanish Cazadores quarters in the municipality of Paombong, his victory in the first phase of the Battle of Quingua or his last stand at the Battle of Tirad Pass, against the American army.

Gregorio was born in Bulacan on the 14th of November in 1875 to Fernando H del Pilar and Felipa Sempio and he was the nephew of Marcelo and Toribio H del Pilar, propagandist exiled in Guam after the Cavite Mutiny in 1872. Familiarly named “Goyong”, he studied at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he received the bachelor’s degree at the age of 20.

Gregorio del Pilar and the Philippine Revolution

When the revolt against the Spanish broke out, Gregorio joined Andres Bonifacio‘s forces as other Bulakeños did and he distinguish himself as field commander against the Spanish defenders of Bulacan.

In December, 1896, he took part in an attack in Karakong of Sili-Pandi, Bulacán, a town which he defended later against the Spanish counterattack commanded by General Ríos on January 1st, 1897. The five Spanish columns formed by about 1300 men, directly commanded by Lieutenant Colonels Villalón and López Artega, converged over Karakong from five different directions and managed to put out the 5000 rebels hidden in the village. The Spaniards caused them a big amount of casualties, but they didn’t capture the rebel leader Llanera. Gregorio del Pilar fought bravely. He was shot in his neck and promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

Later, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. It was after his successful attack against the Spanish garrison in Paombomg, Bulacan, where he managed to capture 14 Mauser rifles. This plan had been proposed by himself to the rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo. Both of them had to exile in Hong Kong after the Biak-na-Bato Treaty.

Gregorio del Pilar went back to the Philippines after the Spanish defeat in the battle of Manila Bay against the American Navy. He was proclaimed Governor of the provinces of Nueva Écija and his own town Bulacan. It was here where he accepted the surrender of the Spanish troops on June 24th, 1898, and afterwards he was promoted to Brigade General.

Gregorio del Pilar General Niño

Gregorio del Pilar with his Staff

Broken promises

On August 14th, 1898, 11,000 American soldiers were sent to occupy the islands, despite the support the Filipinos gave to the USA in its war against Spain and President Mackinley’s statement that the annexation of the Philippines would have been, “according to our moral code, a criminal attack”.

Gregorio del Pilar General Niño

Gregorio del Pilar at the head of his soldiers

When the war against the USA broke out, which had been given the Philippines and Cuba by Spain after the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the Boy General and his troops succeeded during the first phase of the battle of Quingua. In this battle he defeated Major Franklin Bell’s cavalry charge. American Colonel John M. Stotsenburg died in this action.

He was sent in a peace mission several times, representing the Army and the President and pursuing a ceasefire. Afterwards, as military governor in Pangasinan, he became General Aguinaldo’s confidant.

Gregorio died on December 2nd, 1899, during the battle of Tirad Pass. He was shot in his neck while he was leading his men to cover Aguinaldo’s retreat. His corpse was looted by the soldiers of the 33rd American Regiment, and for days remained exposed till he was picked up and buried with military honors by Lieutenant Dennis P. Quinlan, who carved in his gravestone “an officer and a gentleman”.

Philippines War miniatures
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