The Philippine-American War had begun in February, 1899. This war was fought between the Filipino revolutionaries and the U.S. Army. The U.S. army had initially arrived in Philippines to fight against the Spanish troops in 1898.
When the Spanish troops had been defeated, U.S. government became the new colonial ruler of the Philippines. This was the key reason which led to the war between Filipino troops and the U.S. army. By the end of 1899, this war was still on going
Emilio Aguinaldo was the head of the Filipino revolutionaries and the most important leader of the Filipino troops during the Philippines-American War. So apart from defeating the Filipino revolutionaries, the U.S. army wanted to capture him hoping that this could quickly bring the war to an end.
In November, 1899, the American army was close on the heels of Aguinaldo who had to retreat through the mountainous region of Illocos Sur. During this retreat, Aguinaldo and his army came across the Tirad Pass. This was a narrow pass in the mountains which could be defended easily. So Aguinaldo left 60 men to guard this pass while retreating further towards the north.
The 60 Filipino fighters left to guard the pass took up their positions on the heights of the pass. They dug up trenches and erected stone barricades. The main aim of this small group of Filipino soldiers was simply to slow down the American army and let Emilio Aguinaldo escape to safety. They were well aware of the fact that they would all probably die during the defence of the pass. For this reason, this battle is also called the Philippine Thermopylae.
The Battle of Tirad Pass took place on December 2, 1899. It was fought around the Tirad Pass in the Ilocos Sur region of Philippines.
The American army was commanded by Major Peyton C. March. He led a group of 300 U.S. soldiers. The Filipino troops were led by General Gregorio del Pilar. He commanded 60 soldiers.
On December 2, 1899, the American soldiers reached the foot of the pass and started to climb uphill. But they faced firing from the Filipino soldiers positioned on the top of the pass. This slowed down the American advance. American soldiers positioned themselves on a nearby hill and started firing at the Filipino troops.
By mid-day, they had not advanced and the Filipino soldiers still had the control of the pass. Later in the day, American army was able to find a path to the rear of the Filipino troops. Using this path, they were able to surround the Filipino troops who fought and died to the last man.
All 60 of the Filipino soldiers fighting in the Battle of Tirad Pass died during combat. The American army suffered only 2 dead and 9 wounded. But the Filipino troops were able to accomplish their objective of letting Emilio Aguinaldo escape safely towards the north.