The Devil's Causeway by Matthew Westfall
The True Story of America's First Prisoners of War in the Philippines, and the Heroic Expedition Sent to Their Rescue

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As the United States prosecuted a bloody campaign to pacify its newly won Philippines territory at the turn of the nineteenth century, a secret mission of mercy went terribly wrong. The result was a prisoner-of-war crisis, the likes of which our nation had never encountered before. The epic struggle for survival that followed was not only a test of the human will to live, but a crucible for heroes. And yet, what was touted as a heroic rescue operation extended a war by almost two years and cost the lives of thousands. In April 1899, Admiral George Dewey dispatched the USS Yorktown to liberate a detachment of Spanish soldiers under siege by Filipino rebels. To reconnoiter enemy defenses, one of the Yorktown's armed cutters—manned by a crew of fifteen sailors—was sent toward shore. And then it happened. Defying orders, Lieutenant James C. Gillmore Jr. recklessly pushed upriver into heavy jungle—and headlong into an ambush that would kill four of his men. The survivors were dragged across mountains and through dense jungle from one pestilent prison to the next along what Gillmore called "a veritable Devil's Causeway." Their captivity and the torturous expedition sent to recover them, recalled today as one of the greatest marches in US Army history, features a tightly hewn cast of characters—including a frail yet determined teenaged sailor and his hardened seafaring mates; battle-tested veterans of the Civil War and the Indian Wars; and a fiery revolutionary commander who gave orders to bury wounded Americans alive. A sweeping military epic drawing on international primary sources, The Devil's Causeway tells their extraordinary story in its entirety for the first time.

About Matthew Westfall

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Matthew Westfall is a writer, urbanist, and award-winning documentary filmmaker, whose films have featured narrators such as Malcolm McDowell, Willem Dafoe, and F. Murray Abraham, and have been broadcast worldwide.  He has devoted much of his professional career to tackling poverty in the developing world. Based in Asia for nearly three decades, his work as a development banker addresses some of the most intractable issues in our increasingly urban world:  megacities, slums, and managing the urban environment.  For his documentary On Borrowed Land, executive produced by Oliver Stone and funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Matthew received the prestigious Paul Davidoff National Award for Advocacy Planning from the American Planning Association. Born in New York City and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, Westfall currently resides in the Philippines with his family. He spends his free time reading, writing, and collecting as a means to explore the fascinating history of his adopted country. The Devil’s Causeway is his first work of narrative nonfiction. Visit
Published September 18, 2012 by Lyons Press. 432 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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Westfall, a filmmaker with extensive experience in the Philippines, recreates in exacting detail the plight of American sailors captured by Filipino insurgents in April 1899.

Jun 25 2012 | Read Full Review of The Devil's Causeway: The Tru...

In 1899, shortly after the American victory that made the Philippines a U.S. protectorate, the USS Yorktown sent 15 sailors to free Spanish soldiers besieged by Filipinos in a remote area on Luzon's east coast. The sailors rowed into an ambush; four died, and the rest were imprisoned. U.S. Army t...

Nov 15 2012 | Read Full Review of The Devil's Causeway: The Tru...

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