This article, titled “Manila Bay in 1898” and written by Captain Edward L. Beach, was published in the April 1920 issue of Proceedings.
Recently I have read journals and letters I wrote in 1898 while attached to the U. S. S. Baltimore in Manila Bay. The events of those stirring days come vividly to mind and are fresh in memory as if they had happened yesterday. What follows is a narrative of those events as they seemed at the time to a participant, so this article is not history. No attempt is made to give a connected account or description of Admiral Dewey’s campaign. A person in a battle, particularly if he plays a subordinate part, sees but a small part of the actual battle, and his mental vision generally is limited. All that is offered in this paper are the views and ideas of a subordinate officer whose own part was not large, and these views are given as they existed at the time, uninfluenced and unmodified by knowledge gained later. Here goes!
Late in April, 1898, the U. S. S. Baltimore, in company with other ships of Commodore Dewey’s squadron, left Mirs Bay, China, bound for Manila.
The captain of the Baltimore was Nehemiah Mayo Dyer, who was then 60 years old. Captain Dyer had entered the navy during the Civil War as a volunteer officer. Previous to this he had seen rough service in whaling ships. I think that by nature he had a vehement temper, and that this had been accentuated by his early training in merchant ships where the crews frequently were rough and disorderly and understood better the meaning of hard knocks than of soft words. Aboard the Baltimore Captain Dyer sometimes seemed unnecessarily harsh. His standards of character and duty were high. And when, as happened at times, he believed officers and crew did not measure up to his standards, his reproofs and reprimands were expressed in violent language. His uncompromising intolerance, his harsh temper, caused us to fear him at all times, and sometimes to carry with us a sense of injury. But in time we came to know he was magnificent in his efforts to keep his ship and his officers and crew high in efficiency and high in morale. Though not gentle in methods he was withal an officer and a gentleman of the highest, truest type; and in remembrance of his sterling character the Navy Department has recently named a new destroyer Dyer.
When we steamed away from Mirs Bay, that April day, we knew but little of the Philippine Islands, not even that Manila was spelled with but one “l.” Rumor, eagerly believed, told us that the narrow entrances leading from the outside to Manila Bay were filled with mines and defended by high-powered modern coast defense cannon, all of which added to the intense interest that was with us.
On the second day out “all hands” were called aft to the quarterdeck. Here Captain Dyer made a speech to his ship’s company.
“Men of the Baltimore,” he began, ” I will read to you a proclamation recently made by the Spanish Governor General at Manila. It is as follows:
Spaniards, the North American people, constituted of all the social excrescences, have exhausted our patience and provoked war with their perfidious machinations, with their acts of treachery, with their against the law of nations and international conventions.
The struggle will be short and decisive. The God of victories will give us one as brilliant as the justice of our cause demands. Spain will emerge triumphantly from this new test, humiliating and blasting the adventures from those states that, without cohesion and without a history, offer to humanity only infamous traditions and the ungrateful spectacle of chambers in which appear united insolence and defamation, cowardice and cynicism.
A squadron manned by foreigners, possessing neither instruction nor discipline, is preparing to come to this archipelago with the ruffianly intention of robbing us of all that means life, honor, and liberty. to be inspired by a courage of which they are incapable, the North American seamen undertake as an enterprise capable of realization the substitution of Protestantism for the Catholic religion you possess, to you as tribes refractory to civilization, to take possession of your riches, and to kidnap those persons whom they consider useful to man their or to be exploited in agricultural or industrial labor.
Vain designs! Ridiculous boastings!
Your indomitable bravery will frustrate these attempts. You will not allow the faith you profess to be made a mock of impious hands. The aggressors shall not profane the tombs of your fathers, they shall not gratify their lustful passions at the cost of your wives’ and daughters’ honor, nor appropriate the property that your industry has accumulated. No! They shall not perpetrate any of the crimes inspired by their wickedness and covetousness, because your valor and patriotism will suffice to punish them and abase them.
There was more to this proclamation. Captain Dyer’s clear, penetrating voice, rang out with increasing indignation. He also read, though not as part of this proclamation, a Spanish statement which said that “the American President, McKinley, is a naturalized Chinaman from Canton.”
I laugh now as I recall the picture of Captain Dyer stamping on that paper as if it were a Spaniard, but the effect then was to carry officers and crew headlong with him. We were all as mad as he was.
We now began to make preparation for the battle that we knew awaited us. After the Baltimore had been built particular attention had been called by writers on naval subjects to the fact that in sea battles much damage was always caused by wooden splinters flying about, killing and wounding men, and spreading fires. So one of our drills had been, when the order “Clear ship for action” was given, to tie tags marked “overboard” to all sorts of wooden articles, such as chairs, desks, ladders, tables, etc. So now we were engaged in “clearing ship” in earnest, stripping her, getting her ready for battle, and throwing overboard hundreds of different articles. I’ll always remember the grief displayed by our chaplain when he saw his pulpit heaved overboard.
At about 1 o’clock Sunday morning, May the first, we slowly steamed into the South Channel entrance to Manila Bay. The night was dark. The sky overcast with clouds. The ships were all completely darkened. We were now but 25 miles from Manila. Everybody except those on duty below was on deck. No one wished to sleep. We all knew that soon we would be in battle and a tense expectancy possessed us. So we gathered in groups about the deck and talked in low tones. Ahead of us could be seen the dim shape of Commodore Dewey’s flagship, the Olympia. Astern of the Baltimore were the other four ships of squadron. I was in the starboard waist, amidships, looking towards the shadowy shore, less than a mile distant. Suddenly, in the direction I was looking, there was a vivid streak of fire, the reverberating roar of a great gun, and a violent rush of wind. I was wild with delight. Always had I hoped that some time I might have the sensation of being “under fire.” I had longed to know just how I would feel. Would I be scared or excited? Or would I be “cool, calm, and collected” ? Such had been boyish thoughts, and finally this desired experience had come. Again and again the fort fired at us, at me, I felt in my heart, the shots all missing me by but a narrow margin, passing directly over my head. First I estimated the shots had cleared me by 50 feet. But the more I thought of the distance, the closer I felt each shot had come. So I reduced my first estimate to 40 feet, then to 20, and finally, with further thought, came down to two. I thought of taking off these two feet, but realized that this would have taken off my head, so I felt that two feet was about right. And I had been no more scared than when throwing the chaplain’s pulpit overboard.
While engaged in these delightful, exultant estimates, officer ran up from forward. “Say Beach,” he exclaimed, ” I was on the forecastle, each one of those shots passed right over head, the last one was so close the wind of it blew my cap off.”
I was just about to make an indignant rejoinder when an officer came up from aft. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he shouted. “I was on the poop deck, not one of those shots passed 10 feet away from me.” I later quarrelled with officers from the five other ships, each of them foolishly maintaining that each shot had passed close to him. So this question was never settled.
We were now headed for Cavite, which is seven miles by from Manila, 20 miles by land. Here the Spanish Navy Yard was located, and here the Spanish warships were awaiting us.
The Baltimore began to shoot at 20 minutes before 6 that Sunday morning, May 1, 1898. I shall describe only that part of the battle, of which, when it was over, I had intimate, personal knowledge. So I shall not, in learned fashion, describe the tactics employed, because I was in the Baltimore‘s engine room and didn’t see any tactics nor did I know anything about them. Nor will I tell about the relative power of the opposing forces, hits per gun per minute, nor of the thousands of incidents that give life and vividness to a battle and which bring victory or defeat. All that I saw of the battle of Manila Bay was the inside of the Baltimore‘s engine room, with its hot steam valves, and cylinders, and pumps. The oilers and machinists, dripping with perspiration, rushing about. And I saw something else—Irwin’s shoes; and kept on seeing them throughout the fight.
I was at my station in the after engine room, operating the reversing and starting levers and throttle valves of the starboard engine. Assistant Engineer Brice had the same duty for the port engine; Assistant Engineer Cone was in the forward fireroom. Chief Engineer Ford was with me. Captain Dyer was on the bridge. My station was directly under the engine-room hatch. Looking up, through the hatch gratings, I could see the bottoms of the soles of Ensign Irwin’s shoes. Vertically upward from these shoes for a distance of six feet and three inches, extended one hundred and ninety pounds of vibrant Americanism, known as Irwin. He had taken a place which gave him a clear view of the enemy’s ships, and where he could advantageously direct the fire of his four 6-inch guns.
This engine-room hatch was a veritable sounding box. The roars from our own guns came reverberating down this hatch, tremendously magnified. Near to one of the Baltimore‘s 8-inch or 6-inch guns the sound of the report was muffled compared with the crashing, smashing, banging reverberations that came blasting down the engine-room hatch. Although our ships were all firing, and were all close to the Baltimore, I never heard a shot from any of them. At the end of the battle my impressions were a dripping, sweating engine room, a series of hundreds of deafening, ear-bursting explosions, and Irwin’s shoes.
In battle it is only the leaders who have occasion to see things in a big sense. The rest of us are there to obey orders, to shoot and hit what we shoot at, to steer the ship, to work the engines as directed. We are not attending a show as spectators; the vision of each of us is small. And at a battle’s conclusion a man’s mind is too intent on what he is doing to take mental note of matters outside of his own duties. Later, for months, the battle is the chief topic of conversation, it is in the atmosphere he breathes, he absorbs all sorts of information and acquires intimate knowledge of the battle, obtains a clear mental picture of all details. I remember that after the battle of Manila Bay I wanted to write home all I saw of the fight, and of how little I had at first to write about. I believe that in the Battle of Manila Bay I made a record never equalled in the history of warfare, that of looking steadily, hour after hour, through the ear-blasting roar of great guns, at the bottom of a man’s shoes. I was constantly interrupted by signals from the bridge, to increase or decrease speed of the starboard engine, to reverse it, and stop it, and occasionally gave
orders to machinists and oilers. But when not so employed, was constantly looking upward and shoeward.
At my station were the speaking tubes connecting with the bridge and with different places, amongst them the fire-rooms. Price and I were the only means of communication between the firerooms, which for protection against bursting shell were down by heavy armored gratings, and the rest of the world.
Some minutes after the shooting began I was called up by forward fireroom.
” What is it?” I shouted through the speaking tube.
“Hello, Beach. This is Cone, speaking. Send me some newsto cheer up my men.”
” No one has sent me any news, Cone, but I’ll bet that Irwin’s shoes—.”
“I’m not interested in Irwin’s shoes nor in excuses. Send me news of the fight right away.”
Down the hatch crashed the language of 8-inch guns, stopping the conversation for the moment. Then I called up the forward fireroom.
“Hello!” I shouted, “report to Mr. Cone that the Olympia has just sunk the Spanish flagship.” I kept my ear to the tube. “Hooray,” was all the answer me. But I heard my message repeated. Then a wild cheer. Then a furnace door slammed shut, and an Irish voice sang out; “Take that, ye damn durrry dago.”
A few minutes later I was again called up.
” Hello, Beach, send me some news of the fight! ”
” Say, Cone. Irwin’s shoes—.”
” Drop that. What other Spanish ships have we sunk.”
I had received no pews of any description, not one word. They were too busy on deck with the guns to bother about news bulletins. And in fact, at the time, the effect of our shots on the Spanish ships was not known. But explanations would not have been interesting in the fireroom. So I shouted: “The Baltimore has just sunk a Spanish cruiser.” Loud hurrahs came back to me through the speaking tube when Cone repeated this.
Five minutes later I was again called by Cone. “The temperature here is 170°,” he said. “Send more news, lots of news, omit all reference to Irwin’s shoes.”
And then I started in in earnest. Every few minutes I sent a bulletin to the forward fireroom. My ferocity was ungovernable. I sank Spanish battleships, cruisers, gunboats, and torpedo boats, without count. For four hours, at from five-to ten-minute intervals, I destroyed Spanish warships. Commodore Dewey that day sank 11 ships. My record was afterward counted up to be 96.
It was boiling hot in the fireroom. We were running slowly, so there was but little to do, and as all three watches were at their stations the firerooms were crowded with men. My bulletins served to keep them interested and contented. I may have, in the excitement of the moment, not sent in accurate bulletins. But it is quite certain that 100 per cent of the Spanish ships that fought us were sunk.
At different times I would ask the chief engineer, Mr. Ford, a fine old veteran of the Civil War, questions. He had been with Farragut in the latter’s battles, and therefore was an authority.
“Chief,” I asked, ” is this a real battle? ”
Mr. Ford smiled. “Yes,” he replied, ” this is a real fight, and a big one, too.” And to accentuate his remark, deafening answers came down the hatch.
” Chief,” I later asked, ” do you think that Irwin’s shoes—.”
But my question was lost in a wild, overwhelming uproar. I knew we had been hit. Right over my head was a terrific crash. The effect was so shattering that I momentarily thought a tremendous shell had burst in the hatch. It afterwards developed that a 4.7 solid shot from the Isla de Cuba had pierced the Baltimore‘s starboard bulkhead, the sides of the engine-room hatch, passing 18 inches below Irwin’s shoes; it struck the curved inside of the shield of a port 6-inch gun, carromed as a billiard ball, and at the end of its mad flight lay spinning in the starboard waterway. It had entirely encircled one of Irwin’s gun crews but had hit none of them.
The Baltimore was struck in all seven times and had eight men slightly wounded. Most of the other ships were struck, but none received injuries that were serious. I did not hear of any incidents that happened aboard any of the other ships, except the Raleigh. Here, as I was told later, the “powder division officer,” who had charge of supplying all of the guns with ammunition, and whose men were servants, bandsmen, coal passers, and others, had not nearly enough work to do to keep his men busy. It does not take many men to hoist up 5-inch shell and powder charges. So, after using every man he could, he formed the leftovers, colored servants and other colored men, into a dancing party below decks. And while bombs were bursting in air, and the Raleigh‘s guns were vomiting destruction into Spanish ships, deep down in the Raleigh, as fiddles were scraping, it was:
“Balance yo’ pahdnahs,
Dos y dos,
Chassy toe yo’ right,
Gran’ right ‘n left.”
This ends my description of the Battle of Manila Bay. I fear it will never be referred to as an historical document. In vain will one look in it for statistics and ponderous facts, for the number of misses per gun per minute, for the strategy and tactics and for that awful thing, logistics. At the end of the fight all I knew was that we had met the Spaniards and had destroyed them. For further technical information the reader is referred to official reports. For further infonnation concerning Irwin’s shoes, apply to the captain of the super-dreadnaught Oklahoma.
The next day the Baltimore proceeded to Mariveles, a town to the entrance of Manila Bay, where a Spanish fort was located. Captain Dyer demanded the surrender of this fort. The Spanish colonel, whose name was Cáramba, or Miranda, was most anxious to surrender, but in worried tones he informed Captain Dyer that the Baltimore had anchored in the midst of a mine field and was in imminent danger of being blown into the Spanish equivalent of smithereens; he could not be responsible for the safety of the Baltimore, nor, should she be torpedoed, could he bear the
of being accused of treachery by the Americans after he had surrendered. Would Captain Dyer please withdraw to a place not far away, which he would guarantee was free from mines? And, because thousands of hostile natives were gathering around the fort, animated by the purpose of wreaking vengeance against the hated Spanish soldiers, would Captain Dyer please, for protection, allow his wife and daughter, Señora and Señorita Cáramba, to come aboard the Baltimore?
Captain Dyer would. So the Baltimore moved to a place of safety, and Señora Cáramba and her daughter then came on board and were given the admiral’s cabin to live in.
That night Ellicott had the middle watch as officer of the deck. It was a pleasant, peaceful night; the stars were bright, the breezes balmy; but there was a Spanish fort on shore, not far away. True, the colonel commanding had agreed to surrender, but we had not taken possession; and in it were stores of mines and torpedoes. It was conceivable that some fanatic might try to attach a torpedo or mine to the Baltimore and destroy the hated American ship, or gain access to a magazine and there start a fire. Less than three months previously the Maine had been destroyed. Or, under cover of darkness, some desperate Spanish soldiers might man some boats and pull to the Baltimore and attempt to steal aboard, overwhelm the watch on deck, and get possession of the ship.
Ellicott had all of these things in mind, careful officer that he was. He did not propose that any surprise of any nature should be worked off on him that night. So he had armed picket boats constantly steam around the ship, and sentries posted in many places about the decks, all keeping a wary lookout. The exciting and stirring event that occurred that night in no way caught Ellicott off his guard—he was prepared for it.
At 1 o’clock everything seemed peaceful. Far forward on the forecastle, the marine sentry, at the stroke of the bell, called out, in slow, singing tones, “Post number one, and all’s well!” Each sentry, in his turn, passed the hail. It was reassuring. The sentries were wide awake, and on their jobs. Yet Ellicott was not lulled into security. Suddenly he thought he detected a faint but pungent odor of something burning. Ellicott sniffed slowly, carefully. “That is certainly something burning,” he remarked, “and of a most strange and peculiar flavor.” So quietly he called the quartermaster. The latter sniffed, and smiled in superior disbelief. Then suddenly exclaimed: “Mr. Ellicott! You’re right! I smell something burning, a most remarkable smell, I never smelled nothin’ like that, sorr, in all me life!”
” Keep quiet,” ordered Ellicott, who was not to be rattled in spite of the hundreds of tons of ammunition in the magazine directly beneath him.
So Ellicott, accompanied by the quartermaster, went to different sentries near by; soon they all smelt this pungent, delicate burning odor; but it was difficult to locate where it came from. Then Ellicott quietly made a careful inspection. The odor grew stronger and stronger. Ellicott awakened Gunner Connelly; the magazines were opened—there was no smell in any of them. Gradually officers and men were awakened and got up; some were worried and begged Ellicott to sound the general alarm, which would have turned everybody out and sent him to his station. “Not yet,” said Ellicott, tersely. He was not to be stampeded and had the situation in hand.
The strength of this burning odor constantly augmented. Finally Ellicott located it in the stairway leading below to the admiral’s cabin. It was unmistakably here. I’ll never forget the excitement that existed amongst us as we saw Ellicott disappear down that black hole, nor the calm way in which he said, as he was descending, “Do not sound the general alarm unless something happens below that should make it necessary.” Many of us never expected to see him again, and all 0f us believed the would be blown up within a minute. An intense excitement existed; but not a word was spoken. Complete silence reigned.
Ellicott followed the smell to the door of the room where Señora Cáramba and her daughter were sleeping. He knocked on the door, steadily but gently, and in kindly, rather soft tones said: “Open the door, please.”
“Quien es? Oh, Santa Maria! Quien es? Que quiere? ”
“Only Lieutenant Ellicott, ma’am; something is burning in room. Please open your door.”
“Oh, Dios mio! Maria Santissima! No comprendo! Que quiere? ” came in affrighted exclamation from the inside of the room.
Then Ellicott replied in Spanish, “No tenga miedo, Señora; alga esta quemando en su cuarto. Hagame el favor de abrir la puerta.”
Ellicott spoke so kindly that evidently Señora Cáramba gathered confidence, for here she opened wide the door. But one couldn’t say “Darkness there, and nothing more”; because there was sufficient light in the room clearly to explain (observe the proper use of the unsplit infinitive, please, and the quotation from Poe’s Raven) the terrible, sinister, threatening mystery.
When Señorita Cáramba went to bed she did not know how to turn out the electric light, so, to dim it, she wound her black stocking about it.
The heat of this light scorched and charred the stocking, producing this strange burning odor. But for Ellicott’s good, clear sense, the general alarm would have been sounded, and every man in the ship would have believed that thousands of Spaniards were attacking us. It was amazing that such a little, innocent, harmless thing as a stocking could have caused such an uproar. I remember the relief we then experienced, as if we had narrowly escaped from a great danger.
But I must proceed with my tale of inconsequential happenings. The unimportant things that occurred at Manila have been too long neglected.
The Baltimore returned to her anchorage off Cavite. In my letters written at the time there is constant reference to the heat. Pitch boiled out of the deck seams. Steam was kept up on all boilers, the engines were kept in constant readiness to move. No awnings were spread. So the ship never had an opportunity to cool off. At night all battle ports were in place, so even then there was no relief below. The days were hot and listless, there was but little work going on, mail seldom came to the ship, so we had but little to do except to think of our physical discomforts, the heat, the uninviting food, the lack of clean linen. At night we would gather in gun sponsons and eagerly discuss rumors, and talk of immediate probabilities.
A few days after the battle, before the 8 a. m. colors were hoisted, a little Spanish gunboat, hardly bigger than a good-sized launch, steamed proudly past our ships towards the Cavite Naval Station; her Spanish ensign dancing gaily to the breeze. A shot across her bow gave her a painful surprise. It was the Callao. She had been amongst the Southern Islands and her captain had brought her to Cavite not knowing that war existed between Spain and the United States. So Admiral Dewey cabled to Washington that the Callao had surrendered to him.
Secretary of the Navy Long had been much interested in colleges and had evidenced this, when the war broke out, by renaming two merchant ships chartered by the navy as the Yale and the Harvard. So, in response to Admiral Dewey’s report about the Callao, he cabled directions to the Admiral to suggest the name of some American educational institution for the Callao. Admiral Dewey answered, recommending the Callao be renamed The United States Ship Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As the Callao would hardly have been long enough to have painted this name on her side, she remained the Callao.
Soon warships of other nations came to Manila Bay—British, French, German, and Japanese. We felt the Germans did not have good sea manners. When, during war, a blockade is established, foreign warships by international custom and courtesy recognize the authority of the blockading Admiral, and always go the form of asking permission to anchor, and to communicate with the blockaded city. This is granted, because a foreign warship is on honor to observe the rules of the blockade, such as not to take anything in or out of the blockaded city, or to deliver or receive mail. But the German ships were careless of such courtesies. I do not know they ever violated the blockade rules instituted by Admiral Dewey, but they violated the usual courtesies accorded the blockading admiral, by anchoring without permission, by having their officers visit the city of Manila without permission. We knew the Germans sympathized with Spain, and we felt they were insolent. On August 12, in response to Admiral Dewey’s notification that he would summon Manila to surrender the next day, the German Admiral Von Diedrichs sent word to Admiral asking where the latter wished the German ships placed during the expected bombardment.
“Anywhere outside of the reach of my guns,” was the Dewey-esque reply. It was said that von Diedrichs, in true German fashion, scratched his head over this reply and never did understand it.
On Thursday, June 30, the Baltimore, which had left previously to meet transports carrying American soldiers, steamed into Manila Bay, leading these army transports. As we passed Mariveles the German squadron, which had steam up, weighed anchor, tailed on to our line, and followed us into Cavite. This was an instance of the German manners of the time. Considering the tense, strained conditions, these manners were resented by
were considered insolent and unfriendly.
At one time, months later, when the Baltimore was blockading the city of Illailo, the German cruiser Irene sent a large landing force, infantry and artillery both, into the city. On that occasion Captain Dyer’s language to the German captain was so clear and so expressive that the German captain apologized profusely and hurriedly recalled his men.
No one ever had occasion to misunderstand either Captain Dyer’s words or his meaning. There were a number of instances illustrating the bad “sea manners” of the Germans.
On May 19 the Filipino leader, Aguinaldo, had arrived at Cavite. He immediately organized a military force of Filipinos and proceeded to attack the Spanish forts between Cavite and Manila. There were eight of these forts in a distance of 22 miles. One by one they were captured by Aguinaldo, and in a few weeks all eight were in his possession. At this time Aguinaldo was 28 years old. His remarkable victories over the Spaniards were due to his intrepid leadership and the devotion of his Filipino soldiers. Judging the Filipinos by the warfare they conducted against the Spaniards and later against our own forces, with full knowledge of some atrocities committed by them, one may say justly, that on the whole they were and are Christians and gentlemen, true men, and loyal friends.
American soldiers were now arriving in great numbers. It was evident that a campaign was being planned, but no information came to us. And we spent the hot days idly speculating on what was to happen. The Filipinos were now surrounding Manila. Every night we could see the flash of Spanish guns, mounted on the walls of Manila, and hear musketry firing. We were always prepared for an attack on our ships, and had picket boats steaming out, and sentries on board ship on the alert. Every night there were small boats passing about which were frequently fired at.
One night I was sitting in the port after 6-inch gun sponson, talking with Briggs, the executive officer. At about 11 o’clock we heard the reports of several rifle shots.
” Some foolish soldier is loose,” remarked Briggs. And then, in the silence of the night, we heard the dip of oars; and soon, dimly off the port quarter, we could see a small rowboat, headed to pass the Baltimore‘s stern.
“Who goes there?” rang out, in stentorian tones, the hail of the sentry. At the same instant a Baltimore searchlight was turned on the boat, vividly lighting it up, and showing in it an American soldier.
“Ogotoel,” came from the soldier, in tired disgusted tones. Probably he had not enjoyed being fired at.
” Pass, Ogotoel! ” shouted our sentry.
” Sentry,” called out Briggs, “What was the answer to your hail? ”
“He shpoke in Shpanish, sorr,” replied the marine, resuming his watchful beat.
The days were long and hot, and but little news was stirring. But plans were maturing, thousands of soldiers had arrived, and on August 13 Admiral Dewey hoisted orders, and the ships of his squadron got under way and proceeded to attack Manila, following the flagship Olympia. From the Baltimore we saw American soldiers marching up the beach from the south towards Manila, much of the time wading in water. The monitor Monterey preceded these soldiers, firing occasional shells which landed ahead of them and which would have cleared their path if clearing were needed. From the Baltimore’s deck it looked as if we were to have an interesting day. Slowly we steamed towards the great wall that surrounds Manila. At different parts of this wall were forts armed with modern 9.4-inch Krupp guns of great power. Manned by trained crews these Krupp cannon could easily and with certainty in a few moments, have sunk everyone of Admiral Dewey’s small unarmored ships. So we eagerly watched this wall, expecting each moment to see these big guns begin to fire.
But they never began. Our ships moved slowly, stopping at times. I was upon deck. After I had spent some time in wondering why the big guns defending Manila did not open fire upon the Olympia hoisted a signal; ” surely,” we thought, “this is the order to begin shooting.” But the signal, translated, read: “Do not fire upon walled city unless walled city fires upon us.” We were disappointed and wondered what it meant. Then came another signal from the flagship, reading: “Examine southwest bastion of walled city for a white flag.”
Officers looked’at each other in disgust. “Say,” remarked one to me, “this is a joke, a fake, a put-up job.” We now that the whole thing was a pre-arranged affair; later we learned that the Spanish governor wished to surrender, but insisted on a show of force. At the time we did not appreciate the fact that the victory is greater if it is accomplished without bloodshed or destruction of property.
The interest in this capture of Manila suddenly left us. It was as tame an affair as could be imagined. I walked disconsolately about the decks. I found a gigantic negro coal passer, Higgins by name, sound asleep in a starboard waterway. I aroused him. “What do you mean,” I severely demanded, “by being asleep wben your ship is in battle.”
“Is this a battle, Mistah Beach? Lawd bless yo! Suh, beggin’ yo’ pahdon, suh, I thought I heard taps go some time ago, an’ it was so quiet I thought everybody had done turned in an’ gone to sleep. ‘Scuse me, suh, meanin’ no disrespec’, suh, but I’s losing mah respec’ fo’ Mistah George Dewey. Yes, suh, he suttinly am depreachingating, suh. I kin make mo’ noise in a Baptis’ camp meeting than Mistah George Dewey is amakin’ in this misrable battle. I sholy am dispointed in Mistah Dewey, suh.”
Higgins voiced the feeling in the ship.
The soldiers marched into Manila unopposed; Manila immediately surrendered to Admiral Dewey and General Merritt. And the beautiful battle-flag that had been flown from the Olympia’s mainmast was hoisted over the city. There had been some rifle firing at our soldiers as they entered Manila, but it was not learned who did this.
Previous to the surrender of Manila the Filipinos had organized a government and had proclaimed themselves an independent republic. And they were apparently making good their claim. Fort after fort, city after city, island after island, surrendered to Aguinaldo’s forces. Soon there was no Spanish authority anywhere in the Philippine Archipelago.
We ruled and possessed Manila and Cavite with the area of a few square miles, perhaps 50, and a population of 360,000. Aguinaldo ruled and possessed all the rest of the Philippines, with an area of 50,000 square miles, and a population of 7,000,000. Spain ruled and possessed nothing, neither land nor inhabitants. The United States would not recognize the Républica Filipina, which was a bitter, heart-breaking disappointment to the Filipinos.
I am not intending in any way to criticize our action in assuming title over the Philippine Islands because one who was conversant with all conditions knows our government did what was right and what it had to do. But I am trying to portray the feelings of the Filipinos, as given me in talks by many Filipinos, and by Aguinaldo, both when we were friends, and later, when, for a day, I was his prisoner at the Filipino capitol, Malolos. At the latter time I was a bit concerned, not knowing whether Aguinaldo would shoot me or hang me. I was suspicious of his attentions because of a good lunch he gave me; and of his kindly, gentle words and manner. And still more so, when, after giving me a warm handshake and his autographed photograph, he dismissed me and had me conducted to American lines near Manila. I pondered deeply over this and completely lost my confidence in Aguinaldo and the Filipinos as savages. They weren’t living up to what was expected of them.
We now had to conquer the Philippine Islands from the Filipinos, which of course we did. The significant thing that characterized those two years of warfare was that the Filipino Government maintained its organization, and, in large measure, though not towards the end, its power over its troops. These troops fought earnestly, and bravely, and hopelessly to the end. The course of the short-lived Républica Filipina was creditable honorable, and Filipinos for all time will regard their ancestors of 1898 with pride and affection.
The Filipinos accepted the peace terms laid down by the United States. A most comforting fact is that since then the Filipinos have believed in the beneficent intentions of the United States. They have learned that the rule of the United States is entirely unselfish; there is no underlying purpose to exploit the Philippine Islands for the benefit of the American interests.
Year by year the Filipinos have seen themselves granted more power in self-government. To-day they control theGovernor’s Council, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the courts, practically all details of government administration. They are almost as self-governing as is Canada. They long for complete independence and are confidently looking forward to that being granted them in the near future.
And when the free and independent Républica Filipina takes an honored place amongst the nations of the earth, the United States of America will have accomplished one of the most unselfish, noble works recorded in history.