Diary of Lieutenant X (Aime Ernest Motsch)

Monday, August 8, 1898

Deception

Yesterday, Governor Jaudenes convened a meeting of the consuls of France, England, Belgium, and Germany. He naturally appealed to their sentiments in the hope of obtaining their support to delay the Americans. He dwelt on the fate of the women, the children, and the wounded. The consuls pretended to convey the request to Admiral Dewey. At 7 o’clock this morning, they boarded ship and headed toward the Olympia.

Instead of going as far as the admiral’s ship, these consuls turned midway. They only pretended to carry out their mission, realizing that it would lay themselves open to ridicule. The governor should realize that the Americans cannot assume responsibility for the 50,000 civilians in Manila, which include 3,000 sick. This is an absurd request to demand from an enemy wanting to take possession of a city at the earliest opportunity. The consuls could not have been in a position to negotiate more than an armistice. This has been the situation for the last three months. A bombardment would settle the matter. The Spaniards have had enough time. Even if granted a reprieve of three years, they would not be in a position to act decisively. A tacit agreement had, in fact, been made between Dewey and the governor general after Cavite. It is even possible there was a formal accord. The Americans seem to say: “Neither of us is in a position to attack the other. We do not intend to bombard the city, so there is no need for you to leave.” Dewey was not ready for an attack in May, and even if he carried out his plans in June, he would not have been successful, either. Only the insurgents would have benefitted from it, a situation which neither the Americans nor the Spaniards wished. Everyone seems perplexed by all of this.

Manila is reduced to defending itself with the 24 guns at Luneta, which is certainly insufficient to repulse the American squadron from its shores. We see vehicles carrying shells for 15cm cannons, which are being mounted on the sea front. The two that are visible from the outside must be a recent model, and one of them seems to be a mortar.

At the gun placement in Luneta, repairs are being done over the damage caused by bad weather these past few days. The Spanish artillery is not that interior after all; it is the poor training of their artillery men which is evident. Even compared to the Yankees, who are not at all accomplished, they are pitiful. Indeed, their gunpowder is of poor quality, due either to faulty manufacturing or bad storage. “All is rotten in Spain!” What an unfortunate country to be so criticized! Everything is in a very bad state. The cannons are exploding, the gunpowder does not fire, and the men are pathetic. During the battle fought on the first of May, the projectiles fired by this artillery (type 24) were falling short of the target, although there was enough time to correct the shortage.

Meanwhile, Manila was so well armed that it could not be penetrated by less than a thousand men. Marshal Primo de Rivera was convinced of this. He also knew it was important to control the sea with soldiers, cannons and, above all, an effective commander at the helm.

Manila still maintains its everyday routine. Vehicles loaded with furniture and belongings are everywhere. The foreigners have started their exodus. Since this morning, they have been seeking refuge for their families aboard the ships in the harbor. An air of sadness surrounds their plight. The Spanish officers are leaving their families for what could be a final separation. Some officers have difficulty holding back their tears. The farewell between Admiral Montojo and his family is heartrending. One of the young girls is sobbing, and two young officers (fiances or brothers) appear to take this parting very badly.

General Jaudenes’s orders with regard to the bombardment have been made public. It states the Spaniards’ intention to resist. Shelters for civilians have been designated in the different sections of the city. The Walled City has been divided into a number of zones, with the churches serving as places of refuge. From tomorrow morning, no vehicle will be allowed on the streets.

Some churches are now filled with people, mostly women. These buildings, in the worst Jesuit style, with parquet floors and wooden wall panelings, closely resemble the holds of giant steamers filled with immigrants. Everyone feels at home, with some laughing, and others beginning to quarrel. Some women are making coffee while others are cooking rice for the next meal. They exchange an abundance of inaccurate information, which sometimes results in violent verbal attacks. But the young people are strumming at their guitars at the entrance or singing beneath the porch. Mandolins playing a seguidilla can be heard. Behind the pillars, somewhere in the shadow, cockfighting is going on and bets are being placed.

I visualize a shell suddenly whistling through and falling in the midst of these joyful people, exploding in a tumult of screams and turning the carnival into a sea of blood…