Diary of Lieutenant X (Aime Ernest Motsch)

Saturday, August 13, 1898

The final act of this conflict between the Spaniards and the Americans has taken place. It lasted two hours this morning; the simulated attack was met by a simulated defense.

At 9 o’clock, the American fleet readied itself by raising its flag, positioning the Charleston in front of Parañaque, and rallying the other ships behind the Petrel right in front of Manila. The Concorde is moving to the north of the Pasig, where she will keep watch over the Tondo coast until the city surrenders. It is hard to believe that the cannons on the southern pier have been ordered not to fire to prevent the likely bombardment by the Americans.

The fleet coming from Cavite is sailing in the following order: Olympia, Monterey, Raleigh, Charleston, Baltimore, Boston. The small ships are moving independently of this formation.

At 9:38 the Olympia opened fire west-southeast, at 5,000 meters, followed by the Monterey and the Raleigh a few minutes later. All three ships aiming their shots at San Antonio were missing their target completely. As I watched the continuous fire to the finish, the following words of a Spanish officer ran through my mind: All this cannon fire is merely a bluff and Fort San Antonio would not be threatened if they did not fire at the American troops.”

Some missiles landing on Spanish trenches have caused some lost lives. After the Monterey took the lead position at 9:49 a shell fell on Malate. By 10:00, a heavy shower of rain hid the details of the struggle, if there actually was one. I would say it was Much ado about nothing.

At 10:25, the weather cleared to show the Americans drawn up in two columns pointing approximately north-northwest. The Petrel and the Callao approached land, with the latter merely 2,000 meters from San Antonio, and the next day’s observations showed that six shells penetrated the fort, one of which was responsible for the death of three men manning a cannon. Another flattened the ramparts at the point where there were no gun emplacements. A shell, apparently fired from the Callao, exploded close to another cannon, lifting its parapet and killing several servants.

At 10:40, the fleet stopped firing. The only shots heard were those directed towards San Antonio and the trenches, but the Spaniards were not responding to the enemy fire. At any rate, from our decks we saw no counterattack. If we can believe the Americans, 20 projectiles were fired from the fort, killing two men and wounding six. They could scarcely have done less. The start of the siege is not exactly like a ballet performance. The 24cm and 25cm cannons at the ramparts of Manila remained silent for the same astonishing reason, the “prevention of the city’s bombardment” rapidly becoming a proverb since it was being heard constantly everywhere.

At 10:52, the artillery fire resumed both at sea an on land. Undoubtedly, the infantry had not been able to take over the trenches. There was one final burst of cannon fire from the fort. One minute later, a massive shell smashed into it.

By 11:00 the American flag crowned the crest. The soldiers retreated from the trenches which hardly showed any trace of battle. From this point onward, the Spaniards were obviously on the defensive. The troops from San Antonio and the surroundings either capitulated or beat a retreat. In the direction of Paco, the confusion continued as the insurgents attacked a battalion of sailors and captured two sections.

The victorious American troops were suddenly everywhere, coming from Malate and arriving in Luneta at 11:30. Along the way, they took over the 24cm cannons without firing a single shot, making one believe that a tacit agreement did exist between them, since both camps did not use their cannons.

The Spanish volunteers guarding the ramparts fired only a single volley as the Americans appeared. There again a situation of pure bluff. The Americans replied with a few shots, and then gave orders for an immediate ceasefire. The end result showed a few wounded on both sides. The white flag was raised in the southern part of the city as the comedy continued to unfold. When the Olympia finally signalled the city to capitulate, it was obvious that no reply came since the city had already surrendered.

From noon to 2 o’clock we took a much-needed rest. Then we dined. At 2:35, a Belgian vessel flying a parliamentary flag came alongside the Olympia. Admiral Dewey boarded a small American steamer full of troops which entered their new port. The Callao followed it. This is the end. They are negotiating the terms of surrender. The general feeling is that this whole scene has been meticulously prepared since yesterday, or perhaps earlier. W find this deception completely offensive.

At 3:38, the American squadron anchored 4,000 meters south-southwest of the Walled City. By 6:00, they celebrated their victory by lowering the Spanish flag and replacing it with the American fla to the thundering sound of a 21-gun salute.

This is definitely a great American victory, but a humiliating defeat for Spain, and undoubtedly, for Europe. Someday we shall discover the real truth. Spain is finished, and no matter what she chooses to believe, she has lost both her influence and possessions throughout the world primarily through her own fault. Her ferocious presence will fade away and, as it often happens, will end in ridicule and absurdity. And thus, the final curtain drops on this shameful tragedy. The sun which has shone for 400 years on the pearl of the Orient seas will no longer shine over Spain.

The Americans are festively marching into Manila with their rifles on their shoulders. Not a single gunshot is heard. The Spaniards do not show any resistance, except for the artillery unit in Luneta which fired this morning against the rebels in the north. One thousand five hundred Spaniards, a thousand Tagals, and one sole American regiment took part in the struggle. The next day, those in the garrison who were not involved in the fighting left their trenches, taking their guns with them.

Some details about the Americans. Some Yankees were seen entering the Pasig on a small steamboat; instead of hoisting their flag, they put up some sort of American publicity. Even worse, before the end of the day, two drunk volunteers were beating up the natives and pushing them around with the butts of their rifles.

And soon after Manila opened its gates, a formal order posted on the road to Paco prohibited the Tagals from entering the city. A group of natives, refusing to take heed, were blocked by the Americans, who harassed them with their bayonets.