Diary of John E.T. Milsaps

Sunday, Dec. 18th, 1898

Santa Mesa Camp, Luzon – Entry made in parlor of No. 2 Calle Santa Elena, Tondo.

Weather cool, but my underwear was wet with perspiration because of constant rush from noon till night.

Brother Joshua Colvin of the hospital corps (an old S. F. acquaintance) dropped in upon me before breakfast. Colvin, myself & Scott, following breakfast, hired a quilez & drove four miles to the encampment of the First Nebraska Vol. Infantry at Camp Santa Mesa. Heard singing & entered a tent – just erected. Found Chaplain Maile & 17 U.S. soldiers in there including my 2 companions. The Chaplain kept them practicing hymns to the end but asked me to pray which I did. He thereupon dismissed the service & invited me to call again some other day. Distributed 20 War Crys among the boys.

Got into quilez and drove down to the stone bridge which crosses the Estero San Juan. This stream is the dividing line between the American & Filipino forces. The American telephone was just put out to the water works which supplies Manila with water, runs out the road over this bridge. On the Manila side of the bridge an American sentry stands guard, on the other side a Filipino sentry is on duty. The American sentry stopped us. We coaxed him to let us go thro’. He relented & said “All right, if the man on the other side will let you pass”.

We passed both sentries & drove by four or five houses in which are quartered Filipino troops. In a fine residence Filipino officers & ladies were dancing to music furnished by one of their bands. We stopped a few minutes then went on to the old stone church of San Juan. The Filipino soldiers would not allow us to enter. Port holes for small arms have been made thro’ the massive doors. Make a detour we finally came back to our starting point.

The ground is bad to fight over. (1st) the estuary (2) ground is rocky with stone walls here & there (3) thickets of bamboos and other tropical growths (3) thick walled concrete & stone buildings occupied by the native soldiers.

The prospects of the Filipinos laying down their arms are not promising (a) they are constructing a new barrack (b) likewise trenches (c) they posted a sentry this morning within 50 feet of our line at the bridge aforementioned, which is virtually shuts us of from our water supply.

Returned to the No. 2 by 1.30p.m. I cooked dinner for us 3. Leaving the dishes unwashed on the table after brief prayer we boarded the horse car on Calle Jolo, then changed to the Malate line. Arrived at the terminus on Calle Real about 3.45p.m. then walked out to Lucina Cable Station residence facing Fort Polverin de San Antonio Abad (the first building I entered in Manila Aug. 13th) Saw Col.       Of the 1st North Dakota Vol. Inf. & requested permission to hold a service in the building, in which Co. B. is quartered. Referred me to a Lieutenant, but the latter was absent. When the Colonel drove away First Sergeant John Rousetter said he would take the responsibility on himself of saying yes. We held the service in the front entrance hall, first floor. Audience 23 soldiers & 10 Filipinos. The latter gazing thro’ the big door. Our meeting was cut short by the supper call.

The Filipino lines have closed in out here to easy striking distance of our trenches. Looks like war.

Walked back to 14th U.S. Infantry quarters. Inside called on Sam Fisher of Co. K. for Mrs. B. Wheeler of West Berkeley Cal. re Red Cross matters, also had a talk re Alonzo Johnson. Spoke to several soldiers re salvation.

Was after 6.p.m. where we reached Binondo Plaza. Entered a Chinese restaurant & took supper. I paid for the 3 of us 90 cts. Mexicans. Reaching home about 7.p.m. Found room full of U.S. soldiers waiting for us & lamps lighted. Audience 14.

Led the meeting, God present & good spirit manifest. At close I swore in Private David E. Freeman of Co. E., 1st Montana Vol. Inf. This is the man who came forward at the Montana service in the tent last Tuesday.

Distributed 10 miscellaneous War Crys this p.m. at Co. B. out in Malate.

After service I swore in Private Jeptha Landon of Battery K. 3d U.S. Heavy Artillery, Regulars. This to save remark re his assumed name of Devine – which is explained elsewhere in this diary.

Visitors this day 18.

Go to bed now feeling tired but with the comforting assurance that time was not allowed to run to waste. All the praise & glory be to my God. Amen.

A very peculiar sight which shows the anomalous position of affairs at present prevailing was an Insurgent brass band. When I returned with my comrades thro’ the Insurgent line, the bandsmen were passing our sentry at the time. They climbed the hill to the Nebraska camp and played for Los Americanos. This looks like good will and friendship between the two armies, but nevertheless ominous preparations are evident on both sides that do not speak of peace. I do hope war will be averted, for it would be the ruin of the Filipinos’ hopes & aspirations. War is a terrible calamity. Even if defeated the natives will harbor animosity vs. the Americans.