Diary of John E.T. Milsaps

Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 1899

Fort Rice, Luzon Island — Entry made in parlor of No. 2 Calle Santa Elena, Manila.

Am quite tired tonight as I pen these lines. Have been out almost all day in the hot sun much and walking much. Out of bed early. Read a couple of verses in the Bible, prayed, cooked breakfast then walked down to the ferry boat in front of the U.S. Quartermaster’s warehouse. Paid 20 cts Mex. passage to Cavite. A party of whiskey and beer sellers, civilians, sat down near me on the upper deck & one commenced to burlesque Christ. I took up the gauntlet thrown down. Liquor man subsided in a short while.

Arriving in Cavite I went to the Provost Marshal’s office on Calle Arsenal for a pass out of Cavite. Captain D. Geary granted me one to San Roque & back but could not beyond that point. The Captain is a zealous Roman Catholic & engaged in a religious & kindred conversation including apostolic succession. While we were so engaged Major Frank B. Rice after whom the breastworks facing causeway joining the small island to the main land 4 miles beyond San Roque, came in. Capt. Geary kindly stated for me what I wanted. The Major thereupon wrote me a pass granting permission to take photos at the outpost — Fort Rice. Going down stairs I asked for a drink of water. Had none. A soldier treated me to a glass of soda water. Private Geo. Baker of A. Battery 1st California Heavy Artillery introduced himself to me. Invited him to go with me to Fort Rice. Agreed if I could get him past the sentry. The sentry passed him out at my request. Together thro’ the hot sun we walked out thro’ the forest to Fort Rice. I learned that Baker was born in Cypress, Harris Co. Texas, the county in which I was born. He is a Christian. Requested me to hold a meeting in Cavite. I agreed to go over Sunday next –for an afternoon service. Asked him to arrange things.

The earthworks supported by plaited bamboo uprights & mounting 2 guns engaged my attention. Took a picture of the same. Detachments of the 51st Iowa, & Battery B. 1st California Heavy Artillery are stationed at this point which commands the causeway* (*Note: This causeway is called the Isthmus of Dalahican.) leading to Cavite Viejo (old C.) & the main land of Luzon Island. Private Frank Tarr, a Christian, who accompanied me on my rounds, Geo. Baker wanted to visit the San Roque Roman Catholic cemetery, because he heard bones were thrown out of graves & he had never seen anything like that. The 3 of us cut thro’ the forest to the cemetery. Visited unburnt native shacks & the burnt ones too en route. In San Roque under a verandah Baker showed me a wretched Filipino man, covered with syphaletic sores; a pitiable case. He gave him 10 cts Mex. & I 04. Tried to teach the poor creature to pray to Jesus.

When we entered the arched entrance to the San Roque cemetery we saw a box made in imitation of a coffin of box lumber. A sling was around it. Evidently the same had been brought out by 2 Filipinos slung to a bamboo pole. While we stood looking at the strange coffin an artillery sergeant –Ernest Koenig– hastened out of the cemetery & warned us to beware of the corpse as it was that of a 2 year old child who had died of small pox, in a casco down in the navy yard at Cavite. One Filipino was busy digging a shallow grave in the coarse black sea sand. With the sand he threw up the bones of other dead humans. Leaving the funeral party we went into the mortuary chapel. Confusion certainly struck this place since the war began. Boxes of bones had been dug up all over the floor & the remains scattered over the same. On either side of the altar at the back end were 2 tiers of tombs probably for priests. The tombs were open. A coffin containing a mummified priest dressed in a long drown robe was dragged out and dropped on the floor. The wood coffin broke open & the priest lay partly in & partly out, his hip bone got disjointed by the fall probably & broke thro’ his parchment-like skin, a ghostly, loathsome sight. The alter with its crucifix was a wreck & moved from its place. Between it & the wall was a litter of garments & smashed odds & ends. While engaged contemplating this scene, Sergeant Koenig entered the chapel & inquired if I would not hold some kind of service over the grave. Certainly! Taking our stand on the windward side of the little grave, the 2 Filipino men, holding one each end of the coffin, with Sergt Koenig & privates Geo. Baker & Frank Tarr as witnesses I consigned to mother earth the remains of little Damasa Garcia. While lowering the coffin of his child into the grave the poor father wept. It was a touching scene.

After the burial, we passed thro’ a back gate into a yard where were heaps of bones. Indeed they are everywhere under & on top of ground in this cemetery. A row of skulls from the limb of a tree faces the front gate, & outside the wall one surmounts a pole as if put there in derision. The very atmosphere of this horrible cemetery seemed to be saturated with death.

Returning to Cavite, just outside the city gate where the American sentries are stationed I met Corporal Jack Fitzpatrick of A Batter 1st California Heavy Artillery. He presented me with a small Spanish Flag, which he secured at the burning of San Roque.

Having nothing to eat since breakfast save some roasted peanuts purchased at a Filipino store, & some tamarinds picked up under a treet by the roadside, Private Geo. Baker conducted me to a Chinese restaurant on Calle Real & treated me to a cup of coffee & a piece of apple pie. I took the 4 p.m. ferryboat to Manila.

x x x x x

Walked from the ferry back to No. 2 Calle Santa Elena –my domicile. On Calle de Jolo I overtook a party of Americans. Brother A.W. Prautch and wife and Bishop Jas. M. Thoburn of India & the latter’s private secretary –a young man. Mr. Prautch introduced me to the Bishop. We exchanged a few words. The party were looking for Rev. Owens, so we came up to our residence.

After my return home cooked supper & washed dishes.

Rev. Owens brought word that Capt. D. Elliott of the 20th Kansas Vol. Inf. was killed today –shot with a brass bullet by the Insurrectos. I was very much surprised at the Captain’s sudden death & yet such things are to be expected in time of war. This captain if I mistake not, is the one who was in charge of Co. G. the night I stayed in No. 2 blockhouse, near the Caloocan battlefield, back of Binondo cemetery.