The weather has been horrible these past three days. A brisk wind from the southwest is causing an increasingly turbulent sea. Land communications have been particularly difficult. General Greene profusely thanked his troops for this battle (although I personally feel that too much importance is given to it), since it only cost seven lives.
This is the situation on the 1st of August.
Admiral Dewey can no longer delay taking action against Manila. Yesterday, the third expedition of American troops arrived in the bay on five transport ships: Indiana (with Brigadier General MacArthur on board), Ohio, Morgan City, City of Peru and Valencia. Granting that this convoy that arrived carried 5,000 men, the American troops present would total 11,000. Of the warships in the bay, 26 are American, four English, two French and one Japanese. Day by day, both the wind and the sea get increasingly worse. The only means of communicating with the mainland is by sending a dinghy across.
The Union’s troops occupy four different points on the battle front: in the north beyond Caloocan, in the northeast from LaLoma to San Juan del Monte, and in the south between Malabon and Fort San Antonio. The commandant of the Kaiser estimated that the American forces have 12,000 men. He confirms that the commander-in-chief, General Merritt, who arrived on a separate ship on the 25th, hastened his trip, thinking that Camara’s squadron would be diverted towards Manila. The unnecessary installation of this squadron in the Suez Canal, costing Spain over one million francs, is a deplorable example of indecisive naval strategy.
The battle fought last night lasted 11 hours, and took place in Malate, southeast of Manila. This first serious encounter between the Spaniards and the Americans must have been a bloody one. The Spaniards attempted an attack against the front and the right flank of the 10th regiment of the Pennsylvania volunteers positioned in trenches in Malate. The battle continued until dawn and took place in the midst of torrential rain and high winds. Now it is certain that the Spaniards have lost. They allegedly lost 300 men, while the Americans lost only seven. It is a fact that the Americans put the insurgents in the line of fire as human shields to protect themselves. How long will the Filipinos accept this demeaning role?
At 10 o’clock tonight, gunfire was resumed near San Antonio when the insurgents armed with rifles forced Spanish troops to retreat.
According to the Americans, their fighting force here will number 20,000 at the end of the month.
Neither the timidity of French diplomacy nor the mediocrity of our naval forces seems to discourage the English interest in us. They continue their vigilant watch over our activities. In Hongkong, they are suspecting French intervention in the Philippines. Actually, these suspicions must have originated from our ministers of the new Republic. Even as our Richelieus of the Far East are ordering ships to go no farther than Shanghai, some Englishmen fear a possible French foothold in Manila. Philippine independence should have been negotiated to help lessen the blow to the Castilian pride. It would have been a golden opportunity for the French to correct a major mistake in the Far East.
“The idea of selling the Philippines to France could be a serious one if it were true, but there are several reasons for not believing this. The struggle for possession of these islands has assumed such proportions that the United States would not know how to accept the loss of their spoils of war. Today, Admiral Dewey is practically the master of Manila. Selling the Philippines to France would not be accepted quietly by either the United States, Germany or Great Britain. If these islands were to become French, they could perhaps, in a certain way, gain from the change. There would undoubtedly be fewer priests, but the natives would still consider it a change for the worse. The French government is gentler than the Spanish domination, but French taxation policies in all her colonies have always been harsher and more restrictive. In any event, this policy inhibits the economic development of all the countries which France has had the goodness to colonize. Neither the advice of businessmen, the French colonialists, nor experience itself has succeeded in instructing the French statesmen.”
But the English, or the others for that matter, are not really concerned about the Filipino. The English are supporting the Americans, for want of someone better to support. At first, when they were still unaware of the possible turn of events, there was a certain ill feeling towards the United States which basically sprang from jealousy. As an English journalist wrote, and I quote: “The important point is that once the Americans are established in the Philippines, their possession of the land can only perhaps be a source of embarrassment for them.” The writer added that this American presence would not create any further objections. “The Philippines represents a jewel which no power in the Far East would accept to see reunited with a possible rival in that part of the world. As long as America limits her sphere of activity to the western hemisphere, she will not be disturbed, but when she has involvements in the east, then she is negating all her old principles and is entering the arena of continental jealousies. The big question is: With Spain dispossessed, who will succeed her? America has no need to involve herself in the complexities of the Far Eastern problem. All the economic reasons which keep us on the alert in China oblige us to maintain an equal vigilance in the Philippines. The state of anarchy in that country would be enough to provoke Germany with a pretext to establish herself there. Japan, which is next door to Formosa, will merely demonstrate a mild interest, but Great Britain, which has the largest commercial involvement in the Philippines, naturally represents an element of considerable weight.”
In May, a rather cynical news item was published in Hongkong. “It is said that President McKinley is determined to retain the Philippines unless he can sell the latter to a country capable of paying war compensation to Spain.” The Americans do not really control Manila, and yet like the English, consider it natural to try to dispose of the country as they see fit. The Filipinos are obviously only a pretext for securing a stronger position in the country. There certainly has never been any question of returning the islands to them.
This unstable situation is responsible for the feverish activities and nervousness of the Germans. This is also the reason for the friendship, colored with envy, shown by the British towards the Americans from whom they are still awaiting compensation for their services. Then there are the contrite and watchful Japanese. The appetites of all are whetted by this prey. Each one wants to take his bite and remove his piece but dares not, since each is fearful of the other.
Meanwhile, the insurgents are no longer hiding the fact that they are discontented. They wait in front of the city, feeling that there has been some foul play. They feel that they have been used as pawns and are too weak to put an end to this game. Initial promises are now being evaded, one by one. At the end of every week, they are allowed to hope to take over Manila. They are aided and encouraged in every way. They would be pushed to the square and lent machine guns and cannons. The Americans were maintaining a fleet in the bay only to allow the establishment of a Philippine republic, and as soon as this was accomplished, the fleet would return to America, its grandiose task accomplished.
But since then, the Union’s soldiers have increased in number. Tomorrow they will number 10,000. The Tagals must act alone and on their own. In order to keep them quiet, orders are transmitted curtly, with the minimum of words. Their cannons have been removed from their possession, and if it were not too risky, their guns would have been confiscated as well. Brawls are breaking out between them and the Americans. The wily Tagals who are actually lacking in good faith show their defiance. They have been told that on the way here, the Americans have plucked the Hawaiian Islands and the Mariannes like ripe fruits from a tree. The Tagal now realizes that he has merely changed masters, and bitter resentment begins to ferment in his breast.
Admiral Dewey and Aguinaldo are both trying to outsmart each other. In the past, Dewey needed Aguinaldo. Now it is Aguinaldo who needs Dewey. This reversal in position came out progressively without verbal or written commitments. Aguinaldo is constrained into showing loyalty, while the Yankees take advantage of their position.
Whether it is in his interest or not, Aguinaldo wants freedom for his country. He now fears the weight of the hand which has helped him deliver his fatherland. Unable to rid himself of the Americans, he attempts to associate with them as little as possible. Yet he hopes that they will recognize the government he has established. He has invested himself with dictatorial powers and has declared a republic.
At first, Admiral Dewey did not publicly associate himself with this new government, but neither did he oppose it. Aguinaldo for his part, hides the fact that he views the Americans with a great deal of contempt in order to avoid a break in his relationship with the United States should they attempt to provoke such a situation. His main concern is to show himself worthy of governing, and his nation worthy of independence. This very shrewd strategy is already gaining favor among the more liberal-minded.
Indeed, this chief of monkeys (as the Spaniards dared to describe the Filipinos) is maintaining order and respecting all the rules of war. He is seeking the confidence of Europe and has the right to claim it on the basis of his actions. He takes pride in the impeccable courtesies he bestows on the foreigners, even allowing them to visit provinces occupied by insurrectionists. Vis-a-vis the family of the governor-general, for example, he was quite liberal in granting them safe conduct to reenter Manila. Reports show that order reigns in most areas in spite of the war and that a high level of discipline is observed. Some excesses, naturally, have been committed, but which war has ever been exempt from them? In any event, there have been no massacres or shedding of blood. Retaliations have been limited to certain forms of vengeance directed mainly towards the monks. Aguinaldo is even thinking of uniting all the indigenous tribes that are not fighting among themselves. A certain method is evident in this revolution. Their troops are not very different from the regular troops, and they have handled their arms rather well. Neither does the discipline of the Tagals suffer by comparison with the mediocre standards of the Americans.
While General Aguinaldo was busy trying to establish the image of a normal state, Admiral Dewey seemed determined to make him fail. On more than one occasion, he tried to provoke either Aguinaldo or his soldiers to commit some act of violence. But after this, Admiral Dewey, deciding to recognize this half-bred who proclaimed himself chief of the insurgents’ fleet following the murder of the crew of Filipinas, received this rogue on board the Olympia. In addition, Admiral Dewey handed over to Aguinaldo and his troops a large number of Spanish prisoners captured in the environs of Manila and even in the Mariannes, Perhaps behind this strange behavior is some preconceived plan. He certainly was not sure that Aguinaldo had the necessary authority over the enraged insurgents now drunk with success.
Aguinaldo has successfully emerged from these ordeals. He has published several legislative acts on behalf of his government which express his concern for his people. In the name of the fatherland, his emissaries succeeded in fomenting a rebellion in the southern island, an unsatisfactory area during the Spanish domination, where the name of the United States was not even known. It is said that he will soon call upon his troops to take a solemn oath and convene a Philippine parliament.
In Manila, business has come to a standstill and there is hardly any sign of life. The real wealth of the country lies in the people themselves. They represent the work force, the land, the cultures, the enterprises all of which cannot be sustained without them. Like the Chinese and the Japanese, they alone can carry out the task. A Filipino rebellion is not simply a political movement; it has the capacity to stop life itself. That is why exploiting the Filipinos could be a grave error on the part of the Americans. If it is their intention to make the Philippines their private fiefdom, they will have to eliminate the Filipinos or reduce them to slaves.
Today, all the islands are in the hands of the insurgents, except for Manila, although they permeate the city and surroundings. All commercial activity has been cut off in the east, including Laguna. To the north, 40 kilometers of railroad tracks are also under their control.
Admiral Dewey is the hero of the hour. This is the third time I have seen him, and he looks relaxed and happy. Twenty days ago, he had a less prosperous and more troubled air. The Belgian consul visiting him at that time found him overpowered by the events, especially by the possible intervention of a Spanish squadron.
–Well!, he was alleged to have said. With the French or the English leading a squadron like that, all would have been lost, but with the Spanish in command I am rather hopeful. They have no cannons, so I have nothing to fear. I could always keep them at a distance during an exchange of artillery fire.
Since then, Admiral Dewey has been given an additional 6,000 men and munitions, while Camara has shown no sign of life.
Despite his advancing years, Admiral Dewey appears vigorous and composed. A particular calmness is projected by the radiant look on his face. His expression varies between this composure and the shrewdness of a wolf well hidden in sheep’s skin. He is extremely courteous and punctilious to a fault. He does not compromise himself unless provoked into a situation. Instead, he tries to please and can equivocate at great lengths, giving the impression of a commitment, a characteristic quite familiar to Aguinaldo.
The problem is settled. The situation cannot last. We have received the details of an irreversible defeat –one in which there was no combat, no glory, only shame. Spain’s most prestigious squadron was sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, a repetition of the disastrous events in Cavite. Here, they had wooden ships, but in the Gulf of Mexico, with their steel ships, they were also beaten to submission.
Tonight, the Spaniards are still convincing themselves that Camara’s squadron is in the Red Sea. They calculate that he is now beyond Aden. The disaster in Santiago does not seem to alarm them. They are incorrigible!
–It’s a stupendous plan, someone said to me, just before the fatal news arrived. Our two admirals, Cervera and Camara, joined forces: Mire usted, haven’t you noticed that Camara left Cadiz on June 18 and returned at the end of the month?
–Yes… and what of it?
–Well, isn’t it common knowledge that Cervera was in Santiago and that right now no one knows anything about his whereabouts?
–True. And so?
–Good! Well, let us look at it this way. Cervera left Santiago and Camara is waiting for him in the Indian Ocean. They are arriving here in the Philippines at the end of this month. Esta sería un plano gigantesco, no?
–What! But that is impossible! Just think of the distance between Cuba and the Philippines, using the Cape of Good Hope! It would be an easier task to go around Africa twice. Your theory does not make sense.
–And why not? It is a Napoleonic plan.
–Undoubtedly, it is as unrealistic as Napoleon himself who, in one campaign, did not take into account either the sea or the wind or Villeneuve.
—Mentiras! (Their level of hope is incredibly naive. And they are waiting for victory, poor people. I say, do not wait for victory!)
I doubt whether peace will be concluded before Manila falls. That Admiral Dewey settles this affair quickly is everyone’s wish.
Meanwhile, this morning, preparations have started for the feast of H.M. Queen Maria Christina, the unfortunate Queen of Spain! It will probably be the last time the colors of Castile and Leon will fly over the bay and the city of Manila. I feel that there is a certain animosity towards the Americans in the careless manner that the other ships in the bay have dressed their decks.
It’s all over. We have been informed about the Santiago disaster. Spain’s best fleet has been destroyed, Cuba is lost, and Spain has been dealt a mortal blow. The magnitude of the disaster is frightening. Camara is no longer coming. Two days ago, the second convoy of American troops arrived. As for Manila, its only options are either to open its gates or to let itself be reduced to ashes. Admiral Dewey no longer conceals the fact that the United States will not let go of the Philippines. He has decided to take back from the Filipinos the cannons and artillery that he loaned them. He is now against the Filipinos entering Manila because he wants the Americans to take sole possession of the city.
This battle is unfair; on one side, gold, arms, order, force and all the power; on the other, sepulchral moroseness and decay.
Americans and Germans
A Reuters dispatch states that the English are displeased with the influx of Germans into the Philippines. Early in the game, we see Mr. Chamberlain’s policies in action. The friends of our friends are our friends, goes a saying, but I think we cannot be sure of the German position. Numerous rumors are spreading all over the Far East about the Irene. The following is an account which appears in an English newspaper.
The Germans’ movements in the Manila Bay are causing much anxiety. They have not scrupulously observed the rules of moral courtesy. They have aggravated everyone by constantly dispatching their ships in all directions in the bay, a practice which is completely against all regulations. But the most extraordinary event was the taking of the Rio Grande at the entrance of Subic Bay. The insurgents had succeeded in overrunning the whole countryside, village after village. The Spaniards were finally obliged to take refuge on the island. The rebels, having captured the steamer Filipinas, were preparing to launch an attack on the island. The German cruiser, Irene, intervened, intending to shield the Spaniards if the insurgents opened fire. When the Filipinas returned to Manila, the incident was reported to Aguinaldo, who immediately conveyed the information to Admiral Dewey. The following day, at dawn, Captain Coghlan received orders to head for Subic with the Raleigh and the Concorde, take possession of the island, and to hold the Spaniards as prisoners. As soon as the Americans appeared, the Irene weighed anchor and headed for Manila.
Meanwhile, the Spaniards indicated that they were prepared to surrender if the Americans took them into their charge. Captain Coghlan asked the Concorde to obtain new instructions from Dewey, whose response was as follows: “Execute orders received.” The Spaniards were informed that this was irreversible and that they were expected to surrender. Initially, they refused to comply, but realized they had no other alternative after a few shells were fired at them. Then they raised the white flag. Taken prisoner were 400 armed soldiers, 100 sick, and 100 women, all of whom were handed over to the insurgents.
Aguinaldo later confirmed that both the Spaniards and the Germans had made overtures towards him, but naturally gave no details.In a letter to Consul General Wildmann in Hongkong, he was alluding to the Spanish fleet en route to the Philippines when he said:
“This news of a reinforcement does not frighten me at all. I doubt that these ships will be able to enter Manila Bay. Admiral Dewey is not sleeping!”
It appears, in fact, that the admiral decided to undertake the defense of Corregidor with cannons and torpedoes. The idea seems feasible, bur do they have the necessary weapons to carry it through?
At this point, the English insist on showing their strength beside the Americans, their only sincere friends. According to the English, the American soldiers and marines are indignant over German bravado. “The maneuvers could be doomed to fail because of these Germans.”
Everyone’s attention is focused on Dewey’s diplomatic movements because he, more than anyone else, is constantly informed of the activities taking place in the bay. He uses great tact in his dealings with the German admiral. It is said that Admiral von Diederichs informed Dewey that he never had any intention of offending the Americans and that the increasing movements of his ships were merely a demonstration of their military strength. Admiral Dewey is understood to have replied that it would have been better if he had acted differently.
Tonight we are on red alert. Gunshots and cannon fire. Are the American troops getting ready for battle? This morning we went ashore. Three of us went to find out if the good old Coronel de la C___ was still alive since no one could inform us on the latest events. He is alive. We met him in Malate, but he appeared gloomy and crestfallen. Seeing him like that made us sad. Camara is not yet here and the Americans are disembarking. He pretended to be unaware of the situation and asked us for information. Considering the overall picture, it was difficult to reply to his questions, but in the end, we told him all we knew. To raise his morale, I tried to convince him to initiate a possible reconciliation between the Tagals and the Spaniards to fight against the Americans. If this plan could succeed, not even a force of 50,000 Yankees would be sufficient to take over Manila. He made me sketch out the defense plans, showing the forts which surround the place. From the daily reports he receives, he was informed that yesterday alone 4,000 cartridges had been used. He was disturbed by this absurd wastefulness. We cannot be properly conducted if some sense of moderation and order is not inculcated in these men. The Spanish troops have lost their confidence but not their courage.
A substantial amount of defense is going on but there are very few soldiers. The Spaniards are increasing their trenches, and denuding the city of all its trees and gardens. A series of wooden barriers surround the Walled City. Would this system of defense be sufficient for an infantry or artillery attack?
This threat of a siege could last a very long time. For the past six days, Admiral Dewey has been the master of the bay. What is he waiting for? Does he intend to be the master of the Filipinos and Manila, too? Life is becoming difficult. No more changes. No more action. Just nervous tension, each day increasingly more demoralizing. Let the end come!
Tonight, cannon shorts are heard from San Antonio. A huge fire occurred in the city at dawn.