Sunday, August 14, 1898

Admiral Dewey informs the foreign battleships that they can anchor in their original positions in Manila Bay. The naval officers hastily go on land but the overly cautious Germans, heedless of the dispatches concerning the treaty, go ashore fully armed. On land or at sea, Admiral von Diederich’s presence reaffirms the dominance of a formidable Germany.

It is said the Spaniards lost 400 men in yesterday’s fighting. Even if it were 40 or a hundred, the toll would still be too high since these men, dispersed everywhere on the ramparts, awaited the enemy without fighting and were ordered not to fire a single shot. The Spanish soldiers within the walls hae already relinquished their guns unloaded and discharged, before they are allowed entry. Within the walls, an American officer piles up the confiscated guns in the guardhouse. I have also seen an infantry regiment and a battalion of soldiers disarmed before the city gates.

The Spanish soldiers keep their sabers and clench their teeth, perhaps out of rage or out of sheer humiliation. They undoubtedly harbor these feelings of betrayal in varying degrees, fully aware that there was no battle and that the troops present could have kept the Americans at bay.

Admiral Montojo has bluntly stated that the siege of Manila was a farce played by General Merritt. But he seems to forget that he also played a role similar to that of General Jaudenes and the Spaniards.

Now, Manila definitely looks like a conquered city. There is hardly any Spaniard on the street and all shops are closed. Panic is rising out of fear that the Tagals might pillage this city tonight or possible plan a massacre. Meanwhile, the Americans continue to exercise very strict surveillance.

Within the Walled City, the inhabitants and soldiers move around, and one can see the Spanish military men carrying on friendly conversations with the soldiers of the Union. Some are even drinking together in the cafes. What an encouraging sight! The streets are full of disarmed soldiers, but in the churches and convents, where the entire Spanish garrison is confined, the air is permeated by unbearable stench and dirt.

General Merritt has had a manifesto posted in English, Spanish and Tagalog declaring that Manila is now under American military government. There is no mention whatsoever of the insurgents. The American military is speaking on behalf of the United States in the same way that the Spaniards were speaking yesterday in the name of Spain, the repetition of this twist of fate clearly indicating the stranglehold of another foreign power on Manila.

A considerable number of American troops seen at close range show no signs of order, or discipline. It is obvious why the Germans look down disdainfully on them. They look like an army organized for manhunts, while the English marines remind me of a flotilla of yachtsmen. The Americans involved everywhere, just like their counterparts, the English, remain different from them, like the contrast between the rustic and aristocratic or between the workhand and the lord of the manor. The American army has always been regarded as a school for athletics, a notion that should be expanded to moral gymnastics or a virtual seminary for democracy.

The American soldiers are hefty and tall but appear narrow in the chest in relation to their height. It seems that tuberculosis is their Achilles heel. These men who exude self-confidence are more comfortable wearing cowboy outfits than the military uniform. Their huge felt hats resemble the plumed hats of musketeers in operettas. The color of their sporty brown uniform is very similar to that worn by our marine infantry. Some wear dark-blue tunics, which look too warm for the tropics. They all wear gaiters and belts of cartridges. During the day they are on their best behavior and pay for all their purchases. At night, they rid themselves of their inhibitions, drink excessively and, when quite drunk on whisky, become unbearable savages, killing at the slightest provocation. They do not unleash their brutish behavior on each other but rather on the natives. As soon as they see one, the manhunt begins. This sport enjoyed by these champions of humanity has been inherited from their forefathers, who pursued the Redskins and Negroes. This war has certainly given the Americans the opportunity for magnificent manhunts in the Philippines and Cuba at very little cost.

Rumors about the impropriety of this siege is spreading fast. It is said tha when General Jaudenes stated, On the presumption that Manila cannot defend itself, no cannons should be fired, only one general defiantly protested and said, When the hostilities start, we should fight to the bitter end!” Strong words spoken by a man who dared speak his mind at a time like this.

The Spaniards have convinced themselves that they had no other alternative, a convenient excuse for a well deserved defeat. Colonel ___________ now insists that the situation was inevitable, but vehemently denies that the Spanish artillerymen were inferior to their mediocre American counterparts. “In fact, most people are unaware that we used armor-piercing shells to destroy bridges and watchtowers. Let it not be said that our shells were useless. But when asked why the other types of missiles were not used, he had to admit that the Spanish officers had not been instructed on the use of the various projectiles.


Sunday, August 14, 1898

Surrender

The American and Spanish officers have signed the treaty of surrender. When the Americans took over the government of Manila, they accorded the Spanish prisoners the honors of war.

The terms of the surrender worth noting are as follows:

  1. Only the City of Manila and its environs are included in the terms of surrender.
  2. The sovereignty of the United States is merely provisional with the possible withdrawal of the American army.
  3. This convention is dated August 13.

This last observation is important because Admiral Dewey apparently overlooked his dates, the peace treaty between Spain and the United States having been signed on August 12, the eve of the siege of Manila, while the Spanish flag was still flying.

 


Tuesday, August 9, 1898

The Refugees

Today, at noon, the Americans will bombard Manila, unless it is a vain threat. For the past 24 hours, the ships anchored at bay have been taking aboard different groups of foreigners and Spanish civilians. English and German steamships are towing barges carrying all the refugees under their protection. The women and children being transported in rowboats are frightened by the bad weather. And even the Isabel, carrying a large number of dependents, was forced to return to port.

I have to say that France has not played a role worthy of her during these past three months. It would have been better for her not to have appeared in Manila Bay rather than present such a pathetic position. The English have always been friends and secret allies of the Americans, always providing assistance. The Germans are hated and feared. But France’s presence has not been felt, since she has neither assisted nor bothered anyone. She has been totally ignored, and this is the worst insult that could be dealt her.

This morning, Admiral Montojo, his wife, and two children took refuge on board the _______. Since yesterday, the ladies have been having nervous fits due to the bad weather.

Noon. The bombardment should have begun. Evidently, it will not be today. It is overcast, raining, and the sea is calm. The American fleet is at anchor. The Petrel and the Concorde have just dropped anchor three-and-a-half miles to the west of the Walled City. Perhaps we will see some action tomorrow.

All the ships in Manila Bay are getting ready for action. The English are positioning themselves in Cavite alongside their American friends. The Princess Wilhelm set course for Mariveles in the company of the German steamships at the opposite end of the bay. Between them, the Bayard and the Pascal are also three-and-a-half miles away from the coast, with the Kaiser and Kaiserin Augusta nearby.


Sunday, August 7, 1898

Finally, this farce is reaching its conclusion. I am convinced that up to the last minute, each one will do his utmost to mislead the other. General Merritt and Admiral Dewey have released the United States’ ultimatum for Manila’s surrender. The Spaniards have been given 48 hours to reply.

Admiral Dewey has informed the foreign squadrons of a likely American attack on Manila at the stroke of noon on Tuesday. The captain general’s immediate reply to the possible bombardment on Tuesday if he refused to surrender was that the Spanish flag would not be lowered.

Neither side is willing to compromise. Admiral Dewey pretends that his only option is to attempt a sea operation due to the numerous losses supposedly sustained by the land troops in the course of various attacks launched over the past days. In fact, the Americans have not yet attacked Manila, and during the fighting on July 1 and August 1, losses were few. It is a known fact that even the Spaniards sustained only six wounded in the fight that took place on the 2nd and 4th of August. If the Americans did attempt an intensive land attack, their high-powered weapons would have completely destroyed Manila. The Americans are fully aware of their uncontested strength, and feel no need to attack. On the contrary, they need to capture Manila and take possession of the city before a peace agreement is concluded. Obviously imminent is that Admiral Dewey plans to offer the Philippines as a gift to his country. According to the English, a certain number of civil servants will come after the arrival of the expedition troops, and the United States government will then take over the administration of Manila. It now seems evident that the United States has been considering the annexation of the Philippines since June.

The Americans, on the one hand, know that there is no need to bombard Manila, and the Spaniards, on the other, want to give the impression that they are going to attack. The truth of the matter is that the Americans never had the slightest intention of destroying the city, and the Spaniards did not for a single moment wish to be bombarded.

On August 4, when General Jaudenes announced the length of time he needed to consult his government, the Americans, out of absolute compassion, could not grant his request. And why not? Unless it was for the reason that their main interest was to use a conquered Manila as leverage in their peace treaty.

In short, the Americans were determined to capture Manila before making peace. What could Spain hope for at this point? Hold Manila at all costs for as long as possible? But the Spaniards made so many erroneous moves which, in the end, cost them dearly. In fact, we know today they lost everything in the name of peace.

Same day, Afternoon

Manila and its Surroundings

I shall go on land as soon as possible. The news of the ultimatum which has been spreading for the last three months has no great impact in this country that has been smelling of gunpowder and resounding of gunshots for the past three years. Manila is built almost entirely of wood to make it less vulnerable to earthquakes, but as a consequence, it has had frequent fires caused by constant bombardments. However, the Tagals are not demoralized by this situation.

In the Philippines, I met some Spanish officials who have no illusions. All they demand is the opportunity to fight. As the colonel of the light artillery stated:

–What will they accomplish by bombarding? They will merely kill women and children. These are the sordid details of war, but we are not going to be stopped.

What is the point in all this discussion when they refuse to take up arms? I suppose that the officer wished to explain that the death of civilians would not prevent them from fighting. If such were the case, the Americans would be a long way from Manila.

Some Spanish officers have expressed their disappointment over the way the war is being conducted and the policies of their ministers. They deplore the lack of change and the abuse of civil servants and the court systems. They feel that the only difference is that the newcomers have empty stomachs and are therefore three times more greedy than their predecessors.

“No one has ever wanted to look the situation in the face,” commented someone. “We have always postponed making decisions. We have arrived at the present disastrous situation because there has been no remedy for the ills which we suffer.”

Camara’s recall was the last blow for these courageous people. They realized that the pathetic politicians in Madrid did not suspect how serious the Philippine war was between the Americans and the Spaniards until Dewey’s squadron entered the bay. If cruisers like the Pelayo and the Charles-Quint with their torpedoes were in Manila, they could have put Dewey’s fleet in a precarious situation.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to secure provisions. The troops have no more bread and are living on b biscuits.

The liveliness of the streets has not diminished. Although we id not know Manila at the prime of its prosperity, we still feel something feverish in the air, with the people no longer interested in their affairs for several weeks now, the rich Chinese leaving, and the Tagals deserting their jobs. Only the coachmen are seen driving their emaciated little horses. Everyone seems to be waiting for some spectacular event to take place. Nothing can be more tiring than waiting, like spectators in a theater, for the sound of gunfire, a calamity, or the murder which would bring down the curtain. The Spaniards have always lived with the vague fear of a massacre. The Americans pretend to share the same apprehension and take advantage of the situation to impose their will on all without any accountability to anyone.

Before retiring on board ship we stopped at the Luneta. There were numerous vehicles on the promenade and the weather was pleasantly cool.

Looking at all these people, we could not believe that in 48 hours, there would be a bombardment. Everyone was strolling quietly and appeared to be enjoying the beautiful day. Admiral Montojo, in the company of one of his daughters, passed by in his vehicle. We noticed that he looked well and had such an untroubled expression that it was hard to believe Admiral Dewey sank his entire fleet three months ago. He gambled and lost, and has called it quits. But what about the fatherland?


Friday, May 27, 1898

A Last Word on the Fight in Cavite

The Spanish fleet did not remain in Subic since it could not secure any ground defense. I think Admiral Montojo ordered the fleet to return to Manila because he felt that there would be fewer losses if it were anchored in Cavite. This it accomplished on the 30th. Only five of the ships held on to their positions: the R. Cristina, the D. Juan d’Austria, the I. de Cuba, the I. de Luzon, and the M. del Duero. The remaining ships were able to maneuver freely.

The Spanish ships formed a semicircle around Canacao. The closest to Punta Sangley was the D. Antonio de Ulloa, and the furthest out, the Cristina.

The bay, therefore, was defended as follows:

A few small range cannons in bad condition in Mariveles, Punta Gorda, at Boca Chica, and at Pulo Caballo;

In Corregidor, two Armstrong cannons, sizes 15 and 16, which were not utilized;

At El Fraile, three size 16 Trubia cannons, in good condition, which fired a few rounds. The same goes for Punta Restinga;

In Luneta, a size-24 cannon shot fell short of the Americans;

At Punta Sangley were two size 16 Trubia cannons, in good condition; one was dismantled before the battle and the other was used up to the end but did not sink a single American ship, although traces of the damage done can be found on the Boston and the Baltimore, Lieutenant Valera of the artillery was in command. The Spaniards reported six dead and four wounded.

There was not a single officer or sailor in charge of the torpedoes, and not a single torpedo anywhere. At first the Americans believed that they had sunk two torpedo carriers. Actually, they were ordinary tugboats.

On April 27, the American fleet left the Miro Bay in Hongkong. On board the Baltimore was Mr. Williams, the American consul in Manila. Being a former naval officer, he briefed Commodore Dewey on all salient points. The fleet was coming to Subic in search of the Spanish fleet, which they thought would logically be anchored there protected by its artillery and torpedoes. But the fleet was not there, so they headed for Manila. At midnight on May 1, the fleet was between Pulo Caballo and El Fraile. It seems certain that it was sighted by the artillery division in the south coast. Seven or eight shots were fired, but missed their mark. At around 5 o’clock, the American fleet was in front of Manila Bay.

The Luneta fired its size 24 cannon at the Americans at a distance of seven kilometers, but they remained unscathed.

The fleet turned right towards Cavite, with the Olympia at the head and the MacCulloch following behind. At 5:30, the fleet opened fire with light guns on the Spanish fleet at a distance of 3,000 meters. Firing was directed both at the R. Cristina and the Castilla. At about 1,500 to 1,800 meters from the enemy, the Americans changed course to follow the line of Spanish ships in parallel formation, and maintained that distance for some 1,000 meters until about 7:30. At this time, the Spanish ships were either sinking or in flames. When the R. Cristina caught fire after a mere 20 minutes of fighting, its admiral carried his flag on board the I. de Cuba.

Throughout this battle, the northern artillery emplacement of Punta fired continuously. Some of the shells seemed to have scored hits on the American fleet. Soon after, the Americans started aiming at the Punta Sangley defense, destroying it before the battle ended.

The American fleet, according to some of its officers, withdrew from the arena of battle in order to take lunch. Actually, the fleet withdrew to secure more ammunition from the transport ships.

Meanwhile, the officers of seven Spanish ships held in the arsenal were drinking their coffee, thinking the day’s battle was over, when the watchman announced the return of the enemy.

The second round began at 11 o’clock. The Spaniards froze when they realized that every American shot was a hit while theirs kept missing their marks. They then decided that their only option was to sink what remained of their fleet. They opened the hatches and abandoned their ships.

In this second battle, the Americans fired shells at the arsenal and sank the Mindanao. The Baltimore, perhaps due to damage, was the only ship missing in their formation. Petrol was used to burn the gunboats and the other ships. The cannons were salvaged and placed on the Manila, which transported them to the United States not so much as arms but rather as trophies, together with the flag of the Ulloa.

The Spaniards lost all their ships and all their cannons.

The exact figure of the dead is still unknown. The number has been inflated on both sides. It must be around 200 dead and 450 wounded.

The dead include D. Luis Cadarao, the commandant of the R. Cristina, the chaplain, the first captain of the gun, and the chief petty officer of this ship. Among the wounded were D. Alonso Morgada, commander of the Castilla; D. Jose Horralde, commander of the Ulloa; D. Mariano Esbert, lieutenant-commander of the Cristina; Sr. Diaz Zuazo, lieutenant-commander of the Don Juan of Austria; a purser; two doctors, and two chief mechanics.

The Americans did not lose men, but they sustained some material damage:

The Olympia, 13 missiles — traces can be found on its masts and one of the missiles. The Baltimore bore traces of being hit in three or four places; the Boston in two places,  a missile exploding in an officer’s cabin. The Raleigh was hit once.

It took the American fleet three hours to crush the Spanish ships, which were anchored. The Spanish allowed themselves to be caught in a mousetrap, which defies all the rules of naval battle. They showed extreme carelessness before and during the battle, and a great lack of military talent at all times. Their artillery was even worse. They remained in a bay without any vigilant watch. They could have waited for the enemy either on the island of Corregidor or somewhere else, where their ships could have sunk honorably in battle.

This kind of defeat is unthinkable. We should not think in terms of this cowardly paradox which makes defeat honorable as long as it ends in death. Defeat in itself is criminal and looks for excuses. There are indeed many similar cases. But the greatest fault belongs to the Spanish government for leaving Manila undefended.

The Americans had a relatively easy task to accomplish, which they easily did all throughout, since they were superior shots. They did not show any special aptitude, but their aims were well directed upon an adversary which was not capable of holding up against them. In the final analysis, they showed decisiveness and dynamism.

The Spaniards were lacking in both. They keep repeating the famous words of Mendez Nuñez at Callao: “It is better to have honor without ships than ships without honor!” (España mas quiere honor sin barcos que barcos sin honor!) The one does not exclude the other, and the two can sink together. They should have realized that their artillery was worthless, their cannons were without powder, Subic was not defended, and that there was no organized defense anywhere. So, they should glorify their deeds with more restraint. Even if there was much disparity between the two, victory would have cost the Americans dearly if the Spanish had fought on the open seas and displayed more skill and bravura. My criticism may be severe but fair.

Indeed, one tends to find consolation when defeated. There is no sense in the proclamations heard in Manila: “Today, although we are without boats, without shelter, with nothing, the honorable survivors of Cavite are willing to share the bitterness and dangers of war with their brothers in the army. Peace and glory to our dead! History will render them justice!” Knowing how to die is not that important. One has to know how to live, or else renounce life. The courageous people who lost their lives in Cavite, in a way, served their own ends. But those in Madrid who wash their hands of all the responsibility by singing praises to the dead heroes are in effect betraying their country. The most beautiful funeral oration cannot resuscitate the dead. In Cavite, all Spain was punished. The people are, after all, responsible for the government they tolerate or accept. When each man knows what he seeks for himself, the nation as a whole knows, too, and puts it in motion for everyone. Today, people who have no interest in politics have no interest in themselves. When citizens remain passive, stupid statesmen are born.

Victory always belongs to those who possess good judgment.


Monday, May 23, 1898

A considerable number of dispatches from America and Hongkong addressed to Admiral Dewey outrageously exalt him over and above Farragut and Nelson. It seems that these dispatches fell into the hands of Colonel Montojo, a gallant gentleman and also a good loser, who added his congratulations before transmitting them to the admiral. There seems to be a lack of seriousness on both sides. How foolish it is to mix frivolity with war! Some take this kind of play for chivalry, but I only see its emptiness.

Just like countless other tales, this story of the dispatches is nothing but a stupid prank, demeaning to those who relate them as well as to those who believe them.


Sunday, May 22, 1898

The Old Fogies

Montojo is getting on in years, like the other Spanish generals and colonels who may be brave but lack vitality. Old age, aggravated by the climate, has reduced them to thinkers instead of strategists, unmoved either by victory or defeat. The proof is their poor defense of Manila, uselessly sacrificing their troops.

Yes, Moltke was 70 years old at the time of the 1870 campaign, while Napoleon Bonaparte was barely 30 during the Italian campaign and had just turned 31 at Waterloo. I have encountered a number of high-ranking officers, even generals, and I can say that it is more difficult to find an elderly chief superior to and more agile than a young man in the battlefield.

Commanding a war necessitates a lucid and forceful mind. The combination of energy and alert vitality is rarely found in an atrophying body, debilitated by rheumatism and gout. I say, these old fogies should be given their retirement, not a ship. Besides giving obsolete advice, they are completely incapable of following orders. It is imperative that the higher ranks, starting from the uppermost echelons, be filled by younger, more dynamic men. And why should there be a set of rules for the old and powerful and another more severe for the lower ranks? These old officers try to keep the image of a true leader without much success.

The lessons indirectly imparted by the English and the Germans are quite clear. Commodore Dewey, who is over 60 years old and has been captain of his ship for the last eight years, cannot be considered more experienced than Captain Chichester of the Immortality who is 47 years old and has been captain of his ship for nine years. the situation is even more interesting in the case of the Germans where the ship’s captain, upon reaching the age of 50, can be politely asked to retire without making him feel disfavored.

. . . A Japanese cruiser which arrived this week is spreading the news that the Spaniards fought a triumphant battle not far from Key West and have disembarked in Florida. It sounds too good to be true and too good for Spain. These Japanese are nothing but newsmongers ready to pronounce statements without checking the veracity of their sources.


Monday, May 9, 1898

Vanquished

I am fully aware of the problems in the minds of the Spaniards both in Manila and in Europe. They are searching high and low for the cause of their defeat except within themselves, the root of their problems.

In the newspapers, the Americans are accused of demolishing Admiral Montojo’s fleet with their incendiary shells.

“A pillar thick with smoke,” states the Diario de Manila, “jutted out of the front of the ship. An incendiary projectile against all laws, divine and human, has set the cruiser on fire.” De esos prohibidos por las leyes divinas y humanas.

The same explosive bombs must have destroyed the transport, Isla de Mindanao. It is difficult to arrive at the real truth, unless one takes the patience to examine the wreck. But what is the use of all that? Why should explosive of a certain nature be permitted in one battle and not in another? Why should a melinite shell be more inhuman than peiric acid? Is it more human to blast an enemy with melinite or to burn him with petrol? Only someone with punto de honor can distinguish the finer points between these two forms of cruelty. All should be permissible or nothing at all.

If enemies were to have equal weapons, they would not fight. In fact, it is just as iniquitous to fire powerful weapons and potent chemical shells against weaker adversaries. The abuse of force is the same. Here before us is proof that not only has one the right to fight one’s enemy with weapons a thousand times more powerful, but also, that victory is its own compensation and glory.


Sunday, May 8, 1898

Deception

The bombardment of the city is still being discussed. Commodore Dewey brags about seizing it at an appropriate time. But I do not believe it because he has done nothing. The Americans arrived eight days ago and a few days afterwards, they destroyed Montojo’s flotilla.

Unfortunately, the Commodore has run out of ammunition after using up his supply during the battle. How would he react if a Spanish squadron were to enter the bay between now and the month of June? Dewey has no fear, considering Spain’s evidently miserable situation. He does not need a lot of ammunition to make Manila fall into his hands. The Spaniards are incapable of defending themselves. They began with strong resolutions which they could not sustain, and would most like capitulate without daring to retaliate.

This is what is terrible about modern war. It will not allow an officer to admit defeat even when he secretly believes it.

On land, we fear the shelling. The Americans want to project a humanitarian image and therefore do not want to attack. We all can see through their calculated interests. How long will this benevolence last?

For the moment, my objective is to arrive at the truth about the battle of Cavite. Rumors can be more damaging than the printed word.