Saturday, August 27, 1898

“United States Supremacy Must Be Absolute”

On August 18, Admiral Dewey, through his aide-de-camp, informed his squadron that as a result of the preliminary talks in Paris, Manila would fall under American jurisdiction until a definite treaty would be signed.

A few days later, on the occasion of the farewell visit of a foreign admiral, Admiral Dewey was heard to say, “I am very pleased to have the Monterey and Monadnoch as reinforcement but I am disturbed by these insurgents who are becoming increasingly demanding.” General Merritt totally agreed with him. Nothing is more cumbersome than trying to dislodge a people from their own land. The law instituted by Judge Lynch is by its very nature the only means of extricating his American compatriots from this complicated situation.

On the 21st of August, Aguinaldo sent President McKinley a telegram requesting the representation of the revolutionary government of the Philippines at the Paris Conference. The request went unanswered. And yet, General Merritt, this “gringo” officer who wielded his authority over Manila with such clumsiness, has been designated to participate in this conference. The absence of a Filipino representative clearly proves that the United States intends to push its objectives to the utmost limits.

The Americans are keeping the Philippine capital under the strictest surveillance and unscrupulously maintain that their duty is to govern the entire archipelago. United States supremacy must be absolute.

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.

Friday, August 5, 1898

It is said that the Monterey has brought formal orders to attack. But perhaps the victor and the vanquished would eventually end the fighting and maybe even settle their problem without combat.

There is threat of a typhoon. The strong winds from the west have worsened the situation at sea. We are forced to close all portsides and doors to keep the water from coming in. The defense mounted by the junk boats at the mouth of the Pasig River has failed. We have been enduring these torrential tropical rains for a month now. The Tagals, however, are indifferent to the weather, and continue surrounding Manila and the countryside. What would the Americans do here without them? Sinking a fleet at anchor is certainly only the first step towards the conquest of a country that is bigger than Hongkong or Ireland.

The shots heard on the evening of August 1 and 2 came from the attacks attempted by General Agustin and is units against the Americans in their trenches. Insignificant losses with no decisive results.

Tonight, a dramatic turn of events. We have learned from the consulate that the governor general of the Philippines, General Agustin, has been removed from office. Nothing could be more ridiculous; for the past four days, he has been working secretly at his desk. But what is more revolting is the example set by Madrid, whose policies are an incredible mixture of stupidity, incoherence, inertia and hysterical indecisions.

General Jaudenes y Jaudenes has been appointed governor, with Francisco Rizzo his deputy. This is nothing compared to General Monet’s appointment as chief of defense after deserting his post and his men, a constant subject of severe criticism. Together with his 2,800 men and General Agustin’s family, he found himself surrounded by insurgents since June. Under the pretext of escorting Mrs. Agustin and her five children across the Tagal lines, General Monet and his aide-de-camp abandoned their men. Some say that the true version of the story is that Monet abandoned his troops because he was aware of the implacable hatred of the Tagals. Of all the Spaniards, he is the most hated by the Tagals, having allegedly exerted heavy-handed authority by putting to death thousands of natives, women and children included, during the last repression of the uprising.

In order to promote more confusion, the same newspapers which carried news items regarding Agustin’s downfall have also reprinted an article published in Spain, dated the 21st of July, in which the new governor sings high praises to “the heroism of the Philippine army, its illustrious chief, and the nation.” The appointment orders dated the 24th were evidently pre-empted by the newspaper article.

All these insincere half-truths disgust us. Have people really reached this level? One could almost say that the empty pride of the vanquished found glory in their defeat. There is nothing else left for this nation but to face death.

Thursday, August 4, 1898

This morning, the American monitor, Monterey, arrived in Cavite, escorted by a commercial steamer. Crossing the Pacific on this monitor weighing 4,000 tons must have been a remarkable exercise for the sailors. The Yankees’ prowess at sea is sure evidence that they have English blood in their veins.

Now that Camara’s squadron and the Pelayo have retired to Europe, what does Dewey need this monitor for? I am certain that the Monterey will not return to America, proving once again that they do covet this exceptional colony. They have come and intend to remain here. The insurgents are not blind and must have drawn their own conclusions at the sight of the Monterey with its 30cm cannons and the two 22cm guns in their turrets. Not even Spain has ever threatened Manila with cannons of this caliber. The Spaniards have certainly come up against a formidable negotiator. The Monterey, anchored in this bay, is an absolute fortress of steel.

Saturday’s fighting lasted three hours. It was a terrible night. General Greene had pushed the retrenchment forward at Camp Dewey with an impudence which could have cost him dearly if he were confronted with a better armed and more skilled enemy instead of the Spaniards who, with merely 3,000 men, advanced behind the bamboo and mangrove bushes extending along the right-hand side of the enemy lines, taking the Yankees completely by surprise. These Americans do not really understand the tactics of war. Their strength is based on an arrogance which will be their undoing the day that they pit themselves against an organized enemy. A division of Yankees could easily be overthrown by a German brigade.