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120 years ago: Diaries describe the start of the Filipino-American War, February 4, 1899

“Faithful unto death. Filipino color bearer. A touching incident connected with the fight at Paco near Manila, Feb. 5th, 1899.” Caption written by John E.T. Milsaps for this photo of a slain Filipino flag bearer which he pasted in his diary.

February 4 marks the 120th anniversary of the outbreak of the Filipino-American War. The Philippine Diary Project features several diaries not only covering the outbreak of the war, but which illustrate the atmosphere in American-occupied Manila and its environs from the American conquest of the city in August, 1898, to the immediate prelude to the war.

Miguel Saderra Maso

The diaries of a French naval officer, Aime Ernest Motsch, writing as “Lieutenant X,” and a Spanish Jesuit, Miguel Saderra Maso (identified by the Jesuit scholar Fr. Jun Arcilla, but described as “anonymous” by a Spanish scholar) assigned to the Philippine Observatory, cover the portion of the Spanish-American War concerning the Philippines.

Even as Dewey blockaded Manila, American troops began to arrive. The arrival of these troops, the months of waiting, the occupation of Manila and then the long period of uncertainty concerning both the Spaniards and the Filipinos, can be seen through the eyes of American soldiers from different backgrounds.

John Henry Asendorf

The soldiers scribbling down their observations and opinions came from diverse backgrounds. John Henry Asendorf a Corporal in the Pennsylvania Volunteers, was a butcher who emigrated from Germany. James J. Loughrey was a Sergeant serving in the California Volunteers, who’d emigrated from Ireland –both serving in the U.S. armed forces at a time when tensions were high against immigrants like themselves.

Chriss A. Bell was a Corporal (and lawyer) in the Oregon Volunteer Militia, and kept a diary from May, 1898 to June, 1899.Other soldiers began the Philippine portion of their diaries after the fall of Manila: Karl D. White, a Private in the Iowa Volunteer Infantry, kept a Philippine diary from October, 1898 to May, 1901.

Alfred Burton Welch

Alfred Burton Welch, who’d attended Puget Sound University, Tacoma, Washington, serving in the Washington State Volunteer Infantry, arrived in the Philippines in November, 1898, and would be in Santa Ana, Manila, when the Filipino-American war began.

Robert Bruce Payne

In contrast to these other soldiers, Robert Bruce Payne, who served in the Nebraska Volunteer Infantry, only kept a diary during the first week of the Filipino-American War, and more importantly, his is the only diary by an American soldier reflecting opposition to the war. By March, 1899 he was writing his brother to help him get out of his military service. Because of his sympathies for the Filipinos, it’s proper to feature his entries at the start of each day, for the full week he kept his dairy; the contrast with the diaries of his fellow American soldiers becomes that much more vivid.

John E.T. Milsaps in Paco Cemetery

A lone civilian voice is that of John E.T. Milsaps, a Texan, and a missionary for the Salvation Army. His is a unique perspective, partly opposed to war yet unquestioning about the superiority of the American cause; he was a compulsive collector, with an important collection of ephemera from the Philippines during this period: he would assiduously buy and file away Filipino and American newspapers, and during his travels, he would buy scattered government and other records he encountered. He was also an amateur photographer; uniquely, in places his diary contains photos of the places and people he’s describing for that day.

The first week of the Filipino-American War in diaries

The diaries reflect the culture (and prejudices) of the time and of the individual authors. Filipinos, for example, are variously called Filipinos, Filips, flips, insurgents, insurrectos, natives, niggers, gu-gu’s, and amigos. On February 10, one American soldier on the other hand referred to African-American troops as “coloured troops” –and stated that believing them unwilling to enter the fight, they “went up and clubbed them into action.”

Saturday, February 4, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

On the evening of this day was placed on guard or rather Cossack outpost at Block house no. 8 in the Santa Mesa district. Our orders were to hold this place and report anything suspicious. A number of recruits had been rec’d on this day by the Filipinos in the shape of wild men from the mountains who were armed with bows and arrows. They wore red breech cloths. [Pvt. James I.] Bowe]s] from our company had been placed on guard. The other private, the corporal and myself had lain down. At about 8 o’clock I heard a rifle shot, a Springfield. We did not pay much attention to this, but directly we heard two more shots. We began to hastily put on our stuff, but before we could get on our belts and haversacks on, firing began on our camp from all sides, and balls began to bing and chug around us. In a minute or two we heard footsteps approaching from camp. It was eight men and a sergeant from C to reinforce the post. Our orders were now to hold the blockhouse and fire only when the enemy advanced in the immediate open and were visible, so during the fire of the night which was incessant we lay sleepless and keeping a sharp watch.

James J. Loughrey:

We were called to arms at 8.35 pm. and recalled at 9.15 p.m. There was a second call to arms at 9.45 p.m. when the Insurgents attacked the Colorado’s outpost. We left the barracks at once and reported to the 6th Artillery Quarters and went from there to Paco Cemetery. We arrived back in our own quarters at 12.30 a.m. on February 5th.

John Henry Asendorf:

The weather is fine but terribly hot. The company is undergoing a strict inspection of quarters and arms. Everything was ok. Gun [inspection] was especially strict. The outpost came in at 8 o’clock and reported that things were restless on the insurgents’ line but we only sent fifteen men on outpost and seven men on guard duty. Around the quarters the day was rather quiet in the city all day which was broken in the stillness of the night by sudden shots being fired about fifteen minutes after midnight(?) but in a short time there were shots fired all along the line but most of it was near the waterworks where the Nebraska Regiment was encamped. All boys rushed to their respective quarters and dressed for action and, before the call for arms was sounded, every man was already in line each carrying 70 rounds of ammunition. We started off doubletime to Companies H and I quarters in front of the prison “Bilibid.” Here we were joined by the rest of the regiment. The Colonel [Alexander Hawkins] order Company I to guard General [Elwell Stephen] Otis‘ quarters and Company C to patrol our end of the city while the rest went on in double-quick to the front. The firing was now along the line. Some shots even landed in the city. Some [shots] went through the roof of our quarters. Just every place before 10 o’clock the Utah Battery had several guns going. All Filipinos were ordered into their houses. We had but very little trouble in the city. The firing kept on all night.

Alfred Burton Welch:

Adventures on line b[lock].h[ouse]. 14.

Dr. Santiago Barcelona:

The evening was quiet with a silver moon shining; Malolos was happy; a dance was being held in the house of Mrs. Concha del Rosario, widow of Mapúa. Gen. Artemio Ricarte and Col. Luciano San Miguel, commanders of the Santa Ana line in Manila, were paying homage to Terpsichore. While Malolos was in deep slumber without any suspicion of an unrest, between midnight and 1 o’clock in the morning, an unusual noise woke the unsuspecting inhabitants. The cry of “War” reverberated everywhere. The hostilities had begun!

We woke up at 1 o’clock and went to the Central Postal Station, where we met the Honorable President of the Philippine Republic issuing orders. All the prominent members of the government were also there: Gen. Ricarte, Col. San Miguel, [Teodoro] Sandico, and others.

About 3 o’clock, Gen. Ricarte and Col. San Miguel boarded a train for Sta. Ana; Moreno and I accompanied them. At 5 a.m. we reached the station at Caloocan and continued on foot to Maypajo. Before reaching it, Ricarte and San Miguel separated from our group and took the road to La Loma; Moreno and I proceeded to the trenches at Maypajo and reached them at 5:30 a.m. Here we learned of the impossibility of reaching Manila; Moreno has been appointed chief of the volunteers from Manila.

After a while some soldiers from detachments in Solis arrived informing us that they were leaving because they had no longer any cartridges. I left Moreno at 6 o’clock to be in Caloocan with the intention of establishing an emergency field hospital while waiting for the military health unit to take some action. A few steps away sounds of guns and cannons rent the air while shots whistled by, instilling in me the fear that the end was near. During intervals, I made my way and reached unscathed the municipal building where I intended to attend to the wounded. I had hardly gone upstairs when I saw a warship in the bay opposite the building. I left for the railroad station; but barely twenty meters away a grenade fell. I entered the station and saw a wounded man, but as I did not have anything with me to help him, and knowing the impossibility of requesting medicines from Malabon, I departed and took the train for Malolos.

When I arrived home, Choling told me that I was a coward because I had abandoned the fighting. I explained to her that I had come to get bandages and medicines because there were none there. I went to the drug store and requested everything needed for first aid. When I inquired for the cost, the pharmacist refused to collect. At 1 in the afternoon of the 5th, after lunch, I returned to Caloocan bringing my surgery satchel. I found [Antonio] Luna, José, [Leon Ma.] Guerrero and [Anastacio] Francisco, Inspector General of Military Health.

At 4 p.m. a stretcher arrived bringing [José] Torres Bugallon, Major of the General Staff, with a broken right thigh; he was very pale, looking almost bloodless owing to profuse hemorrhage. He stretched his hand upon seeing me, relating at the same time how he had been wounded.

He said, “I was leading the troops when I felt I was wounded, but continued marching about fifty meters farther; then I fell. I felt I was being dragged and then I lapsed into unconsciousness. I did not know anything more until I found myself here today. Bitter and endless fighting continued on both sides.” I asked him to stop talking and he kept silent.

Luna and I applied first aid to him then he was transferred to the Lolomboy Hospital at Bocaue. He died, however, on the way.

At 1 in the afternoon of the 5th, after lunch, I returned to Caloocan bringing my surgery satchel. I found [Antonio] Luna, José, [Leon Ma.] Guerrero and [Anastacio] Francisco, Inspector General of Military Health.

At 4 p.m. a stretcher arrived bringing [José] Torres Bugallon, Major of the General Staff, with a broken right thigh; he was very pale, looking almost bloodless owing to profuse hemorrhage. He stretched his hand upon seeing me, relating at the same time how he had been wounded.

He said, “I was leading the troops when I felt I was wounded, but continued marching about fifty meters farther; then I fell. I felt I was being dragged and then I lapsed into unconsciousness. I did not know anything more until I found myself here today. Bitter and endless fighting continued on both sides.” I asked him to stop talking and he kept silent.

Luna and I applied first aid to him then he was transferred to the Lolomboy Hospital at Bocaue. He died, however, on the way. 

John E.T. Mislaps (writing in Tondo, Manila):

The battle so long expected, has just started. Commenced just as taps were sounding. The roar & rattle of small arms is heard on the outskirts of the city; seems to be over towards the cross-roads –where the Montana troops are stationed. This starts the war. The so-called Filipino Republic is now doomed, –Mrs. Owens is greatly excited. Three Spaniards & mestizos from the lower floor of No. 2 Calle Santa Elena have come up stairs. Excepting the shooting now going on — the city is quiet. The Utah artillerymen –brass band across the street from us, are astir. –Two Filipino women have come up stairs.

The horrid din of war sounds louder. Rapid fire guns are at work. Can hear them above small arms & a call to arms us heard in the artillery q[uar]t[e]rs. –Now the thunder of a heavy gun. xx 10.40 p.m. Infantry are now hurrying out Calle Jolo to the front… A lull lasting about half an hour. Now there is disultury [desultory] small arms firing, with the occasional roar of a cannon –apparently from a war vessel… The Utah sentries across the street state that some small bullets struck their building –a soldier came over from the Cuartel de Meisig. Says he saw a 3rd Reg’t  artilleryman being carried in. In a different quarter the rattle of small arms accentuated with the crash of volleys is now heard. An engagement is in progress –is about 11.30 p.m.–Sleep is out of the question now with the din of war continually sounding, & men getting killed and crippled… The rumble of wheels is heard on the streets, probably cannon. –All the Utah cannons are out with the exception of two pieces , which have been left behind for street fighting… 25. min. to 12 midnight. Quiet again.

The mestizos of the first floor seem not to care to return to their own part of the house. They are remaining on our floor smoking, talking and keeping me in the qui vive as the battle progresses. xxx Mrs. Owens brought in some cake to refresh the physical man. Is very acceptable at this late hour. —

Past midnight — 12.15 a.m. All quiet, save the whistling of a locomotive over at the R.R. depot.

May God protect our precious Salvation Army comrades who this morning are facing death, likewise the dear Christians of other denominations. I know some splendid Christians –Salvationists and church members in this 8th army corps —

The sky is clear but no moon is shining. The city electric lights are driving away the darkness & the search lights from Dewey’s fleet are busy this morning.

10 minutes of 3 a.m. Have just been awakened from an uneasy slumber by the renewed noise of battle –which as re-opened. There is a constant sputter with the roar of great guns now & again. Private Frank Amie of H. Battery 3rd Heavy Artillery is in the street below our front window doing patrol duty. Says he is cold. Have thrown him my handkerchief to tie around his neck. xx This is the holy Sabbath of the God of peace, but the awful discord of war is marring its peace. The crescent moon is now shining out brightly.


Sunday, February 5, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. The sun had no sooner rose bright and clear than the Americans began an advance on their entire lines. The advance was an inspiring sight. Our soldiers fired volleys by the platoons and then advanced under cover of the smoke and lay down behind the convenient rice ridges. Unfortunately our fort was soon behind the firing line and we could not fire. However I got in three shots at a sharp shooter in a tree. At this time a private in Co. C who had come out of the block house with me to get a crack at the sharp-shooter was shot through the shoulder. Then the Col came along and ordered us out of the block house and into the trenches. The men were coming back at this time from their advance and lay there the rest of the day. The Utah Artillery [Utah Volunteer Light Artillery] did fine work in their fire on block house no. 7 which was held by over 200 Filipinos, at San Juan Church at the Filipinos quarters just south of camp, and at two cannons they had mounted. The Filipino heavy cannon were soon silenced and general retreat of the natives took place all along the lines. The gunboat which had specially been prepared for this occasion came up the river Posig [Pasig] and began firing on churches and buildings occupied by the native troops. Many churches and other buildings were built of a sort of soft stone that is bullet proof of rifles, but the guns on the gun boat sent great holes in these buildings and soon there was not a native to be seen in five miles. In the afternoon I visited the battle field where my CO. “D” had been located. I saw there fifteen dead Filipinos, and heard that [Pvt. John L.] Bronson one of our men had been severely wounded in the arm. Many of the boys had killed from one to two Filipinos but they were not there to be found so of course it is hard to tell who killed the luckless fellows laid so low, one with the whole top of his head torn off and others with ghastly holes in them. This shows how deadly a weapon the Springfield is. During the day Dewey took some part in the fight in firing on towns and cutting off trains with reinforcements from Malolos. A whole train load was wrecked it is rumored. In the afternoon our boys crossed the river San Juan and took all of the Filipino works and occupied their headquarters which was the resevoir and filtering station of the waterworks. These places were occupied and held without attack for the night.

James J. Loughrey:

We were called to arms at 4 a.m., had our breakfasts and then left for the 6th Artillery Battery and then on to Paco Cemetery at Mole, where we were deployed as skirmishers at the rear of the battery. We received orders to advance at 8 a.m. We had to wade through rivers with water up to our breasts. Jack Ward was nearly drowned here but I pulled him out. My watch stopped at 8.10 a.m. as it had got full of water. We captured San Pedro Mercati [Makati] at 11 a.m. Sergeant Maher was killed here and his brother wounded. Corporal Murphy was shot in the calf of the leg and Lieutenant Hogan through the shoulder. Sergeant Wall was also wounded. It took the 14th US Regulars until 4.30 p.m. to capture Santa Ana where they had to blow up the church. We all went into camp at San Pedro Mereati [Makati].

John Henry Asendorf:

The weather was fine all night and we patrolled the city. At 8 o’clock we ate breakfast of sheet bread and coffee. At 10 o’clock forty of the company filled their haversacks with ammunition (300 per man) and carried the same to the front. All returned but four or five. I stayed myself with the Colonel’s permission. I laid alongside of the right to H Company. I kept 100 rounds myself. We continued heavy fire on the enemy which was stationed all along the lines but the strongest fort they had was in the Filipino hospital. But the Utah Battery soon put shell after shell into it and a few minutes later we made a charge. All boys along the line cheered as we advanced continuing to fire as we went. This made them run in all directions. Most of them fled to the Chinese hospital about 1/2 mile further back. Here we laid down flat in the rice field but they were now a good deal too much for us. They just poured their lead into us but in a short time C Company arrived. I now retreated to my company and laid between Charlie Playford and Milbert Johnson. We laid down here for a full 1.2 hour but firing was almost impossible for us. Seeing that we couldn’t stand their fire, we crept on hands and feet to the right which was a hillside on which was a Chinese cemetery with thousands of tombstones for breastworks. But, it had a strong wire fence around it which made it hard to cross with our guns and ammunition. Here two of our company were wounded and a few minutes later Major [Everhart] Bierer was hit with a brass bullet through the left shoulder and arm. The two men were Carl DeBolt and George Rockwell. Both were also hit with brass bullets through their shoulders. They were hurriedly carried back by our men. Here we opened up on them for about two hours. The Rebels were putting up a stubborn fight but after a couple hours work of the battery we again made a desperate fight and the rebels soon had to flee from there. Many of them were killed. Now we (the 10th) crept over to the right while the South Dakota men took charge of the hospital. We now entered a Filipino cemetery. Here the sharpshooters of the rebels which were all around us, in front of us in trees and bushes. [They] did some good work and wounded a good many of our men but not too dangerous. We opened up on them after finding some safe place but soon most of us were out of ammunition. It was in hand in short time. Then the bugle sounded for a charge. In front of us on the hill was a large church with a strong ten-foot wall around it and right in the rear of it was a blockhouse. About 200 yards in front of the church and to the right was a little village containing about 50 small “shacks.” Here we could see them as thick as grass. We fired volley after volley into them and could see them drop almost one on top another. Many of them retreated to the church. There we made a charge on the church. Here it was where Jake Landis was almost killed instantly. All he said was “well boys, I guess they got me.” He was taken back with the wounded. After taking the church and the blockhouse it was getting dark and we were assigned to our quarters for the night in a kind of skirmish line. All the rebels had made for the woods and everything was quiet for the night. In making the charge on the church I was the fifth man entering the same and the fifth man entering the blockhouse. Taps was sounded at 8 o’clock and we had a number of outposts and patrols out all night. The next morning, February 6th, the weather was fine but the night had been very cold. All of us were shivering all night having nothing but a poncho to cover with. All the boys started out to hunt some chickens which were plentiful in our neighborhood. Also they brought three sheep, two hogs, a buffalo calf and two cattle. I killed them all and strung them to a tree. One beef we gave to the Kansas boys who hadn’t any and one leg of veal and a fresh ham we sent to the Colonel. Several details were sent out to bury the dead rebels which were about 45 in our neighborhood. Each regiment burying their own. So, we buried all that was on the hill: one officer and 17 privates were put in our grave and the rest wherever they had fallen. This was a mean job as most of them were already decaying and had been partly eaten up by the dogs. We now established a cookhouse and fired up our quarters.

Alfred Burton Welch:

Firing opened at line by Pandacan at taps on Sat. eve. Battle around by bay by North. Opened on line on south of river at b[lock].h[ouse]. 11 at 3 a.m. Sunday and at b.h. 12 & Art. Knoll at 4.15. Steady, stubborn, continuous, until very late Sun. night. 4th Cav. & 14th Inf. on our rt. between b.h. 12 & 13. Our line extended from b.h. 12 to b.h. 10.

Terrible fight at Paco bridge. 3 sets of fours stormed and took Paco church burnt it & also 200 ins[urgents]. inside.

Rescued one Co. D lost 2 killed. Co. A at bridge lost several. Line of battle 10 mi. long, 5000 Filips killed.

Co. D took Paco in a.m. and Piebla a’ Tabacolaria in p.m. where I shot & killed an ins. officer with sixshooter. Took 250 prisoners –men and boys. Boys at b.h. 11 capt. 2 field pieces. Co. D burned town from 11 to Pena Francisca [Peñafrancia] and Sun. night slept in Santa Anna with the ins. in full fight to hills. Burned Santa Anna.

Santiago Barcelona:

It was a terrible day. From 6 in the morning the fighting began by sea and land. In the afternoon our forces were unable to continue the defense at Caloocan, where the grenades and incendiary bombs fell. Two fell directly on the church tower and confusion ensued. The forces retreated toward Tinajeros and Polo. Left behind when evening came were General Pantaleon García and Major Soriano.

Fully informed of this happening, the President left Malolos for Caloocan and Malabon ordering our forces to return and occupy these places; and if the enemy wanted to retake them, they should do so shedding their own blood in the attempt. The order brought renewed vigor among the troops. Caloocan was garrisoned anew as far as Navotas and Malabon.

The Director of War, Antonio Luna, was in the battlefield the whole Sunday afternoon, stopping the advance of the enemy with a small number of troops, thus showing his bravery and fearlessness on this occasion. Everybody agreed that he was worthy to be in the hierarchy of Division Generals who had displayed their insignia of distinction. This event won for him the general applause and an appointment as Defense Chief of the railroad line.

John E.T. Mislaps:

I feel somewhat tired and sleepy this morning. Time now is 7.30 (about.) The sputter of rapid fire guns, heavy cannon from warships and rattle of small arms made sleep well nigh out of question.

The air and building (No. 2 Calle Santa Elena) in which I am writing, vibrate from the concussion of the great guns.

With the dawn of this Sabbath morning, looking across the Estero Tondo, I see groups of Chinese standing on Calle Jolo gazing out towards the place from whence come the sound of firing.

American patrols are everywhere on the streets of Manila dressed in their suits of fighting brown. Mrs. Owens treated me to a couple of cups of strong coffee — a very welcome gift after a night of unrest.

A mounted orderly has just come in from the front to secure a spring for a gun — to replace one out of order. Says our pickets out at the cross roads on Calles Dulumbayan, de Sanloleyes, have taken position at the Filipino cemetery and Leper hospital. The latter & former have high concrete walls, good as a protection against small arms. Also says some of the Montana men have been hurt.

Between the roar of cannon I hear this morning the twitter and singing of birds. What a strange contrast between these sweet sounds of nature and the discord of war!

Following my usual custom when getting out of bed this a.m. read the Bible and prayed. Asked the Lord to give me something in His Word. Opened the book at a venture. My eye fell on Micah IV: Read: “But in the last days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; & people shall flow into it. xxxxxx And he shall judge among many people, & rebuke strong nations far off; & they shall beat their swords into plowshares, & their spears into pruning hooks; nations shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

May all nations speedily learn to follow the path of righteousness and settle their differences by arbitration.

9.40 a.m. There is a lull in the shooting. Occasionally the boom of a heavy gun breaks upon the Sabbath stillness.

Clouds of smoke have been rising some time from the native town out Dulumbayan street, and from burning buildings in Paco district.

Spaniards, mestizos and friendly Filipinos have been in this room & on this our flat all morning…

Burnt roofing-thatch from buildings afire has been raining down from the clouds, to whence it ascended with the smoke.

Took breakfast with Rev. & Mrs. Owens.

Private Devine (Landon) has been to the front with food. Said piles of dead Filipinos were seen in places. Also that one company of the 1st Washington vols. was almost wiped out.

12 o’clock noon. Private Devine (Landon) just brought the news that Bro. E. Tarr, of G Battery 3d artillery is dead. Killed in battle. Tarr was one of the most zealous members of the Y.M.C.A. & has taken part in my meetings and own Owens’, held in the Cuartel de Meisig. Devine just started with a gun on his shoulder for the front taking a load of food — dinner to K. battery.

Dense clouds of smoke overhang the native quarter out Calle Dulumbayan. The conflagration is increasing.

1.10 p.m. Filipino men and women are coming down the thoroughfares from the scene of the battle where the houses are burning, bringing their household effects in bundles, baskets & boxes. The fire of small arms has ceased, but frequently the city vibrates from the discharge of heavy ordnance.

A detachment of prisoners just came down Calle Jolo from the fight. A sergeant of the Utah artillery brought tidings that General King is killed & Col. Smith of the Tennessee vols.

4 p.m. (about) 4 or 5 carromatas guarded by American soldiers passed out Calle Jolo. About 5 minutes after passing the junction of Santa Elena street, the rapid reports of rifles followed. We could not see what was going on but for half an hour patrols kept up a continuous fusilade all around our quarters. The sharp, keen explosions of the Krag-Jorgensen rifles soon cleared the streets. The Americans shoot to kill without hesitation. The death of Gen. King who was shot from a window out in Malate, is a warning to Americans. They are dealing with a treacherous foe, who are in Manila by tens, yes probably hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. Manila has a population of about 300,000 inhabitants.

Soldiers are bringing in news from the long battle. The Filipinos have stubbornly contested the field but have been driven back about one mile. Fighting is still in progress. Thousands are reported killed. (Another shot just this moment around our corner). Our troops were fired at from windows in the nation town or quarter near Tondo church (Roman Catholic). Our men enfiladed the quarter shooting through the frail huts. Men, women and babies were killed. The dead are piled in heaps.

A Spanish or mestizo woman who resides down stairs, came up stairs & affrightedly said we are to be killed tonight & the house burned by Filipinos. Almost all day Spaniards — men & mestizo & Filipino women have hung around our rooms afraid to go away.

A patrol brought in word that Private Eli Clampitt of Battery G, 3d artillery, is dead. Was killed in this battle. Clampitt (a backslider) claimed the Lord Jesus as the Healer of his backslidings in a meeting led by me in the 3d artillery barracks –Cuartel Meisig, October 6th, 1898. (I heard he backslid again.)

8.40 p.m. Private Devine (Landon) cook of K battery, left us about 5 minutes ago. He came in from the battlefront. Told us much news. Bullets were flying thick. Our advance lines are now far from Manila that we can no longer hear the firing. All is quiet tonight. Devine said that Tarr is not dead, but Corporal Dean is. The latter was a Christian & assisted in our meetings. Was a frequent caller at No. 2. Took lessons in Spanish from Owens.

An advance is expected to be made tomorrow on Malolos. A Utah cannon by mistake killed one of our own men, SDergeant Whittaker of the 3d artillery. Before Devine said good-bye he & I prayed together with Rev. & Mrs. Owens. I took supper with the latter this p.m.

Held no religious meetings today.

Visitor 1.

This has been a day of slaughter.

Monday, February 6, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

I had joined my company during the night and now we anxiously waited orders to go to the front but instead were ordered to hold the captured places while two battalions of Nebr and two co’s of Colo [First Colorado Volunteer Infantry] moved against the waterworks or pumping station. When they had gone about two miles they [found] a quartermaster of the Utahs shot full of holes and with his throat cut from ear to ear and his heart cut out. He had lost his way trying to join his command which were advancing with Nebr with two guns. This nerved the boys who soon came upon the entrenched Filipinos. The advance guard fell back and the Filipinos mistaking this for a retreat made a charge out of breast works. They were fairly mowed down. 78 were found and buried here. After that there was no more opposition till the pumping station was reached which is eight miles east of Manila and now Nebr holding this and all surrounding territory. The pumping station is in a deep vale [illegible] splendidly for­tified. There is a fine fort on a high point which commands the entire valley. The country around here is a country of ledges and places not naturally adapted to battle it is terraced with rice fields. The ground is dry and hard now and in splendid condition for a campaign. Those boys of the two battalions went into camp here in separate co’s. Co L our friends at station and others here and there in nice spots. The night of the sixth was uneventful save that where we were quartered a K man got scared and began shooting and of course there was a call to arms, but there was not a shot fired by a Filipino in hearing. This camp at the waterworks was named after our Col. Camp Stotzenburg [John Miller Stotsenburg]. Our col. was very brave and led the charge against the block houses 6 and 7 which K and D men took on Sunday morning. He found a Remington Rifle and used it in the thickest of the fight. There are strict orders issued against pillaging which up to this time has been carried on to excess.

James J. Loughrey:

We left San Pedro Mercati [Makati] at 10 a.m. on reconnoitre and had a hot skirmish around Guadaloupe [Guadalupe] where Culling was shot through the eye, Slade was shot in the leg and Smyth, who was beside me, was marked on the arm by a flattened bullet. ‘H’ and ‘I’ Companies retired at 4 p.m. We were in some tight corners and were completely tired out for we had no sleep for three nights. It appears that we killed 30 Insurgents, their bodies being found by Father McKinnion next day. Reports said 3,000 Insurgents had been killed yesterday. ‘B’ Company 14th US Infantry were reduced to 35 men, the rest being either killed or injured. Amongst the Insurgent dead were found two deserters, one from ‘M’ Company and the other a Lieutenant Colonel.

Chriss A. Bell:

This morning reports show that our [troops] advanced driving natives before them. Most of the firing at night is by the natives answered by and [an] occasional volley from our men. But at daylight much to the purpose of the natives who expected us to remain quiet, our men opened fire at the same time. Dewey let them have it. The result was something awful. Natives were killed by them by the hundreds. They did so much shooting from bamboo huts that an order came to fire the huts as the men advanced. This was done & men, women, and children suffered. The natives are but poor fighters & do not understand our style charging under fire. Freeman was in the thick of the fight but was in the company and could not get away.

In the evening I got permission of the Capt. to take a walk. Carr, Jim & I started and we met Dustin & (?)dale who joined us. We started for Kansas lines but got on a road which finally led in the jungle & stopped. We could see a quarter of a mile to our right a big hut on fire so we retraced our steps. Crossed a rice field on the dikes and reached the fire but if our men started it they did not remain now. Just before reaching fire we ran on a hut. The inmates were watching fire on seeing us they began to yell “Buenos Noches, Onega Cara Beno.” [“Buenas Noches, Amigo Cara Bueno“] They were nearly frightened to death. From the fire we soon ran across the main wad & soon met some boys of G. Co. Kansas going to the front with blankets. We went across with them but once ran off the road & ran into Montana outpost. We turned back & in about an hour reach block house where Kansas Co. was located. It was on top of a hill to left of church where 3rd A battery was sited at. We could see but little and there were only a few stray shots fired so we did not go into action. In the return we got a ride in as far as Bibi Bid [Bilibid] We got back about 12 & went on guard at 4 A.M.

John E.T. Milsaps (writing in Tondo):

The sun is rising beautifully over the city of Manila as I write (about 7.15 a.m.) and the birds are singing sweetly as though grim war had not left its mark in this section.

This morning about 3.50 o’clock the sharp incisive report of Krag-Jorgensen rifles were heard. From first a solitary shot the reports increased until they became a roar intermixed with occasional volleys. Sounded like a small battle. Silence followed about 15 minutes of this kind of work. About a half hour later another fusilade woke the echoes of the silent streets. I do not know what was the cause of trouble, perhaps street fighting. The native made elaborate preparations for an uprising. The Utah artillerymen captured 2 bags full of daggers, new & native made. Thousands of arms are also reported discovered in a Roman Catholic church. The uprising failed. Many solitary shots were fired thro’ the night.

I am thinking seriously this morning of going out to the battle front which is about 10 miles from Manila. My right foot has pained me in the past 10 days or more, probably rheumatism which makes walking difficult. Am anxious to go nevertheless and trust myself in the hands of God, whose providential care is my safeguard. The Lord may have work for me to do where men are dying. Quite a few of the men at the front are Salvationists who love Jesus, likewise other saints are there & also many backsliders & other sinners who have never known experientally God’s saving grace…

Called at the post office in Manila…

Returning from the post office I took a bite to eat, filled my coat pocket with peanuts and struck out for the front on foot. The Lord favored me. Just as I turned out of Santa Elena street I met some 3d artillerymen starting out with food for the troops in carromatas. I joined the squad. Privates Amie & Devine (Landon) were in the party. The men carried the Krag-Jorgensen guns. We passed out Calle Dulumbayan thro’ the large native quarter. When we reached the Filipino cemetery* (*Santa Cruz cemetery) signs of the battle began to appear. The balustrade around the top walls was destroyed, the shack facing the street torn into fragments & the back wall torn down for a barricade. Almost all the native huts between the cemetery & outskirts were burnt. The ruins were smoking. Here & there were dead horses lying in the ashes partly roasted. Chickens wandered around & dogs. One of the latter was eating flesh from the carcass of a burnt poney. A lone cat was nestled by the ashes of its former home. A female carrabou was lying dead near one burnt house & its calf lying by its side, alive & suckling its dead mother. When we reached the stone monument I got the men to halt & took their photo. I walked all the way out. The monument is at the cross roads — Call de Sanloleyes & Calle Dulumbayan. All is changed now. The battle raged over this spot & the houses  & people are all gone. When our party arrived at the foot of the elevation on which is situated the great Chinese & Roman Catholic cemetery, I heard the sound of fighting — a familiar sound now. There were single shots & at times volleys. The Chinese cemetery showed signs of battle, shrapnel bestrewing the road, the packing for artillery ammunition & empty rifle shells. Barbed wire was cut here & there to permit the passage of cannon & men. Tombstones were shattered by projectiles. They were used as breastworks by Filipinos. I saw one dead Filipino lying among the tombs by the roadside. His face & mouth discolored by dry blood. A bullet had entered one eye & killed him. The red mortuary chapel used by the Chinese close by was vacant. The candle sticks, biers & other accessories used when the rites of the dead are performed were lying around broke. Bloody pillows were lying on the floor and blood stained bandages here & there. The building had been used by the Filipinos to shelter their wounded.

Presently I reached the top of the hill & made my way to Brigadier General McArthur’s headquarters. The General was there, likewise members of his staff and a company (G) belonging to the 20th Kansas Infantry. A long line of men were drawn up in battle line at rest. In a forest to the left of Malibon [Malabon] the American firing line was at work. Their crushing volleys had the effect of herding the natives over towards a forest in a point of land. I could see them about one mile distant. Two American war vessels came up towards Malibon [Malabon] off shore. I witnessed the shelling. Several bombs were thrown into the town. After the natives were driven over towards the point firing ceased. But the rattle of rifles over on our right towards Camp Santa Mesa, told of warm work there. When they had taken position firing ceased.

Spoke to several men about their souls.

A stranger (civilian) & I struck out for home on foot. A country carromata with 3 U.S. 3d artillery men aboard came along. The soldiers took me on & I got a ride to the Cuartel Meisig. Tomorrow may be a terrible day for the Filipinos as they seem to be shut off from escape.

Filipino prisoners, Santa Mesa, Feb. 5-6, 1899.

Tuesday, February 7, 1899

From the diary of John Milsaps, February 7, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

Today has been an uneventful day. The dead were buried and a little skirmishing done but few natives could be found. The boys are taking a much needed rest. Our 2nd sergeant and a pvt have returned from the front. By the way these are the two men who started the war. The sergeant, a Dutch man [Sgt. Joseph De Vriendt], told the guard [Pvt. William Grayson], a man of little character, not to stand any monkey work. There was a lieut. on the Filipino side who had about as much sense as the afore mentioned who had been getting drunk and causing trouble before. He came down and ordered a post of ours moved back which had been moved up to hold one in check which had been pushed up by the Filipinos. This had been done during the day and when night came the lieut. came up and was halted by our sentinels. He called back “Alto,” the Spanish for “halt” at which our sentenel fired upon him and it is stated killed him but he was taken back by the native soldiers with him. Then the post was reinforced and on the natives making a second advance were fired upon again, which was answered as stated before by the Filipinos on all sides of us save the Manila side.

James J. Loughrey:

Reveille at 6 a.m. We had chicken for breakfast. We held 16 Insurgent prisoners, one of whom was dressed in woman’s clothing and was suspected of spying. We left camp at 2 pm. to reconnoitre around Laguna da Bay, sixteen miles from Manila, and returned to camp at about 6 p.m.

Alfred Burton Welch:

Reviewed by Gen. King. In afternoon took line to San Pedro [Macati]. Had a patrol in night, 12 miles. Dogs & birds feasting on stray bodies.

Chriss A. Bell:

Nothing of importance happened during the day except arrest of all men who went to front without leave including Morrow, Watson, Clagget, & Pratt. In evening 2 natives were shot within 30 feet of me apparently no cause as neither of them had any sort of weapon. On guard all day.

John E.T. Milsaps:

A day of exciting events. … About 10. o’clock a.m. with my blanket, diary, soap, towel, one pair socks, 4 photographic films, one loaf bread, 3 cans devilled ham, & 1 of jelly & a pocket filled with peanuts, I struck out on foot. Brought my umbrella along for contingencies of rain & hot sun. Rev. Chas Owens and wife accompanied me on foot. Went out thro’ the native quarter on Dulumbayan street. A carromata driven by a Filipino came along with a 10th Pennsylvania soldier on board. Mrs. Owns was taken on & put off at the large Spanish Roman Catholic mortuary chapel in the Binondo or La Loma cemetery. This cemetery on the hill including the Chinese burying place is an immense affair. Name: Cemeterio de la Parroquia de Binondo.”

Owens and I walked out. Arrived on the battleground about 11 o’clock. Sharp shooting with an occasional volley was kept up all day until 5 p.m. in a disultory manner. In the forest to the left skirting the bay just outside of Caloocan, the American battle line lay across the pain with its left wing on the bay near Caloocan & the right wing miles away. I went along the battle line for quite a distance visiting the batteries (particularly H and K) of the 3d Reg’t heavy artillery & the Montana infantry. Met quite a number of acquaintances as saved & unsaved. Seemed glad to meet me. Brought the matter of salvation personally to the attention of a number of soldiers. The boys were very hospitable offering me such food as they have on the battlefield & coffee.

Brigadier General Otis was on the field taking in the situation personally.

During the early part of the afternoon I witnessed an interesting skirmish down on the open flat field north east of the Spanish mortuary chapel. Three men went down to fire some native huts. The enemy would have probably captured them, had not 15 men went out to support them. The firing on both sides was quite brisk for a time. The Filipinos lay in the shelter of timber & the Americans in the open, but none of the latter were hurt.

5 p.m. The shooting in the forest west of us became hot. Brisk work. A war vessel (probably “Concord”) out in the bay threw shells in the town &  2 Utah pieces over on our hill assisted. The attacking party (20th Kansas Infantry less Co. G) could not be seen from the forest but their advance could be traced by the line of burning buildings as they advanced into Caloocan. In half an hour the town was taken. As darkness closed in I went over to the battle line — 3d artillery. The boys gave me some coffee which with my loaf of bread served me for supper. By the light of the burning village I managed to pick my way over the small brook at the bottom of the hill to the Spanish blockhouse (No. 2) or fort. A wall about 10 feet high punctured with numerous port holes for small arms with a shelf to stand on around the inside, & a wood frame covered with corrugated iron is the aforesaid blockhouse. Company G, 20th Kansas vol. infantry (Capt. Elliot) occupied the same: also a detachment of Utah light artillerymen. I laid a piece of heavy paper on the ground, my blanket on the same & using my coat for a pillow considered myself fortunate. While lying there, availed myself of an opportunity the Lord gave me, to talk to a corporal lying alongside me of salvation.

My bed was pretty hard. Slept in my clothes.

Caloocan is a village on the Dagupan railroad about one and a half miles from Malibon [Malabon].

Our battle line remained in place all night sleeping on their arms. Nothing unusual happened during the night save the occasional firing of our pickets.

Block House No. 7, Feb. 7, 1899

Wednesday, February 8, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

This day was spent waiting for orders which came and were revoked several times. The Tenns. [First Tennessee Volunteer Infantry] left for Iloilo and in a few days the fight will be on there. Dewey bombarded a few towns where there might be Filipino soldiers stationed, and several of these towns burned. Kansas [First Kansas Volunteer Infantry] had another brush with the natives who tried to effect an entrance through our lines at that point north of the city. So far as can be heard our boys have done bravely through the whole army corps. The Washingtons [First Washington Volunteer Infantry] shot a little too much ammunition perhaps and the Minns [First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry] who were police in the city killed too many harmless people if accts are true.

James J. Loughrey:

We prepared to go to the city for 24 hours to relieve ‘C’ and ‘I’ Companies. We saw a gunboat go up river to shell Pasig. It got stuck and had to wait about three hours for a launch to go to its assistance. During the day we had photographs taken. Later we had a Wyoming Company firing over our heads at the Insurgents.

Alfred Burton Welch:

In Santa Anna. Other W[ashingto]n CO’s on line beyond San Pedro.

Chriss A. Bell:

On guard all day. Privates who left without leave were fined from $2 to $7. The non coms I think got a severe lecture because of charges were preferred a General Court Martial was necessary. It is rather hard on privates to be fined and non coms let go with a talk. Shorty, Pratt, Coyine, & Hampton all tell of a very exciting time. Hope I’ll get a chance to see some action.

An incident happened which showed native character. During the battle one of Aguinaldo’s Generals who took part in Peace conference appeared with a flag truce. It was answered by Col. Crowder [Major Cardwell] & Col. [Q.M. Sergeant] Potter who also took part in peace conference. The American officers advanced to near the insurgent lines & were met by officers. Immediately after insurgents fired on the crowd. When our officer demanded of insurgent officer what was meant by firing on flag of truce he answered, almost in ha [laugh] that he was forced to admit that his men were untamed savages without the first principle of humanity and apologized for being a part of such a disgraceful affair & asked to be allowed to retire. He himself was pured on by his own men. The chances of the Oregon regiment Co. H in particular going to the front grow lean fully less each day. Was on guard all last night nothing very exciting happened. There was more fighting at the front.

I feel very tired & sleepy tonight. Hardly had any sleep last in the “block house”. The ground was hard, atmosphere cold & coffee Im inclined to think excited my nerves too much.

…A soldier belonging to Co. G. 20th Kansas Vol. Inf., gave me some coffee in an old tin can. He & I sipped out of it. Devilled ham & bread (which I shared with him) completed my breakfast.

From the tower of the blockhouse on the hill watched the movements of the Insurrectos, sometimes thro’ an opera glass. The Filipinos appear to be gathering in force & a battle is imminent. One battle line commenced to intrench themselves –the men. Likewise 2 more guns were planted alongside our blockhouse by the Utah’s & hasty breastworks constructed.

I went along the battle line where the men lying two days & talked with a number of the men. Not only did I visit the 3d artillery but likewise the Montana’s whom I found forming in the woods to receive an attack from the enemy. I took 2 Kodak views of Co. E. Two letters written on the battlefield were given me to mail. One was a postcard –a hard looking affair…

Met Mr. John F. Bass (war correspondent for Harper’s weekly) again, on the field.

A number of ex-soldiers and civilians are hanging about, desirous of sharing in the battle. Minnesota (13th) soldiers are slipping out of town, where they do police duty, to take part in the expected battle. One of the Minnesota men told me that an outbreak is expected daily. Last night they slept on their arms. Have killed 50 natives since hostilities commenced Saturday night…

Good night; am very tired. God be with all.

On second thought will add: On my way back through the Filipino quarter along Dulumbayan street a great many white flags were hanging out in front of the private houses — flags of truce or surrender probably. I heard when reaching home that Aguinaldo declared war against the United States today. Rumor says the Filipino chief said he cannot restrain his men any longer. Otis sent word back that he will restrain them for him then. Aguinaldo’s private secretary has been captured.

“Brigadier-General King and Staff, at the Surrender of Pasig, February 8, 1899”

Thursday, February 9, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

This morning our company rec’d orders to go to the water works. We left the “Asilo de Huer-fanos” [Asilo de Huerfanos] Orphans Home, an old brick building which had been used by the Filipinos for barracks, about 8 o’clock and reached the Pumping Station about one. Co. L our friends had a dinner ready for us when we reached there. They gave us three cheers when we came to which we responded heartily though we were very tired. We enjoyed our dinner very much. In the afternoon James, my tent mate and myself were down to the river a small mountain stream called San Mateo. Here we enjoyed a fine bath. The water was very chilly however. In the pumping station are four mammoth engines capable of 120,000 gallons per hr each. The natives had not destroyed a thing here though it could easily have been done and one would think they would from the way our forces burnt their homes.

James J. Loughrey:

At 8 a.m. we were ready to leave for the city and arrived there about noon. Last night several thousand Insurgent cavalry were advancing on the city. Dewey’s ships shelled them and played the Devil with them!

Alfred Burton Welch:

Wrote home to Tops. In Santa Anna.

Chriss A. Bell:

Nothing had happened today. The usual round of work & guard duty. In evening put on extra guards as outbreak was expected. The non coms who took trench leave were reprimanded by Clagett & Capt. Mc [McDonnell] was very cool to them but in evening he took up their regulations played crib with short & said let by gones be by gones. Privates were all fined from $2 to $10. Little now fighting.

John E.T. Milsaps:

Am sleepy this morning. Was kept awake the entire night. Stayed with Co. E* (*Note. Capt. A. Jensen in command) 1st Montana vol. inf. in the stone fort (Blockhouse No. 2) on the hill…

When in town I got shaved in a Spanish barber shop; also called at the General or Brigade Hospital to see Private Clayton Scott. He is up again & getting well. Advised him to do as much work for Jesus as possible among the patients. From town returned home, took a bite to eat, bundled up some things & struck out afoot for the Caloocan battlefield. While trudging out Dulumbayan street through the dust and sun heat, a couple of Utah light artillery men overtook me. They were taking mail out to their comrades in a carromata. Invited me to ride out. I gladly accepted the invitation. Arrived on the battlefield about 4 p.m. Put my luggage in the stone fort. Private D.C. Hines fished me up a soldier’s kit & some supper from the company (E.) cook. After supper Hines & I went down the battle line. The men are about in the same place, but have constructed trenches. Encouraged some of the Christian soldiers to remain true to Christ.

Returned to the stone fort (Blockhouse No. 2), spread our blankets on the ground & lay down with the intention of sleeping but did not sleep all night. About 10 o’clock p.m. firing started up in the forest over on our left wing & with slight intermissions had continued until daybreak. The outposts over on our right fired at real or imagined foes. I could hear them cry out “Pennsylvania outpost” in the darkness probably to let their comrades know their whereabouts so as not to fire on them. Company E. 1st Montana lined up (some) behind the fort walls at the portholes & others went outside into the rifle pit. They fired one volley. A bullet presumably from the enemy struck our corrugated iron roof with a bang.

An officer* (*Note. Captain Andrew Jensen) of Co. E. ordered a sergeant to make me get up and change my bed. Would not permit any of his men to sleep.

The sun is now up but an occasional shot still rings across the battlefield. Brother Lloyd has just brought me some fried pork, boiled potatoes and coffee so I must discontinue this entry and pay my respects to soldiers’ rations. The men are cross this morning because robbed of sleep.

Sandra Plummer Collection, Genealogy, History and Archives Unit, Fort Worth Public Library, Texas.

Friday, February 10, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

This day passed with little done save waiting for orders which came at supper time. In the morning we enjoyed another bath in the clear and swift San Mateo [river]. When we reached camp again we found letters from home. Mine announced the death of my father [Richard Thornton Payne, b. 1828]. He died of paralysis on the 18th of Dec. 1898. This was sad news to me. I had written him in Jan. some time after his death. I had hoped to be home and see him again before he died. Indeed I often thought I would like to see father again. My nephew tells me he died reading the bible. He was alone on his farm near Otto [Webster County] Nebr. Late in the evening we rec’d orders to return partway back to the filtering station and resevoir. There were said to be some 20 or 25,000 Filipinos.going to attack no. 7 block house and force an entrance to Manila combined. They did not try it that night.

James J. Loughrey:

Last night we were called out and later slept in our clothes all night. Late this afternoon the battle of Malabon took place. The coloured troops lay in their trenches until the 23rd US Infantry went up and clubbed them into action. Five men were killed and twenty wounded. Captain Wallace of the Montanas was shut in this action.

Alfred Burton Welch:

At Santa Anna. A battle raged to the east last night –could hear the volleys. Wrote to Gypsy.

Chriss A. Bell:

Last night American forces captured two small towns & California [was] fighting in left was severe but insurgents were licked. At one place center of our lines fell back purposely let insurgents in then caught them on the flanks & slaughtered them. Another hospital man killed. This makes three I think. A few days ago 6 natives were shot for firing on hospital wagon. We were issued one days rations & rolled blankets yesterday as outbreak was expected and we had some hopes of going to front but as our lines were strong enough we were not sent & fear we will not be.

John E.T. Milsaps:

It is late in the afternoon. The Utah Light Artillery guards have half closed the double doors of their commissary warehouse; a very unusual proceeding. The Spanish men –2 of them– on the lower floor of No. 2 Call Santa Elena have come up stairs again. They are apprehensive of danger. The old Señora down stairs also excitedly drew her hand across her throat signifying what is expected. Word has been sent to the American military guards to look out for an uprising of Filipinos. With a telescope loaned me by one of the Spaniards I saw a few minutes ago the two towers of Tondo Roman Catholic church full of American troops. The heavy, barred gates of our basement have been closed on the street side. The streets of Manila are look deserted. During an hour the heavy roar of great guns from Dewey’s fleet has been heard here in our house bombarding either Caloocan or Malibon [Malabon]. Aguinaldo is massing his troops at Malibon [Malabon] and a decisive battle is expected.

I feel very sleepy. Captain A. Jensen of Co. E., 1st Montana vol. inf. found me sleeping or rather lying down on the ground among his men in the Spanish blockhouse* (*Blockhouse No. 2). He instructed a sergeant to make me get up & go to another part of the fort. Kept my clothes on & sat up almost all night with the noise of shooting to help keep my eyes open. Hines said the men of Co. E. did not like the way I was treated by their Captain. Says he has been drunk the last two or three days.

After breakfast Private D. Hines & I walked down the lines to almost the end of our left wing in the forest skirting the railroad where so much fighting has been done of late. The Americans 20th Kansas vol. inf. have constructed trenches & rifle pits & are still at work. The Filipinos attacked our troops last night. While we were in the forest sharpshooters were still pegging away. A bullet came unpleasantly near to us.

Desiring sleep & feeling the need of recuperating I gathered up my belongings and struck out for home on foot. A long, hot, dusty walk. Arrived at home at last glad to be back. Civilians are not usually welcome in a military camp when war is in progress. They do no good (from a military standpoint) & may do much harm.

4.40 p.m. The sound of cannon is still heard in the distance…

Rev. Owens who was out near the front returned this evening from near the front. The enemy has been driven back –charged. Dense clouds of smoke I saw rising heavenward was caused by the burning of Caloocan. I expect to go out to the front again tomorrow…

Saturday, February 11, 1899

From the diary of John Milsaps, February 11, 1899

Robert Bruce Payne:

When we got up this morning we had a two miles march in heavy marching order to make before breakfast. This gave us a good appetite, but breakfast was not ready when we arrived which annoyed us somewhat as we expected to advance against the Filipinos. We had orders to be in readiness after breakfast as we were to be in the reserve but the advance after meandering around the country all day returned empty handed. So today has been a day of rest with us. I have had a bath again in the San Mateo [river]. Its bottom is sandy and the gravel is plainly visible and the smallest fish can be seen. Ten days rations were just issued to us here and our dinner was an excellent one we had been having poor fare since we have been in field hitherto. It is nearly supper time and I am writing seated in a species of rubber tree. This tree is large and spreading and close to camp. Under it is an immense stone a boulder with steps up it, so one can walk up the steps and step off in the tree. There was a bombardment of Caloocan, a small town, by Dewey this morning. During the middle of the days the heat is hardly bearable but in the evenings and mornings it is quite cool and the nights are cold. Very dry here now, even too dry to plow. We hear many banterings and quarrels now about what troops did this and that. But I can hardly realize the honour that is to be gained any way fighting a people struggling for liberty. Many of the boys have a poor opinion of the Filipinos simply because they have talked ill of them so long that now they hate them. I think they are doing unwisely in fighting so powerful [a] nation as the U.S. It reveals at once the[ir] patriotism as well as their ignorance. Nor is it by any means all ignorance.

Alfred Burton Welch:

Buried some Filips. The 14th were pressed on Pasa [Pasay] and we were called out to help, but were not needed. Maloban [Malabon] was taken by Mont. & Kas, Penn & 6th Art.

Chriss A. Bell (entry for February 11-12):

Nothing happened but usual round of duty. Several boys are off ships so guard work is less heavy on me. No province boats are allowed to leave harbor. Skirmishing goes on at front with but little loss in either side. Will try and take camera to front tomorrow.

John E.T. Milsaps:

One week ago tonight the Filipinos attacked Manila or rather the American outposts & what a week it has been! A week of constant conflict –day and night. Thousands of Filipinos (over 3,000) have been killed. Others wounded. And hundreds of Americans have suffered. Houses have been destroyed & devastation is evident on every side. The atmosphere is foul in places with the stench of putrefying men and animals. The Insurrectos have been beaten in every action. God has signally blessed our arms. The desire of our Government was to pursue a pacific policy, but I fear the natives mistook a generous spirit for cowardice. I heard that their contempt of our soldiers led them more than once to spit in the face of our sentries, but such work could not continue. The swagger & spirit of bravado so marked a few days ago, are gone, for they have been taught a dreadful lesson.

To me Feb. 11th will be associated a long time with horrid memories.

Rising early, after bible reading & prayer I cooked & ate breakfast then started out alone for the battlefront. The roar of great guns bombarding Malibon [Malabon] caused me to push on. By street car went to the end of the line. A civilian dressed partly in soldier’s clothes with a gun on his shoulder joined me. He proved to be a Salvationist of 22 years ago. He carried my bundle. Spoke to him re religious matters. Together, we scoured the forest in which the recent fighting has been done. Everywhere we saw the ashes of burnt huts & residences. Everything gone. A few lonely chickens and other live domestic animals wandered about lost. But the air was burdened in places with the loathsome smell of rotting human beings — their corpses. In one place lay about ten corpses bloated, black, hideous & rotten with worms eating them. In another place (same forest) lay about 6 more dead Filipinos, several apparently killed by shrapnel. One place up the road near a burnt hut lay a dead native with his back, head & hair fearfully burned. A wound in one leg led me to infer that he had been struck in the leg near the ankle by a bullet & entered a hut for refuge. The same was set afire. There he remained until the flame took hold of him. The awful agony caused the poor wretch to pull himself out into the road where he died. He was lying in the dust with his body bent & face down. In the church yard were 3 more corpses. In the cemetery another hideous sight met my gaze. A number of empty tombs are built [intiam?] –Spanish fashion. A dead soldier was crammed into one & hastily left with some loose stones put into the opening. The man’s head was thrown back, with mouth wide open & almost gone thro’ putrefaction. In another tomb lay another corpse. A funny thing connected with these vacant tombs was told me. One of the wild tribes –almost naked– crawled into one and remained there until the Americans discovered him & brought him out of his queer hiding place. He was sent a prisoner to Manila.

I met Brother Joshua Calvin in the Roman Catholic Church which was temporarily improvised into a hospital. Calvin did not go to Iloilo. His vessel was ordered to remain in the bay until further orders.

Calvin & I went down the road towards Malibon [Malabon]. This in Caloocan. The town was in possession of the Americans. A battle was in progress. Met on the road Cos, S, E., F., & H, of the First Idaho Vol. Infantry & ex-Salvation Army Sergeant-major Spankie of Fresno, Leal, who is private, had a pipe in his mouth. Called his attention to advice given hium on salvation the other day & again urged him to seek Jesus. The command was ordered to fall in & marched down into the brush to take position as a reserve line. In addition to the fusilade of small arms shells were thrown into Malibon [Malabon] (which was being attacked) by a vessel of Dewey’s squadron. Calvin & I sat down at a spot by the roadside back of the American firing line (20th Kansas). Bullets flew over our heads quite rapidly. A U.S. soldier had just been wounded in the leg when we arrived. His leg was red with blood. A bandage was tied around the wound. After a while Calvin & I parted. He visited the 20th Kansas & I went back to a bluff back of the post office to watch the bombardment of Malibon [Malabon]. Also explored the flat near the bay shore. While there exposed myself to view. A gun report was heard by me in Malibon [Malabon]. In a second or two a bullety struck near me. I concluded to leave that spot without loss of time.

Met Rev. & Mrs. Owens, Bro. Geo. Turner near the Catholic Church in Caloocan. The former & I visited the firing line ogf our troops –20th Kansas & 2 guns 6th U.S. light artillery, & Sec. 4-B. Battery, Utah light artillery. Also visited the cemetery & then went to the Railroad depot. The trains are being run by the U.S. Gov’t today. We got permission from a Hospital Sergeant in charge of the train to go back to Manila –5 miles. Was a hospital train taking back wounded men  & men overcome by heat. In our car 23d U.S. Inf. brass band with guns traveled with us, likewise several British officers. Naval officers have lately been watching the battles closely…

Sunday, February 12, 1899

From the diary of John E.T. Milsaps, Feb. 11, 1899

Alfred Burton Welch:

Started early for San Pedro Macati.

John E.T. Milsaps:

Remained at home all day in Manila, sleepy and tired. Have been on the go to & from the front all week. Felt like remaining at home because there is a lull in the storm of war. Chaplain Stevenson of the Idaho Vol. Inf. called on Rev. Chas. Owens this afternoon. The chaplain reported that a Spaniard had just been captured from inside the Insurrectos’ lines, who said the strength of the Filipino army in Malibon [Malabon] is about 10,000. Stevenson said he saw their line about 3 miles long. The line is not thin and weak. The American line is about 18 miles long. This information from a Utah artilleryman. We are under the necessity of protecting Manila on three sides.

Monday, February 13, 1899

From the diary of John E.T. Milsaps, Feb. 11, 1899

James J. Loughrey:

Reports state that the Insurgent leader Aguinaldo wants to surrender Malabon but Otis will not accept unless Malolas [Malolos] surrender as well.

John Henry Asendorf:

It has been impossible for me to keep account from day to day. I will try to put it all in a nutshell because I was always occupied with work almost day and night. While all the regiment had its hands full in trying to keep the enemy, who were constantly shooting away at us on account of our small force, at bay. We were compelled to stay where we are. Therefore we threw up entrenchments all along the line which already extends over 30 miles and was occupied by only 8000 men in all. We now laid in trenches all day and night. Ten men from each company were allowed to go to town each day, five in the morning and five in the afternoon. Our wounded are doing fine. The Major is walking around and DeBolt and Rockwell are sitting up but still very sick. During this time we have burned down thousands of homes and have captured all horses and wagons within our reach. We have also taken over eight towns which were all destroyed by heavy shells which Dewey put into them. We also captured the railroad and oarshops at Caloocan. On the evening of the 11th I was sent to town for the first time to get a load of fresh meat out. The next morning I walked the five miles. When I was about two miles from the city I heard five or six shots fired along the road and at the same time I saw an officer riding along and it was him these were intended for but none of them hit him. One Filipino with a revolver in hand came running my way. I fired but missed him but the second bullet went through his heart and down he went. Unfortunately, the revolver was marked U.S. and I had to give it up. We then set fire to all the houses in this section. All told we have lost: killed 65; wounded about 300 and two missing. But the rebel losses are counted by the thousands. Good many of our boys, when found, could hardly be recognized since they had been cut up in a terrible manner. On the 12th we received mail which was delivered in the field. The boys, having no paper or envelopes, wrote on cartridge boxes or anything they could find. I sent several myself. We also have killed hundreds of dogs and cats during the engagement. On the 5th we also lost three horses belonging to our regiment. All told it was simply horrifying after all these battles. This is only what I witnessed myself but all the other regiments had equally the same experience. Many Mausers and Remington rifles were captured and many prisoners were taken, among them some of Aguinaldo’s staff and about 400 Indians which used the old fashioned bow and arrow for weapons. When captured, they were all naked and had to be dressed before bringing them into the walled city where most of our prisoners are kept. Our eight men who were captured some time ago are still held prisoner by the rebels and perhaps tortured to death by this time… During all these days, the weather was terribly hot and we had to carry our water for over a mile and then boil it. But, we had plenty of rations.

Other diaries and the rest of the War

“Aguinaldo and his chief men,” a photograph included in his diary by John E.T. Milsaps, June 9, 1899

William Herman Wilhelm

In contrast to the enlisted men, an officer’s point of view is reflected in the diary of Captain William Herman Wilhelm, a West Point graduate who arrived in the Philippines after the Filipino-American War had already broken out. The Philippine portion of his diary begins on May 27, 1899, when he was first assigned in Pasay, then being transferred to Bacoor, and being nominated for the Medal of Honor after the battle of San Mateo; he went on to serve in Laguna, Pampanga, and Tayabas, ending up fatally wounded in Lipa, Batangas, on June 12, 1901.

Gen. Venancio Concepcion

One of the few, rare glimpses of the war from a Filipino point of view is in the diary of General Venancio Concepcion, who chronicled his detention in the wake of the assassination of General Antonio Luna. The man who interrogated Concepcion’s men, General Gregorio del Pilar, kept a diary which was taken as a war trophy: if it ever resurfaces, it should provide an insight into the man and his times, gauging from the published journal he kept in 1896-97 (as summarized and reproduced by Teodoro M. Kalaw).

Santiago Barcelona, Emilio Aguinaldo, Simeon Villa in captivity in Malacañan Palace, 1901.

The long, extended, death agony of the First Republic is seen through the eyes of Santiago Barcelona, who was the appointed representative of Butuan in the Malolos Congress, and who accompanied President Aguinaldo as he evaded capture by the Americans; and Simeon Villa (father of the noted poet Jose Garcia Villa), who was the physician of Aguinaldo and held the rank of Colonel: he chronicled Aguinaldo’s various escapes from November 1899 to his capture by the Americans in March, 1901.

The era is closed off with the poignant diary of Apolinario Mabini, writing in exile in Guam.

“Manila, Tondo Dist., Dead Filipinos in a yard. This man lay dead near a hydrant where he had apparently been dressing chickens for supper. Uprising of Feb. 22d and 23d in Tondo Dist. Manila. The dead of the 2 photos were in same yard.” From the diary of John E.T. Milsaps, February 22, 1899.