The Philippines and Round About
by G. J. Younghusband
1899

The Capture of Manila, August 13th, 1898

For upwards of three months from the date of his victory Admiral Dewey had to contain his soul in patience awaiting the arrival of troops from America, for the declaration of war found the American army in a state of great unpreparedness. It was contrary alike to the policy, and perhaps even to the intention of the American nation to go to war with a foreign power, the people having become so accustomed to the picturesquely exaggerated language of the newspapers, which had already bluffed them though one or two narrow straits, that they looked on war as an eventuality which, however near to their unfortunate fellow beings on the European Continent, was for them, the free enlightened prophets of a new evangelism, a subject merely for light-hearted banter. That such was not the opinion of the heads of the army itself all who have met the American professional soldier can readily vouch for; but the army and navy of America and their welfare are not in the hands of well-tried sages of the rnilitary and naval services, but are like many other vital matters - the shuttlecocks of political parties.

The American standing army consists of 25,000 men, which theoretically forms the nucleus of that polite fiction which is known as a nation in arms. In such a1n arrangement, combining as it does economy with the practical non-existence of a standing army, no calculation had however been made for the one offchance which has actually occurred, the assumption of offensive operations across the sea. With a couple of army corps required in Cuba and one in the Philippines, it became at once apparent that the regular army could by no possible means of expansion meet the necessary requirements. Recourse had therefore to be had to volunteering; in other words, hurried enlistment of raw recruits, these recruits being invited to join the various cadres of local corps, known in peace time as National Guards. Hastily, however, as these corps were called into being, there appears to have been no difficulty in securing the right stamp of men and in sufficient numbers, for the terms of enlistment were light and the pay good.

Indeed, in most cases the corps were complete in men weeks before their arms or equipment could be issued to them. Without for a moment wishing to criticise too severely a force thus thrown together, under offiicers without standing experience or training, and remembering well what excellent troops men of the same nation were transformed into in the course of a prolonged campaign by leaders like Washington, Lee, or Grant, yet it would be only inviting the Americans to court future disaster if an outside critic were to refrain from expressing an opinion that such troops are not fit under the rapid conditions of modern warfare to meet an army highly organised and highly trained, and ready to take the initiative at a moment's notice.

Of the 2l,000 men who composed the army corps which was finally despatched to the Philippines, 18,000 were in training, tactical efficiency, and shooting power, to all intents and purposes, according to a European standard, raw or almost raw recruits. The uninitiated talk glibly of sending 20,000 men here or 20,000 men there; they settle the port of embarkation; they explain how easy the whole arrangement is, a mere taking of so many tickets on so many accommodating ships which are perfectly ready there and then to voyage anywhere. It is only those who have experienced the immense difficulty of procuring suitable vessels in suitable numbers without prolonged delay who can appreciate the immense strain which falls on a War Department inexperienced in such undertakings. Considering, therefore, that the Philippine Army Corps had practically to be raised, equipped, and despatched as part and parcel of one and the same undertaking, we may consider the landing of the troops on the scene of operations at the end of three months by no means an insignificant success. But, again, we should be doing the Americans an unkindness if we allowed it to be thought that such tardy mobilisation would not put them under the severest disadvantages if their antagonists happened to be any one of the firstclass Powers of the world.

The Philippine Army Corps sailed for the west in four detachments, and as soon as three of these had arrived and had effected an unopposed landing on the shores of Manila Bay, Admiral Dewey and General Merritt considered that the time had now arrived for pressing the Spaniards to capitulate. The sanction of the President of the United States to the proposed movement was received on August 7th, and in pursuance of the instructions received, Admiral Dewey and General Merritt on the noon of that day sent an ultimatum to the Spanish commander, explaining that unless the town capitulated it would be impossible to further postpone the bombardment of the place as a preliminary to a general assault. On the grounds of humanity the American commanders, however, would allow an interval of forty-eight hours to elapse so that the noncombatants might have an opportunity of escaping.

The Spanish Governor, in thanking the Americans for their humane sentiments, pointed out that the city was closely hemmed in by land and sea, and that there was no place of refuge to which the sick and wounded women and children as well as non-combatant men could be removed. At the same time, through the agency of the British Consul, the assistance of the Americans was asked to facilitate the removal of several thousand priests besides the other refugees to American or neutral ships in the harbour, but the Governor failed to suggest how such large numbers of people should be fed on board ship, and certainly the town could stand no strain on its resources. These negotiations, though they had no result, gained for the Spaniards an extension of twenty-four hours' grace over and above the forty- eight hours originally granted.

This brought matters to August 10th, and on the morning of that day the American fleet advanced in order to take part in the combined attack; but at the last moment it was found that the Spaniards had broken the only bridge on that flank whereby a small river could be crossed by the American troops to the attack of Manila. This contretemps threw the operations back three days, during which interval a satisfactory arrangement was arrived at with the Spaniards whereby the town was to be saved from bombardment, and the Americans, after the brief show of resistance which would satisfy Spanish honour, were to be allowed to enter and occupy the place. According to this arrangement the American fleet was for the space of an hour or so to shell the Polverina or Powder Magazine, now more generally known as the Malate Fort, which lies about half-a-mile to the south of the Malate suburb. At the end of the given period the fleet was to cease firing, and the Spanish Governor would then hoist the white flag in token of capitulation, after which the American troops were to enter the town and occupy it.

In pursuance of this arrangement the American fleet opened fire on the Polverina at about g a.nl. on August 13th, and continued to shell that spot for the allotted period, the Spanish troops having previously evacuated it. At the end of the time agreed signals were hoisted to cease firing, and all eyes were turned on the town in search of the white flag, but none was visible. It appeared afterwards that the white flag had been hoisted according to agreement, but unfortunately was so placed as to have a white background, whilst by the direction of the wind the sheet blew straight away from the fleet. After, therefore, allowing a decent interval the American Admiral again opened fire, but almost immediately afterwards the white flag was discovered. Meanwhile, however, the renewal of the fire of the fleet had somewhat puzzled the troops on shore, who thinking thatsome hitch had occurred advanced rather prematurely and came into action with the Spanish troops. The collision resulted in nothing more serious than an unfortunate and unnecessary skirmish in which some sixteen Americans were killed and thirty wounded.

The Spaniards then withdrew along the Camino Real into Manila, and the American troops followed on their heels. Meanwhile the insurgents, the allies of the Americans, who encircled the city at all points except at the actual point of the American impact, as agreed upon, stood still in their trenches facing all round the Spanish outposts. At four o'clock the American flag was hoisted on Fort San Juan and the capitulation was completed. The humane sentiment of the American commanders, who thus, with as little loss of blood as possible on either side, effected the desired end, is much to be commended. But the troops, who apparently knew nothing of the arrangement, were in deadly earnest, and the loiterer in any of the saloons of the city might, many weeks afterwards, draw forth picturesque descriptions of the desperate nature of the encounter. Indeed, in the excess of its zeal one of the volunteer regiments is reported to have fired away the whole of its ammunition, that is to say, 100 rounds per man.

The day did not close, however, before a most regrettable incident occurred. The town had capitulated and the American flag had been hoisted, when an American regiment, standing at ease in quarter column, happened to be drawn up outside one of the bastions ; into this mass of men a Spanish soldier from the bastion fired two rounds at about 100 yards' range and killed two soldiers, and then mixing with his own troops inside the town was never discovered. To protect the town and suburbs from pillage it became necessary for the American troops to take over the outposts, which up till now had been held by the Spaniards, and this precaution had curiously enough to be taken, not against the Spanish party, but against Aguinaldo's troops, who were the allies of the Americans.

During this operation the curious spectacle might be seen of American officers, unarmed, strolling about among the Spanish outpost troops, whilst only a few hundred yards off, still encircling the city, stood the bulk of the late besiegers. The attitude of distrust for their allies naturally raised the bitter resentment of Aguinaldo and his troops, but on the whole it is doubtful whether any other course was open to the Americans, for however well-intentioned Aguinaldo himself and his chief officers might be, their forces were not well enough in hand for them to have completely controlled them had they, in the flush of victory, been allowed to burst into Manila.

Thus ended the second and final phase of the American conquest of the Philippines, for with the fall of Manila fell also the Spanish sovereignty.

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