A SOLDIER IN THE PHILIPPINES
N. N. FREEMAN
F. TENNYSON NEELY CO.
114 Fifth Avenue NEW YORK
96 Queen Street LONDON
Copyright, 1901, by D. L. FREEMAN, in the United States and Great Britain.
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London.
All Rights Reserved.
A SOLDIER IN THE PHILIPPINES.
Needom Freeman, in the United States regular army during the years 1898-1900, was born in the quiet little country village of Barrettsville, Dawson County, Ga., on the 25th of September, 1874.
Many things have been said and written of army life during the Spanish-American war, but usually from the officers' point of view. As a matter of fact the ideas of a private if spoken or written are unbelieved simply because the prestige of office was not attached, and receives but little credit.
The early part of my life was passed in and near the little village of my birth. Working on the farm and attending the village school a few months during the time when farming operations were suspended, consumed about all my time. My father being a poor man with a large family and unable to give his children the benefit of any advanced education, it fell to my lot to receive but little instruction. I was the eighth child in a family of thirteen—five sons and eight daughters.
Having attained the long awaited age of twenty-one, when most young men are buoyant and full of hope and ambition, I turned my thoughts westward, where I hoped to make my fortune. I gathered together my few possessions and proceeded to Texas, arriving at Alvarado, Texas, the second day of November, 1895.
Obtaining employment on a farm, my old occupation was resumed for eighteen weeks, but finding this too commonplace and not fulfilling my desires nor expectations, the farm work was once more given up.
I obtained a position with a wrecking crew on the Santa Fe Railroad. For twelve months I worked with this crew, then gave it up in disgust.
A few weeks' employment in the cotton mills of Dallas, Texas, were sufficient to satisfy me with that sort of work.
I next obtained employment with the street railroad of Dallas, filling the position of motorman, which I held for three months. One night, while with several friends, the subject of enlisting in the army was discussed; this strongly appealed to me, and studying the matter further, I became enthused over the idea. I determined to enlist at once. My position as motorman with the street railroad company was given up. My salary was forty-five dollars a month, as against one-third that amount in the army, but this made little difference to me. I was anxious to be a soldier and live the life of one.
I proceeded to the recruiting office in Dallas to stand an examination, was weighed, then measured all over, every scar was measured, my complexion was noted, my age, place of birth and all about my people were taken. My fingers and toes were twisted and almost pulled off. It occurred to me that possibly my examiners thought my fingers and toes might be artificial. After part of two days' weighing, measuring, finger pulling, toe-twisting and questioning I was pronounced subject and sent to the St. George Hotel, in Dallas, to await further orders. Of twelve applicants who were standing the same examination I was the only successful one. I enlisted under Lieutenant Charles Flammil for a service of three years, unless discharged before the expiration of that time. I was to obey all the orders of my superior officers, which meant every officer from corporal up.
From Dallas I was sent to Fort McIntosh, south-west of Dallas, on the border of Texas and Mexico, on the Rio Grande. My long cherished hope was now being fulfilled. I had from a mere boy had a desire to be one of Uncle Sam's soldiers and fight for my country. I had now entered the service for three years and will let the reader judge for himself whether or not he thinks that I should be satisfied with the service and experience of a soldier.
Fort McIntosh is in Laredo, Texas. Here I was assigned, upon my arrival, to Company A, Twenty-third United States Infantry. I had only been there a few days when Company A was ordered out on a practice march of one hundred and twenty miles. Of course I wanted to go, thinking it would be a picnic. I only had a few days' drilling at the fort, and that was all I ever had, but I was anxious to go on this march with my company, and Goodale, called "Grabby" by the men, had my uniform and necessary equipage issued to me and let me go with the company. I learned during the first days' march its object was not to have a picnic, but just to try us and prepare us for the service we might at any time be called upon to perform. We were to get hardened a little by this practice march.
The second day out we were halted every hour and rested ten minutes. During one of those rests I pulled off my shoes to see what was hurting my feet. I found on each of my heels a large blister and several small ones. A non-commissioned officer saw the condition of my feet and ordered me into the ambulance. I was afraid the soldiers would laugh at me for falling out. First I hesitated, but very soon I had plenty of company in the ambulance.
The march was through a rough country, the roads were very bad, and travel was difficult. Twenty miles a day through chaparral bushes and cactus is a good day's march for soldiers, with all their equipage. The infantryman carried a rifle, belt, haversack and canteen. Tents were pitched every night and guards stationed around the camp to keep away prowling Mexicans and others who would steal the provisions of the camp. Tents were struck at morning and everything put in readiness for the day's march. The company was out fifteen days on that practice march across the plains. Four days, however, were really holidays. We spent them hunting and fishing. Fish and game were plentiful. A few deer were to be found, but ducks and blue quail were the principal game. The company returned to Fort McIntosh on the third of December.
I had to be drilled as a recruit; never having had any military training, everything was new to me. I was drilled hard for a month before I was assigned to the company for duty. That month's drill was very hard.
After I was assigned for duty I learned something new about military affairs every day for a year. The manner of all the drill masters was very objectionable to me at first; I did not like the way they spoke to a soldier and gave commands, which, if disobeyed, punishment was inflicted. The month I drilled as a recruit by myself I was under Sergeant Robert Scott of my company. During that time I thought Sergeant Scott the most unkind man I had ever seen. He looked ugly and talked harshly. I thought he meant every word he said. After I learned how the commands were given and was taught how to execute them, it seemed very simple and then I was assigned for duty.
When my time came to serve on guard duty I did not understand the "general orders" and "special orders." I went on guard perfectly bewildered with the instructions given me about my duties.
I did not know what to do. I watched for the officer of the day to make his round and give orders every day and night.
Two hours' duty on post was the time we stood guard before being relieved by the proper authority. If a man is caught sitting down while on duty he is severely punished by being placed in the guard house, and sentenced to hard labor for a long time. Sometimes the labor sentence runs as high as six months or more, according to the gravity of the offense.
I was very careful not to get in the guard house or miss roll call, having to pay fines or working hard all day with a sentry over me.
Every soldier had to be on his bunk at eleven o'clock at night; his check was taken and delivered to the officer of the day. Nine o'clock was bed time, but the checks were not taken up until eleven. The first call of the morning was sounded at a quarter before six, when we must answer to reveille, followed by a drilling exercise of fifteen minutes. After breakfast every soldier had to sweep under his bunk and prepare it and himself for inspection, which took place after drill hour, which was from eight to nine o'clock.
A gymnastic drill of thirty minutes each day, except Saturday and Sunday, was given the company for a month, then for three months this was omitted, then another month's drill was given us, and then the same intermission; thus we had them alternately the whole year.
The Sabbath receives but little notice in the army. All duties went on just as any other day.
Several hours every day were unoccupied by the soldier's duties. The men could amuse themselves during these hours by reading newspapers and books, as a very good library was at hand. Aside from reading were such amusements as billiards, cards and music. These became monotonous and disgusting to me, and in less than two months I would have gladly given up my position, but I was in for three years, and had to stay and make the best of it.
The Christmas holidays were delightful indeed for soldiers, no tasks to perform for one whole week, except guard duty. The week was spent in gambling and revelry.
All other holidays meant hard work all day for soldiers; usually they were days of celebrating some event in the history of our country or some man must be honored, and homage paid to his memory. The soldiers on these occasions had to parade and march along the streets all day. Every holiday, except that of Christmas, was a dreaded day to soldiers.
April first, 1898, my company was ordered out on the target range for practice. We had had but little practice, only being there six days when orders were received to prepare to leave our post at a moment's notice. Those were memorable days. History was being added to, or rather made, almost daily. Every one was talking of war with Spain, its results and possibilities. Our camp was in a commotion, expecting war to be declared at once. Everything was put in readiness for marching. In this condition we remained until April seventeenth, when orders came at last for the Twenty-third to proceed to New Orleans.
The city of Laredo gave our regiment a grand banquet before we left there. Every man, woman and child, apparently, who could get out to see us off, turned out.
The Twenty-third Regiment had been stationed at Laredo for eight years, and during this time great attachment had been formed between the soldiers and citizens. From Laredo to San Antonio was a long run, attended by nothing of interest. At San Antonio the citizens demonstrated their patriotism and hospitality by having a grand banquet awaiting our arrival. Every man seemed to have a good time while there. Before our train left, the citizens put several kegs of beer in every car. This was appreciated very much, as beer seems to be a soldier's favorite beverage, and one that he will have if he has money and is where it can be bought. A soldier rarely refuses beer when offered to him.
From San Antonio a run of forty hours carried us into New Orleans on April nineteenth.
For a month we were there on guard duty. The majority of the regiment seemed to enjoy their stay in New Orleans, but for me it was anything but enjoyment.
The citizens were very kind to all soldiers, and seemed to regard them very highly; when one went into the city he was generally given all the beer he wished to drink, and made to feel welcome.
Soldiers care very little for anything, and do not seem to care very much for themselves or for each other. They know that the responsibility rests upon the officers, and that food and clothing will be furnished as long as they are in the army. When a soldier draws his pay, usually the first thing he looks for is some place to gamble and get rid of his money in a few minutes, then he can be content. He is restless as long as he has a dollar, and must gamble or take some friends to a saloon and drink it up, then go away drunk.
If one man has any money and expects to keep it he must not let others know of it, for they will expect him to spend it for all. Generally when one man has any money it is free to all, and it is enjoyed as long as it lasts. Soldiers are very generous and good-natured men; if not that way at first they become so before a service of three years expires.
Army life is dangerous to the morals of many young men. They will take up some bad habits if they have not power and determination to control themselves. It is very easy for a man, especially a young man, to take up some bad habits and lead a different life altogether in a short time after he becomes a soldier. A man soon learns to drink and to gamble, although he may have known nothing of these vices before his enlistment. I thought that a soldier's life would suit me, but after a service of three years I can truthfully state that it was not what I desired. Life in camps at one place a little while, then at another place, winter and summer, rain, sleet and snow, with twenty men in one wall tent, is very disagreeable, unhealthy and unpleasant. I spent one month in camp in New Orleans during the hot weather, and all the pleasure I had there was fighting mosquitoes. We had a fierce battle with them every night.
My regiment had all the service at New Orleans they wanted in the line of guard and special duty. Four hours of hard drilling five mornings in each week, special duty in the afternoon, then half of every night fighting mosquitoes. May was very hot. I believe that the battalion and skirmish drills, without stopping to rest or to get water, were very injurious to the soldiers.
I know that they injured my feelings very much.
I was a private in Company "A," Captain Goodale in command. I thought a great deal of my captain; he was a good officer, and was soon promoted to major of the 23d Regiment, and commanded it for several months. He was then promoted to a lieutenant-colonel and assigned to duty with the Third Infantry, then in the Philippines. After he set out to join his new regiment I never saw him again. He was the first captain I served under.
Soldiers who served under good officers were fortunate, but if they had bad ones they were soon in trouble and had a hard service. A son of Lieutenant-Colonel Goodale, who was a lieutenant, was placed in command of Company "A." He, like his father, was a good officer, and soon won the confidence and esteem of his company.
After the declaration of war between the United States and Spain, the 23d Regiment was recruited to its full quota of one hundred men for each of twelve companies. Four new companies had to be formed, which were called, at first, skeleton companies, because they only had a few men transferred to them from the old ones.
Non-commissioned officers were transferred to the new companies and placed in charge of the recruits, to drill and prepare them for duty.
Drilling recruits is hard work, and all the officers avoided it as much as possible. From the 20th of April to the 24th of May we had nothing but drill.
When Admiral Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, orders were sent to the 23d Regiment to proceed at once to San Francisco. It will be remembered that we had gone to New Orleans under orders directing our regiment to Cuba, but everything had changed so suddenly that we were ordered to San Francisco to be in readiness to go to the Philippines.
The orders from the War Department were received by Colonel French on the night of the 23d of May.
The following day everything was put in readiness for leaving for San Francisco, but to hasten preparations all our tents were struck at 4 o'clock in the evening. Soon afterwards it commenced raining for the first time during our stay at New Orleans. Our tents were down and we had no place to shelter and pass the night. We were ready to leave next morning. I never saw so many wet soldiers before. I was on guard and saw two hundred men or more go into stables that were near our camp. We were camping in the race track of the city fair grounds, which were surrounded by a great many stables. This was rough fare, and I could not say whether the men slept or killed mosquitoes. One thing I know beyond question: I saw the toughest, sleepiest looking lot of men next morning that I had yet seen in my military service. They all seemed to have colds. To add to our discomfort all the rations had been boxed and marked for shipping, and we were without food for breakfast. Those who had any money were allowed to go out and buy something to eat. It is plain that if a man had no money he went without breakfast.
The men were all formed in line with gun, belt and knapsack, and were kept standing ready to march at the command, until one o'clock in the evening before taking up the march of three miles to the railroad station. We marched through the city and to the station without a halt. It seemed to me the hottest day I ever knew. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since I had eaten, and I think my condition was no worse than that of the whole regiment, with but very few exceptions.
We were in the city of New Orleans, and rations were plentiful, but it seemed they were scarce for us. This, however, was only the beginning of what we were to get accustomed to in a few months.
At two o'clock on the 25th day of May, our regiment boarded the cars of the Southern Pacific Railroad and set out on its journey for San Francisco. The regiment was divided into three sections for the journey, which was made in six days.
The rations issued to us on this journey consisted of hard tack, canned tomatoes, canned salmon, and last, but not least, nor more desirable, canned horse meat. To use a soldier's expression, such "grub" is almost enough to make a man sick to look at, but this made no difference, we had to eat it.
I have seen a few people who seemed to think soldiers were not human beings like other people. They thought they could endure anything and would eat any kind of stuff for rations.
While eating supper one evening in our camp at New Orleans, the men were seated in their usual manner on the open ground grouped around their mess kits containing their rations; a young lady with her escort was passing through the camp and observing the men eating supper, remarked to her companion that the soldiers looked like men.
She had possibly never seen a soldier before.
At another time a man with two small boys were looking over our camp and talking about the soldiers, when one of the little boys noticing the soldiers eating, and seeming to be interested in their manner of eating, said: "Papa, will soldiers eat hay?" His youthful curiosity appeared to be fully satisfied by the father answering: "Yes, if whiskey is put on it."
Crowds of people were out at every city and town we passed through awaiting our arrival. Some had bouquets of beautiful flowers for the soldiers containing notes of kind words and wishes, and signed by the giver. Some gave us small baskets of nicely prepared rations. These were what suited us most, and were very highly appreciated by every one who was fortunate enough to get one.
Our train passed through many places without stopping. We saw crowds of people at those places with bouquets and various gifts of kindness and appreciation which they had no opportunity to give us. Whenever our train stopped it would only be for a few minutes, and there was only time enough to receive the little tokens of kindness and good will, exchange a very few words, and we would again be off.
Traveling through western Texas and the plains of New Mexico is very mountainous and lonely. Villages of prairie dogs here and there seem to be about all the living things that the traveler sees. These little animals burrow deep in the ground, thousands of them close together, and this is why it is called a prairie dog town. I was told that these little dogs live mostly on roots and drink no water. I give this as it was told me, and do not know how true it is. One thing which I noticed was that we would travel two or three hundred miles and not see any water courses.
The section that I was with was detained about three hours at El Paso, Texas, on account of some trouble on the road ahead of us. Many of us took advantage of this to look about the city. A considerable change of temperature was noted, it being much cooler than at New Orleans. Before the next morning we were passing through New Mexico. It was cold enough to wear an overcoat, but as we only had blankets every man had one drawn close around him, and was then shivering with cold. This cold weather continued until the Rocky Mountains were crossed, and we began to descend the Pacific Slope.
Crossing the deserts of Arizona was disagreeable. The white sand from a distance looks like snow, and is so dry and light that it is lifted about by the wind. Some places it will drift several feet deep. The railroad company kept men employed all the time shoveling sand from the track. Nothing but some scattering, scrubby bushes grows in the deserts. Almost any time looking from the cars there seems to be smoke away off in the distance. This is nothing but the dry sand being blown about by the wind.
Where the railroad crossed the deserts they are from one hundred and fifty to two hundred miles wide.
The first place we stopped after crossing the Rocky Mountains was in the city of Los Angeles, California. The good people of Los Angeles had a bountiful supply of oranges and other nice fruit, which were given to the soldiers, who enjoyed them very much. Some towns where we stopped the citizens would put two or three crates of oranges in every car of our train.
The country was beautiful, orange groves and orchards of different kinds were numerous and fine.
California is the most beautiful country I have seen in my travels from Georgia to the Philippine Islands.
The Oakland Ferry was reached about ten o'clock on the morning of the first day of June. Our regiment commenced to cross at once over to San Francisco. A detail was left to take our supplies from the train and load them on boats, all the balance of the regiment going across. My first sergeant was unfriendly to me and included me in the detail as a mark of disrespect to me, although it was not my time to be placed on detail duty according to the system of rotating that duty.
Our detail worked very hard for about two hours and seeing no prospect of dinner we crossed over into San Francisco to find something to eat. We found our regiment just ready to enjoy a grand banquet prepared by the Red Cross Society. It was prepared near the piers in a long stone building; long tables were piled full of all that a crowd of hungry soldiers could wish for, excellent music was furnished while we did full justice to the feast before us. The Red Cross has spent a great deal of money since the commencement of the Spanish-American war; it has accomplished much toward softening the horrors of war by caring for the sick and wounded, providing medicines and necessaries for their relief, and doing many charitable acts too numerous to be enumerated here. Many men to-day enjoying health and strength were rescued from what must have been an untimely grave had not the work of the Red Cross come to their relief when sick or wounded. The army physician frequently was a heartless, and apparently indifferent man about the ills of his patients. While at Camp Merritt I was sick for a month. The physician pronounced the malady fever; he did not seem to care about my recovery or that of any other man; his chief concern seemed to be that of obtaining his salary of one hundred and twenty-five dollars per month. Beyond this his interest seemed to cease, and if a sick soldier recovered he was considered lucky.
There were many sick men in Camp Merritt in the months of June and July. We were stationed there for five months.
Twenty-five men, myself included, volunteered to be transferred from Company "A" to Company "E." This transfer was made on the sixth of June, and was done to fill up Company "E" to its full quota for the purpose of going to Manila on the transport Colon, which was to leave San Francisco on the fifteenth of June.
My company, now Company "E," was being prepared by Captain Pratt, and was drilling for the last time in the United States before going to Manila. I unfortunately became ill and had to be left at Camp Merritt to go over later. It was sad news to me, for I wanted to go over with this expedition.
One battalion of the 23d Regiment was left at Camp Merritt, which included my old company, to which I was assigned. We stayed at Camp Merritt until about the middle of August, when orders were received to go to Manila. By the time everything was packed and ready to strike tents a second order was received, not to go to Manila, but to go to Presidio, in San Francisco, and await further orders. About the 10th of October, to our great joy, orders were read out at parade in the evening, that we would start to Manila on the seventeenth. The men were so glad they threw up their hats and shouted for joy. We were glad to leave the cold, foggy and disagreeable climate of San Francisco, and delighted that we were going to Manila, which was then the central battle field.
The bad climate, incidentally mentioned, of San Francisco seemed to be only local, extending along the coast for only a few miles.
I have been in San Francisco when it was cold enough to wear an overcoat, and going across the bay to Oakland it was warm enough for a man to be comfortable in his shirt sleeves. The distance between these two points is only six miles. The native citizens of San Francisco, and those who have been residents for many years and accustomed to the damp, foggy atmosphere, are very healthy.
But this climate was very detrimental to the soldiers in Camp Merritt, and fatal to many.
While stationed in Camp Merritt I spent a great deal of time in the San Francisco park, which contained one thousand acres of land.
A great variety of wild animals and many different kinds of birds were there, and I found in it a great deal of interest and amusement. Crowds of people were there every night. Many people were there for the purpose of committing some crime. People were frequently being sandbagged and robbed, or sometimes boldly held up, and money and valuables secured.
I knew a great many soldiers who were robbed, sometimes they received bruised heads just by loafing in the park at night.
No reflection is intended to be cast upon the police whose duty was in the park; there were a great many of them, but they did not know all that was being done in the park, and it was necessary for a man to keep a sharp lookout for himself if he wished to escape uninjured.
The date of our departure the Red Cross gave a fine dinner for all who were going to leave the camp. This was the custom with that society when any soldiers left there for the Philippines.
All those who left while I was there partook of a splendid dinner just before leaving.
This society, in addition to the dinner given to us, had several hundred dollars worth of provisions put on board our transport, and all marked, "For enlisted men only on deck."
At three o'clock in the afternoon of the seventeenth day of October, 1898, we sailed on board the transport "Senator." The provisions put on board for us were well cared for—by the officers, who took charge of them and guarded them so well that if an enlisted man got any of them, he had to steal them from under a guard. Actually had to steal what belonged to him by gift, and if caught stealing them he was court martialed, and fined enough to buy his rations for a month, but the fine money was not appropriated in that way.
We had a rough voyage, not on account of the weather, but because the transport was so packed and crowded that a man did well to walk from one end of the ship to the other. We were crowded like a cargo of animals bound for a slaughter pen.
A private may think all or anything he pleases, but he does not have an opportunity to say very much about anything. He must obey the commands of his officers.
Our officers on the transport had everything to suit themselves, and the private had to do the best he could and try to be satisfied, or at least appear that way.
It would take two-thirds of the deck for half a dozen officers to have room. They thought themselves so superior to the privates they did not want to be near them. Our ship had fifteen hundred men on board.
We reached the port of Honolulu, after several days' sailing on rough seas, October twenty-fifth; five days were taken to coal for our long voyage to Manila. Honolulu is a fine city, about 2,190 miles from San Francisco. Located as it is, away out in the Pacific Ocean, makes it the more attractive to a Georgia soldier who was on his first sea voyage. There are some fine views in and around Honolulu. As our transport steamed into the harbor of the city I thought it a grand sight. From what I could learn I had but one objection to it as a desirable place to live—leprosy is too prevalent. A small island is used for the lepers' home, where all who are afflicted with this most loathsome of diseases are carried, yet the fact that those poor victims are in that country is a disagreeable one and makes one shudder to look at the island. No one is allowed to go there, except on business, and they have to get passes from the authorities to do so. I had no desire to visit the place.
Honolulu is a very good city, with some of the modern city improvements, such as water works, electric lights, street railroads and ice factories. These are the results of emigration, people of other countries going in with money and experience. The natives are called Kanakis. Agriculture consists in the cultivation of rice, bananas, cocoanuts and coffee. It was there where I first saw bananas, cocoanuts and coffee growing. A lieutenant, with about twenty-five men, including myself, went out about six miles along the beach. We went to the Diamond Head, six miles eastward from Honolulu. This is an old crater of an extinct volcano. Returning to the beach we went in bathing and enjoyed it very much.
Our party had to get passes and present them to guards on going out and returning. Our transport having coaled and made all the necessary preparations for the voyage to Manila, we went on board and sailed about four o'clock in the afternoon of October the thirtieth. But few of the soldiers had been sea-sick before arriving at Honolulu, but after leaving there many of them were ill for several days.
I think that the native drink called swipes was the cause of much of it. This had been very freely imbibed by the soldiers. It is a peculiar beverage, producing a drunkenness that lasted several days. Some of the men getting over a drunk on this stuff, by taking a drink of water would again be drunk. I escaped sea-sickness and, but for the fact that we were living on the transport like pigs in a crowded pen, I would have gone over comfortably and would have enjoyed the voyage.
Our rations were very poor, scarcely fit for hogs to eat. They consisted of a stewed stuff of beef scraps, called by the men "slum;" prunes, hard tack and colored hot water for coffee. Once a week we had a change from this of salmon or cod fish. I believe those who shared this food stuff with me on this voyage will bear me out in the statement that it was tough fare.
The soldiers were not alone on board—there were other passengers who seemed to dispute our possession and waged war on us both day and night. These belligerents were known as "gray backs," some of them being nearly one-fourth of an inch long and very troublesome. Clothing and everything else seemed to be full of them.
I have seen soldiers pick them off of their bodies and clothing and kill them before the men went to bed, hoping to get rid of them and get to sleep.
I have seen several times almost the whole body of soldiers on board sick and vomiting. There was something peculiar about this sickness. Nevertheless, it was true; the men were fed on rotten prunes and fruit, which, after nearly all the supply was consumed, was found by our surgeon to be full of worms. This had been the cause of so much sickness. By refusing to eat this rotten stuff myself I was not ill.
About half way between Honolulu and Manila an active volcano was passed about four o'clock in the morning. Everybody went out on deck to see this great sight. Although it was raining at the time the men stood out in it to see this remarkable spectacle. It had the appearance of a round hill sticking out of the water, the whole top burning and falling in.
The most interesting sight I ever beheld was in the China Sea. One evening, just before dark, when the sea was rough and black, threatening clouds were hovering over us, lightning shooting its fiery bolts across their path, and every indication pointed to one of those fearful typhoons for which the China Sea is noted. The crew had closed all the port holes and hatchways preparatory for the storm, which was believed to be fast approaching. While yet on deck with a number of soldiers, who were looking across the surface of the rough waters, there suddenly appeared in the water an object that looked like a woman; it had long hair just like a woman; the upper part of its body was like a woman, and to all appearances was a woman. It rose about half out of the water and sank back. Three times it did this and disappeared. I learned that this strange sea animal was a mermaid, and that they are seen during such stormy weather as we were then experiencing.
Another very interesting sea animal is the porpoise. It is shaped something like a fish, except the head, which looks like that of a hog. They will follow a ship in droves, swimming near the surface of the water and jumping out of the water and diving down like fish playing.
I have seen many living things in water, some of which were very interesting looking that I never heard any name for. A very strange, helpless-looking object is the star fish. They are often left by the tide on the beach and are perfectly helpless until another tide carries them back. A flying fish fell on deck of the transport and was picked up, greatly exciting our curiosity. This strange little animal never gets more than a few inches long. These fish go in schools; sometimes a school is so large that it covers half an acre or more, skipping or flying along on the surface of the water sometimes one hundred yards before striking the water again. I had in my hands the one that fell on our deck and examined it with a great deal of curiosity. It had a pair of small wings and was very beautiful.
The jelly fish does not look very clean and nice. The largest one I ever saw was eighteen inches thick and looked like a mass of jelly and was hard in the center. These fish are of two colors, white and black. They can sting when they touch the naked body and give as much pain as the sting of a yellow jacket.
I have been in the water bathing and one of them would sting me, making a great, red, burning spot. I have seen sea serpents, but was never close to one where I could see it plainly. They seem to be very easily frightened, and I only saw them on the surface of the water at some distance. They are very large snakes with black spots.
The men on our transport were interested in a flock of sea gulls, which to us appeared to be the same birds following our vessel to pick up the scraps thrown overboard. I could see them any day and I therefore believed they were the same sea gulls. They can fly farther than any other bird.
We arrived in Manila Bay November twenty-second, and anchored about two miles out from the piers of the city. The view was delightful to all on board, especially the soldiers. We were happy and jokes were freely passed around. We were once more to be on land and what person would not be happy over this thought after so long a voyage over the great waters of the Pacific?
Five days we had to wait before quarters could be obtained and we could land. I was very anxious to get away from that transport, which to me was worse than a jail. I never was jailed in my life, but I believe that two months' imprisonment would have been more pleasant than the time I was on board that ship. Finally we were landed at a point just below the Bridge of Spain and marched into the walled city of Manila. It will be remembered that a portion of the Twenty-third Regiment had preceded us a few months. Our landing would reunite the regiment, and to celebrate the occasion that portion of it that went over first had a banquet dinner prepared for our arrival. It was a memorable occasion long to be cherished by my division of the regiment. After such disgusting food as we had had since leaving San Francisco we appreciated the elegant feast and plenty of Manila wine that was set before us. This latter portion of the regiment did full justice to the occasion, both provisions and wine, which was excellent. We stayed in the city and performed guard duty for a few months. It was of the hardest sort all the time that we were in the Philippines. It was performed day and night part of the time.
We had "running guard," which was day and night, but this would not continue more than a week at one time. Manila was then a dangerous place for Americans and our guard and patrol duty was desperate work.
All the citizens of Manila were our enemies as long as the Spanish soldiers remained in the city; when they were sent back to Spain conditions improved immediately.
No one was permitted to go out of the city. The citizens were allowed, at intervals of several days, to pass out through the sally ports of the wall and take two hours' exercise in the Lunetta, which is the favorite outing grounds of Manila, and a place for executing insurgents. This was a privilege not often granted, and when the people were thus indulged they had to be back on time.
Aguinaldo, with his army, was just outside of Manila from the time the Americans captured it until his attempt to enter and capture the city from the Americans. This attempt was made on the night of February ninth, the first demonstration indicating his intentions being made about nine o'clock in the night. The Filipinos attempted to enter through the sally ports and were promptly discovered by the guards, who commanded a halt. The command was not obeyed and the guards fired upon them. This seemed to be the signal for a general engagement by the Filipinos. The Nebraska Volunteers were the first to receive the attack of the enemy. At once the battle became furious and continued for several days and nights. The enemy was making a desperate and determined effort to enter the city, but failed, and were finally driven back to a position where they could be easier handled by our forces. After about ten days' fighting the Americans threw up works and entrenched themselves and waited for re-enforcements before taking the offensive. The American forces numbered ten thousand in the city and the enemy's forces were estimated at sixty thousand. The American lines were getting too long and weak to risk an attack and we held our position and waited for re-enforcements to arrive. During this time the Filipino prisoners were closely guarded and forced to bury their dead. Five days were occupied in this work of picking up and burying the dead Filipinos. The number of their dead is unknown, but must have been large. It was reported that five hundred Filipinos were buried in one day. It was also reported that eighty Americans were killed in one night.
I shall never forget that night attack; I was one of three men on guard in the Spanish hospital. This was a very dangerous post at any time, but on an occasion like that it was more so. Three hundred Filipinos were in the hospital, about one hundred prisoners and about sixty Spanish women. All the hospital corps of attendants were armed with some kind of weapon, usually a knife. When the attack was made on the guards at the wall and the firing commenced, I was sitting in a chair and almost asleep from exhaustion and continued guard duty. A Spanish woman in the top story of the hospital heard the firing. She ran down to where I was sitting, took me by the shoulders and was shaking me vigorously when I first realized what was taking place. She was very much excited and jabbered at me in Spanish, which I had no knowledge of and did not understand one word she said. When she saw that she could not make me understand her Spanish she went away. I heard the firing and knew that an attack was being made. The Filipinos in that hospital would have met with little resistance from only three guards had they made a dash for liberty. They could have easily passed out through the unlocked doors while we could have killed a few. After gaining the outside they could have given assistance to their comrades, and in the darkness of the night set fire to the city and made our situation a desperate one indeed. The Filipinos knew the city much better than the Americans and had Aguinaldo been possessed with the nerve and ability he could have entered with his superior numbers and captured the city. The Filipinos, however, gave the Americans some hard fighting before the enemy's forces were scattered over the island of Luzon. After the Filipinos were scattered they divided into small bands, which marched over the island burning and destroying. One of the bands when run upon by the Americans would give them a short desperate fight and flee to the hills in safety. Frequently it happened that a squad of American soldiers would be outnumbered by a band of the enemy, and it was then the Americans turned to run into Manila for safety.
A great many of the native business men, both employers and employees, stayed in Manila after it was captured and carried on their business. Many of these were a menace to the safety and the authority of the Americans. All the arms and ammunition and dynamite that could be obtained by them were hidden away. They banded together to do all the mischief possible, but our guards were too clever for the Filipinos and always detected their schemes and plots before they could be carried out. It was believed that the men inside of the city were working with the enemy outside for an outbreak. Aguinaldo would engage the attention of the Americans and these treacherous Filipinos and Spaniards inside would do a great deal of mischief before being discovered.
Therefore, in the face of all this, much depended on the efficiency of our guard duty. Guards were on duty in all parts of the city, in church towers and every place that would give any advantage in keeping a lookout for any indications of trouble.
Before Aguinaldo's attempt to enter Manila the friendly natives outside the city were suffering from a fatal epidemic of some character, apparently so, judging by the number of caskets taken outside. This continued for several days; one or two caskets every day were allowed to pass out by the guards, although orders were issued to search all boxes, trunks and baggage; yet these caskets were allowed to pass through unmolested for about fifteen days. Finally the guard's suspicion was aroused by these frequent burials and it was decided to open a casket, which was packed full of Mauser rifles. This ended the funerals outside. This demonstrates the trickery and smuggling schemes of these people.
I have known prisoners to escape by exchanging clothing with their wives, who were permitted to visit their husbands in jail, the man passing out and leaving the woman in prison. A great many prisoners escaped in this way before the scheme was discovered.
Dummy guns and soldiers were placed in forts in a manner to deceive Americans as to the strength of the works, but the Americans were not to be bluffed so easily and this scheme was worthless.
Almost the whole American force was on the streets of Manila watching and expecting an attack for two weeks before it was made. We were always prepared to fight. We had to keep our clothes on all the time and our guns and belts by our side. I did not have more than fifteen nights' rest from the 20th of January to the 24th of May. Frequently we would just get on our bunk when a call to arms would be given; every man would rush out in a hurry and sometimes had to march four or five miles, before stopping, through rain and wind, or whatever weather we might be called out in. There we would stay the balance of the night. If we wanted to lie down we only had one blanket to put on the wet ground. Every man had to look out for himself and get the best place he could.
We would only be in a few hours from one march until orders would be received to march to some other dangerous point; it appeared that we were only marched back to the city to take a bath and change clothing, which we needed.
I believe these marches in the night or day, in the hot climate of that country, lying on the wet ground sometimes every night for two weeks, has killed more men than were ever killed by the Filipinos. Those who never died from the exposure died from the kind of rations they ate out on the lines. It has been a mystery to me how I ever reached America again. I have been through everything and have seen as hard service as any soldier in the Philippines, and have eaten as hard grub as any of them ever ate.
I believe the Twenty-third had call to arms no less than twenty-five times. Every time we thought a fight was on hand and we would see some fun with the Filipinos. Whenever we got them started to running, which most always was easily done, then the fun was on. We were sent out a great many times to guard some town from the enemy's torch.
Company "E," of the Twenty-third, was detailed to guard the first reserve hospital in Manila and was on duty ten days. The officers feared that enough of the enemy would slip through the lines to enter the hospital and commit many depredations and kill the wounded Americans, so we were detailed to guard it and walk the streets and hold up every vehicle of the Filipinos and search them for arms and ammunition. This holding up and searching gave the sentries all they wanted to do. All the time we were there on duty we could not leave without permission. We laid about in the hot sun in the day time and at night on the ground. Some of the soldiers pulled grass and made beds to sleep on the side of the streets.
The only thing to help pass the time while on this duty was to go through the hospital and look at the wounded, some with arms off, others with a leg gone, while there were men wounded in almost every imaginable way to be living. Some would get well when it looked almost impossible for them to recover. I have seen thirty to forty wounded piled in a box car and sent into Manila, where they were put on a boat and carried up the Pasig river to the hospital. They were taken from the boat and put in a cold place till the doctor puts them on the operating table and handles them like a butcher handling a beef. Almost every day women and children were brought in with burned hands and feet, the Filipinos burning every town which they thought was about to be captured, and the women and children suffered; doubtless, many were burned to death.
Fire is a dangerous resort of the Filipino. About one hundred got through the lines into Manila and made an effort to burn the city, but the promptness of the Americans saved it, only five blocks being burned. The soldiers were kept busy guarding the negroes and keeping them away from the buildings. Big stores were burning and the fire department was too poor to save them; the proprietors told the soldiers to go in and get anything they wanted.
While the fire department was doing all it could to save the city and sneaking Filipinos were hindering the department all they could by cutting the hose. They would assemble in crowds and then the hose was cut; every one caught in this act was shot down on the spot. Six or seven were thus punished that night. It was an exciting time and looked as if Manila would be burned in spite of all our efforts to save her. The Twenty-third Regiment did guard duty all night on the west side of the city. The enemy, failing to burn Manila, fired a little bamboo village outside; the bursting bamboos could be easily heard by us. The noise was just like that of guns and the Filipinos took advantage of this noise to shoot at us in the city. They would get behind the light of the burning village and when an American could be seen in the light of the burning houses in Manila he was shot at. This was kept up all night. Our great trouble was to distinguish between the noise of the bursting bamboos and the report of a Mauser rifle. The noise of bursting bamboos could be heard three and four miles, some of them not much unlike a six-inch gun, and the reports from a burning bamboo village was almost a reproduction of a battle and would last several hours.
After guarding the burning district of the city all night we returned to guard duty at the hospital. Orders were received to march to the firing line at San Pedro Macati. We marched there on the first day of March and stayed till the tenth. We were in trenches at the front; our provisions were more than half a mile at the rear and details were made out each day to bring up provisions to the men in the works. These details were fired at in going and coming by the Filipinos, but their fire was ineffective, owing to their distance from us, until the detail neared the trenches, where the distance was not so great, and it was very dangerous. Some were wounded.
A man behind the works could not get out for a few minutes' exercise without being fired at, and if he did not get under cover soon they would get him. I have seen many men shot that way; they thought the Filipinos could not shoot. I have seen some fine marksmen among them. They could do some good shooting until they became excited and fled for some place of safety.
I have seen squads of Filipinos come near our trenches and open fire on us. A squad of Americans with their arms would jump out of the trenches and start towards them and they would soon disappear like so many frightened deer. I was in a squad of soldiers who ran three Filipinos for two miles. They were shot at several times, but got away.
We were out ten days and had two engagements; we had a very hard time on this excursion. Water was hauled two miles and a half on a two-wheeled vehicle, in old vessels holding four or five gallons. By the time we could get to the kitchens about half of it would be spilled.
Buffaloes were used like oxen in this country. They were much larger, however, of a dark brown color and very easily frightened. When one started to run away no man could hold it. I have seen them run as fast as a good horse. Their horns were of immense size and flat, considerably extended. They generally did not turn aside for smaller objects when running away. On one occasion I saw one run against a stone building, knocking himself down. He arose and ran on as fast as before. Those that run at large will get in the water where it will cover them and stand with their noses out for half a day.
The fourth day out at San Pedro Macati we had a bush skirmish and some hard fighting for about two hours.
This was my first fighting and I have to confess to being a little frightened this time, but kept my nerve on all other occasions. We ran them back from the trenches and out of sight. They were not to be seen even by the aid of field glasses any more that day. We could not estimate the number of killed, as they left none on the field.
The first sergeant of my company was slightly wounded in the chest by a spent ball, from which he recovered in a few days. I was near him and heard the bullet strike him; it almost felled him. This was the first soldier I saw wounded.
The way the bullets were coming I thought every one of us would be killed, but no one was shot except the one just mentioned. Out-posts were always stationed two hundred yards or more from camp every night, or in front of our trenches, to prevent a night attack. If the enemy started through our picket lines they were fired on by the pickets, who would then rapidly fall back to our lines of trenches. This out-post duty is very important and very dangerous, especially when the sneaking Filipinos were in the community.
Many nights the Americans would be aroused from their slumbers by the enemy's attacks and efforts to surprise them, and we would lie in our trenches and fire on them till they left. The enemy would be stationed on an opposite hill and they would sometimes get very close to our out-posts, who could see them moving about and talking and hear them walking in the leaves and underbrush. Our sentinels had orders not to fire on them unless they made an attack, when the sentinels fired and got back into the trenches as quickly as possible to escape being killed by our own men.
They violated the custom of the white flag frequently. A party of six or eight would leave their lines with a white flag and advance a little and wave the flag. A party of Americans would start to meet them.
Every time the Americans stopped the Filipinos stopped. They tried to get our men as near them as possible and when they thought they could get our men no nearer they would seize their rifles, which they would have concealed behind them, and fire on our soldiers. Their scheme evidently was to kill all the officers they could, but they only succeeded in killing two, as far as came to my knowledge. After a few attempts of this kind they were fired on regardless of their white flag scheme.
While at San Pedro Macati the First Colorado Volunteers would go out and sleep all night on the hill-top. Some one was killed, or wounded, every night this was done. But few Americans were killed before the advance was made on the enemy. A strong post was taken and many Filipinos killed and captured. Ninety were captured in one little bamboo village of a dozen houses. This was the morning of March tenth. That evening orders were received to return to Manila. We had been in the trenches the greater part of the ten days at San Pedro Macati, and had two engagements, one the fourth and one the tenth of March.
We set out on the return to Manila late in the evening of March tenth. We had a march of six miles to make. A heavy rain drenched the soldiers, reaching the walled city of Manila about eleven o'clock that night.
After a few days' rest Company "E" of the Twenty-third went up the Pasig river on cascos to Laguna de Bay, a distance of fifty miles from Manila. This is a body of fresh water twenty miles wide and sixty miles long, and deep enough to float a large steamer.
A gun boat, which stayed there in the bay, and of the same name, was boarded by a part of our soldiers and steamed up the bay for the purpose of capturing Santa Cruz. We had to go up in front of the town in full view of the Filipinos, who saw the approach of the gun boat and left in haste for the mountains.
Our boat grounded and we had to wade out a distance of two hundred yards. The bottom of the lake was uneven and by the time land was reached we were wet from running into holes of deep water. On reaching land a line of skirmishers was formed and the town was entered without any trouble. But one Filipino was seen. He was almost frightened to death. With the aid of field glasses we could see Filipinos on the mountains. When we left they returned, but before going we burned some large buildings in which supplies were stored, mostly rice and sugar. We returned to the gunboat and cascos late that evening.
Captain Grant, of the gunboat, wanted to go about thirty miles up the bay from Santa Cruz. We made the run in three hours. It was a very bright moonlight night. The objective point was reached about eight o'clock. On getting very close to shore an old priest was seen on the dock waving a big white flag, which he continued to wave until we landed. Captain Pratt took an interpreter with him and learned from the old man that everything there was all right. He informed Captain Pratt that he thought the town would be bombarded if not surrendered without it. There was a fine church at this place; the town was built of bamboo. A few stores and about four hundred Filipinos were there. The Filipinos had gone to the mountains while we were landing, but returned when the old priest rang the church bell as a signal that all was well. We were preparing to sleep in their bamboo houses, but Captain Pratt, fearing some treachery, ordered us to the cascos and gunboat to sleep, but as we were wet and muddy large camp fires were built where we could dry and eat our salmon and hard tack before going on the boats.
We had had some hard service for four days and felt very much like sleeping, but the boats rolled and plunged until we could not sleep. We were in a dangerous place. Had all the Filipinos who came into that place that night been around they could have given us a hard fight, and possibly have killed us, but, fortunately, they did not appear to have any arms. Next morning two cascos were loaded with captured wood and we left this place to go down and across the lake to take another town.
Our boats were anchored two miles out and an armed detail sent out in a small launch to reconnoitre. It was found to be too strong for our forces. A strong fort and almost three thousand Filipinos were in the town. We remained in front of this place until the next morning watching for Aguinaldo's gunboats. He had four in the bay. One had been captured. Just before dark one of these gunboats was sighted coming around the point of an island. It was going into port, but seeing our boats it turned back. We made no effort to pursue this vessel, as our boat was slow of speed and night was coming on. Nothing more was seen during the night and next morning we went down the lake to the Pasig river, which is the lake's outlet. Going down the river about five miles we awaited orders from Manila.
We were out on this expedition for ten days, part of this time on the Laguna de Bay and the remainder in the Pasig river.
We had a good time after starting back towards Manila, but little to do and less to care for. While awaiting orders on the river we consumed a great deal of time hunting chickens and ducks. These were very plentiful and easily caught. We fared well on these every day for a week. We also killed all the hogs that were necessary to supply our wants, and there were plenty of them. The first ones were killed by Lieutenant Franklin, who took a rifle out one evening and was gone almost an hour. At last he returned with two fat pigs which he had shot. We expected to enjoy eating them the next morning as they had to be dressed and cooked. Next morning our hopes and expectations of a good meal were exploded by finding that the pigs were spoiled. After that we profited by that experience and always ate our hogs as soon as they could be prepared. The trouble about keeping fresh meat there was the hot, moist climate. This would soon spoil it, especially if not dressed immediately after being killed.
On the ninth day of this expedition about twenty-five men went out on a hunt for porkers. Six very good-sized ones were secured by this party, to which I belonged. Another expedition went duck hunting and bagged eighty fine ones. Great numbers of chickens were everywhere in the woods and towns. They belonged to the natives. A party of soldiers caught fifteen of these while the hogs and ducks were being secured. These three parties returned about the same time loaded with the spoils of the chase.
The cooks tried to please every one and set us at dressing our game. They cooked every hog, chicken and duck for dinner that day. There were about ninety men in this company. This was one of the last three days out on this expedition of ten days. The other seven were very rough and hard ones for us.
One night some of the men made a new arrangement about sleeping. The day had been hot and clear and the open air was desirable to sleep in where we could enjoy the full benefit of a nice cool breeze which was blowing. The deck of the gunboat we thought an ideal place to spend the night. We were very sleepy. This spot was free from mosquitoes and we were preparing for a fine rest. Captain Grant looked out on deck at our positions and said: "Boys, look out up there tonight. It rains here in this country sometimes." The sky was almost cloudless and we thought nothing of rain.
About two o'clock I awoke, thoroughly drenched, and the rain falling as fast as I ever saw it in my life. Any one who has not seen it rain in a hot country has an inadequate idea how hard a tropical rain really is. My blanket was perfectly wet and the water was standing on one side of me in a pool. It took me so by surprise that I was bewildered. Finally I decided to leave that place and seek shelter. I wrung the water out of my blanket and groped about in the inky darkness and went into the engine room, where I stayed until morning. That drenching rain seemed to affect all who were exposed to it and resulted in severe colds in every instance. The twenty-fourth of March we were about fifteen miles from Manila, up the Pasig river, awaiting orders. The Pasig river is deep and wide, large steamers being able to traverse its waters. A strong under current made swimming difficult and dangerous.
Observing some soldiers across the river at a deserted bamboo village I decided to go over to them. I set out and swam till tired. Looking back I discovered that I was about half way across the river. I swam until I was almost too exhausted to raise one hand above the other. I could not tell whether I was moving or not, except, perhaps, down stream.
I was in a critical condition, but did not give up nor get excited. Had I done so I believe that I would have drowned. I know of about twenty soldiers who were drowned while trying to swim across the Pasig river.
By struggling with all my strength I succeeded in getting across. I did not know how I could get back without swimming and I decided not to try that. I was very exhausted and rested and planned a long time. Finally I found a piece of plank and getting on that I went across all right. This experience was sufficient for me, and after that I never went into water too deep to wade.
We left our river post and went into Manila. On the way down the river we met with an accident that might have been fatal to about fifty men. A casco had been captured in the Laguna de Bay, and about fifty men, including myself, went on board the captured vessel and were being towed into Manila by a launch. Our vessels had to pass under the Bridge of Spain. The captured boat was too high and in attempting to pass under the bridge the whole top of the casco was torn off, timbers and fragments of the broken vessel were flying in every direction, and it looked as if the men could not escape these missiles. I was in the stern and thought that half of the men on deck would be knocked out into the water and possibly drowned. Quicker than it takes to tell it, I was lying on my back in a close, narrow place where there was just enough room for me to wedge into. The casco was being pulled to pieces against the bridge and as it went farther under the bridge the rudder beam was pushed around over me with such force that it left grooves in a piece of timber not more than an inch above my face. It was that piece of timber that saved me from being crushed to death.
After the excitement had subsided a little I found that I had been struck on one side and hurt, but only slightly. The launch tore loose from the casco and before it could again be fastened another accident threatened us. Several large sailing vessels lay at anchor along the river and the casco was about to run into them. This accident was avoided and we were landed and marched into the walled city of Manila.
Our company arrived at Manila on the night of March 24, 1899. The next night our regiment was ordered out to re-enforce the volunteers in capturing Malabon. This town was full of Filipinos, who were fighting the volunteer forces then trying to capture the town. Our forces marched to the north of the town and camped. Every soldier had to cook his own provisions, if he ate any that were cooked. The march from Manila to our camp was twelve miles. Every man carried one hundred rounds of cartridges, knapsack and his provisions. The site of our camp was on the bank of the Malabon river, which was reached at sunset. We had to cross the river before camping and the only chance was to wade or swim. Some could wade, but those who were short had to swim. We wanted to cross without getting our blankets and provisions wet, but some were more unfortunate and lost them. I tied my blanket and provisions to the bayonet fixed on my rifle and crossed with them dry, but my person suffered by the water and mud. Night had come on by the time the regiment reached the camping side of the river and guards had to be put on duty at once. Our blankets were piled up for no further service while we were out on this expedition; the men, wet and muddy, had to pass the night the best they could. There were supposed to be from 3,000 to 4,000 Filipinos near by and our night camp was a hazardous one. Everything must be done with the utmost caution.
The men, wet and muddy, fought mosquitoes all night and had no rest. The Filipinos could be heard all night busily tearing up the railroad track and destroying a bridge a few hundred yards from us. They dug pits in the ground and built fires in them, over which the track rails were placed till hot enough to easily bend. Bending the rails, they thought, prevented the Americans from using them again in shipping supplies over the road. The site of our camp was a low, mucky place on the river bank, where mosquitoes literally filled the air.
That was the hardest night on me of all the nights of two years' service in the Philippine Islands. I was so sleepy and tired next morning that I could scarcely hold up my head, and my condition seemed to be no worse than that of every other soldier in the regiment. Mosquitoes had bitten me through my trousers and brought blood. Frequently I have been sleeping after a hard day's service when the mosquitoes would bite my face and the blood run out and dry up in hard drops. When I could not get water to wash off these places I would scratch them off. In some cases these bites were poisonous. I have seen soldiers with large sores, caused by scratching mosquito bites. I was cautious about poisoning during my service in the Philippines.
The morning of the 26th, about four o'clock, I saw from my post, where I had been all night, a big fire in the direction of Malabon. The Filipinos had fired the town and left it. It was our purpose to capture the place and take some forts on the river, but the tricky Filipinos preferred burning their town to surrendering it to the hated Americans.
Our forces took up the advance on the enemy, who stubbornly resisted us from ten o'clock in the morning until four in the evening, when they retired to Malinto and took another stand behind a stone wall and held this position until driven from it by a charge. We had to advance up a long slope of open ground for one and a half miles. Firing was kept up rapidly all the way. The enemy was driven out and the town taken. About thirty men were killed and wounded on the American side. The enemy's loss was not known, but must have been very heavy.
One poor fellow who was among the wounded in this battle I remember very distinctly. He was first sergeant of Company G, Twenty-second Regiment. He was shot through the head. The doctor dressing the wounds as he came to the wounded saw this sergeant and said there was no use to do anything for him, that he would die in a few minutes. The wounded man replied that he would live longer than the doctor would and wanted his wounds dressed. He lay there and talked to his comrades, who were around him, and cursed the doctor for neglecting him. He remained in this condition an hour or two and died.
After a short rest in Malinto we marched about one mile south and back to Malinto again. That night we marched to a point near a station on the Manita and Dagupan Railroad and camped. We were then about eight miles from Manila, and opposite Malabon, which is off the railroad and on the beach near the mouth of the Malabon river. Our camp was located more than two miles from where we had left our blankets that morning on going into battle. A detail of ten men, including myself, was made out to go after the blankets. They were obtained and we returned to camp with them about ten o'clock that night. We had to cook our rations for supper after our return, but being rather a frugal meal of easy preparation but little time was required to prepare it; frying some bacon in mess kits composed all the cooking; hard tack and canned tomatoes composed the remainder of the meal. The ground with the starry heavens overhead and one blanket was both house and bed. The next day we marched into Manila, arriving about twelve o'clock. We remained there doing guard duty till the 30th day of March.
In the evening of the 29th orders were read out to provide three days' rations, fill our canteens and each man to be furnished with one hundred and fifty cartridges. We all expected a battle and were anxious for it, but did not know where we were most likely to get it. Every one was busy and anxious to be marching, especially the officers, who usually could hardly wait for the time to come after receiving orders to march.
We were to have supper on this occasion at five o'clock, but all we had were some scraps and crumbs from the camp kitchen.
Our orders were to march to Maricana, which was held by the enemy. We marched twelve miles before camping. It rained before we started out from Manila and cleared up, but left the roads very muddy and made marching very hard. The twelve miles were made by ten o'clock. That night the wet ground served as couch and one blanket as all the covering. We had to recline, if we lay down at all, with gun and belt at our side, ready at a moment's notice to meet the enemy's attack should they swoop down upon us in camp. After a halt of six hours we set about at four o'clock preparing breakfast, every man cooking his own rations in camp kit and making coffee in a quart cup.
Men were gathered around their little fires of wet wood on the damp ground trying to burn wet wood and cook over the little fire it made. Some of the hungry men had just succeeded in getting their fires to burn and commenced to cook when orders were given to prepare for the march to Maricana, which we were expected to capture that day and to take the Filipinos prisoners or drive them into the neighboring mountains. It is needless to say that those men who failed to get their breakfast were ready to fight. They had an opportunity before many hours passed.
From the camp it was five miles to Maricana. The march began at four-thirty, while it was still dark, and we could move unseen by any of the enemy who chanced to be lurking in our vicinity. We marched through the woods and without speaking above a whisper marched close to the enemy before we were discovered. Their sentinels in the church towers were the first to discover our approach and give the alarm by ringing the bells.
Maricana is located on the bank of a river and we advanced within one hundred and fifty yards of the opposite bank before we were discovered. We advanced at double time and reached the river bank, when we lay down and opened fire just as the early daylight was appearing. Our skirmish line covered the whole town, in which the enemy were stationed as a reserve force to their advanced lines along the river. This advance, or outer line of the enemy, were fortified behind a stone wall. Our line was at the disadvantage of being in the open ground. The lines thus formed were hotly engaged for some time when the command was given to cross the river and charge the enemy's lines. The river bank in front of me was about ten feet high, but this offered no obstacle to me when bullets were falling thick and fast near by. At the command to cross I jumped and somehow got down the bank and into the water. Looking back I saw no one else coming. The bullets were coming around me so fast I had no time to form any plans and I pushed on into the water until it was almost over my head. I remained in this condition until I saw my command crossing about one hundred yards below me. I could not get out on the bank to go down and decided I would wade down to the crossing place and join our forces there. I was almost exhausted when I reached the shore. The enemy, seeing our intentions to attack their line, remained behind the stone wall and fired at us until we were nearly across. Then they could stay there no longer and fled from their strong position. We crossed and entered the town, capturing five armed men. The enemy beat a hasty retreat, rather a pell-mell flight across the open country towards the mountains, at whose bay they had entrenchments and a large reserve force. The fight lasted from daylight till about two o'clock in the evening. The battle of Maricana was as hard as any fought in the Philippine Islands. About three thousand American soldiers were engaged. Several were killed and a great many of the Filipinos.
When an American was wounded his wound was dressed and some soldier's blue shirt hung up near him to designate the place where a wounded American was. In this way no one would be left on the field after the battle when the dead and wounded were picked up.
The Filipinos were not so well cared for. I saw a great many soldiers run out of their way in order to step on a dead or wounded Filipino. They would shout with joy at their punishment of the poor Filipino.
I was near three Americans who were shot that day; two of them were killed. The one who recovered was a member of my company. A ball passed through his body, entering the back and passing out on the right side. It didn't seem possible for him to live, but in one month he was again at his post of duty. A lieutenant of the Fourth Infantry had his horse killed under him. Jumping off he took out his field glasses and got on his knees and began looking for sharpshooters. In less than a minute he was shot through the heart and fell dead without speaking. I thought every second I would get a bullet, for they were flying so thick and close that I did not see how I could escape them. Before the battle was over I wished I might be shot, for I never was so nearly dead in all my life. My condition did not appear to be any worse than that of every other American soldier.
We were run almost to exhaustion and were awfully hot. I drank water that day from ditches and holes when the water looked green and tasted very badly. I knew the water was filthy and even dangerous to drink, but I was not going to die for water when there was plenty of it near by. During the heat of the battle I was lying down near an old soldier. We were both trying to get cover. We were fighting hard with no protection but the ridges in a large rice field which we were fighting over. Our firing line was in a line of skirmishers. A bullet hit the ground in front and between the old soldier and where I lay. It knocked dirt in our faces. The old soldier looked at me and appeared to be very much frightened. I only laughed at his funny looks. Before I got away from that position I felt a hard shock on my chest. I thought that I was shot at last and put my hand up to examine the wound. Finding myself all right I looked at the ridge and saw what it all meant. A bullet was buried in the ridge. I dug it out with my bayonet and kept it, and I have it yet as a souvenir of that day's battle. I have several more bullets which struck near me at different times and places. All of these I treasure, for I do not expect to get any more bullets just as I did these.
The American loss at Maricana was twenty-four killed and nineteen wounded.
After leaving the battlefield we returned to the camp we had left that morning. The whole force was almost exhausted by the day's service and marching was a slow, burdensome task. A great many men lost their provisions in the battle or in crossing the river. Mine was lost in the river together with my mess kit, canteen and haversack. Those who were fortunate enough not to lose their rations of canned beef and hard tack were enjoying a hasty meal. At this juncture orders from Manila were to march to Caloocan Church that night, a distance of about twenty-three miles. It was then getting late in the evening and this march to be made before camping was not very pleasant news to already footsore and tired soldiers. Before marching out of sight of our camp men began falling out. I marched about half an hour and had to fall out of ranks and straggle along as best I could. My company set out for Caloocan with one hundred and twenty-eight men, only eighteen of whom marched through that night. The others were scattered along the route, footsore and worn out. Many of them pulled off their shoes to relieve their blistered feet and marched barefooted and carried their shoes in their hands, and, like myself, stopping almost every hundred yards to rest a few minutes. We were afraid to stop long at a time. We would have become too sore and stiff to move.
We continued to move along in this tedious, toilsome way as rapidly as possible. My party of three were proceeding as best we could. In the darkness of the night we lost our way by taking the wrong road and went into a small town, where we found a few white men, one of them a doctor belonging to the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers. He made many inquiries about us and our regiment and asked all about the battle fought that day. He looked after our welfare by providing us with shelter and beds, but there was something else we wanted before sleeping. We were perishing for food and all we had between us was a small can of bacon, a ten cent United States coin and one small Spanish coin (a paseado). With these we went out to buy bread. We found a Chinaman and bought a piece of bread that was so hard we could scarcely eat it, but we made a very good meal on that and the bacon.
We slept on a good spring bed and I awoke next morning in the position I was in when I fell asleep. I was so stiff and sore that it was miserable to have to move. After breakfast we went into Manila and took the railroad for our command.
A number of soldiers arrived after we did and reported for duty. All the provisions that I ate on this expedition, which lasted three days, would not have made more than one good meal. Before my party reported at Caloocan one of the other two and myself were reported captured by the Filipinos, or lost. That night we all went back into Manila to resume guard and patrol duty. Police duty was all done by soldiers until a force of Macabees was organized. The Macabees are enemies of the Filipinos, and soon became our allies and were very good soldiers and police.
Manila has a population of nearly 400,000 people of different tribes and nationalities. It is the capital of Luzon and the most important city of the Philippine Islands. The energy and enterprise is due to foreigners. There are several miles of narrow gauge street railroad and a system of electric lights.
To mingle with these people it is necessary to know two or three languages, if not more. Spanish is the prevailing language. Most of the business men can speak several languages.
The Chinese are the filthiest people there. I have seen hundreds of them living in their workhouses where a stench was arising too great for a white man to approach. These filthy people cook, eat and sleep all in this filthy hole. Their principal food is rice and soup. One dollar of United States currency will buy enough for one person to live on a whole month. When the Americans first entered Manila it was very filthy. The air reeked from the accumulation of filth during the siege of the city. This made the place a little worse than usual. It took the soldiers three months to clean out and clear out the streets.
The only thing apparently that kept down a great deal of disease and death is the continual blowing of the sea breeze.
Those killed in battle outside the city had been carried in and buried in shallow holes, or probably I would be more correct in saying, about half covered with earth and left that way for dogs to scratch up and pull about by the arms and legs.
I have seen dead Filipinos carried out of the hospital, thrown on carts and carried to the burying ground and handled like dead hogs. They would be covered a little and left to the dogs. I don't believe I ever looked towards the place without seeing dogs there eating and pulling the bodies about.
Hundreds of beggars are to be seen squatted down at all public places and on the street corners. They do not sit down like Americans. This is the case with all the natives. They sit in a peculiar, squatting way, which is positively tiring to any one else but these natives.
The Filipino men wear trousers rolled up high and a long white shirt of very thin material, the tail hanging out over the trousers like a sweater. They wear nothing on the feet and most of them wear nothing on the head. They are not fond of clothing, and many wear very little, almost going nude. They find a great deal of pleasure in the possession of a gun and it seems that they are content with a gun, fighting and running in the mountains. They care little for life and will fight till killed.
A squad of Filipinos was captured near Manila by some of the Fourteenth Infantry; when they were approached to give over their guns to the soldiers they would make a motion like giving up a gun, but instead jump back and attempt to shoot a soldier. If he succeeded in shooting an American some other American would shoot the Filipino. Several were killed in this manner.
When a Filipino is captured his greatest desire is to keep possession of his gun, and sometimes fight for its possession after being captured.
The Filipinos are a natural race of gamblers; they gamble and trade, many of them, for a living, refusing to work as long as they can get anything to eat without working for it. Their principal cause for idleness is the cheapness of their living, rice and fish being their principal food. They will catch fish and throw them in the hot sun for two or three days; they are then taken up and smoked and burned a few minutes over some coals and chunks, and then eaten.
If any Americans are watching them they will say, "mucho chico wino," while eating this delicacy of their indolence and filth. The Filipinos and native tribes are extremely filthy in their eating, as well as everything else; they eat almost anything that an American will refuse to eat.
The Macabees is another negro tribe on the Island of Luzon. They are a much better people than the Filipinos and more intelligent. This tribe is hostile to the Filipinos, and fight them whenever an opportunity is offered.
Two regiments of the Macabees were organized and equipped by the Americans, and placed in the field against the Filipinos, and they made very good soldiers.
I missed being placed on a detail of twenty-five men to serve on a gunboat; I wished to get out on some kind of service and leave the regular and dull service in Manila. I missed this detail in all probability by being out in the town when the detail was being made out. I tried to get on when I returned, but failed, the detail having been made out already. This detail from my company saw much more service than those remaining in the company.
Their discharges show a record of more than a dozen engagements. They served in this detail five months, and had plenty of hard service. They were only paid once during the five months; a few of them, however, were not paid until discharged, if I was correctly informed. Their descriptive list was lost, causing two men to have to serve ten days longer than they enlisted to serve.
Much "kicking" was done by men in other parts of the service who were not paid for a year or more, but all to no purpose.
I was on the alert for another detail to be made and to get on. At last I succeeded, on the tenth day of April, in getting on a detail of only ten men to perform guard duty on a dredge boat that was dredging at the mouth of the Malabon river. This was twenty miles from Manila. The object of the dredging was to make a channel in the shallow water at the river's mouth sufficient to enable gun boats to enter the river, which was deeper after leaving its mouth. This was very slow work, requiring a great deal of time and labor to perform it. This dreging had been going on for a month. We were on duty there for ten days, and, judging by what I saw, it must have required two months' more work to open the desired channel.
From our station numbers of natives could be seen on shore, and passing up and down the river. It seemed that the country was full of Filipinos.
We watched them a great deal. Their methods of catching fish was very interesting to us. They never used a pole, hook and line as we would. At night great crowds could be seen, each one in a boat, and carrying a big torch. They would be near the beach, going out but a little way from the edge of the water; they would beat and splash in the water, and drive the fish into large traps or nets, just like a hunter driving quail into a net, only the fishermen were more noisy.
After beating the water and banks until it was supposed the fish had gone into the net, or trap, they were left in it until next day, when they were seined out. Great quantities were caught in this way.
Another method of fishing was to get in a boat with a long gig and move the boat slowly, and when a fish was near enough gig it. The large fine fish were only caught in this way.
Our detail returned to Manila in the evening of April tenth, and remained there until that portion of the 23d Regiment was ordered to the Island of Jolo, where we started on the seventeenth day of May. I had been in the old walled city of Manila a little more than six months; part of my regiment had been there ten months. We had had very hard service there, and the close confinement, almost like imprisonment, made us glad to change, and held out a hope that we would find easier service and more interesting.
The wall of the old city of Manila extended entirely around the old city. The sally ports and all the streets were always guarded until no soldier could go outside without exhibiting a pass to the guards signed by the company and commanding officers. All the time that I was stationed there I was never out without the required pass.
Guards were stationed on top of the wall, and made it unsafe to try to climb it to get out, although I have seen this done by means of a rope; men would pass out this way and stay out as late as they wished to and return.
This was not safe. Even the guards did not discover the attempt, for the wall was not less than thirty feet high, some places even higher, and forty feet wide. Stone houses are built in this wall, and used for military stores. On top of the wall on the sea-side were three hundred large cannon when the city was surrendered to the Americans. Around the old Spanish arsenal about two acres were covered with cannon balls, guns, bayonets and rifles, all scattered about in a mass until it was difficult to get over the ground. It required two months of the American's time to pile up and arrange these munitions of war surrendered by the Spanish.
After the treaty of peace all these were returned to Spain.
A great many Spaniards live in Manila, and are subjects of Spain. They have some very peculiar customs. One that came to my notice is that of the courtship of a Spanish youth and his sweetheart.
The young man is not permitted to enter his sweetheart's home, but stands on the outside and makes love to her though the iron bars of a window. I saw a great deal of this before I learned what it all meant.
The Spanish seemed to have a very bitter hatred for all Americans just after the fall of Manila. When we first entered the city the Spanish women would throw anything that menaced us in passing the streets, from their windows. They would do anything to harass and endanger the lives of Americans that they could think of without exposing themselves too much. Starvation was staring them in the face when the city was surrendered. They had been reduced to rice almost wholly for sustenance. The pay of the Spanish soldiers was very small. I was informed that it was only six dollars Spanish per month, equivalent to only three dollars of United States currency. Yet this meagre sum had not been paid for several months.
A Spaniard is not a very frank, attractive looking fellow to an American soldier. He has a sneaking countenance, and a disposition out of harmony with that of the American. However, this opinion may be modified somewhat with those able to speak Spanish and become better acquainted with them. Being unable to speak their language I was barred from this possibility.
Luzon and some other large islands are very fertile, and under proper agricultural management would yield millions and blossom as the rose, but as yet they are blighted by the uncivilized natives. A man would be taking his life in his hands to go out into the country and try to engage in anything. As conditions existed when I was there, bands of hostile Filipinos were scouring the whole interior, and frequently were bold enough to raid near the American posts, leaving devastation wherever they went. The soil is very fertile, a warm temperature and plenty of water to irrigate with if desired for that purpose.
The natives use the most crude implements, and have but very little knowledge of farming, and are too indolent to put into practice what little they do know of soils and crops. It seems to make little difference what season they plant in. The climate is always warm, most of the year extremely hot; too hot for an American or white man, to labor in. It is just the climate that suits the negro. Chinese and negroes work for fifty and sixty cents per day.
A very fine tobacco is raised, and most of it exported. A cigar factory in Manila manufactures a great quantity of cigars.
Rice is easily raised, and is the principal food of the natives.
The rough rice is husked in a very crude way; a wooden trough, or dug out, is used to put the rough rice in, and chunks of wood are taken in the hands, and the rice is pounded with these until the husks are all broken off, the rice taken out and separated from the husks.
Sugar is an important crop, and is extensively raised. No less than fifteen sugar mills could be counted from the top of the walls of the city of Manila.
Under improved methods of agriculture that country would be a wonderful one in the production of sugar and rice.
The Philippines will, in all probability, become important in the near future in the production of minerals, principally gold. There are some very good veins of gold ore in the mountains of Luzon, some of which I saw myself. Several pieces of stone on which gold was easily seen, were picked up by the men of my regiment. I saw rocks with both gold and silver in them. The men would not tell just where they had found them. They probably thought that at some time, after their service expired, they would return and work the places found.
I knew one man, an old, experienced miner, who would spend the Sundays out in the hills and around the foot of them, where he was not exposed too much to the enemy, prospecting for gold. He was successful in finding good indications of rich minerals. He appeared to make a confidant of me. At one time he showed me a lot of gold and some silver that he had found out on his prospecting tours, but would not tell me where they came from. He told me that when he was discharged he intended to return and work the mines. I knew that the paymaster had considerable money belonging to this old miner, who told me he should invest it in the mines, and in purchasing mining machinery.
I saw and heard enough to cause me to believe that when the natives are civilized, and when men would be safe in the mountains, that the mines in the Philippines will attract more people than the Klondike ever did. There are advantages in the Philippines which are not found in the Klondike region, the most important being the climate, not considering the quality of the mines, which I believe to be equal to that of the Klondike.
The mountain regions are rich in various minerals.
In the Island of Mindanao coal has been mined ever since Americans have been there.
This country will find out in a few years what is in the Philippines. I believe it is a rich country. Almost anything can be raised that is desired in the line of field and garden crops; fine timber is plentiful and saw mills are yet unknown. I don't believe there is a saw mill in the Island of Luzon. All sawed timber is imported that is used at present; not much is used in building as most of the houses are built of stone or bamboo. The frame buildings which we have in America are never seen there. All the native houses and small towns are built of bamboo, and covered with grass. The bamboo grows very large, the joints are two and three feet long, and some of the larger bamboos are as large as a common tree. They are the same thing that people in this country know as canes, the difference being in their size only. Houses are built of bamboo without the use of nails. Nothing for flooring but the naked earth. Split bamboo is worked into the houses fastening the whole together. I have seen the natives build houses, and have no other tool than a large knife. The roof of grass is fastened on with strips of bamboo, and is three to four inches thick. This roof is superior, in point of comfort, in a hot country, to that of anything I ever saw. I have been in the hot sun and in metal roofed buildings, and on going into a grass covered house the difference was noticeable immediately, the grass roofed house being much cooler.