Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry
By Joseph DeBurgh
The following are the reminiscences of Joseph Deburgh, a member of the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry. Joseph DeBurgh stayed on in the Philippines after the war. On October 4, 1939, he passed away at Saint Paul's Hospital in Manila. The divisions in this article have been made for the benefit of the reader and do not occur in the original text.
Home Front and Enlisting:
A lot of water has passed under A the old bridge since that fateful Sunday morning, 41 years ago when our late President McKinley, by one stroke of his pen, gave his country one of its greatest thrills. I doubt if there is an American living today who, if he was then old enough to remember, has forgotten the wave of frenzied excitement that passed over the entire country on that eventful day. War with all its grim aspects was upon us.
I was then still in my teens. My home was in Portland, Oregon, where I had been born and raised. We were quite a large family, 5 boys and 3 girls. The old "Gent", as we boys fondly called our father, bad made it a strict rule that all members of the family must meet at breakfast on Sunday mornings. It was on this occasion I received the first news that war with Spain had been declared. We had hardly been seated at the table when the newsboy slid the morning paper under the door. One of the children picked it up and banded it to the old "Gent". He read aloud the startling news. We could see that he was greatly affected. Laying down his eyeglasses he said, with emotion "My sons, you all know that I fought for the South all through the Civil War. I would like to see one of you enlist for this war."
Now I don't know until this day whether it was to please my father, the intrepidity of youth, patriotism, or the picture I had seen in the Portland -Oregonian a few days before of a beautiful Spanish girl lying in a hammock under cocoanut trees in old Manila that was the deciding factor in making up my mind that I wanted to go to War. Probably it was the latter. My brothers who had also seen the picture in the Oregonian were just as anxious to go to war as I was. However, after arguing for the rest of the day, I finally talked them down and with a great deal of persuasion on my part my mother at last consented.
Having obtained parental permission to let the enemy shoot a few holes in me, I thought there was nothing else to do but go before a recruiting officer, hold up my right hand and become a full fledged soldier in Uncle Sam's Army. Knowing nothing about the Army, I wasn't particular whether they made me an officer or a private. So bright and early the next morning, I headed for the Armory where, according to the newspapers recruiting would be done. It didn't take long to fix me right up. One soldier took my name and address, another handed me something tied up in a bundle and told me to report back the following morning for a physical examination. I didn't know whether I was going to be an officer or a private until I got home and put on the uniform that was in the bundle handed to me. As no shoulder straps or chevrons came with the uniform, I decided that I must be a private and a private I was ever after. Now, if there is any time in a man's life when he gets a real kick, it is when be puts on a uniform with brass buttons for the first time whether it be a soldier's, policeman's, street car conductor's, or what have you. The only way I can account for it is that it makes him conscious of the fact his sex appeal has gone up about 100%. The fair sex have a weakness for brass buttons that I am afraid they will never be able to overcome.
Although I had never known what it was to be sick, I had more imaginary ailments on my way to take the physical examination the next morning than Lydia Pinkham ever tried to cure with her pink pills for pale people. It was the first time I was ever presenting myself for a physical examination and I felt sure that the Doctor would find enough things wrong with me to turn me down.
Upon arrival at the Armory, I mustered enough courage to enter and seeing an officer sitting at a desk, I reported my business to him. After checking my .name on his list, he told me to enter the door on the right. The sight that met my eyes would make a member of the modern nude cult weep with joy. Over a hundred men of all shapes and sizes; dressed in their "bear" skin suits were awaiting the arrival of the Doctor for their physical examination. I was shown where to put my clothes and was soon one of them. We did not have long to wait until the Doctor arrived. Here is where I got the surprise of my life. The Doctor was none other than old Doctor Coolie. Now Doc Coolie was quite a town character. Although he had lived in Portland and maintained an office there for a good many years, he had yet to have his first case.
That, however, didn't faze the old Doc a bit and not to be outdone by other practitioneers, when leaving his office, he would bang a sign on the door advising that he would be back in half an hour. This was discontinued, however, when some joker wrote underneath "Why come back". To see the old Doctor standing before us in a spanking new Captain's uniform of the United States Army was some surprise to say the least. Not losing any time on formalities, he lined us up and started to give us the once over. He would start off by sticking his finger in the mouth to open it wide for an examination of the teeth and throat and finally wind up the examination by feeling the bottom of the feet for calluses and bunions. Some of the men strenuously objected to having him put his finger in their mouths just after having fingered the other man's feet but the old Doctor wouldn't change his procedure.
I was near the end of the line and by the time he reached me I had worked myself up to such a state of nervousness that I was about ready to collapse. This condition had no doubt been brought on by the fact that it seemed to me that the old Doc systematically rejected every tenth man in line and counting from the last one rejected I was number ten. However, my nervousness soon changed to bewilderment at the condition found by the Doctor during the examination of the young man in line just ahead of me. No heart beat could be detected with the stethoscope. Old Doc was at loss what to do until the young man informed him that his heart was on the right side. Now this condition has been known to medical science to exist in very rare cases but it is certainly enough to cause bewilderment in the mind of any Doctor confronted with it. Notwithstanding the heart was on the wrong side old Doc could find nothing wrong with it and as the young man was normal in every other respect he was passed. However, whether it was due to old Doc still being in a state of bewilderment or my physical fitness I do not know but 1 passed the examination with flying colors.
Up to this time we had not been issued rifles or other equipment and when after donning our clothes we were marched down to the main room of the armory where the rifles, were stacked in long racks. We all thought they were going to be issued to us then, but to our dismay and chagrin we were each handed a shovel, pick or spade and marched over to the old race track on the east side of Portland which was later to be known as Camp McKinley.
We were probably what is known to-day as shock troops as we were certainly shocked when our officers put us to work erecting tents, building company streets and digging latrines for the whole regiment which was to go into encampment a few days later. I had not been working an hour when trying to drive a tent peg it flew up and hit me square in the eye. I got a laugh from the rest of the outfit and a beautiful shiner out of it, but had the distinction of being the first soldier in the regiment to receive a casualty in the service of his country.
The next two weeks were spent with drilling, performing guard duty and kitchen police. It was undoubtedly the longest and most monotonous two weeks that any of us had ever spent in our young lives and we were all pulling at the traces to be off to the front. At last the order came for the regiment to entrain for San Francisco and upon arrival proceed to Presidio and wait further orders. The heart rending scenes that took place at the railway station the following day when our train pulled out will I am sure never be forgotten by any of us. Mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts crying and holding us with their arms around our necks until the last moment as if we were going to certain destruction. Fathers, brothers and friends trying bravely to hold back their emotions but making a poor job of it. Thus does the soldier learn his first lesson in the cruel realities of war.
Our trip to San Francisco was uneventful. Upon arrival a big crowd was at the station to greet us and we got quite a hand from the people of San Francisco as we marched up Market street on our way to the Presidio.
The two weeks of intensive drilling that we had received before leaving Portland had begun to show itself in our appearance and marching and we now considered ourselves real soldiers far separated from the tin variety.
The First California Regiment of Volunteers had already been recruited prior to our arrival in San Francisco and was encamped at the Presidio but had not as yet been issued their uniforms. It was quite a sight to see them drilling in civilian clothes. One man wearing a straw hat and the man next to him a disor or a fedora and so on down the line. However, what they lacked in appearance was made up by their earnestness and when they finally received their uniforms they were a neat looking outfit. However, in the meantime, the old brass button had gotten in its deadly work and the girls who had been flocking daily to Presidio to admire the California boys transferred their affections to our camp. This caused a little ill feeling on the part of the Californians but was soon forgotten when a week later we all embarked on transports for Manila.
The trip to the Philippines:
The fleet of transports which had been provided by the Federal Government to carry the First Expedition to Manila was composed of old cattle ships. I cannot speak about the condition of the other ships composing the fleet as I did not go aboard any of them but the S. S. City of Sidney the one on which my company and six other companies of the regiment together with five Companies of the Fourteenth Infantry and Battery "A" heavy artillery of San Francisco embarked was an awful thing to be placed in service as a transport to carry a thousand men on a voyage of eight thousand miles. Not even having been fumigated before we embarked it was terribly lousy and filthy. Right up to the day we arrived in Manila Bay we were kept busy sweeping up horse manure and other filth that had accumulated for years. The toilet and bathing facilities to accommodate the large number of men on board were totally inadequate. No refrigerating plant for the preservation of fresh meats and vegetables had been installed. The bunks for the use of the troops were built in between decks in tiers, six bunks to the tier. There was a space of two feet between bunks. Each one was supplied with a thin mattress and pillow stuffed with excelsior. Looking forward to our eight thousand mile voyage under these conditions, you might think we would be disheartened. Not for a minute. No lighter hearted or happier lot of men ever sailed from America's shore than the first expedition, when on the morning of May 24th, 1898 each ship in turn was warped away from the dock and pointed her nose out to sea amidst the cheers of thousands of San Francisco's patriotic citizens who lined the shores of picturesque San Francisco Bay.
To those of us who had never been to sea the first few hours of the voyage was quite a novelty and there was a lot of horse play on deck. This soon subsided, however, when we reached the bar at the mouth of the bay where the swells as usual were running high and it was not long before the land rubbers were either feeding the fishes over the side or else had beat a hasty retreat to their bunks below.
A few miles out to sea we were met by the U. S. Cruiser CHARLESTON, which was to act as our convoy across the Pacific. This gallant ship was destined never to return, as a year later she struck an uncharted reef while cruising off the coast of northern Luzon and went to the bottom in twenty minutes after she hit. Fortunately the crew had sufficient time to man the boats and no lives were lost.
Our second day out, a semblance of order was established on board, fire and abandon-ship drills were held and we began to get squared away for our long trip across the Pacific. As we took on supplies of fresh meats and vegetables before sailing we were being issued the regular ration and notwithstanding the condition of the ship and the lack of facilities on board we were all in fine spirits when we arrived in Honolulu nine days later. At the time war had been declared there was a great deal of agitation going on in the United States regarding the advisability of the annexation of Hawaii by the United States. However, the people of Honolulu were for it to a man and to show how they felt the entire population of the town turned out with open arms to receive us, the first American troops to land on Hawaiian soil. What a reception it was. Each soldier as he came down the gang-plank was decorated with a beautiful lei and taken in tow by one of the fair sex who took him to her home and immediately adopted him as her American cousin and from then on she did not leave him until he passed up the gangplank about ten hours later. An American soldier could not spend a cent. He could go into any restaurant in town and order a swell meal for himself and girl friend and, when he went to pay for it he would be told that everything was on the house. It was the same on street cars and places of amusement. I am sure that there was not a man on any of the ships who was not deeply impressed by the wonderful hospitality shown us by the people of Honolulu. However, we were soon to realize that we were not making a pleasure cruise when three days out from Honolulu all of our supply of fresh meat went bad and had to be thrown overboard. For the rest of the voyage we lived on canned Willie (Cornbeef), Salmon, canned tomatoes and hard tack. The tomatoes and hard tack were put in to large dish pans and left out on deck all night to soak before cooking. As the crew of the vessel would washed down the decks early in the morning before the pans were taken in, it was nothing unusual to find a few cigarette and cigar butts mixed up with them for seasoning. The one thing that we all longed for more than anything else was fresh bread and in order to get it some of us even went so far as to steal it from the oven in the officers' galley. A crowd of men could always be seen in front of the galley door when bread was being baked for the officers' mess. They could at least enjoy the smell of its baking. This, however, only drove them to recklessness and when the baker had his back turned some one would sneak in the galley and snatch a loaf from the oven. It was not long until the baker got wise and reported it to the mess officer. From then on there was always a sentry posted at the galley door on baking days.
The health of the men began to show the lack of fresh meat and vegetables in their daily ration. The sick line became longer each day as the voyage continued. As far as I can remember now old Doc Coolie was the only Doctor on board our ship. He had a big brown pill that was a cure all. Whether you had sore eyes or was troubled with constipation you got one of those pills. Notwithstanding, however, old Doc and his brown pills and the lack of fresh rations we only lost one man on the voyage and it was necessary to bury him at sea. With flags at half mast all ships of the fleet hoved to. Burial services were conducted by the Chaplain and as taps were being blown the body which was sewed up in canvas and weighted was slid over the side of the ship in mid ocean. It was the most solemn burial I ever witnessed.
The Capture of Guam:
A few days later word was passed around the ship that on the following morning we would be off the Island of Guam. As Guam was a Spanish possession and garrisoned by Spanish troops the Commanding Officer of the Cruiser Charleston bad received orders to take possession of the Island on his way to Manila. The Island came in sight during the early morning when we were about a mile off shore, the Charleston signalled the transports to hove to. It was a beautiful sight to see the warship cleared for action, all boats lowered and her crew stripped to the waist, as she slowly steamed into the harbor and immediately went into action. About a dozen shots were fired from her secondary battery into an old stone fort on the beach without a return fire. We found out later that the old fort had no guns and had been abandoned years before. After waiting about an hour for the Spaniards to make some kind of a move it began to look like they had all taken to the hills when a small row boat was seen to shove off from shore and head towards the Charleston. As she carried no white flag we were all in a quandary until she finally pulled up alongside the Charleston and two Spanish officers went up the gangway. Upon reaching the deck they were met by Captain Glass and his staff. The Spanish officers immediately began to apologize for not answering the salute stating that they didn't have any powder and that no vessels had called there for several months. When told that the United States had declared war against Spain they were dumbfounded. After a conference which lasted about half an hour the Commanding Officer of the garrison who happened to be one of two officers on board surrendered the Island unconditionally. He and his command which consisted of three officers and sixty men were taken prisoners and placed aboard our ship. Captain Glass and several boat loads of officers and men from the Charleston went ashore and after canvassing the whole white population of Guam, an old Portuguese who claimed to be an American citizen was found. As he showed citizenship papers to prove it he was immediately appointed acting governor of Guam. After lowering the Spanish flag from the staff on top of the government building and running up old glory in its stead, the landing party returned to the ship and an hour later, we all pulled up anchor and proceeded on our way to Manila.
We were now on the last leg of our eight thousand mile journey and if the weather gave us a break we should arrive in Manila Bay in five days. However, we still had the China sea in front of us and at certain times of the year when the monsoons are blowing, you were lucky if you made it across in double that time. Fortunately for us it was a little early for the monsoons and we had nice weather all the way.
About a hundred miles out at sea we were met by the U.S.S. Boston, one of the vessels of Admiral Dewey's fleet, and she escorted us to our anchorage in Manila Bay thus ending the longest voyage ever attempted by the United States Government in the transportation of troops overseas and one which we who made it will always remember. Personally, my only regret is that I never was able to locate that beautiful Spanish girl that was swinging in the hammock.
Life during the Blockade
Admiral Dewey, whose fleet had sunk the Spanish fleet and captured the Cavite Navy Yard exactly two months before our arrival, was anxiously awaiting us as he was badly in need of troops to protect the Navy Yard. He was also anxious to attack Manila before the rainy season set in, which was due the following month.
We dropped anchor late on the afternoon of June 30th, 1898 and by noon the following day all troops had disembarked. Our regiment, the Second Oregon Volunteers, was quartered in the old Spanish barracks and such other buildings in the Navy Yard that could be used for quarters. The First California Volunteers and five companies of the 14th U.S. Infantry were loaded into cascos and towed across the Manila Bay to.Paranaque, a small town a few miles south of Manila adjacent to the beach. Here they threw up breast works and pitched a camp which was later to be known as Camp Dewey. At the present time the same site is used as the U.S. Army Aviation Fields, and known as Nichols Field.
That night we who were quartered in the Navy Yard got our first dose of the Filipino mosquito. We had been issued little mosquito head nets that tied around the neck and although nearly suffocating, fairly well protected the face; but what Mr. Mosquito did to the wrists and other exposed parts of the body was plenty. Practically the entire command spent the whole of the first night on the sea-wall back of the barracks where there was a nice tropical breeze blowing and Mr. Mosquito was conspicuous by his absence.
Being our first night ashore in a hostile land, we were no doubt, a little nervous. I remember about two o'clock in the morning, the sentry on No. 1 post called for the Corporal of the Guard, and asked permission to shoot up into a tree nearby, stating that some one was up in it and had been insulting him ever since he'd been on post. After listening and hearing the insulting remarks for himself, the Corporal ordered the culprit to come down and surrender. As the order was not obeyed.and as the insulting remarks continued, the Corporal and guard both fired a shot into the tree. The only thing that fell out of the tree was a big lizard. That was our introduction to the "Gecko".
The following morning all hands turned to and the big job of unloading the transports was begun. As the ships were anchored several hundred yards out in the bav it was necessary to unload the cargo into the cascos, i.e., pick up a sack of potatoes, a case of tomatoes or what have you, throw it over our shoulder, storehouse a hundred yards or so away, and then return for another load. Now this kind of work might be all right for men who have weak minds and strong backs, but few of us had ever done any real labor of this kind before, especially under a tropical sun, and it soon began to tell on us. On the third day there were about as many men in line reporting for sick-call as there were reporting for work. Fortunately for us some one in authority found out that Filipino laborers could be hired to do this work for twenty centavos a day, which was the rate of pay they had been receiving from the Spanish Government, and which, considering the cheapness of everything in those days, was equivalent to about eighty centavos at the present time. The job was therefore gladly turned over to them.
The first month and a half we spent in Cavite waiting for the arrival of the rest of the troops from the United States that were to make up the attacking force on Manila. Our only water supply was rain water taken from old rusty tanks located around the Navy Yard. The water was of a yellowish color, and so full of, rust and dirt that it was apparent that the tanks had not been &leaned out for several years. Notwithstanding the fact that we boiled all drinking water, it was not long before many of us were taken down with typhoid and dysentery, and as we had no prophylactics, hardly .a day passed without several funerals.
Having had some clerical experience before entering the army, I was ordered to report to the Adjutant for duty at Headquarters. The building used for Headquarters stood away from the other buildings and was a small one story affair built out of adobe stone. The building was almost square. It was much cooler than our barracks, so several of we clerks slept there, and many a good night's sleep I had in the old place. However, several years later, the old saying: "Where ignorance is bliss for 'tis folly to be wise", was never before so truly brought to my mind as when I was informed. by an old Spaniard who had lived in Cavite many years, that that particular building had been the morgue during the Spanish regime.
On the site now known as the Parade Ground there stood a number of nipa shacks occupied by fruit vendors. These foresighted Filipinos would no doubt have waxed rich from the sale of fruits to the soldiers had it not been for the fact that they were not familiar with American money, and thinking they were playing safe, decided to make all sales according to the size of the coin. When this was noticed by the soldiers, the five cent piece became very popular among them, for they could buy just twice as much for five cents as they could for ten.
As the town of Cavite was in the hands of the Filipino forces the number of passes issued to the American enlisted personnel to pass beyond the Main Gate of the Navy Yard was for obvious reasons kept to a minimum. However, after getting my name persistently scratched on the daily pass list for about a week, I finally landed a pass. Accompanied by another buck private we made all haste to get out in town in order to take some snap-shots and obtain a few souvenirs to send to the folks at home. We started up the main street, seeing so many sights that were new to our eyes, we soon depleted our supply of films. We had by this time reached the entrance of Porta Vaga and were about to pass through on our way to San Roque when we were met by a Major of the Filipino Army who could speak very good English. He courteously informed us that in the building just above our heads was the Arsenal of the Revolutionary Army and offered to take us up and show us around the place. As this invitation was in line with our program for the day we gladly accepted and started up the stairs. We had hardly reached.the top when we saw a man sitting on a bench pounding powder into a 3" shell with a dhobie cigarette in his mouth puffing away to beat the band. Remembering that "discretion is the better part of valor", we beat a hasty retreat to the Navy Yard.
A few days later orders were received that General Anderson, who was in command of all land forces, would make a general inspection of our regiment. Up to this time we had never stood inspection by a general officer. Now, General Anderson, although only standing little over five feet in height, was known to be a great disciplinarian and had a voice that would make a buck private in the rear rank quake in his boots. He was as the saying goes, "A large bundle wrapped up in a small package". Moreover our guns and accoutrements were in such a terribly deteriorated condition, having seen many years ,previous service in the regular army and the State Militia before being issued to us, that we were in doubt as to whether we could pass the inspection. However, in the army "orders are orders", and the next two days were spent in scrubbing haversacks, polishing belt buckles, etc. Our firing piece was the old Springfield rifle known as "Long Tom". The barrels of these guns were so badly rust-pitted on the outside that no amount of elbow grease would make an impression on them. Now any old soldier knows that rubbing a lead pencil over the rust spots on the barrel of a gun will make it look like a new one just long enough to stand inspection, but woe to him if the inspecting officer should happen to get any of the lead on his white gloves during the inspection.
The big day finally arrived and the whole regiment was marched out on the Parade Ground in heavy marching order.
The staff officers, who up to this time had had very little experience in handling their battalions, were having no little difficulty in bringing the regiment into proper formation for inspection. However, we were finally lined up and with the band playing and the colors flying the general proceeded to inspect us. I might say here that it is one of the most intense moments in a young soldier's life when he stands inspection for the first time by a general officer. To be ordered out of line for some defect in his attire or accoutrements is a disgrace that he or his officers will not soon forget. However, despite our poor equipment, we passed the inspection with flying colors, but not without a comical incident that I haven't forgotten to this day. In my company there was a young fellow who before enlisting had been employed by the United States Government as a forest ranger. 'He was over six feet tall and presented a fine appearance in heavy marching order as he stood in line. The general was no doubt attracted by his appearance for he stopped in front of him and the following conversation ensued: Q. "Have you ever been in the service before?" A. "Yes, Sir." Q. "What branch?" A. "Civil Service, Sir." Which drew from the General the dry comment: "Well, I'll be damned!"
We had now been stationed in Cavite over a month. The Second Expedition with General Arthur MacArthur in command had since arrived and joined the troops at Camp Dewey. The U.S.S. monitor "Monterey" had also joined the fleet. Her arrival caused no little consternation among the Filipinos in Cavite, and some of our own men as well who had never seen a monitor before. She had only about 3 feet of free-board and when underway her decks were almost awash, so one who had not before seen a monitor underway received the impression that she was sinking.
In order to make the blockade of Manila complete, Admiral Dewey immediately after destroying the Spanish fleet, located and cut the cable from Manila to Hongkong. it was therefore necessary for him when sending messages to Washington to send the despatch boat "McCullough" to Hongkong.
It was one of the return trips of the "McCullough", that brought General Aguinaldo back to the Islands. In 1896 he had headed a revolution against the Spanish Government which had been brought to a close by an agreement called the "Pact of Biac na Bato", whereby the Spanish Government was to pay to the revolutionists a stipulated amount of money and Aguinaldo and some of his chiefs were to go into exile.. However, upon his return he issued a proclamation to the Filipino people calling for a general uprising, claiming that the Spanish Government had not lived up to their part of the agreement. This uprising was so successful that it was only a matter of a few months before all the Spaniards living in the different provinces had either been killed, captured or driven into Manila. In the town of Cavite, Aguinaldo's headquarters, the churches and other large buildings were crowded with Spanish prisoners. These poor fellows who were apparently humanely treated by their captors, were suffering greatly from beri-beri, due to lack of proper food. Although they were our enemy as well as of the Filipinos, many it can of corned beef and salmon found their way to them through the bars of their prison, and we went on light rations, for some days.
The blockade by Dewey's fleet and the fact that Manila was hemmed in on all sides by Aguinaldo's troops and the American forces at Camp Dewey, were causing a great scarcity of food. The water system of Manila had been shut off at its source by the Filipinos several months before, causing typhoid and other, dreaded diseases to raise their ugly heads. This information having come to the American authorities and as instructions had been previously received from Washington to try every way possible to have the city capitulate in order to prevent loss of life and destruction of property, negotiations were started for the surrender of the city with the Belgian Consul of Manila. acting, as intermediary.
While trench warfare had been continuously going on between the Spaniards and the Filipinos all along the line on the outskirts of Manila, the American troops had not taken part in any of these scraps until the night of July 3lst, when, during a torrential rain the Spaniards opened up a galling fire on the American trenches. The American troops retaliated, and what was probably the greatest battle ever fought between the Spaniards and Americans was fought that night. A number of lives were lost on both sides including an American Captain of the First California Regiment. As this was the first and only time that the Spaniards had opened fire on the American trenches, it was assumed that the Spanish outpost must have become confused and reported that the American troops, using the darkness and rain as an advantage, had left their trenches and were advancing. This was not true as the American troops had received no orders to leave their trenches that night.
The Attack on Manila
Negotiations had now been going on for some time for the capitulation of the city, but at each conference the Spanish insisted on their tradition of requiring defeat before surrender. In order to appease them in this respect, the following plan was agreed upon. The American fleet and field artillery with the troops would be the only units participating in the attack, which would be confined to the bombardment of Fort San Antonio Abad in Malate, and would last for one hour, after which the U.S.S. Flagship "Olympia" would signal "Do you surrender"? All the Spanish had to do was to raise a white flag over the city wal1. The attack was set for August the, 13th.
While all of the American officers had been advised as to just what part the troops were to play in the attack, the enlisted men looked forward to as real a battle as they had had the night before, and each soldier had been issued 100 rounds of ammunition and two days rations. Major General Merritt, who had arrived and taken over the command, had made his headquarters on board the S.S. "Zafiro," a vessel of about three thousand tons, purchased in Hongkong by the American Consul of that place, to accompany the fleet when the attack on Manila was made. One company of the Second Oregon Regiment which was stationed in the Navy Yard was to be placed on board the vessel as the general's bodyguard. Now the Colonel of our regiment who was to select the company for this duty decided that, considering the great rivalry between the different companies for this honor, he would pick the best drilled company. So the whole regiment was marched out on the parade ground and each company was put through its paces. It was like an old fashioned spelling bee. After one or two commands some company or other would drop out until it finally dwindled down to company "F" (My company) and company "H". By this time the competitive spirit had been worked up to a high pitch and I am sure that the men in both companies drilled, as they had never drilled before or after. There was little to choose between the two and after another half hour spent in marching and going through the manual of arms, the Colonel finally picked Company F.
So early on the morning of August 13th we marched aboard the S.S. "Zafiro" and the rest of the regiment boarded the "Kwonghai," an old Chinese vessel, also purchased in Hongkong. We were to be used as a landing force when the city surrendered. It was a fine day and I can remember as if it were only yesterday, seeing Admiral Dewey standing in the conning tower of his flagship the "Olympia" talking to General Merritt about the tides and the time to get underway. The General was standing by the rail on the deck of the "Zafiro," lying a short distance from the flagship. The signal "Anchor aweigh" was hoisted exactly at 8:00 a.m. The "Olympia" took the lead followed by the other vessels of the fleet in single file, the "Zafiro" and the "Kwonghai" bringing up the rear. As the bombardment had been scheduled in the agreement with the Spanish to begin at 9:30 a.m., the fleet kept its speed down to about ten miles an hour in making the crossing from Cavite. When about a mile from the Manila shoreline, the ships maneuvered into firing position. The "Monterey" closed in several hundred yards nearer than the other vessels and took its position in front of the heavy Krupp batteries which the Spanish had installed on the Luneta only a few months before. These guns were of 8" calibre and of the latest type, It was the "Monterey's" job to silence them if they ever opened up. The Spanish, however, kept their part of the agreement and not one shot was fired at the fleet at any time during the bombardment. The American fleet started to fire on the fort at exactly 9:30 a.m. as per schedule. All ships except "Monterey" participated, each vessel taking several pot shots. The first was fired by the "Olympia', but fell short. She then change her position and did more effective work.
By this time the other ships had gotten the proper range and the shooting became very accurate. A member of one of the regiments that advanced on the fort after the bombardment has since told me that when they arrived they take a look. at the old fort. The American fleet had surely done a good job. All guns had been shot away from their foundations. A large shell had gone right through the fort and exploded, blowing up the magazine and wrecking it completely. Some of the holes in the fort were large enough to drive a team through.
Up to this time the plan of attack had worked out in accordance with the agreement for the surrender of the city. However things began to miscarry soon after. At 10:30 a.m. the fleet ceased firing and signalled the fort to surrender. Not waiting for the Spanish to reply the American troops left their trenches and started to advance on the fort. The Spaniards not understanding this early advance on the part of the Americans opened fire from the trenches back of the fort, and a real battle was on. The Americans now started to advance all along the line. The Colorado Regiment, wading up the beach, was the first to enter Fort San Antonio Abad. The Spanish flag was hauled down and the first American flag to be hoisted in Manila ran up in its stead, which was greeted by a round of cheers from the troops. Just a few minutes before this happened the Color Bearer of the Colorado Regiment had been killed.
The Oregon Troops in the Philippines
It is to be deeply regretted that the original plan for the surrender of Manila did not work out as so carefully prepared, for if it had, it is quite probable that the city would have been occupied without the loss of a single life. Moreover, if the exigencies of war had not made necessary the cutting of the cable by Dewey, the authorities in Spain would probably have been able to have sent a message here advising of the cessation of hostilities in accordance with a protocol signed by Spanish and American representatives in the city of Paris on August 12th, the day previous to that of the Battle of Manila.
Shortly after the American forces had taken the fort and were advancing toward the city proper, a white flag was seen by the fleet, flying from the southeast bastion of the city wall. After an exchamge of signals between the flagship and the Spanish, the troops on board the "Zafiro" and "Kwonghai" were loaded on cascos and landed at the end of the breakwater which extended about half as far as at present. After climbing around or over huge blocks of conglomerate that blocked our way, and crawling over the tops of cascos to get across breaks in the sea wall, we finally arrived at the foot of the Old Luneta. We then reformed and marched into the Walled City and were lined up in the park located in front of the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), now the Supreme Court Building. At about 6:30 in the afternoon, with the troops at salute arms and the regimental band playing the Star Spangled Banner, the "Red and Gold" of Castile, which had so proudly flown over the Philippines for nearly 400 years was slowly lowered, and in its stead was raised the Stars and Stripes. Present among the Spanish and American officers who took part in this official flag ceremony was a beautiful young Spanish lady who wept as if her heart would break when the Spanish flag was lowered. From a distance she resembled very much the young lady I had seen swinging in the hammock in the picture published in the "Oregonian" before we left Portland, said beautiful lady being my inspiration to enlist.
DeBurgh, Joseph, "A Few Reminiscences of the First Expedition of American Troops to Manila", The American Oldtimer. Vol VI, No. 6. April 1939, 23-29.
DeBurgh, Joseph, "A Few Reminiscences of the First Expedition of
American Troops to Manila", The American Oldtimer. Vol VII, No.
1. November 1939, 26-30, 45-48.