[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter 12

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Yarns of a Kentucky Admiral

by
Admiral
Hugh Rodman, USN


published by
The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Indianapolis
1928

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 14
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p237  Chapter XIII
With Commodore Dewey in 1898

Toward the latter part of 1897 our ship was serving in the Mediterranean and, as has been stated, some of our time was passed on the coast of Asia Minor, safeguarding American life and property.

Prior to this we had made an exceptionally interesting cruise and had touched at a number of ports on the northern shore of the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Piraeus, the seaport of Athens in Greece, including Sicily, Malta, and some of the islands of the Greek Archipelago.

Then we had spent some months in visiting many of the smaller and less frequented ports on the African coast, as well as some of the larger ones. Starting in at Mogador, on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, we touched at nearly all of the intervening ports in Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, to Alexandria in Egypt, and later visited five or six Turkish ports on the coast of Asia Minor.

Taken altogether, it was one of the most delightful and fascinating cruises imaginable, and aside from sight-seeing and the incidental pleasures, it greatly stimulated my interest in the history of these countries and enabled me to read it with the added pleasure of visualizing many of the localities in which the events had occurred.

I have always made it a point to read both the ancient and modern history of every country I have  p238 visited, and to familiarize myself with its geography, natural features and resources as far as practicable and, by so doing, I have added a great deal to the ordinary pleasures of travel. A friend of mine once said to me jokingly that naval officers learned geography by "going to it," and I think this very well expresses it.

It was while lying at Smyrna that we received orders to proceed at once to the Asiatic Station and join our fleet there, the fleet which later was placed under command of Admiral Dewey. Trouble was brewing between Spain and the United States. On our arrival in Asiatic waters we were directed to proceed to Hongkong, where we remained until we sailed for Manila on the outbreak of the Spanish-American War.

Nothing Left to Imagination During our stay in Hongkong Prince Henry of Prussia arrived on an official visit, and remained a week or so. The customary official calls were exchanged and, as there were men-of‑war of several nations in port, there were dinners and entertainments in his honor, to which, of course, Admiral Dewey (then Commodore) was invited. Whether it was intentional or not, the commodore noticed at the first several functions that in drinking the health of the rulers of the various countries represented by officers present, the United States was always at the tail‑end of the procession.

When he was convinced that this was intentional and possibly done on the instigation of Prince Henry, he declined to attend any other dinners unless he could have the assurance that his country would receive proper recognition, and he carried his point.

In my own mind I have sometimes wondered if this  p239 were not a studied and intentional slur on the part of Germany, and a forerunner of a number of other impertinences which characterized her actions at Manila and elsewhere during the Spanish-American War, and which showed so conspicuously during the World War.

At any rate the German officials met their match in Admiral Dewey, who, if he may not have used conventional diplomatic language, still left nothing to the imagination, and usually called a spade a spade.

 Up Comes Your Emperor Already, here in Hongkong, the Germans had antagonized both the American and the British forces, and showed their hands in much the same way as they did later in the Philippines. Scraps on shore between the enlisted men became so frequent and the hostility so strong, that the British governor of Hongkong issued an order to the effect that since the Germans belonged to a friendly nation, and were guests in a friendly port, it should be the pleasure and duty of British enlisted men to treat them as such.

In compliance with this policy, one of the British chief petty officers invited a German petty officer to have a drink. When the glasses were filled, the Britisher, proposing the toast, said:

"Here's to his Imperial Majesty, the German Emperor."

"Prosit," said the German, and down went the drinks.

The German in turn treated, and when ready to drain his glass, said: "Here's to his Imperial Majesty, the German Emperor."

The Britisher put down his glass and said: "We drank to the emperor the first time; what's the matter with drinking this to the queen?"

 p240  "Here's to his Imperial Majesty, the German Emperor," again said the German, and drained his glass.

The Britisher, thoroughly disgusted and angry, left his glass untouched and said, "Well, if you won't drink to the queen, then up comes your bloody emperor." And he stuck his finger down this throat — and "the emperor" came up.

We are all familiar with the immediate effect caused by the sinking of the U. S. S. Maine in Havana, and the declaration of war soon after.

During the remainder of our stay in Hongkong every thought and effort was bent on making our preparations for the capture of the Philippines as complete as possible. The British authorities were evidently very much in sympathy with us and only directed us to leave port when we had strained our stay to the point of violating its neutrality. On leaving, we made our rendezvous in Mirs Bay, a Chinese harbor north of Hongkong, where we remained a day or two prior to sailing for Manila.

Our small fleet consisted of the flag-ship Olympia, the Baltimore, Boston, Raleigh, Concord and Petrel, together with the revenue cutter Hugh McCulloch.

Admiral Dewey was in every respect an ideal officer for the command of our ships in Asiatic waters during the Spanish-American War. Cool, devoid of fear, efficient and forceful, he had the respect and confidence of every officer and man who served under him.

Naval strategy is both a science and a game. Science has established certain well-known principles, but it is a game to put them into execution as various conditions arise during a war, especially when in contact with the enemy or in actual combat. Prior to leaving  p241 Hongkong, every contingency which might arise was considered and studied, and plans made to meet each one, so that when the time actually came to engage the enemy's fleet, we had a prearranged plan which fitted the case exactly.

In Manila Bay On approaching the Philippine Islands we made a reconnaissance of Subig Bay on the west coast of Luzon but, not finding the Spanish fleet there, we continued on toward Manila.

The first hostile shot came from a land battery on El Fraile, a small island at the entrance to Manila Bay, and the first answering shot, from the after five-inch gun on the Raleigh. This was early in the evening just after dark, and neither shot hit its mark nor had any effect on our general plans.

On entering Manila Bay we reduced speed and steamed very slowly during the night, with our vessels in a single column. This formation was maintained and was never broken or altered until after the action had been completed. In fact, a published account in a Manila paper a day or two after the battle, took us to task for going at our work with so much precision and seemed to insinuate that in so doing we had taken an unfair advantage.

Dawn, which in the tropics, as Rudyard Kipling says, "comes up like thunder," meaning that there is a very short twilight, found us off the water-front of Manila. The land batteries opened on us, but fortunately made no hits. I noted one heavy shell which struck exactly in the wake of the Baltimore, the ship next ahead of us in line, and only ten or fifteen yards astern of her. If this shell had hit, it would have done a tremendous amount of damage, and might have put her out of the fight. Had the enemy allowed for the  p242 ship's speed in sighting their guns, the shot would have struck on the water-line and would no doubt have seriously crippled her.

But to me the most glorious effect of the whole day occurred when we sighted the Spanish fleet at Cavite, as we turned and headed toward it.

On going into action, battle-flags are hoisted. This means that in addition to the stars and stripes that fly from the peak, other large national ensigns are hoisted at the mastheads. In the navy it is customary to roll a flag into a small bundle, secure it with a "slippery hitch" in the halyards, hoist it aloft and then break it out to the breeze by a quick jerk of the running part of the halyards. So, after the ensign at the gaff and the battle-flags were hoisted, I noticed that the men themselves bent on other flags that might find a place aloft, and quite a number were run up, but not immediately broken out.

Then came the signal from Commodore Dewey on the Olympia, "Prepare to engage the enemy." Of course we were ready at our battle stations, but when this signal was made, the loading of the guns and the click of breech-blocks broke the otherwise dead silence. It might be explained here that a signal is executed as it is handed down. Then followed the signal, "Engage the enemy," and as it was handed down, from every masthead or other place aloft where a flag could be flown, the stars and stripes floated to the breeze and decorated the ships as though it were a gala occasion and not the beginning of a historic battle.

Immediately the two bands in the fleet began playing The Star Spangled Banner, officers and men alike stood at attention as if on parade, and as the last note  p243 died away, simultaneously there came a rousing cheer, and the guns opened on the enemy. No man who is patriotic and has the love of country in his heart, could witness such a sight without emotion, while thanking God that he was an American and serving under her flag.

As has been stated, we followed the prearranged plan of battle literally. This carried us back and forth past the Spanish fleet five times, making our turns out of range of their guns, then returning, and using alternately our starboard and port batteries. It was evident after the second or third leg that things were coming our way. Some of the enemy's ships were badly damaged, some had sought shelter behind the Cavite Navy Yard, their fire was slackening, and victory seemed assured.

The Accompaniment During the turn after the second leg, thinking perhaps that the men below in the powder division might not know how matters were going and be a little restless, I slipped down to cheer them up a bit. On approaching the compartment where they were stationed, I heard the sound of a fiddle accompanied by a couple of guitars, and on reaching the entrance, discovered the men of the powder division strung across the deck, dressed in abbreviated gunny-sacks to represent hula skirts, burlesquing a dance and singing in chorus to the accompaniment of the instruments, There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town To‑night.

When they saw me there was a wild scramble for stations and the musicians hastily attempted to discard their instruments and join their mates at their proper places.

"Men," I said, "things are coming our way; we've got 'em on the run. I don't know what that tune is you  p244 were playing (it was the first time I had ever heard it), but it's a corker; keep it up. I want the music to reach the upper deck. Go on with the dance, and I know we'll have ample powder and shell to keep the guns going." And throughout the remainder of the action, the strains of this air rolled up through the ammunition scuttle and cheered the men at the guns.

Not in the Drill Manual Prior to going into action, our captain had admonished us not to get excited, to serve our guns as carefully and deliberately as if we were at drill, to follow the drill regulations; and over and above all else, not to use any other than the prescribed orders and to avoid the use of profane language.

On about the third or fourth leg the captain noticed that one of the enemy's ship, the Castilla, painted white, was firing on us and that, apparently, she was undamaged, so that her whole battery was intact.

We were only about twelve or fourteen hundred yards from her and, as my guns were in the open, on the forecastle, directly under his observation, and I had been getting the range throughout the action by firing a single gun, spotting the fall of the shot, then giving the range to the other guns, the captain leaned over the bridge and said, "Rodman, do you see that ––––– blankety-blank white ship that is raising hell at our expense and turning his whole ––––– battery on us? Give him hell and keep it up!"

While training the gun in obedience to orders, I said:

"Captain, I don't find some of your words, or your exact orders in the drill manual; but I understand what you mean."

"You do what you are ordered to do," he roared, "and do it damned quick."

p245 "Aye, aye sir," said I, and the six‑inch guns proceeded to obey his orders in the letter.

The captain was full of fun and humor. He knew that my reply was neither disrespectful nor insubordinate, but more for the purpose of getting a rise out of him than anything else. We followed the first shot from the time it left the gun until it struck the Castilla and afterward learned its full effect.

The hit was made under or near the after bridge, and its effect was disastrous. The explosion killed or wounded most of the men and officers on the bridge, besides wiping out a five‑inch and a six‑pounder, with the crews who were serving their guns there. Incidentally it should be remembered that it is very easy to follow a shell by eye after it leaves the gun, and this one was seen to strike, leaving a black sun‑burst on the outside of the white ship as it exploded.

My information concerning the effect of this shell came from a Spanish lieutenant of marines, who had been stationed either on the bridge or at one of the guns. He had been sent forward with a message, and on his return witnessed the damage that had been done in his absence. He stated that this was the first shell that had struck during the action.

After the battle he was captured by the Filipinos, was ill, and I was more or less instrumental in securing his freedom and placing him under proper medical attention. During his convalescence we discussed the engagement and the above facts were established.

Speaking of the damage done by a single shell, when the Spanish infantry on shore were hurriedly packing to evacuate their barracks at the Cavite Station, an eight-inch shell from the Boston entered through a side brick wall, struck the tile floor and exploded.  p246 What with the flying fragments of brick, tiles and the shell itself, I am told that forty-eight men were killed or wounded.

Once in the midst of the engagement, in making a turn, we ranged up alongside the Baltimore. Apparently she was a shambles, her sides were scorched, presumably from bursting shells, some of her boats were in fragments, as they hung from the falls, and water was pouring in from her scuppers. She had every appearance of having received heavy damage, and we naturally supposed that she had suffered many casualties, so we gave her three rousing cheers to hearten her up a bit.

Later we found that the looks of her sides and her shattered boats was due to her own gun‑fire when her guns had been in extreme train and that with the exception of four wounded she had no serious casualties.

At the end of the action, about eight A.M., seeing that the enemy's fleet had been wiped out, the commodore signaled to withdraw from action and go to breakfast.

All but Unscathed Then came one of the most interesting incidents of the battle. Naturally we were all eager to know the number of killed and wounded, and it was not until after we anchored that I learned, much to my amazement, that our own ship had escaped scot-free from any casualty.

The commodore's signal read, "Ships report the number of killed and wounded."

Making their reports in succession according to seniority, the ships signaled as follows:

Olympia 0 killed, 0 wounded
Boston 0 killed, 0 wounded
p247 Baltimore 0 killed, 4 wounded
Raleigh 0 killed, 0 wounded
Concord 0 killed, 0 wounded
Petrel 0 killed, 0 wounded

What a cheer rent the air! Great was our relief and joy at knowing that our friends and comrades, with the exception of the four wounded on the Baltimore, were unscathed. And our ships had fared equally well, for while there were a few hits, no ship was seriously damaged.

But if we had escaped all but unscathed, it had been far otherwise with the enemy. He had lost one hundred and sixty-seven killed, over two hundred wounded, and every single ship was sunk, burned or captured. No victory could have been more complete and overwhelming.

Nothing could better illustrate the value of preparedness, training and constant target practise than the battle of Manila Bay. While our accuracy of gun‑fire then, as compared to what it is to‑day, was insignificant and mediocre, still it was far superior to that of the Spaniards. The reason for this was that in our previous practise we had not only improved in sighting and hitting but had also thoroughly tested our batteries and appliances and made improvements to the best of our ability. Hence because of our experience, we were far better prepared for battle than were our enemies.

Even comparing the relative strength of the two fleets, the destruction of the Spanish force and the insignificant injury done to ours is proof positive that we were infinitely more proficient than they.

Incidentally, it was extremely interesting to note  p248 that while the enemy's shells fell close, often deluging us with water, or passed directly overhead, few actual hits were made, showing the lack of fineness and accuracy that must be obtained if gun‑fire is to be made effective. There is also reason to believe that much of their material, as well as their personnel, was far below par.

While it is true that our fleet was the stronger of the two, yet, had the Spanish fleet been properly handled and better prepared, it would have made a far better showing. A contributory cause to their defeat was the fact that instead of having their vessels under way and ready to maneuver, they had moored them in a crescent-shaped line. Therefore, when we were approaching or leaving their line, just before or after making a turn, some of their vessels would be in position to receive a raking fire, and they suffered heavily in consequence.

It has been previously stated that between the time of the battle of Manila Bay and the present, our ships have improved twenty-four hundred per cent in battery efficiency. Extraordinary as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, and many other similar advances have been made in the efficiency of our latest ships.

The Spanish fleet consisted of the Reina Cristina (flag-ship), Castilla, Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, Don Juan de Austria, Don Antonio de Ulloa, and the Marquis de Duero, all under command of Admiral Montojo.

Not Reported An incident occurred in the midst of the engagement, among one of my gun‑crews. In those days a six‑inch gun was trained in azimuth by a crank on one side. In the absence of the gun‑captain, I was personally handling the gun and, in giving orders to "train right,  p249 or left," noticed that the trainer in his excitement would sometimes train the wrong way. After several admonitions, he again did the wrong thing and, as he bent to his work and his most kickable part offered a fine target, I booted him a good one. It brought him to his senses; his indignation, resentment and anger overcame his nervousness, and he said, "Mr. Rodman, I am going to report you for striking an enlisted man."

Under ordinary circumstances, in the piping times of peace, such an incident would not have been likely to occur, but if it had, it would have been a very serious offense. But I had reason to suppose that even if it was reported, since it accomplished its purpose so well in action, no disciplinary measures would be taken, so I dismissed it from my thoughts.

But when the engagement had ended, when we were all in high feather and our significant victory was this sole topic of conversation, Marin, the gun‑trainer, a lad about eighteen, came up to me in rather a patronizing way, and in a manner and tone that implied authority and finality said:

"Mr. Rodman, I am not going to report you for what you did, for maybe you were right, but you had better not do it again, or you may not get off so easy."

"All right, Marin, I'll be more careful in future, but I don't believe it will be necessary again."

Marin and I have often joked about this incident, for after his cruise he secured employment in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and rose to a position of responsibility.

After the main engagement, while we were still at anchor, we could see the Spanish fleet, some of the ships in flames, others sinking or getting under the cover of the land in the inner harbor at Cavite.

 p250  It only remained to subdue a battery on Sangley Point, and the commodore ordered two of our ships to get under way and engage it.

As we stood in to attack, our captain noted that all the battery's shells were passing over the ship (the range was about fourteen hundred yards) and that none fell closer than about two thousand yards from shore. We therefore steamed in to about twelve hundred yards, and proceeded to make the battery untenable. It seems to me it took a very cool head and keen observation to note this during action and take advantage of it. Later we discovered that the guns could not be sufficiently depressed to hit us owing to the fact that the gun ports had received layer after layer of whitewash for appearance's sake, and the chase of the guns came in contact with it when depressed.

The fall of this battery completely ended the Spanish resistance and left them disastrously and helplessly defeated, so they hoisted the white flag over the Cavite Navy Yard.

Commodore Dewey then directed the fleet captain (Lamberton) to go ashore and demand an unconditional surrender, and impressed upon him that no other terms would be considered.

Hope­lessly De­moralized On his way ashore Lamberton passed through the wreckage of the Spanish fleet, and on landing found a hopelessly demoralized condition. In addition to damage from shell-fire, many of the killed and most of the wounded were in evidence, laid out on the ground, without protection of any kind from the tropic midday sun, and with almost no medical aid.

One of his first acts was to signal to the fleet for all available medical officers and hospital corps men to be sent on shore to lend their aid in assisting to care  p251 for the wounded. Many a Spaniard owes his life to their willing and skilful work.

In spite of his positive orders to demand an unconditional surrender, as the parley progressed and the Spanish commandant expressed his willingness to surrender, it became apparent to Lamberton that we would have far more prisoners on our hands than we could feed or handle conveniently. It would be difficult to care for the dead and wounded and we would be in a much more advantageous position with the prisoners off our hands. Captain Lamberton, realizing this, unexpectedly said, "Well, then, can't you think of something else you would rather do than surrender?"

After all it amounted to an unconditional surrender. The Spaniards were not molested as they evacuated Cavite, and were tentatively assisted in their endeavor to reach Manila and elsewhere.

Surely the horrors of war could not have been better exemplified than in the sight of the wounded who had been carried ashore and placed in the Navy Yard after the main action, to say nothing of the heaps of dead, who, though out of their misery, were in many cases, like the wounded, frightfully burned, scalded and mangled. It was pathetic to see the Catholic nuns come to the Americans and beg us to spare the wounded and not put them to death, and to be merciful to the prisoners! The idea that we might be guilty of such inhumanity had been inspired by a circular issued jointly by the governor general of the Philippines and the archbishop, wherein we were accused of being barbarians, cutthroats, pirates and about everything else that was vile. This circular had been read aloud by our captain to the officers and men while we were on  p252 route to Manila from Hongkong, and only excited derision and scorn from all who heard it.

 Tremendous Odds The recollection of the archbishop's tirade forces me to digress for a moment. Several months after the battle our ship was ordered to Hongkong to make minor repairs and to give the officers and men a run on shore, for we had had practically no opportunity to grant leave in the Philippines.

My wife had accompanied me to Hongkong before the war, as had the wives of six other officers, and they remained there during our operations in the Philippines. It is not difficult to imagine the pleasure and joy of our meeting on this occasion.

Almost at once, speaking reverentially, she said:

"You know that I and the six other officers' wives all prayed fervently for our success against the Spaniards, and God heard our prayers and granted our requests."

"Well," said I, "you seven amateur Protestants are to be congratulated, for you certainly won against tremendous odds. To my certain knowledge, you were pitted against one archbishop, fifteen ordinary, run-of‑the‑mine bishops, nine thousand three hundred and forty-seven ordained priests, some thousands of nuns, sisters, monks and brothers — all guaranteed and certified professionals in the Catholic Church, working overtime — and yet you landed a wallop, a knock‑out blow, and won the decision in the first round! Just think of the odds that would have been paid on any one of you amateurs! If you can only hang on to the combination and meet with equal success, when we get home we might beg, borrow, or steal a few dollars, take a flier in Wall Street, and gather in a few millions."

A Dastardly Insult! While our ship was on patrol duty, a few days after  p253 the battle, we sighted at early daylight what appeared to be an enemy cruiser standing up the bay for Manila. We at once went to battle stations and stood toward her, but as she approached, we made her out to be a small gunboat. Doubtless the early morning light had distorted her size. We continued on our course until fairly close, then signaled by international code for her to stop.

Not the slightest attention was paid to us, so the captain directed me to send a shot across her bow. As a matter of fact, I used a captured Spanish shell in a small-caliber gun, which fell short. I fired a second, which also fell short, even after elevating the gun. But the gunboat steamed along merrily on its course and paid not the slightest attention to us.

Then the captain directed me to sink her. Instead I fired a six‑inch shell between her bridge and her smoke-stack, only a few feet above her deck. She stopped promptly. Incidentally this last shell ricocheted, went entirely over the intervening land and came near hitting the Petrel, one of our ships, which was anchored just off the Cavite Navy Yard. I was sent on board the gunboat to take possession. No one could have showed greater indignation than her captain at such a dastardly insult in his own home waters. He demanded an explanation and an apology. But his manner soon changed; he all but collapsed and became very emotional when I said in explanation that we were at war with Spain, and that his vessel had been captured.

He had been in the southern Philippines for several months, collecting taxes and had not heard of the war. Under the circumstances he argued that he should be allowed to proceed and was dismayed to learn that this  p254 could not be granted. Naturally his request was disallowed.

I really felt sorry for the poor fellow, for he would have been entitled to a percentage of his collection. The money reverted to us instead, and, as a further bit of irony, his little vessel was later assigned to our fleet and took part in the capture of Manila.

The destruction of the Spanish fleet left the Philippines at our mercy, but the commodore wisely decided not to take the city of Manila, or any other land positions, other than those in the immediate vicinity of Cavite, because we did not have the force to hold them, nor the food to feed the prisoners, to say nothing of the populace.

So he established a blockade — it might have been called a benevolent blockade — since he countenanced the coming and going of certain commercial vessels which he well knew were carrying food and supplies, other than arms and ammunition, to the people on shore. Then, too, had we taken the city of Manila, as we could easily have done, we should have been under the necessity of protecting the Spaniards against the incursions of the Filipinos, who had the most intense hatred for them.

The commodore promptly cut the cable to Hongkong, shutting off all Spanish communication with the home government except by mail, and incidentally his own with Washington, and thus took the responsibility of the administration of the situation. Being a diplomat of the highest order, he was in a position to carry on without serious interference.

Immediately after the battle, foreign men-of‑war — Germans, Italians, Austrians, British and Japanese — began to arrive.

 p255  The Germans came in force, headed by the battle-ship Deutschland, with Admiral von Diederich in command. They immediately began to meddle with affairs that were none of their business.

I am under the impression that for some time previous to the war the Germans had been negotiating with the Spaniards for the acquisition of some of the outlying Pacific islands, if not for the Philippines themselves, in order to extend their colonial possessions, and our success proved to be a body-blow to their aspirations.

The Commodore Put to the Test Although the blockade existed, we had the situation so well in hand that at first the commodore paid but little attention to the coming and going of the foreign war‑ships. Orders had been promulgated with reference to them, but they were liberal in their construction and application.

But it soon became increasingly evident that the Germans were stretching their neutrality to the breaking point. They apparently did as they pleased, and there is no doubt that on more than one occasion they attempted to give aid and assistance to the Spaniards. When this state of affairs became evident, Commodore Dewey issued more stringent orders, requiring all foreign war‑ships to report their movements in or out of Manila Bay to him, and to enter and leave port only during daylight.

Possibly with the idea of putting the commodore to the test, the German cruiser Cormorant deliberately disobeyed his orders. When the commodore demanded an explanation, Von Diederich sent his flag-lieutenant on board our flag-ship, the Olympia, with an equivocal message, still trying to bluff it out. He surely got what was coming to him. The commodore told him in  p256 no uncertain words to return immediately to his ship and say at once Von Diederich that in future he was strictly to obey his (Dewey's) orders; that any violation on his part would mean war; and added, "If he wants a fight, he can have it right now!"

Overcome at the commodore's determined manner, the flag-lieutenant attempted to intimate that perhaps there had been some misunderstanding. He was promptly dismissed and told to carry his message literally to the German admiral.

That eased the situation, but later it came to Commodore Dewey's knowledge that while the blockade was respected, the German cruisers were busying themselves in running around outlying ports and interfering with Filipino operations against the Spaniards.

A particular and palpable case was that of the German cruiser Irene which was protecting a Spanish force which had been driven out of the Naval Station at Olongapo by the Filipinos, and had taken refuge on Isla Grande in Subig Bay.

Commodore Dewey sent the Raleigh and the Concord to capture the island, and instructed Captain Coghlan, who commanded the expedition, to open fire as soon as we passed a certain point which would bring the island in view, though the Irene might be in the line of fire; and we obeyed orders.

I had the bow gun, and let loose a shell which came uncomfortably close to the Irene, which promptly slipped her cable, put to sea at full speed and, so far as I know, left anchor, chain and all without ever recovering them.

A Purloined Silver Service A few shells thrown at the island soon brought forth the white flag. I was sent on shore to demand an  p257 unconditional surrender, the officers to retain personal effects, but all government property to be turned in.

These terms were gladly accepted, but the commanding officer, who had been the admiral commanding at Olongapo, claimed the right to retain a silver service which he had personally carried with him when he evacuated the Navy Yard, when otherwise it would have fallen into the hands of the Filipinos. This service was marked with the official coat-of‑arms of Spain and the words "Arsenal de Olongapo."

I replied that this was unquestionably government property. In fact, its markings clearly indicated it as such; hence it must be turned in like any other government property. And, if it must be confessed, when he reluctantly complied, I kept it and hid it away in a locker in my room on board ship.

Previously Commodore Dewey had issued two very stringent orders with reference to looting. Not that any personal or private property had been disturbed, but souvenirs and certain public articles had been taken from the Spanish ships and the Navy Yard at Cavite.

Then came the third order to the effect that any one found looting should be drawn and quartered, boiled in oil, dismissed from the service, imprisoned, et cetera — at least that is the way it seemed to apply to me after having purloined the silver. In fact I felt as if the order had been directed at me personally.

Captain Coghlan was my warm personal friend, and maybe from fear of detection more than from a guilty conscience, I confessed the whole thing to him and asked his advice and assistance. He cussed me out as usual and berated me sadly, then after several days, he suggested that inasmuch as my room was next to  p258 his cabin, I should quietly slip the silver in there some night and say nothing about it, and he would try to hush the matter up and appease the commodore in case it came to his ears.

So, to all intents and purposes I complied. Nothing more was heard of the matter until a year or so later, when our ship had returned home and was going out of commission. The officers and men had been detached and were going home. As we told one another good‑bye and referred to some of the incidents of our eventful cruise, I was thanking the captain for all he had done for me and, especially for getting me out of the silver scrape. I said, "Captain, how did you manage to fix it with Commodore Dewey?"

As he generally called me by my given name, he said, "Well, Hugh, I didn't think you would be such a damned fool as to turn it in, but since you did, the commodore took one‑half of it for safe-keeping, and I the other."

"Captain," I replied, "I was not such a damned fool as you think — I turned only half of it in."

But to return to Manila.

If the Germans were antagonistic and meddlesome, the British and Japanese were just the opposite. We fraternized with the Britons and Japanese; they anchored near our fleet at Cavite. The Germans and others formed a group to themselves in the bay, off the city.

It was evident from various incidents and rumors that the Germans were still attempting to form a coalition of all foreign war‑ships against us. In conformity with this policy, the German admiral asked Captain Chichester, the senior British officer present, what he would do in case it was decided to interfere with our  p259 taking the city when our troops arrived. Chichester's answer was to the effect that Von Diederich might ask Commodore Dewey, who was well aware of his course of action and intention. It had the desired effect, and contributed much to clearing up the situation.

A Friendly Act We were only awaiting the arrival of the army to take Manila, which lay at our mercy; so, when a sufficient land force became available, the movement was started. All foreign ships were informed that we would attack on a certain date and that we would get under way at eight A.M.

At seven thirty the British and Japanese ships got under way. They stood toward the group of foreign men-of‑war headed by the Germans, who were still anchored well out off the city, and formed a line between them and our intended course, as much as to say, "Hands off!" It was an exceptionally friendly and sympathetic act, and undoubtedly had its influence.

The attack on Manila was prearranged between Commodore Dewey and the governor general who, to save his face, wanted to make some show of resistance. So, after we had given the occupants of one of the outlying forts time to evacuate, as our ships maneuvered in battle formation off the city, we proceeded to punch a few holes in the fort with our gun‑fire, while the army made a direct attack on the city. At the psychological moment Commodore Dewey hoisted the signal, by international code, "Do you surrender?" which was promptly answered from the city in the affirmative. Thereupon we landed and, with the army, took possession of Manila, which meant practically the surrender of the whole of the Philippine Islands.

In a way I never had any strong antipathy to the Spaniards, with the exception of those who may have  p260 been instrumental in the blowing up of the Maine; and it was always a source of pleasure to lend aid to our captives as long as they remained in the Philippines awaiting transportation home. In the early days, after the capture of Manila, the Spanish soldiers fraternized with ours, and when the military bands played on the luneta in the late afternoon, the Spanish uniforms, coming and going, lent a colorful effect to the assembled crowds.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 20 Sep 17