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Chapter 14

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
From the Mississippi
to the Sea

by
Admiral Robert E. Coontz


published by
Dorrance & Company
Philadelphia
1930

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!

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Chapter 16
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p204  Chapter XV

The Surrender of Manila

The Capture of Guam — On to Manila — Dewey — Foreign Vessels in Harbor — Surrender of Manila — Escape of Spanish Governor — Charleston to Iloilo — America a World Power — The Dutchmen of the Charleston — Incidents at Manila — Beveridge — Gillmore — Home Via Japan.

The Charleston approached the Island of Guam gradually, and we were to sight it about daylight. The encyclopedia fully described it, told of its being garrisoned by Spaniards, and gave the position of the three forts. We took special interest in the fort at Orote Point, and in old Fort Santa Cruz, in the center of the harbor. We reached there about June 20. I had the middle watch and went down at four o'clock for a short rest, as we expected to sight the island by daylight, and the fun would begin before eight A.M. When I reached my room I found two packages there. One was accompanied by a note from Bostwick who had the stateroom ahead of me, telling me in case he did not come out of the fight alive to send the letters in the package to his wife; the other was from Moffett who had the stateroom astern of me, requesting me, if he were killed, to throw one bundle of letters overboard, and send the other to his sister. Later in the day, when everything was over, I inquired of these two officers why they thought I would be the one to survive.

We sighted Guam as expected near Rota Channel, and headed down the fifteen miles toward the harbor.

Much has been written of the capture of Guam, some of it in a very facetious vein, but it was a real thing to us. We did not know that the old Orote fort had been abandoned, and that Fort Santa Cruz was unmanned.  p205 As we neared the harbor we saw several vessels anchored, and we anticipated some Spanish captures, but they turned out to be Japanese recently arrived from Yokohama. With all hands at general quarters and guns loaded we steamed in under Point Orote.

Had there been soldiers at the fort they could have fired on us and done serious damage before we could have got by, but there was no one there. As we neared Fort Santa Cruz, Slocum, who had the forward battery, fired ten shots, but the only thing that happened was that a couple of men in a canoe quickly paddled away, double time, for the beach! They proved to be fishermen.

We anchored off what is now known as Sumay, and soon a boat put off from the landing place at Pité. The governor's representative, the customs officer and several others were in the boat. When they came on board they avowed knowing nothing of any war with the United States, or any intended war. They had newspapers from Japan, but war had not been declared when the vessels that brought them left there. However, the captain told the governor's representative that he must have the surrender of the island. After some parleying, a meeting was arranged for the next morning, and Lieutenant Braunersreuther, Lieutenant Myers of the marine corps, Ensign Evans and several others from the Charleston and the transports, most of which were still lying outside the harbor entrance, went into Pité.

The governor came down, Braunersreuther handed him the captain's written message, and received a sealed reply which was opened in spite of the protest of the governor. Then and there they were made prisoners and taken on board the Charleston. The Spanish troops surrendered and were brought off and divided among the transports, and all were taken on to Manila. Portusach and a Spaniard, left at Guam, assumed to represent our government for several months thereafter.

It had been a serious business to the officers and men of the Charleston, and to those volunteers on the transports,  p206 although it turned out to be a most laughable affair in the end. At the proper time we raised the American flag over Fort Santa Cruz, and I had the honor of firing the salute to the stars and stripes as they were hoisted over the Island of Guam.

With this done, we started on the final leg of the voyage to Manila, deciding to go around the northern end of Luzon, although the distance was much greater. We had no cable communication, but assumed that a Spanish fleet had probably long since passed through the Red Sea, and gone on to the Philippine Islands. Of course, we all know now that it turned back to Suez, I think in August. As we approached Cape Engano, in day time, we sighted heavy smoke, dead ahead. We cleared for action, but fortunately did not fire at long range. As the ship came down, she proved to be the Baltimore from Manila Bay, with instructions for the Charleston.

We had a blow in the China Sea, a foreign vessel came out from Marivales and looked us over, and we then proceeded on to Manila Bay, off Cavite, where Commodore Dewey had his victorious ships anchored, and where the wrecks of the Spanish vessels still lay.

Our voyage of thirty-nine days from San Francisco had ended. Commodore Dewey was glad to see us, and anxiously inquired for the Monterey and the Monadnock. The city of Manila had not fallen at that time, and was manned by a large force of Spanish troops. We took our anchorage in the circle of the seven ships and prepared for further work.

Off the city lay Austrian, French and British vessels, and from time to time a German man-of‑war came in. They would anchor off Manila without taking notice of us. In each case, after Commodore Dewey had sent his Flag Lieutenant, Brumby, to them, with his compliments and reminded them of the courtesy they had omitted and what they had to do, they grudgingly got up anchor, came over and saluted, and returned. At that time we felt that the French, Austrians and Germans did not sympathize  p207 with us, but we were more encouraged as to the British attitude, after seeing Captain Chichester.

We were within gunshot of the Spanish forts and fortifications, and kept the strictest kind of watch, day and night — the men sleeping at the guns. There were several false alarms. All the time we were expecting the Spanish fleet off our harbor entrance, and maintained a constant lookout.

Commodore Dewey cut the cable, so the only communication we had was by two vessels to Hong Kong — the Nanshan and the Zafiro, and they did not bring us much news. We did have word of the Battle of Santiago, and knew that the worst of the war was over. The Monterey, with Captain Leutze, arrived about August 8th, bringing added forces to General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wesley Merritt. The troops were landed, and the time came to take the city of Manila.

It is all a matter of history now. I remember the morning we cleared for action, hoisted our battle flags and started, in column, across Cavite harbor for Manila. The Charleston was number two in line, next to the Baltimore. The British had got under way at Manila and steamed over for an anchorage at Cavite. They passed close aboard of us with their bands playing and their men cheering. There was no question as to their sympathies. We should always remember the friendship of the British, in Manila, at that time. We had told the French, Austrians and Germans to shift anchorage and get out of range. My recollection now is that the ships of two nations failed to do so.

We demanded the surrender of the city, and after a time, received it, the army advancing on the land side. The Spanish governor, however, took passage on the largest German ship, and escaped to Hong Kong. Two things have never been made clear to me. One was whether Commodore Dewey and General Merritt knew that the Spaniards would surrender, and the other, how  p208 much of a breach of etiquette it was for the Spanish governor to sail away, on a German war vessel, with his family.

At the end of that long day in August, we anchored at the mouth of the Pasig River, our ship being nearest to the entrance. There was a million dollars' worth of shipping in the river that would have been prizes of war, except for the rule of international law — that, when the land forces co‑operate with the fleet, there is no prize money allowed.

The Cebu, a small vessel, had been sunk at the entrance to the harbor. Captain Glass was made captain of the port of Manila. He passed that duty on to Lieutenant Braunersreuther, who had become collector of customs, and a severe one, too. Unsuccessful attempts were made by civilians to raise the Cebu and thus open the harbor. Finally, Commodore Dewey sent for Ensign (now Rear Admiral) William A. Moffett, and gave him the job of raising it.

Moffett requested certain bluejackets and help from the Charleston, and in a remarkably short time rigged up various contrivances that proved effective, and the ship was floated and taken away. She was afterwards repaired and put into commission. Moffett deserves the fullest commendation for his excellent work there, in opening up the entrance to Manila to commerce. Trade was at once resumed. Moffett worked so hard at this undertaking, and for so long a time at Cavite that his health became impaired.

At Manila, the fall weather in the open sea is mean, and the boating bad. I went on shore the day after the surrender with Waldo Evans, and we found shells in the guns in the various Spanish emplacements. We quickly reported the matter, because any one might have gone there and fired the guns at our ships, with results that might easily have been disastrous.

I can recall the whole situation in Manila the day after the surrender — troops marching in, Spanish prisoners  p209 being corralled, great crowds of people surging through the streets, and general pandemonium. Slowly, affairs settled down, and more troops arrived from the United States.

In October the Charleston was sent to Iloilo. There, the Spanish were still in force, but the insurgents outside the city were very friendly to us. The next time we were at Iloilo, however, both sides did some shooting. I think we were at Iloilo in November, when word came that it was the intention of our government to hold the Philippines. There was much discussion of this matter, in the ward room mess, as it was felt that if we did retain the Islands, we would become a full-fledged world power, with all of its attendant responsibilities. I saw some officers weep when they learned of this report.

Early in December we returned to Manila, as we had trouble with one of our engines, and the Charleston was the second ship to be sent to Hong Kong. All wines and liquors on the various vessels had long since been exhausted, or thrown overboard, and in this connection I recall a circumstance that happened when we arrived at Hong Kong. On the way up, Dr. Percy had warned all hands regarding cholera, which was prevalent in Hong Kong, and special instructions were issued with respect to the use of water. Percy and I roomed together at a Hong Kong hotel. After we had gone to our room the proprietor sent up a bottle of whiskey. Percy opened it, poured some into a glass, and added some water from a pitcher in the room. We drank it. Then we suddenly thought of the possibility of cholera germs in the water! For forty-eight hours Percy watched to see even if they developed, but they never did.

We were delayed in Hong Kong, as the necessity for extra repairs became apparent, and did not get back to Manila on schedule. About the time we reached there the Raleigh was ordered to return to the United States. She had had an active part in the Manila Bay fight, and was the first to leave for home.

 p210  I was a member of a crowd of officers from the Charleston who were invited to a farewell party on board the Raleigh at which we sang the celebrated song, the chorus of which was:

"He's a rooster from the Raleigh

And he'll take away your breath,

He'll turn the Bowery upside down,

And frighten it to death."

Captain Coghlan, of the Raleigh, visited the ward room to greet us, and made the famous "Me und Gott" speech that later got him into trouble, when he delivered it in New York.a In Manila Bay, however, he was among his friends.

The Baltimore had an entertainment one night to which we were invited and in which we were asked to participate. There were a number of officers on the Charleston whose names were of German or Dutch origin. In fact, at the time of the trouble with Germany, regarding Samoa, a list was prepared containing several pages of names of supposed German officers in our navy. Mine was one of them, dispute the fact that seven or eight generations of each branch of my family were born in the United States, and I expect others on the list could make similar claim. We were spoken of as "The Dutchmen from the Charleston." So that night we went over to the Baltimore with a song. I wrote the words and Jack Myers and Phillips composed the music.

"Come, Comrades, gather 'round us

And listen to our score;

We are Dutchmen from the Charleston

Come to see the Baltimore.

Blocklinger, Braunersreuther,

You have heard of them before!

Evans, Bostwick and Slocum,

And full half a dozen more!

 p211  "There is Leiper, and there's Henry,

They will give your ears a jolt;

Marshall, Phillips, Myers,

Percy, Coontz and Farenholt!

So come and gather 'round us

And listen to our score,

We are the Dutchmen from the Charleston

Come to see the Baltimore!

"And still they piled them on us,

How many, none can tell,

Brinser, Fischer, Hatch, Van Duzer,

Constein and Wettengell."

This song was the hit of the evening, and at all events thereafter where Myers and Phillips were present, it had to be sung repeatedly.

At that time there were very few army and navy women in Manila, as relations between the United States forces and the insurgents, led by Aguinaldo, became somewhat strained, after the fall of the city. On one visit to Manila, Evans and I passed a lady who waved at us from a carriage. We stopped, and I found that she was one of four sisters who had lived opposite my home in Hannibal. She was with her husband who was chaplain of a Kansas regiment.b The story is told that in one of the skirmishes when some of the Kansas boys had been shot down, the chaplain seized a rifle from the hands of one of the fallen soldiers and took his part in the fight.

We had the great dinghy race on Thanksgiving Day at Cavite, where incidentally I rowed my last race. It was arranged by Lieutenant T. S. Rodgers, of the Monterey. On the Charleston we had two dinghys that were exactly alike, and in manning them we started what was presumed to be the "first" crew in one boat and a "second" crew in the other, in order to induce a competition that would make the "first" crew work. I will not name its members, but in the scrub crew were McKean, Moffett, Marshall and Coontz, with Evans as coxswain. In the  p212 initial tryout, the "first" crew was beaten. We gave them one of our men in exchange, and again we beat them. After repeated trials and exchanges, each one of the scrub had got into the "first" crew. It was unavailing, however, except for the personal satisfaction we had, for the Monterey won the race and all our money. I did not enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, as I had overworked my heart.

At one of our Saturday night entertainments, Executive Officer Blocklinger narrated an experience he had had as an ensign. He had been on the China station, with Charles A. Clarke, a classmate. On reaching San Francisco, they purchased railroad and Pullman tickets to their homes in Iowa, before starting out to enjoy themselves in the city. After a few days of pleasure all of their money was gone, and they found themselves absolutely penniless. They felt ashamed to ask any of their friends for a loan, and accordingly boarded the train, with not even so much as a penny between them, and started on their four days' journey.

Directly opposite them sat a kindly old lady with a large lunch basket, such as travelers often carried in those days. When she finished her first meal on the train she offered the young men a California apple. They graciously accepted the fruit and it constituted their dinner. The next morning she prepared her own breakfast in her berth, and invited them to have some sandwiches and coffee which she had ordered from the dining car. They ate so greedily that the old lady suspected the truth of their condition, and fed them all of the way to their homes in Iowa. Such are the adventures, at times, of young naval officers!

After some preliminary trouble the situation in Manila culminated on February 5, 1899. The Charleston and the Concord were lying at the mouth of the Pasig River. I had been on shore that day to see Postmaster Vaill, but I had returned on board in time for dinner. Not long afterwards, firing was started on shore. Commodore Dewey  p213 ordered us to assist the army, but we could do nothing until daylight, except watch the burning of Tondo and other parts of the city. We dared not fire for fear of killing our own people. At dawn, however, when we were able to communicate with the army, we started northward, and from time to time fired ahead of the troops, to clear the way. I can plainly recall the battle of Caloocan and other skirmishes in that vicinity. During one engagement which lasted several hours, we picked off insurgents in church steeples. It was a rather exciting experience.

Of course, we went to general quarters wearing our swords, but as the heat increased, we discarded first our swords, then our blouses, shirts, and finally, caps and undershirts, until we had nothing on except lower garments and shoes. Inhaling the fumes of powder is very oppressive, and in time, one ceases to feel like a real, human being.

When the Monadnock arrived in September, we worked with her to the southward, engaging as far as Paranaque.

The lists of the dead and wounded were being sent to the United States, by way of Hong Kong, and the papers were filled with the part played by the Charleston. We therefore had to send on our own messages to the center, which I think was the Army & Navy Journal, to be relayed to our friends and relatives at home. The nearest we could approximate what we wanted to say was a navy code word which meant, "Business is good. Everything and everybody are well."

Congress was in session at the time, but adjourned on March 4, 1899. The Personnel Bill had been pushed along until it looked as if some action must be taken. In spite of the Spanish War nothing had been done with regard to pay legislation or promotion, and officers were beginning to abandon hope. I was always an optimist, and the cable having been repaired, on March 3rd, I sought to collect money from officers on the ships, to send a message to the Army & Navy Journal, requesting information  p214 concerning the Personnel Bill. Only two ships responded, the Charleston and the Concord. The next day a cheering despatch came, which I still have in my possession. It read, "Personnel passed."

Other ships then offered to pay their share of the cablegram, but I did not take their money. Dewey was promoted, very properly, and as our ship was next to the Olympia, we saw his flag raised. I had the deck when the first salute to his stars was fired. We were all very happy over his advancement.

Early in the spring, the Hon. Albert J. Beveridge, who, although only thirty‑six years of age, had been elected to the United States Senate, from Indiana, arrived in Manila. We had orders from the commander-in‑chief to take him as a passenger, and show him the Islands.

At the Naval Academy I was often called "Senator." That was one of my nicknames. When Senator Beveridge came on board the Charleston, I was in my room and did not meet him. He strolled up to the bridge where my classmate, Slocum, was on watch. At four o'clock, when I went up to relieve him, Slocum, who came from the senator's home state, said, "Senator Beveridge, have you met 'Senator' Coontz?"

"Why, no! replied Beveridge apparently just a bit amazed. "What state?"

"Missouri," replied Slocum.

"What has happened to Senator Cockrell, or Senator Vest?"

"Nothing," continued Slocum, "you know Missouri has three senators!"

Beveridge sat down and watched me, in uniform, take the deck, wondering what he could expect from a gang of naval legpullers in the Philippine Islands.

A few days after his arrival on board we sailed for Iloilo. We invited him to dinner, the first night out, but it was rough, and we had not finished the soup course before the senator arose and sought his bunk. By noon, the next day it was smooth, and he came to lunch. As the  p215 executive welcomed him, Beveridge arose and said, "Gentlemen of the Senate —," and as a howl went up, he attempted to correct himself. "Gentlemen of the ward room of the Charleston, I mean —" It was too late. He was so confused that he cut short his address.

The first Saturday night we introduced him to the old gag of "shooting Charley Noble." Being somewhat impressed by our mysterious talk, he approached the captain and made inquiries as to the extent of "Charley's" injuries and the probability of his recovery. For the information of the uninitiated, I will say that in the old navy, each Saturday night, it was the practice of the ship's cook to fire a shot up the galley smoke pipe to shake down the soot. This was called "shooting Charley Noble."

When he left us Beveridge was a full-fledged member of the mess, and told us he would feel hurt if any of us ever came to Washington and failed to look him up at once. John T. Myers did so, but let Myers tell that story.

The Charleston was occupied a part of her time in blockading the port of Aparri, at the mouth of the Cagayan River, on the north side of Luzon. Then we had to circumnavigate the island to investigate the insurrection situation. We visited several ports and returned to Iloilo. There, conditions had changed, and the insurgents were no longer our friends. From time to time, we had to fire an eight‑inch shell at designated points to clear out the enemy troops. While we were at Iloilo the Yorktown came in fresh from her experiences on the east side of Luzon, and I recall the look of sadness on Captain Sperry's face, when he came on board our ship and reported the loss of Gillmore and the boat's crew at the mouth of the Baler River. He had a terrible experience.

I am going to quote Captain Sperry's message to the Department:

 p216  "Iloilo, P. I.

"April 17, 1899.

"Yorktown arrived Baler, April 11, and communicated with insurgent post at mouth of river, town invisible. Insurgents stated that fifty Spanish soldiers, three Spanish officers, two priests still held church; flashed searchlights, hoping Spaniards might communicate, without success. To locate town and church, Ensign Standley suggested and volunteered to ascend wooded mountain at mouth of river. Lieutenant Gillmore went with cutter armed with Colt to land Ensign Standley and Lysaght, quartermaster third class, before daylight April 12, and then take soundings at mouth of river while waiting for Ensign Standley, but Gillmore went up river, and Ensign Standley came on board in another boat at 8 P.M. Ensign Standley reported musketry fire, but no reply from Colt, then cheering and cries in Spanish, 'See that man!' Musketry fire ceased. Kept boats near beach night and day, signalizing location by searchlight, hoping escaped to forest; no success. Insurgents fired upon boats and twice refused to communicate. Lt. Gillmore made heroic effort to communicate with Spanish forces but fell into ambush. Ensign Standley climbed tree and sketched, during musketry fire, town with church flying Spanish flag, at distance of one‑half mile from beach on wooded plain with undergrowth and small streams. River is shallow and tortuous, only twenty yards wide, anchorage and landing good. Insurgents reported to be four hundred, have some Mauser rifles; cannot obtain any information from natives. More force required to take town. Ensign Standley and Lysaght, quartermaster third class, displayed great bravery. Missing Lt. Gillmore and fourteen more."

Two men were killed outright; two were burned alive; one disappeared. Months later the survivors were rescued by Colonels Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hare and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Howze.

After the Personnel Bill became a law the navy department decided, not only to promote officers on their official records, but to examine them physically. Accordingly,  p217 one day I was ordered to appear on board the Bennington for medical examination. With me were Commander Henry E. Nichols, Lieutenant Commander E. M. Hughes and Lieutenant, junior grade, George R. Slocum and Lieutenant, junior grade, Waldo Evans. The officer ahead of us came out of the board room and remarked that that body was extremely hard on those with heart trouble or with poor eyesight. My heart had been tested so many times before that I was no longer afraid, but he little knew what consternation his statement caused Nichols, Hughes, Slocum and Evans. Apparently, the hearts of each one of these four officers began to palpitate, and on the first examination, none of them passed. Hughes also was turned down on account of his eyes, but as he wore strong glasses that trouble was waived, as later were the heart troubles of all of them.

Captain Nichols, whom I had known years before in Alaska, died soon after this, while his ship was in battle with the insurrectos. Hughes and Slocum have passed on to their reward, and Evans is governor of the Virgin Islands.

Ships from the states began to arrive in great numbers, and Rear Admiral Barker was ordered out on the Oregon to relieve Admiral Dewey. The next two vessels to go home were the Olympia and the Boston. Eberle was flag lieutenant, and detail officer of the flagship. Slocum and I whose cruises were overdue applied to go home on the Boston, and finally received our orders.

We shifted to the Boston in the harbor of Cebu, in May, 1899, expecting to reach home within a reasonable time; but eighty-three days elapsed before we reached San Francisco. Captain Whiting was ordered to command the Boston.

Most of our remaining officers were real heroes at the battle of Manila Bay — E. M. Hughes, W. H. Allen, Hall, Gibson, Cone, James, Dubois, Magill, a marine, and Ward, a surgeon. Moffett and McCauley, who were ill, were also sent home on the Boston.

 p218  We made Nagasaki, en route home, June 8th. Moffett and I made a trip from there into the interior to some famous baths. The Japanese there had not seen many white people, and when the time came for Moffett and me to take our first bath, the women of the family of the man who appeared to be the manager, insisted upon bathing us. Being bashful we objected so vigorously that they finally withdrew from the bath rooms.

At Nagasaki, the Japanese lavished hospitality upon us, and it was necessary to return their courtesies. We entertained the missionaries and their friends in the afternoon, and others in the evening. The two elements did not agree and we decided to divide the parties in that way. Through a misunderstanding, a foreign officer arrived about seven o'clock, an hour before the scheduled time. We invited him to the ward room and he sat down beside the bowl in which we were making the punch. Now and then he tested it. After a time he was unable to move, and throughout the evening he sat in a chair, beside the punch bowl, and at two o'clock was carried to his gig and placed in the care of a coxswain for return to his ship. He wrote us afterwards that he had thoroughly enjoyed the party.

Once more we steamed through the Inland Sea of Japan, but as we left Nagasaki at night and reached Yokohama the second morning, we saw little of its beauties. As we entered the harbor of Yokohama we saw the hospital ship Relief ashore. We had raced with her across the Inland Sea, and by some strange error, her navigator had placed her on the wrong side of one of the Japanese beacons, in the channel about ten miles from Yokohama. The wife of our captain was on board the hospital ship, and he was greatly worried. My recollection is that we went out and assisted in pulling the vessel off.

We coaled the ship to its utmost capacity, as the captain decided that we would steam direct from Yokohama to Honolulu at twelve and one‑half knots. Coal was piled on the main deck, and as it was old and smelled  p219 badly, it did not improve our living conditions which, at best, were none too good. We purchased seven barges of coal, and on the way down the canal from Yokohama to the ship, one of them disappeared. Although diligent search was made by the authorities the barge was never found, but we had to pay for the coal just the same.

There were some American ladies in Yokohama who wanted to come on board the ship for tea. We informed them that in spite of everything we could do the coal dust would seep through into the ward room, but they insisted upon coming, and we had a coal dust tea party. Their white dresses and faces were black before they went on shore.

The condition of the captain's wife, who was taken seriously ill while we were there, became more alarming, and we remained in port much longer than we had expected to do. We had been away from the United States so long that the delay became irksome. O. P. Jackson, now dead, and I agreed to ask the captain to cable the navy department for permission to send the ship home under the executive officer, while he remained with his wife. It was a bold thing to do, but the captain assented, whereupon we produced the cablegram which we had already prepared, and he signed it. In ten minutes the message was on its way to the department where the request was granted.

The executive was a man who had a superstition against sailing on Friday, and we were forced to remain there until Saturday when we steamed out at four in the morning, bound for Honolulu and native land, with a long "Homeward Bound" pennant floating from the stern.

It had been decided to make the run to Honolulu at twelve and one‑half knots. With the engineering skill of Hall, Cone and James, we succeeded. The story is told that during the last two or three hours before reaching Honolulu, we were burning the doors in our state rooms and all other available wood. I shall not admit  p220 this, as I did not actually see the ship's timbers thrown into the furnaces!

The Hawaiian Islands had been annexed to the United States the previous August, and we were received with open arms. It was delightful to meet our old friends, and we very much enjoyed our stay there. We did not remain long, however, before continuing on to San Francisco. I remember how the chill of the weather affected us as we approached the coast. We steamed in late at night and anchored between the Farallones and the Golden Gate. I had the middle watch, and was very cold. The next morning, we made port safely, and weather conditions were soon forgotten in the joy of meeting our families.

San Francisco turned out en masse to greet us. We went on to the Mare Island Navy Yard where the ship was ordered out of commission. Vallejo welcomed us as returning heroes and had a parade in our honor. We were through with our work by September 15.

I started east with my family, on the following day, going by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Several officers were with us, and a young lady who is now the wife of an admiral. We were taking her east to visit her future husband. The road was rough and my wife and even some of the sailor men were car sick. I could not induce them even to raise their heads and look at the wonderful scenery of some of the famous canyons along the route, beautiful as they were in the bright moonlight.


Thayer's Notes:

a Famous once, but not now. Here's a good summary of the international incident caused by Captain Coghlan's speech in New York on April 21, 1899, from Public Opinion • A Comprehensive Summary of the Press Throughout the World on all Important Current Topics, Vol. XXVI, No. 18 (May 4, 1899):

Captain Coghlan's Offense
His Speech at the Union League Club

At the Union League club dinner in his honor, at New York, April 21, Captain Coghlan of the cruiser Raleigh, just arrived from Manila, made a speech that so seriously offended the German government that a protest was lodged at the state department by the German ambassador. Secretary Hay took the position that the matter was one coming under the authority of the navy department, though it is understood that the secretary expressed regret that the incident had occurred. April 26 the navy department gave out the following statement:

Captain Coghlan has replied to the department, stating that the newspapers have not reported him with substantial accuracy. Also, that he intended no disrespect or contempt to the German flag, and is extremely sorry that any such interpretation was put upon his remarks. Proper reprimand will be sent and such action taken in respect thereto as is proper.

The offending speech was in part as follows:

Through all those long weary months of wait and the most outrageous nagging that anybody could suffer, wearing him to the very bone, Admiral Dewey held himself and he held us up with him. An officer of our friend Admiral von Diedrichs came down one day to make a complaint. It was my pleasure to step out on the quarter deck just as he came aboard. It was partly by accident and partly by design. I heard him tell the admiral about his complaint and I heard the admiral reply:

"Tell your admiral those ships of his must stop when I say so. I wish to make the blockade of this harbor complete."

The German officer replied: "But we fly the flag."

The reply of the admiral was just like Dewey. He said: "Those flags can be bought at half a dollar a yard anywhere." There was no fun in that expression of the admiral.

"Tell your admiral I am blockading here. Now note carefully what I say, and tell your admiral that I say it. I have been making this blockade as easy for everybody as I could, but I am getting tired of the puerile work here; the time has come when it must stop. Tell your admiral that the slightest infraction of any rule will mean but one thing. That will be war. It will be so accepted and resented immediately. If your people are ready for war with the United States, they can have it at any time."

I am free to admit that that almost took my breath away. It came so suddenly. We had expected it all along, but things you have been expecting always come unexpectedly. As he left with a face about this long (indicating by holding up his hands far apart), the German said to me: "I think your admiral does not exactly understand."

 p548  "Not only does he understand," I told him, "but he means what he says and you had better look out." After that they did not breathe more than four times successively without asking permission.

At the conclusion of this speech there were calls for some doggerel verses that were current in the squadron during the blockade; we have seen them in several English periodicals from the far east. The captain recited the poem of which we print five of the eight verses:c

"Hoch! Der Kaiser!"

Der Kaiser of dis Fatherland

Und Gott on high all dings command

Ve two — ach! Don't you understand,

Myself — und Gott.

Dere's France, she swaggers all aroundt,

She's ausgespield, of no account.

To much we dink she don't amount;

Myself — und Gott.

Dere's grandma dinks she is nicht small beer,

Midt Boers und such she interfere:

She'll learn none owns this hemisphere

But Me — und Gott!

In dimes of peace, brebare for wars,

I bear the spear and helm of Mars,

Und care not for a thousand czars,

Myself — mit Gott!

In fact, I humor efry whim,

With aspect dark and visage grim;

Gott pulls mit Me, and I mit him,

Myself — und Gott!

When our last issue went to press the affair had not called forth the comment that was inspired late in the week by the action of the German government.

American Press Comment

Boston (Mass.) Transcript

If we trace this unfortunate incident to its sources we may find that they are first the too long unchecked freedom of talk accorded to both army and navy officers, and secondly to the government's unsuccessful attempt to make the public believe what it does not believe itself. No amount of official denial will make the public believe that there was not great tension between Dewey and the German fleet in Manila bay. A wiser ruler than the kaiser would have prevented any friction between the American and German fleets, and now would not seek to make certain after-dinner remarks of a captain the basis of an international episode. Probably all unofficial Europe is laughing with Captain Coghlan and at the kaiser.

Philadelphia (Pa.) Record

If it were tactless on the part of Captain Coghlan to blurt out state secrets at a quasi-public gathering, unmindful of the fact that he is in a measure a representative of the nation and not a mere private citizen, what is one to say when an officer of command rank so demeans himself as to recite upon such an occasion a ribald poem embodying a coarse lampoon on the head of a friendly nation? The former offense against good taste may have been a proper subject for an official reprimand; the latter carries with it its own punishment and convicts the officer of inexcusable vulgarity. It lowers the value of the testimony to the occurrences at Manila by as many degrees as he has lowered himself in the esteem of his countrymen by his recitation.

Philadelphia (Pa.) Times

If any German naval officer, at a public dinner in Berlin, had spoken of Admiral Dewey as Captain Coghlan spoke of Admiral Diedrichs, and had quoted a ribald song about the president, we should have expected very prompt official action. Whether Captain Coghlan expected his speech to be reported, whether the club where he was dining ought not to have protected him, whether his story and his song were truthful or appropriate or agreeable to popular sentiment — these and other questions may affect individual judgment, but they can not enter into the official consideration of the case.

Washington (D. C.) Post

This extreme sensitiveness on Germany's part is not a consideration binding upon us. It is our disposition to laugh when men or things appeal to our sense of humor, and the chances all are that we shall continue to exercise what we regard as an inalienable privilege. European potentates and princes who object to ridicule can easily save themselves by ceasing to make themselves ridiculous. They can not expect us to accept the reverent standard recognized by their subjects. For the rest, we regret exceedingly the publication of Captain Coghlan's remarks. He had no right to risk such an embarrassment of the administration as his untimely and ill‑judged utterances have created.

Baltimore (Md.) Herald

The typical American has been repeatedly represented by European writers as a boasting, boisterous, vainglorious fellow, much given to laudation of his own exploits, and to offensive exhibitions of an air of superiority. Captain Coghlan's address, judging from the published accounts, tends to strengthen this impression. It is only due to the people of the United States to say that the language used by the commander of the Raleigh is not received with applause, and that they possess far too much real reverence to find entertainment in the poetic comparison between God and Emperor William, with which the captain chose to regale his fellow banqueters.

New York Sun

Granting that the captain of the Raleigh has been guilty of indiscretion, in the sense in which frozen-faced diplomacy understands that word, it is not the sort of indiscretion which ought to make men ashamed of themselves, or makes men's friends ashamed of them. If his narrative causes inconvenience to those who are engaged in lowering the drop-curtain of oblivion upon a very unpleasant scene, for large political and international reasons, that is the measure of Captain Coghlan's offense.

Rochester (N. Y.) Democrat

The contrast between the kaiser's ridiculous excitement over Captain Coghlan's speech and Great Britain's good-natured indifference to a long succession of far more  p549 important incidents of the same general character, merely illustrates the fact that Great Britain understands the principle of freedom of speech and of freedom in other matters exactly as we understand it, and that Germany hasn't the remotest conception of it. Great Britain and the United States understand each other. Germany and the United States don't.

Chicago (Ill.) Inter-Ocean

We have been boasting for months that our naval officers were the bravest, most efficient, and most courteous in the world. Scores of cases came up during the war with Spain to exhibit these traits and the advantages of thorough education and training at their best. At such a time it is most unfortunate that a naval officer, so popular and so deserving, should depart from the usages and standards which he helped to establish.

Pittsburgh (Pa.) Dispatch

It is plain that if we are to be a "world-power" our officers must learn a few of the restraints that surround international dealings.

German Comment

Berlin Vossische Zeitung

Captain Coghlan's speech is a ridiculous swindle. No one can doubt this who knows what German marine officers would have done in the face of such threats and insults. It is to be hoped that either from the American or the German authorities an official report of what actually occurred at Manila will be published. That sort of American speaks through Coghlan in whose head the easy victory over the decrepit Spain has created a kind of mental disease, and yet the Americans can not settle accounts even with the Filipinos. It should be demanded that Coghlan receive sharp punishment.

Berlin Kleine Journal

Their cheaply won military glory has got into the head of the American people. The Coghlan incident has both a comic and a serious side. No one will take the post-prandial rodomontade of the somewhat elevated captain seriously. Good champagne, doubly good after his experiences in the Philippine Islands, must bear the blame. One can not expect so much tact and discretion from the rude fellows in the American navy as is required from our marine officers, educated in principles of chivalry.

Berlin Lokal Anzeiger

Coghlan's speech is the most impudent utterance which an American has ever spoken against Germany, but the valiant and courtly captain evidently was not in possession of his five senses. The speech of Coghlan is proof of that immaturity so characteristic of American officials and officers. Captain Coghlan comes of Irish-American lineage, which notoriously produces the roughs, both high and low, of the American classes.

Berlin Tageblatt

The bragging of Coghlan is not to be taken tragically. His pranks were the result of the wine he drank. Any truth in his speech has only an historical interest. Between Dewey and the German officers the relations are again so cordial that on the empress's birthday Dewey flagged one of his ships, a courtesy which international etiquette did not demand.

Comment of the German-American Press

St. Louis (Mo.) Westliche Post

Judging from the silly, infinitely insipid parody song on the Germans with which the notorious kicker Coghlan amused the educated "rabble" of New York, he is a braying jackass, and our neighbors of Belleville, which city he audaciously calls his native home, should at the first opportunity pull his long ears.

Cincinnati (O.) Volksblatt

If Admiral Dewey had been as foolish as he is represented by Captain Coghlan, a conflict could not have been averted. A naval officer should be discreet at all times; we must teach our officers discretion as well as bravery, and for this reason an example should be made of Captain Coghlan.

New York Morgen Journal

Captain Coghlan has insulted the nation. With German officers and in German society such an occurrence is unthinkable.

Chicago (Ill.) Staats-Zeitung

The American government should get rid of officers of Coghlan's kind; he should be dismissed at once.

The full thirteen verses — along with an explanation why the ditty is often said to have only eight, as well as some drawings to accompany the text — are found in a booklet printed the following year, Hoch der Kaiser • Myself und Gott.

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b Maude Ethel Schliemann, née Driggs (1878‑1918). Her three sisters were Mildred, Mabel, and Miriam; she also had a brother William Driggs, Jr. Her husband was John G. Schliemann (1857‑1922), Chaplain of the 20th Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Infantry: by profession he was an insurance agent.

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c See also the autobiographical memoirs of Admiral Hugh Rodman, Yarns of a Kentucky Admiral, p293 f.


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