Saturday, August 13, 2011

Amigo 113: The mock battle of Manila & the signing of the peace protocol in Washington DC, this day 113 years ago!

Photograph of the screen image of the front page of the night edition of the Friday, August 12, 1898 issue of the Cleveland World in the collection of Newseum, Washington DC.  [Photo by the author.]

As we write this, it's 9 o'clock in the morning of 13 August, 2011 here in Manila, which is 9 o'clock in the evening of 12 August, 2011 in Washington, DC and 6 o'clock early evening in San Francisco, USA.

One hundred thirteen (113) years ago, same day (13 August, 1898) at 9:36 in the morning,"the Olympia opened the action with her five-inch guns directed at the Malate works," Douglas White (1899) wrote. "From the bridge of the Charleston we watched the effects of her shots upon Fort San Antonio, at the same time closely “conning” the batteries at our front, anxiously waiting, almost longing for the crimson flash which would have told they [the Spaniards] had opened fire.  Orders to our divisions instructed that our fire be withheld unless the enemy opened on us or the flagship ordered a general action ..." 

The mock battle of/for Manila had began. 

In Washington, DC, it was night of 12 August, 1898, and the American newspapers like the Cleveland World (photo above) were out with extra/night editions announcing that the peace protocol to end the Spanish-American War was signed earlier that day.

Washington DC and Madrid would never know that the war went on in Manila.  Nor would Admiral George Dewey, General Wesley Merritt, Captain-General Jaudinez about the signing of the peace protocol.    

Blame the news blackout on the Spaniards who refused American access to the cable lines from Manila after the defeat of the Spanish navy at Manila Bay on 01 May.  Dewey had no recourse but to cut the cables on May 2nd.  Both sides of the war and the news reporters had to depend on the lines from Hong Kong to file their official reports and news stories.  In fact, Dewey's official report and the embedded journalists' articles were all telegraphed on 07 May; the American papers front-paged the admiral's feat the next day. 

According to the Cleveland World, the Madrid government cabled its authority for its representative, M.Cambon, and the French ambassador to sign the peace protocol on the night of 11 August (Washington DC), or 12 August morning in Manila.

11 and 12 August in Manila were frantic days in the negotiation for a peaceful surrender of Manila to the Americans.

Those two days "saw many trips of the Belgian consul’s launch between the city and Dewey’s flagship, and at last a verbal message told that the Spaniards would not surrender until fired on, but that the honor of the “Dons” would be quickly appeased when they were attacked. In spite of this assurance nothing was left undone to place the fleet in the best of fighting trim, when on Friday, August 12th, Dewey sent out word that the following morning would see the fleet lined up for action (White).”

President Emilio Aguinaldo of the 2-month old Philippine Republic was totally in the dark about all these. 

The mock battle proceeded as planned, and as White recalled, Not one shot from the Spanish works came in reply to the Olympia’s shower of metal, and, as the gunners became familiar with the range, every shot told a story of some destruction on the fortifications at Malate.  Three minutes after the Olympia came the Raleigh’s turn, and she, too, joined in the attack, followed twelve minutes later by the Petrel.  With all this storm of shells, not one gun spoke in reply from the shore.  The sole defense was turned toward our advancing land forces, who were plentifully showered with Mauser bullets from the Spanish trenches.

At 11 o'clock in the morning, 13 August 1898, the Old Glory was flying over Fort San Antonio in Malate, and later in the afternoon, by 5:30, it was hoisted at the walled city, and a band played the "Star Spangled Banner".

That was night of the 12th, and Cleveland World  was screaming --



"Special Dispatch to the World.

"Washington, Aug. 12.—The protocol has been signed, and the war is over.

"The Madrid government last night cabled its representative, M.Cambon, and the French ambassador, authority to sign the protocol, which he did today.

"This causes hostilities between the two countries to cease, and the commanding generals have been so notified.

"The peace commission, which is to meet in Paris to arrange details, will now be named.

"The Protocol provides:

"1—That Spain will relinquish all claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba.
"2—That Porto Rico and other Spanish islands in the West Indies and an island in the Ladrones, to be selected by the United States, shall be ceded to the latter.
"3—That the United States will destroy and hold the city, bay and harbour of Manila pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine the control and government of the Philippines.
"4—That Cuba, Porto Rico and other islands in the West Indies shall be immediately evacuated, and that commissioners to be appointed within ten days shall, within 30 days from the signing of the protocol, meet at Havana and San Juan, respectively, to arrange and execute the details of the evacuation.
"5—That the United States and Spain will each appoint not more than five commissioners to negotiate and conclude a treaty of peace.  The commissioners are to meet at Paris not later than the first of October.
"6—On the signing of the protocol hostilities will be suspended, and notice to that effect will be given as soon as possible by each government to the commanders of its military and naval forces."

with this overprint in red --
"President McKinley is Notified
That Spain Finally Accepts
Our Terms of Peace.

Was it a blessing that the Americans and the Spaniards did not know about the peace protocol?  What could have Dewey and Merritt done after reading provision 3 of the protocol? --  

"3—That the United States will destroy and hold the city, bay and harbour of Manila pending the conclusion of a treaty of peace which shall determine the control and government of the Philippines." 

Tucked in the same page is a news item that there would be "serious work of [the] peace commission" with an aside that the "Philippine nut will be a hard one for that body to crack and it may visit the islands."

Tough nuts, weren't we?  And we taught them the art of guerilla warfare.


  • Front page, Cleveland News (Night Edition. 12 August, 1898).
  • White, Douglas. (1899, May).  Dewey at Manila. One Year’s Retrospect.  Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly.  48(1): 39-48.

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