- Historic Sites
The Sham Battle Of Manila
December 1960 | Volume 12, Issue 1
One was to let the Americans in while keeping the Filipinos out. The other was to salvage both Jaudenes’ neck and Spain’s honor. In solving these simultaneous equations, the Americans and Spaniards drifted into an alliance against the insurgents, and, as U.S. troops poured in, everything began to fall into place. Jaudenes promised that he would not use his artillery if the Americans refrained from shelling Manila. He reiterated that, if the insurgents were excluded, Spanish resistance would be noisy but nil. In turn, Dewey and Merritt intimated that the mildness of their terms would depend upon the superficiality of such resistance. These preliminary exchanges took place in secret the first week of August, through the intermediation of M. Eduoard André, the Belgian consul. Then came a flurry of open communications largely designed for the ultimate salvation of Senor Jaudenes.
On August 7 Dewey and Merritt advised him that their bombardment might begin within forty-eight hours. “This notice is given in order to afford you an opportunity to remove all noncombatants from the city.”
The Governor replied bleakly that he was “without place of refuge for the increased numbers of wounded, sick, women and children who are now lodged within the walls. Very Respectfully and Kissing the Hands of Your Excellencies …”
It would be regrettable, the Americans pointed out, if the helpless city had to suffer a bombardment that could be avoided. They asked for its outright surrender, including the Spanish troops therein.
In response Jaudenes alluded to his dire straits—“which unfortunately I have to admit”—and asked for time to consult Madrid.
On August 10: “In reply we respectfully inform your excellency that we decline to grant the time requested.”
Fixed (so to speak) or not, the fight could not be long delayed. The Governor talked matters over with the British vice-consul, Mr. Ramsden, and the German consul, Herr Kruger. Ramsden felt that Jaudenes could surrender with an easy conscience. Kruger advised him to hold out.
Ramsden, Jaudenes reflected, was absolutely right. The case was hopeless; he had done all that was humanly possible without reinforcements; there were the noncombatants to consider. Then, too, Dewey and Merritt had just delivered another forty-eight-hour ultimatum, and this time they meant it. Above all, there were the insurgents— los diablos negros —who would surely loot Manila and massacre his countrymen if given the chance. It was fortunate indeed, he reflected, that Washington entertained the same humanitarian sentiments as he did. He sent for the Belgian consul.
That afternoon the mock battle was arranged. The Navy would assume positions opposite Fort San Antonio Abad at nine the following morning, August 13, and would shell only that structure and the impregnable walls of the Old City. Simultaneously the Spaniards would withdraw, the insurrectos would be checked, and the Americans would advance. After having fired a proper number of shots, the Olympia would steam forward, flying the international surrender signal “DWHB,” whereupon the Spaniards would hoist a white flag and officers of both armies and fleets would meet on the shore to formalize the surrender terms. “It is intended that these results shall be accomplished without the loss of life,” Merritt wrote his brigadiers. And to deal with the Filipinos, who had waited three hundred years to enter Manila in triumph, General MacArthur’s brigade, “in the event that it can pass the enemy line on the road leading to Singalon, will leave a force in the Spanish trenches at this point of crossing with instructions to permit no armed bodies other than American troops to cross the trenches in the direction of Manila.”
Such token forces could not in themselves restrain a 3o,ooo-man army; but once again the pen would prove itself mightier than the sword.
Some harmony had existed between Aguinaldo and the Americans until the arrival of General Merritt. At this point it virtually disappeared. Merritt claimed that he had been ordered not to deal with the insurgents. No such instruction appears in any existing document. Indeed he had been told, “No rupture with insurgents; this is imperative.” His mode of complying, however, was unique; he simply ignored them for two weeks. Aware that arrangements of some sort were being consummated without him, Aguinaldo reacted as may be imagined. Mr. Oscar Williams, the former American consul in Manila, thought it advisable to cable Washington of “the exceedingly embarrassing situation which confronts General Merritt through the officiousness of the insurgent chieftain, Aguinaldo. According to all accounts this young man’s success has completely gone to his head.” The young man in question, more uneasy than Mr. Williams guessed, sent a staff officer to ascertain the details of the impending attack. No answer having been elicited, he telegraphed American headquarters several times. None of these queries was acknowledged.