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United States Consul at Manila Oscar F. Williams to Commodore George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Station

U.S. Consulate, Manila, Ph, Isls, Mar. 25-’98.

Commodore George Dewey,

     U.S. Flagship “Olympia

          Hong Kong

Honored sir:

     Per “Esmeralda1 I hope to send this without danger of its falling into Spanish hands. And as today is a holiday here I am holding the fort alone.

     Little new as to international trouble but great anxiety pervades all classes over the insurrection.

     Hospitals are filling up, prisoners shot and reports of attempts to take Manila fill the air.

     At a meeting of revolutionists Wed. night it was decided to attack the City today and burn and kill. but Thursday AM. the attack was postponed awaiting arrival of recruits from inland district.

     My detectives are active and last night agreed on several points.

1- Last Sun. eve. at Theater Lorillo a comical affair occurred. The audience was mainly Spaniards and soldiers- From some accident the electric lights suddenly went out- when, as if under command, the men all squatted behind the seats so as to escape expected volleys of bullets from the natives who, it was believed, cut the wires. The bravery(!) of the Dons and military has become the laughing stock of foreigners.

2- The Spaniards are building a Cordon of minor forts along the city’s outskirts to guard against surprises by natives. In this much activity is shown- I have visited two and my detectives have visited three. These are of stone- small but safe against rifle balls.

3. The laying of torpedoes2 not yet done- perhaps not yet actually begun for yesterday an electrician connected with the Spanish force here- went to the Electric Light Co’s plant to obtain cable proper for connecting Corregidor Island with Channel torpedoes. he did not get supplied and went to seek elsewhere.

4- About a dozen badly wounded Spaniards were brought to the hospitals yesterday- This is a daily affair.

5- Yesterday a native regiment at Cavite was ordered to attack the insurgents and refused to fight their friends- told their superior officers that they would fight the enemies of Spain abroad but not here.     They were threatened with death. Still they refused. Then Eight corporals were selected and shot to death in presence of the regiment. After which orders were again issued- The survivors said they would all die rather than make further war upon their friends. So the matter rested over night.

6- Spaniards here sneer at U.S. say we are cowards. dare not fight with Spain, Etc. Etc.

          I hear nothing of activity on the forts- ie- the large bay forts- only the torpedo affair noted. All seems in suspense. Europeans other than Spaniards praise U.S. and deem war chances very small. And a few business Spaniards- broader in view- say the peace chances are improving.

     I see and hear, with detectives learn all possible for purpose of informing you- but being on switch of creation I know officially almost nothing of events transpiring between US. and Spain.

     Wed. eve. “El Commercio”3 published as telegraph news- a long column dated New York Feb. 5-’98. The date was overlooked and the contents- “That U.S. desired peace” was universally talked as a back down by U.S. I laughed at those who came to me- showed them the date and so laugh was turned.

     You doubtless have better information as to the uprising at Bolinao from Commander4 of “Edgar” than I am able to give.

     I write this as I have leisure- and should my men bring news tonight I will post script before I board “Esmeralda” to personally entrust the letter to Capt. Taylor.

Your obedient servant            

O.F. Williams     


Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, PGD.

Footnote 1: Esmeralda was a British merchant steamer.

Footnote 2: During the late 19th and early 20th century the words torpedoes and mines were often used interchangeably. In this case Williams is referring to the possible installations of electrically detonated mines in the channels of Manila Bay.

Footnote 3: El Commercio was a newspaper in Manila.

Footnote 4: Royal Navy Capt. Robert C. Sparkes was Commanding Officer of the protected cruiser H.M.S. Edgar.

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