Mock Battle of Manila

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The Battle of Manila was the land battle between the United States and Spain during the Spanish-American War, not to be confused with the naval Battle of Manila Bay. Many believe the battle was fought only to keep the city from being captured by Filipino insurgents under Emilio Aguinaldo.

Background

Ever since the American victory at the Battle of Manila Bay over two months earlier, the U.S. navy under George Dewey had blockaded the city of Manila and waited for land forces to arrive. The United States reacted by organizing the VIII Corps, dubbed the Philippine Expeditionary Force under the command of Major General Wesley Merritt. In May, the vanguard of the force left San Francisco under the command of Brigadier General Thomas M. Anderson. Two more waves of reinforcements were to leave in the following weeks under the command of Brigadier Generals Francis V. Greene and Arthur MacArthur. By June 27, all the forces had departed for the Philippines along with General Merritt and his staff. Emilio Aguinaldo had assembled a force of roughly 10,000 Filipino Insurgents that waited outside the city. The 15,000 Spanish defenders under General Fermin Juadenes greatly feared an attack by the Insurgents because they feared the Filipinos would deal mercilessly with them in the instance the city fell to Aguinaldo alone. Dewey had managed to keep Aguinaldo from attacking the city until Merritt arrived.

The battle

Preparations

At the end of July, when all the U.S. forces had landed in the Philippines, Merritt organized the force into one division (interestingly enough named the 2nd Division) commanded by General Anderson. General MacArthur commanded its 1st Brigade and General Greene commanded its 2nd Brigade. Merritt began making plans with Dewey regarding the capture the city. The two had purposefully left Aguinaldo out of any of the plans and preparations even though his insurgents would double the total ground forces. The U.S. ground forces began moving up from the south and digging trenches around the city. Aguinaldo's insurgents had control to the east of the city.

Initial fighting

On July 25, as troops were digging trenches, the Spanish began to fire upon their expected position. The Americans began to return the fire and the engagement began to escalate until 10 soldiers were dead. In the following days, Spanish fire from within Manila's defenses continued to cause casualties. Dewey explained to General Greene that "it is better to suffer few casualties in the trenches than it would be to suffer a lot in a premature attack". He still let Greene know he would open fire on the Spanish defenses if Greene gave the order.

The attack

On August 13, the day after the peace protocol had been signed, MacArthur's brigade began to advance against the city's redoubts. Greene's brigade advanced to the west of MacArthur along the shoreline. Dewey's gunboats pounded Fort San Agustín from the bay, but when Greene's troops reached the fort they found it abandoned and raised the American flag over it. When Dewey's fleet ceased its bombardment, MacArthur advanced against the Spanish blockhouses guarding the city and met stiff resistance. The Americans returned the fire. Up to this point, Aguinaldo's insurgents had been unaware of the American attack. When they heard the firing from MacArthur's troops, they rushed into the battle and caught the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Regiment in a crossfire. General Greene advanced from the fort, overrunning a barricade and entered the city's promenade. Greene found a Spanish soldier and asked if the city had surrendered yet. The officer did not know and sporadic fighting continued. When Greene saw the rest of the American attack approaching the city's walls, he feared that a careless Spanish shot might find its way into the American columns resulting in devastating retaliation. He therefore ordered the American column to halt at the city's gates, and informed the Spanish to pull back within the city. Nothing happened for several minutes, then the Spanish raised the white flag. Greene rode into the city with representatives from the navy and the army to negotiate the surrender and sent an artillery battery to the east side of the city to block the insurgents from entering. The next day, Merritt and Juadenes met to discuss the formal terms of surrender.

Surrender

On August 14, Merritt and Juadenes agreed upon the surrender of all Spanish forces in the Philippines with full military honors. Aguinaldo had once again been intentionally left out of the negotiations, and the U.S. forces took exclusive control of the city, with Merritt as military governor. Merritt and Dewey were unsure of the extent they should carry their exclusion of Aguinaldo from control of the city. Washington sent an immediate reply that there should be no joint occupation of the city with the insurgents. General Elwell S. Otis, the new commander of the VIII Corps, set up a perimeter and ordered all insurgent forces to vacate the city.

Staged battle

After the war, speculation and controversy arose when many believed the battle had been intended as a bloodless contest between the U.S. and Spain. Juadenes had agreed to surrender the city, but not without a fight. The Spanish wanted to save themselves the humiliation by surrendering only after showing some resistance to the Americans. Another major reason why Juadenes was anxious to surrender to the Americans was so his army did not fall to the insurgents. It had been Juadenes' fear all along that if his army fell to the insurgents they would be dealt with mercilessly. He knew that surrendering to the U.S. would provide him with the protection due to a prisoner of war. The U.S. were also anxious to keep the city from Aguinaldo's control. With a staged battle, both sides felt the city would be able to fall to the U.S. without the insurgents being involved. However, with Aguinaldo's exclusion from the plans, he was not aware of this strategy and, therefore, when he heard the gunfight he rushed his insurgents into the battle, catching both sides in their fire. In the end, the battle was not bloodless. About 21 Americans lost their lives and around 100 were wounded. On the other hand, the Spanish were able to honorably surrender and the insurgents were kept out of the city.

Aftermath

The fall of Manila brought about the end of the Spanish-American War in the Philippines for all practical purposes. Merritt and Dewey finally received word of the peace protocol on August 16. Fighting in other areas in the Pacific continued as the commanders were unaware of the protocol. The Spanish on Wake Island, also unaware of the protocol, surrendered to the U.S. navy on January 17, 1899.

The war with Spain was over, but another war had been sparked. Tensions between the Philippine forces under Aguinaldo and the American Expeditionary forces were high. The Filipinos felt betrayed by the Americans, they had looked on the Americans as liberators against occupation. It turned out that America simply wanted the Philippines as a colony. In an unfortunate incident on San Juan Bridge in Manila, a United States army private fired on a Filipino guerilla trying to cross. The events following this incident only confirmed America's desire for conquest. No attempt at peace or investigation into the matter was initiated on the part of America, instead its forces rapidly engaged the Filipino forces in the Manila area.

References

Original Source

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