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THE GUNBOAT FLOTILLA.
HROUGHOUT the operations against the followers of Aguinaldo,
the improvised gunboats under the command of Brevet-Major F. A. Grant, of the Utah Light Artillery, took a very importtant part. The first boat to be put into service was the Laguna de Bay, and her work in assisting the land forces to clear the Pasig River was looked upon with such favor that later two other boats were armed and fitted out for the service.
Many engagements were had with the natives, especially along the upper Pasig River and on the lake, Laguna de Bay,
after which the boat was named. As the boat was the largest and the first to be fitted up, a short account of her will be given.
THE “ LAGUNA DE BAY". The boat was an old side-wheel steamer owned by a Spanish company, and built especially for trading on the lake and Pasig River. She is 120 feet long, 40 feet beam, and of very light draft. Under orders of Major-General Otis, Maj. Grant was instructed to fit her out, and on the 27th of January, she was ready for duty. The report of the completion of the boat showed that the main deck of the boat had been completely surrounded with two thicknesses of steel plate as a protection from rifle bullets. Two three-inch marine guns comprised the forward battery, with portholes so placed that they could be fired straight ahead or on either bow. The after battery consisted of two 1.65-inch Hotchkiss rifles, arranged to fire broadside or to the rear.
A turret of steel plates was erected on the top deck, inclosing and protecting the men working at the wheel, and also the secondary battery of four 45-caliber Gatling guns set on tripods.
To support the armor and guns the deck had to be strengthened with heavy timbers, and when this was done the boat was complete and ready for service, with a full and complete equipment of working lines and ship stores on board.
Capt. B. H. Randolph, of Battery G, 3d U. S. Heavy Artillery, was placed in command of the boat, with a detachment of twenty-nine men from his battery to man the guns on the main deck. Lieut. R. C. Naylor, of the Utah Art., with ten men, was also detailed on board the boat. Lieut. Naylor was given command of the guns, and the Utah men under Corp. Wm. Nelson were assigned to the Gatling battery. Lieut. E. A. Harting, with a detachment of twenty-five sharpshooters from the South Dakota Regiment, completed the fighting force of the
boat. Lieut. S. G. Larson, also of the South Dakota Regiment, was detailed as navigating officer, his experience before joining the army fitting him for the position.
As a crew to handle the boat was necessary, the whole army was picked over for men who were suited for the work. Sergt. H. F. Juirs, of the Signal Corps, was made chief engineer. No less than six regiments were represented in the crew. The greatest difficulty was had with the old engines, which were of a dif ferent pattern to those used at the present time, but all difficulties were finally overcome, and the boat was ready late in January and anchored in the river each night below the outposts.
VARIOUS FIGHTS ON THE RIVERS.
On the historic night of February 4th, the Laguna de Bay was at her anchorage, and bullets struck all around her and whistled over her decks. Nothing could be done during the night, but early on the morning of the 5th, an aide appeared on the bank and gave an order to Capt. Randolph: “Gen. Otis directs you to proceed to the firing line and engage the enemy."
On arrival at the front a Filipino flag could be seen floating over Santa Ana, and a vigorous cannonade was opened on this place, which was soon in flames. The church of San Juan del Monte came in for a heavy fire. These places were later occupied by the infantry. In the thick jungle, near Santa Ana, a party of insurgents annoyed the boat and also the Nebraska camp with a Mauser fire, so the boat rounded the bend and drove the insurgents beyond the San Juan River with the Gatling guns.
The natives were then pushed up the river by Gen. King's Brigade, the gunboat operating with him. On February 9th, the guns of the boat commanded the town of Pasig, and Gen. King demanded its surrender, which was complied with. At this time the river was free of natives to the lake, which was visited by the gunboat. The line to the north of the river had been weakened, and the natives threatened to break through, so the boat received orders to drop back and anchor above Santa Mesa, where a wide stretch of level country could be commanded by her guns. The next active service of the boat was on February 14th, when it was decided to evacuate Pasig and fall back to San Pedro Macati, to shorten the line to the south of the river. The natives were in large force at this point, and sufficient troops could not be spared to hold such an advanced point as Pasig. The retreat of the California Regiment from Pasig was a perilous undertaking, and the boat was sent up to protect the rear. At Pasig ferry the infantry made a stand, with the gunboat lying in the middle of the stream. At this point the first casualty on board the boat occurred, when Lieut. Harting was drowned, while attempting to land a Hotchkiss gun in a rowboat which capsized. The gun was lost. All efforts to rescue the officer were futile, and his body was not recovered until the current of the river washed it ashore at Manila. The next day the natives continued the fight, and for more than two hours the boat kept up a terrific fire on a swamp and jungle in which they had taken up their position. The same evening the infantry retreated to Guadalupe church, without losing a man, although the natives fotlowed them closely. The boat returned to her position above Santa Ana, where the next day Maj. Grant came aboard, relieving Capt. Randolph of his command. It was then decided to abandon Guadalupe church, and retire to San Pedro Macati, and again the Laguna de Bay advanced to cover the retreat. All night long a desultory fire was kept up on the boat and between the outposts. At daylight on the 19th, the church was fired by the infantry, which at once retired to San Pedro Macati. The church and hill, upon which it was situated, were immediately occupied by the natives, whose sharpshooters began firing on the boat and outposts. At ten o'clock Maj. Grant decided to test the boat by running up between the native lines and see what the effect would be. As the beat advanced she received a hail of bullets from the native rifles, but the steel plates warded them off. For half an hour every gun on the boat was turned loose, and shells and bullets whistled into the insurgent position. At the end of the fire not a shot came from the natives, who were completely silenced. The boat again returned to a position below San Pedro Macati. The skirmish at Guadalupe had the effect of quieting the natives, and when they afterward became troublesome, the boat would be sent for. Five times similar engagements were had at Guadalupe, but so effective was the armor that but one man was killed, he being Private John Toiza, of Battery G, 3d Art., who was killed by a rifle ball on March 4th.
After the arrival of more troops it was again decided to clear the Pasig River. On the morning of March 14th, Gen. Wheaton's Brigade advanced to the attack. The Laguna de Bay drove the natives from
Photo by Jackson. the hill and it was occupied by the infantry without interference. A short distance above Guadalupe, sunken cascos in the river prevented the gunboat from cutting off the natives, who escaped across the river. After a brief delay, a channel was found in the river through the obstructions, and the boat again advanced to the attack. The natives were in their trenches across the river from Gen. Wheaton's Brigade, but when the boat arrived, they broke and fled toward the city. A heavy fire was kept up, and on arrival at Pasig, in the open fields beyond the town were seen thousands of natives, soldiers and non-combatants. These were hurrying for shelter in the woods beyond and were not fired on. Two launches left Pasig as the gunboat neared the town. They were fired upon repeatedly, but succeeded in making their escape out into the lake.
The next day the Oeste, a tug protected with steel plates and armed with a small cannon and two Gatling guns, joined the Laguna de Bay. She was commanded by Lieut. W. C. Webb, of the Utah Art., and manned by men from the larger boat.
IN SUPPORT OF EXPEDITIONS. The next move was to fit out an expedition to capture the towns on the lake. A company of the 23d Inf. was sent with the boats to accomplish this. The towns of Morong and Jalajala were taken. No resistance was met, but at the former a quantity of stores were burned. The next morning Santa Cruz was visited. The locality was reconnoitered, but it was decided that there was not sufficient force at hand to land. The steam tugs belonging to the insurgents were located in the Lambang River.
When the advance on Malabon was contemplated, the Laguna de Bay was ordered to that point to operate in the shallow bays and inlets which are everywhere along the coast, and which kept the ships of Admiral Dewey's fleet away from shore. The towns along the coast were shelled by this gunboat. On the 25th of March, the Napidan joined Maj. Grant. She was commanded by Lieut. Franklin of the 23d Inf., and manned by men from the same regiment. She carried two six-pound rifles, and two Gatling guns. The two boats operated along the shore in the advance on Malolos. The next move of the gunboats was in a campaign against Santa Cruz, and a direct move to cripple and destroy the power of the Filipinos on the lake. Major-General Lawton took great interest in Maj. Grant's report concerning Santa Cruz, and he decided on a move against that place. Before daylight on April 9th, there were assembled on the lake, besides the three gunboats, a number of tugs and cascos, on which were 1500 men of the 14th Inf., the 4th Cav., dismounted, and the North Dakota Inf. Major-General Lawton and Brigadier-General King were at the head of the expedition. The fleet started directly for Santa Cruz, under the convoy of the gunboats.
On nearing the city, a plan of campaign was adopted. The troops landed at a point about five miles from the city, under the guns of the Napidan, while the Laguna de Bay and the Oeste, with three troops of cavalry, anchored directly in front of the city. The land forces met little opposition, and succeeded in surrounding the city. The next morning the bombardment was commenced, and early in the forenoon the city was in the hands of the Americans. The Filipino loss was heavy, and many prisoners were taken. The loss of the land forces was light.
The troops scoured the surrounding country, while the gunboats directed their attention to the six captured tugs in the river. The natives had disabled the engines, but enough were repaired to tow the remainder to the city. On April 17th, the whole expedition returned to Manila, after a successful campaign.
Maj. Grant next made an attempt to ascend the Malolos River, to co-operate with the land forces in the advance on Calumpit, but it was found to be impossible on account of low water. The boats are now doing duty guarding the lake and upper waters of the Pasig River.
On May 7th, the Laguna de Bay and Covadonga, ascended the Pasig River to Guagua, to establish water communication with Major-General MacArthur's Division. No opposition was encountered until the boat arrived at Sexmoan, where a force of natives were found strongly entrenched. After a brisk skirmish for a few minutes, the natives retired, firing the town. Guagua, a mile further up the river, was also evacuated and set on fire. With this move the advance line north of Manila, was put into communication with the city by an open water-way, as well as by the railroad.
Gen. MacArthur failing to meet Maj. Grant at Guagua as arranged, the boats waited at the town from 1 until 5 P. M., and as they could not hold the town without assistance it was left for the time.
On May 10, 1899, the Laguna de Bay and Covadonga entered the Rio Grande Pampanga River and made their way up to Calumpit, where they were in a position to assist the land forces and carry supplies up to Gen. Lawton's command at Candaba. On May 17th, the boats led the advance of Maj. Kobbe's troops, driving the insurgents before them and capturing San Luis. On the following day the town of Candaba was surrendered to Grant, Maj. Kobbe's command arriving about three hours later.
CAPTURES BY THE FLOTILLA. The Laguna de Bay, Napidan, Oeste, Covadonga and Oceania captured over two hundred thousand dollars worth of coal, cascos and steamboats from the insurgents. In all eight steamers were captured, and at Guagua the enemy burned one gunboat and sunk another large steamer.
Gen. Lawton, who operated with the boats more than any other commander, was very loud in his praise of the work done by them. The foregoing is a correct statement.
F. H. GRANT,
LATER EVENTS IN THE ISLANDS. The events occurring between the closing of the spring campaign and the opening of that which has just begun, have had no bearing on the fortunes of the war, and are of interest only to those who were engaged in them. So far as the volunteer troops were concerned in them, their history will be found in the regimental histories in the “special editions” of this book. There has been a series of detached operations whenever the insurgents happened to be most troublesome. Aguinaldo's forces have remained in front of our lines everywhere. As our army has been depleted by the return of the volunteer regiments and by sickness, the insurgents have pressed more heavily against them, only to be punished and driven back once more. Aguinaldo's capital has been pushed back along the railroad, having been variously reported, at different times, as at San Isidro, on the Rio Grande, Tarlac, on the railroad, and Porac. In the south the late fighting has been in the province of Cavite between Cavite and Manila, where our troops first landed. The absence of official reports, which are not available for the later operations, renders it impossible to give a very clear account of what has happened. We seem to have defeated all the bodies of insurgents with which our forces have come in contact, and taken all the towns which we have attacked. Whether or not we have retained or abandoned them is usually not clear. Aguinaldo is evidently without resources to maintain a large army in one place, and his troops are broken up into small bands which hover about and harass our