In this letter, William Burdette Smith describes the terrible conditions the 13th Minnesota encountered in the Philippines.
I rec'd your letter of the 29 Aug, & 18 Sept. yesterday. I was very glad to hear from you. I think your letters must have been delayed at Frisco.
I suppose you have rec'd my last letter before this time & know what I think of this country. It would have been much better for us if we could have stayed in Honolulu. The whole city petitioned for us to stay, but it did no good.
It is very hard to tell when we will be able to get out of this God forsaken place. The major says, "We are not liable to get out of here until hell freezes over ". That will not be for some time for it is damned hot here yet.
There has been several of our boy overcome by the heat of the mid day sun. There is 12 of our Co. sick in the hospital & several sick in quarters. One of the boys in F Co. that came with us died on the 25 Oct. His remains were carried to the graveyard, where the ground is covered with human bones, placed in a shallow grave. Taps was sounded, followed by a volley of musketry. This concludes the surimony of a soldier's death in Manila. There was no chaplain. He had been busy taking pictures with his Kodak & refused to attend the funeral. There has been 9 cases of small pox in this regt. & 8 have been fatal. Small pox is not considered any thing serious by the natives. It is a common thing to see the native children with it in the streets. They all have marks of the disease. In fact, any disease that you can thing of. Lepers are very common they sit around the streets begging pennies.
Patients in the hospital in the Philippines.
Do you not know anything about how we are used here ? Well, it is bad enough & I can't see how it could be any worse. We have to spend our wages to buy grub. Ten days rations last about 3 days. We have never got full army rations since we left Frisco, we have even had to buy fuel to cook with. On the boat we had hard tack, coffee & either boiled fat pork or spoiled beef. Money could have been of no use to me for I had all a packhorse could carry but it only lasted until I got to Honolulu. I refused to eat at first, but was finally starved to it.
The regt., quietly arranged to send a cable gram to the Governor,
to get us out of here as soon as possible, each man subscribed a dollar,
but it never went any further than the office. It was rejected by the commanding
offices who are getting a fat salary & knocking down twice as much.
We had a regt., fund of $30,000 it is now reduced to $15,000 & out
of this they are going to build a regimental hospital which is supposed
to cost $10,000 this is enough to buy any building in the city. All
of the benefits we have
rec'd out of it is a cot which cost less than $1 apiece.
I do not care a damn what they do with the funds they can have it all if they will put me back on American soil. I am very tired of being under the despotic rule of a lot of cheap officials.
This is certainly the most miserable place on earth, infested by mosquitoes, ants & many other poisonous insects & barely dressed native running about the dirty muddy streets. There has been heavy rains here for the last week & at night when the tide raises it pushes the water back & floods the whole town. The patrol after 10: o'clock reported for duty with only a blouse & shirt on & so rowed through the streets in boats.
I was over to Cocite [Cavite] day before yesterday where the Spanish fleet is sunk in the bay. I was on the Isle de Cuba & two others, we took along a native diver he got us a few relics. There is hardly anything left of them but the bow. We are not allowed to leave quarters to go more than a mile away. I have not been doing duty for about a week for I have no shoes. So I do not have to report at role call. The fellow who went with us got 3 days in the guard house because he did not get back in time for retreat.
Mail closes at 12:00 at the post office so will have to close for it is about 11 o'clock & it is most a mile to the post office. If it does not go on this boat it may be next year before you get it. I got another handkerchief for you but it was spoiled by a native girl who though she could do fancy work. I paid $2 for it & her 50 cents for spoiling it then I took it to another place & got it fixed as it is now & that is very (b---n ?). I will close hoping to hear from you soon.