Transport CITY OF PARA
City of Peking
 

General:

The transport CITY OF PARA was chartered from the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. She was used as a transport on the Pacific, taking part in the third expedition to the Philippines. She carried the 13th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, which was part of Gen. of Arthur MacArthur's (father of Douglas MacArthur) force of 4,847 troops, the seven thousand miles to Manila. General Merritt, who would command all of the U.S. troops in the Philippines accompanied this expedition aboard the NEWPORT. The expedition of eight ships departed San Francisco, California, between June 25 and 29, 1898, with the CITY OF PARA departing on the 26th. This was her sole trip for the Navy.

The description of life aboard the ship, below, is excerpted from the unpublished memoir of Lyndon King Emory of Company B of the 13th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry

The Account:

"...We started for San Francisco May 16th where we camped on the sand flat near Golden gate Park until June 26th when we embarked on the 'CITY OF PARA"\', 1300 or [of] us, and with four other transports started on out 7,000 mile voyage. Our ship was a freighter, so all enlisted men had to sleep in the two lower freight holds. In those dark, smelly holds had been built rows of narrow bunks, 3 high, with just enough room to walk between the rows. The only ventilation was from the few portholes -- but only in calm weather -- and 3 "windsails", large canvas tubes running up through the hatch-holds to the main deck, where their big wings were supposed to guide fresh air down to the holds --sometimes they did."

"Very few of us landlubbers had ever felt a ship roll with the ocean swells, so it was not lng before most of the 1300 were very sick men. I had sense enough to hurry down and pick out the top bink in an outside row, right in front of a porthole which made it a little more endurable, but it was sure bad enough. No one could have been any sicker than I was; as the ship rolled in the heavy sea I would watch the water outside the rough porthole window climb higher and higher and wish the ship would turn upside down. But in four or five days most of us had recovered enough to crawlup to the top deck an breathe fresh air again. Finally on July 5th we anchored in Honolulu harbor and one look at that paradise of dry land effected a miraculous cure for most of us."

"...[after leaving Hawaii] We were in a hot climate and the holds got so well warmed up that our nights were not restful. Also our food, what little of it there was, had not been properly cooked, and we had to drink distilled sea water. Trouble was that the distilling plant wasn't large enough, so we lined up at the water tap with our  canteens, filled them with hot water, and had to wait until it cooled enough to drink. But the officers still had ice water , good food, and had brought along six cows which were placed in stalls in an upper hold, were well fed (even got fresh carrots which we stole every time the guard turned his head). The cows were killed one by one to provide the officers with fresh meat. Our meat was canned, and so tough and greasy that we named it 'slumgullion'."

"One of the Co. E men died and had  a typical burial at sea -- sewn in the blanket, a heavy piece of iron tied to his feet, carried to the ship's rail, and after a brief service, 'taps' was blown, the stretcher was lifted and he slid over the rail. Otherwise one day was about like another, until we got near the China sea where we passed an active volcano, which had erupted at the sea bottom, and had built up enough so that it was just visible above the waves. A strange sight as we passed it at dusk."

"About 1000 miles eastof the Philippines, as we entered in China sea, we found ourselves just behind a typhoon. The wind had quieted, but the enormous waves lifted our ships so high that we could see the propellors of the ones in front of us, then as they slid down into the trough between two waves they disappeared except for their masts. Finally on July 31st we dropped anchor in Manila bay..."

"On Aug. 7th we disembarked -- a perilous adventure for us -- as the sea was very choppy, and the rowboats sent by Dewey to take us to shore pitched high and low in spite of the sailors efforts to hold them steady by the ships ladder, dow which we had to slowly climb, loaded with all our possessions, then hand our rifle to a sailor and as the boat rose on a wave make a jump for it and hope we wouldn't miss. If a man hesitated when he got to the ladder's bottom, Col. Reeves would yell and cuss till the poor soldier would decide it was just a 'choice between the devil and the deep sea' and jump. But no one drowned. Once on shore, we marched a little way inland and were ordered to put up our tents..."


Bibliography:

Clerk of Joint Comittee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899), Vol 1.

Cohen, Stan. Images of the Spanish American War, April-August 1898.  (Missoula:Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc., 1997), 196-197.

Emory, Lyndon King - Personal memoir, provided by Robin Allin, Jr.

Mitiuckov, Nick, Naval historian, Izhevsk,Russia (personal correspondence).


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