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No. 6 JUNE 2003

Colonel Webb C. Hayes.

Letter by Webb C. Hayes from Vigan Island

Webb C. Hayes, second son of President Rutherford B Hayes, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 20, 1856. Hayes attended Cornell University and acted as his father's private secretary during his third term as governor of Ohio and his presidency. Hayes was a veteran member of the First Cleveland Troop, later known as Troop A, Ohio National Guard. He served with Troop A as the personal escort of all United States presidents from Hayes to Taft and at the funeral ceremonies of three Ohio presidents (Hayes, Garfield, and McKinley). At the outbreak of the Spanish American War, Hayes was commissioned major in the First Ohio Cavalry and mustered into the United States service May 9, 1898. He accompanied Major General W. R. Shafter as part of the First Expedition against Havana, Cuba. He served through the campaign of Santiago de Cuba and the invasion of Puerto Rico. Despite wounds received during the crossing of the San Juan River, Hayes took part in the assault on San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898. On the breaking out of the insurrection in the Philippines, Hayes was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 31st U. S. Infantry. After a harrowing thirty-three-day voyage aboard the Manauense, Hayes arrived in Manila in late November 1899. Within hours of landing, Hayes led a rescue party to free the U.S. soldiers garrisoned at Vigan Island. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this act of heroism.

His report to Colonel James Pettit, written from Vigan Island immediately after the event, describes his actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor on December 17, 1902. (Webb C. Hayes Collection)

Mr Dear Colonel Pettit: No. 02953

Vigan, Phil, Islands

10 Dec. 1899

I have just returned from attending church at the fine cathedral where I learned that this is Sunday morning. Instinct? Curiosity? Or Loating? [sic] Well, I’ve had my usual good luck in getting into a fight, and a hot one too, within the first twenty four hours of landing. This time within the two hours at Vigan four miles from the coast. When I bid you farewell at Manila I hustled over to the Manauense and got my Santiago Sailor Bag with my bed roll & horse equipment (poor Dr. Haines stuff also was thrown in the boat by mistake and not discovered until unloaded on the Hospital Ship Relief when I immediately sent it ashore marked for the Doctor in care of the Captain of the Port. Hope he rec’d it ok.) and was most warmly welcomed by Major Perley Surgeon in charge of the Relief who was off at once for San Fabian and San Fernando for sick & wounded. The Relief is a fast boat but she rolls to “beat the band” or rather “to beat the Manauense” so that I was obliged to eat my Thanksgiving dinner alone, Major Perley not dining that day. We reached San Fabian early Dec 1st and proceeded to land from a Life Boat. It was well for us that it was a Life Boat in fact as well as in name for we were rolled out most beautifully in the heavy surf but all managed to get ashore. While rather startling this was simply an incident to me after our Watery “Experiences” on board the Manauense. We found General Wheaton (Comdg) just leaving for Bayug to relieve Gen Lawton who goes South to Cavite., Lt. Col Wessels 3rd Cav three troops, Lt. Kenny E 1st Art & four guns training green artillery horses, Col. Bisbee and a portion of the 3rd Inf and 33rd Inf. Poor John Logan was killed here. Major Perley arranged to take off 150 sick & wounded and I transferred myself first to the Gunboat Wheeling and later in the day (Dec 3rd) to the Gunboat Princeton bound for Vigan where I expected to begin my search for Gen. Young. Gen. Young had left San Fernando (in the Interior) 11 Oct and no one knew where he was except that he was following Aggie with Maj. Swigart’s command 3rd Cav. Chase, Hunter & Thayers troops 125 in all, and Hare’s 300 men of the 33rd and Howzes’ Batt. Of the 34th and would probably come out on the west or north coast.. Gen Wheaton had stopped Col. Wessels command of Youngs troops & there was considerable friction manifested. Lawton & Young were working well together and doing most efficient work. Young’s campaign being something like the 76 campaign of Crook with Lawton at the base. Strange to say the other military authorities seem to think Aggie is South but Young secured his personal effects and members of his family and will get Aggie if let alone and supplied with horses.

Well, the Princeton cast anchor off the coast of Vigan – which is some three miles inland – at 2:30 P.M. Dec 4th and I was sent ashore with my Sailors Bag and a Box of Hospital supplies for Lt. Col. Parker 45th (4th Cav.) comdg at Vigan. Our Spanish Pilot went ashore with me to give me a proper introduction in their Mother tongue to the native fisherman when lo! A Spaniard turned up and informed him that the Fillipinos had attacked the Americans at Vigan and had them cooped up in the town preparatory to slaughtering them and to “take the American back to his ship.” On listening we could here [sic] the fun. I at once replaced the Hospital supplies and my dear Bag in the small boat and sent the Ensign & Pilot back to the Princeton to report to Captain Knox, rather hoping that he would send a landing party. I remained on the Beach and was gradually surrounded on three sides by unprepossessing fishermen who seemed to admire my pistol, field glass and wrist watch to such an extent that I was very glad to see the Princeton’s small boat returning. Captain Knox said that he would come in as close as possible with the Princeton so as to cover the beach in case the Americans were obliged to retreat and hoped we would get word to them. I had come ashore to find Gen. Young and disliked to go back so seized a 3 ½ foot pony and finally persuaded its owner to accompany me in hope of a reward and to secure the return of his pony. It was getting near Dusk and as the Fillipinos [sic] had come down from the mountains I hoped to get through to our troops without being discovered. We rode quietly but as rapidly as our ponies could go crossing a wicker bridge but found that the Filipinos were between us and the town and had the troops cooped up into the public buildings surrounding the “Palace” square. We passed through the Fillipinos [sic] lines being taken for brethren in the dark but finally my guide balked and turned tail to run to save his skin even if he lost the reward and the pony I was riding. I “persuaded” him to stop and kept him covered while we passed through the absolutely deserted streets of a 20,000 pop. Town until we were halted in the dark by a good American “who comes there” and were soon in the “Palace” “port Cochere,” where I found a very much surprised lot of Officers and men who said it was “Impossible” but it was not. I found Lt. Col. Parker 45th Major Crinin 33rd and 150 sick & footsore men of 33rd who were surrounded by Filipinos supposed to be 800 in number who were bent on capturing the 36,000 rounds of ammunition and 25,000 rations the last of which had been hauled up to the palace the evening before the attack.

Well, what a night we all spent after a most exciting day on the part of the troops. We had but seventy effective men good for duty or a “sally” but as many of the sick and footsore as had arms were distributed among the five posts surrounding the square which it was necessary to hold at all hazards. The 33rd are from Texas and take kindly to this street fighting and seemed to enjoy it hugely perhaps remembering the “Alamo.” Officers and men were in good spirits all night during almost constant firing although Col. Parker was much exhausted by the severe strain and apparent ill health and bewailed his inability to find Gen. Young, who of course was perfectly safe. The Inusurrective kept up the firing until after 6 A.M. at which time I succeeded in getting off a Spanish Prisoner with a letter to Capt. Knox of the Princeton asking for a Surgeon and medical supplies and reinforcements. Our loss was 8 killed and 3 wounded and we killed about 40, captured 30 and captured nearly 100 guns, mausers but mostly Remingtons. Their wounded were carried off by natives in the town. Several times we tried to signal from the top of the Cathedral and finally Parker let me take 30 soldiers and 30 Spanish Prisoners whom we armed with Remingtons captured from the Fillipinos [sic] and with this Falstaffian army I started for the Ships with Lt. Pickel of 33rd & myself mounted on ponies.

On arrival at Beach I found that my messenger had gotten through and that Captain McCalla of the “Newark” who had arrived during the night was preparing to land with 125 Sailors & Marines and a 3” gun. We started on our return to Vigan about 2 P.M. after forwarding my letter and Parker’s request for assistance down by boat to San Fabian. On arrival at Vigan we were surprised beyond measure to find that Gen. Young with his 3 troops of Cavalry had just come in after a very hard fight aided by Hare & Howze in the mountain passes leading down to Vigan, with the troops under Tineo who had assaulted us also Vigan in the hopes of getting our supplies but had left us in the morning of the Dec. 5th to help the Filipinos resisting Young. Gen. Young’s command lost one killed and nine wounded. We slept securely that night having 150 Cav. 225 Inf. & 125 Sailors with a 3” gun. Subsequently 125 Sailors & Marines were landed from the Wheeling, Callao & Samar in addition to those landed from the Newark & Princeton or 250 in all and what a Fourth of July night they kept up for the next two nights while they relieved our tired Cav & Inf of duty at outposts.

The following night the Relief with her 200 sick brought up Lt. Col. Wessels and 200 dismounted men of 3rd Cav which Col. Bisbee of Gen. Wheaton’s Brigade had sent instead of coming himself with his 3rd Infantry. How Gen. Young did swear at this countermanding of his orders, to hurry the 3rd Cav forward to him as fast as their horses would permit. He at once ordered them back to their horses, to come forward as rapidly as possible and then himself with Smedberg & myself took the Wheeling to San Fabian – 85 miles – ordering forward all his troops and bringing up the Astor Battery. Young nearly caught Aggie and also Lt. Gilmore & party and forced the release of nearly 1,000 Spanish Prisoners, five hundred of whom had straggled in and been sent forward to Manilla.

The Navy was ordered to Apari on the North Coast at mouth of ___ River and left yesterday. Young also sent 1 gun and 56 men of 33rd to Souel (Loaog) yesterday and Major Swigart’s Cavalry to same place this morning. Young has nine columns operating through these mountain passes and will catch Aggie if it is possible. Smedberg 4th Cav. Dade 3rd Cav. Burnside QM, Howard 3rd Cav Com., and a Vol Dr. and myself are with Young. We leave tomorrow for the mountains with all our stuff in our saddlebags.

Tell Liggett and officers of the 2nd Batt that there is almost as much fun and nearly as exciting as fighting water, fire and hot steam and the raging Monsoon on the Manauense in the trip which tried men’s souls.

Please read this rambling letter to such of the lads as will care to hear it then forward to Garretson at Cleveland with a request for him to hand it to James Parmelee to send to my brother at Toledo. Don’t expect to write again soon – haven’t written before – so this must do for all and properly goes first to my Colonel who kindly assisted me at Manilla in my application to join Young for a “little fun & experience.”

Very Truly Yours

Webb C. Hayes

Lt. Col. 31st Inf.

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