The Unexpected Visit of Americans at Panay's Capital

Causes Surprise Among the Followers of the Insurgent Leader Aguinaldo,

The Evacuation of the City by the Spanish Most Complete, Those Who Participated in the Exodus Carrying Away With Them Everything of a Portable Nature They Wanted.

(Correspondence of the Associated Press.)

ILOILO, Dec. 31.—Just as the first gray streak of dawn appeared on the horizon Wednesday morning the Miller expedition to Iloilo, consisting of the United States cruiser Baltimore, the Compania Maritima steamer Union, the United States transports Newport, Pennsylvania and Arizona, in the order named, reached the east coast of the island of Panay and steamed toward the entrance of the harbor of Iloilo. A message was wigwagged from the Newport, ordering the Pennsylvania and Arizona to fall back behind Guimaras Island, some fifteen miles) from their destination, the other vessels proceeding without them. About 8 o'clock the town of iloilo, a long row of flat-roofed white buildings, from almost every one of which a flag was flying, came in sight, and soon afterward the squadron came to anchor some 1,200 yards from the beach.

The Baltimore took up a position almost directly ahead of the German gunboat Irene and within 400 yards of a number of coasting schooners and three steam tugs, which lay at anchor in the roadstead. the only other vessel there was the English ship Kistna, loading hemp.

Almost simultaneously with the splash of the Baltimore's anchor a launch put off from shore and three Filipino officials, the Mayor and two aides, came out in her and boarded the cruiser, but were referred to the Newport. Upon being presented to General Miller they inquired, with some degree of haughtiness, the meaning of this unexpected visit of the americans, and were curtly informed that everything would be explained to their satisfaction in a letter which would be conveyed to their commanding General Martin Delgado. Shortly after this interview the delegates returned ashore, accompanied by Lieutenant Barroll, Sixth Artillery; Lieutenant Biddle, aide to General Miller; Dr. Phelan, Sixth Artillery, and his imperial highness, Prince Lowenstein (German), a guest. On landing, the entire party proceeded to the Government building, where they were met by General Delgado and a committee of citizens, really the Council of the Federated States of the Visayas.

The Chairman of this committee - Ramon Avencena — opened the proceedings with a demand as to whether or not the Americans had asked Aguinaldo's permission to come, and also whether they had any instructions from him. Upon being informed that Aguinaldo had not been consulted, the committee expressed considerable surprise, but before the members had time to recover from the shock another was administered. This was General Miller's letter, which was read aloud in Spanish. It was to the effect that the, Americans had come there for the purpose of taking possession of the pueblo of Iloilo, in accordance with the treaty entered into between Spain and the United States. That they had come under the belief that the Spaniards were still in power, and that now that the Spaniards had evacuated the place this communication was sent for the purpose of informing those in possession of their intentions. This document was received without comment, the only response to it being a request for time in which to consider the matter, it being finally agreed that an answer should be forthcoming at noon on the following day. In response to these interrogations of Lieutenant Barroll, Señor Avencena stated that the position of his constituents was that iloilo was a part of the federation of three states, which were simply waiting to learn something definite as to the future of the archipelago. The local committee constituted the will of the people and the army, and its decision were final as regarded minor matters; all grave questions, however, were submitted to the authorities in Luzon, to whom it was tributary.

General Delgado was informed that there were two more american transports off Guantsmas, but that the troops on board would probably be utilized to garrison the other ports which Spain had either evacuated or lost, but that it might be necessary to leave them in Iloilo for some time. To this the natives gave no response and after an exchange of courtesies the americans returned aboard, accompanied by the foreign residents.

Another conference was held between the rebels and General Miller, the former being represented by four commissioners - R. Mellira, V. Franco, C. Lopez and Ramon Avenceno. This delegation stated that as the local government could not act upon so important a matter as that under discussion without first consulting the head of the filipino government, they must respectfully ask General Miller to grant them the necessary time in which to communicate with Aguinaldo before giving a definite answer. They explained that as spain had surrendered the city to the natives, they felt that they were entitled to demand certain conditions and insist upon their being complied with.

General Miller explained that Spain could not have turned Iloilo over to anybody, since at the time of the alleged transfer she had already ceded it to the United States. He must, therefore, refuse their request for time, and would expect a final answer to his demand at noon the following day. He assured the delegates that the lives and property of the natives would be protected in the event of their acceding to his demand, and read a communication from President Mckinley to that effect, which made little or no impression on the quartet, who were considerably crestfallen when the conference ended. While it is easier to criticise than to act in a case like this, the opinion is expressed that had General Miller landed his forces and done his palavering on shore, he would have met with no resistance, as the natives were wholly unprepared for such an emergency. Every hour of delay, however, gives the rebels so much more time to strengthen their forces and position, and in case of trouble now the americans cannot possibly effect a landing without getting hurt. At 11 o'clock December 29th a large number of native soldiers marched into town from both Jaro and Molo. At a rough estimate their reinforcements numbered from 1,200 to 1,500. They were armed with all sorts of weapons—Mausers, Remingtons, old Winchesters, shotguns, sporting rifles and muskets. Before daylight, however, all but 300 of them, who were put upon outpost duty, had left the city for the suburbs.

A more complete evacuation than that made by the Spaniards of this place on December 25th last would be impossible to imagine, and those who participated in the exodus carried away with them everything of a portable nature they wanted. Those who witnessed it say that for hours a constant stream of vehicles, loaded with furniture, new and second-hand, odds and ends of machinery, old brooms, tin cans and everything else imaginable, poured down to the wharf, to embark upon the two transports and three gunboats which conveyed them to camboangan on mindanao island.

For some hours after the departure of the Spaniards the town was practically deserted, only a few foreign residents inhabiting it.

Unlike manila, there are no walls, moats, nor ill-smelling creeks at iloilo, and its streets are wide and clean. There is a dilapidated old fort at the north end, but it is scarcely worthy of the appellation, and a six-pounder shell would probably demolish it entirely.

The foreigners, for the most part, judging from the flags exhibited, appear to be Swiss, English and German, the only American flag being that floating over the residence of the British Vice- Consul, Mr. Chien, who is also looking after american interests here.

Early December 30th, the foreign residents here addressed a petition to General Miller for a suspension of hostilities long enough to enable the rebels to communicate with aguinaldo, upon the ground that a fight would cause inestimable destruction of life and property ashore and lead to serious consequences in the interior. General Miller replied that he must regretfully decline to entertain such a proposition at this juncture.

Acting upon this tip, General Miller ordered the Pennsylvania and Arizona to move up, and these vessels promptly steamed in, the latter coming to anchor in front of the city, and not over 300 yards off shore. Early in the morning fully 2,000 rebels came into town, and at jaro and molo there were at least 10,000 more ready to move at a moment's notice. Most of them, however, were armed with volos (machetes) only, although some have rifles.

At noon a delegation consisting of Angel Corteza, Eduardo Esterah and Augustin Solis presented a sealed letter to General Miller from the President of the Visayan Federation, R. Lopez. This proved to be to the effect that the insurgents could recognize no authority but that of Aguinaldo, and that until they received instructions from him they would not answer for the conduct of their army if any attempt was made to land troops. General Miller informed the delegates that he would be satisfied with the occupation of Iloilo, and that he had no intention of taking possession of the whole island at this time, but they were obdurate, and with a curt, "well, gentlemen, that ends the conference," General Miller closed the interview. It transpired during this conference that the rebels wanted to know what form of government would be guaranteed them, and what assurances could be given them that the island of Panay would be admitted to Statehood if they acceded to the demands of the americans.

After the delegation had returned to shore General Miller at once commenced preparations to land his force, but sent Colonel Potter, who arrived from manila with dispatches at 7 a. m., back to manila for further instructions.

A delegation arrived here December 30th from the island of Negros for the purpose of submitting a proposition to the americans. He said that the majority of the people of that place were willing to be annexed to the United States, provided they were granted statehood. He claimed that, as spain lost not only the cities, but the entire island to the natives, they cannot be classed in the same category as those of Luzon or Panay.

Intense excitement was created here yesterday by the arrival of the spanish gunboat El Cano flying the hated Spanish flag, and the fact that the Americans paid no attention to her seemed to incense the natives, who were apparently full of fight. Almost every beat along the river was filled with armed rebels, and the fort, public buildings and churches swarmed with these doughty soldiers, who maintain admirable order, despite their excitement.

One significant feature of the situation was that all the women left iloilo. Many of them simply went to jaro, but others crossed the channel and took refuge upon the small island opposite this place. Another is that the 500 native soldiers (supposedly loyal to the spaniards), who were returned here on board the transport Rosario. Promptly joined the rebels upon being landed, being armed, they proved a valuable reinforcement. Under the circumstances it is not likely that those brought down on the steamship Union, who were refused permission to land at Manila, will be landed here. In fact, it is generally understood that she is being held by General Miller for the purpose of carrying dispatches.

General Miller's Arrival at Iloilo, Sacramento Daily Union, Feb 19 1899, Page 1