Our Islands, Our New Possessions

“When we received the cable from Admiral Dewey telling of the taking of the Philippines I looked up their location on the globe. I could not have told where those darned islands were within 2,000 miles!” ~ President William McKinley to H.H. Kohlsaat, Editor of the Chicago-Times Herald

I’m looking at captions of old
newspaper photos from April 1898,

just before The Battle of Manila Bay—
all the language already in place,

as if to make the outcome so: War
in the Orient! American Squadron

Will Capture Philippine Islands and
American Warships Will Fight Spanish

Squadron Near Manila; A Very Desperate
Encounter is Predicted
. And the fleet

of Spanish vessels goes down in flames
or sinks into the bay: the Reina Cristina

and Castilla, the gunboats Don Antonio
de Ulloa, Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Luzon,

Isla de Cuba, Velasco, Argos— while
on the American side, the Olympia plays

“The Star-Spangled Banner” and “El Capitan”
as sailors on the Baltimore, Raleigh and Boston,

the gunboats Concord and Petrel, the revenue
cutter McCulloch, and the transport ships Zafiro

and Nanshan shout “Remember the Maine!”
Admiral Dewey issues strict orders that “no

barbarous or inhuman acts are to be perpetrated
by the insurgents,” by which he means Filipinos.

Artist prints and photographs show no native casualties
of war, no native involvement— except that skirmish

cost the Spanish a 20 million dollar fine: the price
of handing over their former colony and its inhabitants

to the Americans. Who doesn’t love a good war? When news of Dewey’s
victory reaches the mainland, Americans cheer. What does it matter

that most didn’t know what and where the Philippines are,
as long as those darned islands are now the spoils of war?

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