History Of The Capture Of Guam By The United States Man-Of War "Charleston" And Its Transport

By Frank Portusach

The officers with my brother were Lieutenant Commander of the Navy and Captain of the Port, Don Francisco Gutierez, Naval P. A. Surgeon, Don Jose Romero, Captain Pedro Duarte Anducar of the marine corps, and also Don Jose Sixto, civil paymaster.

Just as we arrived at the landing of Piti, the Charleston started to shell the Fort of Santa Cruz, but received no response as the fort had been abandoned for a number of years. Don Pedro Duarte said that the man-of-war was saluting the Fort of Santa Cruz, so a note was sent to Agana to have the artillery come to Piti to return the salute, bringing with them the guns such as they had in those days.

The party went in one of my boats to the Charleston and I followed them with my own crew in my whale-boat under sail, flying at my topmast the American flag. After the party got on board the Charleston I sailed across the bow and then to my surprise some one called out in a very loud voice, "Frank, come on board"; I looked up and saw Captain Hellet, a man whom I had known a number of years before as a whaling captain; at this I made for the lee side of the Charleston and went on board. The official party in the other boat was by this time taken down to Commander Glass' apartments. As I reached the deck I was surprised to see a man that I had known before when he was a Chronicle reporter in San Francisco at the time I was working for the same firm. He came up to me, shook hands and said, "I am glad to see you here in Guam"; a few minutes later a big, strong man dressed up as an officer walked up to me and said, " What right have you to hoist that American flag at your topmast?" I grinned and said, "I guess I have the right to have that flag up, for if I did not have the right I would not have it there." He said, "Can you prove your right?" I answered, "Yes, sir," and pulling out my naturalization papers as a citizen of the United States from the inside coat-pocket I handed them to him; he looked at them and said, "Well! 22d of October, 1888, Chicago, Cook County, State of Illinois."

Having looked through the documents he turned around and said to me "Follow me." At this moment the official party from the cabin came on deck to go ashore. The officer showed me down to Captain Glass' apartments, and on reaching there the captain received me with great pleasure. The officer with me handed Captain Glass my papers and after looking at them said, "I am glad to meet you." He told me to sit down, and started in saying that my brother Joe told him that I had some lighters and boats, and asked me if I could let him have two lighters and one boat so as to transfer coal and provisions from the transports to the man-of-war, and he said he would pay me for the trouble. I answered that I would let him have the lighters and boat without any pay, as being the only United States citizen on the island it was my duty to give all aid I could in time of war; the captain thanked me and told me to have them sent out by daylight in the morning of the 23d of June, which I promised him to do. He then called the same officer and told him to take me to an office on board and have my papers copied; if I am not mistaken in the name of the man it was Braunersreuter, however I am not positive that the name is spelled right; the same officer took me to an office and there were two other officers and a typewriter in it. The two officers, to the best of my knowledge, were ensigns and I think their names were R. E. Coontz, later governor of Guam, and Moffatt. Both gentlemen told the clerk to copy the naturalization papers and after doing so they returned the original to me and went on shore.

On my arrival at Piti I found my brother Joe and he told me that all the Spanish officers were under arrest, but they were on parole with the condition to deliver themselves on board the Charleston the next morning so that they might be taken as prisoners of war to Manila.

I called my head boatman, Tiburcio de los Santos, who is alive to-day, and several other men and ordered them to deliver to the Charleston two lighters and a boat at daylight in the morning; after this I got in my buggy with my brother and came to town.

On the road to Agana, we passed the artillery which had been turned back by their officers as the American man-of-war did not need any salute. In a few minutes we arrived home and my wife, who was an American woman, had lunch ready, this was about 2.00 p. m. My brother, wife and myself sat down to partake of our lunch, and while eating a letter came from Governor Don Juan Marina, and if I remember correctly it read as follows:

Si usted da asistencia a los buques americanos de guerra sera usted afusilado manana al amanecer en la playa.

El Gobernador,     

Juan Marina.

The translation of this note is as follows:

If you render any assistance to the American men-of-war you will be executed to-morrow morning at the beach.

(Sgd.) Juan Marina.     
Governor of Guam .

I read the note and laughed at it, and my wife asked me what was in it, and I told her. She started to cry and said it was our ruination, I said, "Do not worry and cheer up. Do not be afraid of anything for if it comes to the worst I will have the ships take care of you and my children." Then I showed the note to my brother and told him I had already promised Captain Glass the lighters and I was going to send them in spite of the threatening letter that, they had sent me. Jose told me that I had better look out.

After lunch I went to Piti, got my boat and crew and went to the Charleston , arriving there about 4.30 p. m. with the letter from the governor, Don Juan Marina, to show it to Captain Glass, to find out what could be done. I got an interview with Captain Glass and he invited me to dine on board; during dinner time he told me that he would issue an order to the governor to have the island delivered before daylight, and if he did not comply with the order he would shell the town. This made me very happy, and after dinner we had a general conversation and then came ashore about 9.00 p. m. Arriving at Piti, I told again Tiburcio de los Santos to send the lighters and boat in the morning in spite of all the trouble that the Spaniards would make for me and all that might happen. I came to town and went to sleep with great hope for the future.

The next morning which was the 23d day of June, at daylight I found out that God through his mercy, had delivered the island to the United States of America and at 11.00 a. m. the same day all the Spanish officers and soldiers were taken to Piti, disbanded, and were taken on board the Charleston as prisoners of war, by Lieut. Commander Braunersreuter. At 3.30 p. m. troops were landed at Piti, formed in line, and raised the stars and stripes, the glorious old flag, and played the Star Spangled Banner.

I went on board to see Captain Glass, and he asked me if I could take care of the island until some other officers or man-of-war might reach Guam, I being the only United States citizen at that time; I promised Captain Glass that I would do my best; he asked me if I was in need of aid, meaning soldiers for the island. I answered, "No," as the people are very good here. The next morning which was the 24th of June I went again on board to see the ship go away, but on my arrival at the Charleston , Commander Glass told me that one of his crew was missing as some of the officers went to Sumay and they must have left him there. He requested me to try and get the man ashore, which I did. Hoisting my sails I went to Sumay to search for the man, meantime he told me that he would pull up anchor and " heave to " outside the reef and wait for me; I got to Sumay and found the poor sailor sitting on the landing; I told him to get in my boat which he did, and without a moment's delay I sailed back to the Charleston to deliver him. When I got there the captain asked me what pay I wanted for my trouble, and I told him the only pay that I desired was that the man be freed from punishment; this was granted, my photograph was taken on deck, I bid them good-bye and came ashore.

After arranging matters at Piti I came to Agana and for a few days I was quite worn out as a result of the great battle that we had had.

In a few days I found out that the Spanish paymaster, Don Jose Sixto, was paying the native soldiers from the city funds, as the Charleston did not take them away but set them at liberty. The paymaster did this for the benefit of the public and also for his own protection, as he used to call himself the successor of the Spanish governor without orders from any one.

As Commander Glass did not give me any written appointment I could not interfere with the island treasury nor with the said paymaster, but at the same time I was watching him very closely as he intended to raise the Spanish flag at the Government House at most any time (but did not dare) ; so he kept his position as administrator of the island treasury.

After the Charleston had left for Manila, Don Justo de Leon Guerrero was acting as captain of the town and he had for his aid Don Venancio Roberto and they were in control of the city. I gave them full charge of the affairs of the public and I looked after the affairs of the island.

On or about the middle of July, 1898, the monitor Monterey came to port on her way to the Philippine Islands to supply her boilers with fresh water. After this was accomplished she continued her route to Manila. A week later the monitor Monadnoc and the collier Nero , bound for the Philippine Islands, came into port to supply their boilers with water and other supplies. I piloted the said men-of-war into harbor and supplied their boilers with water. If I remember correctly Captain Whiting was commanding the Monadnoc and Lieutenant Douglas was then an ensign on board. In a few days they were ready to sail for Manila, and the morning they were ready to go out the German man-of-war Arcona came to port. I was on board that day, as Captain Whiting told me that he would like me to help him go out.

When it was reported to Captain Whiting that there was a man-of-war in sight he gave orders to clear ship for action; the commander ordered me to go in my whale-boat outside of the reef and try to find out what man-of-war was the one in sight, and if it was a Spanish man-of-war to give him a certain signal on board, and if any other nation to give him a different signal; this was done on account of the day being very calm and hazy. Although it was very trying circumstances, I obeyed orders and ordering my men to the boat I pulled outside of the reef. The Arcona coming down about at quarter speed gave me all the chances of the world to spy her, as I had a good pair of sea glasses. It was not long before I could distinguish that it was a German man-of-war and giving signals to the Monadnoc I went along side the Nero almost as fast as a steam launch, as I had five of my best oarsmen from Piti. The Nero steamed ahead as if she was towing the Monadnoc behind her. The Arcona by this time passed the Nero and coming abreast to the Monadnoc I heard a commanding voice from the crow's-nest of the Monadnoc saying, " Back water and heave to," this was immediately done by the Arcona . and the officers of the two men-of-war exchanged visits. I looked upon the bridge of the Arcona and saw Mr. Henry Millinchamp as pilot bringing her into harbor, the pilot having boarded the Arcona in front of the town of Agana.

After the two men-of-war exchanged visits, the Nero and the Monadnoc proceeded on their way to the Philippine Islands. I boarded the Arcona for business purposes to find out what supplies I could help them with; the paymaster on board said he wanted some cattle, greens, and all kinds of vegetables, so I took the contract to supply the ship.

Mr. Millinchamp and myself were invited to lunch and about 3.00 p. m. we came to Piti and thence to Agana.

On or about the middle of August the steamer Saturnos of the McCloud and Co. steamers, which had been chartered by the Spanish Government as mail steamer, made the last trip to Guam, took away with them the wives and families of the Spanish officers that were left here by the Charleston . Their husbands had been taken to Manila as prisoners of war. I also turned over to the Saturnos my account to the company, being the agent for the same. From here they sailed to the island of Yap, and from Yap to Manila.

On or about the last of August or the beginning of September, 1898, the Pennsylvania , I think she was a transport, came into the harbor and the commander came to my store to ask if I needed any assistance; I replied, " No, I can get along without guards or any troops," as the people were of a very peaceful disposition.

In the months of November and December I ordered through the captain of the town, or what they then called "Gobernadorcillo," this word means " small governor," which office was then held by Don Justo Leon Guerrero and who I think had for his aid at this time Don Joaquin Perez (at present time Land Judge), to have the road fixed from Agana to Piti as it was in a terrible condition. Not even a bull cart could very well travel along the road. I told the public that it would be a source of shame to the residents of the island if the Americans should come and find such a road; I promised them that they need not pay taxes the same year if they voluntarily fixed the road and also would patch up the holes in the principal road of the town; further, I promised them to supply them with plenty of food, drinks, such as tuba and besides a couple of big drinks of gin a day for each man, also some chewing tobacco if they would put the road in good condition. This I did to make them feel happy and willing to work, also to show them that I, as an American subject, did not handle them as the old Spanish fashion, also to make them feel that they were freed from the Spanish thraldom and that they had come to be under American liberty and freedom.

The work was started and each Cabeza of the Baranguay of the commissioner furnished so many men from his district each day, until the work was completed. Don Justo de Leon Guerrero, Don Joaquin Perez and myself superintended the work until its completion.

During the construction I established on the road seven different stations for the purpose of feeding the workmen. From Anigua to Chorito one eating place, from Chorito to the entrance of Asan another one, from Asan to Tepungan three eating places and from Tepungan to Piti two; each one of these stations was supplied, according to the number of men, every day with sufficient rice, salt beef, salt salmon and salt pork in barrels, also sufficient tuba was bought and put on the station for their refreshment. At meal hours the men in charge of each station would give every man a big drink of A. V. H. gin and also passed the men their allowance in tobacco; this was done at my own personal expense until the road was completed and finished.

When the road was near completion the Spanish paymaster, Jose Sixto, called at my store one morning and remaining at the bottom of the steps called me out and said, "You are foolish for doing so much work for the Americans, I have the money in the safe to do that work, but I will see myself first in damnation before I let out a dollar to the advantage of the American Government, and if they should come to Guam they will not find any money in the safe or treasury." My temper was aroused and knowing that he was always armed with a revolver I turned into the store to grab my six shooter and told him to wait for me, as I did this he ran away; then I thanked God that I had not committed a crime, but if I had, I would have simply felt that I was doing justice in protecting my honor, my family and my nation and I would have had a clear conscience.

Not having a written appointment from Captain Glass, as I have stated before, I could not interfere with the island treasury; this I feared to do, for if any shortage might occur during the administration of the said Paymaster Jose Sixto I would have been blamed for it, for this reason I let him continue executing his administration as the island treasurer.

The road was completed at last and the people and public of Guam were perfectly satisfied with the way I directed the work; the laborers then were hoping for the Americans to come and none desired to see another Spaniard in the island with the exception of a few sore heads that under the Spanish Government had as much to say as the governor himself.

On December 12, 1898, there was a pilgrimage of the Virgin Mary inaugurated in the village of Sumay, a customary event to the present day, and of course after church services the main entertainment of the gathering was cock-fighting. At about 2.30 p. m., a Chamorro by the name of Gordo, living in the village of Agat and a Filipino by the name of Alejandro, ex-coachman of Don Pedro Duarte, were at the cock pit and during one of the fights the two above-mentioned parties got into trouble over some betting and the Chamorro, knowing well that this Filipino was trying to cheat him out of 50 cents, slapped him and knocked him down. This I am positive of because they were right underneath the porch where I was sitting with Joaquin Perez. In a few minutes there was a rush of Filipinos against the Chamorros which looked more like a riot than anything else, for every Filipino either had a knife or a gun in his hands. Before Joaquin Perez and myself could jump off of the veranda where we were sitting, to try and stop the fight, a couple of Chamorros were stabbed, I think one of them by the name of Lino Mendiola residing at present in Agana, the other I do not remember. I jumped off of the veranda and Joaquin Perez followed me and we tried to stop the trouble but instead of succeeding in our endeavor one of the Filipinos made a run for me with a dagger to stab me; at this I heard some one say, "Look out, Frank," and as I turned I knocked the dagger out of his hand and hitting him with my bare fist sent him flat to the ground. As he tried to get up feeling his pockets as I supposed for another knife, Juan Perez (a) Bilango gave him a blow with an aabang stick almost killing him. At this I turned around and saw that one of the Filipinos had seized a lance from the Chamorro patrolman and was going to stab Vicente de Borja, the present commissioner of Sumay, under the porch where I had been sitting, but before this Filipino succeeded in stabbing Mr. Borja some of the other natives knocked him down and took the lance away; by this time someone brought me my six shooter that I had left at Nicolas Diaz's house where I had been staying. Immediately when the Filipinos saw that I had the gun in my hands the bunch begged for mercy. Most of these Filipinos were old convicts and criminals deported from the Philippine Islands to Guam under the Spanish administrations, and during their stay at Guam had always caused trouble among the public.

In a few moments after the arrival of my revolver, I, with the aid of Joaquin Perez, picked up the wounded and put them in a house close by, also took the rest of the Filipinos that we could get hold of amounting to about 18 or 20 and put them in the same house; I told them that if they remained quiet I would take care of them and bring them safely to Agana the next morning, but if they raised any more trouble the natives would be apt to take the law into their own hands. They remained quiet in the house until the next morning. Of course I had them guarded in case they should try to do any damage during the night. The next morning Mr. Vicente de Borja took his boat and the two of us took the Filipinos to Piti to deliver them to the native patrol to bring them up to jail, and then we returned to Sumay.

December 25, being Christmas Day, I summoned the captain of the town, Don Justo de Leon Guerrero, his deputy-commissioner, Don Joaquin Perez Cruz, and all of the rest of the commissioners of Agana to meet at my store for the purpose of coming to an agreement how we, the representatives of the United States Government, were going to run Guam from the beginning of the year. During the meeting, a majority decided that another meeting would be held at Padre Palomo's house and appoint Padre Palomo president of said meeting, and that whatever might be decided it would be carried out.

On the evening of December 31, New Year's Eve, the commissioners of Agana, aided by Padre Palomo and myself, went to Padre Palomo's residence, the house at present occupied by the moving picture show, to decide the question of whether or not Don Jose Sixto should be removed as city treasurer or in other words to discharge him, also to talk over the fact that some of the native soldiers had reported to me that Don Jose Sixto was going to raise the Spanish flag on the first of the year.

Before I proceed in explaining what we did at the meeting we carried out at Padre Palomo's residence, I will state briefly what happened a few days after I got the notice that Mr. Jose Sixto was going to hoist the Spanish flag. I went around town among my acquaintances, and between them and my boatmen at Piti I managed to gather in the yard of my residence over 350 men, most of them with their own rifles and those that had none I supplied: should Mr. Jose Sixto dared to hoist the Spanish flag the next morning I would have attacked him.

At the meeting at Padre Palomo's residence, he acting as chairman, we decided that under all circumstances Mr. Jose Sixto must be relieved from the treasury, as by this time I had found out that he had divided the treasury money among his employees and himself. At 12.30 a. m. of New Year's Eve I was called from the meeting at Padre Palomo's residence to act as surgeon to sew up a wound on the buttock of a man named Antonio de los Santos, that was inflicted by Luis Leon Guerrero (a) Silvas with a shoemaker's knife; I went to the store and did my best for the man's recovery and he is well to the present day.

The next morning being New Year's Day of 1899 at 6.00 a. m. I sent one of my boatmen by the name of Juan Fejerang to see if the Spanish flag was hoisted on the Government House, but he came back to the yard saying that there was no flag raised. At 8.00 a. m. the same morning I sent Lucas Fejerang again to see if there was any flag raised, but in a few minutes he came back and said, "No"; I did this with the intention that if the said Jose Sixto succeeded in raising the Spanish flag the first of the year, I would make an attack against him and his followers and put them in confinement until I could get communication with some United States officers or ships that might come to Guam. Later on I found out that some of the native soldiers had told Mr. Jose Sixto of the preparation I had made, so they did not dare to hoist the old Spanish flag, so my volunteers went home. The same morning I went to Padre Palomo to inform him of the proceedings that I was taking against Mr. Sixto; before reaching a decision or coming to any conclusion the announcing bell on the hill, where the Spanish magazine was located, started to ring, signaling that there was a ship in sight. Padre Palomo and myself prepared to go on board, and when we got there we found out that it was the collier Brutus ; I do not remember the captain's name.

Once on board Padre Palomo, Jose Sixto, myself and others I do not remember, stated to the commander the situation of Guam; after a long discussion I told the commander to appoint someone to look after the city, I having so much business to attend, and if I am not mistaken he appointed Don Joaquin Perez until the Bennington came.

On or about the last of January, 1899, the cruiser Bennington commanded by Captain Taussig came to Guam, and in the morning of the 1st and 2d of February the American colors were raised by Captain Taussig at the Government House.

When the Bennington left Guam on about February 20, Mr. Joaquin Perez was left in charge of the island until the collier Nanshan , commanded by Captain Stovel, Ensign Kaiser, U. S. N., came; they remained in harbor for a number of months, Mr. Kaiser was acting temporary governor during the time that he was here; he had as his aid Mr. Joaquin Perez.

On the beginning of March the steamer Elcano came from Manila with the Macabebe troops to be taken to Saipan, and also to take there some of the trash and rubbish belonging to the Spanish Government that were here. She brought Captain P. M. Duarte who remained in Guam. On the 10th or 12th of April the battleship Oregon came to Guam bound for Manila, and towards the last of April the schooner Esmeralda from Japan called at Saipan and there received orders from the American Government from Manila to take all the munitions of the Spanish garrison at Agana and take it to Saipan, and when the orders were delivered to the acting governor, Don Joaquin Perez, they were complied with, and everything belonging to the Spanish Government was sent to Saipan by the schooner Esmeralda . Joaquin Perez was relieved by William Coe on or about August, 1899, by orders of Ensign Kaiser, and Mr. Coe acted as governor until the Yosemite came with Captain R. P. Leary on or about November.

The paymaster, Jose Sixto, also went to Saipan, but before leaving Guam the acting governor made him pay his shortage to the island treasury and also his employees, the interventor and the clerk, Don Joaquin Diaz, paid back what Mr. Sixto had given them as shares. Joaquin Diaz had not spent the money that he had received from Mr. Sixto. Mr. Sixto having already spent what he got from the treasury, he borrowed some money from Padre Palomo, Padre Francisco Resano and others in Guam.

When Governor R. P. Leary took charge of the island he brought with him a command of soldiers with Major Kelton, Lieutenant Carpenter, Lieutenant Jonas, Lieutenant Collins and Lieutenant William B. Stafford, U. S. N., as his aids.

[1] Mr. Portusach, the author of this article, is serving as judge in the judiciary of Guam.—Ed.




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