A window into our past...
Excerpts from a U.S. soldier's letter to his sister
It is our hope that as the internet grows, so would its source of historical data on Zamboanga City, past and present. This personal letter offers us a glimpse of what our city looked like in late 1899, when it was handed over to the Americans by the Spaniards after signing the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898.
The Spaniards spent centuries helping to build this beautiful city, but shamelessly burnt it down at the wake of their retreat.
This soldier's personal letter helps to provide us a window into our beloved city's past, and a sense of what life was back then.
It would be nice to record the memories of our city's most senior citizens, and help others know what our history was like then. We would appreciate your contributions.
ZAMBOANGA, PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
December 14, 1899
Miss Emma Pennington,
Dear Sister: It is with much pleasure I write you a few lines today. I could write you a long letter if I had time, but the mail steamer goes out today and I didnít know it until just now. This is the first chance I have had to write since we left Honolula
We arrived here on the 8th. This is an old but beautified city. The Spanish burned it and only a few buildings are left. Our company is located in an old hospital..once a fine building, but nearly gone to rack. We have been transferred to the artillery. I suppose we will stay at this town; the other companies will be stationed in different parts of the island. This Island is 500 miles from manila. There has been but little fighting done here, and donít think we will have any to do.
I am in good health..weight 152 pounds..2 pounds more than I ever wieghted. I am taking as good care of my health as I know how. I eat a great deal of fruit..it being so cheap;/ four banannas for a cent, cocoanuts a cent each. The natives wear good clothes and are friendly; but there is a race of people here calle Moers, that go almost naked..wearing only a breach cloth. They are the ugliest people I ever saw.
Well, I just returned from a drill with not a dry thread on me. I suppose you are preparing for a Xmas..only ten days from today. I would love to be there to spend it with you; but Xmas will be over and forgotten when you get this letter.
I forgot to tell you about my trip from Honolula. We left there on the 6th of November; had a very good time for a week or so, with smooth sea, but finally it changed into a storm. Talk about bad feelings we all felt bad, very few of us had ever been in a storm at sea. We thought the ship was going to sink..you can imagine my feelings.
Well, I suppose Harris White is at home by this time. Bob Williams as well. The entire 31st Regiment is in good helath; has never been a death and very little sickness, only two of this company (A) in the hospital.
The natives here remind me of little children. They never saw a horse or mule before. They work water buffalos in a cart of a thing with wheels sawed from off a tree. There are a few ponies, but they are very small. Chickens grow wild here, can buy one cooked for 15 cents in their money which is 7 1/2 cents in ours. The women here are small..look like 15 year old girls. Most of the men are small too..all but thier feet, they have an awful foot.
Will close now, and donít be uneasy about me should you not
hear from me for two or three months. I am looking for a letter from you on every ship that comes in.
So good by, Your loving brother,
Co A 31st USVI,
Aamboanga, Minanao, Philippine Islands
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