African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

James Ephraim McGirt, 'The Siege of Manila" (1900)


Just a few miles from Manila Bay
Near the close of a summer day,
When the sun was flooding with gold the west,
Our fleet was ordered to stop and rest.
After the regular meal was served,
Each returned to the usual place;
All stood gazing with mute and awe
Into the fiery dome of space,
Watching the stars steady blaze
As they down upon us gaze.
I will never forget the night
All the stars were shining bright,
A full orbed moon hung in the west
Watching to see the great contest;
The wind was of a steady gale,
It was a pleasant night to sail;
The ocean waves were rolling along
Pealing forth their mournful song.
Soon from the ocean a mist arose
As Nature's starry book close.
After another night had passed
And the morn was coming fast.

But before the gleam of day
We sailed to take Manila Bay;
Soon Manila revealed in sight,
From the window gleamed light;
When we saw the deadly guns -
O'er our fleet a stillness comes-
Each stood waiting by his gun,
Perfect stillness, not a breath,
An instant may bring sudden death.
Like a hero they did stand,
Waiting to hear the "fire" command;
The mist that from the ocean rose
Hid us from our Spanish foes.
When the enemy did not blast
Through our fleet a whisper passed.
Fortune it seems is on our side,
We have entered and are not spied;
By the fort we began to start,
But a distance we sailed apart,
One by one by the guns we stole
As a wolf in a shepherd s fold;
All our fleet had safely passed,
Except McCulloch which was the last
Fortune would not it pass;
In its furnace occurred a wreck.
And sparks went flying from its stack.

The sparks that from the stack did fly
Met at once the fortman's eye;
Through glasses they began to peep,
To their surprise they spied our fleet.
A cry of terror! The signal rung,
Shells came blazing from their guns
Before an instant could have passed
Around us shells were falling fast;
The mines in vain they did explore,
But we were safe around her shore.
Our captain gave command to fire
Which seemed to be our soul's desire;
Before the word he could hardly speak,
Shells went blazing from all our fleet;
We were burning with hatred ire,
We filled the air with shells and fire.
While the battle was raging high
And glowing shells were seen to fly,
Dewey back through memory gazed-
Saw the Maine, became enraged;
With his dazzling sword in hand
Whirling it high, he gave command.
Fury came blazing from his eve
With thundering voice was heard the ciy:
"Remember the Maine, Speed! Haste !
Careful boys, no shells to waste."

They remembered. their blood did run;
They hurled revenge through every gun
Our boats like burning Vesuvius seemed,
From our guns shells poured in streams.
Directed by an immortal eve
Not a stray ward shell did fly;
Each of the shells from the gun that went
Performed the mission on which it was sent,
Our captain takes his glass in hand
And over the battle begins to scan:
“Stop the guns," he quickly cries,
** Fortune now is on our side,
Spain's whole fleet is in a blaze,
Sinking fast beneath the waves.”
When this command to us was given,
Three haughty cheers went up to heaven;
When the sun sent up her beam,
Not a Spanish boat was seen;
But the whole Manila fleet
Were buried in the mighty deep.

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