Battle of Manila Bay

May 1, 1898: Dewey destroys Spanish fleet at Manila Bay

John Davis LongOn April 22, 1898, the US Asiatic Fleet commanded by Commodore George Dewey was riding at anchor in the British port of Hong Kong. Navy Secretary John Davis Long (LEFT) cabled the commodore that the United States had begun a blockade of Cuban ports, but that war had not yet been officially announced.

commodore george deweyOn April 25, Dewey (RIGHT) was notified that war had begun and received his sailing orders from Secretary Long : “War has commenced between the United States and Spain. Proceed at once to Philippine Islands. Commence operations at once, particularly against the Spanish fleet. You must capture vessels or destroy. Use utmost endeavors.”

Hong Kong harbor cannon 1898On that day, due to British neutrality regulations, the American squadron was ordered to leave Hong Kong (ABOVE, in 1898). While Dewey’s ships steamed out from the British port, military bands on English vessels played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and their crews cheered the American sailors.

USS Petrel at Hong Kong April 15 1898
The USS Petrel at Hong Kong, prior to getting swathed in wartime gray, April 15, 1898

Commodore Dewey violated China’s neutrality and anchored his fleet about 30 miles (50 km) down the Chinese coast, at Mirs Bay, and waited for further instructions. The squadron consisted of 1,744 officers and men, and 9 vessels: the cruisers OlympiaBaltimoreRaleigh and Boston, the gunboats Concord and Petrel, the revenue cutter McCulloch, and the transport ships Zafiro and Nanshan.

USS Concord at Hong Kong, wearing wartime gray paint 1898
The USS Concord at Hong Kong wearing wartime gray paint, 1898.

The Chinese did not bother to protest, and for two days the crews drilled with torpedoes and quick-fire guns, and aimed their eight-inchers at cliffside targets on Kowloon Peninsula.

Emilio Aguinaldo in news dated April 26 1898
The New Mexico newspaper, dated April 26, 1898, reports that Emilio Aguinaldo had sailed from Singapore to head an army of 30,000 “insurgents” in the Philippines, and will attack Manila by land while American warships will bombard the city from the sea.
Atlanta Constitution US Navy Manila April 27 1898
The Atlanta Constitution, issue of April 27, 1898.

At 2:00 p.m. on April 27, the American squadron raised anchor and left Mirs Bay for the 628-mile run to the Philippines (1,162 km). The Olympia‘s band blared “El Capitan” and the men shouted, “Remember the Maine!”

Aguinaldo in news dated April 28 1898
The Minnesota newspaper, dated April 28, 1898, reports: “Admiral Dewey has issued strict orders that no barbarous or inhuman acts are to be perpetrated by the insurgents.” By “insurgents”, he meant the Filipinos.
Hong Kong to Manila map 1899
The British colony of Hong Kong is located in the upper left corner of this 1899 US army map
Battle of Manila Bay May 1 1898_edited
Battle of Manila Bay

On May 1, the squadron destroyed the antiquated Spanish fleet commanded by Admiral Patricio Montojo in Manila Bay; sunk were 8 vessels: the cruisers Reina Cristina and Castilla, gunboats Don Antonio de Ulloa, Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba, Velasco, and Argos.

Battle of Manila Bay, May 1 1898 Detroit Publishing Co, LOC
Battle of Manila Bay, photo by the Detroit Publishing Company, Photographs Collection, US Library of Congress.
Battle of Manila Bay 3 pics combined
Chart (LEFT) shows Dewey’s battle track during the Battle of Manila Bay, with X’s depicting the positions of the Spanish vessels.

How Dewey maneuvered May 1898

Cavite City satellite pic_edited
Contemporary satellite photo of the Cavite Peninsula. Cavite City is the current name of Cavite Nuevo. The city proper is divided into five districts: Dalahican, Santa Cruz, Caridad, San Antonio and San Roque. The Sangley Point Naval Base is part of the city and occupies the northernmost portion of the peninsula. The historic island of Corregidor and the adjacent islands and detached rocks of Caballo, Carabao, El Fraile and LaMonja found at the mouth of Manila Bay are part of the city’s territorial jurisdiction.
Battle of Manila Bay in Japanese woodblock
A Japanese woodblock print of the Battle of Manila Bay. Print courtesy of the MIT Museum.
George Dewey and 3 crew battle of manila May 1 1898
Commodore George Dewey (second from right) on the bridge of USS Olympia during the battle of Manila Bay. Others present are (left to right): Samuel Ferguson (apprentice signal boy), John A. McDougall (Marine orderly) and Merrick W. Creagh (Chief Yeoman).
Olympia men cheering Baltimore Battle of Manila Bay May 1 1898
The Olympia’s men cheering the Baltimore during the battle of Manila Bay
Reina Cristina
Sunken Spanish flagship Reina Cristina

Patricio Montojo, AdmiralOne hundred sixty-one Spanish sailors died and 210 were wounded, eight Americans were wounded and there was one non-combat related fatality (heart attack).

Admiral Montojo (LEFT) escaped to Manila in a small boat.

Montojo was summoned to Madrid in order to explain his defeat in Cavite before the Supreme Court-Martial. He left Manila in October and arrived in Madrid on Nov. 11, 1898.

By judicial decree of the Spanish Supreme Court-Martial, (March 1899), Montojo was imprisoned. Later, he was absolved by the Court-Martial but was discharged. In an odd change of events, one of those who defended Admiral Montojo was his former adversary at Cavite, Admiral George Dewey. Montojo died in Madrid, Spain, on Sept. 30, 1917 (Dewey died earlier in the same year, on January 16).

Cavite Navy Yard combo 1898-1899
The Cavite arsenal and navy yard. PHOTOS were taken in 1898 or 1899.
Cavite Old Arsenal Fort Guadalupe
Fort Guadalupe, Cavite Navy Yard (photo taken in 1900)

The victory gave to the US fleet the complete control of Manila Bay and the naval facilities at Cavite and Sangley Point.

1898 May US Newspaper report on Manila Battle

When the news of the victory reached the U.S., Americans cheered ecstatically. Dewey became an instant national hero. Stores soon filled with merchandise bearing his image. Few Americans knew what and where the Philippines were, but the press assured them that the islands were a welcome possession.

President McKinley told his confidant, H.H. Kohlsaat, Editor of the Chicago-Times Herald: “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!” [Some months later he said: “If old Dewey had just sailed away when he smashed that Spanish fleet, what a lot of trouble he would have saved us.”]

Manila to Hong Kong cable, The Anaconda Standard, July 3 1898
The Anaconda Standard, Anaconda, Montana, issue of July 3, 1898.

On the morning of May 2nd, Dewey notified the Spanish Governor-General that since the underwater Manila-Hong Kong telegraph cable was Manila’s only link to the outside world, it should be considered neutral so that he could use it as well. When the Governor-General refused, Dewey dredged up and cut the cable, ending the direct flow of information out of the Philippines. The cable was operated by the British-owned Eastern Extension Australasia China Telegraph Company. [On May 23, Dewey also cut the company’s Manila-Capiz cable, severing the electronic connection between Manila and the central Philippine islands of Panay, Cebu, and Negros].

Cavite after Manila Bay battle May 1898

US Marine Corps detachment Cavite May 3 1898
May 3, 1898: 1Lt. Dion Williams, US Marine Corps, and the marine detachment which ran up the first American flag to fly over the Philippines, render military courtesies to Commodore George Dewey on his first visit ashore.
Spanish flags captured by Dewey at Manila
Spanish flags captured by Dewey hanging from the ceiling in the Lyceum at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis
Spanish white-head torpedo captured at Manila Bay May 1, 1898. 1917 photo at Mare Island, CA
Spanish white-head torpedo on display at Mare Island Museum, California. Photo was taken in 1917.

Dewey sends ultimatum May 3 1898

Four US soldiers captured outpost
Four American soldiers at a captured Spanish outpost in Cavite Province. Photo was taken in 1898.

Basilio de Agustin y Davila 1840 1910The Spanish Governor-General and military commander, General Basilio de Agustin y Davila (LEFT), through the British consul, Edward H. Rawson-Walker, intimated to Dewey his willingness to surrender to the American squadron.

But Dewey could not entertain the proposition because he had no force with which to occupy Manila.

He said, “…I would not for a moment consider the possibility of turning it over to the undisciplined insurgents, who, I feared, might wreak their vengeance upon the Spaniards and indulge in a carnival of loot.”

Basilio Agustin y Davila and staff in Manila
Spanish Captain-General Basilio de Agustin y Davila clothed in the functions of a viceroy surrounded by his staff with a group of the principal officers under his command in Manila.

The Spanish army garrisoned in Manila consisted of about 13,332 soldiers (8,382 Spanish, 4,950 Filipino).

Baltimore gun practice Manila Bay blockade 1898
Gun practice on the Baltimore during the blockade of Manila Bay

With no ground troops to attack the city, Dewey blockaded the harbor. He also soon became aware of the dual risks of a Spanish relief expedition and intervention by another power.

Dewey calls for help The Rocky Mtn News May 20 1898
Issue dated May 20, 1898

He cabled Washington and asked for reinforcements.

1st California Volunteers heading to Presidio May 7 1898
1st California Volunteer Infantry Regiment heading to the Presidio, May 7, 1898.

The US Army started to marshall a force at the Presidio, San Francisco, California, that became the 8th Army Corps, dubbed the Philippine Expeditionary Force, under Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt.

US marines ready to join Dewey Mare Island CA 1898

George Dewey Rear Adm with staff and ship s officers on board USS Olympia may 20 to june 1 1898
Rear Admiral George Dewey with staff and ship’s officers, on board USS Olympia, 1898.

On May 11, 1898, Dewey was promoted to Rear Admiral.

The few major warships left in the eastern Pacific were also ordered to reinforce Dewey. The cruiser Charleston accompanied the first Army expedition, bringing with her a much-needed ammunition resupply. To provide the Asiatic Squadron with heavy firepower, the monitors Monterey and Monadnock left California in June. These slow ships were nearly two months in passage. Monterey was ready in time to help with Manila’s capture, while Monadnock arrived a few days after the Spanish surrender.

Philippine question, The Record-Union, May 12 1898 Page 1

Philippine question, text 2
The Record-Union, Sacramento, California, May 12 1898 Page 1

1st Colorado Volunteers parading down 17th Street in Denver, Colorado, enroute to San Francisco, California, the embarkation point for the Philippines. Photo was taken on May 15, 1898.

13th Minnesota Volunteers marching down Washington Ave, Minneapolis, enroute to Philippines, May 16 1898
13th Minnesota Volunteers marching down Washington Avenue in Minneapolis, May 16, 1898. The following day, the Saint Paul Globe reported, “Mothers bade their sons go, husbands left wives and children, while lovers parted in sadness, but deep in the hearts of the Minnesota volunteers were the loyalty and patriotism which founded the nation and preserved it again in season of peril, an inspiration which will win battles anew and raise up many a brave hero, though others may, perhaps, find soldiers’ graves in a far off land.”