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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

 

Naval Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898.

U.S. Consul at Manila


[Account of United States consul at Manila of battle of Manila Bay.]

 

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, June 17, 1898.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith for your information a copy of an unnumbered dispatch of the 4th ultimo form the consul at Manila, Philippine Islands, giving an account of the battle of Manila Bay.

Respectfully, yours,
WILLIAM R. DAY.

The SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.

________

[Special---U. S. S. Baltimore.]

 

CONSULATE OF THE UNITED STATES,
Bay of Manila, Philippine Islands, May 4, 1898.

SIR: I have the honor to briefly report to you concerning the battle of Manila Bay, fought on May 1, 1898.
          Heeding your mandate, and by repeated request of Commodore George Dewey, of the United States Asiatic Squadron, I left Manila on Saturday, April 23, and on Wednesday, April 27, at about 1 o=clock p. m., boarded the flagship Olympia, in Mirs Bay, in Hongkong. After meeting the Commodore and his captains and commanders in council, the Commodore at once ordered his fleet to start at 2 p. m. for Manila Bay.
          On Saturday, April 30, Subig Bay was reconnoitered because of reported hiding of Spanish fleet in its inner harbor, but no fleet being there found, the Commodore proceeded at once to the south channel entrance to Manila Bay, and while by many reports mines, torpedoes, and land defenses obstructed entrance, yet the flagship led the van, and between 10 p. m., April 30, and 2 a. m., May 1, our fleet of six war ships, one dispatch boat, and two coal-laden transports passed all channel dangers unharmed, despite shots from forts, and at 2 a. m. were all safe on the broad expanse of Manila Bay.
          After my departure April 23, and by drawing fire, to save Manila if possible, all Spanish war ships went to their strongly fortified naval station at Cavite, where the inner harbor gave refuge, and where potential support could be had from several forts and well-equipped batteries which extended several miles right and left from Port Cavite.
          At about 5.30 a. m., Sunday, May 1, the Spanish guns opened fire at both the Manila breakwater battery and at Cavite, from fleet and forts.
          With magnificent coolness and order, but with the greatest promptness, our fleet, in battle array, headed by the flagship, answered the Spanish attack, and for about two and a half hours a most terrific fire ensued.
          The method of our operations could not have shown greater system, our guns greater effectiveness, or our officers and crews greater bravery; and while Spanish resistance was stubborn and the bravery of Spanish forces such as to challenge admiration, yet there were outclassed, weighed in the balance of war against the methods, training, aim, and bravery shown on our decks, and after less than three hours= perilous and intense combat one of Spain=s war ships was sinking, two others were burning, and all others, with land defenses, had severely suffered, when our squadron, with no harm done its ships, retired for breakfast.
          At about 10 o=clock a. m. Commodore Dewey renewed the battle, and with effects most fatal with each evolution.
          No better evidence of Spanish bravery need be sought than that, after the castigation of our first engagement, her ships and forts should again answer our fire. But Spanish efforts were futile. Ship after ship and battery after battery went to destruction before the onslaught of American energy and training, and an hour and a half of our second engagement wrought the annihilation of the Spanish fleet and forts, with several hundred Spaniards killed and wounded and millions in value of their Government=s property destroyed. While amazing, almost unbelievable, as it seems, not a ship or gun of our fleet had been disabled, and except on the Baltimore, not a man had been hurt.
          One of the crew of the Baltimore had a leg fractured by slipping and another hurt in the ankle in a similar manner, while four received slight flesh wounds from splinters thrown by a 6-inch projectile, which pierced the starboard side of the cruiser.
          But in the battle of Manila Bay the United States squadron of six war ships totally destroyed the Spanish fleet of eight war ships, many forts and batteries, and accomplished this work without the loss of a man!
          History has only contrasts. There is no couplet to form a comparison. The only finish fight between the modern war ships of civilized nations has proven the prowess of American naval men and methods, and the glory is a legacy for the whole people. Our crews are all hoarse from cheering, and while we suffer for cough drops and throat doctors, we have no use for liniment or surgeons.
          To every ship, officer, and crew all praise be given. As Victoria was answered years ago, AYour Majesty, there is no second,@ so may I report to your Department as to our war ships conquering the Spanish fleet in the battle of Manila Bay---there is no first---@there is no second.@ The cool bravery and efficiency of the commodore was echoed by every captain and commander and down through the lines by every officer and man, and naval history of the dawning century will be rich if it furnishes to the world so glorious a display of intelligent command and successful service as must be placed to the credit of the United States Asiatic Squadron under date of May 1, 1898.
          It was my lot to stand on the bridge of the Baltimore by the side of Captain Dyer during the first engagement, and to be called to the flagship Olympia by the commodore, at whose side, on the bridge, I stood during the second engagement, and when the clouds roll by and I have again a settled habitation, it will be my honor and pleasure to transmit a report showing service somewhat in detail and for which commanders promise data.
          Meanwhile our commodore will officially inform you of events which will rival in American history the exploits of Paul Jones.
          I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,

OSCAR F. WILLIAMS,
U. S. Consul, Manila, Philippine Islands.
(Not acting.)

Hon. JUDGE DAY,
          Assistant Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

 

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Source: Appendix to the Report of the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Year 1898. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1898.

23 July 1999