Return to Documents of the Spanish American War Return to NHC homepage

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.

Ship Action Reports: USS Olympia


[Report of Engagement with Spanish forces at Manila Bay]

 

U. S. NAVAL FORCE ON ASIATIC STATION,
Flagship Olympia, Cavite, Philippine Islands, May 4, 1898.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the squadron under my command:
          The squadron left Mirs Bay on April 27, immediately on the arrival of Mr. O. F. Williams, United States consul at Manila, who brought important information and who accompanies the squadron.
          Arrived off Bolinao on the morning of April 30 and, finding no vessels there, proceeded down the coast and arrived off the entrance to Manila Bay on the same afternoon.
          The Boston and Concord were sent to reconnoiter Port Subic, I having been informed that the enemy intended to take position there. A thorough search of the port was made by the Boston and Concord , but the Spanish fleet was not found, although, from a letter afterwards found in the arsenal (inclosed with translation), it appears that it had been their intention to go there.
          Entered the Boca Grande, or south channel, at 11.30 p. m., steaming in column at distance at 8 knots. After half the squadron had passed, a battery on the south side of the channel opened fire, none of the shots taking effect. The Boston and McCulloch returned the fire.
          The squadron proceeded across the bay at slow speed, and arrived off Manila at daybreak, and was fired upon at 5.15 a. m. by three batteries at Manila and two at Cavite and by the Spanish fleet anchored in an approximately east and west line across the mouth of Bakor Bay, with their left in shoal water in Canacao Bay.
          The squadron then proceeded to the attack, the flagship Olympia, under my personal direction, leading, followed at distance by the Baltimore, Raleigh, Petrel, Concord, and Boston, in the order named, which formation was maintained throughout the action. The squadron opened fire at 5.41 a. m. While advancing to the attack, two mines were exploded ahead of the flagship, too far to be effective.
          The squadron maintained a continuous and precise fire at ranges varying from 5,000 to 2,000 yards, countermarching in a line approximately parallel to that of the Spanish fleet. The enemy=s fire was vigorous, but generally ineffective.
          Early in the engagement two launches put out toward the Olympia with the apparent intention of using torpedoes. One was sunk and the other disabled by our fire and beached before an opportunity occurred to fire torpedoes. At 7 a. m. the Spanish flagship Reina Christina made a desperate attempt to leave the line and come out to engage at short range, but was received with such galling fire, the entire battery of the Olympia being concentrated upon her, that she was barely able to return to the shelter of the point. The fires started in her by our shell at this time were not extinguished until she sank.
          At 7.35 a. m., it having been erroneously reported to me that only 15 rounds per gun remained for the 5-inch rapid-fire battery, I ceased firing and withdrew the squadron for consultation and a redistribution of ammunition, if necessary.
          The three batteries at Manila had kept up a continuous fire from the beginning of the engagement, which fire was not returned by this squadron. The first of these batteries was situated on the south mole head at the entrance to the Pasig River, the second on the south bastion of the walled city of Manila, and the third at Malate, about one-half mile father south. At this point I sent a message to the Governor-General to the effect that if the batteries did not cease firing the city would be shelled. This had the effect of silencing them.
          At 11.16 a.m., finding that the report of scarcity of ammunition was incorrect, I returned with the squadron to the attack. By this time the flagship and almost the entire Spanish fleet were in flames, and at 12.30 p. m. the squadron ceased firing, the batteries being silenced and the ships sunk, burnt, and deserted.
          At 12.40 p. m. the squadron returned and anchored off Manila, the Petrel being left behind to complete the destruction of the smaller gunboats which were behind the point of Cavite. This duty was performed by Commander E. P. Wood in the most expeditious and complete manner possible.
The Spanish lost the following vessels:

          Sunk---Reina Christina, Castilla, Don Antonio de Ulloa.
          Burnt---Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba, General Lezo, Marques del Duero, El Correo, Velasco, and Isla de Mindanao (transport).
          Captured---Rapido and Hercules (tugs) and several small launches.

          I am unable to obtain complete accounts of the enemy=s killed and wounded, but believe their loss to be very heavy. The Reina Christina alone had 150 killed, including the captain, and 90 wounded.
          I am happy to report that the damage done to the squadron under my command was inconsiderable. There were none killed and only 7 men in the squadron very slightly wounded. As will be seen by the reports of the commanding officers which are herewith inclosed, several of the vessels were struck and even penetrated, but the damage was of the slightest, and the squadron is in as good condition now as before the battle.
          I beg to state to the Department that I doubt if any commander in chief, under similar circumstances, was ever served by more loyal, efficient, and gallant captains that those of the squadron now under my command. Capt. Frank Wildes, commanding the Boston, volunteered to remain in command of his vessel, although his relief arrived before leaving Hongkong.
          Asst. Surg. C. P. Kindleberger, of the Olympia, and Gunner J. C. Evans, of the Boston, also volunteered to remain after orders detaching them had arrived.
          The conduct of my personal staff was excellent Commander B.P. Lamberton, chief of staff, was a volunteer for that position and gave me most efficient aid. Lieut. T. M. Brumby, flag lieutenant, and Ensign W. P. Scott, aid, performed their duties as signal officers in a highly creditable manner. The Olympia being short of officers to the battery, Ensign H. H. Caldwell, flag secretary, volunteered for and was assigned to a subdivision of the 5-inch battery.
          Mr. J. L. Stickney, formerly an officer in the United States Navy, and now correspondent for the New York Herald, volunteered for duty as my aid, and rendered valuable service.
          While leaving to the commanding officers to comment on the conduct of the officers and men under their commands, I desire especially to mention the coolness of Lieut. C. G. Calkins, the navigator of the Olympia, who came under my personal observation, being on the bridge with me throughout the entire action, and giving the ranges to the guns with an accuracy that was proven by the excellence of the firing.
          On May 2, the day following the engagement, the squadron again went to Cavite, where it remains. A landing party was sent to destroy the guns and magazines of the batteries there. The first battery, near the end of Sangley Point, was composed of two modern Trubia B.L. rifles of 15 centimeters caliber. The second was 1 mile farther down the beach, and consisted of a modern Canet 12 centimeter B.L. rifle behind improvised earthworks.
          On the 3d the military forces evacuated the Cavite Arsenal, which was taken possession of by a landing party. On the same day the Raleigh and Baltimore secured the surrender of the batteries on Corregidor Island, paroling the garrison and destroying the guns.
          On the morning of May 4 the transport Manila, which had been aground in Bakor Bay, was towed off and made a prize.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEORGE DEWEY,
Commodore, U. S. N.,
Commanding U. S. Naval Force on Asiatic Station.

The SECRETARY OF THE NAVY,
          Washington, D. C.
(Bureau of Navigation.)

________

[Complements of Spanish vessels destroyed at Manila.]

 

U.S. NAVAL FORCE ON ASIATIC STATION
Flagship Olympia, Cavite, Philippine Islands, July 9, 1898.

SIR: Referring to section 4635 of the Revised Statutes, I have the honor to forward the following list of the complements of the vessels of the enemy destroyed by the squadron under my command in the battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, taken from the official list of the Spanish Navy:

Ship

Officers, etc.

Total complement
Reina Christina

57

352
Castilla

52

349
Don Juan de Austria

28

179
Don Antonio de Ulloa

31

159
Isla de Cuba

31

156
Marques del Duero

18

96
General Lezo

20

115
Argos

21

87
Velasco

28

147
   

 

1,796

          The Trans-Atlantic Company=s steamer Isla de Mindanao was armed and took part in the battle, and was also destroyed. Her complement is not known, but it is estimated at 120.
          From the above it appears that the enemy had more men in this engagement than the United States squadron. In this connection I beg to invite the attention of the Department to a letter from the commanding officer of the Petrel, dated June 26, 1898, which has already been forwarded and which gives a statement by one of the crew of the Reina Christina, showing that the crews of the Spanish vessels were largely in excess of the complements given here. I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

GEORGE DEWEY,
Rear-Admiral, U.S. N.,
Commanding U. S. Naval Force on Asiatic Station.

The SECRETARY OF THE NAVY,
          Navy Department, Washington, D. C.
(Bureau of Navigation.)

________

[Report of engagement at Manila Bay.]

 

U. S. FLAGSHIP OLYMPIA,
Off Manila, Philippine Islands, May 3, 1898.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of this ship=s engagement with the enemy on May 1:
          On April 30 we stood down for the entrance to Manila Bay. At 9.42 p. m. the crew were called to general quarters (the ship having been previously cleared for action) and remained by their guns, ready to return the fire of the batteries if called upon.
          At about 11.30 p. m. we passed through Boca Grande entrance of Manila Bay. The lights on Corrigidor and Caballo islands and on San Nicolas Banks were extinguished.
          After this ship had passed in the battery on the southern shore of entrance opened fire at the ships astern, and the McCulloch and the Boston returned the fire.
          At 4 a.m. of May 1 coffee was served out to officers and men. At daybreak sighted shipping at Manila. Shifted course to southward and stood for Cavite. At 5.06 a. m. two submarine mines were exploded near, Cavite bearing south-southeast, distance 4 miles. At 5.15 battery on Shangly Point opened fire, but the shell fell short. Other shells passed over us, ranging 7 miles. At 5.41 a. m. we opened fire on Spanish ships with forward 8-inch guns, which were soon followed by the 5-inch battery. A rapid fire was kept up until the close of the action.
          The range varied from 5,600 to 2,000 yards.
          A torpedo boat ran out and headed for this ship, but was finally driven back by our secondary battery. She came out a second time and was again repulsed. This time she had to be beached, as several shot had hit her.
          Batteries form Manila fired occasional shots at the ships during the action, but did no damage.
          At 6.20 turned to starboard and headed back in front of the Spanish line. The Olympia led the column three times to the westward and twice to the eastward in front of the Spanish ships and shore batteries. On one occasion the Spanish flagship Reina Cristina was hit by an 8-inch shell from our forward turret and raked fore and aft. At 7.35 ceased firing and stood out into Manila Bay.
          The men went to breakfast.
          Many of the Spanish ships were seen to be on fire, and when we returned at 11.16 to complete the destruction of the Spanish fleet only one, the Don Antonio de Ulloa, and the shore batteries returned our fire. The former was sunk and the latter were silenced.
          At 12.40 p. m. stood back to Manila Bay and anchored. Besides making the ordinary preparations of clearing ship for action, the heavy sheet chains were faked up and down over a buffer of awnings against the sides in wake of the 5-inch ammunition hoists and afforded a stanch protection, while iron and canvas barricades were placed in various places to cover guns= crews and strengthen moderate defenses.
          The vessel was struck or slightly hulled as follows:

(1) Plate indented 1 1/2 inches starboard side of superstructure just forward of second 5-inch sponson.
(2) Three planks torn up slightly in wake of forward turret on starboard side of forecastle.(3) Port after shrouds of fore and main rigging.
(4) Strongback of gig=s davits hit and slightly damaged.
(5) Hole in frame of ship between frames 65 and 66 on starboard side below main deck rail; made by a 6-pounder.
(6) Lashing of port whaleboat davit carried away by shot.
(7) One of the rail stanchions carried away outside of port gangway.
(8) Hull of ship indented on starboard side 1 foot below main-deck rail and 3 feet abaft No. 4 coal port.

          The forward 8-inch guns fired 23 shells. The ammunition hoist was temporarily out of commission on account of the blowing of the fuse. The right gun worked well with the electrical batteries. Battery of left gun failed to explode the primer after the first shot; also resistance lamp in dynamo circuit broken. Used percussion primers in this gun with good results after the first shot.
          The after turret fired 13 shells. Had three misfires with battery of right gun and two with dynamo circuit , as fuses blew out. In renewing fuses they were immediately blown out; so shifted to percussion primers with good results. In left gun 1 shell jammed, after which used half-full and half-reduced charge, which fired it. Battery of this gun gave good results. One primer failed to check gas.
          The smoke from the 5 inch battery and from the forward 8-inch guns gave considerable trouble, and in both turrets the object glass of the telescopic sights became covered with a deposit from the powder and had to be wiped off frequently. These are, nevertheless, considered good sights for heavy guns; but it is recommended that bar sights be installed in case of emergency, as there is no provision for sighting other than with the telescopes.
          The batteries for the 5-inch guns found to be unreliable. Used dynamo circuit on 3 guns with good results. Ammunition poor. Many shell became detached from the cases on loading and had to be rammed out from the muzzle. Several cases jammed in loading and in extracting. Guns and gun mounts worked well. Fired about 281 5-inch shell.
          The 6-pounder battery worked to perfection, firing 1,000 rounds. Fired 360 rounds of 1-pounder and 1,000 rounds of small-arm ammunition.
          From 9.42 p.m. of April 30 till 12.40 p. m. May 1, two divisions of the engineer=s force worked the boilers and engines, keeping up steam and working well, notwithstanding the heat of the fire and engine rooms. The third division worked a their stations in the powder division.
          The ship needs no immediate repairs and is in excellent condition to engage the enemy at any time.
          There were no casualties nor wounded on this ship.
          Where every officer and man did his whole duty there is only room for general praise. Pay Inspector D. A. Smith, Fleet Pay Clerk Wm. J. Rightmire, and Pay Clerk W. M. Long all volunteered for and performed active service not required by their stations. Ensign H. H. Caldwell, secretary to the commander in chief, volunteered for fighting duty and was assigned to the command of a subdivision of the 5-inch battery. Mr. J. L. Stickney, correspondent of the New York Herald (and formerly a naval officer of exceptional ability), served as a volunteer aid to the commander in chief and rendered invaluable assistance in carrying messages and in keeping an accurate account of the battle. One 6-pounder was manned by a crew of marines, and two relief crews for the 5-inch guns and two for the 6-pounders acted as sharpshooters under Capt. W. Biddle, U. S. M. C.
          The range was obtained by cross bearings from the standard compass and the distance taken from the chart. I am, sir, very respectfully,

CH. V. GRIDLEY,
Captain U. S. N., Commanding U. S. Flagship Olympia.

The COMMANDER IN CHIEF,
Asiatic Station.


Continue to Ship Action Reports: USS Raleigh


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