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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.

Ship Action Reports: USS Baltimore


[Report of engagement at Manila Bay, May 1, 1898]

 

U. S. S. BALTIMORE,
Manila, Philippine Islands, May 4, 1898.

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report, as required by article 437, Navy Regulations of the engagement of this ship with the Spanish fleet and shore batteries at Sangley Point, Cavite Bay, on the 1st instant.
          At early daylight the fleet had reached a point close up to the shipping off the city of Manila, when the signal was made, APrepare for general action.@ Spanish batteries near Old Manila opened fire at long range at about the same time. Flagship leading, with port helm, bore down on the right of Spanish line of vessels, formed in a somewhat irregular crescent at anchor, extending from off Sangley Point to the northeast, and in readiness to receive us, their left supported by the batteries on Sangley Point.
          Following your lead in close order, our fire commenced with the port battery at about 5.40 a. m., at a distance of about 6,000 yards.
          Our column passed down the enemy=s line, turning with port helm as their left was reached, engaging them with starboard battery on the return. This maneuver was performed three times at distances from the enemy=s ships varying from 2,600 to 5,000 yards, when you signaled to Awithdraw from action@ at 7.35.
          Upon reaching a convenient distance in the bay, you signaled, ALet the people go to breakfast;@ and at 8.40, ACommanding officers repair on board the flagship.@
          While on board the flagship I received an order to intercept a steamer coming up the bay, reported to be flying Spanish colors.
          Soon after starting on this duty I discovered the colors of the stranger to be British, and so reported by signal, you having in the meantime made general signal to get under way and follow your motions, this ship being at the time some 2 miles to the south-southwest of the flagship on her way to intercept the supposed Spanish steamer.
          At 10.55 you made general signal, ADesignated vessel will lead,@ with Baltimore=s distinguishing pennant, and in a few minutes signal to Aattack the enemy=s batteries or earthworks@ and for fleet to Aclose up;@ in obedience to which order this ship led in, with starboard helm, to a position off the Canacoa and Sangley Point batteries and opened fire with starboard battery at a distance of about 2,800 yards, closing in to 2,200, between which and 2,700 yards our best work was done, slowing the ship dead slow, stopping the engines as range was obtained, delivering a rapid and accurate fire upon the shore batteries and a gunboat just inside of Sanlgey Point, since proven to have been the Don Antonio de Ulloa, practically silencing the batteries in question before the fire of another ship became effective, owing to the lead we had obtained in our start for the supposed Spanish steamer. The fire of ships and batteries having been silenced and the white flag displayed on the arsenal buildings at Cavite, you signaled, at 1.20, to Aprepare to anchor,@ and at 1.30, AAnchor at discretion.@
          The victory was complete.
          The wind was light and variable during the first engagement and from the northeast; force 2 to 3 during the second.
          The firing devices gave considerable trouble, extractors, sear springs, and firing pins bending and breaking, and wedge blocks jamming. Electric firing attachments gave trouble by the grease and dirt incident to firing insulating the connections, so much so that shortly after the engagement commenced they were abandoned for percussion, but coolness and steadiness replaced defective parts in the shortest possible time.
          The ammunition supply was ample, and the test was conclusive so long as electric hoists are uninjured.
          The behavior of officers and men was beyond all praise. The accuracy and rapidity of their fire you were an eyewitness of. The steadiness and cool bearing of all on board who came under my observation was that of veterans.
          The fact that the ship was so rarely hit gave few opportunities for conspicious acts of heroism or daring, but the enthusiasm and cool steadiness of the men gave promise that they would have been equal to any emergency.
          I shall report later such detail of individual merit as has been mentioned by officers of divisions or that came under my own observation.
          I inclose (a) report of executive officer; (b) surgeon=s report of casualties (c) carpenter=s report of damages; (d) report of ammunition expended.
          Very respectfully,

N. M. DYER,
Captain, U. S. N., Commanding.

The COMMANDER IN CHIEF U. S. NAVAL FORCE.
Asiatic Station.

________

U.S.S. BALTIMORE
Off Manila, May 3, 1898.

SIR: In compliance with article 525, United States Navy Regulations, I have the following report to submit of the action of May 1, at Cavite:
          The Baltimore was engaged twice during the day in company with the other vessels of the squadron. The action of the battery and the conduct of all connected with it and its service were admirable. It is difficult to discriminate where coolness and efficiency prevailed throughout the ship=s company. The spirit and readiness of all were in the highest degree commendable. The service of the guns and the delivery of ammunition were most prompt and the experience has indicated to me that when occasion demands, the supply of ammunition is sufficient to meet all probable wants.
          The Baltimore was struck five times, with small projectiles, all of which, with one exception, exploded or broke up. The most serious hit, happily attended with no serious injury to any officer or man, came from a 4.7-inch steel projectile, which entered the ship=s side forward of the starboard gangway, about a foot above the line of the main deck. It passed through the hammock netting downward through the deck planks and steel deck, bending and cracking deck beam in wardroom stateroom No. 5; then glanced upward through the after engine room coaming, over against the after cylinder of No. 3 6-inch gun (port), carrying away lug and starting several shield bolts and putting the gun out of commission; deflected over to the starboard side, striking a ventilator ladder and dropping on deck. In its passage it struck a box of 3-pounder ammunition of the fourth division, exploding several charges, and wounded Lieutenant Kellogg, Ensign Irwin, and 6 men of the gun=s crew---none very seriously. A second shot came in about a foot above the berth deck, just forward of the blowers, passed through the >thwart-ship alleyway, hitting the exhaust pipe of the starboard blower, causing a slight leak. A third shot struck about 2 feet above the water line on the port side, abreast bunker B-110, passed into the bunker, cutting blower drain and main air duct, and exploding in bunker. A fourth shot came in about 6 feet above the berth deck, starboard side, abreast the forward end of the forward wash room, and broke up in a clothes locker. A fifth struck the starboard forward ventilator, slightly bending it.
          The upper cabin skylight, the after range finder, and the two whaleboats hanging at the davits were all destroyed by the shock of discharge from the 8-inch guns of the second division.
          The holes in the port side were temporarily plugged with leak stoppers and afterwards patched with rubber and iron patches.
          No. 4 gun was got ready for use by the afternoon of May 2, Ensign N. E. Irwin devoting intelligent personal efforts to the accomplishment of the work.
          Very respectfully,

J. B.BRIGGS,
Lieutenant-Commander, U. S. N. Executive Officer

The COMMANDING OFFICER.

 

Continue to Ship Action Reports: USS Petrel


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