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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 Boston


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

 

U. S. S. BOSTON, 2nd RATE,
Port Cavite, Manila Bay, May 3, 1898.

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by this vessel in the late action with the Spanish fleet on the morning of May 1.
          At daylight the merchant ships off Manila were seen, and soon after the Spanish fleet, close in to Cavite. This vessel was the sixth in the column and brought up the rear. Several shots were fired by the batteries in Manila, and two shots were given in reply. At 5.35 [a.m.] action with the enemy commenced and was continued at varying distances, steaming in a circle, until 7.35 a. m., firing with a fair degree of deliberation and accuracy. At times the smoke was dense, interfering very materially with maneuvering and firing.
          The Spanish fleet and shore batteries replied vigorously, and an attempt was made with an improvised torpedo boat, but our fire was overpowering and the enemy received heavy damage and loss.
          In obedience to signal, I withdrew from action at 7.35 and gave the crew breakfast and rest.
          At 11.10 the action was renewed and continued until the enemy ceased firing and his ships were all burned, sunk, or withdrawn behind the arsenal of Cavite.
          This vessel was struck four times by enemy=s shot, doing no material damage. Our own fire destroyed three of our own boats and badly damaged three others.
          No casualties occurred.
          The conduct of officers and men on this trying occasion was of the very highest quality, and they bore themselves with courage and spirit and entirely to my satisfaction. It also gives me pleasure to bear witness to the courage and resolution of the Spanish fleet and to say that they defended themselves creditably.
          Very respectfully,

FRANK WILDES,
Captain, U. S. N., Commanding.

The COMMANDER IN CHIEF,
Commanding U. S. Naval Force on Asiatic Station.

________

U. S. S. BOSTON, 2nd RATE,
Manila Bay, May 1, 1898.

SIR: In accordance with article No. 525, U. S. Navy Regulations of 1898, I have the honor to make the following report of the noteworthy incidents which came under my observation on board this ship during the engagement this day with the Spanish fleet and shore batteries at Cavite. This vessel being stationed at the rear of the column, did not come into action until after the other ships. Firing commenced from the port main battery at 5.35, and continued until 7.35 a.m. The quantity of ammunition on board at the beginning was as follows:

Main battery:

Full charges, 8-inch B.L.R

77

Reduced charges, 8-inch B.L.R.

91

Armor-piercing shells, 8-inch B.L.R

40

Common shells, 8-inch B.L.R.

147

Full charges, 6-inch B.L.R.

254

Reduced charges, 6-inch B.L.R.

138

Armor-piercing shells, 6-inch B.L.R.

60

Common shells, 6-inch B.L.R.

352

Shrapnel, 60-inch B.L.R.

4

Secondary battery:

Steel shell, 6-pounder R.F 663
Common shell, 6-pounder R.F 406
Steel shell, 1-pounder R.F 800
Common shell, 1-pounder R.F 258
 Caliber, .45  55,660
 Caliber, .38  16,100
 Steel shell, 3-pounder R.F  608
 Common shell, 3-pounder R.F  482
 Steel shell, 47-Millimeter  576
 Common shell, 47-Millimeter  513
 Steel shell, 37-Millimeter  700
 Common shell, 37-Millimeter  1,192

          The guns were served rapidly and well. There being no quick and accurate method of finding the range, it was found that a considerable number of the shots apparently fell short. Had the ship been provided with a range finder the effectiveness of the firing would have been somewhat increased; as it was, the result was generally good. After passing the enemy a countermarch was made, and fire was opened with the starboard battery. This maneuver was repeated several times, until the enemy seemed to be silenced. During this part of the engagement full charges with common shell were used in all guns of the main battery. The guns generally worked well, but after an hour=s fighting it was found that most of the breech plugs of the 6 and 8 inch guns were expanded by the heat, so as to make it a somewhat difficult operation to close the breech. After firing the forward 8-inch for half an hour it was found necessary to put in a new gas-check pad, and the firing was then continued. The wire breechings of No. 2 6-inch gun (starboard) were carried away near the end of the firing. The lock of No. 3 6-inch (port) was disabled and a spare one substituted. The vent of the port after 6-inch became choked up about the end of the first engagement, and a spare mushroom was substituted. At 7.35 the fleet hauled off for a rest and consultation. The enemy=s ship Reina Christina and the smaller vessels had withdrawn behind the point and were on fire. The Castilla was apparently aground. This latter vessel was set on fire and abandoned by the enemy.

The action was resumed at 11.10 a. m., the starboard battery being first engaged. The reply was principally from the forts, but these were soon silenced. Advantage had been taken of the interval to put the battery in order again. The breechings on No. 2 6-inch were replaced by the gunner=s mate of the division. The guns were still very hot, and the breech plugs became still harder to work. The forward 8-inch gun was put out of commission for about twenty minutes from this cause. At 12.20 the ship was turned around and the port battery brought into play. At 12.40 p .m. Acease firing@ was sounded, a white flag having been raised at Cavite.

During the whole engagement the ammunition supply was kept up in a highly efficient manner. As soon as a gun was fired, another charge was on hand. It was intensely hot on the berth deck and in the magazines and shell rooms. Several of the after powder division were temporarily disabled from this cause, and men had to be taken from the second and third divisions to fill their places. The following quantity of ammunition remained on hand at the end of the action:

8-inch full charges, B.L.R 31
6-inch full charges, B.L.R 93
8-inch reduced charges, B.L.R 89
6-inch reduced charges, B.L.R 137
6-pounder steel shell, R.F 443
3-pounder steel shell, R.F 448
1-pounder steel shell, R.F 560
3-pounder common shell, R.F 482
47-millimeter common shell, R.F 513
8-inch shell, armor piercing, B.L.R 40
6-inch shell, armor piercing, B.L.R 60
8-inch common shell, B.L.R 99
6-inch common shell, B.L.R 210
47-millimeter steel, R.F 480
37-millimeter steel, R.F 520
6-pounder common shell, R.F 406
1-pounder common shell, R.F 258
37-millimeter common shell, R.F 1,192

          The following very slight injuries resulted from the enemy=s fire: 4-inch shell pierced foremast 13 feet 7 inches above the upper deck, going through from starboard to port, cutting one swifter of standing rigging on port side; one 2-inch shell pierced turtle back 5 feet forward of port amidship 6-inch gun, 5 feet from gun deck; one 2-inch shell pierced ship=s side 14 inches above load line, passing through stateroom No. 5 on port side, exploding berth and drawers; one 2-inch shot pierced the outside shell of hammock netting on port side abreast after end of chart room, exploding on inside among some men=s clothing, setting it on fire; a shell grazed after part of the main topmast, just above the lower cap.

          The discharge of the after 8-inch gun, when it was pivoted to port and fired across the deck, caused great damage in the rooms below on the port side; the seams of the deck were opened to some extent.
          Toward the end of the first period of firing the electric-bell system of communication with the central station became partially disabled, the shock of the discharge breaking the wires.
          The ship=s boats were covered with canvas with their sails disposed on the inboard side. They received injuries from the discharge of guns in their vicinity as follows:

First whaleboat: Side blown out and back broken; complete wreck.
First cutter: Starboard quarter blown off; 8 timbers and gunwale broken; planking all over opened and split; complete wreck.
Second cutter: Five planks blown out; bow timbers started, bow sagged; stern timbers broken away from fastenings and planking started; seams all opened; complete wreck.
Third cutter: Whole port quarter broken from fastenings; can be repaired on board.
Sailing Launch: Whole starboard strake on port side blown off; one after frame broken; can be repaired on board.
Dingy: Calking started; can be repaired on board.
Steam launch: Starboard side three planks blown off bow; wood ends started from stem; deck planks started; boat spread; planking on starboard side started from fastenings; calking generally started; can not be repaired on board.

          There were no casualties among the crew. The shell which pierced the foremast did not explode, but scattered small pieces of iron from the mast which slightly scratched one or two of the occupants of the bridge.
          Too much can not be said in praise of the conduct of the officers and men who came under my observation. Very few if any of them had ever been under fire before, but their coolness was remarkable. They were full of zeal, energy, and enthusiasm, and were untiring. Where the conduct of all was so commendable it would be impossible to single out any individual for special praise. One noteworthy feature was the conduct of the Chinese messmen who were stationed in the after powder division. While they are usually considered entirely alien in their ideas and are not regarded as good fighters, yet in this case they displayed as much zeal, bravery, and energy as any other person. The uninterrupted ammunition supply in the after part of the ship was largely due to their efforts.
          The three men, William Woods, seaman; Charles W. Lenderman and William R. White, apprentices, first class, sentenced by general court-martial to terms of imprisonment and who were made prisoners at large the day before the engagement, displayed the same zeal, bravery, and energy which characterized the rest of the crew.
          Very respectfully,

J. A. NORRIS,
Lieutenant-Commander, U. S. N., Executive Officer.

The COMMANDING OFFICER,
U. S. S. Boston, 2nd Rate, Manila Bay.

 

Continue to Ship Action Reports: USS McCulloch


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