Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commodore George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Squadron, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

UNITED STATES 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:

     1.   The squadron left MirsBay on April 27th, immediately on arrival of Mr. O.F. Williams, U.S. Consul at Manila,1 who brought important information and who accompanies the squadron.

     2.   Arrived off Bolinao on the morning of April 30th, and, finding no vessels there, proceeded down the coast and arrived off the entrance to Manila Bay on the same afternoon.

     3.   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 (enclosed with translation), it appears that it had been their intention to go there.2

     4.   Entered the Boca Grande or south channel at 11:30 P.M., steaming in column, at distance, at eight 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 fire.

     5.   The squadron proceeded across the bay at slow speed and arrived off Manila at day break, and was fired upon at 5:15 A.M. by three batteries at Manila and two near Cavite, and by the Spanish fleet anchored in an approximately east and west line across the mouth of BakorBay, with their left in the shoal water in CanacaoBay.

     6.   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.

     7.   The Squadron maintained a continuous and precise fire at ranges varying from 5000 to 2000 yards, [countermarooning] in a line approximately parallel to that of the Spanish fleet. The enemy’s fire was vigorous but generally ineffective

     8.   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 7:00 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.

     9.   At 7:35 A.M., it having been erroneously reported to me that only fifteen rounds per gun remained for the five-inch rapid fire battery, I ceased firing and withdrew the squadron for consultation and re-distribution of ammunition if necessary.

      10. 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 further south. At this point I sent a message to the Governor General3 to the effect that if the batteries did not cease firing the city would be shelled. This had the effect of silencing them.

     11.  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.

     12.  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. Wood4 in the most expeditious and complete manner possible.

     13.  The Spanish lost the following vessels:

Sunk: REINA CHRISTINA, CASTILLA, DONANTONIO 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

     14.  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 wounded5

     15.  I am happy to report that damage done to the squadron under my command was inconsiderable. There were none killed, and only seven men in the squadron very slightly wounded. As will be seen by the reports of the Commanding Officers which are herewith enclosed,6 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.

     16.  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 than those of the squadron now under my command. Captain Frank Wildes, commanding the BOSTON, volunteered to remain in command of his vessel although his relief arrived before leaving Hong Kong.

     17.  Assistant Surgeon C.P. Kindelberger7 of the OLYMPIA and Gunner J.C. Evans8 of the BOSTON, also volunteered to remain after orders detaching them had arrived.

     18.  The conduct of my personal staff was excellent. Commander B.P. Lamberton,9 Chief of Staff, was a volunteer for that position and gave me most efficient aid. Lieutenant T.M. Brumby,10 Flag Lieutenant, and Ensign W.P. Scott,11 Aid, performed their duties as signal officers in a highly creditable manner. The OLYMPIA being short of officers for the battery, Ensign H.H. Caldwell,12 Flag Secretary, volunteered for and was assigned to a sub-division of the five-inch battery.

     19.  Mr. J.L. Stickney,13 formerly an officer in the U.S. Navy, and now correspondent for the New York Herald, volunteered for duty as my aid, and rendered valuable service.

     20.  While leaving the Commanding Officers to comment on the conduct of the officers and men under their commands, I desire especially to mention the coolness of Lieutenant C.G. Calkins14 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.

     21.  On May 2nd, 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.Rifles15 of 15 c/m caliber. The second was a mile further down the beach and consisted of a modern Canet 12 c/m B.L.Rifle behind improvised earthworks.

     22.  On the 3rd the military forces evacuated 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 Corregador16 Island, paroling the garrison and destroying the guns.

     23.  On the morning of May 4th, the transport Manila, which had been aground in BakorBay was towed off and made a prize.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

George Dewey      

Commodore, U.S. Navy,       

Commanding U.S. Naval Force on Asiatic Station.

Source Note: CyS, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 363. Addressed below close: “The Secretary of the Navy,/Washington, D.C./[Bureau of Navigation.]” Copy sent to the Bureau of Navigation. Document Reference: “No.240-D.”

Footnote 1: United States Consul Manila Oscar F. Williams.

Footnote 3: Spanish Governor General BasilíoAugustín Dávila. For a description of the delivery of Dewey’s ultimatum, see: Master A.W. Robbins’ report of the battle of Manila Bay, 1 May 1898.

Footnote 4: Comdr. Edward P. Wood of the Petrel.

Footnote 5: El Correo, was actually the gunboat Elcano. More percise Spanish losses remained unknown until after the capture of Manila in August 1898. They were:

Reina Cristina - 130 Killed - 90 wounded - Killed

Included the Captain and 6 Officers

Castilla - 23 Killed - 80 wounded - Killed Included 1 officer

Isla de Cuba - 2 wounded

Isla de Luzon - 6 wounded

Don Juan de Austria - 22 wounded

Don Antonio de Ulloa - 8 killed - 10 wounded Included the Captain and 2 officers

Marques del Duero - No casualties

Shore Batteries - 6 killed - 4 wounded

Total - 167 killed - 214 wounded

See, Ellicott, Effects of the Gun Fire of the United States in the Battle of Manila Bay, 13.

Footnote 6: For a set of the Commanding Officer reports from the battle of Manila Bay, 1 May 1898, see: Capt. Daniel E. Hodgson to Dewey, 3 May 1898; Capt. Frank Wildes to Dewey, 3 May 1898; Capt. Joseph B. Coghlan to Dewey 4 May 1898; Cmdr. Edward P. Wood to Dewey, 4 May 1898; Capt. Nehemia M. Dyer to Dewey, 4 May 1898. For a complete collection of reports from the battle, including that of Cmdr. Asa Walker to Dewey, 2 May 1898; see, DNA, AFNRC, Area 10, M625, Roll 363. For edited copies see, Report of the Bureau of Navigation, 1898, 68-93.

Footnote 7: Assistant Surgeon Charles P. Kindelberger.

Footnote 8: Gunner Joel C. Evans.

Footnote 9: Chief of Staff Cmdr. Benjamin P. Lamberton.

Footnote 10: Flag Lt. Thomas M. Brumby.

Footnote 11: Ens. William P. Scott.

Footnote 12: Flag Secretary Ens. Harry H. Caldwell.

Footnote 13: (Acting) Lt. Joseph L. Stickney was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a veteran war correspondent. As of April 9, 1898 he was under the employ of the New York Herald covering the possibility of conflict over Port Arthur between Great Britain and Russia. When news of Dewey possibly attacking Manila reached him, he requested permission to join Dewey on the Olympia. Dewey welcomed Stickney with the proviso that Dewey had the right to censor all dispatches. Stickney agreed.

Dewey reinstated Stickney’s lieutenant’s commission before the Battle of Manila Bay and made him his aide on the Olympia’s bridge. From this position Stickney heard and reported Dewey’s famous line at the opening of the battle, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” Stickney later wrote a book about his experiences in the Philippines. See: Long to Dewey, April 6, 1898; Dewey to Long, May 4, 1898; and Frederic Lauriston Bullard, Famous War Correspondents (Boston: Little Brown and Co. 1914), 416-417; and Joseph L. Stickney, Admiral Dewey at Manila and the Complete Story of the Philippines (Philadelphia: J.H. Moore Co., 1899), 44.

Footnote 14: Lt. Carlos G. Calkins.

Footnote 15: Breach-loading rifles.

Footnote 16: Corregidor.

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