Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

United States Consul at Manila Oscar F. Williams to Assistant Secretary of State William R. Day

Special - S.S.S.Baltimore

Consulate of the United States,

Bay of Manila, Philippine Island, 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 U.S. Asiatic Squadron, I left Manila on Sat. Apr. 28 and on Wednesday, April 27 - at about 1 o’clock, p.m. boarded the flag ship “Olympia” in MirsBay, near Hong Kong. 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, SubigBay 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 despatch 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.1

     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 they were outclassed, weighed in the balance of war against the methods, training, aim and bravery shown 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 defences had severely suffered when our squadron with no harm done its ships, retired for breakfast.2

     At about ten 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 six 6-inch projectile which pierced the starboard side of the cruiser.

     But in the battle of “Manila Bay” the U. S. 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 contrast. There is no couplet to form a comparison. The only finish fight between the modern warships 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 cheerring, and while we suffer for cough drops and throat doctors we have no use for lineament or surjgeons.

     To every ship, officer and crew all praise be given As Victoria was answered years ago “YourMajesty, there is no second”,3 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 U.S. Asiatic Squadron under date of May 1, 1898.

     It was my lot to stand on the bridge of the “Baltimore” by the side of Capt. Deyer4 during the first engagement, and to be called to the flagship Olympiaby 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.5

I have the honor to be, Sir,

Your most obedient servant,

Oscar F. William,      

U.S. Consul,      

Manila, Ph. Islands.   

(Not acting)

Source Note: Cy, DNA, AFNRC, M625, roll 363. Addressed: “ Honorable JUDGE Day/Assistant Secretary of State,/Washington, D.C.” Addressed below close: “Hon. Judge Day,/Assistant Secretary of State, Washington, D.C./3/m” Document features edits from an unknown source including spelling corrections and underlined words. Document features a stamp indicating that it was received and reviewed by the “Navy Department.” Original document was typed with italic font.

Footnote 1: According to Admiral Patricio Montojo y Pasarón’s reports he did go to Subic Bay where he planned to do battle with the American Squadron, but he found the guns moved to the bay for the purpose of reinforcing it were never emplaced so he returned to Manila, hoping shore guns there would at least provide some cover and the shallower harbor a chance for escape if his ships were sunk during the battle. See: Montojo’s report from 1 May 1898.

Footnote 2: Williams was on the Baltimore during the battle and would have been unaware that the actual reason the fleet ceased combat was because Dewey had received a garbled message from Capt. Charles V. Gridley that said each of the 5” guns had only 15 rounds left. It turned out this report incorrect. As the Spanish fleet was in no condition to give chase, Dewey permitted breakfast and rest for the crew who had slept at their guns, if at all, the night before. See: Dewey to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 4 May 1898.

Footnote 3: “Your Majesty there is no second.” is a reference to an apocryphal story told about the 1851 annual race around the Isle of Wight hosted by the Royal Yacht Squadron. The New York Yacht Club sponsored and crewed a yacht in the race, the America. The race was witnessed by Queen Victoria who, it is claimed, asked of a signal master:

     “Are the yachts in sight?”

     “Only the America, may it please your majesty.”

     “Which is second?”

     “Ah, your majesty there is no second.”

The victorious America and her crew received a cup worth 100-Guinneas, which they eventually donated to the New York Yacht Club as an award for future sailing contests. Said trophy was renamed America’s Cup in honor of the yacht America, the first to win it. Alfred F. Loomis, “ah, Your Majesty, There Is No Second,” American Heritage, Vol. 9, Issue 5, (August 1958), Accessed on 25 July 2014: http://www.americanheritage.com/content/%E2%80%9Cah-your-majesty-there-no-second%E2%80%9D.

Footnote 4: Capt. Nehemiah M. Dyer.

Footnote 5: American Revolutionary War hero, John Paul Jones

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