May 1

Battle of Manila Bay

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 1:00 AM


May 1st, 1898

Commodore George Dewey wins the Battle of Manila Bay

Official Battle Report as published in Proceedings

 The Battle of Manila Bay marked the first major victory in the Spanish-American War. The battle, which ended in less than a day’s time, demonstrated the naval prowess which earned the United States a quick and decisive victory in the war against the Spanish Empire, which only lasted four months. Furthermore, as a result of his successful leadership in the battle, Commodore George Dewey became the first and only person to hold the rank of Admiral of the Navy. In the year following the war, Proceedings published a report of the battle written by Dewey himself, in response to a previously-published account of the battle, which Dewey found to be erroneous and inaccurate. Dewey’s report, and a letter from the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation requesting that the Naval Institute publish his report, appear below:


WASHINGTON, D. C., September 21st, 1899.

SIR:—The following is a copy of a letter received from Admiral George Dewey:

“There has come to my notice a copy of the United States Naval Institute which contains an article by Lieutenant Carlos G. Calkins, U. S. Navy, purporting to be an historical account of the operations in Manila Bay during my command of the U. S. Naval forces there. It has not been my custom to notice the numerous incorrect accounts of those operations, nor do I desire to engage in a controversy with the writer of the paper mentioned in matters of opinion. But as the article has appeared in a publication which is understood to have the official sanction of the Department, and as it contains statements as facts conflicting with my official reports, I consider it necessary to ask that the Department will request the Naval Institute to publish in its next issue my official report of the Battle of Manila Bay, which is absolutely correct in all essentials.”

The Department has directed that the Bureau communicate with the Naval Institute in regard to the above matter, and request that the Institute publish in its next issue Admiral Dewey’s official report on the battle of Manila Bay.

The Naval Institute is informed in this connection that it is at liberty to use the letter of Admiral Dewey as well as this letter of the Bureau should it be deemed expedient.

Very respectfully,

A. S. Crowninshield, Chief of Bureau

. . .




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 Subig, 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.

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 near 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 in ranges varying from 5000 to 2000 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 the 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 further 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 enclosed, 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 than 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 Hong Kong.

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 for 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 a mile further 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 been aground in Bakor Bay, was towed off and made a prize.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEORGE DEWEY, Commodore, U. S. N.,

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