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   May 1, 1898

Spanish : Batalla de Cavite

 

 

Dewey Sails for Manila 

 

 

 

Only five days after McKinley signed the war resolution, there was a victory at Manila Bay .

 

The American Asiatic Squadron under the command of Commodore George Dewey was based in Hong Kong. Commodore Dewey commanded four protected cruisers, two gun boats and a revenue cutter .On April 23rd, Dewey was notified by the British governor of Hong Kong that the United states had declared war on Spain. Since Britain was neutral, Dewey's squadron would have to leave Hong Kong in two days . To the British naval officers, Dewey's position seemed hopeless. He was preparing to meet the Spanish Far Eastern fleet under Admiral Montojo in Manila which looked powerful on paper .He would have to sail past mines, torpedoes and shore batteries to reach the Spanish fleet. If Dewey did not win a major victory, he would be helpless since there was no nearby American naval base. Dewey recalled, he could not get any bets, even at heavy odds at the Hong Kong Club, that his expedition would be a success . Newspapers in Hong Kong were predicting his destruction .As the American squadron sailed out of Hong Kong on April 25th, many of the British naval officers predicted they would see Dewey and his squadron again . A few days latter, a British steamer, finding much material that would come from a navy, assumed Dewey had fought a battle and lost .However, the material had been thrown overboard on purpose to prepare the squadron for action .

 

 

 The Battle of Manila Bay

 

Dewey sailed to Mirs Bay, 35 miles north of Hong Kong to prepare his squadron and await orders .Meanwhile, in Washington, the Navy dept agreed Dewey should strike at once, but the President did not give his consent for several days till the 24th .

 

On April 27, Dewey had the crews gathered so their commanders could read the proclamation of the General of the Philippines Basilo Davila:

 

   " A squadron manned by foreigners,possessing neither instruction nor      discipline, is preparing to come to this archipelago with the ruffianly

     intention of robbing us all that means life, honor and liberty..to treat

     you as tribes refractory to civilization, to take possession of your riches...Vain designs ! ridiculous boastings !"...the aggressors shall not profane the tombs of your fathers, they shall not gratify their lustful passions at the costs of your wives' and daughters' honor...Filipinos, prepare for the struggle ! "

 

    To this the crews roared with laughter .

 

Map of Manila Bay 

 Click to enlarge .

 

In Manila, Montojo begged Madrid for more supplies and ships, but they were not forthcoming except for 2 gunboats .For the defense of the Philippines Montojo had two cruisers, the Reina Cristina the Castilla and the gunboats Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, Don Antonio de Ulloa, Don Juan de Austria and Marques del Duero .The engines of the  Castilla were so old that they would no longer move the ship and she had to be towed . The Spanish were heavily outclassed in gunpowder, Dewey's squadron mounted ten 8 inch rifled guns, 23 six inch guns and 20 five inch guns .The heaviest guns in Montojo's squadron were 6.3 inch, of which he only had seven and four ancient 5.9 on the Castilla and 20 4,7 inch guns .The land batteries defending Manila Bay were for the most part old smooth bores, muzzle loaders and other antiques of no value . On April 19, Montojo was ordered to seal the ports with mines, to which he replied that he only had 14 without cables or fuses. He did make a desperate attempt to improvise some with torpedoes from the ships, but it was futile .

   

 

The mines and torpedoes which were to protect the harbor of Manila bay, were out of date and barnacle encrusted, and there were too few for any effect .there were heavy gun batteries on the island of Corregidor and the rock of El Fraile and in Manila, but their stocks of ammunition was low and there were no modern sighting equipment .

 

On March 15 Montojo called a council of War to decide upon a strategy with his captains . They decided they should fight the American squadron in Subic Bay with the mine, torpedoes and shore batteries and try to make sudden dashes against the American squadron.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comparisons of the Squadrons 

 

a rapid fire gun

 

Spanish Squadron

 

Ship

 

Class

Tons

Guns

Crew

Reina Cristina

Cruiser

3,520

6 6.2''

13 rapid fire

352

Castilla

Cruiser

3,260

4 5''

14 rapid fire

349

Isla de Cuba

Gunboat

1,045

4 4.7''

4 rapid fire

156

Isla de Luzon

Gunboat

1,043

4 4.7''

4 rapid fire

156

Don Antonio de Ulloa

 

Gunboat

1,160

4 4.7''

6 rapid fire

159

Don Juan de Austria

Gunboat

1,149

4 4.7''

8 rapid fire

179

Marques del Duero

 

Gunboat

500

1 6.2

96

 

American Squadron

 

 

 

 

Ship

 

Class

Tons

Guns

Crew

Olympia

Cruiser

5,870

4 8'', 10 5''

21 rapid fire

381

Baltimore

Cruiser

4,413

4 8'', 6 6''

8 rapid fire

328

Boston

Cruiser

3,000

2 8'' 6 6''

6 rapid fire

230

Raleigh

Cruiser

3,213

1 6'' 10 5 ''

12 rapid fire

252

Concord

Gunboat

1,710

6 6''

6 rapid fire

155

Petrel

Gunboat

892

4 6''

3 rapid fire

110

McCulloch

Gunboat

1,280

4 rapid fire

68

 

 

 

Dewey's Plan of Attack 

 

On Saturday, April 30, 1898 the American squadron arrived at Subic Bay and Dewey help a war council on the Olympia . The captains and crew of the squadron were apprehensive of the mines and torpedoes which infested Manila Bay ." Gentlemen" he told the assembled captains " I was brought up under that grand old man, Admiral Farragut, and when we had a task like this, he went straight through and did it. We will go into Manila Bay tonight and if there are any mines in our path the flagship will clear them away for you ." Dewey did not believe it was possible to mine the deep harbor entrance with mines .The squadron would attempt to sneak past the heavy shore batteries of Corregidor and El Fraile through the mine fields into Manila Bay . At 7 P.M. the squadron got under way . At a quarter to ten , the crews were sent to there guns by whispers . Around 11:30 soot in the funnel of the McCulloh caught fire and it was feared the squadrons positron was revealed to the Spanish . A warning rocket was launched from Corregidor, but for some reason the Spanish batteries held their fire.

 

EL Fraile

 

At 12:15, May 1, the Spanish fired on the American squadron from El Fraile and the Americans fired back. The guns on the Boston, Concord and Raleigh returned fire and silenced the batteries on EL Fraile . Then there was silence again . Chief engineer Randall on the McCulloch collapsed from heat exhaustion and in a few minutes was dead . He was to be the sole American death in the battle .

 

The squadron reached Manila at daybreak and there Dewey expected to find the Spanish Squadron under the protection of the shore batteries. The shore batteries combined with the ships guns could have been a real threat to Dewey. But Admiral Montojo and his squadron was not there ! The admiral did not want to subject Manila to bombardment, so he arrayed his fleet in the shallow but unprotected waters at Cavite.

 

Montojo's Speech to his Crew 

 

The Spanish squadron was arrayed in a line, their decks cleared for action.  Admiral Montojo spoke to the crew of the Reina Cristina:

 

   " Soldiers and sailors. the United states has obliged us to fight in an iniquitous war which we could not have expected . Its principle object is to rob us of the rich island which, for four hundred years, we have possessed by right of our discovery and conquest of the New world. But their ambitions not satisfied with Cuba, they are coming to attack us here with a squadron far superior to ours . the enemy is in sight, and I am confident that all of you will demonstrate in combat that you are worthy companions of your forefathers in our country's history . Long live Spain ! Long live the King ! "

 

Battle Begins 

 

The crews of ship roared  cheers . At 5:15 A.M Admiral Montojo opened fire .

The engines of the Castilla were still not repaired and she had to be towed . The Spanish fired from extreme range, but their shells fell short . " You may fire when ready, Gridley" said Dewey at a distance of 5,500 yards and the starboard 8 inch gun in the forward turret roared. the Spaniards knew the Americans exact distance, while the Americans had to guess theirs .The American squadron sailed back and forth before the Spanish squadron at 6 knots for three hours, closing the range from three to one mile, passing the Spanish line five times .In the first 20 minutes many of the Spanish ships were hit repeatedly .A shell had gone through the forward turret of the Regina Cristina, killing all the gunners . The Castilla's forward 4.5 inch gun was knocked out. Only the Isla de Cuba had not been seriously hit . Smoke obscured the battle .The Spanish were firing mainly at the Olympia and Baltimore and the American squadron fired main at the largest Spanish ships .After two hours of battle, it was reported that the Olympia only had 15 rounds of 5 inch shells remaining per gun .Dewey was 7,000 miles away from his nearest source of supply. This fact combined with the smoke obscuring the line of fire compelled Dewey to break off and allow his crews to have breakfast .As they retreated and the smoke cleared, the Americans could see that they had done much more damage than they had thought and that shell report had been in error, it should have been that they had fired 15 rounds, not that there were 15 rounds left .

 

Dewey on the Olympia

 

The heat in the ships became extreme, 116 degrees , some men even claimed it reached 200 degrees .Stokers commented that Hell itself could not be hotter .When the big guns fired, the men could hardly stand the ships shook so greatly .

 

Admiral Montojo leaving the Reina Cristina

 

Admiral Montojo's flagship Reina Cristina was severely damaged, half the crew was dead or wounded  and the admirals flag was hoisted on the Isla de Cuba. the admiral himself was wounded in the leg .By 7:30 the Reina Cristina  was out of action and on fire .At 7:55 Dewey signaled to retire from action to have breakfast and the squadron moved beyond the range of the shore batteries .

 

Spanish Surrender 

 

After breakfast, the squadron sailed forth to deliver the coup de grace to the Spanish ships and fortifications .Only the Don Antonio de Ulloa remained to offer resistance .The brave gunboat attracted the attention of the entire squadron and was sunk .The Baltimore got with 2,500 yards of the beach at 11:05 and got in a 10 minute duel with the shore batteries . The Canacao battery was enveloped in deadly fire. The gunners of the battery fled to Fort Sangley and the guns of the squadron concentrated on the fort .After awhile, the Spanish flag came down and a white flag was raised .Dewey sent the chief-of-staff of the Petrel to receive surrender and the squadron anchored in front of the city in peace .

 

 

 

the American Asiatic squadron had destroyed 10 Spanish warships and captured the Cavite naval yard .Out of the 1,200 men in the Spanish squadron, 381 had been killed or injured .Only a few Americans were slightly injured .

 

The German Navy in Manila Bay 

 

 

After the battle, Dewey not only had to worry about Spanish reinforcements, German warships in Manila Bay were causing concern .shortly after the battle, ships from the navies of several nations entered Manila Bay to protect their citizens and property .The German navy increased its strength with the cruisers Irena and Kaiserin Augusta, Prince Wilhelm and others till the German commander, vice Admiral von Diedrichs had a much larger force than Dewey .The actions of the Germans, such as sailing in and out of Manila Bay, seemed designed to provoke an incident. Finally Dewey asked a German officer of the admiral if he desired war, and if he did he could have it as soon as he liked . Admiral von Diedrich talked to the commander of the British squadron in Manila Bay and concluded that if a battle broke out between the Germans and Americans, the British would support the Americans .After this, the German provocations ceased in Manila Bay .

 

Admiral Camara ordered to the Philippines 

 

The CarlosV in Port Said

 

On June 15, rear Admiral Camara, whose squadron had been defending the Spanish coast from American attack, was ordered to try to retake Philippines by the Ministry of Marine . His squadron include battleship Pelayo, the new armored cruiser Carlos V, two German built merchant ships armed with naval guns, and the auxiliary cruisers Patriota and Rapido. There were also two transports, the Buenos Aires and the Panay, carrying 4,000 troops and four colliers . Camara's orders were to sail from Spain, via the Seuz canal to the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, and then judge the situation as to whether to engage Dewey . Camara's squadron arrived at Suez on July 5th . By this time the squadron of Vice Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete had been defeated in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba . Fearful for the security of the Spanish coast, the Spanish Ministry of Marine recalled Camara's squadron on July 7, 1898. Camara returned to Spain, where the 2nd Squadron was dissolved on 25 July 1898.

 

The Capture of Manila 

 

The Filipino insurrectionists, led by Emilio Aguinaldo had taken advantage of the American victory in Manila Bay to besiege Manila and had captured 2,500 Spaniards . Aguinaldo thought the Americans would give the Filipinos there independence, but McKinley had decided to retain a navy base in Manila and possibly retain the entire archipelago .Admiral Dewey began to conceive of a plan of seizing Manila without a battle . Dewey had no troops with him and had no plans to conquer Manila when he first arrived .The new Spanish governor, Fermin Jaudens  was more frightened by the prospect of the Filipinos capturing Manila than an American occupation .To preserve honor at home Jaudenes and Dewey fought a sham battle on August 13th, after which the American troops entered Manila and the squadron in the bay blasted a 101 gun salute. Ironically , because the telegraph cable had been cut, no one knew that the day before Spain and America had signed a peace treaty in Paris .

 

 

 

 

 

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