Today in Philippine History, May 1, 1898, the naval battle between the United States and Spain took place in Manila Bay

Wednesday February 06, 2013 ()

On May 1, 1898, the naval battle between a squadron of the United States led by Admiral Geroge Dewey and a Spanish fleet under Admiral Montojo took place in Manila Bay, destroying the Spanish fleet. Soon after, the Spanish Governor-General intimated his willingness to surrender Manila but Dewey had no enough force to occupy the city.

On August 7, a few months later, and after several contigents of Americans have arrived, General Wesley Merritt and Admiral Dewey jointly sent the Spanish commander the following notice:

The Battle of Manila Bay
(The battle of Manila Bay in the heat of the raging fight (From The story of the Philippines by Murat Halstead)

"... the operations of the land and naval forces of the United States against the defenses of Manila may begin at any time after the expiration of forty-eight hours (August 9) from the hour of receipt by you of this communication, or sooner if made necessary by attack on your part. This notice is given in order to afford you an opportunity to remove all non-combatants from the city ..."

Manila surrendered on August 13, 1898 after a brief and actually only a token bombardment of the outer fortifications by the fleet and an attack by the troops. This event is referred to by some Filipino historians as the "Mock Battle of Manila".

General Arthur MacArthur was appointed Provost-Marshal-General and Civil Governor of the city.

During the next four years the government established by the Americans in the Philippines was headed by four successive Military Governors, all Major-Generals, Merritt, Otis, MacArthur, and Chaffee, although civil administration by Americans under the direction of the military commanders began immediately after the occupation of Manila.

Dewey's Official Report of the Battle of May 1898

U. S. NAVAL FORCE ON ASIATIC STATION, Flagship Olympia, Cavite Philippine
May 4, 1898.


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 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 (inclosed with translation), it appears that it has 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 at Cavite and by the Spanish fleet anchored in an approximately east and west line across the mouth of Baker Bay, with their left in shoal water in Cafiacao 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 at range varying from 5,000 to 2,000 yards, countermarching in a line approximately parallel to that of the Spanish flet. The enemy\'s fire was vigorous, but generally ineffective.

Early in the engagement two launches put toward the Olympia with the apparent intention of using torpedoes. One was sunk and the other 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 this 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 the 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 about one-half mile farther 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.

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 Isia 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 inclosed, 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.

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 one mile farther down the beach, and consisted of a modern Canet 12 centimeter B. L. rifle behind improvised earthworks.

On the 3rd 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 had been aground in Bakor Bay, was towed off and made a prize.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant.

GEORGE DEWEY, Commodore, U. S. N.


  1. American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, page 12-13, Volume 3, Number 8, August 1923
  2. The Philippines and the US War Department and the US Army, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Journal, Volumne XXVII, Number 3, March 1952
  3. The Institutional Repository at DePaul University (


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