Battle of Manila Bay

Orfeas Katsoulis | Feb 8, 2024

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The Battle of Cavite (Spanish: Batalla de Cavite) is a naval battle during the Spanish-American War. It took place on May 1, 1898 at Cavite near Manila in the Philippines between the American squadron of Commodore George Dewey and the Spanish Rear Admiral Patricio Montejo. This battle is also known in American historiography as the Battle of Manila Bay.

The U.S. saw action against the Philippines as secondary to the main task of seizing Spanish possessions in the West Indies. The only American battleship available in the Pacific, the Oregon, had been sent to the Atlantic before the war. Nevertheless, in the Far East there were American ships of the Cruiser Asiatic Squadron, considerably superior in power to the Spanish squadron based in Manila. In April 1898 four armored cruisers (displacement from 3 to 6 thousand tons), two seaworthy gunboats of cruiser type and three auxiliary ships were in Hong Kong under the command of Commodore J. Dewey.

American ships had high speed, strong artillery, but poor armor protection because they were designed primarily to disrupt enemy maritime commerce. The great remoteness of the Americans from their bases on the U.S. Pacific coast made it difficult for them to maintain and supply ammunition (the ships had an incomplete supply of shells). Also, if the ships were seriously damaged they could have serious repair problems. Because of this, an attack by cruisers alone against an enemy fleet in a protected harbor seemed extremely risky at first. Nevertheless, Dewey, who had knowledge of the status of the Spanish forces in the Philippines, was prepared to execute the order for an immediate attack on Manila.

On April 24, 1898, reports came to Hong Kong of the outbreak of war between the United States and Spain. British authorities demanded that the American squadron leave the neutral port. Dewey moved to nearby Mears Bay, where final preparations for battle were being made and coal and ammunition, delivered just prior to the declaration of war, were being unloaded. On April 25 the squadron sailed for the Philippines, with drills and training of personnel along the way.

Formally, the Spaniards had 12 warships in the Philippines, but a significant portion of them were unseaworthy vessels. Therefore, the Spanish Rear Admiral Montejo could only use six cruisers and one gunboat in combat. Two Spanish ships with a displacement of 3,000 tons were considered "cruisers of the 1st rank", the other four (1000-1100 tons) - "cruisers of the 2nd rank. In fact, these "cruisers" were ordinary gunboats. The total displacement of the Spanish fleet in the Philippines was 11.7 thousand tons, the naval artillery had 31 medium guns (not more than 160 mm) against the 19.1 thousand tons of total displacement and 53 pieces of large and medium caliber (including 11 guns 203-mm.) American squadron.

The Spanish preparations for the battle consisted primarily in strengthening coastal defense, for which they removed guns from unseaworthy ships. As a result, out of five gunboats only the Marquis del Duero retained its armament. Also part of the artillery was removed from the ships that remained in service. These guns were used to arm the hastily built earth fortifications on the islands at the entrance to Manila Bay. In total, the Spaniards had 43 guns (most of them obsolete) in batteries, which were scattered along the vast coast of Manila Bay. They were preparing to sink old ships in the waterways and lay mines. It was also decided to build fortifications in Subic Bay, where the squadron was originally supposed to relocate.

On April 25, immediately after receiving news of the outbreak of war, Rear Admiral Montejo moved with a squadron from Manila to Subic Bay, but found that the construction of batteries begun there was far from complete. The Spanish admiral decided to return to Manila Bay and left Subic on April 28. During the voyage the machine of the old wooden cruiser "Castile" broke down, which was forced to go in tow.

The strongest Spanish coastal batteries defended Manila. In particular, there were four powerful Krupp guns of 240-mm caliber, longer range than the 203-mm guns of the Americans. However, Admiral Montejo, so as not to expose Manila to fire, diverted his ships to the Cavite arsenal, which was defended only by three 120-mm and two 150-mm guns of the old type. A mine barrier was also posted near the bay. The departure from Manila was also explained by the fact that at Cavite, if damaged in battle, the ships would sink in shallow water, and their crews would have more opportunities for salvation. Thus, from the beginning Admiral Montejo believed his squadron was doomed and thought only of how to reduce losses in a battle which he considered lost in advance. The Spaniards prepared their ships for the battle, painted them camouflage gray, removed the masts from the spars, and placed sandbag berms on the decks to protect them from shell splinters.

On April 30 the American squadron approached the entrance to Manila Bay. The cruiser Boston and the gunboat Concord were dispatched to scout Subic Bay, where they did not find the Spaniards. On receiving a report of this, Dewey held a meeting in the evening, at which it was decided to break into Manila Bay that night under cover of darkness, passing not through the normally used northern passage, but the more difficult passage of the southern Baca Grande between the islands of El Frayle and Caballo.

Dewey, despite the danger of mines, led the squadron on his flagship cruiser "Olympia" When at a meeting he was asked to let the transport go ahead, the American commander replied, "Whether there are mines or not - but I will lead the squadron myself. Ship commanders received a brief instruction: "Follow the flagship's lead and repeat all his maneuvers. At 9:45 p.m. the American squadron sounded the battle alarm and extinguished the onboard lights, except for the one lantern astern to keep the line in column.

Following the "Olympia" the ships in an 8-knot course moved through the Strait into Manila Bay. At 00:15 the shore battery at El Frayle finally spotted the American squadron and fired several shots at the Concord and Boston at the end, but failed to hit them. The Spaniards were unable to aim fire due to the lack of searchlights. The Americans also responded with several shells fired toward the shore, after which the Spanish battery went silent.

Once through the strait, the Americans slowed to a very slow speed, moving slowly across the vast bay. Perhaps Dewey did not risk approaching the shore in the predawn twilight because he feared an attack by Spanish minesweepers, rumors of which had reached the Americans. At 02:00 Montejo, having received messages from El Frayle, raised his squadron on alert. Six cruisers and a gunboat were anchored east of Cape Sangli at the entrance to Kanakao Bay. Of the seven ships of Montejo's squadron, two - the Castile and Don Antonio de Ulloa - could only be used as floating batteries because of faulty machinery.

At dawn the Americans reached Manila, but the Spanish warships were not there. The squadron headed south and about 5 a.m. detected the enemy fleet off Cavite. While waiting for the battle to begin, the three American auxiliary ships were ordered out of the battle line and to withdraw to the far side of the bay for the duration of the battle. The U.S. cruisers and gunboats, lined up in a wake, moved toward Cape Sangli, where the Spanish squadron was stationed.

The Spanish were the first to fire from the ships and the shore when the Americans were 30 cables (5.5 km) away, but they did not get any hits because the shells were falling short. However, two strong explosions then occurred near the head of the American Olympia convoy. According to one version, these were close bursts of the shells that had nevertheless landed, and another version was that the Spaniards had set underwater mines at too great a depth or had detonated them prematurely. The Americans had not yet opened fire on the Spanish ships. Dewey only gave orders to reduce the intervals in the column. The American squadron was moving at 6 knots, the distance between the ships in column was 200 yards (183 m).

At 05:40 Dewey commanded a turn to the northwest so that all his ships could fire from the port side, and gave the famous order to Charles Gridley, commander of the Olympia: "When you are ready, Gridley, you may open fire. The 203 mm gun fired from the Olympia's forward turret signaled the start of firing for all American ships. At that moment the Spaniards were 20 cable lengths (3.7 km) away. After passing two miles parallel to the line of the Spanish squadron, the Americans made a turn to the southeast to fire now to starboard. In all, Dewey made five such tack, gradually approaching the Spanish ships to a distance of 10 cablets (1.8 km). An eyewitness of the battle recalled that the American cruisers "moved slowly and clearly, almost without breaking formation," their actions resembled "a carefully rehearsed spectacle. The Americans were the first to destroy two Spanish barges, which they mistook for mine launches.

The main role in the battle was played by two strongest American cruisers - the flagship "Olympia" (5.8 thousand tons, speed of 21 knots, four 203-mm guns in two turrets, ten 127-mm guns) and the following "Baltimore" (4,600 tons, 20 knots, four 203-mm and six 152-mm guns). They were the first in the column, firing continuously at the enemy. Initially the Americans were not firing accurately enough, but the number of shells they fired was so high that the Spaniards were getting more and more hits, which caused them serious damage and caused numerous fires. As the enemy got closer, the effectiveness of the shelling increased.

Of the Spanish ships, the cruiser Don Juan de Austria (1,130 tons, four 120-mm guns) and the flagship of Admiral Montejo, the cruiser Reina Cristina, the closest to the Americans, were the most active in returning fire. (3,500 tons, 16 knots, six 160-mm guns). The Americans concentrated fire on the Don Juan and soon forced her out of the battle, retreating deep into the bay. Then the "Reina Cristina" and the second big Spaniard ship, the "Castilia" (3,200 tons, of four 150-mm and two 120-mm guns, some had already been removed) came under fire. Fire broke out on the wooden "Castile", because of the broken anchor chain she was turned to the enemy's side, where the guns had already been removed. Having lost the opportunity to fight further, the crew of the Castile moved to the approaching Don Juan de Austria, also badly damaged by the shelling. The cruiser Don Antonio de Ulloa, the same type as the Don Juan, also sustained heavy damage.

At 07:00 the cruiser "Reina Christina" on the orders of Admiral Montejo moved toward the American squadron. On the approaching Spanish cruiser came the general fire of the "Olympia", the "Baltimore" and the "Raleigh" following them. In a short time the armorless Spanish ship received numerous hits. On "Reyna Cristina" American shells demolished the deckhouse and bridge, the rear chimney and all three masts, the boilers were punctured, the steering was disabled, there were huge holes in the hull, the ship caught fire, which threatened to explode the war room, which had to be sunk. Nearly the entire gun crew was knocked out because of the shell bursts, and a direct hit in the wardroom destroyed the overcrowded infirmary. One of the shells knocked off the Spanish flag, which, however, was immediately raised again on the wreck of the mast.

Admiral Montejo ordered his wrecked ship turned to shore. The Americans did not stop shelling the sinking Reina Cristina, to which the Isla de Cuba, the Isla de Luzon, and the Marquis del Duero, also damaged, approached to assist. At 0730, almost immediately after shooting the "Reina Christina," Dewey gave his squadron orders to withdraw from the battle. This was announced under the pretext of giving the crews a chance to eat breakfast. In fact, Dewey received an unexpected report from Captain Gridley that he was running out of ammunition. Therefore, the American commander decided to abort the battle and clarify the situation. To the displeasure of the battle-hungry crews (the sailors shouted, "For God's sake, don't stop us! To hell with breakfast!") the American ships ceased firing and withdrew from shore. There was a break in the battle.

The Spanish squadron lost the "Reina Christina" and the "Castile" after a two-hour battle. Abandoned by their crews, they sank in shallow water, but the upper part of the hulls remained on the surface. Of the other ships, the Antonio de Ulloa suffered most severely, standing half submerged near the shore with her machinery disassembled and her artillery removed from the side facing the shore. Nevertheless, some of the crew remained on the ship and prepared to continue the fight. The gunboat "Marquis del Duero" had two guns knocked out and her machine was damaged, but the ship maintained its course. The same type cruisers Isla de Cuba and Isla de Luzon, the only Spanish ships with armored deck protection, suffered little damage. Admiral Montejo, who hoisted the flag on the "Isla de Cuba", together with the "Luzon", "Juan de Austia", and the "Marquis del Duerro" withdrew to the south of Cavite Bay Bakur, where the disarmed cruiser "Velasco" and four gunboats, as well as two transports were already standing.

Admiral Dewey was receiving information from his ships at the time. The information about the exhaustion of ammunition turned out to be erroneous. No serious damage was sustained by the Americans during the battle. Dewey decided to complete the destruction of the Spanish naval force in the Philippines. At 10:45 a.m. the American squadron received orders to sail again to Cavite. The cruisers approached Canacao Bay, with the small and fast-moving Raleigh to enter the bay itself. The gunboats separated from the squadron and headed south for reconnaissance.

At 11:16 the battle resumed. "The Olympia, the Boston, and the Raleigh, which was sailing separately from them, opened fire on the Antonio de Ulloa, the only Spanish ship from which several shots were fired at the Americans. Soon the Antonio was finally finished off and abandoned by her crew. The wrecks of the Castile and the Reina Cristina, towering above the surface of the water, also came under fire.

The cruiser Baltimore, sent to intercept a merchant ship that had shown, came under fire from two 150-mm Spanish guns from the fort at Cape Sangli. The Spaniards succeeded in getting a single hit on the American ship. The Baltimore was hit by one 6-inch gun and wounded 9 men. The cruiser returned fire on the fort. The "Baltimore" was soon joined by the "Olympia" and the "Boston. The Americans discovered that the Spanish coastal guns did not have a sufficient angle of descent and could not fire on the ships at close range. Taking advantage of this, the Americans approached the shore at 5 cable lengths and, being in the "dead zone," could fire on the Spanish fortifications with impunity.

The gunboat Concorde at this time intercepted a Spanish mail steamer southeast of Cavite. The gunboat Petrel, finding the rest of the Spanish fleet south of the Cavite armory, opened fire. Admiral Montejo immediately ordered his crews to abandon the ships by opening the keystones. Meanwhile, Montejo still had two nearly intact British-built small armored cruisers, the Isla de Cuba and Isla de Luzon (1000 tons, 16 knots, four 120mm guns each), which could well give battle to the Petrel (860 tons, 12 knots, four 152mm guns). Nevertheless, the Isla de Cuba and Isla de Luzon sank themselves near the shore, apparently fearing the appearance of the entire American squadron following the gunboat. Sailors were sent from the Petrel to the abandoned Spanish cruisers and set fire to the upper superstructures of these ships. At 12:30 Dewey ordered a cease-fire and gave the Spanish commandant Cavite an ultimatum to surrender, threatening to bombard the city itself. A white flag was raised over the fort of Cape Sangli.

The Spanish squadron in the Philippines was completely destroyed. Spanish personnel losses totaled 161 killed and 210 wounded. The main casualties were on the "Reina Christina". On the flagship cruiser Admiral Montejo 130 sailors and officers were killed, including - the ship's commander Luis Cadarzo, who was the last to leave the cruiser and was already killed in the lifeboat. Twenty-three men died on the Castile, and eight on all other ships. In all, the Americans achieved 145 hits on Spanish ships, of which the "Reina Christina" and the "Castilla" each took about 40, the "Antonio de Ulloa" 33, the "Juan de Austria" 13, and the "Marquesa de Duerro" 10. "Isla de Cuba" and "Isla de Luzon" were the least affected, hitting 5 and 3 times, respectively. This number of hits, with 5,900 shells fired by the Americans during the battle, shows the lack of accuracy of their shooting. The American ships themselves received 19 hits from the Spaniards, of which only one (hitting the "Baltimore") was serious enough. American casualties were nine wounded. During the battle the mechanical engineer of one of the transports escorting Dewey's squadron died of heatstroke, but his death cannot be attributed to combat losses.

On May 2 the Americans occupied Cavite, which became their base in the Philippines. On May 3 they also landed on Correjidor Island, left by the Spanish without a fight, and destroyed the coastal batteries there, which controlled the exit from Manila Bay. However, although the American squadron destroyed the entire Spanish naval force in the Philippines, it could not take possession of Manila itself without the aid of a large landing force. As a result, the Philippine capital remained in Spanish hands until the very end of the war. Thus, the purely military significance of the Battle of Cavite was relatively small. By destroying Montejo's squadron, Dewey weakened Manila's defenses somewhat, depriving it of naval strength, and eliminating the threat that Spanish ships could theoretically pose to transports carrying American troops later sent to the Philippines.

Far greater was the psychological significance of the Battle of Manila Bay. The brilliant victory, only a week after the declaration of war, inspired American society and gave confidence in the swift success of the entire military campaign. The American fleet defeated for the first time in a squadron battle the fleet of a European power and became one of the leading navies of the world. The Battle of Cavite made J. Dewey, immediately promoted to Rear Admiral, and then - to Admiral of the Navy, a national hero of the United States. During his welcome ceremony in New York City after the war ended, more gunpowder was spent on fireworks than the Americans had used up at Cavite. Dewey's flagship, the cruiser Olympia, later became a museum ship.


  1. Battle of Manila Bay
  2. Битва при Кавите
  3. Иногда к испанской флотилии причисляют восьмой корабль — крейсер «Веласко», у которого к моменту сражения были сняты котлы и вооружение
  4. Приказ командира «Петрела» уничтожить оставленным командами «Исла де Куба» и «Исла де Лусон» был расценен как «безрассудный», так как лишал американцев ценных трофеев. Тем не менее, в дальнейшем испанские крейсеры были восстановлены, а бывшая «Исла де Куба», проданная США Венесуэле, служила там до середины XX в.
  5. Следует признать, что для 7 потопленных судов испанские потери не выглядят слишком большими. Адмирал Монтехо, сам раненый в бою, таким образом в некотором смысле выполнил свою задачу по сокращению потерь. Тем не менее, после войны за поражение он предстал в Испании перед трибуналом и был осужден
  6. В марте 2011 года выставлена на продажу из-за финансовых трудностей музея в Филадельфии. Архивная копия от 10 марта 2011 на Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b c Accounts of the numbers of vessels involved vary. Admiral Dewey said, "The Spanish line of battle was formed by the Reina Cristina (flag), Castilla, Don Juan de Austria, Don Antonio de Ulloa, Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba, and Marques del Duero."[4] Another source lists the order of battle as consisting of nine U.S. ships (two not engaged) and 13 Spanish ships (five not engaged and one not present).[5] Still another source says that the Spanish naval force consisted of seven unarmored ships.[6] Yet another source says that Dewey's squadron included four cruisers (two armored), two gunboats, and one revenue cutter; and that the Spanish fleet consisted of one modern cruiser half the size of Dewey's Olympia, one old wooden cruiser, and five gunboats.[7]
  8. a b O número de embarcações envolvidas pode variar. Almirante Dewey disse: "A linha espanhola de batalha foi formada pela Reina Cristina, Castela, Don Antonio de Ulloa, Don Antonio de Ulloa, Isla de Luzon, Isla de Cuba, e Marques del Duero."[1] Outra fonte lista a ordem de batalha como consistindo de 9 navios americanos (2 não envolvidos) e 13 navios espanhóis (5 não engajados e 1 não está presente).[2] Ainda uma outra fonte diz que a força naval espanhola consistiram em 7 navios não blindados.[3] No entanto, outra fonte diz que a esquadra de Dewey incluiu 4 cruzadores (2 blindados) e 2 canhoneiras; e que a frota espanhola composta por 1 cruzador moderno metade do tamanho do Olympia de Dewey, 1 cruzador de madeira velho, e 5 canhoneiras.[4]

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