Page images
PDF
EPUB

DEWEY ORDERED TO THE PHILIPPINES.

105

from Assistant Secretary of the Navy eral of Hong Kong notified CommoRoosevelt:

"Secret and confidential. Order the squadron, except the Monocacy to Hong Kong. Keep full of coal. In the event of declaration of war, Spain, your duty will be to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic coast, and then offensive operations in the Philippine the Philippine Islands. Keep Olympia until further orders."

On April 4 another message came ordering the landing at Hong Kong of "all woodwork, stores, etc., not considered necessary for operations."

Commodore Dewey had at this time under his command the protected cruisers Olympia, Boston, Raleigh, the gunboats Concord and the Petrel, and an old sidewheel steamer, the Monocacy, which was rejected as inefficient. The powerful dispatch-boat, the McCulloch, joined the fleet on April 18. The fleet, however, was decidedly in need of colliers and storeships, and in obedience to instructions from Washington, Dewey purchased an English collier, the Nanshan, with 3,000 tons of coal aboard, and later, the Zaphiro, with 600 tons. These he manned with the officers and sailors of the deserted Monocacy. On the 22d the Baltimore arrived after a long voyage from Honolulu, bringing with her a welcome supply of ammunition. Immediately upon arrival she was treated to her war coat of slate grey paint, the other ships having been repainted several days previously.

On Saturday, April 23, as the result of President McKinley's proclamation to neutral nations of the existence of a state of war between the United

dore Dewey that the American fleet must withdraw from the harbor before 4 o'clock P. M., April 25. Without waiting for the expiration of the time designated, the fleet anchored the next day in the Chinese harbor, Mirs Bay. On the day of his departure from Hong Kong came the following dispatch from Secretary Long:

"War has commenced between the United States and Spain. Proceed at once to Philippine Islands. Commence operations at once, particu larly against the Spanish fleet. You must capture vessels or destroy. Use utmost endeavors. Long."

Thus in five terse sentences did the government place its destiny in the eastern seas in the hands of one man. What he should do, and how he should do it were not too clearly defined; haste and thoroughness only were the sole requirements. Dewey, however, did not obey this order to the letter, deeming it wiser to delay his departure until the United States consul, Williams, had arrived from Manila. His delay was wholly justified by events, for the latter was able to supply information of great value. The fleet weighed anchor in Mirs Bay at 2 P. M., April 27, and in less than three days had traversed the 600 mile stretch across the Yellow Sea, arriving off Bolinao Point on the morning of April 30. Here additional preparations for the forthcoming collision were made; everything that could be the least in the way, or could endanger life by splintering or catching on fire, was thrown without a thought into the

States and Spain, the governor-gen- waves. Reports had been received to

the effect that Admiral Montojo had planned to meet the American squadron in Subig Bay, an extensive harbor some 50 miles from Manila, and it was therefore possible that a few hours would bring the opposing fleets together. The Boston, the Concord, and later the Baltimore, were sent ahead to reconnoiter, but rejoined their comrade vessels with the information that

none of the enemy was to be found in Subig Bay. The dispatches of Admiral Montojo later revealed that he had, indeed, planned to give battle in Subig Bay, but that the defenses of the same were so worthless that he returned with his ships to Manila.*

Ac

On the return of the scouting cruisers, Commodore Dewey called a conference of the captains, and placed before them his plan for entering Manila harbor at night with screened lights, and giving battle to the Spaniards on the following morning. cording the speed of the ships was modified so as to bring the fleet at the entrance of Manila Bay at midnight, and so well was their progress timed that at 11 o'clock the fleet was entering Boca Grande, the southernmost of the three available channels lead

[ocr errors]

The guns which should have been mounted on that island were delayed a month and a half. This surprised me, as the shore batteries that the navy had installed (with very little difficulty) at the entrance of the bay of Manila, under the intelligent direction of colonel of naval artillery, Señor Garces, and Lieutenant Beneavente, were ready to fight twenty-four days after the commencement of the work. I was no less

disgusted that they confided in the few torpe does which they had found feasible to put there." Report of Admiral Montojo on the battle of Manila.

ing into the bay. In a single line, with the flagship in the lead, each ship guided by a tiny light set in a box at the stern of the preceding vessel, the fleet moved silently past the fortresses and over waters reputed to be protected by mines of tremendous power. Yet in spite of the fact that the arrival of the American fleet in the Philippine waters had been reported to Montojo, apparently no endeavor was made to guard against just such an enterprise as the American fleet was making. Perhaps they had not dreamed that Commodore Dewey would undertake so daring a thing as an attempt to enter Manila harbor at night, but whatever be the explanation

of

Spanish inactivity, the American ships were well into the harbor before an

alarm was given. Even then the discovery was due to an accident; incautious stoking of the McCulloch revealing the presence of the fleet. Signal rockets were sent up from the forts, and a few fruitless shots fired from the guns on El fraile, the island nearest to the mainland. The McCulloch, Concord and the Raleigh opened fire in return, but soon desisted at a signal from the flagship.

Manila possesses one of the most magnificent harbors in the world, and is capable of being strongly protected. Its shape, roughly, is that of a flask, the mouth of which, ten miles in width, is guarded by a group of three islands, Corregidor, Caballo and El fraile. Beyond these islands the body of the flask is gained, 21 miles long and 32 miles

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

1. ENTRANCE TO MANILA BAY, SHOWING BOCHITA GRANDE AT THE RIGHT THROUGH WHICH DEWEY'S FLEET PASSED, CORREGIDOR ISLAND IN THE DISTANCE.

2. VIEW OF THE ESCOULTA (THE BROADWAY) OF MANILA IN 1898. 3. THE PARRIAN GATE, THE PRINCIPAL GATE OF THE OLD WALLED CITY OF MANILA 4. MONUMENT ERECTED AT SAN FERNANDO BY FILIPINOS IN MEMORY OF MARTYRS OF THE REVOLUTION AGAINST SPAIN.

[blocks in formation]

PREPARATIONS FOR THE BATTLE.

wide, the waters within being little less in depth than the ocean. The city is situated on the southeastern shore of the bay, directly at the point of its greatest width. Founded by the Spanish adventurer Legaspi in 1571, it still retains many vestiges of its age, notably its old wall and moat, the cathedral and other ancient buildings, many of which have been sadly mutilated by earthquakes.

When the fleet had approached to a point about ten miles from the city, a detour was made in order to drop the supply ships, the McCulloch being left as convoy. At five o'clock the light in the east was sufficient to reveal the position of the fleet to the waiting enemy, and a few minutes later the great guns of the shore batteries sounded the challenge. Their aim, however, was so poor that the American ships made no reply, but steamed coolly, as if in a peace maneuver, toward the city of Manila. To its people, these grey messengers sent terror to the thousands of people who thronged the walls and the housetops. They expected nothing less than that the guns of the fleet would be turned. upon their city, an expectation that the proclamation of Governor-General Augusti, in which he stigmatized the Americans as "social excrescences, guilty of outrages against the laws of nations and international conventions," had tended to foster. Nevertheless, in spite of the furious firing from the fortresses near Manila no

*

* See Halstead, Spanish-American War for full translation, p. 99.

VOL. X-8

107

reply was made, and soon the watchers in the city beheld the fleet turn back on its course and steam toward Cavité, where the Spanish fleet was drawn up in battle order.

There were worse dangers for Dewey's ships, however, than shells from the shore batteries, for as the flag-ship bore down upon Sangley Point, behind which the Spanish ships were huddled, there was a sudden shock, an upheaval of the water, followed immediately by another; sufficient proof that the vaunted torpedoes of the harbor were, after all, not a myth. It is true that they were too far away to do any injury, yet too near to be comfortable, and ominously suggestive of more to follow. Yet there was no hesitation; silently and inexorably, the American warships swept unscathed toward the Spanish fleet.

Cavité, the arsenal of the Spanish forces in the Philippines is situated on the southern extension of a doublepronged peninsula, extending some five miles into Manila Bay. The two prongs at the end and the long strip of land itself form two bays, Cañacao and Bacoor. The Spanish admiral had anchored his ships across Cañacao, stationing the weaker vessels in the shallower waters of Bacoor. His fleet consisted of seven cruisers and three smaller gunboats, aggregating 13,351 tons displacement, and 110 guns (against which were opposed the 19,098 tons and 137 guns of the American fleet), and was arranged in line of battle as follows: Reina Chris

« PreviousContinue »