The naval campaign of 1898 in the Philippines has only one defect when considered from the professional point of view. The contest was too short and simple to develop many technical novelties or to solve many problems of attack and defense. Yet the immediate results of Admiral Dewey's advance were so numerous and striking that the campaign deserves careful study. Between midnight and noon on May 1 our squadron forced an entrance guarded by a chain of barrier forts and by lines of torpedoes, destroyed a formidable naval squadron, and established a safe and convenient naval base in hostile territory. The same blow destroyed the commercial activity and the political supremacy of the capital of the Archipelago. Before darkness fell on that day's work the Captain-General of the Philippines had acknowledged that Manila lay at the mercy of the American Admiral. Without attempting to show the historical or political significance of these events, certain strategic conditions and tactical methods may be presented for discussion.
The President's order following the outbreak of war made the Philippine Islands our theater of operations and the Spanish squadron our immediate objective. The security of American commerce demanded the prompt destruction of the enemy's cruisers, and nothing less would serve to quiet disturbances of public opinion along the Pacific Coast of the United States. Conquest might wait, but Spanish ships could not be left at large to prey upon the carrying trade and to threaten our unfortified harbors. Of course naval officers generally were aware that the Spanish fleet was condemned to a short radius of action and incapable of enterprises oversea. It was also known in Hong Kong that the political situation of the Philippines made the revival of native insurrection an inevitable sequel of American aggression. This prospect helped to solve the problem of finding the Spanish squadron and relieved our chief anxiety.
It should not be forgotten that the first act of war in the Philippines was the capture of the ship Saranac near Iloilo on April 26. The Spaniards were eager to boast of their prize and fancied that our fleet must be crippled by the loss of her cargo of Australian coal. Fortunately, other arrangements had been made and, moreover, it turned out that the vessel was duly equipped with papers showing a transfer to the British flag, so the local authorities had to release her. As they meant to use like expedients for the salvation of their own steamers, their scruples were not unnatural. Curiously enough, this was the only attempt to seize a mercantile prize made by either side during the war in the Far East.
Meanwhile, the American cruisers had been forced to quit Hong Kong and were accused by Manila journals of "hiding their flag," and of wasting coal and hoarding ammunition. There had been some concern about docking and coaling the Baltimore within the limits of neutrality, but the subsequent delay had no other object than to await final instructions from Washington and the arrival of our consul from Manila. It was thought that he might bring some valuable information, but the operations which followed did not depend upon vague rumors and crude calculations gathered in the enemy's capital. Neither the number nor the location of the Spanish squadron of defense was known until the vessels were actually sighted, nor was any valid account of the shore batteries in the hands of Admiral Dewey when he steamed into the bay. As for the submarine defenses of Manila, they must remain an unfathomed mystery to the end of time.
The real problem was that of finding the enemy's ships. However defective they might be in offensive power and in mobility, they had their choice of a dozen harbors within a day's run of their naval base. The natural sortie harbor for the strategic defense of Manila Bay was obviously to be found in Subig Bay, about sixty miles northwest from Cavite. A fleet installed in this harbor would threaten an invader's lines of communication and compel him to keep his forces concentrated, thus limiting his activities in blockade and reconnaissance as well as in bombardment and the landing of troops. We knew that the strategic advantages and nautical convenience of Subig had been recognized by the location of a naval arsenal at Olongapo, and that a naval commission had been engaged for a dozen years in elaborating plans for the industrial and military equipment of this excellent harbor. Of the concrete results we had no definite information.
Yet it seemed that some measures of defense must have been executed before our arrival. There had been months of warning preceded by years of discussion. The natural conditions favored defense. The main channel was only a mile wide and it was commanded by numerous sites for batteries and barrier forts on Isla Grande and on the wooded bluffs along the western shores. This channel was rather deep for mooring mines and no confidence was placed in those which had been anchored in the entrance. For naval defense the position was admirable, as a curved line of vessels three miles long could deploy in deep water to envelop the heads of columns of attack and check their advance by concentrated fire. Such considerations induced Admiral Montojo to abandon Manila and Cavite on April 24, but his squadron was soon discouraged and hurried back to the miserable station under the guns of Sangley Point. The reasons for this hopeless retrograde movement are officially stated as follows: some ships proved unseaworthy, the Castilla leaking until her shaft-alley was packed with cement; the Ulloa was unable to leave Cavite and the Velasco unfit to join even a stationary line of battle; then, the excellent guns provided for the Isla Grande batteries' were still unmounted after six weeks of baffling delay; finally, the water was too deep, and lives as well as ships would be sacrificed at Subig. This amazing and unseamanlike notion seems to have had weight in a council of captains, and it appears to have leaked out to demoralize the crews, since we found it circulating among the Filipinos after we landed at Cavite.
When the scouting cruisers of our advance found this noble harbor unguarded we began to hope that the enemy might be 'found off Manila, although no nautical or strategical reason justified this expectation. Sentimental and political factors may explain concentration at the capital in spite of the superior advantages of Iloilo or any of the numerous harbors formed by straits separating islands and affording two or more channels of exit. Had one of these ports been held, the squadron would have retained freedom of action until the assailant felt strong enough to divide his forces and to deprive his detachments of mutual support. Since no port in the Archipelago was guarded by barrier forts, and since Spanish torpedistas could not trust their own work in submarine defenses, the squadron could only find security through strategic liberty and tactical vitality. Being unable to defend itself, no place could be found for it in the defensive scheme of open bays or uncovered towns.
Unless the combined batteries of ships and forts were trusted to beat off our attack on Manila, it was a strategic blunder to concentrate there. The capital was bound to be one of our objectives and the fleet another, and we might have been forced to make scattering reconnoissances involving risky tactics, random pilotage, and unprofitable expenditure of time and coal. Nothing but a superior defensive situation could justify the plan adopted, and Manila Bay afforded no such advantage. If any defense was in order the fight had to be made at the entrance, twenty-five miles from the city. As soon as the cliffs of Corregidor were passed the control of the bay and the protection of the city could be assured only by naval superiority. In obstructing the entrances by the Boca Grande and Boca Chica every form of defense might be made to co-operate, batteries ashore and afloat covering those weapons of the weak, torpedo-boats and submarine mines.
The American tactics of approach had been freely discussed before the fleet left Hong Kong. It had been proposed to attack in line abreast and to rely upon bow fire. The structure of many armored vessels and the disposition of their batteries might seem to favor this formation, but the modern view prefers a flexible column moving briskly along the line of fire and enveloping the enemy by superior speed and extended order, so that his huddled groups might be shattered by concentrated fire. The enemy's defensive attitude and his misplaced reliance upon covering batteries on his flanks promised to localize his squadron and he was found in the exact position which had been most carefully studied and diagrammed on the chart. The Olympia, with her heaviest guns in turrets disposed for fore and aft fire and for the protection of the intermediate batteries in end-on attack, was the only ship fit for a line abreast. Even with her the broadside fire was much heavier than that on the bows and, as three years of target practice had shown, her five-inch battery was as much superior to her turret guns in accuracy and endurance as it was in rapidity of fire. High authority had attempted to convince the division officers that eight-inch guns in similar turrets had been fired with good results at intervals of one minute. Investigation showed that loading and sponging required nearly two minutes and that pointing might impose many seconds of delay, especially at stationary practice. Better breech-blocks, more rigid shafting for sighting the guns, telescopes covering a four-times larger field of vision, and improved dry batteries for firing had greatly improved the operation of these turrets during the cruise, while division officers and engineers had been indefatigable in adjusting valves of the steam training-gear, and jolting had been nearly eliminated from the rotary motion of the turrets. Nor were the hydraulic cylinders scored by the pistons, nor the buffers jammed in ramming out, on this memorable occasion. Of the familiar drawbacks of target practice the smoking of telescope lenses was the most inveterate. The difficulty of finding the target, due to obscured and contracted outlook, may serve to explain the depressing fact that these guns, handled by well-trained crews directed by attentive officers, fired less than half as many shells as the Baltimore's similar battery mounted on old-fashioned carriages on bow and quarter. The Boston's pair in barbettes also beat the Olympia's four in turrets, in spite of vexatious delays caused by crippled locks. But the five-inch rapid-fire battery redeemed the situation by firing as many shells per gun during the hottest action as the two turrets were able to expend in a much longer period. There was a natural tendency to favor the heavier guns by maneuvering and by employing them at longer ranges. But the range-tables fail to justify this preference, and there was no obstacle to requiring the full penetration of even a five-inch shell.
Having decided upon an advance in column and the use of broadside fire, the line had to be lengthened to include the two purchased colliers and the unprotected revenue cutter, Hugh McCulloch. At sea these vessels had formed a second column parallel to the six cruisers. Darkness was preferred for running past the batteries at the entrance and the night was a favorable one. The moon was masked by light rain-clouds during the first watch, but the horizon line was always clear enough for safe navigation. The commerce of Manila mostly enters by the Boca Chica, or northern channel, because it is more convenient for the quarantine inspection from the station at Mariveles. Force has been used to compel ships to use this narrow entrance when the wider channel would have been more convenient, and myths concerning dangers to navigation in the Boca Grande have been circulated. None of these dangers are shown on the chart, and the honored name of Sir Edward Belcher guarantees the boldness of the water throughout the broader channel and about El Fraile in particular.
It was known that batteries had been installed on Corregidor Island and it was uncertain if there were any on the mainland on either side. There were reasons for mounting the guns well up the slopes of this island. Had they been near the summit, 600 feet above the water, they would have commanded both channels and been quite inaccessible to projectiles from modern rifled guns, except at ranges greater than three miles. At shorter distances there would have been no angle of fall to land shells within gunpits or parapets. This consideration seemed to close the northern channel and drew our line three and one-half miles south of the central island and therefore within half a mile of the isolated rock El Fraile. This mass has little more bulk than the Olympia or Baltimore, and the latter often raised a vast pillar of cloud when her fires were cleaned. It is inconceivable that our line should have passed unseen had any lookout been kept along the shores. It was known that we were off Cape Bolinao at dawn and off Subig at 4 P.M. of April 30. The Commandant of Corregidor had appealed wildly and in vain for two gunboats to patrol the channels. One vessel lay near Mariveles and her signal lights were twinkling as we stood in. They were answered by a rocket from the summit of Corregidor, yet there was no firing until the Olympia had passed the narrows and entered the open waters of Manila Bay. Then the swing of her stern light, as she headed up five points, startled the gunners on El Fraile and drew their ineffectual fire. Shells whistled through the gaps in our column and drew a brisk fire from the Raleigh, Boston and Concord. Even the McCulloch fired her six-pounders. Some of our shells were seen to burst and the enemy's batteries soon fell silent.
Long afterward we learned that three batteries had been placed to command the Boca Grande while four guarded the Boca Chica. The Fraile battery was equipped with excellent breech-loading rifles, but its location seems absurd. The rock could have been surrounded and taken in rear; its guns were mounted with small train and had little stability; guns and their crews might have been buried by splinters from the rock which overhung them. Nature had separated the available sites too widely for co-operative effect upon an enemy maneuvering freely in open waters and in dispersed order. The defensive scheme was a weak improvisation, but abundance of resources and time would not have availed to make these approaches secure.
Much has been said of mine-fields in this channel. It was "full of torpedoes," according to Don Enrique Sostoa, Commandant of the Naval Arsenal at Cavite, and the Captain-General. The lines of torpedoes were all in place and the batteries ready to open fire on the night of April 27, according to Senor Garces, Colonel of Marine Artillery. But all the dispatches relating to torpedo defense indicate confusion and uncertainty. There was no gun-cotton and not enough pebble-powder; blasting-powder was demanded, along with insulating materials of all sorts. But depths of 30 fathoms in a channel five miles wide render this method of defense uncertain at the best. Under Spanish control the mines would be apt to go adrift, and they would certainly impair the morale of any fleet drawn up in rear of their lines. Countermining would have been easy had our ships been equipped therefore or our officers instructed in that essential art, which seems to have received little recognition in our technical schools. But no floating torpedo was ever discovered in Manila Bay, nor was any search made, in spite of the amiable warnings of the naval authorities—warnings transmitted after the "withdrawal of the Spanish fleet" on the first of May.
As soon as our ships were clear of the danger space in the channels of entrance they commanded the bay with excellent anchorages anywhere within a circumference of sixty miles. This security led to some talk of clearing ship for action by getting rid of the boats. The Olympia had a dozen big wooden boats inconveniently arranged on cradles, requiring two hours' work of the ship's company, unassisted by steam winches, to launch them overboard. The other ships had their boats swung at davits and might have lowered them in a few minutes. Of course the danger from fire and splinters was recognized, but it was not convenient to do the work after dusk and the sighting of the Spanish fleet at dawn disposed of any notion of precautionary delays. Yet it must be held as a wonder that no damage was done to the boats by the enemy's fire and that our own fire was unobstructed by flames or fragments from these boats. Those carried outboard were generally wrecked by concussion, so that the Olympia had the advantage for this exceptional occasion.
The consular rumor had reduced the Spanish fleet to two vessels, one of them partly dismantled, and had led us to look for them near the breakwater in front of Manila. Our course was shaped to verify this strange report and Cavite was not reconnoitered in approaching from the westward. At five o'clock we were three miles west of the mouth of the river which divides Manila. Sixteen merchantmen were counted; no steamers, no cruisers, lay off the city. Not many minutes later the Spanish line was made out, stretching to the eastward of Sangley Point in front of the white buildings of the arsenal. Standing to the southward, parallel to the shore, the Olympia brought the enemy well on the starboard bow and our six cruisers stretched along in her wake, the colliers and the McCulloch being sent to the middle of the bay. No attempt was made to count the enemy's force or to identify individual vessels. Our own line was miscounted and the Helena was added to the list in the report of the Spanish Admiral. There was no occasion for close comparisons; general information served to convince us that our six cruisers could defeat all the vessels that Spain had in the Philippines, especially if they chose to lie massed and motionless within easy range of open waters deep enough for safe navigation. There were seven of them in line, as it turned out; two of them, the Castilla and Don Antonio de Ulloa, were moored with springs on their cables. The others steamed about in an aimless fashion, often masking their comrades' fire, occasionally dodging back to the shelter of the arsenal and now and then making isolated and ineffectual rushes in advance—rushes which had no rational significance except as demonstrations of the point of honor. They were mere flourishes of desperation inspired by defeat.
The Spanish ships were ready: they were cleared for action, and their crews animated by rounds of regulation cheers and the display of battle-flags, before the action began. The first shell came from Sangley Point and fell short by a mile or so. Extreme range was then tried and the shell splashed ineffectually, more than six miles away. These wild shots steadied our nerves, though the crews of the anchored merchantmen and the dwellers in the northern suburbs of Manila must have been startled by the projectiles fired across our track. One of the five 15-cm. breechloaders on Sangley Point resented the strains of extreme elevation and broke loose from its mount with its sight set at 10,500 meters. As our line extended in front of the gray walls and white houses of Manila we were saluted by the roar of big guns from three principal batteries, which included four breech-loaders of 24-cm. caliber firing heavier projectiles than any guns in our squadron. Two of these batteries had the walled city as a background, while the third lay some 1500 yards to the southward on the borders of the Luneta promenade or execution ground, and the neat suburb of Malate. The leading ships disregarded this impertinent attack, but the Concord sent some shells close enough for a warning. The firing of these guns deprived the city of any right to protest against immediate bombardment. They continued to waste ammunition for some five hours, and the chief of artillery shot himself that evening to expiate his failure and his disobedience of orders, committed under the stress of an impracticable code of military honor laid down in obsolete regulations.
None of this random cannonading distracted our attention from the ships, and we soon saw them masked in clouds of white smoke. Our line of advance was beaconed by columns of spray where the shells sank or soared in erratic ricochets. The absolute inefficiency of all projectiles which fall short was to have abundant demonstration that day. The fire grew faster as we ran down our distance. When the range was estimated at 5500 yards the quiet consent of the commander-in-chief released the tension and the Olympia was jarred by the shock of one of the eight-inch guns in her forward turret. This shot was fired on the starboard bow and the ship did not swing to bring her port battery into play until she was within 4000 yards of the eastern ships in the Spanish line. Then the five-inch and six-pound guns poured in their rapid fire and the rest of our line turned and opened with their broadside batteries in due succession. Our shells rained all about the huddled enemy and many eyes watched eagerly and ineffectually for direct evidence that a due proportion of them were finding their billets.
Just as our line got fairly engaged a distracting element appeared. A small steam launch with awnings spread and a big Spanish ensign streaming astern, advanced from the cove behind Sangley Point, crossed the bows of the Olympia and then turned toward the shore as if to lie in wait for that formidable antagonist. There could be but one interpretation of this movement: this was a torpedo-boat, and she had to be treated as such. Secondary batteries began to pick up the range and their shells were soon veiling the target in spray and smoke. A few rounds were fired from even the main batteries, while the marines did all that may be accomplished with Springfields at 1200 yards range. Yet the reckless craft still floated, though no longer able to steam or disposed to use any weapon. She drifted ashore under the guns at Sangley Point, where she continued to draw fire from the six-pounders, in spite of keen remonstrance from high authorities, until the action was over.
It seems proved that the launch was no deadly microbe, but only a humble market-boat, manned by Filipinos and bound to Manila by direction of the English family residing at Canacao. The literal oriental manner of executing domestic routine amid the shock and thunder of battle eliminates the heroic from an action of amazing rashness. But the moral of this incident is all on the side of genuine torpedo-boats. Here was a conspicuous craft slowly executing the traditional maneuvers of torpedo attack and awaiting the advance of a squadron not undistinguished in the annals of naval gunnery—a squadron which surpassed its enemy by a score of 100 to one. Yet the frail hull was not shattered, nor the boilers exploded. Even the crew escaped with their lives, though a shot had pierced the steam cylinder. The boat was repaired and fitted to carry generals by the time that American troops appeared on the scene.
After reducing this alarm to its lowest terms it becomes necessary to strike out all rumors of a second mythical torpedo-boat. No responsible witness has been found to locate or describe this apparition, although some fell into the natural error of duplicating the legend. Perhaps the erasing angel should also blot out the report of submarine mines exploded ahead of the Olympia before the ships opened fire. Such an explosion, miles ahead of our advance, could indicate nothing but panic. Against the testimony of many sincere eye-witnesses stands the statement of Captain Concha, commanding the Don Juan de Austria up to May 1. This intelligent and disinterested observer denies the existence of any submarine mines or the presence of any improvised torpedo- boat off Cavite. This statement leaves some of us face to face with illusions of vision or memory. One launch, the Espana, was more or less equipped with torpedoes in April, but she seems to have sought safety in some river to the northward of Manila, where the natives found her sunken wreck during the summer. Had there been half a dozen real torpedo-boats in Manila Bay in the hands of fearless and skilled officers the whole situation would have been transformed, and a defensive system of anchorages and patrols would have imposed constant strain and vast expenditure of coal and ammunition, with the probable loss of one or more ships to complete the account.
The pilotage of the American fleet through the channels of entrance and up the bay was a simple matter, in spite of the extinction of the five lights upon which navigators are accustomed to rely. Safe navigation during the action was a more delicate business. Cavite Bay is well surveyed and charted on a convenient scale, but grave doubts were attached to the soundings by notes in the Sailing Directions and on the chart. This reproach turned out to be unmerited, but a certain degree of caution was imposed thereby. The orders of the commander-in-chief required the Olympia, drawing 24 feet, to keep outside the five-fathom curve as laid down on the chart. As none of the other ships drew as much as the flagship they had only to follow and turn in her wake, which was curiously distinct, both by night and by day, in the oily smoothness of the bay. A careful quartermaster gave the soundings from the off-shore side and the ship's position was plotted from cross-bearings taken by the standard compass at frequent intervals. Growing familiarity with the soundings showed depths nearly a fathom greater than those marked on the chart during the morning tide of May 1, though proper reductions confirmed the printed record for the neighborhood of Cavite.
The Spanish line stretched nearly east and west inside of Sangley Point, while the five-fathom curve bent to the southward of west. Therefore, in running to the westward our column tended to converge toward the batteries. In fact, we turned off the point within 1500 yards of those guns which we had noted as ranging six miles. Once we were within 1200 yards, but hardly a hit was made, even when we turned in overlapping groups, presenting a huge gray mass as a target. Had the skill of the gunner who hulled the Baltimore with an armor-piercing shell been general among his comrades this might have been a rash maneuver. Of course, it was always open to us to pass at speed and turn out of range of the batteries ashore and afloat, as we did on the eastward runs. Had each transit across the firing arc begun with the column formed and intervals closed, the broadsides would have been more rapidly effective. Contempt for the incompetence of Spanish gunners justified in practice some departure from ordinary rules of prudence. Besides the boats on cradles or swung at davits there were other instances of manifest exposure, since the Olympia was steered from a wooden pilot-house on a wooden bridge covered by screens of painted canvas, and the shafting of the hydraulic steering-gear was not safe while thus connected. Captain Gridley found himself in close touch with the battery and engines while stationed in the conning-tower, and he could have conned the ship from that station with the assistance of an officer at the standard compass, though the bridge arrangement was a trifle handier. Obviously, these notes have no value or significance except with reference to future contests.
While our column kept sweeping along the five-fathom curve the question of ranges was settled by the navigation. The Spanish fleet received our fire from something less than 4000 yards in the eastern approach and the firing ceased at less than 2000 yards as we passed behind Sangley Point. The average distance was about 2500 yards, and no range could have been better adapted to the conditions. Six-pounders were thoroughly effective and five-inch shells could penetrate any obstacle offered by the structure of the enemy's ships. Shortening the range at an early stage of the fight might have invited injury to our ships as well as loss of life. The usual methods of range-finding were as baffling as lever; the only electric range-finder failed after the first round; the stadimeter or sextant could not be used without more knowledge of masthead angles than was available, especially as top-masts were generally housed. It was always easy to determine our own position, but the enemy's was never accurately marked on the chart. The Olympia's reckoning placed it too far inshore, and, therefore, gave ranges in excess by 200 yards or more, yet many of her shots were noted as falling short, and the ranges used in some other ships seem to have been greater throughout the action. No one in the Olympia was gifted with the vision required to mark the fall of rapid-fire projectiles, and an equal uncertainty attaches to all her eight-inch shells except one which was officially recorded as striking the stern of the Reina Cristina. Under these conditions range-finding by the secondary battery was illusory at Manila, as Lieut. Hill demonstrates it was off Santiago.
Our movement across the line of fire assisted in drawing each ship clear of her own smoke and the intervals of 400 yards allowed each cloud-bank to be dissipated before fouling the next ship in line. Still this escape was only relative, and there was much residual annoyance. The telescopic sights of the turret guns required incessant wiping and the rate of fire was much reduced by their dimness. Smokeless powder offers a remedy, but the variety used by us on August 13 substituted red smoke for white without much reduction in density. That day's work demonstrated the drawbacks of stationary practice, even with improved powder. The advance of the ship also assists lateral pointing, as the motion is steadier than that given by the rotating gear, which involves too many shocks and surges, especially when hundreds of tons of turret armor have to be revolved by steam.
Our diagonal advance also served to disconcert the aim of our unskilled opponents, as they lack sliding leaves for correcting the aim. One captain has told us that he told, his men to fire at the stem of the Olympia during her passage. This calculation seems to promise an occasional hit, but none were counted. The elevations were, perhaps, even more difficult; we have little reason to think that any measurements were attempted, although a correct memorandum of the heights of the Olympia's funnels and superstructure was found at the arsenal. The batteries at Manila had wooden azimuth circles and telephones which should have enabled them to plot our tracks; they had nearly five hours practice, but no amount of deliberation or persistence enabled them to score, even while we were drifting about, with crews at breakfast, within the radius of their fire. Altogether, there is little to be learned from a study of Spanish methods or theories of gunnery.
Of the enemy's tactical disposition it is impossible to speak with more favor. Since the ships could not maneuver and there was too much risk in fighting in deep water, a place of refuge was what they had to seek. This could only be found where the front could be covered with mine fields and the flanks guarded by batteries or shoals. Manifestly, the distance of five miles separating Sangley Point from Manila was too great for combined effect of shore batteries or for obstruction by fixed torpedoes. Yet the line selected was a section of this long curve, and it was thrown so far to the northward that we were able to steam along a nearly parallel line in deep water and without changes of course at the most effective range of 2500 yards. This practically made the affair a duel between two squadrons, with the stronger at liberty to utilize every element of superiority. The American ships might even have refused close action with the battery on Sangley Point without neglecting the eastern end of the Spanish line. A resolute scheme of defense might have made Sangley Point the key of the whole situation by covering it with earthworks and mounting all the best guns from the useless walls of Manila, distributed for large arcs of fire. Our experience in silencing such batteries was not encouraging, and the task would have been harder had the enemy's fire been rapid and occasionally effective. Had this flank been guarded, the line could have drawn backward toward the arsenal and the village of Bacoor, with each ship in the shallowest water suitable for her draught. This would have compelled us to advance in line, feeling our way by the lead and fretting about torpedoes. Our larger ships would have been forced to engage the shore batteries while those of lighter draught stood into the bay. The spirited guidance of the flagship depended upon actual leading and could not have been maintained by signaling, and fleet evolutions would have been impracticable. After advancing bows on until entering the arc of punishment—and surely there must have been such a space somewhere under the Spanish guns—each ship might have to turn, under every moral and material disadvantage, to withdraw to a position where marksmanship would recover its value.
This plan requires no material resource not actually available at Manila. A dozen serviceable breech-loaders and nine rifled mortars lay along the walls of that city, and there was enough torpedo material to make these shallow waters dangerous for a season. Possibly there was some lack of co-operation between army and navy in defense; possibly some futile political notion tied the guns to the absurd water batteries of the capital. Perhaps it was realized that defeat was inevitable, and everybody was engrossed with the salvation of his military honor without regard for concrete results. Tactical defeat was inevitable if the battle was to be fought out in Manila Bay, but a few lucky shots might have checked the invasion or inflicted injuries compelling temporary withdrawal and strategic defeat. Arbitrary rules of military honor and futile chances of individual heroism are as nothing compared with rational and resolute plans for enduring to the end. But Spanish history is written in another sense. "To breed men and waste them" is the awful tradition of the ancient Kingdom of Castile.
Animated by desperate counsels, Spanish vessels had made one or two attempts to advance to meet us in front of their line. Only one of these efforts was persistent or significant enough to be remembered. As we stood to the eastward on our third passage along the zone of fire the Reina Cristina, bearing the flag of Admiral Montojo, was seen to detach herself from her consorts and to approach a gap in the line with the apparent purpose of coming to close quarters with the Olympia, which had just changed her course sixty degrees to the southward of her previous tracks toward the turning point. The two flagships seemed closing rapidly, but the Spaniard had only advanced a ship's length or so beyond his line before his progress was arrested by a hail of concentrated fire which produced immediate and visible results. His speed slackened; smoke puffed out forward and aft; a white plume of escaping steam showed that his motive power was crippled, and an awkward turn, exposing the unprotected stern, suggested that his steering-gear had met the same fate. The beaten flagship crept toward the arsenal, where she grounded, burned and blew up during the morning. We all saw that she was disabled, but it required some hours to demonstrate her destruction.
Hitherto there had been much disappointment among those who tried to observe the effect of our fire. Some of the gunboats had seemed to flinch and had dodged in and out near the arsenal. The white bulwarks of the Castilla had been scarred and blackened by our fire, but even her wooden hull had not burst into flames after two hours of brisk bombardment. Annoyed by this delay in destruction the commander-in-chief had decided to I try the effect of stationary practice. The signal was made to; prepare to anchor; the Petrel was warned to detach herself for turning the eastern end of the Spanish line. The station selected for the Olympia lay well inside the five-fathom curve and within 2000 yards of the center of the enemy's position. The course had been changed to southeast when the Cristina's advance was noted. Since she had to be met underway the signals were annulled. Anxiety in regard to the swinging of the ship when anchored was thus removed; it was a case for applying the maxim, "Ef know wind and know tide, know telling," written by an aspiring but unliterary mariner during the present year of grace. Doubtless the time for closing and finishing with the enemy was at hand, but the experiences of target-practice, supplemented by that of this action, fail to show that any advantage would result from anchoring. Twin screws enable vessels to be pointed as well as to be held fast in their stations. But the circling movement in column had not failed in practice and might have been continued until resistance was crushed. In fact, one more turn was made and our ships passed to the westward of Sangley Point in unchanged order.
It has been assumed by remote interpreters of the lessons of this contest that the Spanish fire was promptly silenced or smothered by the superiority of our broadsides. There was a visible falling-off in the rapidity of the enemy's shooting, but, judging from our own experience, we attributed this to the expenditure of accumulated stores of ammunition—our decks were soon cleaned of great mounds of rapid-fire shells—and to the obstructive effects of smoke. In accuracy the Spanish gunners had neither gained nor lost; they could drop shells close alongside or they could send them soaring aloft. But each ship seemed to carry its own charmed circle—not always of large circumference either, since one seemed to count a hundred shells within a ship's length during the two hours of actual combat. Of course, these shells, which burst before our eyes, scattered radial showers of fragments which cut rigging and scored spars, and there is a record of some half a dozen actual hits, though nothing larger than a six-pounder accomplished both penetration and explosion. But the fact remains that the enemy was not silenced after two hours' work, and that none of his ships were structurally destroyed or obviously disabled during the period when our fire was returned.
Since there has been so much public discussion of the motive for hauling off to the northward and discontinuing our fire at 7.30 A.M., it may be well to submit a reconciling statement to harmonize popular notions with official records. We did not stop fighting because our men were hungry, and there was no shortage of ammunition. Nevertheless, some 1700 Americans did eat a hearty, though scrambling, breakfast during the next hour. The last meal seemed to belong to a different historic epoch, although the Olympia's people had had lukewarm coffee at four o'clock. Some ships' companies had missed even that unsatisfying refreshment. Few were glad to stop fighting, even for the sake of food, but all had a general sense of victory, though details remained questionable and the enemy's flag was still aloft when we ceased firing. It is true that there was some concern over the state of our ammunition rooms until the task of restowing and counting was completed. The weak point in the Olympia was the supply of shell for her ten five-inch rapid-fire guns. These splendid weapons had consumed 350 shells in two hours—nearly forty per cent, of the original supply. But a mere verbal misunderstanding had carried a more depressed account to those in authority, and the resulting inquiry consumed time and interrupted the battle. The eight-inch guns could hardly have expended their projectiles in a week's fighting and the six-pounders were equally overstocked. The Bureau of Ordnance had sent out new stocks of ammunition by the Baltimore, arriving in Hong Kong just in time for distribution among the vessels in the fleet, and further supplies were promptly dispatched in the Charleston and the City of Peking. A revision of allowance tables, giving due recognition to the demands of the rapid-fire guns of main batteries in preference to the slower armament of the turrets, is the only amendment suggested by this test.
The shock of two hours' incessant firing served to deafen many people—especially those who stood on the planking of the bridges. Within the conning-tower and aloft on the grating above it, where the commander-in-chief took his station, this jarring effect was not felt. But it required much energy and emphasis to con the ship and to pass orders to the batteries by word of mouth. Telephones were out of the question and voice tubes uncertain. Even the articulation of many files of marines did not prevent occasional confusion. A system of dials for indicating ranges should be installed as soon as electrical science is ready to equip them. The impression produced by visual indications is far less fugitive and uncertain than those depending upon hearing. Considerable signaling by the navy code was carried on during the action, but the flagship's example was far more impressive than any secondary method of control. Signals were not always made out—or, at least, not always answered with promptness, and the appeal to "close up" was frequently and effectively displayed. Tactical movements in column seem practically independent of exactness in signaling.
Before the hostile squadrons separated the Spanish ships had visibly suffered from fire, especially the Cristina and Castilla. The latter was the only wooden vessel engaged, but all the others, including the American cruisers, were full of inflammable material. Two curious fancies relating to fires seem to have attacked the imagination of Spanish journalists; they alleged that their ships were all of wood dried to tinder by tropical heat, forgetting the dampness of the Philippine climate; then came the fancy that we used incendiary projectiles forbidden by all laws, human and divine. Our shells were to be scraped and their coating analyzed for conviction on this charge. A complete demonstration of the incendiary effects of even the smallest rapid-fire shell was given when the Chinese squadron was destroyed in the Min River in 1885. Our experiment was really much less striking; many shells burst in wood-lined spaces with amazing effect in producing splinters but without combustion. This seems to have been the case in the commandant's house at Cavite Arsenal as well as in the ward-room of the Boston, where a six-pound shell shattered furniture and smoked an officer's clothing without appreciable scorching effect.
Of the other elements which make batteries efficient let us first consider the accuracy and rapidity of fire. It is well to avoid dogmatizing over comparisons or basing technical assertions upon sentimental data. In accordance with familiar and obvious principles of naval gunnery we find that the number of fires and the percentage of hits diminish as calibers increase. Rapid-fire ammunition and improved mechanism are apt to justify themselves. The rotation of armor is a costly burden in pointing and gun-captains aim better when they are not shut up in turrets with peep-holes and telescopes obscured by smoke. Finally, we must allow their full moral value to these prime requisites of accuracy and rapidity, since they alone may defeat a squadron before any of its ships are structurally injured, and may silence batteries before a single gun is dismounted. The other elements of battery power, penetration and explosive effect remain secondary to the accuracy, upon which all effects depend. Since no floating target was found impregnable to the five-inch breech-loaders, the smallest guns in our main batteries, we may not dispute the figures of our range-tables. The rumor which assigns overwhelming effects to the explosion of eight-inch shells relates chiefly to the production of flame and smoke. In closed spaces and among inflammable material these effects are appalling but hardly disproportionate. The perfect fuze is a thing of the future, since a shell may penetrate an iron ship from side to side, even carrying away the heel of an iron cathead without exploding, while a similar projectile may only blow out a shallow cup-like crater when striking antique masonry.
No pains taken in collecting stale rumors and inspecting sunken wrecks can give us the number of hits made or enable us to estimate the accuracy or explosive force of our projectiles. Admiral Montojo talked of seventy hits in the hull and superstructure of the Cristina. The latest inquest shows hardly half that number. If one had to guess at the percentage of hits to shots aimed at this unhappy flagship, five per cent, would be as neat a figure as any other. The best estimate of her loss was fifty-three killed and one hundred wounded. The numbers given by a Filipino oiler whose gossip seems gifted with recurrent vitality are obviously mythical; thus, he uses 365 too readily; he even introduced that suspicious figure when the official complement is doubled thereby. Admiral Montojo uses figures close to those of the Navy Register and gives an aggregate of 1875 men afloat, a number considerably in excess of the force under Admiral Dewey's command. In spite of occasional historic doubts it may be asserted that the Spanish total complement is meant to include the complement of officers designated for each ship.
During the hours devoted to refreshment, to counting ammunition and to consultation, the Spanish line was seen melting away; the Castilla in flames, the Reina Cristina blowing up as her magazines kindled, and the smaller vessels taking refuge behind the arsenal. Only the Don Juan de Ulloa kept her ensign flying and maintained her station close to the battery on Sangley Point. Two guns from this earthwork and two 24-cm. guns from the battery on the Luneta south of the bastions of Manila still roared ineffectually at intervals. Four or five miles north of Sangley Point engines were stopped and our cruisers gathered in irregular groups, which continued to draw the enemy's fire. Now and then a shell splashed within a few hundred feet of one ship or another, but these demonstrations had lost interest. When we first found ourselves in range of the batteries at the entrance only twelve hours before, every nerve was strained and every gun was ready to answer the enemy's fire. Now we could wait while our crews finished breakfast and cheered themselves hoarse when comrades passed within hail or the enemy's ships exploded.
Uncertainty as to the enemy's condition and anxiety about the supply of ammunition served to obscure the magnificent completeness of our victory. Blockade was the next step of belligerent action, and the question was raised whether that operation could not be more safely conducted from the port of Mariveles, at the entrance of the bay and twenty-five miles below Manila. Fortunately, it was soon made plain that only a shattered remnant could oppose our absolute occupation of the whole bay, including the use of the resources of the arsenal and abundant opportunities for purchasing supplies from friendly natives. The gunboats still remaining might have annoyed us by torpedo attacks had not our work been completed and the moral results of conquest driven home by a triumphant demonstration in front of Manila. Therefore the commander-in-chief ordered the attack to be renewed at 10.30 and the column headed to the southward.
Lingering concern for the supply of ammunition imposed restrictions on the Olympia's five-inch battery and the Baltimore was designated to lead the advance. Approaching Sangley Point with a considerable lead she turned her broadside on the battery and sent her shells into the sand-pit, where their explosion opened vast craters and drove volcanic showers of gravel about the gunners. The Olympia followed, using her six-pounders effectively at 1800 yards range. As the Baltimore lay motionless the column was led past her, each ship firing when clear and cheering during the intervals. The Spaniards could not stand to their guns and were seen to run away, using an ambulance in their flight. They had, perhaps, fired half a dozen shots during the famous "second action." The Ulloa also had a gun's crew on board and fired two or three times. Then she was sunk by sheer weight of metal, by the concentrated fire of the Baltimore, Boston and Raleigh.
The Raleigh aimed a few shells at the arsenal. Several buildings were penetrated but none of them were shattered, and fires were kept under control. Still, a score of men were slain by fragments, and after an explosion had shattered the furniture in an upper room of the commandant's house, a white sheet was flown from the cupola of that building. A few minutes later the Spanish ensign fluttered down from the lofty sheers. The navy yard was captured, along with some 2000 prisoners, including soldiers of the garrison and sailors of the fleet who had fled from their crippled vessels. We were free to take possession or to destroy. At first destruction was preferred, and the Petrel was sent in behind the arsenal point to complete the work begun by the Spanish crews when they were driven out of their ships. They had opened valves and cut pipes to sink the vessels, but the water was shallow and the upper works remained accessible to the fires kindled by our boarding parties. In spite of both forms of destruction three of the enemy's cruisers, Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon and Don Juan de Austria, were rescued and sent to Hong Kong under their own steam, the hulls and engines being found reasonably sound and fit for repair. As we cannot suppose that Spanish officers welcomed the resurrection of their ships, we should not be surprised that they avoided interfering with those engaged in doing damage to property which they had tried to destroy and had been compelled to surrender.
In another part of the bay a similar task was in progress. The Concord was hurried in toward Las Pinas to burn the steamer Isla de Mindanao, which had been run aground after the naval action was over. This large mail steamer had prolonged the Spanish line to the eastward. She had been called a transport and disregarded while fighting was going on, although some witnesses asserted that she fired a few shots. It is certain that she had guns aboard, but other testimony goes to prove that her battery was not mounted or fit for use. Her presence in the line is accounted for by the fact that she could not enter Pasig River and that her master shirked the responsibility of taking her to sea when our approach was announced on April 30. She had been engaged in transporting war material and is said to have towed the Castilla back from Subig. She was advertised to sail for Barcelona on May 7. She was set on fire by persistent shelling and was totally consumed with her cargo. Her fate raised some problems relating to marine insurance but furnished no work for American prize courts. No other mercantile prize of appreciable value came to hand during the campaign in the Philippines.
The transport steamer Manila was, however, rescued by the Petrel and saved for naval use, along with half a dozen tugs and launches of moderate value but of convenient size for employment as packet-boats. Ten days after the action a Spanish gunboat steamed up to Cavite and fell into the clutches of the blockade. She had been sent to seek relief for the military and penal colony at Puerto Princesa in Palawan Island, which was entirely dependent upon the capital. The interruption of traffic had brought the garrison to the verge of starvation and the commander of the Callao felt bound to pursue his voyage even after noting the extinction of the lights of the entrance. He fancied that our squadron was firing a salute at 7.30 A.M. and then fell back on some theory of erratic target practice until a six-pound shot went through his awning. Then he surrendered and gave his parole. It was long believed that he was shot for this latter act—not for blundering into the bay without regard to rumors of war—but he was found to be at large when Manila was taken in August. A similar gunboat, the Leyte, came out of the Pampanga River in July, bringing about forty officers and a company of soldiers eager to escape from a district overrun by the insurrection. These voluntary prisoners were placed in the custody of the Tagalos whom they had sought to evade. They were afterward made prisoners on the same footing as the garrison of Manila, but other prisoners captured by American cruisers in Subig Bay were still held by native authorities up to April, 1899.
The business of the American fleet off Cavite was concluded during the afternoon and the ships moved up to a safe anchorage in front of Manila, where the batteries had at last fallen silent. The Governor-General had been warned by a message sent through the British Consulate that any further cannonade from these futile defenses would lead to the effective bombardment of the unprotected city which lay behind them. This stern warning, backed by a show of overwhelming force, made the authorities acknowledge their defeat and duly impressed the garrison. Not even a rifle-shot was fired at any vessel or boat of the Navy until August, although soundings and reconnoissances frequently led us within close range of batteries and pickets. Even when the fleet was actively engaged in forcing the surrender on August 13 the only vessel fired upon was the Callao, which had closed in to harass retreating columns of infantry. Yet the usual evasive reports were sent to the Spanish Government, announcing that we had not been fired upon since our ships "failed to come within range."
The most striking passage of the official reports sent to Madrid told how we "had been forced with heavy losses to change formations and to perform various evolutions." The single column was the only formation; recurrent broadsides the only evolution. The ground covered had been studied on the chart and probable lines of approach laid down before leaving Hong Kong. Nothing that the defense could do imposed any compulsion on our maneuvers. The plan as well as the guns was everywhere victorious.
French critics have ventured on a comparison of this action with the destruction of the Chinese squadron in the Min River in 1884. They point out that the French required only half an hour to accomplish the work which occupied the Americans more than two hours. But the operations cannot be thus compared. Admiral Courbet's ships took up selected positions within musket shot of the prospective enemy and waited until they were reinforced by an armored vessel and until the Chinese ships swung to the ebb tide and exposed their weakest points. Then the peace was broken and a tremendous fire of artillery assisted by torpedo-boats destroyed the Chinese squadron. Victory did not establish the French fleet in control of a safe inland anchorage commanding the enemy's capital; nor did it turn the defenses of the river entrance, which inflicted serious injury upon the French ships while withdrawing from their untenable position off the arsenal below Foochow. The fact that the French secured the advantage before the outbreak of hostilities removes this affair from the category of regular naval battles. Valuable lessons in ordnance were taught, but the tactical example is inadequate for comparison.
The battle of Lissa in 1886 has a more direct bearing on the case. The Austrian fleet found the Italian deployed for bombardment and unprepared for mutual support. Several fine ships were destroyed by ramming and by shells, but a large portion of the Italian division engaged was allowed to escape and a still more helpless squadron containing a number of sailing frigates was not even reconnoitered. The ram gained by this action a degree of credit which it has utterly failed to maintain, and the excessive development of bow fire and other defective tactical dispositions were thereby inaugurated.
The curious lack of persistence shown by the victor at Lissa also characterizes the most recent fleet action in the open sea—the battle off the Yalu in 1894. The Japanese admiral fought his ships wisely and won a brilliant victory over the inanimate squadron of the Chinese. His tactics demonstrate the value of extended order and of flexible formation in column as well as the capacity of cruisers and gunboats to fight in line of battle when rapid-fire and constant movement are the order of the day. These facts were the basis of Admiral Dewey's tactics in Manila Bay and they enabled him to finish his day's work with a complete and crowning success, while the Japanese squadron hauled off and left a defeated remnant reduced to the last round of ammunition to escape into a fortified harbor whence months of toil were required to extricate them. Possibly the Japanese were also short of ammunition, or anxious and uncertain about its endurance.
Of Nelson's masterpieces the battles of the Nile and Copenhagen offer certain analogies to that in Manila Bay. Pilotage was a prime factor of tactics on both occasions and shore batteries planted to support the defense also had their influence. The advantages of steam and of high-powered guns have greatly transformed details and distances, but tactical principles endure. Nelson always sought to overmatch his antagonist by isolating detachments, and never meant his captains to engage as duelists irrespective of plans. At Manila it was the enemy's blundering disposition which annulled any effective combination of his abundant resources, but the glorious fact that our column fought as a fleet under the exact control of confident leadership gives this action a place among the sea-fights of history.
It may seem a paradox to many, but the first honor of this record was due to unflinching readiness to act in ignorance—ignorance of the enemy's batteries, of his mine fields, of the stations and even of the numbers of his fighting ships. All these things might have been ascertained at the cost of much time and coal, but the painful effort would have lowered the vitality of the fleet and weakened the moral power of our Government at home and abroad. Because these things were realized on board the Olympia, and because of a certain natural contempt and cheerful distrust of all Spanish military and industrial undertakings, Admiral Dewey led his squadron through guarded channels at midnight and arrayed them for battle at dawn.
The supreme trial of a naval commander comes when his consorts are crippled or sinking in the midst of battle, when his splintered decks are ablaze, and blood runs from the scuppers. Since this fate was not met and vanquished we may not claim the highest rank for this memorable contest. But surely there are many who must hold it a matter of pride that our ships escaped and our men's lives were spared. This fortunate immunity was not the result of fine-spun calculations. The battle was fought to win, with no purpose of shunning close encounter. The escape of 1700 American seamen during a struggle in which a shell for every man afloat was aimed at their ships still presents a problem incapable of mathematical or mechanical solution. It must simply go on record as an amazing experience.
Spanish commentaries ascribe the control of the victorious ships to men protected by thick armor and "in impenetrable calm directing engines of death with instruments of precision." Of course, this notion involves all sorts of absurdities. Except the sight-bars of the guns, the compass was the only instrument used in the flagship, and that stood on a lofty perch over the forward turret, on a grating just wide enough for the Admiral and the observer engaged in taking bearings. This was an open air battle where the ship was conned by visible landmarks and the distances roughly measured by the simplest methods. Every ship was under the eye of the leader, and none detached themselves for those single-ship combats which have claimed too large a place in popular legend and even in professional ideals since the naval war of 1812. Each ship did her best with all the guns granted her by the Bureau of Ordnance; straight shooting was the only exploit worth mentioning, and no recording angel will ever rightly apportion the ragged scores of our gunners.
The immediate strategic results of this action were slowly ] grasped. It soon became apparent that ships could cruise or anchor where they pleased without regard to the remaining armaments of the enemy. The batteries at the entrance were cut off from support and might have been attacked in detail. Therefore they were promptly surrendered. The navy yard was also surrendered on May 2, the garrison of Cavite and the naval battalion formed from the ships' companies being allowed to march out with their arms and other portable property. They had the presumption to ask for safe conduct to Manila, although many of them were held in garrison at points which threatened our occupation of the Cavite peninsula through intrigues with the natives, if not through aggressive movements. The wounded and sick at the naval hospital at Canacao, numbering some three hundred, were sent to Manila under flag of truce. The inconvenience of guarding prisoners on shore and of supplying them with provisions may account for this policy of release as well as for the subsequent plan of leaving prisoners in the custody of Filipino authorities.
A small marine guard was detailed to guard the navy yard a day or so after the Spaniards withdrew. Working parties were sent ashore to disable the guns at Sangley Point, which was easily effected by exploding a ring of gun-cotton disks around the chase of each gun. The magazine was incidentally blown up during the operation. Much small-arm ammunition was dumped into the bay at Cavite, whence the Filipinos afterward recovered it and refilled the cartridges. Some of the smaller rapid-fire guns were recovered from the wrecks and the Manila and Callao were destined to bristle with an eccentric armament. Some of the larger guns were also recovered from the ships, but breech-blocks were lacking and rust and fire were allowed to do their work on the main batteries. The Filipinos were allowed to gather some weapons from the arsenal; perhaps a hundred serviceable rifles, a trivial pair of bronze howitzers and two or three old smooth-bore guns were the only important items—all abandoned by the Spaniards as not worth carrying away.
The public was induced to form a very low estimate of the vitality of the fleet and gloomy prophecies were spoken of "crippled ships in an enemy's harbor." Of course, the fact is that a fleet can stand anything but defeat, and that an enemy's harbor is quite as good as any other if the enemy's fleet is destroyed and his batteries silenced. Manila Bay has its disadvantages as a harbor and the Cavite arsenal is only a fourth-rate navy yard, but all the shelter and all the resources provided by nature and by the Spanish Government were available. There was no dry-dock, but there was a marine railway and fair range of machine shops and well-filled storehouses. The Navy Department hurried out liberal supplies in all departments and all reasonable repairs could have been effected in due season. Fortunately, no delays or repairs were required to maintain the fleet in a state of constant efficiency.
The presence of such a force reduced Spanish authority in the capital to a mere pretense and parade of dominion. The walled city could have been laid in ruins by a few hours' bombardment, the foolish batteries having demonstrated their incapacity to hinder. Admiral Dewey summarized the situation on May 7 by cabling to the Department that he could take Manila any day, but that 4000 infantry would be required to police such a city. The assertion may be ventured that no subsequent occurrence has impaired the soundness of this modest calculation. There were moral and political factors which rendered the Spanish position untenable. At first it was thought that an inland position out of range of naval artillery might be fortified and garrisoned and the water-front abandoned to American attack. Secure occupation would have been impracticable had the Spanish garrison been able to follow this plan, but the smoldering fires of the great Filipino insurrection of 1896 interposed a fatal obstacle. Withdrawal from the city left the insurgents in possession and the country was ready to cut off supplies from the exterior.
The insurrection was not long in putting itself in motion. Random majors and captains hurried on board at all hours of the night to ask our intentions, to beg for supplies and to offer assistance. At first it seemed impossible to take these emissaries seriously; their notions lacked coherence; they could neither count their partisans nor their enemies. The villages nearest Cavite had formed guards for local protection and seemed incapable of organized or intelligent effort. The town of Cavite was ruthlessly pillaged by canoe-loads of natives from the towns of Bacoor, Imus and Cavite Viejo—towns which had seen rebellion suppressed in fire and blood during the preceding year. Natives chalked "Tagalog" on their doors and shut themselves up to escape the storm, while Spaniards fled to Manila, abandoning their homes to pillage. One Chinese millionaire hired a Filipino guard and saved his warehouse from plunder. He may have been spared because of the fate of his son, who was one of the first victims—because he was one of the wealthiest men in Cavite—when the Spanish fury of 1896 ran its course in that unhappy town. Three stragglers from English merchantmen lived at free quarters and pillaged houses and churches until the Filipinos found a leader and set up a revolutionary government.
The new era began when Emilio Aguinaldo landed from the McCulloch, which had brought him over from Hong Kong on May 19. Pillage ceased in Cavite and San Roque and a new crop of robust recruits, Tagalos from Cavite and Batangas provinces, were soon organized into ragged regiments and supplied with arms as fast as they came to hand. The small number of rifles left in the arsenal was only sufficient for guarding the peninsula of Cavite. For an advance toward Manila a larger force had to be equipped. Some thousands of rifles were purchased by the fund contributed by the Spanish Government to induce the Filipino leaders to go to Hong Kong in January, 1898. A third source of supply was drawn upon before the month was over. Some thousands of Spanish prisoners were brought into Cavite, their arms going to swell the power of the insurrection. Many officers of the army and navy who were included in the capitulation of May 1 were among these captives. The helplessness of scattered detachments in a densely populated and hostile territory was demonstrated by these captains. The natives moved independently of roads, relying upon supplies of local production and ammunition and rifles taken from the enemy.
In none of these operations did the American forces bear a part, not even in checking the relief columns which marched out of Manila by the single road skirting the shores of the bay and exposing troops in advance or retreat to the fire of naval artillery. The progress of the insurgents was visible from our anchorage, and early in June their lines were drawn to invest Manila from the north as well as from the south. The force which captured the large city of Malabon and occupied Caloocan was led by rebels who had not allowed themselves to be included in the capitulation made when Aguinaldo went to Hong Kong. The northern leaders had maintained an active or latent rebellion during the months preceding the arrival of the American fleet, but they promptly joined the revolutionary organization and accepted Aguinaldo as dictator in May and as president in July, according to his successive proclamations.
Meanwhile, the fleet engaged in the maritime blockade of Manila Bay. Since diplomatic notification was impracticable, each vessel had to be visited for direct notification. The blockade was not of great military advantage except as it kept the garrison on short rations. The soldiers seem to have had plenty of rice to the end, but the supply of beef was soon exhausted. The blockade by land was felt more severely than the maritime investment, especially as the latter was often mitigated on grounds of humanity or to afford relief to non-combatants and foreigners. Thus the mails were regularly delivered when brought from Hong Kong by mail steamers or men-of-war. Invalids and neutrals, including hundreds of Chinese, were also allowed to take passage to China.
The legal principles affecting blockade were carefully studied and no stranger found any reasonable ground for complaining of the methods of enforcing that undeniable belligerent right. Several vessels entered Manila Bay with cargoes of coal purchased by agents of the United States in Australia or the Far East. The legal status of these vessels and cargoes was clear and secured them from interference by cruisers of their own nation. As for danger from the other belligerent, there had been nothing to fear since May 1, when the Spanish fleet was destroyed. Neutral vessels in port before our coming were allowed every indulgence in completing their outfit for sailing. Those which carried coal were discharged for the benefit of the fleet. Some captains failed to understand the right of our government to make compulsory purchases, but were soon convinced by the text of the treaties which authorize this method of dealing with contraband of war in ports under military occupation. The treaty with Great Britain is extremely clear and rational upon this important point.
Much confusion in regard to the supply of coal to belligerents will be removed by reference to the rule announced by the British Government early in May: "No coal shall be supplied to any belligerent ship except for the specific purpose of enabling them to proceed to their own country or to some other named neutral destination with reference to which this supply of coal is given." The second clause is even more novel in its clear and direct terms: "Coal should not be supplied at all if there are reasonable grounds for supposing that it is in fact to be used for another purpose." This rule was bound to be fatal to Spanish attempts to send reinforcements to the Philippines.
In another particular the British Admiralty Instructions have an advantage over our manuals of international law and regulations. The recognition of the actual possession by insurgents of towns, forts and ships is specifically provided for. Even the display of an insurgent flag on the high seas seems to be allowed, whether belligerent rights have been granted or not. The fact that the Filipinos were insurgents against our enemy did not seem to deprive them of any right granted by Great Britain in her character as a neutral, and their flag was shown by several cruisers entering or clearing from Cavite during the summer. The Spanish newspapers made appeal to all the naval representatives of neutral powers to arrest these cruisers or pirates, but no action was taken, although one sea-going steamer, the Compania de Filipinas, which was carried over to the insurrection by mutiny led by a Cuban belonging to the ship's company, seems to have been warned by a German cruiser that her flag could not be recognized and she could not be allowed to take part in military operations.
In immediate response to this warning the Raleigh and Concord were sent to Subig Bay, where they effected the capture of Isla Grande and turned the place over to the Filipinos, along with the troops and naval officers composing the garrison. This was the nearest approach to a direct alliance during the campaign. Most of the incidents relating to the "Tagalo-Yankee alliance" denounced by Spanish journalists were pure fabrications. In counting the slain in battle about the first of June they announced the finding of many wearers of the naval uniform of the United States. Of course this mention served to introduce other falsehoods. Aguinaldo was said to have been placed in irons on board an American man-of-war as a punishment for his failure to complete the conquest of Cavite province.
As a matter of fact, the rapid progress of insurrection was the chief ground of anxiety during the month of June. Manila was invested; the water-works were occupied; the capture of the city was confidently predicted. Aguinaldo seems to have been bound by no promises except to carry on the struggle with due regard to humanity and the laws of war. That was all that could be demanded unless mutual obligations were contracted—unless the Americans were ready to make promises to the Filipinos through their leaders. All such contracts were scrupulously avoided during the period of naval control.
The real grounds for dreading the complete success of the insurgents related to doubts concerning the ability of the leaders to control the wilder elements among their troops—the savages from the hills and the rabble of Manila. All revenges and atrocities would have been charged to the "unholy alliance" by the Spaniards and would, perhaps, have furnished motives for intrusion or intervention by some of the foreign powers represented in the bay. About the middle of June the relief crews for one squadron were brought to Manila by a chartered mail-steamer, and one power had, therefore, at least 1000 men available for landing parties. It is credibly reported that attempts were made to induce the consuls and senior naval officers to unite in arrangements for the joint occupation of the commercial quarter of Manila for the protection of the life and property of foreigners. All propositions looking toward interference with our manifest belligerent rights were bound to fail upon encountering the sturdy common-sense and straightforward diplomacy of Sir Edward Chichester, commanding H.B.M.S. Immortalite, and of the British Consul, Mr. Rawson-Walker, who, like his colleague at Santiago de Cuba, lost his life during the strain imposed by the Spanish-American war.
The English authorities represented the larger portion of the foreign section of the commercial community in the Philippines and had, therefore, a dominant influence in international councils. The German colony also claimed considerable numbers and wealth. It is said that many Swiss subjects were enrolled in the books of the German consulate for protection. It is only fair to say that the Filipinos are admitted to have been careful and successful in guarding the property of foreigners from pillage during the whole period of disturbances up to the end of 1898. Spanish property, especially that of corporations, commercial or religious, has been ruthlessly confiscated, and taxation on a severe scale has been carried out on the basis of the system established by Spain.
The international complications were more puzzling than serious, perhaps, since most of them seemed to arise from trivial instances of ignorance or inaptitude in carrying on the naval routine imposed by the situation. If so, they were sufficiently and impressively rebuked. Sympathy, probably, had little to do with the matter, but there may have been a certain tendency to aimless and tactless intrigues. Certain proprieties of the situation are so far from being obvious that some random criticism was put in circulation: thus it proved to be right for neutral vessels to salute the Spanish flag on anchoring off Manila, and to dress ship on the frequent holidays announced in honor of Spanish royalty.
It was plain that many problems would be solved by the occupation of the enemy's capital, and the arrival of the necessary troops was eagerly yet patiently awaited throughout the month of June. It is worthy of note that an excellent regiment, the First Infantry, U.S. Army, had been sent from San Francisco to Florida during the week which saw the Asiatic squadron starting for Manila. Had the prospect of an instant and complete naval victory been realized and its political and popular significance been weighed, this transfer might not have been ordered. The first expedition, commanded by Brigadier-General Anderson, comprised about 2500 men—a force quite inadequate for the investment or assault of Manila and even insufficient for police and garrison duty. This force was therefore placed in the barracks available at the arsenal and town of Cavite.
Reconnaissance was begun by boats at an early date and it was found that the water in front of Manila was deeper than appeared by the chart, and that an extended line could cruise off the waterfront within the effective bombarding range of 4000 yards from the principal batteries, with the walled city as a background or a target for our shells. When the time for this bombardment seemed at hand the Commander-in-Chief approved a plan for placing buoys to mark the turning points and to indicate the distances while running past the town. Of course the buoys were not to be placed until the attack was imminent, and events finally seemed to render this device unnecessary.
Reconnoissances were made by officers of the army early in July, and naval examinations were also made to identify landmarks for directing the fire of ships to enfilade the Spanish trenches, and also to investigate the conditions affecting the landing of troops and supplies at various points. At Malabon, five miles north of Manila, and at Paranaque, about the same distance to the south, there were navigable rivers with entrances obstructed by bars over which less than a fathom could be carried. To the northward shoal water extended off shore more than two miles, and the roads led inland from the islands where the towns stand toward Manila. The surf was heavy, also, everywhere except to leeward of Cavite peninsula, during the southwest monsoon, which blows from June to October and freshens every afternoon. There was an advantage to the army in having a flank covered by cruisers and gunboats whose guns could be directed to rake the Spanish trenches and to protect the advance through the suburb of Malate. Therefore the southern approach was selected, and before the end of July the Filipinos were induced to abandon the sector next the beach to allow our troops to occupy and improve their trenches. The covering cruisers moved so close to the eastern shore that the Spaniards thought them aground, but found that none of their heavy guns could be trained to reach their anchorage. Naval boats and their crews, directed by able officers, were, as usual, of great service in expediting the landing of men and stores. The native lighters, or cascos, were found well suited for this work when there was not much surf. Landing at the beach at Tambo saved our troops a costly circuit off some fifteen miles over miserable roads by way of Noveleta and Bacoor.
Upon going into camp our soldiers found themselves exposed to heavy rain, with very inadequate shelter tents for protection from the weather. They bore the experience manfully, worked hard in the trenches, improved in spirits and discipline, and even maintained better health than when on garrison duty in Cavite. These valuable results may be held to compensate for the trials to which they were exposed during this season of formal military operations, conducted with reference to other than concrete and visible results.
The Spaniards still held the trenches in a characteristically inert fashion. They allowed our men to step out in front of the Filipino trenches and to throw up a new line of parallel entrenchments a few rods in advance. This work was done by daylight and whole battalions were employed in making the new parapets. As the section was within easy rifle range, the defense can hardly be said to have taken their role seriously. Yet they could still waste ammunition on occasion, and on the night of July 31 they opened a heavy fire, as they had been accustomed to do for many weeks during the insurgent occupation of the same sector. The object of this volley-firing, which was often supported by artillery from the trenches or from the antique stone battery of San Antonio Abad, was not apparent. The lofty hedges of bamboo overhead were much cut up at ten or fifteen feet from the ground, but the trenches offered plenty of cover and the danger space was far in rear of the line. Unfortunately, the regiment holding the trench stood up and fired with great rapidity, reducing their burden of heavy Springfield ammunition to the verge of safety. Fresh troops were hurried up in support, and they suffered losses in advancing through the danger space. The notion that the Spaniards had sallied forth from their trenches prevailed during that night and has been given a place in many journalistic narratives. The reports of responsible officers should eliminate this notion from history. The affair cost our troops a loss of twelve killed and forty-odd wounded. The Spaniards resumed volley practice on other evenings, but their efforts were disregarded and our troops escaped with very few losses.
Urgent requests were made to have the fleet silence the stone fort on San Antonio, which stood on the beach within effective range from deep water. This structure had been proposed as a target on the afternoon of May 1, but it was spared as bearing no relation to naval attack. Its prolonged immunity was due to a wish to avoid a general engagement until arrangements for immediate military occupation were completed. The destructive bombardment of an inflammable city crowded with women and children was a task which it was patiently hoped to avert. It was held equally desirable to guard the city from any risk of pillage and, as far as possible, to prevent its occupation by the Filipinos, who were reckoned as tractable but uncertain allies.
Another restraint was removed late in July, when the important news of the return of Admiral Camara's fleet to Spain after passing through the Suez canal was tardily received. From the first the prospects of this expedition had been discussed in the fleet. Up to July 1 few had any faith in the reality of the project of making this diversion. It seemed a false move to uncover the coast of Spain; it seemed an impracticable move to get a squadron containing a crippled battleship, weak torpedo-boat destroyers and over laden transports across the Indian Ocean and the China Sea while they were unable to make use of coaling stations. We know now what Admiral Cervera knew a year ago, that this squadron was quite unfit to cross the Atlantic. But the fact that Admiral Camara had actually entered the canal imposed the necessity of considering plans to meet his advent.
We are assured that the troops which had arrived from the United States were prepared to maintain themselves in an inland position during the absence of our fleet. This disposition implied a certain confidence in the native alliance. It also left the naval Commander-in-Chief free to remove all his ships from Manila Bay in order to make the best arrangements for guarding the transports and colliers. Assuming that the Spanish fleet was really superior to ours in fighting force, the anchorage off Cavite was hardly the place to meet it. The tactical methods of Admiral Montojo had not commended themselves in practice. The next step considered was that of sending the transports and colliers to take refuge in Subig Bay and disposing the men-of-war to guard the entrance to that port and to threaten any fleet bound for Manila. Few officers in the fleet commanded by Admiral Dewey had any doubt then of our ability to beat off the Pelayo, Carlos V and their consorts at the end of a long voyage. Doubtless none would question the result now, especially taking into account the arrival of the Charleston as a reinforcement to the six cruisers which fought the battle of May 1.
Probably the plan of standing off to the eastward with all the elements of the fleet, in the hope of meeting the monitors somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, was also considered. A high military authority goes so far as to say that this plan of temporary withdrawal was adopted under the pressure of alarmist calculations imported with the second military expedition. This measure would have caused much concern in the United States and could hardly have improved the spirits of the fleet. Fortunately, no such expedient was ever inaugurated. Camara had turned back before the calculations were produced.
These hypothetical situations involve the discussion of the value of monitors like the Monadnock and Monterey in naval engagements and in bombardments. When the Monterey came in on August 4 the comments made on her stability as a gun platform in the ordinary swell of the southwest monsoon were far from encouraging. If the Spanish Admiral chose to fight in the open sea during the regular monsoon or within a week after the passage of a typhoon, or even if the meeting took place in Manila Bay on a summer afternoon, the Monterey's battery could hardly have been a decisive factor. The oscillations due to excess of stability would compel her to throw away her shots under such conditions. The Pelayo might have been put out of action by the same process which proved fatal to the armored cruisers at Santiago: by setting fire to her woodwork, by killing her guns' crews, by the general dismantling and demoralizing effect of rapid-fire guns, mounted to afford a clear vision and close aim, delivering an incessant storm of explosive projectiles.
If the Monterey and Monadnock were of uncertain value in a fleet action, their cruising efficiency must be rated still lower. Neither the tactical nor strategical qualities of monitors would justify a future plan of campaign which sacrificed time, moral effect and concrete results to secure such problematic reinforcements. It may be claimed that the heaviest artillery has supreme importance in bombardment and in silencing shore batteries. Against towns any shells that can be exploded among compact masses of stores, shops and dwellings will serve the main purpose, although destruction may be made more appalling by using heavy bursting-charges. Against modern earth-works destructive effects cannot be attained by using any artillery which fires slowly or is uncertain in hitting. Craters in sandbanks do not cause structural injury to batteries. These can be disabled only by direct hits, upsetting guns or shattering mounts. Of course, the slaughter of guns' crews may also impose silence, but no weapon is better adapted for such work than those of the secondary batteries, when the objective is within range of open water.
Until all concern regarding Camara's movements came to an end it was resolved to keep the American fleet intact and to decline any movement which might bring on a general engagement. A few days more were consumed in waiting for the monitors, the first of them, the Monterey, arriving on August 4. Finally, on August 7, the naval and military commanders-in-chief united in summoning the captain-general to surrender. Twenty-four hours were allowed for the removal of non-combatants, and this time was extended for another day while correspondence was in progress. The Governor-General asked for time to communicate with Madrid via Hong Kong. Return dispatches might have been expected in about a week. He complained that there was no place outside the city to which women and children, along with the sick and wounded, might retire, since the insurgents held all the adjacent districts. Minute directions were published assigning non-combatants to the casemates for shelter during bombardment. They were advised, however, to seek safety at military posts in the outlying suburbs. Certainly, confinement to the foul dungeons under the old walls would have been fatal to many.
Fortunately for the unarmed population, no one in authority meant to expose them to bombardment. The American commanders urged surrender for the sake of humanity; the new Governor-General—General Augustin having been relieved by General Jaudenes on August 4, because of a message to Madrid pointing out the necessity of prompt surrender—admitted the force of their appeal, but declared that the council which he had called opposed capitulation. This was his official ultimatum, followed by an informal intimation that the honor of Spain, of the army and of the captain-general would be satisfied by a simulated conflict. Since there had to be a bombardment, the fleet might shell the stone fort of San Antonio Abad, and our troops might open fire on the adjacent trenches. The town batteries would keep silence in order to avoid drawing our fire, and the troops would retire from the outer defenses as soon as they had been briskly assailed. Subject to a warning that fire from any battery would be effectively returned, this message seems to have been made the basis of a mutual understanding.
The morning of August 9 had been selected for beginning the attack, but it was found that the army needed time to reconnoiter the approaches to Malate and to land more men and stores at Camp Dewey, on the beach north of Paranaque. The state of the tides had also to be considered with reference to fording the creek close to San Antonio Abad. These requirements delayed aggressive movements until Saturday, August 13. It was felt; that this delay might entangle us with peace negotiations, which would leave our troops in an embarrassing situation unless a valid capture was effected before documents were signed. As it turned out, the capture was a day late, a suspension of hostilities having been announced on August 12. The possession of the bay and city of Manila was, however, covered by stipulation, and for the rest Spain was unable to offer any effective protest.
It may be assumed that all general officers on both sides were duly informed as to the nature of the demonstration which began at 9.30 A. M. on Saturday. Excellent maps had been obtained from Aguinaldo's headquarters, and they had been supplemented from other sources and by reconnoissances. The fleet could be held in check by signals, but the task of brigade-commanders, regulating the advance of troops through thickets and rice fields, was somewhat harder, complicated as it was by an effort to intercept the advance of the Filipinos from the posts which they held close to the Spanish trenches in the northeasterly prolongation of our line. The effort to comply with the request of the Spanish captain-general that our lines might be extended to the Pasig River left gaps by which the insurgents entered the city, and introduced some confusion into the progress of our own forces.
The advance of our right wing along the beach was covered by the guns of the ships, which were also able to batter the stone walls of Fort San Antonio and to rake the trenches beyond. Some persons seem to have fancied that the fleet had no other function in this attack, but those who had heard the guns of May 1 knew better. With the Olympia, bearing the Admiral's flag, within 3000 yards of the principal batteries and well inside the three-fathoms curve, with the Baltimore, Charleston and Boston close to the end of the breakwater, the Raleigh and Petrel covering Fort San Antonio, and Concord closing in toward the mouth of the Pasig in readiness to take Fort Santiago, the situation was hopeless to all intelligent observers from the walls and towers of Manila. Spanish accounts insist upon the dominating power of the fleet led by Admiral Dewey. We may not borrow their terms of comparison, but we may remind ourselves of the facts.
The actual operations of the day began by brisk firing from the Olympia, Raleigh and Petrel at the fort of San Antonio, which lay silent and almost deserted outside the Malate suburb. As we steamed to the eastward the morning light was deceptive, the smoke hung heavy in our path, and the landmarks were shut in by baffling showers of rain. As the fall of the shot could not be noted for correcting the ranges, the firing was wild for the first ten minutes. For the rest of the hour, although we lay in white clouds made by charges of brown powder and red clouds made by smokeless powder, it was fairly accurate, many shells grazing the parapets to rake the trenches further inland, others exploding against the masonry of the fort, and one, at least, penetrating the wall and scattering splinters of stone and small-arm ammunition about the interior of the works. The slight impression made by shells which failed to explode or which burst without penetration was rather disappointing, but it soon became evident that our fire was thoroughly effective.
An officer long since honorably distinguished as a military critic and historian assures the public that the firing practice of the fleet was inferior to the performance of their batteries on May 1. Percentages are not available for the discussion of this problem, but it is plain that the desired result was accomplished on both occasions. The enemy was driven out of the batteries and trenches quite as soon as their occupation could be attempted. Yet only three ships fired, while five were held in reserve. Nor did the Olympia and her consorts use their secondary batteries, although within effective range. Every precaution was taken to keep the guns under strict control and to cease firing when the army signaled its readiness to go forward.
Under these circumstances it is hardly profitable to thrash out comparisons of naval marksmanship with that of the field batteries on shore. One excellent volunteer battery had its guns well advanced some weeks before the attack and fired at a familiar target over a measured range about one-third as long as those estimated from the ships. No doubt their guns made a fair percentage of hits and produced as much effect as their weight of metal would allow—as much as they had ever produced during previous artillery duels. But the gunboat Callao, which skirted the beach and drove the enemy through Malate as our troops advanced, was capable of doing the work of more than one battery of field artillery moved by hand. Scarred as she was by rifle bullets, they could not reach her motive power or the spirit which held her on her course along the enemy's flank.
Another error was given circulation in a reporter's version of an interview with an officer of rank while on his way to Paris in September. The printed report contains these remarks with reference to the affair of August 13: "The Admiral did not wish to risk his ships and kept a good distance off. He made excellent practice all the same; but at that time he had nowhere to send to get repairs." As previously noted. Admiral Dewey had ships drawing twenty-four feet cruising within the three-fathom curve and within effective range of the heaviest Spanish batteries. There was too much confidence in the power of the fleet to admit the sort of caution here suggested. The story belongs with the tale of English gunners hired in Hong Kong—with the fiction of a consular pilot at the entrance of Manila Bay.
The advance of the troops in column along the beach was a fine sight, but when our men were seen fording the stream near Fort San Antonio every one was glad that the Spanish troops had quitted their trenches beforehand. Otherwise the experience of the naval landing-party at Fort Fisher might have been repeated under these walls. Finally our troops began to mass themselves in the open space of the Luneta promenade, close to the moat of the walled city. The signal of surrender was at last shown, according to agreement, and officers of the military and naval staffs landed to draw up the terms of a preliminary capitulation. They were soon followed by Major-General Merritt, who ratified the terms of surrender, which were made as liberal as possible, and took measures to restore order in the city and its suburbs.
The Second Oregon Regiment had been held in a light-draught transport and they were promptly landed on the quays commanding the river and placed on guard within the walled city. Though they had not been under fire, they were as readily available for this important service as their comrades who had marched in through the mud, losing half a dozen killed and the usual proportion wounded in accidental encounters with the retreating Spanish infantry. Of course, the Spaniards had also suffered losses; soldiers had fallen for the sake of military honor—not with any purpose of prolonging the defense. Such dramas of advance and retreat need more careful rehearsal if useless sacrifices on both sides are to be avoided.
The Spanish flag continued to wave from Fort Santiago until the capitulation was signed. Then it was hauled down by two signalmen from the Olympia directed by Lieutenant Brumby, Admiral Dewey's flag lieutenant and his representative in drawing up the terms of surrender. It was fitting that this officer should perform a service of such distinction, and no narrative of the campaign of Manila Bay would be complete unless it laid stress on the conduct and abilities which earned him this high honor. A company of Oregon volunteers with the band of their regiment came up in time to render due honors to the huge flag sent ashore from the Olympia.
While the capitulation was in progress the gunboats Cebu and Bulusan, along with steam-launches and other boats, were wantonly sunk or burned under the eyes of the Spanish naval officers. These incidents revived some distrust of the loyalty and discipline of the garrison, and Admiral Dewey directed the breech-plugs to be removed from all the modern guns along the western face of the fortifications. This task was performed on the morning of August 15, the working party meeting with no objection or inquiry on the part of any one in authority, though squads of Spanish artillery-men were still quartered in the well-filled magazines of the two 24-centimeter guns outside the moat. In all, twelve guns were dismantled and their breech-blocks were stowed on board the Olympia. The era of proclamations and negotiations relating to the insurrection now began, and the Filipino leaders were induced to withdraw their troops from the city a few weeks after its capture from the Spanish.
No maritime prizes were taken at Manila, although a dozen sea-going steamers belonging to Spanish owners lay in the river along with many tugs and sailing vessels. Several steamers had been allowed to anchor in the bay to accommodate foreign refugees under foreign flags. This arrangement was a matter of agreement between the consuls and the American naval Commander-in-Chief. The legal status of these vessels was in no wise affected thereby, but it was decided at Washington that no lawful prizes could be taken in joint operations of the army and navy. So the Spanish owners resumed possession of their ships and were allowed to cruise with them under the American flag, some citizens of the United States being found to lend their names for that curious and informal transfer by which a bill of sale acknowledged before a consul is made to serve as an American register for ships which may not enter American ports. The same expedient was adopted on a large scale in 1884, when the fleet of the China Merchant's Navigation was placed under the American flag to avoid capture by the French. This device would hardly survive investigation by a critical belligerent. In this case the intention seems to have been to avoid seizure or detention by Filipino local administrators. In this the Spanish owners were for a time fairly successful, though protests and interferences occurred both from Spanish and native authorities.
The rest of Luzon and important stations on the other islands were surrendered to the insurgents within a month after the capture of Manila. Had the leaders been well advised, or had their troops been under such discipline that they could be safely disbanded without relapsing into brigandage, or could they have been withdrawn from the suburbs of Manila, where many of them had their homes, subsequent collisions and irritations might have been avoided. Besides this blunder of Aguinaldo's, other indications of trouble darkened the horizon.
An able American correspondent who came out in July was allowed to send cablegrams to the London Times, dated at Headquarters, Cavite, July 29, which may be taken as significant if not inspired. Adopting inaccurate rumors of lavish distribution of arms and ammunition from the Cavite arsenal for the free use of the insurgents, and denouncing the early relations of American authorities with the native leaders as gross mistakes, this newly-arrived and imperfectly-informed critic declares that "revenge and plunder" are the only incentives which lead the Filipinos to continue the conflict. These opinions are in plain contradiction to those previously expressed by responsible representatives of American authority. They serve, however, to introduce the opinion that "the only means of controlling Aguinaldo's rabble is to disarm the whole population." Six months later, after the army of occupation had been doubled in force, this difficult and costly undertaking was inaugurated, with results which history will enumerate and appraise.
The published narratives of this campaign, and especially those of the battle of May 1, demand some measure of attention. These reports vary in value according to the actual opportunities of the observer, his capacity for understanding what he saw, and his caution in avoiding romantic illusions and restraining the natural desire to exalt the achievements of his particular ship. Of the journalists, more or less present as spectators, Mr. Stickney had the advantage of technical knowledge and a position on the bridge of the Olympia. Reports cabled by passengers in the McCulloch were of more value in their original form than in that given them in the offices of newspapers addicted to the literary vice of expansion even before they learned to advocate the national policy which bears that name.
Of a certain eager "eye-witness" who was first in the field as a lecturer it is sufficient to remark that in publishing a list of officers and men who were on the forward bridge of the flagship he displays total ignorance of the customs of the service, of the necessities of navigation and of the official report of the Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, the editorial department of a leading magazine accepted his communication without checking it by that important document. After that it hardly seems worth while to attempt the correction of this chronicler's facts, although it may be allowed that his record of personal impressions is not destitute of interest.
Of the narratives enshrined in well-bound volumes it is sufficient to say that few of them have escaped the taint of "expanded" cablegrams, or of that curious mixture of rumor and fabrication labeled "With Dewey at Manila," compiled by Thomas J. Vivian. This begins like a second-hand version of an authentic letter, but closes in scenes of melodramatic confusion. Mr. John R. Spears finds his surplus torpedo-boats there, and Hon. Henry Cabot Lodge borrows a series of duels and explosions from this unhistoric reporter. Maclay's "History of the Navy" was an early gleaner in the field of imagination, bestowing the Spanish fleet behind a breakwater of stone and timber only represented in reality by a few stray iron lighters, some of which were laden with sand to cover the water-line of the Castilla.
Many of these distortions of history are due to wanton impulses toward sensationalism. Spanish narratives suffer from the same defects, and those printed in Manila were warped by the restraint imposed by the Governor-General's decrees of warning. Among the minor offenses classed as high treason was that of "publishing any statement which might tend to discourage the defenders of the country." For this crime a summary court-martial had its choice of penalties between death and imprisonment in chains for life. Yet the daily journals of Manila were able to resume publication on May 4 and to give a fairly intelligible account of the events enacted under the walls of their city. Even the trimmed cablegrams of the captain-general were sufficient to reveal to the journals and public of Madrid the tragedy of Spanish defeat, and riots broke out in a score of Spanish cities—crude revolts against incompetence which had brought about national humiliation and social misery.
Many curious details concerning the defenses of Manila and the complex methods of Spanish naval administration were accessible among reports filed in the office of the commandant of the arsenal at Cavite and in the mansion in Manila occupied by the admiral commanding the station and squadron of the Philippines. These papers show that much zeal was manifested in improvising armaments during the month of April, but that supplies and methods were alike defective. Even information seems to have been scanty, since Admiral Montojo claims to have gone to Subig in ignorance of its actual defensive condition and to have been surprised and disgusted at the deficiencies and delays which induced him to bring his fleet back to meet its fate at Cavite.
Yet the advantages of the port of Subig and the development of the naval arsenal at Olongapo, on the eastern arm of that excellent harbor, had been studied by a series of special commissions from 1885 to 1898, at an annual expense of some $20,000 (Mexicans), which was duly charged to the Filipino budget each year. The removal of the naval establishment from Cavite was strenuously opposed by officers concerned about the comforts of the capital and by contractors anxious about investments in Cavite and profits to be made on supplies. A memorial opposing the transfer was prepared by some naval officer and printed at the expense of two well-known Filipino contractors about 1890. The political situation of the country is shown by the fact that both these agents, Osorio and Inocencio, being known as millionaires, were arrested and shot by sentence of a summary court-martial in September, 1896. Possibly this may account for the rarity of the volume issued in support of their interests.
A pamphlet containing an able refutation of their arguments was privately printed in 1894. It was written in 1891 by Captain del Rio, who seems to be a man of ability and is certainly the most unfortunate officer of his rank serving in the Philippines in 1898. Seven years after his plea for the fortification and equipment of a naval arsenal at Subig he was called upon to perform the miserable task of improvising defenses with inadequate means. The results did not inspire confidence, and in the council which decided upon the transfer of the ships to their last berth off Cavite, Captain del Rio was the only advocate of the plan of fighting at Subig. The majority of captains accepted the dreary argument that they must fight in shallow water to give their crews a chance of escaping to the shore.
The pamphlet printed in 1894 urges the fortification of Subig as a naval station and the abandonment of Cavite as lacking both the nautical and the military conditions required to place a fleet in security. Without placing too much stress on the alleged shoaling of the water, we may agree with the author when he denies that ships can be moved near the arsenal out of range of the enemy's cannon, as well as in the following opinion: "Huddling ships around the arsenal involves the demoralization of their crews without guarding them from the enemy's projectiles; it sentences them to a fate as inevitable as it is inglorious." Point by point he predicts the advance of an admiral "whose fleet is stronger than ours, but not twice as strong"; he will reconnoiter Subig, standing on in good heart if he finds that port vacant. If he finds the Spanish fleet at Cavite he will destroy the ships and the arsenal, and bombard Cavite at his leisure. The partisans of Cavite endeavor to present a plea for defending the entrances of Manila Bay; their plan includes seven batteries, the number actually installed on May 1; then, 1310 torpedoes and four first-class torpedo-boats. Moreover, a naval squadron is required, and Captain del Rio demonstrates that it must be at least equal to that of the enemy. For, as he asserts, the batteries will be isolated and incapable of mutual support if the enemy chooses to make successive concentrated attacks. The torpedoes are bound to go adrift in the swell and currents sweeping through these deep channels, and they will then be as dangerous to the vessels of the defense as to those of the attack.
Besides these sound theoretical considerations it may now be added that an unarmored squadron can safely run past any batteries which the resources of Spain could erect on the shores and islands of the Boca Grande. The demonstration has been made, and a tenfold increase in the efficiency of the batteries and the vigilance of their garrisons would not have checked the advance led by Admiral Dewey.
The argument in favor of Subig was resented as implying disregard for the wealth and importance of the capital. But our author points out that, since all the millions which the wealth of Manila represents can neither close the mouth of the bay nor make Cavite a safe shelter for a fleet, it is seeking the impossible to endeavor to protect a city on the open coast of a wide bay from the shells of a hostile squadron. The conservative view is expressed in the following proposition: "The creation of an arsenal at a distance from the site of one already installed, when the material and moral forces requisite are wanting, is a rash effort for the navy to undertake." Admitting the existence of Cavite and the scarcity of means, Captain del Rio insists upon the removal, "if the navy is to be spared a ruinous failure whenever circumstances impose the duty of mobilizing the forces provided by the nation." The argument for Subig might have been strengthened by applying the principles of strategic defense in connection with ports de sortie as presented in various discussions at the U.S. Naval War College since 1887. No squadron invading this coast and seeking to attack Manila could afford to neglect a fleet occupying Subig. Lines of communication would be threatened, scouts and colliers picked off, and ships engaged in military blockade would be neutralized and exposed to defeat if the balance of power became uncertain. These considerations apply with equal force to the fleet under Admiral Dewey in April and that under Admiral Camara which caused speculation in July. Both were maritime invaders and liable to checks under the rules of naval strategy.
The technical and financial details furnished by Captain del Rio show that from 1885 up to 1891 the equipment of the arsenal at Subig had cost $116,774 (Mexicans), and the commission's reports had cost $144,155. The commission was still reporting in 1898, but the installation had probably got ahead of the discussion in expenditures. Certain ranges of substantial shops and storehouses had been erected and a floating dock ordered in England. This dock, of the sectional, self-docking type, was ready for shipment at Newcastle-on-Tyne early in 1898, and the owners were anxious to sell it to the American Government or any purchaser prepared to pay the contract price of £35,000. Of course, no stone dock would answer in this land of earthquakes. A dredging plant was also under contract to be used in completing basins off the tract in the delta of the Rio Santa Rita, near the village of Olongapo. This delta seems exposed to floods, but we are assured that the water can be diverted into the mangrove swamps to the eastward or made to flow through the channel on the west side of the delta. It is admitted that the Bay of Subig cannot be connected with the capital by railway without vast expense. The direct route would lead over a chain of mountains into the delta of the Pampangas River. The most practicable route would branch from the northern section of the Dagupan railway. Obviously, all this discussion and demonstration has a certain value with reference to the future of the Philippines under American control. Whenever the situation can be regarded strictly from a naval standpoint Cavite must be allowed to decline, though a small coaling station might be kept up in Canacao Bay. Of course, while the navy is employed as an adjunct to military and political enterprises in the provinces adjacent to Manila this transfer must be postponed, but when civil government is established and accepted, the strategic and nautical advantages of Subig should prevail over the political, social, and commercial claims of Manila.
A similar question was fought out about a century ago when a trivial naval establishment on the banks of the Pasig River in Manila was sacrificed to the development of the arsenal at Cavite. Powerful influences opposed the change. Navy yard billets had become the spoil of political adventurers and social parasites who would have to give up their places if work had to be accomplished. The remedy was heroic, considering the traditions of Spanish administration. The navy yard at San Bias in Mexico was closed and all its foremen and managers were transferred to Cavite, where they were able to do the state some service. Yet traces of the old system remain. The admiral commanding the station and squadron in the Philippines had his office and mansion in the San Miguel suburb of Manila, where he lived surrounded by a large staff of officers, selected for obvious family or social reasons in many instances. This involved the duplication of papers and employments, since the work had all to be done over again at Cavite in the office of the "Commandant of the Arsenal and President of the Administrative Board."
In the office file for April 29, 1898—the last day for which the correspondence of Cavite arsenal was duly registered and jacketed—there was found a series of documents illustrating the course of Spanish circumlocution. The commandant of the naval division of Yap in the Caroline Islands made requisition for a coal-lighter. The commandant-general of the station sent it to the commandant at Cavite, who assembled the Administrative Board to consider the affair; the naval constructor (Ingeniero) was directed by the Board, of which he was a member, to report as an expert on the project. His recommendation was duly adopted and forwarded, requiring the man at Yap to estimate the exact amount of material and labor required. In due time his estimate came back, and, passing through the same circuit, was sent to the Minister of Marine at Madrid. Thence came a decree from the Queen Regent of the realm, who, in the name of her son (q.D.g.), ordained that the said coal-lighter should be constructed with the number of boards, quantity of nails and days' work as specified. The total circumnavigation seems to have stopped at Cavite just six months after the original application. The existence of the coal-lighter remains problematic.
The navy secured its documents with white tape; the army, with stripes of red and yellow. Both use cumbrous forms and obsolete compliments in trivial reports and "expedients." The intrusion of another department of the national establishment appears in the printed forms of court-martial orders, which contain a clause requiring members to attend a "Mass of the Holy Spirit" in the chapel half an hour before the time set for the meeting of the court. Considering the facts that the charges are often based on testimony founded in torture, and that the sentences were generally cruel and unjust, this invocation seems somewhat out of place. The army regulations of Spain are perhaps the only ones containing diagrams of parades for the execution of the penalty of death and for the still more atrocious ceremony of military degradation. The history of Spain in the nineteenth century shows that such lessons have their natural effect on the officers who serve as judges or as "fiscals" in prosecuting military and civil offenders. The Official Gazette of Manila in 1897 and 1898 was full of proclamations threatening the life, liberty and property of deserters or civilians on the authority of junior officers of the army and navy detailed as judge-advocates of summary courts.
The complexity of naval administration is exhibited in every public office by shelves filled with carefully annotated and indexed volumes of "Laws relating to the Navy." The actual political system of Spain allows the Ministry to name and control a working majority in the Cortes and to pass all laws introduced. Bureaucrats seem to demand at least one stout volume for each year, and documents—if not facts—must be shaped according to their requirements. The foundation of all naval discipline is contained in the two volumes of Ordmanzes Generales of 1793, tall copies of which are found in every ship and in every administrative library in the arsenals. The amazingly systematic and complete form of this work suggests that it was drawn up in the reign of Charles III., the last period when Spain was governed with ability by a king who knew how to strengthen his cabinets by employing the talents of foreign adventurers, Italian and Irish. Yet this monumental code was responsible for the armadas which met Jervis at St. Vincent and Nelson at Trafalgar. Of course, successive accretions of arbitrary complexity have helped to further cripple the powers of later generations of naval officers. We may be thankful for the rough simplicity of Anglo- Saxon ideals—for the tendencies which, in their best days, seem to prefer common-sense to bureaucratic counsels of perfection.
The cramping influence of this over-wrought administrative mechanism, combined with the failure of intellectual interests and industrial development to counteract the mediaeval obscurantism of the dominant forces in the Philippines, may account for the prostrate condition of the Spanish naval squadron in 1898. The navy had more than two hundred commissioned officers on that station, yet half the ships were out of repair or defective in equipment. Crews were untrained and incapable of marksmanship. Nepotism glares from the pages of the squadron naval register and there were visible efforts to establish easy routine as a mitigation of the pains of exile. The higher officers were better paid than those of like standing in the United States Navy and were luxuriously accommodated in official residences. By the lower grades tropical slackness seems to have been accepted in lieu of more substantial rewards. No strategic purpose and no technical studies seem to have directed the plan of campaign. Half the Archipelago remains unsurveyed, and the defensive conditions of the approaches to the capital and to the new naval arsenal at Subig seem to have been ignored by the responsible authorities until long after Admiral Dewey had concentrated his cruisers at Hong Kong. American naval officers will at least know what to expect if the example of their predecessors in the Philippines shapes the future of the new colonial administration.
Some notes on the history of naval campaigns in the vicinity of Manila may serve to conclude this rambling series of incidents and impressions. The adventurous navigation of Magellan and later explorers of the sixteenth century must be passed over without comment, except a reference to the fact that their crazy armadas seemed to run foul of the Philippines while in search of Japan or of the Moluccas, or Spice Islands. The first naval attack on the Spanish settlement at Manila was made by the famous Chinese pirate, Li-ma-hong, at the head of a fleet of sixty junks carrying some 4000 soldiers. He made several attacks in 1674, landing his troops at Paranaque and making successive attempts to storm the feeble breastworks of the town. He showed persistence and resource. For instance, he drew the fire and occupied the attention of the garrison by sending a flotilla of fire rafts to drift along the beach at night while his storming parties attacked by land. But he was beaten off and retired to the Gulf of Lengayen, where he established himself on shore, only to be driven off, a few months later, by the Spanish Captain, Salcelo.
The next invader was more terrifying, if not more formidable. A fleet of Hollanders, whom Philip II. had striven to punish as rebels and traitors, made its way into the Pacific and the two surviving ships reached Manila in 1600. Batteries covering the town of Cavite were hastily erected and two guns were mounted on Sangley Point, where we found their successors in 1898. The Dutch lay at Mariveles for two months, blockading the port and capturing various prizes. Finally the Spanish were ready, and two large galleons, each carrying a hundred men-at-arms besides the crew, closed with the Dutchmen off Mindoro. After some casual cannonading the Spanish boarded the Dutch flagship, carried the poop, and took the masthead flag and the ensign at the peak. The Dutchmen fought in the waist in their usual dogged manner. Their Captain-General, Oliver de Noort, roused their Dutch courage after several hours of sluggish fighting, and they drove the Spaniards back to their ship, which sunk as soon as they got on board. Their Captain-General was Dr. Antonio Morga, Justice of the Royal Court, who wrote a curious history of his brief naval career. It seems uncertain whether the ship went down because the Dutch had kept up a steady fire from their main deck, or because she was strained by the discharge of her own cannon. Anyhow, Dr. Morga had, as he tells us, to swim for four hours with the two captured flags wrapped round his waist before he and his trophies were rescued.
The Hollander made sail for Borneo with only forty-eight men alive, half of them wounded, six having been slain. He was able to refit and to complete his voyage round the world, the first of his sea-faring nation to perform that feat. His consort, the yacht known in the Spanish story as the Almiranta, the second in command of a fleet being called the Admiral in those days, was captured with thirteen out of her crew of twenty-five still alive. The prisoners were distributed among the convents to be converted and absolved from their heresies. Their captain remained impenitent, and so earned the right to have his name honorably mentioned. Lambert Vriesman and his men all shared the same fate, as they were duly garroted on the beach before Manila.
A generation later the Dutch held the Straits of Malacca and were established in the Moluccas to the southward and in Formosa to the northward of the Philippines. They had thus secured strategic command of the Eastern Archipelagoes. The Spaniards had never dared to trade by the route around the Cape of Good Hope, but had limited the trade of the Philippines to the annual galleon for Acapulco. The Dutch were now in position to intercept the traffic and threaten the Spanish dominion in the Far East. But they did not send the best ships to these waters, and the Spaniards claimed the tactical advantage in several inconclusive contests which took place about the middle of the century. (1640-1655.)
They attribute their partial successes to the strength of the hulls of their galleons, built in the Philippines of the hardest and heaviest timber in the world. Nowhere else could ship-building be carried on to equal advantage, as ships were cheaper as well as stronger than those built elsewhere. The cheapness was due to the use of forced labor—thousands of lives being sacrificed in getting out ship timber; the strength, to the lavish use of hard wood in the hulls. This may have accounted for the slowness which doomed them to frequent captures, and for the clumsiness which caused them to be cast away on so many inhospitable shores in Japan or among the Ladrones. Had not the trade of Manila been strangled by the rules imposed by authorities in Madrid, in Manila and in Mexico, the commerce of the islands might have built up a mercantile navy fit to serve as the basis of sea-power. But the Spanish genius did not manifest that tendency, nor did the theories of protection and colonial exploitation allow foreigners to trade to any Spanish possession.
The Dutch sent a fleet into Manila Bay about 1645, but their captain anchored before attacking Cavite. The ablest Governor of the Philippines of that century was then expiating his activities in the prison of Fort Santiago. From his windows he saw the Dutch squadron at anchor and declared that the enemy had missed his opportunity by this delay. A sudden attack would have been fatal, but there was time to collect powder and troops and to move ships under the batteries before the bombardment began. There was much cannonading for a day or two, but there was no decisive result. The invader was allowed to ravage the adjacent coast, but he took nothing from his attack on Cavite and did not assail the capital. In another engagement off Cape Bolinao the Spanish victory was marred by the conduct of one captain, who ran away from the fight and burned his ship in a safe harbor—to save her from the enemy, according to his report. However, "being a nephew of the Governor," he was duly promoted for this action.
The conquest of Formosa by the Chinese corsair, Coxinga, who had gathered the remnants of Chinese opposition to the Tartar conquest, put an end to the Dutch enterprise in that region and gave Manila a breathing space. The pirate king of Formosa proposed to extend his conquests to the Philippines, but died in 1662, before he found time to equip a squadron for the purpose.
The pirates of Sulu and Mindanao occupied the attention of the local naval forces for two centuries more, but no serious shock to Spanish authority occurred until 1762, when an English fleet of thirteen vessels, carrying some 7000 soldiers, entered the Bay of Manila, bringing news of the declaration of war and demanding the surrender of the islands. The English landed below Malate, took Paco and Ermita, and planted batteries to breach the walls. The city surrendered in a few days. The Spaniards still tell tales of the archbishop who was acting as Governor-General, accusing him of being "a feeble and irresolute American," that is, a Mexican. Then there were traitors, and the English were aided by Chinese, by convicts, and by rebels. They are said to have fired 6000 shells and 30,000 round shot during the siege. An important rebellion encouraged by the invaders overran the northern provinces during the English occupation, but the natives nearer Manila were organized into bands led by Spanish soldiers and monks, and the foraging parties sent out from Manila were frequently annoyed by these guerrillas.
The archbishop had agreed to pay a ransom to save the city from pillage, and had drawn on Spain for part of the money. In 1764 peace was declared and the English restored Manila, as well as Havana, taken in the same year, to Spain. The Spanish Court felt strong enough to repudiate the archbishop's bond for indemnity. It was a common superstition among Englishmen, and even among Americans at Hong Kong in April, 1898, that this repudiated and outlawed claim gave England some sort of a lien on the Philippines, and that we might be warned off if we threatened Manila. Of course, no responsible or well-informed Englishmen held this notion. The withdrawal of the English from the Philippines was due to a policy based on recognition of the strength of Spain under Charles III.—not to any local intimidation, though Spanish writers assure us that the English had great luck in being able to quit a country that had cost them so much blood and in which they had won no more soil than that they stood upon." Such vain boastings would have been repeated had the Paris Conference made a different disposition of the Archipelago in 1898.
There were no more international contests in these regions until Admiral Dewey appeared on the scene. Rebellions succeeded each other at intervals of about twenty years, and the Spanish Navy had some share in suppressing them in the smaller islands of the Visayas group. In Luzon such affairs were left to the army. The navy also got the upper hand of piracy about 1870. Fast gunboats at last enabled the Spanish seamen to catch the Malay skiffs, and breech-loaders gave them a like advantage over the deadly edge-tools, the campilans and krisses, which had so long given the Moros the advantage in close encounter.
The navy had done its share in repressing the great rebellion which broke out in 1896. This work had not been of the most honorable character, and discipline and efficiency may have suffered during the hateful task of burning towns and shooting prisoners. Few, if any, officers had missed winning one or more crosses of naval merit in their campaigns. But the navy was in bad condition when the hour of battle arrived: some ships had rusted out in idleness; others had been strained by their own batteries while bombarding villages at ranges of 11,000 meters. Moreover, there were indications of distrust and discouragement in all the dispositions made to resist the American attack. There was no lack of warning, and Admiral Montojo had written a telegram to Madrid on the morning of April 30, announcing that he was making ready to meet the American fleet, which had passed Bolinao at dawn.
The preceding notes do not offer a closely knit narrative of the actions described. Still less do they abound in facile enthusiasm, in personal gossip, or in dramatic incident. All these things have been attempted—perhaps some have been accomplished—but there remain individual impressions and unofficial opinions which may invite discussion and therefore suggest instruction to those who form their own conclusions on a basis built up of such fragmentary testimony. Of the intense interest inspired by an event for which a whole naval career has been more or less a season of conscious preparation, there is no need to speak. The last verse of a noble poem written by an American woman on May 3, while all our friends were waiting in darkness, sums up one conviction which lay deep in the hearts of hundreds of men on that fair Sunday morning: "Sworn were we ever to this—now the hour and the test are at hand." And for that hour and that test there was confidence, because the Olympia bore the flag of a leader whom all knew to be strenuous, alert, and unwavering in his resolute advance. That trust made it good to be there, and will make the memory of that morning's work a precious inheritance to be transmitted to our children and to those who may be called upon to keep alive the traditions of loyalty to the Navy and to the Great Nation which we should be proud to serve.