The Great Victory Of Manila Bay


GEORGE DEWEY was a Green Mountain boy, a son of the Vermont hills. Many

good stories are told of his schoolboy days, and when he grew up to be a

man everybody that knew him said that he was a fine fellow, who would

make his mark. And they were right about him, though he had to wait a

long time for the chance to show what he would do.

ewey was sent to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, and when the

Civil War began he was a lieutenant in the navy. He was with Farragut on

the Mississippi, and did some gallant deeds on that great river.

When the war with Spain began Dewey was on the Chinese coast with a

squadron of American ships. He had been raised in rank and was

Commodore Dewey then. A commodore, you should know, was next above a

captain and next below an admiral.

Commodore Dewey had four fine ships, the cruisers OLYMPIA, BALTIMORE,

RALEIGH, and BOSTON. He had also two gunboats and a despatch-boat,

making seven in all.

These vessels were at Hong Kong, a British seaport in China. They could

not stay there after war with Spain was declared, for Hong Kong was a

neutral port, and after war begins fighting ships must leave neutral

ports. But Dewey knew where to go, for under the ocean and over the land

there had come to him a telegram from Washington, more than ten thousand

miles away, which said, "Seek the Spanish fleet and capture or destroy

it." Dewey did not waste any time in obeying orders.

He knew where to seek the Spanish fleet. A few hundred miles away to the

east of China lay the fine group of islands called the Philippines,

which then belonged to Spain. In Luzon, the biggest of these islands,

was the fine large City of Manila, the centre of the Spanish power in

the East. So straight across the China Sea Dewey went at all speed

towards this seaport of Spain.

On the morning of Saturday, April 30, 1898, the men on the leading ship

saw land rising in the distance, green and beautiful, and farther away

they beheld the faint blue lines of the mountains of Luzon. Down this

green tropical coast they sped, and when night was near at hand they

came close to the entrance of Manila Bay.

Here there were forts to pass; and the ships were slowed up. Dewey was

ready to fight with ships, but he did not want to fight with forts, so

he waited for darkness to come before going in. He thought that he might

then pass these forts without being seen by the men in them.

They waited until near midnight, steaming slowly along until they came

to the entrance to the bay. The moon was in the sky, but gray clouds hid

its light. They could see the two dark headlands of the harbor's mouth

rising and, between them, a small, low island. On this island were the

forts which they had to pass.

As they came near, all the lights on the ships were put out or hidden,

except a small electric light at the stern of each ship, for the next

one to see and follow.

Steam was put on, and the ships glided swiftly and silently in, like

shadows in the darkness. All was silent in the Spanish forts. The

sentinels seemed fast asleep.

Some of the ships had passed before the Spaniards waked up. Then a

rocket shot up into the air, and there came a deep boom and a flash of

flame. A shell went whizzing through the darkness over the ships and

plunged into the water beyond.

Some shots were fired back, but in a few minutes it was all over and

Dewey's squadron was safe in Manila Bay. The gallant American sailors

had made their way into the lion's den.

The Bay of Manila is a splendid body of water, running many miles into

the land. The City of Manila is about twenty miles from the harbor's

mouth, and the ships had to go far in before its distant lights were

seen, gleaming like faint stars near the earth.

But it was not the city Dewey was after. He was seeking the Spanish

fleet. When the dawn came, and the sun rose behind the city, he saw

sails gleaming in its light. But these were merchant vessels, not the

warships he had come so far to find.

The keen eyes of the commodore soon saw the ships he was after. There

they lay, across the mouth of the little bay of Cavite, south of the

city, a group of ships-of-war, nine or ten in number.

This brings us to the beginning of the great naval battle of the war.

Let us stop now and take a look around. If you had been there I know

what you would have said. You would have said that the Americans were

sure to win, for they had the biggest ships and the best guns. Yes, but

you must remember that the Spaniards were at home, while the Americans

were not; and that makes a great difference. If they had met out on the

open sea Dewey would have had the best of the game. But here were the

Spanish ships drawn up in a line across a narrow passage, with a fort on

the right and a fort on the left, and with dynamite mines under the

water. And they knew all about the distances and soundings and should

have known just how to aim their guns so as to hit a mark at any

distance. All this the Americans knew nothing about.

When we think of this it looks as if Dewey had the worst of the game.

But some of you may say that the battle will tell best which side had

the best and which the worst. Yes, that's true; but we must always study

our players before we begin our game.

George Dewey did not stop long to think and study. He was there to take

his chances. The minute he saw the Spanish ships he went for them as a

football player goes for the line of his opponents.

Forward went the American squadron, with the Stars and Stripes floating

proudly at every mast-head. First of all was the flagship Olympia,

with Dewey standing on its bridge. Behind came the other ships in a long


As they swept down in front of the city the great guns of the forts sent

out their balls. Then the batteries on shore began to fire. Then the

Spanish ships joined in. There was a terrible roar. Just in front of the

Olympia two mines exploded, sending tons of water into the air. But

they had been set off too soon, and no harm was done.

All this time the American ships swept grandly on, not firing a gun; and

Dewey stood still on the bridge while shot and shell from the Spanish

guns went hurling past. He was there to see, and danger did not count

just then.

As they drove on an old sea-dog raised the cry, "Remember the Maine!"

and in a minute the shout ran through the ship. Still on went the

Olympia, like a great mastiff at which curs are barking. At length

Dewey spoke,--

"You may fire when you are ready, Captain Gridley," he said. Captain

Gridley was ready and waiting. In an instant a great eight-inch shell

from the Olympia went screaming through the air.

This was the signal. The Baltimore and the Boston followed, and

before five minutes had passed every ship was pouring shot and shell on

the Spanish squadron and forts. Great guns and small guns, slow-fire

guns and rapid-fire guns, hand guns and machine guns, all boomed and

barked together, and their shot whistled and screamed, until it sounded

like a mighty carnival of death.

Down the Spanish line swept the American ships. Then they turned and

swept back, firing from the other side of the ships. Six times, this

way, they passed the Spanish ships, while the air was full of great iron

balls and dense clouds of smoke floated over all.

You will not ask which side had the best of the battle after I tell you

one thing. The Americans had been trained to aim and fire, and the

Spaniards had not. Here overhead flew a Spanish shell. There another

plunged into the water without reaching a ship. Hardly one of them

reached its mark. Not an American was killed or wounded. A box of powder

went off and hurt a few men, and that was all.

But the Spanish ships were rent and torn like deer when lions get among

them, and their men fell by dozens at a time. It was one of the most

one-sided fights ever seen.

Admiral Montojo, of the Spanish fleet, could not stand this. He started

out with his flagship, named the Reina Cristina, straight for the

Olympia, which he hoped to cut in two. But as soon as his ship

appeared all the American ships turned their guns on it, and riddled it

with a frightful storm of iron.

The brave Spaniard saw that his ship would be sunk if he went on. He

turned to run back, but as he did so a great eight-inch shell struck his

ship in the stern and went clear through to the bow, scattering death

and destruction on every side. It exploded one of the boilers. It blew

open the deck. It set the ship on fire. White smoke came curling up. The

ship fought on as the fire burned, but she was past hope.

Two torpedo-boats came out, but they could not stand the storm any

better than the Reina Cristina. In a few minutes one of them was cut

through and went like a stone to the bottom. The other ran in faster

than she had come out and went ashore.

For two hours this dreadful work went on. Then Dewey thought it was time

to give his men a rest and let them have some breakfast, so he steamed

away. Three of the Spanish ships were burning like so much tinder, and

it was plain that the battle was as good as won.

A little after eleven o'clock the American ships came back fresh as

ever, all of them with the Stars and Stripes afloat. The Spanish flag

was flying too, but nearly every ship was in flames. But the Spaniards

were not whipped yet. They began to fire again, and so for another hour

the fight went on. At the end of that time the guns were silenced, the

flags had gone down, and the battle was won.

That was the end of the most one-sided victory in the history of the

American navy. All the Spanish ships were on fire and had sunk in the

shallow bay. Hundreds of their men were dead or wounded. The American

ships were nearly as good as ever, for hardly a shot had struck them,

and only eight men were slightly hurt. The Spaniards had fired fast

enough, but they had wasted nearly all their shot.

When the people of the United States heard of this great victory they

were wild with delight. Before that very few had heard of George Dewey;

now he was looked on as one of our greatest naval heroes. "Dewey on the

bridge," with shot and shell screaming about him, was as fine a figure

as "Farragut in the shrouds" had once been.

Congress made him a rear-admiral at once, and soon after they made him

an admiral. This is the highest rank in the American navy. Only Farragut

and Porter had borne it before.