The USS OLYMPIA's

Wayne Longenecker

Writes Home After the Battle of Manila Bay

Transcribed and Contributed by Brian Miller

Wayne Lonegenecker:

Wayne Longenecker, a native of Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, served aboard the Cruiser OLYMPIA during the Spanish American War. Longenecker served as an apprentice, First Class aboard the vessel.



The Letter:
                                                                                                          July 31st, 1898
                                                                                                        U.S.F.S. Olympia
                                                                                                          Manila, Philippine Islands
 

Dear Brother,

Your letter of the 4th June came to hand several days ago.  I  thought I wrote to you right after the battle.  In fact, I am sure I  did, but you say you haven’t got it, so I will write you another.

On April 24th at 2 P.M., the following ships of our fleet left the  harbor of Hong Kong for Mirs Bay:  Boston, Concord, McCullough, Nanshan, Zafiro, and Petrel.  The Raleigh was to leave too, but one of her pumps  broke down, so she layed over until the 25th.  When we (the Olympia) and Baltimore went out, as we passed the English Hospital ship laying in the  stream, they gave us three hearty cheers which we returned.  At 1.55  P.M. we dropped anchor in Mirs Bay.  The Baltimore immediately commenced  to discharge ammunition to the fleet.  A tug came down from Hong Kong  with telegram, the “War was declared.”  At 11.30 P.M. another tug came  down.  It was at first thought that it was a Spanish Torpedo boat.  Search lights were thrown on her, gun crews called to quarters, boats  lowered, and great excitement reigned for a few moments.  We came very near sinking her.  She brought a telegram that the Nashville had made  two captures, also that the “Dons” had captured the Shenandoah with 5000  tons of wheat.  We started to stand quarter watches right away, so that if anything showed up again, we would be fully prepared for it.  The people on the tug told us they thought their time had come when the search light we turned on them and they saw the guns swing around on them.

On the 26th all the ships started to clear for action.  The Boston tore out everything, as did most of the other ships, but us.  We didn’t tear out any wood work at all, only covered it with canvas and splinter nets.  Most of the boys are growling about it, as they would sooner have seen all the wood work go, so that there would be no chance of a fire being started by an exploding shell.  But it turned out alright as the Admiral [Dewey], who was still a commodore at the time of the battle] knew best what we were going up against, and there is no more criticism, no matter what he does.  We turned out all lights about the ships, so that we were hard to see.  At 3 A.M. we saw some ship’s search light, but could not make her out, as she was far off.

On the 27th at 1.30 P.M., we went to sea for the Philippines. Consul Williams from Manila was aboard.  We steamed in the following order - [Longenencker provided a sketch].  We would have left sooner, but the Raleigh pump had not come back yet.  At quarters, our Division officers told us that war had formally been declared and that we had orders to at once to proceed to Manila and destroy or capture all Spanish ships or forts that we may find there.  We had expected to find some of their ships on the way down.  We had general quarters at 10 P.M. the other night and everybody rushed to their guns in a hurry.  We thought we were about to have an engagement.  A copy of the Governor General’s Proclamation was stuck up on the bulletin board and everybody swore that, if we captured him, we would print 1000 copies of it and make him eat every one of them.

On the 28th, the band struck up some of our old war songs and everybody was singing and having a good time in general, taken all in all a pretty happy lot.  The cook threw all the mess tables overboard except 6 or 7 before they were stopped.  They had misunderstood(?) the order.

The 29th we got up the sheet chains and faked them up and down on the fore part of the superstructure in wake of the ammunition hoists to serve as armor, awning stanchions were also lashed, in the wake of the other ammunition hoist, iron shutters lashed in the fore rigging to keep  the small calibre bullets from raking the upper deck.

30th we sent the Boston and Concord ahead to Subic Bay to see whether the Spaniards had made their stand there, but there was nothing there, except a small schooner, which they let go again.  After the Boston and Concord were well out of sight, the Baltimore was dispatched after them.  When we came up to them, all the “Captains” were called aboard and given their final instructions.  All the gun captains were called to quarters and told that we would run by the forts tonight at 12 o’clock, that we were to save ammunition as much as possible, and make every shot count.  At 10.30 P.M. we were called to quarters and loaded our guns, leaving the breach blocks open, so as to guard against the accidental firing of any of the guns.  That was the hardest part of the fight, running the gauntlet of both mines and forts, not knowing which moment a mine or torpedo would send you through the deck above.  All was quiet, until we were abreast of Corrigador, when suddenly a rocket shot into the air, then followed heliographic signals, and we were momentarily expected to hear the boom of the big guns on Corrigador, but everything was again quiet, until we were well past Corrigador, when the word was passed to lay down at our guns for a couple of hours.  I had just got up on the gun deck to have a smoke when, suddenly, boom went a gun on the Enfraille side of the bay and we all rushed back to our guns, running into one another (as it was dark as pitch), falling over hoses, ammunition, etc.  The Boston and Raleigh answered.  The report has it that an eight inch shell from the Boston dismantled one of the guns ashore and killed forty men.  There were only about 8 or 10 shots fired.  The first shot passed over our quarter and dropped between us and the Baltimore.  It was not until after the battle that we found out that two torpedoes were fired at us.  After we had successfully passed the forts, we slowed down to wait for daylight.  We then hunted out a place among the sand on the deck and had a couple hours sleep.  At 4 o’clock we were roused out again and had a cup of coffee.  At 4.30 we went in to engage the ships and forts.  We formed a single column in the following order - Olympia, Baltimore, Raleigh, Concord , Petrel, and Boston.  We left the McCullough in charge of the two transports Nanshan and Zafiro, well out of range.  As soon as we came into the Bay proper, they opened fire on us, some of their shells dropping 2 miles short, while others went clean over us.  One shot from Point Sangely indeed came very near going into the city.  The Manila batteries opened first, then Point Sangely at about 4.40 A.M.  At 5.15 the Boston and Concord fired a couple of shots at the forts in Manila.  (They now have an 8" shell from Boston on exhibition.)  At 5.25 we opened fire on the ships and forts in earnest with our port battery, then swung around and used our starboard battery.  We kept steaming in a figure 8 circle all during the engagement, so as to make it difficult for the Dons to find our range.  During the engagement, they sent out two torpedo launches, one of which we sank and the other was so badly crippled that she was run ashore.  They had 10 ships, two armed transports, and two torpedo boats, besides a lot of smaller craft.  In half an hour, we sank the “Flagship.”  As the Reina Christina came out from the yard to meet us, she planted a shell into the side right at my gun port, but it was spent and did not come all the way through, it burst (?).  The Spaniards kept their ships in close to shore so as to allow their forts to fire at us.  Most of the fighting was done at over 4500 yds. down to 2000 yds.  The Dons put up a very stiff fight.  The Spanish Admiral flew his Flag in three different ships during the battle.  By 7.05 we had their three principle ships used up pretty badly, and, as a report came up from the magazines that our ammunition for our five inch guns was almost exhausted, we drew off to take stock of it and breakfast.  That was the time the Dons cabled that we drew off to bury our dead.  We left the Concord and Boston laying in close however, to see what the Spaniards were up to.  We had blown up three magazines ashore in the first engagement and, while we were laying off, another one went up, also a magazine on the Reina Christina, who was now a mass of flames.  The rebels are also attacking the Dons.  As fast as they leave the city, the rebels cut them down.

At 10.15 we went in again.  We sank one more cruiser, one transport, and silenced all the forts.  When we went in the second time, the fight was practically over, as they only made a feeble resistance.  None of their ships struck their colors.  In fact, I do not think they had time, for they left their ships with their guns loaded, in too big a hurry to fire them, so I think they forgot all about their colors.  We kept up a pretty steady fire until 1 P.M.  By that time, the white flag was flying everywhere.  We then drew off a way and anchored, the Petrel going up the river and destroyed 7 Cruisers and Gunboats that were laying there, two of which were brand new.  The Petrel boys told us that when they went aboard these ships to burn them, the decks were strewn with dead bodies, heads, arms, and legs laying all over.  The chief engineer was laying across a rail in the engine room with his hand on the throttle with intestines tore out.  When the Petrel came out, she had a big string of tugs and launches in tow.  At about 8 o’clock, a magazine went up on one of the ships, throwing a flame fully 400 feet in the air, carrying some shell along which burst in the air.  It was a beautiful sight to see it aside about 12 or 13 ships all in flames.  Small magazines were going up all night.  Here is a list of the Dons ships -

                                    (Sunk)
     Reina Christina  -----------  Cruiser  -----------  3500 tons
     Castilla  ------------------      “    -----------  3260 “
     Don Antonio De Ulloa  ------      “    -----------  1160 “
     Isla De Murdanac  [Mindanao]----------  Transport  -----------------
                                    (Burnt)
     Don Frian [Juan] De Austria  -------  Cruiser  ----------  1152 tons
     Isla De Cuba  ---------------     “     ----------  1046 “
     “    “  Luzon  --------------     “     ----------  1046 “
     General Lezo  ---------------  Gun Boat ----------  520 “
     Marquas Del Duero  ----------   “   “   ----------  520 “
     El Correo  ------------------   “   “   -----------------
     Velasco  --------------------   “   “   ----------  500 “
     Mindanao  ------------------  Transport  ----------------
                                   (Captured)
     Manila  --------------------  Transport  ----------------
     Rapido  ---------------------    Tug     ----------------
     Hercules  -------------------     “      ----------------
     Isabele 1st  ----------------     “      ----------------
     Vicia  ----------------------     “      ----------------
     Consualo  -------------------     “      ----------------
     Three steam launches, two whale boats, and one water lighter full of fresh water.

We (Olympia) were only struck by one large shrapnel and 13 small shell during the scrap.  The Spanish hospital in “Cavite” are full of wounded.  The killed, I don’t think, will ever be known, as they keep it very quiet.  Since the fight, we have learned from a Spanish officer that was on the Reina Christina that there were 364 killed on her and that there wasn’t a square foot on her decks that you could step on without stepping on a dead body, an arm, or a leg.  After the scrap at about 11 o’clock at night, the Spanish Vice Governor came off and told us that the forts at the entrance would surrender and got permission to go down to the forts in his tug.  The next day he came back saying that the forts would not surrender.  The Admiral thought he had taken provisions down to them under cover of the white flag, so the Captains of the Raleigh and Baltimore were called aboard and the Vice Governor handed over to them with orders to proceed down to the forts at once and, that if a shot was fired at them, to string the Vice Governor up to the yard arm at once, and then to attend to the forts, but they surrendered without a murmer.  The Spaniards had put down solid stone foundations for five 10 inch guns, but we were too quick for them.

On the 3rd, I went ashore along with the landing party to blow up the guns and magazines that were still left.  The Dons had tons upon tons of all kinds of ammunition left.  We did not blow up the biggest magazine as it is to near the Hospitals.  Several Spanish doctors came down to the boat and implored aid to protect them against the rebels, as they were raising cain in general, looting, etc.  The  Raleigh took the breach blocks out of 38 guns on Corrigador Island and Enfraile Batteries.

I was sent ashore on the 5th to help to remove the wounded from Cavite to Manila.  We were continually capturing tugs loaded with torpedoes, mines, and a lot of other explosives.  We took some of the guns off of the sunken gun boats and are going to send them home.  Well I guess that is about enough on the battle until I get home.

The rebels are fighting like a lot of mad men all the time.  Last night they had another big fight.  On the 17th of July, they made a combined attack on Malute fort and arsenal, but were repulsed with a loss of 500 killed, 700 wounded.  On the 25th July, General Merritt came in on the Newport and yesterday, 31st, the Indiana, Valencia, Morgan City, Ohio, and City of Para came in.  This is now the third lot.  We now have about 11000 troops here.  The Monterey is hourly expected.  While we were coaling from the collier Cyrus, somebody gave one of the Cyrus’s crew a Spanish 6 lb. shot from which the case charge had been removed and, it being an armor piercing shell, it was thought that it had no bursting charge in it and this chap got to fooling with it, striking it against hatches, etc.  Some of our boys warned him and told him to examine it himself before he got to fooling with it, but he did not heed and struck it point on against an iron bulk head and it exploded, mangling his left hand.  Also his right was hurt, tore out one eye, cut the other, tore both his lips and knocked out some of his teeth, and a small piece penetrated his brain, killing him.  There were quite a lot of our boys standing around him at the time, but none were seriously hurt, though 5 or 6 were hit and had ugly flesh wounds.  They congratulated themselves on their lucky escapes.  One of them was so close that his neck is full of powder and all the skin tore off it.  Our navigator, [Carlos] Caulkins, has made some very daring sounding right in front of the city, being so close that they could easily see the men at the guns in the city, which were kept trained on them all the time.  He has been in there three times now and has the harbor down pat.  The Star Tobacco Company of St. Louis, Mo. sent 360 lbs. of chewing tobacco to the Flagship and each man got two plugs.  The rest of the fleet is somewhat sore about it.  They say we get everything and they get mud.  The rebels tortured one of the Spanish priests that they have captured.  The Admiral heard about it, so he took the names of all the prisoners and is going to hold Aguinaldo responsible for every one of them.

The Germans are causing us some bother here.  They interfered with the rebels at “Subic Bay” and would not let them capture a Spanish garrison there, so the Admiral sent the Raleigh and Concord out to take it, which they did in two minutes and then turned it and the whole Spanish garrison of 360 men over to the rebels.  The same day an Austrian man-o-war came in and went right over to Manila, saluted the Spaniards and foreign men-o-war in the harbor, but did not salute us at all nor even report to us.  We then sent the Callao with the Flag Lieutenant [Brumby] and a boat crew over to the Austrian and Germans for an explanation.  We boarded the Austrian first and they gave the flimsy excuse that they were not in Cavite waters but in Manila.  The Flag Lieutenant then requested them to come over to Cavite and report to the Admiral where they were from, which they duly did and fired a salute of 13 guns, sent an officer aboard, then went back to their old anchorage again.  From the Austrians we (Callao) went to the Germans and asked them what they meant by interfering with the rebels and sending their ships in and out at all hours of the night so that the Admiral  could report to Washington about it.  What excuse they gave I do not know, but anyhow they have been pretty quiet ever since.  A few days ago, our tug the “Barcelo” was sent over to the cold storage ship “Culgoa” for fresh meat.  On the way back, as they got opposite the Peking, one of the boys fell overboard and was drowned.  It was pretty rough.  We dragged for his body, but did not recover it.  They have collected all Spanish ensigns, jacks, pennants, etc. to send to the Department.  I have a very small boat flag that I did not turn in and won’t.  I will send it to you sometime and tell them I sent it before the notice was put up.  The Peking went home a few days ago taking home quite a lot of sick men.  Our troops had an engagement with the “Dons” the other night between 11 and 12 o’clock.  From what I can hear, our troops were entrenching themselves rather closer to the Spanish lines than they wanted them, so the “Dons” came out and tried to flank our boys, but did not succeed.  They ran foul of our outposts, who fired on them.  The California regiment went out to meet them, and the 10th Pennsylvania went to their support.  Our boys used their machine guns with telling affect.  The Dons soon retreated.  Our boys lost 1 officer and 11 privates.  The Spanish loss is unknown, but it is thought to be heavy.  Last night there was another fight, the rebels going for the Dons.  The Charleston beat to quarters and cleared for action, ready to go and lend a helping hand, but the fighting did not last long, so she did not go in.  This morning, August 2nd, at turn to (5.30 A.M.), we started to clear for action.  We sent all of our boats ashore to Cavite, except two whale boats, but we did not do anymore as it is raining very hard all day.  We expect to have a go in a few days, Friday they say.  How true it is I do not know, but something is up or we would not clear for action.  The Dons are now in pretty sore straits in Manila.  They say that not one Spanish General is out in the trenches.  They all lay back in the city and are drunk most of the time.  The Spanish officers seem to be rather reluctant about going out to face the music.  They have no more flour in the city and very few potatoes.  They are also eating horse meat now.  The rebels have full control of their water supply and turn it on for two hours each day and no more.  The soldiery are almost on the verge of an eruption.  They haven’t been paid for about 8 months, clothing is very poor, and also some of them haven’t eaten anything for two days.

Well I must close for this time, hoping to hear from you soon.  I am well and weigh 193 lbs.  I have been trying to get a check for two months, but cant get any.  As soon as I can, I will send you some cash.  My love to all.  Did you get your appointment in the army?

Your Brother,
Wayne



Bibliography:

Original Letter housed at the Archives of the Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania


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