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Spanish Gunboat LEYTE

By Patrick McSherry

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The LEYTE, a small gunboat, escaped the destruction of the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite, but was later captured by the U.S. navy during the war and used by the U.S. Navy.


The LEYTE was built in 1887 by the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co., in Hong Kong.

The LEYTE, on May 1, 1898, the day of the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite, was initally patrolling in the entrance to Manila Bay. As the American onslaught appeared, she escaped into a river north and west of Manila with a load of refugees. The intent was to escape the bay under cover of moonlight. When this was found to be virtually impossible on account of the U.S. naval blockade, and with her supplies running low, and ongoing threats from the Filipino Insurgents, the commanding officer of the LEYTE was forced to take more desperate measures.

The plan was to try to run the LEYTE into the port of Manila, which was still under Spanish control. Failing this, the vessel would be surrendered to the American forces that would stop her in her attept to enter Manila. On the evening of May 29, 1998, almost a full month after the destruction of the Spanish fleet, the LEYTE began its attempt against the odds.She was spotted by the McCULLOCH which gave chase and captured her. Though her crew complement was only 25, she was found to be carrying two hundred soldiers and sailors, some of which were sick and wounded. These prisoners of war were landed at Cavite. The vessel was also found to be carrying the equivalent of approximately $5,000, which was turned over to the U.S. government coffers.

The vessel was put in commission by the U.S. Navy on March 22, 1900, with Ensign L. R. Sargent in command. During her brief time in commission, she ferried troops between Cavite and Manila, served as a guard vessel in Subic Bay, and aided the U.S. Army at Cebu Station.

On January 27, 1902, LEYTE was decommissioned, though she continued to serve at Cavite, aiding on the taget range and as a ferry at the Cavite Naval Station.

LEYTE was struck from the navy rolls on May 27, 1907, and sold to Jose Baza Him Chian on december 16 of the same year.


Albay Class, 2nd Class Gunboat
Two masts
One 3.5" (87/27 mm) breechloading gun

One 70mm/16 cal. breechloading gun

Two 37 mm Gatling guns
Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co., Hong Kong
98  feet, 5 inches (30.08 m)
16 feet, 6 inches (5.03 m)
7 feet, 4 inches (2.24 m)
151 tons
35 Officers and Enlisted Men
Engine type:
Engines generated 120 hp., powering twin screws.
Coal Bunker capacity:
25 tons
Range at normal cruising speed:
2,000 miles
8 knots


(As a service to our readers, clicking on title in red will take you to that book on

Clerk of Joint Comittee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. Vol. 2(Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).  1212-1213.

Dewey, George, Autobiography of George Dewey (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987, originally published in 1913 by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York) ISBN 0-87021-028-9 213.

Mitiuckov, Nicholas, Izhevsk, Russia, naval historian, personal correspondence.

Naval History Department, Navy Department, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Vol. 4, (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1969) 107.

Sargent, Nathan, Admiral Dewey and the Manila Campaign. (Washington DC: Naval Histroical Foundation, 1947) 28, 55.

Young, Louis Stanley, The Cruise of the U.S. Flagship "OLYMPIA" from 1895 to 1899. 87.

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