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A Chronology of the Battle of Manila Bay

As seen by Colonel George A. Loud,

Paymaster of the Revenue Cutter McCULLOCH

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This account is a chronology of the Battle of Manila Bay as seen by Colonel George Loud, paymaster aboard the Revenue Cutter McCULLOCH. Loud watched the battle and actually made notes. This chronology is based on those notes.

It is interesting that in Loud's account of passing Corregidor, he notes the Spanish firing on the vessels of the Asiatic squadron, but makes no notes of the flare up from the McCULLOCH's (apparently) dirty funnel which atracted the attention of the Spaniards, and which was noted on the other vessels.

The Account:

On board the “McCULLOCH,” Saturday, April 30, 8 A. M. The fleet is steaming along near the shore, which is green and fertile. The BOSTON and CONCORD have been detailed to get news of any Spanish warships  which may be in hiding among the little islands. At 5 P. M. we are in Subig Bay, which the BOSTON, CONCORD, and BALTIMORE have been reconnoitering. We were ordered to stop a little schooner flying the Spanish flag, but the captain had no news, as he came from some other port than Manila. All the captains have been called aboard the OLYMPIA for consultation. . . . We expect to have to fight our way into the bay and then settle conclusions with the forts at Manila and the war-ships, which are moored under the guns of the forts. . .

8:30 P. M. The captains were only on the flagship a few minutes. The orders are that we are to run by the Corregidor forts tonight, and we are at once under way. About 11 o’clock all hands were called to quarters, for we were nearing the entrance to the bay. At the left of the entrance we see rockets being sent up. The big ships are nearly all through the pass, and we thought we would get through unnoticed also. We find there are forts on both sides of the wide channel, for a flash and a sharp report tell us they are awake at last. We answer by three shots, and they fire twice more, one shot going directly over us. The BOSTON gives them two shots that rang out sharp and strong from her heavy rifles. No more shots came, and we are all past the forts in safety. Now, in the quiet of the tropical night, we lie down on deck for a few hours’ sleep.

6 A. M. Called to quarters at 5 O’clock. The guns from shore opened at long range. The warships, in line, steamed down, swung a half-circle in front of the naval arsenal at Cavite, where the Spanish ships are anchored, but reserved fire until at close range. The fire from the forts was incessant. Our boats passed in line, and the sharp reports from their rifled guns show they are hard at work. The McCULLOCH lies about a mile farther off shore, yet some shots whistle close by our ships and explode near us. It is the most thrilling game a man ever watched, for our lives hang on the success of our ships. As I write the cannonade is incessant, and our ships, after making first passage by their forts, have turned about to pass again and give the starboard batteries a chance.

6:30 A. M. Shots shriek above and around us. Evidently the Spaniards have aimed too high to hit our fighting ships. We fear our ships have met their match, though we are thankful to see that none show the effects of their contact with the Spaniards at close range. Our men show that they have pluck, for we are giving the Dons a battle royal. What is the end to be? Our hope and our lives are all in the balance.

7 A. M. The ships have passed the batteries for the second, third, and fourth times, making two complete circles [Editor's note - in fact the ships were making a "figure 8" course, which may not have been noticeable to Col. Loud from his position], and the OLYMPIA has just turned in on the third circle, or the fifth time past the batteries. Those who said the Spanish would not fight now see that they were mistaken, for they are making a desperate battle, worthy of their ancestors. Our commodore is giving them a good sample of Yankee pluck, and is handling the squadron like an expert as he is.

7:30 A. M. I was in error in the last note, for it showed later that our ships were turning a circle up in the bay, firing at longer range as each boat presented its broadside toward the batteries. As the fighting ships are in the upper part of the bay, farthest distant from the McCULLOCH and transports, a gunboat tries to steal out to catch us, and it looked for a moment as though we were in serious trouble. With breathless interest I watched every shot from our ships, and gladly noticed that they had concentrated their fire on this plucky ship, as she appeared to be badly hit and turned about and hurried back to shelter. Our ships are now straightening out to pass in line as at first. I fear greatly for them at this close range, for none are armored further than with protective decks.

7:45 A. M. The OLYMPIA is past the batteries, and the BALTIMORE is at short range pouring in her metal. The nerve of gallant Captains Dyer of the BALTIMORE and Gridley of the OLYMPIA will be a pride to all Americans, and the other captains are close behind them. The BALTIMORE is so high out of the water, and thus is so conspicuous a target at this short range, that it seems as though the Spaniards would surely destroy her. Our hearts ache for the result, for many of our brave men will never see another sunrise. This is Sunday and May-day, and it will be an American date in history. It is a sultry day, with dazzling sunlight, but the sunlight is against the enemy. Shots are shrieking over us, for some battery has decided to make a target of us instead of our heavy-weights that oppose them.

8 A. M. Our ships have all passed and have gone away out of range. The firing has nearly ceased. We are extremely anxious for the news. Are our ships to go again into that cyclone of shot and shell, or what? A fire of some kind over at the forts shows we have left our track behind us, and we are curious to know what it is. We think and hope it is some of the Spanish fleet, for the destruction of this fleet is our principal business here.

11 A. M. Glorious, glorious news comes back from the flagship. Not a man killed or seriously wounded on our ships in the two hours’ combat! It seems impossible, when fighting at such close range. The range was so near that the rapid-fire guns in the fighting-tops of our larger ships were pouring in their fire. The combat is to be renewed shortly. Two Spanish ships are burning and we think we have sunk another. The OLYMPIA steams by close to us and gives us three rousing cheers, which we send ringing back for them. The sailors are dressed down to fighting trim, undershirts and duck trousers. They are in good heart and ready for the finish, and they and their ship in its dress of somber drab look ready for business, if not for parade.

11:20 A. M. The BALTIMORE is now close in to the batteries. We are steaming out to meet the English passenger-steamer from Hong Kong, which we see coming up the bay.

12 NOON. After speaking to the ESMERALDA we are now returning to our wards, the ZAFIRO and NANSHAN. We are too far away to see well, but for the last twenty minutes our ships, led by the BALTIMORE, have been pouring rapid fire into the navy-yard batteries. From the batteries we can see desultory shots. Two of our heavy ships, the BOSTON and RALEIGH, are lying in the background as reserves, and the four others are fighting it out. It is a cool, deliberate duel, and it is plain that our ships are trying most carefully to make every shot count. The BALTIMORE has drawn out and the RALEIGH has gone in, firing her forward guns as she goes.

12:30 P. M. We are called to lunch, but none of us can leave the fascinating spectacle for a moment. Three Spanish ships are burning. The little PETREL is at the front, working her broadside guns, and the RALEIGH follows to reduce the batteries, if possible, at close quarters. The Spaniards are clear grit and still keep their flag flying.

12:45 P. M. The PETREL, RALEIGH, and BOSTON are at the front, the other three lying in the rear.

1:05 P. M. The three ships at the front rattled in a continuous hot fire which finished the fight, and the PETREL has just signaled that the enemy has struck. On our ships all hands are called, the crew sent into the rigging, and three cheers are called for by Lieutenant Foley for the Asiatic Squadron. Never were any cheers given with more thankful hearts. We all shake hands with such a glad feeling of congratulation that it will never be forgotten. We all agree, however, that the Spaniard is a tough fighter, even if he cannot shoot straight. It is a most astonishing result— this four hours’ shooting, partly from the finest Krupp cannon, with no harm done to our ships, and only six very slightly wounded on the BALTIMORE from flying splinters. There was no excuse for the Spaniards, for we gave them full broadsides at short range for targets.

2 P. M. The OLYMPIA ranged up alongside us, showing hardly a dent or scratch, and a beautiful sight she was with six strings of signal-flags on fore and after spars. The Manila consul, Mr. Williams, was sent aboard our ship, the crew of happy tars on the OLYMPIA giving him three cheers as he left their ship. We transferred the consul to an English merchantman, by whose captain the consul sent a demand ashore to the Spanish governor-general for surrender of the city. 11 A. M., Monday, May 2d. We were on guard all night. From the flagship this morning we have these details of yesterday’s fight: On the OLYMPIA a six-pound shell cut the rigging four feet over the admiral’s head, and as Flag Lieutenant Brumby and Ensign Scott were raising signal-flags the halyards were shot away. The PETREL brings a string of captured small craft from the navy-yard trailing behind her, and the news that there were one hundred and thirty Spaniards killed on the REINA CHRISTINA, the captain included, and Admiral Montojo wounded…


Loud, George A, Col. "The Battle of Manila Bay - The Destruction of the Spanish Fleet as Told by Eye-Witnesses,"  Part II, Col. George Loud's Diary, Written During the Battle," The Century. Vol. 56, No. 4 (New York: The Century Company, August, 1898) 618-620.

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