Below is a first-hand account of the Battle of Manila Bay, written by Ensign W. Pitt Scott of the U.S.F.S. OLYMPIA.
The Spaniards had ten ships to our six, and, in addition, had five or six shore batteries, some of which bothered us a good deal. We steamed by the line and fired some deadly shot at them. We had anticipated that once across their line would be sufficient to silence them, but they did not yield, and so when we got to the end of the line we turned and went back at them again. It was getting real interesting now, for many of their shots were coming close aboard, and the screech of the shots as they whistled over our heads was anything but pleasant.
Now and then we would see a shot strike in the water ahead of us and explode and the pieces of it come at us. I will never forget it. I was surprised to find how little it disturbed us. I never believed that I would ever feel so entirely unconcerned while the shots were falling all around. No one seemed to care an iota whether the shells dropped on us or fell a long distance away, and in the intervals, between which we were making signals, the most commonplace remarks were made.
...It soon became apparent that the Spaniards were concentrating their fire on the OLYMPIA (as flagship), and we then received the brunt of the fight. At one time the REINA CHRISTINA, the Spanish flagship, attempted to come out from her position and engage us at closer range, but we turned our fire on her and drove her back. A fourth time we steamed across their line and a fifth, and it began to look as if they were not going to give in until after all our ammunition would be exhausted, which would leave us in a very serious predicament, in the midst of the enemy and in one of their ports, being over seven thousand miles from supplies; so after the fifth time across their line we withdrew to count up our ammunition, to see how we stood and to get breakfast.
It was only 7:30, but it seemed to us all as if it were the middle of the day. Then we began to count our casualties, and found that no one had been killed and none injured, with a few slight exceptions. But it was the dirtiest-looking crowd that I have ever seen, and by far the oddest. It was so hot that many had stripped off nearly all their clothes; in fact, in the turrets they did strip off about everything except their shoes, which they kept on to protect their feet from the hot floor.
The Commodore [Dewey] himself, the most dressed man in the battle, was in white duck; the rest of us appeared without collars and some without shirts, an undershirt and a white blouse being more than sufficient for our needs, and, if our blouses were not off, they certainly were not buttoned.
We were a mighty dirty crowd. Our faces and clothes were full of smoke and powder and saltpetre, and the perspiration rolling around in that way made us picturesquely handsome. I would have given a good deal for a picture of the ship's company, men and officers. Then we looked around to see where the ship had been injured, and found that she had been struck several times, none of which materially hurt her. On the bridge, where we stood, was perhaps the hottest place of all, for at least four shots struck within thirty or forty feet of it.
One of the shots with an ugly screech flew over our heads, but its cry was a little different from most of the others, and several of us said, 'That hit something,' and we looked aloft to see if it had, and found the halliards on which we had a signal flying cut in two and the signal out to leeward; another shot cut the wire rigging ten feet over our heads, while any number flew close over us without striking anything.
About half-past ten we returned to the attack and gave the BALTIMORE the post of honor in leading the attack, and we were very short of 5-inch ammunition, and the way that the BALTIMORE did fire into the Spanish batteries was a caution. It was not long before the enemy was completely silenced and the white flag run up. Two of their ships were on fire and burning fiercely, and one was sinking. The DON ANTONIO DE ULLOA was the last to give in, and after she was abandoned by her crew still kept her flag flying, which necessitated our firing at her until it was lowered, but as no one was left on board to lower it we kept firing at her until she slowly began to sink. It was a grand sight to see her slowly settle aft, with the flag of Spain with her.
Then we sent some of the smaller ships to destroy those that were still afloat and the PETREL burned and sunk four or five of them, while the CONCORD fired a large transport, which we afterwards learned was quite full of coal and stuff for the Spaniards....