Battle of Manila Bay 1898

The American ships

The Asiatic squadron was a fairly strong set of cruisers and gunboats. The flagship, Olympia, was a powerful protected cruiser, very well-armed and well-protected for its type, with four eight-inch guns in heavy turrets. The Baltimore was one of a series of good protected cruisers, although most of these had 12-6in guns, without the 8in guns that had been added to the Baltimore. The Boston was an old ship, one of America's first modern cruisers, and was obselete despite its heavy guns. The Raleigh was a modern protected cruiser with an armament of smaller guns, similar to the later 'light cruisers' of Germany and England. The two gunboats were the equivalent of the small, unprotected colonial cruisers in European navies (such as Spain's). In fact, the Concord was superior to many of the Spanish squadron's so-called cruisers. There was also a revenue cutter with weak armaments and two transports (Nanshan and Zafiro) that stayed out of the action.

The Spanish ships

A typical colonial-gunboat flotilla. The Castilla was immobile due to mechanical breakdown (actually a repair of a leak which involved pouring concrete into the ship), and remained fixed and vulnerable throughout the battle. The Reina Cristina was the most powerful Spanish ship but was still inferior to ships such as the Olympia and Baltimore. Most of the other spanish ships were old, unprotected cruisers or small cruisers and gunboats fit for colonial duty (keeping the natives down and helping force them to convert to Christianity, etc.) but not for full-scale combat with enemy cruisers. All of these ships suffered from wear-and-tear and poor supplies, which decreased their speed compared to the rival American ships. Several had been partially disarmed: The Cuba and Luzon may have only had 4-4.7in. guns after early removal of the middle 2 guns; the Lezo and Ulloa had some guns removed, and the Velasco had been under repair, was immobile and had all guns removed. (These guns did not do anything on shore that they couldn't have done from the ships except maybe were easier to capture). The small protected cruisers Cuba and Luzon (reduced versions of the Dogali built for Italy) apparently moved back and forth during the battle, and the Reina Cristina charged at the Americans, so not all Spanish ships were sitting ducks in the fight.

Several of the Spanish ships were later raised and repaired by the Americans, to serve as a colonial squadron for the new imperialist power.

The Spanish also had mines and shore batteries, all of which proved useless against the American squadron.


An account of the battle at the Spanish-American War website

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