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  • The Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898.

    Beatriz Camino

    The Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898.

    The Battle of Manila, also known as the Battle of Cavite, occurred on May 1, 1898, in Manila Bay, Philippines. It was the first significant battle of the Spanish-American War and one of the most decisive naval battles in history, marking the end of the Spanish colonial period in Philippine history.

    The Spanish-American War

    The Spanish-American War had its origins in the rebellion against Spanish rule that began in Cuba in 1895. The repressive measures that Spain took to suppress the guerrilla war, including relocating Cuba’s rural populace to unsanitary garrison towns, were vividly depicted in American newspapers, fuelling public outrage.

    In January 1898, escalating violence in Havana prompted U.S. authorities to dispatch the battleship USS Maine to the city’s port to protect American citizens. On February 15, a mysterious explosion sank the Maine in Havana harbour, claiming the lives of 260 of its roughly 400 American crew. Although an official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry in March attributed the incident to a mine without concrete evidence, much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war.

    In April, the U.S. Congress prepared for war, passing joint resolutions demanding Spain's withdrawal from Cuba and authorizing President William McKinley to use military force. McKinley’s call for 125,000 volunteers to combat Spain on April 23 was followed by Spain's declaration of war the next day. The United States reciprocated with its own declaration on April 25. Consequently, U.S. Commodore George Dewey, commanding the U.S. Asiatic Squadron stationed north of Hong Kong, received orders to engage or neutralize the Spanish Pacific fleet, believed to be present in the coastal waters of Spain-controlled Philippines. Led by Admiral Montojo, the Spanish fleet consisted of a group of outdated warships anchored off the Cavite naval station. The U.S. fleet, in comparison, was well-armed and well-staffed, largely due to the efforts of the energetic assistant secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, who had also selected Dewey for the command of the Asiatic squadron.

    The Battle of Manila Bay

    At 7 p.m. on April 30, Montojo received reports of Dewey's ships spotted in Subic Bay earlier that day. Anticipating an attack the following morning due to the perceived unnavigability of Manila Bay at night, Montojo remained vigilant. However, Dewey had been provided with detailed information on the state of the Spanish defences and the lack of preparedness of the Spanish fleet. Subsequently, Dewey, embarked aboard Olympia, led his squadron into Manila Bay at midnight on 30 April.

    As dawn broke, the Americans located the Spanish fleet. Around 5:40 a.m., Dewey ordered his captain to start firing and, two hours later, the Spanish fleet was decimated. Following the initial onslaught, Dewey called for a temporary halt in the fighting. He met with his captains and ordered the crews a second breakfast.

    Despite the devastating blow, the surviving Spanish vessels, trapped in the little harbour at Cavite, refused to surrender, and late that morning fighting resumed. Early that afternoon, a signal was sent from the gunboat USS Petrel to Dewey’s flagship announcing that the enemy had surrendered. The toll of the battle was starkly disparate, with Spanish losses exceeding 370 troops, while American casualties numbered fewer than 10.


    In recognition of Dewey’s leadership during the Battle of Manila Bay, he was honoured with promotion to the special rank of Admiral of the Navy. Building on his popularity, he briefly ran for president in 1900 but withdrew to endorse McKinley. The same year Dewey was appointed President of the General Board of the United States Navy, where he would play a key role in the growth of the U.S. Navy until his death in January 1917.
    Dewey’s decisive victory at Manila Bay paved the way for the U.S. occupation of Manila in August, facilitating the transition of the Philippines from Spanish to American control. In Cuba, Spanish forces suffered heavy losses against the US forces, leading to the signing of an armistice between Spain and the United States on August 12th.
    In December, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the brief Spanish-American War. With the dissolution of the Spanish empire, the United States gained its first overseas empire. Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to American control, the Philippines were purchased for $20 million, and Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. However, the transition to American rule in the Philippines was met with resistance from insurgent groups who had previously fought against Spanish rule. The ensuing conflict resulted in a significantly higher number of American casualties compared to the war against Spain, underscoring the challenges of establishing American authority in the region.


    1897 SGV Philippines 1 Peso - Spanish Colony - Alfonso XIII - AUALFONSO XIII (1885-1931). 1 Weight. (Ar. 25.17g/37mm). 1895. Puerto Rico PGV. (Cal-2019-128). Good Extremely Fine. Very rare specimen and even more so in this spectacular quality,1897 SGV Philippines 1 Peso - Spanish Colony - Alfonso XIII - AU

    SPAIN 1896 5 PESETAS XF+ ALFONSO XIIISpain. Alfonso XIII. 1893-PG L. 1 peseta. Choice VF.1897 SGV Philippines 1 Peso - Spanish Colony - Alfonso XIII - AU


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