In April, 1898, the Spanish-American War began. This war started over the issue of Spanish rule in Cuba. The Cuban people wanted to be free of Spanish rule and had rebelled against it in 1895. The United States of America initially remained neutral in the conflict.
But as the rebellion continued, the American press and public opinion demanded that the U.S. government should declare war against Spain. This finally happened when an American battleship was sunk in the Havana Harbor in February, 1895. The press blamed Spain for the sinking and the U.S. government was forced to declare war on Spain.
When USA declared war on Spain, the main objective was to end Spanish rule in Cuba and eliminate the presence of Spanish forces in the area. But US forces knew that Spain could easily send its navy to help its soldiers in Cuba. A sizable Spanish fleet was present in Manila Bay off the coast of Philippines. US government sent an American fleet to attack this fleet and disable it before it could reach the West Coast of USA. This finally led to the Battle of Manila Bay.
The Battle of Manila Bay took place near Manila, Philippines. It was fought on May 1, 1989.
The American fleet was commanded by Commodore George Dewey. This fleet comprised of 4 protected cruisers, 2 gunboats, 2 transports and a revenue cutter.
The Spanish fleet was commanded by Admiral Patricio Montojo. The Spanish fleet included 2 protected cruisers, 4 unprotected cruisers, 2 gunboats as well as 6 batteries and 3 forts to support it from the shore.
The Spanish fleet was poorly equipped and didn’t have sufficient artillery equipment to engage the superior American fleet. The Spanish had the advantage of having defenses on the shore from where artillery batteries could attack the American ships. But the Spanish Admiral positioned his ships so that these batteries couldn’t play any role in the battle. The battle started before the dawn of May 1, 1898.
As the American fleet entered the Manila Bay, the Spanish ships formed defensive positions and started firing. However, the American ships were out of range while at the same time, American ships were able to hit and damage the Spanish ships.
Admiral Patricio Montojo of the Spanish fleet realized that he couldn’t do any damage to the American ships from afar. So he tried to take his ship, the Cristina, and tried to ram it into the American fleet. But before he could reach the American fleet, the batteries on American ships blew the ship to pieces, causing heavy losses on the Spanish side. By the end of the day, most of the Spanish fleet had been destroyed.
This was the first major battle of the Spanish-American War. And it was a significant American victory. The American fleet suffered only 1 dead and 9 wounded. The Spanish fleet suffered around 80 dead and 270 wounded with most of the fleet effectively disabled.