In 1895, the Cuban people revolted against the Spanish colonial rule over Cuba. The USA initially remained neutral to the issue even though the American people sympathized with the Cubans. This changed in 1898 when an American battleship in Cuba exploded and sank.
The incident increased tensions between USA and Spain, ultimately leading to the declaration of war by both sides. The Spanish-American War began in April, 1898. Most of the engagements of this battle took place on land in Cuba and in the Cuban waters. The Third Battle of Manzanillo was one of the many naval battles fought between America and Spain in Cuban waters.
During the war, the American aim was to blockade Cuba so that no Spanish ships may arrive from outside to help the Spanish soldiers on land. The Spanish, on the other hand, tried their best to flout this blockade. Manzanillo was an important harbor for Spain where many Spanish vessels were able to operate despite the blockade.
The U.S. navy sent a squadron on June 30 to end the activity of the Spanish vessels around Manzanillo. This squadron was successfully repulsed by the Spanish. A second American squadron arrived on July 1 but was also repulsed. Later in July, the U.S. navy sent a better equipped and larger fleet to tackle the Spanish vessels and forts in Manzanillo. This is what led to the Third Battle of Manzanillo.
The Third Battle of Manzanillo was fought off the harbor of Manzanillo in Cuba. It took place on July 18, 1898.
The Spanish side was commanded by Joaquin Gomez de Barreda. The Spanish strength comprised of 4 gunboats, 3 armed pontoons and 3 steamers.
The American side comprised of 2 gunboats, 3 auxiliary cruisers and 2 armed tugs. These were commanded by Captain Chapman C. Todd.
When the American fleet under Captain Todd remained Manzanillo on July 18, he split up his forces into three groups. One part of the fleet attacked the harbor from the left, the other in the center and the third group attacked from the right.
This was very effective because the American vessels were able to simultaneously engage most of the Spanish vessels in Manzanillo. Although the Spanish also had shore batteries to support them, these didn’t prove very effective in the fighting. The fighting continued for around 3 hours during which the Spanish side sustained heavy damages while the American fleet remained relatively unscathed.
Within 3 and half hours, the American fleet demolished nearly the whole Spanish fleet. So the battle was a decisive American victory. Of the Spanish fleet, 4 gunboats, 3 pontoons and 3 steamers were destroyed or disabled. The Spanish casualties included 20 dead.
On the American side, only one gunboat was damaged and the casualties mounted to 10 dead. The American fleet was successful in permanently ending the threat of the Spanish fleet in the waters around Manzanillo, demolishing all the Spanish vessels.